I hate, you hate, we hate
Well now we’re having some fun! I’ll say this for the Holocaust deniers: They may be dishonest, lying scum; they may indeed be in many ways the personification of evil (or, at least, as the fella says, “a reasonable facsimile thereof”); but they do give us all an occasional chance to show our colors and get really nasty with one another.The issue, of course, is whether GrassRoots TV should show a Holocaust denial program. One of our charming local nutcases (a leading 9/11 conspiracy theorist, by the way) has given the station a copy of the program and demanded that they show it. The GrassRoots TV board very rightly has some serious doubts about showing it.And so the screaming begins.First things first: This is not a true, constitutional free speech issue.”Free speech” just means that you have the right to scream any stupid, vicious lie you want and the government can’t stop you. Anyone – from a local nutcase to the president of the United States – has the right to spew vicious lies.To be sure, that right’s not unlimited. The lies can’t be libelous, and they can’t be direct calls to violence. (Actually, that rule against lies that are calls to violence doesn’t seem to apply to the president … but never mind that for now.)But what free speech does not guarantee you is the right to have anyone publish or, in this case, televise those lies. You have the right to shout them on a street corner – and if you can convince enough people to support you (or just one person with enough money), then you can get your lies presented more widely … quite often by an organization with the words “for Truth” in its name. (Strange how that works.)Fair enough.But what I’m finding amusing are the comments popping up on our Aspen Times website in response to stories, letters and an editorial on the subject. We’ve got people arguing that only crazed left-wingers would support the idea of showing this vile program; that all newspapers are run by crazed left-wingers and, therefore, newspapers prove their left-wing bias by suggesting that it might be OK to show the program. And, by the way, they add, Columbia University led the way by allowing Iran’s president, Ahmadinejad, to speak and all loony lefties will follow the rules laid down by Columbia. And they finish up by saying that all those left-wingers hate Israel.Got that?Great.So just to make it clear: What we’ve got are people who think that because they’re speaking out against Nazi hate speech they automatically have the right to spew anti-newspaper hatred, anti-free-speech hatred, anti-university hatred … basically, any kind of hatred that crosses their nasty little minds.”I hate the haters – and because I hate the haters, I can hate anyone else.”It’s a like a hate-speech “Get Out of Jail Free” card. How cool is that?Meanwhile … how do I feel about the TV program?Well, left-wing nutcase that I am, I tend to be in favor of wide-open, reckless free speech (like those other nutcases – Washington, Jefferson … you know, those guys).It’s the “turn-over-the-rock-and-let-the-sunshine-destroy-the-evil” theory. Evil flourishes in the dark.I also think there are consequences to exercising your rights.I think that burning an American flag is constitutionally protected – but I also think that if you burn the flag, you ought to be prepared for someone to punch you in the mouth for doing it. And the guy who punches you in the mouth ought to be prepared to go to jail for assault.We have our rights. We take our stands. We pay the consequences. It all works out in the end.And GrassRoots TV has a perfect right to show – or not show – that vile pustule of hatred.My guess is that if they show it, very few people will be able to watch the whole thing. And the only people who will agree with it will be those who agreed with it before they saw it.Andy Stone is a former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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People are a little hot and bothered out there. Relax, it’s Aspen.