Opinion: Silence Hate with Truth; Freedom of Speech Must Apply Equally to Those with Loathsome as Those with Virtuous Views
Byline: Deborah Lipstadt (Lipstadt, author of "History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving," teaches at Emory University.)
Friends thought I would be celebrating last week after an Austrian court sentenced British writer David Irving to three years in jail for denying the Holocaust. Several years ago Irving sued me for describing him as doing just that, and for calling him a "Hitler partisan." I had good reason. Describing Hitler as "the best friend" the Jews had, he claimed that "More people died in Senator Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than in gas chambers in Auschwitz." He also threatened to form an organization called Auschwitz Survivors, Survivors of the Holocaust, and Other Liars, and call it by its acronym: ASSHOLs.
The judge ruled for me and, describing Irving as anti-Semitic and racist, denounced his claims as "perverse," "misleading" and "unreal." Irving last week tried to convince the Austrian court that, as a result of new evidence, he had changed his views. But the three presiding judges dismissed the about-face, comparing him to a "prostitute who has not changed her ways for decades." Still, I don't feel like celebrating. I dislike curtailing free speech. Only last week, London's Mayor Ken Livingstone was supended for a month after likening a Jewish reporter to a Nazi prison guard.
The violence accompanying the publication of the Danish cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad have caused many Europeans to wonder whether those doing the protesting (and particularly those calling for the death of the cartoonists) understand the nature of democracy and free speech. Like many, I winced when other European papers republished them. …