Monday, January 15, 2007

Respectful Insolence: Stomping free speech flat in Europe:

I realize that Europe has a different history and that many European nations place different values than we Americans do on the right to free speech compared to the desire to restrict incitement, but these sorts of lawas are scary stuff to me. One big problem with the proposed law is that it seems to criminalize all Holocaust denial but says that it won't be "prosecuted" if it doesn't result in incitement. Who decides what is and isn't "incitement" in Holocaust denial? I have to wonder: What if someone simply says that the Holocaust never happened? Would that be legal, as long as he didn't say the Holocaust was some sort of Jewish conspiracy? Another problem with the description of the laws that are being proposed is that they seem frighteningly vague on defining what constitutes "incitement to racial hatred." Let's say someone starts ranting about how "Jews control the world" and that whites must "resist Jewish domination," adding, for example, some canards from The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion or the Blood Libel to spice things up. In the U.S., as disgusting as this sort of speech is, in the U.S. it is protected under the First Amendment, as long as it doesn't include speech that a reasonable person would consider to be likely to incite imminent lawless action or harm to another person. Under the "harmonization" of incitement laws, it sounds as though these vague sorts of expressions would be illegal.

2:06 PM