by Brendan O’Neill
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I have to tell you that freedom of speech no longer exists in Europe.
In almost every European country in 2015, there are individuals who are in prison or doing some kind of community service or paying off a fine simply for something that they said, simply for expressing themselves.
In Scotland, birthplace of so much of the Enlightenment, a man is currently in jail for the crime of singing an offensive song.
The man is a 24-year-old fan of the largely Protestant football team Rangers. And he was recently found guilty of singing a song called “The Billy Boys”, which is an anti-Catholic song that Rangers fans have been singing for years.
Under Scotland’s Orwellian Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, he was sentenced to four months in jail for songcrimes. We’ve had thoughtcrime and speechcrime — now we have songcrime.
In Sweden, which many view as the Mecca of liberalism, the happiest, fairest nation in Europe, a man was recently released from a six-month prison sentence for producing offensive art.
His name is Dan Parks. He’s a painter. He does paintings which he says are designed to challenge political correctness and to rattle the authorities. And they can certainly be described as offensive and racist works. For this, he was sent to jail for six months at the end of last year and his artworks were destroyed by the Swedish state.
In the past, Europe burnt allegedly corrupting books; now it incinerates or pulps offensive art.
In Spain, a rapper called Pablo Hasel was recently released from a two-year prison sentence for the crime of singing songs that contained violent lyrics.
Hasel is a communist who raps about how much he hates the People’s Party of Spain and how angry he is about the imposition of austerity in Spain. In one of his raps he went so far as to praise al-Qaeda and ETA. For this, for praising those groups, he was sent to jail.
In France, which still presents itself as the guardian of man’s rights, three people are currently paying off fines imposed on them for making homophobic comments on Twitter.
In January, these three individuals became the first in French history to be found guilty of anti-gay hate crimes, not for attacking anyone or damaging anyone’s property, but simply for expressing themselves on the internet.
In Turkey, the Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink is currently under investigation for crimes of “terrorist propaganda”. What she actually did is post comments on Facebook and Twitter expressing support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which is banned in Turkey.
She faces up to five years in jail for this, for the crime of expressing a political view.
Some people say Turkey isn’t fit to become a full member of Europe because it’s too authoritarian. On the contrary, Turkey’s willingness to punish and fine and imprison people for speechcrimes shows that it has all the necessary credentials to be European in the 21st century.
In Germany, a 74-year-old woman is currently struggling to pay off a fine imposed on her by the courts for the crime of carrying an offensive placard.
She was on a march against immigration when she held up a sign that said “The arrogant Turks and Muslims are threatening Europe”. For this, for expressing her quite hardcore, not-very-nice political views, she was convicted of incitement to hatred and fined 1,000 Euros….