First They Came for the Holocaust Deniers…

Not that anyone cares, but David Irving is still behind bars.  Nearly 80 days and counting. 

With its churlish tone and requisite turns of adjectival spleen, Malte Herwig’s front-line report for The Guardian is well worth reading. Here’s a snippet:

‘My little daughter,’ [Irving] adds with a sheepish grin, ‘of course thinks
it’s cool that daddy is in prison’; and somehow one cannot help feeling
that daddy himself relishes having another big fight on his hands.
Irving loves to cast himself as an innocent maverick single-handedly
taking on powerful governments, the mighty press and influential lobby

Yeah, I’m sure it’s a real ego-trip, stomping around the grounds of that Austrian hoosegow for months.  Who cares if  the big boorish martyr has trouble securing ink for a pen with which to scribble at his memoirs.   He’s having the time of his life, after all.

But Herwig isn’t finished:

Why did [Irving] risk going on a journey that he knew might get him into
trouble? ‘I’m from a family of officers, and I’m an Englishman. We
march toward the gunfire,’ he snarls into the receiver. Now that he is
doing his rounds in a prison yard, however, he finds that he didn’t
pack the right marching equipment. ‘I have very expensive shoes,’ he
sighs, ‘but they are coming apart from walking outside in the yard.’

It’s a lurid portrait, this unhinged patriot-cum-psychotic, snarling in those tread-worn expensive shoes. On second thought, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to trust him with a pen after all.  Who knows, he might pull some crazy-ass Hannibal Lecter shit on one of the guards.

In the course of his interrogation, Herwig goes on to treat us to a cheeky measure of Anglo-baiting speculation as to what might lie behind this remorseless expensive-shoe-wearing thought criminal’s untamed penchant for provocation:   

[Irving’s] desire to cause
outrage seems rooted in the sort of reckless arrogance you find in some
public school boys who think the world belongs to them.

OK, let’s be very clear.  At present the only "world" that belongs to David Irving is a Viennese prison populated with  hardened criminals.  And after all the blame and snide psychoanalytic quips are out of the way, the banal reality is that the "reckless arrogance" for which he awaits trial amounts to nothing more than speaking and writing outside the bounds of officially proscribed discourse.

Herwig sums up his report with a few obligatory remarks about the "debate on Holocaust denial and free speech," but at no point in his animadversion does he evince any real concern over the fact that a 67 year old historian has been incarcerated for nothing more than speaking his mind.  Irving is simply depicted as a smug controversialist with sinister motives. Who got what was coming to him.

Somehow, I doubt this is what Bill Ryan had in mind when he talked about Blaming the Victim.  But the shoe fits.

The shame of it is, Herwig’s attitude is pretty much par for the course.  Civic-minded people who are quick to drum up the pre-scripted censorship-screaming pother every time Heather Has Two Mommies is "banned" from some backwoods school reading list tend to be conspicuously unconcerned over the very real criminal sanctions visited upon expositors of dissident Holocaust history.

And if you think Irving’s is an isolated case, well, you have some catching up to do.

Ernst Zundel sat in a Canadian prison cell for over a year before being extradited to his native Germany where he now sits in another cell awaiting his day in court for the "crime" of  "defaming the dead." 

After being harassed by authorities for years, the Flemish publisher, Siegfried Verbeke, was recently arrested under a German court order for similar transgressions.

Robert Faurisson has taken his shots as well. As if being savagely beaten by thugs weren’t bad enough, France’s professor laureate of forbidden history has been repeatedly fined and arrested for failing to keep his French Anne-Frank-doubting mouth shut.

And then there’s Germar Rudolf, who, with the full cooperation of U.S courts, was recently deported from his home in Chicago, where he lived with his American wife and child, to face his German inquisitors.  A mild-mannered chemist who fled European censors to run a small book imprint in the Land of the Free, Rudolf now sits in yet another cage where he waits in queue for yet another sham tribunal.

I won’t bother going through the similar experiences of George Theil. Or Fred Leuchter. Or Adam Gmurczyk. Or any number of other cases of unambiguous censorious persecution attending this, and only this, issue. And there are many others.  As I’m sure there will be more.  The beat goes on.   

In case you’re wondering, I never got around to forming a strong opinion as to the merits of the arguments advanced by Holocaust revisionists.  I’ve never been much of a "history guy," and arriving at an informed opinion would entail a hell of a lot of research that, frankly, I just don’t feel like doing. I do know that I’ve yet to come across even one of these guys who actually "denies" that the Holocaust happened.  They may deal in rhetorical hyperbole from time to time, but the brass tacks always come down to distinctions over intentionality, or relativist points about the comparative monstrosity of Allied and Soviet atrocities.  And I certainly will admit that some of the forensic issues raised by the better crop of dissident scholars — about Zyklon stains and gas chambers, for example — seem plausible enough to be debated. But what do I know?

And more importantly, why should it matter what I think?  The simple, shameful fact is that people are being persecuted and imprisoned for writing books and handing out pamphlets. This is a blight on the fundament of Western Civilization, and the paucity of outrage among intellectuals is despicable. 

As David Irving snarled, "it’s like having a law that prohibits wearing yellow collars." Or expensive shoes, perhaps.