Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Hungarian far right and David Irving's U.S. tour

Eva S. Balogh's blog, Hungarian Spectrum, has a very interesting post on The Hungarian far right and David Irving, about which read more below.

You may or may not be aware that Irving has been on tour in the U.S., having been hosted by the likes of the University of Oregon's Pacifica Forum, led by Professor Emeritus Orval Etter and columnist George Beres (read here and here and here). Pacifica Forum billed Irving as a "legendary British historian and martyr for free speech". (Read more about Pacifica Forum's journey through the rabbit hole from leftist peace activism to far right racism here.) Someone who heard Irving speak at Pacifica Forum said he used the term "Jewish tragedy" instead of the term "Holocaust", explaining that "he meant the tragedy was not that all those Jews were killed, but rather that 'Jews never asked themselves why they were killed … why they are hated so.' " (read letter to editor here: "Irving statements reprehensible". The Eugene, Oregon Register-Guard naively reported (read here) only that Irving called the Holocaust a tragedy, missing the point of the statement entirely.)

The logistics for Irving getting an audience can by tricky. His technique for speaking in public generally goes something like this: 1) anti-Semitic nut job sees ad for Irving appearance on racist website (like this or this); 2) nut job submits application for ticket and prepays by credit card (tickets available here or here, Hitler posters available here); 3) having been approved, nut job receives notice of the details of Irving's appearance and is told to keep them hush hush.

Before his July 16 speech in New York City, Irving's website announced the location as the Primavera Restaurant, an upscale Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side. When ticket holders arrived, however, they were directed instead to the St. Stephen of Hungary Catholic Church, located nearby. (Read a news account here, Max Blumenthal's blog account with video here including a virtually identical statement to the one quoted above blaming the Jews for the Holocaust, and a brief piece on the L.A. Jewish Journal blog here.) Below is Blumenthal's video. Money quotes from Irving: "Hitler...was probably not at all anti-Semitic..." and "(t)he Jews are the architects of Auschwitz".

With that, you should read Eva Balogh's post at Hungarian Spetrum for her view of who and what was behind Irving's appearance, and also to check out the deluge of right wing lunatics in the comments. According to Balogh, Hungary's far right, including neo-fascist and neo-Nazi elements, has a significant, pernicious influence in Hungarian politics. She presents the evidence that Hungarian rightists in New York City helped set up Irving's speech. Here's her take on David Irving and the far right's New York - Hungary connection:

David Irving made several trips to Hungary where there are no laws against those who deny the Holocaust. Loránt Hegedüs, a Hungarian Reformed minister, was his host, and it was in Hegedüs's church that he spread his ideas.
New York Hungarians claim that an extreme right-wing Hungarian group headed by Ernő Hóka often uses (New York's St. Stephen of Hungary Parrish) for some of his gatherings and that Hóka has close relations with Ákos Szilágyi, the founder of the New York Polgári Kör, part of the network of civic circles of right-minded people who were supposed to rally when the call came from Viktor Orbán. These civic cells at one point seemed to be critically important vehicles of Orbán's political strategy. Orbán put Csaba Hende, formerly an MDF member of parliament, in charge of the network of cells. Hende by now is so far to the right that only a few days ago he shocked the country by suggesting that when Fidesz takes over the government they will fire all 45,000 policemen and build the force from scratch. Obviously, only those who share the values of Fidesz will be rehired. The establishment of the New York civic cell was inspired by Hende during one of his visits to New York. From the beginning the cell espoused extreme right-wing ideas and had close ties to, a notorious neo-Nazi site advocating the overthrow of the Hungarian government. Recently the American server hosting both of these sites shut them down.

This morning Zoltán Szabó, an MSZP member of parliament, responding to the news from New York had a few choice words about Fidesz's cozy relations with extreme right-wing groups. What Szabó wanted to know was how far Fidesz is willing to go. How long can a so-called "moderate" right of center party maintain close ties with the extreme right? Szabó said that he understands that hard-core right-wing voters are important to Fidesz since they make up between 8% and 10% of the electorate, but surely, he continued, a serious party can't afford such nefarious association with neo-Nazis.

On György Bolgár's call-in show this morning Zoltán Szabó reiterated his assessment of the situation. A split second after the conversation with Szabó ended, Ákos Szilágyi, straight from New York, phoned in. He denied that he had anything to do with the invitation. That, he alleged, is the figment of the imagination of László Bartus, editor-in-chief of the Amerikai-Magyar Népszava Szabadság, who, according to Szilágyi, is a liar whom he is suing because of another article he wrote. I checked Amerikai-Magyar Népszava and there was no mention of either Szilágyi or the New York Polgári Kör. It simply said that "according to many people, the St. Stephen Parish of New York has long been a meeting place of people with Nazi sympathies." Szilágyi, by the way, also claimed that it wasn't even Hungarians who invited Irving. That is hard to believe. I became especially suspicious when ARA supporters were described as homosexuals and communists. It sounded all too familiar.

First Eva Balogh's facts, then the deluge of hate. Michael Santomauro (founder of a New York website designed to find people roommates) one of the city's most vocal anti-Semites (view his websites here and here) and also a Ron Paul supporter (read here), quickly submitted a comment defending Faurisson and Holocaust denial. Santomauro was followed in short order by Danish Holocaust denial blogger Balder (also an apparent Ron Paul supporter, his website features a portrait of Paul as its banner). (View Balder's websites here and here.) After this, a multitude of others voicing overt hatred of the sort that all too often occurs under cover of screen name. (I know I'll hear from people asking "why bother covering bigotted comments?" I understand that hate-filled blog comments are commonplace, but, in this instance, two of the commenters are bloggers, and the content and context of their comments seem notable. I also felt bad for the recipient of these comments, having received similar comments here.)

Let me give the voice of reason the last word. The pastor of St. Stephen of Hungary Parish apparently knew nothing about the nature of the talk before it began, beyond the fact that it was a talk about a book. Father Angelo Gambatese, speaking on behalf of the church, said "(w)e are outraged because we do not cater to this kind of bigotry, and we are sorry that it happened."

New Yorkers at David Irving speech, July 16, 2008

Irving greeting well-wishers after speech

6 comments: said...

"Many rabbis and professionals have told me recently that they fear for their jobs should they even begin to articulate their doubts about Israeli policy--much less give explicit support to calls for an end to the occupation."

-- Rabbi Michael Lerner
April 28, 2002 in the Los Angeles Times

"An anti-Semite condemns people because they are Jews. I am not an anti-Semite." ---Michael Santomauro

Chinese Axiom:

When things are investigated, knowledge is extended.

When knowledge is extended, the will becomes sincere.

When the will is sincere, the mind is correct.

When the mind is correct, the self is cultivated.


Adam Holland said...

Who knew they serve fortune cookies at Nazi rallies?

Anonymous said...

Reducing 5000 years of Chinese culture to a fortune cookie. Really classy.

Adam Holland said...

Michael Santomauro's comments on this blog hardly represent "5000 years of Chinese culture" except to one of his true believers.

ModernityBlog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rachel said...

Those who deny the Holocaust are among the evil of the world. Their concern is not history but hurting Jews and their attempt to rob nearly six million people of their experience of unspeakable suffering gives new meaning to the word “cruel.”

First of all, it isn't just the German records that prove the Holocaust. It is the eyewitness accounts, the survivor accounts and the physical evidence. And, sadly for your attempt at revisionism. Many people recorded what was happening, there is quite a bit of physical evidence and many eyewitness reports. Simply because you refuse to admit the crimes against Jews and they did not make systematic records as the Nazis did is no reason for anyone to think it didn't happen.


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