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Europe.view: Let us have no lies | The Economist

Let us have no lies
Jun 11th 2009
(Original article: Europe.view: Let us have no lies | The Economist)

Using the law to salve a guilty national conscience

YOU automatically lose an argument if you call the other person a Nazi, states an adage coined by Mike Godwin, a writer about the internet, in 1990. With that in mind, it is wise to proceed with caution when discussing analogies between the Holocaust and anything else. Yet as Russia’s draft law on criminalising challenges to the Stalinist version of history comes closer to reality, it is worth looking at the successes and failures of other attempts to make certain views of history illegal.

Germany, Austria and more than a dozen other European countries have laws that more or less ban “denial” of the Holocaust. Sometimes these are part of general prohibitions of Nazi activity. Sometimes they are more generally framed as anti-hatred laws.AFP

The proud sorrow of victory

How far that is justifiable in theory is debatable. Every country curbs free speech to some extent (look at American companies’ use of corporate libel laws, for example). Whether one particular set of sensitivities deserves more protection than another is a matter for public debate: if voters mind enough one way or another, the politicians will pass or repeal the laws concerned.

From that point of view, it is hard to quibble with Russia’s desire to protect and sanctify the memory of its millions of soldiers who fell in the fight against Nazism. As the western wartime allies wallow in nostalgia, it is worth remembering that more than ten times as many “Soviet” (admittedly a loose term) soldiers died in combat than British and American troops combined.

But it is also worth noting that Holocaust-denial laws have done little to restrict the pernicious myths peddled by those who think the Jews were the victors, not the victims, in the second world war. In fact, a bit of legal persecution is just what those advocating fringe history most want. They can argue that the authorities are trying to suppress the “truth” because they have no other answer to it. What is in reality little more than a bunch of quibbles, anomalies, loose ends and historical puzzles becomes a grand scheme of events, and thus more potent in attracting the gullible or prejudiced.

The best antidote to Holocaust denial is truth, such as the excellent, which provides a painstaking refutation of the mythmongers’ cases, backed up with meticulous documentation. (An enterprising group of researchers ought to provide a similar dossier to rebut the equally absurd claims of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists).

Of course, questioning the Stalinist version of history is not directly comparable to Holocaust denial. If anything, the label should be on the other side. When a Russian defence-ministry website can argue straightfacedly that it was Poland that started the second world war, it is hard to accept that the authorities in Moscow are really interested in nailing falsehoods, rather than—as they seem to be—promoting them.

But Poland has not responded by banning the import of modern Russian textbooks, or passing a law making the denial of the Katyn massacre (which Stalin ordered and then blamed on the Nazis) into a criminal offence.

Banning a particular version of history is usually a sign of a guilty conscience. In the case of continental Europe, it is to make amends for collaboration and perpetration during the darkest years of the last century. In Russia’s case, what should be a source of proud sorrow—the heroism of those who fought and defeated Hitler—is being used to cover up Stalin’s behaviour: both his bungling of the Soviet defences against Hitler’s attack, and before that conspiring with the Nazis to carve up the Baltics, Balkans and central Europe.


June 12, 2009 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

AppleInsider | Apple hires One Laptop Per Child security expert and noted critic

Krstić posted on his blog, “After a great deal of deliberation, I moved to California and joined the local fruit vendor. Today was my first day on the job, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

(Original Article)

May 14, 2009 at 10:19 am Leave a comment

Left-right politics – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The terms Left and Right have been used to refer to political affiliation since the early part of the French Revolutionary era. They originally referred to the seating arrangements in the various legislative bodies of France, specifically in the French Legislative Assembly of 1791, when the king was still the formal head of state, and the moderate royalist Feuillants sat on the right side of the chamber, while the radical Montagnards sat on the left.

(Original Article)

April 29, 2009 at 3:26 am Leave a comment

Mapping the Cultural Buzz: How Cool Is That?

(Original Article)

April 8, 2009 at 6:48 am Leave a comment

Question time with Hannah Pool: Stephen Merchant | Stage | The Guardian

(Original Article)

“all comedians are secretly hugely depressed”

“It’s hard work for people who don’t really want to work.”

April 8, 2009 at 6:45 am Leave a comment

The Great Escape! Pigeons Caught Smuggling Cell Phones into Prison | Discoblog | Discover Magazine

The Great Escape! Pigeons Caught Smuggling Cell Phones into Prison | Discoblog | Discover Magazine

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April 3, 2009 at 4:23 am Leave a comment

Obamas Give Queen Elizabeth an iPod – NY Times

April 2, 2009

LONDON — Finally, an answer to the question consuming protocol watchers and tabloid reporters here: What did the Obamas give Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday when they arrived at Buckingham Palace?

An iPod.

An Obama aide reported the queen was given an iPod loaded with video and photos of her 2007 trip to the United States, as well as songs and accessories. She also received a rare songbook signed by the composer Richard Rodgers.

The gift issue had come up after Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the White House last month. Mr. Brown gave Mr. Obama a pen holder carved from the timber of an anti-slave ship, receiving in return a DVD box set of American movies, igniting a torrent of criticism in the British press.

According to news reports here, the queen gave the Obamas a silver-framed signed photograph — a gift she gives to all visiting dignitaries.

There was no word on whether the songbook included the “Sound of Music” classic, “My Favorite Things.”

But one thing is certain: that iPod better have some good songs, because if past is prologue, the British papers will be examining this gift for a while.

(Original article)

April 2, 2009 at 7:34 am Leave a comment

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