Thursday, April 07, 2005

Chosen behaviors

One of the many holes in civil-rights protections for minorities in Washington state is that it remains legal to discriminate against gays and lesbians -- in hiring and employment practices, as well as in housing.

It's one of our blue state's ugly little secrets, largely because the GOP remains a potent force. Changing the law, you see, would advance the "homosexual agenda," even if everyone knows that this kind of discrimination isn't right.

So with Democrats finally in charge of both houses of the Lege, party leaders had their sights set on rectifying that oversight. After a bill adding gays and lesbians to RCW 49.60, the state's anti-discrimination law, passed the House readily, some late maneuvering, and a couple of DINOs, have helped to apparently scuttle the bill in the Senate.

Interestingly, there was this:
The Senate Republican caucus yesterday handed out a five-page "talking points" document opposing the measure. One of the talking points states: "This bill establishes minority status for individuals based on sexual behaviors many believe they choose to engage in."

Ah yes. We've heard this line before. Because being gay is a "chosen behavior," it is undeserving of civil rights protections.

It's the same reason given by many evangelicals -- and particularly black and minority evangelicals, and people who claim they support civil rights -- for not supporting gays and lesbians in hate-crime protections: "You can't compare being gay to being black. One's immutable, one's chosen."

Well, yes, this is true when it comes to race. And even ethnicity. These are, after all, two of the three main legs of anti-discrimination and hate-crimes laws.

But it's not true of the third leg of these laws: religion. Last I checked, this too was a "chosen behavior."

In RCW 49.60, the matter of faith is defined more broadly as "creed." This thus includes atheism, agnosticism, and other belief systems.

Now, it's true that many people are born into faiths and don't really choose their creed, but it's also a fact that everyone is free to change their creed at any time of their choosing. It's truly a chosen behavior.

So I'm going to propose new legislation for Luke Esser and the rest of the Republican crew in Olympia to pursue, just for the sake of legislative consistency. I mean, if you're going to insist that anti-discrimination laws only affect "immutable characteristics" and not "chosen behaviors", then obviously, we're in serious need of reform here.

I propose that they seek to strip "creed" out of the state's anti-discrimination statutes, so that the only categories included are race, color, national origin, sex, or disability.

They should think about the advantages, especially from their viewpoint of advancing their traditional positions.

First of all, removing these protections would finally allow employers to refuse to employ atheists and agnostics and godless Communists if they so choose. And Lord knows those people don't deserve jobs. They're just amoral parasites who undermine moral society and righteous authority.

It would also allow housing discrimination against these losers. Throw them out of their homes. They don't deserve decent homes anyway.

And then we could cut off all those Muslims and Hindus and whatever else has been infesting our shores with eeebil terrorists all these years. No jobs, no homes, no nuttin'. Outta here.

And hey, while we're at it, we can finally go back to the good ol' days when you could discriminate against Jews, too. Considering how horribly those connivers have corrupted modern society, they'd have it coming too.

Oh, and, y'know, can't we do something about those Mormons, too? They're not really Christians, and they're secretly doing dirty things in those temple ceremonies. Actually, they're lunatics, even if they are good Republicans. That's a mitigating factor, sure, but I see no reason why they should have good jobs or homes.

And finally, don't talk too much about this, but we might be finally able to do something about those, y'know, Papists. You know what I mean. There are Catholics, and then there are real Christians.

Speaking of real Christians, we ought to be able to discriminate against any of those godless "liberal" churches like the Episcopalians and the United Methodists, who have proven their utter godlessness by allowing gay and lesbian clergy.

After awhile, we might finally see the kind of state Republicans have been hankering for: white, real Christian, and Republican. Real Republican.

I hope they take this under consideration. We know that Republicans in Washington state are big on consistency -- after all, they keep hammering King County for relatively minor inconsistencies in its voting procedures, none of them evidence of fraud or malfeasance.

So let's be consistent all around. Opposing extending basic civil rights to gays and lesbians because it is a "chosen behavior" demands that we deny those protections on the basis of religious faith, too.

But then, discrimination is a "chosen behavior" too. Even when someone uses their faith, or their constituents', to justify it.

Self-correcting indeed

So, can someone explain to me exactly how this "self-correcting nature of the blogosphere" thing is supposed to work?

Because it's just a masturbatory fantasy if the people who make mistakes fail to adequately correct themselves when their errors are pointed out.

Which means, when it comes to right-wing bloggers, we can pretty much fuggedaboutit. Being conservative, as we know, means never having to say you're sorry.

Case in point: Powerline, the Time "Blog of the Year."

Powerline, you'll recall, made its reputation for supposedly exposing "Rathergate," even though none of its claims held up under careful scrutiny. But stardom being what it is on Planet Conservative, no one paid that any mind.

So when Powerline began leading a fresh bandwagon questioning the authenticity of the Republican memo calling the Terri Schiavo matter a "great politicial issue" for the GOP, many wondered how it would turn out. Notably, Powerline, just as it did with the Rathergate memos, posted a copy of the memo, pointing to technical and authorial details it believed revealed that, once again, the memo was "fake" -- a characterization it maintained over subsequent weeks.

John Hinderaker, the chief author of the Powerline posts, went on to publish a piece in the Weekly Standard claiming it had the smell of a "political dirty trick" (talk about projection!), and even went into "Rathergate"-like ruminations on its authenticity:
Questions about the genuineness of the memo intensified when, later the same day, the far-left website Raw Story published, for the first time, a JPEG version of the scanned memo, which it said "[a] source on Capitol Hill has leaked." The print version of the memo, as posted on Raw Story, was identical to ABC's "exact, full copy of the document," except that the four typos that ABC had identified with a "sic" were all corrected. Interestingly, however, the fifth typo--"applicably" instead of "applicable" in the sixth paragraph--which ABC did not so identify, was not corrected in Raw Story's "leaked" version of the document.

Powerline's obsession with the "Schiavo memo" lasted for at least a couple of weeks. Throughout, it consistently called it "fake" or "apparently fake." It even repeated the charge opn Wednesday.

But then it turned out this morning in the Washington Post that they were all wet:
Counsel to GOP Senator Wrote Memo On Schiavo

The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) admitted yesterday that he was the author of a memo citing the political advantage to Republicans of intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo, the senator said in an interview last night.

Brian H. Darling, 39, a former lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group on gun rights and other issues, offered his resignation and it was immediately accepted, Martinez said.

It's noteworthy that, even when caught, the mendacity from Republicans continues. Martinez was effusive in his mea culpa, but then tried to claim that he "inadvertently passed it to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who had worked with him on the issue. After that, officials gave the memo to reporters for ABC News and The Washington Post."

Of course, this characterization of events -- from a senator whose previous veracity has not held up well -- was immediately seized upon by the bloggers whose own miserable relationship with the truth had just been exposed. Powerline does report the memo's authorship, but nowhere points out that its voluminous speculation on the matter, as well as its constant characterization of the memos as "apparently fake," was wrong, wrong, wrong. Then it goes on expend thousands more words explaining that it's all Tom Harkin's and Mike Allen's fault!

Roughly translated: "Yes, well, the memo was real, and we were kinda a little bit teensy wrong, mumble mumble. (If you're going to start talking about the gross irresponsibility of my groundless speculation, I'll just cover my ears.) But hey! We can still find someone else to blame."

One problem with that: Harkin says otherwise, according to the Post story:
Harkin said in an interview that Martinez handed him the memo on the Senate floor, in hopes of gaining his support for the bill giving federal courts jurisdiction in the Florida case in an effort to restore the brain-damaged Florida woman's feeding tube. "He said these were talking points -- something that we're working on here," Harkin said.

Not only does conservatism mean never having to say you're sorry, now we can add a corollary: The blogosphere is self-correcting, but this only pertains to the left, since the right never needs correcting, because it is always right even when it is wrong.

UPDATE: Media Matters gives a thorough accounting.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

C-SPAN plays the fool

Though it no doubt would like to have put the controversy behind it, C-SPAN's Sunday broadcast of its BookTV program on Deborah Lipstadt's book on her ordeal by libel trial with Holocaust denier David Irving wound up only demonstrating that the concerns over its highly questionable approach were indeed well grounded.

The chief guest on the program was Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid, who, as noted earlier, was probably not the best-informed "expert" the program could have featured. As Reid himself told the New York Sun, he has not read Lipstadt's book.
"I haven’t read her book. I told them that. I told C-SPAN I hadn't read the book," the reporter said. "They asked me to come and talk about a trial."

Why, one must ask, did a program about books ask Reid to come talk about a trial?

Moreover, he did not actually cover the trial, at least not in the traditional sense. Usually, covering a trial requires being there for most if not every session; he resisted reporting on it at all, did no pre-reporting on the case, and appears not to have been in court for many (if not most) of the days the trial was in session. He did not even file a story on the case until after the judge began deliberating, and then filed only one further report after the verdict was announced.

Even the one bit of exclusive reporting he was able to claim -- an interview with Irving the morning before the verdict was announced -- was extraordinarily slipshod. In the interview, Irving told Reid he expected to lose; but as Lipstadt's book makes clear, all the major parties in trial, including Irving, had been informed of the verdict the night before. So Irving was only telling Reid something he already knew. Reid failed to mention this, perhaps out of ignorance.

The BookTV interview reflected these shoddy foundations, revealing lack of a clear understanding of the issues at stake in the trial. Reid, for instance, described Irving as having said in his opening statement that no one denies that the Holocaust happened -- and therefore, Reid suggested, this was not really about "Holocaust denial."

That is, of course, an extraordinarily disingenuous -- not to mention absurdly credulous -- description of the matter. "Holocaust deniers" don't deny that many thousands of Jews and other "undesirables" were exterminated by Nazi Germany; what they deny is the scope and magnitude of those atrocities, as well as many of the essential mechanics of how the Holocaust occurred.

The Wikipedia entry on Holocaust denial explains this rather clearly:
Holocaust deniers prefer to be called Holocaust revisionists. Most people contend that the latter term is misleading. Historical revisionism is the reexamination of accepted history, with an eye towards updating it with newly discovered, more accurate, and/or less biased information. Broadly, it is the approach that history as it has been traditionally told may not be entirely accurate and should be revised accordingly. Historical revisionism in this sense is a well-accepted and mainstream part of history studies. It may be applied to the Holocaust as well, as new facts emerge and change our understanding of its events.

... Holocaust deniers make all or most of the following claims:

1. There was no specific order by Adolf Hitler or other top Nazi officials to exterminate the Jews.

2. Nazis did not use gas chambers to mass murder Jews. Small chambers did exist for delousing and Zyklon-B was used in this process.

3. The figure of 5 to 6 million Jewish deaths is an irresponsible exaggeration, and that many Jews who actually emigrated to Russia, Britain, Israel and the United States are included in the number.

4. Many photos and lots of film footage shown after World War II was specially manufactured as propaganda against the Nazis by the Allied forces. For example, one film, shown to Germans after the war, of supposed Holocaust victims were in fact German civilians being treated after allied bombing of Dresden. Pictures we commonly see show victims of starvation or Typhus, not of gassing.

5. Claims of what the Nazis supposedly did to the Jews were all intended to facilitate the Allies in their intention to enable the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, and are currently used to garner support for the policies of the state of Israel, especially in its dealings with the Palestinians.

6. Although crimes were committed, they were not centrally orchestrated and thus the Nazi leadership bore no responsibility for the implementation of such a policy.

7. Historical proof for the Holocaust is falsified or deliberately misinterpreted.

8. There is an American, British or Jewish conspiracy to make Jews look like victims and to demonize Germans. Also, it was in the Soviets' interest to propagate wild stories about Germany in order to frighten related nations into accepting soviet rule (Poland, Czechoslovakia, etc.). The amount of money pumped into Israel and reparations from Germany alone give Israel a strong incentive to maintain this conspiracy.

9. The overwhelming number of biased academics and historians are too afraid to actually admit that the Holocaust was a fiction; they know they will lose their jobs if they speak up.

10. In any event, the Holocaust pales in comparison to the number of dissidents and Christians killed in Soviet gulags, which they usually attribute to Jews.

Irving himself makes most of these claims, and in fact did so during the course of the trial.

Irving, for instance, has frequently argued that the common estimate of the numbers of Jews killed (between 5 and 6 million) is grossly inflated. In court testimony in 1988, on behalf of another Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel, he gave a base figure of 100,000 -- though in recent years he has upgraded that figure to 1 million.

Irving's rationale for these figures is extraordinarily revealing: Since many millions of the Jews who died in Nazi death camps actually succumbed to disease and starvation, he does not include them in his tally of people "killed." Apparently, in order to qualify as a Holocaust victim, one had to have been either gassed or shot. He also, of course, wholly bought into Fred Leuchter's phony claims that there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz.

The worst part of Reid's description of the trial was his failure to explain the many historical facets that emerged, particularly the testimony of other historians that laid bare the utter poverty of Irving's methodology. He regaled the TV audience with quaint details about the courtroom setting and the appearances of the bewigged barrister, solicitors, and judge -- but seemed incapable of describing some of the key historical points involved.

Many of these would have made clear to both his readers and C-SPAN's viewers just how completely off the wall is Irving's approach to history. A prime example: While cross-examining historian Christopher Browning, Irving compared Hitler's original plan for dealing with the Jews -- a project to ship the entirety of European Jewry off to the island of Madagascar, where they could be supervised by the SS -- to the creation of the Israeli state:
Q. [Irving] In what way is Madagascar a fantastic plan?

A. [Browning] Fantastic in the sense that one is bizarre, the notion that you could take 4 million Jews and put them on ships and send them to Madagascar, and that anything other than the vast bulk of them would die under the conditions of being dumped into the jungle of Madagascar. Even that a plan that clearly in its implications involved vast decimation, they still talked in these words of resettlement.

Q. Is this not exactly what happened with the state of Israel? Millions of these people were taken and dumped in Israel, so to speak, although they did it voluntarily? It was an uprooting and a geographical resettlement.

Reid also was content to characterize the bulk of Irving's "Holocaust denial" as consisting of a claim he actually does make: that Hitler himself was unaware of the mass murder operation his underlings had set into motion. This is, of course, only a small portion of the distortions and falsehoods which he promotes.

The rest of the BookTV program was equally slipshod, and in its entirety it was clear that the producers were simply out of their depth in their handling of this matter.

At her blog, Lipstadt commented:
1. I wish CSpan had just admitted that they made a mistake from the outset and had not claimed that they were intending to just show a few clips of Irving. CSpan is an important national institution. It gets people to read and think about books. I have no desire to fight with CSpan, but they should have been more honest about how they messed up from the outset.

2. I wish TR Reid, who usually is a pretty careful journalist, had refamiliarized himself with the basic facts of the case before agreeing to talk about it. The case was not about whether Irving says Hitler knew about the Holocaust. It's about whether this man denies the most basic facts of the Holocaust and he does.

3. Finally, I was not trying to deny Irving a right to speak. I was simply refusing to be pushed into a debate which is no debate and with someone who is a proven liar. How can you debate a liar?

4. Never, in all the years I have been watching CSpan, have I seen a policy towards "balance." Why here?

That may be the most troubling question of them all.

C-SPAN has since issued a statement saying it regrets using the word "balance" to describe its plans, calling the term just "internal jargon" referring to the use of other voices.

Right. That would explain why no other book has ever been handled by either BookTV or its predecessor, BookNotes, in this fashion. In every previous broadcast of both shows, it has simply let the author come on and talk about his or her book. Why not Lipstadt?

Regrets about terminology notwithstanding, C-SPAN's approach to this subject makes clear that it has a great deal to learn about how extremists like Holocaust deniers operate. They count on the ignorance of those unfamiliar with their tactics to handle them "fairly" -- which is to say, to treat their lies as though they merely represent another viewpoint, and thereby spread their vicious falsifications into the mainstream,. Sunday's broadcast was a classic case of this.

Drinking Moderately

I'm really only a centrist drinker, but I've been invited to join the monthly Seattle gathering of Drinking Liberally tonight. It'll be at 8 p.m. at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Ave. E. Be there or be ... sober.

The cold embrace

A number of observers, both right and left, have concluded that the Terri Schiavo case was a watershed moment, a turning point of sorts in the national discourse.

On the right, they see it as the moment when the left's "culture of death" was seriously confronted for the first time. On the left, it's being hopefully viewed as the moment when the right finally jumped the shark and revealed their ugly, intrusive underside to the public at large.

It will take some time, of course, to ascertain which of these views is closer to the truth, though obviously I've already endorsed the latter wholly.

However, I think that we can defintively say that it was a watershed event in a gathering trend we've been observing for some time here: It clearly marked the open embrace of extremists by the mainstream Republican Party.

It was apparent that the "fight for Terri" attracted a large number of extremists to the cause, notably Bo Gritz and Hal Turner. But they were not as openly adopted by the supposedly mainstream conservatives who joined in the fray as the anti-abortion extremist Randall Terry.

Terry, of course, was everywhere: Popping up on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and various local networks as the chief spokesman for the Schindler family, who sought him out for support.

Numerous others have remarked on Terry's long career in anti-abortion radicalism, including Media Matters, Mark Kleiman, World O'Crap, and TalkLeft. Sean Baptiste has put together a six-part series on Terry that has even greater detail.

But what few have remarked upon is Terry's long history of association with the most violent elements of right-wing extremism, and his early role in fomenting the formation of "citizen militias" and the "Patriot" movement. Terry's extremism is very broad-ranging, and includes some of the most dangerous and nakedly anti-democratic elements in American society.

In fact, my first awareness of the existence of a "militia movement" came in 1994, when I watched a video tape of Terry and his frequent cohort, Matthew Trewhella, exhorting a gathering of Howard Phillips' U.S. Taxpayers Party (now known as the Constitution Party). Terry called for the "justifiable" killing of abortion doctors, while Trewhella painted militias as one of the solutions for dealing with abortion.

An earlier report from 1995 describes some of his activities in this regard:
Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue, is working with the radical right U.S. Taxpayers Party (USTP) launching a new "leadership institute" to train "militant" and "unmerciful" activists. Terry has recently assumed a leadership position at the USTP, writing newsletters and speaking at events. He says he plans to run as a USTP candidate in the state of New York in 1996. "I'm anxious to run," he said "I am chomping at the bit to actually be in office."

Terry said a new "leadership institute" will be held near his hometown of Binghamton, New York in October and will offer "three days of intense training on vision, courage, biblical ethics, raising up a cadre of people who are militant, who are fierce, who are unmerciful to the deeds of darkness, unmerciful to the ideologies of hell." At the same conference Matthew Trewhella, leader of Missionaries to the Pre-born urged delegates to form armed militias and to establish a "militia day" in their churches. Conference organizers sold copies of a manual on how to create an armed underground army. Jeffrey Baker, USTP National Committee member touted that "Abortionists should be put to death" during his convention speech. The audience erupted in applause.

The U.S. Taxpayers party is headquartered in Vienna, Virginia. In 1992 the USTP presidential candidate, Howard Phillips, ran a series of controversial campaign commercials which featured the photograph, name, and home address of medical directors at a Planned Parenthood in Iowa while the narrator stated "Howard Phillips urges you to contact these baby killers and urge them to mend their ways. A vote for Howard Phillips is a vote to prosecute the baby killers for premeditated murder."

Some other significant quotes from Terry make clear the depths of his anti-democratic inclinations:
"I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you... I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good... Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism."

He also is clear in his advocacy of a singularly intolerant "Christian nation", especially for abortion providers:
"When I, or people like me, are running the country, you'd better flee, because we will find you, we will try you, and we'll execute you. I mean every word of it. ... I will make it part of my mission to see to it that they are tried and executed.

"You say, 'This is extreme!' Yeah, you're right. But imagine God Almighty sending people to hell just because they didn't follow His son? That's extreme. That's intolerance. Imagine Jesus saying that all other religions are false. Christianity claims to be the only way."

Terry also has a thing about insisting on masculine leadership:
"The greatest crisis we face is not child killing, it's not the sodomites, it's not land tax, it's not the intrusion of the federal government into our lives, our families, as they crush our liberties. The greatest crisis we face tonight is a crisis of leadership. We are facing a crisis of righteous, courageous, physically oriented, male leadership. Male leadership!

"God established patriarchy when he established the world. God established a patriarchal world. If we're going to have true reformation in America, it is because men once again, if I may use a worn out expression, have righteous testosterone flowing through their veins. They are not afraid of the contempt of their contemporaries. They are not here to get along. They are not even here to take issue. They are here to take over!"

While Christian Reconstructionists often paint a benign picture of the "Christian nation" they intend to create, Terry is more straightforward:
"Christian government, folks, would prosecute abortionists. Christian government would say that consensual homosexual acts are a criminal offense. Christian government would say that the government cannot property tax your land. The foundation of self government is private ownership of land. Look at the Bible. Look at how much time God spent making sure that the land was distributed, and that you could never lose your land.

"Courage, by definition, is the willingness to die. You've got to be prepared to die before you can be the most courageous man or woman you can be. Because once you're prepared to die for something, or someone, you can't be intimidated; you can't be bullied; you can't be bribed; there's nothing that anyone can do to stop you."

Of course, this kind of rhetorical threatening was a significant part of the right-wing discourse in the Schiavo matter, promulgated at every step by Terry. Nancy Goldstein at Raw Story had an excellent summary of the way things quickly spiraled:
Invariably, things got a little out of hand, as things often do when people are encouraged to believe that innocents are being murdered and God sanctions their every retaliatory action. Typical theo-con incitement-to-riot rhetoric from the "Priests for Life" describes the courts as "un-elected judges" who "authorize violence," then prescribes revolt: "When government fails to protect life, the people must do so directly."

Incendiary rhetoric wasn’t contained to the fringes. House majority leader Tom DeLay warmed up the crowd with his declaration that "murder is being committed against a defenseless American citizen in Florida." And that's just what he said in public. In private, while speaking to the rabidly theo-con Family Research Council in remarks secretly taped and later released to the press by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, DeLay warned his audience of "a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in," urged them to "participate in fighting back," and claimed that staying out of politics is "not what Christ asked us to do."

Of course, after Terri Schiavo finally died, DeLay continued the attacks on judges in a way that clearly smacked of the threat of violence:
Mrs. Schiavo's death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today.

The same theme continued yesterday with similar remarks by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas:
"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in -- engage in violence."

Who could have predicted that a United States Senator would begin channeling Hal Turner and other extremist ideologues who argue that judges have it coming when they make "bad rulings" (that is, rulings the right doesn't like)?

As Nancy Goldstein put it:
You'd better get to know these folks, because Schivao was a coming-out party for an emboldened radical right wing, not an isolated incident. The GOP gave theo-cons every indication that they would be allowed to set the agenda. The news media gave them carte blanche, never once explicitly connecting prime players like Randall Terry to their violent pasts. And the Democrats went limp. Now theo-cons are going to be taking their show on the road whenever and wherever they want: over the judiciary, gay marriage, and abortion -- whatever God wills.

The Schiavo case indeed could prove to be a watershed event. But if centrists and progressives cannot muster the will to make clear to the public just how deeply enmeshed with the mainstream the extremist right has become, it will not mark a happy turning point for our nation, but a disastrous one.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

C-SPAN and Holocaust Denial

I think everyone believed that C-SPAN had simply embarrassed itself a couple of weeks ago when it tried to insist on a phony "balance" on the subject of Holocaust denial by demanding that author Deborah Lipstadt appear with hoaxter David Irving simultaneously to discuss her book on the libel trial to which Irving subjected her.

The last we heard about this from C-SPAN (back on March 19), they were reconsidering: "We are still discussing how to cover this book, and we don't have an immediate timetable."

Well, now we know how they're going to cover it: Neither Lipstadt nor Irving will discuss her book. Instead, they're going to assemble their own panel to talk about the trial, and by extension, the book.

They'll have done so without any consultation with Lipstadt, and with only the briefest of warnings. At least one of their leading "experts" is in fact problematic at best.

Here's the announcement for the show later this afternoon:
Book TV presents a look at the 2000 libel trial between World War II writer David Irving and Emory University professor Deborah Lipstadt. The trial is detailed in Dr. Lipstadt's newest book, "History on Trial." Guests include T.R. Reid of the Washington Post, who covered the trial, as well as video clips of Deborah Lipstadt and David Irving. Historian John Lukacs is also interviewed.

According to my friend Dan Yurman, Lipstadt told him by e-mail that she feels "blind sided" by C-SPAN's action. The network, he said, "resisted all efforts to respond to her communications and indeed refused to even answer her e-mails."

Here's the e-mail that C-SPAN sent to Lipstadt this morning:
Dear Dr. Lipstadt;

I'm writing to let you know that we have produced a program about your 2000 libel trial. It is scheduled to air on C-SPAN2 Book TV today, Sunday, April 3rd, at 4:30 pm eastern time (overnight re-air Monday morning at 3:00 am eastern time.) For more information you can go to our website at

Connie Doebele Executive Producer Book TV

Lipstadt forwarded the e-mail to friends, with the attached note:
Date: Sun, 03 April 2005 11:20:19 -0400

I received the following email about an hour ago. I had no idea this was in the offing. I have no other knowledge of the program. And now I understand why Connie Doebele had not returned my phone calls last week.

Even more problematic than C-SPAN's dubious professionalism in their handling this was their selection of T.R. Reid, of the Washington Post London bureau, as one of the chief guests.

That's because even though the description says that Reid "covered" the trial, in fact he didn't attend any of the trial itself. He only covered the announcement of the verdict. That's because he resisted covering it, deeming it not newsworthy enough, and then finally jumped in at the last moment.

In an analysis of the media coverage of the trial for Idea Journal, Yurman pointed out that Reid's coverage of the trial stood out for his resistance to even reporting on it:
I corresponded via email with numerous journalists during the trial. In one instance I really thought I'd really hit the wall in my exchanges with T.R. Reid, the London correspondent for the Washington Post. He said he did not consider the trial a priority compared to his other assignments which included the Pinochet extradition controversy which was going on at the same time. I sent Reid copies of the media reviews trying to indicate I wasn't whistling in the wind and to show there was enormous media interest in the trial. He said he was too busy.

Eventually, he wrote about the trial and the decision, but after closing arguments. In fact, Reid actually wrote two major articles about the trial. The Washington Post also published an editorial about Judge Gray's decision. Reid made a comment to Prof. Lipstadt right after the verdict was announced in her favor. He said I "badgered him," about the trial, but he also said this, "Dan Yurman was right." It is not true that I badgered him. I was always polite, but I was persistent. I am indebted to Prof. Lipstadt for sending me this feedback.

I'll watch this afternoon and report back. But the signs are not encouraging. So far, C-SPAN's behavior has been not only unprofessional, it is entirely inconsistent with its previously established standards for "balance": When it broadcast conferences of the white-supremacist organizations American Renaissance and Council of Concerned Citizens, it felt no need to "balance" those discussions with opposing viewpoints. One has to wonder why, once again, truth and fact have to contend on an equal footing with lies and vicious slander.