Thought Crime pt. Deux

Also, note that the attitude from that German kid is also widely held in the United States. Most of the movies that show terrorists attacking the USA have the terrorists portrayed as muslims. After the Oklahoma City bombing, the local Arab-American Friendship association in my county received many hostile phone kills, e.g. “I hope all your children die.”

Jacques Kilchoer
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Dave Swaney

I hope no one will mind if I make a constrasting point to the one I made above about Europe and the U.S. having broadly different political philosophies. (I still think that point is true but I’m going to put it bed for a while.) Now I’m going to make the point that the difference may be quite a bit narrower, and lie in the definition of treason.

The OP makes the point that membership in any party is okay as long as it doesn’t lead to illegal activities. The same is true in Germany, only their definition of “illegal” is broader. So the real question is, what is illegal? “Treason” is illegal everywhere, but its definition can range from “only giving aid and comfort to the enemy” to “making fun of the Mayor”.

I don’t know of any country where crimes are limited to physical actions; in Germany, this can include advocacy of crimes, and plenty of things the Nazi want to do are blatantly illegal. In the U.S., advocacy of crime is not a crime itself, but conspiracy is - and conspiracy is still just a state of mind. I don’t think either counts as a thought crime in the Orwellian sense … the Germans just cast their nets a little wider than we Yanqs do.

Say that I’m a German, I’m not a member of any neo-Nazi party, but I genuinely believe that the Holocaust didn’t take place and I tell people so–in print, on the Internet, or talking on the streetcorner. It’s my understanding that I would be prosecuted for merely touting such an opinion.

If I’m right, isn’t that a qualitative difference between Germany and the US? Maybe “advocacy of a crime” and “conspiracy to commit a crime” is (arguably) only a difference of degree, but being prosecuted for just saying you don’t believe something–isn’t that thoughtcrime in the purest sense?


Well if you’re right, Doghouse Reilly, then my last point is wrong. I’ve never heard that you could be prosecuted for disbelief in the Holocaust in Germany. However, I’m totally out of my depth here. All I know about is the political party stuff.

Good point, in any case.

It certainly is a crime in Germany to deny that the Holocaust occured.

Some of my ‘european’ (i don’t consider myself european, i’m British) observations…
The complete obsession with the American flag, there are thousands of them everywhere! Is this in case people forget what it looks like?
The shock/horror/surprise when some gunman shoots someone/some people…you want guns, live with the consequences.
Senate rejects nuclear test ban treaty…great signal to the rest of the world.
Position on China…condemn human rights…renew most favoured nation trading status every year (since Reagan?)
Almost laughable in approach to Cuba…David and Goliath?
‘World’ Series in baseball.
Oklahoma City bombing…step forward McVeigh, young white american, not the expected Arab terrorist.
Obsession with labelling and further dividing community into African/Polish/Irish/Mexican etc Americans. In my country, people are British, in France they are French, simple.
These are just observation, i don’t mean to insult anybody.
I do expect a list ten times the length of this one to be compiled with all the faults we have.

Ooops, prepare a spot in the BBQ pit!

Having lived all over in Europe and North America (erm, Canada, hang head in shame) I can confirm Android’s view that sometimes these things do look peculiar to Europeans, just as all that obsession with old stuff probably looks peculiar to North Americans. And how 'bout that warm English beer!

Going back to the OP, there really is a big difference in thinking on both sides of the Atlantic about how much the State should take care of its citizens and suck up the additional cost/ loss of freedoms on the one hand (ie high taxes in return for universal health care), and how much liberty to allow, with the knowledge that it may be abused on the other (ie freedom to own guns with the occasional massacer). Mind you, from what I’ve seen opinions are just as divided within countries as they are between countries.

In my opinion, android209, this is your most interesting remark:

“i don’t consider myself european, i’m British”

I never did understand that one. I’m slowly beginning to, though. I live in Japan, and I know of a few Japanese who don’t consider themselves Asian, but it’s still pretty wierd when I hear that.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Germans held book-burnings to get rid of all tomes that deny the Holocaust?

BTW, in all the years since I took German, my favorite song has been “The Thoughts Are Free” (excuse my poor transliteration):

Die Gedanken sind frei, wer kann sie erraten?
Sie fliegen vorbei, wie naechliche Schatten.
Kein Mann kann sie wissen, kein Jaeger erschiessen,
Mit Pulver und Blei
Die Gedanken sind frei.

Ich denke was ich will, und was mich bedeutet,
Doch alles in der Still, wo niemand erschicket;
Mein Wunsch und Befehren kann niemand verfehren,
Es bleibet dabei,
Die Gedanken sind frei.

That’s all I remember, and I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes. I’ll translate in a later post if anyone’s interested, but I’m sure there’s some native German speakers out there who can do a better job than I could. I’d like to know if this is a well-known song in Germany?


[Ilsa kisses Indy] That’s how Austrians say “goodbye”. [Leaves room]

[Nazi steps in front of the chair] And this is how we say “goodbye” in Germany, Dr. Jones! [Punches him in face]

Ohh, all this talk of Germans and here I am. I can’t get away from them…

Another interesting point that I discovered whilst in Germany 2 years ago regarding the Turks. In the In laws small (15,000) home town in northern Germany nearly everyone who lives there hates the Turks. Being the outsider (and relying on hubby the translator) the hatred was the fact that the Turks were coming into Germany and taking jobs away from the the germans and were not as anal clean as the krauts like it. Nothing was brought up about religion. Hell, half of the inlaws in Germany only attend services at holiday time.

BTW, if I understand this correctly, in Germany you automatically belong to the Church ( I’m fairly sure Lutheran, but this again, is based on a small town views and there were no other kinds of churches in the area. Maybe in the southern, more Catholic section of Germany it’s different.) and you have to pay your dues to them whether or not you go. If you don’t ( this is where I get really fuzzy in detail) and you die, they can refuse to do your service at your funeral. (I learned this interesting segment during a drinking game, so it’s a bit blurry.)

Interesting story sorta off track but to show you the difference in how WE think to how THEY think. When we were in Germany 2 years ago in this very quiet little farming town, there was a big uproar of a 16 year old kid trying to rob a younger 14 (?)kid of his money so he could buy drugs. The younger kid had a knife ( not a larger " Now THATS a knife" knife, but probably a Swiss army blade type) on him and protected himself and basically garrotted the older boy. ( He was in the hospital for months after the attack.) The cops arrested the 14 year old and he was in jail for several days and everyone we talked to agreed this 14 year old should go to jail for trying to kill this older kid. I blinked when I figured this out in the translation, I mean, this younger kid was defending himself fer cryin’ out loud. Hubby and I just shook our head and said, " If what we are told is true and this 14 year old did defend himself, he should go free." The kid eventually did and the locals were in an uproar about it. I dunno, maybe the krauts just think anyone they really don’t like or any rule breaker should be imprisioned for life.

Everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to help Mom with the dishes.-P.J. O’Rourke

Momotaro, i’ll try and elaborate a little…
I certainly am European from an American pespective, when it’s used as a way to describe my geographic origin…but in Europe itself, many people describe themselves as european over and above their own nationality (this is particularly common among Italians). I could never, ever subscribe to this theory…i suppose this is intrisically linked to the momentum within europe to create a United States of Europe, which i dislike.
When you hear things like this…

Imagine how the average American would like to have their highest court in, say, Mexico, their central bank in Canada and the inability to vote for or against the legislative executive. I hate it. But i’m probably in the minority in the UK in terms of strength of feeling, although very few feel any warmth towards the EU.

Thoughts are free, who can guess them?
The fly over, like nightly shadows.
No man can know them, nu hunter can shoot them
With powder and lead;
Thoughts are free.

I think what I want, and what impoorts to me;
But all in silence, where no one can spy on me;
No one can forbid my wishes and desires,
Therefore it remains,
that thoughts are free.

I had to dust off my high-school german for that one! Though it seemed to me that some of the words were wrong, so I did a search.

The song (and a translation) can also be found at
Die Gedanken sind frei

That site claims it’s a Leonard Cohen song.

Jacques Kilchoer
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Same thing in Switzerland. The government automatically sends part of your tax money to either the Catholic or the Protestant church in your neighbourhood. You can have yourself declared as a member of another religion (or an atheist), and then no money would be taken away for church donations. Presumably then, when you go see the local priest for a religious service, he could say “I thought you were an atheist!” In practice, the priest would probably assume you are “repenting” and would help you out.

Jacques Kilchoer
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Sweden only recently separated church and state, so anyone born before 1990 was automatically a member of the church. All members pay a church tax of about 1% (of a total 30% income tax), and for that they have access to the church for weddings/funerals and so on at no cost.

If you want to, you can just leave the chruch. Which I have by the way, as I consider myself a devout atheist. Nowadays I even refuse to so much as set my foot in a church.

That said, I would like to point out that the people in Sweden are probably the least religious in the world even though 90% are members of the church.

I have never personally known anyone who actually practices religion nor have I ever heard god/religion mentioned in politcs.

Christian tradition is common but religion is not.

I can only speak for the Canadian attitude towards guns, but it may have something to do with the fact that 1) our per capita murder rate is one quarter of the American rate; and 2) last year guns were used in fewer murders than knives. It seems to be working.

I’d also like to say that I diverge with my government in saying that I don’t think any type of speech should be forbidden. Not Nazis, not homophobes, nobody. Because the second your government tells you what you are permitted and forbidden to know, no matter how pure the motives, they’re setting themselves up to do this with any idea.

Besides, with exceptions such as “I’m going to kill you” or “Fire!”, which are not really ideas or arguments, one’s point of view is incapable of harming anyone as long as it stays a point of view.

I mean, I’m gay, and I can sit there and listen to Fred Phelps all the day long if I so choose without having any harm done to me. (Of course, if he or anyone else lays a finger on me their ass is grass.)

As someone once said, “I’ve never heard of anything so dangerous we can’t even talk about it!”

This of course goes double for sex, debatably the target of the world’s silliest censure. I mean come on, you can show someone on TV getting killed, but not getting fucked? What is that?

Some government control is necessary.

I think you’re confusing Europe with the former Soviet states.

We have BOTH state television/radio funded by TV/Radio-licences and commercially funded tv/radio where the latter are the lion’s share. The reason for this is mainly to ensure diverse programming, state owned channels (there are two) have fixed percentages for entertainment/news/culture/educational and so on.

But this issue goes mainly to freedom of speech, and I think we have plenty of it. Despite what you might think all forms of media censorship is illegal.

It was only a few years ago that possession of child pornography was outlawed, and that required a fairly extensive constitutional change. Not because we condone it in anyway but because any restrictions on freedom of information is taken VERY seriously.
(Note: Sale/Purchase/Distribution/Production/Public Display of Child Pornography has “always” been illegal)

Furthermore our government can’t keep much information about its citizens, no political opinions may be registered for instance.

I don’t quite understand what you mean.

I assume you’re referring to nazism, which by the way is not illegal in Sweden, probably because we weren’t directly involved in WW2. The countries that adopted anti nazi laws were either those countries who feared nazism or more often those who were ashamed of it. This is more of a desperate attempt to prevent history from repeating itself than to restrict political thinking. I don’t think you fully understand the effect the nazis had on europe.

Besides, McCarthy’s anti-communism wasn’t all that democratic. The difference is that nazism is inherently undemocratic and violent, “evil” if you will. Communism is not. Also Europe had seen the effects of nazism at home, they had every reason to fear it.

The Slippery Slope argument re Germans making naziism illegal has plkainly held no water, as the state has forbidne those views for the last 50 years, but not forbidden others. It is very difficult to understand the German attitude towards the extreme right if you haven’t lived there and seen how deeply rooted the national guilt is, even in younger Germans who really didn’t have anything to do with it and have no recollection of the war. The only parralel I can think of is the view that people had of militias a few years ago, as a bunch of nuts running around the couuntryside with guns, playing wargames and putting on cammoflague paint and stuff; a bit nutty but basically harmless. Now that these militas have proved themselves not to be so harmless after all people are becoming much more concerned about them. Now imagine that one of these militias had plunged your country into war with the entire world, killed half its own people and been the instigator of a horrific genocide which guilt and responsibility, because you share a birthplace, is yours by association. It began becaus people with those opinions were tolerated, and the first priority is to make sure it never happens again; the freedom to hold whatever half-baked ideas you want to hold only comes second. I know the analogy isn’t strictly speaking accurate, but its the best I can do.

I think it may be tragic if that really is the rationale behind such freedom of speech restrictions, because to me they only seem to be fostering what they try to prevent. It wasn’t toleration of “people with those opinions” that led to the Third Reich: it was the existing auhoritarian tendencies of the German state (at least until Versailles) and the German people’s conditioning of obedience that allowed to Nazis to impose such a horrific regime once they did take over. And treating all citizens like children, with the state deciding what “half-baked ideas” they should be allowed to play with, only encourages authoritarianism and the cult of obedience.

After fifty years, those kraut bastards STILL DON’T GET IT. “Die Gedanken sind frei”–until the German state and the German people understand that, and understand that violation of this principle was their first and primary crime, the crime whence all others came, then the world still won’t trust them even after another 1,000 years.


Sorry for using the term “kraut bastards”–composed in the heat of the moment.


I assume you’re referring to nazism, which by the way is not illegal in Sweden[\quote]

Well, I do distinctly remember reading a few years ago about two American teenagers who were arrested for making the Nazi salute at a punk concert. It would never occur to American kids that making a gesture could be illegal. Isn’t this gesture illegal there? If so, there’s not a lot of difference in my mind between that and the party being illegal. It’s still making “thoughts,” or allegiences, a crime.

As for the tv stations, I’m referring more to things like the Sex Pistols not getting their singles on the radio because the BBC was radio in Britain, and they absolutely refused to do so. When the government controls the means of information dissemination, there’s going to be a price paid. Everyone wants to preserve their position, and monarchical governments do not have the best historical record of encouraging or tolerating dissent.

The OP makes the point that membership in any party is okay as long as it doesn’t lead
to illegal activities. The same is true in Germany, only their definition of “illegal” is
broader. So the real question is, what is illegal? “Treason” is illegal everywhere, but its
definition can range from “only giving aid and comfort to the enemy” to “making fun of
the Mayor”.[\quote]

This is not the case, clearly. It is illegal to advocate the Nazi party in Germany. It is also illegal to be historically wrong and say that the Nazis didn’t mean to kill all those people, they just did a bad job of running the camps. These are clearly thought crimes.

Treason is illegal everywhere, because it is an action. The only thing in America that comes even close to being a thought crime is advocating violent overthrow of the elected government. In America, I can say, should I be so sociopathic, “Let’s kill all the lawyers! I mean, let’s really kill all the lawyers! Let’s elect a govenment that will pass a law that will make being a lawyer a death penalty offense!”

Note that I did not actually plan to personally kill anyone, and that I planned to do it only if I could get the populace to actually elect a government that would authorize the actions. To prevent by law the advocation of a view for the government to hold is clearly making a thought crime.

I’ve been holding off, but really, this is too easy. “Making fun of the Mayor?” This is your example of things that are illegal, but aren’t thought crimes? Also, fairly implicit in this whole paragraph is an inconsistant thought. The German government lets you join any party and advocate what you want, as long as you don’t do anything illegal, oh, which by the way, can include saying certain things, holding certain opinions, joining certain political parties, and making certain gestures.

Other than the restrictions, they don’t have any restrictions. Or, the only illegal things are the ones that are illegal. And they get to decide which things those are.