I’ve argued, for instance, that, no matter how odious a person’s views, he or she should be allowed to state them (usual caveats concerning libel/slander, of course). I argued this for Geert Wilders and for that bunch of loonies from Topeka, Kansas, the Phelps family.
One of my favourite bloggers, Baal’s Bum (he’s in our sidebar), has disagreed with me in a comment on this blog, and I’m happy that he has done so. It’s what debate is about, and I think no less of him for it.
This one’s about the Holocaust. There can be little doubt that it happened. The historical evidence is too great and varied to be dismissed. It would be the most elaborate conspiracy in history if it turned out that that infamous episode was all made up.
But should someone be allowed to say it didn’t happen – or that it wasn’t as bad as is made out?
Again, I believe public opinion will damn anyone who denies it, and he or she will stand or fall in reasoned debate. Ridicule is the prize if that denier or revisionist is caught out and proved to be wrong. So let battle commence.
And there is always the fear that there but for fortune (or, rather, the politicians’ pet target for censorship this month) go I. If we ban people from saying things, no matter how ridiculous they are (and, yes, even hurtful, which may be a small price to pay for seeing that person shot down in flames), it is only a matter of time before something a little less preposterous is banned. Then something a bit less preposterous than that.
Before long, anything that’s a bit uncomfortable to NuLabour, or to any similar heap of shabby politicians who are in charge, will be banned, and some of us won’t even notice that it’s happened.
That letter, then. It was, as I say, in the Scotsman and is from one James Martin, of Cowdenbeath, Fife, who begins by asserting that the current consensual, international view is that the Holocaust happened.
But he then goes on to say, “Such is the humbug climate of the times that the minority who deny such an atrocity ever occurred are pilloried as criminals.”
He goes on:
In such states as Austria and Germany, custodial sentences are customarily handed out. We don’t punish eccentrics who believe in Atlantis, the hollow Earth, Hans Hörbiger’s ice theory or, indeed, invading aliens, so why punish Holocaust deniers?
Doesn’t this form of insistent insecurity only lead to suspicions that it never took place, and aren’t such countries in danger of imposing an inflexible, totalitarian mindset control similar to the regimes they avow to despise?
Well said, Mr Martin. We can so soon become the architects of our own oppression – and that is the way it’s going.