German authorities have jailed the lead singer of a skinhead rock band that glorified Naziism—a band that was ruled to be a "criminal organization." In addition to opposing censorship of even this hateful swill on general free-speech grounds, it's troubling to think that these guys will now probably have martyr status in the eyes of many. Just as sales of Frankenchrist exploded after the Dead Kennedys were brought up on obscenity charges, I suspect the attention the trial has generated will win this loathesome band new fans.

NEXT: Dirty Tricks

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  1. Let’s not get too nostalgic about the persecution of Frankenchrist. Tipper Gore et al helped ensure a lot of bands were dropped or not signed, couldn’t have their album sold openly and, at worst, actually prosecuted. You gotta sell a lot of albums to hire a lawyer to keep you out of jail, as Jello Biafra found out.

  2. it’s kinda like the pop-punk band, “die ?rzte”: one of their songs, “geschwisterliebe” is/ was/ has been banned from radio play and from certain file servers in germany (dunno what its status is thesedays). even mention of the lyrics on some “deutschrock” sites is/was/has been verboten. that tipper gore sentiment is around town. “die ?rzte” is a fun band, kinda reminds me of “presidents of the usa” – what does anybody else think of that comparison?

    however, they redeemed themselves with an anti skinhead hit in 1994 “cry for love/ schrei nach liebe” (if redemption were at all necessary)

    remember the hubbaloo to the stone roses’ “elizabeth my dear” from a few years ago? they only dared perform it outside of jolly ol england. or “the queen is dead” really wasn’t that well taken in some company, either.

    or not only the frankenchrist gets people all in a bunch here. the dixie chix have caused a reaction. and just remember the stir “i wanna be a cowboy” caused. and what about the 8 track anthem “working class dog”. that really made people at the bowling alley put down their corn beef on raisin bread sandwiches and give a listen.

    whenever we see a non-libertarian act in a foreign country it’s easy to jump on it. but we have our own skeletons, too. and it’s good to jump on those, as well. maybe this is the time to start drinking heavily (premed students: is this good advice?)

    soup is good food.


  3. david f,

    Such activities are illegal in Germany; the law is fairly clear on this; and I think that it is a good law. The fact is that there is no absolute freedom of speech or expression in the U.S. or any country; witness the U.S. ruling on cross-buring laws in Virginia.

  4. “Such activities are illegal in Germany; the law is fairly clear on this; and I think that it is a good law. The fact is that there is no absolute freedom of speech or expression in the U.S. or any country; witness the U.S. ruling on cross-buring laws in Virginia. ”

    okay. that’s good, and i like the comparison with the cross — as RST would note, “it’s just a hunk of wood” and be totally consistent with his rock (cool!), while some would be for one and against the other.

    but i don’t think i was making comparisons of the nature “deutschland sux, amerika rulz” or anything like that. so i’m a bit taken aback by the tone and the apparent “belehrend” tone you’re taking with me here! (what am i missing? do i need to drink a bit more here? is me not getting it based on my long, rather silly day? if so, i apologize!).

    and i was also acknowledging that these kinds of shenanigans happen all over the place. well, maybe not in scandinavia, where they have their own different ways of acting up, grin.

    to clarify – my question about the status had to do with “geschwisterliebe” and not nazi activities. (and here in illinois, we are proud of our hatred for illinois nazis, of course). i’m not even gonna get into it about how germany continues to deal with that period of its history.

    for example, if i think a law in belgium is dumb, yeah, you probably can bet that i would think the same law here is dumb, too. it doesn’t make either law less dumb. ya know? (assuming away certain cultural differences)

    sorry if i missed the point (long day), but does that clarify things?


  5. Such activities are illegal in Germany; the law is fairly clear on this; and I think that it is a good law.

    So do I, but for different reasons — because Germany has shown that they’re not to be trusted with this kind of thing. As far as I’m concerned, they may be in the penalty box for that for the rest of human history.

    The fact is that there is no absolute freedom of speech or expression in the U.S. or any country; witness the U.S. ruling on cross-buring laws in Virginia.

    IMNSHO, that was an absolutely indefensible ruling.

  6. Germany has made huge progress since Hitler; but their government has consistently rejected the principle of free speech. It’s the old notion that the government should decide what “good thoughts” are, and that legally silencing the opposition will make people incapable of “bad thoughts.”

    The argument that “There is no ‘absolute’ freedom of speech” justifies censorship is completely groundless. If we take Jean Bart’s words at face value, the claim is that anti-free speech rulings are their own justification — i.e., that a thing is right because it’s done. This makes the word “right” meaningless, or rather makes everything “right.” If we take it as a variation of the “shouting fire in a crowded theatre” argument, it makes use of the contextual nature of rights in order to reject rights — a “stolen concept” argument.

  7. Does anyone know exactly what the laws are concerning speech in Germany? I know all the Nazi stuff is illegal, but I also know of several bands that have had albums banned because of gory or anti-religious lyrics. And then again, this a country that’s OK with porn being shown on television and with movies like Nekromantik. Who decides what gets censored over there?

  8. …make that Supreme Court’s…
    Sorry about that. BTW whats that “preview” button for? None of these threads are about movies…

  9. Jean,

    I beleive the objections to the anti-cross burning laws stem from the fact that they do not punish conduct but instead punish expression. If someone burns a cross on someone else’s property, then that person should be charged with trespassing, vandalism, and arson. However, the laws against cross burning criminalize cross burning in and of itself, which means the governemtn is passing a law against expression an unpopular viewpoint. If you’re not allowed to burn a cross on your own property, then you’re being censored by the government.If you’re interested in a more in-depth analysis of this sort of thing, then I highly reccomend Edward Cleary’s book Beyond the Burning Cross.

    As for banning speech that advocates fascism, I can’t think of a beter way to help the facist cause than to try to censor it. These group tell their members that the government is trying to supress the truth they speak. When the government comes along and actually tries to suppress what they’re saying, it lends credence to their claims. I’d prefer the governemtn let these idiots speak in public and be laughed at than to drive them underground and give them a valuable recrutiment tool by censoring them.

  10. Once the government gets to decide what ideas are acceptable–not conduct, but concepts–you’re already on the road to fascism. Such laws should be repulsive to anyone who cares about freedom.

  11. Hoo haw, according to Jean Bart we can now start banning anyone who advocates (and we’ll decide what that means) any dangerous ideas (we’ll decide what that means, too). Let’s start with the most dangerous concept of the past century, killer of a hundred million, communism. Lotsa profs and groups and artist (we’ll decide who that means) can now be prosecuted if they’re dumb enough to make their beliefs known. Hooray! This isn’t some creampuff law like the Patriot Act, either, which is still limited by the First Amendment, this is an honest-to-goodness round-’em-up law that’ll allow any government with guts to shut up opposition that dares go too far. Thanks for making me see the light, Jean. I’ve never cared that much for egalite or fraternite, but that liberte was the most annoying of all.

  12. What so indefinsable about it? As I recall, the jackasses burned the cross on someone’s private property.

    Chris Puzak, above, pretty much covered it: The ruling made cross-burning itself illegal, anytime, anyplace. It applies equally to burning a cross on a black family’s lawn and burning one in your own backyard. As noted, we already have laws against invading people’s property and burning things. This ruling did nothing to change that. It merely singled out one very specific form of expression and made it illegal.

    What’s more, the very specificity of the law invites hair-splitting stupidity. OK, racists can’t burn a cross on the black family’s lawn or at their own rally . . . but can they burn, say, an effigy of MLK? How about an X rather than a cross? An inverted V? Are those legal? Under what circumstances? On whose property?

    If someone goes onto someone else’s property and burns a cross — or anything else — charge them with trespassing, vandalism and arson. And, if necessary, reckless endangerment. What they burned and whose property they burned it on should be irrelevant. And what they burn on their own property should be their own business.

  13. Jean Bart: Your response falls precisely into the category which I described, of using the contextual nature of rights to deny rights themselves. The implementation of rights consists of prohibitions of coercion, including the threat of force. Thus, “give me your money or I’ll kill you” is an act of coercion, not free speech. But advocacy of coercive activities is not itself an act of coercion. If it were, then support of any political system with coercive elements would be a punishable offense in a free society — which surely makes “free society” a meaningless term.

    It also leads to paradoxes. By upholding the jailing of musicians who advocate coercive acts in their songs, you are yourself advocating a coercive act; so by your own standard, you should be jailed.

    Germany has amply shown that prohibitions on free speech cannot be restricted once started. Hitler’s works advocate coercion, therefore they can’t be printed for general distribution in Germany. Thus people are forbidden from even learning firsthand how the disaster of Nazism came about.

    In fact, it is even illegal to claim that the Jewish Holocaust didn’t happen. However nonsensical and dishonestly motivated this claim is, it isn’t advocacy of any kind of coercion.

    The German standard for censorship is, in effect, anything that the government thinks might have a bad influence on people.

  14. Well stated, Gary, the “stolen concept” is important to identify, as I think that this is indeed the crux (no pun intended) of the arguement and the source of some of the confusion. Good call!

  15. One slight mistake, Gary. It may be true that the German standard for censorship is anything the government thinks has a bad influence. But, in practice, there’s a second condition–the group being shut up has to be too weak and unpopular to fight back.

  16. Gary McGath,

    Absolute freedom of speech would of course include inciting riots, making violent threats, etc. The U.S., nor any free nation, allows such. Banning speech which advocates fascism – essentially the overthrow of the FRG and its democratic institutions, and the establishment of a fascist dictatorship with all that implies – is well within the bounds of these sorts of issues.

  17. Phil,

    What so indefinsable about it? As I recall, the jackasses burned the cross on someone’s private property. Where do they get the freedom of “speech” to invade someone’s property and do such? And such action was clearly done to intimidate and terrorize the owners of the property.

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