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.

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."

Today, Fjordman (who blogs here) has a piece in the Brussels Journal which gets really radical, and advocates American-style freedom for Europe:

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.”

According to Alexander, this trend represents “the greatest erosion of democratic practice in the world's advanced democracies” since WW2. He recommends that reform-minded Europeans should use “the example of U.S. practice, which tolerates even loathsome speech.” I agree with him. It is time Europeans put aside some of our prejudice against the USA and adopt something similar to the First Amendment in the American Constitution, securing the right to free speech.
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.

Moreover, racism is a violation of human rights, as stated in the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) ratified by the U.S. government in 1994. Article 2 of this international human rights treaty requires that governments "prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means..., racial discrimination by any [private] person, group or organization." CERD goes further to say in Article 4 that "States will condemn all propaganda and organizations which are based on ideas or theories of superiority of one race...or which attempt to justify or promote racial hatred...and will adopt positive measures to eradicate such incitement to...discrimination."

The Race Convention is the only treaty that deals comprehensively with the elimination of all incidents of racial discrimination at the local, state and federal level, and supports positive actions by states, such as affirmative action, that are under attack in the United States. The treaty not only protects the right of a black family to buy a home, but also protects all African Americans from discrimination so that they may live in the neighborhood of their choice. In this way, the treaty not only protects individual rights, but also collective rights as a members of a group.

When ratifying the CERD treaty, the U.S. government decided to make a reservation to Article 4 saying that "suppression and criminalization of certain expression" such as racist speech and organizations is "inconsistent with existing First Amendment principles." Even while the ink was drying on the treaty, the government reaffirmed the constitutional shield for racists by declining to enforce this provision of the treaty.

The anti-racist movement now must build a human rights movement in the United States that will force the repeal of this crippling reservation to the Race Convention. We can use international human rights standards to develop effective laws to halt the worldwide spread of the dangerous virus of racism. By bringing human rights home, contagious boxes of hate literature will no longer be shipped around the world with labels saying, "Made in America."

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


We're sure Vernellia Randall exists? :-)

Scott   ·  July 20, 2006 5:04 PM

Scary stuff, but are you sure I exist to make this comment?

Harkonnendog   ·  July 20, 2006 6:37 PM

Y'all think that's scary?

There much more going on in the Old World.

If you have not done so already, I recommend reading 2 books:

WHILE EUROPE SLEPT: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within by Bruce Bawer.

Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's, too by Claire Berlinski.

That stuff is just as scary.

Kiril, The Mad Macedonian   ·  July 21, 2006 2:20 AM

People who think it can't happen here should look at what's going on with "campaign finance" regulation. It IS starting to happen here, only they're going straight for the brass ring: Political speech.

Brett Bellmore   ·  July 21, 2006 6:57 AM

"Halt the worldwide spread of the dangerous virus of racism?" As if racism wasn't already worldwide!

And suppressing its expression only allows us to pretend we're a better people than we are.

This "professor" is an idiot.

Raging Bee   ·  July 21, 2006 10:01 AM

By bringing human rights home, contagious boxes of hate literature will no longer be shipped around the world with labels saying, "Made in America."

What about paperless, and even more "contagious," Web hate-sites with labels saying "Made in the Caliphate?" Will the treaty take care of that stuff too?

Raging Bee   ·  July 21, 2006 10:07 AM

One more thing: can you post a link to the particular text that got the Brussels cops' attention? I may be missing something, but so far, I can't find the specific "offending" material.

Raging Bee   ·  July 21, 2006 10:14 AM

I'm much more concerned about the U.S. government and the powers it is now claiming than a couple of obscure academics.

Besides, Christian dominionists have always been willing to make common cause with speech-suppressing feminists when it comes to depictions and descriptions of sexual matters (I will not use loaded terms like "pornography," "erotica," etc.)

notway   ·  July 21, 2006 9:48 PM

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