Watch What You Say

Europe uses the blasphemy stamp, and free speech takes a hit.
From the July 2001 Trumpet Print Edition

Many Europeans—but far too few—were shocked and indignant. On October 19, 2000, the European Court of Justice (ecj) tipped its hand and exposed a fearsome mindset in the European Union bureaucracy.

The Spectator magazine responded by announcing “The New Inquisition” on its November 18 cover.

The question at hand was the landmark free-speech case of Bernard Connolly, a British economist arguing that he was illegally fired from the European Commission’s monetary affairs department for writing The Rotten Heart of Europe.

In his opinion on the case, the ecj’s advocate-general compared Mr. Connolly’s book, which criticizes European monetary integration, to an extreme form of blasphemy. He invoked a case where the British government had refused a distribution license for a perverse porn video with outlandish religious themes, showing that some forms of expression are so offensive to the “rights of others” that they can rightfully be restricted. Rotten Heart had so annoyed the EU elite, he reasoned, that they were justified in penalizing Mr. Connolly.

Having tortuously twisted one British case to support his point, the judge went on to dismiss another British case that stated, “It is of the highest public importance that any democratically elected governmental body, or indeed any governmental body, should be open to uninhibited public criticism.” That ruling had “no foundation or relevance” in European law, he said.

The opinion offered a chilling glimpse at the kind of power Europe’s politicians are intent on taking to themselves. The authority to silence criticism is simply a hallmark of fascism.

A few critics of the opinion, including the Spectator, rightly pounced on it. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s Spectator cover story began satirically, “This article is blasphemous. It contains irreverential criticism of the European Union…. On the Richter scale of disrespect it is a seven or an eight, and undoubtedly falls under the European Court’s emerging blasphemy doctrine.”

Unfortunately, such assessments were generally viewed as hyperventilation on the part of the extreme Euroskeptic fringe.

Dissent Dismissed

The European Union is widely looked upon as a collection of open, democratic communities trying to come together to find a place in the new world order. With so many different representative nations and cultures, Europe is bound to encounter difficulties in its pursuit of “ever closer union,” but each step in its unification—first economic, then political, then military—is seen as a logical and necessary outgrowth of the previous steps. It seems nearly everyone is pro-Union to some degree. In Britain, Tony Blair, a patent Europhile, just won a second term from possibly the most integration-shy electorate in the EU. America has asked Europe to militarize itself enough to take over peacekeeping jobs like Kosovo. Eastern European countries are clamoring to join the EU. The Israelis and Palestinians are nearly begging for Europe to help quiet the storm in the Mideast.

To harbor the notion that there is something sinister brewing, to voice concern over Europe’s anti-democratic practices, to suggest even the possibility of a cause for alarm—these are enough to nettle or even anger many.

You can be sure Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has felt it. In the same Spectator article, he told the story of an EU press conference at which he asked what would prevent a particular article in Europe’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, ratified in Nice last December, from being misused for authoritarian purposes. “There were audible hisses from a number of EU journalists in the room, and the justice commissioner, Antonio Vitorino, let out one of those patronizing little laughs that the EU elite has so perfected. Nobody really answered the question.”

Such condescension toward naysayers calls to mind some words Mr. Connolly himself wrote in Rotten Heart, before finding himself at the center of Europe’s free-speech debate: “In Stalinist Russia, dissent was regarded as evidence of lunacy. In the present-day European Community, dissent does not yet warrant incarceration in brutal mental hospitals, but unorthodox thought is still a dissonance” (p. xiv).

Mr. Connolly would soon feel the pain of penalty for his dissent. After Rotten Heart was published, the Commission’s rough treatment of Mr. Connolly didn’t end with firing him. As Rodney Atkinson reported in the Trumpet last August, he “was excluded from the Commission buildings, his picture was put up in public corridors, he was ordered—illegally—not to leave the country, his phone was tapped, his wife was followed and received many nuisance calls, and his house was broken into.”

This magazine has repeatedly pointed out that the cause for alarm in Europe’s uniting is more than a mere possibility. It is a prophetic certainty. Yet the vast majority of the criticism we receive comes from readers who disagree with our warnings about Europe.

Future of Free Speech?

This past March, when Mr. Connolly received final judgment from the ecj, the alarming ruling sparked few headlines.

The court threw out the blasphemy charge but still found that the Commission had been justified in sacking Mr. Connolly, who as an EU official had only a “circumscribed” right to freedom of expression. Describing his book as “aggressive, derogatory and insulting,” it said the Commission was at liberty to punish those who “damaged the institution’s image and reputation.” Drawing upon the Charter of Fundamental Rights, it strangely rationalized that Connolly had breached the “human rights” of the European Community itself.

Connolly was directed to pay the Commission’s legal costs.

The ecj ruling swept aside English Common Law, in effect resurrecting the charge of “seditious libel” banned by the House of Lords. It also placed two sets of human rights in direct conflict. The European Convention on Human Rights, in existence since 1950 and ratified by nearly all EU member states, is upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. That court has repeatedly ruled that public institutions can’t restrict criticism—that “protection of the rights of others” doesn’t apply to governing bodies.

The EU itself, not being a country, hasn’t ratified that convention, and is in fact trying to push it aside with its new Charter of Fundamental Rights. Though the charter is technically a political statement with no legal status, the ecj has started to refer to it in its rulings—a backdoor method of taking power in questions of civil liberty.

“The court is acting as the sinister organ of a tyranny in the making,” Connolly responded. “The EC court does not think that anything could be above it—and that is the reason why it behaves so badly.”

The Connolly ruling opened the door for the ecj to begin exercising control over ordinary EU citizens, or even Euroskeptic newspapers. Christopher Booker made this comment in the March 25 Sunday Telegraph: “When one considers that the Nice Treaty is seeking to elevate the new European Charter of Fundamental [Human] Rights into an EU Bill of Rights, to be interpreted by the ecj as the EU’s equivalent of the U.S. Supreme Court, the future of free speech under this strange new system we are now living under seems seriously in doubt.”

It is Article 52 in the new charter that is causing the greatest concern. It says the EU can limit all rights and freedoms in the charter, “subject to the principle of proportionality,” where “necessary” in order to “meet objectives of general interest recognized by the Union.” Just what does that mean? Where would a firm line be drawn on the power of politicians over citizens?

Evidently, the majority of Europeans don’t care.

Control Over Communication

The EU’s desire for greater control over Europe’s citizenry is not limited to its judiciary. Another revealing legislative motion was forwarded in May, this time at the behest of the 15 EU members states themselves.

The individual European governments urged the European Commission to require that law enforcement agencies have access to all private phone, fax, e-mail and Internet data. According to the bbc, communications companies would be required to keep records of every call or fax made, e-mail sent or website visited for a period of seven years, in case anything needed to be retrieved for a criminal investigation. The new laws would overturn current rules which require agencies to get permission before trawling through such evidence and that restrict the period companies may keep the data before it must be destroyed.

Setting aside the impossible logistics involved in such an undertaking, the fact that it would even be proposed says volumes about the abuses of power being considered in Europe! In no other country does government have that level of power over its people—and this prospect is being raised within the supposedly open and democratic EU!

Civil liberties groups have complained that these laws, if passed, would give the police powers denied even to repressive regimes. “Authoritarian and totalitarian states would be condemned for violating human rights and civil liberties if they initiated such practices,” said Tony Bunyan of Statewatch, a British civil liberties group. “The fact that it is being proposed in the ‘democratic’ EU does not make it any less authoritarian or totalitarian.”

Why not a more significant outcry from the people of Europe?

And without a massive public outcry, what is to stop politicians from assuming those kinds of powers?

“In a true democracy, it is the people who decide which powers to lend to their leaders. In a false democracy, it is the leaders who decide which freedoms to lend to the people” (Adrian Hilton, The Principality and Power of Europe).

That is exactly the kind of “democracy” Europe is showing itself to be.

Right-Wing Power Surge

Europe has a checkered history of repressive, authoritarian governments. And history proves that when a people lives under such authority long enough, they are conditioned to actually desire it.

The Trumpet has been tracking the rise to power of a number of right-wing and center-right governments within European countries. Openly fascist or formerly fascist political parties are sweeping up respectable percentages in popular elections, getting representation within governments across Europe. Uniting these far-flung parties is not a love of freedom, but a love of strong, nationalistic governance and an irritation with foreigners.

A silent majority of Europeans are quite sympathetic to these views. If they weren’t, the outcry against the right-wing surge, against neo-Nazism, would be overwhelming and sustained!

Imagine the commotion if an anti-immigrant politician brought in 15 to 25 percent of the presidential votes in the United States! Imagine the protest from the public at large, fueled by civil rights groups and the media.

Yet that is exactly what is happening all over Europe.

And intensifying the problem is the deafening lack of protest from the freedom-loving nations of the world!

A 1997 survey conducted by a Vienna-based watchdog group revealed that one third of Europeans consider themselves “very racist” or “quite racist.”

Step by step, that kind of thinking will be institutionalized—made into law—by an increasingly autocratic EU government! “A specter is haunting united Germany…the specter of a brown resurrection! This time, unlike its appearance in the mid-’60s, it is no temporary phenomenon, but is today deeply rooted in the society, and tomorrow will have established itself in the parliamentary structure at both the federal and provincial level” (The Future of German Democracy, p. 75; emphasis mine). Again, one has only to look at the direction things are headed, the steps that are being taken today, to see the inevitable end result.

These trends may seem separate from the governmental intrusions and power-grubbing. But in fact they are two strands of the same thread.

Europe’s Fatal Flaw

Make these accusations to the EU leaders today, and you are sure to hear the hisses, the patronizing laughs, or the indignation of one falsely accused. That is because not even the most powerful of these officials understand the full extent of what they are a part of!

As the Trumpet’s editor in chief, Gerald Flurry, has informed our readers, following the pattern of Herbert W. Armstrong before him, a führer more fearsome than Hitler is prophesied to hijack the European Union!

Keep in mind the power plays being taken by the EU’s political elite today, recognize just how the ground is being prepared for such a man to take over—and now read the prophetic description of this future führer’s rule: “And in his estate shall stand up a vile person, to whom they shall not give the honour of the kingdom: but he shall come in peaceably, and obtain the kingdom by flatteries…. And after the league made with him he shall work deceitfully: for he shall come up, and shall become strong with a small people. He shall enter peaceably even upon the fattest places of the province; and he shall do that which his fathers have not done, nor his fathers’ fathers; he shall scatter among them the prey, and spoil, and riches: yea, and he shall forecast his devices against the strong holds, even for a time…. And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all” (Dan. 11:21-24, 36-37). A vile, violent, brilliant politician named Antiochus Epiphanes fulfilled this prophecy anciently. But he was only a type of a man who is prophesied to wreak many times over the havoc in this end time! He will be possessed by Satan the devil himself.

We are living in these times today—watching before our eyes the political landscape of Europe being prepared for the entrance of this ghastly figure.

The good news is, this man’s reign, though terribly violent, will be short-lived. “And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes;but he shall be broken without hand” (Dan. 8:25). Jesus Christ will put an end to his rule, replace this world’s corrupt governments, and teach people the joys of living, truly free from the inhumane rule of man, under the loving authority of the one true God of creation!

Until then, we must watch these dismaying events unfold—and warn a careless and unsuspecting world.