Not Barking in the Night

Some more house-circling, since Jonathan asked me a question, which seems eccentric after wondering why I keep talking, but never mind.

Jonathan points out that Norm does mention the point about falsifying the evidence; true; a fair cop; I should have looked harder and qualified what I said. But, he only mentions it, he doesn’t address it, and since it’s most of what I’ve been wondering about, I still say he’s been talking past me rather than ‘settl[ing] things pretty definitively’.

Ophelia also stands by her view that Holocaust denial shouldn’t be a criminal offence – from which the inference is surely unavoidable that this is a liberty right that she not merely notes as a legal fact but also endorses. Yet she resists the conclusion that Holocaust denial, falsifying the evidence and so on, is then covered – as she appeared originally to deny, or at least to question – as protected free speech (this, of course, provided it does not breach laws against incitement).

But my whole point has been that Holocaust denial and falsifying the evidence are two separate things, not more or less the same thing along with ‘so on’. Or at least, in the questions I’m asking, they are. I did say that, after all.

But on the other hand, that still leaves out what I’ve been wondering about, which is the fact that Irving did more than just write and publish that the Holocaust did not happen or that it has been exaggerated – he also falsified the evidence

And (er) so on, for the rest of the paragraph. So Norm mentioned falsifying the evidence, but he didn’t address it, which is what I said in the latest post: ‘Well, he’s no doubt settled what he was talking about, but he hasn’t settled what I’ve been talking about, because he’s barely mentioned it, and he hasn’t addressed it.’ The ‘barely mentioned’ referred to the mention that Jonathan quoted, and the ‘hasn’t addressed it’ referred to just that. I separated the two, for instance by saying that Irving did more than just deny the Holocaust, he falsified the evidence. So a mention of the falsification that runs it together with denial and with so on is just what I’m taking issue with.

Now that I’ve started I’ll just say a little more, since I was meaning perhaps to comment on Norm’s post (not really answer, since I think he’s said all he wants to) anyway. The comment is what I’ve said: I think mere denial is one thing and falsification is another. I don’t think denial should be a crime (although I think it tentatively, and I don’t therefore think Germany and Austria shouldn’t make it a crime – I suspend judgment on that – because they have understandable reasons to do so), but it doesn’t follow that I think falsification of evidence shouldn’t be a crime. I don’t know what I think about that; but I do think they are separate questions. I mentioned that commenters mostly don’t mention the falsification aspect. You get people saying Irving shouldn’t go to jail for an opinion, however offensive it is; you don’t get (so much) people saying Irving shouldn’t go to jail for lying and falsifying evidence. Why is that? One reason, I’m guessing, is that it’s pretty hard to think of any situation in which saying something ‘offensive’ is against the law (except the UK’s blasphemy law – ?) but it is not hard to think of situations when lying is against the law. Vendors can’t lie, you can’t lie in a contract, perjury is against the law; there are all sorts of situations in which falsifying records would be obstruction of justice or fraud and be against the law. So – it’s not self-evidently absurd to think that there is an issue here. Have I been clear enough about it this time? I’m saying that falsification of evidence is not identical or equivalent to saying or writing an offensive opinion.

Jonathan asked:

Perhaps Ophelia might explain what the salient difference is between denying that the Holocaust took place, which is what Norm has been talking about in all his posts, and “falsifying the evidence” about it?

Denial can be a mere opinion, an intepretation of the evidence; it doesn’t entail lying; it needn’t involve perjury. Falsification does entail lying. That’s why millions of dollars were spent on examining Irving’s books – to find evidence that he had falsified, and thus lied, rather than merely been mistaken. That’s what the 2000 trial showed about Irving: he wasn’t just wrong, he wasn’t just wrong and malevolent; he falsified the evidence, and that was not ‘free speech’, it wasn’t protected. That’s the salient difference. I’m not saying therefore he should be in the slammer, I’m just saying there’s an issue. I can’t help suspecting that the reason we don’t hear people defend his right to lie all that much is that they don’t entirely believe in such a right. I don’t entirely believe in it myself – I have grave doubts about it.

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