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.

Paypal.

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










Comments

Did you see the episode of The Simpsons last year in which the citizens of Springfield built a wall around their city to keep out the Norwegians?

chocolatier   ·  June 15, 2010 12:14 PM

Eric, have you noticed that only members of the white Christian population get charged with these so called crimes?
It seems that non white and/or non Christian people are considered not capable of racism or hate crimes under these laws.
Is this not a double standard?

Hugh   ·  June 15, 2010 3:00 PM

Of course it's a double standard. But the laws are silent on who has the right to enforce the rules when offended. People should remember that the rules they promulgate to go after their enemies can be used against them. Similarly, privileges and advantages intended for one group can later be used by others.

Eric Scheie   ·  June 15, 2010 3:12 PM

The law may apply equally to non-Moslem "hate speech" and to moslem "hate speech", but the authorities may only enforce the non-moslem "hate speech"

We have seen this in Canada where moslem protesters can shout "death to the jews" and no official notice is taken.

Publish a cartoon depicting Mohammed and its hate crime time.

GGdon   ·  June 16, 2010 11:11 AM

I have canceled my Paypal account until they stop dealing with true hate groups. It offends me.

Gbear   ·  June 16, 2010 6:46 PM

I opened an account with GPal. Just to be sure. And friend them on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/GPalinc

somercet   ·  June 16, 2010 6:55 PM

It's Murder (of Freedom of Speech) by Lawsuits. If you don't want to spend your life savings defending yourself from baseless law suits, then shut up.

ic   ·  June 16, 2010 6:57 PM

Calling people racists or blaming people of hate speech, unless you can prove it with hard evidence like burning crosses in lawns, are also hate speech. Getting your feelings hurt isn't hate speech. Get over it.

Concerned Citizen   ·  June 16, 2010 6:57 PM

Wait wait, OMISSIONS? So it's not only illegal to say something they deem hateful, it's also illegal to NOT say something in such a way that they find hateful (Perhaps failing to say "Good day, neighbor!" to a particular person)? Wow. Basically, if a designated victim decides he doesn't like you, you're just hosed.

Kinda reminds me of the old South, only in reverse.

VAdept   ·  June 16, 2010 7:13 PM

In my experience, Norwegians are on the whole preening, hypocritical, and wildly sanctimonious. They get their information about the wider world from a small handfull of Left journalists who write for the small number of Norwegian-language publications. They will steer any innocent conversation into any area where they can assert, based on absurd premises, their overbearing moral superiority. Every white person in the world who is not a Norwegian is automatically a racist, until he can prove otherwise. This is accomplished with a ridiculously cheap gesture, like professing a liking for Paul Simon's "Graceland" album.

I can say these things because my mother, as a young woman, escaped from that silly, insular place to become an American, so I have been in contact with Norwegians my whole life.

Nice scenery, though.

mesquito   ·  June 16, 2010 8:11 PM

Stupid Norwegians.

Oh, wait, I'm Norwegian..

Stupid ^%(*&^ Norwegians!

Swen Swenson   ·  June 16, 2010 8:19 PM

You're dreaming if you think that these types of laws will be, or are used on everyone.

As a Canadian, I can assure you that thatís not how they work at all. These laws are all about the bludgeoning into submission, those who challenge the leftwing supremacist ideology.

It can best be described as Palatable Fascism.

Blame Crash   ·  June 16, 2010 9:14 PM

These laws are all about the bludgeoning into submission, those who challenge the leftwing supremacist ideology.

That's the way they are being used, because the left has power and assumes it always will. But the same laws -- in this country at least -- could be used by anyone willing to litigate (although it might require taking it up on appeal...)

Eric Scheie   ·  June 16, 2010 10:07 PM

It took me one minute with Google to find this now classic example of the pseudo-intellectual accusation that everyone is prejudiced, but only Whites are racist. That is the definition!

So, just apply this to offending people by your speech. It just might be that a Muslim is incapable by definition of offending a non-Muslim, leaving only the non-Muslim subject to the law.

This is asymmetric, intellectual warfare. The people who want to be good are falling for propaganda designed to control them. Socialists offer to increase the power of the state over them as an expiation of their sins. This only works because they are already good people, with the usual amount of anxiety about the world.

Sorry about the length. This standard argument deserves to be seen in detail to be opposed and laughed at.

The Undergirding Factor is POWER, Toward an Understanding of Prejudice and Racism
By Caleb Rosado, Department of Urban Studies, Eastern University, Philadelphia, PA [edited, emphasis added]

Prejudice by itself does not constitute racism, however. Neither does power by itself. But when people use their position of power, be it political or institutional, to reinforce their prejudices and to enforce them so that as a result of their racial prejudices the life chances, rights and opportunities of others are limited, the result is racism.
Racism is prejudice plus power. While all people can be prejudiced, only those who have power are really racist. African Americans, Latinos, Asians and American Indians (the powerless in American society) can be and often are most prejudiced toward Whites on an individual basis, but they are not racists at the structural, institutional level.
Within this understanding of racism, to be a racist you have to possess two things: 1) socioeconomic power to force others to do what you desire even if they don't want to, and 2), the justification of this power abuse by an ideology of biological supremacy.
What often is described as racism in society today, is really nothing more than prejudice and discrimination. While a Black or Latino person, through the use of a gun and/or intimidation, can force a White person to do as he (as an individual) desires, this is an individual act of aggression, not a socially structured power arrangement.
At present, only Whites have that kind of power, reinforced by a belief in an ideology of supremacy, both of which constitute the basis of racism in America today.

Summary: When a Black man fears a White man for being white, that is prejudice. When a White man fears a Black man for being black, that is Racism (requiring the intervention of the government). This is the accepted Liberal view, enforced by the government and taught at respectable universities.

Andrew_M_Garland   ·  June 16, 2010 10:15 PM

Yeah, that's the accepted liberal view and the whole theory of such academic disciplines as "whiteness studies." FWIW, I have ridiculed the idea repeatedly.

http://www.classicalvalues.com/archives/2006/01/the_unbearable.html

http://www.classicalvalues.com/archives/2008/09/white_privilege.html

But my point is that academic theory is not law. Such garbage would never hold up in court. Especially when the laws broadly forbid anything that's "insulting, intimidating, hostile, degrading, or humiliating."

Eric Scheie   ·  June 16, 2010 10:48 PM

Surely the Act is in conflict with the terms of Article 100 of the Norwegian Constitution.
"Article 100
There shall be freedom of expression.

No person may be held liable in law for having imparted or received information, ideas or messages unless this can be justified in relation to the grounds for freedom of expression, which are the seeking of truth, the promotion of democracy and the individualís freedom to form opinions. Such legal liability shall be prescribed by law.

Everyone shall be free to speak his mind frankly on the administration of the State and on any other subject whatsoever. Clearly defined limitations to this right may only be imposed when particularly weighty considerations so justify in relation to the grounds for freedom of expression.

Prior censorship and other preventive measures may not be applied unless so required in order to protect children and young persons from the harmful influence of moving pictures. Censorship of letters may only be imposed in institutions.

Everyone has a right of access to documents of the State and municipal administration and a right to follow the proceedings of the courts and democratically elected bodies. Limitations to this right may be prescribed by law to protect the privacy of the individual or for other weighty reasons.

It is the responsibility of the authorities of the State to create conditions that facilitate open and enlightened public discourse."

To use American constitutional concepts, the definition of 'harassment' is facially overbroad and subjective. I guess the subjective portion allows the whiners to thing that this is 'weighty'. I wonder if there is any jurisprudence concerning a citizen's right to complain/force the state to actually take steps to "facilitate open and enlightened public discourse.

I do like Article 104. Could do with it here in Canada and in the US.
Article 104
Land and goods may in no case be made subject to forfeiture.


Dyspeptic Curmudgeon   ·  June 16, 2010 11:57 PM

All of this nonsense trying to make it against the law to offend someone is getting me in the mood to exercise my freedom of expression by burning some Korans... I am not usually a book burner, but in the this case, I'll make an exception.

The Norwegians who support this politically-correct nonsense will awake one day to find themselves in chains, enslaved by the sons of Islam. Hope they enjoy dhimmitude.

Georgiaboy61   ·  June 17, 2010 12:36 AM

Nazis too can be victims of hate crimes!
http://www.mytowncrier.ca/story-15821-1-1.html

Bob   ·  June 17, 2010 1:23 AM

PayPal is a private enterprise -- they should be free to deal with whomever they want. As for Geller, didn't she claim at one point that Obama was the child of Malcom X? And IIRC, she was serious. I would not want her associated with my company either if I were PayPal.

John Settembre   ·  June 17, 2010 1:32 AM

Dear Mr. Scheie: The Nobel Peace Prize is determined and awarded by a committee of Norway's parliament. Given that they heaved the first Peace Prize they could at The One, why are you surprised at a) this law's being passed in the first place and b) the way it is being enforced?

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

Gregory Koster   ·  June 17, 2010 2:59 AM

Bruce can relax. Although the law is very unfortunate, as a writer in Oslo, I'm quite sure that it will never be used against expressions of his kind. Or mine, for that matter - I've called Muhammad a pedophile in my column in a leftist Norwegian newspaper.
http://www.dagsavisen.no/meninger/article389299.ece

If the current PC government tried that, the law would be changed, just as we over the last couple of years managed to stop their proposal to lift the ban on hijab in the police and strenghening of blasphemy laws to include attack on religious belief.

Although far from perfect, the Norwegian debate on multiculturalism is much more open than it used to be, and the principle of freedom of speech have strong enough defenders to secure it.

Jan Arild Snoen   ·  June 17, 2010 3:44 AM

They gave the Nobel Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat.

frank   ·  June 17, 2010 5:21 AM

I have canceled my Paypal account until they stop dealing with true hate groups. It offends me.

I have stopped using money, gold, silver, and anything of value because they are used by hate groups.

Does that sound stupid or what?

I do have a PayPal account. Send me the money.

M. Simon   ·  June 17, 2010 5:43 AM

Yes, John, Paypal is a private enterprise. They are free to deal with whomever they want. And I have the right not to deal with them, and call them a bunch of evil motherfuckers in the bargain. And no one should be able to stop me from saying that in any public forum.

SDN   ·  June 17, 2010 7:12 AM

I realize that the official "State" authority may follow up only against non Muslims, but what about flooding the "hate" crime speech police with thousands and thousands of complaints against the Muslim and/or leftist organizations that have offended you.

Turn their own policies against them and make them follow their own rules. Make them follow the letter of the law or you can claim bias.

WJ   ·  June 17, 2010 8:18 AM

"It's too easy to laugh at Norway, and liken the place to a corrupt Third World kleptocracy."

C'mon, Norway is a functional democracy that scores consistently on the top (as Best)on all OECD indicators (including corruption). Our sovereign wealth fund owns a bit over 1% of all publicly traded stocks worldwide, and we still don't try to leverage all this money for political advantage (alas, except regarding Israel).

It's true that the draconian "hate speech" legislation is in place, but so far no one have been taken to court over it. And indeed there is a vigorous public debate over the consequence of doing so. Most people (participating in the debate) thinks that the norwegian Supreme Court would shoot down any lower courts restrictive interpretation as a transgression of the Constitutions free speech and conscience rule.

But in the mean time, 'till an actual case is heard... Yea, maybe free speech is somewhat chilled. Who knows.

Theo   ·  June 17, 2010 10:46 AM

"[Leftists] 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."

Eric, I hate to be a grammar Nazi, but I think the phrase you were seeking is "chomping at the bit." A horse that is eagerly chomping or chewing his bit is ready to take off, while to chafe is to rub wrong or irritate.

submandave   ·  June 17, 2010 11:01 AM

Pointing out that these kinds of laws could be used against leftists is besides the point. Most leftists know that they will be the ones manning the commissions, "human rights" councils and other institutions of state authority who will be deciding "hate speech" cases. They will ignore violations against whites and only enforce punishments against rightists they don't like. That's the scary part.

Philip Cassini   ·  June 17, 2010 1:31 PM

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