Do Fascists Have a Right To Free Speech?

The issue basically comes down to this question: Are fascists entitled to free speech?


Next question?


The whole point of free speech is that people who believe odious claptrap will have their views subjected to vigorous debate and shown up for precisely what they are. Sweeping them under the carpet is nothing like as effective – there\’s no disinfectant like sunlight, and it\’s nice to see my old alma mater taking on the dirty but oh-so-necessary job of debunking both men in public.

15 thoughts on “Do Fascists Have a Right To Free Speech?”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    Well yes of course they have a right to free speech.

    But one can’t help thinking perhaps they do not have any right to exercise it at the Oxford Union.

    Still. The truth is that in British politics these days the BNP and Irving are moderates on the spectrum of anti-Semitism. The Guardian publishes worse each and every day. Irving might quibble over how many die, but last I checked he didn’t say that the Jews deserved it. And yet if you stroll over to Harry’s Place there’s a thread on people who do.

  2. This link is to the text of the Friendship Treaty between the Soviet Union, our heroic allies during WW2, and Nazi Germany, signed on 28 September 1939 when Britain and France were already at war with Nazi Germany:

    On 22 June 1941, German forces invaded the Soviet Union. In 1945, Victor Gollancz turned down the option of publishing George Orwell’s satire, Animal Farm, in case it offended our heroic Soviet allies:

    Btw America did not become engaged in WW2 until 11 December 1941 when Nazi Germany declared war on America. As Charles Lindbergh had said in his Des Moines speech on 11 Septmber 1941 in opposition to American involvement in the conflict in Europe:

    “The three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war are the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt administration.”

    Should Orwell and Lindbergh have been denied platforms?

  3. Opening up the debating floor of a (once?) prestiguous debating society to fascists of this calibre does nothing to increase opponents credibility but plenty to increase the legitimacy surrounding such a perverse bunch of people. Free speech yes; paying them respect to hold it? thats a sellable commodity which should be treated as such, i.e.: voting with your feet, as the good Doctor did in this story.

  4. All I’m saying is giving them a platform is going one step further than giving them free speech; if they truly believed in what they were saying, and could convince others also, then they could build there own platform (as Nick Griffin has in the case of the BNP, and Irving in the case of the turd he commits to paper.)

  5. Some have claimed that Professors John Mearsheimer (Chicago) and Stephen Walt (Harvard) are anti-semites – which is perhaps why they had so much trouble in America over publishing their academic paper on: The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, that they needed to publish it in the London Review of Books:

    But then some in America have claimed that any criticism of the State of Israel amounts “objectively” to anti-semitism. Consider this from Lawrence Summers when he was President of Harvard:

    “But where anti-Semitism and views that are profoundly anti-Israeli have traditionally been the primary preserve of poorly educated right-wing populists, profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities. Serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent.”

  6. “There is a HUGE gap between ‘any criticism’ and ‘profoundly anti-Israel views’.”

    Not in practice, there ain’t – as Professors Mearsheimer and Walt discovered to their cost when they tried to find a publisher in America for their academic paper on the Israel lobby and so had to find one in London instead.

    There is a built in pro-Israel bias which we are loathe to admit to. “Some schools [in Britain] avoid teaching the Holocaust and other controversial history subjects as they do not want to cause offence, research has claimed. Teachers fear meeting anti-Semitic sentiment, particularly from Muslim pupils, the government-funded study by the Historical Association said.”

    However: “A Department of Education and Skills spokesman said . . ‘Teaching of the Holocaust is already compulsory in schools at Key Stage 3 [age 11-14].'”

    But it is certainly not “compulsory” in Britain to teach: “The death toll from the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine has been estimated between six million and seven million.”

    Why is that? Because good ol’ Uncle Joe orchestrated the Ukraine famine in order to “eliminate the kulaks as a class”, a policy he announced in December 1929.

    Btw for the record, I regard both the BNP and Davis Irving as repugnant but in online debates I’ve been repeated called a Nazi or a “friend of David Irving” for daring to criticise Israel and its founders who relied on vicious terrorism to drive out the indigenous Palestinians from their homeland.

    In the UN debate in November 1947 on the future of Palestine the then British government warned that the partition of Palestine would lead to continuing conflict – an assessment which has been proved absolutely correct.

  7. One important point seems to get overlooked.

    Messrs Irving and Griffin are not being given a platform to spout their views (or to have them disinfected by Oxford’s glorious sunlight, come to that) but to debate ‘Free Speech’, which makes the objections to their invitations all the more hilarious.

  8. Bob,

    “But then some in America have claimed that any criticism of the State of Israel amounts “objectively” to anti-semitism. ”

    But Larry Summer’s isn’t one of them. At least, not in the quote you show. There is a HUGE gap between “any criticism” and “profoundly anti-Israel views”.

  9. “The issue basically comes down to this question: Are fascists entitled to free speech?”

    I’d disagree that the issue comes down to that. If you believe in free speech, then obviously it has to apply to fascists too the question people are asking is something like, “Is the right to free speech infringed if Irving and Griffin are refused a platform (either at the OU or anywhere else)?” The answer is no and I don’t understand why all these people are arguing otherwise.

  10. Surely Irving’s most famous recent contribution was to sue someone wrongly for libel in an attempt to shut them up, so he clearly isn’t the obvious person to invite.

  11. I agree with Mike Power, this private debating society has the right to invite whoever they like, to debate any subject matter. ( The only constraint on their invitation list is vested in the right of the Home Office to refuse entry to certain overseas candidates. )

    Furthermore, any threat of rioting from the opposition, as a response to such an invitation, can not be assigned to the visiting speakers. Freedom of speech means the right to say deeply unpopular things, even if the audience is threatening violent rage. The opposition have every right to vocally denounce these speakers, or ridicule them. But that is all.

  12. “I agree with Mike Power, this private debating society has the right to invite whoever they like, to debate any subject matter.”

    Yes but the question is, should they have? And more generally does a commitment to free speech create an obligation to extend invitations of this sort? I think the answer to both questions is no.

  13. For crying out loud Shuggy, the Oxford Union didn’t invite Irving and Griffin because of an obligation, they invited them because the debate was about free speech. Where does ‘should’ come in to it? It’s a private debating society. Providing they are not engaging in criminal activities, what they debate and who they invite is up to them!

  14. Thom // Nov 26, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    ‘All I’m saying is giving them a platform is going one step further than giving them free speech.’

    How much of a platform have they really been given? Because of the media coverage, the whole country knows that Mr. Irving and Mr. Griffin were invited to the Oxford Union and gave speeches. However, their speeches have not (to my knowledge) been reproduced or circulated. They have been given the opportunity to present their views to a small audience in a private debating society – a society that chose to invite them – not to the nation at large.

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