Be afraid...

Published by: RichardB on 30th May 2018 | View all blogs by RichardB

Newspapers are dying. And the internet is suddenly there... It's all to do with this phenomenon of people not trusting what they are told by their governments and newspapers. They seek around to find some remedy to this. And they find me. I am part of the remedy.


Good news, eh? Well, we all know that politicians lie, that newspapers distort and selectively report facts to suit their political agendas. So if people are ceasing to believe them and casting around for alternative sources of information, that's got to be good, right? Shouldn't we be giving the man who said this a round of applause?


Oh, but wait a minute. The speaker of these pearls of wisdom is David Irving, whose 'history' books have been proven in a court of law to be full of distortions and lies, and to have been written not to present the truth but to further his own (rather unpleasant) political agenda. David Irving, who maintains that Adolf Hitler was a pretty decent fellow really, and that the genocide of six million Jews is propaganda, a myth. And as for the internet, let me tell you a story.


Four years ago, my curiosity piqued by something I'd read about D Day, I googled a particular detail in Dwight D Eisenhower's life. I was surprised to find that one of the links on the first page of results directed me to a vitriolic character assassination on a neo-Nazi website, claiming that Eisenhower was 'a Jew-lover.' That this result should have had such high priority in a search concerning a man who had so many other claims to fame – such apparently minor matters as having been the supreme commander of the Allied invasion of Europe and twice President of the United States – I found deeply disturbing. I didn't even understand what had provoked that rant. The man was a conservative, a military man, the sort of person that right-wingers usually like.


I went looking for an answer and  learned that, after Allied troops had discovered the death camps, Eisenhower insisted on going to see them for himself, and that photographs be taken. He didn't want to: he knew he'd be sickened, that the photographs would be the stuff of nightmares, but he felt that it was essential. With rather awe-inspiring prescience, he'd already anticipated that people would try to deny the truth about those camps. He wanted hard evidence, and to be sure he knew what he was talking about. 


This seems to have been what was behind the hate. Because oh no, none of this is true, is it? Those enlightened souls who shun establishment lies to seek the real truth know that Eisenhower, in the pay of the international Jewish conspiracy that pulls secret strings all over the world, betrayed his race by telling lies and faking photographs to back them up, to assist the big Jewish lie about the Holocaust. From which it follows that every one of the death camp survivors who told his or her story was a liar.


This is the sort of bilge you can find any day on the internet without even looking very hard. It certainly wasn't what I was looking for. And this was four years ago. It hasn't got any better since. It's got quite a lot worse.


A YouTube posting of the trailer for 'Denial', the film dramatising the famous trial in which the judge concluded that Irving was a racist and a liar, has attracted over four thousand comments, and there is hardly a dissenting voice in the strident chorus of support for Irving. The film is apparently nothing but pure pro-Jewish propaganda, despite the inconvenient fact that much of the dialogue in the courtroom scenes was taken verbatim from the trial transcripts. The judge had been got at by the international Jewish conspiracy, and the verdict was a mockery. Irving is a hero, a martyr persecuted for bravely telling the truth. This, in wilful ignorance of the fact that Irving wasn't actually being prosecuted at all: it was a private prosecution for libel brought by Irving himself, and (like Oscar Wilde) he lost the case and brought himself down in the process.


That isn't even the worst of it. Such comparatively sober comments are far outnumbered on the page by offensive outpourings of unfocussed anti-Semitic hate. There are gloating, sick jokes about the death camps. I soon gave up, too revolted (and depressed) to read further.


But Irving is right about one thing. The internet is indeed taking over from the established media. God knows I am no fan of politicians or the press, but it seems to me that we are exchanging one evil for another that is worse, much worse. Because, unlike the media, there are no restraints on the net. Anyone with internet access, no matter how deluded or misinformed, can put up anything they like. There are no guidelines, no checks. Facts are irrelevant to such people: anything that doesn't square with the agenda being promoted is dismissed as fake, the product of an elitist / liberal / Jewish / Islamic / multicultural / whatever conspiracy to keep the truth from the people. And this stuff is being swallowed wholesale, it would appear, from the ever-increasing flood of bigotry and ignorance out there. People disenchanted with their traditional sources of news and opinion are turning to the internet, and they are finding drivel and hate. And some of them are believing it.


And there is no answer to it, no balance. As far as I can see the left's presence on the net is negligible in comparison. It's a one-way traffic. What does this say about the way our society is heading?


Well, I suppose it depends a bit on your political persuasion, but to my way of thinking David Irving, far from being 'part of the remedy,' is part of the problem. Not that he cares. Although the court costs of that trial bankrupted him he has since received enough in the way of donations from supporters to live in a mansion and drive a Rolls-Royce. Despite his academic standing having been destroyed he is unrepentant. He calls his website 'Real History.' (It has been my experience that any website using words like 'real' or 'truth' in its title is more than likely to contain anything but.)  The home page displays pictures of Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Josef Goebbels and Reinhard Heydrich (aka the Butcher of Prague), the driving force behind both the Holocaust and the Gestapo, a man of such cold-blooded ruthlessness and remorseless brutality that Hitler himself called him 'the man with the iron heart.' 


Irving boasts that his internet presence (there, on YouTube and elsewhere) prompts lots of correspondence from kids of thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, just the age at which adult opinions are starting to form. He makes a point of answering every communication, in the cause of truth and enlightenment.



  • Daedalus
    by Daedalus 2 months ago
    Fascinating blog as usual Richard. I think there's a lot to be worried about and a certain amount to be hopeful for. Please forgive the following being a bit of an essay, but you've raised a lot of interesting points.

    I've worked in the media and in media relations for a long time, and I like to think I have a pretty good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the traditional media. By and large, professional journalists are trained and encouraged to think critically. There are some extremely good journalists out there. On the other hand, the opportunities for developing in the profession are shrinking all the time. It used to be that a graduate or even a clever school leaver could get a job on their local rag, learn on the job, and within a few years, if they were any good, move up to a national. Over the last 20 years or so, however, local papers have closed, merged and shrunk at a frightening rate. A lot have lost their independence, getting absorbed into one of the huge groups of local titles - Newsquest, Trinity Mirror etc. My experience with local papers in my last job was mixed. One group of titles was terribly under resourced, staffed by green journalists who had no guidance from experienced colleagues, were under pressure to treat everything sensationally (and toe the party line), and little time or encouragement to really get under the skin of an issue. Another was more mixed, with poor editorial control and disappointingly political approach, but some good journalists within it, fighting the good fight. Another was pretty good, although I had to work on them really hard to give us a fair crack of the whip. I felt sorry for the health correspondent there as she was bloody good and seemingly had no prospects for decent progression. More and more local reporters were going into PR rather than continuing with journalism.

    The less obvious bad side of this is that the national media is no longer being fuelled by a healthy flow of young, hungry reporters from the regions bringing different ideas and experiences to the table. I suspect this is manifesting itself in the increasing groupthink exhibited by the national media. OK, so there are basic differences of political outlook across the media, but the spectrum is remarkably narrow when it comes to what the media establishment is prepared to take seriously. Anything outside those narrow bounds is, with few exceptions, treated with contempt. This means that the news people are receiving - what is and isn't reported, the prominence it is given, and the way it is framed - serves a relatively narrow worldview. Moreover, a tendency to treat 'balance' as a boxticking exercise rather than as a genuine effort to reflect all sides of any given story, has in my view hampered objectivity.

    Still, my view is that within a stagnating industry there are still some excellent bastions of proper journalism out there. One example is the journalist Stephanie Finnegan of the Leeds Examiner. Stephanie is that rare thing these days, a sitting court reporter employed by an actual newspaper, not a freelancer or agency employee (who tend to have a very 'say what you see' approach and rarely have the time or inclination to get under the skin of a long term case). Stephanie was reporting on cases in Leeds Crown Court when the English Defence League-founder and racist scumbag Tom my Robinson (think David Irving with 4/5 of his braincells removed) appeared doing a live broadcast to his bigoted followers on social media. Robinson, if you've come across him (and if you haven't I envy you) is one of those dodgy sources of online hatefulness and conspiracy theorising similar to those you mention. He likes to style himself a journalist, but he has none of the training of his professional 'colleagues' nor the most cursory commitment to objectivity. He had been given a suspended jail sentence a few months ago for breaching reporting restrictions on a court case that was linked to a series of trials. Robinson's knuckledragging followers act as though these restrictions are an infringement of free speech. They are not - they are a necessary means of ensuring that defendants get a fair trial under the crucial principle of presumption of innocence. These aren't set in stone - they may be challenged by the media, and if there is a good argument for removing them, a judge will do so. And they are never applied forever, just until a case is concluded. Robinson breached the restrictions on a case being heard at Canterbury crown court, was tried, and given a suspended prison sentence - which is to say that he was not given any actual punishment but it was understood that if he committed a similar act or another offence within the period the punishment was suspended for, he would go to prison. Lo and behold, he turns up at one of the related cases at Leeds crown court and starts livestreaming, filming defendants as they arrived, and talking about the case in full hearing of people coming and going from the court, some of whom may well have been jurors. He was arrested under suspicion of breach of the peace, then charged with contempt of court for breaching the reporting restrictions mentioned above. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 13 months in prison.

    Here's where things get interesting. The judge who heard Robinson's case applied reporting restrictions to it, preventing details of his conviction from being discussed in the media. The reason was the cases that Robinson had attempted to 'cover' and the possible threat to a safe conviction. Stephanie Finnegan had attended the court but could not say anything about it. Meanwhile, the internet exploded with supporters of Tommeh blasting at the injustice of it all. The story became so widespread that some mainstream media even began to report it without realising that there were reporting restrictions in place. Here, Finnegan (supported distantly by The Independent but mainly through her own actions) made an application to the judge to lift the reporting restrictions.

    This was successful. She then wrote about the conviction and published it.

    In reporting the case, finally, Finnegan brought down on herself and her paper a very particular kind of storm. The same people who had, hours before, been railing at the injustice of reporting restrictions began to attack the journalist who had successfully overturned a different set of restrictions and made expression a little bit freer. She was subjected to the most vile and disturbing abuse for doing her job. To her credit, she engaged with the most sensible criticism, explaining why she had done what she had done and revealing the excellent knowledge of media law that had underpinned her career. All the while putting up with veiled and not so veiled threats to her and her family, people digging up information about her and presenting it threateningly, together with all the stuff you'd expect about being part of a conspiracy to destroy the UK from within, replacing the unwritten constitution with what one supporter colourfully described as 'Muslamic, Iraqi law'. One of the chief areas of criticism/abuse was that the news story had included part of an address. This is standard practice in reports on court cases (everyone will have seen reports referring to 'Mr Jones, of Acacia Avenue, Nowhereton') because it's important to distinguish the defendant from anyone else of that name. The address is read in open court and can be reported unless there is an application to withhold it. No such application was made, and it appears that Mr Robinson gave a false (a real location but where he hasn't lived for years) address anyway. This didn't stop the utter fury of the man's disciples, who were convinced that an attempt on his life would be made by his enemies (apparently forgetting that he would not be at home for several months - or that he appeared to have thrown the current residents of that address under the bus). Finnegan's nose for the story, her tenacity, specialist knowledge and, most of all, her courage, are, I suspect rare things in the media today, at least all in one person.

    But, to cut a very long story short, I chalk this one up as a victory for good, old fashioned professional journalism and a defeat for extremist propagandism. It gives me some hope.

    One final point. After the mainstream media proved such a disappointment in covering developments in politics over the last few years, a number of new sources sprang up to fill a perceived gap in the spectrum of reporting from the traditional media and the newer, more partisan online outlets like Breitbart and Order-Order. Some of these are better than others - I think The Canary has proved a little disappointing in its commitment to objectivity, but Evolve Politics and Novara Media are pretty good. The Skwawkbox gets mixed reviews but I've followed it since it was a bloke called Steve Walker blogging about the 2010-12 health reforms and have a soft spot. For me, they have started in the right place, freely admitting that they have a certain world view, but trying to report the news as they see it - too much these days is done the other way round, trying to find stories that suit a certain perspective and twisting them, sometimes out of all recognition, to fit.

    To be frank, I don't think it would hurt anyone to be critical of what they read, wherever they read it. Always ask 'cui bono?' Not to say don't believe facts as reported, just that the facts that have been chosen and the words chosen to describe them may make a big difference.
  • Daedalus
    by Daedalus 2 months ago
    Well if that doesn't dissuade anyone else from replying, I don't know what will. Sorry!
  • mike
    by mike 2 months ago
    Dear Richard,
    I saw that film when it was first released. I had to go up to London where it was shown in the smallest theatre in one of the multiplexes in Leicester Square. There had not been a suburban release and it had not been shown in local cinemas. People must be making comments about a film they had not seen. It was not a popular.
    There is a 1949 film called 'All Over the Town' which is about the importance of a local newspaper. It is based on a book by R;LDelderfield who had been a newspaper editor. A library and the local Woman's Institute feature as well as the newspaper offices. I cannot remember, but the local vicar might have appeared too. Films like these are now real social documents.
    I used to read the newspapers in the reference library during my lunch break but all this had gone as reference libraries have disappeared.
  • Raine
    by Raine 2 months ago
    Aside from being a sceptical reader of news, and my paltry efforts to check the validity of stories, my only direct experience of dealing with the media is as a scientist, getting study results picked up. That is an education in how the press simplifies, filters and sensationalises even the most politically neutral of news. It was kind of depressing, and when it's more important scientific studies (e.g.badger/TB), absolutely infuriating.

    I like Kseija Pavolvic for a more honest insight to the White House. She is one of the few who the WH hasn't managed to intimidate. For a lot of the UK political stuff, I like The Secret Barrister, who I follow on Twitter but who has also published a book that is apparently enlightening. But it horrifies me that the old adage of speaking truth to power has now ceased to be true for the vast majority of journalists. I guess they have had to lower their moral standards to keep their careers intact, but that doesn't stop me despising them a little bit.

    I think the argument of providing 'balance' now equates to providing cheap sensation (see BBC debate panels). But that approach is so incredibly harmful that I think certain programme managers/editors need to be fed to weasels.
  • Dolly
    by Dolly 2 months ago
    Bullshit, hate, lies, genocide, bigotry and all the most unpleasant, nasty things you can think of have always been there, unfortunately, a modern version of Pandora's box called the internet, has given it a global platform. What to do? Live your life in a manner you think is right and just. Embrace love, and take to account all you see that isn't any of these!
  • Nibs
    by Nibs 2 months ago
    wow, read all that and most the replies.
    I'm always trying to remind people to check facts before they repost stuff.
    A recent upsurge in a particular story was retold to me in work by few girls who were so shocked at the story, they had to post and repost. I was speechless when they told me and I immediately tapped in to google to see what it would fetch to me.
    The story was a hoax. it has apparently been changed over the years but in essence remained the same. The story was about a mother in a theme park, loses her little boy, the park closes exits and hunts for kidnapped child. locates him hidden in a pushchair doped to the eyeballs and head shaven. Now I'm not flatly dismissing the idea of these stories, but it is so important to keep an eye on your children and it is also important to check what stories are travelling the newsfeeds.
    I love the internet. I love my facebook and youtube. But I choose to stay on the lighter side of things, watch a few conspiracy theories and love the amusing animals. But I always try to remain aware and alert to stupid headlines that are so obviously designed to make you gasp in horror and click the link, because.... you must..... read the story,
    I always wanted to be journalist, but to be honest, when reading news papers and magazines, I decided no. I knew very early that there was no real balance in the journalism I was reading, so I would be probably have to train to be the same, and that would go against my grain. thanks for that post. I loved reading. it. And thanks Daedalus for your insight
  • mike
    by mike 2 months ago
    Denial. The facts!
    I can just about remember the film. I recall a comment that was made in the script. If Irving had not decided to be his own counsel, he might have won the trial - or rather, his lawyer might have won it. As Richard pointed out, Irving is not the defendant. He is the plaintiff.
    Do you remember ‘Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood‘ I queried a historian’s comment that he had coined the phrase ‘faction‘
    This is because Truman had called ‘In Cold Blood’ a non-fiction novel‘ It was based on research and had been hugely influential at the time, though it is claimed that he invented some events. (I have tried to write in the same genre and found it difficult because I cannot tell a lie - even though I have written fiction.) I wonder if David Hare can tell lies? I doubt if he did in ‘Denial‘
    I think the film fits into the same category as ‘In Cold Blood’
    Just by coincidence, I stayed at home yesterday morning as a David Lean film was broadcast on TV. I had not seen it before. The film is about late Victorian murder trial and the location is Scotland. The theme is the Scottish verdict -‘not proven’
    The defendant is given liberty and the last shot is of her face, I am not sure of this, but there might just have been the suggestion of a smirk! The audience has to decide on her guilt or innocence, though David Lean has made it clear what the verdict should have been.
    David Hare has done the same thing with Irving. Irving instigated the trial and the audience has to decide on the defendant’s innocence. She is found not guilty.
    What one feels about Irving is due to to the skill of the actors, the director and David Hare. The film makes it very clear that the holocaust happened, (In part by including events that are outside the trial itself and the witnesses that were not called.) The audience has to make up its own mind about Irving.
  • Daedalus
    by Daedalus 2 months ago
    Irving was the plaintiff in this case, but in another one later on he was the defendant - he lost, and was gaoled for three years.

    I studied 'In Cold Blood' at A-level. At the time, the orthodox version was that Capote had invented a scene at the end where one of the policemen involved in the case meets the best friend of Nancy Clutter, the daughter of the family murdered. I believe it was revealed some years later that Capote had invented rather more of the narrative than that. Studying that book was an intense experience. I can't help feeling that most of my youth was spent in Essex in the 80s and 90s, and a little bit in Holcomb, Kansas in the 50s and 60s. Oddly enough, I had my first root beer the other day, as a direct result of it being Perry Smith's drink of choice in that book. I don't know what I expected it to taste like, but not like cough mixture.
  • mike
    by mike 2 months ago
    I do share Richard's concern over this matter. I had gone to see 'Denial' to see how David Hare had dramatised a trial. I had little knowledge of Irving. I recall the film was based around the activities of the defence lawyers. They were a well known firm. One scene involved visiting the remains of a camp to find evidence to support the defendant - an American academic. The film was about establishing her innocence rather than Irving's guilt. He was not on trial though, in effect, the film does this. Presumably Irving rather liked any publicity the film got, I can only presume his followers had not seen the film.
    A recent TV production about Thorpe and a murder trial seems rather similar in the way the film worked around the trial. I do find it odd that the film company had not known that one of the main protagonists was still alive.
    I have the transcripts of two trials - about the time of Mr Whicher - and they are dramas in themselves but I have no idea how to dramatise them. In the first trial it does seem that the court had taken the side of the men - the squireachy -rather than the young girl who had reported a matter of what now be considered attempted murder to the police.
  • RichardB
    by RichardB 2 months ago
    I doubt it would make any difference if Irving's followers did see the film. As I said in the blog, people like that dismiss anything that doesn't square with their agenda as lies. So the film would be dismissed as Jewish propaganda. I mean, everybody with any sense knows that Hollywood is totally controlled by the Jewish conspiracy, don't they? Especially since the defendant in the trial. Deborah Lipstadt, is herself Jewish.

    Er, just to make sure nobody gets the wrong idea, that sentence about Hollywood is ironic...
  • mike
    by mike 2 months ago
    Dear Richard
    I cannot remember the film well enough but what if the site of the crime had been destroyed and, tragically, there are no witness to the event (on the defendant's side, at least.) As it was pointed out, Irving might have won his case. I think it unlikely that David Hare would have made thing up as the protagonists of the trial are still alive and Irving was given a right of reply at the end. He is shown still giving speeches. I read 'In Cold Blood' many years ago. I looked it up on the Wiki and Capote said that he had not made things up. But who knows? I am sure Daedalus is right as he has studied the book.
    It was a tragedy for Germany in that so many artists left the country and many worked in Hollywood. Made quite a success of it, I believe!
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