Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. -- Winston Churchill

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. -- Galileo Galilei

I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell. -- Harry Truman

Location: Wichita, Kansas

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Supporting a Nazi Lover

David Irving, a British “historian”, was called “an active Holocaust denier ... anti-Semitic and racist” by a British Judge in a civil case. And that may be putting it mildly. But I'm supporting him. To be more accurate, I am not defending him, but condemning the criminal trial in which he is a defendant in Austria. His “crime” was to “publicly diminish, deny or justify the Holocaust”. Under an Austrian law that could put him in prison for 10 years.

Austrians are understandably rather sensitive about Nazis and the holocaust. They want to make sure that the world sees that they are repentant about the crimes of the third Reich, and to prevent a resurgence of neo-Nazism. Nothing wrong with that.

There is something wrong with criminalizing ideas, thought, and opinion. It is ironic that in their effort to condemn fascism, they are employing one of the fascist's favorite tools – banning free expression and imprisoning those who dissent. It is wrong no matter how laudable the intent, nor the noxiousness of the thought they wish to suppress.

Some Americans might feel a bit superior to the Austrians and point to our fidelity to free speech. They shouldn't - we tread down the same path in our own way. We allow universities to have policies that ban and punish “hate speech”. So much for their commitment to free expression. We create special criminal penalties for “hate crimes”. A hate crime statute adds punishment for the motivation – the thoughts and feelings – of the defendant.

If we tolerate the criminalization of thoughts and feelings, we abandon our basic belief in intellectual freedom. The intent may be good, but the proverbial road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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