RICHARD BERNSTEIN "MIGHTLY OFFENDED" BY SUGGESTION OF OPEN DEBATE ON THE HOLOCAUST -- BUT. . .
International Herald Tribune
THURSDAY, MAY 4, 2006
BERLIN Some years ago there were a number of unsuccessful efforts at American universities to enact hate-speech codes that would have punished students and faculty for expressing opinions or hurling epithets that would have insulted others because of their race, sex, sexual orientation or handicap.
Most of these efforts failed, in part because they presented too sharp a contradiction with the right of free speech. And indeed, despite the United States' sad history of slavery and racism, the American value of free speech, even deeply offensive free speech, has generally taken priority over the value of protecting the feelings of minorities.
There have been a few reminders lately that this is not the case in Europe, with its even sadder history of genocide - I say sadder because, however bad American racism has been, it never involved a systematic effort actually to wipe out a people. David Irving, the renegade British historian, has actually been sentenced to a term in prison in Austria for the crime of Holocaust denial. (Read more)