A disciplinary committee in the UK just suspended London Mayor Ken Livingstone for a month and fined him Â£80,000 for likening a reporter, who’s Jewish, with a concentration-camp guard. The local papers are shocked at the precedent of an electorate’s will being overruled by an unelected tribunal. I am also shocked that the cause is speech. Says The Guardian’s Mark Lawson:
It’s worth remembering that when Bill Clinton was threatened with removal from office by the members of the House and Senate – over allegations of serious sexual and legal error – considerable concern was expressed about whether even elected representatives had the right to overturn the will of the people as expressed in an election.
The Times editorial:
That such a sentence should be passed on him not by London’s electors, but anonymous officials after a costly tribunal into his behaviour is, though, ludicrous.
The Telegraph’s leader:
In a democracy, people should be free to vote for whom they wish, and politicians to act as they please within the law.
: And tonight on Bill Maher’s show, Irshad Manji ties the discussion of Holocaust denier David Irving to this: Another man said more stupid things and is jailed.
: One more: Telegraph columnist Simon Heffer ties together the tales of Irving and a media steambath over Prince Charles’ leaked critical diary of a China visit.
For two Englishmen, this has been a week when freedom of speech has come at a high price….
Let us start with Herr Irving…. [T]he notion that he has been locked up for taking such an irresponsible, stupid and offensive view of history is appalling. The best way to guard against anti-Semitism is to let people such as Irving have their say. I doubt that a single anti-Semite has been created by reading any of Irving’s works. Indeed, it is far more likely that his every utterance has reinforced hatred of Nazism and Nazi doctrines, which is why he is more useful to humanity outside jail than in it.
What he and the Prince of Wales have in common is that the unlovely band of hysterics in pursuit of them prevent any such objective view of their behaviour.
The defense of speech usually comes to speech we do not like and that is fine for such speech does not hurt us. And isn’t that the lesson we should be demonstrating to all the cartoon rioters and murderers?
I will say it again:
The cold of the chill is more dangerous than the heat of the hate. I believe that a free marketplace of speech will succeed where a closed and controlled public square will fail.