Tag: Holocaust

A Utopian solution to cross-border hate speech?

Original illustration from Thomas More's Utopia, via WikipediaJames Banks (Sheffield Hallam University) has just published European Regulation of Cross-Border Hate Speech in Cyberspace: The Limits of Legislation (2011) 19 European Journal of Crime, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice 1-13 (SSRN | Ingenta). This is the abstract:

This article examines the complexities of regulating hate speech on the Internet through legal frameworks. It demonstrates the limitations of unilateral national content legislation and the difficulties inherent in multilateral efforts to regulate the Internet. The article highlights how the US commitment to free speech has undermined European efforts to construct a truly international regulatory system. It is argued that a broad coalition of citizens, industry and government, employing technological, educational and legal frameworks, may offer the most effective approach through which to limit the effects of hate speech originating from outside of European borders.

In particular, he considers that the Additional Protocol on Xenophobia and Racism (ETS 189) to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime (ETS 185), whilst a laudatory endeavour, is undermined by US adherence to the First Amendment, so that “the law alone may not be the most appropriate mechanism through which to counteract hate speech online”. He therefore advocates recourse to a combination of technological regulation (eg, ISP self-regulation; voluntary filtering) and the education of web users to minimise the transmission and reception of online hate speech. He concludes:

By combining legal intervention with technological regulatory mechanisms – monitoring, IPS user agreements, user end software and hotlines – the harm caused by online hate can be diminished. Moreover, through the careful integra- tion of law, technology, education and guidance, a reduction in the dissemination and impact of online hate speech can be achieved without adversely affecting the free flow of knowledge, ideas and information online. As Bailey [“Strategic Alliances. The inter-related roles of citizens, industry and government in combating Internet hate” Canadian Issues, Spring (2006) 56 at 58] neatly summarises, ‘broad-based efforts involving strategic alliances among citizens, citizen coalitions, industry and government provide a strong foundation from which to engage in visible, publicly accountable action against cyberhate.’ For such an alliance to operate effectively, governments, businesses and citizenry must all engage in individual and collective solutions to minimising online hate speech.

If the right to freedom of expression means that the law cannot impose solutions to the problems associated with hate speech, then Banks is absolutely right to seek solutions elsewhere. However, his argument that technology can be used benignly to bring about changes in human nature and the human condition is a classic utopian solution. As such, it is both attractive in principle and unattainable in reality. As with Thomas More’s Utopia (from which the picture above left is taken), Banks’s call for a combination of technological regulation and the education of web users would certainly conduce to A Fruitful and Pleasant Work of the Best State of a Public Weal, it is just as unrealistic as More’s New Isle Called Utopia. There may be very well be a starting point in his suggestions, but we shall have to seek further if we are to find workable non-legal solutions to hate speech.

Intolerance of intolerance, and threats to free speech

Poster for DW Griffith movie IntoleranceIn DW Griffith’s silent-era powerful – if flawed – classic movie, Intolerance (1916) (IMDB | wikipedia), the contemporary story of a poor young woman, separated by the intolerant prejudice of social reformers from her husband and baby, is interwoven with tales of intolerance from ancient Babylon, New Testament Judea, and Reformation France. These fables vividly warn of the dangers of intolerance. Two stories in today’s media demonstrate that intolerance of intolerance is simply intolerance, and is all the more dangerous for that.

UCC society withdraws Nick Griffin invite to ‘free speech’ debate

… In a statement this afternoon, the UCC Government and Politics Society said it had withdrawn the invitation as a result of submissions from University staff and Gardaí, who had outlined a “potential threat to the safety and welfare of our students and the general public”.

As with the earlier TCD debacle, this is as inevitable as it is dismaying.

French Senate passes bill outlawing genocide denial

… France’s upper house of parliament approved a bill on Monday that would make it a criminal offence to deny genocide, legislation that has caused tension between Paris and Ankara. The bill, which was approved by the lower house in December, has triggered outrage in Turkey as it would include the 1915 mass killing of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.

As with earlier attempts to legislate truth, this is profoundly misguided.

We must not meet intolerance with intolerance. We must persuade others to avoid the intolerant; but we must not ban the intolerant; because, if we do, we become as bad as they are.

Bonus links, from the Irish Times (24 January 2012): UCC invitation to BNP leader pulled; Turkish fury likely over French bill on Armenian genocide; and Shatter opens Holocaust exhibition.

Updates: Joyce, hecklers and broadcasting

Updates logo, via Apple websiteI suppose if I spent ages thinking about it, I could find a spurious thread linking three stories that caught my eye over the last few days, but in truth there is none, except that they update matters which I have already discussed on this blog. (Oh, all right then, they’re all about different aspects of freedom of expression: the first shows that copyright should not prevent academic discussion; the second shows that hecklers should not have a veto; and the third is about broadcasting regulation).

First, I had noted the proclivity of the estate of James Joyce to be vigorous in defence of its copyrights; but it lost a recent case and now has agreed to pay quite substantial costs as a consequence:

Joyce estate settles copyright dispute with US academic

The James Joyce Estate has agreed to pay $240,000 (€164,000) in legal costs incurred by an American academic following a long-running copyright dispute between the two sides. The settlement brings to an end a legal saga that pre-dates the publication in 2003 of a controversial biography of Joyce’s daughter, Lucia, written by Stanford University academic Carol Shloss. …

More: ABA Journal | Chronicle | Law.com | San Francisco Chronicle | Slashdot | Stanford CIS (who represented Shloss) esp here | Stanford University News (a long and informative article).

Second, I have long been of the view that hecklers should not be allowed to veto unpopular views, and none come more unpopular that holocaust-denier David Irving. Now comes news that NUI Galway’s Lit & Deb society have withdrawn their controversial invitation to Irving for security reasons:

David Irving address in NUIG cancelled due to ‘security concerns’

The proposed visit of the controversial historian David Irving to the NUI, Galway Literary & Debating Society has been cancelled. In a statement the Lit & Deb said the cancellation was “due to security concerns and restrictions imposed by the university authorities”. …


Irving at the Lit & Deb: A reply to Prof Schabas

The Holocaust History Museum
Hall of Names, Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Memorial, JerusalemSince writing my previous post, I have read (hat tip: Ninth Level Ireland) a trenchant statement of the opposite view by Prof William Schabas, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway. His argument is twofold. First, he refers to the EU Framework Decision on racism and xenophobia (pdf). Second, he argues that, whatever about that Decision, Ivring should not as a matter of principle be granted a prestigious platform by the Lit & Deb. He illustrates this second point with a rhetorical flourish:

There are also cranks who believe that the earth is flat, but we don’t invite them to deliver seminars in the geography department.

And he concludes that

… any reasonable reading of the EU Framework Decision should lead to the conclusion that he cannot be welcome in Ireland, or at the University.


Free speech means freedom for the thought we hate

Anthony Lewis 'Freedom for the Thought that we Hate' book cover, via Basic Books websiteFreedom of expression matters most where the expression in question is unpopular: if it it is to mean anything, it must mean “freedom for the thought that we hate” (US v Schwimmer 279 US 644, 655 (1929) Holmes J); it covers not only mainstream ideas which hardly need protection, but also those that “offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population” (Handyside v United Kingdom 5493/72 [1976] ECHR 5 (7 December 1976) [49]). That is why this blog has defended the right to freedom of expression especially when it involves unpopular opinions or unpopular speakers.

There are no more unpopular ideas than the denial of the Holocaust, and there are no more unpopular speakers than David Irving. Even here, in my view, we should give speech a chance: the best way to ensure that we never forget the Holocaust is to debate it at every turn, not to suppress speech from Irving’s ilk. The Oxford Union got good headlines last year when it invited Irving to debate about freedom of expression. Now it seems that NUI, Galway’s Literary and Debating Society are about to repeat the trick. (more…)

Holocaust Memorial, 2009

Holocaust Memorial Day image, via UN General Assembly site.The national Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration takes place on the Sunday nearest to 27 January every year (that is the anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Berkenau, and has been designated as Holocaust Memorial Day by the UN General Assembly). This year, it is Sunday 25 January next.

Witnesses of War, cover, via Random House website.As part of that commemoration, my Trinity colleagues in the Department of History and the Herzog Centre for the Study of Jewish and Near Eastern Religion, along with the Holocaust Educational Trust of Ireland (HETI), will host this year’s annual Holocaust Memorial Lecture this evening.

Dr Nicholas Stargardt, Magdalen College Oxford, author of (among many other publications) Witnesses of War. Children’s Lives Under the Nazis (Random House, 2007; amazon) will speak about

Jewish Children in Hiding

It is in the Thomas Davis Lecture Theatre (Room 2043), in the Arts Block, Trinity College Dublin, at 7:30pm (college maps and directions here). All are welcome to attend. Further information is available here and here.

Update (26 January 2009): Holocaust survivors remember victims with moving Mansion House ceremony

Le Pen is mightier than le sword?

UCD Law Soc logo, via their siteThere is a certain irony that, on Holocaust Memorial Day (on which I have blogged here), today’s Sunday Business Post reports that Jean-Marie le Pen, leader of the far right wing French party Le Front National, has delayed his trip to Ireland due to media coverage of the invitation extended by the UCD Law Society to him to speak against the Lisbon Treaty. As a contentious politician who seems to thrive on the publicity generated by controversy, I am sure he expected some objections, but it seemed to me that neither the reaction nor the coverage was particularly virulent. (more…)

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial, Berlin via widipedia.The 2008 Holocaust Memorial Lecture will be delivered by Professor Christopher Browning, tonight (Monday, 21 January 2008) at 7:30pm, in the Edmund Burke Theatre, Arts Building, Trinity College Dublin (map).

The subject will be the memory of Holocaust survivors:

Remembering Survival: Postwar Testimonies from the Starachowice Slave Labour Camps

Christopher R. Browning is Frank Porter Graham Professor of History at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and internationally recognized as one of the top historians of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. His book on how ordinary men took part in mass killing in Nazi-occupied Poland is widely recognized as one of the most insightful studies of the perpetrators of genocide (Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland, Harper Collins, 1992 (Amazon)). More recently he has turned from the politics of the genocide to the perspective of survivor victims and the issue of memory. It is this that he will address in the Holocaust Memorial Lecture, which is an annual public event sponsored by the Department of History and the Herzog Centre for Jewish and Near Eastern Religion in Trinity College Dublin, and by the Holocaust Educational Trust of Ireland.

Some additional comments:

  • The 2007 event is blogged here.
  • Holocaust Memorial Day will be commemorated next Sunday, 27 January 2008 (in 2006, the United Nations General Assembly designated January 27 as an annual international day of commemoration to honor the victims of the Nazi era).
  • Spanish Holocaust Denial legislation was struck down on free speech grounds before Christmas (bitacoras juridicas (in Spanish)).
  • Ernest Zundel‘s lawyer has been sentenced to prison in Germany for Holocaust Denial last week (FindLaw via Media Law Prof).