It seems that every public figure is asked to express an opinion on Donald Trump these days including JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series. Commenting on a petition circulating the in UK to ban Donald Trump from visiting the country, JK Rowling said, “I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But, he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot.”
In these days of attempts to ban speech that some people consider offensive, JK Rowling’s remarks are refreshing. Yes, there are many people including Donald Trump whose utterances are idiotic in addition to being offensieve, but freedom of speech gives everyone, including Donald Trump, the right to be an offensive idiot in public.
I’ve never agreed with policies in some European countries that ban certain topics from public discussion. For example, 16 of them including such supposedly enlightened nations as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Switzerland forbid denying the Holocaust. Obviously, the Holocaust was one of the most horrible events in human history, and I can easily understand why families of Holocaust victims would consider its denial to be highly offensive, but being I don’t think being so stupid as to believe the Holocaust didn’t happen should be a criminal offense. Being an uninformed idiot should not be a crime.
Countries as diverse as Thailand and Turkey make it a crime to criticize the government, and in Russia anyone who criticizes Putin is subject to extrajudicial assassination, but these are countries that give no more than lip service to human rights. A lack of freedom of speech is the least of these countries’ problems. However, it is astonishing that Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and Poland it is a criminal offense to publicly insult foreign heads of state. If I go to Switzerland and publicly insult Putin, I could theoretically be sent to jail.
In Germany comedian Jan Böhmermann could be sentenced to up to five years in jail for using vulgar language to refer to Turkish president Recep Erdogan as a man who has sexual relations with goats. I find such crude language highly objectionable, but I do not believe it should subject someone to a possible five years behind bars. If Böhmermann were not subject to criminal penalties, almost no one outside of Germany would have heard of him.
Although they are rarely enforced, other European countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Spain have laws against insulting the country’s royal family. Just to be on the safe side, keep you mouth shut about the king and queen when visiting any of these countries.
The prosecution of holocaust denial in Europe has resulted in people who have committed the crime gaining wide publicity, just as the press’s intensive concentration on Donald Trump’s idiocies have given him unwarranted popularity in the USA. The best response to idiotic utterances is to ignore them. Showing oneself to be an idiot should not be a criminal offense, and it should also not launch one into the media’s headlines.
Perhaps JK Roling should consider making Donald Trump the villain in a future Harry Potter novel. If she does, will I get a cut of the royalties for coming up with the idea? If that doesn’t work, how about our infamous Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio?