Thursday, December 11, 2008

From economists to neo-Nazis

According to unconfirmed reports, the Latvian Security Police have detained Valdis Rošāns, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi who has been writing his views extensively on the internet (in Latvian) using the nickname FENIKSS.
The Security Police are also said to have taken Rošāns computers, peripherals, disks and tapes. I have engaged in debates with Rošāns/FENIKSS on a Latvian language nationalist forum (where FENIKSS is also generally regarded as a crackpot) (zemes sargs means guardian of the land. I was invited to comment on the forum as representative of libertarian, "liberal" (this is a nationalist curse word :) ) and otherwise alien viewpoints by the forum administrator, Jānis Iesalnieks, a young Latvian lawyer and political activist in the Visu Latvijai (All for Latvia) youth-oriented nationalist political party.
Iesalnieks reported on Rošāns arrest, also disclosing his real identity, on the nationalist forum.
While I do disagree with many of the views expressed on, and while I find FENIKSS/Rošāns views pretty crazy and disgusting, I nonethless see a possible violation of free expression here.
I also think that by going after someone that both Latvians and world-opinion would find distasteful, the Security Police are trying to restore their image as fighters against extremists and possible terrorists (Rošāns republished some satirically violent cartoons of a little man shooting caricatures of Latvian politicians and public figures, something I saw as an ironic comment on angry thoughts we all have. The real cartoonist is unknown.). Indeed, there are other countries where views like those of FENIKSS/Rošāns would be prosecuted under hate speech laws. I don't think hate speech laws are a good idea, nor do the free expression advocates at Article 19, nor, for that matter, would the First Amendment of the US Constitution tolerate this kind of detention.
By harassing a young neo-Nazi crackpot, the Security Police may be trying to restore their image after their detention of economist Dmitrijs Smirnovs and questioning of musician Valters Frīdenbergs. This caused an international uproar.
I don't think too many people will rally around Valdis Rošāns, but his case should be put on the record. Should we feel comfortable as long as the police only go after people whose views we, and society in general, consider repulsive? No, think I.

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