While the recently introduced sex education in Croatian schools (about which I have written before) has attracted loud – intermittently laced with profound despair – controversies in community at large, distress and disappointment in many community and parent groups claiming there had not been adequate public discussion or consultation on the issue, serious rows and rifts between the Church and the State, the swift axing of “Picture of Croatia” TV show and hence punishing its head journalist Karolina Vidovic-Kristo for including extracts from “Kinsey Syndrome” in her coverage of the then proposed sex education program in schools, what has occurred in Croatia during the past week is nothing short of an alarmingly ugly face of a democracy and freedom of access to information.
Certainly, there’s a strong stench of intolerance for and lack of acknowledgment of diversity in opinion and thinking blowing from the current Social Democrats led government in Croatia. One might say quite similar to the climate that pervaded communist Yugoslavia. It is alarming to even contemplate that a governing party representative in a democratic country would go so far as to verbalise publicly that expressions of different thinking should be banned, and suffer no consequences, no reprimand from the government. That’s what has happened in Croatia the last few days and it is truly no wonder that people at large are calling the current government Communists, with connotations that lead one to conclude that democratic civil freedoms in Croatia are suffering significant setbacks.
The metastases of the government’s apparent intolerance of differing opinions surfaced this week like never before; orchestrated and often uncivilised attacks on views and work of Dr. Judith Reisman, an American cultural conservative writer best known for her criticism and condemnation of the work and legacy of Alfred Kinsey who believes sex researcher Alfred Kinsey is responsible for much of the cultural decay and sexual permissiveness that she sees; that affect today’s societies.
On Tuesday 29 January freedom of speech, media freedom got suspended in Croatia and so did the respect of fundamental principles of journalism, writes Marko Juric of Dnevno.hr.
“On that day the leading Croatian media outlet, HTV, reported about Dr. Judith Reisman’s lecture at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb, in a manner that was ‘extremely shameful and completely akin to manners found in the far away times of Fascism or Bolshevism of one-party totalitarian system’. All that the public could hear or see from this HTV coverage was what the staunch and aggressive, at times shockingly rude and utterly uncivilised opponents of Dr. Reisman’s views had to say. The pinnacle of such intolerance was when the Faculty’s Dean, Nenad Zakosec, came out and aggressively, shouted at Reisman before hundreds of students (many of which had shouted insults and barraged bigoted questions/comments): ‘what are you doing here!‘”
It is no wonder that Reisman said later that she had never before in her life been confronted by so many bullies as during this visit to Croatia.
Then, her debate at the Faculty of Philosophy with the head of sexology there, Aleksandar Stulhofer, was cancelled on 30 January due to the big crowd turning up!
Stulhofer was one of the authors of the new sex education program in schools recently introduced in Croatia. One wonders whether the event organisers thought of “real fire” safety measure when they cancelled it, or whether they feared a new “fire against the government sex education program” would erupt. In view of everything that has transpired on sex education in schools in Croatia and the government’s stubbornness to go ahead with its plan regardless of the community disquiet about it, the latter would be a safer bet as to why the event at the Faculty of Philosophy was cancelled.
Then Reisman was supposed to attend the screening of documentary film director Timothy Tate’s film “Kinsey’s Paedophiles, secret history“, but, wouldn’t you know it – the screening fell through – cancelled despite enormous public interest. Technical difficulties were afoot – three times over!
Of course, the coalition government’s members of parliament have come out “screaming blue murder” at the parliamentary opposition’s (Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ) invitation to Reisman to give a lecture in the Croatian Parliament building – for the HDZ Parliamentary Club. Even though HDZ or any other parliamentary party has an absolute right under the Constitution to invite anyone they want to, to talk in their premises, the governing coalition is abhorred at the fact that someone who has a different view to theirs as to sex education and various influences on sexuality of children should be allowed to set foot in the parliament building! To quote governing Social Democrats; Tatjana Simac Bonacic: “… it is inappropriate for that (Reisman’s talk) to occur in Parliament, because the Parliament is a home, a symbol of democracy and as such it is certainly not for people like that (like Reisman)” ! (HRT News, 29 January 2013).
On the other hand, HDZ representatives including its President Tomislav Karamarko and Zeljko Reiner – deputy president HDZ parliamentary group, fan the view that in a democracy all views on the issue have the right of expression and should be heard and that if Reisman was good enough to talk in US Congress, she is good enough to talk in the Croatian Parliament building.
Indeed, it seems that in these crazy times HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union is one of the rare political parties in Croatia who see freedom of expression for what it truly is: freedom to express ones ideas and freedom to offer information on pertinent social, or other issues, leaving it to the individual to accept or reject the ideas, or even remain undecided.
So, is the orchestrated attack and intolerance expressed so widely in Croatia towards Judith Reisman really an objective and justified attack on her belief’s and work as unacceptable to today’s society, or did we just see a perfect example of intolerance and decay of democracy in Croatia fueled by the governing coalition’s attempts to censure and even oppress ideas that normally float freely in the democratically developed world?
In summary and regarding Reisman, the 2004 Bill Condon’s movie, “Kinsey”, may have reawakened America’s interest in the largely forgotten but influential post-War era sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey, but for Judith Reisman, he has been a singular dedication, which some have labelled as obsession, for decades. Reisman has given herself the task to fight against Kinsey, to focus on morality via existential battles with the forces of cultural decay and sexual permissiveness. While her ideas have naturally endeared her to a Who’s Who of conservative political echelons and many survivalists, she has had in 2004 provided expert testimony on Capitol Hill (Washington DC) for Republican Sen. Sam Brownback on the scientific perils of pornography. There, she also lobbied for the reintroduction of a bill that would mandate an investigation into her claim that Kinsey sexually abused children during his research. Through friends in the Justice Department, Reisman has helped push for an increased focus on prosecuting porn. As Reisman gathers influence across the world, her work is bearing an increasingly apparent mark on the Christian right’s political agenda and by extension, on social policy.
Some organisations in Croatia say that Reisman’s visit to Croatia is the result of the campaign of circles around the clergy, who are against the sex education in schools curriculum, to convince people that the scientific foundations of this curriculum are based on the criminal homosexual-pedophile work undertaken by Kinsey. Little doubt, those who say this are close to the government or its thinking; justifying perhaps the government’s unwavering resolve to implement its sex education curriculum “come Hell, or high water” in the constituency.
Having said all this, there were many in Croatia who welcomed Reisman and her talks; listened to her ideas, research, peacefully. That is what freedom of expression of ideas or freedom of information regarding an important issue affecting the society (such as sex education in schools) should be. So, there’s light at the end of the censorship tunnel – the incidents around Reisman may, hopefully, teach one how democracy should and should not work; and the threading of democratic processes may yet come to the seemingly badly needed drawing board. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)