British nutcase historian David Irving has been sentenced by an Austrian court to three years in prison. His crime is to deny the Holocaust.
Mr Irving is definitly guilty of this, which makes him a highly unpleasant man. To deny the horrific reality of the Holocaust one needs to be either a fool or a nazi — or both.
But — and this is a huge but: David Irving should not be sent to prison. In fact he should not even be put on trial. It is ridiculous, and both dangerous and worrying, to outlaw opinions on facts, and defenders of free speech needs to defend that right for themselves, for cartoonists and for David Irving. For a country in the Western world to boast about their free societies and then put a man to jail for something like this is nothing short of hypocrisy.
The Austrians need to deal with their nazi past, admit the guilt many carried, and — through honest debate — do what they can to get rid of the nazi elements among them, and among their political parties. What they’re doing now is simply to put their umbrella up and pretend like it’s raining. Falling water is not the problem.
Mr Irving, stupid and unpleasant as he is, should be allowed to be just that. The right way to to strike at him is by putting forth all the massive evidence that proves him wrong. The wrong way is to put him behind bars.
(You can read about the story in the Washington Post.)