Reading Brendan O’Neill’s article on The Reichstig Fire and its impact on 1930s democracy has highlighted the incredibly worrying nature of recent developments within the EU.
O’Neill explodes the myth that “Hitler was democratically elected, and that this demonstrates that democracy can very easily give rise to dictatorship, and even to mass murder”. This claim is being increasingly used in an hysterical fashion against those who supported Trump and Brexit. From the article (but I would encourage you to follow the link to read it in full – I have highlighted the significant areas);
“The fire took place on 27 February 1933…..the fire became the founding event of Nazi rule. It took place just a week before the federal elections, on 5 March 1933, and the Nazis cited the terror of the fire as a justification for suppressing and crushing much of their left opposition in the days before the election took place.
At this point, in early 1933, Hitler was chancellor of Germany but he had not been elected to that position. He had tried to become president in the 1932 presidential elections, but he lost to Paul von Hindenburg. Hindenburg got more than 19million votes; Hitler got 13.4million. Yet Hindenburg had a troubled presidency and struggled to find a chancellor he could work with. In January 1933 he appointed Hitler. Elections were called for early March. Then, at the end of February, came the fire, and everything changed.
The Nazis unleashed terror and authoritarianism against their political opponents. Claiming the fire was proof of a vast communist plot to take over Germany, Hitler convinced Hindenburg to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree immediately after the fire. The decree effectively ended civil liberty in Germany. It stated that ‘the Constitution of the German Reich [is] suspended until further notice’. It made it ‘permissible’ to restrict ‘the rights of personal freedom, freedom of expression, including the freedom of the press, the freedom to organise and assemble, [and] the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications’. It also made it exceptionally easy for the police and paramilitary groups to obtain ‘Warrants for House Searches’.
As I stated as a result of these political decisions and the swing towards the right in upcoming elections in the EU that threaten how the EU operates at present these decisions have been recently taken, or are suggested for enacting.
The Censoring Of Elected Officials
The EU parliament is now capable of pulling the live feed of debates if the member speaking is spouting ‘hate speech’ and the offending speaker would be fined up to €9,000.
Remember these are elected officials.
The UK Labour MEP Richard Corbett who supported this act explained his reasoning as thus; ‘What if this became not isolated incidents, but specific, where people could say, “Hey, this is a fantastic platform. It’s broad, it’s live-streamed. It can be recorded and repeated. Let’s use it for something more vociferous, more spectacular.”’
So, instead of debating this MEP, bringing thoughts that are destructive out into the open and destroying the argument, the EU has chosen to support censoring speech on the basis of an imagined threat. As with all power over-reach this move is dangerous, particularly as the definition of hate speech is highly subjective. For example, is referring to current acts of terrorism as Islamic going to be considered hateful? By some, yes, it would be.
In an age where the importance of transparency has been highlighted, it seems that this is not such a consideration when the status quo is threatened.
The Removal Of Parliamentary Privilege From Marine Le Pen
In the House of Commons, MPs have parliamentary privilege – a vital part of democracy as freedom of speech is an essential for healthy and open political debate.
Our elected representatives work for us, and we have a right to be represented and know what they are talking about. Silencing them, as with the case above, means that those we have elected to put forward our worries, cares and desires are stopped from doing so and, if such people are ceasing to do this and are instead turning to ideas that are destructive, the ability to decide this is removed from us. This is not democracy, it’s removing the demos, but rather patronising or – worst – demonising the demos. After all its assumes either we aren’t capable of identifying despots or we are of that nature ourselves.
This is why the removal of parliamentary privilege from Marine Le Pen is so worrying. The EU’s Parliamentary affairs committee voted by an overwhelming majority to waive Le Pen’s immunity, after a request from the prosecutor of Nanterre in west Paris. The prosecutor did so under a French law banning the distribution of violent images or those inciting terrorism.
Le Pen’s Front National had been compared to ISIS so LePen had responded with three uncensored pictures of Isis killings in December 2015, with the caption “Daesh is THIS!”
Notice in The Guardian piece outlining this that the following commentary is added; “posts that drew revulsion and criticism from bereaved families and French politicians across the political spectrum.” I haven’t seen the images, I’ve no doubt they are revolting, but a lot of what we see is revolting. Thing of truly grotesque images published for public consumption to encourage people to stop smoking. These would no doubt have been more barbaric, but they are in the public domain hençe her Builth to access them. Why then shouldn’t she use them to defend herself to rebut the accusation that the two are the same? If I was LePen I would be revolted by being compared to ISIS.
One is left wondering if it isn’t the message or the messenger that is being targeted.
Google and Facebook Factchecking Prior to French Elections
From google blog they have announced that are proud to “support the launch of CrossCheck, a coalition news verification project. With a goal of helping the French electorate make sense of what and who to trust in their social media feeds, web searches and general online news consumption in the coming months, we’re working with 17 newsrooms and counting, and technology partners including Facebook’s CrowdTangle and others .”
It does this by ‘ensuring’ that “hoaxes, rumours and false claims are swiftly debunked, and misleading or confusing stories are accurately reported. With the French presidential election approaching, journalists from across France and beyond will work together to find and verify content circulating publicly online, whether it is photographs, videos, memes, comment threads and news sites.”
All those involved have a left wing bent, see the list;
Early partners include AFP (Agence France-Presse), BuzzFeed News, France Médias Monde (via les Observateurs de France 24), France Télévisions, Global Voices, Libération, La Provence, Les Echos, La Voix du Nord, Le Monde (Les Décodeurs), Nice-Matin, Ouest-France, Rue89 Bordeaux, Rue89Lyon, Rue89 Strasbourg, Storyful and StreetPress.
I’m not a fan of LePen, but I am of free will of which free speech is a fundamental part. I pray for God’s help and guidance in these forthcoming elections and that His will is done.