London, Sunday, April 16, 2000
Irving's greatest triumph
by Andrew Roberts
IT sticks in the craw, but David Irving must be congratulated on winning his libel case.
How absolutely perfectly he played it from the opening blaze of publicity, through the 32-day closely-reported trial in which he abused survivors of the Holocaust as "liars", down the denouement when Penguin's vast costs of £2.5 million were awarded against him without any prospect of their being paid.
Sunday, April 16, 2000
It was Irving -- rather than the nominal winner Deborah Lipstadt -- who appeared on Newsnight, the Today programme (twice), Channel 4 News and the front pages of newspapers, to repeat yet again his utterly foul views.
Holocaust denial thrives on "the oxygen of publicity" and he ensured, at minimal cost to himself, that because of our absurd libel laws it received all it needed. The free publicity that this trial has generated for him and his views has been worth far more than could ever have been bought for the amount of the costs, especially since television and newspaper advertising, radio slots and billboard places are closed to him due to our laws against incitement to racial hatred. As the press photographers snapped him in front of a poster advertising his new Churchill biography, they ensured that it will sell far more copies than it otherwise would have done. Similarly, his internet website is being visited in far greater numbers than ever before.
Although it is true that Irving is likely to be broken financially, it turns out that his major asset, his flat in Duke Street, in central London, has been mortgaged no fewer than five times. "I was tired of living in Mayfair anyway," he told reporters, laughing all the way to bankruptcy. He did not fight this action over mere money anyhow, he rightly said, adding that he fought it over his reputation. But the truth is that he fought it to further propagate his repulsive political message, and the law has let him do that very successfully.
He understands this very well, of course. Yesterday he gloated to the Independent newspaper (which gave him another half-page interview):
"All these Jewish, indecently well-funded organisations are rubbing their hands with glee at the thought that they were destroying me. They had spent the last 30 years trying to silence me, and to their horror they open their newspapers today and I'm on the front of every newspaper with my views being quoted. I'm all over the world again."
Irving knows exactly how to show enough of the cloven hoof to get television producers salivating, yet not quite enough to get himself arrested for incitement to racial hatred. For a litigant-in-person, he presented his case in court very well. But why should Penguin Books have to wind up footing this vast bill for all his propagandising? Irving's five mortgagers, not Penguin, will get his flat.
Asked whether he had the funds to cover the costs of the trial if he lost, Irving frankly admitted "No". Now, I would dearly love to drive an Aston Martin, drink 1961 Lafite and own a Shakespeare first folio, but because I can't pay for them I can't indulge my desires. Why, then, should Irving be allowed, effectively at someone else's expense, to indulge in his greatest longing -- to have the world watch him demean Jewish survivors of the Holocaust for day after sensational day in court?
In the eyes of most reasonable people Irving's reputation as an historian would have been lowered by Mr Justice Gray's ruling, but it is not they upon whom he preys. Reasonable people don't visit his website, attend his rallies or buy his books anyway. Amongst his supporters, no fewer than 4,000 of whom contributed to his fighting fund, his stock has never been higher. Doubtless they will dismiss the judge's ruling as the bias of the British Zionist Establishment. The sad fact is that Irving's cause has been immeasurably advanced by his 32 days in court.
In adversity and nominal defeat &emdash; as his Führer discovered during his brief imprisonment after the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 &emdash; there is the making of a public relations victory. As Irving had no real reputation except as a researcher before this case, he had nothing to lose. His name is now recognised everywhere. Penguin and Prof. Lipstadt were right to defend the action, but this will ultimately be seen as a case that David Irving was allowed to win.