First they came for the Nazis, and everybody cheered, because to hell with Nazis! We hate Nazis!
But today the German authorities came for a far-left website, shutting it down and raiding organizers' homes.
German authorities say this site was used to help foment violent protests at the G20 summit in Hamburg in July, where thousands of leftists marched and some black-clad individuals clashed with police. Dozens were reportedly injured in the frays.
Each side blamed the other for the violence, according to The New York Times. But only one side has the power of government authority at their disposal. Much as they've done recently with far right websites, German authorities have used the argument that this leftist site that they're shutting down is instigating violence. The Times reports:
Linksunten.indymedia, founded in 2008, billed itself as "a weapon in the social struggle" and said it was a "decentrally organized global network of social movements." The ministry was able to move against the website because it viewed those running it as an "association," and under German law, those can be blocked for extremist activity. The platform was not accessible on Friday, and the ministry said that its goal was to shut the site permanently.
Raids in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg were conducted in the early hours of Friday against several leading members and supporters of the website, the ministry said in a statement.
There's nothing in the Times story that says the people they raided actually participated in any violence. But they say that the website referred to police as "pigs" and "murderers" and that activity on the site intended to "legitimize violence against police officers."
Let this be a reminder that Europe's censorship laws are not what a lot of Americans think they are. Governments use these laws to preserve public order, not necessarily to protect "enlightened" folks from bigotry.
And a lot of people here in America would cheer on the government if it tried to root out and shut down sites used by the more violent participants in the antifascist movement. Even some folks on the left would probably be relieved, given how this violence is used to dismiss their arguments and their protests entirely and to feed "both sides do it" arguments.
But let's be clear: This crackdown in Germany is awfully similar to what the Department of Justice is already doing to try to get information about people who tried to disrupt President Donald Trump's inauguration in January. The Justice Department attempted to serve a remarkably broad warrant against website company DreamHost to get information about anyone connected to disruptj20.org, including details on anybody who had even just visited the site. They pulled back to make the warrant a little less of a fishing expedition after DreamHost went public with the demand, bringing the Justice Department some negative publicity.
If President Donald Trump and his administration had the kind of authority to declare that disruptj20 was an extremist site instigating violence in order to shut it down, don't you think they'd do so in a heartbeat? Let's stop pretending that laws against "extreme" speech in European countries are a sign of enlightenment. They're fundamentally a tool for the government to shut down anything they find potentially disruptive, and they have little incentive to discern a difference between civil disobedience and violence.