A court in France has charged Bob Dylan with insulting behavior and "incitement to hatred," according to a report from AFP. According to sources, Dylan was questioned and charged back in November, following a lawsuit filed by a Croatian community organization over a comment the musician made in a 2012 interview. In the interview, Dylan indirectly compared Nazis to Croatians by referencing war crimes committed against minority Serbians.
The comment in question comes from a 2012 interview in Rolling Stone. Dylan was asked, "Do you see any parallels between the 1860s and present-day America?" His answer:
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.
Comparing anyone to Nazis, even in the most roundabout way, is not takenly lightly in Europe, where the law dictates that Dylan can be sued, even though he's not a French citizen. The Council of Croats' secretary general Vlatko Marić explained his organization's rationale for the complaint against Dylan: “You cannot compare Croatian criminals to all Croats," he said, adding, "But we have nothing against Rolling Stone magazine or Bob Dylan as a singer."
The Croatian group has asked for an apology from Dylan. But under France's hate speech laws, the singer could face a fine if found guilty. The suit also names Rolling Stone's French publisher as a defendant According to the Guardian, Croatian radio stations took Dylan's songs out of rotation after the initial comments in 2012. Oddly enough, Dylan received the French Legion of Honor earlier this month.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.