By Jonathon Van Maren
In Douglas Murray’s seminal work The Strange Death of Europe, he describes a civilization that has lost confidence in itself. These days, a brief survey of the news seems to confirm that succinct analysis time and again. A few examples caught my eye over the past week.
In France, a court has actually ordered Marine Le Pen to submit to a psychiatric evaluation—in order to complete their ludicrous investigation of the fact that she posted several graphic photos of ISIS executions back in 2015. Reuters reported that according to a court document from earlier this month, “the judge wants the evaluation to assess if she suffers from any mental illness and, if so, if that could have affected her understanding of what she was doing when she posted the tweets. The expert is also tasked with determining whether her mental health could be a risk to the public.”
I’m no fan of Marine Le Pen or her National Front party, but this is the sort of repulsive and totalitarian practice that defined the so-called justice systems of places like the Soviet Union—political opponents were conveniently labeled “insane” or “unstable,” which of course handily explained why they would put forward opinions that the state disagreed with, or in a way that the state found distasteful. Le Pen lashed out on Twitter, and it is hard not to agree with her: “I thought I had seen it all: but no! For having denounced the horrors of #Daesh in tweets, the ‘justice’ is submitting me to a psychiatric evaluation! How far will they go? It’s UNBELIEVABLE.”
In Finland, Minister of Foreign Affairs Timo Soini recently survived a vote by his colleagues over whether or not to allow him to keep his post—because he attended a pro-life vigil in Ottawa while he was present for a meeting of the Arctic Council. A colleague posted a picture of his attendance, Finnish media pounced on the story, and a campaign was launched to terminate or damage his career. “In general, I’m worried that Christianity is being squeezed,” he told Sohrab Ahmari in a telephone interview. “There is a tendency to squeeze Christianity out of the public square.” Which is certainly the case when a politician almost loses his job for attending a vigil on his own time as a private citizen.
And then there is the UK, where the cops have actually asked citizens to inform on one another—over speech. The South Yorkshire Police launched the pathetic hashtag #HateHurts on Twitter and asked people to consider, “in addition to reporting hate crime, please report non-crime hate incidents…things like offensive or insulting comments, online, in person, or in writing.” Even more insanely, this sort of this is not unprecedented in Britain:
This is a country whose communications laws and public-order legislation can be, and regularly are, used to punish hateful expression. Last year The Times reported that British police are arresting nine people a day for posting “offensive messages online.” In 2016, 3,300 people were detained and questioned for things they said online. In some parts of Britain the arrest rate for offensive speech has risen by nearly 900% in recent years. We Brits are sleepwalking into a police state.
Which is hard to argue with, considering the fact that a police force actually put out a call for snitches to report on mean comments. This is the police, not nursery school. One shudders to think of the series of aneurysms a field trip to the YouTube comment section would trigger in these sinister speech nannies.
As the state grows, ominously and inexorably, the freedom of private citizens in what was once one of the freest civilizations on earth begins to suffocate for lack of space, strangled by bureaucrats and small, petty men for whom a little power is far too much.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.