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David Irving featured on Channel Four

An Independent Mind

On 8th December I attended a preview screening of An Independent Mind at the Royal Society of Arts, followed by Q&A with the director, Rex Bloomstein, chaired by a Channel Four News journalist. The film was broadcast across the UK on Tuesday 9th December at 10 pm on More4.

A UAF mob had assembled outside the RSA's fine premises: one or two were even allowed in, and though on what for them counts as best behaviour made fools of themselves by distributing leaflets linking David Irving to the BNP.

The Great Room of the Royal Society where An Independent Mind
was screened on 8th December

Though Irving's case dominated the question time, happily the vast majority of the audience agreed that it was entirely reasonable to include an interview with Irving in a film about free speech issues.

David Irving at the Oxford Union - an inconvenient champion of free speech
Both for the producers of An Independent Mind and for the Oxford Union (above)
David Irving has proved an inconvenient champion of free speech

Irving is the last of eight cases to be addressed in the film, the others include an African singer, a Syrian communist poet, an Algerian cartoonist, a Guatemalan human rights activist, a troupe of Burmese comedians, a Chinese sex blogger and a Basque nationalist band (the latter something of a cross between Skrewdriver and an Irish republican band).

Bloomstein's style is to let the interviewees tell their stories without too obviously heavy directorial intervention. The resulting film displays the many facets of the free speech argument. His own position (as expanded during the Q&A) is that free speech should be allowed except where there is an incitement to violence or other serious crime. In reply to my question he made clear that he was worried about the encroachment of the European Arrest Warrant system dismantling traditional British freedoms, and potentially allowing European censorship laws to be applied in the U.K. without even being debated in our Parliament. He added that (as a Jew himself) he had once favoured the criminalisation of "Holocaust denial", but his work as a documentary film maker had convinced him of the importance of free research and debate.

Rex Bloomstein, producer of An Independent Mind with
twistpeak exposé documentary maker Lady Renouf at the Royal Society

At the end of a question time which had been dominated by the Irving segment of the film, Bloomstein was pressed further on the question of whether "racism" cuts both ways, and whether as a man who had made a film about the history of "anti-semitism" he would also make or contribute to a film about the history of "anti-gentilism" and the "racist" implications of the Hebrew scriptures' division of the world between Jew and gentile. Although Mr. Bloomstein made the film The Longest Hatred (in collaboration with Robert Wistrich) about anti-semitism, he indicated that he didn't know enough about the notion of "anti-gentilism" and suggested that the questioner should make the film! He appeared true to his publicly stated principles and agreed that he would be happy to view such a film and even give a foreword. The questioner pointed out that while David Irving would certainly not share these perceptions, many of the news items and perspicacious comments detailed on his website would seem in her view to amount to a chronicle of anti-gentilism.

Rex Bloomstein's earlier film The Longest Hatred
focused on the notion of anti-semitism

Though a self-identified Jew himself and appearing unfamiliar with the concept of "anti-gentile", Mr. Bloomstein seemed to acknowledge that it was not in principle "racist" to dare to address such subjects, or to set "anti-semitism" in such a context. (The questioner asked the audience of 150 in the Royal Society's "Great Room", appropriately decorated by James Barry's vast and celebrated paintings The Progress of Human Knowledge and Culture, to witness this unusual and frank public commitment to free enquiry and to participation in such a project.)

Throughout its 90 minutes An Independent Mind avoids cliché and opts for unusual illustrations of the free speech point rather than hackneyed tales. Perhaps the most unusual are the Chinese, Spanish and British examples. In choosing to focus on a sex blogger rather than the usual "dissidents", Bloomstein offers a seldom seen perspective on Chinese "modernisation", though I couldn't help thinking that this story actually showed how China is about forty years behind Europe in its sexual politics, with the central character seriously imagining that her online promiscuity was some sort of subversive challenge to patriarchy.

The Basque nationalist band seemed to push the idea of free speech to its limit, and many viewers will suspect that the Spanish authorities have a good case in seeing them as apologists for terrorism.

Though his film featured an interview with a group linked to the terrorist group ETA responsible for the above attacks, protests against Bloomstein have focused instead on his interview with British historian David Irving

After a colourful world tour on the margins of free expression, Bloomstein consciously presents Irving in a stereotypically English and "respectable" setting, as though to pose the double paradox: this 70-year-old public schoolboy (whose early rebellion against authority involved refusal to wear school uniform, making him an unlikely "neo-nazi") is simultaneously a product of the establishment and a dangerous anti-authoritarian revolutionary, in contrast to Theodor Adorno's infamous stereotype of the "authoritarian personality". The most awkward challenge to liberal ideas of freedom are close to home, not among Central American death squads or Middle Eastern torturers.

I felt that one questioner at the RSA missed the point by suggesting that this was a disappointingly downbeat, "grey" ending after a lively, cosmopolitan hour and a half. It is surely no accident that Bloomstein chose to end his film with a segment on Irving, who very appropriately is given the last word. In answering questions from both critics and supporters of Irving's inclusion in the film, the director appeared somewhat awestruck by his subject's determination and the scale of his archival excavations.

David Irving on his way into a Viennese court before his jail sentence in 2006

Many revisionists among others will be unhappy with the emphasis of Irving's comments, both what is said and what goes unsaid. As far as Irving's comments on the Holocaust are concerned, we must await his forthcoming book on Himmler to discover precisely how his views have evolved since the comments about Holocaust witnesses in 1989 which led to his arrest and incarceration in Austria sixteen years later. His attitude in 1989 is well summarised by his introduction to the first Leuchter report published that year, and available on Irving's website.

The central (and for liberals very awkward) question remains: why should modern European countries criminalise opinions, an act which puts them in principle (if not yet in full brutal practice) on the same side as the world's most notorious banana republics.

Victory for Exactitude

Neturei Karta HQ destroyed by arson
Neturei Karta attacked
arson destroys dissident Jews' HQ

Ernst Zundel
Ernst Zündel - five year jail sentence

Robert Faurisson
Robert Faurisson - new translation of Tehran interview

Germar Rudolf
Germar Rudolf - 30 month jail sentence

David Irving
David Irving - speech to Oxford Union breaks anti-revisionist taboo

Lady Renouf's DVD Jailing Opinions

The background to the worldwide persecution of Holocaust revisionists is examined in Lady Renouf's new DVD Jailing Opinions, reviewed here.

Further information about Ernst Zündel's battle for truth and justice can be found at the Zündelsite

Free Ernst Zundel

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Article 19: Universal Declaration of Human Rights

2008 is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Independent filmmaker Rex Bloomstein has produced An Independent Mind to mark this anniversary.

The film was broadcast in the U.K. on More 4 at 10 pm on Tuesday December 9th.

Tom Sutcliffe, TV critic of The Independent, commented:

Rex Bloomstein's An Independent Mind, shown in the True Stories strand, was a tribute to backbone, too, profiling eight individuals who, whatever you thought of their views, had shown a certain resilience in expressing them. It opened with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that "everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression", and it implicitly defended that right without dodging the fact that there's nothing in the text that says the opinions must be nice or tasteful.

...Most significantly, he ended his film with David Irving, imprisoned in Austria for speeches about the Holocaust and Hitler. He predicted on screen that this was a decision for which many of his friends would criticise him, but he was absolutely right to do it. Even for offensive opinions, contradiction is the cure, not gagging.

"Total victory" in Töben case

The Australian on Töben's victory

Isi Leibler:
Rethinking prosecution of Holocaust denial

Timothy Garton Ash: Freedom of historical debate under attack by the memory police

Geoffrey Alderman: Denial is not a criminal matter

Index on Censorship

Avraham Burg interviewed: Holocaust is over

Mark Weber: A new assault against free speech

Appel de Blois - Le Monde publishes historians' freedom appeal (French)






































































site created February 14th 2007 - latest update December 9th 2008

email the web editor peter@jailingopinions.com