Austria To Irving: "Hey Irving! Deny This!"
February 20, 2006 2:49 PM   Subscribe

[Newsfilter] In mid-November last year, David Irving, arguably the world's foremost holocaust-denier (Mel Gibson's dad comes a close second), was arrested in Austria for doing exactly that (previously discussed here). Today he was jailed for it. Should we (read; Austria) be jailing people for their views, however reprehensible or otherwise incorrect they might be? Or is it justifiable in some cases?
posted by Effigy2000 (315 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
People who say ignorant and offensive words shouldn't be locked up or otherwise punished by the state. They should be humiliated and have their ignorance laid bare.
posted by Gator at 2:54 PM on February 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


From the last link:
"To restrict the expression of any opinion, even if it's a stupid opinion or a disgusting opinion, this restriction should not exist."

I agree. Holocaust-deniers should be publically ridiculed, discredited and shunned by the rest of society, but not put in jail for their moronic beliefs.

It's interesting to note how he really isn't standing up the denying the Holocaust now that he's facing time in prison. I somehow doubt he's seen the error of his ways and now truly realises the horrors of the Holocaust, but rather will say anything to avoid jail.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:57 PM on February 20, 2006


Also, top marks for the post title.
posted by slimepuppy at 2:59 PM on February 20, 2006


I'm all for freedom of speech, and don't particularly agree that the austrian law is a good one, but as Freedom of Speach issues go surely some idiot geting himself locked up for hate-speach has got to be pretty damn low on the priorities list. Howabout we give our attention to some of the many thousands of legitimate cases that deserve it first?
posted by Artw at 2:59 PM on February 20, 2006


The man is a cancer. Remove him from the body of society.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:00 PM on February 20, 2006


Meh, too little new development to justify a double post.
posted by mischief at 3:00 PM on February 20, 2006


Irving has played this very well. He's only likely to get 1-2 years in the end and the publicity has been great for him.

Free speeh is free speech, either you support it or you don't. It's funny how some people are so eager to deplore the Nazis but so happy to support Nazi tactics.

The evidence for mass deaths and a program of execution is very strong. Why the need to protect it like this?
posted by sien at 3:06 PM on February 20, 2006


It was interesting to see that Nazi apologist David Irving has finally stated that "I made a mistake when I said there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz," and "The Nazis did murder millions of Jews"

He claims that he changed his views in 1992 after reading papers written by Eichmann.

Funny that. In March 2000, eight years after this revelation, he was saying:

He leads me into his study. There, he sat directly in front of a large colour overhead photograph of Crematorium Two at Auschwitz: 'That's the holy of holies,' says Irving, jabbing one of his pudgy fingers toward the photo. 'No one was gassed there. The stories from survivors where someone says they used to take off the manhole covers and then the gas poured in, it's all false.'...

...Auschwitz's Crematorium Two, the site of half a million deaths, is 'a mere legend'. 'It is the geocentre of the supposed death factory'

'Look,' he continues. 'Zyklon B may have been used against prisoners. I don't know. But I know crematorium 2 was not an enormous gas chamber.'


Still, the prospect of being banged up for a few years at least made him recant in public.

Three years. It's hardly a tough sentence, for libelling 6 million jews and 4 million other victims of the camps and chambers. Guess he won't make that Iran conference after all.

David Irving is not expressing his opinion. He is deliberately spreading falsehoods in the most offensive way he can.

That's not a free speech issue.

I believe in free speech, but I don't believe people have the right to knowingly spread lies about the moral low point of Western civilisation. I also believe those who suffered, and those who survived have rights. The right not to be libelled for a start. The right not to be called a liar when they give testimony to the evils of the camps.

If I have to choose whose rights are pre-eminent between Irving and survivors of the holocaust, I know who I back

In Austria, they have a much closer relationship to what happened during the holocaust than in the UK or US. They also have a 'problem' with a sector of Austrian politics which is of the far right. I was in Austria during the 1986 Austrian Presidential election when Waldheim was outed as a member of the SA. His popularity went up. That tells you something.

They also had a spate of cases in the courts that meant that Jewish people involved in court cases had to prove the holocaust did happen.

It is on that basis that they passed these laws. In addition there are other reasons for protecting the memory of the holocaust. There are fewer and fewer witnesses alive, people who can stand up and say "I was there, I saw it".

Irving and the extreme right do have an agenda here. They know that popular revulsion over the holocaust is the single main reason why they're not going to get anywhere politically, so Irving et al are deliberately aiding todays Nazi's by questioning and playing down the horror of the holocaust, so that the extreme right might make political advances.

Last time I looked, Austria was a democracy, so for me, the inevitable comparisons with fascism and soviet style censorship don't really stand up.

Freedom of speech exists in a context, and within rules. That isn't a green light for censorship, it is a fact of life. You can test this by standing up in the middle of a film at the cinema and reciting Mein Kampf, or the American constitution, or whatever you like. You will be asked to leave. You could also be prosecuted for causing a disturbance if you push it far enough or choose to exercise your right to free speech by, say, shouting out "Bomb!"

You can stand up at a public meeting and descibe black people as nothing more than muggers and racists, and refer to them as "niggers" or "Wogs". You would be prosecuted. Our right to freedom of speech is restricted, by criminal laws, libel laws and social norms.

Whilst laws can be misused or abused by governments, and I believe they are, we have to acknowlege these rules exist.

Irving deliberately broke the law governing Freedom of Speech in Austria, he wanted to test it, and he has. i have no doubt that there are ways of exercising freedom of speech in Austria that we do not enjoy here.

Likewise, if the Rwandans wanted to pass a law aginst denying their holocaust, that might be appropriate to them given the politics of the region, but not for us or the Austrians. If I travelled to the region to deliberately break those laws, it is not unreasonable for them to uphold their laws and prosecute me.
posted by quarsan at 3:06 PM on February 20, 2006


Eh, while I'd be opposed to banning any speech here in the US, I don't have a problem with the Germans doing it. Don't take weed with you when you go to Singapore, don't holocaust deny in Germany (or Austria). Not that hard.
posted by delmoi at 3:07 PM on February 20, 2006


Cue obligatory apologetics about how freedom of certain speech is justifiably "different" in Central Europe due to their "unique history" (ignoring that maybe that cavalierness with liberty is a continuation of Central European history rather than a correction for it).
posted by dgaicun at 3:07 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by five fresh fish The man is a cancer. Remove him from the body of society.

I agree. While we're at it, let's remove Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Laura Schlessinger, and Paul Harvey, because I don't like what they say, either.
posted by fandango_matt at 3:08 PM on February 20, 2006


Ha!
posted by dgaicun at 3:08 PM on February 20, 2006


He is a racist, a bigot, a facsist and a Hitler apologist. He should not be jailed for his views any more than those that carry around Mao's little red book, or spout revisionist nonsense about Lenin and Stalin.

His stupidity notwithstanding, some of his books are fascinating, especially Hitler's War, if you know enough to separate fact from wishful thinking.
posted by loquax at 3:09 PM on February 20, 2006


Going from "Irving faces week in Austria cell" to "sentenced him to three years in prison" seems like quite a big development to me.


And this:

From "He told a libel hearing in London in 2000 that there had been no gas chambers at the Auschwitz camp."

to

"I pleaded guilty on the advice of my lawyer... obviously I've changed," he said. "History is a constantly growing tree and I've learnt a lot since 1989."

In custody since November, Irving says he never dismissed the Holocaust, and it was only ever a small part of his research.

Nothing like a little prison time to make you re-evaluate your theories.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:09 PM on February 20, 2006


OTHER COUNTRIES NOT ACTUALLY PART OF AMERICA SHOCK! NEWS AT 10!
posted by Artw at 3:11 PM on February 20, 2006


Locking him up legitimizes his claims of (vast Jewish) conspiracy in the minds of his followers and like-minded people. Also, putting him in jail doesn't really impede the flow of crap, some other idiot will happily replace him or be his willing surrogate. The only "right" thing to do, is to do whatever causes the least amount of harm and doesn't enflame or perpetuate the believers or the belief.
As to fivefreshfishe's comment, please remember that that's exactly what the Nazis said about the Jews.
posted by doctor_negative at 3:14 PM on February 20, 2006


You can stand up at a public meeting and descibe black people as nothing more than muggers and racists, and refer to them as "niggers" or "Wogs". You would be prosecuted. Our right to freedom of speech is restricted, by criminal laws, libel laws and social norms.

Prosecuted for what?

Anyway, just try telling people you support hamas.
posted by delmoi at 3:14 PM on February 20, 2006


In the US, I wouldn't want to see a law like this...in Austria (and, I believe, Germany), I'm prepared to accept it as a "special case", and I don't see any kind of slippery slope here. Plus, all this twit had to do was *stay out of Austria*, which doesn't take a lot of effort. I mean, look at the list of countries Kissinger manages to avoid.
posted by uosuaq at 3:14 PM on February 20, 2006


Is it too early to say that the Iraq war never happened? The Civil War?

There are people who claim that America never had any slaves...
posted by Balisong at 3:14 PM on February 20, 2006


delmoi: prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred.
posted by quarsan at 3:16 PM on February 20, 2006


I'm surprised nobody has brought up the parallel to the Danish cartoons...
posted by laz-e-boy at 3:16 PM on February 20, 2006


Lies, this is all lies.

David Irving (if that's his real name) has most certainly *not* been sentenced to 2 or 3 years in prison. Those numbers are greatly exaggerated. At most Mr. Irving (if he really exists, which I'm not convinced of) will get a slip on the wrist and two or three weeks in the pen.
posted by sour cream at 3:17 PM on February 20, 2006


I believe in free speech, but I don't believe people have the right to knowingly spread lies about the moral low point of Western civilisation.

You know, with all the commentary over the recent cartoon issue in Denmark, and now statements like this, I am really, really getting depressed with this half assed nonconcern about freedom. You do not believe in free speech, you believe in your free speech.
posted by dgaicun at 3:18 PM on February 20, 2006


Irving should be able to say whatever he likes, anywhere he likes. And I should be free to mock his stupidity. The rights of mankind are universal. Making his stupid revisionism against the law in some places actually lends his arguments an importance they do not deserve. "Oh, he must something that makes people afraid!" This is counter productive.
posted by LarryC at 3:19 PM on February 20, 2006


Facts suggest the Holocaust happened. Those who deny that it happened do so by ignoring evidence.

Of course, facts suggest a lot of things and if we decide that free speech means only saying things that are supported by facts, well, we throw the entire modern policital system into disarray. I mean, can you imagine the prosecutions that would have to occur in, for example, England or the USA over published accounts of contemporary world events if we went after every newspaper reporter that published a story that was not actually based on facts in the last five years?

My point is that Freedom of Speech, as we currently understand it in the USA, includes "Freedom to Lie." While Austria's laws are different, sending Irving to jail for lying sort of gets the folks who are his true believes thinking that the government is just trying to suppress "the truth."

Now, sending him and some of his followers to work for six months at a holocaust museum or similar institution might actually force them to think about a few things.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:21 PM on February 20, 2006


delmoi: prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred.

What country are you talking about?
posted by delmoi at 3:21 PM on February 20, 2006


. You do not believe in free speech, you believe in your free speech.

Wrong. Irving knows what happened, as was shown at his previous trial, he deliberately re-wrote history. He is deliberately lying.

In your world libel, slander and defamation don't exist, but in the real world every nation in the world has laws prohibiting that. The holocaust denial laws are simply an extension of that.
posted by quarsan at 3:23 PM on February 20, 2006


The other thing that should be considered about laws on free speech these days is that the internet makes it very, very much harder.

The far right has the ability now to claim, with some legitimacy, persecution when people are put in jail for their views and to get their views across anyways by having a web site in the US.

Irving has all his books available for free on the net. How is putting him in jail stopping him from expressing these views?
posted by sien at 3:23 PM on February 20, 2006


delmoi: the UK, and you could probably get a prosecution under the Public Order act also.
posted by quarsan at 3:23 PM on February 20, 2006


I agree. While we're at it, let's remove Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Laura Schlessinger, and Paul Harvey, because I don't like what they say, either.

Sending them to Austria would be a helluva good step in the right direction!
posted by five fresh fish at 3:32 PM on February 20, 2006


Or is it justifiable in some cases?

Yes.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:33 PM on February 20, 2006


What almost everybody said: At best this is a way of strengthening his following. Laws restricting hate speech smack a little too much of totalitarianism to me, and betray a very pessimistic view of human nature.

I suspect when ridiculous claims aren't allowed in the public forum, where they may be rightfully smacked down by free individuals, these ideas' beliveability among the uninformed will only increase.

Disclaimer: I'm not an Austrian so I can't say what "we" should do.
posted by Opposite George at 3:36 PM on February 20, 2006


delmoi: prosecuted for incitement to racial hatred.

Incitement requires far more than stating opinions. I have never seen Berlin tell anybody to go and hate Jews or anybody else in his books. It's clear that he himself is no fan, but where is he advocating present-day action or violence?

In your world libel, slander and defamation don't exist, but in the real world every nation in the world has laws prohibiting that. The holocaust denial laws are simply an extension of that.


Who is he libeling, slandering or defaming? Why can these people not bring civil suits against him? Events and history cannot be defamed. Even if they could, these are civil torts, not criminal offenses. Criminal libel no longer effectively exists in the West because of the various constitutions guaranteeing free speech.
posted by loquax at 3:38 PM on February 20, 2006


In your world libel, slander and defamation don't exist

In my world these laws can be problematic, but really you are just ass-holing the relevant distinctions away (hmm . . . maybe you should be jailed). In my world political, historical and scientific "revisionism" (i.e. bullshit) are not grounds for punishment, spurious and trite associations with "yelling fire in a crowded theatre", "libel", and "false advertising" notwithstanding.
posted by dgaicun at 3:41 PM on February 20, 2006


Even Scalia
gets his revision on
posted by hortense at 3:42 PM on February 20, 2006


That's not a free speech issue.

You are so very, very wrong.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:44 PM on February 20, 2006


This most certainly is a free speech issue. Much of the official holocaust story needs to be revised, as is our understanding of a shitload of historical events. To make such a thing illegal is preposterous and frankly I can't understand how anyone could assent, even silently, to such a thing. The thuggish cencorship of holocaust revisionism (not synonymous with denial, btw) is fucking obscene.
posted by undule at 3:49 PM on February 20, 2006


I believe in free speech, but...

... but not really.
posted by SPrintF at 3:50 PM on February 20, 2006


quarsan: I believe in free speech, but I don't believe people have the right to knowingly spread lies about the moral low point of Western civilisation.

That view is not something that can EVER be compatible with free speech. The problem lies in this; how can anyone know if someone is spreading lies or not? They have to know the truth. And who is the arbiter of truth? The government? Today you're spreading lies if you deny the holocaust; tomorrow you're spreading lies when you criticize the administration.

I'm not terribly comfortable with libel and slander, but at least in those cases, a person has to be the target, harm has to be proven, and the person is hopefully around so you can determine truth or falsehood of any claims. So it's a little bit better case.

I can understand the purpose of these laws, because after WWII there were no doubt lots of nazis left over who wanted to bring it back. But they do prevent free speech in the countries in which they exist.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:52 PM on February 20, 2006


sour cream - bravo sir bravo! :)
posted by nola at 3:58 PM on February 20, 2006


I share the concerns of others regarding the protection at all costs of the right of free speech. That said, reading this thread, I can't help but think about the Swift Boaters. Personally, I think they are all bald-faced liars. Did they have the RIGHT to tell those lies? Sure. And look what happened - alot of people listened to those lies, and that, in conjunction with a lot of other factors, contributed to the re-election of our 43rd president. I consider that to be a tragedy, but nowhere near as tragic as the Holocaust - so if we have to live with its effects, I'll bear it. But I have to admit that I am comforted knowing that there is an institutionalized protection from the effects of telling similar lies about the Holocaust where it originated.

And that's making a lot of assumptions about the effectiveness of these laws, I know. But it's how I feel.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 3:59 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by quarsan I believe in free speech, but I don't understand it or really believe in it.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:05 PM on February 20, 2006


Should we (read; Austria) be jailing people for their views, however reprehensible or otherwise incorrect they might be? Or is it justifiable in some cases?

posted by solid-one-love Yes.


Ah, the familiar face of fascism.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:09 PM on February 20, 2006


Free speeh is free speech, either you support it or you don't. It's funny how some people are so eager to deplore the Nazis but so happy to support Nazi tactics.

Respectfully, I'll have to disagree with this statement. Hate-Crime laws, (or whatever each jurisdiction calls them,) are reasonable limits on freedom of speech. There is a simple reason for this:

Words have power. They have the power to hurt, cause harm and unrest just as much as actions do. I am not allowed to take a swinging-roundhouse punch at people on the street. This is a reasonable limit on my otherwise broad freedom of action. Here in Canada, a place with hate-crime laws, I am not allowed to make racist statements or deny the holocaust for exactly the same reason: it hurts people, deeply. Simply because you, your and buddies and friends aren't really offended by this man's vile words does not mean that other people aren't, too. His words cause real pain - sometimes emotionally, and sometimes physically by indirectly promoting violence. In either case, I see hate laws as reasonable limits on free speech to avoid this pain.

Making his stupid revisionism against the law in some places actually lends his arguments an importance they do not deserve. "Oh, he must something that makes people afraid!" This is counter productive.

It's not illegal because people are afraid of what he says, it's illegal because people are hurt by what he says. It's illegal for the same reason I can't punch my neighbour in the nose.

I am sorry to repeat myself, but I'm amazed by the number of people who misunderstand the point of hate-crime laws and reasonable limits on free speech. By all means, keep testing those limits! That's what a supreme court is for. But, if your words hurt people, then expect to be punished.

I agree. While we're at it, let's remove Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Laura Schlessinger, and Paul Harvey, because I don't like what they say, either.

On an interesting side note, there are some things that Coulter (at least) has said that might fall into the grey area of hate-crime. This is not because we don't like her, but because her words can hurt. It's a question of injury, not offense. This could just as easily go for the now infamous Mohammed cartoons: whether they were designed to offend or not, they do more than that: they injure and hurt devout muslims.

posted by generichuman at 4:11 PM on February 20, 2006


Wrong. Irving knows what happened, as was shown at his previous trial, he deliberately re-wrote history. He is deliberately lying.

In your world libel, slander and defamation don't exist, but in the real world every nation in the world has laws prohibiting that. The holocaust denial laws are simply an extension of that.


You're just an idiot, aren't you? Even if you aren't, I can say that - because of free speech. Nobody is going to arrest me for calling you an idiot, or even for denying that you exist. Being an idiot is not illegal, so you're safe from being arrested.
posted by odinsdream at 4:14 PM on February 20, 2006


But, if your words hurt people, then expect to be punished.

Avoidance of pain is not a sensible reason to have laws, my friend.
posted by odinsdream at 4:15 PM on February 20, 2006


The problem with the line of thinking that this is OK is that it is only as good as the people who are being protected. I believe the holocaust is such an emotional issue which is why some (many?) will say it's OK to protect that... but what about all the other issues in the world that are equally bad but don't have laws protecting them?

It would be impossible because there's no way to manage, track, and create so many laws and in the end you destroy free speech.

While I do understand that Austria/Germany have a special situation that is specific to their countries, I don't see how the law is effective. It seems that Irving is now a genuine martyr for the extreme-right.
posted by chaz at 4:20 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by generichuman if your words hurt people, then expect to be punished.

Uh, hello? Free speech doesn't protect speech you like; free speech protects speech you hate.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:21 PM on February 20, 2006


Ah, the familiar face of fascism.

Then you have 33 million fascists living to your north, because we have laws against such statements as Irving has made, and the vast majority of us agree with those laws.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:21 PM on February 20, 2006


btw it's not nice to call people an idiot or an asshole when they're disagreeing calmly and reasonably with you. But your right to do so is defended.
posted by chaz at 4:21 PM on February 20, 2006


generichuman: It's not illegal because people are afraid of what he says, it's illegal because people are hurt by what he says. It's illegal for the same reason I can't punch my neighbour in the nose.

I shouldn't be able to say things that hurt others? What if they are true? And if the truth or falsehood is differentiated under the law, who decides what is true? What if it's impossible to tell, like in the case of historical events (which can never be proven beyond any doubt) or in the case of something completely unprovable like religion?

Your weak-minded view on free speech has given me a headache. Expect the cops in about half an hour.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:21 PM on February 20, 2006


generichuman writes "They have the power to hurt, cause harm and unrest just as much as actions do. "

No they don't. That statement is absurd on its face.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:22 PM on February 20, 2006


Avoidance of pain is not a sensible reason to have laws, my friend.

It isn't? Why on earth not? That seems to be the whole point of laws. Hell, that's how laws come to be in the first place if your social contract theorist. (And most of Western Politics almost certainly is.)

I'll emphasize the word REASONABLE again. Test the limits. Take it to court. If we can't decide as a society what constitutes unreasonable pain, then baby we're in trouble. If you can justify to yourself the terrible hurt and anguish that hearing somebody publicly deny the holocaust causes some people in the name of free speech, then I pity you. Why not justify taking a swing at people on the bus in the name of freedom of action?
posted by generichuman at 4:22 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by solid-one-love Then you have 33 million fascists living to your north, because we have laws against such statements as Irving has made, and the vast majority of us agree with those laws.

That's not something of which you ought to be proud.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:24 PM on February 20, 2006


This will not harm the cause of the right-wing, and it may aid it. However, the main objection is that it is simply not justice to jail someone for voicing an opinion that doesn't incite people to murder.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 4:26 PM on February 20, 2006


Mel Gibson's dad is "a close second" for the position of the world's foremost Holocaust denier? How so? Aside from having a famous son, Hutton Gibson is pretty much a non-entity.

Don't get me wrong - I think Holocaust deniers are repulsive idiots, so I am certainly not defending this tool. I do think describing him as the second most prominent Holocaust denier in the world is a bit hyperbolic.

As for Irving, I - speaking as a jew - say that free speech is free speech, no matter how loathsome the speaker, and he should not be imprisoned. (I wouldn't mind putting a big bag of flaming dog poo on his porch, though!) For the right of free speech to really be substantive, it must be very nearly absolute. If we allow it to be truncated for anything short of extreme situations - yelling "fire" in a crowded theatre, revealing secrets in wartime, etc. - then the slope towards it being eroded away entirely will truly be very slippery.
posted by John Smallberries at 4:26 PM on February 20, 2006


btw it's not nice to call people an idiot or an asshole when they're disagreeing calmly and reasonably with you.

And it's par for the course here.

No they don't. That statement is absurd on its face.

Yes, they do. Probative harm was the most salient point for the passage of anti-hate laws in Canada. Were it 'absurd on its face', it wouldn't have been passed.

Anyhow.

The idea that the US is some bastion of free speech is absurd on its face. The US has all sorts of laws against various kinds of speech. I'd put money on Canada and Austria having freer speech than the US.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:27 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by generichuman If you can justify to yourself the terrible hurt and anguish that hearing somebody publicly deny the holocaust causes some people in the name of free speech, then I pity you.

Middle school recess must've been hell for you.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:27 PM on February 20, 2006


Everyone knows King Richard III was illegitimate, a murderer, a rapist and guilty of regicide. Those revisionist bastard Ricardians that hope to rehabilitate his name should be thrown into the nearest English jail.

If you can justify to yourself the terrible hurt and anguish that hearing somebody publicly deny the holocaust causes some people in the name of free speech, then I pity you.

As a relative of survivors of the horrors of the Soviet gulags, Ceausescu's Romania, the Warsaw Ghetto and Hitler's concentration camps, I have no more problem with Berlin spouting inanities than I do with Marxist professors glossing over the crimes of communism. See, the beauty of free speech means that every other World War II historian is perfectly free to mock, disparage and disprove every one of Berlin's ludicrous claims. As long as that is the case, the rantings of a bigot will never cause the kind of harm that they have in the past.
posted by loquax at 4:32 PM on February 20, 2006


I believe in free speech, but...

There's no "but." Either you believe people should have the right to express their beliefs and opinions, as objectionable as they may be, or they don't.

You believe in limited free speech, which isn't free speech at all. Cowboy up and admit it.
posted by S.C. at 4:33 PM on February 20, 2006


Can't really Godwinize here, but this should do...
"There ought to be limits to freedom." - GWB
posted by nightchrome at 4:34 PM on February 20, 2006


That's not something of which you ought to be proud.

On the otherhand, I think it's morally abhorrent that the US does not imprison Holocaust-deniers.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:34 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by solid-one-love Probative harm was the most salient point for the passage of anti-hate laws in Canada. Were it 'absurd on its face', it wouldn't have been passed.

Oh, horse shit. Absurd laws are passed all the time, both in Canada and the United States.

The idea that the US is some bastion of free speech is absurd on its face. The US has all sorts of laws against various kinds of speech. I'd put money on Canada and Austria having freer speech than the US.

How much money are you willing to put up?
posted by fandango_matt at 4:35 PM on February 20, 2006


My precious feelings are hurt by the very fact that the OP brought attention to this man. Since words have power and Effigy2000 has drawn attention to those words that hurt, he should be put in jail.
posted by Falconetti at 4:36 PM on February 20, 2006


every one of Berlin's ludicrous claim

David Irving != Irving Berlin! Is that a malapropism? What's that called?
posted by dgaicun at 4:36 PM on February 20, 2006


Middle school recess must've been hell for you.

Look, this is exactly the attitude that gets in the way of understanding the idea of probative harm and speech. We're all taught by our moms that "sticks and stones...blah blah." They're right, for the most part. Nobody here is going to throw me in jail for calling them stupid.

But saying "all black people should be expelled from Canada since they all carry guns," will get you in trouble. and it damn well should, because you'd be stirring up several centuries worth of cultural prejudice and hurt. Hate laws don't stop name-calling, they stop pain and nip group prejudice in the bud before it can fester.

Just because you aren't hurt by words, and neither are your minority friends, doesn't mean that there aren't people who are. Do you want to be the one to tell them "suck it up?" Would you go to a holocaust survivor, deny the holocaust, then tell them to "suck it up, it's free speech" when tears well in their eyes?
posted by generichuman at 4:37 PM on February 20, 2006


That last bit was harsh. I meant to press "preview" rather than "post." But the point, I think, is valid.
posted by generichuman at 4:37 PM on February 20, 2006


"Mel Gibson's dad is "a close second" for the position of the world's foremost Holocaust denier? How so? Aside from having a famous son, Hutton Gibson is pretty much a non-entity.

Don't get me wrong - I think Holocaust deniers are repulsive idiots, so I am certainly not defending this tool. I do think describing him as the second most prominent Holocaust denier in the world is a bit hyperbolic."


Actually, I agree. I should state for the record that when I wrote that I said it with my tounge planted somewhat in my cheek, but I didn't think a ;) was appropriate for a FPP.

I think we can both agree, however, that Hutton Gibson is a tool. :)
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:38 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by solid-one-love I think it's morally abhorrent that the US does not imprison Holocaust-deniers.

So you're comfortable with imprisoning people whose opinions differ from yours. Wow.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:38 PM on February 20, 2006


David Irving != Irving Berlin! Is that a malapropism? What's that called?

Please tell me, I'll use it in my defense. I've been slandering poor Irving Berlin all day talking about this.
posted by loquax at 4:39 PM on February 20, 2006


If you can justify to yourself the terrible hurt and anguish that hearing somebody publicly deny the holocaust causes some people in the name of free speech, then I pity you.

Being offended by someone's words is a choice. It is no different than the retards who work themselves into a frenzy when someone burns the flag.

Nobody's rights are violated when an idiot speaks their mind.
posted by jsonic at 4:40 PM on February 20, 2006


Rights aren't rights if they only apply in easy cases, if they only apply where the general population agree. David Irving is an idiot and a perverter of history - but that in and of itself isn't and should not be a crime.

There is a substantial difference between laws which criminalise an act - such as inciteing hatred - and those which criminalise the expression of an idea. I would have no problems with Irving being imprisoned, should the evidence exist, for a UK-style offence of inciting racial hatred, but the idea that, absent any intent to incite, an idea in and of itself should be criminalised, is wrong.

Austria is, like all EU nations, is bound by the Convention on Human Rights. Art 10 states everyone has the right to freedom of expression, subject to the the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals.... It is difficult to see how this right is any protection for Europeans if this case is sufficient to be judged a case of national security or public safety, without evidence of intended provocation. I suspect ultimately this case will appear before the European Court of Human Rights - it will be intersting to see whether they uphold rights in hard cases.

Ultimately, however, it is foolishness to treat holocaust deniers as criminals. It feeds their fantasies and creates their martyrs. We need to create a society where we both challenge such patently false nonsense and give our young people the reasoning skills to spot the rubbish it is.
posted by prentiz at 4:41 PM on February 20, 2006


Oh, horse shit. Absurd laws are passed all the time, both in Canada and the United States.

And this wasn't one of them.

How much money are you willing to put up?

More than you have. I've never seen a Canadian investigated by CSIS for having an anti-Harper poster in her dorm, for example.

So you're comfortable with imprisoning people whose opinions differ from yours.

I'm comfortable with imprisoning people who cause harm. Holding an opinion doesn't do that. Expressing one can. Most civilized Western nations agree with this. You don't. Whatever. Don't take it personally or make it personal, please.
posted by solid-one-love at 4:41 PM on February 20, 2006


what jsonic said above.
posted by nola at 4:42 PM on February 20, 2006


i want solid-one-love imprisoned for expressing a harmful opinion.
posted by nola at 4:43 PM on February 20, 2006


“Free speech doesn't protect speech you like; free speech protects speech you hate.” -posted by fandango_matt
Thanks fandango_ matt.

I’m all for free speech.

....what?

There’s no “but” there.

I know there usually is one. Not here.

We let idots spout off about intelligent design and damnfool notions that the Earth is flat or whatever the powerwords du jour are. As long as we don’t teach it in schools, or it’s not mandated to listen to in any other way, they can say whatever they like. The truth is there and their lies are transparent.

If someone’s feelings are hurt, that’s too bad.
Of course, if a holocaust deniers body gets hurt, that’s too bad too.
In Illinois we have this law called ‘fighting words.’
So let’s say I call your mother a whore and you hit me. The “he hit me first” B.S. doesn’t hold up for battery charges, etc. In fact if it’s blatent enough you can be charged with battery while the other guy walks.
I suspect the same thing would apply to this kind of crap.

"I'd put money on Canada and Austria having freer speech than the US."

What kind of money?
posted by Smedleyman at 4:43 PM on February 20, 2006


As an interesting side note, it's largely Canadian conservatives, usually the really right-wing ones, who oppose hate crime laws.

h, horse shit. Absurd laws are passed all the time, both in Canada and the United States.

It's also interesting to note that Canada's hate laws weren't some willy-nilly law that passed on a whim. It was the result of a lot of public debate, and it's been tested at several levels of court.

We decided, through the best democratic mechanisms we have, what constitutes reasonable and unreasonable pain - legislation was written and tested accordingly.

It's also an ongoing process of debate. And that's a good thing.
posted by generichuman at 4:44 PM on February 20, 2006


There are many controversial topics that could easily fall into the "hate speech" category. Affirmative action, drawing cartoons of the Prophet, Jews that collaborated during the Holocaust, denouncing of religion/atheism (this would eliminate the existence of this site), race and genetics, etc. To arrive at truths about such issues, they need to be discussed and all points of view need to be allowed in the marketplace of ideas for that discussion to thrive. This allows people to validly look at the evidence and make their own decisions.
posted by Falconetti at 4:45 PM on February 20, 2006



posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 4:46 PM on February 20, 2006


In Illinois we have this law called ‘fighting words.’

wow, Illinois is much cooler than i knew.
posted by nola at 4:48 PM on February 20, 2006


Deborah Lipstadt, who spent five years of her life battling a libel action started by Irving against her, says "I am not happy when censorship wins, and I don't believe in winning battles via censorship... The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and with truth". On her blog, she eloquently covers the ground we just have on MeFi. I don't think I could be so graceful in victory.
posted by iffley at 4:49 PM on February 20, 2006


In Illinois we have this law called ‘fighting words.’

This is constitutional doctrine and applies everywhere in the US (although Illinois may very well have a more or less stringent version of it).
posted by Falconetti at 4:51 PM on February 20, 2006


Good God. Expressing an opinion can cause harm - ergo it’s ok to imprison that person?

Yep....that completely validates the amount of money I spend on ammunition.

Nothing personal. I just want to be ready when the civilized western police politely kick in my door when I disagree with whatever it’s currently fashionable to duckspeak.

Consider by those terms I stand with the holocaust deniers. I will now say officially: I do not believe the holocaust ever happened. I believe it was a Jewish conspiracy and...stuff. Whatever. Hitler was keen, and such.
Must I more earnestly and vehemently spout such nonsense? Or do we start defining what I’m allowed to say more broadly?
posted by Smedleyman at 4:51 PM on February 20, 2006


As an interesting side note, it's largely Canadian conservatives, usually the really right-wing ones, who oppose hate crime laws.

I hate hate crime laws. Is that a hate crime?
posted by loquax at 4:52 PM on February 20, 2006


Words have power. They have the power to hurt, cause harm and unrest just as much as actions do.

That's patently false, even if the Canadian Parliament has insisted otherwise.

Actions can take you and put you in the gas chamber, and kill you dead, and pry the fillings out of your cooling, dead body, and burn your corpse.

But no matter what I say to you, you're not going to drop dead because of it, or spontaneously combust out of outrage, or have bullet holes appear in you out of nowhere.

Here in Canada, a place with hate-crime laws, I am not allowed to make racist statements or deny the holocaust for exactly the same reason: it hurts people, deeply.

But that's only as reasonable as the people whose feelings you're hurting.

I'm sure that it hurts people deeply to hear words like "God damn" or "Jesus H. Christ" or other blasphemy-to-Christians. Should we ban that too? Presumably not, and presumably the difference is that for some reason racial offense is more noteworthy or acceptable then religiously-motivated offense. That it is reasonable for black people not to want to hear "nigger," but unreasonable for Christians to not want to hear "God damn."

It's just that difference that I object to -- the state shouldn't be deciding whose offense is reasonable and whose is unreasonable. In the here and now, hate speech laws have been applied reasonably, but there is no guarantee at all that they will continue to be applied reasonably, and the mere fact that the state gets to play favorites with it is troublesome.

Now, when speech has actually, for real and no kidding, incited violence, then the law should punish the person whose speech caused actual harm to actual, specific people. Likewise, when speech is a threat of violence, the law should punish the person threatening violence. But speech that merely hurts feelings? No way.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:54 PM on February 20, 2006


solid-one-love writes "Yes, they do. Probative harm was the most salient point for the passage of anti-hate laws in Canada. Were it 'absurd on its face', it wouldn't have been passed."

What is "absurd on its face" is the statement that "Words...have the power to hurt, cause harm and unrest just as much as actions do." This is just wrong: the set of all actions clearly includes things that are more harmful (and more prone to inciting responsive violence) than anything in the set of all words.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:58 PM on February 20, 2006


What ROU_Xenophobe said.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:59 PM on February 20, 2006


One last response, then I'll give up on trying to show the dissection between offense and pain. If you don't understand that, then you'll never get the point of hate-crime laws. Society won't crumble, so don't worry about it - it's just a different location of the limit.

There’s no “but” there. I know there usually is one. Not here.

I remember teaching Hobbes and social contract theory to "intro to ethics" students. They had a hard time grasping this one. With rights, there is always a "but."

It's that "but" that stops us from hitting each other in the head with spears and stealing each other's food. Society is tension: it's tension between the needs and rights of the individual and their relation to greater society with its own needs. You want to interact with other people? Then there's always a certain amount of compromise regarding your rights. There's a "but."

A lot of people don't grasp the subtlety of this, or (Hobbes, or social contract theory.) To say that the needs of the individual should always trump society's needs is absurd. (The reverse is also absurd.) Of course there should be controls - that's how we live in peace.

It's the great power of democracy to harness that tension. That's its whole reason d'etre! It makes citizens party to the debate, able to pull for their side in the tug-of-war between the individual and society. Hate-crime laws just stop the individual from tugging too hard. It stops majorities from trouncing on minorities that they just don't understand.
posted by generichuman at 5:00 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by solid-one-love I'm comfortable with imprisoning people who cause harm. Holding an opinion doesn't do that. Expressing one can.

Wrong. Being hurt or offended by words is a choice. As I've said, free speech doesn't protect speech you like, it protects speech you hate.

Most civilized Western nations agree with this. You don't. Whatever. Don't take it personally or make it personal, please.

Oh fuck you, you fat, feculent, fascist fuckwit. You don't understand the concept of free speech, you advocate imprisoning people who express views you consider "hurtful", and then you've got the audacity to call me uncivilized and then tell me not to make it personal.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:03 PM on February 20, 2006


Hate-crime laws just stop the individual from tugging too hard. It stops majorities from trouncing on minorities that they just don't understand.

Nobody's rights are "trounced" upon by someone else's words.
posted by jsonic at 5:06 PM on February 20, 2006


i'm about sick of hearing the lefts answer to neo con fascism, aka s.o.l.

your argument begins quickly to consume it self.
when you say people should be allowed "freedom of speech" unless someone finds it hurtful.
posted by nola at 5:11 PM on February 20, 2006


I honestly wonder if this all comes down to the question of how much you trust democracy and your own power?

If you don't trust democracy and your power to meaningfully participate in government and legislation, then hate-crime laws are probably a bad idea for you: you worry about the "government," as a conceptually distinct entity from you, deciding that your ideas are hurtful and throwing you in jail.

If you do trust the democratic process then hate-crime laws can work for you, because you know that as a reasonable participant in the process (and you are reasonable, aren't you?) you will always have a measure of say in deciding what constitutes a hate crime.

This is a really interesting thread to me. I actually didn't really realize how intensely angry people would feel about hate-crime laws. Rights language is really ingrained in some people as something static and fixed, not a constant negotiation. I find that interesting.

(Note: I said interesting, not stupid or fucking dumb. Please don't turn an interesting political thread into rubbish by using personal invective.)
posted by generichuman at 5:11 PM on February 20, 2006


generichuman writes "It stops majorities from trouncing on minorities that they just don't understand."

I'm not getting your use of the word "trouncing" here. It can mean a few things: to beat or whip (this is certainly covered by laws against assault and battery, and has nothing to do with speech); to defeat utterly (I'm not sure how this plays out in the context of a democratic society: an electoral defeat is within the bounds of democracy, a military defeat implies civil war and has little to do with hate speech laws); or to censure harshly. This last meaning is the only common one that has anything to do with speech, but I'm having difficulty seeing why it should be outlawed. I think I should be allowed to censure whomever I like, so long as I'm not behaving fraudulently.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:11 PM on February 20, 2006


generichuman , i like your arguments and agree with some of your broad statements on the push pull between the individual and the group (state) . but to answer your question , i don't trust the group (state, democracy, what ever) to permit my voice.
posted by nola at 5:14 PM on February 20, 2006


generichuman, I get the point: the point is that by banning the expression of some ideas, we will get people to get along better because they can't call each other hurtful things. I understand why these laws are passed. I just think they're deeply foolish, that they're rooted in magical thinking, and that their presence is mildly dangerous to more important free expression.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:14 PM on February 20, 2006


This:

posted by prentiz it is foolishness to treat holocaust deniers as criminals. It feeds their fantasies and creates their martyrs. We need to create a society where we both challenge such patently false nonsense and give our young people the reasoning skills to spot the rubbish it is.

And this:

posted by ROU_Xenophobe [these laws are] deeply foolish, that they're rooted in magical thinking, and that their presence is mildly dangerous to more important free expression.

...nicely illustrate what has always been--and always will be--the best and only solution to the "problem" of "harmful free speech": more free speech.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:22 PM on February 20, 2006


Are Irving's words rightly called an "opinion" when they are demonstrably wrong? I think that's a point that's been left out of this discussion of whether X or Y opinion should be protected--opinions, yes. Demonstrable and malicious falsehoods? That's far shakier ground. The idea that all opinions MUST receive a fair airing and consideration, however obviously wrong, is something that the peddlers of odious lies just love.

That said, I'm not in favor of imprisoning people. Civil sanctions should be adequate for such things without resorting to criminal proceedings.
posted by trigonometry at 5:27 PM on February 20, 2006


Rights language is really ingrained in some people as something static and fixed, not a constant negotiation

There's the rub: Freedom of speech is defined as a constitutional right for the sole purpose of making sure it is not susceptable to the will of the majority.

By allowing what is, and is not, lawful speech to be defined by the legislature, you are inherently allowing the majority's view of what is allowable speech to rule.

It is ironic that 'hate-crime' limits on free-speech are viewed as protecting minorities by those who support them. When, in reality, it is the power of minority groups that is diminished by allowing the majority to decide what speech is allowed.
posted by jsonic at 5:27 PM on February 20, 2006


I'm comfortable with imprisoning people who cause harm. Holding an opinion doesn't do that. Expressing one can.

Wow, that's one of the stupidest things I've ever read.

Really.
posted by odinsdream at 5:30 PM on February 20, 2006


You do not believe in free speech, you believe in your free speech.
posted by dgaicun at 3:18 PM PST on February 20 [!]


It's not a free speech issue, it's a freedom not to have to listen to bullshit.
posted by semmi at 5:32 PM on February 20, 2006


Now, when speech has actually, for real and no kidding, incited violence, then the law should punish the person whose speech caused actual harm to actual, specific people.

What about Keegstra, who was teaching his high school class that the holocaust is a myth and Jews were to be hated?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:33 PM on February 20, 2006


There are ethics to using mass media for brainwashing, especially disguised as free speech. Free speech isn't necessarily a freedom if it defines itself as a right to purchase instead of a right to accuracy or fair access. In America, modern elections are decided by advertisements, disguised as free speech, which is little more than the art of sloganeering. Under such a system, big spenders don't need to repress speech because they can afford to buy more air time to ridicule and overwhelm dissent.
posted by Brian B. at 5:33 PM on February 20, 2006


It's not a free speech issue, it's a freedom not to have to listen to bullshit.
You don't have a right to not be offended/upset/annoyed.
posted by nightchrome at 5:34 PM on February 20, 2006


What about Keegstra, who was teaching his high school class that the holocaust is a myth and Jews were to be hated?

we are not talking about what someone is paid to teach or not teach.

we are talking about your right to speak. it really is that simple.
posted by nola at 5:37 PM on February 20, 2006



Wow, that's one of the stupidest things I've ever read.


You're gonna want to keep single citizenship in the US, then.
posted by solid-one-love at 5:39 PM on February 20, 2006


It is ironic that 'hate-crime' limits on free-speech are viewed as protecting minorities by those who support them. When, in reality, it is the power of minority groups that is diminished by allowing the majority to decide what speech is allowed.

Again, this is a problem only when you don't have constitutional protection for minority rights.

I guess at root I just meant to say this: Checks and balances, baby. Checks and balances. They're a beautiful and complex thing. Not just on the government, but also on you.

And thank you to the whole thread, actually. I have to defend an MA thesis on radical democratic theory in a few days. It's good to keep sharp.
posted by generichuman at 5:40 PM on February 20, 2006


Again, this is a problem only when you don't have constitutional protection for minority rights.

That is exactly why freedom of speech is defined as a Constitutional right, and not defined by the changing will of the legislature.

Allowing the legislature to define allowable speech actively diminishes the rights of the minority. In fact, Constitutional rights are the only institution that ensures minority rights in a democracy.
posted by jsonic at 5:48 PM on February 20, 2006


What about Keegstra, who was teaching his high school class that the holocaust is a myth and Jews were to be hated?

I'd be surprised if that didn't violate his terms of employment, or result in demonstrably inferior teaching performance for which he might be canned.

But he shouldn't have faced a criminal penalty for it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:49 PM on February 20, 2006


Freedom of speech is a Charter right in Canada, too -- but all Charter rights come under a caveat: "subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

The legislature has always had the power in Canada to define rights, and the judiciary has always had the responsibility to have the final say in how rights are defined.

I, like most of my fellow citizens, are satisfied that prohibiting hate speech is a reasonable limit that can be demonstrably justified.
posted by solid-one-love at 5:53 PM on February 20, 2006


“Hate-crime laws just stop the individual from tugging too hard”

Indeed. My retort to Hobbes is always Herman: “Everyone I know has a big ‘but’. C'mon, let's talk about *your* big ‘but’.”
Yes, we all loved Leviathan, and I agree with your points as general concepts.
But this is not abstraction.

Speech is not a right subject to limitation. It’s a hard concept to grasp because it is counterintuitive that something that appears to be bad for you (and society) is actually good for you (and society).

Let’s take shouting “fire” in a crowded theater and such things off the table as - while a form of speech - not related to discourse.

From some perspectives ‘free speech’ is is a right intended to allow the free discussion and exchange of ideas and beliefs - a right fundamental to a free society. Society seeks to ensure that free speech builds up rather than tears down civil society.

Sometimes however, civil society must be torn down.
Liberty means having the right to tell someone what they don’t want to hear.
We cannot a priori judge that something is wrong before we’ve heard it. Certainly we know the holocaust occured. But it seems to me we know a great many things that are harmful and dictating that some things are not to be heard - by definition - requires a judge of that classification of things.

It is not merely the speaker I am concerned with - nor merely that it could be my speech judged as unfit to hear - but that as a listener I demand the right to hear things I may not like to hear and determine for myself whether to believe them or discard them and judge for myself whether they are harmful.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere . . . Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

Free speech can be harmful - yes. But to deny free speech is twice as harmful as it denys not only the right of the individual to speak, but of the individual to hear.

I need to hear a variety of opinion in order to think and reason.
I don’t need nor want the state to do my thinking for me. Not at any time, but certainly not before the fact.
It denies that I have the power of reason - much as you assert - generichuman - “lot of people don't grasp the subtlety of this.”

I was reading Hobbes when I was a sophomore in High School. I don’t make these arguments from the abstract, but from the personal and concrete level.
I demand the right to hear a man who doesn’t believe the holocaust happened.
Not merely for my amusement but because it is only in discourse, in counter thought that free speech exists.

It is because of this automatic reciprocity - this inherent feedback - that free speech is the sole exception to the ‘but’ when it comes to rights.

I made that assertion by design.


Why are those people harmed by holocaust deniers speech?
(not how: why?)
Is their right to protection from this harm greater than my right to know of the subject?
If so - how then can I avoid it if I know about it?
By extension - does then the government have the right to keep other unpleasantries out of my sight and mind?
Where is that line drawn?

Seems to me I read about a girl a few threads down who’s going to jail for having sex.
She must feel comforted that her government is looking out for her best interests as well.

I’m not a man who suffers privilege easily.
This nonsense reeks of it.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:02 PM on February 20, 2006


People who support "Freedom of speech" except for stuff that hurts people's feelings do not support freedom of speech. It's as simple as that.

Freedom of speech is a Charter right in Canada, too -- but all Charter rights come under a caveat: "subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

Which is why I'm glad I don't live in Canada.

That and the cold.
posted by delmoi at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2006


I, like most of my fellow citizens, are satisfied that prohibiting hate speech is a reasonable limit that can be demonstrably justified.

Of course you are. What seemingly reasonable person wants to be against something called 'hate-speech' protection?

However, by allowing your freedom of speech to be defined by the legislature, you have set a dangerous precedent for the future. In this case the will of the majority is attempting to protect the minority. This will not always be the case.

You have given up what should be an unquestionable right in order to protect people from speech that offends them. Do you not realize that being offended is a choice?
posted by jsonic at 6:10 PM on February 20, 2006


“Civil sanctions should be adequate for such things without resorting to criminal proceedings.”

Yeah, let me add my own argument doesn’t apply to a civil redress of grievances. Certainly someone can seek methods and routes of speech that are harmful. As much as I have a right to hear - once I’ve heard, I have a right to not have it forced upon me.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:10 PM on February 20, 2006


Excellent comment, Smedleyman. My thoughts exactly.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:12 PM on February 20, 2006


The link to the post I was referring to should have been this, sorry.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:14 PM on February 20, 2006


However, by allowing your freedom of speech to be defined by the legislature, you have set a dangerous precedent for the future. In this case the will of the majority is attempting to protect the minority. This will not always be the case.

The final say is with the Supreme Court, though, so it's not really the will of the majority who has the final say.

You have given up what should be an unquestionable right in order to protect people from speech that offends them. Do you not realize that being offended is a choice?

I see the issue as much larger than one of being offended. Probative harm has been key to the debate. Harm reduction should trump the right to listen to speech. IMHO.

(And I maintain that our freedom of speech is greater than that in the US. No "free speech zones" when the PM speaks in public, and so forth. Nobody on the planet has truly free speech; basically, you have to pick how your speech will be suppressed, not whether or not it will be.)
posted by solid-one-love at 6:15 PM on February 20, 2006


And, yes, excellent comment, Smedleyman -- flagged as fantastic. And I disagree with it utterly.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:16 PM on February 20, 2006


i'll tell you what, leave me the right to free speech , and i will gladly never pick up a weapon against those that would silence me .

god save the fool that gets between me and the right to speak my mind.

as long as i can speak it, i will hold out the hope of change the world through ideas.

take that away, and you leave me no choice but to "change" the world with blood and fire.
posted by nola at 6:17 PM on February 20, 2006


"No "free speech zones" when the PM speaks in public, and so forth."
Fair enough. Although lots of us consider that a very temporary situation. It could lead to some unpleasantness. As in very unpleasant.

What nola said.

Many of us will stand with the holocaust deniers - emphatically NOT from taste, but from principle. We would be enemies at the state only because we are made enemies of the state.

More or less upping the stakes. Is it worth killing/imprisoning people who’s only grievance is based on freedom of expression?

‘Cause I’d rather spend the summer on my lawn.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:23 PM on February 20, 2006


/Curious - can you publically legally burn the Canadian flag in protest?
posted by Smedleyman at 6:25 PM on February 20, 2006


Probative harm has been key to the debate. Harm reduction should trump the right to listen to speech.

There are many rights that can be limited or removed in order to reduce perceived 'harm'.

The sad thing is that you have decided to limit your freedom, as well as that freedom's security, in an attempt to protect people from a perceived 'harm' that only exists because they allow it to harm them.
posted by jsonic at 6:28 PM on February 20, 2006


Smedleyman, perfectly legal as far as I am aware.
posted by nightchrome at 6:34 PM on February 20, 2006


Can you burn a Nazi flag? How about a Palestinian flag? How about an Israeli flag?
posted by fandango_matt at 6:39 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by solid-one-love And I maintain that our freedom of speech is greater than that in the US. No "free speech zones" when the PM speaks in public, and so forth.

That's because, as you've pointed out, your entire country has outlawed free speech zones.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:42 PM on February 20, 2006


Interesting. I’m not in the Candadian/American debate thing in any serious way.
Would burning a Quebec flag be ok? If you are anti-separatist? If you hate Quebecers?
I’m wondering what those limits are predicated on.

I suspect we’re having some trouble fine tuning our epistomology here and, as generichuman pointed out, it is possible we’re coming in with contrasting preconceptions.

The general denying of the holocaust to anyone who will listen - I’m solid on as free speech.
Publishing a book - as far as I’m concerned, puts him in the Sol Rushdie column, not in subject matter of course.
Speaking where he’s invited to speak - same deal.
I’m not up on Austrian libel laws, but if it was a civil case, that’s fine with me.
His suing of another person who called him a holocaust denier makes me think he needs psychiatric help.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:53 PM on February 20, 2006


Which, y’know, the government could enforce in the public interest. Not in the Soviet gulag sorta way, more the Tex Avery “you poor deluded fool” sorta men in the white coats way.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:55 PM on February 20, 2006


Smedleyman, it has happened before, 1989 according to wikipedia. People in Quebec got quite upset, as you can imagine, but that was pretty much it.
posted by nightchrome at 6:58 PM on February 20, 2006


I've always believed that the best remedy for bad speech is more speech. In my opinion, the best response for someone like Irving is ridicule; not acting as if his ideas are in any way dangerous. Given the religious insanity percolating throughout the world, this prosecution -- and the risk of creating a martyr -- strikes me as completely misguided.

I would not be at all surprised if Irving wound up with more influence because of this debacle.
posted by subgenius at 7:00 PM on February 20, 2006


I'm fairly ignorant on the topic, but it seems to me that the Canada/US thing can be boiled down to something like this. In terms of law, Canada is less free. In practice, it isn't.
Personally, I'm not fond of the way free speech is handled in legal terms in Canada. Sadly, I'm in the minority there.
posted by nightchrome at 7:02 PM on February 20, 2006


/Just curious nightchrome. I like the cold. And the city streets look clean. Chicago is boarderline unlivable. Used to be nice. Now, traffic, etc.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:11 PM on February 20, 2006


smedleyman: Let’s take shouting “fire” in a crowded theater and such things off the table as - while a form of speech - not related to discourse.

How can you simply decide that some forms of speech are not relevant to a debate on free speech? Who said that it was only about discourse?

I find it difficult to clarify my own views on the matter enough to express them, but so far I've figured out that although in theory I would support the idea of totally free speech, in practice I think some things should not be said. How about a debate on whether or not blacks really are people? Should that be protected? Even if it leads to a group decision that blacks are only monkeys and shouldn't be treated as people? (They're still only talking about this, remember). Once you have allowed that decision to be broadcast, how can you punish people for the actions they take based on this discourse? By allowing ideas to be expressed without limit, it seems to me that society would be indicating some kind of acceptance of those ideas.

I don't trust people to limit their own behaviour to 'acceptable'. I can't think of who I would trust to define or enforce 'acceptable' limits for everyone either, which is a problem.
posted by jacalata at 7:12 PM on February 20, 2006


Historical Revisionism from Wikipedia. Details the European laws.
posted by stbalbach at 7:20 PM on February 20, 2006


Smedleyman, I no longer live in Canada myself, so some might say I have less say in the matter anyhow.
Generally though, Canadians seem to feel quite strongly about free speech except where hate-speech is concerned. There's a lot less racism and group-hatred in Canada than in the USA, it's still a problem of course but to a far, far lesser degree. Perhaps that's why Canadians take such instances so seriously, as they stand out more.
posted by nightchrome at 7:20 PM on February 20, 2006


I agree. Holocaust-deniers should be publicly ridiculed, discredited and shunned by the rest of society, but not put in jail for their moronic beliefs.

I second this notion. Doesn't society become closer to Nazi Fascism when they give up free speech?
posted by j-urb at 7:22 PM on February 20, 2006


For the record, I believe in free speech. No "if"s or "but"s.
I recognize, however, that I'm in the minority both in my home country and in my adopted country, and that we live in majority-rule nations for the most part in the "civilized" world.
posted by nightchrome at 7:23 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by jacalata I find it difficult to clarify my own views on the matter enough to express them, but so far I've figured out that although in theory I would support the idea of totally free speech, in practice I think some things should not be said.

Okay. Who decides what can and cannot be said?

How about a debate on whether or not blacks really are people? Should that be protected?

Absolutely.

Even if it leads to a group decision that blacks are only monkeys and shouldn't be treated as people?

Then that group should be exposed and soundly ridiculed as the intolerant cretins and bigots they obviously are.

Once you have allowed that decision to be broadcast, how can you punish people for the actions they take based on this discourse?

Easily. Words are not actions.

By allowing ideas to be expressed without limit, it seems to me that society would be indicating some kind of acceptance of those ideas.

Allowing ideas to be expressed without limit does not mean tacit approval of those ideas, it means the society that allows ideas to be freely expressed approves of the free expression of ideas.

I don't trust people to limit their own behaviour to 'acceptable'. I can't think of who I would trust to define or enforce 'acceptable' limits for everyone either, which is a problem.

And that's exactly why free speech is a right.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:26 PM on February 20, 2006


You should be able to say almost anything, unless you are creating an immediate danger to someone else.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:33 PM on February 20, 2006


I am in complete agreement with those who side with fully free speech under all circumstances.

And with that said, I have absolutely no sympathy for Irving, and will do nothing to encourage his release. I firmly believe we are far better off without him. I condemn him for being a destructive force working hard against the best interests of society. Screw him.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:41 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by five fresh fish I am in complete agreement with those who side with fully free speech under all circumstances. And with that said, I have absolutely no sympathy for Irving, and will do nothing to encourage his release. I firmly believe we are far better off without him. I condemn him for being a destructive force working hard against the best interests of society. Screw him.

Seems to me if you truly supported free speech, you'd oppose his incarceration.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:46 PM on February 20, 2006


FIVE "MYTHS" ABOUT THE ARREST OF DAVID IRVING

1. So, I hear that David Irving has been sentenced to three years in jail in Austria.

A. FALSE. This is a myth propogated by Evil Zionists who stand to make HUGE PROFIT$ off of the myth of the "so-called" Holocaust. The French government has never sentenced David Irving to any jail time whatsoever.

2. My history professor says that David Irving is an "raving antisemitic loon" - what's up with that?

A. FALSE. Mr. Irving is in no way related to waterfowl, and in his opinion, Canadian money is ugly. And he has never been to a "rave", as techno music makes him nauseous.

3. Wow! Sounds like Irving is pretty neato! Still, I hear he really dislikes Jewish people.

A. FALSE. Mr. Irving would like Jewish people fine if they all went someplace ... you know, else. Like the ones in WWII did. If Jewish "scientists" had been working on developing gills instead of coming up with so-called "proof" of the so-called "Holocaust", they'd be peacefully living at the bottom of the Mediterranean by now.

Their lack of foresight is not, however, Mr. Irving's problem.

4. Binkies! You're right, I need to stop listening to ZIONAZI HOLOCAUSTOMANIACS. But look. Hasn't Mr. Irving been denied entry into countries like Australia?

A. FALSE. We answered the question about Austria in question #1 above. Why do you Holocau$t profiteer$ insist on asking the same stuff over and over again?

5. Jeepers. You don't think somebody could be using EVIL JEWISH BRAINWASHING POWERS ... nah. Anyway, so I heard that Mr. Irving has been censured by courts in Germany and Britain that labelled him a racist and anti-semite - what's up with that?

A. FALSE. There are no courts that are in Britain and Germany at the same time. Any assertion to the contrary is the product of ZioNazi HoloCaustazoid ProfitMongerers.
posted by swell at 7:50 PM on February 20, 2006


How about a debate on whether or not blacks really are people? Should that be protected?

It shouldn't be illegal anyway. As prtotected as any other speech.

Even if it leads to a group decision that blacks are only monkeys and shouldn't be treated as people? (They're still only talking about this, remember).

You mean, what if the League of Morons decided that? Okay.

Once you have allowed that decision to be broadcast, how can you punish people for the actions they take based on this discourse?

If their conduct is illegal, they can be punished for it. "But we talked about it beforehand!" is hardly a valid defense against prosecution.

Seems to me if you truly supported free speech, you'd oppose his incarceration.

Nah, I get where he's coming from. I abhor the death penalty, but that doesn't mean I particularly miss the people when they're gone.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:58 PM on February 20, 2006


No, y'see, fandango, I believe David Irving intends to take over the minds of simpletons and paranoids, and use their money to his sole benefit, and their political power to attempt to influence social law.

I am absolutely confident that the incarceration of David Irving, under the law of "you're such an asshole," is far less harmful than working against his incarceration on the mistaken belief that this is all about free speech, and not social management.

By the way, these awful Hate Speech Laws? Turns out they only apply once you start publicising your hatred.

Go ahead and scratch down your darkest racist thoughts in your private diary. Hell, you can even have your chums over for poker and hate.

Just don't bother going public about it.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:01 PM on February 20, 2006


I think Austria's limitation on free speech is a special case. As a nation they suffered a terrible psychic shock when they awoke from a nightmare and realized their government and citizens collectively had been complicit in the extermination of millions of innocent victims.

It is as if an otherwise good man awoke from a drunken blackout to realize that he had beaten his wife. In his remorse he declares that he can never, ever have a drop of alcohol again because bad things can happen. Such a rule wouldn't apply to most people but would be appropriate in his case.

The Austrian law wouldn't be appropriate for other countries but I think I can understand why the Austrians thought it necessary as a part of their penance. If this is the only restriction, I don't see it as overly burdensome.
posted by JackFlash at 8:02 PM on February 20, 2006


IMO the hate crime laws are about on par with noise bylaws, laws against public sex, pooperscooper laws, and other "how to behave in society" laws.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:04 PM on February 20, 2006


I think anyone who expresses an opinion that hurts my feelings should be imprisoned.

I deserve to live in a world where I do not have to hear objectionable opinions expressed that I may find hurtful.

Ahh, Utopia...are we there yet?
posted by darkstar at 8:06 PM on February 20, 2006


First of all, this concept of "probative harm" is something you should trademark, solid one love. According to Google, it appears in only one place outside this thread: an earlier post by you.

Secondly, folks may want to look at the applicable law. It isn't just about breach of the peace. The law says that "every one who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty..."

Yipes. Can "those pricks" be an identifiable group. If so, I'm in trouble.
posted by Cassford at 8:22 PM on February 20, 2006


Just to clear up one point. Several posters have erroneously claimed that "hate crime" laws in the US restrict speech. This is emphatically not true.

The various laws against malicious harassment are uniformly laws that establish penalties for crimes of violence. There are no laws that deal with "speech." The malicious harassment laws deal with assault (a credible threat of violence), vandalism and battery.

There were (initially) some malicious harassment laws that attempted to outlaw cross-burning that did not involve trespass. These were very quickly dealt with by the courts as infringing on free speech. Cross-burning involving trespass continues to be a crime even in the absence of malicious harassment laws.

See James Aho's This Thing of Darkness: A Sociology of the Enemy for a very good chapter that describes Bill Wassmuth's successful efforts to get the first malicious harassment laws passed.
posted by warbaby at 8:29 PM on February 20, 2006


“How can you simply decide that some forms of speech are not relevant to a debate on free speech?”

Because some arguments are irrational and I assert the recognition of some reasonability on my part such as the fact that I’m not arguing it’s ok to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater and arguments related to it because it’s a given as far as I’m concerned. I was trying to define the terms I would use in my argument for brevity and clarity sake. You want to argue for or against fire in a crowded theater is ok, go right ahead. I doubt anyone would consider the argument worth any time or consideration.

“ Who said that it was only about discourse?”
That’d be me. Same as the above. With the exception of the word ‘only’.

“By allowing ideas to be expressed without limit, it seems to me that society would be indicating some kind of acceptance of those ideas.”

Indeed. I plan to have wild sex with Salma Hayek, Angelina Jolie and a giant set of eyes from the planet Xplumga during which the little man under my bed will attempt to bite my feet prompting me to yank my foot back in and kick my wife who will suddenly materialize - because I had a dream about it the other night.
...seriously you don’t think there are people sitting around saying blacks aren’t really people?
But who the hell is going to broadcast it?
(see “irrational arguments” above)

“I don't trust people to limit their own behavior to 'acceptable'.”

Yeah? Why don’t you come over here and force me into some behavior you’d like me to conform to? Or have the cops do it and we can see just how good I am at contingency plans. ‘Cause we’re not talking self-deluded wannabe Stazi types. I will kill or die over principle.
(see my earlier argument on abstraction vs. the practical and fandango_matt’s points on words vs. actions )
It’s always the problem in talking “shoulds.” We lose the immediacy and intimacy of the event. Which is the crux of human interaction - we’re so lost with this action at a distance through law we don’t have any feeling for it. Empathy. Personal contact.

We’re not talking a bunch of hateful bigots, we’re talking me. Here. A regular Joe like you sitting at my computer. And I’m saying - in solidarity with Irving on the principle of free speech: The holocaust never happened.
Now you might say “he doesn’t mean that.”
Well how do you know? I just said it.
We’re talking about jailing people who say that.
Send the police after me. Do something about it. I’m anti-social. I’m now a bad guy. Just like Irving. Or isn’t he a human being too?
Don’t I then belong in jail for what I just said?
If not or if so - then where is the line and who determines that (I suppose that reinforces your definition of the problem of finding someone to trust to do the job jacalata - which is the ultimate point).
If we “all” do, than we’re agreeing - much like O’Brian asserts in 1984 - that consensual reality dictates the validity of any perception or thought or even material being.
If it’s some of us, than that’s privilege and it becomes a matter of trust.
Only when none of us are allowed to predetermine what ideas and words are “wrong” are any of us free.

We need opposition to remind us of the convictions we have and why we have them. It’s feedback to let us know how deeply we feel them. What we’re willing to do to assert those convictions.

You cannot exclude any idea from the right to be spoken or heard. Once that’s happened, it’s fair game for criticism which - as evidenced many times on metafilter alone - is often enough to show it’s flaws.
Otherwise it’s white on white all the time with no sharp contrast.
I mean, I can look at myself in the mirror and think “Well, I have sex with dogs*, but at least I’m not a racist holocaust denying anti-Semitic bastard like that Irving”

I agree with the ‘screw him’ part of FFF’s assertion. I’m not as gung ho about getting this guy out of prison as I am the folks in, say, Gitmo. But yeah, no one should be imprisoned simply for their ideas. End of story.


*note, purely for example. No dogs were harmed in the course of this comment.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:36 PM on February 20, 2006


According to Google, it appears in only one place outside this thread: an earlier post by you.

I'm trying to condense a bunch of words down to two. If I had written "demonstrable, proven harm or risk of harm", it would only show this post, once it's been spidered. ""It appears in only one place outside this thread" doesn't appear in Google at all, so you've coined a new phrase, too.

I guess language is special that way. People come up with novel combinations of words all the time.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:40 PM on February 20, 2006


The Times February 21, 2006
Sorry? I doubt that, says brother
By Dominic Kennedy

THE sincerity of David Irving’s claim that he now believes millions of Jews were killed by the Nazis and that gas chambers did exist was challenged by his twin brother yesterday.

John Irving is so unidentical to the right-wing historian and Holocaust denier that he serves as chairman of Wiltshire Racial Equality Council.
posted by warbaby at 8:44 PM on February 20, 2006


“Such a rule wouldn't apply to most people but would be appropriate in his case.”

That makes it much worse.

“IMO the hate crime laws are about on par with noise bylaws...”
FFF - you could arrest him based on that. You don’t need an extra law. If he’s causing an obvious immediate threat to the public or inciting something in some way or asserting some course of action against jews he can and should be nailed for that. If “promoting hatred” is in line with a course of action, if he’s in jewish folks’ grill, it’s fair game.
A bit back lots of white supremacists in the U.S. became “white separatists” and toned down the jargon because what they espoused - and in fact were doing - was harrassment.
(what warbaby sed)
posted by Smedleyman at 8:46 PM on February 20, 2006


Easily. Words are not actions.
But sometimes words are actions...like when you say 'You can't come in because you're black'. The words themselves are essential to that being discrimination (contrast 'You can't come in because you're not dressed right'). How about words used to pass legislation that says Jews should be shot on sight? It's a whole category of speech acts: declarative speech, where by saying something you are performing an action (eg; 'I do', 'I swear to tell the truth'). Words are not as powerless as people here seem to be arguing. Words govern and inform actions: I think it's naive to imagine that you can dissociate 'unacceptable speech' and 'unacceptable actions'.

Then that group should be exposed and soundly ridiculed as the intolerant cretins and bigots they obviously are.
I think that if exposure and ridicule was seriously able to cure people of stupid ideas, we'd see a lot fewer creationists.

On preview: I am disagreeing with the line you have drawn between rational and irrational arguments about free speech. I think that some of the speech you allow is analogous to the 'fire' call.

But who the hell is going to broadcast it?
Who the hell would broadcast rubbish suggesting that an incredibly well documented event still within living memory didn't happen?

Only when none of us are allowed to predetermine what ideas and words are “wrong” are any of us free.
I don't see how you can apply this to 'speech' and not 'actions'. Why am I any more free if someone has predetermined that it's wrong to take candy from babies, than I am if they determined only that it's wrong to talk about it?
posted by jacalata at 8:53 PM on February 20, 2006


I guess language is special that way. Heh, but the law shouldn't be special like that. Anyway, my point is that harm is not in focus of the law in this matter. . . not "demonstrable, proven harm or risk of harm" nor "probative harm." If you willfully promote hatred, you break the law. . The hatred needn't be proven harmful.
posted by Cassford at 9:00 PM on February 20, 2006


I think that if exposure and ridicule was seriously able to cure people of stupid ideas, we'd see a lot fewer creationists.

Er, I believe you just came close to breaking the Canadian law. "Identifiable group" is therein defined as "section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion or ethnic origin." Luckily, religious argument is also one of the few defenses against prosecution.
posted by Cassford at 9:08 PM on February 20, 2006


If we allow it to be truncated for anything short of extreme situations

Which is the clincher. This entire thread has been as abstract as possible, with only spurious are-blacks-people attempts at tying it to the real world. What goes on today in Austria and Germany is an extreme situation.

Austria is not America. Austria has Nazis; you just talk about them in chatrooms. Austrians killed Jews; you just see them at the deli.

Admitting the holocaust happened was a fundamental part of the Axis powers' rehabiliation, and a central plank of their coming to terms with the events of the second world war. To that end, and to make sure that everyone, everywhere knew that no, it wasn't a myth/rumour/propaganda, and yes, millions upon millions of people were specifically slaughtered by their countrymen, a line was drawn in the sand: It is official. The holocaust happened. We did it. To deny this is not only erroneous, it is criminal.

And this is relevant today. Anti-semitism is still rife in Europe, and is growing once again. In the past few years, Jewish graveyards have increasingly been defiled in France and facist thugs have hit the streets in Germany. In Austria Jörg Haider's ultra-right-wing party came close to getting the country thrown out of Europe.

But even as he steered Austria towards a path they've been on before, he couldn't deny the holocaust. It wasn't an option. The facists in Germany can't use the iconography of Hitler (and great and terrible iconography it is -- the swastika can still produce visceral reactions in those who suffered under it) or even the Nazi name because of that line, drawn in the sand.

Americans: your free speech didn't stop torture at Abu Ghraib; yet the limiting of it in the Axis powers goes a long way towards hindering the rise of those who would commit similar crimes against the Jews.
posted by bonaldi at 9:10 PM on February 20, 2006


jacalata- I think one can make a reasonable distinction between pure speech acts and speech that functions more as action. Of course there will be hard cases and whatnot, but the difference is usually clear, such as in all your examples.

Also, could you explain "probative harm" a little more thoroughly, solid-one-love. I am not sure I understand the term (no snark, just truly interested). Is it "harm that proves" something?
posted by Falconetti at 9:13 PM on February 20, 2006


“How about words used to pass legislation that says Jews should be shot on sight?...I think it's naive to imagine that you can dissociate 'unacceptable speech' and 'unacceptable actions'.”

It’s probably naive to imagine your capacity for rational thought. But y’know, I’m an optimist.

“I think that some of the speech you allow is analogous to the 'fire' call.”

Example?

“Who the hell would broadcast rubbish suggesting that an incredibly well documented event still within living memory didn't happen?’

Well, yeah. Exactly. No one of any account. Oddly, there is creationist thought in the schools. So do we jail people asserting any form of creationism?

“Why am I any more free if someone has predetermined that it's wrong to take candy from babies, than I am if they determined only that it's wrong to talk about it?”

*tap**tap**tap* I’m getting lotsa static here. Are you a random word generating ‘bot?

Ok, fine. You want to drop the gloves? Let’s fucking have it out:
Why can’t any more free people use words to not determine actions but speak proudly in the non-declarative speech acts? If someone wants to shoot jews or uses action words like NIGGER to speak before contrasting those with actions like the facts, like the below facts, cannot be found in the Communist Gangster Computer God concocted and manipulated so-called history and news media.

Communist Gangster Computer God, unbelievably staged like Hollywood scum-on-top Tsarina alias Great Dictator Franklin D. Roosevelt, the polio paralyzed legless drug addict idiotic suicidal Tsarina fag who had his unbeatable rival Will Rogers exterminated in an exploding ball of flame by a planted bomb here in safe USA airfield shortly after take-off at the end of Will Rogers' unprecedented renowned arduous 'round-the-world good-will flying trip with Wiley Post in his beautiful electronically sophisticated luxurious ultra-modern Winnie Mae airplane. Not only all stairways had inclines added for Tsarina Roosevelt's computerized wheelchair, but a football field sized glass house type building was built in sight of the White House for his medicinal piped-in pure warmed seawater into his gigantic suicide-proof two feet deep swimming pool where he waded naked with his nurses and had sodomy affairs. Ones very near to him have written popular books about his sodomy oy vey love affairs. Already in his third term he was a helpless and useless stretcher case incapable of even appearing at his fourth term convention.
This One World Communist who married his immediate cousin Eleanor Roosevelt like his runted sickly pock-faced grandfather, propagandized as a hunter and a sportsman, Teddy Roosevelt here from Oyster Bay Long Island, the Rosenfelt family another Computer God top secret camouflage for gifted Ethiopians as a big-time kid gangster politician Computer God even raised his age for historical purposes. Teddy Roosevelt was paid off with the Vice President knew absolutely nothing farce position title.
Repeatedly Vice Presidents have successfully waited and lurked to eliminate El PresidentZ? oy vey. Below are a few examples. So the kiddish gangster Teddy Roosevelt lured midwestern Dope McKinley into New York for extermination like the lowly guttermouth big L.B. Johnson lured playboy sodomist eat-with-the-Mafia Jack Kennedy into his home town Dallas wide open. People say it was the three brothers Sam, Milton and Lyman Jacobsen who with the judges feloniously swindled the Governor of Texas out of the U.S. Senator election shortly before Lyman was fixed as the compromise choice for Jack Kennedy's Vice Presidential nominee.
Who ever saw a Lyndon married to a tiny runt Birdie under Computer God orders even Birdie now has changed her name for historical purposes to Lady Bird nu? And even her Ethiopian surname is now changed to Taylor. It was the scummy bum lowly gangster Lyman as PresidentZ? who had the gigantic Tsarina swimming pool deepened several feet to a regular swimming pool and regularly had naked sodomy swimming parties with women personnel. GANGSTER MONKEY SEE, GANGSTER MONKEY DO. Now that the Pope John in the Vatican has a similar swimming pool to share with the endless numbers of nuns to help him forget his good old days as a married man naked in bed with high holy communion sodomy - as a category of speech acts.

/punk collach kid tryin’ to out crazy rant me, eh?
posted by Smedleyman at 9:14 PM on February 20, 2006


The real question is, does Google block access to Irving's writings in Austria?
posted by kindall at 9:17 PM on February 20, 2006


"Americans: your free speech didn't stop torture at Abu Ghraib"

As an American, let me say, many of us consider that a breakdown of the system of feedback we’re supposed to have going. It’s our government, see, that broke that particular social contract.
...and you wonder why we’re paranoid?
posted by Smedleyman at 9:17 PM on February 20, 2006


Metafilter: Communist Gangster Computer God.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:18 PM on February 20, 2006


Dr. Bronner, is that you?!
posted by fandango_matt at 9:19 PM on February 20, 2006


Smedleyman's zoophilia does not negate him from running for president in 2008!
posted by Balisong at 9:21 PM on February 20, 2006


...and you wonder why we’re paranoid?
... and you wonder why the Austrians don't ever want to have a government again that takes them on a path that leads to the death of millions of innocent people? And to that end pass legislation ensuring that nobody can even pretend it didn't happen, in the hopes that a history remembered is not one they're condemned to repeat?
posted by bonaldi at 9:21 PM on February 20, 2006


If the Austrians wanted to do Anschluss redux, I don't think one Holocaust revsionist would matter one way or the other.
posted by Falconetti at 9:23 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by bonaldi and you wonder why the Austrians don't ever want to have a government again that takes them on a path that leads to the death of millions of innocent people? And to that end pass legislation ensuring that nobody can even pretend it didn't happen, in the hopes that a history remembered is not one they're condemned to repeat?

So the Austrians have basically traded one form of fascism for another. Yeah, they're learning from their mistakes, all right.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:25 PM on February 20, 2006


If Americans wanted to do Anschluzz Muslim, I don't think one War Protester would matter one way or the other.
posted by Balisong at 9:26 PM on February 20, 2006


fandango_matt: ever had a flu vaccination? A little bit of a bad thing can help stop you falling seriously ill from a lot of it.
posted by bonaldi at 9:28 PM on February 20, 2006


But sometimes words are actions...like when you say 'You can't come in because you're black'.

That's ridiculous. The words aren't what is stopping a person from entering. Violence, or the threat of violence, is stopping that person from entering. There are laws against those things already, which have nothing to do with race.
posted by nightchrome at 9:32 PM on February 20, 2006


fandango_matt - I'm totally baffled as to what think fascism is. Take a deep breath and try again.
posted by warbaby at 9:32 PM on February 20, 2006


er, ...you think... carry on
posted by warbaby at 9:33 PM on February 20, 2006


"Smedleyman's zoophilia does not negate him from running for president in 2008!"

SCENE: Boots next to the Oval Office door. Guns, knives assorted MREs, hunting equipment, bottles of booze and motorcycle tools.

CAPTION:’Smedleyman for President in ‘08’

cut to SCENE: Empty chair at a desk. In the background a motorcycle engine rumbles away.

CAPTION: ‘Because having no President is better than having any President.’

cut to SCENE: Secret service agent opens the front door to the White House. Loudly: “Mr. President?” Shouts: “Mr. Presideeent!”

cut to SCENE: Front wheel of a fast moving chopper.
Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” swells in the background.

CAPTION: Vote Non Servium party in '08.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:33 PM on February 20, 2006


Austria 1941: If you express or publish unpopular opinions about the Nazis, you will be imprisoned.

Austria 2006: If you express or publish unpopular opinions about the Holocaust, you will be imprisoned.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:35 PM on February 20, 2006


If Americans wanted to do Anschluzz Muslim, I don't think one War Protester would matter one way or the other.

I agree.
posted by Falconetti at 9:39 PM on February 20, 2006


Smedleyman, you jest, but I think there'd be a lot of support for such a candidate.
posted by nightchrome at 9:39 PM on February 20, 2006


Austria 1941: If you express or publish unfavorable opinions about the Nazis, you will be imprisoned.

Austria 2006: If you express or publish favorable opinions about the Nazis, you will be imprisoned.

That's not fascism.
posted by warbaby at 9:39 PM on February 20, 2006


There's no "unpopular opinion" to it, that's the whole point!

Austria 2006: If you express or publish blatant untruths about this horrific thing we did, you will be imprisoned.

Is this so hard to understand? This is not censorship-as-denial à la the Chinese and Tiannenman Square. It's censorship-as-confession and affirmation: We did this, and nobody will ever say we didn't.
posted by bonaldi at 9:40 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by bonaldi There's no "unpopular opinion" to it, that's the whole point!

Austria 2006: If you express or publish blatant untruths about this horrific thing we did, you will be imprisoned.

Is this so hard to understand? This is not censorship-as-denial à la the Chinese and Tiannenman Square. It's censorship-as-confession and affirmation: We did this, and nobody will ever say we didn't.


So you think those who express opposing, unpopular, or untruthful opinions should be imprisoned, and then you wonder why there seems to be a rise in antisemitic crimes.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:53 PM on February 20, 2006


Hang on, I'm snacking on red herring. No, I don't think "those who express opposing, unpopular, or untruthful opinions should be imprisoned". I think that the former Axis countries think that denying the holocaust should be a crime.

On which point I tend to agree, even if I'm not entirely onside with their sentences for it.
posted by bonaldi at 9:59 PM on February 20, 2006


It's not that we don't understand it. It's that we don't agree with the punishment.

We agree that Irwin is an asshat who is 100% wrong about the Holocaust. But we think that despite that, he should be allowed to say it because on principle it is more important for people to have the freedom to be able to say things even if those things are stupid or blatantly incorrect.

And if they do say such things, as Irwin has, the 'punishment' should be a verbal smackdown with facts and productive counter-argument, rather than imprisonment. Because in jail he learns nothing other than not to drop the soap. In discourse, he stands a chance of understanding where he's gone wrong in his theories.

Basically, we think that all speech of a substantive nature is important, even if it is "hate speech" because in engaging the person who says such things in rational debate, we can perhaps teach them where they have gone wrong and in doing so, perhaps we can advance our own theories as well. Free speech is one of the cornerstones of the human spirit and it needs to be defended at all costs if it is to achieve one of its principal aims of pushing humanity forward, rather than keeping it in the dark, as was done when the Catholic Church banned free speech during the aptly named Dark Ages. This period in time, as well as the age of Nazism, shows why free speech is so important to us and why it must be defended, in spite of morons like Irving, anyone in the KKK or similar such groups.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:00 PM on February 20, 2006


*applause for Effigy2000*
posted by fandango_matt at 10:01 PM on February 20, 2006


smedleyman: So you've decided that people who spout nonsense like David Irving are 'of no account!' I guess that makes it ok. What kind of critical mass of dumbasses does he get to convince before it becomes of account? Because if he convinces enough, then, I reckon he could do anything....say, get rid of the jews? Run for President, rename himself fuehrer, decree yellow stars...

Words do things. Even your Illinois 'fighting words' law recognises that. I think I am making a possibly extreme case here that it is an action to change peoples attitudes, and that this can be done with words alone. If everyone becomes convinced that gay marriage is a good thing, then no doubt it will become legal. If everyone (or a significant majority, or whatever) were to be convinced that gay marriage were a hideously undesirable state of affairs, then I guess it would be illegal... hey, it is! And this is my point: that society is based on the ideas of people, and some ideas are dangerous to society. I have not been able to figure out how to differentiate between them, or who could, and I think it might not be possible without further damaging society. You seem to be arguing that the fact that "The truth is there and their lies are transparent" is enough to prevent these ideas taking root, but I think I'm less of an optimist than you.

I don't know that imprisonment is a good way to deal with it, but I don't think it should be ignored/'dealt with by ridicule' because that doesn't work either.

PS: I am working on a response to the remainder of your argument, and I think I have proof of my theories. I have written it elsewhere as there is not enough room in the margin here.
posted by jacalata at 10:02 PM on February 20, 2006


To Effigy2000's point I would add imprisoning people for speaking or publishing certain opinions makes us guilty of the same crimes committed by the Nazis: silencing those whose speech we find objectionable.

Irony: It's What's For Dinner.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:07 PM on February 20, 2006


/nightchrome - probably, but, better to be a live turtle in the mud than a dead tiger in a magnificent palace. Ventura fucked that all up. But I think he had a jag-off attack when he ran for Governor. He seems better now.

I think what disturbs me about this is not the content - which is odious, but the form.

It seems very similar in form to what happened to Salman Rushdie - someone who also published fiction in such a way to influence people’s thinking, albeit for altruistic, not hateful reasons.

For me - either you imprison/kill someone - could be one person, could be a million - for what they think/say/publish - or you don’t.

If you don’t, there’s no argument.
If you do, the argument becomes one of subject matter.
In terms of subject matter - we have news media organizations that lie to us all the time. Our goverments -whatever they may be - occasionally or often lie to us depending on the relative corruption or oppression of the administration/ regime/ what have you.
Our entertainement media lies to us as often as it can about trends and such. It goes without saying that we are innundated by lies in terms of advertising and marketing.
Corportations have PR departments devoted to dissemination lies.
There are other examples - but from there - how bad are those lies?
Well, there’s Love Canal, that was pretty bad. There’s the S&L scandal, that was bad. I could go on and on about massive lies that degraded my environment or took money out of my pocket.
We Yanks have a bunch of guys getting killed - and killing - in some places predicated on complete bullshit.
I see no one held to account.

But this one guy here - oh, yeah, he’s the dangerous one because he’s spouting some nonsense archaic propaganda that has since in form and artistry been refined to such a sublime degree that we barely notice it and even when we do notice and point it out loudly - nothing happens.
Well, maybe eventually something does, but it’s years later, the damage is done, and the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

I sympathize with the Austrians and their problems. But I suspect there are other more complex factors involved to the trappings of Nazism coming back into fashion than this guy and his books.

So when it comes to weighing the subject matter and prioritizing what speech to be on guard over, this tripe isn’t at the top of my list.

And that’s even given that I want to engage in the sort of he said/she said talking head bullshit information quantifying that passes for news these days as opposed to wanting the greatest variety of sources possible regardless of content so I can make my own judgements as opposed to the government engaging in content blocking.

It’s suppression of thought no matter how it is weighed.
No matter how terrible the thought it should be allowed to be expressed.

For the most part I agree that how it is expressed can be subject to the law.

But if we prevent the expression of speech in books or whatever - how does that make us any different than those who prosecute Rushdie (other than the obvious fact we’re not going to kill him).

Only the subject matter is different - and that is subject to taste and fashion not to principle.
Where folks argue harm, I argue flux.
Where people point to chaos now, I argue eternal principle.
There are rights inherent in being human and one of those is the right to speech.
Specifically the right to say ‘No’ to power. To disagree - in whatever terms.
Irving - idiot shithead that he is - disagrees with the accepted order. That is his right as a human.
Other humans have the right to not listen, to not by his book, to not be harrassed by him - essentially the same right he has - to say ‘No’, in this case to him, and if he pushes the point we have the police and other methods of redress.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:07 PM on February 20, 2006


seconded - damn well said Effigy2000

“some ideas are dangerous to society” - jacalata

Indeed. Gay marriage being one of them. And I’m whole heartedly in favor of it. But since it’s a dangerous idea, we shouldn’t be allowed to speak about it?

“You seem to be arguing that the fact that "The truth is there and their lies are transparent"...” - jacalata

No, I occasionally get cute. My argument is more free speech is the answer to free speech you don’t like.
But to be honest, I’ve stopped taking you seriously. I wouldn’t waste your time.
No offense meant. We’re not connecting and I’m tired and I haven’t got the patience.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:14 PM on February 20, 2006


In discourse, he stands a chance of understanding where he's gone wrong in his theories ... moron

Irving is not a moron; he is a highly intelligent historian, with a proven track record in subverting the facts to his own agenda. He already understands where he's gone wrong in his theories: he had to in order to draw his conclusions. Your argument is like saying "in discourse the killer stands a chance of understanding why the other person died". The killer already knows the knife did it, and that it was wrong, and now he's being punished.

That said, there are still far better sentences that could have been given to Irving, including working in a former camp.

To Effigy2000's point I would add imprisoning people for speaking or publishing certain opinions makes us guilty of the same crimes committed by the Nazis: silencing those whose speech we find objectionable.

Yeh, you tried to add that earlier too, and it didn't work then. This isn't abstract. It's not that they're "objectionable" or "opinions" -- they're blatant untruths about genocidal slaughter, untruths that can be used in the resurgence of fascism.
posted by bonaldi at 10:21 PM on February 20, 2006


Because if he convinces enough, then, I reckon he could do anything....say, get rid of the jews? Run for President, rename himself fuehrer, decree yellow stars...

jacalata, if he convinces enough people of his words, runs for President, and wins, isn't that basically the point of democracy? Are you saying democracy is only valid if the guy you like wins?
posted by nightchrome at 10:28 PM on February 20, 2006


Not that I'm supporting majority-rule or anything, just pointing out that if you choose for your society to be majority-rule, you shouldn't be surprised if one day the majority rules against you.
posted by nightchrome at 10:29 PM on February 20, 2006


In terms of subject matter - we have news media organizations that lie to us all the time. Our goverments -whatever they may be - occasionally or often lie to us depending on the relative corruption or oppression of the administration/ regime/ what have you.
...
I see no one held to account.

Which rather suggests you'd like to see them held to account. As would I. In fact, if we could get definitive proof that the WMD dossier was deliberately falsified, I think you'd see heads roll at last. But, in so many ways, the truth is subject to interpretation, which makes outlawing the deliberate dissemination of "lies" obviously unworkable, even if they are desirable.

But that's not what Austria is doing. It's making the dissemination of one *particular* lie -- a lie where the counterpart truth is already beyond doubt -- illegal.

I know I'm bashing constantly on about how this isn't about the principle, but really, it isn't, it's about the pragmatic actuality of this particular truth; this particular lie. The Austrians have had holocaust denial on the books for decades; they haven't expanded it to any other spheres, or become a society against free speech.
posted by bonaldi at 10:33 PM on February 20, 2006


"Irving is not a moron; he is a highly intelligent historian, with a proven track record in subverting the facts to his own agenda. He already understands where he's gone wrong in his theories: he had to in order to draw his conclusions.

I disagree. But I defend your right to say it.
posted by Effigy2000 at 10:50 PM on February 20, 2006


Someone looking at this debate might conclude Irving must be right about something, otherwise you wouldn't be so terrified of "one *particular* lie."

Bonaldi, I fear you have no faith in people, or in the truth.
posted by SPrintF at 10:52 PM on February 20, 2006


posted by bonaldi Yeh, you tried to add that earlier too, and it didn't work then. This isn't abstract. It's not that they're "objectionable" or "opinions" -- they're blatant untruths about genocidal slaughter, untruths that can be used in the resurgence of fascism.

Whether or not Irving is expressing unpopular opinions or blatant untruths is irrelevant because that's not the point. As Smedleyman and Effigy2000 have both pointed out, he should be allowed to say these things, because on principle it is more important for people to have the freedom to say things even if those things are stupid or hateful or blatantly incorrect.

Clearly you're comfortable with imprisoning people for speaking or publishing things you find objectionable because they're factually inaccurate, hateful, or idiotic. I don't know what else to say since you've apparently learned nothing from the Holocaust, you don't understand the concept of human rights, and I've stopped taking you seriously. Good night.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:54 PM on February 20, 2006


nightchrome: that is both the point of and the problem with democracy. As Churchill said: "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried." A lot of people thinking something doesn't make it right, but the problem with all the alternatives is that a few people thinking something doesn't make it right either, and it's easier to convince/trick/take over a small group/individual.
posted by jacalata at 10:55 PM on February 20, 2006


jacalata: That was pretty much what I was saying. I think I've lost track now of who is on which side of this discussion, and why.
posted by nightchrome at 11:12 PM on February 20, 2006


I disagree. But I defend your right to say it.
Yeh, thanks for defending me from all these attacks on my right to sa... oh, wait. Frankly, I agree with your earlier statement about the importance of free speech. I could make a similar one about the value of truth as a cornerstone to human progress, and how the Catholic Church held us back by insisting that the world was flat. Truth is more important than the right to talk shit.

Someone looking at this debate might conclude Irving must be right about something, otherwise you wouldn't be so terrified of "one *particular* lie."
This is a good point. But they'd be wrong to conclude that Irving is right about something; if they concluded that Irving had power, and that I was afraid of that power, they'd be right.

Bonaldi, I fear you have no faith in people, or in the truth.
Faith in people? Very little. Shitty little monkeys driven by basic desires, self-interest and fear. People did the holocaust once; given half the chance they'll do it again. Anything that helps stop that is a Good, I reckon.

Whether or not Irving is expressing unpopular opinions or blatant untruths is irrelevant because that's not the point.
Why isn't it the point? I'm trying to say this isn't about the larger principle, it's about the concrete application. You haven't countered that. Go on: what usefulness would result from Irving being allowed to lie about the Holocaust? Is it even possible to answer without referring to non-specific "principles"?

Then we're back to your red herrings again:
Clearly you're comfortable with imprisoning people for speaking or publishing things you find objectionable because they're factually inaccurate, hateful, or idiotic.
I'm not comfortable with any of that. I'm comfortable with punishing people for denying the holocaust. That's the sum total of my exceptions to freedom of speech.

All larger-picture considerations aside, and in the larger picture I think today's ruling was counter-productive, but in the concrete, I'm happy Irving was done for it. I'd be just as happy if Irving had been kicked in the balls by the judge. Fucker denied the holocaust.

Sweet dreams, fandango_matt, nighty night.
posted by bonaldi at 11:30 PM on February 20, 2006


Irving has played this very well. He's only likely to get 1-2 years in the end and the publicity has been great for him.


Have you any idea whatsoever what it means to do 1-2 years in prison? Particularly when you get to Irving's age?

I'm pretty sure that he'd trade all that publicity just for a week knocked off his sentence.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:47 PM on February 20, 2006


Imagine that Austria had had hate crime laws back in, oooh, say the early part of last century.

I'm thinking we'd have avoided a war or two.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:52 PM on February 20, 2006


David Irving is not expressing his opinion. He is deliberately spreading falsehoods in the most offensive way he can.

How do you determine the difference?

I actually support the right of Austria and Germany to have their holocaust defamation laws, because of the particular historical context in those countries, and I believe that Irving is a Nazi sympathizer and holocaust denier, but it's a case on the very margins, IMO. If we don't allow genuine legitimate scholars to look into these issues and challenge the evidence, then we really don't have free speech.

I believe in free speech, but I don't believe people have the right to knowingly spread lies about the moral low point of Western civilisation.

I believe you meant that you don't believe people should have the right. In some countries, that right is enshrined in law, and I'm very grateful for that fact. However, I'm only too happy to say that those people who actually perpetrated the holocaust (and their decendants) have abdicated their right to free speech on this issue because of their previous actions.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:58 PM on February 20, 2006


Avoidance of pain is not a sensible reason to have laws, my friend.

Sounds like a pretty sensible reason to me. But perhaps you wouldn't mind my coming around and raping your wife?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:08 AM on February 21, 2006


I have no more problem with Berlin spouting inanities

Who is this Berlin character you write about? Not Irving Berlin, surely?

Was there a subtext to 'I'm dreaming of a white Christmas' that we should all be aware of?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:15 AM on February 21, 2006


To Effigy2000's point I would add imprisoning people for speaking or publishing certain opinions makes us guilty of the same crimes committed by the Nazis: silencing those whose speech we find objectionable.

You know, I rather suspect that were once six million jews would have been happy to have just had their views silenced.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:20 AM on February 21, 2006


Peter, good point. I can only refer to the libel trial where Irving's research was torn apart and showed that he deliberatly mis-translated documents, used selective quotations, ignored evidence and many other tactics that led the judge to rule that Irving has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence.

I live in Brussels and I'm about to go to work. On my way I pass houses where Jews were forcibly taken, I go via the train station where they were sent off to the camps. The nearest camp is only 2 hours drive from me.

At the end of my street there lived a horrifically crippled and deformed old man. As a child he was taken off to the camps where he was savagely tortured, beaten and degraded.

If someone tells untruths about me, I have recourse to the courts, should my neighbour not have the protection of the law when people knowingly tell lies about him? when they say his suffering, his life is a lie?

Anyone living in mainland Europe can tell a similar story to mine.

The laws also have another function, they're there to protect the memory of what happened, what happened to millions of people.
posted by quarsan at 12:34 AM on February 21, 2006


Imagine that Austria had had hate crime laws back in, oooh, say the early part of last century.

I'm thinking we'd have avoided a war or two.


Really? When the largest single gathering of Austrians ever was to welcome the German Nazi forces, I doubt the inability to write a book about Nazis would have stopped anything. If a very large group of people want to believe something, not letting them legally talk about it probably won't help and more likely will make their beliefs even more virulent because they feel they are being silenced.
posted by Falconetti at 12:36 AM on February 21, 2006


David Irving is not expressing his opinion. He is deliberately spreading falsehoods in the most offensive way he can.

That's not a free speech issue.


Yes it is. The man can say what he wants. If your argument against his opinion is more powerful and more convincing and pays greater heed to the evidence, you win. The man can still say what he wants. There's a point where you need to stop on the grounds of taste and decency, as evidenced by recent international events, but the man can still say what he wants and be judged by society, not the courts, for the things he says. I thought society was doing a pretty good job of judging him for things he said and he was by and large discredited.

If he was actually advocating violence, that would be a different matter. As far as I'm aware he isn't.
posted by vbfg at 2:02 AM on February 21, 2006


I'm thinking we'd have avoided a war or two.

More to the point, there is a contradiction that keeps resurfacing; if they had a democratic law against a particular ideology then that would be a reflection of the majority sentiment and the law would be superfluous. But if the majority sentiment was e.g. "hate jews", then why would such a society decide to criminilize it's own shared opinion in the first place? In fact, unless they had a tradition of maintaining rigid base liberties (e.g. Freedom of speech, Freedom of religion) it would make more sense to criminilize jew-friendly speech to preserve the fleeting sentiments of the moment.

Take the wicked desires of Americans, for instance, like religious nuttiness: how in the world would I get a law passed to "outlaw" such things as laws and religious prejudice against them there faggots, when it is a problem precisely because the majority subscribes to this outlook. The tyranny of the majority is exactly why freedom of speech and freedom of religion are liberal policies, because speech laws, etc. are logically more likely to hurt and handicap minorities and favor majorities by their very nature. Gay people are in danger because the majority think they are "sinners", and concomitantly, anti-speech laws would more likely silence atheists and gays against this prejudice, not religious homophobes. Duh.

The only time such a law would "work", would pretty much be for a society that really thinks, viscerally, deep down, that minority x needs to be slaughtered, but doesn't want to act on that opinion because . . . it would be bad PR/in terrible taste/atrocious manners? These laws are like a habitually adulterous husband who cuts off his dick: a confession of his own total physical control by wicked base desires, even as his mind and heart scream 'no'.

Is this how Canadians, etc. see themselves? As slavering nigger and kike killers barely contained by a thin veneer of (mostly aesthetic) civilization? I think this is almost tacitly being confessed.

. . .and with that I won't be on the computer for another 15 hours or so. Ta!
posted by dgaicun at 2:56 AM on February 21, 2006


The argument that if someone spouts dangerous falshoods (yes, dangerous), then what they say can be counteracted by being trivialised and publicly ridiculed is quite simply false.

Firstly, if the people expressing the truth have less resources than the people expressing hate, then they will be drowned out and the truth will never be heard.

Secondly, if there are 2 sides to a debate, people will start to believe the truth is in the middle. Consider the 2 statements: 'Nazis intended to wipe out all jews and had a systematic program to do so', and 'There was no Holocaust', The middle point between those views is as false as the extremest holocaust deniers' statements.

Words are dangerous. People can be influenced and opinions can be changed by words.

One major concern to me at the moment is how it has become acceptable to spout borderline hate speach about muslims (such as all muslims are evil terrorists, Islam is a violent religion, Arabs are taking over the US ports: the terrorists will win OMFG!!!1!). It is not too far a step from a negative stereotype, to a predjudice, to discrimination and worse. And at the moment, the voices of reason are being drowned out.

Remember, it is the changing of public opinion against Jews (using hate speach) that allowed the Holocaust to take place.

If you think that the US is a special place where all of this is false, and that people spouting hate speach never has any impact on the groups being targetted, than your history (and current events) speak otherwise.
posted by nielm at 2:56 AM on February 21, 2006


If you think that the US is a special place where all of this is false, and that people spouting hate speach never has any impact on the groups being targetted, than your history (and current events) speak otherwise.

How do you square this with the use of incarceration to silence opinions you happen to find distasteful? Nowhere is a special place at all, and that is why we must always refrain from granting governments the power to incarcerate those with opinions they disagree with. The alternative is free speech. It might suck, but it sucks considerably less than throwing people in jail for their opinions.
posted by vbfg at 3:30 AM on February 21, 2006


The amount of ignorant and beclouded drivel filling up this particular thread is astonishing and quite miserable - then again, freedom of speech and the right to uneducated opinions do allow voicing such misguided and unfortunate beliefs at will.

The "holocaust denial law", which is in effect in eleven European countries, has very little to do with freedom of speech or the violation thereof - elemental knowledge of European modern history clarifies this for you - and yet, the vast majority of Irving's support (direct or by cause) in this thread finds its roots in this one popular illusion, as if there ever really was one.

Quick reminder:
-60 million human beings lost their lives because of World War II
-6 million human beings lost their lives in the holocaust
-The nazis were the primary instigators to this massive and uncomprehensible slaughter of lives
-The nazis were in certain genocide activities the only practicing party
-Nazism has its roots in Germany and Austria

There are very good reasons why glorifying the actions of the nazis, disseminating nazi propaganda, diminishing or denying the actions of the nazis and the consequences of their actions during the second world war, in any shape or form, is illegal in these two countries. There are very good reasons why altering and manipulating this horrific, and quite recent, history is illegal in these two countries.

There is also a good reason for Godwin's Law.
posted by psychomedia at 3:37 AM on February 21, 2006


There are very good reasons why glorifying the actions of the nazis, disseminating nazi propaganda, diminishing or denying the actions of the nazis and the consequences of their actions during the second world war, in any shape or form, is illegal in these two countries.

Other than the creation of martyrs, what are those reasons and why are they primary over free expression?
posted by vbfg at 4:19 AM on February 21, 2006


I can't think of anything that would make me want to believe someone's opinion more than putting him in prison for expressing it. Not only is jailing Irving wrong as a matter of principle, it's also counterproductive in the short term.

How about if we decided to work as hard on defusing hatred with compassion and understanding as we do on opposing it with more hatred? I'm turning into a hippie in my old age...
posted by teleskiving at 4:24 AM on February 21, 2006


This is wrong. Assholes who speak as such should be free to do so so that we know they are such.
posted by ParisParamus at 4:29 AM on February 21, 2006


vbfg:
Just curious, OT, and taking an extreme example but would you defend Abu Hamza's preachings as free speech? I am they fall under the categry of distateful opinions, and we can see that the government disagrees with these opinions...
posted by nielm at 4:51 AM on February 21, 2006


VFBG:

-Partially because of what I wrote in the "Quick reminder" part of my post.
-Partially because of the very same reasons the United Nations was founded - to ensure that it never happens again.
-Partially to ensure that it will never be forgotten.
-Partially because of a tremendous guilt and responsibility.
-Partially to ensure history is maintained and not manipulated.
-Partially in respect to all those who were slaughtered

And yes, that goes beyond freedom of expression.

I suppose the problem in a discussion like this is that we can't really relate to the actual events that took place - That my office served as a former prison cell for jews, when I was working down in Austria was hard enough to imagine, picturing 6 million human beings being tortured and then brutally murdered because of their beliefs is beyond most people's comprehension, let alone over 60 million victims in total.

...and I don't really see where you fit in martyrs here, but I leave that opinion with you.
posted by psychomedia at 5:09 AM on February 21, 2006


oh. VFBG should of course be VBFG. my apologies.
posted by psychomedia at 5:11 AM on February 21, 2006


nielm: As I said above, if it was the case that Irving was advocating violence it would be a different matter. I'm not aware that he is. Abu Hamza specifically advocates violence. He specifically advocates the overthrow of what you or I would think of as civilisation through violent means. His freedom to do that impinges on the freedom of others, which IMO stops it from being a 'freedom' at all. It's a no brainer, there is no valuable comparison to be made that I can see.

David Irving advocates a point of view on historical issues. Those issues involved horrific violence on an unprecedented scale, but it's violence that has happened and as far as I'm aware he advocates nothing akin to perpetuating it or anything like it. Some of the people specifically interested in his opinions, of whom I am not one btw, may do so, but they are not the issue. Irving and his opinions are the issue. Arrest those other people when they are conspiring to carry out those acts, advocating those acts or are specifically targeting other groups in some way.

I don't defend Irving, I defend the right of individuals to express their own views. I don't see that there is necessarily a dividing line between throwing people in jail for their opinions and beliefs and throwing them in camps for their opinions and beliefs is. Do you? All I see is governments pulling populist stunts to the extent they can get away with them in the spirit of their times. I apologise if anyone is offended by that, if they feel I've in some way belittled the holocaust by a direct comparison to contemporary events, but surely the point is to remember the victims, not to venerate them, and endeavour to make sure it doesn't happen again. The only way we can do that, IMHO, is to remember that we are all part of this international society and we have both rights and responsiblities with regard to tolerance of opposing points of view and reproaching them through argument, debate and rhetoric. Prison is restraint: it is nothing more than moderated violence against the person. When the crime is the possession of an opinion contrary to that directed by the government, even a truly representative government, I see no need whatsoever for prison to even be a factor.

I'm going to say that again because I think it's important. The lesson of the holocaust isn't that we should remember the holocaust. We should do so of course, and seek to understand what actually happened as accurately as we can, but the real point is the people should always be aware of the government's power and check that power when it is in danger of impinging on the freedoms of individuals or groups. I'm just amazed people don't see this as one of those times.

Besides, all that aside, Irving was discredited many years ago. He'd fallen off my radar and I suspect it was the case for many others. Fsck me, he's international news again after eing prodded to the top by well meaning delusionals.
posted by vbfg at 5:14 AM on February 21, 2006


*applauds vbfg*
posted by fandango_matt at 5:32 AM on February 21, 2006


Preventing people with bad ideas from talking about them doesn't make the bad ideas go away - It just makes them secret.
posted by glenwood at 5:42 AM on February 21, 2006


psychomedia:

-Partially because of what I wrote in the "Quick reminder" part of my post.

I understand the background of the holocaust. I don't consider it relevant to the legal cases of those who were not directly involved.

-Partially because of the very same reasons the United Nations was founded - to ensure that it never happens again.

I'm not aware that throwing people in jail for their opinions is a necessary precondition to the prevention of totalitarian government. I think you'd have a hard time convincing people of your view of the roots of the UN too, FWIW.

-Partially to ensure that it will never be forgotten.

Throwing Irving in jail has put it in the international headlines I suppose.

-Partially because of a tremendous guilt and responsibility.

Guilt is for the guilty, not the justice system. Justice ought to deal with verifiable facts, the law and the extent to which reasonable doubt applies. Are you arguing that the best way to remember the holocaust is for those who feel guilt, however strongly and with however much validity, to assuage that guilt through the persecutation of contrary opinions? I'm not sure I can bring myself to agree.

-Partially to ensure history is maintained and not manipulated.

Well, just like science, history is about the best available explanation to fit the evidence. More so than science, evidence changes over time, repeatable methods don't necessarily exist, the means of interpretating the evidence changes, the interpretation is inevitably coloured by the pre-existing prejudices of the individuals involved in the interpretation, etc. History is politics, history is debate, history is argument, history is conflicting opinions. Some are, as we seem to say these days, batshit insane, whilst others are not. History is maintained by letting those historical processes that are constantly at work within history itself resolve themselves to a common view. The process uncovers new facts, evidence, discredits old opinions that have are so embedded in the psyche that they are viewed as facts.

But here's the rub, when those processes are played out - start again, because contemporary points of view will always reflect the contemporary state and the point of history is to ionterpret historical events in the light of contemporary opinions and evidence. The *whole point* (IM-distinctly-amateur-O) is to see ourselves reflected in history and learn from it.

History absolutely is not a collection of dates and facts. I agree that the facts are the facts, which is what I assume you meant originally, but the facts become facts in more people's minds by argument and debate. People who argue that they are not facts are best dealt with through the systematic ripping apart of their 'evidence' by what we know to be true. There will be occassions when they are right and you are wrong, but this is useful right? Cos it changes your own wrongly held opinions and it brings it more into line with what happened, right? See how it works? There will also be times, and in the case of Irving it will be most of the time, when they are wrong and you are right and those who are interested in the debate enough to follow it will see.

-Partially in respect to all those who were slaughtered

And this honours their memories? I can't say, and neither can anybody else, but I'm not sure it's a fitting way to try.

I suppose the problem in a discussion like this is that we can't really relate to the actual events that took place - That my office served as a former prison cell for jews, when I was working down in Austria was hard enough to imagine, picturing 6 million human beings being tortured and then brutally murdered because of their beliefs is beyond most people's comprehension, let alone over 60 million victims in total.


That's the only thing you've said with which I agree, it is beyond all our comprehensions. It is easy to see how in such a context people could, in the face of the evidence, deny that it happened at all. An earth that wasn't flat was once beyond the comprehension of many though, and still is today for some. Once we were over locking people up for believing contrary to those views we let the evidence and the argument do the talking, and lo knowledge thus advanced at a faster rate than it ever had before. Funny how things work out.

...and I don't really see where you fit in martyrs here, but I leave that opinion with you.

Irving will be a martyr to people who deny the holocaust happened. Is that not obvious? Anyone want to run a sweepstake on when the new president of Iran gets an allusion to it into an anti-Israeli speech? Extras for those who get the context to be cartoons and freedom of speech. That's apart from those who are actually nazis. Irving has been martyred. He can trade off it for the rest of his life if he so chooses, and I dare say he will.

posted by vbfg at 6:16 AM on February 21, 2006


Dang, my html is shot to pieces. I'm sure you can work out which comments were yours and which are mine. ;)
posted by vbfg at 6:17 AM on February 21, 2006


if it was the case that Irving was advocating violence it would be a different matter.

Why would it? If you allow limitations on freedom of expression, you allow limitations on freedom of express. You appear to think it's OK if there's a risk somebody's going to get lynched; others happen think it's OK if there's a risk of fascist genocide.

arrest those other people when they are conspiring to carry out those acts, advocating those acts or are specifically targeting other groups in some way.

By the time organised fascism gets to that stage, it's a far bigger problem. Nobody wants it to get to that stage, why not nip it in the bud? "Rights" are given by society; they can be taken away by society. Prevention of the holocaust is unquestionably a just requirement of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

see no need whatsoever for prison to even be a factor
Is it the crime or the punishment you're against? I'm personally not sold on the punishment; that Irving is a criminal I'm fine with.

When the crime is the possession of an opinion contrary to that directed by the government,
Smooth rhethoric. But that's not the crime, although you and other see-the-principle miss-the-pointers would like it to be. The crime is denial of the genocide of six million innocent humans. There's no opinion involved here. He's not a dissenting opinion, he's not a new way to truth. There is a truth here, it was established with the blood of millions and "opinion" is out the window.

I'm going to say that again because I think it's important. The lesson of the holocaust isn't that we should remember the holocaust.
Oh good, I'm glad you're qualified to tell us what we should learn from the senseless slaughter, I wonder what it will be?

but the real point is the people should always be aware of the government's power and check that power when it is in danger of impinging on the freedoms of individuals or groups
What a surprise. The voiceless millions can rest easy knowing that their deaths counted: After all, humanity learned a lesson about politics. I'm sure they'd much rather that people were allowed to deny it ever happened.

Besides, all that aside, Irving was discredited many years ago.
That he was a source of fun for the mainstream is of no matter; so was Hitler during his slow rise to power as you should well know.

*applauds vbfg*
Oh lordy, the peanut gallery's out of bed. Any minute the shellsprinciples are going to start flying.
posted by bonaldi at 6:21 AM on February 21, 2006


Why would it? If you allow limitations on freedom of expression, you allow limitations on freedom of express. You appear to think it's OK if there's a risk somebody's going to get lynched; others happen think it's OK if there's a risk of fascist genocide.

I don't see your point. We're punishing people for what might happen rather than what they do? Since when? Let's not be under any illusions here, this is punitive rather preventative action. They say a crime has been committed and are punishing accordingly.

As for why they're different matters, Hamza was using his freedom of expression to impinge on the freedoms of others by advocating violence against them. As I've already explained, I don't regard the impinging part to be a freedom, never mind the violence against others. We're not in the business of absolutes here, it's not simply a case of all freedom of expression or none.

That is my guiding principle on matters of freedom btw, since we're on the topic. If your freedom impinges on the freedom of another, your freedom is not a freedom. It's a perfect world scenario, and one which can never be enforced correctly or fully, but it is a useful guide.

Do you, in that light, see the difference between Irving and Abu Hamza?

By the time organised fascism gets to that stage, it's a far bigger problem. Nobody wants it to get to that stage, why not nip it in the bud?

I agree, nip it in the bud. Technique appears to vary.

Explain to me how Irving's imprisonment helps with that particular cause. Explain to me how the principles which allow Irving's imprisonment in the first place are a safe guard against fascism? Explain to me how, with those principles in place and everyone on the ball watching for the first clues of fascism, something worse of which you cannot conceive and certainly aren't prepared for won't come along and extend the principles further? Tell me you're sure these things won't happen, and explain why. Pay heed to the enforcing of this law in your answer.

Prevention of the holocaust is unquestionably a just requirement of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

I absolutely agree, but nobody is explaining how giving the power to imprison the delusional for being nothing other than delusional helps with that. All that is achieved is you have a delusional person in jail.

Is it the crime or the punishment you're against? I'm personally not sold on the punishment; that Irving is a criminal I'm fine with.

A bit of both tbh, but more the punishment. I'm in the UK, and for various reasons it's not a crime here at all. I would be ostracised by large portions of the society if I expressed views in sympathy with Irving's, but it's not actually a crime.

The crime is denial of the genocide of six million innocent humans.

I understand the point, I just need someone to explain the crime to me. Which part of that is yer actual criminal activity? What is it that makes it criminal? At what point would it stop being criminal? Is holocaust denial going to be a crime three hundred years from now? Is the present understanding of the holocaust and the processes at work that created it going to be set in stone until three hundred years from now? Why is the same process of delusion, wilful or otherwise, not criminalised in other areas? Why is it that those who believe OJ Simpson to be innocent aren't criminals? Simply one of scale?

What is it that makes holocaust denial such a special case of self delusion that it needs to be a crime? Why can't fascism be fought, and again I agree that it needs to be, with reason rather than repression?

I'm going to say that again because I think it's important. The lesson of the holocaust isn't that we should remember the holocaust.
Oh good, I'm glad you're qualified to tell us what we should learn from the senseless slaughter, I wonder what it will be?

If you'd read it rather than selectively quoted in the fine tradition of a snark, you would know. The point, as we are all saying, is to learn from it and ensure it never happens again. The way to do this is, **IMO**, is to guard against the ability of both higher powers and other citizens to impinge on our individual freedoms. The holocaust is worth remembering, but the holocaust is just the holocaust. (Again, to anyone offended by my aparrant belittling of the holocaust, I really do apologise) It is the process of the incarceration of all those jews and other minorities, many of them political prisoners btw, their forced labour and their murder. Those things happened because the people weren't observant of the powers of the government and its abilities to interfere, and by the time they were it was too late for organised action. Do we prevent it from happening again by venerating it? Or do we prevent it from happening again through constant observance of our rights and responsibilities within society?

Guess which I think.

That he was a source of fun for the mainstream is of no matter; so was Hitler during his slow rise to power as you should well know.

As I recall there was a court case and a prison sentence involved in his rise to respectability.
posted by vbfg at 7:08 AM on February 21, 2006


This is just stupid. It's disgusting that a self-proclaimed Western democracy would jail a man merely for his ideas. But it's also just pointless. Does anybody really believe that in the age of the Internet, the government can do anything to restrict the flow of ideas? What's next, a Great Firewall for the entire country to prevent people from accessing holocaust denial websites? Regardless of whether you believe such laws are sound (and they're not, it's unfortunate so many do though), there's just no practical purpose here. It's the epitome of the classical Chinese oppression-as-gesture. Jailing this guy helps nobody; indeed it'll it probably just vindicates him and many of his followers. The Austrians would be better off spending their money promoting holocaust awareness and education than locking up people for writing books and making speeches.
posted by nixerman at 7:16 AM on February 21, 2006


Explain to me how Irving's imprisonment helps with that particular cause.

I can't; I'm not sure that it does. Making him pay all his royalties to holocaust memorial/research; Making him work in Auschwitz; Giving him a swift hoof in the pods -- there are plenty of better options.

Explain to me how the principles which allow Irving's imprisonment in the first place are a safe guard against fascism?

They're one safeguard against fascism because the last time fascism rose to power was on the back of anti-Semitic rhetoric, and one thing helping keep it down is the spectre of what happened last time. Any fascist power looking for mainstream appeal has to first deal with the legacy. The law makes sure that it can't be dealt with by handwaving and saying "oh, it was all exaggerated, we were never like that, it's all the Jewish conspiracy".

Explain to me how, with those principles in place and everyone on the ball watching for the first clues of fascism, something worse of which you cannot conceive and certainly aren't prepared for won't come along and extend the principles further?

Hmm. As I've been trying to say, this isn't about principle. It can't be extended because there's nowhere to take it. The sum principle is that "the holocaust should not be denied". All abuses of censorship come from the suppression of truth; these laws are an affirmation of it.

Prevention of the holocaust is unquestionably a just requirement of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.

I absolutely agree, but nobody is explaining how giving the power to imprison the delusional for being nothing other than delusional helps with that. All that is achieved is you have a delusional person in jail.


Well, a "just requirement of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society" is what the UN declaration of human rights deems a valid reason to limit those rights.

I can't argue for the punishment, for reasons given above.

What is it that makes holocaust denial such a special case of self delusion that it needs to be a crime? Why can't fascism be fought, and again I agree that it needs to be, with reason rather than repression?

For pragmatic reasons, it is a special case because otherwise the axis countries would have spent years or decades trying to come to terms with WWII, and every now and then some shiny former SS officer would publish a book saying "ach the holocaust never really happened, like" and all the wounds would reopen, old battles be refought, etc etc. It's taken Germany the best part of 70 years to come to terms with it, and that's *with* certain truths being taken as read.

In more general terms, fascism can't be fought with reason because reason does nothing to stop the irrational. It sure didn't last time.

Those things happened because the people weren't observant of the powers of the government and its abilities to interfere, and by the time they were it was too late for organised action.

Eh? No they didn't. Those things happened because anti-Semitic fascists took power, and used the machinery of the state in covert to their own evil ends. The were *given* large chunks of the powers of government by a people all-too-aware of the power of the state (they'd just fought and lost a huge war for it, after all), then they nicked the rest.

Or do we prevent it from happening again through constant observance of our rights and responsibilities within society?

OK. But explain to me how, with that observation in place and everyone on the ball watching for the first infringement of those rights, something worse of which you cannot conceive and certainly aren't prepared for won't come along and infringe them totally? Pay heed to the enforcing of these protections in your answer.
posted by bonaldi at 7:53 AM on February 21, 2006


Unrestricted free speech trades short-term discomforts for greater truths. In the short term, charlatans can fling waste into the discourse, which smells bad and offends my sensibilities. Fortunately, the truth isn't as fragile as my sensibilities. There is overwhelming evidence against this person's claims. In the long term, this fellow's arguments are only going to strengthen the truth. Some of you favor protecting the truth instead of allowing it to compete with lies. Truth is a Bad Motherfucker and can take care of itself.

Shitty ideas fertilize the truth.
posted by elderling at 7:59 AM on February 21, 2006


Truth is a Bad Motherfucker
Truth is so bad-ass that nobody can be quite sure what it is, or be sure they're not seeing it through a cultural viewpoint, or that it's not being subverted. This is my truth, tell me yours.
posted by bonaldi at 8:02 AM on February 21, 2006


The sum principle is that "the holocaust should not be denied". All abuses of censorship come from the suppression of truth; these laws are an affirmation of it.

bonaldi, it's quite clear that you just don't get freedom of speech. Freedom of speech has nothing to do with the truth. Censorship has to do with rights, particularly the right for people to hold and discuss ideas without fear of the government. Freedom of speech stems from an even deeper, more fundamental right: the freedom of conscience. Look it up. It's laughable that you believe the government should be in the business of classifying what's an opinion and what's not or what's the truth and what's not. How is this different from a government that simply restricts "opinions" out right?
posted by nixerman at 8:10 AM on February 21, 2006


Freedom of speech has nothing to do with the truth.
If that's the case, then these laws have nothing to do with freedom of speech. These laws are about protecting a truth.

believe the government should be in the business of classifying what's an opinion and what's not or what's the truth and what's not
So laugh. But it's not what I believe. I'm not saying we need a framework where such decisions can be made, or laws can be written to protect this or that truth. I'm in the UK, and already my government is deciding what is and isn't incitement to religious hatred, which I'm all against.

But: I do believe that the holocaust should not be denied, and that no useful purpose is served by allowing it to be, except toward principles of "rights", while plenty of harm is done by allowing it to be.
posted by bonaldi at 8:15 AM on February 21, 2006


VBFG:

The discussion is clearly going in two directions. My posts had nothing to do with Irving in person but rather why the Nazi laws are in place in Germany and Austria.

But to quickly reply:
Most, if not all, of your comments are based on the incident where a pseudo famous has-been is being sent to jail because of practicing his freedom of expression rights, spreading shite around himself. Obviously, he's an asshat with a skewed view of what was and what wasn't - as far as the holocaust goes - and I suppose we all could go on with our lives just knowing that. However. Ultimately, he has broken the law in Austria (and in 10 other countries if we want to be picky about it) and should therefore, as is the case, go to jail - it has happened before and it will happen again.

Whether or not these laws should be reviewed is another question. Personally, I believe it will take quite some time until that happens because of reasons I've already mentioned - and yes, these reasons can be interpreted in the worst possible ways if really wanted.

But oh my, we agree on something... ;-)
posted by psychomedia at 8:19 AM on February 21, 2006


I'm wondering if the argument in support of Irving's imprisonment basically bils down to:

"People who espouse a position which is flatly rejected by scientific facts, and which can be used, indirectly, as rhetoric to encourage radicals in violence and hate against a people group, are willfully endorsing and enabling that potentiaql violence and should therefore be punished by the state."

If so, then the Discovery Institute, the Swift Boat Veterans and Jimmy Swaggart better be shaping up...
posted by darkstar at 8:20 AM on February 21, 2006


darkstar,

I think it's worse than that actually. Nobody really believes Irving's views will encourage radicals or violence any more than the thousands of Holocaust denial web sites and books already out there have incited incidents of violence. Irving is dangerous to nobody. This is purely opression-as-gesture, locking up somebody who's committed no crime and is innocent to make a point. Irving's innocence--the fact that he's just a harmless, misguided old man--clarifies and contributes to the power of the gesture. Does Austria have a national firewall preventing fascist ideas from entering the country? No, of course not, but that's what the government would do if it were really serious about the threat of fascist ideas. The sad thing is that currently all of Europe is abuzz with protecting speech in a case that's not about speech at all, but this, a case where speech is the core issue, will be glibly and silently accepted.
posted by nixerman at 8:28 AM on February 21, 2006


Does Austria have a national firewall preventing fascist ideas from entering the country?
Google for Google Germany.
posted by bonaldi at 8:32 AM on February 21, 2006


OK. But explain to me how, with that observation in place and everyone on the ball watching for the first infringement of those rights, something worse of which you cannot conceive and certainly aren't prepared for won't come along and infringe them totally? Pay heed to the enforcing of these protections in your answer.

Very good. :)

You raised a few good points in that post mate, and I'm not sure I can answer them fully in the time I have available so I'm not going to try. Been fun though, cheers.
posted by vbfg at 8:50 AM on February 21, 2006


Everything that can be said - HAS been said by Smedlyman and others.

Except one thing.

Perhaps Holocaust denial should not be a crime.

But HoloDECK Denial sure as shit should be!

Those were the best episodes of that otherwise goody-two-shoes crap series.

That's right. I said it.
posted by tkchrist at 9:29 AM on February 21, 2006


posted by solid-one-love I think it's morally abhorrent that the US does not imprison Holocaust-deniers.

So you're comfortable with imprisoning people whose opinions differ from yours. Wow.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:38 PM EST on February 20 [!]


Denying the Holocaust isn't opinion. An opinion is when you think that X movie is better than Y, or that WWI was caused because Ferdinand skipped breakfast that morning and was therefore at the right place at the right time for Princip to shoot him.

The Holocaust happened. Six million people--Jews, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals--were brutally enslaved and murdered. That is not opinion. That is fact. Documented and proven fact. Denial of that is not a matter of opnion, it is a matter of racists and bigots trying to rewrite history to conform with their twisted and warped views. Denying that fact is malicious, and hurtful.

Frankly, all of you people who sit there and say "Baaa, baaa, hate crime laws are baaaaad, GO AMERICA!" should take a really fucking good look at your own restrictions on free speech. I'd also suggest you try and tell, as suggested above, a Holocaust survivor that what they experienced didn't actually happen. I'd like you to ask your gay friends and relatives how they feel about walking down the street and being called faggots and dykes, about having people say that they're responsible for civilisation declining, that they're nothing but fornicators and sinners and should be put to death. I'd like you to ask your black, Asian, Hispanic friends how they feel about being called niggers and spics and chinks and gooks, about having society's ills blamed upon them.

In my experience, 99% of the people who don't understand the purpose of hate crimes legislation are 1) White, 2) Male, 3) Middle-class, 3) Heterosexual, 4) Americans. Hate crime legislation protects us from those amongst you who feel that unless you're those five things, you're not even human.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:44 AM on February 21, 2006


But where do you stand on the evil Holodeck Deniers. That's what I'd like to know.
posted by tkchrist at 12:26 PM on February 21, 2006


The Holocaust happened. Six million people--Jews, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals--were brutally enslaved and murdered. That is not opinion. That is fact. Documented and proven fact. Denial of that is not a matter of opnion, it is a matter of racists and bigots trying to rewrite history to conform with their twisted and warped views. Denying that fact is malicious, and hurtful.

Irving did not say that nothing happened. As far as I know, his scholastic writings (as opposed to his private speech, which is not at issue in this case) have put forward the claim that while many Jews (millions) and others died in forced labour camps and concentration camps, there were no gas chambers or facilities designed to extermine Jews as part of a "final solution". He goes on to say that if there was such a plan, he has not found evidence that Hitler knew about it, and that any machinations to that end were conducted by Himmler and Heydrich.

Not exactly holocaust denial. Perhaps Holocaust mitigation, or a minimization of Hitler's direct involvement. Truth be told, I've never seen direct evidence of Hitler's express written or verbal acknowledgement of death camps or a final solution. Most other historians point to indirect evidence, or POW interrogations to connect the dots to Hitler.

Never having been privy to first hand experiences with the holocaust or Nazi Germany, and not having studied all of the materials available on the subject, for all I know, he's right. Obviously I don't think he is, due to the preponderance of evidence disagreeing with his opinions, and the writings of the vast majority of other historians, but I don't think it's accurate to call him a flat out holocaust denier.
posted by loquax at 12:45 PM on February 21, 2006


In my experience, 99% of the people who don't understand the purpose of hate crimes legislation are 1) White, 2) Male, 3) Middle-class, 3) Heterosexual, 4) Americans.

In my experience, people who support their opinions with "in my experience" are providing anecdotal evidence.

In my experience, people who argue about free speech are really long winded.
posted by elderling at 12:58 PM on February 21, 2006


I'd like you to ask your black, Asian, Hispanic friends how they feel about being called niggers and spics and chinks and gooks, about having society's ills blamed upon them.

Because we all know that Canadian laws have made all those Western CA truck drivers loooove Asian/Indian drivers, or that when a group of White Torontans are together, they NEVER speak badly of the Arabs and Asians of their city.

Thanks to Canada's wonderful laws, bad words have been vanquished! And racism is sure to follow...

yeah right. I personally resent being told that opposition to thought crime laws = racism. I believe that allowing people to express their opinions, however evil or sick they may be, reduces racism in the long term. That's why I am opposed to those laws All Canada has done is drive it undergound, a bit. Without an outlet, a valve for haters, if you will, and a place where haters can be taken in directly, I believe that Canadians will become more and not less racist in the long term.
posted by chaz at 12:59 PM on February 21, 2006


In my experience, 99% of the people who don't understand the purpose of hate crimes legislation are 1) White, 2) Male, 3) Middle-class, 3) Heterosexual, 4) Americans.

Is that multiple choice? Or are 99% of them fit all of those descriptors? Just how many people -- in your experience -- have you discussed with in person? And how would you categorize the other 1%? Were they all females or all darker-skinned, or each and every one a dark-skinned, female, homosexual, affluent, non-American?

I would suggest, universalizing from my own experience (it's the thing to do, apparently) that many people "understand the purpose" of speech codes and still are against them. And I think you might be mixing up "hate crimes" with "hate speech." We are discussing the latter, not the former. Big difference.

You can't fight hate with hate, by the way.
posted by Cassford at 1:11 PM on February 21, 2006


Well, you can, but you really shouldn't. In my experience, it makes a hate sandwich 78.5% of the time.
posted by Cassford at 1:13 PM on February 21, 2006


You can't fight hate with hate, by the way.

Yes you can. That's why propaganda works so well
posted by bonaldi at 1:14 PM on February 21, 2006


oops crosspost
posted by bonaldi at 1:15 PM on February 21, 2006


Frankly, all of you people who sit there and say "Baaa, baaa, hate crime laws are baaaaad, GO AMERICA!"

These are entirely separable. I really, really like free expression. I have no particular attachment to the US; it's just where I live.

should take a really fucking good look at your own restrictions on free speech

I think those restrictions are also deeply wrong, and that broadcasters should be allowed to broadcast whatever they please at whatever hours they choose, so long as they don't step outside their bandwidth.

I'd also suggest you try and tell, as suggested above, a Holocaust survivor that what they experienced didn't actually happen.

Why? Holocaust deniers are grade-A assholes. I'm not an asshole, or at the very least not that kind of asshole. I just think that assholes get to talk too.

Hate crime legislation protects us from those amongst you who feel that unless you're those five things, you're not even human.

Well, that's the rub, isn't it? I'll certainly agree that hate-speech* laws provide some protection against being called unpleasant names. But do they actually provide any concrete protection against real action against the groups? I think they don't, and that the belief that they would is foolish.

*You mean hate-speech, not hate-crimes. Hate-crimes laws treat racial/ethnic/etc animus as an aggravating factor in sentencing for other crimes. Much of the US has hate-crime legislation already, AFAIK.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:24 PM on February 21, 2006


Is it hate to hate hate?
posted by applemeat at 1:26 PM on February 21, 2006


But do they actually provide any concrete protection against real action against the groups? I think they don't, and that the belief that they would is foolish.

Well, in the streets? No. But they do prevent rabble-rousing; they prevent would-be "historians" from addressing and indoctrinating large groups of would-be Nazis in a country that's had one or two problems with Nazism. So concrete? Perhaps not. Foolish? No.
posted by bonaldi at 1:27 PM on February 21, 2006


“It's making the dissemination of one *particular* lie -- a lie where the counterpart truth is already beyond doubt -- illegal.” - bonaldi

I get it bonaldi. I cede your points that Austria isn’t anti-free speech as a matter of course. I wasn’t condemning them particularly.
I suppose the problem is - who determines what the “truth” is and that it is “beyond doubt.”
It looks like a slippery slope to me.
In addition isolating one particular subject as taboo - or whatever a better word choice might be - is a matter of privilege.

You see, were I arguing the matter from a content rather than principle perspective I could well ask: why is it the Jews get that kind of special treatment when other genocides have occured?
(There are genocides within living memory no one talks about - there are genocides going on now that get only lip service)

So why do I have to get treated (if I’m Joe Six Pack in Austria - er... Johann Sechs Dosen) like I’m a criminal when I didn’t do anything to any Jews?
Kinda like folks riding me for killing the indians or slavery in America. Well, my family in particular didn’t get here until well past all that.
So any law that singles out one particular group as special would tend to chafe my ass whether I was a Nazi or not.
Indeed - looking at the Nazi rhetoric saying that the Jews were conspiring, that they thought they were special and get special treatment because they have money - etc. - starts looking more atttractive because - well, aren’t they getting special treatment?

By that I mean not that legally in fact they are or aren’t - but that justice, from the other end - is felt.

I suppose, speaking broadly, I understand the Austrian position, but I think they’re rushing to cleanse themselves of those past sins.
They need patience. I don’t think they need a law. Just keep denying tenure to people who deny the holocaust - keep making them social pariahs, and it will die out over time.

Maybe I’m too conservative when it comes to how the government should work, but I think tradition and custom can do enough to modulate society.

F’rinstance, my wife and I and some couples we know went downtown for dinner. Well, we were near the section of Chicago known as “boystown” and a couple gay guys were walking down the street holding hands. A couple guys, in their 20s or so, pointed and snickered at the gay guys.
So I looked at them and said “What’re you from fuckin’ Kansas? You’ve never seen gay guys? Move back to the sticks, you don’t belong downtown, you’re gonna get hurt.”

Which to me - explaining how decent people act and understand things in society - did a lot more than some law might do. Plus it kept them from serious injury. The leathermen take care of any reminant queer stompers that are left. Cops understand it too and tend to cut the butches some slack if some gay-hating asshole winds up with a black eye or something and a nice “let’s not fuck with each other” sort of vibe gets cast over the neighborhood.

I’m not merely saying “society will sort it out” I’m saying society is the outgrowth of the sense of self-preservation. I agree with generichuman’s take on Hobbes and societal tension - I prefer tradition and custom to work it out long term rather than quick fixes by the government.
Yes there is some pain and harm - but that pain and harm done by a few idiots to society is less than the damage done by the government to society when it dictates that certain taboos.
Those things have a way of becoming part of tradition and custom. And there is a danger that the tradition becomes to destroy any deviation from the conforming “truth” as dictated by - whomever.

But maybe your right bonaldi , I don’t know if we’ll be around to see the truth of it. But perhaps a hundred years from now that particular Austrian law will be an archaic remnant and there will be no holocaust deniers, etc.
I prefer to err on the other side because of the lessons of the encroachment of power throughout history.
But if they’re treating this as the extremely rare and dangerous thing it is - and making it purely exceptional, ok, maybe they’ll get away with it.

“...how the Catholic Church held us back by insisting that the world was flat. Truth is more important than the right to talk shit.”

See - I don’t know how you can make that argument and not recognize that “the Truth” was what was being dictated by the Catholic Church and anyone who for example - denied the truth that the Sun moves around the Earth or that there were moons around Jupiter - was a heretic and was prosecuted.
Gallileo is in form - not substance - the equivalent of Irving in this case.
He denied the truth that the Sun moves around the Earth (because there is clear evidence for it - it is an established truth from time immemorial - Aristotle on down showed loads of evidence for it). The Truth there was beyond doubt. You don’t have to read Irving’s books to know he’s wrong. The church fathers didn’t have to look through Gallileo’s telescope to know he was wrong. All they did was imprison him too.

“I'm comfortable with punishing people for denying the holocaust.”

Well, I’m technically still part of the Catholic Church. How dare you insult my religeon? I demand you be banned from Metafilter immediately.

“If someone tells untruths about me, I have recourse to the courts, should my neighbour not have the protection of the law when people knowingly tell lies about him?”
- quarsan

I think many of us are just fine with taking Irving to civil court. It’s this business about the government determining what the truth is and how only certain things can or can’t be spoken - is the problem.


“...elemental knowledge of European modern history clarifies this for you...”
- psychomedia

Just like elemental observation and physicks of the time proved the Sun moved round the Earth.

Get it straight - no matter how bad it was, no matter how evil or how horrific the time was or the pain - nothing that is said (within my upthread caviats) should be made criminal.

“I suppose the problem in a discussion like this is that we can't really relate to the actual events that took place -” - psychomedia

Well, I’ve spoken to several suvivors on just this topic and they were in favor of the deniers right to speak freely. That’s anecdotal of course, but I suppose actually being in a death camp would give you some perspective on the matter.
They did have a problem with the deniers getting attention in the press. Which I agree with. But I wouldn’t imprison the newpaper folks for it. Just boycott their paper, write letters, etc. etc. etc.



“"Rights" are given by society; they can be taken away by society.” - bonaldi

We have this here thing called the second amendment in the U.S. lots of us think sorta prevent that.
Hell, most of us are pretty itchy to exercise that right now.

“Denying the Holocaust isn't opinion.”

Denying the Sun moves around the Earth wasn’t opinion. It was documented and proven fact.


“...Giving him a swift hoof in the pods -- there are plenty of better options.”

Yeah, why not torture him - better still, take him off somewhere for “reconditioning.” Then we’ll all be free to believe what the government tells us the truth is.

“They're one safeguard against fascism..”
So is free speech. Because the last time fascism rose to power was on the back of anti-Semitic rhetoric and the denial of any other speech.


“In my experience, 99% of the people who don't understand the purpose of hate crimes legislation are 1) White, 2) Male, 3) Middle-class, 3) Heterosexual, 4) Americans.” - dirtynumbangelboy

Yes, we must stop people from labeling others or being prejudiced about what they think or how they act and..um....hey, wait a minute...


“...explain to me how, with that observation in place and everyone on the ball watching for the first infringement of those rights, something worse of which you cannot conceive and certainly aren't prepared for won't come along and infringe them totally? Pay heed to the enforcing of these protections in your answer.”

In any dynamic system you have feedback. If you are paying attention to it, you can anticipate and initiate a response - perhaps even pre-emptively - to the rise of nearly any circumstance. Free speech encourages and evokes greater and more accurate feedback. It encourages participation in the system (when it’s working) because it does not deny anyone a voice. This is why diplomacy is the most successful and most often used form of anti-terrorism. By being universally inclusive - by being receptive to any idea - anyone can spout off about anything. If their idea is smashing the system that allows anyone else to speak, that becomes very evident very quickly.
This is why we had Smedley Butler instead of Adolf Hitler in the U.S.

This holocaust dening law is idolatry. You enshrine the opposition to fascism and destroy the workings of liberty to do it. It’s as rediculous as our current schizophrenia in the U.S. fighting people who hate freedom by curtailing our liberties.

Free speech and opposition to tyrrany is not a concept to be honored or “protected” but a right to be exercised.

It’s a tool, not something to be placed on a pedistal.

/Well said - several times vbfg & nixerman
posted by Smedleyman at 2:12 PM on February 21, 2006


Free the Hate Speech!
posted by five fresh fish at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2006


*standing ovation for Smedlyman and nixerman*
posted by fandango_matt at 3:09 PM on February 21, 2006


State prosecutor Michael Klackl said Irving was a serial "falsifier of history" and had been cast as a martyr for free speech by neo-Nazis who would not grant such rights if they were in power.
posted by semmi at 3:17 PM on February 21, 2006


ffs, f_m, we get it, you like posts that agree with you and manage to articulate an argument as to why. You'd be as well just posting "."

smedleyman, that's a top post and I don't have any time to do it justice right now (at work). If I don't collapse later, I'll have a go.
posted by bonaldi at 3:17 PM on February 21, 2006


ffs: Free the [x] speech = Free [z] speech = Free speech.

Yes or no.

It's OK to say no. Just be honest about it.
posted by sien at 3:30 PM on February 21, 2006


Limits are routinely placed on expression, for example, one is not free to say anything in a court of law, lying becomes a criminal offense. We cannot discuss bombs loudly in an airport, and so on. There are reasonable limits that are a benefit to society. Unfortunately it is a slippery slope.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:55 PM on February 21, 2006


ffs = fffish?
posted by five fresh fish at 3:58 PM on February 21, 2006


ffs = five fresh sasquatch.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:11 PM on February 21, 2006


for fucks' sake?

Which, come to think of it, I think I began using a few weeks ago. Hadn't expected it to end up confusing me.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:45 PM on February 21, 2006


That's what I meant ffs to mean when I said ffs, fff, but I think s meant to say fff when s said ffs. o, ffs.

I suppose the problem is - who determines what the “truth” is and that it is “beyond doubt.”
It looks like a slippery slope to me.


It sure could be, except that it's a slope none of the countries with nazi denial laws have slipped down, over decades. Indeed, from the outside you'd think they were just as liberal as the US, cor lummee.

I agree wholeheartedly that there are dangers about what is beyond doubt and what the truth is, but I don't think these are dangers faced in this particular instance.

(Actually, the law doesn't define them. It says: Anyone is liable "who, in a publication, broadcast, or in another medium or publicly in a manner accessible to many people, denies, grossly minimises, praises, or attempts to justify the National Socialist genocide or other National Socialist crimes against humanity")

In addition isolating one particular subject as taboo - or whatever a better word choice might be - is a matter of privilege.
True, but it's not taboo: there's no prohibition on discussing or examining the topic, just on denying, grossly minimising, praising or justifying it.

You see, were I arguing the matter from a content rather than principle perspective I could well ask: why is it the Jews get that kind of special treatment when other genocides have occured?

I see no reason that other genocides shouldn't have similar affirmations of their truth in their own countries.


Kinda like folks riding me for killing the indians or slavery in America.


No, more like folks riding you if you published an academic paper saying that neither of those things happened, and you gave lots of talks to the Klan. Much better if this all happened within the lifetime of those who survived, too.

They need patience. I don’t think they need a law. Just keep denying tenure to people who deny the holocaust - keep making them social pariahs, and it will die out over time.

Well, they're not nearly as optimistic as you are, and they're not prepared to run the risk.

“I'm comfortable with punishing people for denying the holocaust.”

Well, I’m technically still part of the Catholic Church. How dare you insult my religeon? I demand you be banned from Metafilter immediately.


Can you show me where in matter of fact I misrepresented your religion? The Vatican has already apologised for the whole Galileo bit, so I don't know that I did.

“"Rights" are given by society; they can be taken away by society.” - bonaldi

We have this here thing called the second amendment in the U.S. lots of us think sorta prevent that.
Hell, most of us are pretty itchy to exercise that right now.


Yeh, and the rest of the world thinks that right is absolutely mental. Just goes to show that rights aren't universal absolutes -- they're subject to culture and time. Also, that right to bear arms: does it extend to carrying a gun into the oval office? Or on to a plane? Surely you wouldn't limit a right in certain circumstances, would you? You wouldn't put people in jail for exercising a right, would you?

Denying the Sun moves around the Earth wasn’t opinion. It was documented and proven fact.

This is, I think, a false analogy. The evidence for the holocaust is far more like a confession combined with overwhelming witness testimony than it is a scientific theory.

“...Giving him a swift hoof in the pods -- there are plenty of better options.”

Yeah, why not torture him - better still, take him off somewhere for “reconditioning.” Then we’ll all be free to believe what the government tells us the truth is.


Torture is a bit of reach from a whump in the mean bean machine, I think, but then you're the one who wants to murder your democratically elected representatives.

“They're one safeguard against fascism..”
So is free speech. Because the last time fascism rose to power was on the back of anti-Semitic rhetoric and the denial of any other speech.


You confuse cause and effect here: the denial of free speech came after they'd attained power. All those rallies that they used to get there? That was the free speech at work.

Free speech encourages and evokes greater and more accurate feedback ...
This is why we had Smedley Butler instead of Adolf Hitler in the U.S.


You'd like to think. But then you had free speech during slavery and, oh my: 1-2 million blacks died during the Middle Passage; 10-12 million Africans were enslaved; more than 4,700 blacks were lynched through 1964; segregation was enforced by terror and violence through the 1960s. Oh, hey, the Americans had free speech while they were slaughtering the Indians too. This free speech isn't much use against genocide, it seems.

This holocaust dening law is idolatry.

This right to speech is idolatry, too.

It’s as rediculous as our current schizophrenia in the U.S. fighting people who hate freedom by curtailing our liberties.

There is a good analogy here, I think. The freedoms provided by western societies are vulnerable to suicide bombers. To deal with that threat, those societies curtail those freedoms the smallest amount possible that will cause the maximum interference to the bombers. It's the same with Austria: curtailing its freedoms in the smallest way possible to ensure a greater good.
posted by bonaldi at 5:52 PM on February 21, 2006


posted by bonaldi There is a good analogy here, I think. The freedoms provided by western societies are vulnerable to suicide bombers. To deal with that threat, those societies curtail those freedoms the smallest amount possible that will cause the maximum interference to the bombers. It's the same with Austria: curtailing its freedoms in the smallest way possible to ensure a greater good.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

--Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
posted by fandango_matt at 7:09 PM on February 21, 2006


Wayhey for Captain Fallacy and his book of quotes. What makes Franklin right? What makes specifically the ability to deny the slaughter of millions of jews an "essential liberty"?
posted by bonaldi at 7:19 PM on February 21, 2006


Anyway, tonight it's my turn to beg off early and go to bed. And I probably should try and steer clear of this thread too (curse you, My Comments) because we're close to approaching entrenchment, I feel, or I am, at least. Thanks everybody.
posted by bonaldi at 7:21 PM on February 21, 2006


posted by bonaldi What makes specifically the ability to deny the slaughter of millions of jews an "essential liberty"?

It's called "Free Speech," laddie.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:29 PM on February 21, 2006


And that, Captain F, is called "begging the question"

1. Why should holocaust-denial be allowed?
2. Because it's free speech
3. And why shouldn't free speech be curtailed for a greater good?
4. Because it's an essential liberty, and BF says you shouldn't give them up.
5. Why is it an essential liberty?
6. Because it's free speech.

dammit! dammit! stupid My Comments!
posted by bonaldi at 7:50 PM on February 21, 2006


And that, sir, is called a straw man. But it's been fun.
posted by fandango_matt at 8:00 PM on February 21, 2006


David Irving is a scumbag, but I don't think he should go to jail. It's not like he killed someone, or told other people to go out and stomp someone to death.

Mel's daddy is hardly the world's second most "foremost holocaust-denier". Others prominent in the field don't even know his name.

Try Ernst Zuendel on for size. We Canadians finally deported him, although why it took 30 freaking years, I'll never now.

His compadre in lies, Wolfgang Droege died in a hail of bullets a few years back. A terrible crime (wink, wink) which remains unsolved.

Those two were right up there with David Irving. And we prosecuted them vigourosly. Along with high school teacher Jim Keegstra who also didn't get to keep his licence, although he tried.
posted by TrinityB5 at 8:49 PM on February 21, 2006


Everything fandango matt, smedleyman et al said is true in America, but trumped by jackflash and bonaldi in Austria. I wish what they say were true always and everywhere. Unfortunately, humans aren’t always rational.

We’ve been lucky enough to live in a time when mass hysteria – a tearing up of the social contract, if you like – hasn’t been an issue for the Western world. No Salem witch trials, no Kristallnacht, no brownshirts or World Wars or Spanish Flus or Inquisitions. Nada. Of course we assume it was ever thus and project our values onto generations past with a sense of superiority. I think historys’ lesson for the coming generation will be that maybe the fogeys knew something after all. The downside is that we’ll all have to relive it to relearn it.

We think - but don’t really believe - it can happen here. The Austrians are, I suspect, ahead of the curve on this. They’ve experienced something we haven’t in living memory, and are determined to stop a recurrence.

Pre-emption, as we've found, creates its own risk. Despite 'believing' in free speech, in criminalising denial I believe they've chosen the lesser evil. I know, I know. I won't fall for Irving, you won't fall for Irving, so where's the danger? The danger is that Irving is not speaking to you and me, he's speaking to all of us. As we're finding out, life is not like the movies. Truth does not prevail, the centre cannot hold, others will drink the kool-aid and sheer weight of numbers will force us to join them. Don't argue. You didn't vote for Bush, but he's still your President. And don't start getting all Voltaire on me. I'm not going to throw myself off a bridge so Irving can tell my corpse that the Holocaust never happened, and neither are you.

Americans are starting to sense a bitter wind blowing over the horizon. The Empire has no clothes. The cycle is winding up again, and it may not end with a Smedley Butler this time.

A hypothetical (ok, ok, a strawman, make of it what you will) –

Picture an America where the theocrats take control, and the teaching of evolution is banished from our schools. Jesus’ head is on the back of every coin and the ten commandments in every courtroom. Effigies of Darwin are burned in the streets and biologists have their fingernails pulled in Guantanamo. Abortions and pre-marital sex are illegal, public executions are not, prayers are said before every meal, every meeting, every lesson. Careers are ended, schoolbooks burnt, other nations advance while we remain stagnant as generations are dragged back into the dark ages. Those in the upper echelons of the religious right live the life of Kings as those about them suffer from poverty, disease, disenfranchisement, death. The only way to remain upperclass is, as with communism, to join the party. In quiet shame, you join. You do so for the sake of your family but avow that your heart and mind will remain pure - but in so doing perpetuate the suffering of others.

Fifty years hence, the world has returned to sanity - but pockets of worship remain, and the fear of a second modern inquisition is at the forefront of political discourse. A new Church candidate emerges at a time of economic uncertainty and attracts a large following with a platform centered on a return to Godliness and an end to the scientific oppression of religious freedoms. The ruling Democratic party proposes a law that to deny Evolution is a crime punishable by imprisonment. Do you vote for or against?

Me? I vote for. My answer was different five years ago. If the tables were turned and us ‘Creation Deniers’ were at the receiving end it’d be inquisitions all day, every day on Fox with O'Reilly scoffing felafels as he hand-cranks the rack. You can have all the religious freedom you want but you are not denying me the truth. I've seen enough and heard enough in recent years to make me believe that is exactly their intention. That doesn't scare me. What scares me is that I live in a world where they might actually succeed.

Thirty years ago Anne Coulter was a sideshow freak that would have been dismissed out of hand. Today she’s an extremist, but somehow vaguely intimidating and unsettling and incapable of being silenced. Thirty years from now she’s Goebbels. She’s been saying the same thing all along, but the power of those words has waxed and waned with those behind the puppet. Ditto David Irving. Austria has woken up to that power, but had to do it the hard way. Let’s hope that we wake up to Coulter before Democrats are hunted like dogs in the street …

Back to the issue at hand: Austria had to live through the kind of mass hysteria outlined in the hypothetical above, but on top of the wrongheadedness six million people were butchered. I think they’re showing remarkable restraint in not rounding up every right-wing apologist in sight, slapping a gold star on their lapel and an RFID chip in their wrist and setting them to work cleaning chickenshit outta battery farms with a Nazi toothbrush for the next fifteen years. But that’s the difference between left and right. We’re soft on crime, and for that we get rolled come election time …
posted by bookie at 9:57 PM on February 21, 2006


bookie: but that just makes you no better than the people you are deathly afraid of.
posted by nightchrome at 10:48 PM on February 21, 2006


I've come to this late.. I don't know much about this case, but it scares me that you can be jailed for questioning history.
posted by ascullion at 1:05 AM on February 22, 2006


wtf, ascullion. Questioning history is fine. This is questioning events for which literally thousands of documents, not to mention the fucking camps and ovens and mass graves and killing chambers exist to prove that at one point, one madman attempted to wipe a group of people off the face of the earth for sharing a religion, ffs.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:04 AM on February 22, 2006


“The evidence for the holocaust is far more like a confession combined with overwhelming witness testimony than it is a scientific theory.”

And that’s supposed to be better?
It also intrigues me that you refer to the Earth orbiting the Sun as a ‘theory.’

“Can you show me where in matter of fact I misrepresented your religion?”

Nope. Just an analogy. Guess I’ll switch to symbolic logic.

“...But then you had free speech during slavery...”

Just like when I killed the indians. Yeah, that’s not the free speech I’m talking about. You can either address what I’m saying or gainsay and reference a history that I neither agree with in definition of free speech nor had any party too.

“Surely you wouldn't limit a right in certain circumstances, would you?”

Well, since you’re calling me on the “insulted religeon” thing - I’ve defined the terms of free speech I’m arguing under.

“but then you're the one who wants to murder your democratically elected representatives”

Yeah. Hey, why not pass a law against wanting something like that? That way everyone will be safe.

“All those rallies that they used to get there? That was the free speech at work.”

I have neither the time nor inclination to school you on this bit of history. But Hitler had the heads of the Bavarian police and military, Gustav von Kahr and the fifth columnist Reichswehr at his back.

I thought you folks pissing all over the Germans with the Treaty of Versailles might have had something to do with it. But it was free speech that created the Nazis huh? Go figure.

We had laws against cross burning and harrassing black folks in the south. Often the local police chief and a judge or two were members of the Klan. Think those laws got enforced? And the FBI did dick about it dispite what Hollywood would have you think.

But extrapolating from your argument -(tit for tat) the most expediant method of preventing fascism then would be to trust our democratically elected leaders and have all rhetoric deemed anti-democratic as prosecutable.
Not a world I plan to see come about.


“This holocaust dening law is idolatry.

This right to speech is idolatry, too.”

That’s such a fun way to argue. My retort: No it isn’t!

“What makes specifically the ability to deny the slaughter of millions of jews an "essential liberty"? “

The same thing that makes Martin Luther King Jr.’s right to deny racial segregation - something supported by the government and ‘facts’ such as the Jim Crow laws did not imply the inferiority of black folks, it merely separated the races as a matter of social policy.
This social policy was seen as a method of releving pressure and friction between people of color and the light beige “white folks.”
(Plessy v. Ferguson - the whole “separate but equal” tripe).

Specifically - the ability to say that all expression in matter of subject is equal without proscription by the government is an essential liberty.

By your own argument relieving social harm and ills is more important that being able to say whatever you want.

In that case you are arguing in favor of the form which asserted segregation (given equal accomodations) based on avoiding the exact same kind of social ills and unrest.

What you are hung up on - apparently - is the subject itself “It’s a fact” and so forth. It was - and is - a matter of historical fact that once the U.S. overturned racial segregation laws - those laws were not immediately followed and it took a great deal of social friction to make even the little progress we have made today.

It is a fact that many people were murdered and a lot of horrible things happened as a result of that change in law.

There is no difference in arguing in favor of avoiding “in just this case” things that is harmful to society and suppressing speech to do that and arguing in favor of denying Martin Luther King Jr. his right to advocated on behalf of desegregation on the grounds of the harm to society that will follow - and in fact did.

In anticipation of your dissecting that argument into meaningless details - consider: those laws were in place after the civil war for exactly the reason of maintaining social order.
I fully cede they should not have been in place and completely agree that human rights dictate that there shouldn’t be any laws privileging one group over another based on skin color. But I go further and argue that there should be no privilege based on the speech matter chosen by anyone.
In both cases we weigh the social unrest differently. I favor taking the hit and letting the repercussions settle over time. You prefer to indefinately detain it and hope to avoid ever coming to terms with it.

I’m also concerned what’s to be done with those of us who aren’t “black” but are “on the bus?”

See, if I argue in favor of Irving’s right to speak - and adopt in protest the fabric of what he is saying, am I then also an enemy of the state?
(By the way, it’s all a Jewish conspiracy - really, the holocaust never happened, I totally believe that)

“Let’s hope that we wake up to Coulter before Democrats are hunted like dogs in the street...”

One other breakdown in communication I think we’re all suffering here - I don’t think anyone believes that Irving should or is immune to various laws on incitement and other laws preventing nutjobs from raising havoc.

It is - to mimic the argument - in this one single exceptional instance of being specifically prosecuted for speech that we have a problem.

Which is why I asserted the rights of MLK and his nonviolent methods as opposed to say (some of) the Black Panthers who advocated violence.

“This is questioning events for which literally thousands of documents, not to mention...”

There is still a wealth of evidence that the Sun moves around the Earth.
Who dictates what proof is? And how far can they go to enforce conformity is what is at issue.

Your argument dirtynumbangelboy boils down to: questioning history is fine - but don’t question this history.

That’s privilege. Private law. One set of rules for one thing, another set for another. (see my segregation argument above).
posted by Smedleyman at 1:50 PM on February 22, 2006


I will add - to all - it’s been marvelous communicating with you.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:52 PM on February 22, 2006


We had laws against cross burning and harrassing black folks in the south.

OMG! That's anti-free-speech!
posted by five fresh fish at 1:55 PM on February 22, 2006


It also intrigues me that you refer to the Earth orbiting the Sun as a ‘theory.’

Well, right up until the time we got into space and watched, it was.

Yeah, that’s not the free speech I’m talking about. You can either address what I’m saying or gainsay and reference a history that I neither agree with in definition of free speech nor had any party too.

I'm not sure I'm following you here. There's more than one kind of free speech? Also, I only used "you" w/r/t the indians because you used "we" with reference to Smedley Butler.

That’s such a fun way to argue. My retort: No it isn’t!
Er, yes, that's the point I was trying to make.


“Surely you wouldn't limit a right in certain circumstances, would you?”

Well, since you’re calling me on the “insulted religeon” thing - I’ve defined the terms of free speech I’m arguing under.


As I said above, I didn't realise there were terms of free speech -- I thought the whole point was that it was all or nothing, and that any limits, such as the Austrians use, were unacceptable. I'm asking how that squares with the fact that other rights are limitable.

But it was free speech that created the Nazis huh? Go figure.
You're going to have to work on your causation. The fact that X didn't prevent Y does not mean that X created or caused Y.

But extrapolating from your argument -(tit for tat) the most expediant method of preventing fascism then would be to trust our democratically elected leaders and have all rhetoric deemed anti-democratic as prosecutable.
Not a world I plan to see come about.


No, extrapolating from my argument (which I'm loath to do, because I'm talking about the acceptability of an edge case, an exception not a rule) would be to trust the rule of law and the courts to have all speech based on provable counter-factual evidence made prosecutable. Hell, it already happens for perjury.

And for God's sake please don't retort with another confusion of "fact" and "theory". The 'facts' you've referred to so far -- like the theory of the sun's movement, and the motives of the Jim Crow laws -- are no more facts than evolution is. The sort of facts we're dealing with here -- who stabbed the guy? am I tall? did the holocaust happen? -- are.

See, if I argue in favor of Irving’s right to speak - and adopt in protest the fabric of what he is saying, am I then also an enemy of the state?
(By the way, it’s all a Jewish conspiracy - really, the holocaust never happened, I totally believe that)


Well, yes, do that in Austria and you're an enemy of the state. They have -- and especially had at the time those laws were enacted -- enough to come to terms with without people bickering over whether or not those things actually happened. The cohesion of the state depended and depends on those admissions just as much as an alcoholic's recovery depends on them admitting they have a drink problem.

You, in this instance, are going round with the scotch and saying "no you don't, it wasn't the drink that made you total the car, here have a snifter".

Who dictates what proof is? And how far can they go to enforce conformity is what is at issue.

The courts system decides what proof is. This is essentially a perjury trial, as I alluded to above.
I will add - to all - it’s been marvelous communicating with you.
There we agree.

Since I'm back anyway: Captain F, no that wasn't a straw man. It was a pretty accurate representation of your argument as displayed in the posts directly above. You replied that free speech was an essential liberty because it was ... free speech. But don't bother to answer, you can just give a round of applause to Smedleyman and his attempt to answer for you.
posted by bonaldi at 9:43 PM on February 22, 2006


No, Smedleyman. Questioning history where there is some question is one thing. Denial of the existence of the Holocaust is roughly akin (in historical terms), to use a contemporaneous example, to denial of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Film, papers, eyewitness accounts. These things happened. Who said what at the battle of Hastings, sure, that's up for question. Six million people slaughtered like cattle? No, because it's been documented. Seriously, go tell a Holocaust survivor that it's okay for people to question whether or not it actually happened. Go on. If you feel this strongly about the issue, you should have zero difficulty doing that.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:22 PM on February 22, 2006


Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine on the need for defending free speech first and foremost. I feel nothing but disgust for MetaFilter's lil' totalitarians (which thankfully is the minority viewpoint). I might as well go to Stormfront if I want to hang out with authoritarian assholes.

People who endorse "thought crimes" are no friends of skepticism or truth, and would be the last people I'd trust on matters of accurate science, history, or politics.
posted by dgaicun at 2:06 AM on February 23, 2006


Seriously, go tell a Holocaust survivor that it's okay for people to question whether or not it actually happened. Go on.

Do you really think this cloying monstrosity of an "argument" is the least bit logical or persuasive? Amazing. Have you ever heard of begging the question? Could you tell a holocaust survivor that you don't think holocaust deniers should be tortured by the state, in the most medieval ways possible, for 16 years before being drawn and quartered? Why could you tell them this? Do you believe a society that behaved in such a way with its laws would be more or less likely to commit horrors similar to those of the national socialists?
posted by dgaicun at 2:34 AM on February 23, 2006


Also, since when the fuck do you get to be the authentic spokesperson for holocaust deniers you clueless, arrogant twit? I didn't know they were of one mind; how did you determine their "view" on free speech, did you survey them? I thought not. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if a significant chunk, if not a majority, would be just as angry at your self-righteous quasi-fascism as I am.

And even if zero of them were, I don't see how this fact alone contributes one bit to the logical case for or against free-speech. But I can see how you would confuse arguments from authority for legitimate means to fact given your epistemological commitments to power as the ultimate arbiter of truth.
posted by dgaicun at 3:00 AM on February 23, 2006


. . . that's up for question. Six million people slaughtered like cattle? No, because it's been documented.

Really? Raul Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews puts the number closer to 5 million. Most estimates range between 5 and 6. Honestly, do you really know the first thing about the ideas you wish to legislate, or is it all shoot first ask questions later? How many hours have you personally devoted to studying this subject you are so eager to rob others of their most fundamental human rights over? Interesting how so many people, by their transparent depth of knowledge, are seemingly more interested in protecting moderate-feeling mantras than facts, because mantras are all they really believe, see or know.

Are these the people we should trust to benevolently over-see our thoughts, dictating what is and is not legally "up for question" for "our own good"? If this isn't antithetical to the spirit of the Enlightenment it would be hard to argue what is.
posted by dgaicun at 3:53 AM on February 23, 2006


dgaicun: the piece you linked to doesn't appear to make any argument beyond it other than the writer doesn't like and it hey, this could be a slippery slope and that's bad too.

"thought crimes"
Who the hell says it's a thought crime? It's no more a thought crime than perjury is.

Raul Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews puts the number closer to 5 million
And was he prosecuted under holocaust denial laws? No.

Also, this thread has been surprisingly well-mannered up until your arrival. Keep the ad hominems at home, thanks.
posted by bonaldi at 6:45 AM on February 23, 2006


Perjury is a crime? But what about my right to free speech? Can't I say anything I want?
posted by five fresh fish at 9:11 AM on February 23, 2006


“ I thought the whole point was that it was all or nothing, and that any limits, such as the Austrians use, were unacceptable. “

I did define my limits earlier - ‘fire’ in the theater and such as out of bounds. No limit as to content.

“...don't retort with another confusion of "fact" and "theory". The 'facts' you've referred to so far -- like the theory of the sun's movement, and the motives of the Jim Crow laws -- are no more facts than evolution is. The sort of facts we're dealing with here -- who stabbed the guy? am I tall? did the holocaust happen? -- are.”

Um....the question of the holocaust happening is a fact and the movement of the sun around the earth is a theory? Evolution is less substantiated than the holocaust? Wha?

“Seriously, go tell a Holocaust survivor that it's okay for people to question whether or not it actually happened. Go on. If you feel this strongly about the issue, you should have zero difficulty doing that.” - dirtynumbangelboy

I have exactly zero difficulty doing that. As I’ve pointed out, I’ve discussed the issue with several survivors. They have in fact said to me (the one’s I’ve talked to) it’s ok for people to question whether it happened. They just don’t like it getting a lot of attention in the press. I agree.

“...epistemological commitments to power as the ultimate arbiter of truth.” - dgaicun

Brilliant turn of phrase there dgaicun.

“It's no more a thought crime than perjury is.”
Interesting analogy. Again - no one is arguing that certain forms of speech are/should be prosecutable. Only that prosecution solely for the sake of the content/subject matter/etc. of that speech is wrong.

If I grab your ear and scream into that is not protected speech.

“You're going to have to work on your causation.”

You’re going to have to work on addressing the points I make that are serious as opposed to sarcastic illustrations. I’ll stop trying to lighten the mood. I’m doing it poorly and it’s bogging things down.


But this is going around without reconcilliation. I’ve conceded the points that some forms of speech are illegal.
For some reason there is no recognition on your part that “the people” can abuse power to wit:

“...to trust the rule of law and the courts to have all speech based on provable counter-factual evidence made prosecutable.”

Therefore teaching evolution should be illegal. There is ample contrary evidence and evolution is - as you’ve pointed out, not factual. It’s a theory.

It’s more than defining terms - it’s a question of who defines the terms. As dgaicun pointed out - power should not be the arbiter of ‘truth’.
Because then it becomes a matter of whoever is in power gets to define what the truth is and enforce such laws concerning what constitutes evidence and therefore speech as they see fit.

It narrows the spectrum of thought.

Furthermore - forcing people to accept this taints everything with a cynical air - because the motivation does not come from them.
The people in support of imprisoning Irving have argued for the most part that people are brutish and such - not to be trusted. That is obviously indicative of an authoritarian mindset.
Leadership is not naked force.

“The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed which is perpetually to be conquered.” - Burke
posted by Smedleyman at 11:06 AM on February 23, 2006


I did define my limits earlier - ‘fire’ in the theater and such as out of bounds. No limit as to content.

But you will agree that there are already socially accepted limits on the content of free speech: perjury is one example. And the "power" that defines perjury is also generally accepted to be fair.

Um....the question of the holocaust happening is a fact and the movement of the sun around the earth is a theory? Evolution is less substantiated than the holocaust? Wha?

See, I did suspect you were confusing these. Yes, the holocaust is better substantiated than evolution. The theory of evolution is and always will remain a theory. It's a theory that is currently the best possible explanation for observable facts; just as the best possible explanation for the observed movement of heavenly bodies was that the sun was the centre. Until we got into space and watched, that remained a theory.

The evidence for the holocaust isn't merely overwhelming, it's overpowering. Overwhelming is when 50 unrelated witnesses say the guy walked into the train station and shot the other guy. The scale of evidence for the holocaust is so massively beyond this as to be in a different league. It's like we went into space and watched.

Therefore teaching evolution should be illegal. There is ample contrary evidence and evolution is - as you’ve pointed out, not factual. It’s a theory.
You've confused yourself here. I said counter-factual. If evolution isn't factual, speech for or against it can't be counter-factual and is therefore exempt from my "law".

For some reason there is no recognition on your part that “the people” can abuse power to wit:

Yes, sorry, I should have said earlier: i do agree fundamentally that the potential for abuse is a hugely important matter. Free speech is essential, and even with it there can be horrendous injustice on people's freedom to think, such as the McCarthy witch hunts.

power should not be the arbiter of ‘truth’.

But it already is! The courts system decide who is and isn't guilty, based on the truth as presented of what did and did not happen. Do you think that's an abuse of power?
posted by bonaldi at 11:28 AM on February 23, 2006


dgaicun: the piece you linked to doesn't appear to make any argument beyond it other than the writer doesn't like

Probably more than anyone else, Shermer and his association of skeptics have been the ones at the intellectual frontlines exposing holocaust deniers like Irving. Isn't it telling how the people who actually sacrifice the most man hours to publicly debunking creationists and other cranks are also the most passionate about their fundamental human rights to spread these very ideas? Thank god there are people who use facts as the ultimate humanistic weapons against bad ideas instead of violence and repression. Thank God some people have some notion of basic human rights.

Who the hell says it's a thought crime? It's no more a thought crime than perjury is.

Heeeere we go. The obligatory, spurious analogies with "yelling fire in a crowded theatre", "libel", and "false advertising", etc. I was not aware that "perjury" included your beliefs. Can a creationist go to jail for believing in creationism in the courtroom? Also, hey, it's legal to kill someone in self-defense and during war, so I guess it also makes sense that it should be legal for me to kill people at the bus stop when I'm bored. What's the difference, it's all killin' right?

Raul Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews puts the number closer to 5 million
And was he prosecuted under holocaust denial laws? No.


You odious little troll. That was directed at dnab who asserted it was not "up for question" that 6 million Jews were killed. Please don't quote my words unless you'd care to engage them in their intended context.
posted by dgaicun at 12:11 PM on February 23, 2006


Thank god there are people who use facts as the ultimate humanistic weapons
What, like the facts about the holocaust? The holocaust isn't my "beliefs".

You odious little troll
dgaicunt, you're a prick. Have you even read the thread above? We've covered all the "spurious analogies" already, and found more appropriate ones. Go and find another thread to try and lord it over with your self-righteous beliefs in your unassailable rights and your philosophy 101 arguments.
posted by bonaldi at 12:16 PM on February 23, 2006


posted by bonaldi Have you even read the thread above? We've covered all the "spurious analogies" already, and found more appropriate ones.

Have you? Your arguments and the poorly-considered leaps of logic you've used to support them have been refuted numerous times by different people, and still you continue.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:49 PM on February 23, 2006


fandago_matt, somebody saying they disagree, and saying why, is not the same as refuting. As far as I'm aware, at least smedleyman and I are still in discussion on more than a few points. I've conceded ground, so has he. Welcome to discussion!

If you'd like to rescind your decision to have nothing more to do with me, and challenge me on these "poorly considered leaps of logic", I'm more than willing to try and see a) where I've gone wrong and b) if I can improve my arguments. If not, sail back out to sea.
posted by bonaldi at 12:59 PM on February 23, 2006


posted by bonaldi If you'd like to rescind your decision to have nothing more to do with me, and challenge me on these "poorly considered leaps of logic", I'm more than willing to try and see a) where I've gone wrong and b) if I can improve my arguments.

I already have, numerous times.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:05 PM on February 23, 2006


No, actually, you haven't. Since you wrote me off after presenting a -- oh, the irony -- straw man of my arguments, you've done fuck-all except clap like a moron when you hear things you like and try and interject your "killer" lines that are either a) fallacies or b) just plain wrong.
posted by bonaldi at 1:09 PM on February 23, 2006


Pointless to try to have a reasonable discussion with him, bonaldi; bob knows I've tried. MondoMeta is a great Greasemonkey script for eliminating trolls from your pageview.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:14 PM on February 23, 2006


"If you'd like to rescind your decision to have nothing more to do with me, and challenge me on these "poorly considered leaps of logic", I'm more than willing to try and see a) where I've gone wrong and b) if I can improve my arguments."
posted by bonaldi at 6:59 AM AEST on February 24

Which, aptly enough, perfectly describes why I think Irving shouldn't have been jailed, what his punishment should have been (a verbal 'smackdown') and why unfettered free speech is so important to protect, all in one.
posted by Effigy2000 at 2:53 PM on February 23, 2006


Coming from you, solid-one-love, talk of "eliminating trolls", should perhaps be taken more seriously than just an expression. I can hear the sophist's defense of China's Internet censorship now: "We have laws against pressing your balls against elementary school windows, so what's the difference if we make laws against ideological balls on the internet too?" Weee, distinctions don't exist when we're marking down basic rights like it's a human dignity yard sale.

And, ooh, friendly sophists who assure us that these "Austro-German" laws on the holocaust stand apart from any broad precedents, merely serving as exceptional measures given the unique crimes of national socialism (somehow forgetting to explain why Canada and Britain, who fought the nazis, should need these laws too), how to explain stories that come out every day like this:
German court convicts man for insulting Islam

A German court on Thursday convicted a businessman of insulting Islam by printing the word "Koran" on toilet paper and offering it to mosques.

The 61-year-old man, identified only as Manfred van H., was given a one-year jail sentence. . .
Wait, but I thought it was lies that we were being "protected" from, but now certain lies can't be mocked or criticized either?

I will fight to my dying breath before someone takes away my right to mock religious cancers. I am not a bit surprised by the genocides and dictatorships that occurred so very recently in Europe during the 20th century all in the name of "progress" - these impulses and blindspots are still very much running in European veins. Their "reformation" is like a convicted child molester who serves his time and then begins kidnapping, torturing and killing other child-molesters to "atone" for his former crimes: he still doesn't get it.
posted by dgaicun at 2:56 PM on February 23, 2006


My previous comment on the need to "respect" religion.
posted by dgaicun at 3:05 PM on February 23, 2006


“And the "power" that defines perjury is also generally accepted to be fair.”

I wouldn’t classify testimony as speech. You are under oath and agreeing contractually to tell the truth. It’s a crime only because you’ve sworn to tell the truth.

“The scale of evidence for the holocaust is so massively beyond this as to be in a different league. It's like we went into space and watched.”

I completely disagree. Pretty much from an epistomological basis. Physics, science, et.al., is provable, independantly verifiable, and repeatable.
There is no question as to the accuracy of certain elements of the “theory” of evolution.
There are questions as to the accuracy of details involving the holocaust.


“power should not be the arbiter of ‘truth’.
- But it already is!”

No, power is the arbiter of justice in that case. It does not a priori state what the case is and who is guilty. In such an instance we have PK Dick’s “PreCrime” agency.
And the objective there - at least in the American legal system is not to derive the truth, but to mete justice.
The legal system recognizes the subjective nature of perspective and uses the mechanism of opposition to arrive at some measure of justice.

Otherwise - as has been pointed out - a person could be prosecuted for having incorrect beliefs when they deliver testimony in court (if they happen to be a creationist, etc.).

“But you will agree that there are already socially accepted limits on the content of free speech”

In Austria, apparently.

But we’re defining free speech differently if you think perjury has anything to do with it.
I’m not concerned with any argument other than the right not to be prosecuted solely for the subject matter I choose to speak about.

Any other area is certainly debatable, but not relevent to what - at least I’m - talking about.

Yes there are examples of situations where certain forms and even content of speech is hazardous, which is why we (in the U.S.) have sedition laws.
But even those are very dangerous to free speech and subject to abuse by those powers you assert we should trust.

I have not, incidentally, ceded any ground pertaining to the central issue.

I recognize the validity of some of your assertions, but that doesn’t have any bearing on my opposition to prosecution by the government for stating “X” (in a non-violent, non-contractually obligated, non-defamatory (actionable under civil law anyway) way)

To assume that power - however derived whether democratic or despot - has the right to compel someone to silence under those circumstances is to assume it’s infallibility.

I can’t put it any more clearly without breaking out the symbolic logic.
Or you can pick up some Foucault. Whatever.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:20 PM on February 23, 2006


Coming from you, solid-one-love, talk of "eliminating trolls", should perhaps be taken more seriously than just an expression.

A veiled death threat in response to a post that wasn't about you. I see why people demand free speech without restriction.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:24 PM on February 23, 2006


“German court convicts man for insulting Islam”
Indeed.

End of story. It happened once, it can happen again. The government abused it’s power, it can do it again.
Isn’t that the gist of the jailing the holocaust denier argument?
posted by Smedleyman at 3:25 PM on February 23, 2006


“I see why people demand free speech without restriction.”

Why don’t you ban him?

Walk the walk, man.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:29 PM on February 23, 2006


A veiled death threat . . . I see why people demand free speech without restriction.

I, of course, didn't imply any sort of "death threat", but I'm glad to know my speech here presses up against your limits of what should legally be allowed; it gives me a clearer idea of just how much of an extremist you really are.
posted by dgaicun at 3:40 PM on February 23, 2006


You little peacocks are all so cute, showing your feathers and acting all macho!
posted by five fresh fish at 4:11 PM on February 23, 2006


Why don’t you ban him?

From what?

I, of course, didn't imply any sort of "death threat",

You called for my 'elimination', in manner that is "[more serious] than just an expression". You also didn't clarify what you meant specifically in your follow-up. If it sounds like duck....

it gives me a clearer idea of just how much of an extremist you really are.

Yeah, I'm an extremist. Right. People should be punished for hate speech and death threats, an opinion shared by the vast majority of my countrymen and the vast majority of Europeans. That's "extreme" only in the sense of "extreme chewing gum" or "extreme wiper fluid".
posted by solid-one-love at 4:11 PM on February 23, 2006


Their "reformation" is like a convicted child molester who serves his time and then begins kidnapping, torturing and killing other child-molesters to "atone" for his former crimes: he still doesn't get it.

This convinces me. It's the best analogy I've seen all thread.

Captain Fallacy, you can break out the clapper again.

I still think it was great to see that speck taken down, the pall on his face as he faced three years of immeasurably better conditions that the millions who died faced, and that he denied, was priceless. But vengeance and revenge are no mechanism for policy.

Loose ends:

There is no question as to the accuracy of certain elements of the “theory” of evolution.
There are questions as to the accuracy of details involving the holocaust.


There is no question as to the accuracy of certain elements of the holocaust
There are questions as to the accuracy of details involving evolution.
Whee!

I wouldn’t classify testimony as speech.
Oh, come on. Everyone can play that game. I don't classify journalism as speech, then. You are contractually obliged -- the reporter to his paper, the paper to its readers -- to report the truth etc etc.

I’m not concerned with any argument other than the right not to be prosecuted solely for the subject matter I choose to speak about.

B-b-but you dragged all the other parts in. Perhaps you were trying to lighten the mood then too. Surely the point of those other arguments is to draw parallels to all those cases when you *can* legitimately be prosecuted solely for the subject matter of what you choose to speak about.

Also, I've never once asserted we should trust the Austrian or any other government. But I don't think they're asking us to either. They certainly didn't define the holocaust, they leave that up to the trial, as is done with perjury.

But I definitely take on board the argument that holocaust revisionism is more likely on the unlimitable side of the free speech divide. I'm actually surprised you have sedition laws, aren't they just as bad?
posted by bonaldi at 4:14 PM on February 23, 2006


You called for my 'elimination', in manner that is "[more serious] than just an expression"

It would appear your reading comprehension is just as compromised as your ethical faculties. I was quoting you, who called for "eliminating trolls":

MondoMeta is a great Greasemonkey script for eliminating trolls from your pageview.

And wondered, given your commitment to legally silencing speech that offends you, how far this expression might really extend in your mind in the broad sense ("eliminate" from view? From society? From existence?). My quote again:

Coming from you, solid-one-love, talk of "eliminating trolls", should perhaps be taken more seriously than just an expression.

If you can't get a single lightly abstract sentence right, is it any wonder why you are the last person who should be attempting a debate over complex issues of law, government and ethics? Now please ban me with your doohickey like you block out, by any means necessary, all potential challenges to your pre-existing convictions.
posted by dgaicun at 4:43 PM on February 23, 2006


My reading comprehension is strong. Your rhetoric is weak. The key part of what you wrote is "should perhaps be taken more seriously than just an expression."

And wondered, given your commitment to legally silencing speech that offends you

I, of course, never stated or implied anything of the sort. The "reading comprehension" irony is thick as stone.

Now please ban me with your doohickey like you block out, by any means necessary, all potential challenges to your pre-existing convictions.

Only unrepentent trolls, not your wildly imaginative perception of who I block. You'd still be included. Buh-bye now, and you're welcome.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:06 PM on February 23, 2006


Wasn't sol the one who at one time said we are all pixels on his/her neurons? And for that reason didn't amount to a hill of upset?

My how times have changed!
posted by stirfry at 6:18 PM on February 23, 2006


My reading comprehension is strong . . . The key part of what you wrote is. . .

No, the "key part" was the whole god-damn short sentence! Is this how you read a sentence? My comment isn't reducible to a "key part" anymore than the "key part" of "He said "I will kill you", officer.", is reducible to the ill-advised threat "I will kill you, officer.", five fresh sake.

For future reference, if you are going to boast about your superb reading comprehension, I would suggest it is a bad idea to follow it up with the actual loony diagrammatics of how you botch reading sentences. Especially if you are going to simultaneously try to blame the speaker for your own, inadvertently confessed, shortcomings in the literacy department.
posted by dgaicun at 6:51 PM on February 23, 2006


Aren't you people embarassed of yourselves yet?

Come on, get it together already.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:02 PM on February 23, 2006


posted by stirfry Wasn't sol the one who at one time said we are all pixels on his/her neurons? And for that reason didn't amount to a hill of upset?

Yep, as far as S-O-L was concerned, we weren't people, we were just pixels on a screen--this, of course, was when he referred to us all as "social fucking retards". He went on to propose the "Brand New Day," which was essentially a way for him to be excused of his long history of assholery and vague threats without having to apologize for it while he continued making snide remarks in threads and on his user page.
posted by fandango_matt at 8:38 PM on February 23, 2006



“There is no question as to the accuracy of certain elements of the holocaust
There are questions as to the accuracy of details involving evolution.
Whee! “

Yes, it is fun to purposefuly misunderstand the difference between the evidence supporting science - reproducable, independantly verifyable and directly observable, and evidence supporting history - documentation and - by definition - subjective interpretation.

Yeah, clearly eyewitness accounts and written documents are so clearly superior forms of knowlege and ways of deriving the truth than firsthand univerally reproducable experiance.

That’s why the bible trumps evolution so often.


“Oh, come on. Everyone can play that game.”

Everyone can play the game of ignoring cogency or reasonable argument as well. Reporters and news agencies do not have a legal obligation to report the truth incidentally.

“B-b-but you dragged all the other parts in.”

No, you attempted to win the argument by clouding the issue.


“Surely the point of those other arguments is to draw parallels to all those cases when you *can* legitimately be prosecuted solely for the subject matter of what you choose to speak about. “

Your arguments, not mine. I’m not responsible for your mischaracterization of my position.

“I'm actually surprised you have sedition laws, aren't they just as bad?”

I again have neither the time nor the inclination to explain how advocating the violent overthrow of the government transcends the subject of the speech and how stating an opinion on the holocaust does not.
If you don’t understand that basic difference, I can’t see how we can derive a solution to this impasse.

In any event, my patience is at an end.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:41 AM on February 25, 2006


Yeah, clearly eyewitness accounts and written documents are so clearly superior forms of knowlege

You can go visit the camps, if you like. The ovens are still there.

Also, you're still not getting what a scientific theory is. Evolution is not "reproducible" unless you can wait a few million years; it's certainly not observable. Evolution is a theory that explains the sort of facts you're talking about. It's far and away the best theory, but another one could come along that fits the same set of facts. Just like you were saying about the "proof" of the sun going around the earth.

Reporters and news agencies do not have a legal obligation to report the truth incidentally.

No, but they can be contractually obliged. I am.

win the argument
Jesus, it's not a fight man.

Since you're out of patience, we'd best leave it there. However, your allusions to breaking out the second amendment upthread sound close to your definition of sedition, and it's interesting to me that I'm comfortable with your right to say that far more than I am your right to deny the holocaust.
posted by bonaldi at 10:55 AM on February 25, 2006


What is most inane about this tireless argument is that from every standpoint one should be a lot more upset about the shutting-down and locking-up of protestors and demonstrators in the USA.

David Irving is a malevolant fucked-up bastard who has absolutely nothing of any value to contribute to society.

Meanwhile hundreds of sane people with sane concerns about the insane things the USA administration is doing, are being detained illegally (ref. the NY 36-hour lockup of a brazillion protestors a few years ago), confined to little caged "free speech zones," falsely arrested and removed from the President's speaking engagements, and so on and so forth.

For fucks' sake, arguing guarantees of freedom of speech for a a ratbag like Irving when there are some serious violations of free speech going on is just absurd.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:26 AM on February 25, 2006


FFF, as someone who has consistently interjected supporting snarks for those against free-speech I hope you see the irony. My exact point was that speech laws by their very nature favor the powerful. A minority here imagine that a "little" (actually a lot) Utilitarianism is justified because they feel 'in command', disturbingly unaware that maybe they aren't as 'in command' as they think (or won't always be so) and that their own ugly legal precedents will most likely be used against them in the long run.

Irving isn't the point. Guy in Germany isn't the point. These stories appear literally everyday. We're arguing free speech: make an ideological independent bulwark, and then all ideologies are safe; make an ideological dependent bulwark and no ideologies are safe.
posted by dgaicun at 5:19 PM on February 25, 2006


make an ideological independent bulwark, and then all ideologies are safe; make an ideological dependent bulwark and no ideologies are safe.

Dgaicun: while you've convinced me this is the best option, is "then all ideologies are safe" really true? Isn't such a situation going to be taken advantage of by the people who want to tear it down, and who will then proceed to do just that? The Bush government was more-or-less democratically elected into a system with all sorts of libertarian protections, and is riding roughshod over any number of them.
posted by bonaldi at 6:56 PM on February 25, 2006


History Lessons: BERLIN, May 12, 2153
posted by hortense at 11:19 PM on February 25, 2006


David Irving is a malevolant fucked-up bastard who has absolutely nothing of any value to contribute to society.

I would think that the dangers of allowing a government to deem certain of its citizens "malevolent fucked-up bastards who has absolutely nothing of any value to contribute to society" are self-evident.
posted by kindall at 1:25 AM on February 26, 2006


Oh noes! The USA is repressing free speech too!

Also, it was not the government that found him guilty: it was a jury. This is a significant difference.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 AM on February 26, 2006


It is also worth noting that Irving was banned from entering Austria and yet the asshat did it anyway.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:55 AM on February 26, 2006


FFF, are you trying to be a troll? Please pay more attention to the arguments and engage them instead of interjecting fallacious passive-aggressive quips.

First your link says that some were arrested for fighting (violence), not for "speech". Try to maintain some credibility.

Second, your 'jury' comment shows once again that you are putting very little effort into trying to understand the issue. If there was a law against communism and a jury found a communist guilty for violating it, it doesn't magically make it ok because there was a jury. I have stressed repeatedly that free speech is precisely an institutional protection from the majority.

Your third sentence isn't relevant either. If he was being punished for "national trespassing" or some such, there would be no issue.

Finally, pray tell, why do complain that the free speech issue has to revolve around Irving, but long after the debate has been divorced from his particular case, you keep bringing him up? It suggests more disingenuousness.
posted by dgaicun at 11:58 PM on February 26, 2006


Right you are, dgaicun. Right you are.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:22 AM on February 27, 2006


Oh. Well that was anti-climactic.
posted by dgaicun at 10:34 PM on February 27, 2006


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