The modern thought police is hard to spot, as it often seeks cover under soothing words such as “democracy” and “human rights.” While each member state of the European Union likes to show off the beauties of its constitutional paragraph, seldom does it attempt to talk about the ambiguities of its criminal code. Last year, in June and November, the European Commission held poorly publicized meetings in Brussels and Strasbourg whose historical importance regarding the future of free speech could overshadow the recent launching of the new euro currency.
At issue is the enactment of the new European legislation whose objective is to counter the growing suspicion about the viability of the multiracial European Union. Following the events of September 11, and in the wake of occasionally veiled anti-Israeli comments in some American and European journals, the wish of the European Commission is to exercise maximum damage control, via maximum thought control. If the new bill sponsored by the European Commission regarding “hate crime” passes through the European parliament, the judiciary of any individual EU member state in which this alleged “verbal offence ” has been committed, will no longer carry legal weight. Legal proceedings and “appropriate” punishment will become the prerequisite of the European Union’s supra-national courts. If this proposed law is adopted by the Council of Ministers of the European Union, it automatically becomes law in all European Union member states; from Greece to Belgium, from Denmark to Portugal. Pursuant to this law’s ambiguous wording of the concept of ” hate crime” or “racial incitement,” anyone convicted of such an ill-defined verbal offense in country “A” of the European Union, can be fined or imprisoned in country “B ” of the European Union.
In reality this is already the case. In hindsight, the enactment of this EU law appears like the reenactment of the communist criminal code of the late Soviet Union. For instance, the communist judiciary of the now defunct communist Yugoslavia had for decades resorted to the similar legal meta-language, such as the paragraph on “hostile propaganda ” of the Criminal code, Article 133. Such semantic abstraction could apply to any suspect – regardless whether the suspect committed acts of physical violence against the communist state, or simply cracked a joke critical of communism.
For the time being the United Kingdom enjoys the highest degree of civil liberties in Europe; Germany the lowest. The UK Parliament recently turned down the similar “hate crime” law proposal sponsored by various pressure groups. However, numerous cases of mugging of elderly people of British descent in English cities by foreign, mostly Asian gangs, either go unreported, or do not have legal follow ups. If a foreign suspect, charged with criminal offense is put on trial, he usually pleads innocent or declares himself in front of often timid judges as a “victim of racial prejudice”. Thus, regardless of the relative freedom in the UK, a certain degree of de facto self-censorship exists. The proposed EU law would make this de facto censorship de jure. This could, possibly, trigger more racial violence, given that the potential victims would be afraid to speak out for fear of being convicted of “hate speech” themselves.
Since 1994, Germany, Canada and Australia have strengthened laws against dissenting views, particularly against revisionists and nationalists. Several hundred German citizens, including a number of high- profile scholars have been accused of incitement to racial hatred or of denying the holocaust, on the basis of the strange legal neologism of the Article 130 (“Volkshetze”) in the German Criminal Code. From this poorly worded yet overarching grammatical construct, it is now easy to place any journalist or a professor in legal difficulty if he/she questions the writing of modern history or if happens to be critical about the rising number of non-European immigrants.
In Germany, contrary to England and America, there is a long legal tradition that everything is forbidden what is not explicitly allowed. In America and England the legal practice presupposes that everything is allowed what is not specifically forbidden. This may be the reason why Germany adopted stringent laws against alleged or real holocaust denial. In December of last year, a Jewish-American historian Norman Finkelstein, during his visit to Germany, called upon the German political class to cease to be a victim of the “holocaust industry” pressure groups. He remarked that such a reckless German attitude only provokes hidden anti-Semitic sentiments. As was to be expected, nobody reacted to Finkelstein’s remarks, for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic themselves. Instead, the German government, via its taxpayers, agreed last year to pay further share of 5 billion euros for this fiscal year to some 800.000 holocaust survivors. Such silence is the price paid for intellectual censorship in democracies. When discussion of certain topics are forbidden, the climate of frustration followed by individual terrorist violence starts growing. Can any Western nation that inhibits speech, and the free expression of diverse political views -however aberrant they may be – call itself a democracy?
Although America prides itself on its First Amendment, free speech in higher education and the media is subject to didactic self censorship. Expression of politically incorrect opinions can ruin the careers of, or hurt the grades of those who are “naive” enough to trust their First Amendment rights. It is a growing practice among tenured professors in the USA to give passing grades to many of their minority students in order to avoid legal troubles with their peers at best, or to avoid losing a job at worst.
In a similar vein, according the the Fabius-Gayssot law, proposed by a French Communist deputy and adopted in 1990, a person uttering in public doubts about modern antifascist victimology risks serious fines or imprisonment. A number of writers and journalists from France and Germany committed suicide, lost their jobs, or asked for political asylum in Syria, Sweden or America.
Similar repressive measures have been recently enacted in multicultural Australia, Canada and Belgium. Many East European nationalist politicians, particularly from Croatia, wishing to visit their expatriate countrymen in Canada or Australia are denied visa by those countries on the grounds of their alleged extremist nationalistic views. For the time being Russia, and other post-communist countries, are not subject to the same repressive thought control as exists in the USA or the European Union. Yet, in view of the increasing pressure from Brussels and Washington, this may change. Contrary to widespread beliefs, state terror, i.e. totalitarianism is not only a product of violent ideology espoused by a handful of thugs. Civic fear, feigned self-abnegation, and intellectual abdication create an ideal ground for the totalitarian temptation. Intellectual terrorism is fueled by a popular belief that somehow things will straighten out bythemselves. Growing social apathy and rising academic self-censorship only boost the spirit of totalitarianism. Essentially, the spirit of totalitarianism is the absence of all spirit.
The author is a writer and former political science professor in the USA. He is also a former Croatian diplomat. Mr. Sunic writes from Croatia.