Why the repeal of Europe’s hate-speech laws must be the first order of business for the anti-Islamization and free speech movements

In connection with the previous entry on Geert Wilders, here is my January 23, 2009 e-mail to Diana West and the other officers of the then newly formed International Free Press Society:


Congratulations on this new organization and on your stand in defense of Geert Wilders.

I have two points that I think should be added to your organization’s message.

First, it’s not just that a basic freedom is being attacked by this law. It’s not just that normal political speech is being criminalized. It’s that the Netherlands as a society is being prohibited from discussing the most important issues before it. It’s that politics itself is being abolished. It’s that Netherlands has ceased to be a self-governing society and has become a type of totalitarian society, where opinions the government doesn’t like are outlawed.

So, the problem is bigger than an attack on an individual or on individual rights. The problem is an attack on the society as a self-governing society. The problem is the abolition of politics.

Second, the problem is not this particular court decision authorizing a prosecution of Geert Wilders. The problem is the underlying hate-speech law, which makes it a crime to “incite hatred or discrimination” against a group. It makes no sense to criticize this particular prosecution, when the prosecution is simply enforcing the existing law that your organization is not challenging.

When I met Lars Hedegaard a few months ago in New York, he told me he had been accused of hate speech. I asked him, “What was the worst thing you said”? He said it was something like, “Islam is a danger to our society.” I then said to him that there is nothing shocking or out of the ordinary about his being charged with hate speech. It is completely logically consistent with existing law and custom. First, liberalism says that discrimination against a group is the worst thing there is. Second, all the European countries put the anti-discrimination principle into effect in the form of laws that make it an offense to “incite hatred or discrimination” against a group. To say that a particular group is a danger to society obviously can be reasonably construed as inciting discrimination against that group.

Therefore as long as these hate-speech laws exist, it will not be possible to speak the simple truth about the Islam threat. The hate-speech laws themselves must be repealed. And therefore what our side needs to do, first and foremost, is to denounce the hate-speech laws, to say that these laws are totally unacceptable in a free, self-governing society.

You write:

[T]he prosecution of Geert Wilders [is] an unacceptable breach of the sanctity of freedom of speech in Western society.

No, it’s not the prosecution of Geert Wilders that is an unacceptable breach of the sanctity of freedom of speech. It’s the hate-speech law that is an unacceptable breach of the sanctity of freedom of speech. The prosecution of Wilders is merely an instance of the application of that law. But your organization says nothing about the law.

Implicitly to accept the hate-speech law, as your organization’s statement does, and only to complain about the inevitable enforcement of that law, as it is being enforced against Wilders, is absurd and self-defeating.

Lawrence Auster

* * *

See also my September 2010 Open Letter to the International Free Press Society in which I argue that even if all legal restrictions on speech about Islam were removed, that would not help protect Islam critics (or even liberal cartoonists like Molly Norris) from Islamic fatwas against their lives, so long as Muslms reside in significant numbers in the West.

- end of initial entry -

N. writes:

This is a very important and profound insight, that by placing some topics off limits for discussion, the abolition of politics occurs. Because history teaches me that if there is no means for political change in a country, sooner or later change must come by force.

Perhaps one classic example is the ancien regime of France, where a succession of French kings made political change essentially impossible. This led, over time, to a cultural situation that could not continue, and so it didn’t; there was an overthrow of the king, and a descent into revolution.

By abolishing politics, the European elites guarantee a revolution of some kind in the future. If Providence allows, it will be mostly calm, such as the Velvet Revolution of Czechoslovakia. But this is not inevitable. There are other paths.

It has been said that “Politics is war by other means.” Therefore, if politics are abolished, the only alternative is war, sooner or later.

Thanks for this insight.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 23, 2011 10:10 AM | Send

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