Rod Dreher

The government of Bavaria holds the copyright on Hitler’s “Mein Kampf,” and has exercised that right to prevent its publication for 70 years. But that copyright expires in 2015, and the Times reports there’s a controversy over whether the book should be published in contemporary Germany. Scholars want to publish a critical, annotated edition of the thing, but the government is skittish about any version seeing print. Nazi propaganda will remain illegal in Germany, no matter what.
Given the historical and cultural context of “Mein Kampf” in Germany, I would support under normal circumstances an indefinite ban on its publication. But technology has made that untenable. Therefore, I think this man has the right idea:

Stephan J. Kramer, secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany in Berlin, said the publication of “Mein Kampf” continued to split the Jewish community in Germany, with many Holocaust survivors opposing its publication. “I have the highest respect for this opinion, but on the other hand I’m saying very openly: The copyright is going to be waived anyway. It’s a matter of time before the book is available in shops and libraries,” Mr. Kramer said.
Mr. Kramer said that with the book available on the Internet, it was important to have the work put in context by a responsible group like the Institute of Contemporary History. “Those who are already on the wrong side already have the book and already read it from their own point of view,” he said. “Let’s get it out there, and let’s get it out there with a commentary.”

We Americans are raised in a First Amendment culture, so we have real trouble imagining a situation in which speech is justifiably restricted. I remember being taken aback a couple of years ago, at an international journalists’ conference, when we were talking about newspapers withholding facts about criminals. Some of us Americans mentioned that news organizations routinely refused to give data about the race of criminal suspects, even when those suspects were still at large, out of concern that it might inflame racial stereotypes. I said I thought that was a ridiculous example of political correctness. But a couple of journalists from Southeast Asian countries said their papers did the same thing when it came to sectarian violence, because to give all the facts would be to run a serious risk of setting off mass pogroms against the innocent.
I saw their point. Freedom of speech is not an absolute right. Though I have a strong bias towards getting information out there, and letting the chips fall where they may, it must be recognizes that sometimes telling the whole truth doesn’t make us free.

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