31 January 2008

Brazil bans Holocaust carnival float

As a result of a lawsuit filed by the Jewish Federation of Rio de Janeiro (Fierj), Brazilian judge Juliana Kalichszteim has banned the Unidos de Viradouro samba school from displaying a carnival float that graphically depicts the Holocaust. The float contains mannequins looking like dead bodies piled up on top of each other.

Unidos de Viradouro were planning to display the float in the upcoming Carnival as part of a series of disturbing floats depicting birth, fear and cold. The overarching theme of the floats is "It gives you goosebumps". According to Paulo Barros, the creative director of the samba school, the offending float was meant to be remind spectators of the Holocaust in a "very respectful" manner. However, Ricardo Brajterman, the lawyer for Fierj,

The monstrosity that is the Holocaust just cannot be combined with the excessively festive nature of the carnival, a festival recognised worldwide for its joy, humour, entertainment and eroticism.

In her decision, Judge Kalichszteim said that
"Carnival should not be used as an instrument of hatred, any kind of racism and clear trivialisation of barbaric and unjustified acts against minorities".

If Unidos de Viradouro decide to proceed with displaying the float, the school could be fined (BBC).

I think this is a wise decision on the part of the Brazilian judge. Expression should be free in democratic societies, but certain limits are appropriate. Freedom of expression should not be used as an excuse for libel or disparagement. And, besides, people should use their common sense. If your neighbour's house burned down one day (God forbid), would it be appropriate to mount an exhibition of pictures depicting burned houses and install it where your neighbour can see it?

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