Applebaum on Irving

by Russ Roberts on March 1, 2006

in Law

Anne Applebaum of the Washington Post has a nice piece today on the Irving case.  The ending is eloquent:

In a world in which a Jewish man can be found tortured and murdered outside Paris, as one was last week, in which imams issue fatwas
against cartoonists, in which the golden domes of mosques explode and
in which religious intolerance seems to be exploding too — it’s
becoming far harder for everyone else to see the value of uninhibited,
unrestrained and deeply offensive free speech.

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Tom Anger March 1, 2006 at 11:56 am

It is "becoming harder" for some, but Applebaum strikes the right tone in her penultimate paragraph:

"Still, I'm with Deborah Lipstadt, the historian whom Irving unsuccessfully sued for libel several years ago and who proved in the course of that trial, that he had altered facts and massaged documents to make his pro-Nazi case. 'The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and truth,' she said — not jail sentences." The state of liberty has become fragile enough. The last thing it can stand is censorship of speech based on a judgment that the speaker is "too far" to the left or right.

Graham March 1, 2006 at 11:59 pm

Harder if you don't understand that the free speech rights and tolerance we grant to our loonies and our deeply offensive is what stands between the rest of us and the loss of our own free speech rights. After all, one person's fanatic is another's moderate.

Slocum March 2, 2006 at 3:30 pm

"…it's becoming far harder for everyone else to see the value of uninhibited, unrestrained and deeply offensive free speech."

What an odd conclusion for an article that mostly took the opposite position. I would say, on the contrary, that it's becoming increasingly obvious that there are clear benefits to a constitutional guarantee of free speech. Where it is not possible for the government to censor offensive speech (or prosecute and incarcerate after the fact), special interest pressure groups do not take to the streets demanding such restrictions (because everybody knows they are impossible). In Europe, however, such restrictions on speech are possible and so special interests demand them–loudly, and with threats of violence if their demands are not met.

the Radical March 2, 2006 at 4:43 pm

Is it really out of the question to think that such restrictions in place in parts of Europe cannot come to the US. After all, there is a long list of trends that began in Europe only to jump across the pond: western civilization, the industrial revolution, socialism, the Beatles etc. Why is there any reason th think that free speech restrictions will not do the same thing. The polls (I admittedly don't give too much weight to polls) that show widespread acceptance of Bush II's spy program, tolerence of Gitmo and the Patriot Act indicate that this is possible. If we are willing to give up the 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th amendments than why not give up the first too?

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