Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Let That Be a Lesson For You

#45 on the list of things not to do as an evil overlord reads as follows:
I will make sure I have a clear understanding of who is responsible for what in my organization. For example, if my general screws up I will not draw my weapon, point it at him, say "And here is the price for failure," then suddenly turn and kill some random underling.

I kind of got that feeling while reading this article about a Dutch prosecution of a Muslim group for hate speech. The Arab European League had published a cartoon on its website insinuating that the Holocaust was exaggerating. It did this, it claimed, not because it subscribes to Holocaust denial, but in order to draw attention to the dropping of charges against Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilders, whose film they claimed insulted Muhammad (the charges were dropped after authorities decided the film was targeted at Muhammad himself, not Muslims as a group).

There's a solid case to be made against hate speech laws in general because of line drawing problems like this. But as Ronny Naftaniel of the Center for Documentation on Israel, who filed the complaint, pointed out, engaging in counter-hate speech against Jews, even to "make a point", is not justifiable, particularly when Jews had nothing to do with the film you're protesting. Even if you are pissed that Jews seem to be getting protections that you're not (and don't we all love the crabs-in-a-bucket mentality that evinces), there is something deeply immoral about claiming that person A wronged me, so I'm going to abuse innocent group B over there in order to draw attention to the injustice of it all.

This is what happens when you're cast as history's scapegoats. Every situation, every context, every gripe, every misfortune -- the first thought of some people is to take a whack at the Jews. Forget the cartoon -- that's the real insult to Jews as a group.

1 comment:

PG said...

You're probably right about the unconscious reason why they chose Holocaust denial, but I suspect that they would say their conscious reasoning was that it would be certain to be deemed illegal, because Holocaust denial is singled out as always illegal in Europe, whereas many other forms of hate speech are taken on a more case-by-case basis. If they had gone with anti-Semitism and just depicted Madoff in the typical Shylock style, for example, the authorities could have ignored it. Holocaust denial, under their laws, isn't really ignorable.