The New Law: Only Thoughts Are Still Free

This week, parliament passes a dramatic constriction of the freedom of expression. However, since there is hardly a liberal-thinking person in this land, the deplorable hate speech paragraph and its most recent intensification are not even being discussed. Of all the deep thinkers in the Republic, apparently only the head of the auditor general’s office, Franz Fiedler, understands what this is about and dares to speak against it. Freedom of expression was already in trouble before this amendment to criminal law. And it is more than significant, to say nothing of ironic that this amendment is passed in the same week in which this parliament brutally shut off the once so loudly proclaimed introduction of direct democracy.

A search for liberal thinking in Austrian politics would be futile. The allegedly liberal Neos have been revealed to be “virtue terrorists,” in which they vie with the Greens. The liberal wing of the ÖVP has long since atrophied or degenerated to a leftist-populist flutter of “modernity.” There is hardly any real liberal thinking even among the “Freiheitlichen” [FPÖ] – you can’t win elections with that, after all. And the remnants of Team Stronach are no longer even capable of articulating liberal thought.

Clearly, the most important element of liberal thinking today is freedom of expression. And freedom of expression consists of being able to express your opinion publicly and without concern – not merely hiding this opinion in the convolutions of the brain and – full to bursting with hidden hatred of the powers-that-be – singing: “Die Gedanken sind frei.” Because no one can guess what that means.

Gay Excesses Have Nothing to Do With Liberal

The media and the Red-Greens act as if constantly holding gay celebrations with as much naked skin as possible and mounting new gay traffic lights is the essence of liberal thinking. Actually, the great liberals of history would spin in their graves if they could hear that – whether it be a Hayek, a (Milton) Friedman, a Mises or an Erhard in the 20th century. Or in previous ages, a Voltaire, a Hume a Locke, a Mill or a Smith.

If there were a substratum of liberalism in Austria today, vigorous indignation would explode over the fact that a judge in Eisenstadt, in all seriousness, uttered the statement: “One gets the impression that what you are saying here (in a video), is coming from you, because that is your point of view.” So what is being indicted is no more or less than a person’s point of view.

Or the report of a trial in Upper Austria, where you can read: “Furthermore, the prosecutor accused him of sharing a cartoon which denigrates this religious group, and of insulting a member of parliament who has an immigration background.” And that doesn’t make anyone throw up a little.

In truth, this means that members of parliament may continue to be insulted in the coarsest terms, unless one of them is from an immigration background. In that case, the state’s attorney applies the force of the law. Some animals are more equal than others.

Even more scandalous is the charge by the prosecutor’s office that someone shared an Islam-critical cartoon (in Facebook). For that, the state takes people to court! And no protest from even one of all those who a few weeks ago were using pencils and other foolishness to pretend their solidarity with the Islam-critical cartoons of Charlie Hebdo!

Is There a Charge Against Heinz Fischer?

That was pure hypocrisy. So, will this prosecutor’s office now make a charge against Heinz Fischer? He did say, “Je suis Charlie,” in front of all the accredited diplomats in Vienna, and shared it in Facebook.

And now the new law is accentuating the violation/injury amendment, instead of excising it or concentrating on the legitimate punishment for incitement to violence. The paragraph puts certain groups – Muslims. foreigners, gays – under the protection of severe legal penalties. But insouciant hate crimes against other groups – priests, entrepreneurs, farmers, members of FPÖ, conservatives – may continue unabated. Whatever the meaning of that word [Hetzen] is. The serial criminal complaints by the Greens will soon instruct us about that.

This inequitable treatment of groups is absolutely disgusting and a violation of the equality principle. Absurdly, it is fully supported by the “People’s Party” (ÖVP), even though its constituent groups are badly discriminated against (apparently only so that Mr. Brandstetter may be entered in the record book of jurists as a reformer.

It is doubly disgusting, since purely mental crimes will be punished.

Saying something that is “apt” to evoke hatred in others is a mental crime punishable with two years in prison. This hate crime paragraph goes far beyond the prohibition statute which once still had a certain justification, after the horrific Nazi crimes, although, there too, purely mental crimes are being punished. And there was reason to see in the prohibition statute a partial compensation for the survivors of the concentration camps and other victims of the National Socialists.

The scandal of this hate crime paragraph is not mitigated by the fact that at one time the Justice Minister of the EU (far left SPÖ member Maria Berger from Austria) – with no democratic approval by the EU parliament or commission – demanded something similar. A state with minimal democratic or constitutional consciousness would ignore the decision of the then Justice Minister, with its extremely dubious juridical quality. In Austria, on the contrary, there is a joyful willingness to use the EU as an excuse for further strangling human freedom.

Taking the insanity of this new criminal law to its limit, it will mandate that certain facts must be believed – viz., genocides that have been recognized by courts. The authoritarian thinking behind this is similar in every respect (“only” two years in prison) to the thought terrorism of ISIS and its massacres, as well as to the fires which once blazed in the name of Christianity, as heretics were burned at the stake.

Historically, millions of people, out of fear, have meekly “believed” what was demanded by the powerful. It’s understandable – they wanted to live. And here we are again.

If it were not all so rotten, we could quietly and cynically wait to see if this state will enforce its absurd laws against certain groups which are actually protected under a different sub-section of this paragraph 283. There are hundreds of thousands of Turks and Serbs in this land (with and without papers). Most of them give no thought to believing in or acknowledging the genocides in Armenia or Srebrenica.

Will they be accused under this system of justice? Will a judge investigate the true “point of view” of each of these people? Of course not. Any more than our president will be charged because of his public solidarity with Islam-critical cartoons. Even if the principle of equal treatment, i.e., justice, would require it.

This brings us to the worst possible conclusion. This country is morphing into an arbitrary state. Arbitrariness almost always consists of implementing only those laws favored by the state-within-the-state. For fifteen years now, that has been a catastrophically politicized state’s attorney’s office. The primary offenders, however, are the legislators who consciously put such instruments of capricious power into its hands.

Where is Sebastian Kurz?

And it is these very legislators who have just decreed that there will be no direct democracy [on the Swiss model] in Austria. In the last election, they massaged it so thoroughly in the loudly supported ÖVP project, that it finally died from their ministrations.

For as long as they have the majority, Red and Black will cling to power, defend their miserable offices and do essentially what the Greens want. The SPÖ, especially, has put itself in an awkward position, but the ÖVP, too, to put it politely, has hardly shown a good-faith effort. As for Sebastian Kurz, who trumpeted his support of Project Direct Democracy during the election – nothing but shame-faced silence.

More and more, the situation in this country is reminiscent of the Age of Metternich. Someday, when it gets too bad, the pressure cookers are going to explode.

This translation of this Tagebuch-comment was published in the worldwide read page "Gates of Vienna".

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