TCS Daily


Free David Irving?

By Michael Rosen - February 24, 2006 12:00 AM

David Irving is a loathsome man. The notorious Holocaust denier and vicious anti-Semite deserves every unhappiness in life. If he died tomorrow, I'd strongly consider dancing on his grave. And yet he does not belong in prison -- at least not for disputing the existence of the gas chambers.

Unfortunately, that's exactly where he's headed thanks to an Austrian court that on Monday found him guilty of denying the Holocaust. But while laws in Austria, Germany, and elsewhere in Europe that criminalize public attempts to (non-violently) refute the existence of the Holocaust are perfectly understandable, they are also outdated, unjust, and an unfortunate distraction from a much more real and imminent threat -- the Islamofascist campaign to marginalize, mau-mau, and even murder Europe's remaining Jews.

The timing of the Viennese verdict could not have been worse. Europe -- and the rest of the world -- have recently been cast into a maelstrom fed by undercurrents of resentment among its Muslims and by torrents of violent protest in the wake of the publication of the Mohammed cartoons.

While the (non-Danish) European response to the riots in its own cities and in those throughout the Middle East has been largely tepid and appeasing, at least a small group of courageous journalists and activists -- bolstered by the steadfast conservative American blogosphere -- have stood their ground.

But now, this vigorous defense is being called into question as hypocritical: why should Holocaust denial be subjected to special criminal penalties when profaning the name and image of the Prophet constitutes protectable free speech?

Leave aside for the moment the question of whether merely depicting an image of Mohammed does or does not violate Islamic law. And forget the relative mildness of the depictions in question. Oh, and put away the astounding hypocrisy of the cartoon rioters' own journalists who routinely defame Jews and Christians -- and yes, even by regularly denying the Holocaust -- in their own papers of record. They nevertheless have a point: we look foolish standing on our soapbox extolling the virtue of free speech when we quietly step down there from to suppress even hateful, evil, but non-violent words.

This brings us to the scurrilous Mr. Irving. His persistent, career-long attempt to undermine the historical basis for the indisputable fact that 6 million Jews perished in Nazi gas chambers is one of the most despicable projects imaginable. The school of Holocaust denial in which he is both pupil and provost -- abetted by fellow-traveling guest lecturers on the far-right like David Duke and on the far-left like Noam Chomsky -- is an intellectual travesty, a hateful pseudo-history, and a repugnant political movement. Good and sane people of all political, cultural, and religious stripes should condemn it as a matter of course.

And it makes perfect sense that countries whose former rulers carried out the unspeakable crimes of the Shoah would wish to diminish or even eliminate this repugnant but well-funded international project. It is gratifying to anyone (myself included) who lost family members during Hitler's war that the German and Austrian people take very seriously their self-imposed obligation to eradicate their Nazi past.

But all things considered, more than 60 years since the liberation of the camps, the time has come for European countries to fundamentally refocus their efforts to protect Jews and other religious minorities (indeed, at current demographic rates, believing Christians will soon themselves become religious minorities in much of Europe).

First, using the law to suppress free speech generally leads to unexpectedly bad legal outcomes such as the Racial and Religious Hatred anti-speech law in Britain and similar measures under consideration in the EU and its member states. Indeed, David Irving himself sought to capitalize on another such legal mechanism: the United Kingdom's notoriously stringent libel law. Fortunately, Irving failed in his suit against Deborah Lipstadt's accurate portrayal of him and his cohort in her brilliant book Denying the Holocaust. But even Lipstadt opposed Monday's verdict, asserting "I am not happy when censorship wins, and I don't believe in winning battles via censorship...The way of fighting Holocaust deniers is with history and with truth."

Second, selectively stifling certain kinds of speech makes martyrs of the speakers and villains of the stiflers. Irving will surely become even more of a folk hero to his disgusting supporters now that he'll be confined to prison. At the same time, Austrians and Germans will be encouraged to expand the category of unspeakable words to include blasphemy, criticism of Islamic fanaticism, and the like. Instead, hauling all speech -- even hateful but non-violent words -- out into the light of day is almost always the most certain way of weakening its effects.

Third, Europe's dogged adherence to defending itself against past threats has blinded it to the manifest dangers of the present and future. Fighting the "last war" against right-wing anti-Semitic fascism diverts crucial resources from combating the looming specter of Islamist extremism and its tacit supporters on the Left.

To be sure, European countries must continue to be vigilant against the prospect of a rekindling of old hatreds. But they must also redouble their efforts to extinguish new fires. If France, for instance, were to devote as much attention to protecting its Jewish community from the onslaught it has endured at the hands of Islamic gangs as it lavishes on generic "anti-racist" programs and on denying that torture and murder -- such as the tragic and outrageous case of Ilan Halimi -- are motivated by anti-Semitism, it might actually stanch the flow of French Jews hopping the first El-Al flight to Tel Aviv.

Now, don't get me wrong: there's something deeply satisfying about the prospect of watching David Irving rot in prison for seven years. I'm not about to be the founding member of "Jews for Freedom for Irving." But while there may be a sort of cosmic justice at play in his sentence, justice of a legal sort is nowhere to be found. Worse, singling him out at best provides little protection for Europe's Jews and at worst reflects a dangerously misplaced European focus in standing up for freedom and tolerance.

Michael M. Rosen, a TCS contributing writer, is an attorney in San Diego.

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4 Comments

IMPRISONED AUTHORS
There is so many things wrong with the Austrian verdict,who knows where to start.One notorious hater wrote a book while imprisoned,this one wrote one to get in.Maybe there is a vacancy at Landsberg am Lech and we can start this insanity all over again.The real qestion is,who are the real Nazi's here?Irving for writing hate,or the Austrians for "burning books."The reference to the cartoon issue is valid.This may prove that the European Social modle is simply "Communism Light."

Free David Irving?
Not until artificial turf is used in Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium...

If the Author were a Cheese-beating Fuse-head
If only the Author were a Cheese-beating Fuse-head, one might forgive his failure to read his links beforehand. Unfortuneately, he is a lawyer, and knowing the law of false and scurrilous writing knows he is liable for what he writes - what he has set forth speaks for itself, and it made me look in amazement for the evisence supporting his mind boggling accusation against Chomsky- there is none

What does one find in the linked text, to an essay by Christopher Hitchens- an indictment of Author Rosen, not his intended victim

Chompsky can be pretty odd, but his sworn enemy , Christopher Hitches writes :

" that Chomsky would endorse any Holocaust revisionist on principle -- an allegation so fantastic that it has not "even" been made. If, by any action or statement, Chomsky had hinted at sympathy for Faurisson's views, I think that we would know about it by now. The recurring attempt, therefore, to bracket him with the century's most heinous movement must be adjudged a smear. "

Apologize , Mr.Rosen, you are in the wrong, and that wrong ruins your areopagetic essay.

Free David Irving?
Questions:

1. Why is David Irving called evil?
2. How exactly is David Irving an anti-semite and a Nazi?
3. How does disputing the "official" story of the Jewish holocaust equate to being evil, anti-semitic, and a Nazi?
4. He has stated on numerous occasions that he was not a holocaust denier and still the media calls him one. Why is that ignored?
5. Why would a respected best-selling historian throw away his life and re****tion to smear jews unless he was truly convinced of his findings?
6. So if he wrote a book claiming the Mao never killed 70 million people in China how would that be received?

This man is merely laying out his case as to why the facts do not add up. The only arguments presented against Irving are the smear tactics and "conclusions" of the Nuremberg trial all of which are based on oral testimony. Irving and other dissident historians are simply guilty of wanting to get to the bottom of the story. What is so offensive about that? 3000 people died on 9/11 in NYC and a major inquiry was conducted. 6 million Jews, not to mention 55 million people of other ethnicities, were killed in WWII and no REAL inquiry?

Any thinking person would agree that once all the evidence is considered, the case for revision is pretty strong.

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