David Irving's 'Bit of Fun' -- Who's Laughing?
Wall St. Journal
March 4, 2006; Page A9
I agree with much of your Feb. 24 editorial "Defending the Indefensible1" (Taste page, Weekend Journal) regarding David Irving. Censorship laws are not efficacious, especially when, as is clearly the case with Holocaust denial, the fight can be won with history, evidence, and the truth. During Mr. Irving's libel suit against me, his Holocaust denial claims collapsed when we tracked his sources and found all of them predicated on lies and fabrications.
I must disagree, however, with your statement that, as a result of jailing him, "Austria has forced serious people to come to the principled defense of a detestable man." I disagree. David Irving knew there was a warrant for his arrest. Yet he went to Austria anyway, announcing his visit on the Internet. According to his wife, Mr. Irving thought it would "be a bit of fun, to provoke a little bit." He assumed that, if the Austrians arrested him they would release him with a slap on the wrist. He had even booked a first-class ticket home for Monday night, the day of the trial. Spectators report that he looked "stunned" when his little prank resulted in a three-year sentence. Given that this was a lark designed to provoke the Austrian authorities, and that he could have voiced his protest without entering that country, I am not sure why serious people should feel compelled to make a principled defense of him.
I have repeatedly criticized the notion of Holocaust denial laws, but I have no intention of defending someone who is not only an anti-Semite and a racist, but who goes out of his way to get himself in trouble.
Deborah E. Lipstadt, Ph.D.
Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies