David Irving: Holocaust Denier Update
by Richard Hughey
Since the defeat at his London libel trial against American author Deborah Lipstadt exposing him as a Holocaust denier, British antisemitic historian, David Irving, has fallen on hard times. After he lost his appeal, he was stuck with a £3,000,000 cost bill for the prevailing parties' attorney fees and litigation expenses plus court costs. When he failed to make a court-ordered payment on the tab, he was forced into bankruptcy. His posh flat in London's Tony Mayfair District was seized with all his personal property, which is now being sold off by the trustee in bankruptcy for a fraction of its original cost.
Irving, who once was a celebrity author in England and America who drove around London in a Rolls Royce, is now reduced to publishing his own books and selling them on the Internet and in the few remaining bookstores that will shelve them. He also makes an annual tour of the United States selling his books and begging for donations to fund his endless legal battles. The income from these trips is scant, but they put him in touch with well-heeled and sympathetic contributors to his "cause."
Irving's 2003 tour is illustrative. He began the circuit on November 16 in a SUV he rented from Hertz at the O'Hare Airport and on which he would ultimately log over 10,000 miles. After a stop in Chicago, Irving headed for Cincinnati where a local supporter had organized a Sunday evening meeting.
Irving's next stop was Nashville on his way to a meeting in Atlanta. He checked into an inexpensive motel there - like $29 a night. That evening he sent out emails to persons who had registered for his Atlanta meeting specifying the location of the talk. This is standard procedure on Irving's tours. It is designed to frustrate protestors who might disrupt his speeches. Some times it works, sometimes it doesn't.
Actually, protestors seldom show up at Irving's talks; more frequently they call hotels and restaurants where Irving has planned to speak and complain about his presence in the facility. More often than not, this results in a last-minute cancellation of a reservation and forces Irving to move his talk elsewhere.
The turnout in Atlanta was unexpectedly large: about seventy persons. Then it was on to New Orleans where Irving took a room in a hotel next to the railroad tracks. The steam whistle of a speeding freight train awakened him at six o'clock the next morning. The British author moved on to Alvin, Texas, where a disappointing ten southern Texans showed up for his talk.
After a stopover in Dallas, Irving moved on to Oklahoma City for a presentation at what he called "a seedy Asian-owned fleapit" where the fee for the conference room was only $30. The turnout surprised Irving, however; the shabby meeting room was filled with eager listeners.
The next day Irving sent out emails to registrants on his California list telling them where to go for the presentations. In Sacramento Irving was scheduled to speak at a Tony Roma Restaurant. When his supporters were notified the reservation had been cancelled, the location of the meeting had to be moved to a site 12 miles out of town. That is a frequent experience on the Irving lecture circuit. It would happen again and again.
After Oklahoma City, Irving's next stop was Albuquerque where he plunked down $109 for a bedroom and $150 for a conference room. There were also taxes and other costs to cover. Three persons showed up for the meeting.
Irving's next stop was Flagstaff where he had an evening talk and then had to drive to Phoenix for a breakfast meeting the next morning. He arrived in Phoenix at two-thirty in the morning "dead broke," he said, suggesting that his book sales had not been going well.
While in Phoenix, Irving got a call from his supporter in Las Vegas informing him that a "mole" had "infiltrated" his list. The caller tells him, "tomorrow's location has been cancelled after two days of harassment by Jewish bodies." Irving arrived in Las Vegas without notice of a new site for the meeting, but, on the good side, three "new friends" took him to dinner in the glitzy capital. He describes one as "steroid stuffed" and notices the others have tattoos and shaven heads. When his supporter was unable to locate an alternate site for the meeting, Irving booked the conference room at the hotel where he was staying. He set out for Los Angeles the next day.
When Irving arrived in Sherman Oaks at the restaurant where his meeting had been scheduled, the manager informed him that "he" had cancelled the reservation two days earlier. Of course, "he" had done no such thing. A private dining room was still available, however, so the talk went forward. The bad news was that not everyone paid their fair share of the bill for the meal and Irving was out of pocket for several hundred dollars for the affair. This was another common occurrence on the U.S. tours, and it would happen again.
Irving's next meeting place was somewhere south of Los Angeles. Costa Mesa is a good guess because he was introduced to the attendees by Mark Weber, the executive director of the Institute for Historical Review, an Orange County right-wing extremist think tank and publisher of pseudoscholarly screeds on Holocaust denial. Weber is the author of the propaganda tract, "Auschwitz: Myths and Facts." Irving described the audience as "rather under one hundred," which seems to express some disappointment considering the venue and the support of Weber and the Institute for Historical Review.
Then it was on to a meeting in a restaurant in San Francisco's financial district. The meeting room had a wide-screen television that Irving used to screen for the attendees a showing of Leni Riefenstahl's "Victory of Faith". The movie was a success but the viewers were $145 short in contributing to the dinner tab. But that wasn't all. Irving had locked himself out of his vehicle, and he had to stand around for an hour in a freezing rain waiting for a Hertz tow truck to show up and open the car.
In Sacramento Irving learns things are not going well in Seattle: there was another cancellation of the original location as a result of customer complaints. It seems a "lunatic right-wing Internet forum" (Irving's words) broadcast the location in a misguided attempt to increase attendance. Irving was offered a meeting room at the Nordic Heritage Museum, which he rejected as sounding too "Aryan." Since the Lipstadt trial, Irving has been trying to distance himself from the lunatic fringe on the right but he's been permanently marginalized by society by this time.
After the suburban meeting in the Sacramento Valley, Irving drives to Portland, Oregon, picking up a traffic ticket in Medford. In Seattle, a place is found for the meeting, and attendance is good due to the presence of supporters who drove down from Vancouver, Canada. Irving had always done well in Canada, but he was finally thrown out of the country and told not to come back.
The Seattle meeting went well except for one thing. Irving has trouble suffering fools, which raises the question of why he goes on tour as a right-wing extremist lecturer. In any event, a fellow in the front row got up and walked out of the room in the middle of Irving's talk. When he returned to his seat, the British author lectured him on proper behavior at an important meeting. The man flew into a rage at the humiliation and yelled at Irving that he had to pee. Then he shouted, "Humans have to pee, you too, Mr. Irving."
In Moscow, Idaho, Irving got into a beef with a hotel manager who informed him that his restaurant booking had been cancelled. When Irving told the man he wanted to speak to the hotel's lawyer, the manager called the police. Three police cruisers showed up, and one of the cops gave Irving a "Trespass Notice."
This Idaho switch was more than just annoying. Irving had paid for the meeting room reservation in advance. Fifteen people showed up for the Idaho lecture when a new site was found. One was a hostile university professor, another was a newspaper reporter, and a third was an undercover detective. Edgar Steele was also there, however. Steele is an Idaho lawyer whose clients have included Richard Butler, the chaplin and brigade leader of the Aryan Nations. Steele claims the Jews have ruined his practice.
While in Moscow, Irving receives word that protestors plan to disrupt his meeting in Denver if they find out the location. Irving practices his well-honed craft of disinformation. He "leaks" to a Moscow newspaper reporter that the location of the Denver meeting will be at a major hotel near the Denver Airport.
The penultimate stop in Salt Lake City was not good. Protestors showed up at the meeting and were passing out anti-Irving leaflets until the restaurant management shooed them away. Then calls started coming in to the place demanding Irving's meeting be shut down and the speaker evicted.
The site of the Denver meeting was in one of the city's suburbs. The location ruse worked and the Denver meeting went well for Mr. Irving.
Irving ended his U.S. tour on a high note of sorts. Nevertheless, the message seems very clear: Racism and antisemitism don't pay in this country. Unfortunately for Mr. Irving, the United States is the only place an antisemite like him can ply his trade. He's been barred from most European countries, Canada, and Australia. It seems ironic that the only country where someone like Irving can speak freely is a country he and other antisemites are convinced is controlled by Jews.
from the May 2004 Edition of the Jewish Magazine