George Orwell's 1984 eerie image of Big Brother. Approaching Fact or Paranoid Fiction?

Ottawa’s insistence that amendments to greenwashing are necessary legislation is more about mind control and “doublethink” policy processes

Editor’s note: Originally published on Bill Whitelaw’s Substack, republished with permission. Bill Whitelaw is a energy industry analyst and commentator, with a long history in energy industry media.

 

 

“We are the dead.”

“You are the dead.”

 

Those two lines from George Orwell’s famed novel 1984 are perhaps the most profound in the entire work.

They capture Orwell’s disturbing sense of despair for what he perceived in the late 1940s as authoritarianism run amok. And 75 years after their penning, the sentences have an eerie contemporary context for anyone concerned about governmental overreach and politicians to whom voters appear as mere mindless pawns.

The lament came as protagonist Winston Smith declared to his furtive companion Julia of life’s hopelessness in a dystopian society under constant and repressive surveillance and “truth adjustments.” The robotically metallic response to his declaration, emanating from a microphone within the ubiquitous “telescreen” in his quarters, affirmed Smith’s belief that Big Brother (The Party) is everywhere.

Watching everyone. Thinking for everyone.

Sounds very much like how the federal Liberals seem to be running Canada these days.

“Don’t worry about thinking for yourselves, good citizens, that’s the Cabinet’s job. We are Truth.”

In Orwellspeak: the “Party” and Smith’s country, Oceania, equate to the Liberals and contemporary Canada.

Sound over-the-top? Maybe. Melodramatic? Perhaps. But that’s how insidious mind management takes roots when you’re oblivious to insidiousness.

Perhaps it’s time for Canadians to dust off Orwell’s final novel and get re-acquainted with his tenets on mind control.

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In other words, start to think about the Liberal penchant for “doublethink’ that seems increasingly pervasive. That’s the Orwellian notion of accepting two contradictory lies as compatible truths.

The Liberal version of doublethink is this: only progressives can think pragmatically about climate change; all other views can be dismissed as being faux vert (fake green) – even when there’s data to support the latter.

To wit: Ottawa’s planned amendments to Canada’s Competition Act. In a nutshell, Ottawa seeks to strengthen existing rules around greenwashing, with a specific focus on misleading claims around positive environmental impact.

Not a bad idea on the face of things, especially with the rate and pace at which climate and net-zero momentum are moving things and the fact such times always bring out the hucksters. Keep legislation pacing with change.

But instead of intellectualizing the process, and giving voters credit for some smarts, the government is in effect signaling it considers them incapable of critical and rational thought. In other words, being unable to separate green fact from green fiction.

The changes are nebulousness defined and useful to no one save environmental groups gleefully rollicking in the legislation’s ambiguous vagueness. They’re doubly joyful with its blessing of enhanced opportunities for private action – in other words, license to shill for their causes without any real burden of accountability. The changes leave no room for “citizen interrogation” of the “facts” as presented, and in fact, normalize perceptions that anyone not an evangelical environmentalist claiming to do good by the environment is somehow up to something nefarious.

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That has left the oil and gas sector stupefied – although to be clear, all sectors and services are under the same green magnifying glass.

But the oil and gas sector is alarmed. And it has every right to be worried.

Act amendment supporters mock and deride the concerns of individuals, companies, and organizations in the energy sector worried the updated Competition Act gives free and unaccountable rein and influence to industry opponents. They dismiss concerns the changes will stultify investment into the sector and erode substantive progress made on clean technology initiatives.

They point to the fact the Act’s language contains no specific references to oil and gas per se, in a failure to fit its gist into a pattern of oil and gas persecution more generally.

But perhaps there are nuances and subtleties beyond their comprehension as to why the Competition Act as now contemplated should be worrisome for anyone who appreciates the way information ought to flow: free and unfettered – for the most part – in a way that underpins rigorous and balanced discourse.

The “new” Act may well choke off that critical info. Indeed, it already has.

Let’s first be clear on a few things.

The oil and gas industry has its perception problems. It often feigns outrage when none is required. These days, some voices within it don’t even realize they’re being baited by those for whom emotive reaction produces the headlines they seek.

What the sector fails to grasp too often is that is it typically viewed as something massively monolithic as opposed to the complex mosaic of moving parts it actually is. It is an industry of leaders and laggards. The leaders are doing good things when it comes to mitigating environmental impact, but they’re not policing the laggards effectively.

Thus, the bad-apple rap.

Yet the leaders are making science-based achievements the people who benefit from the sector’s products ought to know about. Emissions reduction and water stewardship are just two examples of progress. Canada generally and Alberta particularly are admired internationally for progress on key environmental files.

Now those companies and organizations won’t be telling those stories. Witness this last week as energy websites were shuttered and scrubbed.  The billable hours in legal bills mounted dramatically as advice was sought. Archives of useful information vanished with the click of a button behind firewalls. Cutting off access to content was not perhaps the most strategic of moves under the what-are-you-hiding paradox but when even lawyers are flummoxed, you heed their advice that discretion is the better part of valor.

Absent access to those insights, ordinary Canadians are left without important variables in the equations of critical thought. Industry opponents have achieved the discursive upper hand with little effort.

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Ostensibly, the Act contemplates marketing efforts in the public domain. But what is marketing these days? All content, technically speaking, is marketing in one form or another.

How soon will the enviro extremists turn to B2B media content? To technical conferences and panel discussions where contemporary content is always connected to some form of environmental performance?

Information has always flowed more or less efficiently in and out of the sector. Canadians actually interested in knowing more about energy – the good, the bad, the ugly – could access it.

Without rapid and assertive consultation and detailed explanations from Ottawa as to what the changes really mean to the boundary conditions of discourse – and marketing is part of discourse – this will mark a regressive and tectonic shift backward in the way Canadians communicate about energy and the criticality of its role in their lives.

Winston Smith would tell Canadians to be worried. He would point to his own employment at the Ministry of Truth, in which doublethink drove policy and process.

On hearing the “you are the dead” declaration, he was told not to move. He knew then he was bound for the dreaded Room 101 at the Ministry of Love. It was the destination for anyone who questioned The Party.

If you don’t know your Orwell, brush up on Room 101.

We’re living its realities.

 

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