We previously discussed the alarming withdrawal of freedom of speech in the West, particularly in Europe. Attempts to criminalize language have created an insatiable appetite for new restrictions and broader law enforcement measures. Norway is an example of this headless entry into language controls and crime in the West. This week lawmakers passed new criminal law (without a vote) punishing people for using hate speech against transgender people in their own homes or in private conversation.
Justice and Public Security Minister Monica Maeland declared victory because language regulation “needs to be adapted to practical situations”. The “practical situation” involves speaking to your own spouse or family.
Birna Rorslett, vice-president of the Transgender Association in Norway, added that speaking out against transgender values or problems has been a thorn in the side of transgender people for many, many years.
Such language controls in Europe have had a deterrent effect on political and religious language. In their homes, people often share religious and political views that differ from the values or beliefs of the majority. This law would regulate these discussions and make expressing forbidden positions a criminal offense.
As we discussed recently, a survey in Germany found that only 18 percent of Germans can express their opinion publicly. Remarkably, over 31 percent of Germans didn’t even feel free to express themselves privately with friends. Only 17 percent felt free to express themselves on the Internet, and 35 percent said that freedom of speech was restricted to the smallest private circle.
The most terrifying fact is that European-style language controls have become a core value in the Democratic Party. Once a party that fought for free speech, it has become a party that calls for internet censorship and laws against hate speech. President-elect Joe Biden has called for language controls and recently appointed an agency’s interim media director who is one of the most prominent anti-free speech figures in the United States. It’s a trend that now seems to be gaining support in the media celebrating French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech to Congress calling on the United States to follow Europe’s model of hate speech.
For advocates of free speech, we need to educate the public about where this is going in countries like Norway. It is about the law that has long defined us as a nation. As soon as we move the Rubicon into language criminalization and control, Europe has shown that it is rarely possible to resort to lost freedoms. We are in what is possibly the most anti-free speech period in American history – and possibly the most anti-free speech administration. Many politicians are already calling for citizens to give up their freedom of speech in forums such as the Internet. As the media repeats many of these anti-free speech expressions, those who value the First Amendment and its core place in our constitutional system will have to make greater efforts.