By Greg Felton
(THE SCENE: WTFN’s Los Angeles studios. The set is bedecked with the usual movie posters, still photographs and various objets de cinéma. Host Lance Boyle is in his usual club chair. The opening theme music dies down.)
LANCE BOYLE: (to camera) “Welcome to the ninth Oscar edition of The Cutting Room, the first under the new Trumpian regime. To read from the screeching from both sides of the right-wing of the political spectrum, we might as well redefine the calendar as BT and AT—Before Trump and After Trump. Whether one thinks that the last election marked a break with the past or is the inevitable result of 30-plus years of corporatism, one thing will always be a constant in our lives—movies—and where there are movies, there are award shows. Tonight we look at the best Hollywood had to offer in 2016, (camera pulls back into a two-shot. Miriam Kale is now seated across from Lance Boyle.) Miriam, welcome back.”
MIRIAM KALE: “Thanks, Lance. A lot of my friends would agree with your BT/AT calendar because they wailed that Trump’s victory marked the beginning of the end of U.S. democracy. However, I found this reaction bizarre because American democracy ended at least as far back as 2001. The USA PATRIOT Act eviscerated civil liberties, and under the supposedly liberal Barack Obama the surveillance state was ratcheted up, the drone program was widely expanded and police forces became ever more militarized. Hillary Clinton represented this anti-democratic ‘Deep State’ establishment and was a war criminal to boot, which meant she was unelectable. Trump was really the only viable choice because the Democratic Party threw the election by sabotaging Bernie Sanders’s nomination. If people want to blame someone for Trump’s election, they need to blame the Democrats! But enough about politics; let’s talk movies!”
BOYLE: “Where do you want to start?”
KALE: “Where else?—with my pick for the Leni Riefenstahl Award for Best Holocaust Propaganda.”
BOYLE: “Ah, yes—The Leni; your favourite category.”
KALE: “This year, the winner is exemplary. Never before has a Leni nominee showed the connection between the Holocaust® and Holocaust® propaganda so clearly. I think you know which film I’m talking about. Go on: open the envelope.” (She hands it to him.)
BOYLE: “Ah yes. I thought so, but there have been many films that have defended the six-million figure and sanctified Auschwitz. What makes this film so remarkable?”
KALE: “It exploits a real event to perpetuate a false history. Let me give you the context. The film is concerned with the infamous 2000 libel trial between historian David Irving and Holocaust® professor Deborah Lipstadt. In 1993, Lipstadt wrote Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, a book in which she accused Irving of being a ‘Holocaust® denier’.
“In the opening scene, Irving interrupts one of Lipstadt’s 1994 lectures and waves $1,000, saying he’ll give it to anybody who can produce any written evidence that Hitler ordered the Holocaust®. Lipstadt bombastically claims she’ll debate the Holocaust® with anyone but not with someone who denies it. Now, if she had evidence it occurred, it should be a simple matter to dispatch someone like Irving, but the fact that she refused to debate him gave credibility to Irving’s assertion that Hitler never ordered the Holocaust®.
“By the way, the film got this scene wrong. Irving’s actual words were: “I have here a thousand dollars for you [Lipstadt] if you can produce to this audience, now or at any time in the future, this document about which you have just lied to them.”
BOYLE: “He was referring to what Lipstadt claimed happened at the Jan. 20, 1942, Wannsee Conference, right?”
KALE: “Yes, but Lipstadt never produced any documents. In fact, nobody has. Lipstadt’s refusal to account to Irving for her claims and her ad hominem attack upon him, led Irving to sue for libel.”
BOYLE: “As I recall, Irving lost.”
KALE: “Yes, and no. Lipstadt was found to have libeled Irving on four counts, but not on a fifth. Therefore, Mr . Justice Charles Gray concluded that Irving did not suffer damage to his reputation, despite the libels, so he lost his suit.”
BOYLE: “One could say Irving lost his suit before it started. Merely being accused of being a ‘Holocaust® denier’ is enough to destroy anyone’s reputation, so even if Irving had proven that Lipstadt lied about him, the judge would still have rejected his claim.”
KALE: “That’s why this film is so quintessentially Leni-esque! The prejudice against Irving was insurmountable. The fix was in. As The Guardian reported: ‘[The judge] said he found that Irving was “an active Holocaust denier; that he was anti-Semitic and racist and that he associated with right-wing extremists who promoted neo-Nazism.” ’ Here is Gray in his own words:
Having considered the various arguments advanced by Irving to assail the effect of the convergent evidence relied on by the defendants, it is my conclusion that no objective, fair-minded historian would have serious cause to doubt that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz and that they were operated on a substantial scale to kill hundreds of thousands of Jews.
BOYLE: “I understand that the trial moves to Auschwitz to address Irving’s claim there were no gas chambers. What was Irving’s evidence?”
KALE: “Essentially the lack of evidence. The Nazis allegedly dropped Zyklon B pellets through rooftop openings in the buildings, but no such openings existed. Irving’s catchphrase was ‘No holes; no holocaust.’ By casting doubt on the existence of the gas chambers, Irving cast doubt on the 6 million, so the existence of gas chambers had to be defended.
BOYLE: “How do we know they didn’t exist?”