Thursday, November 27, 2008

The snake coils to hibernate?

After a short press uproar and blogging frenzy, we are now entering that time when all that happened with the Latvian Security Police will be slowly forgotten, but not gone. This process applies to me, too, as I had to have my memory jogged by a comment writer to remember that this same police agency was sent after an old lady who wrote an angry letter to then Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis. Seems that getting nasty mail from citizens is part of the job of prime ministers, presidents and politicians generally. Even I, a journalist, am getting some abuse (an exposure to unintentional black humor of homo(post)sovieticus ) for my opinions expressed, most recently, on Delfi.lv. But apparently, this was not in Kalvitis job description, so send the cops...
But the fact is that one should have started reacting then, while the repression was still merely absurd. When the Security Police go after college lecturers and musicians, then it is serious (?). No! It was serious already with the pensioner, and with the people at the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga who also (so say my sources) got visits from the Security Police around a year ago for even mentioning the "d"word. This was just a little past the peak of the party, real estate booming, a McDonald's style drive-in bank bringing cash in cups to a family who wants -- "oh yes, a trip to Egypt." Even then it was dangerous and worthy of repressive measures to hint that the big balagāns (carnival) was going to end and what that could, possibly, do to the lat.
The current Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis, has made some ambiguous mumblings on Latvian Radio that maybe the Security Police didn't interpret the law quite right, but also letting everyone know that you still had to watch your mouth (or keyboard, or press). More waffled mutterings were heard from politicians on the What is Happening in Latvia (Kas notiek Latvijā) talk show, except from the otherwise maligned, so-called pro-Russian Jakovs Pliners and another Saeima deputy from his side of the political spectrum. Pliners at least said cleary that the government was violating the freedom of speech. While I may disagree with the colorful ex-educator (and blogger) on other issues, at least he wasn't mealy-mouthed.
That, probably, is the end of the issue in the public space. The snake has coiled up in its lair and will stay there until it all blows over. Then someone in our wise goverment will read or hear something (or maybe the snake itself will see it) and turn it loose again, but all of this will have been largely forgotten or written off as an aberration. Those scared into silence or overcautiousness will remain silent or confine their statements to the blandest assessments of the economic situation. And the ratchet of authoritarianism will have advance yet a few more notches.

8 comments:

Vigants said...

The snake maybe hided, but the fear is still out there. All of the bloggers and free thinkers is still afraid to speak out loud... why? Who wants to have "visit" to police station? There is some experience from others, that coffe and cakes are'tn offered in case if you are invited... instead you can get some movie like "questioning" (few years ago it was done this way: http://laacz.lv/2008/08/29/lacis-zaglis-iecirknis/ Sorry. Latvian only).

Juris Kaža said...

Read it. They are fucking Gestapo savages. Or were, as it was 1999 (?).

Fuck that shit, cuz I aint tha one,
For a punk mutha fucka with a badge and a gun,
To be beatin on, and throwin in jail.


Rage Against The Machine

Vigants said...

you know... no one wan'ts have this experience... that's why everyone is now thinking twice before publishing...

read what Benvenuto in TVNET is writing:
http://www.tvnet.lv/zinas/feletons/article.php?id=570850

The result is already reached... people are afraid to mention [that word]...

Vigants said...

Just a question: Will police question Godmanis and others on giving wrong information to people if [that thing] will happen?

What about false rumors that LAt is strong? Does the law apply to theese rumors too?

Anonymous #2 said...

Funny, that the only people who have really openly protested against this outrageous attack on freedom of expression, and who actually foresaw it coming, were Pliners & Co (whom I normally regard as dangerous Revanchist Commie Russkies Gone Apeshit). That is very disappointing. I mean, not because they DID, but because nearly everyone else DID NOT.

jean said...

a real shame for latvians and certainly for me, descendant of latvian parents, born and living in belgium. i hope there will be a thorough investigation by latvian authorities and that those responsible will be punished and put to trial. otherwise the latvian gouvernement must be sued, because there can't be any dispute that this way of acting is a transgression of european law i.e. latvian law. if necessary i want to come to latvia to defend the most essential value of democracy: the right of freedom of opinion and of speech. perhaps if a belgian citizen of latvian descendance mobilizes the international press and gives a press conference before the statue of 'liberty' about the possible devaluation of the latvian lat this can make a difference...

Anonymous said...

Juris, your point is dead-on. Unfortunately not enough Latvians speak out about fundamental problems like suppression of free speech and corruption. For the past few years, I think they have been too busy riding the economic boost of the EU investment and out spending the borrowed money backed up by inflated property values.

A silver lining to the economic crisis may be that people will pay attention to the corruption and suppression. They might take the fundamental problems seriously and protest with demonstrations and their votes. We can only hope. Remember that it took only six thousand or so people demonstrating last year to get Kalvitis out of office. The political elite are very sensitive if enough people really get out and make themselves heard. I think they are really scared that people will get excited and throw all the bums out... one day.

Bleveland said...

Words spoken by a fellow who was famous for a while, but who ended up with his head blown off. Some people believe the very speech, of which the following is a part, made that happen:

The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.
I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers--I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: "An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.
Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed--and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment-- the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.


Latvians: welcome to the new world order.