High life: The lesson of Giorgios Katidis – no free society without free speech

High life: The lesson of Giorgios Katidis – no free society without free speech
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New York

When Greek democracy was restored back in 1974, some ‘democratic’-leaning newspapers tried to criminalise my writings, so much so that I got 16 months in the pokey for ‘anti-Greek’ comments, whatever that meant. I did not serve the sentence, which was eventually thrown out on appeal, but left for London instead, and the Greek media’s gain became The Spectator’s loss. Greek authorities do not seem to have changed much since the martyr Taki was given 16 months for writing certain truths. A ‘Heil Hitler’ salute after a game-winning goal has earned a 20-year-old tattooed Greek footballer a lifetime ban from the Greek national team. (In Greece, that’s where the money’s made, playing on the national team.) Before I go on about Giorgos Katidis, the offending saluter, a few thoughts about biases and stereotypes.

It was Honest Abe Lincoln himself who said in a debate: ‘There is a physical difference between the white and black races which will ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality.’ Mind you, it was back in 1860, and dishonest Abe was trying to get elected, which he did, and went on to get 600,000 Americans killed over states’ rights, not over slavery, which he got credit for. There have been myriad faux pas since, Mel Gibson’s drunken rants about Jews come to mind, and even the good old Speccie is not immune when it comes to PC. Would Eric Hobsbawm’s book have been reviewed had he been an unreconstructed Nazi rather than a Stalin admirer? (Books, 23 March.) Yes, there is a tendency to discriminate about our prejudices, and a Hitler salute is a no-no. But barring a 20-year-old ignoramus for life is not only over the top, it’s also simply unfair. Katidis most likely thought the salute was a sign of Golden Dawn (a Greek right-wing political party), and had nothing to do with Hitler, if he had ever heard of Uncle Adolf.

An American female columnist wrote that it meant the rise of neo-fascist politics amid the economic tumult in Europe. Well, it means nothing of the sort, and I for one will take Golden Dawn any day over the thieves of the Greek government that got us into the mess we’re in and are still in power. Golden Dawn might act like thugs at times, but they are a reaction to the crooks, they help the poor with soup kitchens, protect old ladies who are regularly mugged by illegal immigrants, and represent a portion of the electorate that feels totally left out from the decision-making, mainly the very poor.

Katidis claims he is a stupid kid who didn’t know what he was doing. I am in no position to pass judgment, although he plays for the club my father was once president of, AEK. What bothers me is the severity of the authorities who turned a blind eye when the crooks in parliament cooked the books, and now are trying to establish their impeccable EU credentials. And something else. Unfettered speech or gestures are necessary to any free society, the very same free society whose future is decided by nameless and unelected Brussels bureaucrats in closed conference rooms often in the middle of the night and invariably couched in impenetrable jargon. (See the Cyprus decision.)

Human nature being what it is, the left sees fascism rising everywhere, whereas people like the poor little Greek boy feel freedom of expression threatened by Stalinist governments trying to stifle free expression. Although speech that urges terrorist violence should be punished, and with the ultimate penalty inflicted on those whose words inspire mass murder, there is a big difference between the former and a salute by a cretinous 20-year-old who most likely thinks Beethoven is a large Alsatian dog. Here we have a situation where the bankers and the EU have ruined people’s lives, their savings gone, their businesses bankrupted. The bankers have not gone to jail, the EU autocrats are still enjoying the outriders, the free limos, the private planes and large penthouse hotel suites, all on our euros. The NHS chief still holds his job while more than a thousand oldies have bitten the dust. So what do the Brits do? They’ve put a system in place for government censorship.

In the meantime the EU insists that one size fits all and to hell with what happens to the people. Instead, the thought-crime business is thriving. The real threat to democracy is the EU, not the Greek police and Golden Dawn as the Guardianistas insist. The perma-tanned Christine Lagarde, the helmet-haired José Manuel Barosso, and the ludicrous Herman Van Rompuy are the real dangers to freedom. And anyone who disagrees with the coup d’etat to take over Europe is deemed a threat to democracy. Uncle Joe Stalin must be laughing his head off down in that sauna-like place where he resides. In America, where freedom is much more appreciated, censorship is practised in the written word, on television and the movies. Yet the MC during the Oscars made an ugly joke about Sarah Palin’s Down’s syndrome child, and was warmly applauded. Our own ex-sainted editor, Dominic Lawson, has a wonderful daughter with Down’s syndrome. He is Jewish. I wonder what would have hurt him more? The Hitler salute of an idiot, or that ghastly crack? I’m sure both, but if I were him I’d take the former any day. As Johnny Cash sang, ‘Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’. Many in Europe have nothing left to lose, so they choose freedom of expression. There you have it in a nutshell.