David Irving: Should Be Protected By Free Speech Laws

Historians in the News

[By Charles Glass]

'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.'

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations General Assembly Resolution, 10 December 1948.

One of my first stories as a reporter for The Observer was a student strike in 1977 at the London School of Economics. Whenever a fellow student spoke against the strikers, they chanted, 'No free speech for fascists'. It had never occurred to me that free speech should be denied to anyone " fascist, communist or vegetarian. That was 1977, and I have since witnessed free speech denied to both those with whom I agree and those whose views repel me. But my belief in freedom of expression requires me to defend the right of both to speak. Otherwise, what is this free speech I believe in? The freedom to agree?

So, get ready. I am about to defend the right " remember, the right, not the views " of David Irving, who today languishes in an Austrian holding cell for the crime of stating a view that most of us find disgusting. He has stated that Hitler knew nothing of the genocide of Europe's Jews. It is a crank outburst here, but a crime in Austria, Germany, Poland and France. Another anti-Semitic, and much more vicious, Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel, awaits trial in Germany on a similar charge.

Irving is a historian of the Second World War, who has uncovered important Wehrmacht documents, but defended the Nazis. He supported Zundel in court " not his right to speak, but what Zundel actually said: that the Holocaust was a myth. This places them both beyond the realm of reasonable argument. Their errors could be demonstrated in open debate " as historians have done with Irving's work. Indeed, open debate " without fear of imprisonment and fines " helps to make an open society.

Most of us spoke out in favour of someone who affirmed another genocide. The Turkish government charged the novelist Orhan Pamuk with what can only be called 'holocaust confirmation' for asserting that Turkey committed genocide against its Armenian population during and after the First World War. I think Pamuk was right, and I was among many to sign petitions for him. Turkey's citizens should not be obliged to adhere to any orthodoxy. Nor do I believe that Turkey has a right to prosecute those who accuse its armed forces of crimes against the country's Kurdish population. Outside Turkey, this is an easy (and obvious) position to assume. But within the European Community, how many in the literary and human rights worlds who rallied to Pamuk's defence have stood up for the right of two men with whom they disagree to have their say?

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Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

"Loaded terminology" is exactly the right expression. I note only today that on Professor Deborah Lipstadt's blog [http://lipstadt.blogspot.com/] that she writes:

"Bradley Smith, the Holocaust denier who pioneered the idea of placing ads denying the Holocaust in college newspapeers ..."

It's simply not true. I placed ads in student newspapers questioning the gas chamber stories, questioning exhibits at the SWC, questioning the censorship of revisionist arguments by the professorial class, questioning the truth of some claims made by Elie Wiesel and other survivors, and so on.

Not one of those questions suggests that the Jews of Europe did not suffer a catastrophe during the Hitlerian regime. Each questions does suggest that the Holocaust story should be examined in the routine way that all other historical issues are examined. It's so simply, really.

Professor Lipstadt, following the lead of the academic class as a whole, argues that there is "no other side" to the Holocaust story, and to suggest there is is anti-semitic. Lipstadt, following the lead, again, of the academic class, offers no significant protest when the American Government collaborates with the German State to extradite revisionist publishers living in America to be imprisoned in Germany for revisionist thought crimes.

The Holocaust story, as it is taught by American academics, is the only historical perspective today that needs suppression, censorship, and prison to protect it from free inquiry.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

You say there that Harry is a busy guy and just doesn't have the time to respond to me. Perfectly reasonable observation, which may or may not be true. I have no problem with such posts. It surprises me that you would refer to it here. I shouldn't think your average professor will be very much interested, but that's up to you.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

You have it dead wrong. Intellectual freedom is either there for everyone, or it's not there. It's either there everywhere, all the time, or it's not there. The issue today is not that Irving brought a flawed libel action against Lipstadt in the past. And it is not a matter of how much money the Holocaust Industry fronted Lipstadt with, or how much she has "suffered."

Intellectual freedom is not a two-way street. It's a one-way street. It promises the same thing to those going in your direction that it promises those going in my direction. All this talk about Irving's character, how much money was spent, and Lipstadt's "suffering," is the commonplace routine of those who believe in intellectual freedom for themselves always, and for others sometimes.

David Irving deserves the protection of free speech laws for exactly the reasons that Deborah Lipstadt deserves them, and you deserve them. That's what is implicit in the ideal, and has been for the last 25-plus centuries.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Charles Glass is exactly right to encourage us to defend the "right," if not the "views," of David Irving. I believe he is off the mark to suggest that Irving, or even Zundel, has argued that the "Holocaust was a myth." Revisionist theory does not argue that the Holocaust was a "myth," other than in a very special context. As Lenny Bruce used to have it: "Context is everything."

Revisionist theory allows the obvious: that during the Hitlerian regime an 800-year-old Jewish culture in Eastern Europe was intentionally destroyed, with all the vast suffering and death that such a work promises. In ordinary times, that would be "holocaust" enough for anyone.

At the same time, revisionist arguments appear to demonstrate that the homicidal gas chambers and gas vans did not, in fact, exist (See: Germar Rudolf, Carlo Matttogno, Samuel Crowell, Fritz Berg and others). Because the gas chambers and gas vans are the very heart of the orthdox Holocaust story, some say the "Holocaust never happened." But only in the specific context.

Maybe revisionist arguments about the gas chambers are wrong. But where have they been addressed? So far the professors have been content, if not eager, to follow the lead of what is increasingly being identified as a Holocaust "Industry."

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

Sarte wrote somewhere that "every word has an echo -- and every silence." When those who believe the gas-chamber stories are confronted over the right to intellectual freedom for those who do not believe, the echo of thier silence is everywhere.

Bradley Smith - 3/5/2008

I know. I know!

Andrew E. Mathis - 12/15/2005

I've posted a response to Bradley Smith at his blog:


If he erases it, we'll know where he stands on free speech.


Harry William Mazal - 12/4/2005

Mr. Glass states:

"But my belief in freedom of expression requires me to defend the right of both to speak. Otherwise, what is this free speech I believe in? The freedom to agree?"

One cannot fault that argument.

Curiously enough though, where were many of the defenders of freedom of expression when David Irving sued Professor Deborah Lipstadt for libel in London? She had written a scholarly book that analyzed Holocaust deniers including, but not principally, David Irving. His failed libel lawsuit was nothing more than an attempt to strip Professor Lipstadt of her fundamental right to express herself.

It is almost poetic justice that he should now be facing a long prison term for expressing himself freely. Several years ago he was responsible for Prof. Lipstadt's virtual incarceration - five plus years of preparation for and attendance in the courts - was probably more stressful and debilitating than the same time spent in a prison cell.

By his failed legal action he also forced Prof. Lipstadt and her admirers to invest millions of Pounds Sterling in her defense. Although he was assigned court costs, he has never paid them and indeed boasts at how he was responsible for this huge loss to whom he refers as the "Traditional Enemy".

To argue that justice prevailed and that Irving lost his lawsuit does not give back the years that Professor Lipstadt lost, the pain and suffering that she endured, nor the massive expenses that were incurred in her defense.

It would be apprpropriate if Mr. Irving were freed, but only after he has had to raise millions of Pounds Sterling in his defense and spent years of preparation and attendance in a foreign courtroom.

Freedom of expression is a two way street.

Harry W. Mazal OBE

Rowan Arthur Berkeley - 12/3/2005

Nowhere is the Madison Avenue approach to politics more evident than in this context. The entire world population has been taught to engage in crimestop by only using terms which prejudge the issue. 'Holocaust denial' and 'deniers' are intentional inaccuracies which effectively imply that there was a 'holocaust' in the commonly understood sense of the term, i.e. the death of six million Jews in gas chambers - even though mainstream scholarship has reduced the magic number, it remains a crime in much of Europe to admit this fact, or any other which contradicts the Nuremberg verdicts.

John D. Beatty - 11/30/2005

American schoolchildren can't recite the Bible in their public schools, and Irving can't deny the Holocost in Germany.

These are two examples of "free speech."

"Free speech" is a shibboleth that some people like to trot out when their favorite oxen get too close to the horns. Speech is only free when all views are accepted. That does not happen in today's stiflingly PC environment.