What Europe can teach America about free speech

What Europe can teach America about free speech
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[Ed. – How not to do it?  The author really means “what Europe can teach America about limiting speech.”  Ask Geert Wilders and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff whether speech qualifies as “free” in Europe.  In fact, Europe’s longstanding tradition of restricting political speech was arguably complicit in the rise of totalitarian-collectivism under forced socialism, Nazism, and fascism.  You can’t silence the voices of thug-power extremism with restrictions on speech.  You only end up silencing the voices of moderation and reason.]

After WWII, western Europeans—and decades later joined by their eastern compatriots—built one of the strongest human-rights systems in the world. Within the framework of the Council of Europe they adopted the European Convention of Human Rights, which would be enforced by both national courts and the newly established European Court of Human Rights. This system protects free speech— to an extent. European free-speech doctrine is based on the idea that free speech is important but not absolute, and must be balanced against other important values, such as human dignity.

As a result, freedom of expression can be restricted proportionally when it serves to “spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance.” The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, an international human rights treaty, reflects similar principles. This balancing of free speech against other values led Germany to ban parties with Nazi ideologies and recently, to prosecute Chinese tourists who performed a Hitler salute in front of the Reichstag. It led France to outlaw the sale of Nazi paraphernalia on eBay, led Austria to jail a discredited historian who denies the holocaust, and caused the Netherlands to criminalize the selling of Mein Kampf. It is for this same reason that many Europeans could not believe the open display of swastika flags in Charlottesville.

Since WWII, the United States has taken a different tack, exceptional from a global perspective.

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