Hate-speech: the fourth round

This is the fourth time that the socialist and liberal members of parliament have tried to do something about the ever-growing  spread of linguistic abuse of certain groups. The favorite targets are the usual suspects: Gypsies, Jews, and gays. The linguistic abuses are not mild. At soccer games between the Fradi (Ferencváros) and MTK (a team formerly with lots of Jewish players) the Fradi fans keep chanting: "The trains are going to Auschwitz." Or at liberal demonstrations the extreme right wingers "send the Jews into the Danube" just like in the winter of 1944 when the Arrow Cross men gunned down members of the Budapest ghetto and threw their bodies into the Danube. The verbal (and sometimes physical) abuse of Gypsies is very common and again there is nothing a member of these groups can do. As of last year the gays were also verbally and physically attacked. So it's no wonder that some people believe that something must be done.

However, there is a very serious problem: the Hungarian Constitution and the rulings of the Constitutional Court. According to the Constitution free speech has a paramount role in Hungarian law similar to the American practice. Those who argue for restrictions on free speech point to the 400,000 Hungarian Jews who were shipped off to Auschwitz and other death camps with active Hungarian participation. These people point out that the Nazi atrocities began with words that eventually were translated into action. They also highlight the growing verbal and physical violence that is becoming far too common. They claim that in 1990 when the Constitution was written it was an entirely different world. There was no deep division between right and left, and the extreme right either didn't exist or constituted only an insignificant force. It was also a time of limitless hope in the democratic instincts of people and the strength of democratic institutions. They couldn't even imagine people chanting little rhymes about sending people to Auschwitz.

President Sólyom, we mustn't forget, had a large role to play both in framing and in interpreting the Constitution. He has always rigidly maintained that free speech is more important than human rights. For the sake of free speech we must endure a certain discomfort. Therefore it is naive of the left even to try to come up with a piece of legislation that will pass muster. There have already been three attempts to change the law, all of which failed. Only a year ago parliament tried to make a change in the Civil Code to allow members of targeted groups to sue even if the verbal attack wasn't directed at them personally. Sólyom didn't like it, sent it to the the Constitutional Court, and, behold, big surprise, the Constitutional Court agreed with former Chief Justice Sólyom that it was unconstitutional. Soon enough the socialists and liberals began drafting a new piece of legislation, this time through a change in the Criminal Code: T/6219 was passed on November 13. The proposed legislation would allow a person who considers himself a member of a group that is being abused to go to court and demand satisfaction. The legislation was sent for signature to President Sólyom who decided that this new piece of legislation is also unconstitutional and therefore he is going to send it on to the Constitutional Court to have an official judgment on the question. What are his objections? According to him, the proposed legislation doesn't provide any test to decide whether the injured party is part of the group that is being abused. Sólyom goes even farther: he would like to know whether the person in question has a "strong enough bond" to that community. This is an incredible idea. First of all, how can a Gypsy or a Jew prove with certainty that he is a Gypsy or a Jew? A bodily examination in the case of a male Jew? Most Hungarian Jews are not even circumcised. And what about women? Or will it be necessary to produce a family tree going back generations and generations when birth certificates still indicated one's religion? As for a gay person, should he have to perform a sexual act in front of the judges to prove that he is gay? Because otherwise I have doubts that you can ascertain someone's heritage or sexual orientation. As for the "strong enough bond" that sounds even more bizarre. Let's say that a Jew isn't religious and doesn't go to synagogue. Does this mean that he's not a Jew? Or take a gay person who is in the closet and doesn't go to gay bars. Does it mean that he has no right to feel offended? Or a Gypsy who went to university and doesn't live in a hut in one of the village ghettos? The whole thing is nonsense. But never mind, I''m certain that on these grounds the Constitutional Court will completely agree with the great constitutional expert.

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GreatConstitutionalExpert
Guest
GreatConstitutionalExpert

So, how would you deal with hate speech?

Adrian
Guest

How does Hungarian law deal with incitement? “send the Jews into the Danube” looks more like incitement than abuse.

Op
Guest

Freedom is more important than safety. It’s a lot more important than to give it up only to make a few sensitive minorities feel comfortable.
Minorities could do a little more on their part than just complain all the time. We know about the gypsy problem, it’s real, it’s here, making it a taboo will not solve the issue.
Jews could do more by trying to get over their victim status, and get on with the program.
Gays could also tone it down a bit, don’t celebrate your differences, it’s ok to act normal every now and then.
When times are tough people get frustrated and desperate, if you take away their right to vent their frustration, you promote fascism. I have a feeling that liberals are afraid of freedom, they prefer it to be one-sided. Punishing someone for having an opinion would be unforgivable.

Aldamir
Guest

Hate speech laws are a bad idea in general.
Comparisons with Nazi Germany are particularly inappropriate in this regard, as Weimar Germany had hate speech laws under which several Nazis were prosecuted and under which Hitler was banned from speaking for a time. Despite all of this they did nothing to prevent the Nazis rising to power.

NWO
Guest

Eva-
Does not you whole discussion on interpretation by Solyom demonstrate why these laws are not wise? More generally, given how poor the judiciary is and how polarized the society is, how can one believe there is an impartial arbiter to draft laws and to interpret them. Hungary has tons of problems, including racisim and intolerance. A hate speech law is hardly the best answer to the problem. Better would be to start to address many of the underlying problems in the society and economy that help to foster not only hate speech but hate. That of course would take way too much work and sacrifice on the part of the people involved.

Eva Balogh
Guest

Adrian; “How does Hungarian law deal with incitement? “send the Jews into the Danube” looks more like incitement than abuse.”
Yes, I think you’re right about this being incitement but that is also a dead end in Hungary. Unless someone actually follows the advice and guns down someone and throws his body into the Danube nothing can happen. I’m not joking.

Eva Balogh
Guest

Op: “Freedom is more important than safety.”
Sure thing, someone says “I hate this guy, he is a dirty Jew,” and the mob attacks the man. Then what is more important? The safety of a man or a maniac’s freedom? These are not easy questions.

Eva Balogh
Guest

NWO: “Eva- Does not you whole discussion on interpretation by Solyom demonstrate why these laws are not wise?”
I’m not saying that this particular law is well drafted. However, I think that something has to be done because some people simply are not mature enough to know the limits of free speech.

GreatConstitutionalExpert
Guest
GreatConstitutionalExpert

******Sure thing, someone says “I hate this guy, he is a dirty Jew,” and the mob attacks the man. Then what is more important? The safety of a man or a maniac’s freedom? These are not easy questions.******
Ah, I see. You are advocating for crimethink. Par for the course for you, I think.
*****However, I think that something has to be done because some people simply are not mature enough to know the limits of free speech.*****
What, in your opinion, are the limits of free speech? Please edify us.

Op
Guest

“someone says “I hate this guy, he is a dirty Jew,” and the mob attacks the man.”
There’s already a law against beating people. We also have a stupid law against “hate crime”. If you beat up a Jew because you hate Jews, it’s for some reason a much bigger deal than if you beat him up because you’re drunk and want to pick a fight, or if you just want to rob him or whatever. Of course this is nonsense.
Why is it cheaper to kill white folks than Jews or Gypsies or gays or any other minorities? Violence is a hate crime regardless of race, why discriminate?
More special treatment for minorities will not make them any more popular.

Aldamir
Guest

“Hate crime” seems to be an attempt by the left to create a deliberately vague category of criminal offences that will later be used to ram their views down everyone’s throat.

Eva Balogh
Guest

Op: “Ah, I see. You are advocating for crimethink.”
I’m not advocating crime-think or whatever you want to call it. The question became moot, by the way, because the EU ministers of justice yesterday decided that what we call hate speech will be punishable in EU countries by jail sentence (one to three years). The same will be true about holocaust denial. Therefore, I’m afraid, Mr. Sólyom’s resistance to the introduction of such a law is in vain.

Op
Guest

“the EU ministers of justice yesterday decided that what we call hate speech will be punishable in EU countries by jail sentence (one to three years). The same will be true about holocaust denial”
Jail for speech? That’s completely insane.
There’s something evil going on, I wonder who’s behind it.
Anoher good reason to get out of the EU.

Eva Balogh
Guest

Op: “Anoher good reason to get out of the EU.”
It’s not going to happen.

New World Order
Guest

Eva-“I’m not saying that this particular law is well drafted. However, I think that something has to be done because some people simply are not mature enough to know the limits of free speech.”
NWO-You assume that politicians (Hungarian politicians!) are more mature and able to craft a law that distinguishes between acceptable and unacceptable speech, and there is a judiciary that can impartially judge such cases. I think we are better off not going down that path.

Eva Balogh
Guest

NWO: “, and there is a judiciary that can impartially judge such cases.”
Impartial judges? You must be kidding. They neither impartial nor competent. A sorry lot.

Peter Koroly
Guest

and now Lóránt Hegedüs Jr has been acquitted by a court of his church.

Peter Koroly
Guest

http://blog.z-word.com/2008/11/hungary-incitement-is-not-a-crime/
European Union states will have within 2 years a law against hate speech.

Op
Guest

“law against hate speech”.
Nonsense. Let’s turn Europe into a big, dumb police state. For what?
No one seems to be interested (or just afraid) to find out what fuels hate speech.
Is it possible that people simply hate pressure groups? Everyone should be equally protected by the law, no ethnic or religious or other minorities deserve special treatment. When someone hits you on the head, chances are he doesn’t like you. He may or may not have a reason for it, but either way he will be held responsible for his actions. Using Gestapo methods in a misguided effort to weed out crime where there’s none would result in even more hatred. Who benefits from that?
There’s a mile of talking over an inch of anti-semitism. Get real, we have serious issues, hate-speech is not one of them. Paranoia is. It’s dividing people when they should work together to get out of the mess we’re in. The rest will take care of itself.

Eva Balogh
Guest

Peter Koroly: “European Union states will have within 2 years a law against hate speech.”
Yes, but there is a caveat. There might be exceptions if a country’s constitution doesn’t allow such law. Just wait and see what will happen in Hungary.

Ron Bergeron
Guest

Hello Eva. I read your blog from time to time to see what’s going on in Hungary. My family is from Budapest. I am alarmed by the hate speech situation.
Here in the US, we have free speech. However you can be sued for calling someone a derogatory ethnic word or phrase. Police can arrest you for using fowl language in public. On private property, the management has the right to refuse service and remove a visitor for unacceptable remarks as well as behavior. We call it verbal abuse.
No war has broken out over the enforcement of common courtesy. Of course, we still have hate crimes, but not as many as in the 60’s.
Unfortunately, bullies never pick on anyone their own size.
Keep up the good work with your blog!

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