Although many leading US politicians and Silicon Valley oligarchs appear to wish otherwise, the United States Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees near absolute free speech to all Americans. In Europe, where free speech has always had a dubious relationship with the powers that be from the Catholic Inquisition to the fascist and far-left regimes of the 20th century, free speech is once again on the decline after a brief late 20th century renaissance.
As such, while a First Amendment style of blanket protections for free speech across Europe and in individual non-EU European nations would be ideal, the reality is that this is not going to happen any time soon if ever. Because of this, whilst multiple European nations have highly restrictive laws about what can and cannot be said during a campaign, it is time to instigate one more law which could have substantial positive consequences.
In some European countries it is already illegal to publish information about the private life of candidates in elections. Such restrictions should be implemented across the broad. This means that even truthful information about a candidate’s religion, lack of religion, family life and personal behaviours should be prohibited as a source of discussion in any public forum including but not limited to the internet, printed media, television and public speeches.
There is of course another side of this equation. It should simultaneously be prohibited for a candidate or his/her campaign team from using said candidate’s own personal identity, characteristics and habits in order to promote the campaign. This means that law enforcement would prohibit candidates and their associates from creating, distributing or exploiting speeches, print material or online material devoted to exploring, promoting and/or exalting a candidate’s religious status, marital status, sexuality, family background, medical history, etc.
In a western world in which identity politics has become a substitute for substantive debates on real issues, by restricting the dissemination of both friendly and adversarial material regarding a candidate’s real or perceived private life, society would be taking a major leap forward in terms of bringing civility, reason and logic back to the campaign trail.
This would likewise help to at least remove some of the worst elements of racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry from political campaigns.
Because the ideal that is free speech absolutism has been revealed to be dead in Europe, one can at least use minor modifications to existing laws in order to try and restore clarity, structure and substance to otherwise fatuous and frivolous political campaigns.