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… In a statement this afternoon, the UCC Government and Politics Society said it had withdrawn the invitation as a result of submissions from University staff and Gardaí, who had outlined a “potential threat to the safety and welfare of our students and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