The Austrian commentator Andreas Unterberger sees something ominous in the latest public opinion poll in his country. It does not bode well for freedom of speech in Austria.
Our Austrian correspondent AMT points out the implications for Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, who is facing a hate-speech charge for speaking the truth about Islam:
This commentary by Andreas Unterberger is so close to the mark in light of the witch-hunt against Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff that it is scary. However, what is even more worrying is the fact that no one in the print MSM has mentioned this poll. Once again, the only conclusion to be drawn from all this is to completely ignore and distrust the MSM.
The question remains: Since one may assume they know about this poll, how fast will the political elite tighten the screws?
Many thanks to JLH for translating Dr. Unterberger’s commentary:
Two-Thirds Already See Austria As Half Totalitarian
September 13, 2010
by Andreas Unterberger
Never in recent years has an opinion poll offered such a depressing result. In essence, it says nothing less than that two-thirds of Austrians already regard their country as a half totalitarian system, in which it is no longer possible to express a political opinion without fear. Three years ago, one-third were of this opinion.
That is the result of a not yet published opinion poll by the renowned Linz Imas Institute, which is even causing consternation among the members of the institute. The specific question was: “What is your impression: in Austria can you really speak without fear about what you think of political, historical, or cultural subjects or is it better to hold your opinion, because you may have to reckon on consequences?”
The formulation of this question pinpoints one essential nucleus of a totalitarian system. As distinct from merely authoritarian, undemocratic systems, which are concentrated on the exercise of power, totalitarian states also wish to control the opinions of their subjects. In this process, naturally, they cannot control thoughts, but can control expressions of opinion on important political questions.
To the question cited above, no less than 65% of Austrians reply either “better to be quiet” (25%) or “it depends what the problem is (40%), while a mere 31% still say, “You can speak without fear.”
A shocking result that should set off alarms with every freedom-oriented person. This poll should have one imperative consequence. Besides the constitutional reforms for the purpose of simplifying the constitution, Austria just as urgently needs a constitutional convention with the central purpose of restoring freedom of expression in this land.
While some jurists and politicians try to argue that freedom of expression reigns throughout Austria, the more than significant numbers of this poll speak a completely different language. Much more decisive than whether one of our most important basic rights is on paper in some list of human rights is the reality: whether people are convinced that freedom of expression exists. All totalitarian dictatorships continually present paper constitutions showing that basic rights are secured.
On the other hand, when politics and jurisprudence are understood to stand on the sidelines, that is the strongest evidence that a ruling class is very conscious of having restricted citizens’ rights. When two-thirds no longer see freedom of expression, then this freedom no longer exists.
Now some will say that this poll result is only proof that Austrians have always been moral cowards; they are actually free anyway. Other smooth thinkers will just say: the poll shows that Austrians have stayed irretrievable Nazis. and it is justified to shut them up. The trend, however, speaks strongly against both interpretations; the numbers become dramatically worse from one poll to the next.
Specifically, in October of 2007, 47% still believed it was possible to speak without fear in Austria (in February, 2010, it was 37%). And only 34% chose keep quiet” or “it depends.” Which was only half as many as this summer — even though in truth still far too many. (In February, 2010 it was already 51%.)
Naturally, the poll tells us nothing about the causes of this disturbing and accelerating trend. Doubtless they are as connected with the debates in the Spring on the prohibitive laws as they are with the constant attempts of the Ministry of Justice to intensify still further the already dubious hate-mongering paragraph which punishes mere thought crimes with imprisonment. Above all, the constantly intensifying Political Correctness pursued by Red and Green parties and the grotesquerie of the Viennese ÖVP simply expelling the head of the Viennese Akademikerbund for undesirable expressions of opinion play an ugly role here.
With considerable probability, we can assume that the witch-hunt against Thilo Sarrazin — although that is a German situation — has further exacerbated Austrians’ fear of expressing their opinion. At any rate, it has not occurred to any Austrian politician that he stood up for freedom of expression.
There is still just a vague hope. When will a Schiller come, with a demand we once thought had been fulfilled: “Give us freedom of thought!”?
Meanwhile, it at least gives a little comfort to pull out an old song and hum it — a song that since Walther von der Vogelweide has appeared in ever changing variations:
Thoughts are free.
Who can guess them?
They flee past
Like nightly shadows.
No person can know them.
No hunter can shoot them down
With powder and lead:
Thoughts are free!