The right of freedom of speech is protected in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and it’s pretty easy to understand. Nestled in with the rest of the rights explained in the First Amendment is the following: “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” U.S. citizens aren’t alone in this right. Chinese citizens also have freedom of speech, as outlined in Article 35 of the Chinese constitution: “Citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession and of demonstration.” I would say that the hundreds dead at Tiananmen Square reveal the truth about Chinese freedom of speech, assembly, and demonstration. But that’s what you get when you have a “living Constitution” that means whatever the current government says it means. In the Constitution of the European Union, freedom of speech is covered by Article II, 71: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.”
European Union on Thursday made inciting racism and xenophobia crimes throughout its 27 member states in a landmark decision tempered by caveats to appease free speech concerns.
The new deal specifies one- to three-year prison terms be available for incitement to violence or hatred “against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin”.
That could include the sending of “tracts, pictures or other material.”
Germany has long held a tight rein on free speech. After World War II, it became illegal to publicly display the swastika or deny the Holocaust. I can understand the Germans’ loathing of Nazism, but I have a stronger love of free speech than my loathing of mass-murdering Nazi poopheads. I prefer to allow neo-Nazis to spout their hate and let people clearly see them for the wild-eyed fruitbars that they truly are. As I see it, once we start to block the political speech of people we dislike, how long will it be until our own political speech is blocked because someone else doesn’t like it? But the new rule in the EU goes even further than limiting incitement of violence or hatred:
The text also notes that “member states may choose to punish only conduct which is either carried out in a manner likely to disturb public order or which is threatening, abusive or insulting.”
Did you catch that last bit? It is now illegal to insult someone in the EU. No more Triumph the Insult Comic Dog in the EU. And for that matter, no more Jay Leno, Dave Letterman, or any other comedian who might make other people feel bad. I think a case could be made that just watching Rosie O’Donnell on “The View” is abusive and insulting, but since she doesn’t live in the EU, Rosie is safe for now.
Do you think I’m making a mountain out of a molehill over the phrase “threatening, abusive or insulting”? Take a look at this relevant tidbit from Denmark:
Three Danish lawmakers, all members of the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, have been reported to police for making remarks comparing Muslim women’s headscarves with swastikas.
The three were reported by the Documentation and Advisory Center on Racial Discrimination, Line Boegsted, spokeswoman of the Copenhagen-based non-governmental organization, said today in a telephone interview.
“The comments they’ve made were deeply unpleasant,” Boegsted said. “The question is now if they also were illegal.”
Parliament member Soeren Krarup was cited in daily Politiken and other Danish media on April 18 as saying that Muslim women’s headscarves, like Nazi Germany’s swastikas, symbolized totalitarian repression.
Welcome to the new, progressive European Union, where freedom of speech is a thing of the past.