The icon of many a young, idealistic bedroom revolutionary, Che Guevara - a regular on T-shirts the world over - could become outlawed in Poland, if the government gets its way.
Yes, the often-called “liberal” government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk has proposed to make all images that promote dictatorship, communism or fascism illegal from public display. This would also include banning the sale and display of images of not just Hitler - who never has been a popular culture icon to display on your favourite T-shirt - but also Marx, Lenin and Che Guevara.
Thenews.pl reports that: “Elzbieta Radziszewska [minister of equality] wants to expand Article 256 of the Criminal Code which proposes a two-year prison sentence for producing fascist or totalitarian propaganda or which incites racist sentiments. The Minister now seeks to expand the law to include books, clothing and other items.”
“Adopting such a law would aid the fight against racism,” adds the minister, helpfully.
Of course, it is easy to sneer at such nonsense. But what a Western reader should realise is that this is the ruling political elite’s attempt to create a “Polish PC”. where certain images and sentiments are controlled, regulated. Where western liberal PC has speech codes of what is, and what is not, acceptable, here is Poland’s government trying to regulate which signs and symbols are publicly acceptable to display.
This right wing, conservative government - and much of the opposition parties in parliament - see the world very much in the same way as many of their liberal equivalents do in the West: that symbols, words and gestures are dangerous and should be banned.
Both mentalities have the very patronising view that people are so vulnerable that they could be affected by exposure to offensive and obnoxious signs, resulting in an immediate change of behaviour so severe that it could be a threat to society at large.
Broadcaster and writer Kenan Malik shows clearly in this extract from his new book that attitudes, certainly in the UK, have changed radically from 20 years ago about how willing governments and organisations are to ban offensive images, speech and even thought.
So the Polish government’s urge to ban, admittedly genuinely offensive symbols in Poland, plus a few cartoon revolutionaries such as Che Guevara, should be put in the context of a more broader fear of free speech outside of Poland as well.
When ruling elites are so afraid of anti-orthodox opinions and symbols they so show weakness, not strength.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Posted by beatroot at 4/24/2009