Monday, February 09, 2015

"I am Charlie, you are Horst"

The German journalist Malte Herwig suggests to reconsider Anti-Holocaust denial laws in the light of the recent discussions on free speech after the fatal attack on the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo on 7 January 2015. Quoting Voltaire's famous (actually put into his mouth by a biographer) "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it", he makes the point that this should also hold for one of the "most contemptible opinions" like Holocaust denial and the likes of Horst Mahler.

[...] Let's do the Voltaire test in present Germany. We have taboos too, which are not covered by freedom of speech. I reckon antisemitism and Holocaust denial among the most conteptible opinions. I regard them as stupid and wrong, and I think it's important to expose them publicly as lies and to condemn them socially. 

But I'm not a afraid of such lies. As long as it is not slander, I do not think that one should ban such statements and so draw even more attention to them. That's why I think it's wrong that a conceited right-wing extremist as Horst Mahler should stay for twelve years in prison because he has repeatedly denied the Holocaust.

His fantasms about the Third Reich can be easily refuted and even more easily ignored. Yet, freedom of speech is measured with a double standard in his case - according to the motto "I'm Charlie, but you're Horst, and you need to go in jail for your opinion."

Meanwhile, the Bavarian minister of finance Winfried Bausback tries to ban a critically annotated edition of Hitler's "Mein Kampf"
compiled by renowned historians. Obviously, the minister considers the poison Hitler as still infectious and doubts in the immunity of the Germans.

Dictatorships are afraid of the truth, democracies not. We should not be afraid of lies either, if we are serious about freedom. "If you feel dissatisfied with a book, then refute it", suggested Voltaire once, "if it makes you upset, do not read it." 

(Malte Herwig, Ich bin Charlie, du bist Horst, published 4 February 2015, my translation; I learnt about the article from Italy's main Revisionist dump blog Olodogma)

Indeed, it's time for parts of Europe to grow up and deal with Holocaust deniers like one is usually doing it with crank movements: punishing them by not taking notice of or debunking their pile of crap. 

As we exercise here at Holocaust Controversies blog, Holocaust denial is ridiculously easy to refute that it seems as if any ban is causing more damage than it intents to avoid. 

Addition of 9 February 2015: 

Sam Schulman concluded in The Weekly Standard that "[l]imiting free speech, for noble or ignoble reasons, is an experiment that has been tried and failed. Jailing antisemites and dissenting journalists has failed to protect even the lives of European Jews, much less reduce antisemitism." (found via the CODOH forum)


  1. Roberto, I just signed.

    I had agreed partially with these laws in specific cases as well as countries such as racist and dictatorial past, but this concern proved to be mistaken with the recent events (including the issue in Ukraine and the rise of the Far Right there). I agree with what Hans said.

    These laws are something more or less like this: legislators think people will no longer be racist if some are arrested for this. It's like believing we can educate people by decree, or put down a political movement just by repression "Hey you, fear me!".

    Foolish and useless belief.

  2. In Brazil we have something worse or equivalent to this law of Denial that is the legislation on racism, from 1988/89.

    Read this here (in Portuguese): Link1, Link2, Link3, Link4

    Legislation originating in parts on Racism of the 1988 Constitution (in English): Link (PDF)

    "VIII – repudiation of terrorism and racism;"
    XLII – the practice of racism is a non-bailable crime, with no limitation, subject to the penalty of confinement, under the terms of the law;"

    Legislation against Racism here (in English): Link1, Link2.

    Comments on the Law effects here: Link2, Link3(be careful with the Veja Magazine comments, that trash is worse than Fox News)

    This legislation, in practice, has only improved Racism (the constitution is from 1988, made after the dictatorship 1964-1985) and transformed a society totally in a cynical society with these laws and given power to the "victimhood speech" of the Right Wing that accuses this Legislation of being a "Dictatorship of Politically Correct", and with this speech they gain more and more fans.

    Current result of this Legislation and the hysteria around it, it's the election of the most reactionary Congress since 1964 (year of the coup that led to a dictatorship of 21 years).

    Lawmakers instead to propose improvements in education to force a cultural change, they think they'll "educate" the people by laws.


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