20 February 2006

David Irving is wrong, but that shouldn't mean a prison sentence.

David Irving is an odious man, with awful views, so is Blimpish, but I wouldn't want either of them to go to jail just for voicing their ridiculous opinions.

David Irving has pleaded guilty to holocaust denial and has been sent to jail for 3 years. Not only is this wrong from a freedom of speech point of view, it is counter productive. More idiots are now going to have sympathy for his Nazi racist views, and more people are going to read his books.

It is precisely for this reason that I don't want to see the fascist Hizb ut Tahrir banned or Nick Griffin go on trial. Driving these groups underground just makes them more extreme, it doesn't make them go away.

Only if someone is directly inciting violence should they be prosecuted. The more tolerance we have, the more free speech we have, the better. Because it is in open debate where these views are defeated and this demonstrates these people for what they really are - ridiculous. And nothing is more threatening to those who hold a ridiculous view than mockery, as was demonstrated by the Mohammed cartoons debacle. It is a sad indictment of our society that we have sunk to the level of the Nazis in suppressing free speech. This will only encourage fascism, not destroy it. As Nick Cohen put it in the Observer;

"After the refusal of the entire British press to print innocuous Danish cartoons, the stench of death is in the air. It is now ridiculous and impossible to talk about a fearless disregard for easily offended sensibilities."

So should we tolerate the intolerant?

AC Grayling has the best answer to this;

"No. Tolerance has to protect itself. It can easily do so by saying that anyone can put a point of view, but no-one can force another to accept it. The only coercion should be that of argument, the only obligation should be to honest reasoning."

We forget this at our peril.

14 comments:

  1. There was some question as to whether he had become a political figure and not a mere (!) historian, but basically you're dead right about Irving. If the guy insists he's a historian, let him defend his views against his peers, and get comprehensively minced by them in the public glare, preferably on primetime TV. Publishing thosee cartoons but imprisoning Irving certainly gives ammunition to those who say the West is hypocritical.

    BTW, Neil, your first sentence is a blogging classic!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Having met him, I can confirm that Blimpish is not an odious man at all. Nor are his views even slightly comparable to those of David Irving, you stupid, hyperbolic loon.

    Beyond that, I for once agree with you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. NM: a gentleman, as ever. I won't add anything, under the "leave 'im, he's not worth it" principle. After all, one of us around here is a general laughing stock in UK blogging - it isn't you, and it isn't B4L... it's possibly me, but it's more likely...

    ReplyDelete
  4. B4L; I wasn't being 100% serious about Blimpish (99.9% maybe).

    NM; Remember I only have Blimpish's facetious & ignorant blog and comments to judge him by. He couldn't possibly be as bad in person, I imagine. I'm sure he has SOME redeeming features (he does like Belle & Sebastian I suppose!)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Remember I only have Blimpish's facetious & ignorant blog and comments to judge him by.

    Ah, the irony...

    When God was handing out the self-awareness, Neil, were you in the (non-smoking) pub?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Without wanting to detract from the earth-shattering issues at stake here, I suspect that if we were all in the pub right now, we'd be getting on well and not taking ourselves so seriously. Any takers?

    We could be entertaining the masses with a Guido & Monkey-style podcast!

    :-)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Andrew; hey, I know I'm doing something right when you and Blimpish consider my blog abhorrent.

    It's like the legend 'hated by the Daily Mail'. You couldn't pay me a bigger complement.

    ReplyDelete
  8. B4L: You are forever the peace maker, a true socialist. I on the otherhand would never make a diplomat. When I'm on the net, I am a little too frank. Mine's a pint of Darkstar Expresso, cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Without wanting to detract from the earth-shattering issues at stake here, I suspect that if we were all in the pub right now, we'd be getting on well and not taking ourselves so seriously. Any takers?

    Yeah, absolutely. The medium of text doesn't really translate nuance very well. That podcast idea isn't so stupid actually. Me and Blimpish setting Neil straight on his many misperceptions could be a big seller. We'd need a moderator with some tact, presence, and probably some physical strength to restrain Neil once his skills at verbal jousting are exhausted...

    I know I'm doing something right when you and Blimpish consider my blog abhorrent.

    Abhorrent? No, not at all. Just misguided. And more than a little intellectually challenged. But not abhorrent. If anything, you're tiresomely right-on. If you were an MP, you'd probably be an ultra-loyalist New Lab backbencher. Not very bright, but extremely reliable.

    When I'm on the net, I am a little too frank.

    Likewise. I'm a nice guy in real life.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Certainly not abhorrent, no. I consider this blog positively therapeutic - if I'm feeling stressed out by life, I come here to kick Neil about. It's a guilty pleasure, though.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Andrew: "Yeah, absolutely. The medium of text doesn't really translate nuance very well"

    I was only thinking this the other day when I met the bloggers4labour crew in a pub in London. Not that any of them are particularly harsh in their blogs, but a few were surprised to find me not a raving lunatic.

    I think I heard somewhere that 20% of communication is visual, so even on audio some nuance is lost, in text loads is missing.

    I'm one of these people who waves their hands about when talking, I'm not sure whether psychologically that makes me a nutter or something.

    Anyway, no hard feelings to you both I hope, just couldn't resist a little dig at Blimpish in this post. I do consider the Tory nutter my nemesis. He may beat me in argument but he is still wrong. It is like those Oxford debaters who win an argument they don't even believe themselves. In this respect he is definitely a Tory, they are masters of spin, they have deluded the public for centuries. If he was arguing black is white he would probably beat me in a debate, (in fact I'm sure he did beat me on that one). But anyway, the point is, he is still talking bollocks.

    "If you were an MP, you'd probably be an ultra-loyalist New Lab backbencher. Not very bright, but extremely reliable."

    I may not be 'very bright' and maybe even I'm misguided, but I would hardly be loyal. At ward meetings, I'm usually in a minority of one, like the time I argued that graffiti was art, or voted against a motion in solidarity with 7/7 victims at a GC meeting (because I thought it was pointless guff, not because I didn't agree with the motion). I take each issue as it comes. The reason I defend Labour on here is because I think on a lot of issues they are right and they are unfairly criticised.

    "It's a guilty pleasure, though."

    Blimpish, I'm not surprised you feel guilty. You religious types wouldn't enjoy yourselves if you didn't feel guilty about something, that's why you invented God. The problem is you try to inflict your neurosis on the rest of us.

    ReplyDelete
  12. By the way, that podcast idea, I would need an ally, two to one is not fair. I remember ID cards, it was eight or nine to one at times, always difficult to hold your own in an argument under those odds.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Neil, you've got this wrong. He is back today saying that the holocaust was exaggerated and it was all the fault of the Jews. You fell for his court case back tracking to try to avoid a prison sentence.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anon: David Irving is an odious racist. I didn't believe what he said in court. You are missing my point. Locking up people because we dislike their views is wrong, no matter how odious we find their views. We are stooping to their level.

    Only directly inciting violence deserves punishment. We only truly beat the fascists in debate, resorting to their level strengthens their argument and increases their level of support. (Remember Hitler was jailed for treason and it only served to increase his support, and he became a martyr to the cause).

    ReplyDelete