Writers express Belated Anger at their
Failure to Prevent David Irving's Expulsion
Abley of Montreal, Quebec, wrote these
lines in the December 1992 confidential
journal of the Writers Union of
THE BROKEN SHELL
MID-NOVEMBER  the British author
David Irving was expelled from Canada. The
Department of Immigration ordered him to go.
Irving had come here as a visiting lecturer; a
historian by training, he believes that the
Holocaust never happened and that the Nazis have
been cruelly misunderstood.
"I find Irving's opinions repulsive; I'm sure
most TWUC members share that feeling. Yet it
disturbs me that our Union remained publicly
silent about his expulsion. Penny Dickens,
apparently, made some private representations;
but the Union chose to say nothing on the
"I'm very uncomfortable with the thought that
our government should have the power to decide
what views are acceptable here and what views
are forbidden. Yet isn't that the upshot of this
whole affair? If a future government were to
evict another foreign writer &endash; Salman
Rushdie, say &endash; it could point to the
Irving case as an excellent precedent.
"If we're serious about freedom of speech,
aren't we obliged to extend that right to people
whose opinions we detest? Otherwise, it becomes
a very limited, provisional kind of freedom. A
broken shell, in fact.
"I could make a different kind of argument on
the grounds of sheer pragmatism. Something along
these lines: 'By choosing to kick Irving out of
Canada, where he has committed no crime, we risk
giving his opinions the allure of forbidden
fruit. We risk making his attractively
dangerous, and dangerously attractive.'
"Maybe that's true, maybe it isn't. (If I'm
right, by the way, I must also admit my own
guilt; for in my weekly newspaper column, I said
nothing on the matter.) But in retrospect, I
think the key point is simply this: our Union is
supposed to stand against the censorship of
authors. By our tacit agreement that David
Irving should be forced onto a plane and flown
out of Canada, we have entered into complicity
with the censors.
"Our hands are dirty."