In a recent interview with the German weekly Junge Freiheit, popular satirist and onetime fixture of the left Eckhard Henscheid explained why he had moved toward the libertarian right and was fighting censorship in his “democratic” society. Junge Freiheit had been kept from exhibiting its products at the Leipzig Book Fair and for years has been under investigation by a government organization, the Verfassungsschutz, which goes after what are seen as “fascist” or “far rightist” dangers to German democracy. Although the paper’s editors have been accused of “Holocaust denial,” the newspaper has repeatedly featured articles detailing the Nazi regime’s hideous deeds. Its real sin seems to be operating as an old-fashioned (in the European sense) liberal publication, which calls attention to the outrageous abuses of liberty committed by German antifascists and their collaborators in the government.
Henscheid contrasts the fierce opposition to freedom of thought (Denkfreiheit) among German educators, the German media, and throughout the conformist political class to the far milder censorship in an older and supposedly “authoritarian” German society. In the early nineteenth century, German principalities censored subversive works but with few exceptions did so in a bumbling, halfhearted fashion. These clearly undemocratic regimes retained censors who were supposed to examine publications of a certain page length. If the texts appeared to advocate the government’s overthrow or might produce civil unrest, the authors were prohibited from distributing them in their original form. In some cases, the author could amend the text to remove the offending passages. With sufficient influence in the right quarters, they might even be able to bribe the censors to let their works through.