The BBC suggests that David Irving “might appeal“. I can’t imagine David Irving appealing to anyone… But in some ways, Mr Irving’s lack of positive qualities is unfortunate. It’s harder to stand up for free speech when the person being oppressed is some dickhead for whom you have no personal sympathy – whether they’re an ignorant Danish bigot or a Nazi-sympathising pseudo-historian.
Even though Mr Irving is awful, jailing someone for lying about historical facts is not a sane way to proceed – and rather than breaking with German-speaking Europe’s historical tendency towards authoritarianism, Holocaust denial laws strengthen and emphasise it. The right way to deal with harmless loonies like David Irving is to mock them and to expose their lies for the nonsense that they are – and this has already happened. In the UK, people like Nick Griffin and Abu Hamza who try and raise mob riots are justly punished; people who merely say wrong and stupid things are not.
One thing I can’t work out, though, is why Holocaust denial is treated so differently from other stupid and wrong takes on history. If Irving had been right, would that justify antisemitic attacks today? Of course not. Does the fact that the Holocaust did happen justify Israel’s behaviour in Palestine? Of course not. Would the President of Iran’s views on Israel be changed in the slightest if he believed in the Holocaust? Of course not.
Denying the Holocaust is like saying “the US Civil War didn’t happen! Union troops never burned the South!” It’s a nonsense claim, but not one that makes a blind bit of difference to anything (well, OK, you could reasonably expect a kicking in Mississippi/Tel Aviv, but that’s about it).