mercredi 21 février 2007

Note Taking XV - Nazism Helped by Anti-Nazism?

Alexander, Gerard. “Illiberal Europe.” Weekly Standard 11, 28 (2006): 32-7. 14 Feb. 2007 <>.


Illiberal Europe tackles the issues of freedom of speech and human rights. This article claims that anti-nazi ban laws actually backfire. This can be compared with the similar anti-fascist laws that were unsuccessfully applied in Europe during the 20s and 30s.


“European countries have never had America's strong free-speech tradition”

“First, anti-Nazi laws are being adopted in places where neoNazism poses no serious threat. Second, speech laws have been dramatically expanded to sanction speech that "incites hatred" against groups based on their religion, race, ethnicity, or several other characteristics. Third, these incitement laws are being interpreted so loosely that they chill not just extremist views but mainstream ones too. The result is a serious distortion and impoverishment of political debate.”

“But instead of being pared back, anti-Nazi legislation spread. Laws criminalizing Holocaust denial or minimization were adopted well into the 1990s in France, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, and other European countries (and several countries outside Europe). What these laws could accomplish was unclear, since they were adopted when neo-Nazism's prospects seemed more remote than ever. In all these countries, including Germany and Austria, governments don't really have to ban neo-Nazis; voters do it for them through indifference. Nonetheless, anti-Nazi laws have proved uncontroversial, maybe because their sanctions fall on unsavory figures from Europe's anti-Semitic fever swamps. This is unfortunate, because anti-Nazi laws gradually expanded to cover other historical events. In 1993, Bernard Lewis, the eminent Princeton historian of the Middle East, was asked in an interview with Le Monde about the mass murder of Armenians in Turkey during World War I. He readily acknowledged that terrible massacres took place but questioned whether the murders were the result of a predetermined-that is, genocidalplan. That conclusion brushed up against French laws that now prohibit denial of more crimes against humanity than just the Holocaust. Several activist groups in France filed complaints. Two civil and one criminal suit were dismissed, but Lewis was found guilty in another civil suit and condemned by the court for having not been "objective" regarding events that the European Parliament and other bodies had officially certified as a "genocide."”

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