July 20, 2006
Free speech in Europe? Forget about it!
Europe is hardly the free place Americans so often assume it to be.
Brussels Journal's Paul Belien was recently visited by the police because of alleged "racist articles" on his website:
This morning, a police officer from the "Projectcel Mensenhandel en Vreemdelingen" (Project Cell Human Trafficking and Foreigners) came to my door to question me about alledged "racist" articles on this website. I was not in. My son was told to tell me to contact the police asap in order to make an appointment for interrogation. Apparently crime statistics in Belgium are so low that the police have nothing better to do than harrass journalists. However, since my lawyer is on vacation they will have to wait. The Belgian regime has decided to intimidate me in the hope to close down this website. I am becoming quite a regular at the local police station.(HT PJM)
The whole thing is quite scary, and it shows the danger posed by "hate speech" laws. Anyone can claim to be "aggrieved" by another person's statements, and allege that they are racist or hateful. Or "extremist." Or "pseudofascist." Or even "authoritarian."
This “swirl of speech-law charges, lawsuits, and investigations” is now sustained by an “antiracism” industry. “Europe’s speech laws are written and applied in ways that leave activists on the political left free to whitewash crimes of leftist regimes, incite hatred against their domestic bogeymen of the well-to-do, and luridly stereotype their international bogeymen, often with history-distorting falsehoods such as fictitious claims of genocide said to be committed by the United States and Israel. It may be no coincidence that Socialist and extreme-left parties have played central roles in the design of speech laws.”Gee, I wonder whether agitating against laws criminalizing "racism" or "hate speech" might in and of itself be seen as racist of hateful.
Lest anyone think Americans have nothing to fear, consider Dayton Law Professor Vernellia Randall's view:
Courts have often recognized that the right of free speech is not absolute. They have limited free speech when it becomes libel, incites a riot, threatens an elected official, or conspires to monopolize industries. Bans on cigarette advertising or liquor sales also narrow free speech. Anti-racists must become First Amendment realists who argue that individuals harmed by racist speech and symbols should be able to sue under defamation laws, intentional infliction of emotional distress laws, and/or assault and battery laws.Books like The Price We Pay have been advocating the end of free speech for many years.
Most Americans tend to take free speech for granted. Police going after bloggers is thought of as something happening only in brutal Third World dictatorships. I'd go so far as to say that many would be surprised to read about the police going after a blogger in Belgium.
Those who think "it can't happen here" should remember that it happens in countries we consider free, and that a growing chorus of people want it to happen here.
MORE: I just returned home and saw that I accidentally cut and pasted a paragraph from Fjordman's post (involving Second Amendment advocacy of all things) into the beginning of Professor Randall's quote!
It has been deleted. My apologies to both, and any readers who might have been confused. (I'm wondering whether George Harleigh's ghost is playing tricks on me. . .)
posted by Eric on 07.20.06 at 02:31 PM
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