Monday, February 20, 2006

First thoughts

Once again David Irving has brought his house of cards down on himself. First he sued me for calling him a Holocaust denier and ended up with his reputation in tatters.

Then he went off to Austria to tweak the Austrian authorities by testing the law and he got himself arrested.

Nonetheless, given how I feel about the efficacy of censorship laws and laws against Holocaust denial, I understand the jury's inclinations -- they were Austrian after all -- but I am not pleased.

This does not seem like a good thing.


YMedad said...

I'm sure you are feeling a great deal of satisfaction that truth has proven right and, as we say in Hebrew, that justice shall not only be done - but seen to be done.

Michel Couzijn said...

Though I despise David Irving and his writings, I don't feel any satisfaction concerning the Austrian court's ruling. I believe that any person is entitled to hold or defend ridiculous opinions, even opinions that some or many may regard as utterly ridiculous or insulting. The freedom of speech - that many hold dear and that is hardly negotiable - demands such a price.

So no, YMedad, I don't feel satisfaction, I don't believe that 'truth has been proven right', mainly because I don't believe it is a juridical court's responsibility, let alone authority, to establish historical truths of opinion.

I expect that, as a result of today's ruling, that Irving followers rise in number and in steadfastness. For all the wrong reasons, of course.

I find the ruling extra painfully because, at this very moment, Europeans go at great lengths to convince many muslims that our freedom of speech is so important, dear and 'holy' to us that the apparently insulting 'Danish cartoons' are legally tolerable and that they have no reason to complain to European authorities. So how do we explain the Irving ruling to them?

Valerie Loughney said...

Yes, but his final words in the BBC article just released are

"Of course it's a question of freedom of speech... I think within 12 months this law will have vanished from the Austrian statute book,"

I don't know about you, but if someone were to be the champion of free speech and overturn censorship laws I would not want it to be Irving, nor anyone on these grounds; because it would then be a double victory for him and denial. I think he will now be looked at as a martyr not only from his supporters, but to others who are simply advocates of free speech, and that to me is the most disturbing part.

TheZoeJ said...

I think it's a bad thing. I actually don't believe Holocaust denial should be punishable with prison time. Anti-semitic violence yes but not words. It makes Irving into a martyr which he most definitely is not. It also gives credence to his book - giving it the importance that it does not deserve. I noticed how it is on all the coverage of the trial too.

Orac said...

"This does not seem like a good thing."

That's an understatement! It's a horrible thing to put someone in jail for three years solely for their speech.

Hilary Ostrov said...

I agree that it is a "horrible thing"; although it is no less horrible than those who attempt to muzzle freedom of speech by suing their critics for libel - as Irving indisputably did.

Nonetheless, let's not lose sight of the fact that Irving chose to deliberately place himself in the situation which led to this result.

Laws against Holocaust denial are, IMHO, counterproductive. But either one obeys the law of the land, or one takes the appropriate route to change it. If one chooses to flout the law - as Irving indisputably did - one does so at one's peril.

Years ago, a number of people who objected to serving in Viet Nam chose to flee to Canada, rather than serve their country. I doubt that many (if any) of them ever tried to re-enter the US once they were here, because they knew they would be subject to imprisonment for contravening the draft law at the time.

So I am less concerned about Irving spending more time in jail than I am about his choices ultimately providing more fuel for the deniers as martyrs camp. Not to mention the media circus that his appeal is likely to generate.

Dave said...

I don't think David Irving should be a martyr, and to some extent, these laws are silly...


1. Austria, Germany, and other nations which felt the teeth of Nazi tyranny are different cases. In Austria and Germany, Nazism and its hateful deeds were weaned and nurtured on that soil. They have a special interest in preventing the rebirth of Nazism there, and we have seen that one of David Irving's major works in his life is to empower and support the rebirth of Nazism.

2. Mr. Irving is not an innocent party in this dispute. This is not the same as an Austrian national speaker, addressing a political rally in Vienna, getting overheated in his rhetoric about his opponents, and comparing them unfavorably with the Nazis.

Mr. Irving knowingly broke the law in 1989. He knowingly went to Austria, aware of the warrant on him, to address like-minded junior Fascists. He knew the risks. He took clothes for a jail stay, and signed a pile of checks in advance of going over. He probably had one of his pals call the cops.

He was deliberately trying to provoke the Austrians, to set himself up as a martyr for free speech and a warrior for Nazism.

Like his master Adolf, he thought he was bigger than the law. And like most of these people, "he fought the law and the law won."

Mr. Irving started this. He probably thought he'd get sympathy from the Austrian cops and courts, get an opportunity to look like a bigshot, and so on.

He should have learned from his previous court case. But like the Bourbons, he learned nothing and forgot nothing.

The result of hubris.

My only sympathy is for his young daughter.