Slate.fr reports a Croatian community association in France is suing Bob Dylan and the French version of Rolling Stone magazine for racism.
Dylan, of course, was at the vanguard of the artistic wing of the Civil Rights movement, so it may seem impossible that anyone could accuse him of such a thing.
But the Croatian group appears not to have appreciated comments made in Rolling Stone’s cover interview of Dylan from this September. In response to a question about whether he sees parallels between Civil War-era America and today, Dylan responded:
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 f***** up about colour. It’s a distraction. People at each other’s throats just because they are of a different colour. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back — or any neighbourhood 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.
What Dylan is referring to in the final part of that last sentence is the longstanding feud between majority Roman Catholic Croats and Christian Orthodox Serbs, instances of which still occasionally pop up to this day. In October, unknown assailants destroyed several bilingual and Cyrillic signs placed on state buildings and Serb minority institutions in the Croatian capital of Zagreb, according to Balkan Insight. “Bilingual signs have been installed on state buildings in areas where Serbs make up more than a third of the population — a requirement under the minorities legislation — but the move sparked protests by war veterans in the city of Vukovar which was devastated by Serb forces during the 1990s conflict,” the site reported.
Europe’s free speech laws are much stricter than in the U.S., and the suit has been accepted on formal grounds, though remains to be evaluated on its merits, Slate says. Cases such as these can take up to 18 months to decide, and even longer when the counter-party is not a French citizen. Dylan and the magazine would face a fine and formal sanction if found guilty.
Dylan was recently named a Legion of Honour by France, though at least one member of the Legion’s committee objected on the grounds that Dylan had once done drugs and showed signs of radical leftism…
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