“We went to WAR to protect Freedom of Speech!”
Gosh, that’s a funny way to say “to protect the territorial integrity of Poland”.
Now, Interwar Poland was not exactly a bastion of freedom of speech. In fact, the Sanation regime appeared to almost make a virtue out of the targeted repression of freedom of speech and of the press for groups – whether opposition, ethnic, or political minority – which it disagreed with.
But what I find interesting about this situation is the particular effect which the above had on the fledgling Polish state’s German minority.
Namely, the ways in which it a) made it more difficult for ordinary Polish-Germans to protest against maltreatment and marginalization in the context of the Polish state; while b), and partially as a result of this, pushing many Germans in Poland to identify more strongly with the politics of a certain party which had just swept to success earlier in the decade in Poland’s westward neighbour, if you get my drift.
That is to say, the situation of repression lead to an array of people not otherwise necessarily favourably disposed toward engagement with ‘extreme’ politics … and in this particular case, literal Naziism … to do so; as this was perceived as one of the only remaining “strong” forces capable of pushing back against said perceived repression. Eventually, this culminated in an array of what you might call ‘anti-state’ activities, of a rather militant nature … followed by the invasion of Poland near the end of the decade, which triggered the British/Commonwealth/French declarations of War against Germany.
Now, I am not seeking to suggest that the above is a template for what may occur here in New Zealand if we see an escalation in the frequency and ‘forcefulness’ with which some elements endeavour to constrain (justifiably or otherwise) ‘freedom of speech’. I hardly need to start listing the significant differences between Poland in the 1930s and New Zealand today which help to support the statement “It Can’t Happen Here” as applied to our context.
Yet it seems a curious thing. Over the last two weeks .. and before that, for much of the last two to three years, we have heard all manner of strident rhetoric about if we *don’t* assent to constraining ‘freedom of speech’ (whether through calls to “punch a Nazi”, with “Nazi”, of course, being sufficiently vaguely defined as to be almost as meaningless a term in ‘real-life’ pugilistic-psephological discourse as it is on the internet), or the more recent endeavours to bar writing critical of the Neoliberal-Neoconservative (geo-)political consensus which pervades the Anglosphere (seriously – I was stunned to hear from an associate visiting the UK that he could not access my work in that country because their government had blocked it), or much of the rest of it …) ..
… then “that’s how you get Nazis” – in the sense that presumably all that’s standing between your average, ordinary voter and full-on Hugo Boss uniforms alongside really bad misunderstandings of Indo-European anthropology … is that they apparently haven’t read a bit of ‘fake news’ on the internet yet.
But as the above-referenced episode from Polish history may show, there is a distinctly non-zero chance that in the manner common to so many prophecies found in the corpus of Greek Myth – that efforts to *prevent* a particular outcome can very well, and *very directly* foster its “(eventual) occurrence.
Or, in other words: what if these “anti-Nazi” measures are, in point of fact, at least occasionally “how you get Nazis”?