By: Mitja Iršič
American politics were shaken up in 1783 by an anonymous letter calling on prominent military officers to revolt if Congress did not provide promised pay and pensions. It was a dangerous anonymous letter which could start protests across the country and threaten the young republic. President George Washington could see that the discussion of the anonymous letter is banned in public altogether. But he decided differently.
In a famous address to his officers at the time, he said that the letter expressed some real problems, but that mutiny was not the solution, and at the same time defended the publication of the anonymous letter to the public. This is what he said: “…for if Men are to be precluded from offering their Sentiments on a matter, which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences, that can invite the consideration of Mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of Speech may be taken away, and, dumb and silent we maybe led, like sheep, to the Slaughter.” Washington supported free speech even when it was directed against him, and it was with this speech that he reminded his soldiers what they were fighting for – for their freedom.
Americans have long analysed the main characteristics of European kingdoms, especially those that belonged to it a few years ago – the British. They found that the basic characteristic of authoritarianism was not the doctrine that the king can do no wrong, but the fact that no one could tell the king that he was wrong. The fathers of the American republic were free speech absolutists because they knew that their union would also fall into authoritarianism in decades or centuries if no one could tell those in power that they were wrong. So, the basic idea of the American dream is based on the fact that everyone can say exactly what they want, and the state must never persecute them for it. Americans are therefore well-informed that the core of their freedom lies in the fact that they can say whatever they want to any ruler without risking imprisonment or censorship.
The Slovenian reality is different. People who are alive today lived in a time where it was common to be jailed for criticising the government. Even the younger generations are descendants of people who were marked by those times. In eight decades, such a way of life is completely incorporated into the culture of the nation. Even today, there are people who speak only in whispers about the crimes of the partisans. In such a space, there is plenty of room for restricting freedom of speech. Robert Golob’s government is the first to decide to take full advantage of this historically conditioned dysfunctionality of the nation and actually start to introduce the so-called verbal delict under the pretext of fighting hate speech. The Strategic Council for Combating Hate Speech is exclusively a project of the executive branch of government, which aims to expand the definition of hate speech beyond the usual framework of direct threats and incitement against social stakeholders, which are already defined by the Criminal Code. It is an extremely dangerous game by a power drunk government that would like to be the final arbiter of what can and cannot be said.
Ironically, it is the social networks owned by American multinationals that have mentally prepared modern society that there is some ethereal entity up there somewhere that decides what can and cannot be said. All of a sudden it became commonplace to say that a man is not a woman is forbidden. That there are two biological sexes. That it might not be a good idea to let a million undocumented migrants into the country. For every such verbal delict, social networks blocked us forever. This was something new for the West, and the cultural aftershocks are still spreading through society – especially in the USA, where the right to free speech is important, but less so in the EU, where the European Commission has already started preparations for the adoption of an expanded list of “crimes of the EU” or “crimes against the EU”, where the central theme is also “hate speech”. Opposition to migration, LGBTQ ideology, and denial of climate change will thus be defined as a crime that undermines EU values.
So, we are living in a time of mass hysteria, started by social networks, as the first harbingers of a new Orwellian era. It is clear that the Slovenian left-wing government will try to restrict freedom of speech at the executive level, as it has not had such an opportunity for many decades. Even the supranational union to which we belong wants to become the institutional administrator of the social network called the EU. With the new cultural and political world reality, our left-wing politics is only returning to the good old days.