Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Holocause Celebre

David Irving has been dragged ignominiously off to jail for his crime of publicly denying the holocaust in Austria.  He was given a three-year sentence, which seems to me to be somewhat strict, but Austria has the right to make such laws as she sees fit.  In a country which saw the building of the most feared concentration camp ever to exist (Mauthausen) the citizens want no minimalization of the horror that national socialism brought to the world and themselves.  Austria wants to deal firmly with those who would deny the truth.  Challenging accepted truth is one thing--pathological repudiation of accepted truth is quite another.  What is the aim of such an assertion anyway?  To outrage and annoy others.  While such speech is fully protected in the United States, we don't share the awful history of Austria.  It is ironic however, that Austria has made denying the holocaust a crime, but to say that the holocaust didn't go far enough is apparently legal.  This is the kind of capricious censorship that I find troubling. 

Holocaust denial is a somewhat antiquated tactic on the part of the far right neo-nazi movement.  They've moved on.  Rather than deny the fact, they now celebrate it.  As we see from the leadership in Iran.  While I shed no tears for David Irving, I appreciate what he has done to publicize yet another free speech issue.  If Austria wants to criminalize this brand of speech, so be it.  It's their business.  Nobody forced Irving to travel to Austria 15 years after his "crime" and risk arrest.  But they ought to be intellectually fair.  If denying the holocaust is a crime, celebrating it and lamenting its premature conclusion ought to be, too.

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