Austrian prosecutors are asking to increase the three year sentence meted out to (despicable, creepy, infamous etc.) British writer David Irving for violating a criminal statute that penalizes anyone who "denies, grossly plays down, approves or tries to excuse" the Holocaust in print "or other media."
Denying the Holocaust may or may not be the same thing as merely depicting the Prophet, but jailing someone for denying the Holocaust seems like the same thing as jailing someone for depicting the Prophet. The New York Post, shamefully, ran the story of the sentencing under a nyah-nyah headline of "Deny This!" We'll see how the Post's crack editorial writers reconcile this glee at Irving's imprisonment with their criticism of the administration ("Bushies betray free speech") for having failed to defend in stronger terms the "freedoms that Americans hold dear" in the case of the Danish cartoonists.
The Anti-Defamation League, also shamefully, limits its criticism to "acknowledging that America's constitutional system bars prosecution for hate speech" before rushing to congratulate the Austrian court for having "sent an unmistakable and important message." I'm afraid it did.
I don't think that holocaust denial--or flag burning--should be a crime. Although I have thought this for at least two decades, the cartoon riots have confirmed and strengthened this opinion. The Imams are right to point to the inconsistency in European treatment between holocaust denial and blasphemy against Mohammed.
There is a lot we can learn from the furor over the cartoons. The disutility of flag-burning and holocaust denial statutes is just one of them. Another lesson (which universities should do more to teach): No one has a right not to be offended.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Mickey Kaus on the Austrian Prison Sentence for Denying the Holocaust:
- David Irving and Holocaust Denial.--