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Denial

denial1,692 words

Denial is a very boring and deceptive movie about a legal case, David Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt, in which British World War II historian David Irving sued American Jewish historian Deborah Lipstadt and her British publisher for libel over allegations made in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust, in which she accused Irving of being a “Holocaust denier” and a bad historian who distorted history to conform with his ideological agenda, namely the vindication of Adolf Hitler. 

Of course, this being a movie, distorting history to forward a Left-liberal agenda is apparently fair game. For example, since people associate beauty with goodness and ugliness with evil, the frumpy, mannish, 50-something Deborah Lipstadt is played by the beautiful 40-something fashion-model/actress Rachel Weisz. (I seriously doubt that Deborah Lipstadt could jog, even to escape the SS, and she surely would not look as good as Rachel Weisz in tights.)

Deborah Lipstadt at the end of her trial

Deborah Lipstadt at the end of her trial

The evil Nazis and Holocaust deniers, by contrast, are uglied up by the casting department. David Irving, who was quite the ladies’ man, is played by a short, chinless, jowly, bug-eyed, thoroughly repulsive actor. The same is done to lawyer Martin O’Toole, who has a bit part (but not to lawyer Sam Dickson, whose name appears as Dixon in the credits).

Rachel Weisz as Deborah Lipstadt

Rachel Weisz as Deborah Lipstadt

In 1996, Irving filed his libel suit in Britain, where the burden of proof falls on the defendant. Thus Penguin and Lipstadt were forced to defend the truth of Lipstadt’s claims about Irving being a “denier.” And, to gild the lily, they argued that Irving was a racist and anti-Semite to boot.

spall-and-irvingIrving ended up representing himself in court. Little wonder that he couldn’t find an attorney. It was quite possibly the dumbest libel suit since Oscar Wilde sued the Marquess of Queensbury for calling him a sodomite in 1895. It was, of course, child’s play to prove that Wilde was a sodomite, just as it was child’s play to argue that Irving, by any reasonable definition of the terms, was a racist, an anti-Semite, and a Holocaust denier.

The real issue, of course, is whether being a racist, an anti-Semite, or a Holocaust denier are necessarily bad things. Irving, like Wilde, apparently wanted the court to rule that he was really not a bad person. But law courts are not the place to seek moral vindication. That is something that outsiders—whether homosexuals or Holocaust deniers—must have the courage to give themselves.

The one thing that Irving v Lipstadt did not establish is that Irving is a bad historian, which is probably why the defense focused on racism and anti-Semitism. I followed the trial closely as it unfolded and carefully read historian Richard Evans’ report on Irving’s scholarship. The long list of “errors” adduced by Evans consisted mostly of differences of interpretation rather than matters of fact. Evans and two research assistants went over more than 20 of Irving’s books with a magnifying glass and found only two or three actual errors of fact. One wonders if any other historian could acquit himself as well before such minute scrutiny. Even an amateur like me can find that many mistakes on a random page of William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

Unfortunately, Irving’s politically incorrect convictions, combined with Evans’ handwaving and quibbling, were enough to convict him in the eyes of the judge who decided the case. It is utterly galling that virtually every account of the trial claims that Irving was “discredited” rather than vindicated as a historian.

It is even more galling when one compares Irving’s work to the plodding, unimaginative, clichéd, and conventional writing of his accuser, Deborah Lipstadt. David Irving educated himself, authored more than 20 books, and made a modest fortune by dint of sheer talent and hard work. Lipstadt, by contrast, would never have been a professor or an author based on her modest talents alone. She was raised up and propped up by feminism, political correctness, and Jewish ethnic networking.

Moreover, Lipstadt’s Denying the Holocaust really is a work of defamation. It is every bit as tendentious as she accuses Irving of being. And Lipstadt was just one player in an organized Jewish campaign to destroy Irving’s reputation as an author because he lent that reputation to the cause of Holocaust revisionism.

Ironically enough, Irving was never a blanket Holocaust denier, and the Holocaust was never a focus of his work. But Irving’s historical spadework did raise questions and problems for the mainstream Holocaust narrative. These problems were no threat to honest scholars, but for Jews, the Holocaust is not a matter for scholarship but the object of a religious cult, and, as is typical with offshoots of Mosaic religion, dissenters are not to be tolerated or debated but to be defamed and destroyed, often with the most self-righteous, hysterical, and swinish verbal—and sometimes real—thuggery.

In one scene, Lipstadt and Robert Jan Van Pelt decry the desecration of the purported gas chambers at Auschwitz by Fred Leuchter, which rather begs the question, since Leuchter’s whole point was to determine if something sacralizing had occurred there at all. Later they pray over the ruins.

It is not hard to see why Irving wanted to squash Lipstadt—and the system that created her—like an insect. But it is hard to fathom the naivete of thinking that he could get justice in a law court. And even if he had won, Lipstadt was just one head of the hydra, whose control over the mass media and academia would have been unshaken. His reputation as an author would not have been restored. Mainstream publishers would not have come courting.

Granted, Irving had used lawsuits before with good effect to harass his enemies. But when Penguin refused to knuckle under or settle, he should have dropped the suit before it went to trial. Really, Irving should simply have accepted his downfall, counted his blessings, and continued to write books for the ages, knowing that history would judge him in a better light and that would be the best revenge. But that course proved psychologically impossible.

It is odd that not even Rachel Weisz and a sympathetic director and script can make Deborah Lipstadt seem like a likable character. At every step of the way, she kvetches and complains as people do her huge favors. (She must be hell on waiters.) Absurdly, she complains that Holocaust survivors are not being allowed to tell their tales at the trial. In one scene, yet another Jew who was not exterminated by the Nazis portentously rolls up her sleeve to reveal her camp tattoo and asks Lipstadt to promise that her voice will be heard.

When I lived in Atlanta, I always fantasized about going to one of Lipstadt’s occasional public lectures and asking her, “Professor Lipstadt, don’t you think it is time for Jews to stop being silent about the Holocaust?” You know very well that she would not say, “Actually, I think we’re doing an adequate job of talking about it.” Really, does a moment go by when somewhere on the planet, some Jew is not remaining silent about the Holocaust?

Lipstadt is probably still kvetching today about being misunderstood and unappreciated, having dined out for two decades on her trial, with a book deal, this movie, well-paid speaking engagements, and various awards for her “courage.” It really took a lot of courage to go up against the lonely and reviled David Irving with a six-million-dollar war chest, the mass media, and the full weight of the most privileged and powerful tribe on the planet behind her.

Irving has not fared so well. Like Wilde, he was ruined by his folly. Wilde was imprisoned, which broke his health. He died at the age of 46, not long after his release. The world will never read the books that he could have written if he had made a wiser choice and lived a long and productive life. Irving’s case ran from September of 1996 to April of 2000, when the judge ruled for the defendant. Irving was held liable for Penguin’s trial costs (£2 million, about $3.2 million) and eventually forced into bankruptcy, losing his home and access to many of his research materials.

Moreover, since his defeat, Irving did not accept his fate, buckle down, and focus on completing his life’s work before death or senility still his pen forever. Instead, he has thrown himself into ever more frantic and sordid attempts to relive his glory years when he was a millionaire author living and traveling in luxury.

Irving recorded it all in his online diaries: renting and being evicted from homes he could not afford; increasingly grueling and seedy tours of the United States in rented vans, speaking in restaurants and hotels; rows with waitresses, journalists, protestors, and movement people; creepy stalking behavior directed at young female ex-assistants; his repulsive attempt to shake down a German movie studio for “plagiarism” for using his research on Rommel (you can’t copyright historical truth); being thrown out of restaurants, hotels, and countries, etc.

More than 20 years have now passed since Irving filed his fateful suit, but for an author, the true measure of that time is all the books he has failed to write. Irving is almost 80 now. He’s basically wasted the last quarter of his life. He has betrayed his talent, his calling, his readers, and the cause of historical truth. This is a tragedy in the true sense, the story of a man with genuinely great talents undone by a terrible character flaw, in this case overweening vanity now curdled into bitterness. And, sadly, it’s too late to turn things around.

But Denial is not a tragic drama, a movie that evokes fear and pity for David Irving. Tragedy is an Aryan form of literature, after all. Instead, Denial attempts to be an extended exercise in typically Semitic wound-licking, ritualistic denunciation, and gloating over the suffering of tribal enemies. But it fails even in that ugly ambition. In truth, Denial is just portentous, boring, and sometimes unintentionally funny. Skip it, stay home, and read Hitler’s War instead.

 

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15 Comments

  1. Sartor
    Posted November 10, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    This is a remarkably objective review,especially since Irving’s situation naturally attracts our sympathy. Irving is a brilliant narrative historian and Hitler’s War a lasting achievement but you are right about the vanity.

    Irving is a “Scoop” historian. The primary impulse is always to make the scoop and win fame and publicity. In the long term this came at a cost. The claim that Hitler didn’t know about the holocaust and the failure to clarify data about the bombing of Dresden are perhaps the two most egregious examples. The first won enormous coverage and boosted sales but it also compromised his academic standing; the latter helped make possible the current deeply immoral sanitisation of the Dresden bombing. Lipstadt’s book was a paltry effort and the remarks about Irving didn’t merit a response. This time the lure of publicity proved fatal.
    As a result of the trial I started reading Irving’s website. There was much of interest but with the constant name-dropping, social snobbery and self promotion I soon lost interest. You are right “overweening vanity ” undermined a brilliant career. I harsh but intellectually honest conclusion and one of the reasons why I find CounterCurrents so excellent.

  2. R_Moreland
    Posted November 6, 2016 at 12:38 am | Permalink

    I first became familiar with David Irving some years back when reading “Hitler’s War.” Well, a few months ago I decided to sit down and watch the online videos where Irving is giving seminars. It was an interesting odyssey, one spanning a couple of decades. You can see Irving’s early bemusement over something called the “Internet” later turning into his exploitation of the cybernetic medium.

    Irving engages his audiences with varying degrees of hard headed facts, iconoclastic irreverence and down-and-dirty war porn. At times there appears to be a relishing of accounts of people being “machinegunned into pits,” contrasted with a childhood growing up in wartime England and its Airstrip One rationing. He also appears to appreciate the US First Amendment more so than most Americans. Irving’s odyssey also takes you through to Ernst Zundel, Germar Rudolf and the bizarre career of David Cole.

    Yet you have to ask, “what has Irving accomplished by all of this?”

    The real story here is not in the events which occurred in the territories administered by National Socialist Germany 1933-45. Rather, it is in the concerted efforts by governments today to criminally prosecute dissenters. It really is quite shocking to hear Irving et alia talk about being arrested, put on trial and spending time in prison for questioning the Official Party Line. What is even more disturbing, I think, is that this blatant censorship goes largely unremarked in the same countries which make great claims about “tolerance” and “freedom.” The occasional references in the videos to having to conduct seminars under relatively clandestine conditions stir up the specter of that midnight knock on the door.

    Which gets back to Denial being as slick a slight-of-hand as ever churned out by the Ministry of Truth. The movie shifts the onus of villainy away from the censors and onto the censored. It ignores the real issue here as to why censorship is the growing weapon of choice for establishments within the Western world, from university campuses up to the highest levels of government.

    There ought to be a real movie in this saga, one in which the hero is fighting for Free Speech. Perhaps some enterprising filmmaker could take this up.

    • cecilhenry
      Posted November 6, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      Something is wrong with any proposition that requires you to arrest people who DISCUSS it.

  3. cecilhenry
    Posted November 5, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Listen to the story of his daughter’s death and funeral here at 43:43- 56:00 minutes. Hear it all.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cAFpi4tHMM

  4. The_Brahmin
    Posted November 5, 2016 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Irving’s scathing diatribes against Churchill should be enough to ensure him a place in the Hall of the Brave.

  5. Petronius
    Posted November 5, 2016 at 1:54 am | Permalink

    The casting of the Irving/Lipstadt roles is hilarious! No Hollywood cliché seems too dumb…

  6. rhondda
    Posted November 4, 2016 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this. I didn’t see the movie, but I did notice in a trailer how ugly the actor who portrayed him was for Mr. Irving is quite a handsome man. Perhaps you are right about vanity. There was always something about him that just didn’t gel. I have only read one of his books. I have noticed here in Canada when someone tries to take on the Jews in a court of law, they always lose. It is very naive to think a court of law is objective. It is not about right and wrong, but presidence and dare I say the spirit of the times. Our judges are appointed, so that says a lot. Just who appoints them? They are recommended by other lawyers, not the public.

  7. Wilburn Sprayberry
    Posted November 4, 2016 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    Soon after the verdict I was watching a live C-span, “Book-TV” program featuring John Keegan, one of the top British military historians of the 2nd half of the 20th century. (His seminal work, The Face of Battle, was the first scholarly attempt to analyze the actual physical experience of soldiers in combat.) Keegan had been a witness for Irving, testifying about the high quality and innovative nature of Irving’s oeuvre. Answering the interviewer’s (Brian Lamb) skeptical questions, he made it clear he deplored Irving’s statements about the Holocaust, but maintained that Irving was nevertheless a “ground-breaking” historian who had done important work in WWII historiography.

    Later on the program took calls from viewers. Keegan was relentlessly attacked by caller after caller (all of whom sounded stereotypically Jewish) for his defense of Irving’s scholarship. It’s impossible to convey here the intense belligerence and vitriol of these people. Keegan was quite flustered by it all. Still, he maintained his position that Irving was a serious scholar with many important achievements. But a quick check of wikipedia shows that Keegan’s views count for nothing against the mighty Sarah, Deborah Lipstadt, and the prevailing judeogeist – Irving is now simply a Holocaust denier and discredited historian.

  8. Posted November 3, 2016 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    She fights her publisher and then she fights her solititor and her barrister then battles with the London Jewish community for the right to fight David irving in court. Then what does our scrappy and determined Holocaust Joan d’Arc do? She never takes the stand.

  9. Maple Curtain
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    “overwheening vanity”?

    Easy for you to say. Have you suffered like Irving?

    • Greg Johnson
      Posted November 3, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

      No, because I lack his overweening vanity.

  10. Margot Metroland
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Too bad this couldn’t have been made fifty years ago. There was an big actor who resembled David Irving, and could have played him very sympathetically, to a T: Jack Hawkins!

    I was in England when the trial was going on, and remember seeing Irving and his barrister and others on TV news snippets, and then watching Irving on Jeremy Paxman’s Newsnight the day the verdict came down in 2000. Irving did not look at all like a man defeated. He chatted amiably with Paxman, as though he was still making his way around some routine hurdles. Actually there was an appeal in the works and he still felt he had a pretty good case. No doubt another factor in his blasé attitude was that he’d been a celebrity and chat-show guest for decades; any publicity was good publicity.

    Trevor’s remarks about the time David Irving wasted on this futile action are very cutting, but need to be said. You get the idea Irving never really understood what he was up against, and imagined that the gravy train would go on forever.

  11. Jeff
    Posted November 3, 2016 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Irving told me he has 3 more books to write…

    Good article also.

  12. Posted November 3, 2016 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    You were really harsh on Irving in the last paragraphs i must say.

    • Riki
      Posted November 27, 2016 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      You meant the last paragraph but one? It must be that, yet the harshness is all fair and deserved, I shall say, being a reader and admirer of Irving’s book.

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