Constricting the Nucleus of Freedom

A few days ago our Austrian correspondent AMT wrote about the erosion of free speech in Austria, and quoted the diarist Andreas Unterberger in reference to the EU Framework Decision and the Austrian government’s proposed new law, which “will mimic China’s approach to freedom of speech.”

JLH has translated Andreas Unterberger’s entire diary entry, and includes this note:

This scary little thing was originally found and quoted by Politically Incorrect. Does it make you wonder if these people have been apprenticing in the government of the Netherlands?

The author took his Doctor of Laws at the University of Vienna, was on the editorial staff and eventually editor-in-chief of Die Presse, later editor-in-chief of the Wiener Zeitung, has received a number of journalistic and humanitarian prizes, and published some books.

And the translated diary entry:

Andreas Unterberger’s (not quite apolitical) Diary

January 27, 2010

Austria: Freedom of Expression, Farewell

Under the pretext of fighting terrorism, the Justice Ministry is preparing an amendment that will move freedom of expression in Austria close to what it is in China.

“Anyone who publicly incites hate against a group of persons (in a long, enumerated list) is subject to up to two years imprisonment.” This also applies to anyone “who seeks to make such a group the subject of contempt.” That is in the draft which has already made the rounds and been examined without any great public outcry.

If this elastic paragraph — worthy of every East European Stasi and thought police — should eventually become law, all you can say is: Bye, bye, freedom of expression. Political Correctness would have a universal weapon in its hands and would have achieved a triumph worthy of the French Revolution. At that time, the achievement of human rights had escalated step-by-step to the horrifying dictatorship of “La Grande Terreur.” A small consolation: today, the state is content with two years imprisonment.

Let there be no misunderstanding: I have no sympathy for someone who expresses hatred or contempt against another. But such — never exactly definable — concepts can be used extensively by the apparatus of justice to constrict the freedom of expression. They belong to good upbringing or religious obligations, not in the clutches of state power, which, when necessary, follows through with brutal force.

– – – – – – – –

The producer of this “arrest warrant” — a combination of Peter Pilz [parliamentary representative, Green Party — translator] and many organizations whose sole, mostly subsidized purpose is the preservation of Political Correctness, will be able to top off their staff of associates, because so many “opportunities to report to the government” will be opened up.

Just the mere reporting of some facts qualifies as incitement to hate. But there is no room in this law for proof of the truth.

In the future one need only say or write in a mildly critical tone, that members of nationality x are involved in significant numbers in the Austrian drug trade, or members of nationality y are dominant in the burglary “business,” or people of sexual orientation z have a certain communicable disease in significant numbers. Or someone may tell a stupidly aggressive joke about people from a particular country. And judicial proceedings loom.

In the end, any jurist with skilled argument can make any unwanted expression of opinion punishable under this law. It puts many weapons into the hands of an administration that has been notorious for its willfulness in the last year.

It will not even help the — presently slumbering — media to attach a catchphrase like the risible “presumption of innocence applies.” For instance: “This information does not serve to incite hatred.”

Especially grotesque is the long, very selective list of protected groups: apparently it is just fine to incite hate or contemptuousness toward other groups. Groups protected are those that have something to do with race, skin color, language, religion, ideology, nationality, ancestry, national or ethnic origin, gender, handicap, age or sexual orientation.

Others do not. So, for example, class warfare is absolutely possible, with contempt for entrepreneurs or managers. Also unprotected are the moral values of a western, democratic state.

And all that dares to appear under the title. “Terrorism Prevention Law.” And a reputedly civil servant justice minister dares to present it.

It is completely incomprehensible that no one in this country is coming to the defense of freedom of opinion and in opposition to this blow against the most important basic principle of the Enlightenment, namely freedom of speech. What this law contains constricts the nucleus of freedom far more than a full-body scanner (in place of full-body frisking) or capturing all data (so long as, as planned, only telephone numbers and not contents of conversations are noted). These two things upset the public very much, even though they are a thousand times more suited to fight terrorism than they are to the massive constriction of freedom of speech.

At least in China, people more and more resist the thought police. Left-wing liberalism will only wake up when someone notices that some of their favorite liberal stereotypes are threatened with two years in prison, such as, for example: “The Church is the greatest criminal organization in the world.”

One thought on “Constricting the Nucleus of Freedom

  1. Possibly because no one is aware of this law?

    Not everything done in the “Österreichisches Nationalsrat” is fully publicised.
    Quite often, one only gets to hear about these laws by checking a parliamentary printout somewhere.
    The main media tend to ignore it all until after it has been ratified.
    Look at how little interest there was in Austrian MPs being arrested for saying that Islam is misogynistic.

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