Fairness is not a cover for lies
US troops execute Nazi murderers
C-SPAN's Balance of the Absurd
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page A23
You will not be seeing Deborah Lipstadt on C-SPAN. The Holocaust scholar at Emory University has a new book out ("History on Trial"), and an upcoming lecture of hers at Harvard was scheduled to be televised on the public affairs cable outlet. The book is about a libel case brought against her in Britain by David Irving, a Holocaust denier, trivializer and prevaricator who is, by solemn ruling of the very court that heard his lawsuit, "anti-Semitic and racist." No matter. C-SPAN wanted Irving to "balance" Lipstadt.
The word balance is not in quotes for emphasis. It was invoked repeatedly by C-SPAN producers who seemed convinced that they had chosen the most noble of all journalistic causes: fairness. "We want to balance it [Lipstadt's lecture] by covering him," said Amy Roach, a producer for C-SPAN's Book TV. Her boss, Connie Doebele, put it another way. "You know how important fairness and balance is at C-SPAN," she told me. "We work very, very hard at this. We ask ourselves, 'Is there an opposing view of this?' "
This is the man C-SPAN turned to for "balance." It told Lipstadt that since it was going to air her lecture, it would do one of Irving's, too. As luck would have it, he was appearing March 12 at the Landmark Diner in Atlanta. C-SPAN was there for this momentous event -- although Irving's advance warning that cameras would be present apparently held down attendance. (His people seem to prefer anonymity -- or, in the old days, sheets.) Lipstadt was in effect being told that if she wanted to promote her book on C-SPAN (an important venue) she would also have to promote Irving. If she was to get a TV audience, then so would he.
In the end, Lipstadt had to choose between promoting her own book -- a terrific read, by the way -- and giving Irving the audience of his dreams and a status equal to her own. C-SPAN said it was only seeking fairness, but it was asking Lipstadt to balance truth with a lie or history with fiction. On this occasion, at least, Irving did what he could not do with his libel suit: silence Lipstadt. He may still appear on C-SPAN, but Lipstadt will not -- a victory for "balance" that only the truly unbalanced could applaud.
The Holocaust happened. No reputable scholar would debate a known white supremacist and liar on a matter of history. Shamefully, C-SPAN, used to dealing with American politics, shamefully mistakes fairness with basic honesty.
Free speech is a wonderful idea, and Prof. Lipstadt is exercising her right not to debate a man who lies like people breathe air.
David Irving is a liar and a short trip to the National Archives would prove him so.
We know the Holocaust happened because the American Army said it did. They found the bodies and the documents. Yet, Holocaust deniers keep whipping out lies to distort the truth.
C-SPAN should be flooded with calls and e-mails about this. Then, maybe some of their producers could go over to the Library of Congress and look at the wall length bound volumes of the written testimony of the Nuremburg Trials. When I was 17, I ran across them while working in the New York Public Library. I happened upon a train schedule for Auschwitz signed by Adolph Eichmann. David Irving cannot explain this document or the hundred of thousands of pages around it. In it is the meticulous details of how 11 million people were killed. Because the Germans were quite efficient killers and kept notes. Now, I know history has little value to Americans as a rule, but C-SPAN should be hammered for this.
Fairness is not rebuting truth with lies.
posted by Steve @ 12:00:00 AM