Hitler and the Death of Free Speech

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By Stephen Hicks

October 17, 2015



The fact is that Mein Kampf is too dangerous not to be published.

German authorities will allow the republication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, after decades of censorship.

Decent people can argue that the book is too dangerous to be published. But the fact is that Mein Kampf is too dangerous not to be published.

The great fear is that Hitler’s ideas are not dead and that his book could trigger another horribly pathological social movement. Nationalism and socialism still appeal to many, and combinations of the two ideologies attract new adherents every day in Europe and around the world. (See The Far Left Brotherhood of Greek and German neo-Nazis.)

Mein Kampf is already available in many editions, in many languages, and online. So the furor over its republication is about the Germans in particular: Can they handle it?

One of many old jokes has one German ask another, “How many Poles does it take to change a light bulb?” The other German replies, “I don’t know. Let’s invade Poland and find out!”

Always fun to poke at the Germans’ historical reputation. But it has been three generations since the end of World War II. There have been major cultural shifts in German attitudes towards militarism, authoritarianism, anti-Semitism, and other elements in the National Socialist package. There is plenty of evidence that today’s Germans are well above the average in civility and decency. So the post-Nazi cultural training wheels can come off.

Yet beyond the specifics of the German debate, there is a more important general point about prohibiting even the most repulsive of ideas: Censorship weakens our ability to combat them.

Levi Salomon, speaking for the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism based in Berlin, opposes republication of Mein Kampf: “This book is outside of human logic.”

Perhaps that is true, but it is not outside of human experience. We must understand the “logic” of national socialist beliefs, however dangerously wrong they turn out to be. Those beliefs continue to have a powerful psychological and social appeal to many, so it is crucial that every generation knows exactly what they are, why they attract many — and how to fight them.

The Nazis were not just some crazy guys who somehow lucked into power. For too long a cartoonish understanding of National Socialism has held sway in the public mind.

But consider this: For years before the Nazis took over, three Nobel-Prize winners — Johannes StarkGerhart Hauptmann, and Philipp Lenard — supported the Nazis.

Also before the Nazis came to power, many intellectuals with Ph.D. degrees from the best German universities wrote books supporting national socialist ideology. Among them were the historian Dr. Oswald Spengler, who published the bestselling The Decline of the West in 1918. Spengler was the most famous German intellectual in the 1920s. The legal theorist Dr. Carl Schmitt wrote books that are still recognized as twentieth-century classics. Political theorist Moeller van den Bruck published The Third Reich in 1923, which was a big seller throughout the 1920s. And the philosopher Dr. Martin Heidegger, thought by many to be the most original philosophical mind of the century, actively supported the Nazis in theory and in practice.

Many of those big-brained supporters of national socialism were extremely well read and saw themselves as disciples of George Hegel, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche — and as doing the vital, idealistic work of applying those abstract philosophies to practical politics. (See my Nietzsche and the Nazis for details.)

So the problem is not Adolf Hitler alone. And if we are to censor dangerous writings that led to Nazism, the list is long.

Also important is the fact that many millions of Germans voted for the Nazi party. In the critical democratic election of 1933, the Nazis won 43% of the vote — more than the next three parties combined. (In second place were the Socialists, and in third place were the Communists, which also speaks much about the political-intellectual climate of the time.)

The electoral success of the Nazis was also not the product of a set of ideas in books alone. In building their movement, the Nazis used cutting-edge principles of marketing, logistics, and administration. They applied new theories of psychology and sociology to build upon a core movement of hundreds of devoted activists and turned it into a mass movement of millions of followers. Yet we don’t want to censor books on effective logistics, marketing, and social psychology.

So we have some hard questions: Why did so many top intellectuals agree with National Socialist ideas? Why did so many volunteers and donors and professionals devote their energies to creating an awesomely awful political movement? Why did millions of German citizens vote — often enthusiastically — for the Nazis? Were they all just stupid/depraved/insane?

No, they were not. Whether we like the fact or not, National Socialism embodies a deep philosophy of life — and that is what explains its power. One might argue that Nazi philosophy is not logical and rational. I will agree. Yet few philosophies are. One might argue that Nazism, if embraced fully, leads to psychosis. I will agree again. Yet that also is true of many philosophies.

Suppressing dangerous ideas is much more dangerous than fighting them openly.

But it’s neither logical nor rational nor sane to ignore a set of ideas that continues to animate movements around the world. Suppressing dangerous ideas is much more dangerous than fighting them openly.

A free society can work only if most of its members understand what principles a free society depends upon and why they are better than the alternatives. That presupposes that they know what the alternatives are.

So there are no short cuts in our ongoing cultural education. Every generation must discuss and debate the great ideas — true and false, known and possible, healthy and dangerous – and become intellectually armed so as to defend and advance liberal civilization.

Sometimes the urge to censor focuses on the symbolism of allowing evil books to be published. Not censoring Mein Kampf, for example, is a statement by the authorities that they consider national socialist ideas to be within the range of acceptable opinion.

But we should remember that a free society rejects the idea that it is up to the authorities to decide what opinions are acceptable. That’s our job, each of us individually.

In his dissenting opinion in a classic case in American censorship, Justice Potter Stewart made this perceptive remark: “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.”

There is an important symbolism built into encouraging robust free speech: We can handle it.

So let us strive for that self-confidence. We have the smarts and the character to deal with the Adolf-Hitler-wannabes, as well as their clever but evil theoreticians.

And yet, quite the reverse is speech

A century ago, Germany was the authoritarian nation. Kaiser Wilhelm was presiding over its efforts in World War I, and young Adolf Hitler was working toward his opportunity in World War II. At the same time, Britain and America were havens of liberal ideals.

Yet those nations seem to have reversed roles on free speech and open debate. Just as the German authorities decided to allow the republication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, the British government ordered its universities to police extremist ideas within their walls. And at the next American commencement season, we can expect another round of speaker dis-invitations as university students demand that they not have to listen to ideas outside their comfort zone.

Let’s take up the new British directives. Read for yourself this “Prevent Duty Guidance” document at Her Majesty’s Government’s site (or this PDF version) — especially pages 20-23 which focus on the special duties of Higher Education. Or you can take my summary word for it:

The U.K. government’s current fear is terrorism, especially of the Islamist type, and the large number of young people who become radicalized while at university. So the government has decided that students at institutions of higher education now need extra protection from extreme ideas. This will, as the document puts it, require some “interaction” with the universities’ traditional duty of free speech.

    (1) First on the government’s list of concerns are guest speakers who may expose the students to extreme views. More guidance on managing speakers will be forthcoming.
    (2) But students might also be influenced by already-radicalized students at student-group events and “through personal contact with fellow students and through their social media activity.” So the government directs universities to “recognise these signs” and learn how to respond.
    (3) Computers and other Information Technology devices must not be overlooked. IT can be used to access extreme material or for extreme purposes, so universities “should consider the use of filters as part of their overall strategy to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.”
    (4) In a phrase that appears several times, the document emphasizes that the target is “not just violent extremism but also non-violent extremism.”
    (5) This will require training of the universities’ staff who are, among other things, charged with “sharing information about vulnerable individuals.”
    (6) To administer all of this, the government recommends that universities establish “a single point of contact” and that they consult with government-appointed “coordinators” on how well they are performing their duties.

The document also includes a reminder of who is paying most of the bills, i.e., the British government, with the implication of he who pays the piper.

And a final point: the Secretary of State will be monitoring universities “to assess the bodies’ compliance,” with further details forthcoming.

What could go wrong? (Perhaps readers of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix already know the story: the Ministry will be sending Dolores Umbridge into Hogwarts.)

Let’s first dispense with an important but secondary issue — the document’s regular use of the weasel-word “extremism,” which is often a euphemism for “strongly-held positions that I disapprove of.”

Extremism is definitely not the problem. Some extreme ideas and actions are true, important, and healthy — extremism in hygiene as your surgeon is preparing to operate upon you, extremism in eating healthy foods and avoiding poison, and extremism in opposing child molesting. The problem of terrorism is the problem of false-and-destructive ideas, not extreme ideas.

Another important but secondary issue: the government’s inclusion of both violent and non-violent forms of extremism. What is non-violent extremism? Mahatma Gandhi was rather extreme about non-violence. Do his ideas count as suspicious? Of course not! comes the reply. Don’t be ridiculous! We don’t mean to ban Gandhi! But who really knows where the lines will be drawn? With the document’s bureaucratese language, we are to wait until the government-appointed coordinators decide and let us know.

Another secondary issue: already the special-interest lobbying has commenced and, on a technicality, student groups at Oxford and Cambridge universities get special exemption. (A colleague reminded me that the Communist spies Philby, Burgess, Blunt, and Maclean were recruited at Cambridge, so it’s not clear how effective that exemption will be.) But of course it was politicking that led to the elite-universities exemption, not high principle.

Yet the primary point in response to “Prevent Duty Guidelines” is about high principle.

The document references “the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs.” Excellent. Exactly those values are at stake.

But they cannot be preserved by indoctrination, half measures, or ignorance of their enemies. Our best defense of democracy, liberalism, and tolerance is citizens who are fully educated. That means those who know what those values mean and what they depend upon — and who know and can counteract the best arguments of the opponents of democracy, liberalism, and tolerance.

Especially in a university context, education requires principled commitment to free speech and robust debate. By trying to limit the range of ideas rather than extending it, the British government is implicitly admitting that it has little confidence that its best minds can out-argue the ideas of terrorists — even on their own turf at British universities.

British officials would do much better for democracy by re-reading its trinity of Johns — Milton, Locke, and Mill — three philosophers whose advocacy of vigorous and open liberalism in thought and debate were essential to making Britain great in the first place.

That may be a genuine concern. Yet British officials would do much better for democracy by re-reading its trinity of Johns — Milton, Locke, and Mill — three philosophers whose advocacy of vigorous and open liberalism in thought and debate were essential to making Britain great in the first place. John Milton’s Areopagitica, John Locke’s A Letter concerning Toleration, and the second chapter of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty are timeless teachers of how to advance free societies.

We must also remember that for its entire history, liberal civilization has had to grapple with powerful ideological opposition. Plato, Augustine, Hobbes, Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger — all of them are extreme thinkers implicated in varying degrees in extreme ideologies and extremely violent practice. But we must read them and understand them. No shortcuts.

So in combating the latest contender, politicized Islam, we will have more success by encouraging students to read Islamist writings, e.g., Sayyid Qutb’s Milestones (as I do in my Philosophy of Religion course).

Having “Prevent Guidance Compliance” officers sniffing around along with self-censoring by institutions of higher education can lead only in the direction of failure — to universities that will graduate a whole generation of citizens ignorant of enemy ideas and unable to argue effectively against them.

Centuries ago the British best taught all of us how to live freely. They can once again find the way to defeat dangerous ideas — openly, cleanly, and steadfastly.




This was published in two articles at as “Is Republishing Hitler’s Mein Kampf the Correct Decision?” and “Is Free Speech Dead in Universities?”


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  • Dale Holmgren

    Just like I would never desire the authority to decide what someone else has access to read, I do not want to give authority to someone else to decide what I have access to read.


    “Centuries ago the British taught us how to live freely.”
    Wasn’t it the revolutionaries?

  • Jack Listerio

    ……German Propaganda Archive Calvin College

    Background: The Nazis had a large corps of propagandists at the local level, who needed training. Some of the best material for such propagandists comes from the Austrian part of the Reich, perhaps because propagandists there needed to be trained rather quickly after Hitler took over Austria in 1938. In any event, this is a translation of a small book published in 1942 that told propagandists what they needed to know. It was intended primarily for local group propaganda leaders, but notes that it will also be useful for anyone engaged in making party propaganda. It provides a detailed summary of what the Nazi propaganda system expected to happen at the local level, though as this book sometimes notes in passing, things did not always work as they were supposed to.

    As background, the Reichspropagandaleitung was the Nazi Party’s central propaganda office. The country was then divided into Gaue, or regions. They were divided into counties (Kreise), which were further divided into local groups (Ortsgruppen). There were propagandists at each level.

    The source: Franz J. Huber, ed., Propagandisten-Fibel. Herausgegeben vom Gaupropagandaamt Oberdonau der NSDAP (Wels: Leitner & Co, 1942).

  • Jack Listerio

    ………Look who first invented the Passive smoking Fraud

    Hitler’s Anti-Tobacco Campaign

    One particularly vile individual, Karl Astel — upstanding president of Jena University, poisonous anti-Semite, euthanasia fanatic, SS officer, war criminal and tobacco-free Germany enthusiast — liked to walk up to smokers and tear cigarettes from their unsuspecting mouths. (He committed suicide when the war ended, more through disappointment than fear of hanging.) It comes as little surprise to discover that the phrase “passive smoking” (Passivrauchen) was coined not by contemporary American admen, but by Fritz Lickint, the author of the magisterial 1100-page Tabak und Organismus (“Tobacco and the Organism”), which was produced in collaboration with the German AntiTobacco League.

    That’s fine company are so called public health depts. keep with ehh!

    History can shed so much lite on todays own movement it just amazes the mind………..

    Hitler Youth had anti-smoking patrols all over Germany, outside movie houses and in entertainment areas, sports fields etc., and smoking was strictly forbidden to these millions of German youth growing up under Hitler.”


    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep
    repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be
    maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from
    the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus
    becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to
    repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus
    by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

    If only there were more people capable of independent thought, and took the trouble to do a little research, not to mention the profit geared up medical corporate that hide behind this ‘smokescreen.’

    • Jack Listerio

      ,,,,,,,,,Colleges being forced to go smokefree by Obama Administration

      The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced an initiative to ban smoking from college campuses last month. This is part of the HHS goal to create a society free of tobacco-related disease and death, according to their action plan released by the HHS in 2010.

      Colleges who fail to enact campus-wide smoking bans and other tobacco-free policies may soon face the loss of grants and contracts from the HHS, according to the plan. Western receives grants through a subdivision of the HHS called the National Institutes of Health, Acting Vice Provost for Research Kathleen Kitto said.

      Obama administration to push for eliminating smoking on college campuses

      President Barack Obama has already promised not to smoke cigarettes in the White House. If his administration has its way, American college students will soon be required to follow suit while they’re on campus.

      • Jack Listerio

        ………….OSHA also took on the passive smoking fraud and this is what came of it:

        Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence: Third Edition

        This sorta says it all

        These limits generally are based on assessments of health risk and calculations of concentrations that are associated with what the regulators believe to be negligibly small risks. The calculations are made after first identifying the total dose of a chemical that is safe (poses a negligible risk) and then determining the concentration of that chemical in the medium of concern that should not be exceeded if exposed individuals (typically those at the high end of media contact) are not to incur a dose greater than the safe one.

        So OSHA standards are what is the guideline for what is acceptable ”SAFE LEVELS”


        All this is in a small sealed room 9×20 and must occur in ONE HOUR.

        For Benzo[a]pyrene, 222,000 cigarettes.

        “For Acetone, 118,000 cigarettes.

        “Toluene would require 50,000 packs of simultaneously smoldering cigarettes.

        Acetaldehyde or Hydrazine, more than 14,000 smokers would need to light up.

        “For Hydroquinone, “only” 1250 cigarettes.

        For arsenic 2 million 500,000 smokers at one time.

        The same number of cigarettes required for the other so called chemicals in shs/ets will have the same outcomes.

        So, OSHA finally makes a statement on shs/ets :

        Field studies of environmental tobacco smoke indicate that under normal conditions, the components in tobacco smoke are diluted below existing Permissible Exposure Levels (PELS.) as referenced in the Air Contaminant Standard (29 CFR 1910.1000)…It would be very rare to find a workplace with so much smoking that any individual PEL would be exceeded.” -Letter From Greg Watchman, Acting Sec’y, OSHA.

        Why are their any smoking bans at all they have absolutely no validity to the courts or to science!

  • Jack Listerio

    Todays worldwide anti-tobacco movement is nothing more than a carbon copy of hitlers own anti-tobacco programs almost to the letter.

    But hitler wasnt the first to use propaganda and eugenics ideologies, they were mainstream ideas coming from California the same as todays own anti everything agendas. They are pumped by the pharma cororations and demcorats along with rinos thru the UN and the WHO world health organizations FCTC treaty where countries were forced to sign on or lose world bank and IMF loans for their countries. FCTC is the world anti tobacco treaty. Speaking of CENSORSHIP try this part out from the FCTC treaty:

  • Jack Listerio

    ……………The WHO Attempts To Censor Websites

    As well as being entirely unelected, it appears that the World Health Organisation also doesn’t care much for openness and transparency.

    Rumours have reached Puddlecote Towers that the WHO is spitting blood about a leaked document from a November 2013 meeting being widely discussed, and is busily putting the frighteners on those who are discussing it. They are not happy with minutes which mention that the WHO views e-cigarettes as a threat – and which prompted a much-reported recent letter to the WHO by over 50 health professionals – reaching the internet, so are doing their best to make the document disappear.

    It was leaked to the Financial Times in April and has been quoted on a number of sites including Clive Bates’s blog a few days later. Now, however, I understand the WHO are issuing legal letters demanding the minutes be removed and ordering the site owners not to make any reference to the minutes or to quote from them.

    In case you’re curious, this is the document in question, with paragraphs 11, 23 and 69-75 the parts that the WHO would prefer you didn’t know about until they pursue classifying e-cigs as tobacco products in Moscow in November.

  • Jack Listerio

    …….Today’s Anti-Smoking Purge Is Borrowed From The Nazis
    Smoking is healthier than fascism

    Paul Joseph Watson
    Prison Planet
    Wednesday, April 25, 2007

    A wealth of overlooked yet frightening literature concerning the Nazi crusade against smoking provides a clear parallel to contemporary developments and an alarming warning that state restriction of personal habits is the pre-cursor to dictatorship.

    Beginning in the early 1930’s, as part of the Nazi agenda for racial purity, Hitler spearheaded a national campaign to ban smoking in all public buildings, and denounced the practice as a betrayal of the fascist drive for bodily purity.

    “Brother national socialist, do you know that our Führer is against smoking and think that every German is responsible to the whole people for all his deeds and emissions, and does not have the right to damage his body with drugs?” stated one magazine.

    As I wrote earlier this year, “The regulation of the personal habit of smoking, including new legislative moves in San Francisco to ban cigarettes in private homes, and its enforcement by an eager cadre of state snoops and snitches, represents nothing more than a move on behalf of big brother towards the complete subjugation and shackling of the individual.”

    Read these shocking parallels and compare them to the endless lecturing we are forced to endure today about our personal lifestyle choices by the state and their propaganda arm, the mass media.

    The Nazis banned tobacco advertising and financed huge public relations campaigns to propagandize people into giving up smoking.

    – The Nazis banned smoking in government offices, civic transport, university campuses, rest homes, post offices, many restaurants and bars, hospital grounds and workplaces, and Hitler gave awards to associates who quit the habit.

    – A ban on smoking in private vehicles was called for.

    – The Nazi Reich Health Office warned that smoking caused impotence and produced posters depicting smoking as a dirty habit of Jews, Gypsies, blacks, intellectuals and Indians.

    – Nazi lobbyists lectured terrified children in schools on the horrors of racial impurity as a result of smoking.

    – The term “passive smoking” (Passivrauchen) was coined by the Nazi Anti-Tobacco League. Its author, Fritz Lickint, offered no supporting evidence to claim that smokers poisoned everyone around them, while also stating that drinking coffee caused cancer.

    – Hitler was an ardent vegetarian and did not smoke or drink after the age of 30, even accrediting the rise of fascism to his success in kicking the habit. He forbade anyone from smoking in a room he might enter. Fellow fascist leaders Mussolini, Napoleon and Franco also detested smoking.

    – The Nazi anti-smoking crusade was unleashed with the help of manufactured junk science on behalf of the medical and health establishment, one such example being that smoking caused “spontaneous abortions” in pregnant women.

    – Hitler attempted to price out smoking for Germans, levying huge taxes on cigarettes.

    – Despite the Nazi propaganda crusade against smoking, tobacco sales increased in Germany, leading some history professors to hypothesize that smoking was an act of cultural resistance against fascism, until the late 1930’s after smoking was banned in most public buildings and tobacco sales rapidly declined.

    What conclusions can we draw from these parallels? Either the Nazis were benign really cared about everyone’s health or they used the specter of anti-smoking to exert massive control over people’s lives and scale back basic freedoms, getting a foot in the door for the political dictatorship that was to follow.

    Similarly today, either the same elite that advocate “mass culling” of the majority of the world’s population really do care about public health and well-being or they are using the excuse of the anti-smoking drive to condition us to accept state regulation over every aspect of our personal lives.

    It’s all about control, it’s all about letting you know who the bosses are. If the government can regulate personal habits and behavior, what’s next? If the state is so concerned about our good health as they would have you believe, why not use the latest scientific advancements to remove that nasty aggressive gene that causes so much unhappiness? Well, you’re causing those around you distress and harming their health so why not? Are your political opinions a mental illness? Are they harming society? Perhaps we should ban certain types of “free” speech that is offensive to others.

    You see where this is all heading – how long before our wall mounted personal x-ray body scanners are accompanied by special smoke detectors that inform on you to the local Stasi if you dare to light up?

    We live in a paranoid world overpopulated by ninnying jellyfish who dare not dip their toe in the water in case there’s a law against it, it might upset someone, or it might be bad for their health.

    Many people will read this article having lost loved ones as a result of smoking. Please don’t have a knee jerk emotional reaction, try to understand that the point I’m making – smoking is unhealthy but it is healthier than fascism and government regulation of personal habits leads to dictatorship.

    The fact that the very language and policies that we are now bombarded with as a justification for state regulation of our personal lifestyle choices are directly lifted from Nazi policies for racial hygiene from the 1930’s should alarm us all and act as a wake up call to the true agenda behind today’s anti-smoking purge.

  • Joan Lee

    Ha! There is so much attack on free speech in societies all over the world; the west included. Whatever the institution, whether education, media, law, medical, etc, censorship is rife. This is not to say one cannot get a word out, but it can be incredibly difficult, and one can be attacked, maligned, lose employment, face economic hardship, and even risk his or her life. Here is a couple of examples. Try to say publicly in main stream society that homosexuality is an unhealthy practice. Or chemo therapy is dangerous and cancer causing. Or killing unborn babies is insane. Or evolution is full of problems. And the list goes on. But I suppose even this may depend on what side of the fence you’re on,

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