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EU: Creeping authoritarianism
Posted by: McQ on Friday, April 20, 2007

This tendency in the EU continues to grow:
The 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."

The deal, reached by EU justice ministers in Luxembourg, display's "Europe's "common moral values", EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini told reporters.

[...]

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."

[...]

To make the text acceptable to Britain, Ireland and the Scandinavian states — particularly concerned about curbs to their freedoms of expression — Holocaust denial will only qualify under the EU-wide rules if it is deemed likely to incite hatred.

It is covered in a clause that states that the penalties will also apply to "publicly, condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes," as defined by the International Criminal Court and the post-World War II Nuremberg trials.

The wording could also apply to crimes against humanity perpetrated in Srebrenica, Rwanda and elsewhere.
I've highlighted some key points in this attempt at thought control.

First, who gets to determine what constitutes an "incitement to hatred?" This is a pretty likely candidate for an arbitrary standard.

Secondly, since when is it up to government to declare what is or isn't our "common moral values?" Seems to me, given the resistance to this by many states, that one of the common moral values in jeopardy is the right to free speech.

Third, who gets to determine what is or isn't "insulting?" And by what standard? What constitutes "gross trivializing"? Would an inappropriate joke land you in jail?

As mentioned, this is tantamount to thought control, and has no business being legislated in any free society.
"Attempts to harmonise EU laws on hate crimes are both illiberal and nonsensical," European Liberal Democrat Leader Graham Watson said in a statement summing up the British opposition.

"The proposed list risks opening the floodgates on a plethora of historical controversies — like the crimes of the Stalinist regime or the alleged Armenian genocide — whose inclusion could pose a grave threat to freedom of speech. The EU has no business legislating on history," he added.
Exactly. As with most poorly thought our legislation, the law of unintended consequences would have a field day. But of course the smooth talking apologists for the law want you not to worry:
"The text is in a sense more symbolic and political than judicial," said a French diplomat while stressing "the importance of having the EU 27 on the same platform against racism".
That's fairly easy to do - condemn racism and those who preach it. Expose them for what they are. But "outlawing" such speech is as unacceptable as the ideology of those it opposes.

Says Melanie Phillips:
Ostensibly about criminalising denial or trivialisation of the Holocaust, the measure will also make it make it mandatory for all EU member states to punish public incitement ‘to violence or hatred directed 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’. As was said repeatedly in the debates over Britain’s proposed law against incitement to religious hatred, hatred is a slippery concept and this would criminalise essential debate. Once ideas are criminalised — including Holocaust denial — we are all sunk.
What is being trivialized here is free speech, or, with the passage of this measure, not so free speech throughout Europe. This should remain an unacceptable restraint on that right and rejected out of hand by a majority of member states. But I have a suspicion it will be passed into law.
 
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the measure will also make it make it mandatory for all EU member states to punish public incitement ’to violence or hatred directed 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
Let’s see them use this measure against the Imams and Sheiks who preach hate in their mosques then. Not that I want to see anything like this legislated though.

This part really scares me...
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."
OK - so I’m going to be in Ireland for 10 days starting next week... and I now have to worry about my public ’manner’ which could possibly be considered ’insulting’? What the hell does THAT mean?
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
Why is it the article spends all this time talking about Holocaust denial, but doesn’t once mention a certain ethnic/religious group that takes even the slightest percieved insult as "incitement to violence or hatred." Has the press forgotten about a few cartoons already?

I mean, suppose someone says "Gee, I think that woman should be able to walk around in public alone and with their head uncovered. Saying they can’t is just stupid and insulting." Can that not be considered an insult at Muslims and likely to promote hatred or violence? Are they really that dense over there that they can’t see how stupid this law is?

Oh yeah, and...

It is covered in a clause that states that the penalties will also apply to "publicly, condoning, denying or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,"

The United Nations is illegal now?
 
Written By: Mariner
URL: http://
This law is bad enough as it is, but does anyone think it’s going to be applied evenly to all religious and ethnic groups? It’s going to become a legal club to silence your opponent with.

make me want to go on European television and insult every religion, race, nationality, and ethnicity I can think of for no reason than to show how stupid this law is.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
The United Nations is illegal now?

That oughta leave a mark!

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, & pfpp
 
Written By: Tom Perkins
URL: http://
OK - so I’m going to be in Ireland for 10 days starting next week... and I now have to worry about my public ’manner’ which could possibly be considered ’insulting’? What the hell does THAT mean?
If you are a public servant, I guess it could mean jail time if you have a piggy bank on your desk. It would be insulting to that group whose ethnicity or religion cannot be named.
 
Written By: Bob
URL: http://
Good. The EU needs to wake up, and the sooner the populace figures out a technocractic bureaucracy won’t work out in the long run the better.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Will our Dept. of State give warnings to travelers going to Europe? Perhaps a list of words and phrases that should not be used? Will Don Imus even be allowed entry into any EU member country? Given that anti-American feelings are not unknown in Europe, will American tourists be targeted by, for instance, "extremist" elements of a certain religion of peace or by political extremists? Like Meagain, I am also planning a trip to Europe and I really do not need this cr*p.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
First, who gets to determine what constitutes an "incitement to hatred?"
The law will define it and the judge will decide. IMHO (I’m not a lawyer) I expect it will be defined as a statement which attributes a negative characteristic to a whole group of people in an attempt to incite hatred.
Secondly, since when is it up to government to declare what is or isn’t our "common moral values?"
Since the moment they get elected.
Seems to me, given the resistance to this by many states, that one of the common moral values in jeopardy is the right to free speech.
Free speech is like democracy - it only works if everyone gets to do it (speak/vote). If you allow speech that isolates a group on some arbitrary basis and promotes hostility towards them, you threaten democracy itself. It’s a simple step to get the hate ball rolling, and but a short walk to talk of segregation, limited rights etc. (Bear in mind some countries in Europe are still - half a century later - extremely sensitive about this kind of behaviour).
Third, who gets to determine what is or isn’t "insulting?" And by what standard? What constitutes "gross trivializing"? Would an inappropriate joke land you in jail?
No, but a public speech or written article might. The insulting thing is a bit more tricky I think - we all know some people love nothing more than to declare how insulted they are - and no doubt we will soon see the hotheads making a noise about their own issues. Personally I believe that this is something to be judged by the alleged insulters’ own standards, not by the standards of the allegedly insulted. Only by the defendant’s own standards can we judge whether an insult was meant or not - otherwise you give free rein to every Tom Dick and Harry to define according to their own desires what is allowable (and that, clearly, should not be allowed).

I have faith in the common sense of the European people and fully expect to see a strengthening of the definition of free speech in response to this normalising of the definition of incitement to violence and hatred.
 
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://
It is a good thing for Salman Rushdie that he chose to come to the US instead of Europe, and it looks like Ayaan Hirsi Ali got out just in time. Perhaps this will also solve the problem of all those inconvenient and expensive political refugees attempting to flee to a European country. But then again, perhaps they would consider jail in Europe to be preferable to jail in the country they are fleeing.

"...and but a short walk to talk of segregation,..."

Oh, the horror! We can’t have talk, can we?

" Personally I believe that this is something to be judged by the alleged insulters’ own standards, not by the standards of the allegedly insulted"

I am relieved to hear that your personal belief is what is being enacted into law. Are you a judge, by the way?

"...and that, clearly, should not be allowed."

What should or should not be allowed is irrelevant.

"... strengthening of the definition of free speech in response to this normalising of the definition of incitement to violence and hatred."

"strengthening"? "normalising"? bs.

"I have faith in the common sense of the European people..."

I have faith in the American people, too, but that sure hasn’t prevented any number of idiotic prosecutions and convictions in this country, and I rather doubt that Europeans have any more common sense than we do. Faith can be a wonderful thing, but it has also had some rather nasty results. Faith is also, by definition, unreasonable and irrational.



 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I don’t know that I have a problem with these laws in practice until I see the abuse to which all laws are naturally subject to.

Given the gross history of racial violence and intolerance of twentieth century Europe, as well as the fast rising racial hatred in Western Europe (I have heard about incidents in England, France and Germany over the last few years, not sure about other countries), it strikes me as a natural progression of a society in an attempt to maintain order.

Pure, absolute, freedom of speech and action is anarchy, not democracy, or freedom, really, since it boils down to control over the mediums by which people receive communication. Or, in other words, might makes right. And if you don’t think that is a problem, take a look at the History of the Holocaust. The Germans passed laws legalizing every unthinkable act they committed against Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Jews, and anyone else who did not meet their standards.

I have a problem with trying to police other people’s thoughts, as I don’t do a very good job of policing my own. So I am definitely sympathetic to the skepticism with which you greet these pronouncements. But to respond as if they arose from some ahistorical desire to limit people’s thought and speech, as opposed to in a historical reaction to some of the greatest atrocities humans have ever perpetrated, is to rob yourself of the possibility of a real debate.
 
Written By: nick
URL: http://www.unclecheese.net
The Holocaust never happened.
Jews hoard all the money.
Send the immigrants back to Africa, Asia, Mongolia, Iceland and Cuba.
Homosexuals are gay. Really, really gay...

...and we should whip and poke midgets... with rusty butterknives!

Have I gotten myself sufficiently banned in Europe?
Now, when the wife asks for that second honeymoon, I can tell her,
"...Sorry honey, I’m facing prison time in Europe. We’re goin’ to Detroit instead!!"

 
Written By: BWIII
URL: http://
Oh, the horror! We can’t have talk, can we?
Of racial segregation - No. I already explained why. In a democracy, the one fundamental principle you cannot be allowed to attack is democracy itself - the right to vote. Start dividing the people on arbitrary bases and setting them against each other, and you threaten democracy, and risk losing all that western civilisation has strived to achieve these last four centuries.
I am relieved to hear that your personal belief is what is being enacted into law. Are you a judge, by the way?
No. Do I have to be a judge in order to express my personal opinion here ?
What should or should not be allowed is irrelevant.
Irrelevant to what ?
"... strengthening of the definition of free speech in response to this normalising of the definition of incitement to violence and hatred."
"strengthening"? "normalising"? bs.
Umm - what’s bs ? The fact that I expect a strengthening of the definition of free speech in European law (entrenching the principle further), or the fact that European countries are normalising their legal definitions of ’incitiment to hatred’ etc ?? Which part is bs ?

I have faith in the American people, too, but that sure hasn’t prevented any number of idiotic prosecutions and convictions in this country, and I rather doubt that Europeans have any more common sense than we do. Faith can be a wonderful thing, but it has also had some rather nasty results. Faith is also, by definition, unreasonable and irrational.
True. What’s your point ?
 
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://

"Do I have to be a judge in order to express my personal opinion here"

That depends on your opinion. Some opinions, as you say, are just too icky to be allowed.

"I expect a strengthening of the definition of free speech in European law (entrenching the principle further"

I suppose grave digging can be referred to as entrenching. It is amusing how putting restrictions and limits on freedom is called "strengthening".

"Free speech is like democracy - it only works if everyone gets to do it"

Except, according to you, those whose speech is not nice enough to be allowed.

" Only by the defendant’s own standards can we judge whether an insult was meant or not"

So, under your proposed "strengthened" free speech, how could you even charge someone who says they didn’t actually mean to insult anyone?

I close with an old saying we learned as children in the US. Perhaps you all should think about it.
"Sticks and stones can break my bones but names will never hurt me".
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Some opinions, as you say, are just too icky to be allowed.
No mate, not ’icky’, but contrary to the principle and practice of freedom. The problem with people like you is that you want the freedom to take away other people’s freedoms.
It is amusing how putting restrictions and limits on freedom is called "strengthening".
Good job some of us take it seriously. How exactly is entrenching the concept of free speech a restriction and limitation on freedom ?
>"Free speech is like democracy - it only works if everyone gets to do it"Except, according to you, those whose speech is not nice enough to be allowed.No, those whose speech is anti-freedom. There are those who say that stupid people shouldn’t be allowed to take part, but I don’t hold with that kind of talk.
So, under your proposed "strengthened" free speech, how could you even charge someone who says they didn’t actually mean to insult anyone?

Yes it would be tricky wouldn’t it ? :-)
 
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://blewog.blogspot.com

 
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