Monday, April 4, 2005
Lipstadt herself did not appear, although they did use clips of she and Irving (appearing separately).
Washington Post reporter T.R. Reid was the only live voice, and he effectively poo-poo'd Irving and the clips that were shown of him - although I believe he was woefully naive on the "balance" issue.
Update: I shorted this earlier because I did not have much time. Of course you cannot simply toss both sides out there on equal time and leave it up to the marketplace of ideas to sort out truth from fiction in a one hour program - even without commercials. It is irresponsible to put a truth-teller up against someone who has no qualms about lying with a straight face and expect even an above-average audience to sort out the truth from fiction. First of all, neither side has the time necessary to truly craft their case, nor would most people have the attention-span to focus on it even if they did. The trial took months and the issues cannot possibly be done justice to in a one hour program. Further, most people do not have the resources at hand, nor the ability at hand to fact and context-check every claim. Holocaust-deniers are masters of twisting the truth to form wholely new creations.
Given two reasonable-sounding cases, and little but the presentations themselves to recommend either, many well-meaning people will find themselves being drawn somewhere toward the center - the fallacy of the golden mean is a particularly seductive one.
Think of some controversial issue of which you are somewhat expert but that can easily be misunderstood and the public mislead when presented by someone you know to have a fringe view. Think of some court case or some disagreement you've had in which you know you were 100% right given someone taking the time to really sit down and examine your case, and how dangerous and frustrating it is if they don't - how easily a false impression can result from too little information gleaned too casually.
I find it hard to believe that T.R. Reid wouldn't grasp this. I think, however, he does, and when he says that Irving should be heard, and that Lipstadt was wrong for not agreeing to appear with him, he really means that it would have been OK - they would have presented Irving and then someone like he would have been there to give the nudge-nudge on who to believe (as happened on the show as presented) - that's the newsman's version of the marketplace of ideas...we'll present both sides - sort of - and then slant things so it's clear who the reader or viewer is expected to be sympathetic to.
C-Span claims that they weren't going to do this (present both sides equally, or stage some sort of "debate"), but it doesn't sound like they let Deborah Lipstadt know that, and C-Span has a reputation for hands-off play of "both sides" equally (although not usually on BookTV).
Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: The C-Span Lipstadt Broadcast - Updated.
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