The Institute for Historical Review (IHR), a Holocaust-denying organization, told supporters today that it is beginning a new project to challenge “online censorship.” Apparently, IHR learned that a Wells Fargo employee tried to access its website from a company computer, but was stymied by automated blocking software that identified IHR’s website as a source of “Violence/Hate/Racism.” I say good for Wells Fargo. But IHR isn’t taking this lightly, and is calling on supporters to contact its offices when they discover that the site is being blocked. IHR says that “[i]n letters and in face-to-face meetings, the Institute is protesting this defamatory and harmful practice” with the companies that engage in it, while of course keeping the identity of the complainants confidential.
IHR’s announcement states that “[f]ar from promoting ‘hate’ or ‘racism,’ the IHR has a long record of staunch opposition to hate [and] bigotry….” That’s pretty funny coming from the folks who published the writings of a real live Nazi and former SS Commander in 1992. IHR Director Mark Weber has become a prominent proponent of anti-Judaism, arguing recently that “the often cruel and arrogant policies of Israel, and the often arrogant attitudes of what is called the ‘Israel Lobby,’ the Jewish lobby, or the organized Jewish community, are not an aberration, but rather are deeply rooted in Jewish religious writings and in centuries of Jewish tradition.” Oh, and also, according to the ADL, Weber got his start working at a neo-Nazi newspaper called the National Vanguard. How’s that for opposing hate and bigotry.
I love the freedom of speech vouchsafed for us by the First Amendment, which protects us from government regulation. But this is not a First Amendment issue: private companies have every right to not let employees use their computers to peruse anti-Semitic websites. And private ISPs and web service providers have the right to decline the use of their products to disseminate hatred. Which leads me to note, by the way, that IHR is on Facebook too.
I doubt IHR’s new project will get very far. Although in the 1980s and 1990s it was a major disseminator of Holocaust denial and other types of anti-Semitism, IHR is now a shadow of its former self. As far as I know, its director is its only employee. And there is plenty of web content that documents its anti-Semitic record. But I’ll keep watching to see what happens.