Sunday, February 26, 2006

David Irving

David Irving is a fuckhead. His holocaust denials are pathetic and he is deserving of public scorn. However, I must take offense to his 3 year prison sentence for this. I do so on 2 fronts. First, freedom of speech. Historians must be able to say what they want to. Hell, all of us must fight for this right. It's an old axiom that free speech cases are always fought for the least deserving people. This is certainly true in Irving's case. But 3 years in prison. Why? Even for someone as stupid as Irving, this doesn't seem necessary. In fact, won't this set him up for martyrdom as much as anything? What is the point of this exactly? In a time when Europe is experiencing all kinds of racial strife, is the Austrian government really making any kind of statement here except for singling out Jews as the one group you can't talk bad about.

And this brings me to the second defense. On "Fresh Air" the other day I heard an interview with one of Newsweek's Middle Eastern correspondants. I don't remember who exactly but it doesn't really matter. He brought up this case and said that for Muslims, imprisoning Irving for saying the Holocaust doesn't exist while Europe publishes blasphemous cartoons of Muhammad screams hypocrisy. Whether or not it is in fact hypocrisy may be fairly irrelevant, as is the fact that Austria and Denmark are 2 different nations. For much of the Islamic world, Europe is a single entity and they are not going to split hairs to find differences between Irving and the cartoons.

So to summarize, politically the imprisonment of Irving is stupid. In addition, it is offensive to any notions of free speech.