Maybe there’s hope for common sense about free speech in Europe after all

Back in October, I wrote about an appalling case in Germany, in which a German anti-Nazi activist named Juergen Kamm was fined €3,600 for selling left-wing garb adorned with modified Swastikas designed to mock neo-Nazis because he ran afoul of a law in Germany that forbids the use of Nazi symbols, regardless of context. It turns out that the appeal recently went to trial, and the ruling demonstrated a degree of common sense that we seldom see coming from the European Union lately, as reported in the Telegraph:

Anti-nazi groups in Germany yesterday won the right to display the swastika after the country’s highest court overturned the conviction of an activist who sold items that mocked the symbol.

Juergen Kamm was fined 3,600 euros by a lower court in Stuttgart in September for “selling unconstitutional symbols” of crossed-out swastikas on T-shirts, lighters and stickers through his mail order company Nix Gut (Nothing Good), in breach of a law prohibiting its use except in specific educational and artistic contexts.

But the federal court of justice in Karlsruhe, western Germany, found that Mr Kamm had committed no crime because the items “clearly and unambiguously” carried an anti-Nazi message and did not “did not go against the spirit of the law”.

Judge Walter Winkler rejected claims that the ruling could be exploited by far-Right groups to wear a form of the symbol.

“The court is convinced of the fact that members of extreme-Right organisations would never make use of items that make a mockery of their ‘holy’ symbols.” The earlier conviction of Mr Kamm, 32, who describes himself as a Left-wing punk, had sparked outrage among politicians.

Indeed. How on earth could anyone make the argument with a straight face that neo-Nazis would use this sort of ruling as a loophole to display their despised iconography and emblems? To do so, they’d have to alter symbols like the Swastika to mock the Nazis, to mock Hitler, to mock everything that they unfortunately for us hold sacred. it was rather silly for prosecutors even to think that. They’re not stupid people; surely they realized this.

Of course, it’s still an affront to free speech that even the hated Nazi symbol of the Swastika is banned. Bans on speech not only do not work, but they tend to fuel the martyr complex of racists, even glamorizing despicable beliefs as “dangerous” and a “forbidden fruit” to those who think of themselves as contrarians or nonconformists, such as Holocaust deniers. As I’ve said before several times, it’s more than 60 years after the fall of the Third Reich. There was a valid reason for these laws in the immediate aftermath of World War II; there were still many Nazis in the German government and still many Nazis among the German populace. Such is no longer the case today.