One time my husband and I were having a fabulous dinner with friends — he from France, she American. We laughed about everything all night long, until someone made a joke about food. Our Frenchman instantly sobered up. “Food,” he said reprovingly, “is not funny.” Which of course caused the rest of us even greater hilarity.
Mark Steyn has a blistering, brilliant essay on the case of the German satirist facing a criminal inquiry from the German government (at the request of the
Ottoman Empire Turkish government) for making a joke about a goat and Recep Erdogan:
A free society does not threaten a guy with years in gaol for writing a poem. If you don’t know that that’s wrong, you should just cut to the chase and appoint yourself mutasarrıfa of Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman sanjak of Berlin.
What a disgraceful person she is, the worst German chancellor since …well, I don’t want to go all Godwin’s this early in the piece. But a few years ago, when Maclean’s and I had our triple-jeopardy difficulties with the Canadian “Human Rights” Commission, the Ontario “Human Rights” Commission and the British Columbia “Human Rights” Tribunal, the response of many of my fellow Canadians to the eventual outcome was along the lines of: “Well, I don’t know what Steyn was making such a fuss about. The process played itself out and he was acquitted. So the system worked.”
…As I said, people who say, well, we have a “strong justice system” so let’s let the process play out are either innocents who’ve never been tied up in court or cold cynics. The German Chancellor can hardly be an innocent in these matters. Like the Canadian Islamic Congress, she has a “strategic objective” and regardless of the verdict this trial will help her achieve it: There will be fewer poems, fewer satirical sketches, fewer jokes — not just about Erdogan, but about Islam in general. To reprise my old line: The process is the punishment.
Boris Johnson also has a hircine-laden essay in The Telegraph making the case for being allowed to make jokes, even puerile and offensive ones.
But I don’t think there is anyone of any importance who seriously believes that there has been any kind of romance involving the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and any other non-human mammal, caprine or otherwise.
So, when a young German comedian called the Turkish leader a “goat –––––––”, in a little-watched broadcast on March 31, you might have thought that the best response – from Turkey’s point of view – was a dignified silence. Yes, I suppose it was puerile. And yes, I accept that it was not in especially good taste. But it was what we call a joke. It is utterly bewildering – and slightly shocking – that the Turkish leader has failed to see this.
The episode has, as they say, got his goat, and he has deployed all Turkey’s diplomatic and political weight in an effort to persecute the satirist, 35-year-old TV host Jan Boehmermann. He and the Turkish government have officially demanded that the presenter should be prosecuted for lèse-majesté – in this case causing offence to the leader of a foreign state – under an all-but defunct statute that dates back to 1871 and the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Incredible though it may seem, the journalist could face five years in jail. But what is truly incredible – indeed what is positively sickening – is that the German government has agreed at the express request of Angela Merkel that the prosecution should go ahead. She did not have to do so. She could have said no. The matter was entirely at her discretion. Plenty of German politicians were telling her that any such legal action would be an outrageous infringement of free speech – an act of censorship that smacked of some of the darkest moments in Germany’s 20th century history.