Sunday, April 29, 2007

Good Intentions and Thought Crimes

We all know the old saying about where "good intentions" lead. We've also all read George Orwell's 1984, in which the term "thought crime" was coined. The two converge when government (especially big, unaccountable, pan-national government) is driving the issue. An example of this train wreck can be found here.

Outlawing "hate speech" is a lazy non-solution to a problem that is cultural, not criminal. But modern people have lost touch with things like "culture." So, government steps in to fill the gap. What was once considered rude and socially discouraged behavior is now enforced with fines and threats of jail. What was once combatted with education, free discourse, and intellectually unfettered debate, is now "settled" with jack-booted government enforcement.

The irony is that the occasion of this proposed new law involves the legacy of the Nazis. Of course, they were thugs who used (abused) the compulsory force of government to achieve the ends of setting up one ethnic group over others. One would think the world learned its lesson from Nazism and the Holocaust - but it seems we haven't. What is now being done in the name of opposing Nazism is a form of Neo-Nazism - in which certain ethnic groups become "more equal" (another Orwellian quip) than other groups, where denying the suffering of some groups is legal, but the denial of the suffering of "protected" groups becomes a thought crime. And the enforcement of these edicts are entrusted into the hands of the same folks who brought us every holocaust and pogram in history: government bureaucrats.

Look at the ridiculousness of the debate. The proposal is to criminalize the denial of the Jewish holocaust of WW2, along with, for some reason (political, no doubt), the 1984 Rwanda genocide, while leaving the denial of all other historical facts and genocides as matters of free speech.

An excerpt:

"Diplomats stressed the provision had been carefully worded to include only denial of the Holocaust – the Nazi mass murder of Jews during the second world war – and the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.... In an attempt to assuage Turkish fears, several EU diplomats said the provisions would not penalise the denial of mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman troops in the aftermath of the 1915 collapse of the Ottoman empire."

Also, protected species are based on ethnicity, and not other things like religion:

"The proposal draws what is likely to be a controversial distinction between inciting violence against racial or ethnic groups and against religious groups. Attacks against Muslims, Jews or other faiths will only be penalised if they go on to incite violence against ethnic or racial groups, the draft text states."

Common sense would say that all groups should be equally protected. If denial of the Jewish holocaust is a crime, than perhaps denial of the Arminian holocaust should be as well. Better yet, why not restrict the government to protecting people and property and getting out of the business of telling people what they can believe or write. If a person believes that the Nazis didn't gas six million Jews, if a person believes the earth is flat, or if a person believes wearing crystals and a tin foil hat can make them fly - so what?

What is happening is nothing more than the age-old desire to dominate others. It was wrong when Nazis did it to Jews, and it is equally wrong when EU officials seek to do it to citizens with unpopular opinions and ideas. The solution to repugnant speech is free speech. Otherwise, when certain facts become hysterically defended by the government, where dissent is criminalized - this only serves to make people wonder what the government is hiding. Ironically, in criminalizing holocaust-denial, I believe the EU and state governments are only serving to perpetuate the holocaust-denial point of view. Whereas it might have been easy to debunk were free discourse permitted, it now becomes impossible to debate and to refute the idea.

Thus the unintended consequences of "good intentions."

Furthermore, what other unpopular thoughts will once day be criminalized based on this precedent? In Scandinavia, traditional Christians are already being targeted for their biblical view of women's ordination and homosexuality. The United States has also moved in this direction with the enactment of certain "hate crimes" laws that provide different degrees of punishment based solely on the ethnicity (or even sexual deviance) of the victim.

The criminalizetion of unpopular opinions and the gagging of publication of them amounts to the reinstitution of court historians and the Stalinesque brutality that George Orwell (who was ironically a Socialist who lived in what is today an EU state) warned against. "Good intentions" don't justify a new paradigm of jackboots and the crushing of dissent, nor do they ultimately achieve the good they intended in the first place.

You can't fight Nazism with Nazism.