[FPSPACE] from Holocaust denial to Apollo denial
Dwayne Allen Day
Tue, 03 Oct 2000 00:40:53 -0400 (EDT)
On Mon, 2 Oct 2000 Palladium@aol.com wrote:
> As an ex-journalist myself, I'm sympathetic to your point that
> everyone's entitled to their beliefs, not matter how lunatic and
I sense a "however..." coming on...
You see, in these kinds of arguments, there is always a "however..." It
goes something like this: "I do not have a problem with people expressing
their point of view, however, I do not think they should be allowed to
express a point of view that is [fill in the blank--"offensive," "racist,"
"untrue," "insulting to our boys in uniform," etc.]"
>documented the horrors of Nazism liars and conspirators. That's a
>grotesque perversion of the truth, the the people so maligned have
>every right to feel offended and to seek legal redress.
Except that in the United States, they would have no legal grounds to
stand on. Lawsuits have been successfully pursued against "Holocaust
deniers" in places like Canada and the UK, but not in the United States.
And it is worthwhile to note that the laws that make this possible can be
abused by just about anyone. One of the most notable Holocaust deniers
sued one of his American critics in a British court in 1999, claiming that
she had libeled him by calling him a liar. She fought and ultimately
won--after spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. A Pyrrhic
victory for truth.
> It's not so outrageous in the case of the Apollo deniers, but you're
> still talking about calling some of most brilliant, hard-working, and
> motivated people who ever lived, people who have every right to feel proud
> at what they have accomplished, a bunch of liars and conspirators.
So? We call our politicians liars all the time. Polls show that up to 80
percent of the American public thinks that the CIA killed John
F. Kennedy. Perhaps 40 percent believe that the government is covering up
the crash of a flying saucer at Roswell. Should the people named in these
conspiracy theories take their accusers to court? Should books about JFK
conspiracies be banned from bookstores? Should books about Roswell be
banned as well? Should the courts force the removal of websites on these
subjects? What makes Apollo any different?
Now suppose, just suppose, that someone wrote a book about the Soviet
Union beating the Americans to the moon back in 1969. Wouldn't that book
be considered an insult to the "brilliant and hard-working people" who
worked on Apollo? Should they be able to seek legal redress too? Should
that book be banned? Its author sued?
> U.S. libel law requires an enormous (and practically impossible) burden
> of proof to support a libel conviction against a so-called "public
> person," i.e. a celebrity or a politician. Apollo astronauts would fall
> into that category, but certainly not the rank and file Apollo engineer,
> scientist or technician.
This is a mis-reading of US libel law. Libel requires three things:
-proof that the allegations are false
-proof of injury (usually in the form of monetary damages--cancelled
-proof that the allegations were malicious
Proving the last is the hardest. All the defendant has to say is "I
honestly believed what I said" and he wins.
> My concern is that dragging these nuts into court would give them precisely
> the platform they're looking for to spread their bilge.
Then allow me to make a modest proposal:
Rather than dragging the authors of unpopular books into court so that
they can be sued and effectively silenced (after all, the courts are
already jam-packed as it is), what we should do is create a more
democratic process. Perhaps once every two years, in addition to voting
for candidates for national elections, we could also hold votes as to
which books to ban. Unfortunately, I don't think that your concern that
"untruthful" books are being published can be translated into simple
action--what are we going to do, ban all fiction? No, instead, it should
be a simple ballot initiative: X number of signatures gets a book on the
list for voting. Then, if it generates more than, say, 10% votes against
it, we can ban its sale in stores, remove it from libraries, and have some
nice bonfires. (I go for 10% because there are lots of books that offend
small minorities very significantly, and we need to be aware of their
Here's my list of books to ban:
-James Joyce's Ulysses (too damn long and inexplicable)
-The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (all those naughty words)
-Hamlet (too violent and sexual, and that whole "get thee to a
nunnery" bit was sexist in the original context)
-Romeo and Juliet (underage sex)
-Moby Dick (I never read this as a kid and I don't ever want to read it)
-any book by any Apollo denier