Note: Many sources and links in this article are in German. These are marked with [DE].
Xenophobes march through Vienna
On 17 May 2014, the parafascist “Identitäre” movement staged a demonstration[DE] in Vienna. The group advocates xenophobia, race- and faith-based policy[DE], ethnic cleansing[DE] and a “return to traditional, Christian European values”[DE]. Up to 200 people from Austria with support from France, Germany and Hungary marched through town to wave their flags and disseminate their hate speech. It was the first significant right-wing demonstration in Vienna in years[DE]. Among others, Ludwig Reinthaler attended, a Neo-Nazi from Upper Austria whose political party was barred from participating in elections due to the imminent danger of re-engaging Naziism[DE].
Several organizations more or less from the political left (among them the University of Vienna Student Union) sought to block the Identäre march to demonstrate that they are not tolerated here. That strategy had been successful before in Germany, where even the President of Parliament participated[DE] in a sit-in to block a Nazi demonstration.
Vice News provides a very brief summary in this video:
Police collaborates with Identitäre
The Vienna police made all efforts to enable the Identitäre to carry out their march. Under the guise of enabling the Identitäre’s legal demonstration, the police guided them around the counter-protesters. When the pressure from the counter-protest increased, one police officer told the Identitäre “Friends, it’s getting tight. […] I suggest we go to the subway and end this.” (My translation from the original German quote[DE]; emphasis added.)
At some point, the police seized a banner from the counter-protesters. The Identitäre posed with this banner a few hours later, without any explanation how they got hold of this confiscated banner.
Many leftist individuals and groups like to use the acronym ACAB as a slogan. It stands for “All Cops Are Bastards” and, obviously, expresses disdain for the police. Similarly, purported pacifists and anti-militarists use the slogan “Soldiers Are Murderers” (which appears to be more common in German-speaking countries).
Both slogans are strong, generalized statements. As such, they label an entire group of people and, by their internal logic, do not allow for any exceptions. This is the basic reason why these and similar slogans are not just factually wrong, but actually advance goals counter to those of the people most commonly using the slogans.
When thinking about a recent spat on my Twitter timeline (involving protests against traffic tickets perceived as unfair), a train of thought I have had many times already surfaced again:
Under any law, any given action is either permitted or prohibited. Under a liberal set of laws, anything is permitted unless it is expressly prohibited. Under a prohibitive set of laws, anything is prohibited unless expressly allowed.
In Western Liberal Democracies (a term we use in debating to denote a more or less coherent group of countries where classically liberal and democratic values are largely observed), the general idea has been to maintain liberal societies, where the state may only prohibit some specific actions which society deems harmful or dangerous.
I don’t think we live in such a society any more (if we ever have). More specifically, it does not seem that people think this way. Instead, when I hear people complain about something, they ask “Why is this permitted?”, “Why does the state allow this?” or “I can’t believe this is allowed!” Such statements express a sentiment that everything is prohibited unless allowed (and, even worse: allowed specifically only be the state, an authority we did not create ourselves). Where does this sentiment come from?