Our vote for free speech
October 10, 2007
Our local television station, GrassRoots TV, this week faces a tough question of whether to air a video that’s offensive to many of its board members and viewers. The video takes a “critical view” of the Holocaust and goes so far as to suggest that Hitler’s Germany was under attack by an “international Zionist elite,” and not the other way around.
We urge GrassRoots to run the video, “Judea Declares War on Germany: A Critical Look at World War II” ” not because we agree with it but because Aspen shouldn’t be frightened of a dissenting viewpoint.
The GrassRoots board meets Thursday to discuss not only what to do about this video, but what to do with other questionable material. We hope the management and the board choose a path of openness rather than censorship; it’s in keeping with democracy and the spirit of public access television.
So, why air such dubious material?
First, the American doctrine of free speech urges us to err on the side of more speech, more viewpoints. Even when speech is offensive or wrongheaded, society is better off to allow it than to suppress it. As a newspaper, we believe this principle is both a right and an obligation.
Second, this video is simply not much of a threat. We’ve taken a look at “Judea Declares War on Germany,” produced in 2004, and we can say that it’s low-budget, abysmally boring and structurally flimsy. There’s a reason that most of us hadn’t heard of this three-year-old product before valley resident Steve Campbell asked GrassRoots to air it. Those who sit through its entire, ponderous length won’t be convinced of anything unless they’re already predisposed to deny the Holocaust.
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This video won’t cause riots in Aspen, it won’t traumatize the children, and it won’t change adult minds. There’s no risk of a plague if we let this rat out of the cage.
As one member of this editorial board said, “Give them the rope and let them hang themselves.”
This video shows the Holocaust deniers for the crackpots that they are. If viewers wish to see it, then let them. Suppressing this stuff only gives it power.