Thursday, February 23, 2006

Double standards ahoy!

As you already know, I believe the Danish cartoons are protected political speech. That said, it is very difficult for a country to proclaim the Danish cartoons protected free speech if they ban other images/thoughts/ideas. In Austria, on February 20, famed Holocaust denier David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison. His crime? Denying the Holocaust. THAT was his crime. It seems to me that when the Muslim groups claim there is a double standard for speech in Europe, they do have a point. Yes, Hitler was from Austria. Yes, there is a very real fear of the Holocaust occurring again if deniers/liars such as Irving get to shout their hatred from the highest rooftop. But by denying his right to speak, it is certainly difficult to then claim it's okay to allow the cartoons. It seems many European countries are saying speech is free for some but not all. The solution should be more speech, not less speech. Exposing the stupidity and lies, in the long run, accomplishes a hell of a lot more than banning and punishing the speaker. Otherwise, what's left? What is hate speech, and what is legitimate political speech? The line is not so clear.

1 comment:

EnterCenter said...

Irving is a buffoon, no question. Emory Professor Deborah Lipstadt wrote a book several years ago accusing him of being a Holocaust denier. In Great Britain, as well as in Austria, denying the Holocaust is a crime. (Punishing someone for believing this will not make him believe that it occurred). Irving thus sued her in an English Court of Chancery. Under English Common law, it is libel per se to accuse one of a crime punishable by law, and under English law, in a libel case, the Defendant must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the accusation is true (that's rich - create a dumb crime and then let the accuser prove she did not commit it). Lipstadt successfully proved she did not libel Irving.

Now, Irving has been jailed for comments he made seventeen years ago in Austria for denying the Holcaust; it is a crime to make such a denial publicly. He has pled guilty to this offense. From my understanding, he did nt deny the Holocaust in toto; he rather said that most Holocaust victims died of disease and that there were no gas chambers.

In the U.S., there is not (nor can there be, nor should there be) any such thing as "libel of the public en masse." As Alan Dershowitz said in Chutzpah, whenever someone denies the Holocaust, the best thing to do is ignore that person. To engage the person in debate, or to pass a law punishing him, on some level, validates the person's belief. Perhaps the latter observation explains why Austria has indeed passed such a law - either that or some sense of fake (notice I did not say "misplaced") sense of guilt.

Irving (who once spoke at a restaurant at Atlanta that I no longer go to) should be released from jail. As despicable as he is, the hypocrisy of the country punishing him, and the threat to freedom that hypocrisy represents, is far worse.

For while today, it may "only" be "Holocaust denial" speech that is banned, the stage has been set for any speech to be banned.

The following does not apply to Irving, but it does apply to what the world is trying to do to speech in general:

"Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care whole heartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas-that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment."
-Oliver Wendell Holmes, Abrams v. United States (1919)