Monday, March 06, 2006

Free Speech--Even for Evil People

Last week an Austrian court sentenced Holocaust denier David Irving to three years in jail for his statements alleging that the Holocaust didn't happen.

Is it wrong--especially as a Jewish person--to go on record defending his right to say so without threat of incarceration?

He's a lunatic. A scary, insane, freakjob of a lunatic. But I don't think I'm alone in being concerned whenever anyone pats AUSTRIA on the back for jailing people for their words. Austria. Birthplace of Adolf Hitler. Formerly vibrant Jewish population until it was obliterated by the thousands of Austrians who collaborated with the Nazis. I understand why they want to now control such dangerous hatemongering, but the result is not more freedom and safety for Jews or anyone else; it's just a new reality wherein the Austrian government can jail you for saying something they deem to be offensive. No thanks.

It's the mother of all slippery slopes, and all it will take is another type of Austrian government to decide that This or That (which we happen to agree with) now needs to be censored via the criminal justice system. The choice is clear: we either have free speech, even for evil, insane and horrible people, or we allow the government of the day to decide what is allowable and what is not, in exchange for our short-term comfort.

I choose a world with David Irving. Because then I can identify, quarantine and discredit him. If he's too afraid of jail to say what he thinks, then how will I ever know that his kind of evil exists? Let him self-identify so we can call him out, not with jail time but with massive public opprobrium.

Free speech--even for evil a**holes. It's the American way, y'all!

1 comment:

Vigilante said...

All good points made above.

I would venture to add that denying The Holocaust is arguably less offensive than denying the junior holocausts which have occurred since and are still going on around us.

I say, 'less offensive' because Irving's book only raises to the level of a bad (very bad) joke, and Irving himself is universally recognized as a poor (very poor) jokester.

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, I have to also acknowledge that the histories of certain nations, such as Germany and Austria in this instance, have nationally determined that there are certain jokes which are too bad for good manners or taste to tolerate.

And, I respect that judgment of their history.