There’s a major difference between U.S. and German incitement laws. U.S. law — at federal and state levels — criminalizes only incitement that is designed to foster imminent unlawful violence. The incitement must also be likely to lead to unlawful violence. This three-prong test means that saying “I [expletive] hate [racial/religious/social group] and think they should all burn,” for example, is not illegal in America.
And Americans take that for granted. But such postings would be illegal in Germany and in much of Europe.
In the U.K., the Public Order Act mandates that, “A person is guilty of an offense if he uses threatening [or abusive] words or behavior … within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.” Importantly, proven intention and actual harm are not necessary for conviction. It is enough that the speech possibly alarmed someone nearby.
Consider what impact that law might have on the willingness of individuals to discuss sensitive issues like immigration, or abortion, or terrorism? It is a recipe for chilled speech.
Amazingly, however, Germany takes things further, proactively punishing speech that might feasibly upset someone on the Internet. Which, if you’ve ever been on the Internet, could be said of almost everything on it.
I was kidding with the headline, by the way. Germany is no friend to free speech. My main fear is that this chilling of speech will play exactly into the hands of anarchists and Islamic extremists.
Similar stories are coming out of Canada, Asia and Africa. Offend someone, and you will face punishment. Places we thought were civilized, are tossing aside the basic rights of free expression and freedom of assembly.
Tell me…what basic human right will you willingly give up so that someone else is not offended?
Self-defense? Private property? Choice of books? The right to be wrong? The right to wear a red hat?
The obvious right to choose which pronoun you use to describe that guy in a dress? Freedom to see a play with bad words?
The right to disagree with your neighbor over politics? The right to choose your own religion? The right to have privacy in your personal belongings and papers?
The right NOT to be punched for your ideas?
[FYI: I’m no Nazi. Don’t like them. If they start punching, have at it. Until then, they’re just a small group of bozos with stupid ideas. Think of them as well-dressed Democrats.]
Pick one right, and there is, right now someone planning to take it away. He is doing so deliberately. He has no idea if you will fight or concede.