Oliver Kamm

Holocaust denier Alison Chabloz should not have been prosecuted

Oliver Kamm, who lost family in the Holocaust, defends Chabloz's right to be 'offensive and hateful'

May 31, 2018 11:40

Even in the swamps of social media, Alison Chabloz stands out in virulence and disrepute. Till she was barred from that platform, she used Twitter to spread ceaseless antisemitic abuse and the poisonous fraud of Holocaust denial.

When political commentators, including Jonathan Freedland and me, made mild criticisms of Jeremy Corbyn, she compared it to the crucifixion of Christ.

Last week, Chabloz’s campaigning caught up with her as she was convicted on three charges of posting grossly offensive material online. The material consisted of grotesque “satirical” songs on YouTube that described Auschwitz as a theme park and the Holocaust as a hoax.

I don’t expect many JC readers to agree but this case should never have been brought. Chabloz should be free to continue with her noisome trolling.

It’s a difficult case to make when, extraordinarily and horrifyingly, antisemitism has become a potent issue in British politics because of the failure of Labour’s leadership to recognise it and root it out.

Chabloz’s output is offensive and hateful. And given that it won’t be very long before the Holocaust passes beyond living memory, it’s vital to keep educational activities vigorous so that future generations know. All of these things are true and I feel them keenly. Ten members of my family perished in the Holocaust and I owe it to these of my forebears to defend historical truth.

It is legitimate for civil society to regulate the exercise of speech. Racists and Holocaust deniers don’t have access to the pages of The Times or to the BBC’s airwaves; nor (though it’s a finer judgment) should they have a right to post on Twitter or Facebook, which are publishers and not just public forums.

Yet a free society cannot legislate to protect the feelings of its citizens. If we protect people from being offended, there is no limit to the incursions on free speech that the principle would justify. It’s easy to see how it would shade into the censorship of books or cartoons that offend religious sensibilities.

Free speech is tested by its most difficult cases. There is a human right to be a xenophobe and to express foul conspiratorial opinions. With revulsion but a clear conscience, I’ll defend Chabloz’s liberty to lie and defame.

Oliver Kamm is a leader writer and columnist with The Times

May 31, 2018 11:40

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