Censorship in Austria – guest post by Professor Kunibert Raffer (University of Vienna)

The tale of my blacklisting from ERT, back in 2011, motivated Professor K. Raffer, of the University of Vienna, to send me a letter outlining his own experience with censorship on matters regarding debt restructuring (recall that my blacklisting occurred because I insisted on discussing the inevitability of a haircut to Greece’s debt). Only in his case the censor was not a decrepit peripheral state of the European South but, surprisingly to most, the Austrian ederal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth. His story confirms that, from a liberal perspective, there is something rotten in the Kingdom of Euroland, from South to North and from East to West.

Dear Yanis:

As someone censored as well I fully understand both you and our censors. One must try to silence voices like yours and even mine.

I had a similar experience in Austria. I had been invited to write a paper on the Euro Crisis. On hearing that the Federal Ministry of Economy, Family and Youth had a say
in the whole procedure, I immediately offered not to write my paper, feeling that whenever a federal ministry was involved and present catastrophe was to be  discussed,academic freedom would be no better guaranteed than in North Korea. But I was told that the Ministry had so far never even tried to influence content, and I could be sure to be able to write what I thought to be right. This turned out to be wrong in my case.

When the presentation of my paper (as usual in this series) plus a discussant arguing against had already been fixed, the Ministry called it off. At that point I had already
made those changes I thought I could make. Thus, I had been told that referring to Mario Monti as… Monti (like Keynes, Jesus, Churchill, Pericles or Aristotle) could not be tolerated, but I should have to add his title. I complied – this is the reason why you find “Exzellenz Monti” in the text on my homepage, protocolary absolutely correct but nevertheless not liked by the Ministry either. I was asked to delete words such as ‘catastrophe’, references to Jamie Galbraith’s book Predator State and to the concept of ‘abusive lending’ of JP Bhohoslavsky (presented first in a summa cum laude PhD Thesis at the Law Faculty of Salamanca, not one of the least regarded law faculties in the world). Briefly, if I had been prepared to write the exact opposite of what I had written, the Ministry would have agreed to presentation and publication.

What I still fail to understand is why they objected to have “Raffer Proposal” in the title (now gone) as this is not at all equivalent to catastrophe or political failure-quite on the contrary. Apparently Austria – a creditor of Greece – does not want to discuss the option of sovereign insolvency. Censors are their own kind of people. In the 19th century censors deleted “the scoundrel’s name is Franz” from Schiller’s play “Die Räuber” because the emperor’s name was Franz too. Even this extremely reactionary emperor laughed at and made fun of his own censors on this occasion. Some things never change in my country.

Unfortunately, my paper is in German, so sending you the link (http://homepage.univie.ac.at/kunibert.raffer/KR-GR-zensiert.pdf) cannot but document that this paper exists.

All the best and kallimera

Kuni