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.