My article on David Irving, banned from Indymedia by Jay Knott (12/06/08) ⇌ (David Irving Meeting)
This article was posted on Portland Indymedia, the usual place for articles about Eugene, a nearby city:
It took a day to get posted, instead of the usual five minutes. It was there for another day, then disappeared. Here's the reason Indymedia deleted it:
'Sorry, now that I've read it and I feel that it's actually promoting
anti-semitism, which violates our editorial policies, we're removing your
This statement is, of course, false. My article doesn't promote anti-semitism, it says it is no big deal - a very different thing.
On June 9, 2008, I attended a meeting at the University in Eugene organized by Pacifica Forum, addressed by the infamous historian David Irving. He's infamous because he
a. understates some of the war crimes of the Nazis
b. tells the truth about Allied war crimes and
c. says offensive things about jews
Outside the meeting, the 'Anti-Hate Task Force' handed out flyers claiming that minorities 'feel less safe' because Irving was speaking. These touchy-feely totalitarians want to use the vague modern legal concept, harassment, to undermine the precise ancient legal concept, freedom of speech.
Most of Irving's talk was a description of his imprisonment in Austria for holocaust denial, a denial he denies. His denial of denial sounded convincing, since he described some of the Nazi war crimes he DOES believe in in graphic detail. He made our hair stand on end with descriptions of jews being machine-gunned and piled into pits, backed up with memoirs of Nazis only he has unearthed and translated. This was convincing, precisely BECAUSE Irving is known as someone who defends the Nazis against certain other allegations. So how is he a holocaust denier? How is he a recruiter for racism? Is anyone likely to sympathize with the Nazis because they believe they ONLY killed civilians with guns, not gas? Because they agree with Irving's estimate of six hundred thousand jews rather than the Party Line of six million?
The rest of the talk was a description of how he investigates the role of the Nazis in World War Two, livened up with amusing anecdotes. His sense of humor is so dry it stopped raining in Oregon while he was speaking. He defended the occupation of historian, and explained its methods. He never reads other people's books. He always goes straight to original material and interviews with survivors - he claims to have shaken more hands that shook Hitler's hand than any other living person, which made everyone feel uncomfortable. He also knew Bomber Harris, the British commander responsible for the destruction of Dresden. To its credit, the audience shuddered at this revelation too. Also to its credit, and unlike the protesters outside, the audience didn't feel that feeling uncomfortable should be grounds for the supression of 'hate speech'. Many of his claims he backed up with citations from archives in Germany, Moscow, Britain and the USA, tens of thousands of pages in several languages. He illustrated the historian's method with an example. Witnesses at the Nuremburg Trials gave evidence against their commanding officers. Those officers were secretly taped while awaiting trial. The records of those tapes have recently been released from British archives. Irving has read them all. He said that the tape recordings show that some of the allegations 'proven' at the Nuremburg Trials are untrue - people recorded having what they think are secret conversations are more reliable than evidence given in court.
A crucial moment came during questions and answers when the atmosphere was beginning to turn against Irving, a result of his frank answers to questions about whether he, in some sense, blames jews for some of the tragedies which have befallen them. His reply? Well, let's just say it tested our belief in freedom of expression. He was on surer ground, in my opinion, when someone asked what he meant by the Holocaust Circus, and he described how it has been manufactured by marketing, and how the compensation for victims has mostly ended up in the hands of Jewish pressure groups like the Anti-Defamation League rather than actual victims of the Nazis. He went on to wonder how long it would be before the victims of the American bombing at Dresden, Hiroshima and Hanoi received compensation. This was received with a round of applause, and the atmosphere turned positive again.
The leaflets being handed out outside said they "honor and respect the University's painful decision to uphold the First Amendment rights of a bigoted speaker". However, they also said 'what can we do to repair the damage done by Pacifica Forum and their promotion of hate speech?'. How's that for sitting on the fence?
A woman in the audience mentioned that she had read Irving's book 'The Destruction of Dresden' and added her own research - a description of a children's festival that was taking place in the city at the time. So Irving added to our knowledge of German war crimes, and this woman added to our understanding of Allied ones. The anti-hate people would say that this is not what they mean by 'hate speech'. But they can't wriggle out of it like that. If the meeting hadn't happened, the opportunity to add to our understanding of the crimes committed by all sides during World War II wouldn't have happened either. This also clearly illustrates that there is no middle ground - anti-fascism attacks our freedom to discover the truth about the horrendous events which created the modern world, helping to perpetuate it. Whatever liberal, leftist and anarchist anti-fascists think they are doing, in reality, they help make the official party line on World War II the only story most people hear. The principal beneficiary of this story is the state of Israel.
Irving comes from another world. He manages to combine old-world politeness with being deliberately offensive. But when it came to facts, he forced us - the honest enquirers who went in to hear what he had to say - to ask 'how do we KNOW exactly who did what?'. You cannot claim to know what happened unless you have tested your hypothesis by attempting to DISPROVE it. This is the historical method, and it means, in the case of the Holocaust, that you have to try to prove IT DIDN'T HAPPEN. This requires freedom of speech. We need freedom for practical, not moral reasons - everything we know about the universe depends on it.
I said at the beginning that Irving's notoriety derived from three factors:
a. he understates some of the war crimes of the Nazis
b. tells the truth about Allied war crimes and
c. says offensive things about jews
On balance, I would say his contribution is positive.
In conclusion, and to come to the point, some of the commentators on various internet posts about Irving in Oregon say that Palestine Solidarity activists should watch out for anti-semites infiltrating their ranks because this gives Zionists evidence for their claim that opponents of Israeli crimes are anti-semitic. This is a mistake, and one of the reasons Palestine Solidarity is so ineffective. Constant vigilance against thought-crimes only encourages Zionists and their friends. Activists should have no problem at all with the occasional comment about 'the jews', any more than the headline 'Our Sacred History & White Man Lies' by a Native American group http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/06/03/18504239.php should be censored from Indymedia because it might offend white people. Suppose Palestinians posted an article entitled 'Our Sacred History and Jewish Lies', an equally justifiable headline. It would probably be censored, given Indymedia's record of sensitivity to Jewish feelings. Yet, clearly, jews are at least as 'privileged' as white people in general, so if Indymedia and pinko types in general treated people according to their own principles, they would treat negative remarks about jews in general in the same way as negative remarks about white people in general. But they don't. They give special rights to jews. Whether you agree that this statement is true, it is certain that it is difficult to SAY it, because we have censored ourselves by internalizing the supposed feelings of certain kinds of people. I don't want to add discussions about Jewish privilege to the hand-wringing about white privilege led by people who can't spell the word 'privilege'. On the contrary, this is part of a wider argument that touchy-feely politics has weakened the movement which stopped the Vietnam War.
So to hell with the Anti-Defamation League and their anarcho-zionist demo fodder. To hell with the feelings of minorities. Anti-semitism, if it exists at all, should not be seen as a problem. The Lobby is leading this country toward a war with Iran whose consequences could include a million deaths and the collapse of the world economy, and there are people busy trying to stop speech wich 'diminishes our sense of safety and diversity'. They should get over it. The meeting in Eugene, the capital of sensitivity, gives us reason to hope that political correctness is so, like, nineteen-nineties, and that freedom is on the way back. The anti-hate brigade were more pathetic than sinister. Their flyers were a parody of leftist moralizing. Some in the audience repeated some of their allegations, and Irving laughed them off. What a refreshing break from arguments about which Zionist puppet to vote for in November!