June 15, 2010
As a Norwegian American, I'm feeling offended!
So when's my hearing?
For criticizing the Islamists, Bruce Bawer has become an enemy of the people -- and he might even be liable for criminal prosecution.
In Norway of all places.
Being an American of Norwegian heritage, I take this personally, and I think that the Norwegian government is making all Norwegians look bad. In fact, I feel personally humiliated and insulted by their actions.
Here's what the Norway's Discrimination Law (passed in 2005) says:
It forbids "harassment on the grounds of ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin color, language, religion, or beliefs," and, in turn, defines harassment as "actions, omissions, or utterances [Bawer's emphasis] that have the effect or are intended to have the effect of being insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating."Which means it is illegal to say anything which might offend anyone.
And as Bawer notes, anyone can complain -- especially members of certain far left Norwegian organizations:
Defendants may be accused not only by the individuals whom they've supposedly offended but also by semiofficial organs such as the Anti-Racist Center and the Center against Ethnic Discrimination (both of which helped formulate the law, and both of which exist less to oppose real racism and discrimination than to oppose political incorrectness generally) or by the government's Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud.So if they disagree with you and say they're offended (as happened to Bawer) there can be criminal penalties:
Violations of the law by individuals are punishable by fine; violations by individuals in concert with at least two other persons (such as a writer conspiring with an editor and publisher, perhaps?) can be punished by up to three years' imprisonment -- this in a country where murderers often get off with less. Moreover, the burden of proof is on the accused: you're guilty until proven innocent.The normal American (non-leftist) response to this is to say "it can't happen here." Many leftists, though, want it to happen here. They are chafing at the bit to be enforcers, and they would love nothing more than to be able to imprison people who disagree with them.
Islamist activists are the worst offenders, and they are working overtime here in the United States to harass their critics any way they can. Just yesterday, I learned that Pam Geller, who is very outspoken in her criticism of Islamists, was labeled a "hate site" by Paypal, which threatened to lift her account privileges.
That's basically online banking for anyone who buys, donates or moves money online. It's huge, run by eBay, and an institution with which anyone with an established online presence literally has to deal. (I use it often.) Being threatened by Paypal in this way is the equivalent of your bank threatening to close your account because someone disagreed with what you said. It is an outrage. I was all set yesterday to call Paypal and yell and scream, but enough people already have -- to the point where the company backed down in the face of the bright lights.
Sorry, but that is not enough. It should never have happened, and should never be allowed to happen. (I say this not as a fan of Geller -- whose style I don't share and with whom I have my disagreements -- but that is totally irrelevant. I would say the same thing if Paypal tried to terminate WorldNetDaily.)
What is clear that activists are doing everything they can to harass and silence those with whom they disagree. If they are ever (God forbid) given the sort of legislation that Norway is using against Bawer, then we can kiss freedom goodbye.
But I would like to point out something that is being forgotten -- probably because Norway does not share our legal system. When insulting or offending people is made illegal, the list of potentially aggrieved parties cannot easily be delimited or circumscribed. What might be intended to prohibit insulting Islamists can just as easily be applies to fundamentalist Christians, or any other group. If "harassment on the grounds of ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin color, language, religion, or beliefs," includes "actions, omissions, or utterances that have the effect or are intended to have the effect of being insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating," that would also criminalize the Folsom Street Fair's sadomasochistic spoof of the Last Supper. Because there's no question that it was considered insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating by many fundamentalist Christians. A statute like that can't be limited to things like Muhammad cartoons, or criticism of Islamists, or jihadists. Moreover, Islamists hate gays, and want to kill them. Anti-gay statements by Muslims would therefore be just as actionable as anti-Muslim or anti-Christian statements by gays.
As to what constitutes "beliefs" (within the rubric of "ethnicity, national origin, ancestry, skin color, language, religion, or beliefs") that might even include conservatism. Or libertarianism. Which means that in the event of a different result in the next Norwegian election, it would be the other side's turn to take control of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud, and have at it by retaliating against their political enemies.
It's too easy to laugh at Norway, and liken the place to a corrupt Third World kleptocracy. I'd be laughing if there weren't people here who want to do the same thing here, and who have been raised and nurtured in academic environments where the freedom to speak our minds Americans take for granted for hundreds of years has been systematically stamped out.
Truly, freedom of speech is one of those things where we use it or lose it.
UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.
Comments welcome, agree or disagree.
It is being pointing out that there is a double standard in the way these laws are enforced, and I am well aware of that. (Hence the ironic title -- and my gentle reminder that if we live under rule of law, phrases like "insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating" can -- and will -- be applied to a lot of things.)
posted by Eric on 06.15.10 at 11:44 AM
Search the Site
Classics To Go
See more archives here
Old (Blogspot) archives
A knee sock jihad might be premature at this time
People Are Not Rational
No Biorobots For Japan
The Thorium Solution
Radiation Detector From A Digital Camera
This war of attrition is driving me bananas!
Attacking Christianity is one thing, but must they butcher geometry?
Are there trashy distinctions in freedom of expression?
Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood