The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: people/z/zundel.ernst/press/enough-already.971017


Archive/File: people/z/zundel.ernst/press/enough-already.971017
Last-Modified: 1997/10/18

Source: The Globe And Mail, Friday, October 17, 1997, (A26 (Lead Editorial))
                              
                           Bad law
                        goes on line
                              
Of course he's wrong. Ernst Zundel -- Holocaust denier,
Jewish conspiracy theorist, white supremacist -- is a
classic delusional case: he believes in things that are
demonstrably false. As for Canadian society, it suffers from
a delusion of its own: that the best way to deal with the
Ernst Zundels of the world is to pass a law and throw them
in jail, rather than debating with them or ignoring them.
This mistaken belief is perhaps not so pernicious as Mr.
Zundel's, but it is, troublingly, considerably more
widespread.

Belief in the virtue and necessity of prosecuting someone
with whom we disagree, and with whom all people of good
sense should disagree, explains why Ernst Zundel is before
the courts, yet again. This time he's accused of spreading
hate via the telephone lines, by means of a California-based
Internet site. Telephonic communication can be, by an
unfortunate act of Parliament, regulated under the Canadian
Human Rights Act by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
The body cannot vet books or magazines or newspapers, but it
now alleges that material published on line is within its
reach. We hope the courts will decide otherwise. And
Parliament could, of course, amend the law.

The big issue, however, is not whether speech can or should
be regulated on the Internet. The answer is an unqualified
yes: if there are illegal things on the Net -- child
pornography, for example, or a death threat -- they were put
there by somebody. That somebody is subject to the laws of
the land. A death threat in cyberspace is a death threat all
the same. Though the breadth and complexity of the Internet
can be a challenge, it would be absurd to argue that that
which is legal in virtual reality could at the same time be
illegal out here in real reality.

This latest prosecution of Mr. Zundel is not, therefore,
misguided because the Internet should somehow be accorded
greater freedom than other forms of speech. It doesn't
matter where he spreads his wrong-headed, hateful message:
whether on a street corner, in a newspaper or on a Web site,
what he has to say is wrong. It should also be legal. If
free speech is to mean anything, then we must treat our
country as a true marketplace of ideas, where Mr. Zundel is
free to hawk his wares -- and Canadians are free to decline
them.

The Canadian marketplace does not, unfortunately, work
precisely like that. Though the Supreme Court struck down
the so-called false-news section of the Criminal Code, under
which Mr. Zundel was prosecuted in the 1980s, it upheld the
hate-speech provision of the Code. We believe that this law
is in error, but in any case it is not being employed
against Mr. Zundel. Last year, Ontario's Attorney-General
dropped charges against Mr. Zundel under the hate law,
citing lack of evidence. This Human Rights Act prosecution
is a new backdoor that should never have been opened.

Aside from our principled objections to prosecutions of
hatemongers on free speech grounds, there are also some very
practical considerations weighing heavily in favour of the
marketplace-of-ideas approach. Consider: Were it not for the
two decades worth of judges and juries and Crown prosecutors
thrown at Mr. Zundel, who would have ever heard of him? His
ideas would go the way of other products nobody wants,
rotting in silence.

Instead, thanks to the forces arrayed against him, Mr.
Zundel is offered, again and again, a soapbox from which to
preach his own bitter lunacies. His name, which would be
thankfully unknown to Canadians were it not for repeated
attempts at prosecution, has appeared in 483 different
articles in The Globe and Mail over the past 20 years.
Absent the prosecutions, Mr. Zundel wouldn't be newsworthy.

Enough already. Leave this little man alone. Give him that
which he dreads most: a long, cold silence.


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