Merkel Offers Erdoğan The Head of German Comedian In Final Surrender Of Free Speech

220px-Recep_Tayyip_ErdoganAngela MerkelChancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to first apologize to authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for a satirical poem and then approve the prosecution of the comedian is a shocking and chilling disgrace. Merkel, who hails from the former Communist East Germany, has never been a reliable ally to free speech but the crackdown on comedian Jan Boehmermann has shocked the West. Even with the recent rollback of free speech rights in Europe, Merkel’s actions (and the cringing response of ZDF television) has been wake up call for all civil libertarians.

Under German law, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government had to approve a criminal inquiry. While she said that her government would move to repeal the controversial and little-used Article 103 of the penal code, which concerns insults against foreign heads of state, this would not happen until 2018. The provision (dating back to 1871) on defamation of organs and representatives of foreign states, states:

(1) Whosoever insults a foreign head of state, or, with respect to his position, a member of a foreign government who is in Germany in his official capacity, or a head of a foreign diplomatic mission who is accredited in the Federal territory shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine, in case of a slanderous insult to imprisonment from three months to five years.

It is a ridiculous law that denies the very essence of free speech. Yet it was used successfully by Shah of Persia against a Cologne newspaper in 1964. It was also sued by hen-Swiss President, Micheline Calmy-Rey to prosecution a Swiss man living in Bavaria after he posted offensive comments Calmy-Rey, on the internet. Despite these outrageous cases, Germany has retained the law.

Moreover, Merkel’s fawning apology to Erdoğan, one of the world’s rising totalitarians, was widely viewed as the final capitulation of Western leaders to the calls for greater censorship and speech regulation.

We have seen the erosion of liberties in Turkey after the election of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his coalition of Islamic parties. Just last month, we discussed the arrest of Mehmet Emin Altunses, 16, who allegedly committed the crime of “insulting” Erdoğan. calling people who use birth control “traitors” and saying Muslims discovered America, you are not allowed to be disrespectful or insulting in discussing Erdoğan. Then there was the prosecution of model and former Miss Turkey Merve Buyuksarac, 26, for criticizing Erdogan for quoting a few lines from a poem called the “Master’s Poem” from weekly Turkish satirical magazine Uykusuz. Erdoğan’s totalitarian measures have earned him the nickname “Buyuk Usta” (the Big Master). Even a joking reference to Gollum and Erdoğan is enough to land you in jail today in Turkey.

Böhmermann will now have to prove that his poem was satire about free speech, rather than a deliberate insult — a bizarre standard since satire is often insulting and insults are part of free speech, particularly with regard to political leaders.

Merkel recently denounced the poem was “deliberately offensive” and ZDF television abandoned both free speech and its presenter in pulling Böhmermann’s weekly satire programme last week.

Despite her public apology and statement, Merkel insisted “The presumption of innocence applies” to Boehmermann.

For his part, Böhmermann used humor to respond to his own government’s persecution and told fans he planned to spend his break studying “freedom of the press and freedom of art in greater detail while traveling through North Korea.” He said that his decision to take a break was intended to allow “the public and the Internet can return to focusing on the important things in life, like the refugee crisis (and) cat videos.”

Merkel needs Turkey to take back refugees and has added $6 billion in aid to her sacrifice of free speech to keep Erdoğan happy.

It is important to note that Merkel is not alone in abandoning free speech. Despite its effort to spin the scandal, ZDF, the German network that airs Neo Magazine Royale, showed no courage or principle in taking the offending poem off the web. It then tried to maintain that it “respects” Böhmermann and will support him in any legal defense against the Turkish government.

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).

Merkel has plunged Germany into this rising sea of censorship and criminalized speech. Fortunately, polls show Germans are opposed to her and this appeasement of Erdogan. Perhaps the case will serve to focus Germans and Europeans in general on the diminishing protections for free speech in the West. If nothing else, the attempt to imprison a comedian for insulting an authoritarian leader should capture the dire status of free speech in Europe.

54 thoughts on “Merkel Offers Erdoğan The Head of German Comedian In Final Surrender Of Free Speech”

  1. Actually my two four legged animals are Missouri Mules. I sometimes call them donkeys in a lapse of moral judgment. Missouri Mules are stubborn, smart, long on work and energy and enjoy being talked to. I do not use the word “donkey” around either Adolph or Angela because they would scoff and stomp their feet. I once made a visit to Nepal and found and saw that there are Missouri mules living there and are employed by the Nepalese army and by civilians to haul things up and down mountain trails. The Indian Gurkas also imported some Missouri mules for their activities. General Sherman was big on them as was a WWI general whose name escapes me. Pershing ??

  2. I have a donkey and am about to go on my morning donkey ride. Today I am in Hermann, Missouri. This is a town which was created when a German town pulled up stakes and moved here. I am going to sing the following song in Merkel’s honor as I ride thru Hermann.

    The following provides the lyrics of the “Lied der Deutschen” as written by Hoffmann von Fallersleben.

    Only the third stanza is currently the Federal Republic of Germany’s national anthem.[6]

    Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
    Über alles in der Welt,
    Wenn es stets zu Schutz und Trutze
    Brüderlich zusammenhält.
    Von der Maas bis an die Memel,
    Von der Etsch bis an den Belt,
    |: Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
    Über alles in der Welt! 😐

    Germany, Germany above all else,
    Above all else in the world,
    when, for protection and defense,
    it always stands brotherly together.
    From the Meuse to the Memel,
    From the Adige to the Belt,
    |: Germany, Germany above all else,
    Above all else in the world! 😐

    Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue,
    Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang
    Sollen in der Welt behalten
    Ihren alten schönen Klang,
    Uns zu edler Tat begeistern
    Unser ganzes Leben lang.
    |: Deutsche Frauen, deutsche Treue,
    Deutscher Wein und deutscher Sang! 😐

    German women, German loyalty,
    German wine and German song
    Shall retain in the world
    Their old beautiful chime
    And inspire us to noble deeds
    During all of our life.
    |: German women, German loyalty,
    German wine and German song! 😐

    Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
    Für das deutsche Vaterland!
    Danach lasst uns alle streben
    Brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!
    Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
    Sind des Glückes Unterpfand;
    |: Blüh’ im Glanze dieses Glückes,
    Blühe, deutsches Vaterland! 😐

    Unity and justice and freedom
    For the German fatherland!
    Let us all strive for this purpose
    Brotherly with heart and hand!
    Unity and justice and freedom
    Are the pledge of happiness;
    |: Bloom in the glow of this happiness,
    Bloom, German fatherland! 😐

    Note: The last two lines, between the repeat signs of |: and :|, are repeated once when sung.

    My donkey’s name is Adolph. His sister’s name is Angela. We are on a tour of the U.S. in my truck and trailer. We are preaching the gospel of freedom. No religion involved. Coming to a theatre near you. We call it The Elmer Tour.

  3. Angela Merkel would certainly lock up Mel Brooks. Here are the lyrics with some alterations:

    Springtime for Merkel and Germany
    Deutschland is happy and gay
    We’re marching to a faster pace
    Look out, here comes the master race

    Springtime for Merkel and Germany
    Winter for Poland and France
    Springtime for Hitler and Germany
    Come on, Germans, go into your dance

    I was born in Dusseldorf, and that is why they call me Rolf
    Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi party

    Springtime for Hitler and Germany
    Goosestep’s the new step today
    Bombs falling from the skies again
    Deutschland is on the rise again

    Springtime for Hitler and Germany
    Uboats are sailing once more

    Springtime for Hitler and Germany
    Means that soon we’ll be going
    We’ve got to be going
    You know we’ll be going to WAR!

  4. I think that the blog needs to have a topic entitled Despot Of The Year. We should have this in late December. There are soooo many people on the list of potential winners. We have the midget in N. Korea, Erdogan, Sheik whatshisname in Iran, Putin. Angela is far down the list but maybe by December she will have earned her spurs. Right now it is Springtime For Angela in Germany! Autumn For Poland and France. (that was a song from a movie called The Producers)

  5. There is a “theme song” which is relevant to the notion of rounding up the Muslims in America or any territory and putting them in internment camps. The song is called Rawhide. Angela Merkel would sing this in German as the comedians are rounded up.. Here are the lyrics:

    Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’
    Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’

    Keep movin’, movin’, movin’
    Though they’re disapprovin’
    Keep them dogies movin’
    Don’t try to understand ’em
    Just rope and throw and brand ’em
    Soon we’ll be living high and wide.
    My heart’s calculatin’
    My true love will be waitin’
    Be waiting at the end of my ride.

    Move ’em on, head ’em up
    Head ’em up, move ’em on
    Move ’em on, head ’em up
    Cut ’em out, ride ’em in
    Ride ’em in, let ’em out
    Cut ’em out, ride ’em in



  6. Here is the lead section of the wikipedia account of the Japanese Internment camps in America in WWII:

    The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States was the forced relocation and incarceration during World War II of between 110,000 and 120,000[2] people of Japanese ancestry who lived on the Pacific coast in camps in the interior of the country. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens.[3][4] President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the incarceration shortly after Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor.[5]

    Incarceration was applied unequally due to differing population concentrations and, more important, state and regional politics: more than 110,000 Japanese Americans, nearly all who lived on the West Coast, were forced into interior camps, but in Hawaii, where the 150,000-plus Japanese Americans comprised over one-third of the population, 1,200 to 1,800 were interned.[6] The internment has been determined to have resulted more from racism in the West Coast rather than any military danger posed by Japanese Americans.[7][8]

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the deportation and incarceration with Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942, which allowed regional military commanders to designate “military areas” from which “any or all persons may be excluded.”[9] This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire West Coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona, except for those in government camps.[10] Approximately 5,000 Japanese Americans voluntarily relocated outside the exclusion zone before March 1942,[11] and some 5,500 community leaders arrested after the Pearl Harbor attack were already in custody.[12] But, the majority of nearly 130,000 mainland Japanese Americans were evacuated (forcibly relocated) from their West Coast homes during the spring of 1942.

  7. Merkel needs to declare War on the Islamic State and all terrorists. With that she can round up the Muslims like we rounded up the Japanese in WWII and put them in concentration camps. Yes folks America did that in WWII. Google that one. With a state of war a Commander in Chief in a civilized nation state has some authority to over ride the Constitution. One of our comments above has a link to the German Constitution. It seems to give their high court the authority to set aside a statute which invades civil rights. The German court needs to get off its Kraut arse and do something. Otherwise it is Heil Merkel !

  8. This is a storm in a teacup. Politicians of whatever persuasion are human refuse, waiting to be carted away. Merkel is clearly deranged and Erdogan is a vulgar clown. In a libertarian world, such creatures would never be able to realise their maniacal dreams of power. Who but a lunatic would attempt to welcome a pack of murderous stone-age savages?

  9. “Calmy-Rey”. Is this a reference I don’t get or did Turley put his text message in the article by mistake?

  10. We are all talking as though our comments don’t put us at risk here in the US. About 10 years ago a UofA professor was accused of insulting Turkey:

    In Istanbul, a writer awaits her day in court

    “Bestselling novelist Elif Shafak is the latest writer to face trial for “insulting Turkishness”. She tells Richard Lea about her work, the charges that have been brought against her, and how the Turkish language has become a battleground.

    “Shafak joins a roster of more than 60 writers and journalists to be charged under Article 301 of the Turkish criminal code since its introduction last year. University professors, journalists and novelists such as Perihan Magden, Orhan Pamuk and now Shafak have been charged under legislation drawn so broadly as to criminalise a wide range of critical opinions. Writers not only face the prospect of a three-year jail term, but the prosecutions also lay them open to a campaign of intimidation and harassment waged by rightwing agitators.”

    Richard Lea
    Monday 24 July 2006 11.58 EDT

  11. The question is, are we going to follow suit and throw away our freedoms?

    Because it appears that this is a rising problem here in the US. (See the stories about universities punishing conservatives, IRS punishing conservatives, Hillary Clinton’s efforts for blasphemy laws, etc.)

    Merkel is in this position because she let in too many refugees from a hotbed of terrorism and misogyny, and now she’s desperate for Turkey to take some of the burden before her citizens revolt. Another mistake that the Left seems hellbent on repeating here.

    GaryT – absolutely right.

    Jim – So true. Europe is held up as a model to what the US can aspire to – massive taxes, inefficient health care system where only the rich can afford health insurance to actually be seen in a timely manner, eroding free speech, and rising crime. If the Left gets its way, we will be like Cuba. Our government will take all our pay and give us $20/month to live on, to pay for all that “free” stuff. Everyone will be equal…equally destitute, that is.

  12. Where´s Squeeky? I would love to read an Irish poem about a Turkish dictator and a German appeaser!

  13. The list of “here, here and here”‘s is starting to pile up across Europe. Criticism of governments and their leaders via satire or blasphemy, where a religion is concerned, now place their authors at risk of criminal prosecution in their own country even where the target resides in a foreign country (Trans-national criticism). Erdogan had the grace to ask a foreign leader and foreign courts to do his repressive work for him. The satirists at Charlie Hebdo in France did not have the same privilege. They were punished by assassination by decision of a foreign islamic “court” for violating a foreign “law” that had no validity in France. The punishment was different to what can be expected to be doled out by German courts, but the principle is the same. The question now is: can criticism of a foreign head of state by an American citizen on a site such as this one create a risk of retaliation by the US government, or by the mobile enforcement arm of a foreign Islamic state.

  14. Someone might review the Nuremberg Trials and see if we prosecuted any Germans for actions such as Merkel’s. I am going to go look at one book: Tyranny On Trial. I will report back.

  15. History repeats itself.
    And now oh so ironically so.

    This kind of appeasement for Hitler’s demands, simply led him to demand more, not reciprocate, and then just ignore concessions made for the appeasement after getting a strategic stance.
    He used that then to position himself strong enough to launch what was thought unthinkable, and something that Germany actually neve had the power to do originally.

    Erdogan has learned well from Hitler.

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