Monday, February 20, 2006

David Irving is an idiot, not a criminal

I thoroughly disapprove of this. His kind of questioning of the Holocaust may be hurtful, it may be distasteful, it may be based on dubious evidence and on the utterly unhistorical discounting of thousands of eyewitness accounts, but someone needs to question the accepted version of history, even if only to be roundly debunked and ridiculed. Just as the late, great Conrad Russell was not sent to prison for challenging the received wisdom on the origins of the English Civil War, David Irving should not be sent to prison for challenging the received wisdom on the Third Reich. Nor should he be prosecuted for being a bad, failed historian - which is all he really is...

12 Comments:

Blogger The Pedant-General in Ordinary said...

NM

I think I agree with you here.

The only possible justification for making holocaust denial a crime is that it is so patently absurd and so profoundly at odds with the historical record and that of tens of thousands of eye witnesses, many of whom are still alive, and concerning a crime of such unprecendented magnitude that the only possible motives for making such claims are malicious.

It is the maliciousness that is the problem, not the denial of historical fact itself.

But I agree that it is better to get this stuff - as with all dangerous nonsense - out in the open when it can be soundly and humiliatingly demolished.

2/20/2006 06:45:00 pm  
Blogger Justin said...

I'm afraid I don't agree. It's time people stopped thinking of Irving as some genial old buffer with an eccentric view of history.

He's a racist, an anti-semite and is peddling dangerous shit to dangerous people. The fact is he isn't being debunked in public - until his conviction he was quietly touring the world bringing his "challenging the received wisdom" to fascists. And making the very nice living out of it, thank you very much. He wasn't smashing the windows and putting dogshit through letterboxes but he was only one step removed from that.

He broke the law in Austria and was an arrogant, hubristic fool to go back there.

2/20/2006 09:12:00 pm  
Blogger beatroot said...

I agree with the post.

I am here in Poland and the Iranian government has announced that it is coming here to 'investigate the extent of the Holocaust'.

This is after they have said that there 'was no Holocaust'. The Polish government has said that they don't want them here.

But the positive thing about this is that one of the Iranian officials who was an ambassador to Poland once said that he has calculated that there could not have been six million Jews 'incinerated' in Auschwizt because it would take '15 years'.

Of course, utter nonsense! Only 1.5 million died there.

So if we hadn't had free speech then we would never know that this person was an idiot. Inprisoning fools like Irving is a victory for the neo-fascists and their feeling that they are being victimised.

2/20/2006 09:26:00 pm  
Blogger BondWoman said...

I tend to agree with you as well...but it's boring isn't it when commentators perpetually agree with you. Undoubtedly it was provocative of him to go there, but could he not have been noisily and humiliatingly excluded from Austria, rather than turned into something approximating a martyr.

2/20/2006 10:07:00 pm  
Blogger Katy Newton said...

I loathe David Irving and everything he stands for. I don't think that Holocaust denial should be a crime for all of the reasons in this post.

In Irving's case, it is not right that he has never been punished for the views that he holds. Not very long ago he attempted to bring a libel action against, I think, Gitta Sereny and the Observer over her description of him as a Holocaust denier. Irving represented himself in the High Court and went to great lengths to prove that his theories about the Holocaust were correct. He was shredded by Sereny and the Observer's lawyers, the judge found against him in an excellent and comprehensive judgement, and he left court a financially and academically broken man.

The only people who still believe in him are people who find it expedient not to accept the truth about what happened, and as far as they are concerned sending him to prison only makes him more of an icon. I have no real sympathy for him - he chose to go back to Austria, after all. I just think that imprisoning him will only enhance his reputation.

2/20/2006 11:48:00 pm  
Anonymous Katherine said...

Oh dear, I agree also. Isn't that dull?

But this does raise the interesting question of whether something can be wrong now that was right, say, 60 years ago. I can understand why Austria (and other countries too I believe) had a law against this after the Second World War. The wounds were raw and open and they were doing all they could to excoriate their past.

Did that, then, override the free speech issues that is getting out knickers in a twist at the moment?

2/21/2006 10:38:00 am  
Blogger Katy Newton said...

PS It was Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin, not Sereny and the Observer.

2/21/2006 10:54:00 am  
Blogger Steve said...

My biggest concern is, if you can be jailed for not believing in the holocaust, it's a small step to being jailed for not believing in God.

2/21/2006 12:54:00 pm  
Anonymous Bckword Dave said...

How dull! I agree too.

Justin. Irving may be racist and anti-semite, but among those who don't agree with his imprisonment are Oliver Kamm, Stephen Pollard, and Norman Geras. Norm followed that post with this. Nothing David Irving says or writes is going to change what happened.

Being an "arrogant, hubristic fool" is not a crime. If it were, we'd see both Blair and Bush locked up. Hold on ...

I agree with the PG that the malice is a problem and that it's better out in the open.

2/21/2006 01:58:00 pm  
Blogger BondBloke said...

I was going to agree with you but BondWoman took the words out of my mouth AGAIN!

2/21/2006 04:28:00 pm  
Blogger Justin said...

Dave and all, fair enough. I went off half-cocked because Irving is a terrible cunt who I'd like to pelt with rotting vegetables. The thought of that bastard in jail does give me a warm glow regardless of the arguments.

All this doesn't take away from the fact that I worry about Irving's effect on those who will translate their weak-mindedness into violence. But I suppose that's what we have incitement laws for.

Warren Ellis sums it up best:

Guess what? Free speech is not guaranteed throughout the Western world.

My take is simply this: is it right that he go to prison for this? No. Is it FUNNY that he go to prison for this? YES.

Therefore it is permissible.

Carry on.

2/21/2006 05:10:00 pm  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Don't know if you watched Question Time last night Nose Monkey, that Tory was quite obviously reading out some sort of statement on this issue.

An audience member asked her if it were not a bit hypocritical to ignore other atrocities throughout history, yet to have people jailed for thought crimes in this one instance, the shadow minster responsible referred back to her statement, of course.

2/24/2006 10:47:00 am  

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