Thursday, June 30, 2005

C-SPAN controversy still reverberates in cyberspace

Although some months have passed since the C-SPAN controversy erupted, there's an article on "Freezerbox", an e-zine that "aspires to create a forum for good thinking and good writing" in which the author, Russ Wellen, cites this issue:

"Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients"
MEDIA | 6.29.2005


Speaking of compromise, there are those that exceed even the Times in the precautions they take against offending their audience and the administration. Practicing something more suited to the wheels of your car in the hands of an auto mechanic, they seek to "balance." As Richard Cohen explains in his Washington Post March 15 column, "C-SPAN's Balance of the Absurd," the cable network scheduled Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt to plug her new book on the plum publishing venue Book TV.

History on Trial is an account of the unsuccessful libel case which Holocaust denier David Irving, whose feet Dr. Lipstadt held to the fire in her earlier book, Denying the Holocaust, brought against her in Britain. In a surprise move, C-SPAN decided, in the words of producer Amy Roach, "to balance it [Lipstadt's lecture] by covering him [Irving]."

While on the surface, it might make sense to feature the plaintiff, even if he was defeated, along with the defendant, some charges are too spurious for words. In a self-defeating--petulant even--concession to those who advised them of this, C-SPAN decided to instead host a panel discussion of the book with neither party present.

Does the C-SPAN triplets' parent company, National Cable Satellite Corporation, actually believe that one of the cable television systems it charges for its services will insist on a Holocaust denier having his say? The day hasn't arrived--yet--where it profiteth even Fox News to adopt such a stance. One can understand taking under advisement pickets, phone calls, or letters. But what is it about a deluge of email, which can be drained out of an in-box with the flick of a finger, that makes grown media executives cringe?

As with the Times, caving in to pressure only alienates your audience by compromising your credibility. Besides, backing down makes you look weak in comparison to, say, Fox. In fact, its slogan, "Fair and Balanced," may have sparked the balancing craze. If the media in question were a car, it would be rumbling around not on balanced wheels, or even equally inflated tires, but on one of those replacement donut tires.


Lipstadt interviewed on Australia's "Radio National"

Prof. Lipstadt is currently in Australia. Shortly after her arrival, she was interviewed on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "Late Night Live" program. You can listen to the (June 30) broadcast here.

Also on the ABC site is the transcript of a May 21/05 interview with Prof. Lipstadt on the program "Saturday Breakfast with Geraldine Dooge". Here are some excerpts:

Holocaust Denial

Deborah Lipstadt on her long, ultimately successful, legal battle with Holocaust denier, David Irving.

Geraldine Doogue: All this year we’ve been celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and of course you can’t think about that war without also having to come to terms with the Holocaust. You might have been watching the ABC series, ‘Ten Days to Victory’. Last Thursday we saw footage of the American soldiers entering the German concentration camps and their horror at what they saw there.

But as the distance from those times increases, a disturbing phenomenon’s been growing too, that of Holocaust denial, people who claim that the Nazis did not systematically set out to exterminate the Jews. They admit the Jews did die in camps, but not in gas chambers, and not as part of a deliberate policy.

David Irving is the leading Holocaust denier, and the most litigious. His most celebrated case was when he sued an American Professor of Jewish Studies, Deborah Lipstadt, for libel. Lipstadt had accused him of distorting the evidence in order to reach untenable conclusions about the Holocaust.

Deborah Lipstadt has just published a fascinating book about her long, ultimately successful legal battle with David Irving. It’s called ‘History on Trial’. Welcome now to Saturday Breakfast, Deborah.

Deborah Lipstadt: Thank you for having me.

Geraldine Doogue: What made you interested in this phenomenon of Holocaust denial?

Deborah Lipstadt: The truth of the matter is I was approached by two prominent Holocaust historians, Yehuda Bauer and Israel Goodman quite a few years ago, and they said to me, ‘Deborah, do you think you ought to take a look at this, probably do a research project on it, or maybe write a book?’ And I really sloughed it off and said, ‘Oh, I don’t think there’s anything there, I think it’s a silly phenomenon’, and I said it’s like flat earthers. And they argued rather persuasively that it was a form of anti-Semitism and possibly racism, and that it deserved to be looked at, not so much to answer the deniers, because I think don’t think there’s any point to that, but to understand what the phenomenon was all about.

Geraldine Doogue: I just wonder whether some of the people, the eminent historians who continue to support David Irving, your antagonist, because of his meticulous body of research, but who are certainly not anti-Semitic, not known to be anyway, whether you came to understand that in a way they couldn’t believe human beings were capable of such behaviour.

Deborah Lipstadt: I think the few historians, and probably John Keegan is the most prominent amongst them –

Geraldine Doogue: Sir John Keegan, whom –

Deborah Lipstadt: Yes, the military historian, the very prominent military historian who testified at the trial under subpoena, not under his own accord, I think he was subpoenaed by Irving. His approach, and those few historians who haven’t really, most of them have abandoned Irving at this point, what they do is they sort of build a little wall around this Holocaust denial and say, ‘Well that’s completely worthless, that’s completely stupid, he goes off at a tangent there, he’s lost his mind, but his other work is good.’ And that’s one of the reasons why during the trial we examined topics like Irving’s treatment of the bombing of Dresden showed that it wasn’t just in relation to the Holocaust that his historical research was not trustworthy.


Geraldine Doogue: Was the decision by your lawyers that you should not testify ultimately, was that a difficult one for you?

Deborah Lipstadt: Also exceptionally difficult. My business is talking, I’m a professor, I teach, I write, that’s the tool I have. I was dying to take the stand, I kept asking, ‘Put me on the stand, put me on the stand.’

Geraldine Doogue: Because David Irving makes a big play of that now on his website.

Deborah Lipstadt: Right, exactly. He tried to paint me as a coward, as frightened of him, as what he called ‘Taking the Fifth Amendment’, you know in the United States where you don’t have to testify against yourself. And what he didn’t know, or didn’t care to know, is that I kept saying to the lawyers, ‘Put me on the stand’, and they said, ‘You’re being sued for what you wrote. There’s nothing that you can add by putting you on the stand that is relevant to this case’


Geraldine Doogue: But also I suppose the challenge to one’s own humanity as an observer, and you actually quote James Dalrymple, writing in The Independent after that day, when he was sitting in the Tube on the way home from sitting through the court case, doing his own calculations until he realised with disgust what he was doing. So I wonder about the challenge to, well, at any point, did you find yourself being drawn in, even though you were the defendant, thinking, Oh yes, I understand what David Irving’s on about there?

Deborah Lipstadt: That didn’t happen, because by the time we went to trial, I had seen so many examples of his egregious lies and distortions, but every once in a while I would say, ‘We’ve got to make sure that the press, that the public, understands what he’s doing here, because if you don’t know, it can sound logical. If you don’t know, it can sound like it makes sense.’ At some level the Holocaust itself is beyond belief, and on that same level we would like David Irving to be right, we would like the deniers to be correct, and say ‘This didn’t happen, we don’t live in a world that has this legacy.’ The problem is, it did happen. But there’s a desire to say ‘It could never have happened’, you think, ‘Oh my God, thank God, I really was upset that it might have happened.’

So I wasn’t drawn in but I was always listening with a third ear, thinking, are other people being drawn in?

Geraldine Doogue: Sociologically. Look, part of the case relied on proving that his denial of the Holocaust came not from his research as an historian but as someone who was inherently anti-Semitic and racist. How was that done?

Deborah Lipstadt: Well, first of all, we had access through the process of discovery, to his diaries and his videotapes and his private speeches that he gave that had been videotaped etc., and it revealed to us things that we never imagined we would find. In his diary we found that he describes singing a little ditty he had written to his nine-month old daughter when he’s taking her for walks and whenever he’d quote, as he describes them, half-breed children are wheeled by, he sings to her,

I am a baby Aryan,
Not a Jew or a Sectarian,
I shall not marry an ape
Or Rastafarian.

Or things like, once I think it was in fact on Australian radio, he was being interviewed, and the interviewer said to him, they were talking about black people, blacks, or people’s colour, playing for the English cricket team, and Irving said, ‘I feel queasy when I see blacks playing for the English cricket team’, and in fact when Richard Rampton, my barrister, my QC, asked Irving about this in court, Irving said, ‘Oh Mr Rampton, you’re trying to paint me as a racist, I am not a racist, I think God just made this species different.’ Well that’s pretty revealing.

Geraldine Doogue: Yes.

Deborah Lipstadt: This is a man who gives a speech to an audience, and the audience laughs when he says these things. He says, ‘I was on vacation and I turned on the television, and the BBC, and I saw one of them reading our news to us.’


Geraldine Doogue: The big question is, which is what some people like Christopher Hitchens say, in effect if he is so mad or so distorted, and there’s personal quirks there, that would have been exposed. Why did it need this type of campaign?

Deborah Lipstadt: Well it didn’t need it. I mean, he sued me, I never would have sued him, I never would have dragged him into court. He sued me, so I was forced to put up a defence, I had no choice. If I hadn’t put up a defence, as your listeners know, the onus was on me to prove the truth of what I said. I don’t believe history belongs in the court room. I was dragged in there and had no choice but to fight. So I wouldn’t say he’s mad. I’ll tell you what I think he is, I think he is pathetic, I think he’s a pathetic figure. And I think in fact he’s not alone, I think all racists and anti-Semites and misogynists, are pathetic, and the challenge is to fight them and not to build them up and say they’re so important, but to defeat, utterly defeat them, and at the same time to show what pathetic kinds of characters they are.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

History on Trial reviewed in Australian Jewish News

The June 24 (print) edition of the Australian Jewish News has a review of History on Trial:

Triumph over Holocaust denier Irving
Book Review
Chemi Shalev

Deborah Lipstadt
HarperCollins, $25.95

The comfort of modern Diaspora life, especially in countries such as Australia and the United States, is not conducive to the creation of genuine heroes; these are usually the product of difficult times or dire circumstance.

One exception to this rule, however, is Deborah Lipstadt, professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Like her namesake from the Book of Judges, Lipstadt can rightly be considered a latter-day Jewish heroine of truly biblical proportions.

Lipstadt did not seek this greatness; it was thrust upon her by Holocaust denier David Irving, who in 1995 sued her in a London court for libel and defamation.

In her relatively-unheralded 1993 book Denying the Holocaust: The growing assault on truth and memory, Lipstadt had lambasted Irving as a Hitler-loving and history-distorting Holocaust denier.

Rather than being a legitimate and respected historian, as many considered him, Lipstadt described Irving as a Nazi sympathiser and a habitual distorter and contortionist of the facts at his disposal who consistently diminished the Holocaust and glorified its perpetrators.

Lipstadt's new book History on Trial is her gripping account of the five harrowing years that culminated on April 11, 2000, as Justice Charles Gray ruled against Irving, demolished whatever historical credentials he may have had and, by ordering him to pay court costs of close to £2 million ($A4.7 million), drove him to bankruptcy.

Lipstadt's book is based on the personal records that she kept throughout the gruelling ordeal, from the day she received a letter from her publisher, Penguin, about Irving's suit and mistakenly laughed it off as inconsequential, or "really nuts".

Lipstadt was unaware at the time that contrary to American law, British defamation practice places the burden of proof on the defendant, rather than the plaintiff. It was a formidable and, at times, seemingly-insurmountable task.

Her account of the trial itself is as riveting as only judicial high dramas can be, but horrifying as well in its dissection of the otherwise abhorrent.

Following the wise decision made by her counsel, Richard Rampton QC, to tackle Irving on forensic grounds rather than eyewitness testimonies, the court was subjected to many hours of debate on the exact number of Jewish bodies that could be buried in a ditch after being shot by the Einsatzgruppen death squads in Russia, the extermination capacity of the gas vans that operated at Chelmo and the intricate mathematics involved in calculating the number of cadavers that could have been moved from the gas chamber to the crematoria at Auschwitz.

Throughout the book one cannot but identify with Lipstadt's academic and personal revulsion at Irving, a man who under the cloak of a respected historian was allowed to continue publishing books while publicly claiming that "more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy's car at Chappaquiddick than in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.".

The trial only deepened the impression of his malicious and infantile inner world, as revealed, for example, in his private diary entry of the song he would sing to his daughter: "I am a baby Aryan, not Jewish or Sectarian; I have no plans to marry, an Ape or Rastafarian."

And one can only empathise with Lipstadt's dismay at the fact that prominent historians, including the notable World War II expert John Keegan, testified on Irving's behalf, belittling his adulation of Hitler and his astonishing claim that the Nazi leader had little knowledge, if any, of the "unsystematic" killing of Jews while still extolling his "superb" research.

Ultimately, it was Irving who did himself in, by bringing the suit against Lipstadt in the first place, by repeatedly walking into the traps laid for him by the talented Rampton, and by his barely-concealed antisemitism and Hitler adulation, to the point that before his closing argument, in the ultimate Freudian slip, he referred to Justice Gray as "mein fūhrer".

By utterly destroying the credibility of Irving, the most prominent and well respected of Holocaust "revisionists", Lipstadt may not have crushed the Holocaust-denial movement completely, but she certainly dealt it a devastating blow. Her book is a sensational read.

Chemi Shalev is the AJN's associate editor.

Lipstadt Interviewed in Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Here is a recent interview with Prof. Lipstadt from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
Holocaust truths

By Bill Steigerwald
Saturday, June 11, 2005

Deborah Lipstadt, a professor of Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University, made international headlines in 2000 by winning a libel trial in London against British historian David Irving. Irving sued Lipstadt for libel after she briefly named him as one of the more dangerous spokespeople of the growing Holocaust-denial movement in her 1993 book, "Denying the Holocaust." Lipstadt, whose new book, "History on Trial," recounts the blow-by-blow of her six-year legal battle, was in town Wednesday to give the keynote speech at the American Jewish Committee's annual meeting. I talked to her by telephone from her home in Atlanta:

Q: Why did you decide to fight it out with Irving in court? Didn't some people advise you to just ignore him?

A: I decided to fight him because the British legal system puts the burden of proof on the defendant, on the person who is being charged, to prove the truth of what they said and not on the plaintiff, or claimant, to prove the falsehood. So if I hadn't fought him, the case would have been decided in his favor. And his version of the Holocaust is there was no Nazi plan to kill the Jews: Some Jews may have been killed, but it was a result of rogue action here or there. There were no gas chambers; Hitler was the best friend the Jews had in Germany; and the survivors who say they were in concentration camps or death camps are all liars or psychopaths.

Q: If young people ask you what the Holocaust was, what do you tell them?

A: I tell them it's the attempt by Nazi Germany, by the government of Germany and all the parts of that government -- from the banks to the post office to the transportation system -- to murder all the Jews of Europe and some of the Jews on islands outside, like Rhodes or Corfu.

Q: If they ask you why the Holocaust happened, what do you say?

A: I give them more of a negative answer: Without centuries of anti-Semitism, without a German population that was willing to follow Hitler, despite his clear, clear anti-Semitism and hatred, without a world that was willing to stand idly by, without churches and governments that were willing to keep silent, there wouldn't have been a Holocaust.

Q: Historian Paul Johnson says in the current Commentary magazine that anti-Semitism is an intellectual disease, an irrational, pathological disease.

A: I think there's a lot to what he says. Anti-Semitism is a prejudice. Prejudice is an irrational thing -- pre-judge. I make up my mind before I have the facts. I see a blonde, I decide she is stupid. I see a black, I decide he's shiftless and lazy. I see an Italian, I decide he is Mafioso. I see a Jew, I decide they are evil, greedy, conniving, etc. It is an irrational thing that has been nurtured, not just by uneducated people but by highly educated intellectuals as well.

Q: Why do you believe, if you do, that anti-Semitism is on the rise in the U.S.A.?

A: I think it's on the rise slightly in the U.S.A. I think it is on the rise in Europe. What has happened in Europe is it has been mixed up in opposition to Israel and it's also gotten mixed up with an opposition to George Bush and his policies. So it becomes part of a greater whole.

Q: In a century where as many as 200 million people died at the hands of evil dictators and in the name of such hideous belief systems as Nazism and communism, what makes the Holocaust stand out?

A: It was a governmental attempt to kill all of a subset of people -- the Jews -- but not just the Jews within their country. Jews in any place they could find. Take the island of Corfu. A small, small Jewish population had lived there for hundreds and hundreds of years. On June 9, 1944, after the landing at Normandy, when the Germans are really on the defensive in both the East and West and fighting for their military survival, the Germans take boats and go out to that island and collect the Jews in order to transport them to Auschwitz. There was a single-mindedness about murdering the Jews anywhere they could find them.

Q: How do you distinguish between people who are anti-Semitic and people who are anti-Zionist or critical of the state of Israel's policies?

A: First of all, to be critical of the state of Israel's policies, all you have to do is read the Israeli press and you'll find some of the most criticism of Israel. So to be critical of Israel's policies, there is nothing wrong with that. To oppose the very existence of the state of Israel is much more disturbing, in that sense, because it has been in existence for 57 or 58 years. Generally, I would argue that the people who oppose the existence of the state of Israel, if you talk to them a little more and figure out their sentiments, they usually have a deep-seated anti-Semitism as well.

Q: Is there anything important about the Holocaust that the American public still does not know and needs to be constantly reminded about?

A: First of all, just the fact that it happened. We constantly have to be reminded of history, otherwise we might repeat it or let others repeat it. We have to keep remembering or otherwise we slip into a situation where we allow these things to happen in other places -- Sudan, Rwanda, it has happened. On some level, the fact that the United States intervened in Kosovo was because some people said, "Hey look. We're letting it happen again." It wasn't a holocaust, but still we were sitting idly by and allowing genocide to happen. History is to be studied for its own purpose, but it's also a tremendous guidance to people in how to behave and in governmental policies and in how to look at the world.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

London "libel tourism"

An article on the Accuracy in Media website notes that Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, a respected US author and scholar was sued for libel in a London court. Dr. Ehrenfeld "boycotted" the trial, and has stated that she "has no intention of complying with the court order and has chosen instead to fight for her First Amendment rights by suing the billionaire in New York. She wants the court to find the London judgment to be unenforceable in the U.S., and to reiterate that publication of her book may continue in the U.S. because it is constitutionally protected speech. What Ehrenfeld is seeking is a legal remedy to vindicate her rights and protect her integrity and reputation as a writer."

Here are some excerpts from the article in which Prof. Lipstadt's successful defeat of Irving's suit is cited:

AIM Report: Saudi Billionaire Threatens U.S. Author
June 22, 2005


Ehrenfeld's work, as well as that of other authors, is now at risk because of a lawsuit filed in London, the world capital for what's now called "libel tourism." At stake is nothing less than freedom of the press here in the United States and the First Amendment right of journalists to cover matters affecting U.S. national security and survival. This case involves another billionaire, Khalid Salim a Bin Mahfouz of Saudi Arabia.

Ehrenfeld's saga began with the publishing of her 2003 book, Funding Evil: How Terrorism is Financed and How to Stop It. This, Ehrenfeld's fifth book, examined the alleged involvement of Bin Mahfouz and his relatives and others in the funding of al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden and other terrorist entities. Bin Mahfouz, who denies any role in sponsoring or financing terrorism, responded by filing a lawsuit against Ehrenfeld in London, claiming defamation.


Under English law, however, the plaintiff does not need to prove malice or negligence. The burden of proof falls upon the defendant who must prove that all his/her statements are in fact true, not just that they were reported in good faith. Such a legal process is unthinkable in the U.S., where the burden of proof is upon a public plaintiff who must prove that what was reported about him/her was demonstrably false, malicious and/or reckless.

Bin Mahfouz, whose wealth is estimated by Forbes magazine at $2.8 billion, has yet to lose a case in the London courts. Ehrenfeld said that other publishers have capitulated to his legal threats because surrendering is cheaper than launching a defense.

Ehrenfeld boycotted the London court proceedings, was found guilty, and ordered to pay £60,000 (US $109,470) as a "down payment" on damages. (Media erroneously reported the figure as a final fine of £30,000.) The London Times reported the judge as saying it was "false" to say that Bin Mahfouz financed or supported al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.


London has become notorious for these lawsuits. Perhaps the most notorious is the legal action filed against author Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory University. Lipstadt named David Irving as a holocaust denier who deliberately distorted historical facts in her book "Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory." Irving sued Lipstadt in London. And because Lipstadt had to prove her statements were true in the British courts, she had to therefore prove the Holocaust happened, that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz, and so on. She won the case but the legal proceedings cost her over $1 million. The grueling yet triumphant saga is the subject of her new book "History on Trial: My Day in Court With David Irving."

Professor Lipstadt can now post this notice on her website without fear of being sued: "The book is Lipstadt's account of her successful defense against Holocaust denier, David Irving, who sued her for libel for calling him a denier." At a recent celebration held in Lipstadt's honor, David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, said, "[W]hat was going to be on trial was not Deborah Lipstadt per se but the Holocaust. For generations it would shape the way people view the Holocaust. This was not her battle alone."