Is Russia Like Nazi Germany? No, Russia Is Like America

Is a 15-year-old figure skater
like a Nazi war criminal? For posing such a question, one Russian
journalist is under heavy fire from both politicians and the media
in his country, who consider such an analogy incredibly offensive.
While it’s a
 in American media to compare contemporary Russia to
Nazi Germany, in this case a more apt comparison would be between
Russia and the U.S., since both use the banner of political
correctness to curtail free speech.

In a meditation on the Sochi Olympics and the political dangers
of nationalistic fervor, Viktor Shenderovich compared
Russia’s revelry in Yulia
, the youngest gold medalist in the history of
Olympic ladies’ singles figure skating, to Nazi Germany’s
celebration of the “young, smiling, handsome” Hans Welke, an
Olympic shot put champion who later became a war criminal. described Shenderovich’s
statement as “unethical.” Parliamentary members from across party
lines have demanded an apology from him and the publisher for the
hurtful article. A high ranking official
Shenderovich stop sullying the nation’s language and
history. At least one member of Putin’s United Russia party member

the the journalist of being a “fascist.” Even the
Moscow Bureau for Human Rights called
Shenderovich’s comparison inaccurate and insulting.

The journalist and the publisher initially refused to
apologize, lest they lend credence to the claims that they are
unethical fascists. But, the pressure was too great and
Shenderovich caved yesterday. He isn’t going to the gulags, but he
is effectively ostracized. 

How different is this from the way the U.S. handles taboo

Take the controversy around Duck Dynasty‘s Phil
Robertson. After saying things that many Americans find offensive
and inaccurate, people called him a bigot and demanded he be
removed from TV. At the time, Reason contributor Cathy
that “while censuring unpopular speech through social
ostracism and economic boycott may not be un-libertarian, it’s
deeply illiberal and contrary to the spirit of tolerance that makes
society flourish.”

Many censorship advocates in America and other western nations
assure they only want to dissuade speech that is offensive,

harmful to children
(doesn’t that
eerily like a Russian cop-out?)
, and

Another Reason contributor, Jonathan Rauch,
previously noted that
when “indirect, bureaucratic prohibitions” on speech are codified,
they are usually “fuzzy” about what counts as a federal crime.

These days, the U.S. isn’t exactly winning gold medals for
upholding First Amendment rights. It just
dropped another 13 places
in the World Press Freedom Index.

Free speech has consequences, usually limited to the speaker.
Bullying and marginalizing people over unpopular-yet-harmless
statements has consequences, too. These consequences are not
limited to the speaker nor are the tactics exclusive to foreign

from Hit & Run

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