Deborah Lipstadt: Should there be laws against Holocaust denial?

Roundup: Talking About History

The French intellectual, Bernard-Henri Levi, has a intriguing piece in The New Republic calling for institutions of laws against genocide denial. He refers in the main to Holocaust and the Armenian genocide.

His article is prompted, in part, by the recent online petition of 200 Turkish writers, academics, and intellectuals apologizing for the massacre. According to Internetsources over 800 Turks have since added their name to the petition.

I do not agree with Levi's stance as I have frequently stated. However, his article raises some interesting issues.

At one point he makes reference to Irving v. Penguin UK and Lipstadt.

Take France's Gayssot law, which criminalized the denial of crimes against humanity, and which as yet has been applied only to denial of the Jewish Holocaust. This is a law that reins in the fringe and extremist politicians who engage in lightly cloaked anti-Semitism and who may be tempted to advocate Holocaust denial. This is a law that prevents masquerades like that of historian David Irving's trial in London in 2000.

Irving brought a libel case against Deborah Lipstadt, author of"Denying the Holocaust," who had labeled him a spokesman for Holocaust deniers. Though the judge ruled in notably strong language that Irving was indeed a Holocaust denier, in the absence of laws penalizing this offense, Irving walked free.

In fact, had there been a UK law against Holocaust denial Irving could never have brought his case. Before the trial I might have thought this was a good thing.

But as a result of the case, not only was Irving declared by the court to be a denier, racist, and antisemite but as a result of excellent research by our historical team we exposed the lies, distortions, falsifications, and inventions upon which Irving relied in each and every one of his comments about the Holocaust.

It was costly, time consuming, and, at times, overwhelming. But there is now a official court record attesting to the fact that denial is naught but a pack of lies. But more important that the court record is the work down by the historians. But for the trial it is highly doubtful that anyone would have devoted their time to showing how he lied and invented regarding the Holocaust.

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Arnold Shcherban - 1/8/2009

A denial, regardless of it being the most outrageous lie or holy truth, of anything (unless under court oath) does not and cannot constitute a criminal offense,...unless we are willing sacrifice public freedom of expression/speech and intellectual freedom for political correctness.
If an overwhelming national majority
decides that it doesn't want to hear any vicious nonsense, such e.g. Holocaust denial, perhaps the harshest (within democratic frame) measure that can be taken is to prohibit mass-media any oral or written pronouncements of the kind, similar to the one that is already implemented in the US (by, say, FCC) against offensive language and pornography. Of course, it leaves Internet largely unregulated, but this
how it's supposed to be, since this is mostly general public domain.
I also assert that Holocaust and Armenian genocide are hardly exclusive issues not to be denied.
What about Khmer Rouge genocide or terrible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Japan, USA, and Soviet Union, just to name a few?
One more example: millions in the world, called atheists, are certain that religion is the Greatest Lie ever perpetrated on humankind, the fact that has been unequivocally and continiously proven by natural sciences.
On the other hand, true believers will and did die, if so needed, for religious myths. Whom does society is to penalize on this issue?