Saturday, March 26, 2011

Morons as punishers, morons as the punished?

Latvia is never lacking for examples of petty fuckwit authoritarian behavior by ape-brained primates who have found their way into public administration. The latest example, according to media reports, comes from Liepāja, where a pensioner was administratively fined LVL 25 (around 50 USD) for calling the light-haired wife of a municipal official "little blondie" (blondīnīte in Latvian).
The alleged name-calling occurred after Linards Ozols tried to deliver some heating briquettes to a friend but found the driveway to the courtyard  of the friend's apartment house blocked by a car belonging to a blond-haired woman, who refused to move it, but finally moved the vehicle (apparently a jeep-like SUV) after Ozols addressed her as "little blondie", which she considered an insult.
To be fair, calling a woman "blond" in certain contexts in Latvia  is a mildly sexist insult based on the assumption that women, generally, are not as "smart" as Latvian men (depressive, chain-smoking drunks in the grave by age 65 by another stereotype) and that blondes are the least smart of them all. But where there is boorish behavior, an exchange of insults follows, as Latvians would say, like amen! in church (kā āmen baznīcā). You cannot force people to be civil, least of all in a society where, with a number of factors working simultaneously, white trash behaviors are more and more commonplace. To punish minor incivility is a ridiculous violation of a person's right to speak freely.
What elevates this incident from the perniciously silly to the bizarre is the fact, according to media accounts, that Ozols, having delivered his briquettes, was unsuccessfully pursued by a Liepāja municipal police car, which only failed to overtake him because of oncoming traffic. However, Ozols was later identified and handed an adminstrative fine for calling the blond wife of municipal police official blond.
Police officials call the pensioner's story of an alleged pursuit a fantasy, but Ozols was eventually fined for insulting the wife of Gints Krēsla, the head of the Administrative section of the Liepāja municipal police.

Nazi crank back in the news
The other free speech issue recently raised in the Latvian media is a report that the American organization the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has taken notice of an anti-Semitic rant on a Latvian television channel by a crackpot extremist, Uldis Freimanis and asked, in a public statement, that he be "brought to justice." The ADL statement correctly notes that incitement to ethnic hatred is punishable under Latvian law, so  the organization's demand is logically correct and consistent with its mission to expose and combat anti-Semitism and other kinds of bigotry.  Fair enough.
However, as an American organization, the ADL should be aware that in the US, Freimanis' ravings would be protected speech under the First Amendment and were he punished on US territory, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) might well take up his case. The ACLU, which has a number of Jewish lawyers working for it, was behind legal actions in the 1970s to allow a march by neo-Nazis in Skokie, Illinois. a town populated at the time by a number of Holocaust suvivors. The Nazis won their case, helped by some Jewish lawyers who put free speech and free assembly (the right to non-violently express any message) above the deeply offensive content of the Nazis' message.
I fully agree with the ADL that Freimanis expressed offensive, depraved views about Jews, that he even urged their murder, but absent a very limited context of direct incitement (leading a mob with torches to a synagogue) I oppose the punishment of any speech, writing or other expression not involving the direct use of force.  The organization Article 19,  I believe, has  a number of articles on its website opposing the  application of so-called hate speech laws. There should be no hate speech laws in Latvia, hate, bigotry and ignorance cannot be legislated out of existence. Free speech, open debate and free expression are part of a process that may, over time, reduce the level of ignorance and xenophobia in this country,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good read! Particularly about "blondie insult". Remarkable Liepajas police swift response marred by slight "technicality" which prevented apprehension of the culprit. Indeed a very illustrative story helping to understand better the ways modern Latvija lives. Keyline is something that makes my guts upset every time I visit Das Fatterland - astounding lack of respect!!!! Equally lack of same on everyone's individual level and absence of any respect to or from state institutions and law protection in return back to individuals. The only way some inverted respect works in LV society is on the level of fear (violence mostly) or within activities of certain individuals, groups or organisations which in other more law-abiding societies would definitely draw interest of anti-corruption structures. And even more shocking to recognise as it apears people apear to be quite content with this situation. Well, hardly anyone enjoying being pushed, shoved and plainly shafted by everything and everyone around, but in return they do exactly the same. Tit-for-tat? or debilitation of the nation? Perhaps someone of true residents can answer. I'm outsider.
Just a tad about your glimps on poor and sickly Freimana kunga issue. The things he says do indeed fall under law prosecutable matters in LV. Well, something tells me he feels quite confident there'll be no lawsuite against him, not in Latvija for sure. And it is unfortunate law-enforcement institutions, aka police and prokuratura, are in the blissfuly-ignorant unknown about him violating the law. And this is Latvian Law, not US. Feel the difference. Naturally someone, either indivudually or as organisation, should complain, draft iesniegums and hire a solicitor to sue Mr Freimanis. Local jewish groups perhaps or a person. However that won't be LV state surely, despite it's state's law being violated. I don't believe this is happening because of any kind of sympathy Mr Freimanis enjoying on behalf of the state or society. Think it's more of the ingnorance and lack of respect from THE STATE towards it's own law.
So, RESEPCT is the word for today!

Aris Kruvevers