The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Victory for Irving
in Australia Free Speech Struggle

The Journal of Historical Review
Vol. 13, Number 6 (Nov./Dec. 1993

[Transcription note: for another perspective on Irving's failure to make headway in Australia, see the 1995 Australian Federal Court judgment, and the 1996 Australian Federal Court judgment, both of which denied him entry into the country. knm, 98/08/14]

Electronic Democracy

Although forced to postpone his tour by one year, Irving's message has been getting through nevertheless. The historian has appeared, via satellite, three times on Australian television during prime time, and has given countless live and recorded radio interviews. Dozens of articles, editorials, and letters to the editor have appeared in newspapers across the country, and letters by Irving clarifying his position have appeared in at least two major newspapers. (The Australian, May 24; Sydney Morning Herald, May 26.)

Generating the most attention, though, has been a specially-made 80-minute videotape cassette, "The Search for Truth in History," in which Irving effectively presents his views on the Holocaust issue and on the international fight for free speech. According to Veritas, Irving's Australian publisher, hundreds of the video were sold within hours of its release in May. "They started buying it late yesterday [Wednesday] afternoon and haven't stopped," reported Veritas manager Jan Pope. (Herald Sun, May 21) Altogether some 10,000 copies have been produced. ("The Search for Truth in History" is available from the IHR for $29, plus $2 for shipping. See the inside front cover of this issue.)

All proceeds from sales of the video are earmarked for the David Irving Legal Fighting Fund, which was set up to overturn restrictions on the historian's movements worldwide. (P.O. Box 1707, Key West, FL 33041, USA)

"G" Rated

When Irving's opponents learned of the video, they immediately contacted the Film and Literature Censorship Board (FCB). Any video imported for commercial purposes must have a FCB rating; without a rating it would be illegal to sell or screen the video for profit. Technically, the FCB can legitimately censor a video only if the contents are violent or sexually depraved. Just hours before the first screening was scheduled to start, the FCB issued the video a "G" rating, claiming it is "suitable for viewing by persons of all ages and contains no material that would distress or harm children." Five members of the ten-member Board voted to award the "G" rating, four voted for a "PG" rating, and one voted to ban the video entirely as being "not in the national interest."

The move was applauded by International PEN, a writers' group that earlier supported Irving's right to visit Canada. Likewise supportive was the Sydney Morning Herald (May 21), which editorialized:

This robust trust by the [Film Censorship] board in the good sense of the public is in the best interests of a workable and useful system of censorship. The point about censorship is that there should be as little of it as is necessary for the well-being of the community. There has been too much censorship by Australian authorities of Mr. Irving's strange views, though. It's becoming increasingly obvious that the Federal Government made a mistake when it decided, just before the last election, to ban Mr. Irving from Australia.

Israeli Snooping?

Interest in the outcome of the FCB vote was not limited to citizens of Australia. Israel's secret intelligence agency Mossad apparently bugged the room in which the FCB had met to discuss the Irving video. In an article headlined "Israeli secret agents linked with bugging," the Sunday Times of Perth (May 30) reported that "allegations of a covert bugging operation organized in Sydney by the Israeli intelligence organization Mossad are being pursued" by the leader of Australia's opposition National Party. "An espionage operation using a highly-sophisticated listening device is alleged to have been discovered" in the building where the FCB met. "There is speculation that the alleged operation is linked to the canceled visit and lecture tour by controversial historian David Irving, who claims Jewish suffering in the Holocaust has been overstated," the paper went on.

Pressure and Threat

Having failed to halt distribution of the new Irving video, Jewish groups next threatened and otherwise pressured the managers of hotels, halls, and theaters where it was scheduled to be shown. As a result, a number of screenings were canceled. In a letter to the Herald Sun (May 25), one reader expressed his disgust at this turn of events:

What a bunch of spineless yellow-bellies have so many Australians become! The slightest threat of protest and virtually the entire management of the proposed venues for the G-rated David Irving "The Search for Truth in History" video presentation, cave in.

At sites where the video was scheduled to show, groups of Jews gathered to protest. David Berinson, 23-year-old spokesman for one such protest, was quoted as saying, "It's clear that this sort of video, though I haven't seen it, and David Irving's statements have formed the basis of a lot of neo-Nazi action in movements in Europe." (West Australian, Perth, May 20) Jewish community leader Mark Leibler commented: "Australia is no place for the peddling of Irving's sick, racist hate propaganda." (Herald Sun, May 25)

Mick Coventry, owner of one establishment where the video was shown, defended his decision to allow the screening: "I don't care what is on the video, as long as it's not illegal." (Riverine Herald, May 26.)

Media Coverage

Australian media coverage of the entire affair has been intense, as noted in the May-June 1993 Journal. Front page headlines in the Shepparton News of May 21 and 23, for example, proclaimed in two-inch-high letters, "'Nazi'video on show," and " Irving ban foiled."

A hostile review of the Irving video in The Australian (Sydney, May 21) by Sam Lipski -- a "media commentator" and publisher of the Australian Jewish News -- carefully avoided any substantive arguments and instead relied on character assassination and misrepresentation to discount Irving's message.

In contrast to media coverage in other Western democracies of similar disputes, most Australian papers have fairly and accurately presented the views of Irving and his supporters. For the most part, the country's press reported that Irving regards the Holocaust story as "exaggerated," "overstated," and "open to debate." Assertions that Irving "denies the Holocaust" come almost exclusively from Jewish sources, which have routinely misrepresented other aspects of the issue.

The original plaintext version of this file is available via ftp.

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