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The Hate Police

Scotland’s new “hate crime” law took effect today.

The Hate Police

It’s called “The Hate Crime and Public Order Act.” It criminalizes, not only the “expression of hatred,” but also the “stirring of hatred” against a range of “protected” groups defined by disability, age, faith, sexual orientation, transgender identity, and so on.

From now on, any form of expression that the authorities consider “likely” to offend a member of one of these “protected groups” will be a “hate crime,” punishable by up to seven years in prison. According to the law, any form expression that “a reasonable person would consider threatening, abusive, or insulting” may be subject to prosecution.

In 2005, one of my plays — screwmachine/eyecandy: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Big Bob — was presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it won a Scotsman “Fringe First” award for new writing.

Here’s one of the reviews (emphasis mine):

The spectacle of international capitalism rolls on, an obscene parade of consumerism and greed, the insistent beat of its drum disorienting its willing victims – you, me, everybody. But how do you metaphorise something which is so total that our organic selves are concealed beneath a mound of consumer goods by an entire world view that has replaced the natural with something totally alien to human nature? A game show, of course. CJ Hopkins’ superb rendering of the monstrous alienation created by contemporary consumer society sees Big Bob (David Calvitto) shepherding a lower-middle class American couple Dan (Bill Colieus) and Maura (Nancy Walsh) on a bizarre retro 50s American set, through a succession of meaningless and increasingly sinister questions and activities. Meanwhile, the terrifying figure of Vera (Mike McShane), a gigantic and grotesque transvestite, awaits, punishing those who transgress the unstated, oft-changing rules of the game. This all gets increasingly gruesome, in John Clancy’s assured production, as the two contestants are first showered with contempt by Bob, whose achievement ethic is his only sustaining myth, then beaten by Vera. The idea that those who the gods choose to destroy, they first make mad pulses through the piece, as reality itself is surrogated by the media spectacle of the game show. The early tittering of the audience is transformed into a grim silence, for there is a recognizable truth at the bottom of this agit prop drama, and its about truth, which is generated not by rational observation, but hysterical ideology in our society. The direct confrontation with both philosophical and really quite everyday realities of Hopkins’ text is strong meat, and might not be to all tastes, but this is high quality, and genuinely thought provoking entertainment.” 


Here’s another photo, from a rehearsal, I think, featuring Mike McShane as “Vera” in action…

What do you think? Is my 20-year-old award-winning play likely to offend a member of one of those protected groups? If it were presented at the 2024 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, what are the odds that someone would find it “threatening” and “abusive,” or even just “insulting,” and report it to the Hate Police?

Fortunately, that is not going to happen, because this play would never be produced nowadays. A producer would have to be professionally suicidal to try to stage such a play in this cultural/political climate. Moreover, no playwright would write such a play, much less attempt to get it produced. Their agent would summarily fire them. Their publisher would dump them. Their career would be over.

Which is the point of all these new “hate speech” laws, and the “sensitivity readers” that aspiring young writers know are going to be meticulously scrutinizing their manuscripts for signs of “hateful” depictions of members of “protected” groups or “harmful” or “abusive” expressions. Can you imagine any of the big five corporate publishers releasing Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer today? Naked LunchGravity’s Rainbow? Or even Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian?

No, the primary goal of all this criminalization of speech is not to hunt down and arrest every individual “hate criminal.” It is to generate a climate of paranoia, and condition people to censor themselves, not just writers and artists, everyone, but, absolutely writers and artists, who are, after all, the producers of culture.

This conditioning doesn’t work on literary renegades like me who gave up on the mainstream decades ago, and it certainly isn’t working on J.K. Rowling, who just posted this “criminal” Twitter thread and invited the Hate Police to arrest her…

…which, I’m not a Harry Potter fan, but think I’m developing a crush on JK Rowling.

But seriously, those of us writers and artists who are either too rich and famous to be fucked with, like J.K. Rowling, who could probably buy Scotland if she had to, or who are well past the Age of Aspiration and so couldn’t give a shit, like me, need to set an example for all those young aspiring writers and artists, who are being systematically creatively neutered and molded into paranoid conformist pussies.

Oh, and for the record, before anyone calls me a “transphobe,” I have nothing against “gigantic grotesque transvestites,” or dainty beautiful transvestites, or any other kind of transvestites, or transexuals, or any other variety of “sexuals.” I’ve spent a lot of my life working in the theater, which, in case you didn’t know, is just swarming with gay people, and other varieties of alphabet people. I like gay people. I like being swarmed by them. If I weren’t so straight, I’d gladly be gay, or non-binary, or whatever the kids are these days.

Oh, yeah, and about the “pronoun” thing. I was “using pronouns” in San Francisco in the 1980s before the dotcom boom, when most pronoun-Nazis hadn’t even been born. I was happy to do it. It just felt natural. But then, no one was threatening to arrest me for “misgendering,” or “stirring up hatred” with one of my stage plays, or prosecuting me for criticizing the government, or otherwise behaving like a bunch of brainwashed neo-Maoist cultural revolutionaries.

OK, I’m digressing, and it’s getting late here, so I’m going to wrap this rant up and go make dinner. I’ve written more extensively about The Criminalization of Dissent, and The War on Insensitivity, and the new Totalitarianism, and the Hate Police, and so on, for many years now. If you want to read that stuff, it’s here in the archives.

If you want to read my old “hate crime” play, you can purchase it from Broadway Play Publishing, or at your local drama bookstore, if you have one of those. Oh, and, if you feel like reading a novel that hasn’t been “sensitivity edited” or otherwise fed through the corporate-publishing machine … well, I think I’ve got one for you.

If you read it and enjoy it, maybe pass it on to any young aspiring writers you know. It won’t magically undo their paranoia and conditioning, but it might rattle their cages a little bit, especially if you let them know that it’s still selling steadily, seven years after it was published.

OK, one last thing, and then I’ll let you go. If you know someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows JK Rowling, please give her my regards, and tell her I said … well, basically, “Fuck the Hate Police!”


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