Free Speech, Hate Speech and the Search for Truth

An area that is always relevant is the tension between free speech and hate speech. So it remains topical to review a discussion that took place in a symposium in 2007, as reported here in FrontPageMagazine. The title was Is Holocaust Denial a form of hate speech? Should it be made illegal?” The panel included:

Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, where she directs the institute for Jewish Studies. She was the author of “History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving” which is the story of her successful defense against the libel charges brought against her in a British court by Holocaust denier David Irving. Irving sued Lipstadt for calling him a denier. Lipstadt won with the judge declaring Irving to be a denier, falsifier of history, a racist and an anti-Semite.

Alan Dershowitz, professor of law at Harvard.

Roger Kimball, co-editor and publisher of the New Criterion and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author of many books, including The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art.

and Dr. Gregory Glazov, Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University and the Coordinator of the Great Spiritual Books Program for the Seminary’s Institute for Christian Spirituality. He specializes in Old Testament Prophecy, Wisdom Literature and Jewish-Christian Relations.

Roger Kimball, in his introduction included the following compelling lines

“And this brings us to one of the gravest legacies of relativism. What we are witnessing is the transformation of facts into opinion. This process is not only destructive of facts–when facts are downgraded to opinions they no longer have the authority of facts–but, curiously, it is also destructive of opinion. As Hannah Arendt observed in an essay called “Truth and Politics,” opinion remains opinion only so long as it is grounded in, and can be corrected by, fact. “Facts,” she wrote, “inform opinions, and opinions, inspired by different interests and passions, can differ widely and still be legitimate as long as they respect factual truth. Freedom of opinion is a farce unless factual information is guaranteed and the facts themselves are not in dispute.” What is at stake, Arendt concluded, is nothing less than the common world of factual reality and historical truth.”

and some quotations on truth …

Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it. Andre Gide
The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is. Winston Churchill
Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. Buddha
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. Daniel Patrick Moynihan
Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true. Demosthenes
Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence. Henri Frederic Amiel
Always tell the truth. That way, you don’t have to remember what you said. Mark Twain

and finally, “The secret of acting is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” George Burns

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