Greek Pastafarian arrested for "Cyber Crimes"

A reader writes, "On September 24, Greece's Cyber Crimes division arrested a 27 year old man on charges of blasphemy, for his website that mocks a well-known Greek monk Elder Paisios, using the name Elder Pastitsios (the even better-known Greek pasta dish). The link is to a Greek blog, which shows a religious procession through the streets of Athens last Friday led by local Pastafarians in protest of the arrest, during which pastitso was distributed to the crowds as a holy blessing. It's being widely reported that the arrest was instigated not by the Greek Orthodox church, but by the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn, who currently hold seats in Parliament. The Twitter hashtag for the story is #FreeGeronPastitsios."

Αναλυτικό ρεπορτάζ από τη λιτανεία και περιφορά του παστιτσίου στα Εξάρχεια


  1. This little specific is obviously beside the point in a prosecution motivated by the unseemly taste of fascists for authority figures; but isn’t the notion that satirizing a mere man amounts to blasphemy more blasphemous than anything else in this scene?

    It’s not, um, exactly news that some of the more saint-riddled and icon clutching corners of Christianity have a somewhat problematic relationship with monotheism; but venerating popular religious personalities before they’ve even gone cold seems to be taking things slightly further than usual.

    1. More proof we don’t need blasphemy laws of any stripe—no matter how precious the individual may be to any given society. (Hint, hint, wink, wink.)

  2. I’m always baffled when I read about places I consider to be modern civilizations jailing people for blasphemy.  

    1. It pays to remember the First Amendment is an American institution; other countries have very different ideas of what constitutes freedom.  Also, this article made me look up a recipe for pastitsio.  I shall probably make it and eat it.  See what you’ve done?

        1. Antinous, we need to take you somewhere that serves good pastitsio. I know a little place in Galloway, NJ, and I suspect that the Greek place in Fremont (sorry, it has been a few years) would also do it right.

          Unless it is that your senses of smell and taste have completely died, in which case your description only leaves out the effect the meat and the bechamel sauce have on the mouth feel.

          Because what you are describing isn’t anything like even our homemade pastitsio, and we’re not Greek.

          1. I suspect it was operated by Turks, catching tourists and serving bad food with Greek names to create the wrong impression.

            But then my Greek friends blame everything on the Turks.  One of these days I should find out who the Turks blame everything on.

            But, seriously, the description you gave doesn’t describe any pastitsio I have ever had or seen a recipe for. Sorry you had such a bad dish, even though that, in theory, leaves more for me.

          2. @ Vnend “One of these days I should find out who the Turks blame everything on.”

            That’s nobody’s business but the Turks.

            And Particle Man.

          3. Reply to @Vnend:disqus

            But then my Greek friends blame everything on the Turks.  One of these days I should find out who the Turks blame everything on.

            That should be pretty obvious.  They blame everything on the Kurds and Armenians.

        2. That is a contradiction: no variant of mac’n’cheese tastes like anything at all but a little salty. But for people who make dishes that contain “edible cheeselike flavored food products” out of a spraycan and compare it to the multitude of different flavours of delicately processed and artfully aged milk of sheep, cows, goat and buffalo that contradiction is as lost as the the meaning of a comparison of The Beach Boys with Bach and Beethoven is to a deaf person.

        1. Their hate speech laws have been used to in ways that I would certainly consider abuse.  This (from Wikipedia) is just one of many examples:
          In 2006, the Muslim Council of Edmonton and the Supreme Islamic Council of Canada complained to the AHRCC when Ezra Levant published cartoons that were featured first in Denmark in the magazine Jyllands-Posten. The Commission dismissed the complaint on 5 August 2008.[22] The two-year inquisition cost Levant around $100,000 in legal costs, and Alberta taxpayers an estimated $500,000.[23]
          Things like this make me suspect that laws like that would have a similarly chilling effect on people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, were she to try to publish there, and show how hate speech laws are just asking to be abused by crazed religious fanatics.

          1. There are also many examples of “free speech” being used to harm people in the US, with no legal recourse.

            On the other hand, the cost to the individual of defending oneself from legal persecution is not inherently a vote against the law. Witness the prosecutions against OWC OWS protesters, to pick a recent example. Nor is the hate-speech law the only one so abused in Canada (Byron Sonney). And as for the cost, it would also be there if the case wasn’t a criminal but a civil one.

            On the balance, I’m still siding with the existence of hate-speech laws over their absence. Taking things to extremes is rarely a good idea, as far as I’m concerned.

            (Hm. “Inquisition,” huh? How does that square with Wikipedia’s NPOV policies?)

          2. Saying that some other law is also abused is not even remotely and argument in favor of a law that’s been abused.  THe case of Byron Sonne is also completely fucked up, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with hate speech laws. Also, I can’t really respond to your assertion about people being hurt by free speech in America and its relevance to hate speech laws, because you didn’t actually mention any of the examples that you claim there are a lot of.  I’m not saying that hate speech doesn’t cause a lot of damage in the US, especially when it has a lot of money behind it, as with a lot of the vile shit our religious right is spouting right now, but hate speech laws wouldn’t actually protect us against that.   I think that, if most people in your society can’t tell that, say, a wingnut anti-semitic neo-nazi is full of shit, then we have a problem much deeper than could be fixed with hate speech laws, and hate speech laws give any crazed religious nut out there a club to hold over the head of anyone who tries to call them on their vicious, hateful, evil shit.

          3. “if most people in your society can’t tell that, say, a wingnut anti-semitic neo-nazi is full of shit, then we have a problem much deeper than could be fixed with hate speech laws”

            I think you’re rather missing the point. There is no need for hate speech to convince a majority of the population in order to be considered hate speech.

            “hate speech laws give any crazed religious nut out there a club to hold over the head of anyone who tries to call them on their vicious, hateful, evil shit.”

            This is plainly false.

            (3) No person shall be convicted of an offence under subsection (2)
            (a) if he establishes that the statements communicated were true;
            (b) if, in good faith, the person expressed or attempted to establish by an argument an opinion on a religious subject or an opinion based on a belief in a religious text;

            In response to your other points, I will say that anecdotal examples of a law being abused aren’t a valid critique of the law. This is why I offered the example of Sonney’s case which had nothing to do with hate speech, and the prosecutions of OWS protesters. Nor are the legal costs incurred by Levant a valid critique of the law. These would have still been there if he was faced with a civil case.

            But really, our discussion is rather academic.

            Note that it’s the conservative government that voted the law out.

        2. Hate speech laws can stifle valid speech. A recent example is the University of California’s attempt to make a hate speech rule that would ban events like the Israel Apartheid Week protests. To me, this is a perfect example of where hate speech laws can be used as tools to silence conflicting views, which is why free speech is needed. Anyone seriously thinking about hate speech laws needs to read On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. A quote:

          First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.

          1. Oh, come *on*. Traffic laws can stifle valid speech. Loitering laws can stifle valid speech. *Littering* laws can stifle valid speech. We’ve seen examples of both in the OWS protests and earlier during the G8/G20 meetings in a range of cities. The problem isn’t the law but the misapplication of the law.

          2. You lost me on traffic laws and littering. But loitering laws can stifle the freedom of assembly.

            Do you honestly think “free speech zones” are a good idea? And how does the existence of the persecution of people who want to assemble to protest economic inequality IN ANY WAY help your argument for criminalizing hate speech?

          3. John Stuart Mill being merely a dead guy venerated by wannabe intellectuals…  Sorry, just an example of free speech of the sort being exercised in Greece.

          4. Obstruction of traffic and littering were both used in NYC as causes for arrest of protesters. And no, I don’t think “free speech zones” are a free idea. Are you going to argue that loitering laws are wholly bad and should be abolished because they were abused in order to stifle protest? The list of laws that can be abused that way is rather long — looks like you’ll be busy for a while.

          5. Loitering laws are wholly bad. If they’re not being used to stifle protest, they’re being used to deprive poor people, people of color, young people, etc. of their right to a public life. Loitering laws are very much in the same vein as laws against women driving.

          6. Well done. You’ve shown that existing laws can be abused to stifle speech and now you are going to try to add one more and hope that the same doesn’t occur.

          7. “Well done. You’ve shown that existing laws can be abused to stifle speech and now you are going to try to add one more and hope that the same doesn’t occur.”

            So let’s see… Your argument was “hate speech laws can be used to stifle valid speech, so we shouldn’t have hate speech laws.” I show that other laws, which have nothing to do with hate speech, can be used in the same way. So which are you going to do? Object to all laws that can be abused to stifle valid speech, or try and find a more relevant objection to hate speech legislation?

        3.  As we can see from the state of Greece, Canada is probably only about one major recession and a few thousand neo-Nazis away from descending into a morass of authoritarianism.  “It can’t happen here!” is also a meme with no evidence behind it.

    2. The funny thing is, that these places still jail vastly less people than the United States, even though they do have these strange blasphemy laws.

      1. Seeing as how the US has the highest (at least officially) incarceration rate in the world you can make that statement about literally any law anywhere.  They could jail and execute homosexuals and adulterers in Saudi Arabia and you could still point out that the US jails and executes more people.  The US being fucked up isn’t an excuse for anything.  If it was, you could just throw up your hands and safely walk away from ever having to make a moral judgment again.

  3. Sorry, but any country with blasphemy laws on the books forfeits any claim to being “civilized”.

    1. Totally.  The freedom to point out that religion is a giant, stinking pile of shit is fundamental.  Without that, you’re headed right back towards iron age savagery.

        1. That looks like hate speech to me, and pastafari knows how much i love to mock italians… Or is it only a joke ? I’m not good with irony.

        2. Since Italy created pasta, I’m going to have to say that your comment is not only dickish but down-right blasphemous.

          1. If by “pasta” you just mean “thin tubes made from grain and boiled” then sure, but what a limited definition — that’s not what pasta is. Pasta is Italian, just like pizza is, and you can’t just say “the Jews had flat bread before the Italians, therefore the Jews — or some much earlier neolithic ancestor — invented pizza.” 

            Pasta is what the FSM is made of — you can tell by the meatballs.

            Venn Diagram:

            {  boiled tubes of flour  { pasta { spaghetti } } }

          2.  Pizza was not invented by Italians.  It was invented by Italian Americans in New England.  So it’s actually American, or maybe “Italian American.”  It’s not authentic Italian cuisine, though.

      1. And they managed to execute a fellow of some historical note for blasphemy then too… Maybe the Golden Dawn is just trying to revive a fine hellenistic tradition.

        1. The charge was actually “corruption of youth”, and the execution was pretty much judicial suicide. A death sentence in Classical Athens of the sort that Socrates received was often considered equivalent to exile, as the condemned was given ample opportunity to escape and flee the city. Socrates’ friends in fact suggested that he do this, but he refused as that would be illegal and therefore against his principles.

          And that’s even without going into how he conducted himself during his trial…

          1. He conducted himself according to his principles: he probably just didn’t want to believe that the polis he’d put his life on the line for was really so stupid and conformitarian as to sentence him to death for questioning received wisdom.  And since he was very nearly acquitted, he probably wasn’t making such an outlandish bet (although I gotta admit, the stakes were rather high).

    2. Many red states’ constitutions have clauses which bar atheists from attaining state office.  Although they’re unenforced and unenforceable, they are still “on the books.”

    1. During times of uncertainty and doubt, people go looking for answers from any group who looks willing or able to give even a little stability.

      Unfortunately, this same social dynamic allows otherwise intelligent and rational people to get sucked into cults and cult-like organizations.

  4. At this point I would actually like to point out two things. The first and very funny one is that the blasphemy charge has been dropped. This is owing to the technicality that the monk in question is not in any way canonized by the orthodox church and therefore such parodies are not blasphemous. There is still the other charge however. Now on, to a funnier point: 

    Blashpemy, while anachronistic and ridiculous is still a misdemeanor. That means that they cannot violate confidential sources such as telecoms. Breaching communication confidentiality requires either grand felony, or a large scale threat to public order. 

    Enter the ingenious public prosecutor. The warrant that led to Pastitsios’ eventual arrest, was for blasphemy. That not being enough to get the cybercrime division authorization to snoop on the guy’s telecoms the prosecutor argued that a religious parody site in greece can lead to civil unrest and riots. 

    In other words the prosecutor argued that we’re like a muslim nation waiting for something inflamatory to hit youtube. That’s point one. Point two is that the original cause for getting a warrant was thrown out of the window. And in my opinion the prosecutor’s retoric is complete BS. So much for proper procedure. 

  5. So in Greece you can be charged with blasphemy for a parody website, but neo-nazis are somehow allowed to hold public office? I’m know I’m just some stupid American, but seriously WTF is going on in Greece?

    I’d also like to add that Firefox’s spelling correction suggestions for “neo-nazis” include “nee-nazis”, whatever the hell that means.

  6. Why not just walk into a biker bar, find the biggest, baddest guy in the place, and call his grandmother a whore?  Is that free speech?  Might there possibly be consequences?  How is insulting a respected religious figure less offensive than insulting a respected family member?

    The ONLY point of insulting other people’s religions, values, families, countries, tribes, etc. other than to make one’s self appear in some way superior is, quite simply, to cause trouble.  It doesn’t exactly generate polite dialogue between disagreeing parties and is clearly not meant to do so.  The whole point is to say, “Hooray for my side,” in a contest of tribalism.

    Worshipping an imaginary deity may be considered quite silly by many people, but the people doing the worshipping don’t consider their deities imaginary at all.  Except, of course, for Pastafarians, who KNOW their deity is imaginary and whose intent is to ridicule (insult) the beliefs of others.

    The question is, in civil society, how does the person causing trouble get to pretend to be the aggrieved party?

    This incident isn’t about a person being denied equal rights under the law, but about a person knowingly insulting religion which, in extremely religious societies, falls under the definition of blasphemy.  Try that in Afghanistan, and it won’t be jail; it will mean death.

    Just saying… Ridicule tends not to be the path to civil dialogue or social change; it mostly leads to nothing but arguments or worse.  A person who intended to cause trouble found what they were looking for.  How ’bout that.

    1. “Why not just walk into a biker bar, find the biggest, baddest guy in the place, and call his grandmother a whore?  Is that free speech?  Might there possibly be consequences?  How is insulting a respected religious figure less offensive than insulting a respected family member?”

      Religious people can consider your mere *existence* as a heathen an “insult”. If your example of why we should support blasphemy laws is that some people are irrationally violent so we must limit any offense to them, then I’d say your position is untenable, because anything can offend anybody. You have a right to be offended. You do not have the right to violently assault people because of it. The law needs to protect us from violent behavior, not from offense.

    2. The obvious corollary is that it then becomes a crime to simply point out that people believe in an imaginary deity. To a believer, “your god does not exist” is as inflammatory as “your deity is the son of a whore” and thus both would be forbidden.

    3. This analogy is wrong on so many levels and has almost no relation to the matter at hand.

      Asserting the right to (non-)worship is equated with picking a fight.

      The aggressor walks onto the biker’s “home turf”– so public places where demonstrations occur now belong to the religionists?

    4. Parody is an essential part of free public discussion. It makes a point in a humourse or satirical mannor. Some people might find that insulting. But it is utterly illogical to feel that you are so special that you have a right to be protected form insult. An insult is merely a result of your own emotions. That is no reason to radically limmit freedom of speech. As anything can be seen an insult, it is in the ear of the beholder.

      No state should be validating violent and opresive responses to percieved insults by granting those people special rights not to be insulted. How you deal with an insult proves what kind of a person you are. Do you deal with it more speach? To prove the other person wrong? Congratulations, you now are now mature enough to be a part of modern society. Do you respond to words with violence? Sorry, you’re not ready to enter the real world, you need to grow up.

    5. So as long as I’m a biker (or religious) I’m allowed to beat people up (or kill them) as long as I claim offense because they should have know better? You’re saying the law should take *my* side?

      Certainly, there are consequences for actions. But that doesn’t mean the perpetrator of those consequences is in the right. I mean, not if you want to call it civilized.

    6. Oh, certainly they can be offended; but using the government to protect them from being offended is rather egregious wouldn’t you say?

      Do I have the right to tell the government to arrest anyone who tells me that I am going to Hell for not being saved? I find that highly offensive and this is something that they find their duty to tell me.

    7. A person who intended to cause trouble found what they were looking for.  How ’bout that.

      This, along with “She was asking for it,” and “if you’re not doing anything wrong you have nothing to worry about” makes up the authoritarian litany.  You’d make a great cop.

      The ONLY point of insulting other people’s religions, values, families, countries, tribes, etc. other than to make one’s self appear in some way superior is, quite simply, to cause trouble.

      Simply false.  When I “insult” people’s religions, values, families, countries, or tribes I am always doing so in the service of making some larger point, not simply to stir shit.  For example, when I point out that the Catholic church is a criminal organization it’s because I actually think it is a criminal organization and this needs to be pointed out, especially considering the amount of temporal power and wealth possessed by that institution.  Likewise, when I “insult” someone’s values it’s because I think they are bad values and should be reconsidered.

      Let me guess: you’re a Mormon.

    1.  I am assuming this is irony, unless you have confused Zeus with Jehovah (I sometimes think many people do).

  7. Luckily in the UK (and EU) we have laws against “Behaviour likely to incite hatred of pasta”. And we have an extradition treaty with the USA which makes it possible to ship people who denigrate pasta to Gitmo via Sweden even if they haven’t done enough to be prosecuted for their foul pasta hatred in the UK.

  8. Well, I am not a big fan of pastitsio, but it is my 7 year old’s favourite dish by far, so it is a cross I have to bear. 

    I would think that a Greek would have the right to criticize the Greek religious power structure in any way he or she wishes.  Certainly my father in law has no hesitation in his vehement disapproval of the Ortho church structure and abuses of power.  Ditto my wife (not religious but baptized Ortho Greek). 

    There are some reasonable limitations on free speech, but they necessarily must be extremely rare.  Specifically inciting violence against an individual or group is a good example.  Uttering/publishing a threat of violence is another. It is not someone’s right to demand or encourage my death for any reason.  But people have as much right as they want to make fun of me or anyone else – which is what the Pastafarians are doing.

  9. In case any of you Europeans are still wondering why so many Americans support extremely robust free speech protections, this is why.  Speech restrictions can always be twisted to criminalize dissent.  Without free speech you have no rights at all.

  10. actually, the neo-nazi Golden Dawn did not instigate the prosecution; the webpage had been under investigation for a while due to a large number of complaints (the owner states the police told him 100,000 emails!). it now seems more likely that they learnt that an arrest was about to be made and asked the relevant question in parliament the night before, if only to appear ‘efficient’ (which is what all their rhetoric is about: to get rid of illegal immigrants NOW (implying violently), unlike the rest of the corrupt politicians that only talk etc). so a very good PR move on their part… everybody bought it.

    There is a very interesting interview of the webpage’s creator (in greek), it should be easy to get this subtitled:

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