Culture

Day of the Locusts

Bob Dylan faces a legal inquiry for offending French Croats.

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The French authorities have been investigating Bob Dylan for offending the country's Croats. The inquiry stems from an interview the singer gave to Rolling Stone last year, specifically from this comment: "Blacks know that some whites didn't want to give up slavery—that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can't pretend they don't know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood."

The result: When Dylan came to the country last month to receive the Legion of Honor, he received something else as well. The AFP reports:

After Dylan was questioned and charged, he reportedly put down his robe, picked up his award, took hold of his sweetheart and away they did drive, straight for the hills, the black hills of Dakota, sure was glad to get out of there alive.

Bob Dylan has been charged with incitement to hatred in France after he was quoted comparing Croats with Nazis in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, a judicial source said Monday.

The world-famous American singer was questioned and charged last month while on a visit to Paris during which he gave several concerts and was awarded the Legion d'Honneur, one of France's top honours, the source said….

The charge came after the Council of Croats in France (CRICCF) filed a complaint about the comments.

French media law bars incitement to "discrimination, hatred or violence with regard to a person or group of people on the grounds of their origin or of their membership or non-membership of an ethnic group, a nation, a race, or a religion".

The AFP piece adds that "Croatians are highly sensitive when mentioned in a Nazi-related context." This is the sort of absurdity that hate-speech laws can lead to: A clumsily phrased reference to a country's history of Serb-killing and collaboration with the Nazis can get you questioned by the authorities, because it might "incite" someone.