Anarcho-tyranny is a system of government that fails to protect its citizens from violence, while simultaneously persecuting conduct that would typically be regarded as innocent. The experience of living under such a system may be familiar to you, even if the term itself is not.
A state of anarcho-tyranny might, for instance, see career criminals like Jordan McSweeney free to walk the streets of London murdering women, mere days after being released from prison on licence, even while offensive limericks, online poetry and dogs trained to perform comical Nazi salutes are treated with the utmost seriousness by our criminal justice system.
The result is a disorientating combination of two different kinds of fear: a fear of rising violent crime, combined with a fear of arbitrary criminalisation, including the criminalisation of citizens who complain about what is being done to them by their governments.
Systems of anarcho-tyranny rely especially on laws that criminalise speech that would ordinarily be regarded merely as rude or controversial.
In Ireland, the Varadkar government is currently fast-tracking just such a law: the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate offences) Bill, which would criminalise any person who “prepares or possesses material that is likely to incite violence or hatred against a person or a group of persons on account of their protected characteristics”.
Note the flabbiness of this wording. “Violence”, one might once have assumed, is pretty easy to objectively define, although we have seen audacious efforts by activists to erode the meaning even of this word, with everything from “misgendering” to “micro-aggressions” sometimes classed as a form of violence.
But “hatred”? Now that’s a word that a vengeful prosecutor could really make hay with, particularly given the usefulness of that additional word “likely.” With the new law in place, the authorities could easily decree that all sorts of politically inconvenient speech is “likely” to incite “hatred” against particular groups.
Take, for instance, the professional MMA fighter Conor McGregor.
Ten days ago, three young children were stabbed outside a school in Dublin by a man which online rumours suggested was originally from Algeria. The ensuing riot was met with an appropriately heavy response from the police, and across the following week, Conor McGregor emerged as the voice of a particularly angry faction in Ireland – angry at the very dramatic recent rise in immigration, and angry at the apparent inconsistency of a police force willing to come down hard on some violent crime, but not all.
“I do not condone last night’s riots” he tweeted, “I do not condone any attacks on our first responders in their line of duty. I do not condone looting and the damaging of shops…
“I do understand frustrations however, and I do understand a move must be made to ensure the change we need is ushered in… There will be change in Ireland, mark my words.”
McGregor is reportedly being investigated by Irish police, under suspicion of “inciting hate.” If the new Criminal Justice Bill had been in place, McGregor might well have fallen foul of it. It will prove a useful law for those in power who wish to silence subversive political actors.
“We are restricting freedom” said Irish Senator Pauline O’Reilly of the Bill, “but we’re doing it for the common good.”
Whose “good”, though? Not the people of Ireland, I would argue. Nor any other people living under a system of anarcho-tyranny.