… in the wake of the horrific massacre at the offices of French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo
writes Benny Huang
, a defiant breeze has swept across Europe.
Londoners, Berliners, and Romans are
reaching out in solidarity to the people of Paris in their time of grief
and anger. “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) they proclaim, an
affirmation of their common European heritage of free speech and
Yet I can’t help but wonder if the mourners aren’t a day late and a
euro short in their defense of a value that has slowly but persistently
eroded over a period of decades. It would be wonderful if the sentiment
expressed at these vigils were a genuine revival of the spirit of 1848
but it hardly seems possible to “defend” a principle that in all
likelihood no longer exists.
Free speech is dead in Europe and while
it is certainly tempting to blame the immigrants, as intolerant as they
may be, it would also be folly. The real culprits are the cowardly,
hedonistic, post-Christian, post-industrial native born white majority.
The three bestial al-Qaeda terrorists who murdered twelve people at
Charlie Hebdo HQ might seem like menacing enemies of free speech but
they’re actually bush league amateurs when it comes to gagging people.
The real pros are sitting behind desks in the various capitals of
Europe. Nearly every European nation extends some guarantee of free
speech to its citizens, and nearly every one of them flagrantly violates
… The authorities in Britain arrest
people who harbor banned ideas, and believe me, I’ve got a lot of them.
Clegg’s prescient countryman, Eric Blair (George Orwell) predicted this
phenomenon nearly seventy years ago and gave it a name—thoughtcrime.
Thought criminals should take notice that they will find no shelter
in today’s United Kingdom. Little more than a week before the cartoon
jihadists spilled French blood, police in Scotland tweeted the following
threat: “Please be aware that we will continue to monitor comments on
social media & any offensive comments will be investigated.”
Offensive to whom, exactly? They don’t say. But in a free society it
shouldn’t matter a lick. Offensive comments are exactly the kind of
comments that free speech is designed to protect. Innocuous comments
don’t require protection.
… On the Continent, outspoken MP Geert
Wilders faces criminal prosecution under “hate speech” laws for comments
he made about immigration. At a rally in the Hague he asked a crowd “Do
you want more or fewer Moroccans?” to which they chanted, “Fewer!
Fewer! Fewer!” Mindless xenophobia? I don’t think so, though it’s also
irrelevant. Free speech protects mindless xenophobia.
Nor is everyone feeling the spirit of
freedom after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Swedish MP Veronica Palm
contacted the police to report that another MP of an opposing party,
Bjoern Soeder, might have violated Swedish law with a comment he posted
on Facebook concerning the terrorist attack in Paris. “’The Religion of
Peace’ shows its face,” he said, clearly indicating with his use of
derisive quotes that he doubts Islam’s pacifistic nature, as many people
do. His nemesis Veronica Palm declared: “This statement is offensive to
a group of people and I want to see if it comes under laws against
inciting racial hatred.” Ms. Palm apparently does not understand that
Islam is not a race. Even if it were, free speech guarantees the right
to make racist comments as well.
Are we much better? Oh, a little bit, I suppose. Anyone who thinks
that free speech is alive and well in America ought to experience the
suffocating environment of academia. If you happen to be on a college
campus and you still think America guarantees a healthy exchange of
controversial ideas then you’re probably one of the drones who keeps the
rest of us line. Good for you.
Europe, however, is a decade or two ahead of us in the downward slide
toward mind control. Governmental censorship has infested the
birthplaces of Voltaire and John Stuart Mill.