Gay activists are to take legal action against members of the governing party under Section 212 and 216 of the Polish Criminal code for two incidents of inciting discrimination and the promotion of hate speech. But are these the right cases to call in the lawyers?
Doug Ireland in Gay City News (hat tip: Doug Ireland) writes:
In one of the Polish ruling party’s latest anti-gay provocations, Waldemar Bonkowski [above - I bet his mum is proud of him], a leading Parliament member from the northern city of Koscierzyna, hung a banner in his headquarters reading, in part, “Today it’s gays and lesbians — what’s next, zoophilia… Our Polish pope is looking down from the sky and asking, Whither Goest Thou, Poland?”
In [another] incident, Pawel Zyzak, editor in chief of a party bulletin, Right Turn [W Prawo Zwrot!], wrote that gays are “animals” and were “the emissaries of Satan sent to destroy the Catholic Church.”
Leading gay activist, Lukasz Pałucki of the Equality Foundation and organizer of Warsaw’s Tolerance Parade last June, is consulting lawyers over the latest in a long line of homophobic comments from government and party representatives.
But going to courts over the two pieces of infantile nonsense quoted above is not the right way to go about challenging officially sponsored homophobia in Poland.
The only justification for legal action against what someone says or writes – no matter how vile - is if it presents a clear and present danger to an individual or a group of individuals.
The ‘queers are animals’ kind of dribble is not an incitement to violence, it is just the expression of a very ignorant person, indeed.
Even the ignorant have a right to dislike or even hate who they like. And they have a right, however distasteful, to express that ignorant opinion.
Before the Tolerance Parade this summer Wojciech Wierzejski, spokesman for League of Polish Families, said that if ‘deviants begin to demonstrate they should be beaten (bludgeoned) with batons’.
Now that is an incitement to violence and should have been prosecuted.
In another incident which seems to step over the line of free speech and into incitement, Doug Ireland reports:
Polish police announced that, after a three-month investigation, they have arrested the man responsible for knifing an activist whose name and photo had appeared on a hit list published by the neo-nazi Blood and Honor Web site. The Web site targeted lesbian and gay activists as “enemies of the white race” and called for their assassination, providing their photographs, names, and addresses.
During this year’s Warsaw Gay Pride March, members of the Law and Justice Party’s youth division, the All-Polish Youth — a thuggish strong-arm group, largely composed of skinheads, which has been responsible for many violent attacks on gay events, and many of whose members are also members of Blood and Honor — were observed taking photographs of participants in the Pride March. Gay activists suspected that the photos would have wound up on the Blood and Honor Web site.
It is right that the courts have got involved over the Blood and Honor list and they should have been involved over the remarks by Wierzejski.
But the stupid remarks by Bonkowski and Zysak should be given the widest possible circulation. Only the most homo-hating Pole would get excited by such childishness. And I am sure that if they want to attack gays then they would have done it by now or will do it in the future anyway. And they will do it because they decided to, with their own free will. So they will have to take the consequences alone - we can't blame it on what someone wrote about 'Satan'.
The rest of Poland will get a chance to see these men for what they are. And then they can challenge it or they can ignore it, as they see fit.
This government has shown that it is prepared to go to the courts over remarks that it finds offensive. Human rights activists should not be encouraging them by taking legal action over ‘offensive’ remarks, but only those which directly incite violence.
Free speech means that we will not always like what is said. And that’s a lesson that some in the government have to learn as well.