Opinion » Note


Ask tough questions, document the participants, don't take no for an answer.


Those of you who only read the printed version of Boise Weekly may not fully understand this week's Mail section. Long story short: I've been taking serious flak at boiseweekly.com for what I wrote in last week's Editor's Note regarding Nazi sympathizer David Irving's visit to Boise and for Nathaniel Hoffman's full, online account of the incident. Or, more correctly, I've been taking that flak for my actions at Irving's book signing and lecture. If you haven't read Hoffman's piece, log onto boiseweekly.com and click on News. If you haven't read this week's Mail, turn to Page 3.

Regarding the comments online, I'm dismayed to see such enthusiastic debate on the veracity of Holocaust details. Apparently it's not enough to know millions of innocent people were sent to their deaths. Rather, decades later, we have to quibble over the minutiae of how and how not, how many and how many not. As for my own behavior, I did create a disturbance and refused to leave Irving's gathering until management escorted me out. However, I didn't create that scene until after I'd been asked to leave. I was asked to leave upon my arrival for two reasons. First, because the attendees were cross with me for having recorded their presence with my phone's video camera before the talk started. Second, because Irving himself was cross with me. Outside, on the sidewalk in front of Red Feather, Irving granted Hoffman access to his talk and agreed to a brief interview. I questioned him increasingly aggressively as he evaded my questions with non-answers. When I asked him a difficult question, he barred me from his lecture. I went anyway, was asked to leave immediately, and I said, "I'm here to listen. I won't record anything, I won't even take notes. I just want to listen, and I won't say a word." I was asked to leave again, and then the real scene-making began.

The last thing I'll say about this incident in these pages is this: Just as Irving is guaranteed his right to free speech, so is the press guaranteed a right to cover what he says. Even in the basement of a restaurant with the business owner's approval. Whether they liked it or not, I had the right to record the attendees' images. I had the right to ask Irving a question he didn't want to answer. And the American public should expect the press to do exactly that: ask tough questions and record the participants. If you expect your media outlets simply to repackage the press releases that we receive each day, then BW ain't your cup of tea. As for that difficult question that got me barred from Irving's lecture? He said there was nothing exceptional about his talk. I asked whether he thought it was exceptional to be an anti-Semite and a neo-Nazi. I certainly hope the answer is yes.