Respectful Insolence

It occurs to me that I haven’t written about this topic in quite a while, but a recent event makes me think that maybe now’s the time to revisit this topic. I’m referring to Holocaust denial. Newer readers may not know that part of what got me involved in online discussions back in the late 1990s was Holocaust denial. Indeed, a lengthy post about how I discovered Holocaust denial was one of the earliest substantive posts on this blog, popping up a mere month after I started blogging, which just so happened to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. That post described how, back in 1998, while wandering around Usenet, I first stumbled into a Usenet forum known as alt.revisionism. The “revisionism” there, of course, was the false revisionism of the Holocaust denier. After all revisionism is a legitimate scholarly activity among historians. Holocaust deniers, however, corrupt the term to use it as a cloak under which to hide their anti-Semitism and Hitler apologia.

Over the years, I’ve periodically returned to the topic of Holocaust denial. Strip Holocaust denial of the racism, anti-Semitism, and Nazi sympathies inherent in it, and the methods of abusing historical evidence, scientific evidence, and documentary evidence to downplay or deny that the Nazi regime had a systematic plan to exterminate European Jewry used by Holocaust deniers are, at their heart, very similar to the methods of abusing and denying scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of vaccines used by anti-vaccinationists, for example. There is a great deal of similarity between the methods of Holocaust denial and the methods of denying science embodied in the anti-vaccine movement or by alt-med believers. Although I’ve written less and less about it over the last two or three years (or at least so it seems to me), I haven’t lost interest in the topic. It’s just that, as science-based medicine and discussions of quackery and anti-vaccine lunacy took over this blog, Holocaust denial seemed not to fit in as well. Still, whenever something interesting came up with respect to Holocaust denial, I, such as when Bishop Richard Williamson was busted in some extreme Holocaust denial after his order’s having apparently managed to get Pope Benedict XVI to reconcile and rescind the excommunication of some of its bishops.

One issue comes up time and time again in these discussions, and that’s the limits of free speech. For example, when David Irving was arrested in Austria for Holocaust denial, I referred to the campaign to jail Irving for his Holocaust denial as “stomping free speech flat.” My reaction was the same when Germany decided to prosecute Bishop Williamson for Holocaust denial as well. The bottom line is that I value free speech to the point where I consider even Holocaust denial to be protected speech, and I thank the wisdom of hte Founding Fathers for having had the wisdom to have written and ratified the First Amendment to the Constitution. To my mind, the answer to Nazi apologetics like Holocaust denial is not its suppression as “hate speech,” but rather to shine the light of day on the lies and distortions of Holocaust deniers and refute them.

These issues came to the fore a couple of days ago in Canada at an event in Toronto hosted by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies and moderated by former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Highlighting the the Spirit of Hope Benefit event was a panel discussion for event was a debate between author Salman Rushdie, who has been under the shadow of a fatwa for what was perceived as a criticism of Islam in his novel The Satanic Verses, and Holocaust survivor and peace activist Elie Wiesel. Both had a lot to say about free speech, religion, and Holocaust denial:

Worse. It would be much worse,” said Salman Rushdie on Monday, in a quick private speculation about what publishing The Satanic Verses would be like today.

“The argument has gotten more heated since then,” he said, and left it at that, seeming to say more with one arched eyebrow than some people say in their whole lives.

To say it would be worse is saying a lot. People died back then, such as translator Hitoshi Igarashi, after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini put a divine bounty on Mr. Rushdie’s head, a fatwa, for blaspheming against Islam in his 1988 novel.

I have little doubt that Rushdie is probably correct. Radical Muslims have become, if anything, even more sensitive to anything they perceive as criticism of their religion, even committing murder. Rushdie also gets it right when he waid:

As ever, it is largely an argument about blasphemy.

“We are in danger of losing the battle for freedom of speech,” Mr. Rushdie said. It is being recast as a Western imposition, not a universal human right. Respect is being redefined as agreement, and censorship disguised as a virtuous defence of diversity. His own fatwa, he said, was “a rejection of the idea of fiction as a form” and “the beginning of something that was going to spread around the world.”

Freedom of expression and imagination “is now very much back in question, and is strongly under attack by religious authorities and religious armies of different sorts, and not only Islam,” Mr. Rushdie said.

Sadly, this does appear to be true. Rather than being viewed as a universal right necessary for freedom and the basis of a civil society, free speech is all too often characterized as a “Western” construct. The key to a civil society is that people can disagree without becoming violent. The reason is that, in a free society, there are societal and governmental structures and beliefs in place that are virtually universally accepted as the means by which disputes will be resolved. It’s messy, and it’s loud. Sometimes it looks horribly chaotic, but it works.

Particularly problematic is how religion reacts to criticism. Because religion is viewed by its believers as received truth, key elements of which cannot be questioned, sometimes even under pain of separation or death, religious people and leaders often react very negatively to criticism of their religious beliefs. Actually, “very negatively” is all too often a massive understatment. Fortunately, here in the U.S., we are fortunate enough to have the First Amendment, which, although it doesn’t stop attempts to outlaw offensive speech or criticism of religion, it does make it a lot harder. It also certainly doesn’t stop certain Christians seem to share the Muslim dislike of criticism of their religion. Elsewhere, or so it sometimes seems, pressure to suppress speech that causes “offense” appears to be on the rise, with proposed or existing blasphemy laws in Ireland, Spain, and Poland, among others. It’s so bad that certain nations have made efforts to push the U.N. to pass a binding anti-blasphemy resolution.

As has been said here and elsewhere time and time again, everyone has a right to free speech, but that right does not come with a right not to be offended. Free speech is worthless if it doesn’t offend someone from time to time. It doesn’t matter if it’s political speech, criticism of religion, or even Holocust denial. Unfortunately, Elie Wiesel, although agreeing that religion is “like money or love, saying “It all depends on what you do with it,” agrees that there should be freedom of speech, even freedom to criticize religion–but (and it’s a really big but):

He said the sole exception should be Holocaust denial, which must be banned. And the sole exception to that exception, he said, is America, where he lives, and where free speech is regarded as such a fundamental part of life.

“I don’t want to touch the First Amendment,” he said.

And:

His argument about free speech is compassionate, focused on the “pain, humiliation and agonies” of the children of Holocaust survivors. “When I think of them, I accept that freedom of speech in this case should be against the law,” he said.

That position, reflected in the laws of Germany among other countries, is vulnerable to one of the most common criticisms of restrictions on free speech — that hurt feelings are not reason enough.

I never thought I’d say this, but here Elie Wiesel is dead wrong. I really hate to say it about who’s done things as great as what Elie Wiesel has done with his life, but he is human, after all, and therefore has his blind spots. Quite frankly, Wiesel’s advocacy of a ban on Holocaust denial while championing free speech to criticize Islam doesn’t just look hypocritical. From my perspective, it is hypocritical. Why this one exception to free speech for Holocaust denial bans? Why not other exceptions to free speech–such as for criticizing religion or racist hate speech against others besides Jews? And if Wiesel really thinks Holocaust denial should be banned because it leads to such evil, then why is he against taking on the First Amendment in order to make such a ban reality? Why should America be the sole exception where spouting Holocaust denial is Constitutionally protected speech? Just because it has the First Amendment?

Finally, if, as Wiesel claims, the pain that Holocaust denial causes Holocaust survivors and children of Holocaust survivors is “enough” to justify banning that particular form of speech, then why isn’t other pain caused by other forms of offensive speech “enough” to justify banning that speech? Consider the case of the “Reverend” Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church and infamous “God Hates Fags” website. Phelps and his groupies have taken to picketing and protesting at the funerals of American servicemen killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, taunting them that these soldiers are burning in hell for having served a country that, as Phelps’ odious group says, “tolerates fags.” If Holocaust denial should be outlawed because it causes pain and offense to the children of Holocaust survivors, then why shouldn’t Fred Phelps and his despicable band of cultists be muzzled as well for the pain and offense they cause to the children of brave soldiers killed in battle?

Sadly, even if I agreed with Wiesel about the desirability of bans on Holocaust denial, which (as everybody here knows) I do not, I have to conclude that his arguments in this article are inconsistent to the point of incoherence. Maybe they were better in person, presented in whole, but I doubt it.

Not surprisingly, I find myself far more in agreement with Salman Rushdie than with Elie Wiesel. Rushdie points out that laws against Holocaust denial turn evil little racist twits into free speech martyrs and allows the most vile and despicable of morons to wrap themselves in the mantle of free speech.

Personally, I say: Let them have their free speech. Then bury them with refutations and ridicule.

Comments

  1. #1 Terrie
    June 3, 2010

    I’m a strong, strong believer in the stance that the answer to bad speech is more speech.

  2. #2 Vicki
    June 3, 2010

    The one thing that seems completely obvious here is that, ethically as distinct from legalistically, if Holocaust denial should be allowed in the United States, it should be allowed elsewhere. It’s not as though survivors and their children live everywhere in the world except the U.S. (I am not sure I agree with it, but I can see the logic behind the idea that Germany should be a specific exception here; American exceptionalism has as little factual basis on this subject as in most other cases.)

  3. #3 Ian
    June 3, 2010

    We had a similar debate here when Ann Coulter was warned by the Canadian government that some of her stuff could be construed as hate speech. I wrote about it at the time and since then it seems like every week there’s another free speech infringement somewhere. I don’t like Canada’s hate speech laws, but at least insofar as they make Ann Coulter shut her yap, they at least have one upside.

    Free societies can’t exist without free speech. The March on Washington required first amendment protection, as has every other major civil rights protection. Can it be abused? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bathwater (to use a cliche). While there’s some evidence to suggest that free speech in America wasn’t due to the altruistic foresight of the founding fathers, it’s definitely one of the best American imports Canada has ever had.

    My solution: pass a law that says you’re allowed to deny the Holocaust, but you can only do it in a public place, unmasked, and people are allowed to slap you in the face.

  4. #4 Mu
    June 3, 2010

    I’d like to clarify that the German attitude to free speech is greatly influenced by the experience of the Weimar republic, which followed the American model in regards to free speech. As a result, the state was powerless to act against those that openly advocated the end of democracy, being it monarchists, communists or nazis, with the latter taking the price. As such, the theory goes, you can say what you want, with the backing of the state, as long as what you say does not go against the basic principles of the state. And holocaust denial is part of that concept, as to prevent people from removing the stigma from the nazi government as an example for an undemocratic regime.

  5. #5 Chance Gearheart
    June 3, 2010

    While I do have much respect for Mr. Wiesel, I also have to buy into the notion that restricting free speech by making a topic illegal not only feeds into the conspiracy aspects that promote it, but also creates a slippery slide. Instead, I think that something like Holocaust Denial should be viewed as a Civil Rights matter – at it’s basis, it is discrimination of an entire group of cultures who experienced untold losses.

    In the South, you have the right to say the N-word all you like. You also have the right to be sued for it. I think Holocaust Denial should work the same way.

  6. #6 Belochka
    June 3, 2010

    @Terrie – Couldn’t have said it better. That’s the whole point of the First Amendment.

    Let the deniers and hate mongers have their hate speech. Then, we at least know who they are and what idiocy we’re dealing with.

  7. #7 Scott
    June 3, 2010

    In the South, you have the right to say the N-word all you like. You also have the right to be sued for it. I think Holocaust Denial should work the same way.

    Um, what? Since when can you be sued for that? You certainly *shouldn’t* be able to sue for that, nor for espousing Holocaust denial. The proper response is opposing speech, and absolutely NOT using the courts to shut it down.

  8. #8 Gingerbaker
    June 3, 2010

    Rationality often results in a rejection of absolutism. Rationalists weigh evidence and discriminate the strengths of arguments as they relate to individual cases.

    The idea that all speech is valuable is an absolutist ideal. It leaves no room for discrimination. But rationally, we know that all speech is *not* valuable. Surely a rational society can maximize valuable free speech while at the same time excising a certain few, specific non valuable topics.

    We already do this in the U.S. and with political speech. Sedition is not allowed. Merely planning, not acting, to overthrow the government or to execute a terrorist act will land you in prison.

    And, of course, we proscribe non political speech a thousand different ways here, contrary to German and European practice.

    The idea that Germany is making a mistake in banning public Holocaust denial seems to me to be not only an example of hypocritical American provincialism but also, at its heart, irrational.

  9. #9 Scott
    June 3, 2010

    @ Gingerbaker:

    Pure straw man. Nobody claims that ALL speech is protected, rather that there is insufficient justification to ban Holocaust denial.

  10. #10 Chance Gearheart
    June 3, 2010

    @ Scott

    Pretty much since the 1960s. AFAIK, discriminatory language of any kind has been grounds for a mental anguish claim.

  11. #11 Scott
    June 3, 2010

    Got a reference for that? I find it VERY hard to believe, given that the term (and other discriminatory language) is still not infrequently used.

  12. #12 emote_control
    June 3, 2010

    “Instead, I think that something like Holocaust Denial should be viewed as a Civil Rights matter – at it’s basis, it is discrimination of an entire group of cultures who experienced untold losses.

    In the South, you have the right to say the N-word all you like. You also have the right to be sued for it. I think Holocaust Denial should work the same way.”

    I think you do not understand what “discrimination” means. It does not refer to calling someone a name or being intolerant of people. It refers to material outcomes that harm a person (such as pay inequity or differentially applying the law) because that person belongs to an identifiable group.

  13. #13 Dan Weber
    June 3, 2010

    As offensive as Holocaust denial is, making it illegal is even more offensive.

    I kinda sorta understand why Germany has done it, and try to view it as a restriction placed upon a country having lost a war. It shouldn’t last more than another generation though.

  14. #14 Chance Gearheart
    June 3, 2010

    @ Scott – I’ll try to find links to actual cases, but I do know one was presented on ABC Nightly News involving a bill collector who was sued for about 1.4 million successfully for using it.

    @Emote Control – Discrimination is a sociological term referring to the treatment taken toward or against a person of a certain group in consideration based solely on class or category. Discrimination is the actual behavior towards another group. (Src: Almighty Wiki)

    So yes, calling someone the N-word would be Discrimination.

  15. #15 daedalus4u
    June 3, 2010

    The First Amendment is about the government restricting speech.

    The First Amendment does not authorize libel; it does not allow one to say things that are false and defamatory. To the extent that a Holocaust Denier asserts that someone (such as Elie Wiesel) is lying, that is libel and the Holocaust Denier can be sued for damages by the person damaged.

    Proving that the Holocaust actually happened is trivial because it is factually correct that it did happen and there is lots of evidence that it did happen. To the extent that people are injured by hate speech that can be shown to be factually incorrect, they should be able to collect damages to the extent they can show that they have been damaged.

    Things like blasphemy are hard to deal with because they belong to the set of statements that are “not even wrong”. They all hinge on unproven and unprovable statements about God and God’s will. Such statements cannot be proven right or wrong, true or false. They are inherently unprovable opinion.

    Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

    http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

    People are entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts. If they couch their hate speech only in the form of opinion, then it is opinion and should be protected. If they cross the line and start using hate speech as if it were fact, then they should be called on it.

    How to enforce this is not obvious to me.

  16. #16 Scott
    June 3, 2010

    It’s also relevant to note that lawsuits by individual offended private citizens vs. government legislation are importantly distinct. I have *some* problem with individual lawsuits, but much less than with legislation.

  17. #17 Andrew G.
    June 3, 2010

    The problem with the position “the answer to bad speech is more speech” is that the scientific evidence is increasingly telling us that it is factually false – that speaking out against an extreme position actually reinforces belief in it rather than detracting from it.

    This is going to present something of a dilemma for people who believe both in absolute free speech and also in evidence-based policy…

  18. #18 Ian
    June 3, 2010

    @daedalus4u

    In my mind, it seems like a matter for civil court. If someone does something that is not specifically illegal (blares loud music at inappropriate times, puts up a flag that blocks the light to your house, etc.) but you are able to show damages, then you can get a court injunction and fines can be assessed. While hate speech is far and away more damaging than something as mild as loud music, the principle could still stand. If hate speech from an individual or a group hurts me in some demonstrable way, I should be able to take them to court.

    The trick to free speech is that it should be open speech. If you believe in what you’re saying, you should have the courage to say it in the light of day. I think laws against anonymous hate speech could be reasonably justified, since it violates the central principles of the value of free speech – the possibility to counter the speech and address the speaker directly.

    Similarly, it is not an infringement on free speech to have laws against sedition, or other violent acts. I am free to go out in the public square and say “the government should be voted out!” without being at risk of sedition. Saying “we should kill the president” is an entirely different statement, and is not covered by “free speech”. Scott was right to point out Gingerbaker’s army of straw men.

  19. #19 Old Rockin' Dave
    June 3, 2010

    It should be obvious why German law bans Holocaust denial; it’s part and parcel with the laws banning swastika displays and publishing “Mein Kampf.” It’s recognition of Germany’s role in the greatest criminal conspiracy in history.
    Other countries have had a mixed role in the Holocaust, including Romania, Serbia and France, or were home to many of the victims. Israel is home to many of the survivors and is in some ways the nation that speaks for the lost Jews of Europe. Thus there are reasons why these states have laws in this regard. An extraordinary crime was committed and perhaps extraordinary laws were needed to memorialize this crime.
    That said, I hope these laws will be seen as extraordinary in nature, and not as precedent.

  20. #20 Orac
    June 3, 2010

    The idea that all speech is valuable is an absolutist ideal. It leaves no room for discrimination. But rationally, we know that all speech is *not* valuable. Surely a rational society can maximize valuable free speech while at the same time excising a certain few, specific non valuable topics.

    The idea that all speech is valuable is also a massive straw man on your part. After all, how many times have I said that Holocaust denial is not only not valuable but offensive. What is valuable is the freedom to speak, regardless of whether the speech is valuable or not, whether it is perceived as valuable or not.

    The devil, as our Founding Fathers realized, is also in the details. Who decides what speech is and is not so “nonvaluable” that it is worthy of being banned? Only the government can pass laws to do this, and that is a power no government should have. After all, political winds change, and speech considered acceptable today could become dangerous to the next government.

    We already do this in the U.S. and with political speech. Sedition is not allowed. Merely planning, not acting, to overthrow the government or to execute a terrorist act will land you in prison.

    Sedition requires more than just speech. You even recognize it yourself. Planning is more than just advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government or advocating terrorism. True, there may be a fine line between the two, but if seditious speech were so easily punishable, certain pundits on the far right might well be in jail right now, given all the talk about “revolution” and occasionally even preparing for war against the government.

    In actuality, sedition is usually defined along the lines of, at the very least, inciting people to work towards insurrection and overthrow of the existing government. Technically, it is against the law according to the Smith Act, but that particular law hasn’t been invoked for 50 years. In the case of Yates v. United States the Supreme Court ruled that teaching an ideal, no matter how harmful it may seem, does not equal advocating or planning its implementation.

  21. #21 Orac
    June 3, 2010

    That said, I hope these laws will be seen as extraordinary in nature, and not as precedent.

    As I have mentioned many times before, I understand why such laws were considered necessary in the immediate postwar period. Those were extraordinary times, with an incredibly compelling reason to ban any whiff of Nazism. What I question time and time again why these laws are still argued to be necessary nearly three generations after the war ended.

  22. #22 Pablo
    June 3, 2010

    What I question time and time again why these laws are still argued to be necessary nearly three generations after the war ended.

    What scares me most is the idea that we need anti-speech laws in the year 2010 to prevent the return of Naziism.

    Really? There is a concern that Naziism might return?

    As Orac says, in the immediate aftermath of WWII, I can understand the potential of the remnants of the recently crumbled government to attempt to return. But 60 years later, are there enough people really longing for the good old days of Naziism to make it a threat to a democratic country?

    In the US, the Nazis are the butt of jokes (“I hate Illinois Nazis”). Of course we allow them free speech, because it gives the opportunity to point and laugh.

  23. #23 Gingerbaker
    June 3, 2010

    Scott said:

    “@ Gingerbaker:

    Pure straw man. Nobody claims that ALL speech is protected, rather that there is insufficient justification to ban Holocaust denial.”

    Nobody could claim that all speech is protected, that is my point, not a strawman. Not all speech is deemed so valuable as to preclude its censure. That we rationally weigh these interests and find some speech not valuable enough to outweigh its negative effect on society is established law.

    So are you saying that only sedition is worse than Holocaust denial and you would draw the line there? Libel? How about porn on TV? Cigarette ads? Political protestation of a speaker at a private function? Worse than Holocaust denial? These have “sufficient justification” to be banned, but Holocaust denial needs to be protected?

    What could be more stupid, dishonest, repugnant and dangerous than Holocaust denial? What possible value is there to society for another Holocaust denial speech in public? Why would Holocaust denialism not be justifiably banned in Germany, except as an extension of an (OK, near-absolutist) ideal of free speech?

  24. #24 Mu
    June 3, 2010

    Orac, the German laws didn’t mention holocaust denial explicitly until the mid 80s if I remember correctly, so that part is not a result of the post war period.
    Germany did have “Volksverhetzung” as a crime since the war, but that was a general statute against all hate speech, especially if race related.

  25. #25 Rorschach
    June 3, 2010

    I don’t really see why free speech should necessarily be open speech. I can certainly envision circumstances where I might not want my identity to be associated with my speech for perfectly legitimate reasons (holding a controversial opinion, for example, or perhaps acting as a whistleblower). Can someone convince me otherwise?

  26. #26 Ian
    June 3, 2010

    Sedition, libel, and advertisement are not free speech. Pornography is allowed on TV and is legal to purchase, with an age restriction. You are also legally allowed to protest a political speaker at a private function, but they have the right to throw your ass out.

    Your entire paragraph is a refutation to an argument that nobody is having.

    The virtue of allowing all speech is to avoid the pitfalls of defining “correct” speech. The absolute rule prevents the erosion of civil liberties on the grounds that some speech is not correct. For example, I could whine that blasphemy is offensive and dangerous to moral values, and so nobody is allowed to criticize a religious institution on those grounds. There are many countries that have anti-blasphemy laws, and it allows churches to hold an undeserved preferential status and escape reasonable censure for their actions. I’d much rather live in a country where someone has the right to call me a N***** than in a country where the church wields state-protected power.

  27. #27 Ian
    June 3, 2010

    @Rorschach

    In the ideal case, speech is exchanged in good faith between two parties where the audience is allowed to weigh up the merits of both arguments and make a rational decision. In practice it is far less civil than that. Anonymity further removes civility, as it allows either or both parties to escape any consequence of their speaking. If you believe in something, you should be willing to defend that position openly, regardless of how controversial that position may be.

    As regards whistle-blowing (or testifying in court), I would be comfortable extending legal protections to protect the identity of the speaker in that special case. If you have reason to suspect harm as a result of speaking, then protection is warranted. However, as we see from 4chan, hiding behind a screen of anonymity often has the effect of turning conversations into giant exhibitions of hatred and depravity. These don’t advance the discussion, they just turn them into clusterf***s of loud angry voices.

    The goal is to approach the ideal case as much as is practicable. Anonymity, in many cases, undermines the open and reasoned debate that is the ideal case of free speech.

  28. #28 Dave
    June 3, 2010

    Chance@14 — Thats a pretty free interpretation of the Allen Jones case. That case had a lot more to do with the abusive practices of debt collection agencies than simply the use of the N-word. Yeah, they called him the N-word, they also used a lot of other vulagarity. They called him at all hours, screamed at him, called him a “lazy a– b—-,” etc. Most of the messages were so vulgar that the local newspapers refused to print transcripts even without the worst words. All over a $200 debt.

  29. #29 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 3, 2010

    Ian:

    The Canadian Government didn’t warn Ann Coulter, it was a U of Ottawa VP. Big difference.
    IMHO, it’s always better to let these idiots go ahead and make fools of themselves. Makes less work for the rest of us.

  30. #30 Charles Weinblatt
    June 3, 2010

    No event in human history has been studied more thoroughly and carefully than the Holocaust. Thousands of thesis and dissertations papers have poured over mountains of data, from physical evidence and anecdotal testimony to captured German war documents. Virtually everyone with a PhD in History will stake their career on the fact that millions of Jews (and others) were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany. Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize genocide we send a critical message to the world. As we continue to live in an age of genocide and ethnic cleansing, we must repel the broken ethics of our ancestors, or risk a dreadful repeat of past transgressions.

    Freedom of speech is a symbol of a healthy society. Yet, since no crime in history is as heinous as the Holocaust, its memory must be accurately preserved. We must protect vulnerable future generations from making the same mistakes.

    A world that continues to allow genocide requires ethical remediation. We should insist that religious, racial, gender, orientation and ethnic persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny’s only hope. Only through such efforts can we reveal the true horror of genocide and promote the triumphant spirit of humankind.

    Charles Weinblatt
    Author, Jacob’s Courage
    http://jacobscourage.wordpress.com/

  31. #31 Todd W.
    June 3, 2010

    @Charles Weinblatt

    Hi, there, spambot!

  32. #32 Ian
    June 3, 2010

    @T. Bruce McNeely

    Ah yes, I stand corrected.

  33. #33 Scott
    June 3, 2010

    Nobody could claim that all speech is protected, that is my point, not a strawman. Not all speech is deemed so valuable as to preclude its censure. That we rationally weigh these interests and find some speech not valuable enough to outweigh its negative effect on society is established law.

    So you’re now claiming that your entire prior post had no point other than to repeat things everybody agrees with?

    Political protestation of a speaker at a private function?

    This is sufficiently wrongheaded to bear particular mention. Such protestation is NOT illegal. A particular property owner may choose to require a particular individual to leave their property for whatever reason they see fit; the government is not allowed.

    What could be more stupid, dishonest, repugnant and dangerous than Holocaust denial?

    And here we see the notable difference between your other examples and Holocaust denial. There is no credible way to argue that Holocaust denial poses any imminent threat or danger of harm, i.e. is “dangerous”! Advocating anti-Semitic violence certainly does – but one need not ban Holocaust denial to ban advocation of violence.

    Offensive? Certainly. Stupid? Absolutely. Despicable? Unquestionably. But none of those is a valid reason to bar speech. Doing actual HARM to someone is a reason to ban speech, and Holocaust denial does not do harm.

    What possible value is there to society for another Holocaust denial speech in public?

    The “value” of speech is quite irrelevant to the point. That is not a credible or reasonable standard to apply, as Orac stated far better than I could. “What is valuable is the freedom to speak, regardless of whether the speech is valuable or not, whether it is perceived as valuable or not.”

    Why would Holocaust denialism not be justifiably banned in Germany, except as an extension of an (OK, near-absolutist) ideal of free speech?

    It’s precisely the right to free speech that is why it should not be banned, but there’s no need for that ideal to be anywhere in the same ballpark as absolutist to justify that.

  34. #34 Karl Withakay
    June 3, 2010

    @Mu #4

    If that is a major influence on Germany’s current stance on free speech, they’re getting their history wrong and probably confusing correlation with causation. Freedom of speech in the Weimar Republic wasn’t responsible for the rise of the Nazi party. The Treaty of Versailles had far more to do with it than Weimar’s freedom of speech.

    Every four years here, we partake in the democratic process of the overthrow of our government, and that includes giving people the opportunity to totally abolish said government through democratic means.

    Gingerbaker #8

    Who do you feel comfortable with deciding which speech is sufficiently valuable to protect?

    Sedition is essentially conspiracy or incitement to commit acts against the state that are also crimes. It is perfectly lawful to advocate the democratic overthrow of the government; it is perfectly lawful to advocate for the democratic dissolution of the Union.

  35. #35 blf
    June 3, 2010

    What could be more stupid, dishonest, repugnant and dangerous than Batman comics?

    What possible value is there to society for another Batman comic to be published?

    Now do you see what’s poor about with your current position?

  36. #36 Old Rockin' Dave
    June 3, 2010

    Orac says in reply to my post: “As I have mentioned many times before, I understand why such laws were considered necessary in the immediate postwar period. Those were extraordinary times, with an incredibly compelling reason to ban any whiff of Nazism. What I question time and time again why these laws are still argued to be necessary nearly three generations after the war ended.”
    Such laws were LESS necessary in the immediate postwar period, with Germany divided into four zones under military occupation and deNazification in full swing. With Germany reunified and the survivors and perpetrators dying away, and with skinheads and near-Nazi parties attracting more attention, such laws may be more necessary now than ever.

  37. #37 Orac
    June 3, 2010

    Really? If I were a German, I’d be insulted that you apparently think that German democracy is too fragile to handle a bit of Holocaust denial.

  38. #38 Gingerbaker
    June 3, 2010

    Orac said:

    “The idea that all speech is valuable is also a massive straw man on your part. After all, how many times have I said that Holocaust denial is not only not valuable but offensive. What is valuable is the freedom to speak, regardless of whether the speech is valuable or not, whether it is perceived as valuable or not.”

    Yes, but we do take away that freedom to speak if the content and value of that speech is considered outweighed by its negative consequences to society. Artistic expression is censored because prudes want to be protected from seeing public nudity. This has survived constitutional review, I believe. Commercial speech is regulated consistently. The freedom to speak is dependent on its content. Not all speech is considered as valuable to society as political speech, which is very good thing.

    But public Holocaust denial is dangerous, not just offensive and intellectually unvaluable. That is why it is legitimate to discuss whether it should be banned, just like sedition. It is much easier to see how this would be justified in Germany than in the U.S.

    Orac:

    “The devil, as our Founding Fathers realized, is also in the details. Who decides what speech is and is not so “nonvaluable” that it is worthy of being banned? Only the government can pass laws to do this, and that is a power no government should have. After all, political winds change, and speech considered acceptable today could become dangerous to the next government.”

    Well here is where the rubber meets the road. Surely, rational people might be able to decide that a very select few ideas are so useless and dangerous that a decision could be made. Speech obstructing military recruitment somehow falls into that category, earning enough “compelling interest”. In the U.S. the courts have been very strict about the need to demonstrate imminence of public danger and compelling interest in order to proscribe speech, as you point out about sedition laws. But these strictures thereby treat all protected political speech as basically all the same, as all having equal protection, all having a right to be heard, all having value worth protecting. Why is this rational? Some ideas are better than others, some are plain stupid, a few are dangerous. Holocaust denial hits the trifecta – why should it be treated the same as ideas that do have intellectual value and are valid and useful to our national discussion? Because we must be free to speak? But we already restrict some political speech even if it poses an imminent danger to single person (fighting words). Is it rational to protect Holocaust denial simply because it is dangerous on a slightly longer time scale than fighting words, despite the fact that it can, and has, injured millions? Not everyone in the world thinks so.

    Quite a few European countries have banned certain categories of political speech and they have not slid into chaos on that ‘slippery slope’. (No, it hasn’t been perfect, but they are working the bumps out)

    Orac:

    “…if seditious speech were so easily punishable, certain pundits on the far right might well be in jail right now, given all the talk about “revolution” and occasionally even preparing for war against the government.”

    From what I have read from European and Canadian readers, the same tends to hold true for violators of Holocaust denialism laws, and other anti discrimination laws they have. It takes quite a bit to get convicted. Which is good.

  39. #39 Jojo
    June 3, 2010

    Orac – Excellent post. Spot on.

    Ian:

    Anonymity further removes civility, as it allows either or both parties to escape any consequence of their speaking. If you believe in something, you should be willing to defend that position openly, regardless of how controversial that position may be.

    So, you are saying that Orac is an irresponsible coward for posting under a pseudonym? I get where you are coming from, but I’d suggest that there are many situations where requiring people to identify themselves along with their words is effectively censorship.

  40. #40 Shannon
    June 3, 2010

    I agree w/ you, Orac.

    Similarly, your issue with holocaust deniers rings a bell with me. I have a similar issue I am passionate about: domestic violence and those who continually fight reforms that protect women & children.

    There are many politically active groups in the US , Europe and Australia who lobby to roll back domestic violence protections. Your quote, “Holocaust deniers, however, corrupt the term to use it as a cloak under which to hide their anti-Semitism and Hitler apologia.” Similarly, domestic violence deniers reject the evidence and statistics from large scale studies and attempt to undermine the safety of women & children by legislating against civil and criminal protections for abused women/children.

    To use your phrase similarly again, these groups use their re-telling, re-visionist version of domestic violence by saying it’s “equally perpetrated by males & females,” and, “women always lie,” as a cloak under which to hide their true feelings of mysogyny and/or a desire for a return to a more “traditional” society. Quite frankly some of these groups would like to roll back all women’s rights including the right to divorce, have an abortion, have an abortion w/out a man’s consent, or even vote. Whodathunkit, in this day and age.

    I think they have the right to post their drivel online and when they rabidly attack articles or blog posts about domestic violence. that’s fine. There are facts enough to refute them.

    However, what frightens me is their ability to lobby and legislate. And to affect the judgment of those in power who may be slightly biased to begin with.

    Many, many women & children have ended up dead because a judge believed the myth that “all women lie about abuse”.

    Similarly holocaust denial works towards a vaccuum of deliberate ignorance and fact-denial that allows hatred & death to flourish.

  41. #41 Ian
    June 3, 2010

    @Jojo

    No, that is not my position, it is an absurd distortion of what I said. Nowhere in my post did I say anything about cowardice. If something can happen, it does not mean that it will happen in all cases. My point is that when anonymity is abused to protect hate speech, it violates the principles of free speech, one of which is the possibility of civilized debate. At such time as Orac starts calling anti-vaxxers abominations and inferior human people, and advocating prejudicial practices against them, and shields himself behind a pseudonym (which is quite exploded, incidentally), then I will be happy to call him a coward for hiding behind a false identity.

    Seeing as how there’s no way that’s going to happen your response is abjectly ridiculous, and I am quite offended by your twisting of my words. Doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to say them though.

  42. #42 David N. Brown
    June 3, 2010

    @7: “You certainly *shouldn’t* be able to sue for that, nor for espousing Holocaust denial.”

    Actually, I would consider civil litigation perfectly justified. Asserting or even implying that the testimony of Holocaust deniers is a deliberate hoax easily satisfies the definition of libel and slander, and can be responded to as such. For the holocaust survivors to sue deniers into insolvency would be an ideal solution to the latter’s abuse of free speech.

  43. #43 Rorschach
    June 3, 2010

    Ian, I see your point about civility, but nothing about anonymity necesarily diminishes the capacity for civil discourse. I don’t know you from Adam, but that isn’t stopping us from discussing this politely. As Jojo points out, my ‘free speech’ may in fact be limited by a variety of factors–for example, if I made critical comments about my employer in a public forum, I could face negative reprecussions at work (officially or not).

    So I don’t think civility is sufficiently compelling, in and of itself.

  44. #44 Scott
    June 3, 2010

    Actually, I would consider civil litigation perfectly justified. Asserting or even implying that the testimony of Holocaust deniers is a deliberate hoax easily satisfies the definition of libel and slander, and can be responded to as such. For the holocaust survivors to sue deniers into insolvency would be an ideal solution to the latter’s abuse of free speech.

    That’s suing for libel and slander, not for espousing Holocaust denial. And not for being offended, either.

  45. #45 Ian
    June 3, 2010

    @Rorschach

    Again, I would make special exception for whistle-blowing. We already have legislation to specifically protect whistle-blowers, which does not necessarily preclude them from remaining anonymous. But that isn’t hate speech, that’s factual speech. I’m not sure I’m making the point clear – I have no problem with anonymity, but I do have a problem with it being abused to shield hate speech, or any kind of speech that is disruptive to the rule of law. You can say what you want, but there should be a mechanism in place to discover the author of any speech, provided there is no risk of harm to the author. In the case of whistle-blowing, it is reasonable to expect wrongful termination based on speaking out, but that’s a special and specific case. If I might lose my job because of hate speech, then that’s a risk I run (just like it is with the expression of any opinion, controversial or not) and those who my speech affects also have a right to confront me.

    Of course, all of this is only possible when there exist laws to protect those who speak against the government from state reprisal. Anonymity is a literal life-and-death issue in places like China or Zimbabwe.

  46. #46 Jojo
    June 3, 2010

    Ian – You’ve commented on some of my previous comments and I made the mistake of assuming you would get the intended joke in my comment. Since you didn’t, I clearly failed. I apologize for offending you. From past comments it’s pretty obvious that you do not feel that Orac should out himself (to those who are too dense to use Google) nor that he’s a coward. I made my comment knowing what I was saying was absurd, but failed to give you any indication of that. I guess a ; ) was in order.

    That said, I still feel a little uncomfortable with my understanding for your stance on anonymous speech. I agree that people use anonymity to abuse free speech, but the real problem is still with their speech. Their anonymity simply protects them from the consequences. I guess I don’t see that as any different that covering your face when you rob a bank. The crime is in robbing the bank, not covering your face.

    Being a liberal female in a very conservative male work environment has taught me more than I ever wanted to know about consequences of standing up for your beliefs. Anonymity is not normally necessary for those speaking from a position of privilege, but it is often essential for those who are not. I realize you didn’t advocate removing all anonymity from speech, but I got the feeling that you also didn’t see much need to protect it either.

  47. #47 Mu
    June 3, 2010

    In regards to allowing holocaust denial in Germany, it was introduced due to the change in nature of the deniers. While in the post war period it was mainly a defensive actions by perpetrators or just people of the generation trying to deal with moral issues, in the 80’s there was a revisionist movement giving “respectability” to the idea of reevaluating the 3rd reich’s history.
    As for today the law seems more relevant than ever due to the incorporation of the former socialist east. While the west German education emphasized responsibility for the holocaust the eastern side declared it a fascist aberration not repeatable by socialists. Therefore a lot of the sensibilities seen in western societies get muddled in the united Germany.

  48. #48 Ian
    June 3, 2010

    @Jojo

    I’m sorry that I didn’t get the intended humour in your comment. The internet is the great context-killer. Being on these forums, I quickly grow weary of seeing comments cited completely free of context and then people’s positions twisted to absurdity to score cheap points. You weren’t doing that, but my hackles immediately got raised.

    In contexts such as your workplace, I would agree that the ability to speak anonymously is the only way to ensure there are no un-just consequences for speaking a valid viewpoint. I am perfectly willing to allow that. What I am not comfortable with however, is what would happen if your male co-workers began to slander you and make rude comments at your expense, impacting you unduly, without you having the ability to confront your accuser. Hate speech is the same thing, as far as I am concerned. If your colleagues were fired for making inappropriate comments (making such speech ‘illegal’ in this context), that doesn’t do anything to ameliorate the environment of discrimination, it just forces it underground where it’s even harder to address.

    While I recognize the problems of removing anonymity, I see it as preferable to have the opportunity to challenge people’s statements openly and to their face, rather than simply forcing them to shut up. Banning speech does not address the underlying problems, it simply makes those problems look less apparent. In circumstances of hate speech, I think it is better to be able to counter the speech directly (and have the speaker own up to his/her words) rather than simply barring them from speaking.

    It also sets a dangerous standard, as alluded to before. Who is to decide what speech is ‘acceptable’? Is blasphemy acceptable? Is criticism of the sitting government acceptable? What about the president? There are countries where any (and, in some, all) of these are considered crimes. Since I know of no reasonable way to draw a line, I say that speech should be free, and we have to live with those consequences.

  49. #49 https://www.google.com/accounts/o8/id?id=AItOawmqD_mcUIrSfOTlK3iGVsnEDcZmI43srbI
    June 3, 2010

    No.

    The answer to abhorrent speech is never censorship. It is MORE speech.

    The truth.

    Sorry. If you grant this special pleading, then you have to grant Muslims their right to never have the prophet’s image displayed. And then the next exception, and then the next, and then the next, and pretty soon you have censorship boards and every bluenose who clutches her pearls at the mere thought of the word “ass” can shut down a publication.

    Sorry, Elie. Bad idea all around.

  50. #50 Karl Withakay
    June 3, 2010

    @Gingerbaker #38
    “Surely, rational people might be able to decide that a very select few ideas are so useless and dangerous that a decision could be made.”

    What constitutes this hypothetical group of rational people of which you speak?

    Does a 51% majority in congress on any given day count? How about a 60% super-majority in the senate and 51% in the House? If we can get both of them to agree, is anything fair game to ban? Do we need to tack on a 5/9 majority in the Supreme Court for good measure?

  51. #51 gaiainc
    June 3, 2010

    I respect Mr. Weisel a lot. However I firmly believe he’s wrong. Speech should be free. Speech I don’t like is best countered with more speech. I am more concerned about what happens when you limit speech than if speech is free. Some speech will offend me or anger me, but that is prefereable to being told that I can’t say what I want because someone is offended or angered. All the protest about depicting Mohammed has me dumbfounded. There should be no sacred subjects.

  52. #52 Jeff Read
    June 3, 2010

    Completely unrelated to Nazi holocaust stuff, but could you please do a deconstruction of trophology, perhaps for a Friday Dose? Trphology is all about how certain foods can’t be eaten with other foods, otherwise Bad Things will happen. The logic goes:

    It’s common scientific knowledge that eating meats will produce an acidic reaction in the body. It’s also common scientific knowledge that eating starches will produce an alkaline reaction in the body. And it’s really commonly known that acids and bases react and neutralize one another.

    Therefore, eating meat and potatoes together will not only cause your digestive juices to react with one another like Diet Coke and Mentos, but the food will remain undigested, ferment, and putrefy, causing all sorts of problems from gas to colon cancer.

    Now, “an hour on Wiki-fucking-pedia” was sufficient to put this crackheadedness to rest once and for all, for me; still a systematic detailed deconstruction by a qualified professional would be fun and educational. :)

  53. #53 Tabby Lavalamp
    June 3, 2010

    I always get a little peeved when comments about Phelps and his clan center around their protesting at military funerals, especially when worded like this – “Phelps and his groupies have taken to picketing and protesting at the funerals of American servicemen killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan…”
    It’s like all the funerals they picketed for years prior to that didn’t happen, or at least weren’t worth being outraged over.
    It was no less disgusting when the victims of Westboro weren’t the families of fallen servicemen and women.
    (Sorry, Orac, I’m not accusing you of homophobia. I’ve seen this from even the most liberal of sources, which is why it’s such a peeve.)

  54. #54 Old Rockin' Dave
    June 3, 2010

    Orac says: “If I were a German, I’d be insulted that you apparently think that German democracy is too fragile to handle a bit of Holocaust denial.”
    If I were a German I would be terrified that not so long ago as these things go, German democracy was so fragile that it could not handle the Nazis.
    Lest anyone think I hold any brief for censorship in the US or in general, I joined the ACLU after their defense of the right of American Nazis to march in Skokie (for those too young to remember, do a little research). The march never came off, but if it had I had arranged with some Jewish War Veterans members to drive to Skokie with a trunkload of Louisville Sluggers – that can also be a response to hate speech, although one I would only support in the most extreme circumstance.

  55. #55 Lifewish
    June 3, 2010

    Speaking as an atheist, I hope to god (so to speak) that we keep freedom of speech even in the face of ickiness like holocaust denial.

    The reason is simple. If we start banning beliefs on the basis that many people are offended by them and most people think they’re factually incorrect, I’m next.

    In any modern society there will be many true beliefs* that are disagreed with, creatively misunderstood and/or actively hated by the clueless majority. Holocaust denial obviously isn’t one of them. But we can’t take it out without risking all those true beliefs as well.

    Personally I think it’s a price worth paying, especially since I haven’t yet seen any evidence that banning expression of a belief can stop people holding that belief. Quite the reverse, actually.

    * No pedantry please.

  56. #56 Patrick
    June 3, 2010

    @30
    No event … (generalization problem)

    I am fairly confident that making and delivering new humans and food consumption have been studied just wee a bit more than things in recent history.

  57. #57 @murmur55
    June 3, 2010

    One of Wiesel’s blind spots is in the area of protecting others who are being directly harmed by the nation’s worst sexual assaulter, a Jew who works at his university, BU, as an Endocrinologist. Funny how the Jews have special exemptions for themselves when it comes to their needs for safety, commerce and status.

    Never go up against a Jew. They will silence anyone who gets in their way. They’re special.

  58. #58 David N. Brown
    June 3, 2010

    “murmur55″,
    Take another look at your comment:
    “One of Wiesel’s blind spots is in the area of protecting others who are being directly harmed by the nation’s worst sexual assaulter, a Jew who works at his university, BU, as an Endocrinologist. Funny how the Jews have special exemptions for themselves when it comes to their needs for safety, commerce and status.

    Never go up against a Jew. They will silence anyone who gets in their way. They’re special.”

    I am trying very hard to allow in good faith that you are trying to make a point about unconscious bias, rather than spouting an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. You make it very, very hard.

  59. #59 @murmur55 twitter
    June 4, 2010

    @David N. Brown re: I am trying very hard to allow in good faith that you are trying to make a point about unconscious bias, rather than spouting an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. You make it very, very hard.

    No. I don’t spout conspiracies. Just reality. From my direct experience. A lot of it.

    I was not raised with any expectation of foul play from any one group, but experiences have taught me otherwise. The Jews have been the most selfish, malignant, vindictive people I have ever come across. They operated as a pack at my workplace and took out any one who interfered with their power. Others were sacrificed to increase their financial status and regulate their psychological needs.

    The Jews taught me about politics. Your tax dollars paid for it.

  60. #60 DFS
    June 4, 2010

    To me the issue here is more about “holocaust exceptionalism” than free speech. And Elie Wiesel is hardly the first to express it.

    Gone With the Wind celebrates in the most sanitized way the slave holding south, yet is still considered one of the greatest films in American cinematic history, and a romantic love story to boot. Can you imagine such a film about Hitler and Eva Braun that blithely dealt with the imprisonment and termination of Jews being viewed the same way?

  61. #61 David N. Brown
    June 4, 2010

    murmur55,
    Exactly how many different “peoples” have you dealt with?
    I am willing to credit your experience, but it sounds to me like a typical case of “group think” and “affinity” in action. If you wish to offer a little sobriety to counter an assumed air of self-righteousness by a defensive minority, all well and good. But generalization and hyperbole drown out any legitimate point.

  62. #62 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    I completely disagree with you on this, Orac.

    The history of the Holocaust makes Nazism inherently different from speech that doesn’t have the proven effect. There is no rational reason that Nazism can’t be banned on the basis that it is responsible for the murders of many millions of people. That history is as much a fact as any fact in science or mathematics, it renders Nazism a different thing than the advocacy of egalitarian democracy or democratic socialism, etc.

    The idea that banning Nazis “turns them into free speech martyrs” is only true as long as free speech absolutists are allowed to play that dishonest and phony game of equivalence. Ignoring the stated intent of malignant ideas, ones which have at their core the intention to enslave and murder entire groups of people is a colossal act of intellectual dishonesty and cowardice. And the idea that we can’t make those distinctions is lazy as well. If you thin it’s too hard to make those distinctions, you have, essentially, negated the reason for democracy to exist. Democracy is all about making choices on the basis of reality in order to produce an effectively beneficial result. If we can’t distinguish between a clap-trap bogus ideology that has a factual history of killing millions of people and ideas that preserve and promote a better life, then democracy is impossible.

    I don’t think democracy is impossible. The common, rote assertions of the intellectual elite, that those distinctions are dangerous to make is irresponsible and unreflected. That elite has given up on knowing history and learning from it, that elite has given up on reality. The excuse that we won’t get it 100% right is monumentally irresponsible. No human endeavor is without risks, ignoring the history of Nazism and the holocaust over some phony pose of equality and fairness carries a far,far higher danger.

    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2010_05_02_archive.html#6735704803324874110

  63. #63 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    I’m a strong, strong believer in the stance that the answer to bad speech is more speech. Terrie

    Ah, the “more speech” slogan. What happened in Rwanda before the “more speech” caught up with the freely expressed speech that the Tutsis should be exterminated? And it wasn’t “more speech” that ended that horrifically effective propaganda campaign of genocide, just as it wasn’t in any of the parts of the former Yugoslavia or many other places in which free speech has been used to promote mass slaughter. It was military force and things other than this “more speech” we’re always hearing is so powerful.

    You try to advocate a living wage in the United States and find out how fast your “more speech” gets a hearing in the mass media, the only place it will effectively counter the free speech of the wealthy crooks who run things.

    “More speech” is an empty slogan. Which is why it’s allowed to be aired in the United States. And it will always work to the advantage of those with wealth and those who own the media, who are rich.

  64. #64 Jud
    June 4, 2010

    @murmur55 writes:

    The Jews have been the most selfish, malignant, vindictive people I have ever come across. They operated as a pack at my workplace and took out any one who interfered with their power. Others were sacrificed to increase their financial status and regulate their psychological needs.

    MWAHAHAHA! And next we’re comin’ for all the blithering idiots, so you better run and hide!

  65. #65 RobD
    June 4, 2010

    Orac, have you seen Croocker Timber yesterday?

    Blake’s Seven: Beginnings and Before

  66. #66 Lyr
    June 4, 2010

    If they’re free to spout their hate and nonsense, the public will see them for what they really are.

  67. #67 Amadan
    June 4, 2010

    Let the Nazi apologists have their free speech.

    We respect that right, don’t we?

  68. #68 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Let the Nazi apologists have their free speech.

    No thank you. I’d rather not relive that history. Or the history of Lynch law here. I will not be fair to fascists, I will not be nice to Nazis. Given their stated intentions, why should we let them have yet another chance?

  69. #69 Orac
    June 4, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    Since you’re so willing and apparently unapologetically eager to give government the power to restrict speech that you find offensive, perhaps you could tell us: What specific parameters should the government use to decide what speech should and should not be permitted, and what is the rationale? Seriously. You seem to think it’s perfectly OK to ban speech that you perceive as somehow endangering society at large, a nice collectivist point of view. But the devil is always in the details. For instance, why is it apparently OK to you to ban Holocaust denial but not, for instance, speech by radical Muslims that advocates killing infidels? Or did I misinterpret and do you think it’s OK to ban both? If it’s OK to ban both, why is it OK to ban both? How, exactly, do you determine what speech crosses the line?

  70. #70 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    A particularly interesting substitution of a few words leads to:

    The history of the Crusades, Inquisition, child abuse, etc. makes Christianity inherently different from speech that doesn’t have the proven effect. There is no rational reason that Christianity can’t be banned on the basis that it is responsible for the murders of who knows how many people. That history is as much a fact as any fact in science or mathematics, it renders Christianity a different thing than the advocacy of egalitarian democracy or democratic socialism, etc.

    I’ll admit this is a stretch, but it’s illustrative of the problem. If you start banning ideologies because they were used to justify mass murder, you end up banning an awful lot.

    Also, we’ve learned a lot from the Holocaust. That Nazism did once lead to that doesn’t really justify a conclusion that it could do so again sufficiently to make it such a threat that it must be banned.

  71. #71 DLC
    June 4, 2010

    The right to free speech especially includes the right to say things others find offensive. After all, if not for protected speech, who would speak truth to power ? If there were only agreeable commentary there would soon be no commentary at all.
    Yes, speech must at times be limited. One cannot legally slander or defame people. Speech that incites violence is also out. As is causing immediate danger, such as shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater. But otherwise, the people must be free to say (or portray) things that others — even 99.997% of the population — see as offensive or tasteless.
    The rights in the bill of rights do not exist in order to protect the majority, but to protect the minority, who most need it’s protections.

  72. #72 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    The right to free speech especially includes the right to say things others find offensive.

    It goes farther than that. The right to free speech is almost exclusively the right to say things that others find offensive (or at least bothersome). Speech that offends nobody doesn’t get threatened with suppression.

  73. #73 Orac
    June 4, 2010

    @Scott

    Yes, I agree. Personally, I find Anthony’s proud willingness to suppress speech on the grounds that he considers it dangerous to society to be frighteningly authoritarian.

  74. #74 Poogles
    June 4, 2010

    “I was not raised with any expectation of foul play from any one group, but experiences have taught me otherwise. The Jews have been the most selfish, malignant, vindictive people I have ever come across.”

    Ya know, it’s funny – my in-denial-that-he’s-a-racist-asshole stepfather tried to make the same exact argument to me when I was a teenager, except he was speaking about black people, not Jewish people. Even then (~14 years old) I recognized the argument as bullshit…

  75. #75 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Since you’re so willing and apparently unapologetically eager to give government the power to restrict speech that you find offensive, orac

    Hold on, I didn’t mention offensiveness, I mentioned proven dangerousness. Don’t conflate the two, they’re quite different, as the murders of millions around the world prove.

    Perhaps you could tell us: What specific parameters should the government use to decide what speech should and should not be permitted, and what is the rationale? orac

    To start with the advocacy of mass murder, which has a proven record of being quite successful in producing the mass murders that it advocates. Nazism has as one of its foundations lies about Jews, as you well know. Antisemitism is inherent to the ideology. And the history of Nazism, in the form of the murders of millions of people are an even stronger form of advocacy, those are written in blood instead of ink. I think the German and Rwandan governments are entirely justified in the suppression of denialism of the genocides those countries have gone through.

    Let’s drop the politeness of calling it “Holocaust denial” when it’s really advocacy of a neo-Nazi revival.

    Scott, “Christianity” isn’t an ideology in the same way that Nazism is. Nor does it have a single history. You mention the Crusades, well, Eastern Christians were among the victims of that abomination. There were Christians who have been among its greatest critics, many of those Catholics, there isn’t “Crusade denial” in the same way that there is “Holocaust denial”.

    The record is that Christianity in its earliest period was pacifist and there have been many Christian pacifists and a long history of the advocacy of reaching out to Jews, Moslems, even atheists by Christians. Christians in many traditions, Quakers, the peace churches, the UCC, etc. are among the most liberal people you could hope to find.

    Show me Nazis who aren’t anti-semites, who don’t advocate war as a foundation of society and who don’t either endorse or deny the facts of the history of Nazism.

  76. #76 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Yes, I agree. Personally, I find Anthony’s proud willingness to suppress speech on the grounds that he considers it dangerous to society to be frighteningly authoritarian.

    That I consider dangerous? You think the idea that the advocacy of the Hutus to exterminate the Tutsis is only dangerous in my mind? That the clear intent of the propaganda that led people in the Balkans to start killing each other didn’t make it objectively dangerous?

    I don’t have the time right now to check, don’t you advocate the suppression of dangerous and phony medical information on the basis of its ability to harm and kill people who fall for it? Don’t you favor the suppression of lies told on behalf of phony treatments? In other words, do you favor the government giving up its ability to suppress dangerous claims of that kind?

    I would point out that the victims of phony medicine are limited to those who use them or their hapless relations or friends who they give them to. They don’t victimize entire ethnic groups.

  77. #77 MTiffany
    June 4, 2010

    Freedom of speech and conscience necessarily entails the freedom to be a bigot; I think that’s what we sometimes forget. If we really value people’s unfettered right to their own beliefs, we’re going to have to accept the fact that some people are going to embrace views and opinions that most other people would find abhorrent.

  78. #78 Ian
    June 4, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    But nobody here is talking about unrestricted free speech for those who are advocating violence. Incitement to violence is a crime, and should be prosecuted. That’s not a free speech issue, that’s a violence issue. If your criterion for restriction of free speech is “restrict speech that advocates violence”, I think you’ll find pretty much everyone here agrees with you.

    The problem becomes when you have speech that is not explicitly violent, but runs contrarily to the prevailing cultural narrative. Even though the Holocaust is a fact and there’s mountains of evidence to support it, doesn’t give the government or any agency the right to ban speech that questions it. Are they wrong? Absolutely. But everyone’s hackles should be immediately raised whenever someone says “it is illegal to say or think this, and we are deciding this arbitrarily.”

    I’d love for the Holocaust deniers to shut up forever. I’d like to see racists, sexists, anti-vaxxers, climate “skeptics” and religious groups shut up forever too. But that’s not the way a free society works. When you shut down free speech, you open the door for tyranny. That’s why it sucks to be a liberal – you have to defend the rights of people you disagree with (even those who actively hate you).

    There’s also a long history of Christians trying to murder every other sect on the planet, including other Christians. Your distinction is meaningless.

    Also, since we evil “pro-jab” people are fighting for your rights to spew your nonsense, I’d like to invite the anti-vax crusade who troll these forums to speak up in defense of your own rights. We can disagree on some things, but don’t be silent dicks when we’re on the same side.

  79. #79 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    Scott, “Christianity” isn’t an ideology in the same way that Nazism is. Nor does it have a single history. You mention the Crusades, well, Eastern Christians were among the victims of that abomination. There were Christians who have been among its greatest critics, many of those Catholics,

    None of which have any relevance to the point…

    there isn’t “Crusade denial” in the same way that there is “Holocaust denial”.

    No, it’s worse because people generally believe that nothing like that could actually happen today. Whereas people are so aware of the Holocaust that Nazism poses no meaningful threat today.

    The record is that Christianity in its earliest period was pacifist and there have been many Christian pacifists and a long history of the advocacy of reaching out to Jews, Moslems, even atheists by Christians. Christians in many traditions, Quakers, the peace churches, the UCC, etc. are among the most liberal people you could hope to find.

    Show me Nazis who aren’t anti-semites, who don’t advocate war as a foundation of society and who don’t either endorse or deny the facts of the history of Nazism.

    Also quite irrelevant.

    You’re also failing to make the crucial distinction that advocating violence is already illegal as a general principle. So banning Nazism or Holocaust denial because they necessarily include such advocacy is pointless. To the extent that such advocacy happens, it’s already handled. To the extent that their speech does NOT include such advocacy, there is no cause for banning!

  80. #80 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Ah, yes, Scott’s going to that favorite tactic of the organized “skeptics”, declaring points in refutation of what they say “irrelevant”. Well, Scott, those points are entirely relevant due to your little substitution game, in which you equate Christianity with the Holocaust and Nazism. So, pointing out that you were playing a game of phony equivalency is entirely relevant to disproving your position. You might want to review the principle of logic and math that you can only do that substitution of things which are, actually, equivalent.

  81. #81 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Ian, Nazism is inherently violent, violence is one of its foundational principles, as is the abolition of rights and democracy and a host of other far from innocuous ideas. To pretend that you don’t get those with Nazism is to deny reality. It is to deny history, another of the intellectual habits typical of … well, that is, actually, irrelevant.

    Holocaust denial is the advocacy of neo-Nazism, and the neo-Nazis DO actually, want to relive history as do those in Rwanda who are denying the far more recent genocide there.

    I have a really hard time taking seriously people who deny that the murders of millions of people DON’T fundamentally change the category into which the Nazi ideology and others like it belong, who try to pretend that they belong in the same range as egalitarian democracy and the Society of Friends.

    Is there a limit on the number of Nazi revivals before you stop denying that it is inherently suppressible by people of good conscience and good will? Or do we have to endure an indefinite number of genocides so the free speech absolutists can feel good about themselves? Because I don’t think most people are so far in denial.

  82. #82 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Ian, Nazism is inherently violent, violence is one of its foundational principles, as is the abolition of rights and democracy and a host of other far from innocuous ideas. To pretend that you don’t get those with Nazism is to deny reality. It is to deny history, another of the intellectual habits typical of … well, that is, actually, irrelevant.

    Holocaust denial is the advocacy of neo-Nazism, and the neo-Nazis DO actually, want to relive history as do those in Rwanda who are denying the far more recent genocide there.

    I have a really hard time taking seriously people who deny that the murders of millions of people DON’T fundamentally change the category into which the Nazi ideology and others like it belong, who try to pretend that they belong in the same range as egalitarian democracy and the Society of Friends.

    Is there a limit on the number of Nazi revivals before you stop denying that it is inherently suppressible by people of good conscience and good will? Or do we have to endure an indefinite number of genocides so the free speech absolutists can feel good about themselves? Because I don’t think most people are so far in denial.

  83. #83 Jud
    June 4, 2010

    Re “the N-word,” there is a doctrine in the free speech cases that might apply given the appropriate fact situation. It’s known as the “fighting words” exception, which holds that if speech is a virtually unavoidable incitement to immediate violence, that speech is not protected. So for example, shouting the “N-word” in the middle of an NAACP meeting may not be protected, while writing it in a screed to be sent through the mail may be. (Still can’t bring myself to type it more fully, even with asterisks – when as a 5-year-old I unknowingly repeated to my mother its usage by some of my school chums, it was the first and only word she told me was a “curse word” that I should never, ever say.)

    This is related to the “clear and present danger” test, under which speech prohibitions are lawful if it can be shown that the speech provokes “imminent lawless action.”

    Note the words “present” and “imminent.” I am full of admiration for Elie Wiesel, but currently I don’t think Holocaust denial and its odious relations qualify.

    Apparently Wiesel doesn’t think so either, but wants such speech banned on the basis of its effects on Holocaust victims and their families. I’m related to Holocaust victims, and as sympathetic as I am to where Wiesel’s heart is in this, I have to disagree. My disagreement turns on where I feel the real danger lies. To me, the hatred spewed by a minority, however virulent, is less to be feared than the power of a totalitarian state (or in these times, a violent movement equivalent in reach and power to a state). Mein Kampf was vitriolic, but itself killed no one. It was when that vitriol became the policy of a state with the power to take away human rights and life that it turned into the Holocaust.

    Yes, violent movements or governments begin as ideas, and we must be vigilant lest hatred once again gain power. But until it gains such power, or at least shows itself as violence, then I think we would be wiser to confine ourselves to showing others how poorly such ideas fare against peace and love as creeds for living happy and fulfilled lives.

  84. #84 Orac
    June 4, 2010

    ? Don’t you favor the suppression of lies told on behalf of phony treatments?

    No, I do not favor muzzling advocates of quackery–not even anti-vaccine loons. You would know this if you actually were a regular reader here.The whole purpose of this blog is to promote science-based medicine over such such treatments

    However, selling quackery is another matter, and that falls quite nicely under statutes against fraud.

  85. #85 Orac
    June 4, 2010

    But nobody here is talking about unrestricted free speech for those who are advocating violence. Incitement to violence is a crime, and should be prosecuted. That’s not a free speech issue, that’s a violence issue. If your criterion for restriction of free speech is “restrict speech that advocates violence”, I think you’ll find pretty much everyone here agrees with you.

    Actually, here in the U.S. advocating violence in general terms is not usually illegal. Inciting a specific act of violence or lawlessness is, using the “imminent lawless action” test. See Brandenburg v. Ohio:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenburg_v._Ohio

  86. #86 Orac
    June 4, 2010

    Show me Nazis who aren’t anti-semites, who don’t advocate war as a foundation of society and who don’t either endorse or deny the facts of the history of Nazism.

    Most neo-Nazis are anti-Semites, true enough, and I’ve yet to find a Holocaust denier who isn’t an anti-Semite. Many of them (but by no means all) are admirers of Hitler and the Nazi regime. However, not all neo-Nazis advocate war as a foundation of society. There is a continuum.

    I don’t know how long you’ve combatted Holocaust denial or even if you have combatted Holocaust denial, but I’ve been at it for 12 years. In that time, I’ve encountered deniers who were raging bigots calling for the slaughter of Jews, claiming that Hitler failed because he didn’t go far enough. I’ve also encountered Holocaust deniers who clearly had Nazi sympathies who seemed reasonable enough and had no interest in war or killing further Jews. They were anti-Semitic, to be sure, but not in the least bit violent.

    You paint with too broad a brush. In fact, the more I hear you, the more your views scare me, because, if implemented, they would strip me of my freedoms just as fast as any Nazi regime would, whether you can understand that or not, all in the name of “protecting” society from a perceived threat. You really do seem to be quite authoritarian in your willingness to declare certain types of speech to be proscribed because you consider it a danger to society. In fact, you disturb me almost as much as the Holocaust deniers do.

  87. #87 Sheikh Mahandi
    June 4, 2010

    To quote Evelyn Beatrice Hall (writing as Stephen G Tallentyre) I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it (often mis-attributed to Francois-Marie Arouet “Voltaire”), sensible woman Evelyn, recognising that weakening freedom of speech is the start of the slippery slope to censorship and the loss of all civil liberties.

  88. #88 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Orac, I was talking about the FDA, as I knew you would have realized though I can give the long form of those kinds of questions if desired. Why does advertising a phony cure for sale merit government action more than the advocacy to commit mass murder? Some of the phony cures are only potentially harmful or deadly. What is your rational basis for that position?

    How would it be any more acceptable to suppress the advocacy to murder one, specific, person than it would be the ethnic group to which that person belongs?

  89. #89 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    However, not all neo-Nazis advocate war as a foundation of society. There is a continuum

    War is an inherent virtue in Nazism, that is one of its foundational ideas, it is inherent to Nazism, neo- or original.

    My parents were anti-fascist, anti-Nazi, there isn’t a time in my life that I wasn’t anti-Nazi, there wasn’t a time I didn’t argue against the denial of history, the history of the Holocaust or any of the other genocides of history. And I suspect I’m older than you.

    I think the denial that we can distinguish between ideas which advocate murder and those which are not inherently violent is far more dangerous than what I’ve advocated. That popular form of irresponsibly refusal to exercise reason and critical judgement is mind boggling in 2010. Holding that position on the basis that there is inherent danger in the use of reason and history in making political an legal judgement is to deny the very basis of democracy. It is one of the most dangerous intellectual fashions around today. And those who hold with it have no problem with the suppression of far more innocuous forms of speech, such as trademark and copyright violations and relatively frivolous slanders and libels. Our courts deal with those kinds of things all the time. But it’s only when it’s a matter of millions dead or minority groups oppressed and targeted that the free speech absolutists get alarmed about slippery slopes.

    As a gay man, anyone who wants to stand up for the people who advocate me being murdered stands with them, not with me. And the Nazis want to kill me too.

  90. #90 Todd W.
    June 4, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    anyone who wants to stand up for the people who advocate me being murdered stands with them, not with me.

    Or in other words, if they aren’t with you, they’re against you.

    That is very black-or-white thinking, the type that leads, very easily, to bad things happening. That’s the same kind of statement that Pres. Bush used when talking about Muslims and his “War on Terror”. It is possible to stand up for the rights of those people (e.g., their right to due process, their right to say offensive things, etc.), while disagreeing with what they say, their ideas or their behaviors. And standing up for their right to free speech is not equivalent to condoning the incitement to specific, violent action, which is against the law.

  91. #91 Shasta
    June 4, 2010

    Typical confusion of free speech versus abuse of free speech. Laws already provide for the prosecution of those who abuse free speech to harass, intimidate, libel, abuse or threaten.

  92. #92 Matthew
    June 4, 2010

    Anthony,

    Virtually every reason you’ve given for censoring Nazism would apply equally to Communism in the minds of conservative Americans.

    So back to Orac’s point; how do you propose the government will select which ideas may be censored?

    As a gay man, you should consider who you would be giving this power to. Especially after 8 years of a conservative president.

  93. #93 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    Ah, yes, Scott’s going to that favorite tactic of the organized “skeptics”, declaring points in refutation of what they say “irrelevant”. Well, Scott, those points are entirely relevant due to your little substitution game, in which you equate Christianity with the Holocaust and Nazism.

    Then how about, instead of simply declaring that there are differences, giving some sort of justification of how they defeat the analogy?

  94. #94 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    Ian, Nazism is inherently violent, violence is one of its foundational principles, as is the abolition of rights and democracy and a host of other far from innocuous ideas. To pretend that you don’t get those with Nazism is to deny reality. It is to deny history, another of the intellectual habits typical of … well, that is, actually, irrelevant.

    Another point. Let’s suppose the following. Consider a person who maintains that Hitler was really a good guy, the Holocaust was a fraud, and Jews are evil. BUT they make a specific point of very explicitly stating that said evildoing does not justify violence, and that if the Holocaust HAD been real then it would prove Hitler was evil. Let’s further suppose that we can (somehow) confirm that they genuinely believe this.

    Should their speech be banned? Justify.

  95. #95 Ian
    June 4, 2010

    As a gay man, anyone who wants to stand up for the people who advocate me being murdered stands with them, not with me. And the Nazis want to kill me too.

    Yeah, this isn’t merely an academic point for me either. I’m also a frequent target of hate speech, and to lump me in with Nazis is about as gross and offensive as you can possibly get. You’re not the only person who has a personal stake in this argument, so get over yourself.

    As a gay man, you should be the first to fight for free speech rights. When there are places in the world like Malawi, Zimbabwe, Malaysia, where you can be legally executed for being gay, or being a civil rights advocate, free speech is very much a gay issue. Free speech has two sides though – it’s either free for everyone, or it isn’t free. Just because the majority doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it is permissible to shut it down. What is justifiable is to pass laws against speech that leads to immediate, demonstrable harm. If you can satisfactorily demonstrate that denial necessarily causes harm, then you have a case, at least in my eyes.

    @Orac – thanks for the reference. I am not sure, but my understanding of the Canadian Charter is that any speech that “undermines the conduct of a free and democratic” society can be prosecuted here. That’s how they crowbar in hate speech laws, but really it could be used for just about any unpopular speech and I’m not a big fan of it. We are simply left to trust that the judges will always make the right calls as to what speech is correct.

  96. #96 Ian
    June 4, 2010

    Also, as much as you’d like Holocaust denial and the advocacy of the practices of Nazi-ism to be the same thing, they’re not. If I deny that slavery happened in the United States (or at least say it wasn’t as bad as people say), does that mean that we will pass laws that allow slavery? Of course not. Slavery is wrong, regardless of how we perceive its history, and there are a million different arguments to keep it illegal, even if we say “well, not everyone had it so bad.”

    To be 100% clear here – I neither think that slavery NOR the Holocaust “wasn’t as bad as we think it was.” I am using that as a comparative example only.

  97. #97 tonylurker
    June 4, 2010

    Why does advertising a phony cure for sale merit government action more than the advocacy to commit mass murder?

    Analogy fail!

    Advertising a phony cure includes the intent to sell said “cure” and having taken the specific actions required to facilitate said sale. This would be akin to someone actually planning or soliciting specific acts of murder or mass murder. This, as you should already know, is currently illegal.

  98. #98 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Virtually every reason you’ve given for censoring Nazism would apply equally to Communism in the minds of conservative Americans. Matthew

    There is a huge difference between what Marx and Engles talked about and Nazism, which was not based on murdering people belonging to specified ethnic groups and various other inherent aspects of Nazi ideology. Though I’m sure that conservatives would ignore that. That liberals would ignore those differences is irrational and uniformed.

    If you wanted to talk about the suppression of Khmer Rouge ideology or some other pseudo-communist ideology with a history of genocide, they are not all that different.

    As it is, I’m with Karl Marx, Je ne suis pas Marxiste.

    Analogy fail! tonylunker

    What a brilliant arguement, I’m so impressed.

    My argument was based on the potential of speech to cause harm, not the side issue of whether or not someone is selling it. So, you would have no problem with making the sale of Nazi propaganda illegal. Since you want to try to use that as an analogy.

    Ian, Holocaust denial is a promotion of neo-Nazism, to deny that is to lie. And neo-Nazis want to gain power and put their program into effect. Is there a movement that denies that there was slavery in the United States? That would be rather difficult since the Constitution mentions it in a number of places.

    Or in other words, if they aren’t with you, they’re against you. Todd W

    Well, if they’re in the courts with those poor beleaguered Nazis or the Phelps tribe, they’ve chosen their side. I’m not going to pretend they haven’t because they’ve got clean fingernails and wear nice suits.

  99. #99 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    There is a huge difference between what Marx and Engles talked about and Nazism, which was not based on murdering people belonging to specified ethnic groups and various other inherent aspects of Nazi ideology. Though I’m sure that conservatives would ignore that. That liberals would ignore those differences is irrational and uniformed.

    And on what basis do you propose to make policy then? That Anthony McCarthy shall decide what speech is permitted?

    Ian, Holocaust denial is a promotion of neo-Nazism, to deny that is to lie. And neo-Nazis want to gain power and put their program into effect.

    Overstated. In practice it turns out that Holocaust denial is virtually always used to promote neo-Nazism. That does not mean that it necessarily is always so.

    Is there a movement that denies that there was slavery in the United States? That would be rather difficult since the Constitution mentions it in a number of places.

    There is a movement that claims that slavery was good for the poor stupid animal blacks, and that it either should be reinstituted or all blacks should be killed. So you really can’t wriggle out of that one.

  100. #100 tonylurker
    June 4, 2010

    My argument was based on the potential of speech to cause harm, not the side issue of whether or not someone is selling it. So, you would have no problem with making the sale of Nazi propaganda illegal. Since you want to try to use that as an analogy.

    And it is cleat that my point went right over your head. It’s not about selling, its about specific acts The point is that there is a difference between mere speech and speech directly tied to a specific action. For the health claims, it is selling and distributing a product. It’s not the speech that is being prohibited, it is the connection of the speech with a specific act, ie. the sale of a product. Likewise, it is not the vague claims of hatemongers that should be illegal, but specific speech that enabled and directly contributed to the specific acts of hatemongers to cause harm, ie. planning, or soliciting a violent act or acts.

    Your analogy was flawed because you were comparing apples to oranges. If you want to compare false advertising to something involving hate groups, that something must involve specific actions beyond mere speech for it to be an appropriate analogy.

    As to selling Nazi propaganda, please explain how that is in any way related to my analogy or anything I said in the previous post.

  101. #101 Ian
    June 4, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    The Texas school board has just removed references to the slave trade, calling it Atlantic Triangular Trade, and is re-casting pro-slavery figures as heroes. Yes, there is a movement to deny slavery in the United States.

    Will banning anti-Semitic speech make it go away? Is that your conjecture? I have plenty of evidence to suggest that suppressing issues does not, in fact, cause them to ameliorate but forces them underground where they are harder to track. I, for one, would rather know who and where all of the Nazis are. I would rather everyone know in the full light of day how ridiculous and unsupported their ideas were, rather than them being able to claim that there’s a vast Zionist conspiracy to keep TEH TREWTH hidden. The only way to do that is to allow them to speak, and intervene when such speech specifically advocates acts of violence.

    Oh, and if you’re suggesting that speech shouldn’t be free, then I guess you’re on the side of those who assassinated MLK Jr. and Harvey Milk. Wow, doesn’t it suck to be pigeon-holed into a position that doesn’t represent your own based on one arbitrary position blown out of context?

  102. #102 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    And on what basis do you propose to make policy then? That Anthony McCarthy shall decide what speech is permitted? Scott

    Well, why not just throw it all open and let them teach creationism and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the public schools, if the teachers or school boards so desire? Why have any kind of standards at all? Overturn the Dover decision, creationists are dead wrong but they haven’t killed millions of people, after all.

    I recently asked a free speech absolutist I was arguing with if it would be all right to publish a book called “How to Kill Nat Hentoff” with detailed instructions of how to do it. She said that it was all right. Which I think is entirely wrong. She was defending the book “Hit Man” which was, actually, used to murder three people, that we know of. You think a book that, intentionally, teaches people how to murder other people and get away with it should be allowed? Even after it has been used for that? I don’t. I don’t see any rational reason anyone should think so.

    Choices are made all the time. Choices by governmental bodies and courts. I’m not the one pretending that they don’t.

    And it is cleat that my point went right over your head. It’s not about selling, its about specific acts tonylurker

    I guess the brilliant rhetorical device of “Analogy fail!” distracted me.

    Actually, the dishonest attempt to remove Nazi propaganda from the intended and all too frequently resultant acts is exactly what I was talking about from the first comment I posted here. That money is changing hands in the case of bogus drug treatments strikes me as slightly less important than people getting killed by skinheads who’ve been psyched out by a Nazi free of charge. Somehow, some quack selling someone homeopathic water strikes me as less of a problem.

    Oh, and if you’re suggesting that speech shouldn’t be free, then I guess you’re on the side of those who assassinated MLK Jr. and Harvey Milk. tonylurker

    Good Lord. Do you always resort to this kind of absurd tactic when you’re arguing with adults? Though I’m used to this from the “skeptics”.

    Ian, you do actually understand that I’ve argued against the suppression of history, don’t you? Why would you bring that into it as if you think I’d favor it?

    Governmental bodies do awful stuff sometimes, non-governmental groups do too. And when those awful groups gain political power, through their lies and propaganda, they are the ones who are in a position to do bad things with governments. Which makes it even more important for their opponents to counter them. Only, as in Texas, they are able to control the message because they control the media.

  103. #103 skeptifem
    June 4, 2010

    I cannot believe people really need it explained that letting the state decide history for everyone is a really shitty idea. They already to this (terribly) to a certain extent via schooling, but at least it isn’t illegal to go check into it with other sources and tell people about what was found.

  104. #104 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    Well, why not just throw it all open and let them teach creationism and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the public schools, if the teachers or school boards so desire? Why have any kind of standards at all? Overturn the Dover decision, creationists are dead wrong but they haven’t killed millions of people, after all.

    Choices are made all the time. Choices by governmental bodies and courts. I’m not the one pretending that they don’t.

    You’re evading. What is it, precisely, that you’re saying the standards should be? You can’t just say “oh yeah, the government’ll decide.” ESPECIALLY when you’re arguing that the decision has been wrongly made!

    Good Lord. Do you always resort to this kind of absurd tactic when you’re arguing with adults? Though I’m used to this from the “skeptics”.

    Do you seriously not see that Todd’s comment was PRECISELY equivalent to your (in almost these exact words) calling us Nazis for disagreeing with you?

  105. #105 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Sorry, I missed this important point before.

    Free speech has two sides though – it’s either free for everyone, or it isn’t free. Ian

    Nazis, Klansmen, etc. are not the “other side” of egalitarian democracy, they have nothing to do with civil discourse or even a dialectic that has as its goal a just society. The artificial and abstract diagram that makes people analyze this as “two sides” is based in ignoring the most salient characteristics of the “two sides” as you would have it.

    There is no “side” of a just, democratic government that can countenance the doctrines of genocidal despotic ideologies. Any analysis of civil discourse that includes the “right” of people who would, given the chance, bring on another Nazi nightmare is dangerously wrong. If that’s included in your schematic, it’s time to draw another picture. Any balancing act, any preening pose of impartiality that includes a repetition of the Nazi period as an accepted possibility is fatally flawed.

    The fact of the Holocaust is as real as the most well founded ideas in science and mathematics, it is more of a fact than any idea of political or any other kind of philosophy, to ignore it has changed things for the ideology of Nazism, placing it past the farthest reaches of tolerable ideas is irresponsible.

    Rereading the above, I’m pretty shocked at the lengths to which orac, for whom I’ve had some respect in the past (despite our strong disagreements on some basic matters) has gone to in this argument.

  106. #106 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    What is it, precisely, that you’re saying the standards should be?

    I have been stating one standard from the start, that the advocacy of mass murder is intolerable and eminently suppressible, as it has been in Germany to little damage to their democracy or Rwanda or Canada or many other places which aren’t irrationally wedded to a free speech absolutism which is actually damaging democracy in the United States, as the “Citizens United” and “Buckley v. Valeo” prove.

  107. #107 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    I have been stating one standard from the start, that the advocacy of mass murder is intolerable and eminently suppressible

    No. That is not what you’ve been stating. If that WERE your standard, then you would NOT be against Holocaust denial. Because the statement “the Holocaust did not take place” does not advocate anything.

  108. #108 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    Or perhaps more precisely…

    You’re not against “the advocacy of mass murder.” You’re against speech that does not advocate mass murder but has some arguable relationship to the advocacy of mass murder. How close does the relationship have to be? How is that to be determined? Who is to determine it?

  109. #109 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Because the statement “the Holocaust did not take place” does not advocate anything.

    Yes it does. It advocates the position that the Nazis didn’t kill millions of people in an attempt at genocide. It is advocacy for a false view of the Nazis with the tacitly admitted intention of making them seem within the limits of tolerable consideration. As the people who enjoyed their exercise of their “free expression” of their real instead of pretended intentions know and so take measures to prevent their return.

    I’m always so interested in how people sitting on North America are so willing to take risks with people who are facing that history and the present day threat of genocidal movements. Preening in their purity of heart while accepting that risk for other people.

  110. #110 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    Yes it does. It advocates the position that the Nazis didn’t kill millions of people in an attempt at genocide. It is advocacy for a false view of the Nazis with the tacitly admitted intention of making them seem within the limits of tolerable consideration. As the people who enjoyed their exercise of their “free expression” of their real instead of pretended intentions know and so take measures to prevent their return.

    You are correct, I spoke imprecisely. I should have said “does not advocate any action.”

    I’m always so interested in how people sitting on North America are so willing to take risks with people who are facing that history and the present day threat of genocidal movements. Preening in their purity of heart while accepting that risk for other people.

    And yet you can’t provide any plausible argument for there BEING any significant risk, in particular why it’s inadequate to stomp on it once the people in question actually start advocating violence!

    I will also repeat my question from before, to which I am genuinely extremely curious to know the answer:

    Another point. Let’s suppose the following. Consider a person who maintains that Hitler was really a good guy, the Holocaust was a fraud, and Jews are evil. BUT they make a specific point of very explicitly stating that said evildoing does not justify violence, and that if the Holocaust HAD been real then it would prove Hitler was evil. Let’s further suppose that we can (somehow) confirm that they genuinely believe this.

    Should their speech be banned? Justify.

  111. #111 Orac
    June 4, 2010

    As a gay man, anyone who wants to stand up for the people who advocate me being murdered stands with them, not with me.

    Only a Sith deals in absolutes. (I couldn’t resist, since I just used that phrase in another post today.)

    Actually, in at least one way your thinking strikes me as frighteningly similar to that of the Nazis you decry. It is black and white. Good and evil. Your enemies need to be suppressed. I repeat: You frighten me almost as much as the Nazis you decry, because if you had your way in the name of “protecting” my society you would take away my rights almost as fast as the Nazis would if they ever got their way. Only you’d be doing it “for my own protection” and with only the best intentions.

  112. #112 Matthew
    June 4, 2010

    Anthony,

    There is a huge difference between what Marx and Engles talked about and Nazism,

    Agreed.

    Though I’m sure that conservatives would ignore that

    Also agreed. Which is my point.

    You’re advocating censorship while acknowledging there are potent political forces in the U.S. which could and probably would misuse it.

    And you see no danger in this?

  113. #113 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    It is black and white. Good and evil. orac

    What’s good about Nazism? The Phelps cult?

    The resort to “you’re like the Nazis you decry” is exactly the same kind of insistence on not seeing the distinction between people who want to deprive entire groups of people of all their rights, including to life, and people who want those people to not be able to do that. It is irrational and unrealistic to not see that difference, the dogma of free speech absolutism apparently blinds you to that very real and very obvious distinction. I would only advocate depriving Nazis of their ability to further their power while leaving them with all of their non-malignant rights and even pleasures. They would deprive Jews, gay people, etc. of all of our rights.

    Compared to a belief in the benefits of eating raw vegetables it’s a pretty astonishing denial of some of the clearest reality that the 20th century contained.

    And yet you can’t provide any plausible argument for there BEING any significant risk, Scott

    I’d suggest you go read at the Southern Poverty Law Center site, for a starter. You might want to look at the statistics on hate crimes that are kept by law enforcement, etc. That’s my argument.

    Matthew, well, there should be no government at all, if your argument is to be taken seriously. Because any government is a potential danger. That the lack of one is also a danger would, however, leave you in quite a pickle.

    Free speech is a right, it’s not the only right, in some contexts it is a right that is used to deprive other people of their rights. Free speech absolutism is a lazy, dishonest and, as seen in some of the arguments made in this thread, potentially irrational dogma. As seen in the Citizens United case and Buckley v. Valeo, it is a fad that might lead to the destruction of self government. Which, apparently, isn’t very important for the absolutists. Neither are the lives of millions of victims of the incitement to commit genocide, with speech.

  114. #114 Scott
    June 4, 2010

    I would only advocate depriving Nazis of their ability to further their power while leaving them with all of their non-malignant rights and even pleasures.

    Um, no. You are advocating denying them what is arguably the most important and fundamental right, without doing anything additional to deprive them of their ability to further their power.

    I’d suggest you go read at the Southern Poverty Law Center site, for a starter. You might want to look at the statistics on hate crimes that are kept by law enforcement, etc. That’s my argument.

    That isn’t anything vaguely resembling an argument. Indeed, it’s a strong point AGAINST your position, as an excellent example of how, when lines are crossed into actually harming or intending to harm, all the normal laws kick in. Without a single shred of reason for banning speech.

    And you’re seriously delusional if you think anyone in this discussion other than yourself is being in any way “absolutist.” Everyone else has consistently presented a nuanced, balanced position. That is compared to your rabid, fanatical, unreasoning, and irrational knee-jerk response to declare that anybody who DARES disagree with you is a Nazi!

  115. #115 Anthony McCarthy
    June 4, 2010

    Um, no. You are advocating denying them what is arguably the most important and fundamental right, Scott

    More important than food and water and air not containing Zyklon B? You have a really weird set of priorities. I suspect you’d see if differently if it was your other rights you were in danger of losing to the Nazis.

    without doing anything additional to deprive them of their ability to further their power. Scott

    Oh, if they came close to gaining power I’d be more than willing to remove other rights from them.

    That is compared to your rabid, fanatical, unreasoning, and irrational knee-jerk response to declare that anybody who DARES disagree with you is a Nazi! Scott

    You are being silly. As far as I can remember I haven’t accused anyone of being a Nazi, though several of you have accused me of being like one.

    Orac, is this the cream of skepticism on parade, because I’m not impressed. Though I am going to be busy all weekend.

  116. #116 Matthew
    June 5, 2010

    Anthony,

    Matthew, well, there should be no government at all, if your argument is to be taken seriously. Because any government is a potential danger. That the lack of one is also a danger would, however, leave you in quite a pickle.

    You have argued specifically for an exception to the First Amendment for Holocaust Deniers and I have attempted to address that, not government’s potential for abuse in general. When pressed for details of how you would work out this exception, you have provided very little, primarily the historical fact that millions were killed by the Nazis.

    As I tried to point out previously, the same argument can and has been used against a variety of issues; communism, abortion rights, atheism, and gay rights. Do I think it’s ridiculous to compare any of these things to the Holocaust? Absolutely. But I am aware that these arguments are pressed on a regular basis by portion of the electorate. And not a powerless one either. They had a fair amount of influence in the last administration.

    So it’s hardly chicken little to ask how you would open the door to restrictions on freedom of speech without allowing abuses.

    I find it ironic that you bring up Citizens United and Buckley v. Valeo, in my experience, censorship also privileges the wealthy and influential.

  117. #117 Antony McCarthy
    June 5, 2010

    Matthew, the right wing on the Supreme Court has abandoned the use that the right has made of censorship of pornography in order to use the slogan of “free speech” in order to achieve their more important goal, the destruction of self-government. I am confident that once they have made it possible for the oligarchs to destroy a knowledge of history and current events and propagandizing the voters in to installing them in power they’ll get back around to suppressing that porn which they decide it’s in their int erst to suppress. If they don’t, the trade off of self-government by an electorate who have a grasp of reality for pornography and the right to talk dirty on TV doesn’t strike me as a very good bargain.

    I’ve long been impressed by the disregard of even the most inescapable facts of history by the sci-guys, who deem history to be of lesser to no importance. But I hadn’t really appreciated just how little they think it’s worth learning from until this discussion.

    I hope that people in other countries, less influenced by the intellectual fashions current in Britain and the US will continue to learn those lessons and put them into practice. I’d like to know how Canada escaped the insanity. Perhaps it’s the Quebecois influence. Or maybe it’s just that Canadians aren’t as silly. Or maybe it’s because their constitution isn’t ruled by a romantic founders fetish but was produced in the post-war period and so benefited from the lessons of more recent history.

  118. #118 Scott
    June 5, 2010

    More important than food and water and air not containing Zyklon B? You have a really weird set of priorities. I suspect you’d see if differently if it was your other rights you were in danger of losing to the Nazis.

    Yes, because freedom of speech is how all the other rights are protected.

    Oh, if they came close to gaining power I’d be more than willing to remove other rights from them.

    So you admit that you’re just doing it out of spite, as opposed to any actual danger?

    You are being silly. As far as I can remember I haven’t accused anyone of being a Nazi, though several of you have accused me of being like one.

    You were pretty explicit about it:

    As a gay man, anyone who wants to stand up for the people who advocate me being murdered stands with them, not with me. And the Nazis want to kill me too.

    “Stands with” vs. “is” is not a meaningful difference.

    And you STILL haven’t made the slightest attempt to answer that question:

    Another point. Let’s suppose the following. Consider a person who maintains that Hitler was really a good guy, the Holocaust was a fraud, and Jews are evil. BUT they make a specific point of very explicitly stating that said evildoing does not justify violence, and that if the Holocaust HAD been real then it would prove Hitler was evil. Let’s further suppose that we can (somehow) confirm that they genuinely believe this.
    Should their speech be banned? Justify.

    I’m starting to suspect that you are deliberately avoiding it because you know that you CAN’T answer it in any way that doesn’t reveal the hypocrisy of your position.

    And post 117 just makes you sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist nutjob loon, by the way.

  119. #119 Orac
    June 5, 2010

    Orac, is this the cream of skepticism on parade, because I’m not impressed. Though I am going to be busy all weekend.

    “Brave Sir Robin ran away.
    Bravely ran away away.
    When danger reared its ugly head,
    He bravely turned his tail and fled.
    Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
    And gallantly he chickened out.”

    Of course, it never occurs to Anthony that the reason that not a single skeptic here (or even, really, people who generally detest me and disagree with me) actually came forward to support his enthusiasm for crushing free speech is because (1) he is wrong; (2) he seems utterly incapable of putting forth even a semi-coherent argument to support his position; and (3) many of them are as appalled as I am at how easily and blithely he casts aside free speech in the name of suppressing evil.

    As Anthony accuses us of “standing with” the Nazis against him as a gay man and being unable to make distinctions, he demonstrates an inability to make even simple distinctions between, for example, speech inciting specific acts of violence and other speech. Meanwhile, when I asked him what specific criteria he would advocate to differentiate speech that is acceptable and speech that should be banned, all he can do is wave his hands and say, in essence, that the courts and governments have been doing it for a long time and he’s not worried. Of course, that’s the problem. Governments have been doing it for a long time, and without strong free speech protections, preferably built into the Constitution, the tendency for governments is almost always to ratchet up restrictions on speech. Even in the U.S., there is that tendency, which, thankfully, the First Amendment makes difficult.

    Given your dodging of these questions over many comments, how am I to take you seriously? But, let’s try it again. First, Scott’s most excellent question

    Another point. Let’s suppose the following. Consider a person who maintains that Hitler was really a good guy, the Holocaust was a fraud, and Jews are evil. BUT they make a specific point of very explicitly stating that said evildoing does not justify violence, and that if the Holocaust HAD been real then it would prove Hitler was evil. Let’s further suppose that we can (somehow) confirm that they genuinely believe this. Should their speech be banned? Justify.

    Then my question again: What specific criteria do you advocate for differentiating speech that should be permitted and speech that should be banned. Explain and justify without handwaving about how there are “obvious” distinctions (which you somehow never get around to spelling out other than very vaguely) that governments and courts have dealt with for a long time. YOU are the one advocating taking MY free speech rights away to protect society. Justify it.

    Free speech is arguably the most important civil right (or at least among the top two or three most important) in a civil democratic society. There’s a reason why one of the first things a dictatorship does is to clamp down on free speech by banning criticism of the regime. More’s the pity you don’t see that.

  120. #120 Anthony McCarthy
    June 5, 2010

    Orac, since your first comment to me here accused me of wanting to suppress speech which I found offensive (@69), shifting the argument I made about speech that was of proven DANGEROUSNESS to something you could twist into an attack on me, I don’t think your failure to find coherence in the rest of what I said is that surprising.

    Your charge of cowardice in your comment @119 would be in keeping with that. If you want me to continue I have absolutely no problem with keeping it up, I’ll even make room in my busy schedule for it.

    I put my comment about those who defend Nazis and the Phelps in the context of my being a member of a group who is attacked by both of them. I was, actually, thinking about the reason I’d dropped my annual donation to the ACLU. I’m not going to overlook the genteel enablers of Nazis and fascists. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve chosen up their side, I get to do the same. Or don’t you think I have that right too?

    As to your charge that I “blithely cast aside free speech in the name of suppressing evil”, since it is on the basis of the various genocides that I mentioned, I am surprised you find something “blithe” about it, though, perhaps, standards in merriment are different around here than most places I go.

    I regret I’m increasingly unsurprised at the ease with which people living in relative security and affluence dispose of the safety and well being of people unattached to them, how they ignore of forget their real peril in places such as Rwanda, while remembering to strike a pose for free speech to their audience of similarly safe and relatively affluent fans.

    As to Scott’s extreme hypothetical, I’d really have to think about the implications of such a case before I decided. Can you name such an individual so I can investigate it in real life instead of blog fantasy?

  121. #121 Anthony McCarthy
    June 5, 2010

    Yes, because freedom of speech is how all the other rights are protected. Scott

    Go run the experiment, deprive yourself of those things and then tell me how your right to deny the Holocaust fares.

    Oh, if they came close to gaining power I’d be more than willing to remove other rights from them.

    So you admit that you’re just doing it out of spite, as opposed to any actual danger? Scott

    You find this coherent, orac?

  122. #122 Scott
    June 5, 2010

    You keep talking about Rwanda. How about you actually make some kind of link between them?

    As to Scott’s extreme hypothetical, I’d really have to think about the implications of such a case before I decided. Can you name such an individual so I can investigate it in real life instead of blog fantasy?

    You might want to educate yourself on the meaning of the term “hypothetical.” And if your “principles” are so clear, the answer should be obvious. In other words, you’re still evading.

    Go run the experiment, deprive yourself of those things and then tell me how your right to deny the Holocaust fares.

    My right to those things is exceedingly difficult to deprive me of so long as I have my right to free speech. Deprive me of my right to free speech, and it becomes a lot easier. Do you deny this?

    You find this coherent, orac?

    Why don’t you actually start responding to the points people raise instead of blithering incoherently?

  123. #123 Elie Wiesel
    June 5, 2010

    “The bottom line is that I value free speech to the point where I consider even Holocaust denial to be protected speech, and I thank the wisdom of the Founding Fathers for having had the wisdom to have written and ratified the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

    Elie Wiesel is a total fraud.

    Elie Wiesel states in his book “Night,” that when the Germans evacuated Auschwitz, he was given the option of staying at the Auschwitz hospital, with his father registered as a patient, to await the arrival of the Soviets, or to join the evacuation with the “mass-murdering” Nazis to Germany.

    Guess what? Elie Wiesel chose to go to Germany with the “mass-murdering” Nazis.

    Amazing,… eh? Elie Wiesel chose to accompany the “mass-murdering” Nazis on a long journey in the middle of a freezing winter, taking his father with him, rather than wait (with about 7,650 other sick or disabled Jews) for the Soviets to arrive. Wiesel’s father died because of his choice. The actual quote is:

    “The choice was in our hands. For once we could decide our fate for ourselves. We could both stay in the hospital, where I could, thanks to my doctor, get him (his father) entered as a patient or nurse. Or else we could follow the others. ‘Well, what shall we do, father?’ He was silent. ‘Let’s be evacuated with the others,’ I told him.”

    Isn’t it hilarious,… that the Jew Elie Wiesel (whose books repeatedly describe horrendous Nazi “mass-killings” of Jews at Auschwitz) should choose to go with the very same Nazis that had been “mass-killing” his fellow Jews, rather than wait for the Soviets.

    It is fair to ask why the Nazis didn’t bother to kill off the 7,650 witnesses to “genocide” they left behind when they evacuated Auschwitz.

    7,650 witnesses to “genocide” just let go by the “mass-murdering” Nazis.

    It is also fair to ask why the Nazis didn’t bother to kill off the 60,000 witnesses to “genocide” that they transfered to camps in Germany.

    Another 60,000 witnesses to “genocide” left alive by the “mass-murdering” Nazis.

    It is also fair to ask why the Nazis needed the hospitals at Auschwitz and Monowitz, since they could just kill the Jews who got sick and were unable to work. Of course, killing all Jews who were sick and unable to work, is part of the Jew Auschwitz myth.

    Imagine that, the “mass-murdering” Nazis tried to heal sick Jews. Surely they should have just killed them.

    It is also fair to ask why Elie Wiesel never mentioned any gas-chambers in his memoir, “Night.” In his version of the fiction, the Jews were burnt alive in huge pits.

    Then there is the little problem that human bodies don’t burn. And even then, there is the little problem regarding fires in pits. they tend to go out due to a lack of oxygen. And even then, there is the little problem regarding the level of the water-table at Auschwitz. Any pit more than 45 centimeters deep, would fill with water,…

    but why let a few facts get in the way of a good story.

  124. #124 The Domestic GOddess
    June 5, 2010

    Human bodies don’t burn? Well, they do. Sort of. First their skin and fat liquefy and slough off, causing immeasurable pain and agony. If they are still alive their bones begin to burn from the inside out. It’s disgustingly awful.

    And, how did they figure out how to cremate if bodies don’t burn?

    Apparently you’ve never seen the blackened, crackled skin of a burn patient right after they burned. It’s awful.

    But, then again, why the heck am I trying to convince you? You are obviously a denialist.

  125. #125 Anthony McCarthy
    June 5, 2010

    Scott, give me names of such “enlightened” Holocaust deniers, unless you produce them your story is a hypothetical one. Give me a name of someone who holds that rather unlikely position and I’ll check it out.

    As to Rwanda, maybe you’re the one who should look into the political situation in that country, which has come under the criticism of the free speech absolutists for the same reason that Canada and present-day Germany have.

    My right to those things is exceedingly difficult to deprive me of so long as I have my right to free speech.
    Deprive me of my right to free speech, and it becomes a lot easier. Do you deny this?

    I never called for denying you your rights of free speech to avoid being murdered by Nazis, I support the suppression of Nazis who would deny many of us the right to live at all. The groups who want to kill people use their speech to further that goal, to pretend that speech is, somehow, not part of that is absurd.

    I don’t think there is any danger, whatsoever, in a total ban on the advocacy of mass murder or its enabling by the falsification of history. If it was possible to ban lying of any kind it would pose absolutely no danger of any kind of despotism, it would make despotism almost impossible and would be a huge benefit for egalitarian democracy.

  126. #126 Anon
    June 5, 2010

    Anthony: you’ve convinced me.

    I think we need to ban not only Holocaust denial, but also denial of the widespread slaughter of a billion haired people by the Visigoths, which continues to this very day throughout the Antarctic. What, you don’t agree that this uniquely pernicious history and it’s potential to annihilate us all justifies such a ban? Well then, apparently you are a denialist too. What should we do about the speech of such people as yourself, given your own test?

  127. #127 Anthony McCarthy
    June 5, 2010

    Anon, present your evidence. The evidence that the Holocaust is history and that denialists are liars has gone through court, in the infamous lawsuit brought by David Irving. There the burden of proof was on those who were telling the truth and the denial of reality lost. Has your claim ever be adjudicated on that basis?

    I’m tempted to start calling this kind of stuff “skoo”, short for “skeptical woo”.

    Reality is real. It has real consequences to people who aren’t apparently visiting this blog just now.

  128. #128 David Starner
    June 5, 2010

    At the end of Weimar Republic, the majority of the citizens were either Nazis or Communists, both calling for the end of the democratic government. A government that uses its power to crush the majority of its citizens is hardly democratic, and I can’t see how you intend to run a democratic government when you’re silencing the majority of your citizens.

  129. #129 Scott
    June 5, 2010

    Anthony,

    Scott, give me names of such “enlightened” Holocaust deniers, unless you produce them your story is a hypothetical one. Give me a name of someone who holds that rather unlikely position and I’ll check it out.

    Thank you for proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have zero interest in rational discussion or actually figuring out what the most appropriate policies are.

    As to Rwanda, maybe you’re the one who should look into the political situation in that country, which has come under the criticism of the free speech absolutists for the same reason that Canada and present-day Germany have.

    I am well aware. How about you actually make some sort of point?

    I never called for denying you your rights of free speech to avoid being murdered by Nazis, I support the suppression of Nazis who would deny many of us the right to live at all. The groups who want to kill people use their speech to further that goal, to pretend that speech is, somehow, not part of that is absurd.

    That is a straight-up lie. You are very explicitly calling for denying me my right to free speech, and the only shred of justification you’ve even attempted to give is that it will (by some means you’ve never tried to articulate) lead to another Holocaust.

    I don’t think there is any danger, whatsoever, in a total ban on the advocacy of mass murder or its enabling by the falsification of history. If it was possible to ban lying of any kind it would pose absolutely no danger of any kind of despotism, it would make despotism almost impossible and would be a huge benefit for egalitarian democracy.

    Then you have no concept of what democracy means, nor any understanding whatsoever of human rights.

  130. #130 Anthony McCarthy
    June 5, 2010

    OK, Scott, let me put it in Orac style terms. Show me someone who holds the views you claim exist and I’ll look at them to see what they really say. I say your hypothetical is woo, no one actually holds that position.

    I am well aware. How about you actually make some sort of point? Scott

    I did. Rwanda, on the basis of the well known genocide against the Tutsi minority in the 1990s is entirely justified in suppressing denialist lies that the genocide happened, that it happened as a result of radio broadcasts encouraging the genocide and so such speech is banned in order to prevent another genocide. It’s the same point I made in this thread all along, denying that was the point of it is clever argument only among those easily impressed by their own side.

    That is a straight-up lie. You are very explicitly calling for denying me my right to free speech, and the only shred of justification you’ve even attempted to give is that it will (by some means you’ve never tried to articulate) lead to another Holocaust. Scott

    Quote me to that effect. Quote me in my own words with references to where to find those. I am assuming you aren’t a Holocaust denier or an advocate of Nazism or fascism, in that challenge. If you are any of the three, I fully state that you should not be able to promote your putrid ideology. So go at it.

    Then you have no concept of what democracy means, nor any understanding whatsoever of human rights. Scott

    You’re being silly again.

    Seen this story in the news today, Orac?

    http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2010/06/05/beat_the_jew_game_lands_students_in_trouble/

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37515803/ns/us_news/

    The nerve of that school depriving those kids of their free speech and free expression. Maybe the ACLU will take up their cause.

  131. #131 mxu
    June 5, 2010

    The last word of your post really hit the nail on the head. Ridicule, ridicule, ridicule…

  132. #132 Anthony McCarthy
    June 5, 2010

    Having a few minutes, and seeing the reminder that orac has encouraged the use of ridicule, something I generally try to suppress in myself, though if you’d like me to start… You might regret it.

    Anyway, about the dodge of altering my point about speech which has proven dangerous into the easily dismissed “speech which you find offensive”. I looked through the thread again and wonder why no one seemed to notice @3

    I don’t like Canada’s hate speech laws, but at least insofar as they make Ann Coulter shut her yap, they at least have one upside. Ian

    Well, so far as I know Ann Coulter (who I abhor) has never actually been responsible for people getting killed, so why wasn’t Ian called on is violation?

    As to the rest, it’s so nice to live in a country where the reigning dogma of free speech absolutism allows me, a member of a very unpopular and beleagued minority, complete equality under the law.

    Only, no. Silly me. That wouldn’t be the United States under the First Amendment, that would be Canada with its Charter of Rights, that despotic hell hole. A place where they think they can distinguish between liars who want to falsify history by denying the largest mass murder in the history of the species, from same sex couples who think they love each other and want to enjoy a family life together. And some other countries which also restrict the denial of the Holocaust and other genocides and the promotion of Nazism.

    You people are in denial of contemporary reality. I thought “skeptics” were supposed to be against that kind of thing.

  133. #133 Orac
    June 5, 2010

    Then you have no concept of what democracy means, nor any understanding whatsoever of human rights.

    Actually, I think I’ve figured it out. Anthony values democracy as long as he doesn’t have to listen to speech that in his opinion endangers society, which appears to be a pretty wide swath of speech. What? He says it’s not a wide swath of speech? How am I to know that, given that he has steadfastly refused to answer any questions about specific criteria that he would use to decide what speech is permitted and what speech should not be permitted. He even gets offended that I and others here don’t just take his word for it that the speech he fears is a deadly danger to existing democratic societies! We want him to explain and justify!

    Anthony is actually fairly unusual. I’ve never encountered his like before, claiming to be so pro-democracy and freedom but at the same time so willing to squelch one of the key rights at the very basis of any democracy. Usually, when I get into discussions (or even arguments) with people who disagree with my contention that Holocaust denial should not be outlawed, they can at least make arguments that are coherent and somewhat compelling. (Indeed, among the people with whom I associate who are dedicated to combatting Holocaust denial, such debates pop up from time to time, such as when David Irving was imprisoned in Austria four years ago.) They are also capable of a modicum of reality in that they acknowledge that all rights represent a balancing act and that they are advocating a little bit of freedom for what they perceive to be a greater purpose, be it preventing violence or whatever. They recognize that others may value certain freedoms more than others and that, while they disagree with my position, it is not unreasonable and it is an honest disagreement based in principle.

    In marked contrast, from his very first post, McCarthy comes in guns blazing, labeling us “free speech abolutists” who oppose the criminalization of Holocaust denial as “playing that dishonest and phony game of equivalence” and accusing us of “intellectual dishonesty and cowardice.” If McCarthy had simply said that he disagreed and thought that Holocaust denial was so odious and dangerous that it was too dangerous to the state to be permitted while recognizing that he was trading a little bit of one freedom for what he perceives to be a higher goal, then, although I don’t agree with him, there would at least have been a basis for rational debate. Unfortunately, McCarthy precluded that from his very first post. But McCarthy doesn’t recognize that banning Holocaust denial even is a restriction of freedom, and, because to him it isn’t a restriction of freedom, there’s no problem at all (not to mention he also proclaims that anyone who disagrees with him on this particular is “standing with the Nazis” against him as a gay man). His incoherence and refusal to answer reasonable questions exploring the consequences of his beliefs only sealed it. “Debating” Anthony is about as productive as debating an anti-vaccinationist, homeopath, Holocaust denier, creationist, or 9/11 Truther.

  134. #134 Matthew
    June 5, 2010

    Anthony,

    Your post at 117 did not appear to answer my post at 116 so I doubt there’s any use in trying to engage you further.

    However, I would briefly like to point out a problem with your reasoning at the end of 132.

    It is true that Canada has both a limited form of censorship and a better legal situation for gay rights while the US has the 1st Amendment and a worse record on gay rights. However it’s a nonsequitar to then jump to your last thought, “You people are in denial of contemporary reality.”

    The contemporary reality in the US is that conservative rhetoric is popular. It reflects the tastes of a large portion of our electorate. So if you give the government the power to distinguish appropriate speech, how will you prevent, say, another bush-style administration from making those distinctions?

    Agreeing with censorship requires that the censors share your views, and as you’ve already pointed out, a lot of people in the US don’t share your views.

  135. #135 Orac
    June 5, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    Here’s another question for you. Hopefully you’ll find it easier to answer: What, in your opinion, would be an appropriate legal penalty for denying the Holocaust? Fines? Imprisonment? If imprisonment, how long? Months? Years? Just how severe is the crime of Holocaust denial compared to, for example, crimes such as grand larceny, assault, or even murder?

    Inquiring minds want to know! After all, if, as you say, Holocaust denial is such a threat to societal order and causes so much harm, shouldn’t the severity of the penalty be commensurate with that harm? No slaps on the wrist here!

  136. #136 TheJewHitler
    June 5, 2010

    Having the Jew Hitler run Nazi Germany had many advantages:

    When Germany attacked France, Heinz Guderian made blitzkrieg come true. By constantly disobeying orders and relentlessly driving his men and tanks as far as they could go, he wrecked havoc, far beyond the expected front line. His disregard for orders amid the fog of war, meant that the Jews in the Nazi high command were not immediately able to intervene, to prevent, Guderian’s quick and stunning victory.

    Guderian advanced an astonishing 250 miles across enemy terrain in only eleven days. Then, on May 24, with his Panzer forces at Gravelines, only ten miles from Dunkirk, Hitler himself, ordered that the tanks were to halt. Guderian’s forces were within hours of capturing more than 300,000 of the best-trained professional soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force, along with some 100,000 of France’s best-trained and equipped men. Guderian read the order with disbelief. His commander, General von Kleist, stated that on receiving the order, “I decided to ignore it, and to push on across the canal. But then came a more emphatic order that I was to withdraw behind the canal. My tanks were kept halted there for three days.”

    By having Hitler order Guderian’s tank divisions to sit on their hands while Dunkirk was evacuated, the Jews were able to prevent the complete and utter destruction of the French and British armies, thus keeping alive the possibility of a two-front war. However, although the Jew Hitler was able to rescue some 335,000 men, all their tanks and equipment were lost.

    When outraged German generals demanded to know why they were being prevented from forcing the complete surrender of the defeated armies, the Jew Hitler prattled on about his admiration for the British Empire and its importance as an essential element of world stability. Hitler did not explain why it was so important to let the hundreds of thousands of troops escape immediately, rather than say, to capture them, and later release them after having extracting various concessions. Indeed, how could he? This incident alone, should have given Hitler away as the enemy, however, the Germans, naive to such monumental deception, kept obeying orders, and in the end, it was only thought that Hitler was insane….

    For the rest go to: http://www.webng.com/linuxhelp/jews/TheJewHitler.htm

  137. #137 Anthony McCarthy
    June 5, 2010

    Anthony values democracy as long as he doesn’t have to listen to speech that in his opinion endangers society, orac

    I wonder if someone said something similar about some worry wort in Germany as they were considering whether or not that Hitler fellow should still be barred from politics in the late 1920s.

    Actually, I think I can hear such speech in relative safety, it’s the audience for the likes of Richard Butler that have me worried, or those of Randal Terry in another context.

    How am I to know that, given that he has steadfastly refused to answer any questions about specific criteria that he would use to decide what speech is permitted and what speech should not be permitted. orac

    Ah, the typical habits of the pseudo-skeptics on full display.

    I think you might have missed that I’ve repeatedly specified what I was talking about here, the promotion of genocide and the denial that genocides have happened.
    Or did you miss that in your eagerness to distort what I said into a caricature that you could dispose of without having to deal with that. Given the topic of your post, I’d have thought you’d have gotten that much of it.

    Both guns blazing, my, my. Because I called the habit of equating the promotion of Nazism with innocuous speech a dishonest and phony game of equivalence, well, that’s what it is. It is dishonest, it is phony and it is a charade. There is no reason other than pretense to think that people can’t tell the difference between advocating childhood nutrition programs and lying about the largest industrial mass murder in history. Where do you think the confusion on that point comes? Where do you think a reasonable person would find common ground between these two positions? Or, you can choose your own example of a political position which promotes the general welfare on an equal basis. A truly innocuous benefit to society vs. promotion of genocide. How are those two things really the same kind of thing?

    You mean you’re not a free speech absolutist? What speech do you think can be banned? Since the promotion of genocide doesn’t seem to fall within that category, I’d really like to know what does. The promotion of raw milk? Did you happen to see what I said about Emily Rooney and her encouragement for people to take a step back into the 1880s?
    http://echidneofthesnakes.blogspot.com/2010_05_02_archive.html#5780081449793774201

    Gee, as I’ve pointed out you’ve misrepresented my arguments from the start here, perhaps you find the ones I actually have made a bit too compelling.

    Matthew, I have chosen to restrict what I said to the topic of orac’s post, that’s my choice.

    It is true that Canada has both a limited form of censorship and a better legal situation for gay rights while the US has the 1st Amendment and a worse record on gay rights. However it’s a nonsequitar to then jump to your last thought, “You people are in denial of contemporary reality.” Matthew

    I’m not the one who’s been resorting to the “slippery slope” argument. A couple of the comments riffed off of my being gay and the alleged dangers of a ban on Holocaust denial poses to gay people. I pointed out that Canada, which had been mentioned as a country which bans Holocaust denial has an entirely better record of providing gay people with equal rights than the United States. I could add Germany to that, though it’s situation is not as good as Canada’s.

    Frankly, your charge that my answering that point of refutation out of contemporary reality is a non sequitur makes no sense whatsoever.

    Orac, again. I don’t think there is any right to lie. You did read my post about Lies and Free Speech, linked to at the bottom of my first comment here, didn’t you?

    What would I give as a penalty for Holocaust denial? Let me think about it. Cease and desist, for a start.

  138. #138 Pen
    June 5, 2010

    His argument about free speech is compassionate, focused on the “pain, humiliation and agonies” of the children of Holocaust survivors. “When I think of them, I accept that freedom of speech in this case should be against the law,” he said.

    Personally, I find this insulting to survivors of other equally horrific even if possibly less large scale and more distant situations. It strikes me as obnoxious to be more willing to identify with the sufferings of Jews in the Holocaust than the sufferings of enslaved Africans, displaced Native Americans or women burned for witchcraft.

  139. #139 Orac
    June 5, 2010

    You mean you expect me to believe that you haven’t thought about what an appropriate penalty for Holocaust denial should be, yet you go on and on about how it should be criminalized because it’s so evil? Really? Then the best you can come up with is that the offender should be told to cease and desist? Oh, really?

    What if the offender refuses and keeps publicly advocating the belief that the Holocaust is a lie, that it didn’t happen? What should the penalty be. Say he’s warned once and doesn’t comply. How about twice? How many warnings does he get, and then what is the penalty? You’re the one saying that Holocaust denial should be criminalized. So what should the penalty be.

    I’ll do you one better. What if it is reported that someone privately confided to a friend that he believes that the Holocaust never happened, that Hitler was a swell guy whose only crime was to be a bit too vigorous in trying to rid the world of Communism, and that the Jews are lying about the Holocaust? What then? Let’s say that friend, appalled by this admission, reported the Holocaust denier to the authorities? Should he be arrested? Should he be told by the government to “cease and desist”? Come on! Man up and tell us what you think. Stop waffling around.

  140. #140 Anthony McCarthy
    June 5, 2010

    Gee, Orac, waffling around, unlike that monument of clarity, Scott? Or yourself starting @69? Maybe I’ll look to see what they do in Canada and other places for guidance, you know, in the real world of reality instead of seat of the pants conjecture. I would have no problem with what Canada did to Ernst Zundel. I wouldn’t think that imprisonment for repeatedly violating court orders was out of the question. What would you do to someone convicted of repeatedly advertising a phony medical product against court order? David Irving’s sentence in Austria. Possibly.

    If Nazism could have been prevented by the vigorous suppression of antisemitic propaganda in Germany and Austria, or American apartheid ended thorough the suppression of racist propaganda, or the Rwandan genocide suppressed by silencing the lies that fomented it, it would be insanity to not do it. Since all three happened, there is no moral reason to not suppress them in order to prevent a recurrence. Anyone who thinks taking a chance on that is worth while has earned themselves that ridicule you seem to have such regard for. Only, I don’t seem to recall the brilliant cabaret satire of 1920s Germany being a notable success in preventing the Nazis gaining power. I don’t think that your cohort is going to produce anything better.

  141. #141 Mooloo
    June 5, 2010

    Personally, I find this insulting to survivors of other equally horrific even if possibly less large scale and more distant situations. It strikes me as obnoxious to be more willing to identify with the sufferings of Jews in the Holocaust than the sufferings of enslaved Africans, displaced Native Americans or women burned for witchcraft.

    There is an active campaign that asserts that the Holocaust is “special”. The proponents will assert this, and then attack anyone who disagrees. No matter that other genocides were bigger, more effective or longer lasting. Facts don’t enter into this.

    Don’t for instance, ask them how the Jews differed from the Gypsies in WWII. Both targets of ethnically directed Nazi efforts at eradication, their fates seem pretty much identical to me. Does any state have laws against denial of the Gypsies’ fate? Why not?

    Stalin tried to wipe out the Chechens during WWII. It was genocide in anyone’s terms. Yet they get no love now.

    But the Holocausters have won out big time. Even to suggest that the Holocaust is not special is to be labelled an anti-Semite, even if you agree totally on its scope and evilness. The Holocaust has to not only be admitted, it has to be privileged over all other suffering.

    The Holocaust must not be given a “free pass”. The mere act of asking for it is an attempt to close down speech relating to things other than the Holocaust. It’s about modern politics, not old history.

    Most people are far too afraid to even start to argue with the Holocaust industry about it. I’m not talking about the idiocy of Holocaust denial – I’m talking about why one genocide gets more attention than all others.

  142. #142 Anthony McCarthy
    June 5, 2010
  143. #143 Fencedude
    June 5, 2010

    To Merely Remember The Holocaust Is To Deny It

    What the shit?!

  144. #144 Old Rockin' Dave
    June 5, 2010

    Some of the above comments are uniformed. Only Romanis’s law specifically mentions the Holocaust. Nearly all make the denial of genocide or crimes against humanity a crime without necessarily invoking the Nazis, or include acts by the Communists, or invoke the crimes of the Nazis without mentioning Jews. So denial of the Rwandan genocide, the Nazi genocide against the Roma (Gypsies)and many other such crimes is covered.

    That said, the Holocaust WAS different from the others. It was nearly unique in that it was based on pseudoscientific racial theory rather than religious or ethnic conflict. It was the only genocide that was tasked to a unique government department whose only role was to plan the genocide. It was the only one where economists and accountants calculated the profits to be made from mass murder. It was the only where corporations placed competitive bids to build and operate the murder machinery. The Roma were actually not deprived of their rights until late in the war. Some served in the German military. The plan to kill them was decided late and took advantage of the murder industry already in place.

  145. #145 Matthew
    June 6, 2010

    Anthony,

    You’ve continually dodged the question of how you would actually create an exception to the First Amendment. A ban on holocaust denial wouldn’t just spring into existence, so I don’t see anything unreasonable about asking for details.

    And you are absolutely in denial of the contemporary political reality in the US if you believe creating a method by which speech could be censored would remain safely limited to holocaust denial.

  146. #146 David N. Brown
    June 6, 2010

    @123:
    “Elie Wiesel is a total fraud.”
    If by “Elie Wiesel” you mean yourself, the Holocaust-denying troll who has the brazenness to use Wiesel’s name as a handle, then yes, the person you refer to is a fraud. If I were a site administrator, I would send your email and IP address to Wiesel the Holocaust survivor, just in case he was interested in hunting you down and suing you for libel.

    It appears, among other things, that this troll is ignorant (if we are charitable) of the facts that the Nazis generally did not have gas chambers at work camps, that Auschwitz comprised multiple sites, and that the site where Wiesel was interned was unequivocally a work camp. It would seem that he is less interested in denying the testimony of Holocaust survivors than in ignoring it.

  147. #147 Anthony McCarthy
    June 6, 2010

    Fencedude, why don’t you try reading the link then you might know “what the shit” it’s about, though I wouldn’t place the odds on that result. Though that kind of thing would seem to be a lost art around here.

    You’ve continually dodged the question of how you would actually create an exception to the First Amendment. A ban on holocaust denial wouldn’t just spring into existence, so I don’t see anything unreasonable about asking for details. Matthew

    I don’t think I’ve “continually dodged” the question, it having not been put in exactly those terms “continually”.

    Changing law in the United States is extremely difficult and cumbersome. If you want to talk about the necessary change in the legal culture that would have to precede making any large, rational, change to the law it would probably take a thread in itself. I have no illusions that it would be any easier than getting rid of the Electoral College or making the Senate a proportionally representative body.

    Under the Constitution, all manner of speech is outlawed and punished, primarily commercial speech, it has been from the beginning. The free speech absolutism which we’ve become accustomed to is a very recent development, and one that isn’t entirely rational. It depends on things like the pretense that reasonable people can’t distinguish between the advocacy for a living wage or equality and the advocacy to commit murder. Which is irrational and absurd to the extent that you folks don’t want to face it when the matter is put before you in explicit terms.

    I don’t think “Beat the Jew” or sadistic porn or lies about genocide deserve to have legal protection. As the malignant effects of hate speech continue and claim more victims I will continue to point out that hate speech and lies don’t deserve First Amendment protection.

    I know this issue and the habits of the absolutists, I know it will be claimed that its too hard for juries and judges and other parts of the government to make those decisions. But that is a lie too, courts are essentially about deciding who is telling the truth, its their business. That they sometimes make the wrong decision has never been taken as a constitutional or even civil libertarian reason for them to cease functioning. I’d guess if Orac was asked to testify as an expert witness in a case he cared about he wouldn’t refuse on the basis that it was too dangerous for a court to make a determination on the facts presented. Lord knows the free speech absolutists are always going to court to have judges make rulings on things, so many of them being lawyers.

    Making free speech the overriding principle in all of these decisions, pretending that reality and the truth about reality isn’t nearly as important is dangerous. It was so the voters and other people could know the truth that the importance of free speech occurred to people in the first place. Even free speech is of secondary importance to the preservation of self-government by an informed electorate because no despotism is going to allow speech that endangers it. Pretending that there is a right to lie about the most important issues the public and the voters need to make decisions about is extremely dangerous as the selling of the invasion of Iraq shows. A population that believes a lie will make disastrous decisions that get a lot of people killed, as genocides and other products of malignant speech prove. I guess that’s a lesson that the fans of this blog refuse to learn. In my experience well off, straight, white men often don’t.

  148. #148 Observer
    June 7, 2010

    Isn’t it rather obvious why there are bans on supporting the argumentys of so-called ‘Holocaust Denial’?

    The official narrative about World War Two couldn’t withstand open scrutiny and fair debate.

    If this myth falls apart, Zionism is in deep trouble.

    Which it is anyway.

    Tribal supremacism: time to get over it.

  149. #149 David N. Brown
    June 7, 2010

    Note to anti-Semitic troll(s),
    World War 2 scholarship, including Holocaust research, does not suffer from a lack of scrutiny and debate. Scrutiny and debate suffer when they are abused to argue absurdities by those with transparently malign agendas.

  150. #150 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Isn’t it obvious why it’s necessary to ban Nazism and fascism and other genocidal ideologies because there will always be people driven by blind bigotry and hatred and there is always a danger of them gaining control of governments and armies and the industrial system and, most dangerous of all, the media and being able to mechanize their murder in exactly the way that the Nazis did and I’m sure that all of the many subsequent genocides aspired to?

    Apparently the lessons of the Holocaust are as in danger as any other difficult to fathom lessons of history and it doesn’t help when comfortable, preening civil libertarians put their abstract principle that free speech is more important than, as seen in the arguments above, everything, denying not only that lesson of history but their actual use of government and, especially, the courts. They prevent a more nuanced and realistic legal culture from forming, one that could deal with the suppression of these malignancies without damaging the healthy and vital aspects of democracy and innocuous speech.

    Than, God there are countries that do learn those lessons. If only the United States could. But it would have to overcome an entrenched myth, one which our own history disproves, and the “more speech” slogans that are obviously delusional and inadequate, as piles of bodies in the past-war period demonstrate with horrific specificity.

  151. #151 Orac
    June 7, 2010

    Isn’t it rather obvious why there are bans on supporting the argumentys
    of so-called ‘Holocaust Denial’?

    The official narrative about World War Two couldn’t withstand open scrutiny and fair debate.

    Well, I was surprised a couple of days ago to note that it took two whole days before the first anti-Semitic Holocaust denier (I know it’s redundant–all Holocaust deniers are anti-Semitic; at least I have never been able to find one that isn’t)). I was also distracted by someone as eager to censor free speech as any totalitarian regime in the name of “protecting society.” In any case, it’s time to note the influx of Holocaust deniers and give them a friendly warning that I have been dealing with their vile ilk for a long time now. There’s no “argument” they can make that I haven’t heard before and recognize as bogus.

  152. #152 Orac
    June 7, 2010

    They prevent a more nuanced and realistic legal culture from forming, one that could deal with the suppression of these malignancies without damaging the healthy and vital aspects of democracy and innocuous speech.

    “Innocuous speech”? Innocuous speech doesn’t need protection. It is speech that challenges that needs protecction. Through is choice of words, Mr. McCarthy reveals his mindset. Only speech that doesn’t represent too much of a challenge to the government (i.e., that is innocuous) is to be permitted in his fantasy world. Anything he finds too offensive must be banned. Holocaust denial is but one example.

    “Innocuous” speech does not lead to a vital democracy.

    Than, God there are countries that do learn those lessons. If only the United States could

    Actually, I”m thankful that the First Amendment keeps censors like you from having your way in the U.S., leaving you railing against it for its stopping you from shutting up speech you find offensive.

  153. #153 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 7, 2010

    I don’t think “Beat the Jew” or sadistic porn or lies about genocide deserve to have legal protection. As the malignant effects of hate speech continue and claim more victims I will continue to point out that hate speech and lies don’t deserve First Amendment protection.

    And when someone else decides they don’t like what you are saying we can look forward to your ability to express your ideas being banned?

  154. #154 Scott
    June 7, 2010

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Anthony is far more dangerous to human rights than any neo-Nazi. Not because what he espouses is as bad, but because he’s got a lot better odds of getting other fools to listen to him. The virtuously misguided are a lot more appealing than the obviously evil.

  155. #155 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Only speech that doesn’t represent too much of a challenge to the government (i.e., that is innocuous) is to be permitted in his fantasy world. Orac

    Who do you think killed all those people in the Holocaust, in the Balkans, in Cambodia, in the various mass murders in Central America, elsewhere in Africa, Asia, etc Apparently you think that constitutes “my fantasy world”.

    I don’t think we need to live under the risk of eternally recurring genocides because a bunch of men in North America who are in no real danger are harbor libertarian paranoid fantasies and a bunch of others strike poses and posture and use every trick in the book to avoid points in refutation of what they say. To the delight of their fans but ranging ever farther from reality in the process.

    I haven’t noticed any genocides or pogroms breaking out in Canada or modern Germany or other places which have banned Holocaust denial, at least not by the governments that are attempting to prevent them. I’m far more worried about that kind of thing happening here, where the big mouths of free speech absolutism are fairly safe from it in their affluent enclaves, mostly in relatively progressive areas.

    Scott, Big dumb, thank you for serving as specimens for today’s demonstration.

    I think that “skepticism” such as the type celebrated here has more than a little to do with Holocaust denial and the neo-Nazi revival. “Skepticism” divorced from honesty, reality and responsibility is about the lowest form of intellectual activity currently having a fan base. It’s fallen so far in the past forty years.

  156. #156 Bronze Dog
    June 7, 2010

    Haven’t read the whole comment thread, but I’m finding Anthony rather disturbing, myself, for all the reasons Orac describes in his comments. I’m willing to make exceptions for incitement to specific violence, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, and so forth. I am not willing to have the government act as a ministry of truth, banning “dangerous” assertions that go against “truths” that move at the slothful pace of law. Science and history are fields that have to remain flexible because we never know what evidence could surface tomorrow. Political and moral philosophy similarly shouldn’t be constrained by law. Right now, if the US were working under Anthony’s apparent philosophy, there’s no doubt in my mind Texas would try to ban my blog for promoting “dangerous” ideas like evolution, atheism, or equal rights for homosexuals.

    As for the nutbars saying that the “official story” can’t withstand scrutiny, hence the “need” for censorship: I fully endorse striking down the censorship laws so that the topic can be freely discussed. I’m nowhere near experienced in the matter, but unfortunately for the deniers, when I do bump into a Holocaust denier, I have yet to see one bring up a point that isn’t quickly refuted by a more experienced skeptic or inherently fallacious. One of the most common fallacies I notice among the deniers: The straw man. If you’re going to challenge the “official story,” you should challenge the “official story,” not some ridiculous notion you made up.

  157. #157 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Bronze dog, you, apparently as orac and most of his readers pretend that questions like genocides, with huge piles of bodies and massive evidence to prove they occurred are always “open questions”. Well, the fact of the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda, the genocidal slaughters of in the Balkans the British extermination of the indigenous population of Tasmania, etc. are as much fact as the absolutely settled fact that species evolved over geological time and the Substitution Principle of Algebra.

    Furthermore you pretend that it’s impossible for governments and courts in a democracy to distinguish between the promotion of mass murder and innocuous or even beneficial speech. Which is such a transparently absurd pose that to believe it would call into question the possibility of self-government. I’ve only called for the banning of lies about genocides and the promotion of Nazism, an ideology whose malignant character is proven by the genocide it produced by applying its stated principles. If you think that courts and the government couldn’t distinguish that from the promotion of egalitarian democracy, how do you think democratic government is possible?

    You know during the period when the Civil rights laws of the 1960s were adopted and for a fair amount of time before the conservatives on the Supreme Court took an axe to them, the media here was under content codes, the fairness doctrine, community service and other restrictions. It was as the conservatives gained control of the courts and started to dismantle progress that the media was also allowed to act without any responsibility. The results are things like virtual impunity for right wing crimes committed by Republican administrations, the Bush II regime imposed on the country and the world and a host of other anti-democratic disasters all aided and abetted by the freest press the country has ever had. You don’t have to take my word for it, look at the press coverage of those events. The Bush II putsch began with his cousin, Ellis, holding up the declaration of the real winner in the 2000 election on FOX and by the time it was a fait acompli, even the NYT and the “responsible” media were telling people they had to go along with it. As they then did the invasion of Iraq and a host of other atrocities.

    That history is what opened my eyes to the dogma of free speech absolutism. That is why I stopped giving money to the ACLU. That is why I stopped being a free speech absolutist and started to think undogmatically about these issues.

    I am quite aware that it goes against the prevailing fashion. I am very familiar with the standards of argument such as the ones on this thread that depend on distorting what is said in order to dispose of pre-packaged stands, which, oddly enough, I didn’t happen to take to start with.

  158. #158 Orac
    June 7, 2010

    I knew it! Anthony wants to suppress far more speech than Holocaust denial. He wants to censor anything he views as “right wing lies.” Thanks, Anthony, for making that explicit.

  159. #159 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Orac @158, be specific. What lies did I mention are insufficiently established so as to require scare quotes?

    Have you ever served as an expert witness in a trial on fairly complex matters of fact in your profession? Would you, on principle, refuse to act as an expert witness because courts and juries aren’t able to make those kinds of decisions? Do you favor no laws that would require courts to make decisions on those kinds of questions?

    Reviewing what you’ve attributed to me above, I have to wonder if that’s how you handled your academic work, didn’t like something, didn’t have a refutation so you changed it to something you could refute?

  160. #160 Orac
    June 7, 2010

    Bad example.

    Courts are actually not that great at establishing matters of science. That’s why I always point out whenever someone touts a court ruling in an argument of science that, as a matter of science, court rulings are meaningless.

  161. #161 Bronze Dog
    June 7, 2010

    Bronze dog, you, apparently as orac and most of his readers pretend that questions like genocides, with huge piles of bodies and massive evidence to prove they occurred are always “open questions”.

    There’s no such thing as a completely closed question because there’s no such thing as certainty… outside of pure mathematics. This is a defining characteristic of the sciences, including history. The existence Holocaust is just a particularly thorough answer that is very, very unlikely to be overturned, which is a lot different than having godlike certainty.

    Of course, the problem with banning Holocaust denial is the followup question: How good does the evidence have to be before the government is allowed to declare it an inviolable holy doctrine?

    Furthermore you pretend that it’s impossible for governments and courts in a democracy to distinguish between the promotion of mass murder and innocuous or even beneficial speech.

    Straw man. Try reading what Orac and I have written.

    I’ve only called for the banning of lies about genocides and the promotion of Nazism, an ideology whose malignant character is proven by the genocide it produced by applying its stated principles.

    The problem is that I haven’t read a good justification for that ban that doesn’t also end up giving dangerous power to the government. I think it sets precedents authoritarians wouldn’t hesitate to use.

    As for all the whining about the wingnuts in the media, I’d rather oppose them through things like grassroots rational inquiry than create a government institution dedicated to spoon feeding us some official stance on what’s true. Of course, one thing you don’t seem to address is the fact that the radical right is advocating essentially the same thing in some fields: Let laws dictate what’s taught in biology classes, rather than international scientific consensus.

    I’m in favor of wide-ranging (but not absolute: I listed exceptions) free speech because it’s anti-authoritarian. What it sounds like you’re in favor of is de facto establishing the government as the authority on truth. The existence of the Holocaust is just a well-established truth you’re using to, knowingly or unknowingly, make way for the banning of future unpopular speech.

    I prefer the eternal vigilance that comes with freedom. I’d want everyone to have the opportunity to make up their own minds about what is true, rather than surrender it to the government because asking questions (even insincere ones by denialists) makes some people uncomfortable.

  162. #162 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Orac, don’t dodge my question. Would you refuse to act as an expert witness in your area of expertise, do you oppose laws that allow or even require expert witnesses to testify in courts because you believe juries and judges can’t handle those cases. Yes or no or even some other answer to the question instead of your side step, a dance I’ve seen you’re not bad at doing.

    And don’t dodge my other question, specifically what “right wing lies,” did I cite that are sufficiently unestablished in fact so as to require scare quotes? Be specific, quote me exactly instead of by way of inaccurate attribution.

    Bronze dog. Go over my comments in this thread. The tread isn’t that long yet. I’m not going to keep restating them as if I haven’t already done so in an entirely convenient manner. I have to warn you that I’m familiar with that refusal as one of the more common dodges on these blogs, as well.

  163. #163 Bronze Dog
    June 7, 2010

    I suppose one way to phrase it: Science and social reform have made their biggest strides because inquiry and curiosity have been allowed to be decentralized in developed nations. I think we should be unwilling to give up that great power. Allowing the government to declare a topic taboo will only encourage authoritarian sectors to find ways to use that as a precedent to suppress dissent.

    I live in Texas, a state that has pretty much declared Joseph McCarthy a hero in history textbooks. Joseph McCarthy, a professional witch hunter who was exposed thanks in part to the free press being allowed to question government dictum. If I recall correctly, there were a number of people associated with him who said that they didn’t believe in free speech for the ever-vaguely defined “Communists,” which was essentially a euphemism for anyone who tried to hold the government to its principles.

  164. #164 Orac
    June 7, 2010

    What it sounds like you’re in favor of is de facto establishing the government as the authority on truth. The existence of the Holocaust is just a well-established truth you’re using to, knowingly or unknowingly, make way for the banning of future unpopular speech.

    As a WWII veteran whose online acquaintance I made back in the late 1990s and who was a fighter pilot in Europe, later saw first hand some of the Nazi camps, in particular Dachau, and later became an opponent of online Holocaust denial, would say: Bingo! Sadly, he died several years ago, but I tend to honor his efforts by stealing his phrases with respect to Holocaust denial.

    In any case, Bronze Dog has described exactly what Anthony appears to be advocating, although Anthony does go to incredible contortions of logic and reason to deny that’s what he wants. Bronze Dog is exactly right. It’s not possible to give the government the power to ban speech like Holocaust denial without ceding a power to the government that is very dangerous to freedom in general. The key difference between people like Bronze Dog and myself and Mr. McCarthy is (1) that we realize this and (2) Mr. McCarthy does not. Mr. McCarthy seems to trust the government to be the final arbiter of what is true and what is not, between what misinformation is so dangerous to democracy that it justifies suppression.

    Bronze Dog and I do not. We also think we have ample reason not to trust the government with such power. So did the Founding Fathers, for that matter, hence the addition to the First Amendment to the original Constitution.

    Ironically, McCarthy’s rants about the lies of the Bush administration used to start the Iraq war argue against the government being allowed to have that power. If Bush, for instance, could completely muzzle the press, then the criticism and resistance to the war would have been even more feeble than they were. In any case, McCarthy seems to think that giving the government the power to differentiate truth from nontruth would be a good thing, but he also seems to assume that that power would be used to counter views he doesn’t like when such an assumption is not a reasonable one at all given recent history. Equally likely is that such power would be used to promote views he doesn’t like.

    We have to remember when giving the government more power that the next President may not be one we like or agree with. Restraining the power of administrations we like protects us in the future against administrations we don’t like. And the election of administrations we don’t like is virtually inevitable.

  165. #165 Bronze Dog
    June 7, 2010

    Free speech is a fundamental bedrock of a free society. It is a fundamental principle that protects the truth from suppression. It does have problems associated with it, but if it is maintained, the reward is freedom from tyranny, including the tyranny of the mob. That’s why the US is a constitutional democracy, and not just a mob with an ever-shifting agenda.

    Holocaust denial is a problem that may last a while, but it is still essentially temporary. Free speech gives us plenty of methods for dealing with it. Putting a crack in free speech for a temporary problem that already has more productive solutions is not acceptable. By making some topics taboo, you encourage your enemies to do the same. You’re taking the prosperity of the nation out of the hands of the strong foundation of the Constitution and putting it in the hands of the ephemeral whims of the mob.

    Democracy is great, but the will of the majority must be balanced with the rights of the minority and the rule of Constitutional law to prevent its overthrow.

  166. #166 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Well, Orac, have you ever testified as an expert witness in court or not. I’m going to have to assume you have or would and will address the discrepancy in your positions on that later, unless you’d like to answer the question in the negative.

    It’s not possible to give the government the power to ban speech like Holocaust denial without ceding a power to the government that is very dangerous to freedom in general. Orac

    It’s no more dangerous than giving the government the power to regulate commercial speech in phony medical treatments. It’s no more dangerous than giving government the power to forbid libel and slander and copyright and trademark violations. What qualitative difference is there that makes the incitement to murder large groups of people or to deny the fact of those historical genocides different from the Canadian laws dealing with hate speech and Holocaust denial? There are none.

    So, you would be all right with someone having written a book called “How to Kill Dr. George Tiller” and giving detailed instructions on how to do it before he was, actually, murdered per the instructions found in anti-choice sources. You would not trust government to stop the publication of that book or to punish it’s production, even after it was used as directed.

    There, more relevant questions for you to dodge and ignore. Though, as I’m never surprised to find in these places, you’ll probably just declare them straw dogs or irrelevant or some other such common dodge of the pseudo-skeptics.

  167. #167 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Courts are actually not that great at establishing matters of science. That’s why I always point out whenever someone touts a court ruling in an argument of science that, as a matter of science, court rulings are meaningless. orac@ 160

    Which sidesteps the questions I posted to you rather clumsily:

    Have you ever served as an expert witness in a trial on fairly complex matters of fact in your profession? Would you, on principle, refuse to act as an expert witness because courts and juries aren’t able to make those kinds of decisions? Do you favor no laws that would require courts to make decisions on those kinds of questions?

    If, as you might indicate in your waffle, you are opposed to scientists and doctors participating as expert witnesses because courts and juries are unable to deal with complex questions in your general area, you would have undermined the defense in the David Irving trial and so could have awarded that Holocaust Denier and active promoter of Nazism the most significant victory that abomination has had since the fall of the Nazis in 1945. You would also seem to call into question the ruling in the Dover case which largely depended on the expert testimony of scientific witnesses on far more complex issues than would be required to prosecute Holocaust denial or the promotion of Genocide.

    In fact, you would severely undermine the testimony of doctors or pathologists in murder and other trials because you would deem juries and judges incompetent to make a legal determination on the basis of expert testimony.

    Of course, if, as I interpret your refusal to answer the question, that you have given expert testimony in court or that, at least, you don’t oppose it, you also undermine your assertion that courts can’t deal with questions as complex as those required to rule in cases of Holocaust denial and promotion of genocide. If you have given such testimony you are clearly in violation of your own beliefs.

    In fact, since the standards in courts are higher, with more safeguards against mistakes and with some recourse to those who might be injured, you’ve undermined the entire use of expert witnesses in government.

  168. #168 Composer99
    June 7, 2010

    Anthony, when your comments begin to resemble those of the poster augustine (please refer to the vaccination threads of this blog), it’s time to take a break.

    Also, may I suggest using blockquote HTML tags to demarcate other people’s text when replying. It’s very hard to read through your posts and make out what you are saying.

  169. #169 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Composer 99, I don’t know who this augustine is and am not responsible for what anyone else says.

    Orac was the one who indicated he wanted to continue, I am only answering his challenge @119. That he keeps making claims that I haven’t answered point when I have and that he and others here keep distorting the clear position I’ve held to, on topic and from the beginning of my participation here @ 62, if you think it’s too much, maybe you should address orac and his fans.

    I think considering the subject matter, including continuing genocides and dangers of genocides, it’s a question that can stand a long blog argument. It is a rather serious issue.

  170. #170 Composer99
    June 7, 2010

    Anthony @169:

    (Please take note of use of blockquotes, so your text is easily distinguished from mine.)

    I don’t know who this augustine is and am not responsible for what anyone else says.

    Kindly cite where I claim that you were responsible for anyone else’s comments. What I wrote was that your posts were lately beginning to resemble augustine’s. Thanks for misinterpreting.

    Orac was the one who indicated he wanted to continue, I am only answering his challenge @119. That he keeps making claims that I haven’t answered point when I have and that he and others here keep distorting the clear position I’ve held to, on topic and from the beginning of my participation here @ 62, if you think it’s too much, maybe you should address orac and his fans.

    Is there something unclear about “it’s time to take a break”? Do you read “give up and go away” instead?

  171. #171 Orac
    June 7, 2010

    Anthony really is becoming the augustine and bensmyson of this issue.

  172. #172 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Orac, would you at least tell us which of the alternatives I present you with @167 represents your position because I’ve thought about what you said @160 and can’t see any alternatives. I’d like to know if you could.

    Of course, if you can’t think of a way out of that unfortunate result of your statement, it could just be an indication that your position is wrong.

    I don’t run away from important arguments on serious topics that involve life and death in the real world as opposed to Star Wars and Dr. Who and similar entertainments.

    I had thought there was more to you than this. Guess I was wrong.

  173. #173 Orac
    June 7, 2010

    Oh, spare me. You’ve dodged several questions of mine, sincerely asked. Until you answer them, I see zero reason to take you seriously or indulge your attempts to distract attention from your having dodged my questions by trying to turn things around and demand answers of me. You’re fooling no one, least of all me.

    In other words, go back and give straight answers to the questions I asked you first and maybe I’ll consider giving you a serious answer.

  174. #174 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    —- Kindly cite where I claim that you were responsible for anyone else’s comments. Composer 99

    I said I didn’t know who augustine was and that I wasn’t responsible for anyone else’s comments. I never said you claimed I was. Did I?

    As to your declaration that “it’s time to take a break”. I can go on as long as it took that “more speech” to catch up with the broadcast speech that incited the Rwandan genocide. Or don’t you think the issue warrants that level of effort?

    Though, as noted above the “more speech” never did catch up did it.

  175. #175 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Orac, what’s the matter? You afraid to answer the consequences of your position? I wonder what your colleagues would make of the exchange we’ve had on that point.

    I wonder if you’ve ever blogged about being an expert witness. If I have time later, I might look.

  176. #176 gaiainc
    June 7, 2010

    From reading through the thread, Mr. McCarthy clearly feels that Holocaust denial and Nazism is so horrible, terrible, thoroughly no-good and completely bad that we must stop speaking of it completely. His reasons are that they incite genocide or are related to genocide or involve genocide. He also seems to believe that many who disagree with him believe that free speech would have halted the genocide in Rwanda or the Balkans or Cambodia or really any where wherein we have excellent evidence of how absolutely terribly humans can and do treat other humans. Mr. McCarthy didn’t mention the Lord’s Army in Africa nor what is happening in the Sudan. He seems to believe that if we ban the talk that was associated with these acts that the acts wouldn’t have happened in the first place. He also seems to equate banning Holocaust denialism with laws against libel, slander, and false advertising.

    Sadly, I am not convinced. The last part has me lost because I do not see the equivalence. Actually, I find that Orac, Scott, and Bronze Dog are more persuasive. I find myself agreeing that Mr. McCarthy is very concerning because what he advocates seems to reasonable and yet could be so easily made to bite one in the butt. Clearly, he will disagree with me on this. So it goes.

    Mr. McCarthy also lost me in regards to expert witnesses, the US courts, and if Orac has ever testified as an expert witness. I do not believe that the courts in the US are designed to find The Truth. It is an adversarial system which may help some truth come out and probably help more often than not. Even then I think it depends on the case. However, given the technicalities, the known wrongful convictions, and the ability of deep pockets to prolong court cases, I’m not convinced that the answer is there. Regretfully, I don’t know if I have better system to propose.

    I’m definitely not convinced that not talking about or banning speech about something will make it disappear. I want to know who the Nazis, the anti-semites, the bigots, the Holocaust deniers, etc so that I can ridicule them when I see them and teach my child why that thinking is wrong. I want to be able to do what a group of high school students did around here when Phelps and his ilk tried to protest something or other, so they protested right back with signs that mocked their signs, and in general ridiculing them so the protest stopped after 15 minutes. I also do not believe that my handing the government the right to ban speech would be prudent. Yes, I do think that some types of talk should not be legal (libel, slander, yelling “fire” in a crowded theater), but beyond that, fundamentally, I still believe that I’m better off hearing what I don’t want to hear than chance that someone in power will decide what I want to say should be banned.

  177. #177 Orac
    June 7, 2010

    Orac, what’s the matter? You afraid to answer the consequences of your position? I wonder what your colleagues would make of the exchange we’ve had on that point.

    I rather expect that they’d wonder why I’ve wasted so much time arguing with someone as unreasonable, clueless, and perseverating as you are on this issue. They’d have a point.

  178. #178 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    Yeah, when you can be paling around with Big Dumb Chimp and Scott and the rest of your fans providing endless hours of mutual self-reinforcement.

    Hey, it’s your time and your blog. You want to tell me to stop, go right ahead. But don’t complain when I stay on the topic that you chose to write about instead of getting dragged off of it by you and your pals.

  179. #179 Anthony McCarthy
    June 7, 2010

    gaiainc, Well, try googling a list of countries where Holocaust denial is illegal, most of the places on the list were countries with the most expertise gained through the experience of it. So I guess they figure they know something that American libertarians don’t.

  180. #180 closetpuritan
    June 7, 2010

    Andrew McCarthy: Do you think that laws against Holocaust denial would have prevented the Rwandan genocide? Do you think that the people of Rwanda would have been in the mood to pass their anti-promoting-genocide laws during the time when it seemed likely that a genocide would occur?

    I’m not sure why you think the laws you’re advocating will help. Knowledge of the Armenian genocide’s occurrence–and the international community’s inaction–emboldened the Nazis. They weren’t Armenian-genocide-deniers.

    The genocides and mass murders since World War II were not, in my understanding, perpetrated by neo-Nazis. Even if you assume that restricting free speech will meaningfully decrease the likelihood of future mass murders (an assumption I don’t agree with), it’s not going to be very effective if its effect is limited to mass murders perpetrated by neo-Nazis.

    Now, you’ve said at times that you think that any speech that advocates mass murder should be illegal, not just Holocaust-denying speech. People have pointed out that Holocaust-denying is not the same as directly advocating violence. So, if there is danger in speech that does not actually advocate mass murder, how will you catch such speech before it actually does lead to mass murder? Should we be locking up James Watson for basically saying that blacks are inferior, because such opinions could potentially lead to the murder of blacks? And if it got to the point where reasonable people would predict that we’re in danger of mass murder, do you honestly think there will be political support to pass the kind of laws you advocate? In other words, if it was looking like maybe we’d, say, round up and kill all the Muslims in the U.S. (or more likely, all the people who we thought looked like Muslims), do you think we’d be able to pass a law against claiming that Muslims don’t believe in Jesus or that FGM is specifically advocated in the Koran? In such a climate, we’d be much more likely to pass laws making it a crime to deny that the 9/11 attacks were perpetrated solely by Muslim terrorists.

    I’m also not sure why you think that people arguing against you are safe from any future genocides/mass murders. (Or is it why you think that we think that we’re safe?) The persecuted group can vary quite a bit from mass murder to mass murder; there’s no way to be certain which group will be targeted next. (An interesting book that speculates on what form this could take in the U.S.: American Fascists.)

  181. #181 David N. Brown
    June 8, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy,
    I am willing to take a firmer line against certain forms of speech (Holocaust denial, “anti-vax” propaganda, etc.) than others commenting here, but I don’t think direct legislation is warranted against Holocaust deniers. As “gaianic” says, other means are at hand to oppose such abuses of “free speech”. Also, I have been aware of Holocaust denial since the 1990s. It seems to me that, in that time, their profile (at least in Anglo-American media) has only dropped. First Holocaust survivors and legitimate scholars mobilized against them, then academia in general an increasingly hard line against engaging them even for the purpose of “debate”, and finally the media got to the point of either condemning or simply ignoring them. Passing a law against it now strikes me as taking a howitzer to a dead horse.

  182. #182 Matthew
    June 8, 2010

    Actually, I wonder if Anthony is a Poe, based on his repeated invoking of Rwanda’s genocide ideology law.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE65653U20100607

    I’m not deeply familiar with Rwandan politics, so I want to make it clear I’m refraining from judgment on this particular case, however, this law certainly seems to raise all the problems that commentators here have observed about such laws in general. Problems that Anthony has seen fit to dismiss or ignore.

  183. #183 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    closetpuritan, I’m unaware of any public Holocaust deniers who aren’t antisemitic, who aren’t Nazi apologists or who aren’t reasonably concluded to be at least fascists. I challenged orac and Scott to come up with the names of people like that and after a number of requests that they produce their purported “enlightened” Holocaust deniers, they seem to have come up empty.

    The little I recall about what Hitler might have said about the Armenian genocide was that it was forgotten, it was the little regard that it was given that emboldened him. If those who committed it had been punished or their act universally condemned and they had been held in contempt for it I doubt the Nazis would been encouraged.

    The Holocaust denial that I’ve read about or heard is peculiarly an antisemitic manifestation, to some extent it is the widespread dispersal of antisemitism and the virulence of that form of bigotry that makes it an international phenomenon. There is widespread hatred of the indigenous people of the Americas by European Americans and some of the genocidal mass murders in American countries have been against them on that basis, explicitly stated on the part of some of the participants. “The only good Indian is a dead Indian,” is one of the more infamous phrases ever attributed to an American military man. You can certainly come up with a similar pattern of hatred for all Africans.

    While I have never been a fan of James Watson, as far as I know he has never advocated mass murder. I don’t understand what he has to do with the issue of advocating genocide or its promotion through the denial of history.

    Your bringing up hatred of Muslims is, actually, relevant. Given the widespread hatred of Muslims, to the extent where many people who believed themselves as the keepers of the flame of rationality and science in the United States and other English speaking countries have advocated killing many millions of Muslims in nuclear first strikes, or, at least, rationalizing that position. Often denying it had been made. Though that would tend to get us off topic.

    I am fairly confident that most of the affluent, straight, white, men in North America are safe from being targeted for mass slaughter on the basis of their identity. Women are the target of hate crimes daily in the United States and elsewhere, largely due to their being women, often without regard to their ethnicity.

    David N. Brown, apparently the people in the countries which were under Nazi occupation don’t generally conclude that Holocaust denial is as innocuous as you conclude it is. I tend to think their histories inform them on the topic in a way that the English speaking countries and others which weren’t occupied might not. Canada is a rare instance of enlightenment on that issue among English speaking countries, I’m glad they are.

    Matthew, I don’t know what you mean by a Poe any more than I did others referencing an augustine or a bensmyson. I suspect that some of the participants in this thread might just be superficial and far less than honest. About the story you linked to, you do know that a number of Nazis who were prosecuted didn’t like the legal standards that brought them to justice either. Sixteen years after the genocide and from what I’ve read about the history up to and after that, I can certainly understand Rwanda being uneasy that the same thing could happen again, very easily.

    I have to say that I’d never made the connection between Holocaust denial and what Marcello Truzzi called pseudo-skepticism before participating in this thread but I don’t think the two things are unrelated now. They some obvious similarities. Dishonesty and dishonest argument on the basis of ridicule instead of evidence and reason high on that list.

  184. #184 Orac
    June 8, 2010

    re: Rwanda’s genocide law

    The key phrase from the article:

    International and Rwandan rights groups say the country’s anti-genocide legislation is vague and frequently used by the government to silence dissent.

    Which is pretty much how all these sorts of laws end up working in practice, rather than in McCarthy’s naive theory: To squelch dissent.

    If you want another example of the free speech-crushing silliness such laws almost inevitably result in, check out how the laws against showing Nazi symbols trapped an anti-Nazi protester using them to oppose Nazi-ism:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2006/10/another_reason_why_bans_on_symbols_lead_1.php

    True, the judge eventually ruled that the protester had every right to use the Nazi symbols that way, but in the meantime he was dragged through the courts and fined and had to appeal:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2007/03/maybe_theres_hope_for_common_sense_about.php

  185. #185 Todd W.
    June 8, 2010

    Perhaps the best way to resolve this discussion is to ask Mr. McCarthy:

    Please provide to us the language you would propose for such legislation.

    That way, we can evaluate the quality of your proposal and see whether or not there is room for abuse.

  186. #186 chad
    June 8, 2010

    gay

  187. #187 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    —- Which is pretty much how all these sorts of laws end up working in practice, rather than in McCarthy’s naive theory: To squelch dissent. orac

    Where in Europe have they been used this way? Or Canda?

    And, I’ll point out, the facts of the case against the lawyer haven’t been made in court. For all you know, he did violate the law or he might be acquitted of the charges.

    You do realize that Rwanda has been under active attack from the remnants of the forces that instigated the genocide, don’t you? And that those forces are comprised of Hutus. And that they’re based in Congo, terrorizing people in both countries. And that Victoire Ingabire has been accused of trying to use ethnic tensions in her campaign. You do know about that, don’t you?

    As for Rwanda’s politics, they’re the product of its history and in those terms Kigale’s government has been unusually good. I never claimed Rwanda was perfect, their gay rights situation, though pretty good for most of the continent, certainly isn’t wonderful. But they’re entirely justified in suppressing ethnic hatred that has led to one genocide attempt and another one always a threat.

    American’s having the same experience wouldn’t do much better. Look at what they did in response to 9-11.

  188. #188 Orac
    June 8, 2010

    American’s having the same experience wouldn’t do much better. Look at what they did in response to 9-11.

    Precisely my point. If the government had the power to determine what is “true” and “untrue,” after an event like 9/11 it would be able to shut down any criticism of its actions or policies with the force of actual law. There would be little to prevent it from turning into a de facto authoritarian regime. In fact, it is especially after events like 9/11 and in the run-up to the war in Iraq that we need free speech more than ever.

    BTW, Ed Brayton agrees with me:

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2010/06/the_holocaust_denial_exception.php

    An excerpt that I particularly like:

    Making an exception for Holocaust denial sets a precedent that will then be used to justify outlawing other false historical claims. Once that exception is passed, how could one make a principled argument against outlawing denial of Stalin’s crimes? After all, he killed more than twice as many people as Hitler did. Or the crimes of Pol Pot. Or Milosevic.

    Or — and here is an interesting hypothetical — how about the crimes of the United States, which has been responsible for its own fair share of genocide (and if you don’t believe me, ask the Cambodians or the Vietnamese)? Or the crimes of the KKK? Or how about those who downplay the horrors of slavery in America?

    Yes, why should Holocaust denial be a crime and not denying what the U.S. did as far as slavery goes or its driving the indigenous tribes that were here before us from their land as it expanded westward? Or should they all be crimes? If there is a difference, then what is the difference?

  189. #189 closetpuritan
    June 8, 2010

    James Watson:
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/fury-at-dna-pioneers-theory-africans-are-less-intelligent-than-westerners-394898.html
    My point is, he’s saying that blacks are less intelligent, which has been used to justify slavery (which, in my opinion, is just as bad as mass murder). Should we put him in jail for this statement? I don’t think you can justify making Holocaust denial a crime but not making statements about blacks’ inferiority a crime.

    Yes, the Muslim thing is relevant. So: do you seriously think that in a climate where some have advocated nuking Iran (or, before we invaded, nuking Afghanistan) we would be able to pass laws against making false claims about Muslims? Seriously? That’s my point: any time when the sentiment is universally against that kind of speech, we won’t need those kind of laws. Any time we do need those kind of laws, that will be exactly the time that they won’t be passed or will be overturned.

    My point about the white straight males was not that they would be targeted for being white straight males, but that even if we’re all white, straight males, you don’t know what other “minority” group we might belong to–and you’re assuming a lot to assume that we’re all white, straight males. I’m not male, and I’m not comfortable assuming that everyone else here except you is white and straight. I think there are a lot of non-Christians commenting here, and that seems about as likely a target as gays or any racial/ethnic group for a North American mass murder. Jews and Muslims can be white, straight males, after all, and they’ve both been targeted by genocide.

  190. #190 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    — Precisely my point. If the government had the power to determine what is “true” and “untrue,” after an event like 9/11 it would be able to shut down any criticism of its actions or policies with the force of actual law. orac

    You keep shifting this argument all over the place while I’ve been trying to keep on your original topic of laws banning Holocaust denial and – as I maintain it’s impossible to honestly ignore – the promotion of future genocides and, specifically, Nazism.

    However, if you want to get back to the point about governments, specifically the judicial branch, making determinations about truth and lies, they do it all the time. That’s what they do. Whenever there is a presentation of facts and the denial of those facts it is necessary to decide who might be telling the truth. If there is a question about lying under oath, the government decides that question. The Dover trial could never have taken place without the government deciding that the school board misrepresented the ID curriculum and the nature of that. The vaccine cases that you’ve written about so often are an example of deciding truth, the licensing for use of vaccines involves decisions about the truth of submissions to the government. I don’t think any of us would like a system where the government is not making those decisions. If you stop to consider it. And the questions of Holocaust denial and the promotion of Nazism and genocide are far less complex questions than those.

    I have noticed you don’t seem to object to the use of expert witnesses in trials and hearings.

    I didn’t make an exception for the Holocaust, if you read the link to the post I did on Williamson I linked to above, you’ll see that I never have made an exception of the Holocaust but have always considered it to be part of a pattern of genocidal crimes that continue. So I don’t know why you’re bringing up something I have not done from the beginning of my comments on this thread.

  191. #191 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    I forgot, do all of you guys think it’s wrong for Holocaust denial to be a crime in Israel? I’d really be interested in hearing your criticism of their laws on these topics.

  192. #192 Todd W.
    June 8, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    Please provide to us the language you would propose for legislation banning Holocaust denial.

  193. #193 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    —- My point is, he’s saying that blacks are less intelligent, which has been used to justify slavery (which, in my opinion, is just as bad as mass murder). Should we put him in jail for this statement? closetpuritan

    He didn’t call for the mass murder of black people did he? I’m unaware of his doing that.

    He also has indicated he doesn’t think too highly of women, apparently Rosalind Franklin included, though he’d probably be an obscure figure if he hadn’t obtained her work under shady circumstances. I’ve thought Watson was contemptible since he wrote that book in the 1960s where he disparaged her but, as I had to point out in my third comment here @75, I’m talking about dangerous speech, not speech I find offensive.

  194. #194 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    Todd W. I’m not a lawyer or a legislator. I couldn’t give you precise language for laws that govern the licensing of vaccines or the inspection of meat either. Can you? Can orac?

  195. #195 Todd W.
    June 8, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    Whether you are a lawyer or not, you can still propose what you think might cover it. If you put it out for comment, then the weaknesses can be found and you can then revise your proposition. Every revision would make it more sound.

    As to vaccine regulation or meat inspection, I could come up with at least preliminary regulatory language. Certainly nothing that would stand up in a courtroom or pass in Congress, but then, I wasn’t asking for that level of detail or precision. (Oh, and Federal laws really are not particularly precise. They need to be more general to take into account unforeseen circumstances that should be covered.)

    You are very critical of allowing Holocaust denial, yet you do not offer clear criteria by which to define what is and is not appropriate for banning. You suggest “dangerous” language, but do not define what that means in a more concrete sense. You do not state who makes that determination. You do not state how they go about making that determination.

    So, again, I’ll ask: what would you propose as language for such legislation? I’m not asking for a legal tract, but your best stab.

  196. #196 Scott
    June 8, 2010

    Todd,

    Given that he’s completely incapable of addressing a simple hypothetical, no chance he’s going to be willing to even make an attempt. The reason is pretty clear, I think – he hasn’t actually thought about it and doesn’t really have any solid understanding of the position he’s advocating. It’s completely emotional “I feel like this ought to be the way things work” without any thought involved. Which may also account for why he doesn’t see the glaring problems and why such laws actually make genocide *more* of a risk…

  197. #197 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    Scott, I prefer to deal in reality and not the infinite variety of hypothetical fantasies that people are able to dream up when they have nothing better to bring to the argument. Unless orac wants this thread to be of infinite length, I’d prefer to deal in the real.

    So, where are those enlightened Holocaust deniers I said I’d like to look at before answering your questions about them?

    No one willing to tell us why Israel’s laws outlawing Holocaust denial are just terrible? Why not? Those aren’t hypothetical. I believe you can find them online, in English.

    Todd, I answered you that I wasn’t going to pretend to be a lawyer of legislator. That doesn’t make my position any less legitimate than orac’s or your or anyone else’s position on vaccine approval or any other law you favor but which you would not be able to write.

    I would favor the denial of the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the known massacres in the Balkans, Central America, Cambodia, etc. being illegal and I would favor an outright ban on Nazism, Stalinism, Khmer Rouge, or any other group which is guilty of mass murder. You do know that there are a number of groups that are effectively banned now due to their ties to murder and terrorism. That the Bush II regime abused that doesn’t make it less legitimate.

  198. #198 Todd W.
    June 8, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    I answered you that I wasn’t going to pretend to be a lawyer of legislator.

    Okay, don’t pretend to be one. Would you, instead, provide a definition of what criteria should be used, who decides the criteria and how they decide what fits those criteria?

  199. #199 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 8, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy:

    —- Which is pretty much how all these sorts of laws end up working in practice, rather than in McCarthy’s naive theory: To squelch dissent. orac

    Where in Europe have they been used this way? Or Canda? (sic)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Human_Rights_Commission_free_speech_controversies

  200. #200 Scott
    June 8, 2010

    No one willing to tell us why Israel’s laws outlawing Holocaust denial are just terrible? Why not? Those aren’t hypothetical. I believe you can find them online, in English.

    I’ll go farther and say that ALL laws outlawing Holocaust denial are unjust and ought to be repealed.

    Now, are you actually going to attempt some kind of meaningful response to ANY of the repeated reasonable (indeed critical) questions you’ve been asked?

    And just to be crystal-clear:

    So, where are those enlightened Holocaust deniers I said I’d like to look at before answering your questions about them?

    Unless you can answer the hypothetical, then the only position you can be taking is “anything I don’t like should be banned.” You MUST be able to answer such questions to have ANY meaningful position.

  201. #201 David N. Brown
    June 8, 2010

    McCarthy@183,
    I would not presume to compare the problems posed by holocaust denial in the US with those in Germany, etc. But, even a national-level ban leaves room for local discretion and flexibility, which I think would not be the case if the UN or EU delivered a ruling on the issue.

    You mention the Balkan genocides; I think this is a good example of how “denial bans” could easily go too far. I consider myself a “skilled amateur” in Balkans scholarship. (My research forms the basis for my “Exotroopers” series.) In some cases, particularly the utterly mind-boggling Ustasha attrocities, I have suspected consensus scholarship of erring on the low side. But, I still respect the professionals, and I certainly would not wish to have the Serbian or any other government intervening on “my” side.

    I think the most fundamental issue is whether it is better for the government to act rather than private citizens. I would say no. Waiting for the government to act to ban an odious idea strikes me as too close to “good men doing nothing”.

  202. #202 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    T. Bruce McNeely, you don’t think there would be a similar article of controversies around the American First Amendment? Because, if anything, it’s a longer and more twisted history. Now that the Republican-right on the Supreme Courts have handed our election system to the highest bidder and both domestic and foreign corporations all hell’s going to break loose.

    Brown, I can call you “Brown” can’t I? You think I don’t know that there are piles of bodies on several sides in the Balkans? I’ve read a fair amount about it over the years. You know, I remember when I was sitting in eighth grade and having my teacher say that when Tito went that it was going to explode and there would be blood shed that could involve all of Europe and the Soviet Union (it was in the mid 60s). I don’t think most places would require a strong man to keep the lid on ethnic hatred but if you allow it to be freely vented, as it was after Tito did die and the subsequent government couldn’t keep a lid on it or hold it together and all that wonderful free speech, including all that freely expressed hate speech, broke out, all hell broke loose and the bodies started piling up and the war on women and children commenced.

    You were saying?

    Scott, go and lecture Israel that they should allow Holocaust denial in that country and neo-Nazism and let me know what they say.

    Do you ever listen to yourself?

  203. #203 Scott
    June 8, 2010

    A position being unpopular doesn’t mean that it isn’t morally proper. Or vice versa.

  204. #204 W. Kevin Vicklund
    June 8, 2010

    Scott, go and lecture Israel that they should allow Holocaust denial in that country and neo-Nazism and let me know what they say.

    Fatwa envy!

  205. #205 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 8, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy:

    Did you read the article I linked to? It brings up multiple cases where the Canadian HRC is used by various parties to squelch dissent, something you imply has not happened in Canada.

    I can’t figure out what your reply has to do with this.

  206. #206 Matthew
    June 8, 2010

    Anthony,

    You’re an adult, I’m sure you can use google to find the definition of Poe.

    [you do know that a number of Nazis who were prosecuted didn’t like the legal standards that brought them to justice either.]

    Comparing Erlinger to a Nazi is beyond ridiculous. Apparently, he is being charged for his court work as a lawyer defending accused war criminals. If this is indeed the case, it’s an incredibly broad anti-speech law.

    From what I’ve read, his defense did not deny the genocide, but rather attributed a portion of the blame to members of the current government, further reinforcing that this is an attempt to quell criticism rather than preserve history.

    [Victoire Ingabire has been accused of trying to use ethnic tensions in her campaign. You do know about that, don’t you? ]

    She’s been charged with genocide denial, not “using ethnic tensions” It seems the definition of denial is getting broader by the moment. This is exactly what critics of the Rwandan legislation feared; that an ambiguously worded law could be used by the government to squash rivals.

    [You do realize that Rwanda has been under active attack from the remnants of the forces that instigated the genocide, don’t you? And that those forces are comprised of Hutus. And that they’re based in Congo, terrorizing people in both countries.]

    That you are presenting this without any qualifiers indicates you’re being dishonest. There have been a number of military actions by Rwanda into Congo, however, the most recent ones appear to be more about securing mineral wealth under the guise of fighting the Hutu remnants.

    [I never claimed Rwanda was perfect, their gay rights situation, though pretty good for most of the continent, certainly isn’t wonderful.]

    Again, you seem to be omitting a great deal. Rwanda has recently considered legislation modeled after the infamous Uganda Bill. I don’t believe its gone anywhere but it’s been common knowledge for even a casual observer of Gay Rights. I believe the punishment proposed was a 5-10 year prison term for those convicted of same sex relationships.
    And this is a government you would trust to determine the limits of freedom of speech? Ouch.

    [But they’re entirely justified in suppressing ethnic hatred that has led to one genocide attempt and another one always a threat]

    The question is, are they justifiably suppressing ethnic hatred, or are they using a perpetual threat to maintain power? From what is known, the latter certainly seems a valid possibility. Yet you won’t even acknowledge the possibility. Instead, you’ve held up Rwanda’s law as an example several times.

  207. #207 David N. Brown
    June 8, 2010

    McCarthy@202,
    The carnage of the Balkans in the 1990s wasn’t simply the product of “venting”, it was the result of the intentional poicies of Milosevic (also Tudeman). This included sponsoring hate speech against Croatians and Muslims. Obviously, he would simply have dispensed with any laws that opposed these activities.

  208. #208 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    Brown, Milosevic’s and the other nationalists – on the several sides — rise to power was entirely unrelated to the propaganda and lies they put out? Their hate speech, their speeches playing on resentments and hatred and fear and suspicion, not responsible for the events that followed? Were the ethnic murders some kind of spontaneous event unrelated to that? Gee, while I didn’t understand the language, I seem to recall some pretty hair raising translations of some of those.

    As to what’s online about the Balkans, there is so much propaganda garbage to wade through that you’ve got to be really, really careful. It’s almost like the Wiki articles related to the interests of organized skeptics, of risky unreliability.

    — She’s been charged with genocide denial, not “using ethnic tensions” Matthew

    What I’ve read of Victoire Ingabire’s history leads me to conclude that the people who suspect her of being interested in using Hutu ethnicity as a means of gaining power are afraid of the consequences, with some reason. Her speech at the memorial to the Tutsis slaughtered in the genocide apparently was seen as an indication that she was going that way. I can understand how people in Rwanda might be nervous about anything other than an ethnically neutral political movement.

    — There have been a number of military actions by Rwanda into Congo, however, the most recent ones appear to be more about securing mineral wealth under the guise of fighting the Hutu remnants. Matthew

    First, if you’re using those accusations as an attack on Rwanda’s anti-hate speech and genocide denial laws as opposed to American style “free speech”, the United States has been plundering countries in Africa and Latin America and Asia for virtually its entire history. Using the Congo that way is especially ridiculous, considering it was the United States that murdered Patrice Lumumba and installed Mobutu, largely for the purpose of getting hold of mineral resources and near slave labor.

    I’m really interested in the nature of the even handedness in that line of reasoning. If those charges against Rwanda are true, they are as true for most of the countries around the Congo and many in Europe and the United States, though the history of the United States involvement in Congo is especially bad.

    Second, the remnants of the same Hutu gangs involved in the Rwandan genocide are in Congo and have terrorized and murdered people in both Congo and Rwanda. You haven’t denied that, have you? And they pose a threat to the same people they targeted in 1994.

    I said that the situation of gay people in Rwanda wasn’t wonderful. As you said the bill appears to be going nowhere, as I recall gay relationships aren’t illegal. They are in large parts of Africa.

    Is this your argument for hate speech and genocide denial? Because I’m really having a hard time taking this seriously, as someone who is quite use to American demagogues railing against me and other glbt folks, calling for our deaths and eternal damnation, often at the funerals of members of the military, entirely unrelated to the focus of their publicity stunts, aided and abetted by the courts and the free speech professionals in the name of free speech. Your free speech absolutism is probably the greatest boon for anti-gay invective in the English speaking world, today.

  209. #209 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    203

    A position being unpopular doesn’t mean that it isn’t morally proper. Or vice versa.

    Posted by: Scott

    But that sort of contradicts what orac said to me @119, doesn’t it? The one in which he crowed about no one supporting the position I was taking here.

    Or does that just count for your side.

    No, I’m serious. Go lecture the Israelis about how they should allow Holocaust denial and neo-Nazis in their country. Give them the benefit of your wisdom on that issue. I’d love to know if they manage to come up with some points in refutation. I can imagine how they might want to risk the equivalent of the Phelps spectacles at Yad Vashem under American style “free speech-Free expression” as interpreted by the Supreme Court in agreement with the free speech industry here.

    Then you can go Bosnia and Rwanda and give them the same lecture. I’m sure your standing up for the rights of Nazis will go over big all over Europe too, Serbia especially.

  210. #210 closetpuritan
    June 8, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy: You can see the connection between Holocaust denial and mass murder, but you can’t see the connection between saying blacks are intellectually inferior and slavery? No, Watson didn’t advocate mass murder. Not all Holocaust deniers advocate mass murder, either. In fact, it seems like it would be hard to find one who would admit they’re in favor of mass murder (whatever they may think privately) if they are denying mass murder to make their cause more palatable. So if you’re going to use “advocating mass murder” as your criteria to limit speech, Holocaust denial won’t automatically be banned. (I’m not sure why you’re going on about Watson and women. To make sure no one thinks you’re defending him in general?)

    How come you’re bringing up Israeli reaction to suggested repeal of Holocaust-denying laws? This seems like an argument of, “People get mad if you say this; therefore you shouldn’t be allowed to say it.” That is not at all relevant to the argument you’ve presented previously that is purely about the potential to encourage mass murder, not about hurt feelings, and I don’t think you’re making the hurt-feelings argument honestly. How is it different from saying that Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie are upsetting Muslims, so they shouldn’t be allowed to publish? Does the likely outcry in the U.S. over infringement of free speech, if Holocaust-denying laws were attempted here, “prove” that we’re right not to have such laws in the U.S., even as the Israeli reaction “proves” that they’re the right laws for Israel?

    Why haven’t you addressed the fact that when laws against hate speech linked to mass murder would be most relevant, they’d be most likely cast aside/never enacted? It seems clear you have no answer to that.

  211. #211 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    —- You can see the connection between Holocaust denial and mass murder, but you can’t see the connection between saying blacks are intellectually inferior and slavery? closetpuritan

    Of course I can, just about all of the homicidal racists believe that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. But as I pointed out, and as you admit, Watson didn’t call for the mass murder of black people.

    —- No, Watson didn’t advocate mass murder. closetpuritan

    I pointed out that Watson apparently doesn’t think women are as smart as men, many men don’t. However you can be a bigot of that kind and not favor the mass murder of black people or women. People in general don’t favor the murder or people who are held to be less intelligent than themselves, perhaps because they’re just smart enough to realize there are people smarter than they are and they don’t want to give those people ideas.

    —- Not all Holocaust deniers advocate mass murder, either. closetpuritan

    Who, specifically, by name, do you mean.

    I believe that all Holocaust deniers are, at bottom, pro-killing. Or maybe I should say virtually all of them, though I really doubt that reservation. And, as seen in the entirely disreputable and creepy Fred Leuchter, you don’t have to admit your purpose in order to be useful to others.

    — How come you’re bringing up Israeli reaction to suggested repeal of Holocaust-denying laws? closetpuritan

    Israel has laws banning Holocaust denial and neo-Nazism, as well as a ban on the denial of crimes against humanity. Other than that, the reason I brought up Israel is obvious.

    — How is it different from saying that Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie are upsetting Muslims, so they shouldn’t be allowed to publish? closetpuritan

    Neither Rushdie nor AHA have supported mass murder, have they? Though I did question AHA’s association with Sam Harris, wondering how women in countries that would be the targets of nuclear first strikes would think about that association.

    — Why haven’t you addressed the fact that when laws against hate speech linked to mass murder would be most relevant, they’d be most likely cast aside/never enacted? It seems clear you have no answer to that. closetpuritan

    You can say the same thing about any law. People who break laws don’t tend to follow laws. I think this is one of the oddest arguments anyone has ever made in this fight.

  212. #212 Orac
    June 8, 2010

    – Not all Holocaust deniers advocate mass murder, either. closetpuritan

    Who, specifically, by name, do you mean.

    I can’t speak for closetpuritan, but I can point out that David Irving, arguably the most famous Holocaust denier there is, does not advocate mass murder, as detestable as he is. What he does try to do is to play the “moral equivalency” gambit and argue that the Allied bombing of German cities was every bit as evil as what Hitler did to the Jews.

    Also, Ernst Zundel, as far as I know doesn’t advocate mass murder. Neither does Mark Weber.

  213. #213 Anthony McCarthy
    June 8, 2010

    Or, I’m certain that David Irving, who has tried to pass himself off as a credible historian in Britain wouldn’t come out and admit his reasons for trying to falsify history. The Nazis tried to cover it up as they were doing it.

    Ernst Zundel, see above.

    I don’t believe much of anything that either of them say. You know that some reporter in Canada found out that Zundel’s maternal grandfather ( as I recall ) was Jewish.

    I really don’t think this thread is going any new places that are any different from where it’s been. I could probably keep this up indefinitely but no one’s come up with any refutation that sticks. There is no rational reason that genocide denial and the advocacy for mass murder should be allowed. It should be banned, it can safely be banned and there is a moral duty to suppress them both.

  214. #214 closetpuritan
    June 8, 2010

    — Why haven’t you addressed the fact that when laws against hate speech linked to mass murder would be most relevant, they’d be most likely cast aside/never enacted? It seems clear you have no answer to that. closetpuritan

    You can say the same thing about any law. People who break laws don’t tend to follow laws. I think this is one of the oddest arguments anyone has ever made in this fight.

    Uh, no, you CAN’T say the same thing about any law. This isn’t merely that people who break laws don’t follow laws–individuals don’t have the power to repeal laws, or not pass them in the first place. The government can repeal laws, and in order for murder to take place on a mass scale, there would have to be enough support for it in the populace to make it near-impossible to pass such a law, and most likely also enough support to repeal such a law if it were already in place.

    —- You can see the connection between Holocaust denial and mass murder, but you can’t see the connection between saying blacks are intellectually inferior and slavery? closetpuritan

    Of course I can, just about all of the homicidal racists believe that black people are intellectually inferior to white people. But as I pointed out, and as you admit, Watson didn’t call for the mass murder of black people.

    So even when such thinking has been connected to a crime akin to mass murder–slavery–it doesn’t count unless that person has specifically advocated mass murder–UNLESS they’re denying the Holocaust, then they DON’T have to specifically advocate mass murder. You claim that even when Holocaust-deniers don’t advocate mass murder, you KNOW that they support mass murder–how come you don’t KNOW that about people who claim blacks are inferior?

    —- No, Watson didn’t advocate mass murder. closetpuritan

    I pointed out that Watson apparently doesn’t think women are as smart as men, many men don’t. However you can be a bigot of that kind and not favor the mass murder of black people or women.

    I’m still not sure WHY you’re pointing it out. Do you think it’s a “gotcha” because I only brought up how his views could be used against blacks and not how they could be used against women? (I chose to use the one about blacks rather than the one about women because it was a big news story–and because although one can imagine a Handmaid’s Tale-type scenario, one can’t easily imagine men wiping out women, for obvious self-interested reasons. These are less applicable in the case of black people.)

    — How come you’re bringing up Israeli reaction to suggested repeal of Holocaust-denying laws? closetpuritan

    Israel has laws banning Holocaust denial and neo-Nazism, as well as a ban on the denial of crimes against humanity. Other than that, the reason I brought up Israel is obvious.

    So basically, the reason I described: you don’t really believe that people’s emotions are a good reason to ban speech, but you’re using the argument anyway. Presumably because you think it makes a good appeal to emotion. But then we get into the problem of saying that only some people’s emotional distress counts, and the government gets to decide whose.

  215. #215 Orac
    June 8, 2010

    Or, I’m certain that David Irving, who has tried to pass himself off as a credible historian in Britain wouldn’t come out and admit his reasons for trying to falsify history. The Nazis tried to cover it up as they were doing it.

    Sure he would, and he has, at least inadvertently. He’s made multiple statements over the years about how he doesn’t like Jews and admires Hitler. He has not, to my knowledge, made either inadvertently or knowingly a statement advocating mass murder. I bet you can’t find such a statement, either, because it doesn’t exist.

    As for Ernst Zundel, you’ve posted nothing that demonstrates he advocates mass murder.

    I also notice you haven’t refuted my comment about Mark Weber at all. Do you even know who Mark Weber is? I’ll add a couple of more vile Holocaust deniers who do not, to my knowledge, advocate mass murder: Bradley Smith and Michael Hoffman.

  216. #216 closetpuritan
    June 8, 2010

    Also, regarding government deciding what’s true “all the time”: Yes, there are situations where gov’t decides what’s true, and it often goes in directions I don’t like (climate change research under the Bush administration, the many trials that are decided incorrectly). What IS unprecedented is punishing people for making claims that the government has decided are false.

  217. #217 Matthew
    June 9, 2010

    [There is no rational reason that genocide denial and the advocacy for mass murder should be allowed. It should be banned, it can safely be banned and there is a moral duty to suppress them both. ]

    The reasons for not suppressing freedom of speech, as opposed to incitement to violence, have been give repeatedly; among them, that such bans can be easily misused to stifle speech far removed from the original intent.

    It appears the Rwandan genocide law is fulfilling this very fear; that such laws will be misused to squash political opposition. You even seem to concede the point, you certainly haven’t refuted it, but somehow, this isn’t a danger.

    [— There have been a number of military actions by Rwanda into Congo, however, the most recent ones appear to be more about securing mineral wealth under the guise of fighting the Hutu remnants. Matthew

    First, if you’re using those accusations as an attack on Rwanda’s anti-hate speech and genocide denial laws as opposed to American style “free speech”]

    I apologize if I was unclear. In post 187 Anthony said…

    [You do realize that Rwanda has been under active attack from the remnants of the forces that instigated the genocide, don’t you? And that those forces are comprised of Hutus. And that they’re based in Congo, terrorizing people in both countries.]

    Clearly, you’re stating that a justification for the Rwandan law is some “clear and present” danger from the remaining Hutu. And this was indeed the rationale for Rwanda’s original incursions into Congo. However, recent reports from the UN indicate the current action in the Congo is mostly motivated by resource seizure, not a fear of Hutu invasion. This undermines your implied justification. Failing to even mention this seems a substantial omission.

    [Second, the remnants of the same Hutu gangs involved in the Rwandan genocide are in Congo and have terrorized and murdered people in both Congo and Rwanda. You haven’t denied that, have you?]

    Absolutely not. But again, you seem to be omitting that accusations of serious human rights abuses have been leveled at all the participants, including Rwanda.

    [Is this your argument for hate speech and genocide denial? ]

    Um, no. It’s my argument in favor of freedom of speech, specifically, the first amendment. Many commentators have pointed out the dangers inherent in allowing the government to determine acceptable speech and you’ve dismissed those dangers. Now you’ve been given examples of those dangers manifesting in exactly the manner predicted, and you’ve ignored the examples.

    [Your free speech absolutism is probably the greatest boon for anti-gay invective in the English speaking world, today. ]

    This is stunningly idiotic. I’m sorry, I realize plain insults are not productive but this is just beyond the pale.

    Gay Rights historically has been attacked as immoral, reprehensible, and worthy of censorship in the US. Free speech, in the face of a hostile majority, has allowed progress to be made.

    You think that giving the government censorship powers will mean the homophobic loons are the ones who get suppressed? I don’t share your optimism. Eight years of Republican Governance demonstrates these people are not powerless fringe elements.

    [I’m really having a hard time taking this seriously]

    At least we agree on something.

  218. #218 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2010

    — at least inadvertently. orac

    You mean that passage in his journal in which he recorded the racist ditty he recited to his daughter?

    David Irving certainly kept the historical establishment in Britain and America in the dark for a good long time. Apparently the closer look at his work on WWII has shown he had them hoodwinked about quite a bit of that too.

    Maybe he just, just didn’t happen to notice the nature of the neo-Nazis and various thugs whose gatherings he speaks at. Maybe in his innocence he takes them to be the equivalent of Rotarians with uniforms, goose steps, modified swastikas and Hitler salutes. After all, the poor martyr for free speech seems to have missed large parts of Hitler who he takes for a misunderstood man of greatness whose reputation he wants to restore.

    So now you’re sticking up for Ernst Zundel on the basis that he hasn’t left a clear record of his favoring mass murder. Orac, what do you think Holocaust denial consists of, a clear and honest and well publicized record? What next Fred Leuchter as a real engineer and scientist?

    If I have time I’ll look into the other three names you bring up to see how much I believe their cover story before I start spouting off about them. As demonstrated, I don’t find Wiki and most online sources about these things to be entirely reliable, their being so manipulable.

    I’m finding this discussion a real window into the mental habits of organized skepticism. The habitual insistence on absolute certainty almost on the level of mathematical proof, which is never available outside of mathematics, only one among others. But only when it suits them and their temporary purposes. Using that supposed lapse as a shield for the denial of what is just as clear a fact of history as evolution or the basic properties of the numbers system are in science and math, protecting groups that want to use every and any fantastic ambiguity to further Nazism on that basis. I’m pretty shocked at that happening here in 2010.

    You know, those things you had to write about Randi and climate change should give you a clue, there’s something wrong with your movement at a very fundamental level. That I’m finding the bad habits go as far as this is leading me to think it’s got a lot more potential danger than I’d suspected. The practice of defending neo-Nazis the same way that climate change deniers and creationists operate is really disturbing. Looks like the opposite of enlightenment.

    Do you people ever listen to yourselves?

  219. #219 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2010

    Gay Rights historically has been attacked as immoral, reprehensible, and worthy of censorship in the US. Matthew

    You obviously aren’t familiar with the long and at times disturbing treatment of homosexuality by “science”. One of the foremost voices in the US promoting “recovery” is a psychologist who happens to be an atheist. And plenty of the folks who liked to hook us up to electric shocks and inject us with hormones and any number of other “scientific” tortures have been quite secular.

    — This is stunningly idiotic. I’m sorry, I realize plain insults are not productive but this is just beyond the pale. I’m sorry, I realize plain insults are not productive but this is just beyond the pale. Matthew

    You are familiar with the Phelps cult’s PR opportunities to parade hatred of gay people on the occasion of military funerals, aren’t you? You are familiar with the fact that attempts by government to keep them from doing that have been thwarted in the courts on the basis of “free speech- free expression” aren’t you? You do know that many “civil liberties” groups have entered into those cases on the side of the Phelps tribe, don’t you? You do know that recently one of the fathers of a dead soldier who tried to go to court to keep the Phelps from turning his son’s funeral into a malignant hate fest as PR moment, who lost on the basis of the Phelps “free speech” and was then ordered to pay the Phelps’ legal costs, don’t you?

    And you call my pointing that out idiotic?

    So, Matthew, you think that Israel should open itself up for someone inspired by Phelps to get PR for Holocaust denial at funerals and at Yad Vashim on the basis of “free speech”? How about in the Balkans. I am certain there are many occasions there for funerals and other things to be hijacked by malignant attention seekers. I’m sure that will add to reason and enlightened social interactions, as well as civil government.

    Or am I using too much of that ridicule that you guys think is the great protector of the truth? The one that, as pointed out, didn’t seem to prevent Hitler or any other genocidal thug taking power.

  220. #220 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2010

    What IS unprecedented is punishing people for making claims that the government has decided are false. closetpuritan

    Courts have been punishing people for making false claims since the beginning of courts. So “unprecedented”? Not in any way.

    I think I’ve learned as much as there is to learn in this.

    I hope that people in countries with anti-hate speech and denialism laws look at it and find out what the American style free speechers want them to open themselves up for. Look behind the American founders fetish and the free speech slogans to see what they’re really selling you. There are better ways to protect free speech without protecting malignant liars than turning off your brains and letting things go to hell.

  221. #221 squirrelelite
    June 9, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy,

    You stated (or asked) ” am I using too much of that ridicule that you guys think is the great protector of the truth?”

    No, Anthony.

    I am quite confident that most commenters on this blog do not consider ridicule per se to be the greatest protector of the truth. Freedom to state the truth and explain why it is the truth is the greatest protector of the truth. Ridicule can be a useful tactic, especially in coping with commenters who repeatedly refuse to answer direct questions. But, you cannot know the truth unless someone else is free to state it.

    You also stated, ” those things you had to write about Randi and climate change should give you a clue, there’s something wrong with your movement at a very fundamental level.”

    I disagree. The fact that skeptics were able to disagree openly with Randi when he made a foolish or ill-considered statement and that he responded to those disagreements by correcting his statement shows that the skeptical community is very healthy.

    You continue to advocate for placing limits on free speech, but have yet to explain clearly what rules you recommend for placing those limits. No one is asking you to write a complete draft of a bill to be introduced into Congress, but if you want to draw the line somewhere, you need to explain where you think we should draw the line and why.

    You have more or less stated that you think the government can do this, but George Orwell showed quite clearly where that can lead and you haven’t explained how to avoid Newspeak courtesy of the Ministry of Truth.

    You continue to assert a protective benefit for limiting free speech, but haven’t explained how that would really protect people in the cases you choose to mention like Germany, Rwanda, and Cambodia.

    On the other hand, I know of one clear case where refusing to accept free speech and attempting to squash it leads to massacre:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989

  222. #222 Orac
    June 9, 2010

    As I thought. Anthony cannot show that I am mistaken when I point out some Holocaust deniers who do not advocate violence. As for Irving, he has on occasion voiced thinly veiled or even open contempt for the groups he feels that he has to give speeches too to hawk his books, as you would know if you had actually paid attention and studied Irving for several years. He thinks he’s a real historian, you see, and speaking to the neo-Nazi rabble is beneath him.

  223. #223 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2010

    —- I am quite confident that most commenters on this blog do not consider ridicule per se to be the greatest protector of the truth. sqirrelite

    READ ORAC’S DAMNED POST! THE VERY END OF IT.

    James Randi’s history of fabrication and outright lying is a long and sorry record. Often in the form of “unnamed sources” with fantastic names. His climate denial is hardly his first violation of the truth. Not that his fellow “skeptics” have cared much about it until it impinges on something they happen to care about. But I really don’t want to get into that mess when a more important one is under consideration.

    Or, anyone who advocates Nazism is by the very stated foundations of Nazism and fascism is advocating violence. Violence and war are foundational “virtues” of both. It’s impossible to advocate those and not be advocating violence.

    I’m not an historian just someone who tries to know what the hell they’re talking about.

    orac, are you really proud of the level of denial of established fact that you’ve brought out into the open here? Denying Nazism’s own foundations, which the Nazis themselves have never hidden from before they took power. I don’t know what the world you think that’s going to lead to but it ain’t the truth and enlightenment.

  224. #224 Orac
    June 9, 2010

    @Anthony

    How can you expect me to take you seriously when you spew straw men such as claiming that I’m denying the origins of Nazi-ism? That is not the argument. The argument is that suppressing speech, even Holocaust denial, is harmful to freedom–yes, even in Canada.

    One also even wonders if you know diddly squat about actual Holocaust deniers. You seem shockingly ignorant of their actual writings and speeches other than in vague, generic terms.

  225. #225 Todd W.
    June 9, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    You still haven’t defined for us what criteria should be used, in your opinion, to define what speech should be banned, who should be allowed to make the decision of what fits those criteria, or how they should go about making that decision. Why so coy?

    I really don’t think this thread is going any new places that are any different from where it’s been. I could probably keep this up indefinitely but no one’s come up with any refutation that sticks.

    If you want the discussion to go somewhere, then stop using the same arguments over and over and perhaps actually answer some of the very basic questions asked, such as mine just above. You should also take off the hate blinders and actually objectively evaluate what people are saying. You are arguing from emotion, not reason (e.g., your position that all Holocaust deniers are advocates of mass murder, even if they don’t actively advocate mass murder).

    There is no rational reason that genocide denial and the advocacy for mass murder should be allowed.

    First off, you are conflating two different types of speech. Denying that the Holocaust happened and advocating mass murder are separate things. People might often do both, but they are not equivalent. Saying “The Holocaust never happened” is not the same as saying “All Jews should be killed.”

    Here’s a few more questions for you, to help clarify your position:

    1) What constitutes “advocating mass murder”? Would “I think the world would be a better place if group X weren’t here” count? What about “We should just kill every member of group X”? For that matter, what if someone just says “I don’t think genocide X ever happened”?
    2) Does the context matter? Would such comments said between two people in casual conversation be treated the same as a speech to an audience?
    3) How should such speech be punished? Are there different punishments depending on the type of comment (e.g., “world would be a better place” type vs. “kill ‘em all!” type) and context (e.g., private conversation vs. public speech)?

    I really am curious about your answers to these questions, so please do not brush them off with an “I’m not a lawyer” nonsense. If you really hold the beliefs that you have been professing here, then you ought to also give thought to these questions and answer honestly.

    (Oh, and to second what someone said further up-thread, learn how to use the blockquote tags. That goes for others, too. Pretty please?)

  226. #226 Todd W.
    June 9, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    —- I am quite confident that most commenters on this blog do not consider ridicule per se to be the greatest protector of the truth. sqirrelite

    READ ORAC’S DAMNED POST! THE VERY END OF IT.

    Umm, read the rest of squirrelelite’s comment and don’t just cherry-pick. Also, read the bit of Orac’s post where he mentions burying them with “refutation”.

    What Orac is saying, and correct me if I’m wrong, Orac, is, let them have their free speech, then tell them they are wrong, why they’re wrong (with accompanying mountains of evidence showing that they are, in fact, wrong), and, oh, by the way, “You’re an f-ing idiot” (though perhaps a bit more eloquently and satirically).

  227. #227 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2010

    Orac, I’m sure that you’ll keep on with this but I’m not going to bother. I’m sure you and your fans will feel very good about yourselves and your positions.

    As to you taking me seriously, I never had that expectation from your first response to me. I can tell a set program that won’t be varied from as soon as it becomes apparent. It’s been mostly a waste of time except for those disturbing aspects that I set out in my last several comments. I hadn’t realized how bad the denial of reality among the “skeptics” really was.

  228. #228 Todd W.
    June 9, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    You’re leaving? But I really was quite interested in your answers to my questions. I would have taken you seriously if you had bothered to answer them. As it is, though, your reluctance to answer challenging questions makes me think you are not much different than the very people you decry. I could be wrong, but you’re not exactly doing anything to show otherwise.

  229. #229 Orac
    June 9, 2010

    Anthony runs away from reasonable questions again. No surprise there.

    Actually, Todd, I have a better question for Anthony that is completely relevant to the question of banning Holocaust denial:

    What is Holocaust denial?

    Seriously. I’d love to see Anthony try to define it. It’s not as easy as he thinks.

  230. #230 Scott
    June 9, 2010

    I can tell a set program that won’t be varied from as soon as it becomes apparent.

    Project much?

  231. #231 Anthony McCarthy
    June 9, 2010

    Anthony runs away from reasonable questions again. No surprise there. Orac

    I told my brother not five minutes before I posted that last comment, “Orac is going to crow about me ‘running away’ even after a week of me answering his bunkum”.

    Just came back to hear
    the expected shoe dropping.
    Macho posturing.

  232. #232 Todd W.
    June 9, 2010

    @Orac

    Actually, Todd, I have a better question for Anthony that is completely relevant to the question of banning Holocaust denial:

    What is Holocaust denial?

    True, that would be much more on-topic to the original post than my questions. Pertinent to that is the question of what is Holocaust denial and what is academic questioning of the evidence? Fuzzy line, there.

  233. #233 Scott
    June 9, 2010

    I told my brother not five minutes before I posted that last comment, “Orac is going to crow about me ‘running away’ even after a week of me answering his bunkum”.

    Why do you lie to your family? You still haven’t answered anything! The most substantive argument you’ve produced was when you called us all Nazis.

  234. #234 Todd W.
    June 9, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    Oh! You’re back! Perhaps there is hope, after all, that you might answer one of my basic questions. Or even Orac’s more on-topic question at post #229.

  235. #235 squirrelelite
    June 9, 2010

    Thanks, Todd.

    You beat me to the punch. I’ll have to make a project this summer to learn about HTML tags. Since I was a bit out of the loop in the 1990’s when HTML and the WWW were taking over the internet and my poor old 80486 computer and dial-up modem couldn’t adapt, I sort of missed out on those. But, I will take it on.

    Anthony,

    As Todd noted, orac’s post ends “with refutations and ridicule”. Since he mentioned refutations first, customary usage indicates that he considers them to be of greater importance.

    I could rephrase my comments as questions and address the assertions you made in comment 223, but until you give some direct answers to Todd’s quesitons in comment 225 and Orac’s question in 229, it’s not worth the effort to transform from “squirrelite” to Squirrel Heavy :) !

    However, since you consider yourself “someone who tries to know what the hell they’re talking about”, I will add one question.

    What is the most interesting and informative book you have read recently about Nazism/fascism and Holocaust denial?

  236. #236 closetpuritan
    June 9, 2010

    Matthew: Gay Rights historically has been attacked as immoral, reprehensible, and worthy of censorship in the US.

    Anthony McCarthy: You obviously aren’t familiar with the long and at times disturbing treatment of homosexuality by “science”.

    McCarthy: Are you trying to argue that if “science” is homophobic, the people in general can’t simultaneously be homophobic? All the “scientific” support of homophobia just shows how widespread the support for homophobia was–it’s evidence that strengthens Matthew’s point, not yours.

    closetpuritan: What IS unprecedented is punishing people for making claims that the government has decided are false.

    Anthony McCarthy: Courts have been punishing people for making false claims since the beginning of courts. So “unprecedented”? Not in any way.

    OK, fine, I was imprecise: courts at least as far back as the Middle Ages could prosecute you for heresy and such. (I’m not in favor of bringing that back.) Prosecuting people for making making historical/political claims, since the founding of the U.S., is unprecedented.

    You can’t seem to make up your mind about whether you’re leaving or not, but if we’re delivering our closing arguments, I’ll just quote skeptifem above: “I cannot believe people really need it explained that letting the state decide history for everyone is a really shitty idea.”

  237. #237 amit
    June 9, 2010

    Anthony, from the perspective of someone who hasn’t taken part in this debate yet you are coming across as incoherent.

    I’m going to quote below an exchange between you and Matthew:

    Anthony:

    Your free speech absolutism is probably the greatest boon for anti-gay invective in the English speaking world, today.

    Matthew:

    This is stunningly idiotic. I’m sorry, I realize plain insults are not productive but this is just beyond the pale.

    Gay Rights historically has been attacked as immoral, reprehensible, and worthy of censorship in the US. Free speech, in the face of a hostile majority, has allowed progress to be made.

    You think that giving the government censorship powers will mean the homophobic loons are the ones who get suppressed? I don’t share your optimism. Eight years of Republican Governance demonstrates these people are not powerless fringe elements.

    Anthony again:

    You obviously aren’t familiar with the long and at times disturbing treatment of homosexuality by “science”. One of the foremost voices in the US promoting “recovery” is a psychologist who happens to be an atheist. And plenty of the folks who liked to hook us up to electric shocks and inject us with hormones and any number of other “scientific” tortures have been quite secular.

    How does your final quote in any way refute Matthew’s point or relate to it in any way?

    Matthew says that as a gay man you should be afraid of weakening the 1st amendment given the the large number of people who would happily censor the gay rights movement given the chance. Your response is to say something off topic about how atheist scientists attack gay people too. Nobody brought religion into this line of argument until you did – it was a total red herring.

  238. #238 Composer99
    June 9, 2010

    Anthony,

    Since you saw fit to bring up Phelps, I should point out that for all the vileness of his picketing funerals, etc., he has ironically served to increase acceptance of homosexuality in the US (or at least, in Kansas):

    http://dangardner.ca/Colfeb1508.html

  239. #239 Scott
    June 9, 2010

    As a native Kansan, I must admit to quite a bit of embarrassment that our two most widely known exports are Phelps and news stories about creationist school boards.

  240. #240 Todd W.
    June 9, 2010

    @Scott

    You also exported Dorothy and Toto, don’t forget. Though I think y’all may have gone a bit too far with that one.

  241. #241 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 9, 2010

    James Randi’s history of fabrication and outright lying is a long and sorry record. Often in the form of “unnamed sources” with fantastic names.

    Now I know you’re a dickhead, McCarthy.

  242. #242 Natalie
    June 9, 2010

    closetpuritan @ 237:

    Prosecuting people for making making historical/political claims, since the founding of the U.S., is unprecedented.

    Sadly, this isn’t entirely true. Anti-war activists were prosecuted during World War I, and while it wasn’t prosecution in the strict sense, we’re all familiar with McCartheyism. It should be noted that those forms of legal harassment were done under the guise of “national security”.

    Perhaps Anthony should read up on the harassment of homosexuals during the mercifully brief McCarthey era.

  243. #243 Orac
    June 9, 2010

    Sadly, this isn’t entirely true.

    Sadly, it’s not even close to being true that prosecuting people for making political or historical claims is unprecedented. It’s a sadly recurring theme throughout U.S. history, beginning with the Alien Sedition Acts of 1798. Luther Baldwin, for instance, was indicted and convicted of “seditious speech” for making a comment about then President Adams. From Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_and_Sedition_Acts):

    While the Alien and Sedition Laws were in force, John Adams, en route from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Quincy, Massachusetts, stopped in Newark, New Jersey, where he was greeted by a crowd and by a committee that saluted him by firing a cannon. A bystander said, “There goes the President and they are firing at his ass.” Luther Baldwin was indicted for replying that he did not care “if they fired through his a**.” He was convicted in the federal court for speaking “sedicious words tending to defame the President and Government of the United States” and fined, assessed court costs and expenses, and placed in jail until the fine and fees were paid.

    The act expired and was never tested in court, but subsequent Supreme Court rulings that mention the act assume that it would have been found unconstitutional had it ever been challenged. One can only imagine how much more the government would have indulged the natural impulse of governments everywhere to suppress critical speech had it not been for the existence of the First Amendment.

  244. #244 Anthony McCarthy
    June 10, 2010

    Now I know you’re a dickhead, McCarthy. T. Bruce McNeely

    A friend told me about this. I’ve been writing a prospective obit. Here are the second and third paragraphs.

    Putting his “scientific achievements” aside, Randi’s profession was as a magician. But his intellectual vocation was as an escape artist. The guy always had an out, sometimes quite blatantly dishonest, as in his phony million dollar challenge – several reputable witnesses have said that Randi gloried in “always having an out” on that one — sometimes, as in his infamous and possibly illegal phone sex tape episode*, weird and kooky.

    The guy was sleazy and rinky dink. You didn’t need a psychic to predict that he’d go over big in the dishonest, mean-spirited frat house of organized “skepticism”. The critical thinkers of “skepticism” almost invariably have a blind spot for their own heroes, whose fictional repute will be protected no matter what the evidence shows, no matter how well established the record is, no matter what those over-hyped and hypocritical hierophants are on record as having done and said. Not all mean little boys grow up, some of them become “sceptics”.

  245. #245 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 10, 2010

    Just as I thought, McCarthy. You have nothing.

  246. #246 squirrelelite
    June 11, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy,

    Since you ignored most of my comment(s), I should probably just ignore yours, but I will try once more.

    Todd W had three questions which I will summarize:

    1. What constitues advocating mass murder?
    2. Does context matter?
    3. How to punish it?

    And, Orac added his own:
    4. What is Holocaust denial?

    And, I added one request:

    5. Name an informative book about Holocaust denial.

    Thanks for taking a break from writing that “prospective obit” to answer. Let’s see how you did.

    1. No Answer
    2. No Answer
    3. No Answer
    4. No Answer
    5. No Answer

    Instead, you continue attacking James Randi for being a stage magician. And, you mention “reputable witnesses” or was that “unnamed sources” to discount the lack of a successful challenge to claim the JREF prize. At least, James Randi gave some of his sources names however fantastic.

    There are many people involved in the skeptical movement, and since it primarily involves the use of the scientific method to test, evaluate and prove or disprove unusual claims, I perhaps play a small role in it as well. Only a few of those people, though, are magicians.

    Having read one of Randi’s books a few years ago, I think his background as a stage magician gives him special expertise in looking for cases where people use the techniques of stage magic to perform tricks and convince other people that they have paranormal abilities.

    I have some quibbles with his writing style, but I found it to be an enjoyable read.

    Since the people attempting to claim the JREF prize do so under conditions they have negotiated and agreed to beforehand, their complaints afterward sound mostly like sour grapes.

    Do you have something more than sour grapes to contribute to this discussion?

  247. #247 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2010

    No, squirrilite, I have no intention of going round in circles with the orac posse on the topic of this thread. It’s futile. Just about everything I said here has been twisted and distorted from orac’s first response to me and then had my answers twisted and distorted. I’m going to be concentrating on the evidence of the link between his form of “skepticism” and things like Holocaust denial and climate change denial. Between what he has done here to defend lies told on behalf of industrial scale mass murderers and Randi’s recent pronouncements that are so bad even orac had to distance himself — not that McNeely seems to have noticed –, that evidence leads to there being a connection.

    The level of dishonesty I’ve experienced in this discussion, with all of the typical “skeptical” habits featured, the say anything to win tactics, the macho posturing by pathetic boys, mostly, around one of the most serious and ongoing problems caused by lies, leads me to believe that his kind of “skepticism” is a big part of the problem. It isn’t skepticism but a series of dishonest dodges and pathetic PR tactics. And the problem impinges on a lot of the most important issues putting our planet and us at risk.

    Only, I’m going to continue it elsewhere and using names instead of his pseudonym. If he wants to crap away his reputation that could have been useful in his honest advocacy, he doesn’t deserve that courtesy anymore.

    I won’t be continuing to read him on other topics as I used to because I don’t trust people who do what he’s done here. There are other people who honestly advocate science-based medical issues without the obnoxious and dishonest agenda and without the obnoxious and dishonest posse. As far as I’m concerned he has discredited himself.

  248. #248 Orac
    June 11, 2010

    Anthony, I’m going to ask you again: What is Holocaust denial? Define it operationally. How do we recognize it and how is it different from real Holocaust revisionism?

    If you can’t even define Holocaust denial, you can’t write a law that will target it with any degree of specificity whatsoever.

  249. #249 Todd W.
    June 11, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    as in his phony million dollar challenge

    Y’know. If you actually had proof of this, it would be grounds for charges of fraud against Mr. Randi. My guess is that your “proof” consists of what you’ve read on anti-Randi sites, though, and that you have nothing material to bring to the table.

    Only, I’m going to continue it elsewhere and using names instead of his pseudonym.

    You’re going to out Orac? Wow. That’s never been done before! You are truly a unique and enterprising individual. I am sure that Orac is shaking in his boots.

    Now, how about answering our pretty basic questions, rather than the childish ranting and name-calling? Oh, and I would appreciate if you point out where I have displayed “dishonesty” or “say anything to win tactics”. Thanks!

  250. #250 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2010

    Todd, orac was outed ages ago by the anti-vacc people. I use his pseudonym here out of courtesy on his own blog and because I didn’t want to associated with them. When I’m writing on topics unrelated to that and in my own space, I’ll feel free to use his real name.

    Orac, you think you could draft a new law on the licensing of vaccines? I know you figure you’re superman but I don’t think you’re pretending you’re a lawyer yet. Even legislators consult the lawyers on that.

    You want to provide an irrefutable and uncontroversial definition for every term you use in one of your posts? I’ve been down that road on many, many issues, it’s a cul de sac and, in something like the topic of this thread, a tactic of dishonest argument.

    If you think it’s impossible to define Holocaust denial in order to have ideas about it, how the hell did you come up with posts about climate change denial? You want every political and legal decision about that crisis to depend on that game of definition? Of course not, since it’s you who is doing the writing.

    Feel free to provide me with new insights into your habits anytime. Though I think from now on I’ll collect them without getting involved in your ego salvage operation.

  251. #251 Scottynuke
    June 11, 2010

    Wow, talk about stonewalling…

    *waiting to see if anyonw saw what I did there*

  252. #252 Scottynuke
    June 11, 2010

    Saw what I did, apart from misspelling “anyone,” I mean…

  253. #253 squirrelelite
    June 11, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy,

    I have often found that being willing to at least attempt to give a direct answer to a direct question is a necessary prelude to an interesting and productive conversation. Your lack of answers to our questions shows how much interest you have in that.

    Good luck in looking for “evidence of the link between his form of “skepticism” and things like Holocaust denial and climate change denial”. You might try getting a good book on divination and reading the chapter on interpreting tea leaves. :)

    Since you think it useful to be ” using names instead of his pseudonym”, I find it curious that I haven’t seen you commenting on his “friend”‘s blog. Perhaps they simply didn’t address your favorite topic.

    Perhaps some day we shall achieve the same ” level of dishonesty” and can have a pleasant conversation.

    In the mean time, to paraphrase Wilhelm Gottsreich Sigismond von Ormstein, Grand Duke of CasselFelstein, and hereditary King of Bohemia slightly,

    ” Is it not a pity that you were not on my level?”

  254. #254 Todd W.
    June 11, 2010

    Shorter Anthony McCarthy: I don’t have a good definition that would not be able to be abused.

    I find it interesting, though not particularly surprising, that rather than addressing the meat of my comment, Anthony focuses on my snark.

  255. #255 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 11, 2010

    Even shorter Anthony McCarthy:

    Nothing.

  256. #256 Orac
    June 11, 2010

    Mr. McCarthy’s “threat” to “out” me reminds me of similar threats I’ve put up with for the last five years. For instance:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2010/02/andreas_moritz_legal_intimidation_in_the.php

    One would hope that Mr. McCarthy doesn’t decide to be emulate J.B. Handley or another crank who has “outed” me, Patrick “Tim” Bolen. Consequently, when Mr. McCarthy says he doesn’t want to be associated with the antivax people, he should know that threats to out me already associate him with antivax people and cranks of all sorts, such as Tim Bolen. In fact, his threat even associates him with the very Holocaust deniers that he despises, because I’ve gotten threats to be outed from Holocaust deniers for at least ten years. Back around 1999 or 2000 one Holocaust denier even put me on a list of “pedophiles” circulated through the Internet with others who combat online Holocaust denial.

    In fact, the only threats to “out” me that I’ve ever received have come exclusively from cranks: Antivax cranks like J.B. Handley, Holocaust denier cranks, creationist cranks like DaveScot, alt-med cranks, HIV/AIDS denialist cranks, and–yes, this is true–animal rights terrorists like Camille Marino. Indeed, the only people who have ever threatened to “out” me have been pseudoscientists and cranks.

    Does Mr. McCarthy really want to place himself in such company?

    The issue of “outing” aside, I find Mr. McCarthy’s refusal to answer a simple question (“How do you,/em> define Holocaust denial?) to be quite illuminating. Apparently Mr. McCarthy knows it when he sees it but just can’t put into words what it is. The problem is, for any law to suppress Holocaust denial to work, a legal definition of Holocaust denial is absolutely necessary. Mr. McCarthy uses the straw man claim that I am demanding that he supply me with a bullet-proof legal definition of Holocaust denial. I am not. I was simply curious given the vehemence of his insistence that banning Holocaust denial is not an infringement on free speech and, more than that, that it was a supreme good for society. So I asked him how he would define Holocaust denial. He can’t or won’t even do that.

    I wonder why.

    In contrast, I can. Reasonable people may disagree with my definition, but I can define Holocaust denial to my satisfaction. So to hide his inability even to attempt to define what he would ban, Mr. McCarthy trots out challenges to me to write laws licensing vaccines. Diversion noted and rejected. The topic of this thread is Holocaust denial and whether banning it is an infringement on freedom of speech. Mr. McCarthy insists that it’s a good thing for governments to ban Holocaust denial, that it’s not a problem with infringing free speech at all. Moreover, it doesn’t seem to bother him in the least that he can’t define Holocaust denial. Apparently he completely trusts governments to do so. It also doesn’t appear to bother him at all that Holocaust denial is a continuum, not a black and white, easily compartmentalizable thing. There are gray areas. Mr. McCarthy recognizes no gray areas and apparently has no trouble letting the government draw the line somewhere in the gray, so that he doesn’t have to think about it.

  257. #257 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2010

    How many times can you be outed, orac? I’ve got nearly a half a century with the issue of being outed, from before the term “outed” was in use. Once your name is out there on the web, old bean, it’s out there. You’ve written about it yourself, under your own name, or so I seem to recall.

    You want to talk about unsavory associations, look at some of the stuff you said in this thread. Ernst Zundel, for the love of Mike.

    You’re a thin-skinned hatchet man, aren’t you.

  258. #258 Todd W.
    June 11, 2010

    dodge dodge dodge dodge
    dodge dodge dodge dodge
    dodgedy dooooodge
    dodgey dodge

    Anthony, when are you going to stop focusing on the person asking the question and instead focus on the question being asked?

  259. #259 Orac
    June 11, 2010

    You want to talk about unsavory associations, look at some of the stuff you said in this thread. Ernst Zundel, for the love of Mike.

    What, that I find Ernst Zundel and his ilk to be odious, despicable liars because they’re Holocaust deniers, but I believe they have a right to free speech? That I have never seen David Irving or a few other Holocaust deniers that I named actually advocate violence?

    Truly, you’ve never heard the famous phrase, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” That sums it up to me for Holocaust deniers, except that I’d phrase it, “I hate what Holocaust deniers say. I find it odious, racist, and hateful. But I will defend their right to say it.”

    That’s hardly “associating” myself with Ernst Zundel, and, given my history since the 1990s of combatting Holocaust denial on Usenet, if you claim that I have ever in any way endorsed what Holocaust deniers say you will be lying. Apparently to you, defending an enemy’s right to free speech means I agree with that enemy. It does not.

  260. #260 Orac
    June 11, 2010

    Anthony, when are you going to stop focusing on the person asking the question and instead focus on the question being asked?

    He won’t.

    Instead, apparently, he’ll try to claim that because I advocate free speech, even for Holocaust deniers, that I must agree with them or that I’ve somehow linked myself with them. If he does that, as I said above, he’ll be lying.

  261. #261 Todd W.
    June 11, 2010

    @Orac

    he’ll try to claim that because I advocate free speech, even for Holocaust deniers, that I must agree with them or that I’ve somehow linked myself with them.

    Well, he already did espouse a “If you’re not with me, you’re against me” mindset pretty early in the thread.

  262. #262 Orac
    June 11, 2010

    He sounds a lot like George W. Bush in that, yes.

  263. #263 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2010

    Well, orac, I never pretended that anti-vacc folks had anything but the intentions they obviously had in order to make a dishonest substitute for a refutation in an argument with you.

    Holocaust denial is all about dishonest presentation of motives as well as lies about history, and then the dishonest denial that their neo-Nazi promotion is what it’s really all about. To then have denial that those aren’t their known MO by an anti-denialist is beyond tolerance by people who care about intellectual honesty. Considering the subject matter is mass murder. I might overlook the crazy straw reasoning you guys have on a less serious issue but the issue makes this different.

    I really hope that people in Europe, Canada and other places don’t get conned by the American free speech absolutists who have nothing better than infantile paranoia, the mental illness of libertarians, behind their denial of reality and responsible action.

  264. #264 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 11, 2010

    Here is what Orac has posted about Ernst Zundel:

    Also, Ernst Zundel, as far as I know doesn’t advocate mass murder

    As for Ernst Zundel, you’ve posted nothing that demonstrates he advocates mass murder.

    OH MY GAWD HOW AWFUL. He’s making TRUE STATEMENTS!!!

    I can see why that might upset you, you tool.

  265. #265 Todd W.
    June 11, 2010

    @Anthony McCarthy

    To save you the trouble of having to scroll back through the comments, here are the questions I asked that you have yet to answer:

    1) What constitutes “advocating mass murder”? Would “I think the world would be a better place if group X weren’t here” count? What about “We should just kill every member of group X”? For that matter, what if someone just says “I don’t think genocide X ever happened”?
    2) Does the context matter? Would such comments said between two people in casual conversation be treated the same as a speech to an audience?
    3) How should such speech be punished? Are there different punishments depending on the type of comment (e.g., “world would be a better place” type vs. “kill ‘em all!” type) and context (e.g., private conversation vs. public speech)?

    Just start with those, and Orac’s about how to define “Holocaust denial”. Once you’ve answered that, then we can address your, ahem, less than truthful claims about other people.

  266. #266 Scott
    June 11, 2010

    To then have denial that those aren’t their known MO by an anti-denialist is beyond tolerance by people who care about intellectual honesty.

    Claims that anyone here is denying that those aren’t their known MO are flat-out lies and beyond tolerance by anyone with a single working neuron.

    In other words, it’s truly rich that you can talk about intellectual honesty while lying, calling anyone who disagrees with you a Nazi, and refusing to answer even the simplest and most reasonable of questions critical to any discussion.

  267. #267 Orac
    June 11, 2010

    Considering the subject matter is mass murder.

    Really? Holocaust denial is mass murder?

    Let’s get back to my question. Educate me: What is Holocaust denial? Please define it. Or am I to take your statement to mean that you really believe that Holocaust denial is mass murder?

  268. #268 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2010

    Wer redet heute noch von der Vernichtung der Armenier?

  269. #269 Scott
    June 11, 2010

    Quite a lot of people do, actually. Such discussion is actually promoted by Turkish attempts to suppress it.

  270. #270 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2010

    Not when Hitler said that. I guess google translate doesn’t do it all.

    I guess it would be ethical to tell you, it’s all research for me now.

  271. #271 Orac
    June 11, 2010

    How do you know I haven’t been using you for research in this comment thread? Your astounding statements here provide plenty of potential fodder for a followup blog post.

  272. #272 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2010

    Orac, what you do on your blog isn’t my responsibility. I will note anything you say about what I said and check it for accuracy and honesty, not leaving that to chance here any longer.

    Just try and get something I said accurate though. As you began here by misrepresenting what I said it might be nice to recognize something I’d actually said instead of what you’d like for me to have said.

  273. #273 Bronze Dog
    June 11, 2010

    Oh, fun. Anthony threatened to out Orac and complained about the use of pseudonyms.

    Yeah, because you don’t know the name on someone’s birth certificate, you can’t know whether or not he is a divinely appointed priest known as an Authority. Truth is completely subjective because it’s changed when an Authority declares it changed. There is no objective truth or logic to anything because ad hominem and argument from Authority fallacies are the real basis of reality.

    Anthony, try paying attention to what you say. That’s how you came across with that “threat”: You essentially declared the bankruptcy of your position.

  274. #274 Chance Gearheart, NREMT-P/EMD
    June 11, 2010

    RE: Anthony McCarthy

    I’ve lurked on this thread and stayed idle for over a week now, resisting my urge to comment on your ideas. You do bring up some very good points: Holocaust Denial is abhorrant – it takes the right of free speech in a civilized country and uses it to promote the most offensive of ideals – and it denies a historic event which costs the lives of not only those of ethnic Jewish descent, but also those of multiple Europen and Middle Eastern countries, multiple religions, and cost some of Academia’s brightest at the time their lives. That fact should never be minimized by the official record, nor should anything to the countrary ever be promoted by an official engaged in the governance of any country in the free world without some form of disciplinary action. However, to legally restrict discussion of crackpot theories of anything, be it the holocaust or (American, now) the 9/11 attacks not only gives those theories credibility in the minds of their believers, but also (Historically), leads to a slippery slope in which it is easier to gradually restrict more and more forms of dissent. While these people infuriate, disrespect, and inflame emotions and disbelief at their callous ignoring of overwhelming documented evidence, they do have a basic human right to say what they like as long as they do no physical harm, or advocate violence against, the group they are arguing against.

    Hundreds of thousands in the course of history have died defending the right of people to say things which offend others – and every now and then that offense by the minority will cause a change for the better.

    The restriction already exists in the rights of groups and individuals to sue for restitution in terms of libel and slander, and for groups to persue legal action against persons advocating or inciting violence against specific ethnic groups or religions. In addition, laws in America protect these groups against discrimination.

    Restricting their crap does nothing to stop it. It’s done nothing to stop it in Germany, expecially with the East having a higher population of holocaust denyers and general neo-nazis – it’s just pushed them underground and onto the internet (Don’t worry, Comrads, you were just following orders like good little communists). Ignoring and ridiculing them and their ilk works a lot better.

  275. #275 Anthony McCarthy
    June 11, 2010

    Bronze Dog, since orac has posted about his being outed by the anti-vacc folks UNDER HIS OWN NAME I can’t out him, he’s been out for ages. Orac is out, he is definitively out, he’s an ex-innie, he’s a late anon. Geesh, straight guys. Once you’re out on-line boys, you’re out, as out as Andrew Sullivan’s sex ad was when it was revealed, as out as Randi was once that tape hit the court room, especially if you talk about it yourself.

    Why he’s keeping up a ruse that was over ages ago is his business, there’s no reason anyone else needs to keep it up elsewhere. Given some of the things he and his posse have said about his opponents using their names, I don’t see anything unfair about using his already out there name. I wouldn’t use it if it wasn’t already known.

    Chance Gearheart, I’m not going to address that issue here anymore. I will be writing on it in the future, some of the things I’ve learned in this discussion will figure in it. I don’t conclude the same things you do.

  276. #276 Matthew
    June 12, 2010

    Chance,

    Earlier in this conversation, I wondered if McCarthy was a Poe. I realize it’s not correct to call him that, my fault for getting confused on the definition, but what I meant was that I wondered if he was being sincere in his arguments, or was he just stirring things up?

    Well, I took a look at some of the links to his other writing and I don’t believe he’s trolling.

    Feel free to look yourself, but my conclusion is that he embraces censorship. Not just of holocaust denial, but of a broad range of subjects. His criteria is that if speech causes harm to someone, we can ban it. Who could disagree with that, right?

    However, like a lot of pro-censorship people I’ve met, he doesn’t concern himself with messy details like defining his terms, weighing evidence, or even remaining consistent in his arguments.

    Take harm; did a particular bit of speech actually cause the harm he attributes to it? His writing barely touches upon available facts. He merely asserts that such-and-such did what he claims and that’s quite good enough.

    Or “We”. He’s confident “We” can discern between worthwhile and harmful speech, but becomes flustered when others don’t agree with his opinions. “We” can easily judge right from wrong but “They” just don’t get it.

    His entire view of censorship is easily summarized; When Anthony McCarthy is King of the World, this is what he’ll do. Um, ok, fine, but the bizarre part is that he seems to feel this is compelling reasoning.

    In short, he may be an intelligent person, but his arguments are moronic.

    Don’t take my word for it, you can it read for yourself.

  277. #277 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    Matthew, I am gratified to see you bothering to read what I wrote.

    You did, however, miss the larger point, that the Supreme Court is using the idea of “free speech” mixed with corporate person hood to destroy self-government by an informed electorate. Even as we were squabbling over whether or not I was going to give into your tactic of getting bogged down in playing lawyer, they were destroying laws to try to make elections more honest in Arizona and other states that are trying to clean up that deadly and metastasizing tumor on our country, the less benign product of free speech absolutism.

    Though, in my experience, the absolutists aren’t much concerned with the actual results of their positions, as seen in who files amicus briefs in those cases, they positively encourage the corporate handover in the name of “free speech”. I really don’t think that being able to talk dirty or to advocate mass murder is a good trade off, though.

    I’ve never called for banning anything other than on the basis of a demonstrated violent effect. Though I am ever more convinced that all lying could be suppressed with absolutely no harm within a democratic government. Ridicule has such a pathetically bad record of protecting democracy. Or have you noticed that the fascists are quite able to come up with ridicule to match it?

  278. #278 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    If I’m a Poe you’re a Lowell. And Poe was, by far, the better poet.

  279. #279 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    he doesn’t concern himself with messy details like defining his terms, Matthew

    See what I asked orac about whether or not he wants to get into that game over every term he uses. Not that he answered that anymore than any of you guys wanted to touch my questions about Israel lifting their ban on Holocaust denial and the denial of crimes against humanity and neo-Nazis, or even whether or not he opposes people giving expert testimony in court.

    weighing evidence, Matthew

    Like the fact that the Rwandan genocide, the various genocides in the Balkans and the Holocaust itself were the results of malignant speech that all the “more speech” and that ridicule that orac’s faith resides in didn’t prevent? I’d really like a list of the places where you guys figure ridicule prevented bloodshed. From what I’ve seen, it’s more likely to lead to it. Go into a rough bar and throw a bit of ridicule onto an argument and see what happens, Matthew.

    or even remaining consistent in his arguments. Matthew

    Again, see my attempts to get orac on record over expert testimony and opening up Israel and the Balkans to Phelps style free speech demos as PR opportunities.

  280. #280 Orac
    June 12, 2010

    See what I asked orac about whether or not he wants to get into that game over every term he uses.

    You first: Define Holocaust denial, since we all want to know what, exactly, you believe it to be that you propose banning.

  281. #281 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    OK, orac, how about we kick this one around a while.

    Denial of Holocaust (Prohibition) Law, 5746-1986

    Definitions 1. In this Law, “crime against the Jewish people” and “crime against humanity” have the same respective meanings as in the “Nazis and Nazi Collaborators Law, 5710-1950.

    Prohibition of Denial of Holocaust 2. A person who, in writing or by word of mouth, publishes any statement denying or diminishing the proportions of acts committed in the period of the Nazi regime, which are crimes against the Jewish people or crimes against humanity, with intent to defend the perpetrators of those acts or to express sympathy or identification with them, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of five years.

    Prohibition of publication of expression for sympathy for Nazi crimes 3. A person who, in writing or by word of mouth, publishes any statement expressing praise or sympathy for or identification with acts done in the period of the Nazi regime, which are crimes against the Jewish people or crimes against humanity, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of five years.

    Permitted publication 4. The publication of a correct and fair report of a publication prohibited by this Law shall not be regarded as an offence thereunder so long as it is not made with intent to express sympathy or identification with the perpetrators of crimes against the Jewish people or against humanity.

    Filing of charge 5. An indictment for offences under this Law shall only be filed by or with the consent of the Attorney-General.[29]

    There, tear the Israeli law apart and we can discuss what will result.

  282. #282 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    I will have to warn you, orac, if you want to continue this, that I’m on a friend’s dial-up and it’s getting too long. I was going to sign off because I’ve got other things to do, with this new game it could go on for weeks. If you want to keep it up you’re going to have to put up a new thread soon.

  283. #283 squirrelelite
    June 12, 2010

    For some weird reason, this cartoon reminded me of this thread.

    http://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2010/06/10/

  284. #284 Composer99
    June 12, 2010

    Anthony McCarthy @ 279:

    Like the fact that the Rwandan genocide, the various genocides in the Balkans and the Holocaust itself were the results of malignant speech that all the “more speech” and that ridicule that orac’s faith resides in didn’t prevent?

    An over-simplification, if not an outright false statement. Mass murders and genocides are the results of policy and of action. Most importantly, they occured in the context of war and of breakdown of civil society.

    There was plenty of malignant speech about Jews in Germany for 5-6 decades before the Holocaust – but no genocide until the Second World War. Malignant speech may have helped assuage ordinary Germans’ consciences about the deed, but it took the invasion of the USSR (with its concomitant, no-holds barred savagery) to really get the slaughter going.

    There was plenty of Hutu-Tutsi violence in Rwanda and the surrounding region for decades before the 1990’s genocide. Any malignant speech in the ’90s was probably a reflection of that violence more than some novel phenomenon presaging genocide (indeed, the slaughter was meticulously organized, as the Wikipedia article, whose source is Human Rights Watch, points out – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rwandan_Genocide).

    By contrast, there was not much in the way of widespread malignant speech in the Balkans in the years immediately before the collapse of Yugoslavia. People pointed afterwards to old grudges from the Second World War or earlier, but some post hoc reasoning was probably at work by then.

    Finally, I should point out that in all three cases there was a decided lack of countering speech. Unlike Holocaust denial today, which is quickly and roundly condemned when it appears publicly.

  285. #285 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    If nothing else, I suspect that I’ve been giving Wiki and google some extra work here.

    Composer99, I’m not getting into that while I’m waiting with baited breath for orac’s evisceration of the Israeli ban on Holocaust denial and the logical conclusions that can be drawn from its obliteration.

    What kind of music?

  286. #286 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 12, 2010

    I hate to feed the troll, but here goes:

    In at least 3 recent genocides (Nazi Germany, Cambodia and Rwanda), the mass murders were actively promoted by the government in power, with the assistance of pro-government press and radio. Opposition was ruthlessly suppressed by the government.

    Do you want to tell me again how government regulation of speech prevents genocide?

  287. #287 Gary Carson
    June 12, 2010

    Let’s get it straight what Weisel is advocating here.

    He’s talking about European and Canadian-style hate speech laws. Under these laws, people are sentenced to prison for years for things like “holocaust denial,” “slandering the memory of the dead” and offending various protected minority groups.

    Right now, people are sitting in prisons in Europe and Canada for saying or writing things that “human rights champions” like Weisel don’t want to hear. They were sentenced to years in prison for IDEAS–for THINKING the wrong things and daring to write about them or saying them out loud.

    Never mind holocaust denial. The question is whether you really want to introduce laws like this in the United States because there’s no mystery about what would happen.

    The courts that hear these cases are the worst kind of Soviet-style tribunals. Defendants can be charged for things they said or wrote YEARS BEFORE in different countries BEFORE these laws were even passed. Hauled before these star chambers, charged under ideologically-based ex post facto laws that violate every principle of justice we believe in, they aren’t even allowed to present evidence to defend their positions.

    Truth is no defense in cases like this. There have been cases where defense lawyers have been charged and sentenced to prison for trying to defend their clients. The minute hate speech laws of any kind are passed in the United States, free speech will come to an end. Literally. Some speech will be prohibited, some “permitted” by our masters. We will be living in a Soviet People’s Republic and that’s no exaggeration.

    We aren’t talking about yelling fire in a crowded theater here. We are talking about a fundamental change in the basic assumptions of our legal system. We are talking about ideological witchhunts, book burning, the stifling of dissent. Canada, for instance, confiscates prohibited books at the border and customs agents BURN them. Thought criminals of all types are arrested and frequently spend years in solitary confinement waiting for show trials where the verdict is never in doubt.

    Hate speech laws are evil and what Weisel tends to forget is that once you establish the precedent of charging people with thought crimes, these same laws could be turned against him or anyone else under different circumstances.

  288. #288 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    McKneely, are you suggesting that the Nazi and Khmer Rouge governments were democracies? Or that Rwanda had a functioning democracy when the genocide was sparked by radio broadcasts?

    Turn off your brains, don’t make distinctions that are among the clearest possible. Brilliant way to proceed, fellows.

    If I’m a troll, how come orac seems to want to engage me? Huh?

    I told him all he has to do is ask me to leave and I’d never bother coming back. I indicated I wanted to at least three times in this thread and HE keeps trying to egg me back. And, as you seem to not realize, it is his blog.

    So, Gary Carson. You DO really think that Israel should let neo-Nazis do things like turn the funerals of the last few surviving Holocaust victims into Phelps style Holocaust denial spectacles, something that I’m sure would be allowed here under the reigning free speech absolutism. There’s nothing to keep them from doing crap like that here and now. And I would like an answer to that question. How about at Yad Vashem? After the last survivor is gone?

    And I’ll throw that question open to all of you guys, which one of you thinks that Israel should let neo-Nazis do that because it would be wrong to block the Nazis’ “free speech-free expression”? Answer it or remain hypocrites.

  289. #289 Gary Carson
    June 12, 2010

    “You DO really think that Israel should let neo-Nazis do things like turn the funerals of the last few surviving Holocaust victims into Phelps style Holocaust denial spectacles, something that I’m sure would be allowed here under the reigning free speech absolutism. There’s nothing to keep them from doing crap like that here and now.”

    That’s right. There’s nothing to keep them from doing it.

    This is called a state of freedom and I’m not all that eager to throw it away.

    As for Israel, they can pass whatever laws they want. I’m talking about the United States. This isn’t some abstract discussion. I’ve read about how these courts operate in Europe and Canada and they’re an abomination.

    My point has nothing to do with holocaust denial or any other specific “speech crime.” I’m talking about the kind of legal apparatus that would come into existence if laws like this were passed. There’s no need to speculate about what they would be like because they’ve been in existence in Europe and Canada for years and there’s no reason to think they would operate any differently here in the United States.

    As for the Phelps-style spectacles, go ahead and ban them, but keep it in mind that things change. Once you set those precedents, other people with different opinions may get control of the legal apparatus and turn those same laws against YOU.

    Look at what could happen if you permit this kind of social engineering to be established into law. One administration bans Phelps, then the next administration decides to ban pro-abortion demonstrations. Then the next administration decides to ban speech critical of the government, using the same laws. The next thing you know, Congress is passing laws making it a hate crime to criticize British Petroleum or one of their other big corporate contributors.

    People talk as if we have unlimited freedom right now, but it’s being eroded every day. The government already has too much control over our lives and the last thing we need are hate-speech tribunals.

  290. #290 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 12, 2010

    Whoops, there goes another goalpost! Now we’re talking democracies only. When did that happen?

    But then, democracies have never acted in an oppressive manner.
    Gary Carson is exaggerating about Canada, at least. There’s no one imprisoned in Canada for Denial. The only holocaust denier I know of who served time in Canada for this offense was Zundel, who now lives in Germany. I have no use for this piece of shit, but I think his prosecution only boosted his influence and reputation. His conviction, incidentally, was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada for constitutional reasons.
    Canada Customs seems to have a mind of its own. It really loves to pick on Gay and Lesbian bookstores, routinely stopping shipments of books to these stores and laying obscenity charges. Its reach has recently been cut back but not stopped altogether. No one has gone to jail for this.

    So, not as bad as Gary Carson says, but still potentially oppressive. This behavior is limited by those evil constitutional rights that are going to send us to the gas chambers, right?

  291. #291 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    — As for Israel, they can pass whatever laws they want. I’m talking about the United States. This isn’t some abstract discussion. I’ve read about how these courts operate in Europe and Canada and they’re an abomination. Gary Carson

    But you’re upholding a ban on Holocaust denial somewhere in the world. That makes you just as bad as me, I’d have thought. And later on you seem to indicate banning the Phelps style hate speech is all right with you too.

    Your pronouncements are oddly out of sync. Israel can pass whatever laws it wants because you’re “talking about the United States”, but Europe and Canada, not parts of the United States fall under your judgment in a way you don’t want to subject Israel to. I thought rights were inherent and universal. How can you make that distinction?

    How about the funerals of Holocaust victims in the United States? Are neo-Nazi demonstrations at those just fine and dandy because it’s here and not there? How about gay weddings, how about public schools? Are they candidates for neo-Nazi demonstrations?

    —- My point has nothing to do with holocaust denial or any other specific “speech crime.” Gary Carson

    Well, that’s the topic of the post and the discussion. It’s gotten pulled all over the place but I’ve tried to avoid discussing things I couldn’t see a connection with, except in so far as the owner of the blog has brought them up. That’s been my intention, I hope I’ve mostly kept to it.

    — I’m talking about the kind of legal apparatus that would come into existence if laws like this were passed. There’s no need to speculate about what they would be like because they’ve been in existence in Europe and Canada for years and there’s no reason to think they would operate any differently here in the United States. Gary Carson

    Well, the courts in the United States deal with cases involving restrictions of speech all the time now. I’ve specifically asked orac and his pals about false claims in medical products, libel, slander, copyrite and tradmark violation. The courts rule on those all the time. And up until free speech became a legal fashion there were bans on pornography and indecent materials, there are bans on child pornography now. Why that isn’t taken to constitute this slippery slope you people don’t seem to realize we have always been on I don’t know. You seem to worry about some kind of censorious despotism, I worry more about a corporate despotism which would be entirely happy to have anything targeting mere humans for free sale, as long as their property rights to the “intellectual property” were observed.

    What’s being eroded every day is the right to representative government elected by informed voters, and the far right on the Supreme Court is using “free speech” to do it.

  292. #292 Matthew
    June 12, 2010

    How do these HTML block quotes work?

    Sorry about this, I’m trying to keep things legible.

    [You did, however, miss the larger point, that the Supreme Court is using the idea of “free speech” mixed with corporate person hood to destroy self-government by an informed electorate.]

    You named a controversial court case, Citizens United, and drew a conclusion about what you thought it meant, with no supporting evidence. Even if I agreed, a bald assertion isn’t a convincing argument.

    [I’ve never called for banning anything other than on the basis of a demonstrated violent effect.]

    also from Anthony at Echidne of the Snakes and a linked blog.

    [In one of my early blog posts, about the commercial exploitation of children, I said that if free speech advocates couldn’t find a way to protect children while protecting Lady Chatterley’s Lover, then, as far as I’m concerned, the book goes]

    [I suppose it wouldn’t be noticed that I’ve never called for suppressing anything except violent, degrading pornography and that any consensual act between fully consenting adults should be legal, even acts I think are disgusting.]

    [* Again, to avoid going over too far over a thousand words, I will leave out the all important issue of competing rights and how free speech can destroy those rights for some people.]

    Seems like you’re quite open to censorship. Let’s take a look at your “demonstrated violent effect”

    Anthony uses the case of James Edward Perry and the triple murder for hire he committed as a challenge to freedom of speech.

    Here are the details of the case. James Perry was hired by Lawrence Horn to murder Horn’s ex-wife, their invalid son, and his son’s live-in nurse. Lawrence Horn’s son had received a large trust fund as the result of a malpractice settlement and Horn hoped to acquire the money by killing the three.

    Perry was a violent felon with several prior convictions including two for armed robbery and one for attempted murder of a police officer. After release from prison, he began soliciting work as a killer for hire.

    The case became infamous because Perry had purchased a copy of “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors.” from Paladin Press. The book was described by the publisher as a “how to” manual for wannabe professional killers. Perry apparently followed the instructions in the book and the families of the victims sued the publisher claiming Paladin Press aided and abetted the killings.

    Well, this is certainly a challenging case for free speech advocates. How did Anthony present it?

    [My question is, can any book or video or anything which has been shown, beyond a reasonable doubt, to have motivated the violence it intended, be banned? Or am I right, your position is that no number of deaths or violent attacks is ever enough to allow banning?

    How about the example I cited yesterday, “Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors”, explicitly, a how-to book for committing murder? Which has, based on its price, become a collector’s item. I’d imagine you can keep it next to your Jeffrey Dahmer memorabilia.]

    Well, we can discard “Shown beyond reasonable doubt” in the Hitman example, because the case was settled by the publisher’s insurer before it went to trial. What about “motivated the violence”?

    Lawrence Horn, the man who conceived the crime and sought to hire a killer had never read the book. James Perry was already soliciting work as a paid killer before he purchased the book. And the crime was committed over a year after Perry bought the book. It certainly isn’t clear that the book motivated this crime.

    Did Hitman play a role in the commission of the crime? It sure looks that way. So I’d agree there is a basis for an interesting discussion but we won’t get it from Anthony. And keep in mind, this is the example he’s holding up as a benchmark of demonstrated violent effect.

    So yes, it seems Anthony is quite open to censorship.

    [Like the fact that the Rwandan genocide, the various genocides in the Balkans and the Holocaust itself were the results of malignant speech that all the “more speech” and that ridicule that orac’s faith resides in didn’t prevent?]

    [McKneely, are you suggesting that the Nazi and Khmer Rouge governments were democracies? Or that Rwanda had a functioning democracy when the genocide was sparked by radio broadcasts?]

    You keep bringing up Rwanda. Honestly, what is your point? That the right to free speech, a right you admit the Rwandans’ didn’t have, failed to protect them from genocide incited by government propaganda?

    It’s already been pointed out to you that the Rwandan example seems to undercut your arguments. It appears the Rwandan genocide denial law is being used to suppress political opposition in the run up to this year’s election.

    http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/02/10/rwanda-end-attacks-opposition-parties

    Paul Rusesabagina, of Hotel Rwanda fame, has also been threatened with the law, again apparently because he’s critical of the current regime. But there’s no danger these laws will be misused?

    [Though, in my experience, the absolutists aren’t much concerned with the actual results of their positions]

    Orac, I need something stronger than a double face palm.

    By the way, I realize this is getting far afield from the usual subject matter of your blog. If you feel this is inappropriate, I’ll stop.

  293. #293 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    Where’s orac? He’s the one who wanted a definition to shoot down. I predict he’s going to write a scathing post on the Israeli anti-Holocaust, anti-Nazi laws. At least if wants to be consistent that’s what he’ll write about.

    Whoops, there goes another goalpost! Now we’re talking democracies only. When did that happen? McNeely

    “Goalpost”, you people need to get some new cliches. I’m not responsible for what anyone else says but I made the issue of democracy in first point I made here @62. Though, as in your previous comment, apparently you don’t distinguish between genocidal regimes and egalitarian democracies. Which would rather seem to miss the point.

    — His conviction, incidentally, was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada for constitutional reasons. McNeely

    Well, that’s what happens in courts in a democracy. Sometimes things get overturned for that reason. He was deported.

    — Canada Customs seems to have a mind of its own. It really loves to pick on Gay and Lesbian bookstores, routinely stopping shipments of books to these stores and laying obscenity charges. Its reach has recently been cut back but not stopped altogether. No one has gone to jail for this. McNeely

    You seem to think that this has something to do with the ban on Holocaust denial? It’s the Customs Act, not the same law. I think this is where someone’s supposed to notice a goalpost was moved. Only I don’t really expect anyone to notice when it’s one of the fraternity who does it.

  294. #294 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    Matthew, would it be permissible for an anti-vacc activist to write “How to Kill — the real name of orac —” with detailed and accurate instructions of how to do it and get away with it? Would that book and its author be allowed to do that under your level of “free speech”. I wouldn’t think there’s any rational reason to do it.

    You could have pointed to my asking if it would have been permissible to publish “How to Kill Dr. George Tiller” in this thread, which no one seemed to want to touch. Well, would it have been? Because that’s essentially what the anti-choice thugs do now.

    You should go look at the whining complaints about the civil trial against the publisher of Hit Man, whining and complaining that his insurance company, knowing they didn’t have a leg to stand on, made him settle and destroy all remaining copies of the how to murder manual. I believe one of them was in the curiously titled “Reason” magazine.

    So, who here would agree that it would be all right for someone to publish instructions for killing them? That free speech means that anyone can do it. How about a book about how to get away with murdering your ex-wife sold to “mens rights” groups? You like that idea?

    Ah, it looks like a slippery slope to me.

  295. #295 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    As for Rwanda, you think the situation there would be improved by freely expressed ethnic politics and denials of the character of the 1994 genocide? I don’t think that Victoire Ingabire’s activities have been neutral given the recent history and the ongoing problems with the Hutu gangs hold up on the frontier with Congo. I certainly wouldn’t approve of the beating of her party members but I’d have thought that would be more of an indication of how dangerous the situation is.

    Do you think that members of the Tutsi minority would passively accept openly ethnic Hutu political figures?

    The Kigali government isn’t perfect by a long stretch but in the region and in terms of the history of Rwanda and Burundi, it’s far from the worst.

    All I have said is that their genocide denial laws were justified and this doesn’t change my mind. How do you think it would be improved if people were free to deny what had happened?

  296. #296 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 12, 2010

    You seem to think that this has something to do with the ban on Holocaust denial? It’s the Customs Act, not the same law. I think this is where someone’s supposed to notice a goalpost was moved. Only I don’t really expect anyone to notice when it’s one of the fraternity who does it.

    I gave that as an example of what can happen in a democracy when well-intentioned restrictions on speech or writing are in force. Do you think that a ban on Holocaust denial could never be abused in this manner?

  297. #297 Anthony McCarthy
    June 12, 2010

    McNeely, you know by doing what you just did you moved a goalpost again.

    Do you think that laws controlling the content of information about medical devices and procedures could never be abused? Because you’ve never looked at the history of contraception in the United States if you do. I wonder how orac would like that thrown wide open and unregulated.

    So, you, like the rest of the regulars here apparently think a book about how to kill poor orac would be all right? How about How To Kill Your Ex-Wife? I’d like to stick up for orac and say I think a book telling how to kill him or any person or class of people would be rightly banned and people disseminating it should be punished.

  298. #298 Orac
    June 12, 2010

    Where’s orac? He’s the one who wanted a definition to shoot down.

    Actually having a life, as opposed to waiting eagerly to respond to you. I do do other things besides blog, you know, or sit around waiting for you. Believe it or not, I haven’t paid any attention to the blog today for at least 12 hours, and I had more important things to do than to spar with you today. I’m half-tempted to invoke William Shatner’s infamous “get a life” line.

    I’m also going to bed now because I’ve been busy with other things all day and then away most of the evening. I’m tired. Fear not, though, I’ll be back here.

    Tomorrow sometime. When I feel like it. Good night.

  299. #299 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 13, 2010

    McNeely, you know by doing what you just did you moved a goalpost again.

    Not by my understanding of the term.

    Do you think that laws controlling the content of information about medical devices and procedures could never be abused? Because you’ve never looked at the history of contraception in the United States if you do. I wonder how orac would like that thrown wide open and unregulated.

    I’m sorry, what in hell are you talking about? As far as I know, it used to be a crime to promote contraception in the USA (as well as many other places). Now it isn’t. Why is this an argument for banning Holocaust denial? Sounds to me like the opposite.

    So, you, like the rest of the regulars here apparently think a book about how to kill poor orac would be all right? How about How To Kill Your Ex-Wife? I’d like to stick up for orac and say I think a book telling how to kill him or any person or class of people would be rightly banned and people disseminating it should be punished.

    Check any forensic pathology textbook and it will provide you with many ways to kill someone, some of which are virtually undetectable. I guess we had better ban them and and punish the authors and publishers.

    You had better get some rest, your thinking is becoming even more muddled than before.

  300. #300 Matthew
    June 13, 2010

    [Matthew, would it be permissible for an anti-vacc activist to write “How to Kill — the real name of orac —” with detailed and accurate instructions of how to do it and get away with it? Would that book and its author be allowed to do that under your level of “free speech”. I wouldn’t think there’s any rational reason to do it.

    You could have pointed to my asking if it would have been permissible to publish “How to Kill Dr. George Tiller” in this thread, which no one seemed to want to touch. Well, would it have been? Because that’s essentially what the anti-choice thugs do now. ]

    I’m not a lawyer, much less a con law lawyer, nor do I base constitutional questions on my own personal feelings. However, the answer you’re looking for is no.

    In my admittedly unprofessional opinion, what you’re describing would be a “true threat” and therefore unprotected speech.

    Here’s some court cases which may clarify.

    http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2005/summer/threatscom

    This article was written before a verdict was reached. The defendants were found guilty.

    To more directly address the similar tactics used by anti-abortionists:

    http://www.citmedialaw.org/threats/planned-parenthood-columbiawillamette-inc-v-american-coalition-life-activists

    You dislike the Reason article? Here it is.

    http://reason.com/archives/1999/08/01/the-day-they-came-to-sue-the-b

    I’ll leave this one to interested readers.

    On to Rwanda.

    My point about their law is that it embodies the danger of all such legislation; that it can be used to crackdown on expression far removed from genocide denial.

    [Do you think that members of the Tutsi minority would passively accept openly ethnic Hutu political figures? ]

    Here you appear to concede that is indeed what the Rwandan legislation is being used for.

    [I don’t think that Victoire Ingabire’s activities have been neutral given the recent history and the ongoing problems with the Hutu gangs hold up on the frontier with Congo.]

    I would ask that you stop oversimplifying the situation in Congo to justify this legislation.

    http://www.hrw.org/en/node/87142/section/5

    [All I have said is that their genocide denial laws were justified and this doesn’t change my mind.]

    I don’t think anything will change your mind.

    [How do you think it would be improved if people were free to deny what had happened?]

    I doubt denialists would improve anything. However, I also think that Rwanda would be better off if the current regime wasn’t using the genocide law to intimidate political opponents.

    I am curious, if you met Paul Rusesabagina would stand up for this law and the threats to use it against him?

  301. #301 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2010

    I’m glad to hear you’re still among the living, orac. And here I thought you were preparing your battle ship to blow me out of the water, the one I’ve been expecting since this thread numbered in the early 100s. Are you implying that your regulars don’t have a life? Sorry, I do love to tease, though not in rough bars. I assure you, if it wasn’t raining here I’d really rather be in the garden right now.

    —-Not by my understanding of the term. McNeely

    Well, knock me over with a cement truck, if I couldn’t have predicted that. Though not by methods that would give a “skeptic” the willies.

    — Why is this an argument for banning Holocaust denial? McNeely

    Well, you’re the one who made the argument that the asserted abuse of the Customs Act in Canada was an argument in favor of Holocaust denial having civil liberties protection. If you want to go that route all kinds of stuff would have to be allowed because restricting it might lead to illegitimate overreach by some clerk somewhere who had a bad week or whose badge went to his head.

    — Check any forensic pathology textbook and it will provide you with many ways to kill someone, some of which are virtually undetectable. McNeely

    So, you are unable to detect the difference between a pathology text book, which doesn’t, by the publisher’s description instruct people in how a professional hit man plans his murders, carries them out, and escapes capture. I haven’t read the book so perhaps it also tells you how to kill someone and avoid detection, though I’ve got a feeling the fans of that genre might prefer something loud and violent. You think that the authors of pathology text books have something in common with the author of Hit Man that can’t be legally distinguished. Well, you did just miss the nature of the argument you made.

    You really do think that someone could publish a book instructing people how to murder a named individual or a class of individuals, such as ex-wives, and that has the right to full free speech protection. How about a letter doing the same thing?

    Come on, boys, you’re the ones who want to hide behind extreme hypotheticals. Well the murders attributed to Hit Man were anything but hypothetical, the murders of George Tiller and other doctors and womens health care providers and staff are anything by hypothetical and all have been promoted through the miracle of free speech absolutism.

    That’s the thing about an absolute stand, it shuts down thinking and reasoning and taking reality into account. And, as seen in the malignant Supreme Court rulings handing over our elections to the highest bidder, it’s so dangerous to other, arguably more important, things.

  302. #302 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2010

    Oh, and orac, if you’re really getting tired of this, I assure you that if you asked me to not come to your blog, came out and said it, I promise you that I’ve always maintained that would be your right. There would be no hypocrisy in you doing that because you are not the government, you are under absolutely no First Amendment requirement to give up control of the content of your blog.

    I’ve deleted comments from blogs I was in charge of and threatened repeat violators with banning, you can point to me doing that myself. I’d give you the links to those but I don’t remember exactly where they are. I’ll stipulate that I’ve done it and you can cite this in your defense. If anyone is stupid enough to accuse you of doing what all editors and publishers do, control the content of THEIR publications. Blog rat libertarians don’t tend to catch on too quickly.

    I’d point out other places I’ve said this but the fans of another prominent blogger haven’t understood the point no matter how explicitly I’ve pointed out that’s the stand I’ve always taken on that. And it’s led to really long and tedious discussions, though I do think that the other blogger twigged onto it a lot faster than his fans did.

  303. #303 Matthew
    June 13, 2010

    [the murders attributed to Hit Man were anything but hypothetical]

    No one, not even the plaintiffs who sued Paladin Press, attributed the murders to the book Hit Man, the plaintiffs alleged “aiding and abetting”. To reiterate; the man who thought up the crime and hired the killer never read the book. The killer was a violent felon who was already soliciting work as a hit man prior to reading the book. So it’s not nearly as clear cut a case as you present it.
    Your continual distortion of the facts of the case come across as a dishonest attempt to bolster your argument.

    [the murders of George Tiller and other doctors and womens health care providers and staff are anything by hypothetical]

    As pointed out to you previously, true threats, including your hypothetical example, are not protected speech. At least, not now, not under the free speech “Absolutism” you’re railing against. The examples I linked contained successful prosecutions for such threatening speech.

    [all have been promoted through the miracle of free speech absolutism. ]

    Combining your willful misunderstanding of the Hitman case
    with the George Tiller murder and unspecified anti-abortion violence is misleading to the point of bald face lying. You seem to think it’s clever to slime your opponents with inferences of murder. It’s not.

  304. #304 Matthew
    June 13, 2010

    On the plus side, you like gardening. Here in California, we’re enjoying the last of the native sage and Matilija Poppy before summer sets in.

  305. #305 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2010

    You mean, Matthew, you mean, I slandered the poor book?

    Here’s the publisher’s description of the book.

    ” Product Description
    Rex Feral kills for hire. Daring. Unafraid. Profrssional. Now he dares to tell his professional secrets.

    Feral is a hit man. Some consider him a criminal. Others think him a hero. In truth, he is a letal weapon aimed at the enemy of the one who pays him. He is the last recourse in these times when laws are so twisted that justice goes unserved. He is a man who controls his destiny through his private code of ethics, who feels no twinge of guilt at doing his job. He is a professional killer.

    Learn how a pro makes a living at this craft without landing behind bars. Find out how he gets hit assignments, creates a false working identity, makes a disposable silencer, leaves the scene without a trace of evidence, watches his mark unobserved, and more. An expert assassin and bodyguard, Feral reveals the details of how to get in, do the job, and get out – without getting caught. For informationl purposes only! ”

    Maybe the book, which obviously has more rights than the disabled child, his mother and his night nurse has, since they’re all dead, will bring me to court for slander.

    Hells belles.

    So, you would have nothing against a book detailing, “theoretically”, how to kill a named individual, say the owner of this blog, as long as it didn’t actually come out and say, Kill Him! Sort of like the “For informationl purposes only!” appended to the publisher’s come on.

    And I’m supposed to pretend that’s a serious point.

    No, I grew up a long, long time ago. Long enough ago to remember when adults didn’t pretend they didn’t understand a ruse like that when they saw it. Back before Nat Hentoff and his ilk popularized that kind of “let’s pretend”.

    How about a letter sent to ten unstable individuals of the same nature? Would that be a glorious expression of free speech, as long as it didn’t carry the actual command or “suggestion” to do it?

    What’s the matter? Don’t you want to face the results of your position full on?

  306. #306 Matthew
    June 13, 2010

    [You mean, Matthew, you mean, I slandered the poor book?]

    No. I said you attributed Perry and Horn’s crimes to the book when no one else had and when there is reasonable evidence that the crimes would have occurred regardless if Perry read the book.

    [So, you would have nothing against a book detailing, “theoretically”, how to kill a named individual, say the owner of this blog, as long as it didn’t actually come out and say, Kill Him! Sort of like the “For informationl purposes only!” appended to the publisher’s come on.]

    I have already answered this question twice. No. True threats, even if they don’t actually instruct killing , are not protected speech. In addition, I linked to two cases where defendants were found guilty of just such speech.

    You seem like an intelligent person. I’m not a particularly good writer but I think my points have been clear enough. I have to conclude that you are trolling as you are lying about my position in order to combat a straw man. However, it’s all here in writing, anyone’s free to read our exchange and decide who’s being honest.

  307. #307 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2010

    Oh, you mean how to be a professional hit man books don’t kill the people their readers kill in a fashion remarkably consistent with the instructions in the book kill them, but people kill them and the publishers and authors of the instructions they followed are blameless.

    Matthew, I purposely phrased it so that there would be no actual threat in the letters or the how to kill orac book. From what you’ve said, that would make it all right and the authors and publishers would be off scott free…. Not to impute motives to a regular, by the way.

    Alas poor orac….

  308. #308 Matthew
    June 13, 2010

    You keep on constructing strawmen. It’s annoying.

    I originally brought up Hit Man because I thought it was your strongest argument for censorship. It does appear Perry followed the instructions in it and if that was the whole of the case; that a disgruntled person read this book and committed a copy cat crime, you’d have a pretty strong case that Hit Man was not protected. I would guess on incitement grounds.

    But that is not an accurate summary. Laurence Horn didn’t read the book, but he came up with the crime and actively sought a killer to commit it. Perry wasn’t some naive malcontent who read a book and decided to try it out. He had already been convicted of both armed robbery and attempted murder. He was also soliciting hits prior to reading the book.

    So I do believe there is room for a discussion about assigning blame. I’m unfamiliar with what qualifies aiding and abetting in a civil suit. Perhaps the Plaintiffs had a case.

    However, no one will have in interesting discussion with you. You fail to honestly describe the case, offer your own opinions as established fact, and then blow up when people refuse to accept your conclusions.

    [Matthew, I purposely phrased it so that there would be no actual threat in the letters or the how to kill orac book. From what you’ve said, that would make it all right and the authors and publishers would be off scott free]

    The following is from my previous response…

    [True threats, even if they don’t actually instruct killing , are not protected speech.}

    True threat is a legal term. You don’t actually have to make an explicit threat for speech to be defined as a True threat.

    The two cases I linked to demonstrated this. In both cases, the defendants did not make any explicit threat. The defendants lost both cases.

    Apparently, you couldn’t be bothered to read the links provided. You’d be better served by reading the information yourself but I’ll offer my amateur analysis.

    A book aimed at a specific individual with instructions tailored to that individual would fit the description of a true threat, even if no demand for action was made. In fact, even if the target individual was not named, if the book was specific enough that the targets identity was not in doubt, the book would constitute a threat.

    Hit Man does not fit this description. It instructs generally on how to commit crime. This is speech the courts have already found to be protected. However, it’s obviously not clear cut; one court found Hit Man to be protected under the 1st, the appeals panel did not.

    Now I’ve answered your hypothetical book question four times, each time in the negative. I’ve even given you examples of actual cases that mirror your hypothetical. No, the book your describing is not protected speech.

    [From what you’ve said, that would make it all right and the authors and publishers would be off scott free]

    I’ve stated the same position three times before and repeated it in this post yet you conclude that my position is the opposite of what I’ve stated. You’re a liar. There is nothing productive about having a conversation with an unabashed liar.

  309. #309 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2010

    What’s annoying is having people talk about straw men at the drop of a hat. As I told one of the boys above, you need to get some new buzz words.

    Pretending that the book was uninvolved with the crime is the lie. Pretending that the subject matter of the book wasn’t meant to appeal to people who saw themselves as the same kind of “heroes” that “Rex Feral” is sold as being, as being professional killers, a percentage of which mentally ill readers could be expected to try out their new found “craft” and that any reasonable person would realize that the promo would attract people like that. Those are all lies.

    How do you know that Perry would have succeeded in killing three people if he hadn’t read the book. The book promises to teach people to murder and get away with it. The publisher and author certainly couldn’t very easily claim that they were confident the methods in the book wouldn’t make a killer more effective.

    We don’t know what would have happened except within the context of what did happen, and the book figured into it.

    I suppose that when I have the time and a strong does of anti-emetics I’ll have to go pouring over the staunch defenders of the book and free speech on behalf of the instructors of would be hit men. I usually try to avoid consuming that much bilge just before bed time. Apparently it’s to your taste.

    You are nuts.

  310. #310 Anthony McCarthy
    June 13, 2010

    Oh, when you come back, Matthew, let us know if it’s OK with you if you’re the subject of a how to book like that. I’m waiting for one of you to put yourself on the line, however theoretically. It’s so brave, theory. So easy, that kind of courage.

  311. #311 bush piglet
    June 14, 2010

    Anthony, I’m a long time lurker and I rarely ever post because quite frankly I’m out of my depth frequently. You ever seem not to care about that at all! I almost admire your fearlessness as much as your ability to type one handed.

  312. #312 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2010

    bush piglet, as I your ability to imitate thinking one lobed.

    orac, do I have your permission to let loose my ridicule because I’ve really been keeping in in check.

  313. #313 bush pigleet
    June 14, 2010

    I didnt realise that you needed to ask permission to engage in a pissing contest but if you must you must. By the way the way its really sweet how you call it a ridicule, but you still shouldn,t let it loose in public.

  314. #314 Anthony McCarthy
    June 14, 2010

    A “pissing match”. That’s how you see arguing about preventing people getting murdered on an industrial scale.

    You see, orac, as with the free speech industry, it’s not about the people who get killed who might not have been with blog libertarians, it’s an argument about abstract “principles” that don’t bleed. It’s a political and legal equivalent of medical treatment based on the humors and metaphysics.

  315. #315 Anthony McCarthy
    June 16, 2010

    To complete this, I sent this e-mail to orac last weekend, which he hasn’t answered.

    Orac, if you would like me to stop commenting on Holocaust denial and related topics at your blog, all you’ve got to do is tell me and stop hectoring me about it. I will keep it up if you continue doing that. If it wasn’t for the hectoring, I’d have stopped the first time I indicated I wanted to. But you’ll have to say it in response to my last comment now on the thread instead of privately.

    The issue is important, and I wasn’t about to leave off for a frivolous reason.

    You’re a very smart man, orac, it’s been a pleasure watching you figure out my strategies and avoiding my baits and traps. Though every one of those is an important, real-life, consideration. . You’re very good at it and I like to think I’m not entirely unskilled in this style of argument. The boys, not so much. If I don’t believe that you were always entirely honest in your doing it, who am I to complain.

    I do believe the unthinking stand you’ve taken on this is unworthy of your abilities. I’m sure you don’t agree. I am afraid as the out of control Roberts court continues, that stand will only become more obviously dangerous. I’m afraid the future they’ve got planned for us will not allow people to remain on auto-pilot on free speech indefinitely.

    yours truly, Anthony McCarthy

    P. S. I wouldn’t actually have used your name, that was a test to see how unacceptable that act of free speech would have been to you and your fans. You seem to have figured that one out right off, them, not as fast.

    —-
    I’m leaving this and the recent, related climate change denial controversy convinced that pseudo-skepticism is a lot more dangerous than I thought before and will attack it more vigorously from now on.

  316. #316 L. Newington
    June 17, 2010

    So many comments mine will probably just pass by and that’s ok; I would just like to say that I am not Jewish I am a Catholic convert and if asked for one person I would like to meet before I die it would have to be Elie Wiesel without a doubt. Some comments have been a little unkind; he has carried the memories of a loving family he lost and been faithful to the promise of “I will never forget you” to all those of his Jewish heritage who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime, whilst many times by many remained silent.
    It would be a very sad thing for him too, in this his twilight years, to realize the white wash of history of what happened to his people for expediency and to see a pope of that time who was called upon by leaders of the world to exercise his influence and authority, to denounce what was happening under his very nose, heading for sainthood.
    I should embrace you Elie; as a friend, then as a father mother a sister a brother and all those to whom you made that promise of remembrance to, and share in your Gethsemene, if for just a moment.
    A faithful son to whom all are proud.

  317. #317 Andy W
    October 1, 2010

    Horror movies : Dial H for Holocaust , written , produced and directed by Adolf Hitchcock …… Anne Frankenstein …….. Mass murder on the Auschwitz Express and finaly …… Nightmare on Elie Wiesel Street .

  318. #318 Andy W
    October 1, 2010

    Horror movies : Dial H for Holocaust , written , produced and directed by Adolf Hitchcock …… Anne Frankenstein …….. Mass murder on the Auschwitz Express and finaly …… Nightmare on Elie Wiesel Street .

  319. #319 Antaeus Feldspar
    October 1, 2010

    Did you have a point beyond satisfying a fifth-grade desire to shock, Andy?

  320. #320 Anthony McCarthy
    June 23, 2011

    Antaeus Feldspar, so, you missed that little side topics of genocide and neo-Nazis and Holocaust denial.

    What an absolutely stupid waste of time your comment was.

  321. #321 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 23, 2011

    You came back after eight months just to whine that my comment wasted time? You could use some self-awareness, friend.

  322. #322 Antaeus Feldspar
    June 23, 2011

    Ah, that was my other theory, that it was actually the pothead sockpuppet troll trying to earn himself a banning.

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