2. Legal responses to “Hate Speech”
3. Country comparison between Germany and Austria
4. Summary of the Real Life Response to „Hate Speech“
5. Policy Recommendations
In 2004, the German physical education instructor Stefan Herre founded the Islamophobic and extreme right website "Politically Incorrect". What started as a small blog of an individual is today the largest German-speaking website for the extreme right and Islam enemies (Spiegel Online 2011). It is ranked among the thousand biggest German websites in terms of traffic and more than 60,000 people visit daily "Politically Incorrect". A large part of them come from Austria and Switzerland (Frankfurter Rundschau 2011).
Unfortunately, this example shows that even today, more than 60 years after fascism, Muslims often face hostility in both Germany and Austria. The so called “Hate Speech”, and the institutionalization of “Hate Speech” by websites like "Politically Incorrect", account for a large part of this hostility. Therefore, the state, which has the responsibility of protecting its citizens, has also the duty to develop effective ways of responding to “Hate Speech”. This term paper deals with the question whether Germany or Austria have these effective policies for responding to “Hate Speech”. And if yes, which one of these two countries has better legal or extralegal ways for a response.
The reason why these two countries have been selected is simple: Firstly, in both countries German is the official language. Secondly, both countries have a very similar past, particularly in relation to National Socialism and the Second World War. Thirdly, they face the same challenge regarding immigration. In both countries the majority of immigrants come from Muslim countries. And fourthly, the results of a comparison are also more comparable when using the same source of “Hate Speech” in two different countries.
In order to answer these questions the procedure is as follows: At first, a very brief definition of so called “Hate Speech” and a summary of the ongoing debate among scholars whether laws against “Hate Speech” are a necessity for a democratic society or a slippery slope into censorship. After that, a detailed comparison will be made between Germany and Austria, where the focus is on the legal situation in these two states. What do the constitutions of both countries say regarding "Hate Speech" and the freedom of expression? What is the legal situation? Are there any "hate speech" laws? In order to illustrate this, a summary of the experiences in a real life test will be given. The question here is whether authorities in Germany and Austria are acting resolutely against “Hate Speech”. For this purpose a “Real Life Response to „Hate Speech“” was initiated by all members of the CEU course “Enabling Policies for Responding to “Hate Speech” in Practice” and the results are summarized here. It should be noted that, this chapter is mostly a verbatim reproduction of the “Summary of the Real Life Response to “Hate Speech”” which was already handed in to the course instructor. At last a policy recommendation will be given which refers to the results of the legal and extralegal comparison in terms of “Hate Speech” in Germany and Austria.
2. Legal responses to “Hate Speech”
Before joining the debate whether banning the so called “Hate Speech” is a necessity for a democratic society or a slippery slope into censorship, a proper definition of “Hate Speech” is crucial. A very brief and proper definition of “Hate Speech” is: “Hate Speech is speech disparaging a racial, sexual, or ethnic group or a member of such a group.” (Dictionary.com 2013). Here, the medium of such a “Hate Speech” doesn’t matter. It may be a public speech of an individual, an entire book or just a single symbol as a swastika. The head and front of “Hate Speech” is that it offends the dignity of particular group of people (usually a minority).
In a free society, like Germany and Austria, all men are equal and one of the highest goals of the state is to enforce this equality through laws and actions. The problem here is that in this way other inalienable human rights such as freedom of expression can be restricted. Stephen Holmes sums it up quite well with the following sentences: “The different values in play could be formulated, at the individual level, as individual freedom of expression versus personal dignity. Protecting the one or the other has social consequences; emphasizing the first enhances the legitimacy of the political system; emphasizing the second enhances the harmony of the society.” In addition, he refers to the importance of history and traditions in order to show how different states deal with this dilemma and writes: “It does not take Sigmund Freud to understand that, if you have two continents, in one of which one hundred million people were killed on the basis of highly violent hate ideologies, accompanied and propelled by extreme hate speech, and in the other of which, at least by comparison, basically nothing happened, you will get different judicial traditions.” (Holmes 2012, 345-351). Holmes refers here to the U.S. and most European countries. While the U.S. has relatively loose “Hate Speech” laws and freedom of expression is traditionally inviolable, most European states go much more decisively against “Hate Speech” and even prohibit some statements such as Holocaust denial.
- Quote paper
- Adam Balogh (Author), 2013, Enabling Policies for Responding to “Hate Speech” in Practice, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/209230