This is quite seriously weird: I this see on Twitter from Pieter Cleppe @pietercleppe:
Incredible: Germany’s Upper House approved legislation that would impose a prison sentence of up to 3 years or a fine for defamation of the EU’s flag or hymn. What about freedom of speech?
And what about those who feel that Ode to Joy is a bit… well …cheesy?
Germany, and indeed some other countries, have also made holocaust denial a criminal offence. 5 years for that one.
For sure, denying the historical fact that the Germans, not so very long ago, did kill an awful lot of Jews is decidedly nutty – the evidence is really very clear. In the UK, the preferred route is not to lock nutters up, but instead to place them in the Houses of Parliament representing the minor parties. Prison costs the State £37,543 a year per prisoner, not to mention the cost of prosecution (say £50k a pop). An MP costs £76,011 by way of salary each year, but the State gets most of that back by way of tax, so it is not only more humane, but cheaper in the long run.
Germany is not entirely alone in this “Imprison your political opponents” line; the UN is also keen on locking people up for not towing the official line. A year ago, we saw the Intergovernmental Conference to Adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (Marrakech, Morocco, 10 and 11 December 2018). MEP Marcel de Graaff has described it thus:
One basic element of this new agreement is the extension of the definition of hate speech.
The agreement wants to criminalise migration speech. Criticism of migration will become a criminal offence.
Is that an accurate summary? Make your own mind up. The text includes this:
33 We commit to eliminate all forms of … counter expressions … against all migrants… We further commit to promote … public discourse on migration and migrants … that generates a more … constructive perception in this regard…
To realize this commitment, we will draw from the following actions:
(a) Enact, implement or maintain legislation that penalizes hate crimes and aggravated hate crimes targeting migrants, and train law enforcement and other public officials to identify, prevent and respond to such crimes… that target migrants…
(c) Promote … reporting of media outlets, including Internet-based information, including by sensitizing and educating media professionals on migration-related issues and terminology, investing in ethical reporting standards and advertising, and stopping allocation of public funding or material support to media outlets that systematically promote intolerance, xenophobia, racism and other forms of discrimination towards migrants…
It is unlikely to work. Locking people up for disagreeing with you is not a good long-term strategy.
Especially if – as in the case of the EU – they have a good point.