Holocaust denial-the ins and outs and why it should be illegalised

Denying the holocaust has been prevalent in society since the 1940s. It has plagued modern society with its claims and arguments, further harming people who were directly and indirectly affected by it. Deniers of the Holocaust claim that certain areas of the Third Reich were not taken up by concentration camps, and that therefore the Holocaust did not happen.

Alright it’s more complicated than that-but the fact is history has proven the Holocaust occurred. And there shouldn’t need to be proof. Not to show it happened; a conversation with any Holocaust survivor or anyone affected by the genocidal crime is more than enough to prove that so many people were killed in a barbaric and senseless manner.

Mere words like ‘barbaric’ and ‘senseless’ can’t really describe what happened in the Holocaust, no word can do enough to capture the horrific events which took place across Europe in the 1930s and 40s.

But the issue here is whether holocaust denial should remain legal, or whether it should be illegalized. The main argument for allowing Holocaust denial is that freedom of speech is an inherent part of our society and that to ban or punish Holocaust denial would perpetuate this fundamental right. The debate about whether holocaust denial should be allowed is particularly thematic now, not only because Tuesday (27th January 2015) marked 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, but also because the recent Charlie Hebdo massacres and the relevant responses threw the question of freedom of speech and it’s limits right into the limelight. Do Charlie Hebdo have the right to publish editions portraying, amongst other controversies, Muhammed, something which is forbidden throughout Islam? Or is this beyond the ‘line’, the ‘line’ separating freedom of speech from pure disrespect and insult.

The same issue resides with Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial has transcended the ‘freedom of speech’ we support and has become a pure insult to the memory of the 11 million people who were killed, and the countless others who were permanently affected by it. The extent of the Holocaust and the effect it has on present day politics and life in general makes it’s denial a gross injustice to the people who went through so much in the camps, and in Nazi Germany in general.

Another argument against punishing Holocaust denial is that a legal punishment would not necessarily end the problem. And of course, this is right. With the modern methods of communication and the infinite resources available to us all online, yes some of these sentiments will get through. But a partial restraint on Holocaust denial is better than no restraint whatsoever. The argument that Holocaust denial should be allowed because its restriction would not lead to the end of the problem is fundamentally flawed, as the majority of measures we take in our society do not solve problems completely.

A few examples: the use of fossil fuels, hunger, disease-the failure to eradicate a problem off the face of the earth does not render that problem unimportant or undeserving of attention. The same comes with Holocaust denial.

Freedom of speech, the kind discussed following the American, French and other revolutions, is not a bottomless concept. Freedom of speech does not denote that anyone can say what they want, where they want, when they want. The principle of freedom of speech is that which allows someone to voice an opinion which does not a) grossly offend a people or peoples b) argue a cause which is factually inaccurate. The ticking of one of these conditions would render an issue subject to criminalization. The fact is that Holocaust denial actually ticks both these boxes.

What we have to do here is to examine various topics which are punishable in our society and compare these to others which are not. An argument that Holocaust denial should remain legal would mean there is something more in elements of society which are not allowed.

Nazi propaganda is banned all over Europe. If a photo of Nazi propaganda is posted without any reference to historical education, this person can be arrested. And why? What we have here is a reference to history. For very good reason, Nazi propaganda walks hand in hand with the Holocaust and cannot be separated from it. Any reference to Nazi propaganda can so easily be linked to the atrocities of the 1930s and 40s.

The reason this is banned is because of the historical context it has. What is confusing about the Holocaust denial is that it is also inextricably linked to the atrocities of the 1940s. This represents one of the flaws of our society, there is no trend or ground rule. Although both Nazi propaganda and Holocaust denial are inextricably linked to the genocide, one is banned when the other is not. If freedom of speech were a “bottomless concept” then Nazi propaganda would not be banned. However to make that legal would be a breach of human rights. Every Jewish person, Roma, Sinti, disabled, homosexual and Pole (amongst others) has the right to live their life without seeing a representation of the atrocities which befell their family and friends.

In the same way, allowing Holocaust denial to flourish and spread through coverage in the form of books, and other medium readily available for consumption is a breach of human rights. The reality that the Holocaust did occur means these views should not be shared, the only consequence is the insult to the memory of those who died and those who survived.

Another example rests with the conduct of the Scottish Defense League. Last year at a counter protest against them in front of the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, some members of the SDL were arrested for shouting out slogans such as ‘All Muslims are paedos’. They were arrested as they deserved to be, this is a deeply shameful and disgusting act which no Muslim should ever have to bear witness to or accept.

The question is where the main difference between these two examples and Holocasut denial are. These events all have the explicit purpose to harm and disgust the individual they are aimed against. However the notion of holocaust denial remains legal.

The notion that education of Holocaust deniers would be a better response is strong. The view, however, that opinions can be changed with a ‘telling off’ by society is extremely naïve. The aim of banning Holocaust denial would be to halt the spread of Holocaust denial in our society. A limit on the influence Holocaust denial has on out society would inevitably cause its spread to be more difficult to achieve. Education has its boundaries and, although effective, it cannot be expected to synthesize every holocaust denier. What the illegalization of Holocaust denial would offer is a limit on the spread of Holocaust denial.

The fact of my Jewish heritage means that I am open to the accusation of being ‘biased’. And so I am. But there is a fundamental flaw in society if only the unaffected are listened to. The opinion of the affected is hugely significant, because while the ‘unaffected’ can sympathise with the feelings of the ‘affected’, empathy is not possible. To allow Holocaust denial to continue to proliferate in our society is to give rise to the beliefs that Holocaust deniers project out. Moreover, the fact of the matter is that Holocaust denial is more often than not coupled with anti-semitic, and generally racist and discriminatory views. To provide a platform for Holocaust denial is to effectively provide a platform for racist views to spread. The two are intrinsically linked, the majority of Holocaust deniers also maintain extremely right-wing views, and Holocaust denial is their method of disassociating themselves with the Nazis and the atrocities they brought with them.

http://www.diffen.com/difference/Empathy_vs_Sympathy

There are also various elements which are banned in our society, however there is little, if any, specific differentiation between these forbidden elements and Holocaust denial. To post a Nazi cartoon, for example, crudely depicting ‘Jewish people’ is illegal. Even in the British justice system, the 1986 Public Order Act prohibits any act which has the aim of causing ‘a person harassment, alarm or distress’ using ‘threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour,’ or displaying ‘any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting,’.

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/02/03/nazi-anti-jewish-propaganda/

Obviously publicising a cartoon like the one above comes under the second condition, as it is a direct reference to the Nazi period and their propaganda against the Jewish people.

However, Holocaust denial is a discourse which comes projects an exact replica of this rhetoric. The sole intention of Holocaust deniers is to insult, and cause ‘alarm or distress’. The differentiation of these two ‘crimes’ from one another is non existent-the aims and practice of them are both to insult and distress, and yet the notion of ‘freedom of speech’ allows Holocaust denial to grow and infect today.

Freedom of speech, as a blanket term, is not limitless. It too has boundaries, which, if transcended, enter the realm of pure insult and intent to distress. The line dividing these two concepts stops just short of Holocaust denial, and the concept of Holocaust denial is thereby not an infringement of the ‘human right’ to speak, it is an infringement on the victims of the Holocaust to live their lives without seeing a group of people deny an event which brought so much pain to their families.

Guns in America: the real problem?

The US is consistently seen as one of the most democratic countries in the world, a model for all countries to follow. Since the Second World War, it has occupied a talismanic stance in the UN and in world politics. It’s economy has become one of the strongest in the world and it fulfills most of what we see as the ‘democratic checklist’. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, free elections, and so on and so forth.

But recent events have overcast these views. The murders of Eric Garner, Ezell Ford, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, to name but a few, have shocked the world, plunging us into a state of antipathy and anger. Iconic protest lines have been thrown up across the USA and beyond, ‘I can’t breathe’ among them.

The video taken of Eric Garner and his unprovoked killing exemplifies the huge problems which surround the American legal and police systems. The unprovoked and undeserved brutality with which he was treated, and his subsequent death, sparked outrage across the US. It seems like the flame of institutional racism is alive and well, still kindled by the archaic structure of the police and the courts.

David Pantaleo’s public indictment, and his subsequent release without charge is a gross mistake by the police, a clear indication of the continuing corruption of the police forces and overall political institution. What is just as shocking is the immediate defense Pantaleo received from his fellow officers on PoliceOne, one officer remarking that “He was not choked to death. He was taken down by the neck after refusing to comply with the lawful arrest of officers of the NYPD.”

What can we see from this? Firstly we have an over-blatant lie, in what way was Garner not choked to death? The video proves this to everyone-the fact that a self-respecting police officer, who let’s remember, is meant to defend the population against harm, can deny something so obviously evident should be a wake up call to us. The corruption of the police extends to other police officers lying to prevent the indictment of their fellow officers.

Secondly, we have to ask what a ‘lawful’ arrest is. As defined on uslegal.com, this is “the legal custody of a person under warrant or under a probable cause. Probable cause includes the belief of commission of crime, or an arrest demanded under civil process.”

This suggests precisely that the accused or arrested has to be made aware of the terms for his arrest. If this cannot be related to the arrested how can there be a “probable cause?”

Not once is Eric Garner told why he is being arrested. Not once does he receive a legitimate reason for his arrest. So this “statement” by an American police officer can be immediately discounted.

There have been various responses to these deaths. And some are more shocking and disgraceful that others. The obvious response has been the protests, which are fully legitimate and significant. However, only a few weeks ago, Senator Barbara Boxer suggested that toy guns should be painted a luminous colour or have some form of fluorescent cap on them, to prevent further shootings. Ms Boxer stated that “Any modifications you can make to the existing toy gun standards that will help ensure that law enforcement officers are able to distinguish fake guns from real firearms are much appreciated.”

This is an obvious reference to the death of Tamir Rice, a 12 year old African-American who was shot dead because the relevant officers mistook his toy gun for a real one. First things first, there was no warning. There are absolutely no reports of a warning to Rice,.Secondly, in the video captured by CCTV we can clearly see that the toy gun is not even raised when the police officer opens fire. Then we have the obvious contradiction that this is a 12 year old boy we are talking about. If it was a white 12 year old boy with a gun would he have been shot without warning? I somehow doubt it. The reasoning for his death is both irrelevant and discriminatory.

What we have here is a complete ignorance of the problem at hand. The racist component of the American police force and a police officer’s virtual immunity are obvious causes for concern, and these must be addressed. But something which is much more easily contained, which would without a doubt cause a reduction in deaths to civilians ‘suspected of carrying guns’ is to ban the sale of guns. This is a simple process.

Black Friday in the US a few weeks ago witnessed an overall drop in sales, yet one which was accompanied by a spike in the sale of guns. The FBI reported that Black Friday saw over 175,000 background checks prior to the sale of guns, more than has ever been recorded before on that date. Rather than being shocked at the increase in background checks, FBI Manager Kimberley del Greco praised the competence of gun sellers in coping with the increasing demand for weaponry, saying “This means saving lives and protecting people from harm—by not letting guns fall into the wrong hands.”

So here we go again. “Not letting guns fall into the wrong hands”, what would in any way constitute the “right hands”. Which American citizen has more of a right to carry guns than others? What this seems to ignore is the basic psyche of a criminal, that a criminal has to commit his first crime with a clean slate, the same clean slate that you or I have. It is foolish, naïve and unethical to allow possession of a weapon such as a gun because the person in question has not yet committed a crime.

And then we look at these most recent cases. Tamir Rice was shot because he was holding what looked like a fully equipped and fully functional gun. And the answer the police, and Ms Boxer give, is that toy guns have to have luminous patterns on them, so that they are easily distinguishable from real guns. This does not solve the problem in two ways. Firstly what is to stop anyone from wrapping any kind of material around the luminous tip, to make it look more genuine? This is both practical and insensitive reasoning for why their policy would not work. More importantly, it is as if Tamir Rice should somehow take full responsibility for his death. There is a deliberate aversion from the real problem at hand, time and time again the police and the government seem to skirt away from the problem of guns, and point towards other, comparatively minor and unimportant factors.

For example following the massacre of American schoolchildren in Connecticut in December, the consensus among politicians and police seemed to be that the answer was bulletproof vests for children and an arming of every school teacher in the US. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-21721518

The main question which arises from the various incidents, and the constant continuation of shootings across the US, be it by the US police or a member of the public, is how this has been allowed to continue for so long. It suggests there is something exclusively intrinsic to the American psyche, which demands a constant assurance of self-defence? Why is it that other countries, which take up the same status as America, ‘great power’, ‘economic stalwart’ etc. etc., can control their country and live in relative peace without guns? Why is it that America is about the only leading country where gun possession is still common among citizens? Where 34 per cent of Americans still own a handgun.

This is a constantly topical question, since the possession of guns leads to tragedies all the time, they are just not as evident in the press. In the last few weeks there was a story of a 2 year old shooting and killing his mother in a restaurant after he found her gun in her handbag and mistakenly let it off.

The question we must ask in response to these desperate disasters is not whether ‘too many’ Americans are getting access to guns, it is whether any at all should be accessing guns. The American gun culture has to change, I would’ve thought that the death of all these innocent people would awaken the American population to see the uniqueness of their situation.

This graph should show Americans there is no developed country in the world which can compete, if that is the right word, with America for country with the highest rate of gun murder. We need a repeal of the gun laws, the NRA are an archaic group who don’t have a place in the ‘democratic, modernistic’ society the US is meant to represent. deaths in america from guns - Google Search