Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Banning of Fascism

In light of Prince Harry’s run-in with a swastika, German officials are readying to widen the ban of the Nazi symbol to include all of Europe. Now like most people with a shred of morality, I don’t like Nazis, fascism or oppression. But I were a European, I’d be afraid of the ban, not the symbol.

Setting aside the fact that for all intents and purposes the Nazi party is in position to rise up again, banning the symbol, continent-wide or not, isn’t in the spirit of freedom and open communication. Wolfgang Bosbach, deputy president of the Christian Union Party, said the main justification for the main is to protect the feelings of Holocaust survivors. That’s a nice idea and if there weren’t any unintended consequences of it, I’d almost be on his side (almost because I don’t think people’s freedom of expression—no matter how tasteless—should be curtailed simply because it makes other people feel bad.

So what are some of the unintended consequences? Like so many popular symbols, the swastika is simple one—it can be drawn with just two lines. This simplicity makes it easily reproducible by the masses and easily identified. But that simplicity embodies widespread adaptation, even if it is unintended.

Under the ban, governments could have the power to control people if citizens happen to doodle a sketch, build a machine part, construct a floor plan, forge a sculpture or design a panel that, in whole or in part, happens to resemble a swastika. Is such a case likely to happen? I don’t know—I can’t predict the future. But I do know that banning any symbol isn’t beneficial for the public discourse, no matter how much it makes people feel good about themselves. Banning swastikas doesn’t stop Nazis but it does take a tiny step down the long road of control and oppression.

1 comment:

-Ron said...

Especially troubling about this situation is the precedent it sets generally. Nazi's today, your organization tomorrow. A swastika isn’t the only common icon made with two simple lines. We can see in Europe today a secular swing away from its historic Christian roots. How long before the two lines of the cross are ruled to be controversial and a force of disunity – those Christians don’t support abortion. The week after that it will likely be the half-moon at the end of the suppressive ax. I’d like to say that Europeans need to put a stop to this kind of pervasive government control now before it gets out of hand, except that the EU is explicitly designed to be resistant to the voter in the street. Oh, that’s right, what voter? EU citizenship does not convey the same kind of rights and responsibilities that we associate with consensual and accountable government. The EU operates on a level twice-removed from any single person, making the “citizen” of the EU little more than a subject of an imperial crown, again. Oh to have traveled so far and not be any further down the road!