Böhmermann is Guilty

There's only one way in which I care about the Erdogan thingy — as a pretty interesting legal puzzle. As for all the self-righteous German bloviation about Freedom of Speech, The Whims of a Despot, etc. — that's all a bunch of hooey nobody except a tiny journalistic elite cares about.

From a purely legal perspective, there's a good case Böhmi should be found guilty and fined. Just so nobody don't get the wrong idea, let me explain that I find the 'insulting foreign leaders' law silly, and believe Germany should have got rid of it a long time ago. I also have doubts about whether a modern legal order needs the category of 'abusive criticism' (Schmähkritik). I am talking here descriptively about German law as it is, not as I might wish it to be.

And under these laws, Böhmi's guilty. The 'insulting foreign leaders' law will obviously be interpreted in light of artistic and political freedom guaranteed by the German Basic Law. But here's the thing: artistic freedom, satire, etc. have limits. German magazines can be and have been punished for satire that 'goes too far' (I'm lookin' at you with admiration, Titanic). The key distinction is whether there is a 'Sachbezug' — roughly, some relationship to a recognized political or social issue. It's a weighing test: the severity of the insults against the strength of the relationship to a legitimate subject of debate.

Böhmi's 'poem' fails. It wasn't a puppet-show, or a song, or a sketch, or even a straightforward political commentary. It is nothing more than a collection of racist insults that go far beyond what German law permits in any case. Goat-fucker, kiddie-porn devotee, carrier of gang-bang related sexual diseases, etc. All of these insults are illegal in Germany, even when used sarcastically and even when nobody could be expected to believe there was truth in them. That's how German law works. If Böhmi had said these things about a private persons on national television, it is 100% absolutely ironclad certain he would be convicted. There are literally hundreds of cases on exactly this subject. There was only a brief mention of political issues in the 'poem'. Böhmermann himself, as he read the poem, said that it was illegal. He even entitled it 'Schmähkritik' (abusive criticism). Böhmi consciously, knowingly, by his own admission engaged in conduct that is against the law in Germany. 

And if this argument doesn't convince you, let's do a Gedankenexperiment: Böhmi reads a poem about the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin calling him a 'dirty Jew', 'child-murderer', a 'racist warmonger', and a 'fat, malodorous pig'. That is the level of rhetoric directed at Erdogan. Would German politicos and journos be whining about freedom of expression and kowtowing to foreigners? Of course not. Any judge worth his salt, however, will see that these two cases must be treated equally, if the idea of a principle-driven legal system is to have any meaning at all. The issue isn't which foreign leader was targeted, it's what was said.

So he should be found guilty, and I think he will. This is not a case about freedom of expression. This is a case about whether a person who publicly announces he is going to break the law and then does so should be punished. The answer is, and should be 'yes'. The best analogy here is to Joseph Gibbons:

Artist and former MIT professor Joseph Gibbons learned this week that robbing banks, even in the name of art, will still land you in jail. He pleaded guilty to burglary in the third degree this week in a Manhattan court.

Gibbons was arrested in January for a heist staged on December 31 at a Capital One bank in New York's Chinatown. According to court documents, he made his demands for cash in the form of a polite note asking the teller for a donation for his church, and then took $1,000 (see Artist and Former MIT Professor Robs Banks Claiming It's His Art).

In November, Gibbons held up a bank in Rhode Island using the same method, and made off with $3,000.

Both times, Gibbons videotaped the theft. “He was doing research for a film," his cell-mate, Kaylan Sherrard, told the New York Post. “It's not a crime; it's artwork…He's an intellectual."

Gibbons went to jail because freedom of expression does not cover illegal activity. That's just as true in Germany as it is in the U.S. Whether you agree with Germany's restrictive freedom-of-expression laws or not, Böhmi broke them.


7 thoughts on “Böhmermann is Guilty

  1. Best commentary on that little twerp B. came from Bernd Ziesemer*: Schaltet endlich Böhmermann ab

    Quick summary translation:

    No, little twerp is not a martyr for free speech, to lump his case with the journalists facing actual persecution in certain other countries is offensively wrong.

    So l.t. will get some sort of symbolic fine — maybe a 1000 euros — which he can then brandish as a mark of his courage before an oppressive ruler. His fellow presstitutes will surely honor l.t. with a second Grimme award (Germany’s most prestigious broadcast journalism prize) after giving him his first this year as his reward for running interference for leftist media darling Yannis Varoufakis.

    Left unanswered is the question why my compulsory public-broadcaster license fee — collected on pain of imprisonment and, if I make a prison break and try to trample an armed guard on my way out, death — is being used to fund this low-talent l.t. on one of the innumerable special-interest channels that German public broadcaster ZDF produces out of its cut of the ten billion euro annual revenue collected from German citizens on threat of imprisonment and death.

    Sure, I’m all for free speech and maximal leeway for all manner of little, medium and big twerps to spout whatever they want, any time they want. However, instead of performing like a trained seal to do the bidding of the female ZDF producer who praises him for slagging off approved targets on this week’s politically correct enemies list and gently chides his insecure ego whenever he strays off the reservation, let him stand on his own little feet and fend for himself in the marketplace, like the rest of us idiots not yet suckling from the public teat do.

    *It was the best only until this blog post by His Magnificence, of course. Now it’s only second-best.


  2. In response to Turkey’s Note Verbale, requesting that Jan Böhmermann be prosecuted under Sec. 103 of the German Penal Code,”Insult of Organs and Representatives of Foreign States,” Merkel, through the Federal Foreign Office and in public, should not have given her express consent to prosecution of Böhmermann.

    Instead, the German government in its response could have indicated that a complaint could be lodged on grounds of violation of personality rights according to the German Civil Code. This would have removed the issue from the sphere of German government policy to that of private law.

    By announcing an authorization of Erdogan’s wish to prosecute the satirist, as well as other public pronouncements in support of Erdogan, Merkel compromised on the invaluable right of free speech; moreover, in so doing, she signaled further willingness to coercion by Erdogan’s implied threat to allow further migration in response to this as well as to other matters, such as visa-free travel.

    That said, I would agree that Böhmermann deserves a hefty fine. Surely, it should be possible to point out human rights and civil liberties abuses committed by Erdogan’s dubious political administration without labeling him, among others, a “goat fucker.”


  3. The appeasing reaction of so many Germans to the current invasion (that’s “walk-in”) can be simply explained by – fear. They are being threatened and blindfolded by their media and are being collectively led, handcuffed, to that pock-marked and bloodstained wall they know so well. That, of course, is a picture painted dramatic of a people about to made extinct – and there are indeed ambitions in that direction (google Anti-Germans or antideutsch if you like).

    The Idea, of which I in my post-war generation was part of, of course, was just a bit different: Let’s get fewer children, then there will be more left for all the rest, especially since (west-) Germany was quite densely populated anyway (which, BTW, was the only reason the allies did not turn it into a de-industrialized agrarian state after the war: That would, in a single winter, have starved more people to death than the Germans themselves had killed during that war), and one could see the roaring industrialization was going to cut swathe after swathe of future German jobs anyway, so there would still be enough for the rest to do. All in all, fewer Germans, as a whole, was OK, and even if the Theme of “Germans dying out” was already rampant in the 60ies and 70ies, no- one took it very seriously, what with nuclear Armageddon in central Europe, i. e. right over our heads, being a real threat during the cold war, which was almost triggered at least twice – and averted only by the coolness of the Russians, by the way. Not much thanks to the US there, it’s a foreign continent to them anyway; which is strange, in view of the fact that’s where up to now most of ’em come from. But ah, for human memory.

    And if things got better, i. e. there was no nuclear Holocaust, and there would be the need for some more population in the future, well, that can always be achieved, can’t it? With a bit of commitment, a few changes in society and the like – a law here or there, perhaps.

    What we did not take into account was, of course, the reunification of Germany, and Europe as a whole, but that just accelerated things. What we most certainly did not take into account was the fact that while Europe, and that’s including Russia, was settling into finally cleaning up after the last big war, and trying to settle things, the population to the south and southeast of it exploded (and that’s including Turkey, which would instantly become the second most populous and largest country in the EU, should it join, an have a really big sway).

    And what was completely not taken into account, was, that it takes women to get babies, and forcing them onto the industrial labor market kills that off, and that so many overwrought, childless female idiots would show a gut (and in the reproductive biological sense, sexual) reaction to foreigners, and their children; rather than strenuously travel the world, for that excitingly foreign feeling, or get children of her own, always a painful experience, wrought with failure, miss lazy bum princess wants them to come over here, so she can have “diversity” all around her without moving her ass too far from her TV set. And woohoo! Way-to-go, instant progeny!

    That these people aren’t so much fleeing from the places they come from, as bringing them along with them, just won’t go into her lazy head. And if you think I’m just talking out of my own head, I once visited India as a child, and this was exactly what happened to me, every single time we stopped somewhere. Note the gut reaction of the women in the picture, to a foreign-looking kid (who is, in fact, a boy, and not as was automatically assumed otherwise):


    Of course it’s racist. Waddaya think? It always is! Everybody in their right mind who has visited a country different from theirs knows this – or is too dumb to live, really.

    So. Much as I would cherish the election of one Donald Trump as next POTUS, as I have a soft spot for the rogue, and he seems to me to be very much the saner, and less dangerous, of the two prime contestants, I am satisfied that having Hillary Clinton (and her husband Bill as Ex-POTUS and FHOTUS – how monarchic can you get?) as leader of the mightiest country in the world, to watch her flush it down the German PC Toilet would be a fun, and final, spectacle as well. But that, as says Kent Brockman, is just my two cents.


  4. You think they will divorce? Oh, first first instead of former first … I get it. Well, we know that Trump isn’t going to be POTUS, so yeah I agree that Hillary gets the nod, which will mean even more appeasement of Islam, gender nonsense, tax & spend, Davos Man policies.

    Ever wonder why there are no extraterrestrial civilizations (the Fermi question)? Because even on Frolix 9, there are bug-eyed monsters named Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton.


  5. Just happened to hear Bob Dylan’s still-riveting “Masters of War” on the air a moment ago – harder than anything Eminem ever wrote, for example; it captures and brings back the mood of that time pretty well perfect.

    I wonder in how deep trouble it would get him today, with anti-terrorism anti- hate- speech laws and all that…


  6. Yes, it could be a male / female thing: a commentator on Tichy really made me laugh for proposing that Mrs. Merkel, being the first female chancellor, is also the first one to absolutely not know what she wants, resp. if she does, won’t tell her voters.

    Or as Volker Pispers put it:

    She just likes to be chancellor; she doesn’t know why or what for, but she does.

    Well, we’ll see in what way HC might be different; but up too now, I don’t know what she’s after, either, except, of course, the US presidency.


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