For several weeks now, the Guardian newspaper in the UK has been lambasting Ken Livingstone
for publicly mentioning that Hitler helped Zionists in the early 1930’s. According to the comments of many Jewish commentators, they think that by talking on this matter, Livingstone is encouraging a belief that Zionism and the Nazis were somehow in cahoots. They are, as a result, asking that Red Ken be expelled from the Labour Party.
Personally, I think those Guardian commentators need to remember a famous comment by Voltaire
‘I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to my death your right to say it’.
In other words, we must value free speech more than eradicating unpleasant comments. Free speech doesn’t just refer to the right of people to say popular things, it is a right for people to say whatever they want to say. Some jewish and secular people in the U.K. may be offended by Livingstone’s comments but he is stating a well-documented historical fact; Hitler did do a deal in the early 1930’s that helped Zionists settle in Israel. Whatever the implications are of this event, it did happen.
It is extremely important in this country that people are allowed to openly make comments, even if the factual basis of those comments are disputed by some, without fear of serious punishment. Noam Chomsky
ended up in a scandal when he said that a Holocaust denier should be allowed to speak without being criminalized. When others told Noam of their shock that he would ally with such a view, Chomsky patiently explained that he did not agree with what the man said; he was standing up for any person’s right to free speech, whatever he or she says. When censoring become legitimised, or laws are brought in that reduce human rights, those laws are inevitably used in the wrong way. When the U.K. government recently introduced a law allowing government departments to snoop on people, they loudly stated that the law would only be used to combat terrorism. Six months later, it was found that local councils were using to it to spy on families suspected of giving the wrong home address for school placements! This is clearly a minor misuse of such powers but there are other, much darker effects. Once censorship and human rights are eroded in a country, for any reason, that society inevitably becomes a dark, oppressive place. Read More...