DAVID IRVING….Michael Shermer, who’s actually met and interviewed Holocaust denier David Irving, thinks Austria did the wrong thing by sentencing him to prison for expressing his views:

Austria’s treatment of Irving as a political dissident should offend both the people who defend the rights of political cartoonists to express their opinion of Islamic terrorists and the civil libertarians who leaped to the defense of University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill when he exercised his right to call the victims of 9/11 “little Eichmanns.” Why doesn’t it? Why aren’t freedom lovers everywhere offended by Irving’s court conviction?

Freedom is a principle that must be applied indiscriminately. We have to defend Irving in order to defend ourselves. Once the laws are in place to jail dissidents of Holocaust history, what’s to stop such laws from being applied to dissenters of religious or political histories, or to skepticism of any sort that deviates from the accepted canon?

I’ve already mentioned this briefly before, but I agree. As usual with free speech issues, this isn’t a question of whether Irving’s speech is odious, it’s a question of whether the state should be allowed to declare it illegal. This is a power that I’m very reluctant to concede to central governments, which is why I generally oppose hate speech laws and think that Tony Blair is insane for pushing legislation to ban the act of “glorifying terrorism” ? whatever that is.

As Shermer says, it’s at least understandable that countries like Germany and Austria have laws that ban Holocaust denial. There’s some history there. But at some point they have to decide if they’ve matured enough since World War II to trust their own citizens not to fall prey en masse to the ranting hatred of loons like David Irving. It’s unfortunate that apparently they don’t feel they have.

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