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Argument: Criminalizing holocaust denial infringes free speech

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In 2000, historian Deborah Lipstadt confronted Holocaust denier and pseudo-historian David Irving in one of the most famous trials in recent British history. Irving had sued Dr. Lipstadt for libel after she correctly labeled him as a Holocaust denier. Irving was later imprisoned for his views, yet Lipstadt called for his release, arguing, "Generally, I don't think Holocaust denial should be a crime. I am a free speech person, I am against censorship."


"Free speech, even if it hurts". Los Angeles. February 22, 2006: "Freedom is a principle that must be applied indiscriminately. We have to defend Irving in order to defend ourselves. Once the laws are in place to jail dissidents of Holocaust history, what's to stop such laws from being applied to dissenters of religious or political histories, or to skepticism of any sort that deviates from the accepted canon?

No one should be required to facilitate the expression of Holocaust denial, but neither should there be what Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called the "silence coerced by law — the argument of force in its worst form."


Gerard Alexander, writing for the conservative American Enterprise Institute: "Of course, all governments restrict some speech. But free expression is so foundational to democracy that there is usually a strong bias against restricting speech unless it poses a compelling and even imminent danger to others. The most pervasive and durable restrictions meet that test, applying to things like child pornography, false statements that result in demonstrable harm (defamation), the exposure of national security information, commercial fraud, and the proverbial shouting of “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

In addition, European countries have never had America’s strong free-speech tradition. Nevertheless, three disturbing trends now underway in Europe together represent the greatest erosion of democratic practice in the world’s advanced democracies since 1945. First, anti-Nazi laws are being adopted in places where neo-Nazism poses no serious threat. Second, speech laws have been dramatically expanded to sanction speech that “incites hatred” against groups based on their religion, race, ethnicity, or several other characteristics. Third, these incitement laws are being interpreted so loosely that they chill not just extremist views but mainstream ones too. The result is a serious distortion and impoverishment of political debate."[1]


"Holocaust denial". Economist. January 25th 2007: "As Jacques Chirac says, Holocaust denial is a perversion of the soul and a crime against truth. But that does not mean it should be a crime in law. Criminalising it would obviously limit freedom of speech, one of the basic freedoms on which other liberties depend."

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