Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Where to Draw the Line on Holocaust Denial

One often hears of the need to "draw a line" between free speech and hate speech. Loath as I am to draw such a line (unless, that is, someone's words incite violence), I think Alan Dershowitz gets it right in this TLS piece.

How so?

Dershowitz argues that, while Holocaust denial should fall under the rubric of free speech, the same should not apply to professors who want to teach lies about the Holocaust to impressionable university students:
I, too, support the right of falsifiers of history to submit their lies to the open marketplace of ideas, where all reasonable people should reject them. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution does not distinguish between truth and lies, at least when it comes to historical events. Just as I defended the rights of Nazis to march through Skokie, and the right of Ku Klux Klan racists to burn crosses on their own property, I defend the right of mendacious Holocaust deniers to spin their hateful web of lies. But, unlike [Noam] Chomsky, I would never dream of supporting the phoney methodology employed by liars such as [French Holocaust denier Robert] Faurisson, by saying it is based on “extensive historical research”.  Chomsky should be praised for defending the right of Holocaust deniers, but he should be condemned if his involvement in the petition [supporting Faurisson] lent substantive and methodological credibility to their false history. 
The marketplace is one thing, but let me be clear that I do not believe that any university should tolerate, in the name of academic freedom, these falsehoods being taught in the classroom.  There is not and should not be academic freedom to commit educational malpractice by presenting provable lies as acceptable facts.  Universities must and do have standards: no credible university would tolerate a professor teaching that slavery did not exist, or that the Earth is flat. Holocaust denial does not meet any reasonable standard deserving the protection of academic freedom...
Agreed, which is why I drew a line under that one.

1 comment:

Frances said...

I agree with you totally. However, Americans are being taught that slavery did not exist EXCEPT in the USA and was totally carried on by whites in all phases of same.