5.4.6.2 Telling Lies with Intent to Defame an Ethnic Group

Knowingly telling lies, with the intention of defaming or creating hostility against an ethnic group, is a category of speech which can be prohibited without damaging the valuable aspects of free speech.  One example will suffice to illustrate this in detail: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, described by the Encyclopaedia Britannica as a “fraudulent document that served as a pretext and rationale for anti-Semitism mainly in the early 20th century”.

It has repeatedly been proved to be a hoax.  It was largely plagiarised from a piece of political satire written by Maurice Joly and published in 1864: Dialogue in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, which was an attack on the political ambitions of Napoleon III.  The Protocols of the Elders of Zion purports to show a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world (which was what Joly was accusing Napoleon III of trying to do) and it has frequently been quoted by anti-Semitic groups, including the Nazis.

Most of the sources retrieved in an Internet search for it make the material available, but add a precautionary note about its fraudulent nature to avoid misleading innocent consumers.  This was not the case on an anti-Semitic website hosted in Austria, ‘Bible Believers’, which asserted that:

“All copies that were known to exist in Russia were destroyed in the Kerensky regime, and under his successors the possession of a copy by anyone in Soviet land was a crime sufficient to ensure the owner’s of being shot on sight. The fact is in itself sufficient proof of the genuineness of the Protocols.

From a governance perspective it could be argued that the publication of offensive material has to be allowed, to avoid interfering with the freedom of speech, but it seems right that there should also be a legal requirement to provide a clear warning to inform readers that the material is a proven forgery.

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