I fear I don’t see any justification for the law denying the holocaust deniers.
Yes, there is the “yelling fire in a crowded theatre” argument. I buy that. You can’t say things that will reasonably lead to immediate and predictable harm to those around you. When your speech predictably leads to clear and present danger to those hearing your words, free speech is curtailed. As someone once said, “Your freedom to swing your fist stops at the end of my nose.” Why? Because at that point it becomes a clear and present danger to me.
But once you leave that warm and comfortable example, things start to get fuzzy right away. Let’s take the Danish cartoons as another example. They led to immediate, unreasonable, unpredictable harm, as lunatics and the mentally challenged started to riot. Should we constrain our freedom of speech to keep lunatics from rioting? Perhaps so, I don’t think so myself, but that’s a whole lot less clear than the “crowded theatre” argument.
The same is even more true about holocaust denial. While the Danish cartoons brought an immediate response in the form of worldwide riots, the response to me standing in a German street and saying “The moon landing was staged in a Hollywood set! The Mafia killed JFK! The holocaust is a lie!” would probably be … well … not much at all. I’ve been ignored saying much more provocative things. Where is the immediate and present danger to the people around me? The proper response is not arresting me. The proper response is to give me a soapbox to stand on and an out of the way corner where I can air my lunacy.
Me, I’ve always thought the Germans made the law so they wouldn’t have to deal with the issue as much. Any attention to the Holocaust is not a good thing for those whose nations were complicit, so anything that stops discussion of any aspect of the Holocaust is a good thing. In particular, the Germans have no interest in proving that the Holocaust was real, there’s no benefit to them at all in that exercise.
Plus as any parent knows, forbidding your kids from saying something invariably leads them to say it more, just when you’re not around. The odd, and perhaps intended, effect of the law is to increase the discussion of the “holocaust is a lie” meme, just not when the adults are around.
Here’s the weird part. If someone wanted to keep the “holocaust is a lie” meme alive and well, there is no better way to do it than to ban public discussion of the idea. Truly. It drives the idea underground, it fulfills the fantasy of the people saying it that they are being punished for speaking the truth, it feeds every conspiracy theorist’s wildest wet dream. I find it difficult to believe that the authors of such a law were not aware of this well-known oddity of human behavior, but I hear anything’s possible in the Eurozone …
Here’s an example. The US Government could ban the public discussion of any claim that Oswald was not solely responsible for JFK’s murder. Now, a question for the Teeming Masses: would this tend to a) decrease claims that there was a conspiracy to kill JFK, or would it b) be more likely to keep the conspiracy meme alive? I vote for choice b), keep the meme alive, with extra bonus survival points … it proves that the conspiracy reaches so high that the Government is willing to abrogate free speech in order to keep people from finding out the truth!
To me, the Holocaust Denier laws are among the stupidest, most counterproductive laws on the planet. All it means is that when someone publicly says “The holocaust is a lie”, instead of it being roundly ignored as it would be in a civilized society, suddenly it’s in the headlines … yeah, that’s the ticket, put it in the headlines instead of ignoring it, make martyrs out of the people saying it, give the proponents of the idea every possible publicity, reinforce their paranoid conspiracy theories, that’ll make the idea go away …
It’s like the UK stupidly banning Geert Wilders recently from entering the country. I’m sure Wilders was hoping against hope that they would do such a monumentally foolish thing, because even a bear of little brain knows that such idiocy would inevitably give him a glorious global soapbox for his message. Instead of showing his film to a few sleepy octogenarians in the House of Lords, he gets to make a worldwide case for it, with bonus points for them trying to suppress his message. Dudes, his message is that the Europeans are more than willing to trample on basic human rights to appease the Muslim fundamentalists. Whether he is right or wrong, the smart thing to do is not to stomp on his rights in response, it kinda proves his point, don’tcha know …