Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Poles ban gay parade, EU bans anti-abortion exhibit

Polish reactionaries and EU liberals have more in common than they think.

It’s becoming a bit of a habit. Local authorities in Poland, this time in the mid-west city of Poznan, have banned a Gay Pride march, scheduled to take place this Saturday. The reason the local council give for denying people the right to free assembly and expression is that the march would be a, ‘serious danger to social order and property.’

A similar excuse was given by the then mayor of Warsaw, and now president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, when he banned (for the second year running) a similar parade through the centre of the capital this summer.

Of course, if you asked these politicians what the real reason is for such authoritarian behaviour they would tell you that they just find homosexuality offensive and ungodly, and don’t want to see such a parade in their city.

Polish human rights campaigners have argued that banning gay pride marches goes against the Polish Constitution. The European Union has warned President Kaczynski that he is going against human rights agreements signed by Poland.

Meanwhile, down at the EU parliament…

An anti-abortion exhibition entitled Life and Children in Europe ended in fisty-cuffs yesterday. Sponsored by MEPs from the League of Polish Families (LPR), the exhibition showed photos of unborn foetuses, and children in WWII concentration camps.

Enraged by the connection between terminations and Nazis, liberals and social democrats in the parliament, where the exhibition was being displayed, tried to take down the photographs. Security guards intervened when LPR members tried to keep the photos just where they were, and a fight broke out.

But the liberals succeeded in getting the offending material taken down.

Leader of LPR in the EU parliament, Maciej Giertych, said that he “never thought that the exhibit would be censored. I thought parliament was the place where controversial opinions were expressed.”

And, of course, he’s right. Just because someone doesn’t like opinions being expressed, or finds them offensive – like I do - is no reason to ban those opinions.

And that includes the actions of bigots in the local council in Poznan. Just because they find homosexuality offensive is no reason to ban a Gay Pride march.

Both the League of Polish Families and the liberals in Strasburg seem to agree that freedom of speech and expression is only permissible if that speech is not offensive to anybody.

But freedom of speech is not divisible. Both gays and anti-abortion activists have the right to press their case. And if people don’t like that case then they should be free to oppose it. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking is becoming increasingly unfashionable, both on the left and the right of the political spectrum.

If I was the security guard at the EU parliament I would have left the MEPs to it. These days, bigots and 'liberals' deserve each other.

It’s not been a good week for European liberty.


beatroot said...

I see what you mean...

Becca said...

You've seen them, they're those ultrascans of feotuses, they look like photos.

I'm with you on this one. I am (rather predictably I'm afraid) against these gay pride parades being banned and also pro-choice, but I wholeheartedly agree that it is the right of those on both sides to express their views.

If you can't argue your side, how strongly can you hold your position?

Gustav said...

There's a saying in the States, I don't know if you have it here in Europe:

"I disagree with what you say, but I'll fight by your side for your right to say it."

For me it was always associated with American Revolution/First Amendment ideas.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
beatroot said...

I agrre. Great times in America those. But I am suprised there is so much agreement on this. Conservatives have always used the law to smother free speech they didn't like. But in the last couple of decades liberals hav been doing it too. For instance, things like 'hate speech'. When is it OK to curb free speech and expression?

lemuel said...

That sounds like the famous American philosopher Voltaire to me, Gustav.

beatroot said...

Voltaire on the beatroot blog! That's class!

Becca said...

Hate speech:
It's ok to state your point of view unless it puts another person, or group of people in danger.

I'm ignoring your second rule of blogging beatroot ;-) but I can delete this in the morning right?

Becca said...

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."


beatroot said...

I broke the rule myself...see deleted comment.

michael farris said...

Before I defend LPR (a frightening concept since I they're a frightening party) I'd like to know more of the exhibit details. That is, was it in some sort of exhibition space, was permission required/granted etc.

If they played by the rules and were shut down in contradiction to the rules, then I'll support their right to stage the exhibit.

The Poznan case is really different, the mayor said (paraphrasing) that the city is letting violent thugs of the kind that disrupted the parade last year dictate its politics.

beatroot said...

Although I was under the impression that the mayor was one supports the ban. And he is from PO. Just olike in Krakopw, where a similar thing happened, the 'liberal' Platform ain;t so liberal at all.

beatroot said...

I put a link in the text giving more infor about the exhibition

michael farris said...

On the Europarliamant: thanks for the link, if they got permission ahead of time, by all means let LPR make fools of themselves (and increase the international perception of Poles as ignorant anti-semites).

On Poznan: the comment by the mayor (sort of a do-nothing blowhard imho) I saw was something to the effect that the march could lead to violence (displaying either ignorance of who instigated the violence last year or approval of same). Though, actually he's not the most offensive politician in Poznan, by a long shot (the one who was against funding an abused women's shelter because single mothers were "pathological" takes that particular cake).
I didn't realise the mayor was in PO. There was something in the press some time ago that when PO was being formed he was invited to join and he demured (not wanting to tied down to an unknown quantity), later when PO was becoming more influential he wanted to join but by then they weren't so sure he'd be an asset.

beatroot said...

he's PO for sure, and is actually ex-Unio Wolnosci, a party usually once thought to be the most 'westernised' in a liberal sense. PO have been very quiet on the homophobia issue. But it shows that my argument all along that Platform are not a 'liberal' party is correct.