Being an idiotic jerk should not be a reason get thrown in jail

An Austrian court sentenced a man to three years in jail, for denying the holocaust existed. Or, as the case may be, for trying to grossly misrepresent the events that occurred as something not even close in scope to what actually happened.

The historical evidence seems pretty overwhelming, so it never ceases to surprise me how some people can choose to ignore so much of it just because of their own personal views. Of course, my own opinion isn’t without bias, me being a Jew (though a secular one) and living in Israel. But still, I do believe that the evidence clearly shows that most of what we believe happened during the holocaust really did happen.

Therefore I do most sincerely believe that this guy, David Irving, is an idiot.

What strikes me as being too much, though, is throwing him in jail for it. Yes, the guy believes in quite a load of… manure. On the personal front I’d probably hate him, and it would very probably be mutual. None of that should be something worth being jailed for, though.

Many people believe in all sorts of totally wild nonsense, much of it extremely easier to prove wrong than it is to prove the holocaust happened (hint: That’s quite easy to prove), and yet nobody throws them in jail for it. Usually they’re not even thrown in asylums.

Many other people (though a large overlap probably exist) believe in all sorts of really offensive stuff, and yet they don’t get thrown in jail for it either.

So why this particular stupid belief, and even the attempt to propagate it in public, should be considered so much worse, is beyond me. I may personally find it more offensive than a lot of other stuff but, until the day I get to rule the world with my iron fist, that shouldn’t really count for much.

That said, the reason Austria has these laws forbidding holocaust denial is understandable. Germany and Austria suffered quite a lot of backlash over the actions of Nazi Germany under Hitler. And the Austrian governments, whether out of political expediency or actual feeling that they should carry a shame over the actions of someone who happened to get born in the same country they live in, wanted to make it obvious how badly they feel about it.

Fine. We got that. You think Hitler was really bad, and what he did was really bad. That’s alright, most of the world agree. Now get over it. Seriously.

Explaining during history lessons what went wrong, and why those views are wrong, that’s fine. Quite welcome, even. But making it illegal to hold a belief, as misguided as it may be, as long as nothing is done about it (Going out killing Jews is doing something. Merely thinking that a good Jew is a dead Jew, isn’t doing something. Not that denying the holocaust is exactly wanting Jews dead, but I think that passes the semantic point well enough), that’s misguided itself.

Yes, it would be much harder for someone with such views to rise to a position of political power where mentioning those views is illegal. That’s true. But is that worth running laws requiring what’s effectively a thought police?

There are so many other bad ideas people believe in. This one got into law because they had one such person who eventually managed to act on it on a large scale. So is that really the main worry they should keep carrying?

Historical events leave scars, and effect laws and culture for many years. The bigger the event, the deeper the scars, and the longer the effect lasts. But as some point people have to separate between laws that have a positive influence on current and future events, and laws which only hurt those and their sole benefit is making people feel better about the past trauma.

Speaking of which, I think it’s quite possible we have similar laws here in Israel. And such laws are even more understandable here than in Austria, since it’s to be expected a country of Jews will be a lot more touchy on the subject. And yet I think even here holding such a law is misguided. Not to mention silly, since those views really have no chance of catching on here.

Let the idiots rave. No need to turn them into martyrs for the few other misguided people who believe them. Heck, most racist and anti-Semitic people (assuming that’s the group the Austrian legislators worried about) don’t deny the holocaust. They may think it was a very good event, and should have gone out longer, but from there to denial the way is long. Not to mention, denying the holocaust takes away from such people the biggest example they have of how things should run.

Which is why I think holocaust deniers aren’t, and shouldn’t be, anything too exciting. Nobody much cares about them and their views, on both/all sides. There’s no much difference between them and people who want to deny other historical events, except that this one is more loaded culturally and politically.

Throwing someone like that in jail is bad on two totally different front. The first is that it simply gives the issue too much attention. Why fight over whether it’s allowed to deny the holocaust? It happened, and anyone insisting the earth is flat (Though I do admit there’s a bit more evidence for that) should be of no interest.

The second is that it’s a bad precedent for arresting people due to simple beliefs and opinions. If people think that such a law is a good idea, the distance isn’t that great until other stupid thoughts and beliefs become illegal as well. And from there it’s a slippery slope. I like my freedom of speech to much for that. To be wholly inappropriate and paraphrase, I don’t want it to end in cases of… First they came for the holocaust deniers, and I did not speak up, because I wasn’t a holocaust denier

In this series (Holocaust denier gets three years in Jail):

  1. Being an idiotic jerk should not be a reason get thrown in jail
  2. And there are worse things than Holocaust denial

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