November 25, 2013

Council of Croatian Community in France files suit against Bob Dylan in a Paris court, accuses him of racism.

"He was without any doubt inciting hatred against Croatians," according to the Council of Croatian Community in France. What did Bob do? In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said (as quoted at the link): "Black people can sense Klan blood, Jews can sense Nazi blood and Serbs can sense Croat blood."

What does that mean "sensing blood"? Talking in terms of blood does have a racist feeling to it. He's a poet though, so there's that tendency to use vivid metaphor. Blood is one of the great metaphors — used in 49 Dylan songs — but it's complicated and refers to many different things. The word "sense" is vague, unlike say "smell" or "taste," and tied to "blood," it can cause too much confusion, and I don't recommend judicial relief.

Here's the Rolling Stone interview (which came out last year). Check the context and the actual verbatim quote:
Do you see any parallels between the 1860s and present-day America?

Mmm, I don't know how to put it. It's like . . . the United States burned and destroyed itself for the sake of slavery. The USA wouldn't give it up. It had to be grinded out. The whole system had to be ripped out with force. A lot of killing. What, like, 500,000 people? A lot of destruction to end slavery. And that's what it really was all about.

This country is just too fucked up about color. It's a distraction. People at each other's throats just because they are of a different color. It's the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back – or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn't want to give up slavery – that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can't pretend they don't know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.

It's doubtful that America's ever going to get rid of that stigmatization. It's a country founded on the backs of slaves. You know what I mean? Because it goes way back. It's the root cause. If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today. Whoever invented the idea "lost cause . . . ." There's nothing heroic about any lost cause. No such thing, though there are people who still believe it.
The statement "He was without any doubt inciting hatred against Croatians" incites... negative opinions against... the person who makes that statement... in that I'm left thinking he's not too good at reading. But reading's an emotional thing. I'm continually amazed at what happens to words when they're swirled around with the readers' emotions.

49 comments:

Shouting Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
rcocean said...

Dylan racist? Unpossible. He gets to call other people racist.

Finally, an interesting Dylan post.

surfed said...

English is a funny language often not readily understood even by other English speakers. There is a nuance and subtly to it that often escapes other language speakers entirely not to the mention poetic license of someone from the Old Northwest. Bob gets a pass if you ask me even if I don't agree with him here in this particular instance vis a vi his views on the War Between the States.

Shouting Thomas said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Broomhandle said...

"Black people can sense Klan blood, Jews can sense Nazi blood and Serbs can sense Croat blood"

I think he has this backwards. It's usually the oppressor that's fine-tuned to detecting those he wishes to oppress.

Smilin' Jack said...

In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said (as quoted at the link): "Black people can sense Klan blood, Jews can sense Nazi blood and Serbs can sense Croat blood."

At least he didn't sing it. Count your blessings, Croats.

Bob said...

Call it haterdar.

lemondog said...

The court in Paris has accepted the case and we still wait for the date of the trial to be confirmed.

So what happens if he does not appear or send a rep?

And if convicted?

Just symbolic?

Balfegor said...

Nazis, Klansmen, and Croats . . . one of these is not like the other.

Brando said...

There are thoughtful things to be said about race, but clearly not in that interview. This is why we don't normally look to the musicians for our political insights.

Yet interviewers still ask them their opinions about such things, and we readers still read about what they have to say, though in our defense it has more to do with checking whether the musician says something surprising, such as a expressing a conservative viewpoint.

Sorun said...

What Dylan should have said to be consistent:

"Black people can sense American blood, Jews can sense German blood and Serbs can sense Croat blood."

Ann Althouse said...

Hey, Shouting Thomas, the last 2 sentences of this post are aimed at people like you.

Do you feel any compunction at all about getting the writer's meaning straight? At some point isn't it kinda sorta a moral issue? Do you even care?

Ann Althouse said...

I deleted your post that purported to quote me using material I didn't say.

That doesn't belong here.

Ann Althouse said...

I deleted the other one too. Go write in the other post about the other post. This is a new thread.

And learn how to read. I'm not interested in fending off what must be deliberate distortions of what I've said.

Stop looking like a troll. This comment will stand as the explanation for all future deletions.

And do not discuss deletions in the thread. Email only for that sort of thing.

William said...

I don't know if it's sueable, but it's certainly a stupid remark. You can say a lot of stupid things if you make them rhyme and put a catchy tune in the background. One should take more care in an interview, however. I wonder if Jerome Kern's superior musical ability made him a superior judge of racial relations. It's the opinion of many black people nowadays that Showboat is racist, and some of the lyrics have been altered to take account of their sensibilities.......I wonder if Bantus can instinctively tell who's got Bantu blood and who's a Watusi.. Why are some racist oppressors more oppressive than other racist oppressors. I understand that both the Serbs and the Croats kill each other with wild abandon whenever they get the upper hand. During WWII, however, the Croats were aligned with the Nazis so their massacres were more massarcrey than Serbian massacres......From the twisted timber of humanity, Dylan erects another outhouse and calls it a palace of wisdom.

Illuninati said...

"If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood."

Personally I find Dylan's remarks reprehensible. If hatred is transmitted in the blood for generations as he says, then it is impossible for races to ever coexist since everyone has ancestors who were victims of someone else's ancestors. If the Bible is historical in any way we can learn some lessons. The Bible talks about a curse by the early Jews on another people called the Amalekites where they were determined to exterminate future generations for what their ancestors had done during earlier feuds with the Israelites. When Israel took Canaan they did not take any chances but set out to completely exterminate the people whose land they were taking. Genocide guarantees that there will be no survivors to avenge their ancestors deaths. This intergenerational hatred does not lead to world peace.

Dillan did make a good point about the Croats and the Serbs. The Croats committed terrible war crimes against the Serbs during WWII without any repercussions. Americans have been taught to despise the Serbs and we even fought a war to drive the Serbs from Kosovo and to turn it over to the Muslims. Under the watchful eye of the Americans, the Muslims are busy ethnically cleansing the Serbs from Kosovo which is part of their homeland. I don't believe we have heard a balanced account of what happened yet.

Sorun said...

Have you heard the one about the Polish lawyer that went to Paris to sue people who publish Pollock jokes?

eddie willers said...

I've dislike the Croatians ever since they uprooted the Roanoke Colony.

bandmeeting said...

Black people can sense Klan blood

This sounds a lot like that embarrassing speech Reggie White gave to the Wisconsin Legislature about 15 years ago in which he itemized all the strengths of various ethnic groups.

Balfegor said...

Re: Illuninati:

Americans have been taught to despise the Serbs

Yes, well, that cartoonishly named Serbian secret society, the Black Hand, was responsible for triggering the Suicide of Western Civilisation. I am not entirely unsympathetic to the view that Serbian independence activists are the Villians of History.

Inga said...

Serbs have enough blood on their own hands. I recall seeing those camps with skeletal Bosnian Muslims in them. How about all the women the Serbs raped? I worked with Bosnian women who lived through it to tell the tale.

Illuninati said...
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Illuninati said...

" I am not entirely unsympathetic to the view that Serbian independence activists are the Villians of History."

In a situation where there is intergenerational conflict, both sides can justify their own transgressions by pointing to wrongs to their own people. That is why I find Dylan's remarks reprehensible. The Black Hands undoubtedly thought they were in the right. That doesn't justify their behavior.

During WWII the Croats committed vast war crimes against the Serbs. Do we justify war crimes in one generation by referring to crimes committed in previous generations? Where does it end? Is the only way to World peace to exterminate everyone who has transgressed in the past? Is genocide the only pathway to World peace?

Inga said:
"Serbs have enough blood on their own hands. I recall seeing those camps with skeletal Bosnian Muslims in them. How about all the women the Serbs raped? I worked with Bosnian women who lived through it to tell the tale"

What we haven't heard about are the Serbs the Muslims killed and raped. Muslim crimes against the Serbs are hardly mentioned in the Western press. It appears the war crimes went both ways. In America it appears that we have only been told one side of the story.

R. Chatt said...

I suppose the Croatians will have to sue wiki also:

"The World War II persecution of Serbs, also known as Serbian Genocide,[8][9][10] refers to the widespread persecution of Serbs that included extermination, expulsions and forced religious conversions of large numbers of ethnic Serbs by the Ustaše regime in the Independent State of Croatia, and killings of Serbs by Albanian collaborationists and Axis occupying forces during World War II.

The numbers of Serbs persecuted by the Ustaše were very large, but the exact extent is the subject of much debate and estimates vary widely. Yad Vashem estimates over 500,000 murdered, 250,000 expelled and 200,000 forcibly converted to Catholicism.[11] The estimate of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is that the Ustaša authorities murdered between 320,000 and 340,000 ethnic Serb residents of Croatia and Bosnia during the period of Ustaše rule, out of which between 45,000 and 52,000 were murdered in the Jasenovac concentration camp.[12]"

see more

Seeing Red said...

I worked with a younger Serb & Croat during the 90s and they were titting & tatting back & forth in the kitchen when the US was debating whether or not to "do something."

So I said my piece.

Basically they've been fighting for centuries, we (USA) was over there in WWI & WWII and AFAI was concerned, we should stay out of it because this is what Europe does and I'm tired of getting involved. Let them all die.

Silence. LOLOLOLOL

Mountain Maven said...

Thank God for the First Amendment which protects controversial speech. Not so in France.

Sigivald said...

Isn't the real problem comparing Croats (an ethnic group) to Klansmen and Nazis (wicked ideologies)?

My limited understanding of the various wars in the Balkans suggests they go back a long time and that neither the Croats nor the Serbs are strictly "the good guys"*.

(* As much as my sympathy is with Croatia in the last war, since they wanted their own nation and the Serbian side wanted to keep them as part of rump Yugoslavia.

But my general sympathy towards an underdog fighting for independence won't let me forget that there were massacres and things generally considered war crimes on both sides.)

I can't quite imagine exactly what Dylan was trying to say, since he mangled it so badly - and also, the vague sense I've gotten of the Yugoslav wars was that it was more the Serbs in the role of oppressor, than the Croats.

Now - see parenthetical above - I'm wary of that sense, knowing it's vague and at a great distance, but it does make me look twice at Dylan's utterance, comparing Big Bad Bogeymen like the Klan and the Nazis to one of the sides in a mutual ethnic conflict, both of whom got entire nations out of it.

One Of These Things Is Not (Quite) Like The Others?

(For that matter, the Nazis wanted to kill the Jews. The Klan wanted to deeply oppress or even re-enslave black people.

The Croatians ... wanted their own country?

This Just Doesn't Fit The Rest Of The Pattern.)

Paul Zrimsek said...

Dylan would be just they guy to teach dissertation prep to those delicate flowers at UCLA.

mccullough said...

These remarks were dumb on so many levels. Dylan is more condescending to blacks than Faulkner was.

Lydia said...

Funny, just this month Dylan was given France's highest cultural award, the Legion of Honor.

And odd there wasn’t a huge outcry about the sentiments expressed last year, when the article was published. Or maybe I missed it?

n.n said...

Sure, why not. The "Tutsi slaughter Hutu slaughter Tutsi" circle of redistributive and retributive change is unbroken. Since dysfunction is a progressive quality, a dysfunctional convergence is inevitable.

Drago said...

Inga: "Serbs have enough blood on their own hands. I recall seeing those camps with skeletal Bosnian Muslims in them. How about all the women the Serbs raped? I worked with Bosnian women who lived through it to tell the tale."

All too true.

Care to take a shot at examining what the muslims have been doing to non-muslims everywhere they have critical mass?

I'll bet not.

surfed said...

I taught first generation Serbs, Croats and Bosnians immigrants back in the '90's as they landed in America escaping the war. I'm teaching their thoroughly Americanized off spring now in this decade. They all get along fine here in the U.S. dating and interacting with no problem. You'd never know they were slaughtering each other a generation ago. My inner city school has one hell of a soccer team with all those guys. They don't get baseball at all but they loved both brands of football/futbol. No real insight here except the American melting pot bubbling away...

traditionalguy said...

Blood is used as a. an inheritance type. Culture including a murder spirit to which Dylan speaks is also inherited from ancestors through a culture of curses.

openidname said...

Wow, no concerns about France's attempt to apply its non-free-speech-protective law extraterritorially?!?

Rusty said...

The statement "He was without any doubt inciting hatred against Croatians" incites... negative opinions against... the person who makes that statement... in that I'm left thinking he's not too good at reading. But reading's an emotional thing. I'm continually amazed at what happens to words when they're swirled around with the readers' emotions.

Goldstein at "Protien Wisdom" has a few things to say on this subject.

Anglelyne said...

surfed: Bob gets a pass if you ask me even if I don't agree with him here in this particular instance...

Bob and everybody else in the world should "get a pass" from criminal prosecution for making any comment about anything that isn't a direct incitement to murder and mayhem.

Anglelyne said...

Inga: Serbs have enough blood on their own hands. I recall seeing those camps with skeletal Bosnian Muslims in them. How about all the women the Serbs raped? I worked with Bosnian women who lived through it to tell the tale.

hey i too once saw some pictures of bad things and then i heard about these guys, these guys you know who were raping enemy women and then i met these other people who got treated really badly by their enemies in war time and stuff but anyway so that made me a big expert on the balkins just ask me I'll tell you whose hands are bloody and whose are clean over there or u can buy my balkin history 4 dummies on amazon just be sure to use the althouse portal ok?

Inga said...

Someone named Angelyne should learn how to capitalize. Lazy.

James said...

"He's a poet though,"

Althouse with the comedy.

Mitch H. said...

Yes, well, that cartoonishly named Serbian secret society, the Black Hand, was responsible for triggering the Suicide of Western Civilisation. I am not entirely unsympathetic to the view that Serbian independence activists are the Villians of History.

I knew a guy in college who claimed to be descended from founding members of the Black Hand. He was perversely proud of it, in much the same way that somebody might brag about being descended from Genghis Khan.

Depending on when this interview was made, Dylan might have had in mind that idiot Croat footballer who was leading stadium crowds in chants of some sort of Ustaše slogan, explicitly referencing that fascist Nazi-collaborating Croat organization.

But Dylan is wrong, dead wrong, for the same reason that people who talk up the Bosniaks against the Serbs, or the Tutsi against the Hutu are wrong. Victimhood is not sainthood, nor is it any sort of license or authority, moral political or otherwise. The only thing that ends the cycle is to blindfold justice, and address crimes against the perpetrators, regardless of the victims. Justice has to be colorless and bloodless, or else it becomes vendetta by proxy.

surfed said...

@Angelyne - Just speaking in generalities. Nothing specific. I don't really get into the back and forth snarky word play between individuals on the Professor's comments thread. Usually I'm to busy to think deeply about it and by the time I do, if at all, the thread has already morphed into something else entirely.

surfed said...

Addendum - That and the fact that salt water is a proven killer of brain cells. Mickey Dora said so hisself.

Smilin' Jack said...

James said...
"He's a poet though,"

Althouse with the comedy.


I'm sure it's unintentional, though. Some who mistakes Dylan's squawking for singing is also likely to mistake his word salad for poetry.

gadfly said...

A blood quote from Hunter S. Thompson, the infamous gonzo from Rolling Stone, as recorded in his infamous "Fear and Loathing" book, can be used in Dylan's defense since the singer now lives in Malibu.

“My blood is too thick for California: I have never been able to properly explain myself in this climate.”

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

"You're bad, I can just sense it, I don't need proof." The proud sentiment of bigots everywhere.

phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven said...

They all get along fine here in the U.S. dating and interacting with no problem. You'd never know they were slaughtering each other a generation ago. My inner city school has one hell of a soccer team with all those guys. They don't get baseball at all but they loved both brands of football/futbol. No real insight here except the American melting pot bubbling away

Hatred washes away once there is no perceived advantage to be won by it. There is no advantage, in the US, to having or enforcing Bosniak/Croat/Serb group identity, so it melts away.

On the other hand, hatred sprouts up just as soon as there's any perceived advantage to be won by it, whether or not any history is associated with it. Thus, for example, Crips vs. Bloods.

Accordingly, one of the most dangerous things that a government can ever, ever do is give formal "slots" to members of a given group, thus ensuring there's a prize to engender division and hatred.

ndspinelli said...

Leaving the hell of Bosnia then having to work w/ a crazy LPN. That is a double tragedy.