February 20, 2006

Europeans Fake Their Stand On Principle

Hatched by Dafydd

Across the Moslem ummah and in many European countries, Moslems run riot over a handful of cartoons. The European newspapers that published them stand strong on the great principle of freedom of speech, insisting that people must be free to speak their minds, no matter how offensive it may be or who may be offended -- that freedom of expression is the most basic human right of all.

It rings a little hollow, now that Austria has just sentenced fake historian David Irving to three years in prison... for denying the Holocaust in two 1989 speeches.

Right-wing British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday after admitting to an Austrian court that he denied the Holocaust - a crime in the country where Hitler was born....

State prosecutor Michael Klackl declined to comment on the verdict. In his closing arguments, however, he criticized Irving for "putting on a show" and for not admitting that the Nazis killed Jews in an organized and systematic manner.

(Interestingly, Irving was arrested "on charges stemming from two speeches he gave in Austria in 1989 in which he was accused of denying the Nazis' extermination of 6 million Jews" -- under a law passed in 1992. Another interesting point to ponder about European ideas of justice.)

Let's start with the basics: Irving is not merely wrong, he is willfully lying because of his agenda; and his agenda is without question antisemitic, whether or not he himself personally dislikes Jews.

But... what should we make now of that freedom-of-speech defense by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, the one that ran as an editorial along with the cartoons? Will they likewise denounce the conviction and prison sentence of David Irving as another violation of freedom of speech?

What about the literally scores of European newspapers that have reprinted the cartoons in France, Germany, and even Austria (countries that definitely do criminalize Holocause denial), each claiming it published the images to defend -- er, what was that principle again?

And why did the Italian Minister-Without-Portfolio Roberto Calderoli begin distributing t-shirts of the cartoons and even claim he was wearing one "under his suit?" Holocaust denial is prosecutable as a crime in Italy, according to Michael Shermer, the publisher of Skeptic Magazine -- which is not skeptical at all about the Holocaust but supports the orthodox theory, as do I:

Switzerland, Belgium, Israel, Italy, New Zealand, Sweden, and Australia have similar laws and statutes on the books. These laws are all ambiguous enough to allow courts to interpret various Holocaust deniers' activities as illegal.

Is Holocaust denial a crime in Denmark? I don't believe it is, but I am fascinated to find out. I put in a call to the Danish consulate, but you cannot get through directly: I left my number for them to call me back. I also sent an e-mail, but they haven't responded as yet. I will update this post when -- if -- I receive any answer. But from what I have read, Denmark, at least, is not hypocritical in this sense.

But will Jyllands-Posten denounce the sentencing of David Irving? I would like to see them do so; it would make their earlier posturing rather more believable.

Denying the Holocaust is also a crime in other European countries, including France. It is potentially a crime throughout Europe by dint of the Council of Europe's 2003 Additional Protocol to the Convention on cybercrime, concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems, whose Article 6 reads:

Article 6 – Denial, gross minimisation, approval or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity

1 Each Party shall adopt such legislative measures as may be necessary to establish the following conduct as criminal offences under its domestic law, when committed intentionally and without right:

Distributing or otherwise making available, through a computer system to the public, material which denies, grossly minimises, approves or justifies acts constituting genocide or crimes against humanity, as defined by international law and recognised as such by final and binding decisions of the International Military Tribunal, established by the London Agreement of 8 August 1945, or of any other international court established by relevant international instruments and whose jurisdiction is recognised by that Party.

Note how wide a net this article casts, which would also include the crime of "minimizing" the Rwanda massacre or trying to "justify" anything done by Augusto Pinochet while fighting Communism in Chile. However, signatories to the convention are not obliged to enforce this article. Is there a list of which countries do?

From the Wikipedia article on Holocaust denial:

At times, Holocaust deniers seek to rely on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression, when faced with criminal sanctions against their statements or publications. The European Court of Human Rights however consistently declares their complaints inadmissible. According to Article 17 of the Convention, nothing in the Convention may be construed so as to justify acts that are aimed at destroying any of the very rights and freedoms contained therein. Invoking free speech to propagate denial of crimes against humanity is, according to the Court's case-law, contrary to the spirit in which the Convention was adopted in the first place. Reliance on free speech in such cases would thus constitute an abuse of a fundamental right.

This argument strikes me (I am Jewish on my parents' side) as disingenuous to the point of offense. Free speech clearly does not cover actual incitement to riot, fraud, or some other offenses (e.g., you cannot rely on "freedom of speech" as a defense against ordering a hit on someone). But if freedom of speech means anything at all, it means the right to express political or factual opinions, no matter how offensive -- and no matter how outlandish.

That is precisely the principle that European nations rely upon defending the Danish cartoons... a principle simultaneously denied by many of the very countries repeating it. Is it any wonder that Moslem nations reject such an argument coming from mouths that, with the next breath, reject it themselves? "Do as I say, not as I do" indeed.

The greatest gift that the Jews gave to the world was a universal God Who procaimed a universal law: what was a crime for a pauper was also a crime for a prince. Kings of Israel were denounced by the prophets for failing to obey the universal laws of God (Saul, David). We claim still to believe this today; the expression "no one is above the law" has its parallels in every European language. There can be no principle that allows some expression to be criminalized but protects all other expression. Such hypocrisy has the poisoned taint of pure tribalism: my tribe can speak, but not yours.

Europe must finally decide: does it actually stand on this principle, which is a bedrock of freedom in the United States -- a country which does, in fact, extend such freedom even to odious neonazis, antisemites, and Holocaust deniers, yes even including David Irving, whose work is readily available here? Or does Europe believe that offensive speech can and should be censored to avoid upsetting listeners and readers?

And they had better decide quickly, because a "principle" that applies only when one agrees with the person invoking it has no more force than the rush of hot air from the mouths of European ministers-without-moral-portfolios.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 20, 2006, at the time of 5:12 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this hissing: http://biglizards.net/mt3.36/earendiltrack.cgi/507

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Europeans Fake Their Stand On Principle:

» Our Freedom of Speech Paradox from Zoli's Blog

No, this is not another post about the cartoons and the violence that followed.   Instead, I’ll  present three unrelated cases of what I consider extremities of Freedom of Speech – going to far, or none.

[Read More]

Tracked on February 20, 2006 10:45 PM


The following hissed in response by: Kathy K

Since the holocaust denial thing is a talking point of the Hiraba supporters, I've seen it mentioned in a number of cartoon posts. Danes have unanimously asserted that holocaust denial is not illegal in Denmark.

However, I don't expect Jyllands-Posten will have anything to say, one way or the other. He wasn't convicted in Denmark.

The above hissed in response by: Kathy K [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 20, 2006 6:17 PM

The following hissed in response by: stackja1945

Double standards have been around since Hitler and Stalin did their various deals. Communists supported Hitler until he double crossed Stalin first, before Stalin who would have probably double crossed Hitler. Double, double toil and trouble.

The above hissed in response by: stackja1945 [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 20, 2006 6:18 PM

The following hissed in response by: Xrlq

Let's start with the basics: Irving is not merely wrong, he is willfully lying because of his agenda; and his agenda is without question antisemitic, whether or not he himself personally dislikes Jews.

I *almost* agree. The "almost" part refers to your use of the present rather than past tense, as the article suggests Irving has subsequently renounced the views that were the subject of his prosecution. Of course, it's possible this eleventh hour epipheny was designed to beat the rap; once a liar, always a liar, etc.

Note how wide a net this article casts, which would also include the crime of "minimizing" the Rwanda massacre or trying to "justify" anything done by Augusto Pinochet while fighting Communism in Chile.

I'd go one better. On its face, it would allow the criminal prosecution of anyone who denied the Jenin massacre, or the U.S. government's 2002 massacre of all Americans of Arab extraction. What, you say? Such massacres never happened? Perish the thought, now you're a criminal, yourself. It doesn't say anything about truth (real or perceived) being a defense. You denied a massacre, therefore, you're guilty. Or perhaps that falls outside the "without right" element, but in that case, wouldn't Holocaust denial also fall outside it, unless it could somehow be proved that the denier knew at the time of the utterance that the Holocaust really happened? Note the Irving claims to have denied the Holocaust in good faith, and only later to have been presented with the evidence that convinced him it was real after all.

The above hissed in response by: Xrlq [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 20, 2006 7:01 PM

The following hissed in response by: blueguitarbob

>>Free speech clearly does not cover actual incitement to riot...

Hmm... this is an issue that has been bothering me lately, because it could be argued that the Mohammed images are not protected free speech, for this reason. I don't think it would be a particularly strong argument, but it could be made, because the Supreme Court has clearly kept the door open to evaluating not only the content and context of speech (or actions or images), but the _social impact_.

I was starting to write on this issue, when I found a web page that sums up free speech conlaw issues pretty well... better than I could, anyway:


The above hissed in response by: blueguitarbob [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2006 10:19 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

Tobacco is SACRED

I have been following recent news with great interest and I feel that in the spirit of equal opportunity, I as a descendant of the Ani-Yun-Wi-Ya. (Total of all real people) should point out that I have found the lack of respect and Honor accorded the Sacred Herb of my Ancestors, highly offensive.Since it appears that in some quarters decisions have been made to avoid offending other religions even to the extent of discarding basic Liberties and Freedoms then my Religion too should be accorded the same respect

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 21, 2006 3:19 PM

Post a comment

Thanks for hissing in, . Now you can slither in with a comment, o wise. (sign out)

(If you haven't hissed a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Hang loose; don't shed your skin!)

Remember me unto the end of days?

© 2005-2009 by Dafydd ab Hugh - All Rights Reserved