We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in Europe. The move to criminalize speech has led to an insatiable appetite for new limitations and broader prosecutions. Norway is an example of this headlong plunge into speech controls and crimes in the West. This week the legislature adopted (without even a vote) a new criminal law that punishes people for saying anything deemed hate speech toward transgender people in their own home or private conversations.
Minister of Justice and Public Security Monica Maeland declared victory because speech regulation must be “adapted to the practical situations that arise.” The “practical situation” includes speaking to your own spouse or family.
Birna Rorslett, vice president of the Association of Transgender People in Norway added allowing people to speak out against transgender values or issues “has been an eyesore for trans people for many, many years.”
Such speech controls in Europe have led to a chilling effect on political and religious speech. In their homes, people will often share religious and political views that depart from majoritarian values or beliefs. This law would regulate those conversations and criminalize the expression of prohibited viewpoints.
As we recently discussed, a poll in Germany found only 18 percent of Germans feel free to express their views in public. Notably, over 31 percent of Germans did not even feel free expressing themselves in private among friends. Just 17 percent felt free to express themselves on the Internet and 35 percent said that freedom to speak is confined to the smallest of private circles.
The most chilling fact is that European-style speech controls have become a core value in the Democratic Party. Once a party that fought for free speech, it has become the party demanding Internet censorship and hate speech laws. President-Elect Joe Biden has called for speech controls and recently appointed a transition head for agency media issues that is one of the most pronounced anti-free speech figures in the United States. It is a trend that seems now to be find support in the media, which celebrated the speech of French President Emmanuel Macron before Congress where he called on the United States to follow the model of Europe on hate speech.
For free speech advocates, we need to educate the public on where this road leads in places like Norway. What is at stake is the very right that has long defined us as a nation. Once we cross the Rubicon into speech criminalization and controls, Europe has shown that it is rarely possible to work back to liberties lost. We are moving into potentially the most anti-free speech period of American history — and possibly the most anti-free speech Administration. Many politicians are already arguing for citizens to give up their free speech rights in forums like the Internet. With the media echoing many of these anti-free speech sentiments, it will require a greater effort of those who value the First Amendment and its core place in our constitutional system.
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