Taking a cue from ArtsJournal publisher Doug McLellan, who has created a public forum for
debating significant arts issues, herewith a baker’s dozen e-mail comments on free speech, the
Holocaust and ethical journalism. They were spurred by Friday’s item, C-SPAN ON TRIAL, about the
idea of broadcasting a speech by Holocaust denier David Irving to “balance” a lecture by
Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt.
Comment 1 by Biff Cappuccino, March 19,
Given that Irving is a best-selling author, and given the
significance of the lawsuit he lost to Deborah Lipstadt, I would love to have seen them discuss
issues or at least appear back to back on C-Span. I’ve read some of Irving’s stuff (the first third of
his Hitler biography for example) and he does not strike me as being an admirer of Hitler. Have
you read this book yourself? You can download it free from his website.
On his website he also makes a point of trying to prove that he’s not racist. I say try because I
don’t pretend to speak with any authority as to whether he is racist or not.
I may be wrong, and I haven’t read any of Irving’s stuff for several years, but I was under the
impression that Irving is not a Holocaust denier but believes that the monstrous murder of the
Jews was just one of many monstrosities that took place and that the Jews were machine-gunned
and so forth, and not gassed.
As to having someone debate slavery from a pro-slave perspective, I would be quite
interested if the person could make an at least superficially persuasive case. All of us have had
ancestors who were slaves at some point. What is there to be afraid of? You surely don’t believe
slavery is going to make a comeback anymore than I do. So why the rush to political
C-Span puts up loonies all the time and lets them rant without interruption for the first ten
minutes or so. This is a great service to the community because it allows us to form our own
opinions about events and personalities. C-Span did a three-hour special on Chomsky though I
can’t imagine Brian Lamb can be anything but contemptuous of the old conspiracy theorist. I
would love to see Ward Churchill on C-Span as well. Ward is as big a fraud as they come (bogus
scholarship, art forgery, faked military record, etc), but he has every right to free speech. I
wouldn’t dream of writing to C-Span to keep Ward off the air. Why would I be so
narrow-minded? With all due respect, you strike me as far too contemptuous of the average
person’s ability to sensibly form their own judgements.
Comment 2 by Henry, March 19, 03:37
Interesting that nowhere in his magisterial history of the Second
World War does Winston Churchill mention the “Holocaust” of the Jews. Does that make
Churchill a denier?
Comment 3 by Scott Fields, March 19, 12:17
The fundamental kernal of the Holocaust is that a modern
industrial state planned and carried out the mass extermination of a class of people using among
things fixed installation gas chambers.
The Holocaust is not merely a period of Jewish suffering or a period when “bad things”
happened to Jews.
The evidence that the Holocaust occurred is mountainous. It is as mountainous as the
evidence that there was an Apollo moonshot or the Civil War or “the Eisenhower
David Irving denies that there was any plan to exterminate the Jews or the instruments to
carry that out, namely fixed installation gas chambers at such places as Auschwitz and
To Irving, the witnesses are all liars, the confessions of the Nazis were extracted under
torture, the documents and photos are all forged. The British court ruled that he lied and falsified
evidence to reach these conclusions.
Irving’s position is tantamount to saying there was a man named Dwight Eisenhower, he was
important during the 1950’s but I deny he was President of the USA.
This is not political correctness. It is about providing a valuable public forum to a judicially
found liar, racist and anti-Semite. Moreover, his position is an assault on truth and memory.
Irving has his free speech. He has a website. He is not owed a publicly televised forum.
Comment 4 by Biff Cappuccino, March 19,
I think this is about political correctness. It begins with
statements such as “Falsifiers of history cannot ‘balance’ histories.” Everyone with even a
marginally heterodox view of any aspect or period of history is ipso facto a ‘falsifier of history.’
The statement is so clumsily worded because the authors know that they don’t have to justify their
reasoning to the majority of readers. This is just as bad as the right-wing attempts to clamp down
on Ward Churchill. Keeping Irving off C-Span is surely C-Span’s decision.
You inadvertently play semantic games when you talk about “providing” Irving with a
valuable public forum. C-Span wasn’t providing him with a forum, they were inviting him on for
public interest. They’re not his flacks. Ergo, they’re not providing him with anything.
What do you mean by a public forum? A street corner or anywhere people congregate is a
public forum. And who owes him a publicly televised forum? Does anyone at C-Span believe they
“owe” him anything.
Because you’re not serious about addressing the issue, you let this sort of slippery verbiage
and cliché do your thinking for you. And you do so I believe because you feel secure that the
(moral) majority of the public supports you. You don’t have to express logic clearly, just morally
correct feelings. In my opinion, you’re high on political correctness.
Myself, I would be interested in what Irving has to say about the trial. I’m no more a fan of
racists than you are, but as a regular viewer of C-Span I’m happy to let C-Span make it’s own
decisions. They do an excellent job because they steer away from political correctness which they
can do because, ironically, so few people (and even fewer busybodies) watch their shows.
Comment 5 by Tom Murphy, March 19, 09:02
Irving is a man who believes that Jews were killed in great
number and has documented specific conversations of Germans talking about the shootings.
Irving is a man who believes that the Jews died in concentration camps. Irving is a man who
believe that Nazis not only killed Jews with mass shootings but also killed Jews in concentration
Now does that sound like a “Holocaust Denier”?
If your first reaction to what I am writing is that I must be wrong about what Irving thinks
then you prove my point that using the term “Holocaust Denier” to describe David Irving is
grotesque, manipulative and dishonest. How can anyone think it is not libel?
Comment 6 by Gonzo Marx, March 20, 12:22
Aww c’mon kiddies…
Can you say Zyklon-B?
Sure ya can…
Now how about the entire meeting transcript of Eichmann and cronies that was taken from an
administration building in Berlin and used as evidence at the Nuremburg trials … The details are
all there and a matter of public record … If you hurry … Because they are aging fast and will not
be with us for much longer … You can actually speak to living people that bear the tattoos, and
were actually IN THE CAMPS … Listen to them describe the “showers” …
The documentary footage of the Allies arrival in some of the camps, including the empty
cannisters of Zyklon-b. … The production records as well as distribution manifest for
aforementioned cannisters of the gas … And on and on …
I am all for placing dissenting OPINIONS in political debate … But this smacks of having
some kook that wants to rebuke the Law of Gravity and debate the validity of Thermodynamics
To those doubters that are young and naive enough to buy into any of the revisionist crap,
might I suggest a trip to the NYC diamond district .?. Ask around … I am certain you will be able
to find a few survivors that can educate you …
Comment 7 by Scott Fields, March 20, 09:48
Irving had his day in Court on the question of libel. He lost. No
he was crushed. He was destroyed.
It is a judicially accepted fact that Irving is a liar, manipulator, falsifier, Holocaust denier and
anti-Semite. Those were the exact findings of a British court of law.
He is the only man in world history who has had a court of law decide these exact issues.
As a matter of final public record, he is all of these things.
He has lost the libel defense.
Comment 8 by Orest Slepokura, March 20,
It’s always instructive to observe what self-appointed
guardians of the Holocaust will and won’t tolerate. A case in point:
During a 1976 state visit to Israel by South Africa’s then prime minister John Vorster, the late
Yitzhak Rabin invited Vorster, an old Nazi collaborator, unabashed racist and white supremacist,
to Yad Vashem to pay homage to Jews murdered in the Holocaust. Vorster should, of course,
have been tried as a Nazi collaborator; instead he was welcomed by his Jewish hosts.
Compared to the usual outcries from Jewish groups who zealously guard the dignity of
Holocaust remembrance, no less remarkable was the bland equanimity both Israeli and Diaspora
Jews also displayed toward the Vorster visit. Vorster left Israel four days later, after forging close
commercial and military ties between the Jewish state and Pretoria’s apartheid regime.
Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
Comment 9 by Gonzo Marx, March 20, 11:43
Different incident, don’t ya mean there, Orest?
I fail to see the correlation between the two … Though I do acknowledge the possible
hypocrisy you are attempting to point out …
It leaves me wondering if you are trying to engage in the discussion or simply pulling a bait
and switch to distract from the matter at hand …
But thanx for playing … Please come again.
Comment 10 by Orest Slepokura, March 20,
I merely showed, using an historical example, how Yad
Vashem welcomed an unreconstructed Nazi to tour its museum and memorial site, one devoted to
memorializing victims of the Nazi Holocaust, and how Israeli law enforcement, normally gung-ho
to arrest Nazi war criminals and collaborators, had shown no interest in arresting Vorster. That a
Nazi diehard was invited to debauch the memory of the victims of the Nazi Holocaust, and did so
with total impunity, to my mind sugggests that so-called Holocaust denial may assume more than
one form. If Jews could graciously welcome Vorster to Yad Vashem, watching David Irving
appear on C-Span for an hour, surely, ought to be far less onerous.
Comment 11 by Gonzo Marx, March
20, 01:42 PM
Duly noted, Orest … and thanx for
elucidating yer point …
As for C-SPAN and who they put on … up to them …
But to give equal time … which I am all for … It might help to use a historian that has NOT
been discredited by the British Courts in such a thorough and devastating manner, don’t ya
And my point against your anecdote is that the two incidents don’t show any causal
However, I respect your right to bolster your opinion as you see fit, especially since you have
produced a factual incident …
I just disagree with it’s relevance …Comment 12 by Fred Bortz, March 20, 02:37 PM
reading some of these comments, it’s no wonder that people still glorify former Nazis who
managed to cover for their former allegiance by claiming to be “apolitical.” In their case, that
translated to opportunistic, kissing-up to whomever has political power.
To quote Tom Lehrer’s song “Wernher von Braun” from foggy memory:
“Let the rockets go up
Who cares where they come down?
That’s not my
Says Wernher von Braun.
Two of the reviews on my Science Shelf archive discuss
this issue from different perspectives: “Hitler’s Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil’s Pact” by
John Cornwall and “Astro Turf: The Private Life of Rocket
Science” by M. G. Lord
Comment 13 by Bill Osborne, March 21, 10:09
C-Span specializes in giving voice to crackpots. It is part of
their style. It is often even useful, if not entertaining, to have a look at what the nuts in our society
have to say.
This debate about C-Span raises other important questions. What is consensus journalism
when the norms of society are deeply wrong? What would it have been like, for example, to be a
journalist in the 1930s if you were opposed to the Jim Crow laws? How do you speak from the
middle when the middle is wrong? Will all dissenters be lumped together with odious people like
Irving and simply silenced?
What does it mean, for example, to be a journalist in a society that has discretely committed
or abetted mass murder by death squads and unjustified wars for the last 50 years as a matter of
foreign policy, especially in Latin America? Only crackpots charge our government with
committing or abetting mass murder, but isn’t it true? Has the lack of mainstream journalistic
dissent become a serious problem, considering our media’s corporate consolidation and the way it
is manipulated by our government?
Why is it that someone as sober, rational, and even as popular as Noam Chomsky is so
completely marginalized by our corporate media? I can certainly sympathize with banishing a
malicious crackpot like Irving from C-Span, but how do we know where to draw the lines when it
comes to unconventional views?