Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Genocide: and the tyranny of modern secular 'heresy-hunters'

"Of certain Accusations that require particular Moderation and Prudence. It is an important maxim, that we ought to be very circumspect in the prosecution of witchcraft and heresy. The accusation of these two crimes may be vastly injurious to liberty, and productive of infinite oppression."

Quote by - Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu. From The Spirit of the Laws 1748.

Montesquieu was forced to publish his treatise on political theory anonymously because his works were subject to harsh censorship by the Catholic Church at the time. Nevertheless, despite being on the churches list of prohibited books, Montesquieu's works had a huge influence on the work of others, most notably, the founding fathers of the United States Constitution.

These days the Inquisition by the Catholic Church is utterly discredited - however, today's secular heresy-hunters are obsessed with the construction of new, secular taboos, like for example the questioning of the Holocaust. Indeed, a 10-year prison sentence awaits those who deny the Holocaust, or worse, if you refuse to oppose it in countries such as Austria, or Germany. The Holocaust is fast being hijacked and prostituted by all sorts of campaign groups and self-righteous individuals. There are many campaigners who are transforming the Holocaust into an all purpose brand, but the flippant use of the word Holocaust belittles the one and only true Holocaust committed by the West last century - indeed, the continual manipulation of the Holocaust metaphor turns the historic German/Western made tragedy into a mere caricature.

How many times have we heard about the 'Holocaust in Rwanda', or the Bosnian/Serbian Holocaust, or what about the 'African-American Holocaust'? Other campaigns have gone much further in belittling the murder of some 6 million Jews by Germany during WW2 - animal rights activist constantly talk about the 'Holocaust of chickens', or the 'Holocaust on your Plate'.

The Holocaust and genocide have become an all purpose brand for persuading people to back any two-bob campaign. Such campaigns insist that those who question their orthodoxy or version of events should be treated the same way that Austria treats Holocaust deniers - censored, criminalised, then put into prison for many years. Even in 'liberal and free' France, anyone who dares deny the Armenian genocide can be punished by imprisonment - so much for the liberty of free speech. Campaigners against denial have become the modern equivalent of heresy and blasphemy hunters. Indeed, some people can no long distinguish between two differing opinions any more - lazy, self-righteous campaigners simply shout that 'you are in denial'. The moment someone is charged with being in 'denial' whether it's about Rwanda, Darfur, or Global warming, there usually follows demands for 'deniers' to be censored as if they were heretics.

Of course not all secular heresy-hunters want their opponents silenced - what they want more than anything is to punish those who have the temerity to question conventional wisdom and truths. Just as today's Holocaust deniers are punished by imprisonment, so some campaigners talk about 'eco-crimes' for global warming deniers, or 'abetting genocide' for those who question the existence of genocide in Rwanda or Sudan.

As far as I'm concerned, it can never be legitimate to criminalise freedom of thought or free speech.

I'll leave the last words to people who truly understood the meaning of free speech, the French National Assembly of 1789. Who stated;

"The free communication of thought and opinions is one of the most precious rights of man. Any citizen can therefore speak, write and publish freely."

Also read:

Denial. By Frank Furedi. Spiked Online. 2007

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At 2:57 PM, Blogger ModernityBlog said...

German and Austrian legislation needs to be seen in the context of the immediate post-war period.
To prevent or restrict any resurgence of National Socialism, the Germans and Austrians had to embed, in their primary laws and constitution, strong legislative measures outlawing National Socialism and all of its paraphernalia, and part of that covers Holocaust denial. The two go together. Its rather hard to have measures which deal with National Socialism and do not cover Holocaust denial.

Holocaust denial is one of the linchpins of neo-Nazi ideology, to resurrect National Socialism they need to enshrine the belief that the Holocaust 1) never happened 2) it happened but it wasn't very important.

So without a historical context the German and Austrian Holocaust denial laws might seem strange, but in reality they are the product of a unique and barbarous period of history, and as such might be viewed as exceptions.


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