The marketplace for (politically acceptable) ideas

This is either about free speech, free markets or the joy of being one’s own editor. Not sure, exactly. The weird thing is, I have no problem with nanny-state laws like fines for buying your drunk friends more booze (a New South Welsh law).

To the point. From the Guardian:

… in the eyes of Denmark’s ministry of justice, Mikkelson, the 56-year-old grandfather cheerfully grilling half a dozen different kinds of sausages by the roadside earlier this week is at the very least a terrorist sympathiser. And if the Danish justice minister, Lene Espersen, has her way, soon his only contact with the culinary world will be prison rations.

Alongside Schultz and five other Danes, Mikkelson could be in jail by Christmas for his part in one of Europe’s most curious court cases: the so-called T-shirt terror trial. His crime was sticking a poster up in his van for a brand of T-shirts bearing the logos of two groups classed by the EU as terrorist organisations: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc).

All are members of a Danish activist group called Fighters+Lovers and are charged with “sponsoring terrorism”, a crime under post-9/11 Danish anti-terror laws that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Is this story’s setting – Denmark – being the same one as for those cartoons about Muhammed a coincidence? Who knows. Can’t they just spy on their citizens illegally, then send people off illegally to be tortured illegally (or legally, provided one is rendered extraordinarily to the appropriate country)? Honestly. Europeans. Such dramatics.

F + L seem harmless enough:


Fighters+Lovers is the brand that takes music and fashion beyond new horizons. We have a passion for change. In a world obsessed with envy and hate, Fighters+Lovers dares to speak up for brotherhood and the right to fight for what is right.

T-shirts don’t change the world. Neither does music. The world is already spinning and we simply make the tools and street gear for the creative people who make it happen. People with an attitude.

Kind of.

Fighters+Lovers is a private enterprise dedicated to the cause of freedom and hard-rocking street gear. Communication is key to any change. Fighters+Lovers aim to provide support for new equipment for radio stations and graphics workshops run by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). This is our tribute to these freedom fighters.

Graphics workshops? Back at the Guardian.

They believe the EU “terror list” to be undemocratic because it is drawn up behind closed doors according to unknown criteria, and say that both PFLP and Farc are not terrorists but legitimate resistance movements comparable with Denmark’s own Nazi resistance during the second world war. They say that neither group is classed as a terrorist organisation by the UK, which does not defer to the EU on such matters.

What’s more, they say, they weren’t financing any sort of violence, as the £3.50 from each T-shirt sale that would have gone to the two organisations was earmarked for “humanitarian projects” such as equipment for radio stations.

I’m okay with most of that (I’ve posted previously about Palestine). I don’t – honestly – like their shirts that much. I downloaded their music, but I wouldn’t call it “Jungle”. I respect their beliefs and their commitment to them, but they are probably pushing provocative farther than I’d go (and I’m listed on as hating America!).

Ultimately, though, I’m still mostly an economist. By their own admission, their line of clothing appears not to be getting into hands that are likely to be throwing all that many bombs:

… as the person who put together the hundreds of T-shirt orders we received from around the world before we got arrested, I can tell you that the majority of our customers were fat, old men,” she said. She knows the buyers were not hip young things because almost everyone asked for XXL size, and they had “old-fashioned names”.

I believe in the marketplace for ideas. If “the government” believes so strongly that this is somehow wrong, let them try to convince us. They’re welcome to abuse their own position as the government to criticise F + L like the mature adults we expect them to be and, having balanced the information in the marketplace, it will be up to us as consumers to make the judgment. Does such overt criticism spawn provocation and rebelliousness? Yes, of course. They may well make F + L most profitably notorious – that’s the way it goes.

This is the same all over (speaking geographically and with respect to “the issues”). I believe in gay marriage and I believe in the right to choose. These are fundamental to my notions of habeas corpus: I take it a mite further than merely having the right to have one’s body. I reserve the right to have my own mind; I reserve the right to decide for myself that which is good and bad, and I go along with the invention of Government for the specific purpose of doing the things that I and society have agreed Government should do, and for the purpose of keeping me properly informed, so that the decisions that I make are rational ones.

Other people won’t make rational choices, and that’s fine: that’s the way it goes. People will object to people buying these tee-shirts; people will object to people sending money to the Israeli Defence Force. People will object to their taxes being used to pay for the UN; others will object to their taxes being used to provide billions in aid for Israeli materiel. People object to abortion; I object to a a wombless room of men so old and corrupt they should not even be offered another term deciding what women get to do with their bodies. Do women ban men from starting wars?

So it goes. There’s a marketplace for ideas, and it should be allowed to thrive. Can a tee-shirt be doing the damage, instead of the guns, the income inequality, the land-and-water-grabs, the UN, the IMF? Spare me. NBC played the tape of crazy Virigina shooting guy – are they in gaol? F + L are in gaol, but are the companies that manufacture the weapons that do the damage in any danger of the same treatment? Do we impose sanctions on China or Russia when their guns wind up in the hands of the wrong people, while our guns are going into the hands of the right people? We do none of these things. Who are we to judge? Like any intervention by Government, this should be recognised – and evaluted – as such. This one is not warranted; it was not requested; it does not benefit us (or, rather, the Danes).

Does this all mean gets shut down for this tee-shirt?


Does it mean I go to gaol for wearing my copy of it?

And at the end of the day, if one cannot wear their politics on a tee-shirt, what is the point of having politics at all?


2 comments so far

  1. chris on

    so thats where you get your shirts….

  2. zooeygoethe on

    A few of them. Between the internet and living in Big Cities of the World, my supply of tee-shirts has been nearly limitless…

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