Tuesday, February 21, 2006



Irving jailed

David Irving has been jailed for three years. I'm shocked and appalled. Irving's statements were poisonous, anti-semitic lies - but in a free society he should not be facing jail for them.

Comparisons will inevitably be made with the recent republication of the Danish cartoons in three Austrian newspapers, and the conclusion is inescapable: Austria is hypocritical on freedom of speech. It is a "principle" applied to defend the vilification of Muslims, and ignored where the subject is Holocaust denial and the vilification of Jews. The inconsistency is inescapable, and I doubt that it will go unnoticed in the Middle East.

11 comments:

I must agree, and would have appreciated a Lipstadt style scenario where Irving was exposed for the evil charlatan that he is,
but let's not imprison him and turn the evil creature into a martyr.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/21/2006 09:33:00 AM

I don't know why you are shocked by this. It was pretty clear that that he would get a jail term of some kind if he ever crossed into the country again. Even his own lawyer did not beleive that he had changed his mind about the gas chambers.

How about the stupidity of entering a country where there is an outstanding arrest warent for you, that takes some beating.

Posted by SB : 2/21/2006 09:50:00 AM

Apparently Irving does have credibility in the Middle East - and I recall Ahmed Zaoui (speech on Scoop somewhere) talking about muslim youth who were more interested in whether someone had been martyred (including jailed) for their opinions than how credible they were.

So, yeah, nice one Austria. He'll be more of a headline at that holocaust conference than if he'd actually gone.

I'm not sorry for him - it's just that it's pargmatically and morally wrong.

Not least because he probably got himself arrested deliberately.

Posted by Lyndon : 2/21/2006 09:59:00 AM

It's wrong of course, just as jailing Abu Hamza for seven years for "incitement" was wrong.

However there is a reason for the Austrian/European point of view.

Nazism destroyed much of European civilisation, led to the deaths of at least 20 million people and resulted in most of Eastern Europe being occupied by the Soviet Union for 45 years. After that, it made a lot of sense to ring-fence it as an ideology that just wasn't allowed.

(Incidentally the Allies were a lot less firm about rubbing out Japanese nationalism, with the result that it's still a problem today, not least in Japan's relations with her WW2 victims).

Posted by Rich : 2/21/2006 11:08:00 AM

I think those in the Middle East who want to see a double standard here are those most likely to share Irving's views. So bully for them.

It would be a double standard if the issue was about treatment of Christianity in Austria since the cartoons were about the treatment of Mulsims by Christians, not Jews.

But it's not so it isn't.

There is a context for the holocaust denial laws - they are part of a broader law aimed at preventing the re-emergence of facism and of anti-semitism.

But yes there will be those in the Middle East who will not want to see this. But who cares what their opinions are?

Posted by neil morrison : 2/21/2006 11:45:00 AM

Well, I'm going to agree with Professor Deborah Lipstadt - who could be forgiven for indulging in a mega-dose of schadenfreude over this sentence - who told the BBC last month:
"I would not want to see him spend more time in jail," she says.

"I am uncomfortable with imprisoning people for speech. Let him go and let him fade from everyone's radar screens."

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4578534.stm, and as they say the whole thing is worth reading.

All the Austrian courts have done is provide the Neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers with a martyr, and they don't deserve even that tatty a fig-leaf to cover their shame. IMO, Lipstadt's patient defence of her reputation - and one conducted at a considerable personal and professional risk, given the eccentricities of British libel law - did more to tear down Irving's reputation than the prison sentence.

And, Rich, I'd feel a little more sympathy for the Austrian Government if it didn't have quite so *ahem* ambiguous a record of selective amnesia and blatant obstruction when inconvenient questions were asked about anti-Semitism and pro-Nazi sympathies much closer to home. Just look up what the late Simon Weisenthal had to say on the subject, and how soon we forget The Waldheim affair...

Posted by Craig Ranapia : 2/21/2006 12:12:00 PM

Wow, so he did swallow the bitter pill, admit he was wrong about Leuchter's findings back in 1989, and they still slapped him in jail. So Europeans will not only jail you for holding a particular opinion, they'll also jail you for holding a particular opinion 15 years ago that you now know was wrong.

European ambassadors to Middle Eastern countries must be holding their heads in their hands as they contemplate their upcoming attempts to explain the European concept of freedom of speech to their Arab counterparts. The Danes in particular must be furious - how the hell are they going to get those boycotts lifted now? Austria just blasted the EU's credibility on the issue right out of the water.

Neil Morrison, if the hypocrisy involved here isn't clear to you, don't worry - it's crystal clear to every Arab that reads a newspaper.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 2/21/2006 08:27:00 PM

Psycho milt, if some Arabs want to see a double standard here then so be it. But since the issue of the cartoons is actually the representation of Islam by Christians then it shows a rather unhealthy world view to keep on banging on about Jews. Especially in a region of the world were anti-semitism is endemic.

Posted by neil; morrison : 2/22/2006 10:10:00 AM

Milt: Wow, so he did swallow the bitter pill, admit he was wrong about Leuchter's findings back in 1989, and they still slapped him in jail...

I haven't followed this closely Milt, but I think you'll find his story of how he changed his mind lacked any credibility.

Like, the evidence he claims swung him, he found years before he 'dropped' the denial thing. In fact, I think his website's still there...

Posted by Lyndon : 2/22/2006 10:56:00 AM

Lyndon - I do follow this closely, and Irving certainly wouldn't try to make the case there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz now. He's more into arguing about how many people got killed that way. That arguing would still be enough to get you jailed in Austria and Germany, but the specific claims he made in 1989 have been long superseded.

neil morrison: the double standard isn't just seen by "some Arabs", it's clear to anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of what freedom of speech is. You may dislike the way Arab media portrays Jews, but their countries don't make a pretence of having freedom of speech. They are in this respect more honest than the Europeans.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 2/22/2006 07:07:00 PM

Psycho - I suppose The Guardian editors don't have a "rudimentary understanding of what freedom of speech is" either:

"...serious consideration is now needed as to whether, 60 years after the terrible events that inspired them, these laws are obsolete. Having said that, amid charges of double standards from those seeking to criminalise Islamophobia, it is worth recalling that the Holocaust laws were intended to prevent the legitimation of mass murder, not to protect religious sensibilities from the scrutiny of secular societies."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/leaders/story/0,,1714858,00.html

Posted by neil morrison : 2/23/2006 08:30:00 AM