Free Speech For Everyone, Even The Dickheads

In e-mail, a request to comment on the plight of “historian” David Irving, who has been punted into an Austrian prison for denying the Holocaust happened, and doing so while actually in Austria, where such activities are criminal. Seems that Austria, birthplace of Hitler, gets a little twitchy when people suggest Der Führer wasn’t, in fact, deeply pleased that six million Jews and a few million other inconvenient people went up a concentration camp smokestack. Irving got three years for that and plans to spend at least some of that time writing his memoirs, not unlike his little buddy did all those years ago.

My thoughts? Well, first, I certainly enjoyed hearing that Irving twisted and groveled like the pathetic worm he is once it was clear he was looking at hard time, and grudgingly admitted prior to sentencing that oh, gee, maybe there actually were gas chambers at Auschwitz after all. Oops. His bad. You can see how he messed that one up, though. Such an obscure corner of World War II. So, yeah, that got a hearty chortle from me. And I can’t say I don’t appreciate someone who has dined out on attempting to deny evil having it crammed back down his throat. Emotionally, this all is a tasty Snickers bar of schadenfreude, to use an all-too-appropriate word for it.

Having said that: Look, free speech isn’t free if even the most odious crap-flinger can’t smear himself in poo and call it truth. People like David Irving are the crucible of free speech, as in, you can’t say you actually support free speech if you’re willing to keep dickheads like him silent. So, no, as satisfying as it feels, David Irving shouldn’t be in prison just for being a professional Nazi-licker. I am obliged to defend his right to lick Nazis, as clearly odious I think it is that the man feels like this is good use of his time, or of anyone else’s.

What I suggest we do is offer a trade to Iran, in which they can have Irving — who should become fast friends with that country’s Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying president — in exchange for a few of those Iranian bloggers the goverment is currently squatting on for the crime of having opinions. It’d be one of those “everybody wins” situations.

41 thoughts on “Free Speech For Everyone, Even The Dickheads

  1. More than a fair trade, that. We should have a trade system like the MLB.

    We could send in Robert Fisk and get back two pieces of a pocket lint and a mustache comb.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree. Yesterday I heard a story about this guy on NPR. The part where he asked a survivor how much money they had made off that number tattooed on their arm made me feel physically ill. I knew someone who had one of those numbers. The thing is, although his brand of jackassery is particularly abhorrent, this is why we even talk about free speech.

  3. David Irving is a hateful jackass, but he should – must – be free to say whatever hateful, idiotic thing he wants, just as anyone, especially Deborah Lipstadt, should be free to call him on his bullshit and make him look the fool. It’s almost serendipitous that this should happen at almost the same time as the Danish cartoon thing, since it illustrates the point that has to be made and, unfortunately, isn’t quite understood in places like Austria and, alas, my own country, Canada.

  4. It’s almost serendipitous that this should happen at almost the same time as the Danish cartoon thing, since it illustrates the point that has to be made and, unfortunately, isn’t quite understood in places like Austria and, alas, my own country, Canada.

    I’m not sure it’s a matter of the point not being understood. I understand what Free Speach is and I am quite willing to admit that my support for it isn’t absolute. (In this particular case I would, in fact, side with freedom of speach, despite the harm of letting David Irving speak — and there is harm there). When people make exceptions to the principle of free speach, it doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t know what that principle is.
    Happily, while David Irving should not be jailed, he at least _deserves_ jail. The harm of the slight break in principle is small, and while there is a slipperly slope, I think the Canadian tradition of not completely absolute principles is in fact less slippery than a tradition of absolute principles. In the Canadian tradition, breaks of principle are expected to be small and situational. This, I think, is safer than the doublethink that tends to arise from cognitive dissonance when principles are broken (as inevitably happens) in a tradition of absolute principles. But of course neither situation is safe if the populace doesn’t care.

  5. One of the worst effects of this is that Iran will now say “Well, sure we imprisoned bloggers and put a $3 million bounty on Salman Rushdie, but you put Irving in prison, so you’re no better.”

    As will China, Syria, Libya, N Korea…

    Aaaargh. And that’s not even getting into the obvious potential for abuse.

  6. I think most people know that Germany and Austria have strict laws against holocaust denial. You can argue that those laws aren’t right, but you better be prepared to face the music if you violate them in those countries. The same way you better not get caught stealing in Saudi Arabia if you like your hands attached to your arms.

    David Irving knew holocaust denial is a crime in Austria. He also knew that he was banned from traveling to Austria because of things he has stated in the past. I would bet money he knew about the arrest warrant from 1989.

    He decided to go there anyway, thinking they wouldn’t really do anything to him.

    All I can say is tough titty…

  7. TallDave: Yes, those countries would be right if they said those things to Austria. That particular argument wouldn’t carry much weight in the US as we haven’t put Irving in jail for his statements.

    For us they simply need to point to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay…

  8. I can’t agree with you more Scalzi. Even though I’m Jewish and I’m appalled by this guy’s blantant disrespect for historical fact, free speech is free speech.

  9. As I see it, proponents of free speech who also support the notion of hate speech (with their attendant laws and statutes) know very well that a free and open society depends on the freedom to criticise without fear of reprisals.

    What they disagree with is that this notion of freedom is some sort of absolute.

    The main issue with free speech as a concept is that it has to encompass “freedom from” as well as “freedom to” when rendered into the law of the land. There has to be a balance struck between the freedom to freely express oneself and the freedom to be, well, free from those who would make you feel unsafe or potentially harmed.

    Countries that have such statues usually require a significant burden of proof before something is considered “hateful”, damaging or otherwise exempt from freedom of expression. This is not unlike the various laws that many countries have about pornography and the like. There is a standard decided by “we, the people” where images and depictions of some sex acts are considered by law to be too hateful, damaging or hurtful. If you traffic in such images, the burden of proof is on the government to prove that this is so. Only then can your right to naughty pics or naughty speech be curtailed.

    The same sort of standards can be applied to other forms of expression.

    The fact is that all societies have some level of restrictions on the notion of absolute free speech. We accept this as a matter of course. Who among us was the first to call out, “won’t someone think of the children?” We make exceptions all the time.

    We also have to accept that there is automatically levels of “freedom” applied to specific situations. For example, there is really no such thing as freedom of speech on your company’s web site. If I invite you to my home and you refuse to stop talking about holocaust deniers, I certainly do not have to give you a bit of freedom to say it. My web site? Same rules (well, to a point. My IP address is technically serviced by my ISP. It’s pretty obvious they’d roll over in a second if a lawyer for any entity showed up at their doors). One cannot invoke freedom of speech when they are at the shopping mall — that is a private corporate space and any such freedom is null and void.

    Conversely, there is a fair amount of freedom to say almost anything you want in a truly public forum. (An aside: most of these truly public spaces are quickly dissappearing in favour of corporate public spaces. To me this is a more interesting issue than seeing another loser holocaust denier jailed as some sort of thin-edge-of-the-wedge. Who cares if you have the right to free speech if you can’t actually use it?)

    What I’m driving at here is that those countries that have established hate laws to handle exceptions to freedom of expression have done so because their citizens have demanded a way to handle this complex collisions of freedom of multiple parties, under a variety of situations. The intention is to strike a balance, not unlike the same sorts of laws about pornography and (to a much lesser extent) fair use and copyright.

    Think of it as “exception handling” for constitutional statements. You are allowed to be as obnoxious as you like, but if you exceed a certain well-defined level of obnoxiousness, the people ask you to kindly step down from the soap box.

  10. I have never known something I have such conflicting opinions on as free speech. Well… that’s an exagerration, but you get the point.

    I followed the case against this guy back in… err, 2001?… when I was studying Nazi Germany for fifty percent of my History A-Level. I find it quite intriguing, and I’m going to sort of quote something I wrote elsewhere on Tuesday:

    “… from his comments today, I believe he changed his stance and then confessed inorder to get off the charges. I thought he was more… stubborn(?) than that.

    For the record, the guy is a moron. He claims that he had those opinions in 1989, and that he read the Eichmann papers and changed his mind (I think it said in 1991, which means he was pretty much on the ball as they were only really publically available from October that year).

    Now, for those not as into this subject as I am, Irving has been writing on Nazi Germany as an expert for decades, and as a revisionist historian. He published Hitler’s War (a solid selling book on the war from the eyes of the man himself, which was more than a little sympathetic, in retrospect…) in the 70’s, and in the 80’s became a real holocaust denier… so how can a Historian of his ‘merit’, who’s been dealing with the subject for so long, miss such important facts on his subject of choice until 1991? I smell something, and it sure isn’t custard.”

    … kind of aside, if anyone wants a genuine awesome Hitler historian, go for a chap called Ian Kershaw. If you read one (well, two) book(s) on the regime in your life, make it his Hubris (1889-1936) and Nemisis (1936-1945) books. I met him after lectures once, too, he was one of those genuine sort of guys who get so good at their history because it’s their passion, and they have no qualms about sharing it with someone else.

    End rant.

  11. What I suggest we do is offer a trade to Iran, in which they can have Irving — who should become fast friends with that country’s Jew-hating, Holocaust-denying president — in exchange for a few of those Iranian bloggers the goverment is currently squatting on for the crime of having opinions. It’d be one of those “everybody wins” situations.

    Funny you should suggest that:

    An Israeli lawyer, Ervin Shahar, says he has asked Germany to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with denying the Holocaust.

  12. For the record, my thoughts on Irving are similar to my thoughts on Timothy McVeigh. I’m opposed to the death penalty, so I don’t think McVeigh should have been executed.

    That being said, you won’t catch me outside the prison waving a sign for *that* particular execution.

  13. So, what rights to free speech does the EU support?

    Yeah, this guy’s a fsckwad, but in my book even they deserve the right to free crap-spoutage.

    During the Mohommad-cartoon fracas people touted Europe’s views on free expression, and now nazi love is not afforded those same protections?

    The trade to Iran nonsense is spurious, as there are a very limited number of things which will get you arrested for saying in Austria, but there are many, many things which you can get arrested for saying in Iran.

    So, why are we trading freely with Europe when they clearly deny the rights to free speech and free press?

    Yeah, we trade with most of the rest of the world which still denies both of these rights, but I’m just sayin’…

  14. I think I agree with John (and nearly everyone else) on this one, but there’s some good background on why Austria feels the need for laws against Holocaust denial in this post at A Fistful of Euros.

  15. A class action for libel would have been much more interesting.

    But isn’t it incitement? I tried looking up exceptions to free speech in the US but I got a million matches on Bush, so I gave up.

  16. I disagree with Scalzi on this post.

    I believe in freedom of speech, and thankfully I live in a country that had the foresight to enshrine that freedom in our Constitution. And I believe that when the Constitution says “Congress shall make no law…” that it is well-nigh absolute. (SCOTUS and I disagree on this particular point, but that’s another rant.)

    That being said, I also know that when I visit a foreign country, I am subject to that nation’s laws. This is significantly different from China or Iran arresting bloggers or dissidents. A restrictive government deciding capriciously and arbitrarily to punish dissidents without warning is bad.

    But Austria is a representative, democratic country that has decided that some things are not to be said or done. You can question the wisdom of that decision, but you can’t question its legitimacy. Irving had ample warning that his actions were in violation of the law. Not only was the law itself well known, but he had been restricted from entering the country because of it.

    He knowingly violated the laws of his host nation, and he is being punished for it.

    K

  17. For the record, the guy is a moron. He claims that he had those opinions in 1989, and that he read the Eichmann papers and changed his mind (I think it said in 1991, which means he was pretty much on the ball as they were only really publically available from October that year).

    He’s also a liar; he’s probably lying now. The CBC, Canada’s state radio, interviewed Deborah Lipstadt a few days back and one of the things she mentioned is that his change of mind wasn’t evident at her libel trial, which occurred after 1991. (For the record, she’s for his freedom of speach as well). She also pointed out what John H did; Irving went to Austria with knowledge of their laws.
    To the list of Irving’s attributes we can probably add “weenie” as well. Not only did he abandon his principles (hah) in an attempt to escape punishment he could have easily avoided in the first place, now that he’s in jail he’s trying to regain the regard of the losers whose views he just spurned. He’s going to be writing a book, just like Hitler did. (Is it just allied propaganda, or was Hitler a bit of a weenie too?). It’s probably going to work.

  18. Kevin Q, we don’t disagree. You have to know the laws of the countries you are visiting and if you violate them you have to bear the cost. I agree he violated Austrian law and that he should have known better; I also happen to think Austria should not have a law that inhibits free speech. One may believe both things simultaneously.

  19. But John, what of the right of a free people to decide for themselves what they will and will not tolerate in their society? The US has decided that all speech is to be tolerated, yet as has been mentioned above, there are limits. Would we vote to do the same thing if there were something like the Holocaust we were equally ashamed of?

    I’m not saying I agree with Austria’s laws regarding the Holocaust, but I do support their right to democratically make & enforce such laws.

  20. Freedom of speech does not include the freedom to shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre.

    Austria and Germany suffered terribly, within living memory, under the Nazi lash, and it is entirely understandable that they would view holocaust denial as tantamount to yelling ‘fire’.

    That said, I personally believe that the best cure for hate speech is more speech: the vile lies of the revisionists wither fastest in the clear light of truth.

    But I understand why Germany and Austria are wary. Hell, look how the US reacted to 3000 deaths. Germany and Austria lost millions (and killed millions, I don’t know which would be worse) and were divided and occupied for years.

    David Irving is also a special case. He knows, or he should know, that what he is spouting are lies. I can dismiss the ravings of the usual semi-literate thug that hangs a Nazi flag on his wall as the ranting of someone too stupid to grasp the truth, but Irving damn well knows better.

  21. Dean:

    “Austria and Germany suffered terribly, within living memory, under the Nazi lash, and it is entirely understandable that they would view holocaust denial as tantamount to yelling ‘fire’.”

    Yeah, but it’s not. David Irving denying the Holocaust while making a speech is not the same as him denying the Holocaust while speaking before a racist mob in front of a synagogue. I won’t argue whether Austria has more than its fair share of Nazi sympathizers, since I’m not well-versed enough in Austrian politics to know one way or another. But unless Irving was making his denials in a context in which they would be the immediate and predicate cause of violence/panic, he’s not proverbially shouting “fire.”

  22. But isn’t it incitement?

    Not necessarily. There’s the rub. Most hate crimes would be crimes without the hate, they just have different motivation (hatred), and different intent (terrorism). But when it comes to speach, the criteria for incitement need to be fairly lax so as not to stifle ligitimate debate, and the Irvings and Zundels of the world can dance inside those lines.

  23. Terry Pratchett’s GOING POSTAL had a very apropos quote which I am now going to mangle: you’re not truly free unless you’re free to accept the consequences.

    And a nation can believe in free speech and, simultaneously, believe that one thing should not be said.

    (That is, if they believe in free speech. Do they? By law?)

  24. But John, what of the right of a free people to decide for themselves what they will and will not tolerate in their society?

    I’m not John, but what of it? It’s not absolute of course (Genocide), but I don’t see Scalzi saying that Austria shouldn’t have the right to make Holocaust denial illegal, merely that they shouldn’t. What rights a society has to restrict the rights of the individuals therein is an interesting question, but regardless of whether Austria has the right to make Holocaust Denial illegal, that law is no Jim Crow law, and Irving is no freedom rider. They were prepared (well as much as anyone could be) for the consequences of breaking the laws they did, and unlike Irving their cause was a just one. They’re the exception to the rule that when you’re a guest, you follow the house rules whether they’re right or not. Irving isn’t, and like Jeff Porten, while I disagree with his imprisonment, I’m not inclined to invest a lot of energy protesting.

  25. Andrew Wade:

    “I don’t see Scalzi saying that Austria shouldn’t have the right to make Holocaust denial illegal, merely that they shouldn’t.”

    That’s essentially correct, although I would probably word it more strongly than that; i.e., societies that pride themselves on being free and tolerant should walk the walk or they end up giving ammunition to those which blandly crush dissent at every turn.

    Now, I’m not personally going to rush the barricades to free Irving — there are lots of other issues I think are more important than that — but I will say that one can certainly recognize and understand why a country would want to place certain restrictions on speech, even as one disagrees with those policies.

  26. I could be mistaken, but my understanding (from visiting Dachau in Germany) was that in the immediate post world war two era, there was a collective denial that these things had taken place. Fearing that the same thing would happen again, many people pushed for very strong laws to prevent historical revisionism, and remind the residents what had been done in their name. I am of course grossly oversimplifying, but thats the gist of it. At any rate, the reasoning behind those laws is sound, even though it clashes with my idea of true free speech.

  27. PeterP: Yes, that is essentially what happened. They made it a crime after several former SS officers tried to dismiss the Holocaust as propaganda.

    More importantly, the new governments in Germany and Austria did not want the Nazis to regroup and try to reclaim power. Additional steps were taken to keep this from happening, including making Nazi symbols and the Nazi salute illegal.

  28. Andrew Wade – yep, you make a good point. The libel case was in 2000/2001 and he most certainly did have a different face on then. He’s not even a decent bad guy, if he was in a movie he would be being manipulated by the real bad! Heh.

    Peter, yeh I think you’re not far off the truth. It’s more complicated than you could have put in a paragraph like that, but there’s a fantastic book by Otto Friedrich called The Kingdom of Auschwitz which I think would touch on what you talk about. Another truly great history book (as well as Bullock’s Hitler book… Hitler’s War? I forget the exact title…)

  29. I’m in violent agreement with John on this – while Irving is a major idiot and probably shouldn’t be a teacher, he’s shouldn’t go to jail. Isn’t he the first one to be prosecuted under that law?

    In this country, people constantly write things without any basis in reality, including (and more often recently) our own federal government. Weapons of Mass Destruction anyone?

  30. I often think free speech is overrated , and this is probably going to get me a kicking from every American in the room, but my opinion is that people are looking at the entire Irving thing the wrong way way.

    I don’t actually think it comes down to free speech issue. It comes down to a truth issue. Or to put it it another way, Irving was imprisoned for telling lies. And you know what most western legal systems are quite happy to limit free speech in that manner. Examples include perjury , defamation and corporate reporting laws.

  31. “Or to put it it another way, Irving was imprisoned for telling lies.”

    As a writer of fiction, I find this formulation of yours not at all comforting.

    And of course the question is where the line resides: If one can be imprisoned for telling lies about the Holocaust, logic suggests one ought to be imprisoned for telling lies about the Armenian genocide (in which case most of the Turkish govenment would be behind bars), of the Rwandan slaughters, or indeed any particular topic a government decides should be off limits.

    Comparing this sort of speech to lying under oath (or libeling someone, or cheating on one’s taxes, which I would be very surprised to see any legal scholar suggest is genuine speech) is not particularly useful because those examples are incredibly narrow-gauge (one is not often on the stand, for example), while what Irving is being imprisoned for cuts across an appallingly broad swath of speech, both in what is said and where it is being said.

    In my opinion, free speech is overrated only by those who think they will never actually need it. The cost of me being able to say what I think needs be said is tolerating jackasses like Irving. It’s a high price, but the alternative is even more dear.

  32. Firstly apologies for posting anonymously, I didn’t actually mean to.

    “As a writer of fiction, I find this formulation of yours not at all comforting.”

    Last time I looked, but correct me if I’m wrong, you weren’t actually claiming that space travel was real and happening today. I think we can agree that there is a difference between telling lies and telling stories.

    I suppose my point is that, as far as I understand it, he was gaoled for denying the holocaust, NOT for being pro nazi or having an ideological or politcal point of view and there lies the distinction than I am making.

  33. Andrew:

    “Last time I looked, but correct me if I’m wrong, you weren’t actually claiming that space travel was real and happening today.”

    Well, there was that whole “landing on the moon” thing a while back. And NASA could be pulling a fast one with all those probes traveling through space.

    Now, as it happens, I can think of one science fiction writer (Whitley Streiber) whose dined out on suggesting his stories of alien abduction are based on truth. I personally strongly suspect he’s lying out of his ass — or is he just telling stories? Whoops, guess we can’t agree there’s a difference, at least some of the time. I do think Mr. Streiber should be able to avoid jail, however.

    As for the distinction you’re trying to make, is it somehow better that he presumably was jailed not for political speech, but merely for talking out of his ass? I’m hard-pressed to see why that is a manifestly more positive turn of evens, since the sphere of non-political speech is much larger than the sphere of political speech.

    Having said that, personally I doubt rather seriously Irving didn’t have an ideological/political axe to grind; at the very least, he was more than happy to ally himself with those who did. But of course one ought not be jailed for political speech, either (indeed, here in the US, that’s the predicate cause of the 1st Amendment).

  34. “Well, there was that whole “landing on the moon” thing a while back. And NASA could be pulling a fast one with all those probes traveling through space.”

    It’s all lies , I’ve seen websites ;-)

    I actually meant interstellar travel , and I was trying to avoid more exact spoilers to the book of yours I have read.

    “Having said that, personally I doubt rather seriously Irving didn’t have an ideological/political axe to grind”

    I never said he didn’t, I just said he wasn’t gaoled for it. I don’t see activly spreading misinformation being a valid form of free speech. Especially when the misinformation is offensive and hurtful.

    “while what Irving is being imprisoned for cuts across an appallingly broad swath of speech, both in what is said and where it is being said.”

    Oh, I thought he was being gaoled for saying “The holocaust didn’t happen.” which seems pretty specific to me.

    “But of course one ought not be jailed for political speech, either (indeed, here in the US, that’s the predicate cause of the 1st Amendment).”

    Hey nothing wrong with free political speech. Now imagine a society where they put politicians in gaol if they lied ;-)

    Short answer is I think that speech can be limited to a small degree in a free society, without comprising that societies inherent freedom.

  35. I said:
    “Austria and Germany suffered terribly, within living memory, under the Nazi lash, and it is entirely understandable that they would view holocaust denial as tantamount to yelling ‘fire’.”

    To which John said:

    Yeah, but it’s not. David Irving denying the Holocaust while making a speech is not the same as him denying the Holocaust while speaking before a racist mob in front of a synagogue. I won’t argue whether Austria has more than its fair share of Nazi sympathizers, since I’m not well-versed enough in Austrian politics to know one way or another. But unless Irving was making his denials in a context in which they would be the immediate and predicate cause of violence/panic, he’s not proverbially shouting “fire.”

    The Austrians believe differently. And they have both a greater understanding (although that is fading as people who lived through the horror die off) and a greater stake in the matter.

    I’m not saying that I think that Irving should be jailed. He shouldn’t, nor should the Canadian government have gone after Zundel. People who are inclined to accept the crap that these liars spout are going to accept it whether or not the Canadian and Austrian governments say it’s an indictable crime or not.

    I’m saying that Germany and Austria’s restriction on this particular form of speech is not a restriction on free speech in general. We don’t have similar examples in North America because we haven’t experienced anything like what they experienced. If we had, we might very well have similar laws, and we would still be a continent that allows free speech.

    Certain kinds of speech are highly charged by their nature, and there are restrictions on that speech. Let me try using the word ‘nigger’ in a room full of black people, for example. (And I’m actually contemplating blanking out some of the letters in that word with asterisks, or calling it the ‘N-word’.) Now, I grant you, that isn’t the same as jailing people who use it, but the effect is the same. It’s a word I simply don’t use.

    I am a strong believer in free speech and democracy, and I don’t think that Germany/Austria/Israel’s restriction on people’s right to make a specific set of claims makes them undemocratic. A lot of people suffered terribly, and those countries are still damned sensitive about it.

  36. “The Austrians believe differently. And they have both a greater understanding (although that is fading as people who lived through the horror die off) and a greater stake in the matter.”

    Well, the Austrians are free to do whatever they want, Dean. I just don’t agree with them, nor do I buy the theory that 60 years isn’t enough time for a nation to heal, and in any event I’m glad I live in a country where I am not legally obliged to watch what I say at the risk of upsetting people.

    Now, as it happens, I don’t generally use the word “nigger” in a room full of black people, either (or, generally speaking, in a room filled with people or any sort), but I’m pleased that I have the option of doing so without having to go to prison for it. I have the right to free speech, but I also understand that the ability to say a thing does not equate with a need to say a thing, because as it happens, I’m not stupid. And also as it happens, I don’t particularly feel my right to free speech should be constrained by the lowest common denominator — i.e., Irving and other jackasses of his ilk. Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that.

    Look, I’ll make this simple for everyone: There is no argument you’re going to present for curtailing speech short of immediate incitement (i.e., exhorting violence to an anti-Muslim mob outside a mosque, for example) that is going to work at all for me. It’s just not going to happen. You’re free to think Austria’s law is reasonable; I think it’s bullshit. David Irving is a pathetic anti-semitic worm, but he doesn’t belong in prison for the reason he is in prison. Period, end of sentence, full stop.

    Having the right to free speech isn’t a comfortable right. It’s not meant to be. Indeed, that’s the point of it: to be an uncomfortable right. One is required to tolerate free speech, for the benefit of being able to freely speak one’s own mind.

  37. Free Speech?
    Everything good comes with a price but there needs to be balance. I can say what I want but if I lie about someone I face libel charges. The gospel of hate is an easy one for those who wish to “Be somebody” to jump into. Irving has been riding this bandwagon for a long time. He knows he lies but he knows it gets him an audience. I would be the first, in what I suspect would be a long line, to piss in his cell so he can comprehend what it is like to wallow in the stench of hate but…. Freedom to speak the truth is what I believe in, not freedom to feed what has and will destroy lives and countries. America touts its legal system where you are innocent until proven guilty and civil rights but locks up people in Guantamino Bay for years with no recourse. We need to practice what we preach.

  38. Bob Westbrook:

    “Freedom to speak the truth is what I believe in, not freedom to feed what has and will destroy lives and countries.”

    Well, Bob, when you get around to amending the US Constitution so that we have only the freedom to speak truth, you let me know. Until then we go with the freedom to speak, period, up to and including blatant lies.

  39. “I am not legally obliged to watch what I say at the risk of upsetting people.”

    I think the issue Austrian’s have is with them inciting people. I don’t know, I just don’t think this is clear cut, which is why most poeple aren’t willing to say “shut up and believe what I believe”, which is always bloody boring in a discussion like this.

    I think free speech, and encouraging it to an infinite degree, is fine when you’re talking about level headed citizens, like we have here – I’m sounding elitist but 1. I’m not that fussed and 2. I think this is true – but in their situation, the guys in charge are acknowledging that there are the masses out there, who have, in infinite cases in history, been swayed by propoganda and speeches (not unlike the sort Hitler gave in his reign) which are designed to play on their insecurities and desires, and get them to back something which is not for the greater good. This is my problem with free speech, I guess, which I still support on the whole.

    Bah, who knows.

  40. Thanks John. All of this is making me think and evaluate notions I’ve taken for granted. For me much of the world is new because of my memory loss. It’s a bit scary to wake up and find this chaos. Truth is always hard to nail down and is relative.

  41. Well, I pride myself on the quality of the comment threads around here, which is sort of silly, since the quality largely comes from people who are not me. Nevertheless, the discourse is good here, and I think that’s a fine thing.

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