22 February 2006

David Irving

Not PC, No Right Turn and DPF have blogged on David Irving being imprisoned for denying the historical fact of the Holocaust. It is very simple, anyone denying the Holocaust is engaging in an exercise of intellectual fraud and almost certainly has an anti-Jewish, pro-Nazi agenda (although it astounds me that people who are anti-Jewish and pro-Nazi can’t explicitly defend something that their philosophy endorses). As No Right Turn has pointed out, there is little doubt that many in the Middle East will find his conviction hypocritical, though hypocrisy lies on both sides as we know from the vile antisemitic cartoons that appear in Arab papers.
It notable that the Daily Telegraph reports that “Dr Romain, rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue, said: "I welcome yet another public rebuff for David Irving's pseudo-historical views, although personally I prefer to treat him with disdain than with imprisonment."”
Exactly. None of us have anything to fear of the likes of Irving or anyone who engages in absurd historical revisionism. If we apply this law universally, Noam Chomsky should have been jailed for denying the mass murder and starvation that occurred in Cambodia under Pol Pot.
The challenge to free speech is to defend those that most offend you, most distress and whose views or publications you find the most vile – because you must.
On one side of the spectrum lies Galileo Galilei in the 17th century, as the Roman Catholic Church found it offensive that he dare challenge Ecclesiastes 1:5 by declaring the Earth orbits around the Sun, not vice versa. He fought for the right to free speech because of science. On the other is Larry Flynt, a far from delightful man, who fought for the right to publish photos of naked women in explicit sexual positions – he fought for the right to free speech because these were adults wanting their images taken and adults wanting to see them. Both men at different times had many wanting to shut them down – both had the right to say as they said, David Irving as vile as his writings are, is in the same boat.
The only way to respond to free speech you don’t like, is to use free speech itself to challenge it.
UPDATE: Removed reference to Japanese government attitude to Japanese colonial atrocities, see comments.


Charlie Tan said...

Although I agree with what you are saying, your examples leave a lot to be desired:

Chomsky never 'denied' Cambodian atrocities, he merely pointed out that they received more press attention than others due to U.S. strategic interest in the region. He also questioned the accuracy of that coverage. In fact the very nature of his experiment - to compare press representations of two similar atrocities in different strategic contexts- would have been meaningless if he had have relegated Cambodia to some other classification.

As for Japan, it's hard to see how a 'government' that has apoligised over and over again. For a handy summation of apologies to China, check out the following:


Charlie Tan said...

Whoops, should have read 'it's hard to see how a 'government' that has apoligised over and over again can be said to be 'in denial.'

Libertyscott said...

Fair point on Japan, although in not teaching accurate history to Japanese schoolchildren, there are still issues. Japan has confronted what it did during war, but not PRE-war as colonialists in China and Korea - how many Japanese know what went on? Contrast that to Germany which has fully confronted the Holocaust and the war, and no German child is left not knowing what happened under Hitler.

Chomsky did deny the Khmer Rouge atrocities - claiming that a few thousand deaths were understandable during a revolution, and then claiming that reports of over a million killed were grossly exagerrated and we should be wary of the "unreliability of refugee reports". He dismisses stories on the basis of who publishes them, claming that reports of mass murder in Cambodia were CIA inspired. He claimed the forced evacuation of Phnom Penh may have saved lives!

Charlie Tan said...


"Fair point on Japan, although in not teaching accurate history to Japanese schoolchildren, there are still issues."

Yes, there are issues, but they're a little more complicated than 'the Japanese government potrays a warped view of history in its school textbooks'. Japanese school textbooks must be approved by the Ministry of Education before school boards make a decision on their suitability from a selection of approved books.

In the past, the Ministry has approved or rejected books on the basis of historical interpretation, but this was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court sometime in the 1980s. Since then the Ministry has only been allowed to accept, reject or return for revision history textbooks whose facts are unsubstantiated. It has to remain agnostic on the question of interpretation. By the 1990s textbooks that showed the war - and Japan's role in it - in all its repugnance were the order of the day.

The recent kerfuffle was the result of a revisionist textbook that the Ministry approved essentially because it had to. I have a copy and the facts contained therein are accurate, but there are many glaring and inexcusable omissions. Yet the school boards have, by and large, rejected the books. Last I knew, only 14 middle schools out of around 10,000 were teaching from the books. Hardly frightening stuff.

'Japan has confronted what it did during war, but not PRE-war as colonialists in China and Korea - how many Japanese know what went on?'

A fair amount actually. Most of the credible scholarship on the Nanjing massacre actually comes from Japanese scholars. Most of the Chinese stuff is shit. Must be something to do with allowing scholars to say what they want. In any case, the apologies I linked to above cover the pre-war period. Some of them mention colonisation specifically, but it is a very Western perspective that contends that the 'war' with Japan started in 1941. The apologies are broad enough to cover the previous period of aggression - or 'war' from an Asian perspective.

Sorry to wank on at you about this. It's a subject which is quite close to my heart, having lived and researched in Japan for years, (and having visited academic institutions in China) such misrepresentations of the Japanese position make me a bit uptight.

As for Chomsky, I don't really have enough information to debate you. So you can have that one.

(More info on Japan
This is the nationalist book:

Libertyscott said...

No, I appreciate it a lot Charlie, a great insight which, as you know, is never fairly portrayed in most media. Happy to withdraw the statement as a result.