Last week Bob Dylan was making headlines for his incredibly interactive video for his classic song “Like a Rolling Stone.” This week he will be in the headlines for a comment he made a full year ago to Rolling Stone. Dylan, who has long been a champion of equal rights, was originally sued by a community association of Croatians living in France, but now the legendary singer has been formally indicted by the French government.
France has strict laws governing racist or hateful speech and they appear to agree with the Croatian community organization that Dylan’s words were inappropriate. The Croatian community organization had said that they were not seeking damages in terms of money or punishment but did want an apology to the Croatian people. There has been no news whether Dylan was inclined to give that apology if he was taken to court, but it would appear unlikely.
Dylan’s comments are quite allusive. He really was not speaking of Croatia or the Croatian people’s history with Serbs, but used it as a further example to back up a point he was making about race in America. Dylan has long been a leader against civil rights infringements, especially racism towards black during the 60s.
Dylan called racism in America, “the height of insanity” in an interview published in rolling Stone. He also said that this country is severally damaged because of race and that it serves as a major distraction that holds our nation back.
Dylan’s most controversial comments concern the way white and black people perceive one another even today in modern America. He said that, “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.” Dylan also said that blacks can sense a Klansman in their blood and that the same goes for Jews and Nazis and Serbs and Croatians.
Perhaps the most bizarre thing about this whole scandal is that Dylan received a French government honor from the Culture ministry two days after theses charges made by the French government were made. They were officially filed last week but not made public until now. Perhaps the reason for that is they saw how awkward it would be to present a man an award for being a simple of justice when they had recently filed a charge against him saying he incited hatred.
If Dylan is found guilty he could face a fine and probation. Dylan does regularly tour in France but this punishment, if received in full, would probably wind up hurting French Bob Dylan fans more than anyone. It is unlikely the fine will be enough to be that important to Mr. Dylan and he still will be highly sought after to play shows everywhere else in the world.
There has been no statement released as of now from Dylan or his representatives.
Dylan’s comments will most likely amount to only a slap on the wrist or less. Even the Croatian part who filed the original lawsuit are not entirely against Dylan. “You cannot compare Croatian criminals to all Croats,” the statement said, alluding to Croatian War criminals who took part in the attempted Serbian genocide. Their statement proceeded to announce that they had nothing against Bob Dylan as an artist or Rolling Stone as a magazine.
Public opinion in America appears fairly supportive of Dylan in spite of his French court date, not ready to call the legendary fighter for civil rights a racist.
By Nick Manai
Imperial Valley Press