Bob Dylan might have to see the inside of a courtroom over comments he made about the relationship between Serbs and Croats to French Rolling Stone.
The Council of Croats, a community association, has sued the singer and magazine alleging racism charges in the country of publication.
In a 2012 edition of Rolling Stone, Dylan attempted to explain how America had evolved or not since the Civil War, and he used a contrast that offended the Croats. Trying to make the case that racial tensions in America come from a sense from black people that “some whites didn’t want to give up slavery,” he compared it to Jewish people being able to “sense Nazi blood” or how “the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.” “It’s a distraction,” Dylan said earlier in the interview about race.
The lawsuit, according to Billboard, accuses Dylan himself of racism for his comment. Calling the comment “an incitement to hatred,” secretary general of the Council of Croats Vlatko Maric clarified that the group had “nothing against Rolling Stone magazine or Bob Dylan as a singer.” Still, they felt the comments violated France’s speech laws enough to merit the suit. “You cannot compare Croatian criminals to all Croats,” Maric said in a statement. He did not clarify how Dylan’s statement conflated Croats with specific Croatian criminals.
France has strict laws restricting speech, particularly sentiments attacking people of a certain race or ethnic group. The punishment for violating these laws is typically fines–actress Brigitte Bardot, for example, faced a steep $23,000 fine for criticizing a Muslim ceremony that involved the killing of sheep.
The laws have been strong enough to convince Twitter, typically a vocal supporter of maintaining the anonymity of users who post political comments, to identify certain users posting anti-Semitic content in order for the French to prosecute them. Should he lose this lawsuit, Dylan is expected to have to also pay a fine for his words, but whether the court finds enough grounds on which to fine him remains to be seen.