Originally created 02/22/06

Political incorrectness

Other parts of the world have had infinitely more problems with anti-Semitism than we have - though it certainly exists here as well.

We also celebrate free speech more than other parts of the planet.

Thus, the notion of imprisoning British historian David Irving for three years, as Austria has, for having denied the Holocaust in a 1989 speech in Vienna is foreign, and frankly a little frightening.

The American tradition of free speech dictates that you combat wrongful speech with more persuasive speech, not by punishing what we disagree with. Consider the case of Colorado University professor Ward Churchill. We honestly can't think of more reprehensible speech in this country in years than his, when he bizarrely called the many innocent World Trade Center victims "little Eichmanns," referring, of course, to the infamous Nazi.

Many around the country have called for his ouster, tenure or no - calls bolstered by his questionable credentials. His obscene views need not be supported by tax dollars.

But neither is anyone proposing we put him in prison.

Irving claims to have changed his views, that he now believes the Holocaust happened. Sounds like crocodile tears to us.

Regardless, punishing someone for his thought or speech is Orwellian - which is to say utterly frightening with regard to human freedom. We understand why European nations might have wanted to prevent the reappearance of Nazism after World War II. But punishing one for flawed, even idiotic thinking is its own form of tyranny.

Even Emory University professor Dr. Deborah Lipstadt - who was sued unsuccessfully by Irving in 2000 after she called him a Holocaust denier in a book - decried his imprisonment. Talking to the BBC, Lipstadt said, "I am not happy when censorship wins, and I don't believe in winning battles via censorship.

"He should be released to return to London and the sound of one hand clapping."

People have a right to be wrong, even irresponsibly so.

Pray you never are.

Or pray the thought police never take another of us.


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