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Why did some Western countries, including the US, Britain, France, Denmark and Sweden vote against UN resolution 61/147 that condemned Nazism and SS glorification?

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We need to refrain from the ongoing discussions regarding the answers to this question. Please use the chat room for ongoing discussions. This question is only borderline in regards to the SE guidelines because it leaves open the possibility for opinion in giving an answer. If we get another answer that borders on opinion, I will have to lock or possibly even close this question. –  Steven Drennon Jun 19 '12 at 3:51
    
To the best of my knowledge, the USA voted "against", while the others you mention voted "abstention'. Which are two different things. –  Sylvain Peyronnet Aug 16 '12 at 20:07

2 Answers 2

The UN resolution you refer to includes the following clause (8c):

[States are to] declare as an offence punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred.

The US constitution includes this clause (in the 1st amendment):

Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press...

In the United States, the government is expressly forbidden from punishing people for disseminating their ideas, even if those ideas are stupid. Neo-Nazis are fools and brutes, but they're free to share their ideas.


(A personal note: I believe the most honorable way to defeat foolish ideas is by countering them with the truth. Punishing people for what they believe is barbaric, even when their beliefs are wrong.)

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Note that this kind of thing is exactly why a lot of the American Right really really hates the UN. The First Ammendment is practically sacred over here, and look how casually the UN violates it (perhaps without most of the voting members even understanding they are doing it). –  T.E.D. Jun 18 '12 at 18:04
    
Is not the Communist party expressly banned by the law in the US? –  Anixx Jun 18 '12 at 18:27
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@Anixx, the provisions of that act which prohibited speech and association were struck down by the Supreme Court. –  Joe Jun 18 '12 at 18:50
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Yup. The only standing laws against the Communist party in the USA are those prohibiting advocating the Violent Overthorw of the Government. I understand that technically that is part of Communist ideology, but if they can get past that, then being a Communist is no more illegal than being a Republican. –  T.E.D. Jun 18 '12 at 18:55
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@Anixx - the key court case is Brandenburg v. Ohio 1969, which held that for political speech to be illegal it had to be an incitement to imminent lawless action. As for the Internal Security Act of 1950, the portion limiting speech was repealed in 1993, mainly as a formality since the Brandenburg case had made that portion unconstitutional anyway. –  jfrankcarr Jun 19 '12 at 3:10

I have no specific knowledge of the history of that particular resolution. Reading over it, the wording does seem somewhat inconsistent with the rights of US citizens, described in this case by the first amendment to the constitution.

In the USA we have laws against advocating the violent overthrow of the government, and against general incitement to violence. But as long as they stay away from that line, all groups (even those that most of us find morally repugnant like neo-Nazis and the KKK) have a right to exist, proselytize, and peacefully assemble just like anyone else.

We are much more afraid of giving the government the power to decide who can or can't have free speech and assembly rights than we are about a few idiots who like to wear black and goosestep around in their free time.

A lot of the rest of the world is run by governments that do not recognize these rights, deciding who can or can't speak or assemble, judging what may or may not be said, so it may not seem like a big deal to them.

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How ban on general incitement of violence is constitutional then? //BTW, I hardly can imagine government deciding who committed a criminal offense - it is usually done by a court. –  Anixx Jun 18 '12 at 18:34
    
@Anixx - There has to be a limit even to "free speech" somewhere. For instance, I can't get together with 500 of my closest friends and yell "Get him!" when a guy with differing skin pigment walks by. That's inciting a riot. I also can't set up a high-powered amplifier in my yard and regale my neighbors with my views on politics (or the new guitar licks I just picked up) at 3AM. I can't falsely yell "fire!" in a crowded theater. So there are in fact limits to "free speech". However, the limits general revolve around public safety and/or nuisances, and often can't involve prior restraint. –  T.E.D. Jun 18 '12 at 19:33
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@Anixx, in American terminology, the courts are part of the government. –  Joe Jun 18 '12 at 19:35
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Nicely put. we are much more afraid of giving the Government the power to decide who can or can't have Free Speech and Assembly rights than we are about a few idiots who like to wear black and goosestep around in their free time. lol –  American Luke Jun 19 '12 at 0:05
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@Anixx, in your terminology (I'm guessing British?) what do you call the combination of Congress, the courts, the President, and the various departments? In the US we call this the government, but I understand the term has a more restricted meaning elsewhere. –  Joe Jun 19 '12 at 3:20

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