Last year, when it first started appearing that David Irving, the notorious Holocaust (I don’t like the sacrifice connotations of this word, but it’s better known than Shoah) denier, might be denied entry to New Zealand, I drafted a letter to the editor to be sent to the Dominion Post. Unfortunately, I have long since lost this letter, but the general gist of it, taken in point form, was as follows:
- I am a Jew
– Many members of my family were killed in the Holocaust
– David Irving is a horrible specimen of humanity
– I can’t understand why the National Press Club would invite him to speak
– I fully sympathise with those in the Jewish community who don’t want him to come
– However, I strongly believe that he should be able to say what he wants to say, and he should be able to do it in New Zealand
– At the same time, I call for a mass protest wherever David Irving speaks, to speak up against his atrocious views
The next day, as I woke up to head into town and post it along the way, I flicked on the news on the radio, only to hear about the cemetary desecrations in the Jewish section of the historic Bolton St cemetary. I left the letter on my table, and decided to hold off until the shock had subsided. A short while later, I drafted another letter, saying the same things as my first letter had, and adding that while the cemetary desecration had shocked me, I still had faith in New Zealanders and the relative lack of anti-Semitism in New Zealand. I put the letter on the table and went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up to hear of another Jewish cemetary desecration, this time at Makara cemetary.
This hit me significantly harder, as Makara is where many members of my family are buried, including my Grandparents on my Mother’s side and my Mother. I called a number of people to try to find out if any of my family’s graves had been among those knocked over. Eventually, I reached my Aunt, who sadly informed me that she had been out to Makara in the morning to check, and my Grandparents’ graves were indeed among those attacked. An hour or so later, I managed to organise a ride out there, and spent the remainder of the day at Makara cemetary in tears at the horrific damage that had been wrought. Again, the letter remained unsent.
I had forgotten all about these until I heard about the proposed Anti Hate Speech law thats going around at the moment. To my mind, a law against hate speech is almost as ridiculous as the Sedition Laws which so sorely need to be removed.
I tried to promise myself that I wouldn’t quote that famous line, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”, but I simply can’t resist. I would, however, like to add an addendum. I would turn it into:
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. At the same time, I will also defend to the death my right to shout so loudly that you cannot be heard.”
Promoting free speech does not mean that one has to provide a platform for vile, intolerant crap. On the contrary, it doesn’t even mean you have to listen to it. All it means is that everybody has the right to say what they want (within some minor limitations, such as the “fire in a crowded theatre” example).
I oppose hate speech laws, as a member of one of the minorities whom such a law would likely set out to protect.