The Reactionary Utopian
                     February 23, 2006

by Joe Sobran

     Now that an Austrian court has convicted the 
historian David Irving of Holocaust denial, lots of 
people are rushing to his defense, sort of. Most of them 
are taking the position that however odious, detestable, 
repugnant, abhorrent, repulsive, indefensible, dishonest, 
and, er, anti-Semitic he is, putting him in prison is the 
wrong way to deal with him.

     After all, Irving could have been effectively ruined 
and bankrupted by other means, such as calumny. Now he 
has been made a "free speech martyr."

     Once a man has been convicted, or even accused, of 
the ultimate crime of opinion, then no matter how many 
highly acclaimed books he has written, on whatever 
subjects, his entire life's work should go down the 
Memory Hole, and no decent person should pay attention to 
anything he has ever said. Nothing he says after 
transgressing against an essential article of the 
Official Absolute Truth could possibly be of interest 

     So far, only Christopher Hitchens, who has himself 
been accused of Holocaust denial, has pointed out that 
Irving has never actually denied the Holocaust. But who 
cares? Where there's smoke, there's fire. Irving has 
blasphemed against other sacred topics too. He has 
written three volumes on Winston Churchill, taking a 
caustic view of that legend. His scathing biography of 
Joseph Goebbels was quashed on the eve of its scheduled 
publication by its own publisher under intense pressure.

     The historian Richard J. Evans, who testified 
against Irving in his famous libel trial against Deborah 
Lipstadt, has written a book, LYING ABOUT HITLER, arguing 
that Irving has grossly distorted, even lied about, the 
evidence. But Evans admits that the Holocaust (a term he 
is uneasy with) has been abused, distorted, and exploited 
on the other side too, as Norman Finkelstein has charged 
in his book THE HOLOCAUST INDUSTRY. Nothing Evans says 
proves that even on the most severe view, Irving deserves 
to be called "dangerous," as Lipstadt has called him. 
Lipstadt herself now expresses qualms about jailing 
Irving for his opinions.

     "Dangerous" to whom or what? Lipstadt has argued 
that when the last Holocaust survivors are gone, nobody 
will be left to testify that it really happened. But you 
might as well argue that when the last eyewitnesses of 
World War II are gone, the world may doubt that it ever 
occurred. How can a trained historian speak such 

     It's not as if Irving, or anyone else, will ever 
have the last word on events of that war, or any war. 
What is called "historical revisionism" is the normal 
practice of the historian, as new data come to light, old 
views meet challenges, and new perspectives emerge, 
themselves having to face controversy. Evans's rebuttal 
of Irving is a good example.

     Is it really necessary to quote Milton, Jefferson, 
and Mill again on freedom of speech? Let truth and 
falsehood grapple, and all that. Even the cynic may agree 
that in the long run, the smart money is on the truth.

     The real question is why Irving's enemies think the 
truth needs a handicap -- the threat of prison -- in 
order to prevail. Do the Austrian authorities really and 
truly believe in the Holocaust themselves, or are they 
just trying to get the Hitler monkey off their own backs 
and onto Irving's instead?

     In Orwell's novel NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR Winston Smith 
is tortured until he is willing to betray his lover. As 
rats are set on him to chew his face, he screams, "Do it 
to Julia! Not me!"

     Having been blackmailed with the posthumous Hitler 
menace for generations, the Austrians and other Europeans 
are, in effect, "doing it to Julia." David Irving just 
happens to be the thought criminal to whom the buck can 
be passed; he is of course no danger to anyone, and 
everyone knows it -- even those who pretend he is 
"dangerous." But he is being punished as if he had 
incited riots.

     Nobody goes to prison for writing wholly fabricated 
memoirs of the Holocaust. No law against that; it isn't a 
"hate crime." It can even be lucrative! Finkelstein, 
whose parents were in Buchenwald, hardly overstates the 
case when he speaks of "the Holocaust industry."

     On the other hand, not a single Holocaust movie has 
been nominated for an Academy Award this year. Is 
Hollywood ignoring the danger? And if so, is that David 
Irving's fault?


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