Why the US vote against UN resolution 61/147 that condemned Nazism and SS glorification?

(most European countries abstained)

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mark C. Wallace yesterday
  • This is an annual resolution offered by Russia since 2006. It is widely viewed as a political stunt by the west. Russia is believed to be keeping the Nazi specter alive to threaten and even justify invasion of their neighbors. – JMS 15 hours ago

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
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    @Anixx -- No, it's legal here. – Joe Jun 18 '12 at 18:32
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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 - Nope, that part got stuck down on First Ammendment grounds. Merely belonging to a political party is covered under the "freedom of assembly" part of the First Ammendment. – T.E.D. Jun 19 '12 at 13:39

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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    @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 generally 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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    ...what the limits most definetely cannot involve is the content of the speech in question. The government is not allowed to pick and chose what political views may be expressed. – T.E.D. Jun 18 '12 at 19:34
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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

However, it would also be interesting what the reasoning was behind the european abstaining votes.

Based on memory, where a general discussion about this resolution took place, one reason why European countries abstained would probably be because of clause 8(d) was also a part of the resolution that was voted on:

To declare illegal and prohibit organizations and organized and all other propaganda activities that promote and incite racial discrimination and to recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offence punishable by law;

Since this resolution is calling for States to undertake theses measures. Under States, Governments are understood.

In the past, the government's of the day have proven often enough to not always being impartial, as apposed to courts.

That is why in most Europian countries, only a high Court can forbid a party. In Germany Bundesverfassungsgericht §21(4) Grundgesetz, thus causing constitutional problems.

Since the resolution did not foresee that soly impartial institutions were to be used to inforce it, many abstained.

Also it was considered one sided. The Khmer Rouge, a left wing political organization that caused the death of about 25% of Cambodia's population, would have been worthy of being meantioned (at least in clause 5). But only right wing organizations were listed.

So in the end, the resolution was considered a

  • good idea, but badly implemented

Draft resolution I was adopted by 121 votes to 4, with 60 abstentions
(resolution 61/147). 19th December 2006

Belarus and Russia were the only European countries that voted for the Resolution

  • all of the other European countries abstained

Japan, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), United States of America

Albania, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Cape Verde, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, Vanuatu

  • How do Khmer Rouge come into this? Got a ref for that? Or really some more? // Implicitly, you say here that Europeans decided to equalise between right-wing and left à la totalitarism-theory, insisting on what-aboutism emphasis of left-wing-dangers when the resolution was drafted to address racism and other 'typical' right-wing 'stuff'? That may have been the case, but needs more proof? – LаngLаngС yesterday
  • @LangLangC you mean further quotes on the indoctrination, deportment and mass murder done by the Khmer Rouge? (i. e. clause 8(a, b, c)) All of these are documented in the given link. What I wrote was Based on memory, where a general discussion about this resolution took place, – Mark Johnson yesterday
  • Nooo. KR was AFAIR not modeled after Nazi, SS, racism etc. The resolution wasn't about 'terrible actors'? Unless a debater turned it that way in his argument? The thing is that the actual discussion held might shed some light on stated reasons for actual voting in UN session. Put a more solid foundation under your memory ;) ? (I know squat about that discussion and heven't looked into it so far either…) – LаngLаngС yesterday
  • @LangLangC Doesn't state that they based on the same model. A right wing mass muderer is just as wrong as a left wink mass murder. Clause 8 (b) applies to al of them To undertake to adopt immediate and positive measures designed to eradicate all incitement to, or acts of, such discrimination with due regard to the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rights expressly set forth in article 5 of the Convention; – Mark Johnson yesterday
  • @LangLangC If you can find proof that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights applies only against those that are moduled against the SS, then write your own answer with quotes proving it. – Mark Johnson yesterday

Russia offers that resolution in the UN every year 2006-2017.... In general the US position is Russia uses Nazism, an enemy defeated more than eight decades ago, as a pretext to justify threats and at times attacks on it's neighboring countries. The United States further objects to the text of the resolution which "restricts freedom of speech and association".

Why Canada Voted Against Resolution At UN To Combat 'Glorification Of Nazism'
Russia has claimed for months that neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists are working with Ukrainian nationalists. Last April, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed his troops intervened in Crimea because he could see "neo-Nazis rearing their heads" in the Ukrainian government.

And, earlier this month, Putin told a German television program he was concerned right-wing nationalists in Ukraine could cause the country to "drift toward neo-Nazism."

Beyond that and with an eye towards history, Russia's preoccupation with using Nazism and the blatant appeal to domestic nationalism to justify and gather support for it's military adventures systemically and myopically overlooks that the Soviet Union was a Nazi ally. That the Pact which emboldened Hitler to begin WWII was with Russia which invaded Poland in the agreement with Germany which began WWII (the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact). and that this pact was denied by the Soviet Union up until the year 1989. Russia modern preoccupation with Nazism boogie man falls back and relies on the continued obfuscation of this inconvenient historic fact.

US opposes UN resolution against glorifying Nazism
The United States objected to the resolution, saying it had too narrow a scope and that it was being used as a political weapon by Russia to attack its neighboring countries. The U.S. also objected to the resolution's limits on freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to peaceful assembly.

“We condemn without reservation all forms of religious and ethnic intolerance or hatred at home and around the world,” Deputy U.S. Representative to the Economic and Social Council Stefanie Amadeo said, according to the AP.

“However, due to this resolution’s overly narrow scope and politicized nature, and because it calls for unacceptable limits on the fundamental freedom of expression, the United States cannot support it,” she said.

The United Nations and Antisemitism, 2008-2017 Report Card
Since 2006, the General Assembly has passed an annual Russian-sponsored resolution on “combating the glorifcation of Nazism.”96 Since 2014, this resolution has condemned Holocaust denial. And in 2016, general language was added expressing concern about the “alarming increase in instances of discrimination, intolerance and extremist violence motivated by antisemitism, Islamophobia and Christianophobia.”97 However, earlier versions of the resolution did not mention the Holocaust or antisemitism

While at frst glance the resolution may appear positive, it is understood to be a politicized Russian bid to portray its Baltic neighbors as fascists. The United States has objected that the text restricts freedom of speech and association,98 and has called out Russia’s motives, claiming that it uses Nazism as a pretext to justify attacks on neighboring countries.99 In rejecting the 2017 resolution and proposing amendments, U.S. Ambassador Kelley Currie explained that the resolution is a “cynical exercise, born from a political controversy decades removed from the defeat of the Nazis.” The Russian bid was in fact “an annual power play by one nation over its sovereign neighbors,” which sought “to exert a sphere of infuence over a region” and “to criminalize free speech and expression without any genuine effort to effectively combat actual Nazism, discrimination, or anti-Semitism.”

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