Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Monday, February 20, 2006
 
So David Irving has been jailed. He should not have been.

I can see why laws against Holocaust denial in Germany and Austria seemed like a good idea to the occupying Allies in 1946. The metaphor I use is that of a man who has just managed to fight off a maniac. After a dreadful struggle the citizen has finally wrestled his assailant onto the floor and held him down. It must have seemed like madness to even consider letting him rise again.

I use that metaphor to understand the motivations of those who passed that law, not to say that they were correct. When I start to type the numerous reasons why Irving should not have been jailed a great weariness comes over me, but here they are again. Freedom of speech is indivisible: the fact that an odious man is free to say odious things protects those who wish to say things that are not odious but are unpopular. Lies should be fought with truth, not manacles. Once the precedent is set that wrong historical opinions can be criminalised, it becomes easier for the powerful to censor historical opinions that are inconvenient to them. Even where jail is never mentioned there will be a chilling effect on historical debate. Jailing Irving will make a martyr of him and give credence to his theories. Islamofascists will say that if Holocaust denial can be criminalised why not depiction of their prophet? Their fellow-travellers among the EU hierarchy will be happy, for their own reasons, to agree.

How ironic if the very forceps made ready to kill one evil ideology in the womb before it could be reborn to trouble Europe were to be used to assure a safe birthing into Europe for another.