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Monday, 11 September 2017 09:44

How a 2006 debate explains anti-speech activism in 2017

Written by  Tom Rogan

Over the weekend I watched a 2006 debate on free speech and the right to offend, entitled "freedom of speech must include the license to offend."

Coming one year after riots that followed a Danish magazine's publication of a Prophet Mohammed cartoon, the debate represented a high point of the anti-free speech movement.

Still, two good exchanges stand out in their prophetic relevance to today.

The first came when Christopher Hitchens offered a pre-emptive rejoinder to statue removal fanatics. Hitchens begins with an anecdote as to why Austria was wrong to imprison Holocaust denier, David Irving, on his trip to that nation. But when David Cesarani, opposing the motion, suggests it is positive that Irving was imprisoned, Hitchens destroys him.

The British writer and philosopher (who sadly died in 2011) explains that Irving's history books illuminate the realities of Nazi rule and its efforts to co-opt fascist movements in other nations. He thus repudiates Cesarani's underlying assumption that a holocaust denier could have no value to broader social interests. With this one example Hitchens proves that we don't know the value of speech unless we allow speech to be heard.

Like Civil War statues, Irving represents both (A) ideas generally regarded as unpleasant, but also (B) markers for historical curiosity.

Read more at The Washington Examiner

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