He’s baaaack. Lovely.
I’m referring to everybody’s favorite anti-Semite, Hitler apologist, and Holocaust-denying “historian,” David Irving, who has reinfected our fair nation. Indeed, and unfortunately, he is busily slithering his way across the western U.S., hitting the mighty white power ranger circuit in the back of cheap hotels and greasy spoon restaurants in order to meet with his fellow Holocaust deniers and, of course, pathetically try to hawk some of his books. Worse, he promises that in the fall he will hit the eastern U.S. In the meantime, he’s been to Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Albuquerque. Tonight he’ll be in Boise, and this weekend he’ll be in Spokane, Portland, and Seattle. He’ll even be in San Francisco next week!
Oddly enough, he was in Las Vegas on Sunday night, just as TAM7 was finishing up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out where the event was going to be. David Irving traditionally has been very secretive–with very good reason, given how many protesters would love to show up at his talks and shine the cold, hard light of day on his activities, not to mention on those who actually show up at his talks. As a consequence, it’s always been a bit dicey trying to figure out at exactly what venue in each city he will be speaking during each stop on his tour without giving away the store, so to speak. What I mean is that getting information from David Irving almost always involves giving him your name, address, and phone number on a form on his website and sometimes paying the entrance fee by PayPal. I couldn’t bring myself to give him my real information; so I gave him the address and phone number of the South Point Hotel & Casino, where TAM7 was being held and where I was staying. In the end, Irving was a bit too squirrelly in a couple of brief e-mail exchanges, and I never got the information (which, of course, I would have happily spread around at TAM7, given that, alas, my flight left two hours before his talk was to begin). Perhaps I should have bit the bullet and dialed the telephone number he left as a contact to find out where he was going to be, but I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to speak to the arch Holocaust denier himself. Oh, well, I promise not to be such a chicken next time.
In any case, I found a post by Stephen Lemons in Phoenix, who showed me exactly what I missed through his coverage of Irving’s appearance in Phoenix last Friday. He even has a bit of video (direct YouTube link):
I particularly like the neo-Nazis giving the ol’ “Seig Heil!” salute:
After all, Holocaust deniers so often piously inform us that their Holocaust denial absolutely, positively doesn’t come from anti-Semitism or neo-Nazi beliefs. Just like these guys (note that some of the attendees were just curious and at least one was a spy for Lemons–just not these Seig Heil-ing morons). And just like David Irving:
Alas, I never got that follow-up call, despite the polite tone of the e-mail. When I approached Irving in Jerry’s back room, a small space crammed with about 30 bodies and two tables of books, DVDs and posters of Hitler that Irving was offering for sale, the septuagenarian anti-Semite was greatly annoyed by the anarchists outside, as well as by my presence.
“How did you find out where it was?” Irving wondered, his bushy eyebrows leaping about like huge, hairy caterpillars.
“The anarchists told me,” I admitted.
“Well, you’re on the wrong side then,” he harrumphed.
These days, it turns out that Irving’s schtick is to use decoded German documents to claim that “only” 1.74 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis during World War II, rather than the usual estimates of 6 million, give or take a few hundred thousand, that most Holocaust historians agree upon. Or, as Lemons put it:
Seems Irving was up to his regular shtick of focusing on one tiny piece of evidence, while ignoring mountains of proof to the contrary. It’s the sort of historical sleight of hand that convinces only true believers. No wonder he doesn’t want anyone with a lick of sense eavesdropping on his pathetic farce.
Sadly, this doesn’t just work with true believers. Like the case with evolution deniers, boosters of alternative medicine, and other cranks, such cherry picking of evidence can all too often persuade people with little knowledge of a subject or whose knowledge is superficial. Irving’s been playing this same game since at least the late 1970s; the only difference is that now he doesn’t even try very hard any more to hide his admiration for Hitler and his dislike of the Jews.
In any case, if anyone has the intestinal fortitude to actually give David Irving his personal information in order to find out where he will be speaking when he comes to his city, I salute you. Anarchists shouldn’t be the only ones protesting his appearances. especially anarchists like one who goes by the name of “Ghost“:
“I think that’s fucking great, personally,” said Ghost about the deflated tire. “Honestly, I’m all about any kind of destruction of anything neo-Nazis own. I’m not gonna lie, I fucking hate ‘em. I would not shed a tear if they were all to die right now.”
“We don’t all agree with that,” said a protester named Haley.
“I’m speaking for myself,” responded Ghost.
I asked Ghost about freedom of speech, and whether he believed in denying it to neo-Nazis.
“No one should give Nazis or any racists any sort of platform,” he told me. “I believe in free speech. I know a lot of anarchists don’t take that stance, but when it comes to an organized group that is built around genocide and oppression on the kind of large scale that they’re trying to deny here tonight, when it’s something that’s built around those kinds of practices, not just words, that’s when I think they should be shut down at the root.”
In other words, Ghost is all for free speech, just not for people whom he hates or considers to be hateful or racist. This is about as hypocritical a stance as there can be, especially for someone like Ghost, who openly advocates violence and destruction against neo-Nazis. This is not the sort of message that we should be using to counter people like David Irving. Peaceful protest and education, for instance with this pamphlet from The Holocaust History Project, are. The answer to lies like Holocaust denial is not violence, but refutation.