Europe Isn’t Charlie Hebdo, No Matter How Much They Might Say They Are

via Flickr - Valentina Cala
via Flickr – Valentina Cala

In July 2014, Swedish police raided an art gallery, seized several “offensive” artworks, and charged the controversial artist Dan Park – along with the gallery owner – with “hate speech” and “defamation” for Park’s satirical artworks, which allegedly depicted blacks and gypsies in a “racist” manner. On August 19, Park was sentenced to six months in prison, while the gallery owner received a suspended prison sentence. The court ordered the “offending” artworks to be destroyed, and stated that Park “had an obligation to avoid being gratuitously offensive to others”. Nobody in Sweden felt that Park’s conviction was outrageous or even questionable. It was universally celebrated across the country – and across Europe – as “a milestone for equality and a major victory for basic human rights”. Every single “human rights” group in Sweden cheered Park’s conviction. In fact, on New Year’s Day, Park was beaten up by a gang of “anti-fascists” who felt that his conviction wasn’t strong enough. This, too, was widely celebrated, with the Swedish public feeling that he deserved it.

Just a few days later, Europeans were marching in solidarity with satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, proclaiming their undying support for freedom of speech after the magazine’s offices were attacked by jihadists over its caricatures of Muhammed. What’s the difference? The difference is that Charlie Hebdo was considered to be acceptable by the governments of Europe, whereas Dan Park’s artwork was not. Freedom of speech in Europe is a very tribalistic thing. More or less everyone in Europe claims to support freedom of speech, but only for people who agree with them, and they will eagerly seek to have the government shut down anyone who they find offensive or objectionable. The Charlie Hebdo magazine itself strongly supported France’s “hate speech” laws, and even campaigned to ban an entire political party (the far-right Front National, which is now leading in the polls). Immediately after the Charlie Hebdo march for “freedom of speech”, which was attended by numerous national leaders from all over the world, European governments announced that they would be making their “hate speech” laws even stricter – to keep society safe, of course. And no, they did not see anything even remotely ironic or contradictory about this, because freedom of speech in Europe only applies to speech that the government approves of.

In her article on European hate speech laws, Nina Shea notes:

In 2008, the EU mandated religious hate-speech laws, with European officials indignantly declaring that there is “no right to religious insult.” More revealingly, one official European commission delicately explained that this measure was taken to “preserve social peace and public order” in light of the “increasing sensitivities” of “certain individuals” who “have reacted violently to criticism of their religion.”

…while, in his article about the Copenhagen shooting and “offense creep” in Denmark, Jacob Mchangama notes:

Danish newspaper Politiken in 2010 entered into a settlement agreement with a Saudi lawyer claiming to represent 94,923 descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. In the settlement, Politiken said it “recognizes and deplores that our reprinting of the Cartoon Drawing of the Prophet Muhammad has offended Muslims in Denmark and in other countries around the world. We apologize to anyone who was offended by our decision to reprint the Cartoon Drawing.”

The same year, following another attack on Lars Vilks, the Swedish artist at the center of the Copenhagen attack last month, Denmark’s former minister of foreign affairs, Uffe Ellemann Jensen, said that Mr. Vilks “had asked and begged to be attacked” and that he “didn’t feel sorry for that Swede who has done all he can to provoke. I don’t have a dime of sympathy for him.”

This effectively sums up the weak-willed, cowardly, and downright pathetic mindset of the European continent. What one has to understand about the European mindset is that, first and foremost, it is the mindset of a slave. For a fine example, we can look at the reaction in the Netherlands following the killing of Theo van Gogh, who was executed by an Islamic jihadist for a film that he made criticizing Islam’s treatment of women. The very first reaction from Dutch politicians – including the Dutch Minister of Justice – was to suggest that the filmmaker would still be alive if the Netherlands had stricter “hate speech” laws preventing Theo van Gogh from releasing a film that criticizes certain aspects of Islam. This is the universal mindset in Europe. Europeans are terrified of the consequences that certain speech will have – if people are allowed to speak their minds, they say, it will not only lead to acts of violence, but will even lead to a new Holocaust. As a matter of fact, the Holocaust is very frequently brought up in Europe as a justification for banning “hate speech” (setting aside the fact, of course, that the Nazis were convicted numerous times under Weimar Germany’s “hate speech” laws, which only made them stronger by turning them into martyrs and giving them a platform through the courts). Europe is, generally speaking, a continent of very weak, impressionable people. If Nazis are allowed to speak openly, then Europeans fear that they will be unable to resist the temptations of Nazism. After all, why ban Nazis if you don’t think people will be swayed by Nazis? The government of the United States allows Nazis to speak out openly because it trusts the people of the US not to be drawn in by Nazism. In Europe, on the other hand, governments firmly believe that allowing Nazis to speak out openly would lead to the rise of the Fourth Reich since the European populace is so deeply impressionable and so profoundly unable to separate good ideas from bad ones.

In Europe, the idea that you can support gay rights without wanting to jail people for making homophobic comments is absolutely unfathomable. Every single gay rights group and gay rights activist in Europe staunchly supports imprisoning people for homophobic speech. Whenever someone is prosecuted for homophobic speech in Europe – which is quite often – all gay rights and “human rights” groups across the continent celebrate it as a “major victory”. As a matter of fact, getting people arrested for making homophobic comments is a central aspect of the gay rights movement in Europe. The idea that one can disapprove of something without seeking to make that thing illegal simply does not exist in Europe. If you disapprove of something, then you therefore MUST also support criminalizing that thing. Europeans generally expect the government to ban things that it disapproves of and they can’t even imagine the government disapproving of something without banning it. So, when they see “hate speech” coming from the US, their natural response is to believe that the US government approves of “hate speech” since it’s not banning it. Most non-Americans simply assume that the US also has “hate speech” laws and react with stunned disbelief and disgust upon finding out that it doesn’t. And, when Europeans see Americans defend freedom of speech for speech that they highly disapprove of, they are utterly bewildered. For example, I recently saw Europeans online who were absolutely baffled by how Obama supports gay rights, but doesn’t imprison anti-gay preachers. The European mind simply cannot process the idea that someone could defend freedom of speech for people that they profoundly disagree with. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen in Europe. In Europe, if you support someone’s right to say something, then you automatically agree with what they’re saying. If you support someone’s right to say bigoted things, then you ARE a bigot as far as the European populace is concerned.

“Hate speech” isn’t the only thing that’s illegal in Europe. There are a very large range of laws regarding what you can and cannot say, and this is all part of the vast “human rights” legal system. In Germany, “disparaging the memory of a deceased person” is punishable by up to two years imprisonment or a fine. In Belgium, anyone who “insults a religious object”, including by “words (or) gestures”, can be jailed for up to six months. In countries like the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it is illegal to identify with ideologies that allegedly oppose “human rights and freedoms”. In France, it’s illegal to advertise for alcohol (episodes of The Simpsons have to have the name of the fictional “Duff” beer censored out) and it’s illegal to film any real-life violence unless you’re a journalist (so filming police brutality as a non-journalist, for example, would be illegal). In the UK, David Cameron recently announced that he would be banning all forms of “non-violent extremism” along with “nonsense”. Similar laws exist all over Europe, and laws against “insulting” people also exist in almost every single country except for the US.

What kind of speech can get you arrested in Europe? As it turns out, the threshold isn’t exactly very high. Saying that you disapprove of homosexuality is guaranteed to get you put behind bars – in fact, a man in Britain was investigated by police for merely saying online that he didn’t approve of gay marriage and a politician in France was fined for saying that, if everyone was gay, people would not be able to reproduce. Implying that mass immigration leads to higher crime rates will get you charged with “incitement to hatred” (one Finnish politician was prosecuted for saying that increased immigration to Finland would increase crime) and so will promising to “abolish the multicultural society”, which a Dutch politician was prosecuted for. A man in Spain was given several years for prison for making online comments that “reject immigration and multiculturalism”. In Bulgaria, the journalist Martin Korbowski was charged with “discrimination” and “harassment on the basis of sex” for using a “sexist” metaphor in one of his articles (he compared the political situation in Bulgaria to menstruation and menstrual blood). Comments made in complete privacy can get you charged as well. A woman in Germany was prosecuted for writing a private letter in which she denied Hitler’s involvement in the Holocaust, but did not actually deny the Holocaust itself. It doesn’t matter whether your statements are true or not, as a politician in Sweden was convicted of “hate speech” for posting factual statistics about crimes committed by immigrants (the judge ruled that it didn’t matter that the statistics were factually true, since they were likely to “incite hatred”). Europe also has laws against “insulting” people and laws against “defamation” which make practically any negative comment a crime (anything from writing a negative movie review to criticizing a politician can get you charged with “defamation”). A woman in France was charged with “defamation” (police came to her house in the middle of the night) for writing “she’s a liar” on a YouTube video of a politician giving a speech, and another was prosecuted for writing a negative restaurant review. In Portugal, a man was fined for “defamation” for saying that the president should “go work”. In Switzerland, a man was arrested for “insulting a foreign government” (punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine) because he suggested online that Angela Merkel and her government were Nazis.

European governments can ban any group or political party that they want, and it’s very common for Europeans to demand that certain political parties be banned in order to “protect democracy”. When Germany failed to ban the far-right NPD party, “human rights activists” were outraged, with Russia citing it as an example of Western Europe’s “human rights failures”. Europe sees absolutely nothing ironic about “protecting democracy” by preventing people from voting for certain political parties – in fact, they genuinely believe that it’s an essential component of democracy. Again, the mindset here is that the people of Europe are far too childlike and impressionable to vote for the “right” political parties, so certain political parties need to be banned in order to prevent Europeans from voting the “wrong” way and putting Nazis into power again (never mind the fact that the Nazi Party actually WAS banned in Weimar Germany, of course). If Europeans are allowed to vote for Nazis, they will. That’s the underlying line of reason here.

These are just a few examples, of course. People are regularly hauled before courts and given criminal charges in Europe for saying “insulting” things about politicians, celebrities, and even random strangers on the Internet – and it’s quite common for police to come busting through people’s doors in the middle of the night because those people said something “hateful” or “insulting” online. The “human rights” lobby has continually sought to have these speech-restricting laws expanded (for example, “human rights” groups often complain that Germany’s laws against “hate speech” and “insult” aren’t strict enough), and “human rights” groups are now even pushing for laws that make people automatically guilty of “hate crimes” until proven innocent (in Catalonia, they’ve actually succeeded in passing such a law, and they came very close to passing one in the Oceanian nation of Australia). In 2013, European politicians and “human rights activists” attempted to have the EU set up state surveillance and “tolerance camps” for citizens with “intolerant” views, including “anti-feminism” and “overt approval of a totalitarian ideology” (they made sure to clarify that this ultra-Orwellian proposal was entirely compatible with “freedom of expression”, of course). In Belgium, the “human rights” lobby recently passed a law criminalizing a wide range of “sexist” speech, including speech that “reduces [people] to their sexual dimension”. “Human rights activists” in Europe have made many attempts to outlaw all criticism of feminism, and it’s only inevitable that European governments will eventually agree to do exactly that.

All of this seems positively Orwellian to an American, but it’s important to understand that Europeans genuinely do not consider any of this to be a restriction on freedom of speech. In Europe, even the most dedicated, hardcore “liberarians” and “free speech activists” still firmly believe that “free speech” and “hate speech” are two entirely separate, exclusive categories of speech. The principle that “hate speech is not free speech” is something that’s universally accepted among every single category of European society and every single European political party, from the left-wing to the far-right to libertarians and even nationalists. In 2006, the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy told journalists that freedom of speech does not include “the freedom to insult or offend”. Naturally, all of them agreed, as did the vast majority of the European populace. The “ultra-libertarian” and “free speech fundamentalist” position in Europe is that offensive speech shouldn’t always be illegal, but that “incitement to hatred” should always be against the law. That’s as “free speech absolutist” as you can possibly get in Europe, and even that is considered to be a very extreme position. The overwhelming majority of Europeans firmly believe that all offensive speech should be illegal.

For many years, “human rights” groups have tried to bring similar laws to the US. In 2014, the Montana Human Rights Network unsuccessfully tried to pass a “hate speech” law in Montana. Parvez Ahmed of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission has gone on record as stating that the US needs to pass “hate speech” laws and blasphemy laws, and the “human rights” lobby is working around the clock to make this happen. In our close ally Japan, the “human rights” lobby is actually finding success in their battle to outlaw “hate speech”. Like in the US, the “human rights” lobby in Japan cites Europe as an example to follow. But Europe is not an example of a society that we should ever seek to emulate. Europe should serve as, if anything, a warning. The continent is experiencing a drastic resurgence of far-right extremism and, the more they crack down on “hate speech”, the stronger the haters become. In fact, neo-Nazi parties like Golden Dawn and Jobbik are now on track to become national leaders, and prosecutions for “hate speech” have made these parties even stronger. This is exactly what happened in Weimar Germany, when the Nazis were prosecuted for “hate speech” numerous times, which only turned them into sympathetic courtroom martyrs while giving them tons of free publicity. Europe never learns from its mistakes, but we should learn from Europe’s mistakes and seek to never pass similar legislation. Europe is the mentally deficient child that the United States is tasked with babysitting – a very bratty and ungrateful child at that. This a continent that has absolutely no problem passing laws that explicitly discriminate against Muslims (banning burqas, minarets, and so forth), but will throw people in jail for criticizing Islam. It’s a continent where emotion reigns supreme and logic simply does not exist. The United States has absolutely nothing to gain from emulating Europe’s laws, but it has everything to lose. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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