Free speech is a tenet of our democracy, and shouldn't be compromised. But too often speech is used to distort and manipulate until the truth is all but lost. James von Brunn had no doubt been lied to himself, until he believed all the hateful, dishonest things he had been told. Adolf Hitler once said,
The size of the lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, for the vast masses of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad. The primitive simplicity of their minds renders them a more easy prey to a big lie than a small one, for they themselves often tell little lies, but would be ashamed to tell big lies.And he was right. That is partly how he was able to convince an entire nation of relatively intelligent people that they must follow him in his path of intolerance, hatred, and mass murder.
To me, the most frightening thing is that there are so many people who genuinely believe that the Holocaust did not occur. If enough people repeat a lie over and over again, others will start to assume that there are simply two sides to the story, and it becomes a debate rather than a truth. White supremacists and world leaders alike have been denying the Holocaust for years, and many even denied it while it was taking place.
Now, as the decade comes to a close, the last of the world's Holocaust survivors are slowly passing away. What happens a generation from now when they are all gone and can no longer tell their stories? Two generations from now when their children are gone and cannot relay their stories to others? Will the "truth debate" become more inflamed until history itself is entirely compromised? Will 1984 manifest itself, not because of an authoritarian regime, but because of an exceptionally vocal group of psychopaths?
There is so much about psychology and morality and humanity that the horrors that took place in the Holocaust can teach us. But when people undermine the very existence of some of the most atrocious actions mankind has ever undertaken, it effectively serves to devolve us as a species.
Free speech is important to preserve, but we have to remain vigilant of its abuses, and continue to proliferate the lessons that must be learned from the tragic realities of history.