Sunday, December 11, 2005

Free Speech and Laws vs. Holocaust Denial

In certain circles an impassioned discussion about Free Speech and arresting people for Holocaust denial has been fomented by Irving's arrest. I thought I might make the following points:

Irving offered to settle with me shortly before the trial if I agreed to apologize for calling him a denier and agreed to the pulping of all my books. [and if I made a fairly substantial contribution to a charity of his choice]. Pulping of books does not exactly fit into my definition of free speech.

Two other points:
1. The law under which Irving has been charged is that of minimization of crimes of the Third Reich which was passed in 1947 or 1948. It is not a law vs. Holocaust denial per se.

2. Austria is a democracy. What's stopping the Austrian people from repealing that law if they are against it? If not, isn't there something wrong with people from another country with a markedly different history telling them what they should include in their legal system and what they should not? Is that not a certain form of hubris?

Just some thoughts.

1 comment:

Dave said...

I got a note two years ago from a lunar tune in Virginia, discussing the same Mr. Irving offered to drop the case in return for a 500 quid donation to the charity of his choice (which I believe was limbless servicemen). My interlocutor thought such a gesture was fair and would have ended the dispute. He did not mention that Irving's additional demand was that Deborah pulp the book and apologize for "defaming" Irving. I checked my correspondent's name, and it did indeed appear on Irving's website -- the two of them had chatted about the Iraq war. Sure enough, Irving described how the suit could have been settled for a 500-pound donation to charity. Fortunately, I had not eaten lunch that day, so I was not too sickened by the raw lies and hypocrisy.

This particular story wound up on my web page with all the names (except Irving's) changed, but I was struck by how Irving's deletion from his web page empowered his supporters, and in turn sent them to complain to me about how I publicly stated I would not use his works as a source for my work on World War II.

The interesting thing about these free-speech arguments to me is that they deflect attention from the real issue of truth and lies.

Holocaust deniers are eager to fight for the right to free speech. It seems to me that they're merely using the First Amendment as a crutch to avoid being hammered as liars. In as ense, though, they're admitting that they are liars. If they were telling the truth, they could just say so, present their "evidence," and prove their case.

But they can't, so they don't. Sometimes I think Lincoln was wrong...rogues find protection under the First Amendment, not habeas corpus.