Monday, February 20, 2006

Holocaust denial laws

Holocaust denial laws are a bad idea because holocaust denial is a phenomenon that is best dealt with in the open. Making martyrs of idiotic fascists is far less effective than simply pointing out the incontrovertible facts of the Holocaust and then letting holocaust deniers make fools of themselves. Political Muscle notes that in the final balance David Irving conceded defeat in the argument over the holocaust and that this is a far more complete victory for truth than prosecuting a defiant holocaust denier.

The argument on Let's Be Sensible, that this is a case of defending holocaust survivors from libel, is a little specious. Most important cases of free speech involve calling someone a liar or an incompetent. If being wrong in a debate over history or politics is a crime then that debate necessarily becomes stunted and overly cautious.

The accusations from Islamists that that these indicate a double standard, as reported by Chris Cauldwell, are, however, equally suspect. Holocaust denial laws were not put in place thanks to a threat of violence from the Jewish community and have been implemented democratically. As such challenging them is best done through democratic debate within Austria and the other European countries with these laws. By contrast, the denial of free speech created by the violent response to the cartoons of Muhammed, the Satanic Verses, the film work of Theo van Gogh etc. is not democratically accountable and, as such, can only be challenged by editorial bravery. There is no double standard in the liberal case.

1 comment:

Dave Cole said...

My concern is that we have taken a discredited, bankrupt ex-historian and given him a platform and a pedestal as well as making him a martyr for the far-right.

I would add that this is different to the BNP; he was not himself involved in violent activity.