Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Right, no. Funny, well, kinda...

I'm floating in general happiness this evening. Simon, who just arrived here in Iqaluit from St. John's, brought Timbits for myself and Cathy. Better still, chocolate Timbits. So I just spent a nice two hours watching Monty Python's Personal Best while munching on Timbits. Life is good.

Oh, for those of you here looking for smut (and my goodness, the numbers are growing), it's a little further down.

And now, for something a little more serious. I read this interesting article regarding David Irving. For those who don't know, he's a historian and a prominent Holocaust denier. Alas, in 1989 he made a speech denying the holocaust while in Austria, which has laws against that kind of thing. He's since repented and now says he believes it happened.

Too little, too late, it seems as he's now going to jail for three years.

Do I think Irving is an idiot? Yup. Do I think his views are detestable? Yup. Do I wish I had a bowel disrupter (go read Transmetropolitan) so that I could set it on Anal Krakatoa and hit him with it repeatedly? Absolutely.

Sadly, he does have the right to say it without going to jail. I really do believe that. Just like Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper had the right to run those cartoons. From all accounts the paper is a piece of garbage that rags on ethnic groups. But you know, freedom of speech means even those views that are reprehensible. It means defending those views when you would just as soon beat them for it. It's a bitch having to do this, but you know, no one said freedom of speech was going to be easy.

The sad thing about the Irving decision is that some Muslims in Europe are asking, rightly, why there is a double standard. That when a newspaper mocks Islam and make defamatory remarks about their prophet, they're told to be reasonable, but when someone denies a horrific event in the lives of many Jews, he goes to jail.

You know, I wish I was back home at the Duke with my friends. This would be a fun debate to have over a pint.

One more word on this, from the always entertaining Warren Ellis. I tend to agree with him when he said, "My take is simply this: is it right that he go to prison for this? No. Is it FUNNY that he go to prison for this? YES."

Because really, he's a Nazi. Or one stepped removed from them. They're about the least sympathetic group of people left in the world.


Mireille Sampson said...

That was about how I felt (not the donuts, the nazi). When I read the story I kept looking for something saying his rantings had directly incited acts of violence. It's sad when we have to defend free speech for such idiots, but we do. Same goes for the muslim cartoons.
I do think it's hypocritical that (correct me if I'm wrong here) journalists in the US can't publish photos of dead american soldiers. Free Speech is not something we in democracies can ever afford to take for granted. Then there's the issue of journalist's responsibility to quality of info. Just about every journalist covering the Iraq war is either imbedded with the US military or is in lock-down at an Iraqi hotel (because they get kidnapped or killed when they leave), never leaving to talk to people "on the ground" and get the real story - all of their information comes from the PR people in the green zone. Every source in just about every Iraq war news story is approved by the american military/administration. It's a rare journalist that uses his/her free speech for that sort of full-disclosure.

Anonymous said...

The self-imposed lockdown aspect of Iraq coverage is true - though few papers would ask reporters to walk outside of safe compounds. Jill Carroll did, she's a hostage. I couldn't immediately say if the imbedded reporters have to get coverage vetted - they didn't during the war (sattelite phones were common, as was live coverage) so I don't think that would be the case now. Also, I don't quite get the idea that people 'on the ground' have the "real story." They have opinions, and ones that are worth noting - but what do you mean by the "real story?" A Pentagon source talking to WaPo would be more in touch with issues and the "real story" than an Iraqi taxi driver. People in the third world (and the first) have less access to the "real story" than people in authority (either in the third world or first). Though it's a bitch to get stuff out of the latter. Getting streeters is lazy, getting access to authority requires work.
As for cartoon protestors and nazis - yes they can talk all they want; but the latter is no longer gassing Jews, the former is still rioting. As a waffeling Mick, I would argue that it is most important that we can mock religion. That is an absolute necessity for a civil society. God may be great, but the church sucks. If "respecting religion" meant "don't publish anything that may offend" then we would not have had Darwin or Galileo. Welcome to the Spanish Inquisition. And no, there is no comfy chair.

VickyTH said...

Part of the issue here is cultural. For the countries in which the nazis had their roots and grew into a power, there's still a knee-jerk reaction to anything even remoting suggestive of that stone being overturned once more (and a recognition that it could be). In short, racist writings and speech that in any way support the Holocaust mean something very different to them than they do to us.

I think that part of what's going on is a basic decision on where to draw the line.(I'm pretty sure that wherever and whenever a line gets drawn, someone loses a right or access to something.) Germany, Austria and the like have decided that drawing the line at pro-Nazi speech is necessary for them. It probably isn't for us, but we live in a very different culture with a different history.

So if he were in Canada.... no he shouldn't go to jail.

In Europe? I'm not so sure I can make an assessment.

Wonder who funds his research?