from the shocked-SHOCKED-to-find-such-a-predictable-use-of-a-bad-law dept
Spain’s government has gotten into the business of regulating speech with predictably awful results. An early adopter of Blues Lives Matter-esque policies, Spain went full police state, passing a law making it a crime to show “disrespect” to law enforcement officers. The predictable result? The arrest of someone for calling cops “slackers” in a Facebook post.
Spain’s government is either woefully unaware of the negative consequences of laws like this or, worse, likes the negative consequences. After all, it doesn’t hurt Spain’s government beyond a little reputational damage. It only hurts residents of Spain. When you’re already unpopular, thanks to laws like these and suppression of a Catalan independence vote, what difference does it make if you’re known better for shutting down dissent than actually protecting citizens from hateful speech?
One Catalan resident is getting the full “hate speech” rap-and-ride.
A Catalan high school teacher, Manel Riu, appeared in court on Thursday accused of hate speech for his tweets and Facebook posts criticizing Spain, government members and the Guardia Civil police. Over a hundred people escorted him to court in Tremp, west of Catalonia, where he denied any wrongdoing and asked for the case’s dismissal.
As a Catalan, Riu certainly has reason to criticize the Spanish government. During the last attempted referendum, the Spanish government sent police to seize ballots, voters’ cellphones, and ordered Google to remove a voting location app from the Play store. The evidence against Riu is composed of 119 tweets gathered by the Guardia Civil, Spain’s oldest law enforcement agency — one that blurs the line between playing soldier and playing cop far more often than its US counterparts.
One tweet apparently compared Spain to hell. The rest are presumably similarly unflattering. Hyperbolic venting by unhappy citizens is to be expected. It also should be protected. Insulating the government from unhappy citizens never works out well. But that’s how Spain is handling dissent: by sending out the most “police state” wing of its police forces to arrest people for calling Spain figuratively hell.
The crime cited here is a violation of Spain’s hate speech law. But that makes no sense. Hate speech laws are supposed to protect underprivileged groups who are often targets of derogatory comments. They’re not supposed to protect the powerful from the underprivileged. The anomalies of hate speech law enforcement are the times they’re actually used the way they should be. (Not that they’re good ideas in the first place, but for the sake of argument…) Shutting down dissenters and critics of the government is the status quo.