Hogan's Alley

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Example Of American's Deep Belief In Freedom

As I said in the previous post, Americans hold a deep emotional and intellectual affection for freedom of religion. They hold an equally strong belief in freedom of speech. For anyone who requires further proof, I offer Christopher Hitchens piece in the Wall Street Journal attacking the arrest in Austria of one David Irving for the crime of having denied the holocaust.

This case is especially illustrative of the principle precisely because Mr. Irving's ideas, both written and spoken are so repulsive and plainly wrong. As Hitchens eloquently puts it:

...the provincial police of Styria were only doing their statutory job when they detained Mr. Irving under the terms of a very broadly drawn Austrian law that criminalizes even "gross understatement" (however that might be phrased) of the Nazi campaign against European Jewry. But it is somehow unfortunate that a small European country with a very bad record from the Nazi period should be jailing an eccentric Englishman at the precise moment when a small European country with a much better record is the object of an orchestrated campaign of lies, blackmail and violence. Those who jump for joy when the embassies of European democracies are immolated in the capital cities of squalid dictatorships have decided to announce their own game of moral equivalence. What of your precious free speech, they say, when the Holocaust is immune from criticism on your own soil? Austrian bureaucracy -- never at its best with this thorny question: how embarrassing that the prison library contained several Irving hardbacks -- could almost have set out to try and prove the Islamist demagogues' "point."
To be sure, Hitchens takes a very Hitchscentric view of the entire matter, but he has attacked Irving viciously in print in the past, which is the forum in which such debate belongs, not the legal system. He is in no way defending the man's views, simply his right to hold and express them, no matter how silly they are. That, dear friends, is the core of belief in freedom of speech.