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]

The Free Speech Debate

Defenders of the orthodox Holocaust extermination story predictably deny that repression of dissident views on this question involves any issue of free speech. Most Australian newspapers sharply disagree, even though none seems to think very highly of Irving.

An editorial in the Perth West Australian (May 20) reflected what might be called a consensus view:

It is one of the measures of a truly democratic system that even those whose views and values are anathema to a majority of people are entitled to a fair hearing.

Indeed, the ultimate strength of a democracy rests on its ability to accommodate a free flow of ideas -- even ones which may be repugnant and which may be seen in some quarters as posing a danger to cohesion in the community...

The Federal Government's decision early this year to refuse a visa for an Australian visit by controversial British writer David Irving was an affront to principles of free speech.... [This] action has diminished the rights of all Australians.

...Perversely, by banning Mr. Irving, the Government and those who support the decision have given him an international platform from which to campaign. Canberra's heavy hand has ensured that Mr. Irving's warped material has been disseminated more widely and attracted more publicity than would ever have happened if he had been allowed into Australia this time -- as he has in the past.

Professor Paul Wilson, Dean of Arts at Queensland University of Technology, wrote in the Canberra Times (May 24):

... Mr. Irving has visited this country on two other occasions and there is no record of violence being perpetrated against the Jewish community as a result of these tours.

...To ban a person on the basis of what might occur as a result of what he might say establishes a dangerous precedent. Such a ruling could be used effectively against any international visitor wishing to enter this country who has opinions that conflict with the views of any religion, ethnic, political or special-interest group.

...The ultimate irony is that if David Irving is banned from our shores he can justifiably claim (as he already has) that free speech is threatened in Australia.

An editorial in the Canberra Times (May 20) opined:

The Commonwealth film censor has shown considerably better judgment in classifying British historian David Irving's video so that it can be shown publicly, than the Government showed in February by banning the man from Australia.

...Instead of attracting a small amount of critical press attention for his views, the ban has generated a public debate about his right to free speech. He has attracted respectable defenders (of his right of free speech, not of his history) who otherwise never would have allowed their names to be associated with his.

As is so often the case, if the Government had simply let events take their course his views would have been more than adequately exposed by the light of public debate.

The Melbourne Herald Sun (editorial, May 21) expressed a similar view, but upset a few readers with a reference to "that article of faith for post-war Jews, the Holocaust":

The David Irving affair is an assault on our basic democratic right -- freedom of speech. This newspaper holds no brief for Mr. Irving, a historian with widely contested, controversial views. But we believe that he has an absolute right to express them. Just as the many people who fiercely oppose him have an equal right to publicly disagree.

As we said in this column in February, the Federal Government was wrong to refuse Mr. Irving entry. We also believe Australian Jews have been mistaken in seeking to stop screening of a video of his lecture, passed by the Office of Film and Literature.

Central to Mr. Irving's unpopularity is his challenge to that article of faith for post-war Jews, the Holocaust.... But by campaigning to silence Mr. Irving, Australian Jews have succeeded in focusing unmerited public attention both on the man and his claims.

Side Issues

In the media discussion surrounding Irving's efforts to visit Australia, marginal side issues have sometimes obscured the larger picture. Irving's opponents, for example, have accused him of supporting Australian far right groups, of provoking outbursts of anti-Jewish graffiti, and of erring as an historian. In this last instance, one paper went so far as to claim that Irving was wrong in his views about Winston Churchill, and cited revisionist historian John Charmley's critical book on Churchill as proof. (For more about Charmley's highly critical biography of the British leader, see the March-April Journal.)

As part of the general debate provoked by the Irving ban, critical attention has been given to the issue of improper Jewish influence on the Australian government, the totalitarian tactics of those who would deny Irving the right to enter Australia, the pointless wastefulness of war crimes trials over allegations dating back to the Second World War, and the precious nature of free speech.

Another Victory

As Irving has pointed out, and as the recent events in Australia underscore, each new effort to censor or ban revisionists has ultimately proven to be another boost for the revisionist cause. Clearly, it is becoming ever more difficult for those who seek to monopolize history to rely on help from venal and repressive government officials. With active support from the growing worldwide revisionist community, each attempt at censorship provides yet another opportunity to broadcast the revisionist viewpoint to additional thousands who otherwise would never hear of it.

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This article was scanned by the System Operator of the "Banished CPU" computer bulletin board system, which is located in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.

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-Dan Gannon

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

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