January 27, 2015
Scottish politician calls for potential ban on Mein Kampf
by Nick Davies
The translation into English and publication of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf has been the topic of considerable discussion, and the book itself has landed on bestseller lists, including on Amazon. Now, a Scottish member of Parliament has called on the UK’s culture secretary for a debate on whether publication of the book should be permitted at all.
Alison Flood reports for The Guardian that Thomas Docherty, a Labour party MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, is asking for a “sensitive debate” about the value of having such an inflammatory book available for public consumption. His letter to culture secretary Sajid Javid acknowledges that “many who would argue that the publication of books as repulsive as Mein Kampf is the price of living in a democracy,” and that “by allowing academic study of books such as this, we ensure that our society understands better the causes of fascism and the origins of Nazism.” On the other hand, there are, of course, “many who would argue that such a book, which sought to incite racial hatred and fuel antisemitism, is too offensive to be made available.”
Docherty clarifies to The Guardian that he is not saying the book should be banned outright, but that there should be a thoughtful discussion about that possibility. Placing it in political and historical context, he points out:
Tomorrow is Holocaust Memorial Day – it’s 70 years since the liberation of Auschwitz and other concentration camps, and there have obviously been the tragic events recently in Paris. There’s also the rise of antisemitism, not just in the UK but across Europe. I think this is a debate we should have, and there is an irony if we censor a debate about the limits of free speech.
Docherty emphasizes that he does not intend the debate to get into texts that people find offensive, contrasting it with The Satanic Verses and the film The Last Temptation of Christ, examples that “caused offence, but…don’t seek to incite hatred.” He points out that if “someone puts the contents of Mein Kampf on to a blog, the police would knock on their door…so to what extent, because it is a historical work, does society treat it different than if it was a neo-Nazi today?”
Calling for an open dialogue about to what extent freedom of expression should be upheld when it comes to “repulsive” works like Mein Kampf, Docherty says that Javid’s culture department is “best placed” to lead such a discussion.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.