Tuesday, July 2, 2013

European Idiocy on Political Speech

This is an extraordinarily stupid prosecution. Le Pen is a racist and thus an unpleasant woman. But punishing her for controversial political statements is a terrible mistake. The rise of the far right in Europe is surging undaunted. From neo-Nazis in Greece to fascists in Spain, those who once shouted from the fringe are now finding new power. In Germany, the Nuremberg of 1946 finds sustaining echoes in the Nuremberg of 2013. In France, Le Pen's political movement currently finds second place in national polls. Even Britain is afflicted.

For too long, Europeans have pretended that political extremism was a thing of the past – locked away in horrific memory and sourced only in Islamist terrorism. Now they’re paying the price in a unified extremist energy. The urgency is real, Europe must act.

To address this rot, European governments must attack the hate mongers at the source of their power. Reforming speech laws would be a good place to start. A while back, I argued that Europe could learn from the American tradition on free speech. Restricting political activity, I suggested, only sustains extremist narratives. Tragically however, instead of taking inspiration from Skokie and Brandenburg, Europe’s governments have further restricted civic freedom. The spirit of revolutionary France has given way to a Government at war with twitter. The British Parliament, once home to Wilberforce and Churchill, now seeks dominion over the UK Press.

By constantly re-defining the contours of legitimate speech, European governments have chilled all speech. They’ve fostered a popular disaffection; an isolation that’s been greeted by a mass of welcoming and warring extremists. Le Pen's prosecution will only drive more supporters to her flag.

SEE ALSO some of my other writings on free speech

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