[Irving's] statements can only be described as poisonous, anti-semitic lies, but Irving shouldn't be facing court or prison for them, any more than Turks should be for facing charges of "insulting Turkishness" for talking about the Armenian genocide, or Danish cartoonists should be for insulting (and in some cases, villifying) Muslims. If freedom of expression extends only to speech the majority agree with or find inoffensive, then it is no freedom at all.Exactly right. In the words of a commenter at No Right Turn, "Thought crime is worse than Holocaust denial." Some years ago when David Irving was banned from appearing in New Zealand I sent out a press release from Bernard Darnton saying much the same thing:
The issue brings to mind the words of Mark Twain, who advised that it was better to stay quiet and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. In this respect, says Darnton, "when charlatans such as Irving receive the oxygen of publicity for their views - as he did in the libel action that bankrupted him three years ago - they become exposed for the fools they are. Such is the power of free speech."You can lock up a person, but you can't lock up an idea however much you try. Locking up odious ideas with bans on free speech leaves them underground, there to fester and grow in the dark. Far better to let out in to the open and be exposed to the ridicule the deserve. Darnton again:
Banning the expression of opinions, no matter how vulgar those opinions are, costs us part of our civilization, part of our humanity. Bad ideas must be fought with good ideas. Ideas are products of our minds and our minds must be reasoned with and educated, not coerced.In the current environment of confusion over the issue it's worth pointing out that we do not have the right to avoid having odious ideas espoused if the proponent can acquire a platform from which to espouse them. The demands of free speech however do not require that anyone provide the proponents of bad ideas with a microphone or a platform. Neither do they allow us to lock up people with whom we disagree.
LINKS: Bankrupt, disgraced and now jailed: Irving sinks to new low - Times Online
Irving on trial - No Right Turn
Free Expression: How Free Should Speech Be? - Bernard Darnton
Tony Ellis an Embarrassment to Liberty - Libertarianz