Thursday, March 06, 2008

On free speech: Latvia locks up Bozo the Nazi

The few times I have gone off topic on this blog it has been on free speech issues. Two years ago, the Latvian authorities banned a Gay Pride march, something that is normal in most West European capitals and which I would otherwise view with benevolent indifference. But I believe that free speech, 99 % absolute free speech, is very important for any democracy. And free speech means more than, say, my expressed preference for Ballentine whiskey and someone else's for Jameson. The test of free speech is the right to say or otherwise express repulsive, shocking, offensive views. Sorry, but that's the way it is -- blame growing up in America with the First Amendment.
Today, March 6, a Latvian court sentenced to 18 months imprisonment Andris Jordans, a 24-year old self-proclaimed neo-Nazi, who arrived in February 2007 at a forum on ethnic issues or the like, got up and told the somewhat baffled, disgusted but otherwise calm audience that 1) he was a neo-Nazi 2) that he didn't consider Jews and Roma (Gypsies) to be people and 3) that he favored ethnic cleansing. There is a YouTube item on this, partly with Jordans speaking (not ranting) in Russian, which I don't understand (I got the Latvian part).
Regardless of what Jordans said, I believe that the state has no right to imprison him for his words alone. The government that punishes speech, even harsh and offensive speech, is more dangerous than any individual, deranged speaker.
Just as in the Cicero correction SKOKIE Nazi march controversy many years ago in the US (neo-Nazis wanted to march in Chicago suburb where many Holocaust survivors lived), the state should have no right to prevent, restrain or punish peaceful but offensive expression.
This is a dangerous step in the direction of authoritarianism and censorship by Latvia, also disturbing in a broader context of European so-called hate speech laws and enforced political correctness. I as a libertarian (OK, this is the only time I flaunt my personal political views) strongly oppose this.
ADDED FOR READERS UNFAMILIAR WITH AMERICAN SLANG :)
A "Bozo" is a clown, an annoying idiot. There was a television clown of that name, who was a nice clown, but the meaning changed
So back to talking telecoms again....

ADDED MARCH 8,  LINKING TO ANOTHER OPINION

Alex Tapinsh, a Latvian-born, US educated (?) blogger who has spent many years in the US has a different view on this issue, which can be found here. This is a pretty good English-language blog on Latvia in general.  I would answer Alex's points, but I will stick to telecoms and to rants about internet based services, as my most recent post :)

3 comments:

Rolands said...

Es spēju sazināties angliski, bet teksta nianses man nav izprotamas. Pret viņu, īstenībā, man ir personīgs zobs, bet tas mani vēl vairāk liek pārkāpt savai astei un aizstāvēt, ne viņu, bet vārda brīvību. Viņa vietā varētu būt es vai Tu... Par pamudinājumu lietot, piemēram, kāds tā to interpretēs. Nu kā tad paliek ar tikšanos?

Juris Kaža said...

Roland,
SMS vai zvani 29239661 vai j_kaza@yahoo.com

Normunds said...

Juri, kā saka angļi - with a due respect, tev šoreiz nav taisnība. Es labi atminos kā tu pats uzstājies par geju tiesībām dzīvot brīvā vidē, kur neviens uz viņiem nerāda ar pirkstu un nemet ar fekālijām un šis gadījums ir tieši tāds pats, te nav nekāda sakara ar vārda brīvību, tā sen ir pārkāpta. Es nedomāju, ka tu vēlies piedzīvot to dienu, kas Latvijā uz ielas nevarēs justies droši neviens. Ja jāteic godīgi, mani satrauc tendences klaju naida sludināšanu maskēt ar vārda brīvību.