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October 3, 2019 6:06 am

Alison Chabloz and the Criminalization of Holocaust Denial

avatar by Simon Butler

Opinion

A screenshot of Alison Chabloz performing a song that insults survivors of the Holocaust.

Late last month, a musician named Alison Chabloz was sent to prison in the United Kingdom for violating the terms of an earlier court decision prohibiting her from using social media — a decision stemming from her dissemination of videos featuring songs she wrote that mocked the Holocaust. In the UK, this story made many of the major papers, but it has hardly registered at all in the United States.

But here’s why it should:

This case was a watershed decision in the battle against antisemitism. The UK has laws expressly forbidding hate speech that tries to incite hatred of other groups or is grossly offensive in nature. As such, and in light of her social-media malfeasance, Chabloz — who has posted content on her website alisonchabloz.com with headlines such as “In Defence of a Myth–‘Holocaust’ lobby shifts into top gear” and “Hear the Jew cry out in pain as the White lady sings” was incarcerated for a couple of days before being released pending her appeal hearing. That is scheduled for late October.

Chabloz, who has remained unrepentant despite her losing cause, has become something of a symbol of resistance to anti-hate speech legislation. Her supporters argue that Chabloz shouldn’t have been put in jail just for singing songs. They claim that regardless of the fact that Chabloz perpetuated an utterly repellent ideology through her music, the idea of instituting such a harsh punishment for posting content on social media is extreme in light of a person’s right to self-expression.

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I’ve written before on the need to pass and enforce laws against antisemitism in the US, and I believe that in Chabloz’s situation, the court made the right move. This individual could conceivably incite adherents to commit violence against Jews through her online activities. She also has many followers who hang on her every word, and could act according to her directives. Although she didn’t incite violence, I don’t believe she should have been spared prosecution.

Will this sort of court action fly in America? With freedom of speech being so ingrained in our history, this country is unlikely to attack hate speech in the manner of the authorities in the UK. On the other hand, the trends toward shaming bigots through the media and reporting them online have led to some significant insights. Are we headed towards a society where intolerance is no longer tolerated? And can this extend to the legislative arena?

Is there any value in letting someone spew slurs against various populations? Maybe there’s more value in criminalizing such behavior, à la Chabloz, than protecting a very strong right to free speech.

It may take a long time for anything to develop in the US about it, but I do think it’s worth the effort. Such measures could substantially affect online hatred and make offenders think twice before posting something egregiously offensive online. Wouldn’t that be a benefit to all?

I urge everyone to consider this — and the case of Chabloz, too. This might be the future of hate speech, and if that’s the case, the future looks rosy indeed.

Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. During his career, he has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek. Currently, he is a columnist for The Jewish Advocate. His views and opinions are his own.

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