Here’s a bit of double irony to start your week: Bob Dylan is being sued by a Croatian group in France over alleged racist remarks made in an interview with Rolling Stone last year, according to Slate.fr via Business Insider.
The irony is double in that first of all, we’re talking about one of the civil rights movements’ most outspoken supporters being sued for racism; and secondly, the allegedly offensive remarks were made in the context of Dylan speaking out against racism in America.
The Council of Croats in France took issue with one sentence in the interview, during which Dylan was asked to compare 1860s America with present-day America:
This country is just too f***ed 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.
That last sentence prompted the Council of Croats to sue both Dylan and Rolling Stone over the published remarks. Vlatko Maric, the group’s secretary-general, explained to the International Business Times: “It is an incitement to hatred. You cannot compare Croatian criminals to all Croatians.”
The singer’s remarks reference a long-standing divide between Catholic Croatians and Serbian Orthodox Christians, tensions from which bubbled over in the 1990s into the war which broke up Yugoslavia.
The idea of someone being taken to court over offensive remarks may seem odd to Americans, but France has stricter rules about free speech. If Dylan’s statement is found by the courts to be racist, he and the magazine could be fined.
(Photo: Xavier Badosa/Flickr/Wikimedia)