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Wednesday, April 6, 2005

C-SPAN blows it again

by Lewis Regenstein

FACED with a deluge of protest over a planned airing of a talk by Revisionist Historian David Irving, C-SPAN's highly regarded weekend program BookTV cobbled together a program designed to appease its critics without appearing to cave into them. But in doing the latter, it failed at the former.

The result, aired on just a few hours' notice on Sunday 3 April [2005], was a bizarre, disorganized, unenlightening, one-sided presentation that should make no one happy.

Most puzzling of all, the show repeated some of the same inaccuracies and distortions that have been circulated about its original, now apparently spiked, program. Amazingly, C-SPAN, in effect, allowed misrepresentations to be aired about its own original program, of which it has possession of the only known tape.

I attended Irving's Atlanta event, and was shocked at the reports of it that were consistently misleading, inaccurate, and incomplete. I am even more shocked that C-SPAN's BookTV, one of my very favorite programs, would perpetuate such misinformation when it does or should know better.

For example, Sunday's airing allowed one commentator (who was not there) to repeat several falsehoods contained in an account posted on several websites, including those of the two protagonists at issue here, Emory Professor and holocaust author Deborah Lipstadt, and WWII author David Irving.

The crowd was said to be disappointingly sparse and was inaccurately put at just 30 , while in fact the room was almost full, with an estimated 65 to 75 people present.

David Irving was said to have stood up at one of Lipstadt's talks and offered her $1,000 for a copy of a Hitler Order on the holocaust, when in fact Irving stated in his speech that the offer was for blueprints for gas chambers at Auschwitz.

And the excerpts from and discussion of Irving's statements on the gas chambers was too abbreviated and confusing to make much sense and missed the point he was trying to make ( a point this writer strongly disagrees with). Most disappointing of all, C-SPAN forfeited an opportunity to clarify the facts surrounding this much debated issue and to refute Irving's casting of doubt on the existence of the gas chambers.

Indeed, instead of allowing Irving's critics to refute his arguments and discredit the "facts' he presents, the show instead presented a largely one-sided attack on Irving which he can justifiably characterize as unfair and biased, especially since he was given no opportunity to respond to the criticism of him.

Thus, one result of this program will be to generate some sympathy and support for Irving, curiosity about his views and why he is not allowed to present them on C-SPAN, and confirmation of his charges that the media will not treat him fairly .

This account is written not in defense of Irving but in disappointment that C-SPAN and Irving's critics have lost a chance to present a factual discussion of the issues that could have enlightened the public and refuted many misrepresentations now being widely made about the Holocaust.

Lipstadt knows what Irving said in his Atlanta talk, and she knows how to challenge his allegations point by point. Why doesn't she go on C-SPAN and do so, especially since she has such a huge advantage ? Or why doesn't C-SPAN find someone else to do this ?

If it can conclusively be shown, as I am certain it can, that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz and other camps, that Hitler did order and know about the Holocaust, etc., why for goodness sake doesn't someone get up before the cameras and say so ?

There was one shining moment in the C-SPAN program, when the Washington Post's T.R. Reid quoted Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis' famous adage that "If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence...."

Lewis Regenstein is a writer, author and amateur WWII historian.



Index to the media scandal surrounding Prof Lipstadt's attempt to silence C-Span and the history debate
The Irving - C-SPAN correspondence 

© Focal Point 2005 F Irving write to David Irving