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November 09, 2004

Freedom of Speech in Belgium? Not Really...

Yahoo report in English: Top court brands Belgian far-right party racist.

Three non-profit organisations linked to the far-right Vlaams Blok (Flemish Block) party have been condemned by the highest court in Belgium for breaking laws banning "incitement to segregation and racism".

This on the same day Theo Van Gogh is being burried.

Along with the last illusion anyone may have about real freedom of speech in Belgium.

I state again that I am pretty much a free speech absolutist.  Anyone can say anything they like, as long as it doesn't directly endanger or damage anyone else.  The famous U.S. example comes to mind: you are not allowed to shout 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre (where people might get trampled).  Anything else goes.

Inciting hatred, racism, murder, crime... go ahead.  Insulting God, heads-of-state or other religions and institutions... fine by me.  Libel and slander do direct damage, but when the allegations are true, no problem for me.

If we don't allow people to say what is really on their mind, how are we going to spot the crazies and do something about them?  Talk right now is that the Flemish Block will just change their name and remove some texts from their program.  But does anybody believe this will really change what is inside their heads?  How can anybody be sure?

This is one of the rare occasions I agree with Abu Jajah, leader of the Arab European League in Belgium.  He said on TV last weekend that he thought the whole idea of bringing a lawsuit like this against a political party to be a folly.

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Comments

Inferis

Don't agree. You forget that it actually matter who's doing the talking: the fact that this is a political party speaking out on discrimination has a lot more impact than when a puny individual in the street would claim the same things. They serve as an example for hundred thousands of voters, so that also means they have to carry responsibility for their actions, and that includes the things they say. Might sound restrictive, but sorry, that's how it works.

Inferis

Mind you, I do think the lawsuit was a ridicilous idea from the beginning. While I don't endorse what the VB thinks/says, this lawsuit will have an almost zero netto effect of what is intended. On the contrary, this will inspire more idiots to vote for them in the next elections, so the effort is quite moot.

jeff

What the hell is going on over there?

And has Jajah faced any similar threat from the Belgium regime?

warmi

"You forget that it actually matter who's doing the talking: the fact that this is a political party speaking out on discrimination has a lot more impact than when a puny individual in the street would claim the same things."


Then start another party and spread an opposing message.
It is called a market of ideas and that's what free people do.

Man, Europeans have truly turned into wards of the state ..

the poetess

"In Flander's fields where poppies grow
beneath the crosses row upon row . . ."

Flemish take heart from the spirit of the ancestors and do your part.

Use massive civil disobedience, take to the streets and proudly proclaim you are a Vlaams Blok party member.

Be passive, be peaceful, be polite,
and be arrested.

Overload the jails, the courts with your numbers.
Make sure the media knows.

It worked for Ghandi. It worked for Martin Luther King. It can work for you.

Peaceful civil disobedience
is the pee cee nightmare.
Take care, take your time
and you will save yourselves.

John-Paul Pagano

I agree with your stance re: free speech. I'm curious though, is there any merit to the charge that Vlaams Blok is an odious, racist party? What are its platforms? Is it anti-Semitic? Thanks.

MrO

Don't agree. You forget that it actually matter who's doing the talking: the fact that this is a political party speaking out on discrimination has a lot more impact than when a puny individual in the street would claim the same things.

So then, freedom of speech is okay for an individual; but put 20 of them in a room, figuratively speaking, saying the same thing, then that's a no-go?

No - either you have freedom of speech, or you don't. Europe doesn't, as doesn't Canada where I live... I'm disappointed we don't...

Rancher

As a Yank living in Flanders I can say I am absolutely disgusted by this. While I don't agree with all that the Blok advocated, I am deeply disappointed that the Belgian courts don't believe in freedom of speech, freedom of association (i.e., membership in a political party), and democracy. Never has a serious attempt been made to defeat the Blok at the voting booth or by trying to convince voters that the Blok's positions were wrong. Instead, they are just banded as racist and dissolved by legal fiat. The stupidity of this is that they will reform with a "new" name (VlaamBlok! Or VlaamsBlok+) and the same membership, plus no doubt more members who are irritated at this sort of anti-democratic behavior.

Miguel

I'm affraid a new Fascism is falling over Europe, this time represented by the courts and the government. I'm VERY wary of the new Super Europe. Gives me the creeps actually. Those guys in that party might be fascists, but the government is even worse as I can see. It's sad.

No One

I also don't support the point of view of the VB, but that doesn't mean their point of view should be banned.

The last years, politics in Belgium often were messy, and the only party which was hardly involved in this mess was the VB, because they were locked out by the "Cordon Sanitaire". People were tired of this political mess, and wanted the responsible parties to pay for their actions, so they voted for the VB. Not because the people respected their point of view, but just to teach a lesson to the actual leaders. A vote for the underdog...

Now, by sueing (I'm not sure it's spelled right) the VB, more people will be inspired to vote for the "replacing party" of the VB (probably "Vlaams Belang"). This for many reasons:

* The sharp edges of their viewpoints will be polished. People will have the impression they'll vote for a less "extreme" party.
* The actual "Cordon sanitaire" will not be applicable for the new party.
* It will be the only party which wasn't involved in the condamnation of a party which was striving for freedom of speech. Ok, for a party which made this impression.

Condemning the VB (and succeeding in it) will have an opposite effect...

AlanC

I am reading this after following a post on LGF.

I am sorry to hear that Europe is again falling under the thrall of fascism.

Unfortunately you will find that ...

"The actual "Cordon sanitaire" will not be applicable for the new party"...

is not true. The existing law will be interpreted in whatever way fits the agenda of the tyrants (aka government elite) or a revised law will be enacted to take its place.

Unless your people rise against this tyranny you are doomed to the life (or death) of slaves depending on the particular tyrant, left or right; communism or sharia will make no diffence.

Good luck; you'll need it.

Gawain

Anti semtic, I believe not. Indeed many orthodox jews in Antwerp support it.
Anti mass-immigration, yes.
Some unsavoury supporters, yes.
Republican Yes. - well mostly.
Anti Belgian, most definately.

Gortz

- Antisemitic: they were antisemitic in the 80's but they are practical ... Antwerp has no interest to loose the jewish community ...
- Some unsavoury supporters: I saw their Security-Group in action (basic class Skinheads), unsavoury indeed ... but it's not representative of the voters.
- Anti mass-immigration: totally
- Republican: yes, but not in the way I am ...
- Anti-Belgian: off course.
- Anti french-speaking: also ("Franse Ratten" - against french speaking Belgian)
- Anti-Capitalist: radicaly, I encourage everyone to read their economical program
- Noe-nazi? Well it's a debate ... every year the top leaders of the party are joining ex-SS members to make a little commemoration ... but let's say they are not ... (the fondators of the blok were mostly ex-collaborators ... but we are not here to juge ...)

Well ... judging them will give them what they want: victimisation ... that's the best pre-electoral advertising.

I will say to that the "cordon sanitaire" is a real bullshit: they are involved in the debates and traditionnal political formations are using them when they need a support in the parliament.

Well, let's end with this: the PTB (neo-stalinist party) is under police cover for years.
So, if we support the Block, we must support them too for the respect of liberty of speech isn't it .

Mmmmmmh, is it really appropriate to make a parallel between the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle of a extrem-right party?

Tanguy Veys

Democracy needs a party like Vlaams Blok. In a country where there is no place for such a party, there is no democracy.

Shlomo

Ahah ... really?
So we need extreme-right to deserve democracy?

In two minutes, Mr. Veys will say that VB is a pillard of democraty in Belgium ...

TM Lutas

When I first voted in NYS, there were two or three out and out communist parties on the ballot and at least one fascist one (there was a second one that I wasn't really sure about as their name and party symbol was a bit less clear). Yes, there should be room for any party to start and a well educated citizenry that does the necessary civic work of keeping them marginalized.

There is nothing worse for an extremist party than being given all the freedom to speak and write what they want and election after election not gaining more than 0.02% of the vote. By the mainstream parties collaborating together to exclude the VB, Belgium's political class has set a bomb underneath its own political legitimacy. One election that bomb will go off and the results will be very messy.

The solution is to sort out the legitimate grievances of the VB voters and for mainstream parties to steal VB's issues and be better than VB at solving the problems that get that party significant votes. Puncture the balloon and leave the VB to campaign on whatever is ugly and divisive in their platform.

Dave Perkins

the VB party is a modern, transparent political agenda which large numbers of people support. There is no "powerful and hypnotic leader", no appeal to anything like "Aryan superiority", no propaganda... this is a genuine political agenda genuinely supported by large numbers of thoughtful voters... The Belgian politicians might as well just issue a ban on rightwing THINKING..

not that I want to give them any more bright ideas...

Shlomo


In Brussels, they are giving a false translation of their program to the french electorate ... nice notion of transparent political agenda.

http://www.resistances.be/el2004r12.html (in french, sorry)

Hey, Dave Perkins, where are your sources? Where do you live to a have such an amazing view of an extreme right party?

"May 1940, it was as if the holidays has begon earlier!" Karel Dillen, foundator of the Vlaams Block


No propaganda? ... look at the clips in their web-site ...

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