the Disillusioned kid: Observing Irving
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Friday, November 18, 2005

Observing Irving

"Historian" David Irving's been arrested in Austria for holocaust denial. While in principle I'm opposed to people being incacerated for their views it's difficult not to enjoy the schadenfreude. Unfortunately, the reporting of Irving's politics appears to be consistent with that which accompanied his high-profile libel case against Deborah Lipstadt (a case he lost): Irving is presented as a "controversial historian," perhaps even one with some slightly dubious views, but nothing more (this BBC "profile" is particularly guilty of this). The truth, however, is that Irving is not a misunderstood historian berated by a totalitarian liberal elite for his deviance from a politically correct account of history, but rather a racist, fascist sympathiser hoping with his exploitation of "history" to advance the fascist cause.

This failure to examine Irving is particularly strange given that Denying the Holocaust, the book which led to the aforementioned court case, would have provided even the laziest journo with plenty of information to populate their reportage with. On page 161, for instance, Lipstadt notes that Irving is "a self-described 'moderate fascist,'" who "placed a self-portrait of Hitler over his desk [and] described his visit to Hitler's mountaintop retreat as a spiritual experience." Furthermore, Roger Eatwell (one of the leading academics analysing far-right movements - as if you didn't know) notes that during the 1970s Irving was interested in developing strategies for the far right, then represented most prominently by the National Front, to pursue in order to achieve power. He believed there was a need for an "officer class" to lead the movement's inarticulate working-class grassroots. In 1979-80 he took steps to lay the intellectual groundwork for the launch of a new party with the formation of a small focus-group of like-minded thinkers and the Clarendon Club a drinking and speaking coterie which brought together conservatives and fascists. It emerged during the Lipstadt v. Irving trial that Irving had written the following, charming ditty for his baby daughter, "I am a Baby Aryan …I have no plans to marry an Ape or Rastifarian."

Irving's holocaust denial efforts are a matter of public record. This is the aspect of Irving's ideology which receives the greatest coverage in the mainstream media, so it I don't feel a need to look at it in much detail. It is worth pointing out though, that Justice Gray, the judge who ruled on the libel case held that Irving had "misstated historical evidence; adopted positions which run counter to the weight of the evidence; given credence to unreliable evidence and disregarded or dismissed credible evidence." These "errors" he noted converged in such a manner "that they all tend to exonerate Hitler or to reflect Irving’s partisanship for the Nazi leaders. If indeed they were genuine errors or mistakes, one would not expect to find this consistency." Translation from legalesse: Irving lied to make his case.

None of this is very hard to find. This suggests (to me at least) that the mainstream media have taken a deliberate choice not to discuss any of this. There was a similar whitewashing of Austrian far-right leader Jorg Haider when his Freedom Party acheived impressive electoral results in 1999, going on to enter government in 2000. Many people may well have come away from this thinking that Haider was castigated for one ill-considered statement about Nazi Germany's employment policies, when in truth he had a long history of flirtation with the far-right and fascist sympathies. I'm not suggesting for a minute that the media is part of a fascist conspiracy, a ridiculous suggestion (although on some issues sections of the media aren't so far from the far-right), in fact I'm not entirely sure what I am suggesting, but it seems worthy of note.

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