Saturday, April 08, 2006

Did we win the Cold War?

Or did the authoritarians? Of course, one might argue with some considerable justification that the US Government is authoritarian, but there are degrees. Western Europe seems enthusiasticly authoritarian, and the proliferation of speech laws along with their enforcement just more reason to wonder whether saving Europe from the Soviets even succeeded, much less was worth the effort.

Gerard Alexander, writing in The Weekly Standard, provides a litany of illiberal European offenses against freedom.

...anti-Nazi laws gradually expanded to cover other historical events. In 1993, Bernard Lewis, the eminent Princeton historian of the Middle East, was asked in an interview with Le Monde about the mass murder of Armenians in Turkey during World War I. He readily acknowledged that terrible massacres took place but questioned whether the murders were the result of a predetermined--that is, genocidal--plan. That conclusion brushed up against French laws that now prohibit denial of more crimes against humanity than just the Holocaust. Several activist groups in France filed complaints. Two civil and one criminal suit were dismissed, but Lewis was found guilty in another civil suit and condemned by the court for having not been "objective" regarding events that the European Parliament and other bodies had officially certified as a "genocide."
Disagreeing with the European Parliament isn't 'objective', and thus liable. Just how is this similar to the Soviet Union?
This is spreading to the European Union level, where a stream of rules now prohibits the broadcast, including online, of any program or ad that incites "hatred based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation" or--crucially--is "offensive to religious or political beliefs."
So, If Barbra Streisand offends my political beliefs, should I be able to successfully sue her? Should she be able to recover for being offended by Milton Friedman? Should I be able to sue- and sue successfully- Ward Churchill for offending my political beliefs? It appears that in Europe he could win against me.
Not all cases, of course, result in punishment...But an increasing number of European intellectuals, politicians, journalists, and even scholars have had uncomfortable and expensive brushes with speech laws...

SO THE REAL DANGER posed by Europe's speech laws is not so much guilty verdicts as an insidious chilling of political debate, as people censor themselves in order to avoid legal charges and the stigma and expense they bring.
Good old Europe. There was a reason our ancesters got out. And some of those reasons are still evident.

So sue me.

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