Calls for a European First Amendment Grow

Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center and the author of “While Europe Slept” and “Surrender.” His book "The Victims' Revolution: The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind" is just out from Broadside / Harper Collins.


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A group called the International Civil Liberties Alliance held a conference in Brussels last week featuring speakers from all over Europe.  I wasn’t there – I didn’t know about the event beforehand – but one of the highlights appears to have been a talk given by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, who, it will be remembered, was found guilty not long ago in an Austrian court of law for articulating uncomfortable truths about Islam.

Sabaditsch-Wolff, who entitled her presentation “The Death Throes of Free Speech in Europe,” did not say anything that will be new in substance to regular readers of this website: but she said them, as is always valuable, in a way that was forceful, memorable, and inspiring.  For example, she noted that Europe’s oligarchs, in silencing honest talk about Islam, are employing totalitarian methods, the only difference being that they’ve been more successful than the Nazis, Fascists and Communists, because they’ve accomplished their goals “quietly and peacefully, with no need for concentration camps or gulags or mass graves or the shot in the back of the neck in the middle of the night.”

Like Geert Wilders and others, she called for a European version of America’s First Amendment, adding that Europeans must “take our countries back from those thieves who sneaked them away from us while were lulled into somnolence by our wealth and our pleasant diversions.”

And she recalled a passage from The Lord of the Rings in which Frodo tells Gandalf of their “perilous quest”: “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Gandalf replies: “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  Sabaditsch-Wolff underscored this point: “It is time for us to decide what to do with the time that is given us.”

Or to put it a bit differently: like it or not, those of us in both America and Europe who were assured at one point that the fall of Soviet Communism and the advent of the EU had brought the West to “the end of history” – meaning that we could look forward to a smooth, pleasant future of peace, freedom, prosperity, and stability under democratic capitalism, which was irrevocably spreading throughout the world – were, to borrow a word from Rick in Casablanca, misinformed.

Alas, it turns out that like every generation before us, we have found ourselves living in history.  To speak for a moment strictly as an American: just as some of our forebears found themselves living in a period when a revolution against our British cousins was more and more plainly in the offing, or, later, in an era when it was increasingly obvious that we were headed toward a violent rupture between North and South, or, decades afterward, in a time of Depression when, year by year, the inevitability of a colossal confrontation with Nazism became less and less practically deniable, so we are now headed toward a clash on a massive scale that will challenge our determination to stand up for the freedom that our founders bequeathed us and that we owe to those yet to come.

Our forebears faced up successfully to the challenges that confronted them.  What makes things different today is that the Sixties generation – the ’68ers, as they say in Europe – and the generations that have followed them are, to a lamentable extent, not made of the same stuff as their precedessors.  Multiculturalism has taught them to mock concepts like freedom and to reject as sheer bigotry and ridiculous hyperbole the idea that members of some other culture might regard them and their civilization as an enemy deserving of destruction.  An indulgent upbringing, a culture awash in cynicism, and a life defined by creature comforts on a historically unprecedented level have thoroughly alienated them from the idea that there is anything beyond themselves – higher than themselves – that could possibily be worth sacrificing anything for.

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  • Chezwick

    Sorry Bruce, but I just don't see it happening. Europe lost its civilizational nerve when the Wall came down and there was no longer an existential threat from the Soviets. Two decades on, a new threat has emerged, but the same pathologies you spelled out in the article – cynicism, narcissism, and materialism (you left out infertility) – will conspire to preclude an effective European awakening.

    When the Sh*t hits the fan, we welcome you freedom-loving Europeans (and expats like Bruce) to come start a new life in the States. We need some immigrants with conservative values.

    • Raymond in DC

      Why do you assume DHS/ICE will give preference to "freedom-loving Europeans" with conservative values, rather than the minorities of Europe (Arabs and Muslims) escaping the failing societies they fostered – all in the name of, you know, diversity? I assume Bawer retains US citizenship, so he doesn't need permission to return home.

      • Chezwick

        I assume middle-class and affluent Europeans who wish to emigrate to the USA in the future won't be turned away. It's generally much easier for a foreigner to get a green-card if he/she has assets. "Refugee" status is a different matter altogether.

      • johnnywoods

        Raymond, They can come across the Mexican border just like the illegals do. I understand that nobody is watching anyway.

    • RUI

      Oh boy, can I come too? I was born in Y'urp and am a solid defender of conservative values.

      • mlcblog

        Come on! but be prepared to fight/ speak out to these ignorant Americans by whom I am surrounded and grew up with.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mensch.keymelon Mensch Keymelon

      "(you left out infertility)"

      Not really…the problem is Europeans think of it as recreation not procreation. They are not going to start living right until you raise the children with better morales and better values of self respect. Until they accomplish that, get ready for a very elderly and shrinking WASP/European population demographic.

  • khushi

    I hope Europe wakes up and fights back before it is too late.
    The enemy is at the door but not too many people are aware of it. And from the ones who are, not many are willing to acknowledge the fact nor are willing to fight the enemy.

    • Stephen_Brady

      I agree with what you say, but the enemy has already come through the door, and is walking over to the gun rack.

    • johnnywoods

      Unfortunately Europeans became "sheep" a long time ago so they do not comprehend the concept of "pushing back".

  • AntiSharia

    A constitutional freedom is as good as the governments willingness to live by it. We have a bill of rights but the government(all three branches) treats it with contempt. Rights are only safe when the people proclaim them for themselves and tell the government where to get off. A right given by the state can also be taken away. The people of Europe need to tell their overlords that they will exercise freedom of speech whether they like it or not. What are the spineless boobs in Brussels going to do? Imprison everyone?

  • NAHALKIDES

    It should be noted that the First Amendment has long been under stealth assault here in the U.S. (by means of "hate speech" codes on University grounds and "hate crimes" laws), and more recently under direct assault by the Progressive Left (a.k.a. the Democratic Party), which has become so bold as to actually propose REPEALING THE AMENDMENT! This attempt has received far too little notice in the press.

    • Ray Olson

      Would you please list some sources for your statement that "the Progressive Left (a.k.a. the Democratic Party) . . . has become so bold as to actually propose REPEALING THE [First] AMENDMENT"? Resources that are accessible on the Web are preferable.

  • Western Spirit

    The Left and it's values have been a disaster for this country and Europe. Multiculturism alone has done more damage than wars.

    None of the Left's values follow common sense but are designed to destroy the values that America was established on—Judeo-Christian values that are common sense oriented. And Europe's Christian values,such as they were, as well.

    Satan's time is coming to an end and his delusions are more toxic. Islam, for instance, is worse than Nazism and we are now expected to fight it even though our nations have been weakened by the foolishness of the Left that are. of course, delusions.

  • johnnywoods

    Maybe the Europeans need the Second Amendment as well as the First.

  • Ghostwriter

    Well,I hope that Europeans get something like our First Amendment. Lord knows,they need it.

  • https://www.facebook.com/igler George Igler

    As a Briton, a European, a free speech activist and an invitee of this conference: I can assure you that the expressed views of many commenters here, that there is some sort of inherent reluctance from Europeans to forcefully grapple with and defeat this growing tide of authoritarianism, is completely FALSE.

    There is an enormous appetite and willingness, among a whole raft of serious and accomplished professionals throughout the continent of Europe, to tackle these issues head on. Furthermore, there are several extraordinarily sound and effective judicial ways and means by which they could be tackled, and developed strategies for doing exactly that.

    The problem, simply put, is money. It's hard for an American reader to understand but nevertheless true that US citizens have among the lowest tax burdens of any country in the developed world. And every nation with a higher tax burden than the US in such a list; with the exception of South Korea, Israel, Canada and New Zealand; is a European state.

    What this means is that Europeans simply don't have the sort of disposable income to engage in the automatic kind of political activism, that a US citizen would immediately engage in, when confronted by their fundamental freedoms being eroded in this way. Moreover, those with the kind of wealth over here who might help, are remarkably successfully kept "in check" by the combined strength of the media and political establishments.

    It's neither the case that the spirit isn't wiling, nor is it true that the flesh is weak. There are an enormously large number of very brave people on this side of the Atlantic. It's just that nobody has successfully managed to square the circle of the profound economic hardships that can immediately result from individuals putting their heads above the parapet. Despite this, many still do, and suffer accordingly as a result.

    • Stuart Parsons

      I am British and devote an appreciable portion of my disposable income to combatting Islam. Furthermore, the LAW protects my right to freely criticise Islam. My car is covered in anti-Islam signs and I hand out leaflets exposing the evil beliefs, practices and aims of Islam.

      For two years now the politically correct police, because of Islamic complaints, have accused me of being racist , xenophobic. and Islamophobic. They have tried to cajole, persuade and of late actually threaten me. They have photographed my car and sent the photos to the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS tells them that I cannot be successfully be prosecuted because the 2006 Racial and Religious hatred act protects my free speech right to challenge, criticise, express antipathy towards and even insult a religion and the beliefs and practices of its adherents.

      • Stuart Parsons

        Might I recommend to all non-Muslims from whatever country, that instead of moaning and complaining about Islam and entering comments on websites, you actually get out of your chair and DO SOMETHING to oppose the evil nature of Isalm. If you do not you are no better than the appeasers whom Winston Churchill referred to as, 'feeding the crocodile in the hope it will eat him last.' Write to your political representives, hand out leaflets and put a sticker on your car saying ISLAM IS A FAR GREATER THREAT TO THE WELL-BEING OF MANKIND THAN FACISM AND COMMUNISM EVER WERE.

    • mlcblog

      Is it too American of me? to say Where there's a will, there's a way! We have the not-enough-money excuse over here, too, and the whole rest of the list, don't feel good, my dog ate my homework, etc, etc.

      I know I am not there and I appreciate your input… but it seems like my American duty to remind us all of the power of dogged determination. Coupled with the hopeful and creative mind, wonders will never cease.

      • https://www.facebook.com/igler George Igler

        No it certainly isn't! But as I say it's a simple matter of practicalities.

        Imagine Mr Parsons above, who I am surprised we have never heard of, was convicted of incitement to religious hatred and imprisoned for a year. (You can search for Bruce Bawer's article on the case of Darren Conway here at FrontPageMag from March of this year.)

        If my organisation was to seek to take this and similar cases to judicial review at the High Court in London, even if one were able to find the lawyers willing to take the case on entirely pro bono (which I could do), being found against in court would lead to incurring costs of something like £50,000 – £100,000. (That's $80,000 – $160,000)

        Without the reserves to absorb such a sum, it would destroy my entire organization and the two years or so of work put into the whole enterprise. I'm not saying the money isn't "out there" somewhere to achieve these kind of objectives, it must be, it's just that I and those like me are finding it simply impossible to access it. And without this our ability to be pro-active in the most effective way possible is fundamentally hampered.

        • mlcblog

          I feel you (a street term over here). I tend to be extremely idealistic. I love to read about the great exploits of our founding fathers when they started this great country, God's great experiment on earth. I love to read Peter Marshall's histories about America. Also, the Bible. King Saul is a great example of how men cannot rule well. Every time he had an opportunity to seek divine assistance, he bore through on his own, not having the patience, the faith or the wisdom to seek help, and that is what I feel has been the downfall of all of God's chosen people, the Jews of old and us now. Yet, He has provided for us our spiritual escape and help. I might know all this, but don't always remember to ask for help myself.