By: Anita Gužvič / Nova24tv
Rok Svetlič spoke for the Siol portal about the events that took place in recent weeks with his candidacy for constitutional judge. Namely, Svetlič is an associate professor in the field of philosophy of law and a scientific advisor, who completed his doctoral dissertation “Law and Justice – Rehabilitation of Natural Law with Ronald Dworkin” under the mentorship of Tine Hribar. After three candidates for constitutional judges, which “fell” in a row in the National Assembly, the vote on his candidacy was postponed last week. He described the accusations around him as empty media accusations, the purpose of which was to harm, also in the form of deliberate deception and media harassment, and they obviously achieved their effect. “A very tangible effect, such as the withdrawal of support from a parliamentary group.”
Therefore, Rok Svetlič believes that silence is not golden in this situation. He says he has no choice but to take everyone, even the most bizarre attack, seriously and refute it with arguments. This approach proved successful at the time of the first attack (regarding the rejection statement at last year’s conference), which strengthens it in the belief that not everything is left to a blind ideological conflict. “That there is still a public that wants to form an opinion on its own. I bet on it in the following lines,” he said.
The last attack was similar to the first, he says. “A (17-year-old) video was taken from a ‘drawer’, which was launched by the media (a few hours) before the vote in the National Assembly. It is the song Racists from the second CD of the Žabjak band, which we recorded with friends during our student years. The text is based on a multi-layered parody. It is dedicated to thoughts in my head, full of hatred, which, when I fall in love with a girl, become entangled in myself and begin to create comic embarrassments. It would be out of place to explain that the text brings ridicule out of hatred, not its affirmation. If nothing else, it is also clear from the video who the protagonist of the spoken words is: the bitter driver of a successful black entrepreneur. The CD includes a cycle of chansons dedicated to anomalies in society: petty bourgeoisie, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, the idea of ‘treating’ homosexuality with ‘medicine’, which was even advocated by a well-known psychiatrist at the time, and so on,” said Svetlič.
Just before the vote, journalists broadcast a 17-year-old video on MPs’ phones
The recording was launched to the media two hours before the vote as a “shocking revelation”. Svetlič also revealed that some journalists in front of the big hall in the National Assembly broadcast parts of the recording to the MPs on their phones, which could, of course, affect their voting. Someone has already pointed out that such a practice, if nothing else, is contrary to the principles of parliamentary democracy and Article 82 of the Constitution. He also pointed out that it was also absurd that a 17-year-old recording was used to influence the MPs, which was broadcast countless times on national television and was also ranked on various scales. “A video about which the author of the text, Klemen Pisk, asked the journalist back in 2004 whether the texts could be ‘disturbed by some holy, caring pink ears’, he replied: “I would like to point out that there is an approach in poetry when the author lives into different subjects. It is kind of a song submission. This does NOT equate the lyrical subject with the author. (…) It is certainly not a political or even a fascist racist song.” (Dnevnik, December 12, 2004)”
Two decades of his research vanished due to misleading media
In his column, Svetlič also regretted that the journalists did not contact him in time to explain everything to them, and wondered what had happened to us in Slovenia, that despite the obvious parody – in which the texts were deliberately put in the mouths of various deviant personalities – the publication of the video had some effect: Svetlič’s further disqualification, disgust at the work of the public and decision-makers. “What is that dark force that allows two decades of my research to vanish, to make hundreds of posts instantly irrelevant – and that to be or not be is decided by a single (untrue) statement allegedly made at a meeting two years ago? Or a misleading interpretation (17 years old and published two hours before the vote) of a text that, after all, is not even mine? What happened to Slovenia that some supposed statement or naïve interpretation of a literary text gains such destructive power?” Svetlič wonders.
The world is falling apart before our eyes
The world we knew is falling apart before our eyes, he is convinced. “Rational discourse, proving, weighing all sides and so on are being replaced by simplistic moralistic concepts and eruptions of destructive rage. It is a world of declaring an extraordinary moral situation in which a part of the (engaged) public fights its fight against Evil – which it determines with the help of its legislation. This fight requires a quick response and reckless combativeness. In the fight between the Good and the Evil, we cannot be trivial, even St. George did not read to the dragon his procedural rights before stabbing him.”
If you cannot find enough fascism, racism, you just have to invent it
In his reflection, Svetlič also said that we are saying goodbye to the Enlightenment and sinking into moral, ideological, political fundamentalism. It is not only described by the ruthless, “he who is not with us is against us”, but above all by Žižek’s remark: “thank God for X, otherwise we would have to invent it”, he reminds. “If at some point you cannot find enough X (fascism, racism, and so on), you just have to invent it. This is a world in which Churchill’s monuments are being destroyed – and the argument that it is because of him that demonstration is possible for whatever reason is of no interest to anyone (such wisdom is the privilege of a peacetime world, and at the peak of the fight against Evil only break progressive enthusiasm). This is a world in which someone is offended by a “carline thistle” because of some combination of words in the subline of a sentence – and it is completely irrelevant what one really (!) claimed. This is a world in which a white translator is destroyed by the media because she dared to translate a black progressive poet. A world in which an innocent person can end up in a gulag or on Goli Otok in an instant due to an (alleged) statement.”
“I support human rights, but…”
The second set of criticisms of his candidacy concerns the concern about sincerity in advocating for human rights, a kind of silent “but” that relativizes the whole. It must be acknowledged, Svetlič says, that this concern is the only substantive and respectfully articulated one, and recognises in its publications the lack of energy that is often characteristic of human rights discourse. “That is true. The reason for this is, to put it briefly, in the realisation that human rights cannot be violated only in the name of discarded ideas (racism, fascism, etc.), but also in their one-sided interpretation. Example: if we increase the right to freedom in a society too far, we will affect the equality of people and create serious social defects (for example, uninsured people in the USA). Or an example of security: if we step up the demand for security to the extreme, the police start threatening people’s freedom.”
Example: Belief that covid measures violate freedom; under the scrutiny of rights, another perspective opens up
Therefore, the truth of a certain human right lies in its placement in the totality of all rights (Hegel: “das Wahre ist das Ganze”). Everything stands and falls on the definition of the point when one right passes into another. And this transition is, from the point of view of a right, its limitation (omnis determinatio est negatio). Hence perhaps the impression of that “but”. The trump card of human rights is that everyone understands them. Therefore, at first glance, constitutional discourse seems to be something simple, as everyone can easily judge a decision through the optics of freedom, equality and solidarity. But it inevitably creates many misconceptions about human rights violations. A current example is the belief that covid measures violate freedom. But if we look at it through the whole of rights, a different perspective opens up.
He was also accused of unprofessionalism
The next attack on Svetlič’s name bets on the accusation of unprofessionalism. It was uttered by authors who have been otherwise stumbling upon his work for more than a decade. He regrets that on several occasions they preferred to resort to a mocking and sublime tone rather than to a substantive discussion. The fact that not only Svetlič received their toxic ink, but almost everyone who deals with the field they have as their monopoly, is a poor consolation in this case. For in this case, the intellectually dishonourable blows have already achieved their effect. “The one that caught me the most was that it took me 17 years to graduate from law school. The public inevitably hears only one thing in this statement: that I had insurmountable difficulties in understanding the material, which took me four times as long to study as the average student. The author of this record is well aware that I interrupted my studies at the Faculty of Law just before graduation, and in the meantime graduated, obtained a master’s degree, a doctorate in philosophy of law from the Faculty of Law, published three books on the subject and wrote more articles than he has to date. Let me remark that the fact that someone is counting the years of study of others seems bizarre to me, I never even thought of such a thing. However, it is true that I also do not have a “drawer” from which something can be taken out at the right time.”
“The second complaint was that I have no ‘practice’ with positive law, with its application in concrete cases. The author of this allegation is also well aware that this applies not only to me, but to most Constitutional Court’s judges to date. Anyone who comes from academic backgrounds deals with law differently than its direct users. In exactly the same way as the author of the record himself.”
He was also accused of his “philosophical” approach to law. It is generally known that the assessment at the Constitutional Court level takes place differently, because with the basic conceptual tool, the legal syllogism, we cannot help ourselves much, Svetlič is convinced. When it is necessary to determine at what point the right to security collides with freedom, when freedom collides with equality, legal discourse spontaneously shifts to philosophical-ethical weighing. “The most influential constitutional considerations were precisely those that relied heavily on philosophy. This is confirmed by the American legal tradition, and N. Gorsuch currently has a formal philosophical education within the Supreme Court. Mention should also be made of Judge J. Motc of the ECtHR, who also holds a doctorate in philosophy. It is incorrect to emphasise philosophical education as something that harms the understanding of (constitutional) law, there are countless examples that confirm the opposite”, he wrote in his column.
An open book
Svetlič is especially pleased with the responses of those journalists who have called for honest criticism of his candidacy. One of them recently wrote that I am an “open book”, and Svetlič dares to claim that this is true, at least to some extent. The Constitutional Judge must not be an unwritten paper and says that this is certainly not the case. “All my 270 posts are publicly available; I was not silent on any of the burning issues. So I am aware of something else: for many, I am not even a particularly liked candidate. I have never been part of a doctrine, a completed “profession,” or an influential institution. On the contrary, I have often criticised dominant narratives in both philosophy and law. I also did not get a job at the Faculty of Law or the Faculty of Arts, but at the free-thinking Science and Research Center – Koper.”
At the time of his candidacy, he expected criticism, but not the register he received. What has been happening in recent weeks is not only devastating to his name, he says, but it also devalues all the institutions involved in the proceedings: The Constitutional Court, the National Assembly and the President of the Republic. “I categorically reject the excuse or explanation that we are in a state of the fiercest struggle between the position and the opposition and that everything else is collateral damage. Everyone knows what is right and what is not, and they must be held accountable for it. There are things that are not done in any case.”
At the end of the column, Svetlič said that he did not know how it would all end, or what was still waiting in various “drawers” at the right moment, how many media offensives he would receive, how much pressure the MPs would still be exposed to because of him. “But I know something for sure: tomorrow I will do exactly what I have done so far! Whether it is as a judge of the Constitutional Court or not. For me, the Constitutional Court has never been part of the career ambition that would lead to Strasbourg through Beethoven. In the first place, I am bound by fidelity to the Enlightenment freedom of spirit. Above all, it requires opposition to the expansion of moralistic fundamentalisms, which are not considered a “secular” world of arguments, facts, and intellectually fair judgment. They consider themselves the exclusive decision-makers on the moral suitability of the people, they judge according to their own laws and in the absence of the accused. All they need is a wrong friendship, a phrase or a song to send anger and a curse on someone.”
He ended the column with the help of the words of the publicist M. Crnkovič: “… (the writers of these attacks) should be ashamed to steep so low. The Faculty of Law should also be ashamed to have a professor who steeps so low.”