Being a martyr

Holocaust denier David Irving – still banned from entering Australia – is soon to face trial in Austria over statements that denied the existence of gas chambers in Auschwitz. Having already lost a trial in 2000 against historian Deborah Lipstadt – he was exposed as a Holocaust denier and supporter of white supremacist ideology – he is again facing the courts for his outlandish views. (Interestingly, Lipstadt is calling for his release.)

His current trial is likely to be yet another episode in the sordid chapter of Irving’s life. Loved by neo-Nazis and disliked, though strangely respected, by some historians, Irving is likely to remain a controversial figure. His Austrian lawyer explains his position: “In a free society, it must be possible to be able to say something that is wrong and offensive without being criminally prosecuted.”

I agree and this is why I’ve always opposed both the Labor and Liberal government ban on him entering Australia. His views, while toxic, should not be censored because it merely creates a martyr out of a man who will always appeal to a tiny minority. I understand Jewish concerns over Irving but believe it’s much healthier in a robust democracy to allow such people to enter and remain on the fringes, rather than becoming media “stars” and supposed defenders of free speech.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

Site by Common