David Irving: Bist du crazy, oder?

Grumpy points out an art­icle in the Times about David Irving, the rogue his­tor­i­an who has been jailed by an Austrian court for deny­ing the Holocaust.

Because this relates to free speech — itself one of the pil­lars of writ­ing — a few words on this blog would not go amiss. It is appar­ent now, and was appar­ent when I first heard of David Irving’s ridicu­lous claims, that laws intend to curb the expres­sion of mat­ters dis­taste­ful to a gov­ern­ment rep­res­ent an abuse of that government’s power.

We have no laws ban­ning the pub­lic­a­tion of extrem­ist polit­ic­al views in Britain, as far as I’m aware. Ah, you might say, but those laws exist in Germany and Austria for a reas­on; they are safe­guards against the spread of extrem­ism. Well, I would chal­lenge you to exam­ine some of the anti-semit­ism that exis­ted, and still exists, in this great coun­try of ours. I am sure that, if we had such a law, there would be no great dif­fi­culty in identi­fy­ing the first people to smite with it. Such laws are unne­ces­sary, dif­fi­cult to enforce, and fun­da­ment­ally counter to the free­dom of expres­sion that our con­sti­tu­tions embody (codi­fied in writ­ing in the USA, codi­fied by pre­ced­ent in the UK).

If some­body wants to deny the Holocaust, let them make a twat of them­selves in pub­lic. Engage with them. Open the argu­ment and expose its flaws. Having stud­ied exper­i­ment­al psy­cho­logy for ten years, I’m cyn­ic­al about the degree to which humans can engage ration­ally on mat­ters that seem so con­nec­ted to their fear (cf. ‘reds under the beds’, or ‘Jews con­trol the inter­na­tion­al mon­et­ary sys­tem’), but the notion that ideas can be squashed by the gov­ern­ment is, to use a word often employed in exper­i­ment­al psy­cho­logy, bol­locks.

Don’t let the ideas flour­ish in a fenced-off plot; let the ideas inter­act wildly, and the ideas that are absurd will with­er.

Which pil­lar of rep­res­ent­at­ive gov­ern­ment were we shin­ning up just a few days ago, when the Muslim world reacted angrily to deface­ments of their religion’s fig­ure­head? Hello? The German and Austrian con­sti­tu­tions need revert to their core prin­ciples; the Allied modi­fic­a­tion of their con­sti­tu­tions was a dyke against a flood that nev­er came.

This from Hans Raucher, writ­ing in Austria’s Der Standard:

Holocaust den­iers like David Irving want to trivi­al­ise these incon­ceiv­able crimes and make them polit­ic­ally accept­able. That is the decis­ive point. Whoever wants to render National Socialism harm­less wants to revive it as a polit­ic­al option. It’s just too much to ask of demo­cracy to tol­er­ate this. And it is deplor­able treat­ment of the vic­tims.

Wrong. It is not too much to ask of a demo­cracy to tol­er­ate this. The demo­cracy is strong enough. The demo­cracy should give voice to all its cit­izens (said the blog-writer). My exper­i­ence relates only to Germany, not Austria, but my con­sist­ent impres­sion is one of an anti-mil­it­ar­ist­ic soci­ety (they don’t even like chil­dren to wear school uni­forms), still very much aware of the past, and it is the last place I’d expect to need anti-extrem­ist legis­la­tion. Anti-extrem­ist legis­la­tion is the mark of an extraordin­ary situ­ation, like the one facing Germany and Austria fol­low­ing the Second World War. It’s time for these con­sti­tu­tions to accept free speech.

Two words: Pot? Kettle? Tell me about it. Wir sind auch crazy — ich weiss das.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

One thought on “David Irving: Bist du crazy, oder?”

  1. The English defam­a­tion law dates back to the 13th cen­tury. The German and Austrian laws against people who deny the Holocaust are simply a spe­cial case of these laws.

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