WHY I ADMIRE DAVID IRVING
Recently a colleague wrote me asking why I had expressed an interest in
historian David Irving who everyone knows was convicted in a British court
of being an antisemite, holocaust denier and blatant apologist for Adolph
Hitler. This is my reply.
Thank you for asking if I find anything of value in David Irving. I am pleased
to share my impressions of Irving plus my sources of information. I ask
that if you disagree with me you do so also on the basis of your own experience.
I am not a professional historian and my knowledge of what went on in WW
II is not extensive but for most of my life I have been trained in the methods
of rational thinking and can follow an argument like a rat terrier. I recognize
a good argument when I see one and have familiarized myself with most of
the rhetorical counterfeits of reasoning. I consider myself an expert truth-seeker.
As a scientist, seeking truth is part of my profession but I also consider
truthseeking a sport--I love to witness and participate in good debates.
My favorite pieces of literature are the speeches of Brutus and of Marc
Antony in Shakepeare's "Julius Caesar"--in high school I memorized
large sections of these speeches which I regard as some of the most beautiful
examples of persuasive speech in the English language.
You can imagine my delight when I read of David Irving's upcoming trial
in the SF Chronicle and in a long magazine article (Guttenplan in the Atlantic
Monthly). The prospect of an active debate by expert historians about some
of the most important historical events in the Twentieth Century hit me
like a jolt of acid.
I spread the news to all my friends about what I called "the thinking
man's O.J. Simpson Trial." Certainly the subject matter of this debate
is up there with the Lincoln-Douglass debates about slavery or the William
Jennings Bryan/Clarence Darrow debate about evolution. And as a sport for
truthseekers I envisioned the Irving trial as the modern equivalent of some
great boxing match like the Joe Louis fights my father & I listened
to on the radio in the 40s. I was not disappointed.
Jesus! I imagined that every newspaper in the civilized world would print
front page accounts from ring side of the Colossal Debate of the Century!
Was I ever disappointed to find that American newspapers maintained a virtual
blackout on the details of the debate--all that I managed to find in the
American press was the verdict!
David Irving is a British historian, author of more than 30 best-selling
books including "Hitler's War" and a recent biography of Churchill.
He is the son of a British Navy Commander and military historian and financed
his college education by working as a laborer in the steel mills of the
Ruhr Valley where he acquired a first hand knowledge of the German language
and its people. Irving is no stranger to controversy but was unprepared
for the disproportionate attack on his reputation he suffered after publishing
the Leuchter report (see below) which presented physical evidence that seemed
to cast doubt on the official holocaust story. Rather than responding to
Leuchter's evidence with reasoned examination and debate, Irving was assaulted
instead by an avalanche of defamation, demonization and dirty tricks which
continues to this day.
This relentless campaign to discredit Irving rather than debate him included
the publication of a book "Denying the Holocaust" by Deborah Lipstadt,
a scholar at Emory University in Georgia in which Lipstadt accused Irving
of, among other things, distorting history to exonerate Hitler, denying
the holocaust and consorting with the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah.
An edition of Lipstadt's book was published in England whose libel laws
require the accused to demonstrate that what they say is actually true.
Exonerating Hitler, consorting with terrorists and denying the holocaust--could
Lipstadt's lawyers actually prove that David Irving was guilty of all these
Television is banned in British courts so news about a British trial would
normally be filtered thru the eyes of print journalists--but not this time.
Thank Allah for the Internet! After each day's trial, the court presents
a transcript of the day's proceedings to each of the parties allowing them
to review their arguments and to prepare their next day's rebuttals. The
court supplies these transcripts in the form of floppy disks and David Irving
took the unprecedented step of publishing each day's raw transcripts on
his web site.
As an avid fan of free and open debate I was delighted with this open-handed
move on David Irving's part and was disappointed when Deborah Lipstadt's
legal team tried every trick in the book to prevent the transcripts from
reaching the public eye. For a few terrible days during the trial Lipstadt's
lawyers managed to stop Irving's postings--and on those days I almost wept,
deprived of my daily hit of high-class, industrial-strength intellectual
But then--Hooray!--Irving's legal arguments prevailed--and the transcripts
were released. Now I fortified myself with pots of black coffee and glut-read
myself silly on three straight days of Irving-Lipstadt debate, scrolling
down my computer screen long into the night, getting up only to pee.
In the daytime I would meet at the gym or in the Blue Sun Cafe with my friends
who were also reading the transcripts and we would discuss every detail
of the ups and downs of the Great Debate. Some of my friends who have spent
their lives studying history added their expertise to the mix and I shut
up (for a change) and listened, hoping to fill the many gaps in my education
concerning the details of the Second World War.
During the Irving trial I talked about nothing else. I must have appeared
to outsiders like a convert to Hari Krishna. But for intellectual sports
fans like myself and my friends, those days were pure bliss. Shouting and
arguing with my pals over each attack Irving would make, and the merits
of each punch and counterpunch was for me like living on Mount Olympus--I
felt truly in the presence of Gods.