Holocaust Denial: Hate Speech, Not Free Speech

In the past few days, anti-Semitic flyers claiming the Holocaust was a ‘hoax’ have been seen around, and subsequently removed from, the University of Glasgow campus. One of these flyers, entitled ‘The Greatest Swindle of All Time’, quotes the widely-condemned political scientist Norman Finkelstein – who believes the Holocaust is used by the Jewish community as an “ideological weapon” – and urges readers to follow a link to a conspiracy website. There one will find various claims about the Holocaust, including many from famous Holocaust-deniers who suggest that it was nothing more than a “story”. These flyers have been found all across campus, including the Boyd Orr building and the Chapel.

The flyers and their subsequent removal have received a mixed response. While many are naturally disgusted by the content and pleased that they have been swiftly removed, others have criticised the University for promoting ‘censorship’ of opinion and prevention of ‘free speech’ and ‘intellectual debate’. Many are using the argument that the flyers were simply promoting an opinion, which they argue everyone is entitled too, rather than promoting anti-Semitism.

But isn’t that exactly what denying the Holocaust is doing? Denial of the Holocaust is the denial of the systemic dehumanisation and attempted obliteration of an entire religious community. This is rooted in anti-Semitism; Holocaust deniers’ claims feed into an overarching narrative of conspiracy which seeks to justify the negative actions taken against the Jewish community, and they often use this to further their ideological agenda in the present day. Surely these claims, which are shrouded in racism and hate, should not be allowed to exist on a University campus?

Furthermore, the argument that the removal of the flyers inhibits ‘free speech’ and prevents ‘intellectual debate’ is completely nonsensical. The existence of the Holocaust is not up for intellectual debate. It is not ‘academically controversial’; it is historical fact. Denying it only seeks to promote anti-Semitic hate speech, something which should not be tolerated on a University campus.

Free speech does not justify hate speech. Free speech does not mean people with the privilege to be able to broadcast their opinions are thereby justified in using this privilege to insult and disrespect whoever they please. And frankly, anyone who justifies the spread of anti-Semitism on the basis of free speech is disgraceful.

[Ellen Green]

Image: Glasgow Guardian

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