Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Alison Chabloz’s songs are grotesque but she shouldn’t be criminalised

Blogger and songwriter Alison Chabloz has been convicted for posting three anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying songs on YouTube. The trial judge said he was ‘entirely satisfied’ that the songs were intended to insult Jewish people and that the lyrics were ‘grossly offensive’. The songs have been taken down and her offences may even lead to a custodial sentence.

There is no doubt that the songs’ lyrics are anti-Semitic and constitute Holocaust denial. In one song, Chabloz describes Auschwitz as a ‘theme park’ and calls the gas chambers a ‘proven hoax’ – a claim she repeated in court. The song ‘(((survivors)))’ mocks Holocaust survivors, including Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel, to the tune of the Jewish folk song, ‘Hava Nagila’.

Nor are these the first accusations of anti-Semitism made against Chabloz. In 2015, she was banned from the Edinburgh Fringe for doing a quenelle salute – an inverted Nazi salute, widely believed to be anti-Semitic. In a blog post, she claimed the gesture was a riposte to a ‘smear campaign’ that had labelled her a Holocaust denier. In the same post, she went on to dispute the existence of the gas chambers. Chabloz describes her work as ‘Holocaust revisionism’.

Holocaust denial is, of course, completely irrational, has no basis in historical fact, and is almost always motivated by deep-seated racism. But there are no specific laws against Holocaust denial in the UK. Britain has even resisted attempts to enforce an EU directive outlawing Holocaust denial. In 2008, British courts prevented the extradition of suspected Holocaust denier Frederick Toben to Germany.

No matter how abhorrent Holocaust denial is, there are important reasons not to ban it in law. Deborah Lipstadt, who successfully defended a libel suit from the notorious Holocaust denier, David Irving, argues against giving politicians ‘the power to legislate history’. Banning Holocaust denial simply turns deniers into martyrs. It should be defeated by the facts, not by the law, argues Lipstadt.

Nevertheless, Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 stipulates that material posted online merely has to be ‘grossly offensive’ in order to be illegal. Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which initially brought a private prosecution against Chabloz before the Crown Prosecution Service took over the case, is right to call the ruling ‘remarkable’. ‘It is a ruling on the legality of Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in the UK’, he says. But this is not a positive development. In effect, a ban on Holocaust denial has been introduced by the backdoor.

The law against ‘grossly offensive’ material is dangerous one. Offence is an entirely subjective category and the power to determine what forms of speech are ‘grossly offensive’ and therefore illegal should not be placed in the hands of the police and the judiciary. With nine people arrested every day for posting offensive material online, it is clearly a power the police are keen to exercise.



Anonymous said...

Eisenhower ordered full photographic documentation of the death camps for the coming war crimes trials and said "The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they [there] were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit [to Gotha] deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to “propaganda.”"


Anonymous said...

Free speech is offensive speech - Salman Rushdie author of The Satanic Verses. Britain is becoming more and more totalitarian. The songs are satire which is part of the British comedic tradition such as Monty Python. No one is pointing a gun at people's heads forcing them to listen.

Bird of Paradise said...


Anonymous said...

Anne Frank was not a 'Holocaust survivor'.