On the Re-release of Mein Kampf

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It’s difficult to write a word on Mein Kampf, Hitler, or nearly anything related to National Socialism.  To even raise the question of what can and can’t be said is probably already to cast undue suspicion on oneself.  Perhaps it’s a tiring question anyways, with proponents on each side citing “the obvious truth” about the matter.

One fact however is that Mein Kampf is once again available for purchase within Germany.  The significance of this event and the media response, as well as the issue of banning books in a free and democratic society will all be discussed in this article.

First off, it should be said, it was no great people’s movement, no referendum, no political action of any kind that brought Mein Kampf once again to the bookstands of Germany.  It was out of no great feeling for the importance of a Free Press, nor a readiness to once again engage with a text so intimately bound up with the fate and the subsequent historical trajectory of the state, that brought about the books re-release.  It was rather mere happenstance – the expiry of an intellectual property right claim held by the Bavarian government – that freed the book from its publishing restrictions.

No longer banned but still unwanted – and irredeemable of course.  The book inhabits some unhappy middle ground; something maligned and wicked, imbued with the power to strengthen the resolve of those already perverted and cast astray.  Yet also with the power to coax, to draw and beckon disaffected youth to the cause of… er ahm…  something threatening to the cause of public safety at any rate.  It is significant as well that the book has remained banned within Germany for so long.  If the copyright hadn’t expired, one might wonder if there would ever have been a time when Germany would be able to admit this book to the public realm.

And what of the Free Press?  Those within Germany may have seen the outlawing of the book as a sign of Germany’s commitment to democracy.  Those outside however may have seen the banning of a book published nearly ninety years earlier as a sign of the weakness or fragility of Germany’s democracy.  A Free Press is fundamental to the idea of a liberal democracy.  Why does a Free Press require our protection?  Precisely because of the terrible things that can happen.  If out of a concern for safety – real or imagined – we curtail this right, we might question the value or the guiding principles of the project itself.

Of course, I’d imagine many German’s still are fearful that Mein Kampf may bring about increased unrest, or intolerance towards minorities.  Concerning increased hostility towards those with an immigrant background, especially those from outside of Europe, these are likely very real concerns.  But it could still be asked, does engaging with these matters – debating and deciding on our collective and shared fate and the shared trajectory of the state we happen to inhabit – not belong, fundamentally, to the project of democracy.

It barely needs to be said, but the world doesn’t need more hate, and it doesn’t need more agitators – those on the rostrum ready to stir up turmoil.  But banning can not be the answer.  I’d be uncomfortable pushing any kind of imperative or issuing any kind of injunction, but I feel that what is called for is more dialogue – open and honest dialogue, where we might grant our opponent a hearing.  The project perhaps, is not to malign or disparage those who might stand opposite us, but to try to prepare the ground for discussion, where open and honest dialogue may occur.

Banning a book is of course intolerant.

 

 

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