Word of trouble began to percolate in the morning of the first lecture. A local antiwar activist was demanding my arrest as a war criminal. My crimes were multifold: Writing an article blaming Saddam Hussein—not United Nations sanctions—for Iraqi deaths, and then advocating for Iraqi liberation. This made me responsible for “war-crimes and violating international law by indirectly causing the invasion of Iraq.” ... Rather than ignore the incidents, both newspapers and television reported it. I was already in Finland when I got an e-mail informing me that the police commissioner dismissed the lawsuit.
The incident would be laughable if it did not foreshadow a growing phenomenon seeking to criminalize debate that is sweeping progressive, libertarian, and antiwar groups at home and abroad. Blogger Juan Cole, for example, a popular anti-Bush pundit, demanded the FBI investigate how Walid Phares “became the ‘terrorism analyst’ at MSNBC.” On June 1, 2004, blogger Laura Rozen lamented that someone she disagreed with was not the subject of an FBI investigation. On September 20, 2004, libertarian Justin Raimondo urged the FBI to “indict the Neocon War Party for treason.” Perhaps hyperbole, but it is dangerous to smear political opponents with death-penalty offenses.
Paul Belien of the Brussels Journal is in a more vulnerable position. Following a rampage by a high school student against a Turkish woman, a Flemist toddler and his black nanny, he finds himself accused of inciting hate speech.
Following last Thursday’s Antwerp massacre the Belgian authorities have announced zero tolerance for racism. Belgian journalists, lawyers and politicians (including Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt), say that I am responsible for creating the atmosphere of hatred that led to the massacre. Some people even demand that I be prosecuted.
Belgian television and the Brussels papers say that the Antwerp shoot-out is the result of my writings. Regular readers of The Brussels Journal know my view well enough: I have repeatedly defended the view that Muslim immigrants are not to blame for Europe's predicament. The latter is entirely of our own making. Europeans have foolishly replaced God by the State as the one on whom they rely to take care of all their needs from cradle to grave. The religious vacuum has led to a demographic vacuum, because those who lose faith in God lose faith in the future as well. A civilization that has created a religious and a demographic vacuum is bound to perish.
The lights are turning out for Europe. If America follows Europe’s example Christendom is lost.
Belien provides further details.
During the past few weeks I have been under attack from the Belgian Left and the media. In February the editor in chief of the mass circulation weekly Knack (a supposedly centrist publication) wrote a piece entitled “Paul Belien and His Pals,” claiming that I was part of a neo-con conspiracy, led by Daniel Pipes (whom until then I had never met or spoken) and the Danish journalist Flemming Rose (of the Muhammad cartoons), who wanted “to anger radical but also moderate Muslims into violent action.
The Anchoress notes that certain political views can be literally dangerous to your health. A British anti-abortion protester has been denied health care because of his views.
Edward Atkinson, a 75-year-old anti-abortion activist, was jailed recently for 28 days for sending photographs of aborted foetuses to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk. That draconian sentence was not deemed punishment enough: the hospital has banned Mr Atkinson from receiving the hip replacement operation he was expecting. ... Ruth May, the hospital’s chief executive, claims that the ban is justified because the “offensive” publications he mailed caused “great distress” to her and her staff and thus contravened the NHS policy of “zero tolerance”. Some may already feel that such policies make it seem as if a hospital’s priority is to protect its staff against the patients, rather than protecting patients from illness. This case goes farther, equating the posting of offensive photos with punching a nurse on the nose.
It would of course, be churlish of me to mention that insurgents are provided with medical care by US troops even if they had until moments before been shooting at American troops. In fact I am pretty sure that the Geneva Conventions actually require medical assistance to be given to wounded enemy when this is feasible. War is Hell, but it ain't got a patch on the Culture Wars.
It's probably only fair to point out that individuals like Ward Churchill and Ted Rall have taken heat for their political positions. It's gotten hot on both sides. Nor is this kind of pillorying confined to bloggers. Robert Bork got the "treatment" back in the pre-Internet, pre-War on Terror days to the degree that his name became a verb. The incandescent exchange between Juan Cole and Christopher Hitchens over the translation of a Farsi phrase forshadows the future of at least some Internet discourse.
An out-of-control partisanship implies it will become progressively harder to communicate through speech. This doesn't mean that the exchange of signals between opposed groups will diminish. On the contrary they will increase, except that messages will now be transmitted through pie-throwing, lawsuits, nuisance calls, threat letters, character assassination, denial of service attacks, Google bombs and what have you. Let's hope it stops there but maybe it won't. The written word also proved insufficient for expression in Europe seventy years ago and brown-shirted ruffians, brass knuckles, blackjacks, clubs and knives were pressed into the fray. And that was just the beginning. Communication survived all the way to the end but the content of the signal shrank to one expressive word. A word which was also an imperative sentence. Die.