We have followed the growing trend toward criminalization of speech in the West. This morning we have another such story out of Germany over a cover on the Swiss magazine Die Weltwoche, on the increasing numbers of Roma in Switzerland. The cover shows a Roma boy pointing a gun and critics have called for the magazine to be banned for racial incitement. There is ample reason to debate the merits of the cover story, entitled “The Roma are coming.” However, once again, there is a move to ban unpopular speech rather than allow free speech to be its own disinfectant.
Germany has long had a controversial legal code that criminalizes speech related to Nazi symbols and holocaust denial. Many civil libertarians have criticized these laws that have been used even against people with prohibited ringtones.
There is no question that the article is provocative with a subheadline: “They come, they steal and they go.” However, the magazine was pursuing an investigation into the rise of crime associated with the increasing number of Roma. There are obviously many objections that can be made on the data and conclusions, but that is what free speech is all about. Critics of the magazine insist that it is similar to Nazi propaganda by tying crime to ethnic origin. However, instead of answering the claims, critics are seeking to use the government to silence their opponents.
Once again, none of this concerns the merits of the debate, but rather the means of such debates. There appears to be a “new normal” in Europe that limitations on speech under hate crimes laws, discrimination laws, and blasphemy laws are acceptable. The result is placing free speech on a slippery slope toward greater and greater government limitations and monitoring.
10 thoughts on “Roma Advocates Seek Ban Of Swiss Magazine Over Incitement”
The great failing of banning things is that it just makes most of them more appealing and makes the people that indulge in them more certain that they have embraced something worthwhile.
Mike S, on the point of our not industrializing genocide I would have to disagree. The Spanish and European onslaught against the Native Americans was more than genocidal in tone.
As was pointed out correctly on another thread recently the reason the government put a bounty on the buffalo, and the ease with which they were killed by the million with the help of the newly completed transcontinental railway, was not because the government cared a whit about the buffalo. The government knew that the indigenous people of the plains could be driven to starvation and reservations if their food source was obliterated.
While infectious disease passed on without malice killed the majority of Native Americans what was done to the rest, if not entirely successful, passes as a good attempt at genocide. Entire tribes were extinguished, their only remainder being some artifacts in a museum. From outright massacres, forced relocation, extermination of their food source and even gifts of pox and pest ridden blankets an attempted genocide was perpetrated.
The difference is that it took place slowly and the industrial tools were not at hand to make the feat possible. We also had an abundance of perceived useless land where the Native Americans could be sent, that they might well die there was not a matter of much consideration. As many as possible were converted into good Christians at an early age with mission schools that had the death of their culture foremost in importance, in order that they be remade into Gods own white, European image.
We Europeans gave it a good shot.
It’s just a matter of time before all things are relevant even if only for a second….
When it comes to hate speech that is an old tune in our own country. Just go back to the 30’s and 40’s and you have the Jew hater and racist Father Coughlin broadcasting nationally. This is but one of thousands of instances of public toleration of hate speech here. Why were we different than Germany, or were we?
Slavery and Jim Crow were genocidal in tone, as was our treatment of Native Americans. That we as a country never moved on to industrializing genocide, as did the NAZI’s is perhaps attritable to our Constitution and its guarantee of free speech. People had the courage to dispute, debunk and disparage this powerful Catholic Priest and ultimately he didn’t prevail. Hatred of the “other” is perhaps a human trait that is timeless. We do not combat it by stopping its expression via banning, since that allows bigots to hide behind “code” that effectively spreads it via seeming innocence. We allow it, because to do elsewise limits freedom, but we then need to vigorously expose its falacies.
Banning speech disguises hate and hides the haters. Let them expose themselves so that we can truly know the enemy.
Just to be clear: “Die Weltwoche” is a Swiss magazine, not German. And describes the alleged behavior of Roma families in Switzerland (the title is “The Roma are coming: Raids into Switzerland”).
What incenses people the most is the picture of the boy holding a toy gun. That picture belongs to a report from 2008 describing to squalor of completely law-abiding Roman refugees of the Balkan war, who still live in a slum on a garbage dump in Gjakova (Kosovo).
Sadly, Germany has its past in mind when it goes by the adage, those that forget the past are condemned to repeat it.
I am mixed about this banning. The critics seem to be right about the incitement; it is a reminder of how they used this same “info” against the gypsies (and jews, and homosexuals, and catholics in the past). We would not want a ban here if the same article was entitled ‘The Blacks are coming” relying on crime stats on black on black crime, black on white crime, and the numbers of incarcerated african americans, without context. The offense, the slanting, the incitement would be the same, and there are way too many bigots who would stand up for it and use it, possibly, as a flag to incense and rile up even more folk.
So what do you do about it. Germany is relying on its past and the knowledge of what this kind of profiling one group as a hate target can do to a country, especially when many countries are looking for scapegoats for many of its woes.
Hopefully it could not happen here but you have to wonder, is say suggesting a boycott of the magazine that carried the story on African Americans sufficeient?
I would never want to see banned speech here, and to some extent political correctness, has done that without gov’t interference but I think Germany is looking farther then just at this one cover. They learned it is too easy to get a frustrated populace to find their scapegoat and try to eliminate it..
Since ww2 Germany has been very vigilant about neo nazis. We cant forget that many hundreds of thousands of roma were killed in nazi concentration camps and if these groups had their way, they would do it again.
“ban unpopular speech rather than allow free speech to be its own disinfectant.” (JT)
Is it the way you said it today or is it that my mind is a little more receptive this morning? Whichever the case may be, now I understand many of the decisions you have made.
The “word police” on steroids. Some countries do not allow words to be used without official approval. The Cultural Ministry of France for example bans words now and then.
It ain’t “word” until the mother of all words says it is “word.”
The article needs some perspective to the uninformed. Roma is Gypsie. Germany had a history folks of genocide against the Gypsie and Jews and other non Aryan races as they called them. The remaining Gypsy population after WWII did not rush back into East or West Germany after the war. European unification has allowed folks free flow. Lots of Romas are moving around again and they often still travel in Roma or Gypsie camps. The spelling goes both ways by the way.
It is a fact that Germans needs curbs on their free speech and Romas need curbs on their behavior.
If I was a Roma or a Gypsy I would rather be in England and Essen, Germany. For good reason. If I was in Essen, would rather they moved to England where people are real tolerant (sarcasm muted here).
Before you judge here, go to Europe and set up your campsite next to a Gypsie camp and give us a full report after a month.
The Gypsies can be kind to dogs. If I was a poodle I would not go near Germany.
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