We have been discussing how Germany has led the West in the criminalization of speech, an anti-free speech trend that is now raging in England, France, Canada and other Western nations. Germany has continued its plunge into censorship and criminalization despite the failure of its speech laws to curtail extremism. The most recent case involves a 32-year-old German neo-Nazi who has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for incitement after posting picture of a miniature of the Auschwitz death camp on Facebook with an offensive caption.
I have been a long critic of Germany’s criminal speech laws, including its long criminalization of Nazi symbols. While I am certainly sympathetic to the Germans in seeking to end the scourge of fascism, there has been little evidence that the German laws prohibiting certain symbols and phrases have achieved anything other than expanding government power over political speech. It has also created an insatiable appetite for censorship among German citizens. I fail to see how arresting a man for a Hitler ringtone is achieving a meaningful level of deterrence, even if you ignore the free speech implications.
Judge Manfred Weber at the district court in Hohenstein-Ernstthal in eastern Germany fulfilled the stereotype of a censorship court with the simplistic declaration “you made fun of Auschwitz survivors — that’s very bad.” Yes it is but so is the effort to instill civility or decency but locking up those who do not adhere to your values — much like our recent discussion of Egypt’s effort to instill faith in God through punishment.
I do not know what this man posted but imprisoning people for their expression of thoughts have never worked in history to actually change minds. What does succeed is the expansion of government power over citizens. What is perverse about speech crimes is that the government creates an insatiable appetite among citizens for limiting speech . . . of others.