Monday, January 24, 2005

Nazis will be Nazis 2

The 12 neo-Nazi NPD members of the Saxon parliament have caused outrage over the past days by, amongst other things, equating Allied bombing of Germany with the Nazi Holocaust, and by demonstratively walking out of the chamber during the remembrance of Nazi victims.

Now there are calls (from across the political spectrum) for the NPD to be disbanded and banned.

Repellent as the NPD outbursts are, banning the party may prove counterproductive. It would give the party extra publicity and allow it to claim that German freedom of speech was coming under threat. It would then simply re-form and return under another name.

In its understandable eagerness to nip potential Nazi movements in the bud, the German political class often overreacts in this way to neo-Nazi threats that are actually minimal. No-one, especially in Germany, wants to be seen to be defending repulsive cretins like the NPD, but the principle of freedom of speech is in danger of being trampled in the stampede to condemn them. A similar mechanism operates with reference to the continued banning of Hitler´s Mein Kampf in Germany. It seems crazy that this book is banned when the upcoming Al-Qaeda book will be freely available.

Then again, it´s easier to demonise a dead threat than to deal with a live one.

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