Statements Aspiring to the Status of Facts
Ah. Someone finally points it out.
The notion of free speech, at its best, speaks to freedom of conscience – the idea that there’s no opinion or worldview whose expression should be proscribed. But it is ever more subject to be hijacked by the muddy notion that it protects all statements aspiring to the status of fact – be they truthfully believed or cynically falsified. Should we, necessarily, protect the statement “nobody died at Belsen”, any more than we regard as free speech a false claim in an advertisement for a vitamin supplement? I’m not sure.
Precisely. Neither am I. Furthermore, I am pretty sure that it’s not helpful to ignore that aspect of the issue when discussing the free speech problem. Irving doesn’t just have an opinion or a belief about the Holocaust, he also falsified the evidence. Should falsification of evidence be protected free speech? In certain situations it emphatically isn’t; in others it’s not approved but it’s also not subject to imprisonment. But either way it’s more than mere opinion. (Truth matters.)