Free speech, but for what?


The International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust held in Iran last week that purported to “debate” the factuality of the extermination of six million Jews in the 1940s was a tough one to classify.

It was, of course, anti-Semitic in function and form, referencing the creation of Israel by the United Nations as the “occupation of Palestine” and, more blatantly, denigrating the legacy of the Jews who suffered in concentration camps and their systematic extermination.

It was a neat piece of revisionist history, attracting guys like David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who was erroneously reported to have said to the crowd that the gas chambers in concentration camps like Dachau and Auschwitz “did not exist.”

It feels strange to defend a guy like Duke in these pages, but in truth his speech at the conference in Tehran, according to a transcript on his website, contained no blanket denial of the mass ingestion of Zyklon B at the hands of the Nazis, though in fact one of the overreaching tenets of the conference was disbelief in the existence of the chambers.

Instead Duke, the former Louisiana state representative and convicted tax evader, made an attempt to carry the flag for the First Amendment.

“The Holocaust Conference in Iran is truly about respect for intellectual freedom,” Duke told the assembled crowd that included European academics, non-Zionist Jews, white supremacists and many, many Middle Easterners with less than charitable views on adherents to the faith of Judaism.

We’re pretty big proponents of the free speech thing – it’s what allows us to stay in business. And an exercise in free speech is not exactly an everyday occurrence in present-day Iran, where there is no First Amendment and a difference of opinion, especially an opinion that goes against the ruling party, is often settled by blood in the sand.

So in spirit we should be on board for this initiative by the Iranian Foreign Ministry and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to advance free speech.

Except, of course, that it was not free speech at all but a measured, and dangerous, dose of propoganda.

The actuality of the extermination of Jews can be testified to by an examination of the ruins of the concentration camps which still show evidence of gas chambers and crematoriums; by the horrific testimony of survivors of said camps, thousands of whom are still alive and walking around certain parts of Florida and the outer boroughs of New York City with numbers tattooed on their forearms; former prison guards whose psyches have been destroyed by the horrors they witnessed and committed.

In short, this exercise in free speech was a bunch of crap, offensive on so many levels that we don’t have the space to enumerate them.

And we hope Ahmadinejad’s farcical experiment with open debate will end here. But we fear it will not.