A long time ago, when it was still possible to tell the difference – intellectually and politically – between the lunatic extremes of the left and right, Steve Vizard was king of live night-time television.
And in that long ago era, David Irving rode into town on his first attempt at peddling his poison to Australians. A friend of mine, a noted author and historian, was invited to debate him and refused. “Debating the Holocaust and Irving,” he said to me when I questioned his decision, will just validated him as a commentator on the subject.”
I didn’t like it. Leaving him unchallenged validated his arguments for want of opposition.
But whatever our opinions, we all tuned in to watch Vizard anyway, the grapevine having informed us that there were a couple of academics who had agreed to take on the denier. Sad to say, they were rather ineffectual. Irving may be obsessed but he is not a fool and in the cut and thrust of verbal debate, he was a slick and slippery performer.
What happened next happened over 20 years ago, but I will never forget the sight of Steve Vizard, tall and very lean in those days, coming onto the set in the full regalia of a high-ranking Nazi officer. He claimed to be very grateful to Irving for keeping the Nazi flame burning, for not allowing the noble work of the Third Reich to go undefended. If not for Irving, he told his audience — who were bemused at first, but increasingly overtaken by hilarity — we might all harbour the misconception that only 5.9 million Jews had been exterminated, in the Holocaust, not six. Furthermore, we could be hoodwinked into believing that those blue tattooed numbers on a whole generation of Jewish European forearms were a clerical system of recording and counting Jewish prisoners rather than the fashion statements they really were. Australians might even think that those films of mass graves, of skeletons, of hair shaved from Jewish scalps and eyeglasses collected from Jewish victims were Hollywood creations, because everyone knows Hollywood is controlled by the Jews.
Against this onslaught of irony and wit, all Irving’s responses were rendered absurd. He was laughed off the set, not in the least validated.
That was then.
These days, the air is murkier and we find ourselves debating “free speech” issues and engaging in the “fight against censorship.” But the telling of lies and the spreading of libel is not free speech and yet Irving is clever. By putting his lies and libel on film he has hoodwinked the left into mistaking mental refuse for a cause celebre. Poor Mr Wolstonecroft and his “transcendental fascism.” I wonder if he knew, on the eve of being shut down, that he was just another pawn in Irving’s ongoing game?
It was unfortunate that this debate arose simultaneously with that of Ken Park and the book about the little bear on the top of Ayers Rock. But I was fascinated that the editor of The Australian could even suggest that the anti-bear lobby had greater legitimacy than that of the survivors, their children and grandchildren. This Irving disaster is not about censorship, even though it would be wonderful to be able silence the monster forever. It is about how the Steve Vizards of this world have disappeared from the public face of Australian art, entertainment and from its intellectual platforms altogether.
These days we have people defending the right of liars to lie.
I am the daughter of survivors. I admit this colours and has always coloured my worldview. My parents met in Auschwitz – the story of their meeting was the first love story I ever heard; the story of their survival, my first adventure story. I am named after my great grandmother who did not survive. It is true that she never saw a concentration camp, and I suppose Mr Irving would argue that this delegitimised her death as a victim of the Nazis, especially as they never laid a hand on her.
You see, she heard they were coming and she knew their modus operandi. Eighty-four years old, but sharp and clear and unsentimental. Strong, too, my father tells me. She was not ready to die. But she knew she didn’t stand a chance. She bought drugs and had herself injected with them. The first Jewish overdose? I wear her name with pride.
If they had asked me, I would not have taken Wolstonecroft and his pathetic little film festival to court. If they had asked me, I would have called my friends and family together and I would have had us make one hundred flags which were each so big that they needed at least four people to hold them high. And, when they showed the film, I would have gone and stood outside with 400 protestors and lifted high 100 flags on which would have been painted 100 black swastikas against their all too familiar background of white and red.
Thus I would have reminded all who entered here that this is the environment we risk creating when we are so ready to listen to lies and call them “the right to free speech.”
But, Jews and gentiles alike, they didn’t ask me. They went to debate unvalidatable and achieved nothing, thrown out of court and saved from humiliation only because Jews owned the building and shut it down before Wolstonecroft could perpetrate his Antipodean version of the atrocity. So how are we now wiser and safer? What have we learned? Where were the comedians and the intellectuals amongst us when they were needed? I will not light any more candles as a victim, child of victims, and hold silent vigils or be party to an effort that begs a judge to be kind and sympathetic to my poor victimful cause.
Instead, I would like to think I could call on the brains and the humour hard wired into our people over millenia, and to that of my fellow Australians, to fight this fight with the most effective weapons available. Otherwise what is my fate? To be subject to Wolstonecroft’s “transcendental Fascism” while yet another failed court-case gives him the publicity he needs to go laughing all the way to his transcendental bank.
What would happen, I wonder, if Irving had tried to peddle a film about the “lie” of Japanese abuse of Australians in POW camps? What if he could “prove” those camps never really existed – or that no one had actually died in them? What if he had “facts and figures” to back his claims? How would such a film have been received? Would Wolstonecroft have called on “transcendental Imperialism” to justify the screening of such a lie? Would the families of the servicemen and women have sat by quietly and allowed him to do so or would they have called Wolstonecroft’s lie for horror that it was, demanding an apology and a retraction?
In 2004, Richard Wolstonecroft was a self-described “transcendental fascist” who used the anti-censorship strategy to allow his self-publicity and profiteering. Last year’s MUFF was an attempt to project a David Irving film and live phone interview with that revisionist, holocaust denial fascist. This was prevented by a mobilisation of anti-fascists. Neo-fascist Director, Richard Wolstonecroft: ‘real-life violence’ is objectionable “not from any moral perspective” but because “real life violence is the ultimate in bad manners. It is rude.” He also openly admits to admiring Hitler, Mussolini and Mao all of which, in my book, makes him very rude indeed.