Blogs

Bob Dylan falls foul of Europe’s neo-blasphemy laws

4 December 2013

2:25 PM

4 December 2013

2:25 PM

The French authorities are investigating Bob Dylan after some Croats were offended by something he said in an interview with Rolling Stone last year. The singer had said: ‘If you got a slave master or [Ku Klux] Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.’

Dylan is the latest victim of Europe’s neo-blasphemy laws, in which offending someone’s group identity is treated in the same way that offending God once was. When Christianity stops being sacred, everything becomes sacred; did GK Chesterton say that? Well it’s the sort of thing he might have said.

I wonder how the great secular reformers of yesteryear would have felt about blasphemy being effortlessly replaced in this way. When in 2008 Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris introduced the repeal of our blasphemy laws I was opposed to it, basically for tribal and culture war reasons, because it would further undermine Christian England. But Harris was right and people like me were wrong; much as I don’t like tedious young artists insulting the Virgin Mary, it shouldn’t be a criminal matter, and there’s little justification in having a law as a statement of values.

[Alt-Text]


But now that identity, whether of race, religion, class, sex or sexuality, is the new sacred, hate crime laws have become blasphemy laws in all but name. The things that will get someone arrested, investigated, shunned, boycotted, made unemployed or end their political career – all relate to the blasphemy of identity.

One of the first such laws, also in France, made Holocaust denial a crime, and some warned that other wacky historical interpretations would become illegal one day, but now you can’t even upset the Croats, whose wartime record was appalling (I seem to recall reading that some SS officers came to visit Jasenovac. the Croatian death camp, and told them they were taking the whole genocide thing too far).

This is certainly not something that the Anglo-Saxon world has escaped. According to Jon Gower Davies’s New Inquisition: Religious Persecution in Britain Today there are now 35 Acts of Parliament, 52 Statutory Instruments, 13 Codes of Practice, 3 Codes of Guidance and 16 European Commission Directives that deal with various neo-blasphemy crimes.

People even forget that the arguments they use against ‘haters’ are the same ones used against blasphemers in the past – namely that they sowed division, or that they had malicious intentions, whatever their arguments and facts. Someone responded to my post the other day about Richard Dawkins by arguing that ‘he needn’t be such an asshole’ in his comments about Islam, and presumably therefore it was his fault. Galileo was a bit of an asshole too; he was still factually correct.

Although there’s a judicial investigation, I can’t see Bob Dylan being extradited to France to face charges. That’s the thing with most hate crime investigations; they don’t tend to go anywhere, they’re just an inconvenience that make people’s lives a pain or misery for a while, cost lots of money, and discourage everyone else from making any contentious comments. And it is the very ambiguity of hate crime, the uncertainly about when one is breaking the law, that makes them so illiberal.

I often wonder what babyboomers like Dylan must feel about how our world has changed; when they were young, barriers were breaking down and people were free to say what they liked. Did they imagine that when they’d got old the society they lived in would be more censorious than that they rebelled against? Certainly the times they are a-changing.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
  • James M

    “Dylan is the latest victim of Europe’s neo-blasphemy laws, in which
    offending someone’s group identity is treated in the same way that
    offending God once was. When Christianity stops being sacred, everything
    becomes sacred; did GK Chesterton say that? Well it’s the sort of thing
    he might have said.”

    ## Germany has its own secular Inquisition, which punishes severely all those who question the dogma of (not only the fact but also) the body-count of the Shoah. The body-count is a holy revealed truth, which it is sacrilege and profanation to question; God help those who question the body-count; for no-one else will. This dogma has even become part of Catholic thinking – sorry, but the Jews are just another people. What happened to them was horrible, and so was the extent of it, but they are not the only people to have suffered horribly on a massive scale, whether in the 20th century or in the remoter past. They cannot “dine out” on the tale of their woes forever – their own record at inflicting suffering is nothing to be proud of. The extent of what they suffered, though very great, looks rather small, compared to the oceans of human blood shed by Stalin & Mao – enthusiastic murderers who have come in for very little reprobation compared to Hitler.

    The nice thing about God – from a certain POV – is that He is remote. The New Inquisitors, by contrast, are not. “Custody of the eyes” is no longer to be found only in convents, if it is still found there at all; everyone in society must practice it. St. Pius V was said to have made all Rome into a monastery – the Inquisitors into the heretical pravity of sexism, ageism, speciesism, and other assorted evil “-ism”s have made half Europe & the US into a secular monastery. The new religion is about to canonise St Nelson Mandela – having carefully ignored the old terrorist’s Communism. Adoration of the new idol will be obligatory for as long as it lasts.

  • jnk9

    Or, from the same song – “Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command” – and now they’re coming for you.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    French jurisprudence, where the truth is no defence. Keep this in mind when determining your host nation. Go on, you know you`re going to split.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Precious feelings hurt. Sensibilities offended: What a crock. Cue for a song, Bob.

  • Tron

    Bob Dylan “went electric” to play blues rock to get away from the commie folk crowd in Greenwich Village. He says it all in Positively 4th Street.
    Joan Baez and Pete Seeger hated the way he would not be part of the Left Establishment.
    He sang about freedom because he really believed in it.

    • rubyduck

      He ‘went electric’ because he wanted to be a rock star.

      There’s no bigger admirer than me (up to Blood on the Tracks) but he’s never been out for anyone but himself. Good man.

    • Kennybhoy

      Amen. See my comment below.:-(

  • marina e

    Recently I have repeatedly been ‘moderated’ on the Guardian for commenting on the inconsistency and irrationality of the ‘moderation’.

    I can see a very needed place for it-and at times I can see why they might moderate me-but recently they seem to be moderating everyone for the most irrational reasons [actually I cant tell why anymore, as it no longer seems to have anything to do with their guidelines] – I find this very depressing and deeply hypocritical of the Guardian -their double standards are now too glaring.

    Perhaps its just an overenthusiastic individual, who has let power go to their head, but in the end it reflects badly on The Guardians credibility.

    I never thought I would end up on the Spectator, complaining about the Guardian’s attitude towards freedom of speech!

  • Chris

    Has Ed West been reading the comments under Guardian articles? I wrote this two days ago in response to some cretin-
    “UKIP are not left wing and are therefore practitioners of left wing
    blasphemy, so must be describe using left wing synonyms for blasphemy –
    racist, fascist, divisive, islamaphobe, xenophobe etc etc all words
    which have been divorced from their actually meaning and all of which
    merely mean blasphemer in their relative areas.
    How else could a libertarian party be described as fascist. All
    though, I suppose to a guardian reader, the idea of everyone being
    free to live as they please would be oppressive to them; given as they
    have the need to dictate how everyone else should live.”
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/01/greece-golden-dawn-supporters-rally-release-nikos-michaloliakos#start-of-comments
    user name Looooom (easy to remember, they keep deleting my account!)

  • Owen Spedding

    If only we can get a hate crime rule related to professions then people will have to stop saying nasty things about bankers – The European Parliament has obviously been sitting on its hands.

  • NewImprovedPretendName

    I hear you, but I’m not convinced that “if you got a slave master or [Ku Klux] Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that” is – pardon the expression – the lowest hanging fruit for your argument. By all means let’s not treat the guy as a heretic, we all say silly things now and then, but this is not pleasant stuff.

  • Colonel Mustard

    “I often wonder what babyboomers like Dylan must feel about how our world has changed”

    It was the sort of babyboomers who flocked around Dylan that have led us here. The one time poachers who have turned into the very worst kind of gamekeepers. In the West those who once railed against ‘the man’ have now become ‘the man’, from the White House to Brussels and their brave new world is hideous.

    • Daniel Maris

      I expect the babyboomers remember the Jim Crow laws, the lynchings, the Vietnam and colonial wars that needlessly destroyed so many young lives, the horrible oppression of homosexuals, the petty restrictions that bound so much of life and the unutterable boredom that seemed to dominate so much of life outside work (cf the wonderful Tony Hancock episode on Sunday at home).

      Sadly though, we seem to have overshot the runway and landed ourselves with a whole new series of oppressive social factors. My analysis would differ from yours though in that I think capitalists as much as leftists have been behind the worst (continuing) trends of mass immigration and it is they who have a vested interest in PC culture in order to prevent criticism of mass immigration (which boosts their profits).

      • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94rcOVJBMYQ Winston Blake

        Homosexuals are one thing I agree with the Muslims about.

        Homosexuals desire their own extinction and if the Muslims are willing to give it to them, I won’t interfere.

      • Colonel Mustard

        What a load of tripe. Socialist revisionism encapsulated in a single, silly comment. Personally I was never bored and I doubt that you were even there.

        • Kennybhoy

          I do hear you man but it is rather unfair on Maister Maris to pick on the (non existant) boredom as opposed to the other aspects of pre 1960s society mentioned.

    • Kennybhoy

      Dylan agrees with you…

      “Ah but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now…”

      Apologies but I can only find cover versions on youtube.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywHD3_4kTRQ

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nErRGYzMOzA

  • sir_graphus

    Good job for Bob he only picked on the Croats. Other “groups” might have taken more violent offence.

    An odd comment, though, ain’t it?

    • Swanky

      Very odd comment, and not true. But that’s my opinion.

      I think what some people are learning is that free speech never means that you don’t have to be prudent. There are always some things you can’t safely say. That is the nature of living in a regime — and unless we are to live in some impossible world without rules, that will always be the case.

      • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94rcOVJBMYQ Winston Blake

        I am a believer in white supremacy… Any man who places his hands upon me is a tyrant, a usurper and will become a believer…

        There might be some things YOU can’t safely say love, but I am 6′ 5″ of Englishman and since I live over on the other side of the puddle, I often have a gun.

      • Iain Inkster

        “I think what some people are learning is that free speech never means that you don’t have to be prudent. ” ~ weasel words. free speech means unconditional free speech.

  • Chris Marker

    Alas, there is no such thing as ‘free speech’ in this land of the sheep.
    Jews, Muslims and other immigrants have curtailed what was once enshrined in our European constitutions as a sacred right.
    The decline and fall of Western civilization ….

    • Swanky

      Mm, the Leftists did it first, Chris. And they have permitted and encouraged whatever has followed. Did you see Rod Liddle’s short video about statism and how it encroaches? Worth seeing.

      P. S. What is that environment behind you in the photy?

      • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94rcOVJBMYQ Winston Blake

        I am a believer in white supremacy… Any man who places his hands upon me is a tyrant, a usurper and will become a believer.

        White people won WW2… If it wasn’t for white Christians with guns, George Soros would be a lampshade today, and rightfully so…

        If they don’t like Bob Dylan, who is one of the few Jews I like, they would just love Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys…

      • Chris Marker

        Swanky, who do you suppose the idealogues and demigods of the Left were and still are to this day? Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, hobsbawm, Chomsky, Zinn e.t.c. have something in common that is more than skin deep.

    • Liberty

      Jews throughout history have been trailblazers of tolerance and liberty via the law, arts, music, comedy, politics and in other fields, just like Bob Dylan in his own way.

      • Chris Marker

        Right, you must be alluding to the tolerance espoused by the Talmud? Full of love and compassion for the goyim, correct?
        I suggest you pruse through the pages of Talmud, or even better read Israel Shahak’s “Jewish history and Jewish religion: The weight of 300 years” http://www.amazon.com/Jewish-History-Religion-Thousand-Eastern/dp/0745308198/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386233580&sr=8-1&keywords=israel+shahak+jewish+history

        • Liberty

          The talmud is ancient history and reflects the beliefs and practices of people long ago. The practice of child marriage, slavery, stoning, etc died out thousands of years ago as it did with Christians who revere the same sources. The Talmud is symbolically revered but not in the secular world. Modern Jews are part of the modern world in beliefs, morals and ethics; .upholding free speech, democracy and the rule of law. Even the nutters know that this is the only way to be and reserve the serious reverence of the Talmud for their own world able to flit between the two worlds at will. You must have noticed. Even in Israel where the nutters have great power they are vehemently opposed by the rest and do not seek to impose their views on non-Jews other than in trivial ways.

  • Daniel Maris

    Yes, repeat after me:

    “The Croats are a peace loving and tolerant nation who wish only to embrace all other ethnic groups, and especially the Serbs, as brothers.”

    • Chris Marker

      Alternatively:

      “The Serbs are a peace loving and tolerant nation who wish only to embrace all other ethnic groups, and especially the Croats/Bosnians, as brothers.”

      • Daniel Maris

        Equally valid.

        • Mr B J Mann

          Or actually more valid.

          The Serbs wanted to maintain the brotherhood of ethnic groups in Yugoslavia, and if any of the brotherhood wanted to leave the family they insisted they jumped though all the correct legal hoops.

          You know.

          Like Salmond has to.

          And not just illegally and unilaterally claim they were independent.

    • James M

      As in 1941-1944 ? *Very* fraternal, that was.

Close
Can't find your Web ID? Click here