Monday, February 20, 2006

Another (dubious) Change of Opinion

David Irving, the (in)famous Holocaust negationist, has denied it all. This happened during his trial in Vienna (read here for a report).

The reason for this sudden change of mind are not clear. After all, Irving devoted all his career as historian to support his negationist claim.

It may be a farce to avoid a heavy condamnation. The deeper problem is still one of freedom of speech. Can we really be held accountable for expressing an opinion? Or the interest in free speech should prevail, no matter how brutal and incorrect this opinion is?

On this point, there is a fundamental difference between the US and various other European positions. In North America, Free Speech seems to be virtually absolute. In Europe, free speech is likely to be limited more often, especially in the light of previous historical precedents (e.g. nazism). In other words, Europe still bears the scars of extremism and does not want to re-open the wounds.

Another controversial aspect of free speech is that it can be inflammatory and lead to serious disorders. See for the most recent example, the Mahommed case. What is interesting to note is that at the global level a state may decide to restrict freedom of speech in order to protect itself from retaliation. Thus, Danemark may end up limiting free speech in order to avoid muslim retaliation.

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