Think of the victims

February 14, 1997

IN AN article in which she naively dismisses the effects of Holocaust denial, Jennie Bristow asks "why has so little fuss been made about these new restrictions on free speech?" (THES, February 7).

If one looks beyond Ms Bristow's Revolutionary Communist party rhetoric, the answer is obvious. Holocaust denial is not about history, it is merely an attempt to rehabilitate Nazism in the post-Holocaust world. Thus, the motives of the perpetrators are to incite racial hatred.

The problem is that legislation is so focused on public order considerations (rather than the damage that racism in and of itself does to the fabric of society) that Holocaust denial constantly slips through the net.

In short the Crown Prosecution Service finds itself in an indefensible position. It refuses to prosecute the most common form of incitement to racial hatred under legislation designed to deal with incitement to racial hatred.

Individuals like Jennie Bristow, who assert that free speech should be absolute, are living in a fantasy world. First of all, a cursory glance at legislation both at home and abroad shows that everyone recognises it is not.

Free speech is indeed a crucial variable in the equation of liberty. It is a right we must cherish. But if we were to assert, as Ms Bristow would have us do, that it is not the sum of all freedoms, democracy, which society seeks to preserve, but one part of that sum, the right to free expression, it would elevate free speech to the position of sole morale idea on which society is based. That cannot be right.

J. D. Jacobs Campaigns director, Union of Jewish Students

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