Wednesday, October 18, 2006

If not here, then where? 

Jeff Jacoby argues against the totalitarian tilt towards free speech in discussing the French law on denial of the Armenian genocide and Orhan Pamuk:
The French legislation is meant to uphold the truth -- the Armenian genocide, like the Holocaust, is a fact of history -- while the point of the Turkish law is to debase it. Both, however, are intolerable assaults on liberty. Beliefs should not be criminalized, no matter how repugnant or absurd. As I wrote when David Irving was convicted of Holocaust denial in Austria earlier this year, free societies do not throw people in prison for giving offensive speeches or spouting historical lies.
Jacoby then traces through the entire history (of just the last month or so!) of attacks on free speech. He's right, enough is enough.

As you might tell from my last name, I'm Armenian. I have the stories my grandmother told on tape, the few bits of papers from the orphanage, etc. (here's a very small piece of it). I have the considered professional opinion of historians. If the Turkish government wants to behave foolishly about history, it is enough for me to point to the history. Much of my families past in Turkey is lost forever to destroyed homes and churches and civil records; no matter what they say, these cannot be returned. The damage is already done.

So there's no need for a law against denial. Public opinion takes care of some of this and the law can't fix the rest.

Assaults occur elsewhere. Pastors are told they cannot speak in their own churches about their faith and how it influences for whom they vote. This happens to both liberal Episcopalians and conservative evangelicals. All this because some former president decided he didn't like criticism and snuck a rider into a bill to make criticizing politicians from a church a crime. What is it about putting on a clerical collar that removes one's First Amendment rights? What is it about having an opinion that allows government to trample over the ban on the state establishment of a religion (by taxing those who speak out?)

And if it is to happen anywhere, it cannot be on university campuses, and yet it is, whether it is against Christians, Muslims, pro-immigrationists, or even those who want to make a small joke on a campus door. If you can't even speak on a college campus, none of the rest should surprise you.