Friday, May 2, 2008

A Wireless Scanner Darkly: Human Rights Sci-Fi

Many people put down Canadian literature as "boring", "preachy", or "blatant ripoffs of superior original foreign works". One sadly-underappreciated Canadian science fiction book, Saxon Hermes' 2003 novel "A Wireless Scanner Darkly", breaks this stereotype with its quintessentially Canadian portrait of a dystopian future of undercover Human Rights investigators who cross the sanctified line between fighting online hate and promoting it. It paints a picture of a bleak future where conservatism and American-style right-wing freespeechery have taken grasp of all media outside of the regulatory apparatus of the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission -- a future where it has become almost impossible to tell the respondent from the complainant.

The book deserves further attention. The London Fog is happy to provide a plot summary in the hopes that our fellow Canadians will look more deeply into the works of this wonderfully imaginative and very Canadian author.

In the future "seven years from now", Canada has lost the war on online hate. A highly addictive and debilitating conservative online forum called SubstanceH.com, distilled from small dead animals, has swept across the country. In response, the Human Rights Commission develops an invasive, high-tech surveillance system and puts in place a network of informants and undercover investigators.

Mitchell Wamran is an undercover agent assigned to immerse himself in the freespeecher underworld and infiltrate their network. Wamran and his housemates live in a suburban tract house in a poor Ottawa neighborhood. They are heavy Internet users, and they pass their days by blogging and having long, right-wing conversations.

When Wamran is at the Human Rights Commission's headquarters, he is codenamed Juicy, and hides his identity from his fellow investigators by using civilian wireless routers that change every aspect of the poster's online appearance. Wamran's superior officer, Jean, like all other undercover investigators at the Commission, also uses this tactic.

While posing as a commenter, Wamran becomes addicted to SubstanceH.com, a powerful discussion group which causes a dreamy state of nostalgia for pre-Pearson Canadian values and bizarre hallucinations; chronic users may develop a split personality, cognitive problems, and severe paranoia. Wamran befriends an attractive young woman named Dena Alease, a user of FreeRepublic.com, Wamran's best "friend" on SubstanceH.com, and part of the conservative scene. Wamran hopes to comment so much on SubstanceH.com that she is forced to introduce him to the webmaster, but Wamran develops romantic feelings for her. However, Alease refuses Wamran's sexual advances and Wamran's roommates question the true nature of their relationship.

Jean orders a Human Rights informant named Fred to step up surveillance on the members of the Wamran household. Jean assumes Fred is one of the commenters in the Wamran household, but does not know which one, and actually orders Fred to focus the surveillance on Wamran. In the meantime, the household members are extremely paranoid that the Human Rights Commission has bugged their home, are stealing their wireless, and are watching their every move. The paranoia reaches extreme levels, and Wamran seems to become wrapped up in the concern of his roommates, even forgetting that he is the undercover investigator attempting to entrap his justifiably paranoid friends. Meanwhile, Wamran's roommate Barris secretly contacts the Commission and tells them he suspects Alease and Wamran are part of a conservative think-tank. Barris unknowingly tells this to Wamran himself at the Commission headquarters while Wamran is on MSN via civilian wireless.

Due to Wamran's heavy use of SubstanceH.com, he develops cognitive problems which stop the left-wing and right-wing hemispheres of his brain from communicating. As a result, Wamran is no longer able to distinguish between his roles as a forum user and undercover hate investigator, which makes him incapable of performing his job. The tribunal reprimands Wamran for becoming addicted to SubstanceH.com while undercover, and warns him that he will be disciplined.

Jean reveals to Wamran that he has figured out through the process of elimination Wamran's true identity, and that his identity is indeed Wamran. Wamran is surprised to learn his own true identity and he begins to act extremely confused, disoriented, and unable to recall ostensibly memorable events when questioned before the Tribunal. Jean phones Donna, and asks her to take Wamran to Loveworks, a corporation that runs a series of sensitivity training clinics. Jean's identity is revealed as he accidentally logs on from Commission headquarters: he turns out to be Donna.

At Loveworks, Wamran experiences the severe symptoms of SubstanceH.com withdrawal. It turns out Donna was part of a greater Human Rights Commission operation to infiltrate Loveworks, and Wamran had been selected, without his knowledge or consent, to carry out the sting. It is revealed that the Commission had intended for Wamran to become addicted to SubstanceH.com, and sacrificed so he could infiltrate Loveworks. Donna was undercover both at the Commission ordering Wamran to spy on himself, and in his real life posing as his girlfriend and fellow poster. Both of Wamran's identities were merely pawns in a larger operation. This ultimately validates portions of Barris' paranoid suspicions that Donna and Wamran were actually covert agents working together, even though Wamran himself did not realize it.

As part of the sensitivity training at Loveworks, Wamran is renamed Bruce and put through diversity reconditioning treatments. Wamran has serious brain damage from his withdrawal from SubstanceH.com.

Donna, using the name Audrey, has a conversation with an unknown character revealing the fact that Loveworks is responsible for the founding of SubstanceH.com and that Wamran's well-being was sacrificed so that he may enter Loveworks unnoticed as a real hate criminal. They doubt whether there is still enough of Wamran left to find the evidence.

To continue his sensitivity training, Loveworks sends Wamran to work at an isolated Loveworks web design prison. Wamran spots directories full of stylesheets hidden between Spider Solitaire and Mah Jongg; these style sheets are the source of SubstanceH.com. As the book ends, Wamran hides one of the stylesheets on his USB key, so that when he returns to the Loveworks clinic during the nondenominational holiday season he can give it to his friends, people who are undercover Human Rights investigators.

1 Comment:

Honey Pot said...

hahahahahaha,

Keep slamming them!

Force the left msm media to cover it and let Canadians know what the hrc star chambers are all about.

The government will have no recourse except to have them investigated and shut down.