European Parliament: It’s Time to Crack Down on ‘Offensive’ Speech

According to the Associated Press, the European Parliament has

granted special powers to the president to pull the plug on live broadcasts of parliamentary debate in cases of racist speech or acts and the ability to purge any offending video or audio material from the system.

Rule 165, parts five and six of the Procedure of the European Parliament read:

The President may decide to interrupt the live broadcasting of the sitting in the case of defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behaviour by a Member. The President may decide to delete from the audiovisual record of the proceedings those parts of a speech by a Member that contain defamatory, racist, or xenophobic language.

That decision shall take immediate effect. It shall, however, be subject to confirmation by the Bureau not later than four weeks after it is taken, or, if the Bureau does not meet in that period, at its next meeting.

The "offending" Member may also be fined up to $9,500. 

This rule is frighteningly vague. "Defamatory, racist, or xenophobic language" could be interpreted by anyone in power as language with which they disagree or that they find personally offensive.

The AP quotes Gerolf Annemans, a Flemish politician, who said that rule 165 could be "abused by those who have hysterical reactions to things that they qualify as racist, xenophobic, when people are just expressing politically incorrect views."

If the president of the European Parliament believes that talk of restricting immigration is xenophobic, he can pull the plug, delete the video, and fine the member who dared to offer a reasonable opinion.

This is reminiscent of a passage from George Orwell's 1984, which reads:

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. "Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, "controls the future; who controls the present controls the past."

This rule, and others like it, are a means of control. They are not designed to protect anyone; they are designed to suppress opposing ideas, and in doing so, create an environment in which diversity of thought is asphyxiated.

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