Saturday, April 25, 2009

Free David Duke!

Q: What do a vile, racist, former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan and a dissident Iranian-American journalist have in common?

A: They're both in prison for thought crimes. And if you want Iran to release Saberi, and yet you're taking pleasure in Duke's imprisonment, I suggest that you're guilty of hypocrisy.

You already know the story of Roxana Saberi: she's an American journalist, she's been living and reporting in Iran for about six years, and she's now been sentenced to eight years in prison. The trumped up charge is espionage, but even the "legitimate" charge, reporting without a journalism license, is equally disturbing. If the government can decide who is permitted to practice journalism then it can, as it is doing here, silence opposition voices. There's plenty of reason to think that Saberi's imprisonment is the work of hardliners who are trying to torpedo any easing of relations between Iran and the United States (see Powers, Gary Francis). Still, there is no question that Iran is deserving of every bit of condemnation that civilized people can generate.

But what about that racist dog David Duke? He's now imprisoned in Prague on suspicion of denying the Holocaust, which is a crime in most European countries. In American politics it's hard to come up with a scummier specimen than Duke. Still, where does the Czech Republic come off prosecuting people for books they published in the United States years ago?

I think he's every bit as deserving of being released as Roxana Saberi, but that position is clearly not universal on the left. For instance, take a look at the comments over at HuffPo. Here's a sampling:

Some people don't seem to realize that when they travel to a foreign country, they become subject to the laws of that country. Break the law there and you go to jail there.

The European laws regarding holocaust denial are very well known. You would have to be an inherently stupid individual to travel to Europe if you were a holocaust denier, especially if you had written a book about it.

Exactly! He would have been arrested even if he did this in France.

Wow! I live in Prague. Good on the Czech police. As far as I am concerned they can lock him up and throw away the key. The planet is too small for people like this

Having just gotten over eight years of a government that felt free to investigate and spy on anyone who disagreed with government policy, you would think we would be more sensitive to the need for freedom of expression and freedom of thought.

No more thought crimes. Free Roxana Saberi and David Duke.

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