Notes & Comments May 2002
The new Gleichschaltung
On the thought police in Brussels
Last month, we reported in this space on the European Union’s so-called “document police.” This new-age constabulary can walk without warning, and without a warrant, into any business in search of evidence of “price fixing and abuse of market power.” As if this proto-totalitarian policy were not bad enough, the EU’s anti-trust investigators are seeking to expand their powers. For example, they want to be able to search—again without warning or a warrant—the homes of business executives suspected of malfeasance and to question employees without granting them the right to remain silent or the right to an attorney.
This is hardly the only ominous news coming out of Brussels these days. If the unelected bureaucrats running the EU get their way, the document police will soon be joined by a brigade of thought police. As was recently reported in The Daily Telegraph, Brussels is proposing to make racism and xenophobia crimes that would carry a prison sentence of two or more years. The draft proposal defines “racism” and “xenophobia” as harboring “an aversion” to people based on “race, colour, descent, religion or belief, national or ethnic origin.” What counts as “an aversion”? That’s for the bureaucrats—or perhaps the police—to decide. It will also criminalize any attempt to “trivialize” or deny the atrocities committed by the Nazis.
Nor is that all. The Telegraph also reported that Europe is attempting to “harmonize” its laws so that police can arrest and try citizens of the fifteen-member states anywhere in the EU. So if you are British and you say something nasty about the French while on vacation in Greece, you might wind up in a Greek jail for two “or more” years. Since the EU made it illegal for journalists to criticize its policies a year or two ago, it is not clear what sort of debate this latest piece of totalitarian legislation will spark. Of course, this is not the first time that Europe has attempted to “harmonize” its laws. Beginning in 1933, there was a concerted effort to “harmonize” not only the laws but also all of social life. The German word for the process was Gleichschaltung. That time the effort came out of Berlin. It almost worked. It took the combined military might of England, the United States, and the Soviet Union to stop that earlier push for “harmony.” It is anyone’s guess what it will take to stop this new, Brussels-based effort.
New to The New Criterion?
Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.Subscribe
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 20 Number 9, on page 1
Copyright © 2023 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com