"We shall fight them on the balconies...."

There has been a storm in a teacup over here. What happened is that someone decided to hang a nazi-flag in his balcony in Helsinki. People noticed it, and called the police. The cops came over, inspected the situation and told the people "There's nothing we can do. It's not illegal to display a flag on your balcony". After a while, someone climbed to the balcony, and ripped the flag down, while others applauded him.

Naturally, the opinions on the matter have been divided. Some people think that the person who ripped the flag did a good thing (even though he broke the law, since balconies are considered to be part of your home, so he was guilty of trespassing and maybe theft), and that the society should ban the "ideology", and the display of nazi-symbols should also be banned.

I and several others took the exact opposite viewpoint. If we want a free society with free citizens, it means that we must tolerate ideas, symbols and viewpoints that we might not personally condone. I have no sympathy for nazis, but if we start banning opinions and ideologies, how exactly are we different from the nazis? Nazis punished people who had "wrong" opinions, and now we should do the same, all in the name of "freedom"?

It was surreal to see people who called themselves "opponents of nazism" advocate the use of exact same methods as nazis used to use. They advocated punishing people for their opinions and ideas without batting an eyelid. When I and others told them that they are in fact mimicking what nazis did, the fact totally escaped them.

It's not really a free society, if we are free to agree with one another. The measure of freedom is that we can disagree. that we can have opinions that others might not like. If we want to have freedom of opinion, it means that EVERYONE has that right, including the nazis.

At this point I was told that "of course you are free to have any kind of opinions you like, but you should not be allowed to express them just like that". For a while I had to think that was the person joking or not. But no, apparently he was being serious. Are we a free society if we are not allowed to express our ideas and opinions?

It's strange, really. So we should ban nazism and related symbols, but in the meantime we have two (or more, depending who you ask) communistic parties in Finland. We even have a big statue that glorifies communism in Helsinki that was donated by Moscow. I bet that communism has just as much victims as nazism has, maybe even more. Yet no-one is calling for the banning of that ideology, nor is anyone vandalizing the statue (although there are several people calling for it's removal). The only difference I can think of is that nazis lost the war, while communists won it.

Of course all this does not mean that nazis (for example) should be allowed to attack minorities etc. Ideology and opinion is not a "get out of jail"-card. The point is that opinions can never be considered a crime. Someone might have the opinion that "all red-headed people should be beaten up", and he should not be punished for that opinion. If he actually started beating red-headed people up, THEN he would be due for a punishment.

Yes, it was stupid to hang that flag on the balcony. But people should have the right to be stupid.

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