‘Freedom of speech means you can say whatever you want. What you can’t do is lie and expect not to be held accountable for it. Not all opinions are equal. And some things happened, just like we say they do. Slavery happened, the Black Death happened. The Earth is round, the ice caps are melting, and Elvis is not alive.’
Deborah Lipstadt – protagonist of ‘Denial’ film, 2016
Having recently seen the film ‘Denial’ and been impressed at how it portrayed the libel case brought and lost by Holocaust denier David Irving against Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books in 2000, I was perturbed when I read in the Guardian that he held a ‘secret’ event at the DoubleTree Hilton in Glasgow a week ago last Friday.
He used this platform to sign his books while spouting vitriol about Jews, the Holocaust and non-‘white’ England. The audience consisted of 40 people and there was reportedly a child in the audience. Irving even received a small standing ovation at the end of the event.
His audiences have grown progressively smaller as his events become increasingly clandestine, with Irving often personally vetting those who enter. This is due to his fears of demonstrations as he has been widely discredited in academic historical circles since the aforementioned ruling during which he was described by the judge as being ‘anti-Semitic and racist’ and sentenced to three years in an Austrian prison. He was released after just over a year and was subsequently banned from Austria, Canada, Italy and Germany.
Jackson Carlaw, Deputy Leader of the Scottish Conservatives and MSP for Eastwood, my constituency, condemned the event and was reported in the Guardian as saying:
‘He [Irving] is a disgrace and the peddler of a deeply hateful message which Scotland and the world can well do without.’
‘David Irving, a minor and discredited historian, has spent a lifetime maliciously and notoriously seeking to deny The Holocaust. No platform should be offered to this man by anyone who cares about either the truth or wider humanity.’
According to Labour MSP James Kelly:
‘These views are disgusting and have no place in modern Scotland. It underlines why we must continue to challenge intolerance and bigotry, not let it fester behind closed doors.’
As Regional Ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust, I support these statements and am glad and proud that Scottish politicians are not afraid to speak up in light of modern-day racism and intolerance.
Englishman Irving said at his event that he has moved to the north of Scotland as it reminds him of when England used to be ‘white’. Well Irving, I have news for you- Scotland welcomes diversity and multiculturalism. Our society thrives on tolerance and pluralism and, as your attendance rates show, you are wasting time preaching hate up here.
I am extremely disappointed and ashamed that his clandestine tour, arguably milking the film release of ‘Denial’ for what all it is worth, was given a venue in Glasgow at the Doubletree Hilton. In the spirit of ‘not standing by’ to hatred, racism and intolerance, I am under no illusion that I can alter or prevent Irving’s distorted depictions of history; however, I do think we should make it as difficult as possible for him to find a platform upon which to speak in Glasgow and elsewhere. If we Glaswegians are good at one thing, it is responding to hate with a calm and collected ‘square go’.
The DoubleTree, which is in franchise with the Hilton, is not exactly an unsuspecting hidden underground venue – it is connected to one of the most well-known hotel chains in the world. A spokesperson for the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel confirmed the event took place and stated that:
‘The hotel management does not adopt, share or promote the views of the individuals or groups to which we provide accommodations and services.’
Nonetheless, when Holocaust denial is a crime, as is hate speech, and your brand risks being tarnished for association with or indirect promotion of these views or pure and simple racism – surely in the name of corporate social responsibility (CSR) you should have gone to further efforts not to host such an extremist event in your establishment?
Indeed, the Hilton’s CSR issue areas include ‘local community impact’ and ‘responsible sourcing’ and it achieved 100% in a Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index measuring LGBT workplace equality.
Perhaps the DoubleTree by the Hilton should look into the ‘local community impact’ of hosting such events or expand its ‘responsible sourcing’ initiatives to include disallowing socially irresponsible event hosts to invite custom into its premises.
While I am saddened that the event was even allowed to take place, in 2017 no less, I am unwavering in my commitment to raise awareness about the Holocaust and its contemporary relevance, challenging racism, prejudice and discrimination. I know from experience that the Glaswegian and Scottish communities, of all backgrounds, play a global role in speaking up against hatred and lies, often in their own unique way. Glaswegians, like myself, are unlikely to ‘haud’ their ‘wheesht’ in the face of racists like Irving being given a platform upon which to speak in their city by leading hotel chains.
It is ‘pure dead’ corporate social irresponsibility.