Respectful Insolence

I don’t know what’s going on here, but the University of Oregon got slimed last night. A truly odious little being slithered his way into the University grounds and left a stench that won’t soon dissipate.

Sadly, David Irving, notorious Holocaust “revisionist” (translation: Holocaust denier) gave a talk last night at the University of Oregon. True, he wasn’t invited by the university, but thanks to the fact that the founder of ultra-right wing Pacifica Forum is a retired UO professor and that retired professors can invite speakers to university facilities, David Irving spoke last night:

Irving, who specializes in World War II history, will speak Monday before the Pacifica Forum, a local discussion group founded by retired University of Oregon professor Orval Etter.

To Etter and other Pacifica Forum organizers, Irving is a “free speech martyr” who was imprisoned for his views.

But to others, Irving and his controversial statements provide dangerous fodder for right-wing extremists.

Quoth the university:

The university washed its hands of responsibility for the event, saying that it wasn’t sponsoring Irving’s speech and was only serving as a venue. Orval Etter, one of the event’s organizers and a former professor at the university, has the authority to reserve a room free of charge.

“The Pacifica Forum is not affiliated with the university — the space is being used under a campus policy that allows retired professors to rent rooms on campus,” said Julie Brown, director of media relations at the University.

Brown said the school would not seek to block Irving’s presence because it has a policy of respecting freedom of speech for all groups.

“The university is really committed to freedom of speech and wanting to make sure that there is a place for groups to be able to express their viewpoints,” she said.

So what did Irving speak about? Try to keep your lunch down, but this was the title of his talk:

Political Imprisonment in Modern Europe

Now, I’ve spoken out as much as anyone against European laws against Holocaust denial and stated that I thought Irving’s imprisonment was an affront to free speech. However, it should be remembered that he knew there was a warrant for his arrest for charges of denying the Holocaust, but he went to Austria anyway, arrogantly confident that nothing would happen to him and then whining pathetically and trying to backtrack from his previous statements denying the Holocaust when he faced with jail. Then he went right back to his usual Holocaust denial after he was released and back in Britain. Whatever David Irving is, free speech martyr he ain’t.

If you really want to risk nausea, check out a news report from a local TV station and see David Irving pontificate about how he’s a “real” historian who wants to find out what “really” happened. The part where he says he “goes one level deeper” and does “profound research” is particularly hilarious. He then once again pulls his favorite “Hitler didn’t know” gambit about the Holocaust. What really bothered me is how the reporter said that Irving’s view has “strong support” and then interviewed a wingnut named Dawn Coslow, who goes on about how Irving’s view is “different than that prescribed set of dogma” but who’s also been quoted as saying:

Coslow said she’s disappointed in the protesters because they haven’t taken the time to learn about Irving and his views on the Holocaust. The Holocaust denier label attached to Irving is “code for ‘don’t listen to these people’ ” because they are bigots or racists, she said.

The term Holocaust denier is “used to rally the troops, who don’t do the research and show up like lemmings,” Coslow said. “They are the bigots.”

No, the term “Holocaust denier” is used to describe Holocaust deniers, which is what David Irving is. A British court even ruled as much, and David Irving has said things that lead to that inescapable conclusion:

“I don’t see any reason to be tasteful about Auschwitz. It’s baloney, it’s a legend. Once we admit the fact that it was a brutal slave labour camp and large numbers of people did die, as large numbers of innocent people died elsewhere in the war, why believe the rest of the baloney?” Irving said.

He added, “I say quite tastelessly, in fact, that more women died on the back seat of Edward Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber in Auschwitz.”

What was that about Irving not being a “Holocaust denier”?

I realize that the University handled the situation probably about as well as it could be handled, given its policy of allowing faculty and retired faculty to use its facilities for virtually any sort of speaker. Even so, it’s going to take a long time for UO to wash the scum off.

Now if we could only get the media to stop referring to Irving as a “historian.”

Comments

  1. #1 Shygetz
    June 10, 2008

    I agree with absolutely everything except the part about Irving not being a free speech martyr (although to be a martyr, I’m pretty sure you have to die…I guess he’s a non-terminal martyr). Although the comparison makes me throw up in my mouth a little, was Rosa Parks not a civil rights activist because she knew damn well she’d be arrested? Then a Holocaust denier who exercises his/her free speech rights in countries like Austria, and then goes to those countries in the face of a known outstanding arrest warrant can rightfully be called a free speech activist (even if their speech is both silly and disgusting).

  2. #2 Azkyroth
    June 10, 2008

    Flagrant petulance is rightly considered incompatible with the connotations of “martyrdom.”

  3. #3 Danio
    June 10, 2008

    As a former student and current employee of the UO (not OU, Orac–Ducks, not Sooners :), I fully support their decision to allow Irving to speak here, and I think the UO historian-led protests were well conducted and did a great job of providing balance to the proceedings, especially for students who may not realize what all the fuss is about. With tempis fugit-ing away like crazy, the Holocaust is just another historical milestone to memorize for many of the young WASPy American college students. If episodes like this speech and the accompanying protest can serve to keep it more grounded in reality, I guess something good might come of it.

    I do apologize for our local media. It could have been worse, though. Last week,the NBC affiliate here did an infuriatingly piss-poor report on the ‘Green our Vaccines’ rally, wherein they tossed about words like ‘experts’ to describe the attendees at the rally who ‘were very concerned about harmful toxins’ blah blah blah. No interview with local pediatricians or health board members or anyone to balance the lunacy. All the substance of “Look! Celebrities doing things!” Ugh.

  4. #4 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 10, 2008

    Irving is no martyr. During the trial in Austria, he claimed to have accepted that millions were killed by gas in the death camps. The judge didn’t buy this. After his release, Irving again has denied the existence of the gas chambers.
    Rosa Parks stood up for her beliefs. Irving tried to weasel out when things got a little rough.

  5. #5 JC
    June 10, 2008

    To bend over backwards to be fair to Irving, he was once a “real historian” of sorts, and has produced some legitimate scholarship.

    Admittedly, he gave that all up about twenty years ago to focus more on Holocaust denial.

  6. #6 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 10, 2008

    David Irving pontificate about how he’s a “real” historian who wants to find out what “really” happened.

    Funny how easily changing one word (historian) would make that sounds like a wooist said it.

  7. #7 Jimmy
    June 10, 2008

    Honestly, I think the university comes out of this with the best image of the parties involved. Irving is a Holocaust denier–the media are acting like idiots–and the Austrians acted in a way that not only chills free speech but gives Irving more ammunition.

    The university, by contrast, simply said they were sticking to existing policy, as they should.

  8. #8 Orac
    June 10, 2008

    To bend over backwards to be fair to Irving, he was once a “real historian” of sorts, and has produced some legitimate scholarship.

    If you’re referring to Hitler’s War, the libel trial of Deborah Lipstadt brought out many deficiencies and obvious bias in that book. If you’re talking about Irving’s work on the bombing of Dresden, you should be aware that he accepted the incredibly inflated death toll of 100,000 as fact (the real number was horrific enough at around 30,000). During the trial, it was shown that, from very early on in Irving’s career, his works were rife with errors. Examination of these errors revealed that they were not random; they were systematic in that they always tended to exonerate the Nazis or minimize their crimes. Indeed, the entire premise of Hitler’s War was that Hitler supposedly had no idea that the Holocaust was occurring and that Himmler was responsible, a ludicrous concept made mildly plausible by Hitler’s skill at almost never signing direct orders for extermination. (He got burned when he signed the order implementing the T4 euthanasia program; he learned his lesson. Even dictators don’t like to tick off their own people unnecessarily.)

    No, Irving’s work has been suspect from very early on.

  9. #9 Patrick
    June 10, 2008

    Sooo, like, what in the heck is a ‘revisionist’ doing whining about modern day political prisoners? Doesn’t seem to be his area of training, he should keep with things that are far enough back they didn’t happen during his mere twinkling of an eye, in my opinion.

  10. #10 NoAstronomer
    June 10, 2008

    Orac, I have to disagree with you on this one. I applaud OU for their stance. They had a policy about renting rooms, something came up that was within the policy but that OU disagreed with. Rather than come up with a post-facto excuse for preventing the meeting they succinctly explained their position and let the students vote with their feet.

    During my freshman year, 1980-81, Irving was scheduled to speak at my college in the UK. Rumors of planned violence from the student body forced the cancellation of his talk. The hypocritical attitude of many of my peers astounded me.

    Of course, 28 years later, Irving is still a wanker.

  11. #11 Mattie
    June 10, 2008

    At least now I know my grandmother was making it all up. Thank you, David Irving.

    To be a little less facetious, I just don’t understand how Holocaust deniers can believe what they spew. I’m not Jewish, I am a Pole and there were definitely work camps and death camps in Poland. You can find the bone piles still in some places, for Heaven’s sake! It just hurts me so much to see this kind of thing.

  12. #12 S. Rivlin
    June 10, 2008

    As a Jew myself and one who lost more than 90% of the members on his mother’s family, I have always wondered what really drives the holocaust denier? Is it his/her antisemitism? Admiration of the Nazis and Hitler? Both? What the denier to gain from denying the Holocaust?

  13. #13 StuV
    June 10, 2008

    Forget our little martyr for the moment… look what an odious anti-semite little merry band this Pacifica Forum is…

    http://www.geocities.com/pacificaforum/

    (By the way, Geocities? Flashbacks…)

  14. #14 PalMD
    June 10, 2008

    I’d have to agree that putting himself at risk for arrest is part of standing up for free speech, but free speech isn’t really his “issue”—his issue is antisemitism and holocaust denial, and, as many odious ideas, happens to intersect with free speech.

    The U is doing the right thing. One step further would be to offer an alternative program at the same time….

  15. #15 Dr Aust
    June 10, 2008

    In David Irving’s case I would say both (antisemitism and admiration of Hitler/Nazism). Irving’s extreme right wing sympathies go right back to his student days and he made increasingly little secret, as he got older, of his fervent admiration for Der Fuhrer and all his works.

    Of course, a fascination with Hitler was and is not unique to Irving, as Robert Harris’ brilliant book about the early 80s Hitler Diaries hoax makes clear. But Irving is more than just fascinated by the Nazis; “apologist” is about the mildest word one could find.

  16. #16 Dr Aust
    June 10, 2008

    PS Did any of the Univ Profs turn up to demonstrate outside or picket the building? I like to think that’s what I’d be doing if he was speaking in my University, Statutes or no Statutes.

  17. #17 Shygetz
    June 10, 2008

    Rosa Parks stood up for her beliefs. Irving tried to weasel out when things got a little rough.

    Actually, Rosa Parks stayed seated for her beliefs.

    Do you deny that Irving was arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned for exercising the free speech that Americans often take for granted? During his sentencing, did Irving remain resolute that Hitler knew nothing of the death camps, and that the supposed 6 million Jews were merely a symbolic number, and not the true toll (either of which would still be punishable by Austrian law)? Do you dislike the man so much that you must defend even heinous actions to silence him? He’s a weasel, but Irving has a legitimate complaint; the laws of Austria (and other countries) violate the freedom that every person should be allowed–the freedom to express their ideas, no matter how wrongheaded or ludicrous, so long as such expression does not lead to imminent violence. I have no problem considering Irving a former political prisoner of Austria and an activist for free speech (no matter how cowardly or pathetic an activist he may be). If they had executed him, he would be a martyr.

    I’d have to agree that putting himself at risk for arrest is part of standing up for free speech, but free speech isn’t really his “issue”—his issue is antisemitism and holocaust denial, and, as many odious ideas, happens to intersect with free speech.

    If I had been imprisoned for a year for speaking, my priorities might change a bit. I wasn’t at his speech (and wouldn’t attend if I could), so I can’t speak as to if he has changed HIS emphases.

  18. #18 Orac
    June 10, 2008

    During his sentencing, did Irving remain resolute that Hitler knew nothing of the death camps, and that the supposed 6 million Jews were merely a symbolic number, and not the true toll (either of which would still be punishable by Austrian law)?

    Actually, no he didn’t. He started backtracking and then admitted that there were homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz. After he was released he went right back to his Holocaust denial.

  19. #19 T. Bruce McNeely
    June 10, 2008

    Do you dislike the man so much that you must defend even heinous actions to silence him?

    Where did I do this?

    My point is that Irving is no Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks did stay seated, despite the threat of arrest. Irving caved when Austria called his bluff. “Resolute”, my ass.

    I don’t agree with these laws, because I think that holocaust deniers are their own worst enemy.

  20. #20 Pierce R. Butler
    June 10, 2008

    I’m in process of reading Ian Kershaw’s Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World, 1940-1941, and was startled to see this respected historian citing Irving in his endnotes.

    The list of works cited includes two Irving titles, Hitler’s War and Churchill’s War (vol. I). I’m not familiar enough with the details of WWII to offer any opinions on the validity of the material mentioned, but Kershaw is plainly (so far) accepting same without overt criticism.

  21. #21 Dr Aust
    June 10, 2008

    Re. the Austrian laws on hocaust denial, under which Irving was jailed, restricting freedom of speech:

    The laws on this in Austria follow the laws in Germany, where there is fairly obviously felt to be a special reason not to allow Holocaust deniers to peddle their poison. I can’t recall when exactly the laws were put on the books, but almost certainly shortly after WW2. A wide variety of Holocaust, Nazi and German militarism related things were criminalized. It is also illegal, for instance, to give the Nazi salute or wear or display the Swastika in any form. Even singing the original first verse of “Deutschland uber alles” might get you in trouble, although I don’t think it is illegal.

    The general line justifying the laws would be something like: “These ideas, given the force of state and law, led civilized nations and their citizens – our nations and citizens – to commit industrialised mass murder. This must not be allowed to happen again, or be forgotten, or be trivialised.”

    So whatever one might think of the Austrian law in a First Amendment context, there are good reasons why the laws in Austria are as they are. And as Orac says, Irving did not go to Austria to make a free speech point, but to pursue his agenda of the last half century, namely absolving Nazism of its crimes.

  22. #22 imsd007
    June 10, 2008

    Shygetz:
    > If they had executed him, he would be a martyr.

    In Austria death penalty was outlawed 1950. The “Verbotsgesetz” (Prohibition Act 1947) became a law 1945/1947 and was necessary at this time – now it is quite controversial in Austria.

  23. #23 Joe
    June 11, 2008

    If you’re referring to Hitler’s War, the libel trial of Deborah Lipstadt brought out many deficiencies and obvious bias in that book

    This, incidentally, is precisely the point at which Irving lost any claim to be a ‘free speech martyr’. You can’t spend your entire damn career crying ‘free speech’ and expect to walk away untainted by hypocrisy when you then sue a fellow historian for addressing your deficiencies.

    As a Jew myself and one who lost more than 90% of the members on his mother’s family, I have always wondered what really drives the holocaust denier?

    I’ve long thought that the most fascinating aspect of Holocaust deniers is that while they steadfastly deny that there was any systematic extermination of Europe’s Jews, they simultaneously give one the impression that they feel it would be a bloody good idea if someone gave it a try.

  24. #24 Lilly de Lure
    June 11, 2008

    T. Bruce McNeely said:

    Irving is no martyr. During the trial in Austria, he claimed to have accepted that millions were killed by gas in the death camps. The judge didn’t buy this. After his release, Irving again has denied the existence of the gas chambers.

    That’s interesting – I seem to recall he pulled the same trick after the Deborah Lipstadt libel trial in the UK as well. How can anyone still be remotely interested in the fecal matter that emerges from this creature’s mouth?

  25. #25 Bongobo
    June 11, 2008

    As Clive James once said, David Irving is a Historian in the way that Uri Geller is a Metallurgist.

    One of the many sad things is that he clearly was once a very talented historian, but has just got crazier and more pitiable over the years. Interesting articles in the Guardian http://books.guardian.co.uk/departments/history/story/0,,655974,00.html
    and the New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2001/04/16/010416crbo_books

    Of course the matter in hand is what responsibility the University of Oregon has, if any, in who hires their venues, and whether the right of free speech of people whose speech we find offensive is balanced by our right to say what we like about them. A propos of which, I got nothin’.

  26. #26 Shygetz
    June 11, 2008

    How can anyone still be remotely interested in the fecal matter that emerges from this creature’s mouth?

    Maybe it’s like some peoples’ fetish for watching car wrecks?

    Actually, no he didn’t. He started backtracking and then admitted that there were homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz.

    Then you should edit his Wikipedia page; it states that he admitted there were homocidal gas chambers, but that Hitler didn’t know about them and that there were not 6 million Jews killed–the number was just “symbolic” and the real number was smaller.

  27. #27 Orac
    June 11, 2008

    I may not have been sufficiently clear. He backtracked during the trial itself when the thought it might get him off the hook. Once he was convicted and had nothing more to lose, he reverted to form beginning in an interview from his jail cell not long after his conviction. In other words, while trying to obtain leniency, he tried to weasel around his previous assertions and concede just enough to persuade the judge. Once convicted, he reverted to form. If he were truly going to be a martyr, he would have gotten up in front of the judge and said, “Damn straight there were no homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz; Hitler didn’t know about the Holocaust; and the death toll was only in the hundreds of thousands!” He didn’t.

  28. #28 Harry Eagar
    June 11, 2008

    You don’t have to be a ‘free speech martyr’ to be allowed to speak.

    Anybody can do it.

    I thought Dr. Aust nailed it. Free speech is a basic right. Unless you’re some kind of absolutist, it makes sense to assent to a limited exception for Germans. Their misbehavior was such to require special treatment.

    But not here.

  29. #29 DLC
    June 11, 2008

    This guy’s as much an Historian as I am a two-headed chicken.

  30. #30 Frank
    June 11, 2008

    With a cursory glance, it is easy to see that you guises’ [sic] ignorance is your divining rod.

    The Issue is “History”.

    Can Big money Buy History?

    I was present at Irving’s Eugene lecture.
    Obv. none of you were there.

    Remind me PLEASE, (as if it will be necessary,) when the USof Israel is full-fledged, to have the presence of mind to add you all to my neighbors’ BLACKLIST.

  31. #31 Orac
    June 11, 2008

    DING DING DING DING DING!

    We have a winner! Our first Holocaust denier has made an appearance in this thread. I’m just surprised it took so long. Now where’s “Bernada,” I wonder?

  32. #32 Frank
    June 11, 2008

    No “Denial” Here, jf,

    Just prefer to not subscribe to the spoon fed dogma. Whaddabout You?

    I’ll check back after dinner out.

    Happy expectations.
    xo

  33. #33 DLC
    June 11, 2008

    I’m sorry, but if you’re saying that the industrial scale murder of Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, mentally handicapped or insane, and political undesirables did not happen, then it’s you, Frank, who have been spoon-fed dogma.

  34. #34 frank
    June 12, 2008

    “Denier” is a pejorative. Nothing more.
    I don’t deny that people were killed.

    The only “slime” the UO had to contend with were the hissers and spitters down in the protestors pit. (Most of whom didn’t even know why they were protesting.)

    They’d been asked to rally to help the hate-force “stamp out hate”, you know, validate their existence. Quite the circus.

  35. #35 Orac
    June 12, 2008

    “Denier” is a pejorative. Nothing more.
    I don’t deny that people were killed.

    How many and by what methods?

  36. #36 Orac
    June 12, 2008

    Oh, one other reason David Irving is no free speech activist. He’s more than willing to use the legal system to suppress criticism that he doesn’t like. Remember, he cherry-picked a jurisdiction (the U.K.) because of its highly plaintiff-friendly libel laws to sue Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher for her characterization of him as a “Holocaust denier” in a book that she wrote. Irving wasn’t even a major part of the book; it was just a brief section mentioning him. Even so, Irving brought the full weight of British law down on Lipstadt, who bravely stood up to him and fought the lawsuit. She could have just folded (although she would have had to settle and apologize), but she didn’t. At the cost of around $2 million and well over a year out of her life, she fought and won. Irving was humiliated, and the British court concurred with Lipstadt that Irving is a Holocaust denier. It’s all documented at Holocaust Denial On Trial.

    So, yes, when I hear anyone try to defend Irving as some sort of free speech martyr for the cause, willing to be jailed for his views, I look back at what he did to Deborah Lipstadt and barf.

  37. #37 albatross
    June 12, 2008

    I’m glad the university stuck to their normal policies about allowing him to speak, but it’s a pity anyone was dumb enough to show up for his talk.

  38. #38 truppe
    June 14, 2008

    Actually David Irving is an excellent historian of WWII and “Hitler’s War” one of the very best histories I’ve ever read (and I’ve read many). However I believe he initially got into political trouble with “Hitler’s War” as he portrayed the Germans as human beings and not as demons in human form. By citing actual German documents, he presented the war, and the lead up to war, from another perspective – which is what a true historian seeks to do. And this perspective at times clashed with the propoganda that still so often masquerades as history. I would recommend “Hitler’s War” as well as “Churchill’s War” to anyone interested in developing a fuller picture of WWII.

    I also read Lipstadt’s book that set off the furor and I recommend it also for anyone to compare the work of a top-notch historian (Irving) with the “work” of a hack (Lipstadt) and to be defamed and insulted by such a hack is what set off the infamous libel suit and the obviously politicized outcome. And millions of dollars were raised for Lipstadt’s defense (which included bribing witnesses with lucrative post-trial book deals)while Irving, like the old-style gentleman that he is, stood in court alone presenting his case. Even the judge himself had to admit that Irving is an excellent historian of WWII.

    Finally, he was arrested in Austria for a law instituted by the Russians immediately after WWII that made promoting Naziism a crime but the exact definition was kept vague so that the law could be used for a wide-range of offenses, but mainly used to repress anti-communist, anti-socialist movements.

    Not a very American (or at least pre-W America) law.

    And for our modern pc world, it is interesting to learn that Hitler was a vegetarian, a rabid anti-smoker and a keen environmentalist. Makes one think.

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