The Picture of Judge GrayGeorge Brewer
Not to anyone’s great surprise, David Irving lost his libel suit against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin books. Judge Gray, newly appointed to the bench in England, ruled that, although Lipstadt did libel Irving in her book “Denying the Holocaust”, these libels could not be considered as damaging Irving’s reputation, because Irving had no reputation to defend.
Of course, the destruction of Irving’s reputation was largely a result of the actions of those who supported the defense in this very trial, and not the result of any responsible work by either Lipstadt or Penguin with respect to the book being argued about. A solitary bit of doggerel found in Irving’s 30 million word private diaries, was sufficient to characterize Irving as a “racist”, while Irving’s propensity for making tasteless comments—comparing Auschwitz to the back of Teddy Kennedy’s car—were enough to earn him the dreaded label of anti-Semite.
In addition, a highly paid team of academic historians pored over Irving’s 30 books and found about a dozen errors of fact which enabled Judge Gray to determine that Irving had “falsified” historical data, while Irving’s self-admitted lack of expertise on the Holocaust made it possible for Gray to accept Richard Evans’ cooked definition of “denial” so as to label Irving a “Holocaust denier.”
Yet it must be said that veteran British historians were not overly impressed. Donald Cameron Watt, a prestigious professor emeritus from the London School of Economics dismissed what he regarded as the silliness of Irving’s public remarks. But he reiterated his praise for Irving’s historical work, and concluded that any historian would be “shaking in his boots” if he had to undergo the kind of scrutiny which Irving had undergone.
Even more memorably, Sir John Keegan, perhaps the leading British historian of our day, reprimanded Irving for his occasional loose-cannon rhetoric, while once again praising his work as a historian. Keegan dismissed Deborah Lipstadt with withering contempt as being: “dull as only the self-righteously politically correct can be.”
Even Eric Hobsbawm, the Marxist historian best known for his apologetics on behalf of Soviet communism, took the opportunity to suggest to the much junior Richard Evans that it was time to stop injecting political biases into our readings of twentieth century history.
Journalists as ever are oblivious to these expert opinions, and have, as Sir John might have predicted, chosen to interpret the trial according to their preferred morality play guidelines. Hence the media has been flooded with think pieces and editorials proclaiming the victory of truth over evil, the reality of the orthodox Holocaust story over the wickedness of Neo-Nazism, and similar hysterical statements which find no support in Judge Gray’s opinion.
It may be trite to say it, but while Irving lost his case it was not a defeat for Holocaust revisionism. It was not even a total defeat for Irving personally. Despite the clucking tongues of his critics, Irving was by no means the best representative for Holocaust revisionism, simply because Irving finds the subject of the Holocaust “boring” and by his own admission knows very little about it.
Nevertheless, the help he received from a number of revisionists made it possible for Irving to make several challenges for which the media has made no coherent response. Irving highlighted the absence of the holes in the roof of the main “gas chamber,” meaning that no poison could have been introduced into the space as the orthodox story has it.
Irving pointed out the similarity of the “gas chambers” with ordinary German gas tight bomb shelters—borrowing the thesis of Samuel Crowell, whose writings are featured on the CODOH Web site. He pointed out, accurately, that the main camp “gas chamber” was a postwar reconstruction. None of these points made by Irving were forcefully refuted by the defense experts, and they were carefully finessed by Judge Gray who, while not accepting them, could provide no convincing arguments for rejecting them.
Nor was Irving’s trial a failure on a personal level. Irving chose to litigate this matter, not so much for what Lipstadt had said in her book, but because of what her writings represented: a campaign conducted behind the scenes by a number of organizations in several countries with the express purpose of destroying David Irving’s career as a historian.
Again, Judge Gray chose to claim that the documentation did not prove Lipstadt’s involvement with this effort in the writing of her book. Still, the evidence Irving provided, and which is now part of the public record, speaks volumes about how zealots will work together to suppress Western ideals of tolerance and intellectual freedom. Irving’s critics have passed over all of this material in embarrassed silence.
Some try to compare Irving’s supposed folly in bringing this libel action to other cases in the past. His action, for example, has been compared to Oscar Wilde’s action in 1895, in which Wilde sought to defend himself against the charge of homosexuality by an obnoxious and barely literate member of the British ruling class. In the event, Wilde’s homosexuality was proved, he lost the suit, and not long after was imprisoned.
As a matter of fact, the comparison of Irving’s failed suit with the failure of Wilde’s is a more appropriate one than people might think. While Wilde’s trial was a personal disaster, his reputation as an author has never suffered, while his persecutors have disappeared into a well-deserved oblivion.
The only thing anyone remembers about the Wilde trial is that an intelligent, articulate, and sometimes outrageous British author was hounded to his death in an atmosphere of blindness and hypocrisy. As such, the Wilde trial was a mirror and a rebuke of late Victorian society, a picture that revealed the nasty underside of self-righteous appearances. So too with the Irving trial, and the opinion of Judge Gray: for beneath the clean and polished surface of the opinion, we can see the workings of corrupt interests and manifest intolerance.
Installed: 06/02/00, 10: 00 PM, EST