Steyn on Britain and Europe
Max Miller, the "Cheeky Chappie" of Britain's music hall, liked to say that the great thing about comedy was that it was the only job where if you're really bad at it nobody laughs at you. The dead hand of the demographically exhausted German state is taking it to a whole other level:
You can take the girl out of East Germany, but you can't take the East Germany out of the girl. In the Eighties, Angela Merkel, was a board member of the FDJ - the "Free German Youth", the kiddie wing of the one-party state - and the local secretary in charge of "agitprop". So she has a deep understanding of how art and even humble jokes must serve the needs of the regime - in this case, kissing up to the new sultan:
There's no end of grim soundbites in her press conference today. How about this one?
Bog off, tosser. A free society does not threaten a guy with years in gaol for writing a poem. If you don't know that that's wrong, you should just cut to the chase and appoint yourself mutasarrÄ±fa of Erdogan's neo-Ottoman sanjak of Berlin.
What a disgraceful person she is, the worst German chancellor since ...well, I don't want to go all Godwin's this early in the piece. But a few years ago, when Maclean's and I had our triple-jeopardy difficulties with the Canadian "Human Rights" Commission, the Ontario "Human Rights" Commission and the British Columbia "Human Rights" Tribunal, the response of many of my fellow Canadians to the eventual outcome was along the lines of: "Well, I don't know what Steyn was making such a fuss about. The process played itself out and he was acquitted. So the system worked."
Some of these people were genuine innocents who've never been caught up in a time-consuming seven-figure legal battle before. But many others were making the argument cynically. They know that, if you can tie up a book or a magazine article in court, then there will be fewer books and magazine articles. As I wrote in my introduction to Geert Wilders' memoir, Marked For Death:
Just to confirm that, here's my friend Barbara Amiel writing in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo bloodbath:
And they never have.
As I said, people who say, well, we have a "strong justice system" so let's let the process play out are either innocents who've never been tied up in court or cold cynics. The German Chancellor can hardly be an innocent in these matters. Like the Canadian Islamic Congress, she has a "strategic objective" and regardless of the verdict this trial will help her achieve it: There will be fewer poems, fewer satirical sketches, fewer jokes - not just about Erdogan, but about Islam in general. To reprise my old line: The process is the punishment.
Don't believe that? First of all, the broadcaster has already deep-sixed the offending joke:
So the anti-Erdogan gag is history. Even if in Merkel's weaselly evasion "the courts will have the final word", the joke will not be coming back. Will Herr Boehmermann?
Ah. So the poem has vanished, and so has its creator. And, given the backbone ZDF are showing, what are the chances of them or any other German media outlet broadcasting any further provocations to Erdogan in the future?
At this stage, Ankara's strongman doesn't really need to win in court, does he? He's already nuked the gag, and damaged the guy's career. He has, in effect, imposed Islamic concepts of free speech on a major western power. Get used to it, because they've only just begun.
Frau Merkel has also achieved her "strategic objective". As noted earlier this week:
So Jan Boehmermann will be put on trial pour encourager les autres. As Barbara Amiel well understood, for every protracted expensive court battle that ends in a free-speech victory there are thousands and thousands of other publishers, editors, writers, comedians, film-makers, playwrights, directors, producers, cartoonists, artists who get the message that discretion is the better part of valour. In my book Lights Out: Free Speech, Islam and the Twilight of the West, I put it this way:
Add to that daily lengthening list a German satirist on trial for mocking an authoritarian thug.
In a paradoxically witless suggestion to Congress this week, Bono proposed that we should fight ISIS with jokes - by dispatching Amy Schumer, Chris Rock and Sacha Baron Cohen to Syria. If introducing comedy to Raqqa sounds a bit of a long shot, maybe Bono could try Germany first.
See also my recent speech in Melbourne on "last laughs":
~More from me on free speech in this piece on me by Brad Schaeffer at The Blaze.
from Steyn on Europe, April 15, 2016
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