German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out against free speech this week, suggesting the government can and should regulate what people say to keep society free.
Merkel, speaking at an event for the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Berlin, stumbled up the stairs before taking the podium and suggesting the government ban speech she considers “extreme” and decrying freedom of expression.
“We have freedom of expression in our country,” Merkel said. “For all those who claim that they can no longer express their opinion, I say this to them: If you express a pronounced opinion, you must live with the fact that you will be contradicted. Expressing an opinion does not come at zero cost.”
“But freedom of expression has its limits,” she continued. “Those limits begin where hatred is spread. They begin where the dignity of other people is violated. The house will and must oppose extreme speech. Otherwise our society will no longer be the free society that it was.”
Of course, determining what speech violates the dignity of other people is not something politicians or anyone else should be deciding, especially in today’s culture where liberals claim speech they disagree with is literally “violence” against them.
As Townhall noted, Germany passed a ban in 2018 that fined websites up to 50 million euros ($55 million) for not removing “hate speech” from their platforms quickly enough. The outlet also suggested Merkel’s attempts to suppress free speech were an effort to silence “critics of Merkel’s open-door immigration policies.”
Indeed, if one is to talk about violating another person’s “dignity,” then Merkel’s policies toward immigration would be a prime example. Recall that on New Year’s Eve in 2015, upwards of 1,000 men sexually assaulted women on the streets in Germany. In the aftermath of the mass assaults, one German mayor blamed the women for being sexually assaulted, and the German government pledged to crackdown on those who criticize Muslim immigrants – who were accused of perpetrating the attacks.
The definition of “hate speech” and limitation thereof is not as clear cut as people may believe. This is why America’s First Amendment doesn’t have a “hate speech” exception. What is considered hate speech today may not have been considered so one hundred years ago, and what is acceptable today may not be acceptable in even 10 years, if current social justice trends are any indication.
Yet Europe continues to enact hate-speech laws that rest on the subjective analysis of those in positions of authority (and the most easily offended among us). For example, one county in the United Kingdom made catcalls and pickup lines illegal by labeling them hate crimes. The definition of hate crime in that county was defined as, “Incidents against women that are motivated by an attitude of a man towards a woman and includes behavior targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman.”
These kinds of definitions plague anti-hate speech laws, as they open them up for abuse from those seeking attention and victimhood status.