CON GAMES: Free Speech Or Hate Speech?

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A big-time brouhaha is brewing at GrassRoots TV over the right of an incendiary conspiracy activist in the Roaring Fork Valley to broadcast a program that denies the Holocaust on the community television station.

At issue is the right of Steve Campbell of Glenwood Springs to show a movie that most everyone agrees is offensive and hateful. Campbell is also affiliated with the conspiracy group Citizens for 9/11 Truth.

The movie is “Judea Declares War on Germany: A Critical Look at World War II,” and Campbell is well-known to those in the local Jewish community as a man unafraid to at best stir the pot, at worst to foment hate of the anti-Semitic kind. To see what I mean, check out this link supporting Campbell from the “National Alliance News: News for White People, By White People.” http://natallnews.com/story.php?id=6152

“PLEASE ATTEND OPEN GRASSROOTS TV POLICY MEETING,” said an email sent out Sunday by United Jewish Appeal Aspen Valley. “As Jews and as moral people, the threat of a Holocaust Denial Film coming to Aspen is one of the most dangerous situations to ever come to the Aspen Valley. GrassRoots TV has refused to air the film, but under intense pressure, the Board of Directors is holding a public meeting to determine Station Policy. The Meeting is set for Thursday, October 11, at 12:30 PM at The Red Brick Building. It is very important for YOU, your family and your friends to attend.”

I say when the GrassrootsTV board meets this week they should let Campbell show his movie. I also said the president of Iran should have his say at Columbia University. And it’s not because I have a fatal attraction to fringe types who spout spectacular untruths.

I’d say the whole thing is hateful, but I also say let Campbell have his say. The head of GrassRoots TV agrees.

“I believe the First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy and you can’t start to chip away at it,” GrassRoots TV executive director John Masters told a local newspaper. “What that means is that I need to allow offensive, hateful, racist programming as something that is protected by the First Amendment.”

Why should even Steve Campbell have his say?

Look at it this way: we could ban all discussion of 9/11 that does not specifically acknowledge the death of 3,000-plus Americans and the culpability of Osama bin Ladin and al-Qaeda. But we don’t do that, do we? We allow the nutcases to have their say—if not their day in court—because true democracy demands the right of card-carrying nutcases to have their say. By letting crackpot ideas into the light of day, men and women of reason can smash them into a million billion pieces by force of logic.

The Holocaust is no different, though it is even more horrendous and painful. I am absolutely outraged that anyone would suggest anything other than the barbaric outcome of Hitler’s massive purge of the Jews. But I’m willing to let those who disagree have their say. I don’t see it as a sickness: I see it as proof positive that we have a healthy democracy because Campbell’s movie will be seen for what it is—atrocious nonsense.

Is the situation dangerous? Perhaps. But I’d rather live with the danger of an absurd, unpopular idea, than the fear that an absurd, unpopular ideas can’t be heard. In a smackdown, free speech will trump hate speech every time.