Sunday, April 19, 2009

French censorship

Today, for reasons I can't recall (it's often that way when you're surfing the Web), I was searching Google for some audio of Hitler speaking “normally,” that is, audio when he was not yelling and screaming in a public speech, as he was wont to do. I clicked on the first link that came up, a YouTube video, and I got a message telling me that the video was not available in my country—that is to say, in France, where I live.

It seems that YouTube censors content by country, preferring cowardice to freedom. France, like a number of other European countries, engages in censorship of anything having to do with the Nazis, and apparently someone complained about this video (it's unlikely that YouTube noticed itself) and had it banned in France.

So much for freedom of speech, eh? The same video does not show up in a direct search on YouTube, at least not from my location, so I would not have even known that it existed had it not shown up on Google (Google censors, too, but like YouTube, it acts mainly based on complaints). Based on what I saw in the link, it would not have been what I was looking for, anyway, since it again portrayed you-know-who yelling and screaming in a speech, but it was the first link, so I figured I'd check it out. But I guess that's only possible in countries that respect basic freedoms, not in France.

Of course, to be fair, France is hardly the only country in the world that restricts freedom of speech. The United States does the same with materials it finds objectionable. While the French are scared of Nazis, Americans are scared of sex, and so many materials deemed tame in France are banned in the U.S.—while many materials deemed harmless in the U.S. are banned in France. Two wrongs don't make a right, though. It's unfortunate that no country really provides complete freedom of speech, despite strident claims to the contrary (both the U.S. and France like to crow about being free, but this is only true when you compare them to some of the basket cases in other parts of the world).

Among the European tribes, the Germans are even worse than the French when it comes to censorship. In Nazi Germany, heavy censorship was a key tool of oppression. And today, heavy censorship is still a key tool of oppression. The more things change, the more they remain the same. The irony of this is entirely lost on the Germans (and on the French, and on others who rationalize their censorship in similar ways). Today French and German censors insist that their censorship is for the common good. But the Nazis insisted on the very same thing. When will people learn that censorship is never a good thing?