From Hammerfest on the Barents Sea to Lampedusa in the Mediterranean, from Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides to Skyros in the Aegean, an “Iron Curtain” of oppression has descended across the European continent. Within that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Western Europe. Dublin, London, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Madrid, and Lisbon: all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the EUSSR sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to totalitarian influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Brussels.
So might Sir Winston Churchill have written about the increasing suppression of free speech in Europe, if he were alive today.
Whether the impetus comes from Resolution 16/18 of United Nations Human Rights Council, a “broader interpretation” of Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, or the internal rulings of the European Commission, the current momentum in the European Union is towards an ever-tighter stranglehold on the civil liberties of European citizens — with a particular emphasis on “religious intolerance”, needless to say.
JLH has translated an excellent op-ed by the Austrian writer Andreas Unterberger about the new fascism that is now unfolding in the European Union. The translator includes the following introductory note:
I am reminded of my first year translating for Gates of Vienna, when I encountered constant evocations of the Enlightenment. I understood them, to be sure, but I was not used to such frequent references. It reminded me that our Founders were Enlightened men, and that forgetting that is to think of ourselves in isolation instead of as the culmination of a long process.
And we are in danger of once again following the lead of Europe, but this time to our detriment and to the ultimate destruction of what we are pleased to call “American exceptionalism.” What for so long has separated us from ever-present totalitarian thinking is now worn to a thin veneer of lip-service. Whether the ultimate Orwellian gloom will be tinged red with the blood of the gulags or the blood of jihad will probably not matter to the victims in the coming generations.
The translated essay from Andreas Unterberger’s blog:
A Union Destroys Its Values
by Andreas Unterberger
October 21, 2013
Penalties for those parties that do not represent the values of the EU! This demand by European Socialists is finding wide agreement in the EU Commission. One thing is clear, however. Should Europe really introduce such penalties, it will ultimately leave the path of constitutional statehood, for that state builds upon ideological neutrality, as it has been embodied quite value-free in the Austrian constitution for almost a hundred years. The moment this neutrality is abandoned, all doors are thrown open to a new totalitarianism.
This move in the direction of criminalization is so much riskier, since there are groups in the EU parliament who style themselves “liberal,” to be sure, but actually have great sympathy for such ideas of value control.
Any criminalization of opinions and values is a severe blow to the real, fundamental, liberal principles of the Enlightenment and all of the consequent revolutions and constitutions. The greatest demand of the Enlightenment was its call for freedom of expression. In Voltaire’s formulation: Even if I completely reject the content of what someone says, I shall (as a freedom-loving individual as well as a constitutional state) do all I can to allow him to broadcast that content. Freedom of expression only for those who think the same as we do is nothing but a caricature.
Nazis and Communists Also Protected Their Value Systems
To emphasize the necessity of genuine freedom of expression, think of the history of the last couple of centuries, when there was no freedom of expression. In the era of Maria Theresa, even going to mass was monitored. In the Nazi era, it was compulsory to support the Nazis’ nationalistic, anti-Semitic and racist “values.” Then, until 1989, half of Europe had to have the “values” of class warfare and the exploitative build-up of socialist societies. In truth, regimes were protecting their own power.
Now there is the menacing system of “European values.” Already several verdicts in the highest European courts (in Luxembourg as in Strasbourg) have been shaped in the spirit of a power elite who wish to compel politically correct thinking and speaking at the cost of freedom of expression. In the future, politics (or at least a part of the political class) will once again control our very thoughts.
The EU interior market — the uninhibited and therefore reasonably priced exchange of goods and services — has given Europeans much. So anyone who knows his economic p’s and q’s stands up for his own well-being. But it would be absolute insanity and absolutely counter-productive to condemn criticism of the interior market or individual aspects of it as “an offense against European values.”
Because people (happily) are always ready to believe the opposite of what some authority mandates. They do so from the moment they discover the first lie, stupidity or corruption of said authority. And that process was unstoppable even under a Hitler or a Stalin, in spite of total control of the media and all means of communication.
So long as the EU was a pure economic community, it enjoyed the greatest possible agreement and sympathy, without compulsion. At that time, the EU also fit well with the second great and successful network of the post-war years — NATO, in which Western Europeans, and especially Americans, had sworn mutual support in case of a threat.
Brussels Seeks New Arenas of Activity
Both of them functioned excellently well. But when, after 1989, the common threat from the East disappeared, those in power — especially the Brussels bureaucracy (led by second-rate commissars) — sought new arenas of endeavor. From law to culture, from universities to currency and from shower heads to light bulbs, they began to regulate more and more — to standardize. More and more regulations and guidelines were prescribed for communities, provinces, and also for nations, which, interestingly, still considered themselves to be sovereign. And above all for people. Surely, many in the EU were doing that with the best intentions. Or, as Margaret Thatcher once put it: If she were Italian, she would perhaps bank more on Brussels than on Rome. Those in Brussels and Strasbourg are that much more disappointed that people are aloof in their approach to them.
As so often in history, people find their own, ordinary government preferable to an alien ruler from far away, no matter how wise he may believe he is. All the great empires of history foundered on this basic attitude. Which may be recalled for us in the next months at the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War.
So the leaders of the EU would be well-advised to tolerate views and groups they find annoying. As the British, as an example of democracy, have made clear, they would calmly, if reluctantly, accept a secession of Northern Ireland and Scotland, if the majority of their populations wish it. Europe too, must accept groups working for separation from the EU. It would be wise to avoid any attempt to forbid, to punish or otherwise suppress with undemocratic means any undesirable or inarticulate demands.
Thinking like this is not easy for many authoritarian-oriented member states. While the British have struggled through to a toleration of secession, and Czechoslovakia successfully accomplished such a feat, other EU states still regard the mere idea as high treason. Indeed, even the word “autonomy” is punished in some places.
This authoritarian tendency is especially powerful in those EU states in which the population in great numbers — or at least the conjectural majority — want to get out of said state. Think of the Basques and the Catalans, the South Tyroleans and the Flemish, the Hungarians in Rumania and Slovakia, to mention only the most important groups who live under the thrall of a state they do not wish to live in. No one has as yet even defined what the alleged “European values” signify in this very basic problem. Does it mean brutal centralization or a free choice for residents on this all-important question of national policy? The EU is silent on this. And yet European politicians dare to blather about common principles. And punishing their violation.
Even Fundamental Rights Change Constantly
Just the thought is absurd. “European values” in many other questions too, are an absolute chimera — each person interprets them according to subjective desire. Even the so-called fundamental rights have no fixed value, but are constantly changing. But if they should happen to be an element of the world order — never defined yet protected by legal penalties (just as it is in totalitarian mechanisms) — then any judge who develops a new judicial ruling, and every politician and official who suggests a change in the rules of law becomes culpable.
If, on some hopefully distant day, the EU should disintegrate, then the major culprits will be those who tried to burden the Union with completely unrealistic demands, far beyond the structure of an interior economic market. Because they tried to do something that has historically never succeeded — enforcing values and loyalty with punishment.
Let me not be misunderstood: Naturally there are values which are more significant in Europe than in Asia or Africa. But it is a central fact that these are values, followed out of conviction, not out of necessity or compulsion or fear of punishment.
“Anti-Feminism” Also Forbidden
But this initiative is by no means the only way in which the dominant Left intends to reduce freedom of expression in the EU. There is a draft of guidelines in the Commission’s pipeline which attempts to reduce freedom of expression in other areas. The earliest draft of guidelines attempts to force member states to counter opinions which the Commission classifies as “anti-feminist,” “homophobic,” “xenophobic,” “ethnically discriminatory” or “religiously intolerant.”
And the battle against “religious intolerance” is by no means as harmless as it sounds. In European practice, this formulation is only used against Islam-critics.
This text is at the beginning of the European standards process.
What can you do against such insanity? Well the stupidest thing you could do would be to avoid voting in the EU elections out of protest against European totalitarianism and further restrictions on freedom of expression.
And the ÖVP, too, will be unelectable, if it stays with the fanatic, EU-centralist line of Othmar Karas.