Thursday, December 11, 2008

Film on Free Speech: Irving Gets a Starring Role

The filmmaker who included David Irving in his film An Independent Mind [see previous post] defended his decision to do so. In an article in the UK online magazine Totally Jewish the filmmaker presents himself -- rather proudly -- as having bucked criticism and done the brave thing.

The problem is that the guy gave Irving a chance to spout, not just odious views, but misstatements of fact and he apparently did not even know how to challenge them. [That was what my trial was all about.]

It's one thing to argue that people with disgusting views have a right to freedom of speech. They do [unless they engage in incitement].

But since when does a person who just spouts lies and distortions and inventions have to be celebrated?

Obviously such a liar has a right to speak but what person in their sane mind would believe that they have to give them a platform?

Obviously Rex Bloomstein, the filmmaker did.

The film, celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in particular Article 19 which states 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.'

Rex Bloomstein has made The Longest Hatred: The History of Anti-Semitism and KZ which tells the story of Mauthausen concentration camp.

Bloomstein told the publication that he "thought long and hard" about including Irving in the film, but said: "In the end, I thought it was right to include him and I would have to accept that the decision would be met with some controversy."

He also said: "Irving is someone who reflects the limits of freedom of expression. He epitomises repellent views which make us aware of the limits of freedom of expression. It would be derelict not to include someone who challenges how we look at that freedom."

This guy does not get it. It's not a matter of right or wrong. It's a matter of judgment.

Why give someone who is simply twisting the truth and lying a platform?

Did Bloomstein, possibly unconsciously so, want to show how brave he is? How willing he was to buck criticism? I think dense is a far more accurate term.

Sometimes, just because lots of people criticize you, does not mean you're are right. [With apologies to the originator of the line: Just because I am paranoid does not mean everyone isn't out to get me.]

[For my views on outlawing Holocaust denial see here.]


h said...

I don’t know if Bloomstein, consciously or otherwise wanted “to show how brave he is” by including Irving in his documentary. I certainly don’t think he is dense. I suspect something is being lost in transatlantic translation here and that it’s the cultural difference between the Diaspora in the UK and the US that is the cause. UK Jewish culture is characterised on one hand by a very keen appreciation of expressions of anti-Semitism, discussed privately amongst Jews, and on the other by an almost total public silence on the matter when talking to non Jews.

In practice this means that UK Jews will mostly undoubtedly believe that Irving should not have had a slot on TV. At the same time, non Jews in the UK commonly believe that there is little or no anti-Semitism in the UK, that they have personally never encountered it and that they are certainly not remotely guilty of it. No Jew ever corrects them and yet what is this but a denial of Jewish experience?

For Bloomstein to have exercised better judgement (was taste the intended synonym?) and excluded Irving he would have to be American or at least not belong to a culture so hypocritical and cowardly about the mundane present. Regrettably, he does not have that luxury. In including Irving, Bloomstein went against the grain of one part of Jewish culture in the UK. If he ever makes a documentary about how UK Jews do not speak openly about UK anti-Semitism in a country that believes it does not exist, that will be a whole lot braver, and more difficult.

As for leaving Irvings’ fabrications unchallenged, so what? Who doesn’t know by now that the man is nuts? Bloomstein didn’t prompt or challenge the other interviewees who for all we know without being experts, might similarly have been making it all up. The documentary stands as it was intended, as a good piece of documentary. It was fair, it did not condescend, it made every attempt to be impartial. Those were the things being celebrated, if that’s the right word, brought to the fore perhaps is better, rather than the subject matter. Had Bloomstein not followed all these documentary precepts, it might have been a lot more entertaining, albeit rather cheaply.

Chip said...

I'm curious about the other seven individuals profiled. Does anyone know who they were? It doesn't say in the Guardian article.

hockey hound said...

"Did Bloomstein, possibly unconsciously so, want to show how brave he is? How willing he was to buck criticism?"

The irony is, Bloomstein would have been as much criticized for simply telling the truth without including Irving in his documentary. Poor judgement on his part. His misstep reminds me of the Confucian proverb: "To go beyond is just as wrong as to fall short."

RichardHutton said...

Hi. At the risk of sounding insoucient, I wouldn't take More4's programme to heart. It's in-keeping with a general (and irritating) tendency that the channel has for pushing 'controversial' topics - it's about garnering audiences, not ideology or woolly thinking. They usually centre on global warming denial rather than Holocaust denial (equally unscrupulous, if much less obnoxious). That doesn't mean it's not dangerous - if nothing else, it lends an imprimateur of respectability to Irving that a more critical and accurate rendering would invalidate - but it's not part of an anti-Semitic trend. I'm not sure where 'H' finds reason to suggest Britain = anti-Semitic. I think it's difficult for Americans to appreciate how secular Britain is. The vast majority of Britons disavow religious beliefs. Average Britons tend to think all religious people are weird, it's not limited to any sect or faction. Plus 'fish and chips' was introduced to Britain by Jews, and it's now our national dish.

The British journalist George Monbiot has a piece on this (More4 not fish and chips):

I think you'd like Monbiot, Deborah. There's a line in his article: 'Being a crank does not automatically make you a visionary'. A mettlesome guy, and a good journalist. A staunch critic of some of Israel's activities, but I think you'd still appreciate his articles.

p.s. There's a good website that you might like to link to:

It would be useful for younger students, I think.

h said...

Hi Richard Hutton,

in case you wanted to know, chicken korma overtook fish and chips as the national dish in the UK about 20 years ago.

Eating chicken korma does not:-

1) make one Asian
2) contribute to an understanding of Asian matters
3) qualify one to speak of the Asian experience in the UK
4) improve performance at cricket

I don't want to labour what is likely a futile point but in wondering what gives me cause to identify anti-Semitism in the UK, you provide the answer.

I wonder if you have any other answers, for anyone else. If you do, please don't hold back out of retiscence or self-doubt. After all, it was once a grand British tradition to go about the world explaining things to the natives and self-doubt only crept in much later, when reality overwhelmed myth.

RichardHutton said...

Hi 'H'.

"In wondering what gives me cause to identify anti-Semitism in the UK, you provide the answer".

I wouldn't normally dignify such smears with a response, but I will. And here it is:

'If you ask politely, I'll give you a good recipe for Challah bread'.

I don't give my recipes for Lekach and Kugel to just anybody, however.

And it's Chicken Tikka Masala which has become Britain's national dish in recent years - it was itself invented in Britain, however - like Spaghetti Bolognaise - which would fall short of making the same point. It was meant as on obvious joke, however.

I agree that English cricket is terrible, however.

Teo said...

I see David Irving being accused of forgery, but would you help me finding gross mistakes and lies in his books, a link on anything? I'm really interested in this.

Thank you,

Teo Halfen

Deborah Lipstadt said...

Check out my book History on Trial or Richard Evans's Lying About Hitler or Robert Jan van Pelt's The Case for Auschwitz.

See also and in third box click on Verdict. Read it and you will see how he lies and distors.

BTW, he has been accused and found guilty of lying, perverting, distorting, [all terms used by the judge], but not of forgery.

RichardHutton said...

Hi Teo. I would second D/L's recommendation, but I think Richard Evans' book 'Telling lies...' is the most useful resource on Irving to begin with: it provides a very detailed and in depth discussion of Irving's techniques of fabrication, and Evans writes for an average/non-specialist audience so it's easy to read (and funny - see the ref. to mad cow disease).

There are a couple of newspaper sites that provide detailed descriptions of Irving:

The Independent:

and The Guardian:

has a more varied array of documents etc.

And there was another point I forgot to put in my original posting: Channel 4 (the parent co. of More4) actually showed a dramatisation of Lipstadt's trial shortly after the verdict, and it definitely didn't portray Irving in a positive light (the actor playing him was good though).

mariarelletti said...

Thank you for your attentive response.

Teo Halfen