The limited case for Kevin

The Irish Times for which he once wrote and even more significantly the Jewish Council of Ireland have mounted a limited  defence of  Kevin Myers. As I labelled him a disgrace for the bonkers claim that two BBC presenters won bigger contracts because they were Jewish, I’m very happy to carry here the case for Kevin warts and all, such as it can be made. There is indeed more to him than this but it’s a pretty  unsightly wart.

The problem in making a judgement is that  the full offending article was deleted and we had to go on quotes from other papers. However those quotations have not been labelled as distorting the original. The claim that he has been a Holocaust denier remains  but any verdict on it encounters the same problem of  deletion – even more  seriously in my view.

The Jewish  Council’s  generalised  defence reported in the Irish Times  is quite remarkable in its forcefulness

Extracts 

Branding Kevin Myers as either an anti-Semite or a Holocaust denier was “an absolute distortion of the facts”, according to the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland.

The council, which speaks for the 2,557-strong Irish Jewish Community, came to the sacked columnist’s defence on Monday night and accused his critics abroad of circulating falsehoods about the columnist.

“More than any other Irish journalist,” said the council in a statement, “he has written columns about details of the Holocaust over the last three decades that would not otherwise have been known by a substantial Irish audience.

“The knee-jerk responses from those outside Ireland appear to care little for facts and pass on (along with some media outlets) falsehoods about his previous writings without verification. This has been exacerbated by a thoroughly misleading headline being sent around the world that is wholly unrepresentative of the article to which it refers.”

While it was “understandable” there was a strong reaction and rejection of Myers’ column in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times, “it is wrong that misconceptions and misinformation be circulated about his previous writings”.

The statement continued: “Kevin Myers inadvertently stumbled into an anti-Semitic trope. Yes, Kevin ought to have known that his bringing the religion of the two BBC presenters into his writings on Sunday would cause concern and upset and that it was both unnecessary and bound to be misunderstood.

Larger picture

“But the larger picture is that Kevin, who up until now was a respected columnist, has a particular curmudgeonly, cranky, idiosyncratic style. We, who have been reading Kevin’s work over many years and those who know him personally, know that while this was a real error of judgement on his part, also know that he is not an anti-Semite.”

The council said Ireland had become more diverse and Myers’ voice was part of that diversity. “It would be a shame if Kevin Myers’ voice was lost based on his mistake and other people’s misconceptions about his prior writings.”

 

Earlier on Monday, both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste said the Sunday Times made the correct decision by issuing an apology for the newspaper column and subsequently dismissing Myers.

Leo Varadkar described the article as “misogynistic” and “anti-Semitic”, while Frances Fitzgerald said there was “an onus on everyone, including the media obviously, to make sure articles like that do not appear”.

Efforts to contact Myers were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, as commentary raged over Myers’ comments and his sacking, the Press Council of Ireland was bracing itself for a large number of complaints over it. The council has so far received five complaints about it – four related to allegations of anti-Semitism and one to an allegation of misogyny.

However, a spokesman for the council said it expects this number to rise significantly as those complaining in the UK are being advised by the Press Ombudsman there to make their complaints in Ireland as the article complained of was published in the Irish edition of the British newspaper.

 

From  Irish Times  senior correspondent  Pasty McGarry

When he left The Irish Times in May 2006 Kevin Myers’ departure was marked by sundry letters of unseemly joy. One read: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last! . . .”

A more restrained reader wrote: “Please allow me to express my joy at the departure of Kevin Myers from your newspaper.”

But another probably hit a more accurate note: “Who else is going to horrify and humour me in equal measure? Since his departure I have become a more placid person. Other journalists don’t seem to provoke me to the point of rage the way An Irishman’s Diary did. I miss him.

 

None of which excuses some subsequent errors of judgement on his part, the latest of which led to last weekend’s sacking by The Sunday Times (which has no connection to this newspaper). But he is more than the sum of those errors. Much more.

 

As I reported yesterday, British including  British Jewish  reaction was uniformly condemnatory. Another problem not addressed was Kevin’s  alleged Holocaust denial of 2009, referred to briefly in  yesterday’s Observer  report:

Myers has previously written in the Irish Independent: “There was no holocaust (or Holocaust, as my computer software insists) and six million Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich. These two statements of mine are irrefutable truths.”

 

But when I tried to find it, it too had been deleted.

 

The Indo Kevin also writes for has kept its head down so far, sticking to straight reporting of the controversy.  But its report states:

The controversy, however, did not stop Mr Myers from appearing in a panel discussion yesterday at the inaugural West Cork History Festival in Clonakilty.

He was a panellist discussing the commemoration of Irish soldiers who fought in World War I.

Among his co-panellists was Rabbi Julia Neuberger, one of the first women in the UK to become a rabbi.

Rabbi Neuberger, who is a senior rabbi at the West London Synagogue, is also a member of the House of Lords and a high-profile writer and commentator.

Despite the controversy, she sat alongside Mr Myers during the panel discussion. However, Mr Myers did not address the controversy over his column during the event.

Meanwhile, an article by Mr Myers published in the ‘Irish Independent’ on March 4, 2009, is no longer available online as it does not comply with our editorial ethos.

The article on the Holocaust was removed on July 30, 2017 after its existence was brought to our attention.

“Brought to our attention!”  But it appeared in your own paper, guys. Shouldn’t you have noticed it at the time?

As more than one press inquiry is proceeding on both sides of the water, Kevin Myers will probably hold fire until they open and he is asked to explain.    The sooner the better.

Roy Greenslade, doyen of media commentators and declared Sinn Fein supporter  has several interesting tweets. Why did it take the Indo so long to delete it – and pass it in the first place if it was as claimed? Greenslade  has managed to capture an image of the Holocaust denial column now deleted It looks like a more  than usually acute example of Myers    provocation.

 

  1. I’m asked: why should controversial columnist (like Kevin Myers) be fired for being controversial? My reply: when the views are contemptible

  2. It took the Irish Independent eight years to remove Kevin Myers’s article on being a holocaust denier from its website

Kevin Myers adds anti-semitism and misogyny to his anti-republicanism. Result? Sunday Times drops him. Good

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  • Brian O’Neill

    Here is the column http://i.imgur.com/4DClqVj.jpg

  • Damien Mullan

    Dear god, the 2009 article is even worse.

    I thought his Holocaust denial was going to be some, turn-of-the-tables, literary trick on the reader, that finally terminated at a kind of metaphor, but no, it went on, and on, until it was simply an incoherent piece of actual Holocaust denial.

    I guess Kevin Myers actually needed Geraldine Kennedy’s sound editorial oversight after all.

  • aquifer

    “I thought his Holocaust denial was going to be some, turn-of-the-tables, literary trick on the reader”

    I thought the 2009 piece was exactly that, getting us all riled up to insist that there was of course a Holocaust, (Kevin even re-uses the term after ‘”denying” it), but then dropping the actual not fake fact that imams deny the Holocaust all the time and are let away with it.

    Myers has wasted less paper than many others. Would you go to a pub that only served green or orange tinted shandy?

  • Damien Mullan

    He conflates the manner of death with the Holocaust, drawing a distinction as to whether Jews were killed by firing squad in the fields and forests expanses of the East, thus not Holocaust, although atrocity, with death in the gas chambers and ovens, thus Holocaust.

    He attempts to save this analogy by going to the Greek origin of Holocaust, as though in 2009, that has any validity, rather its only mischief making of the most pedantic.

  • Brian Walker

    Thanks Brian.. well done. So let’s take look at the Holocaust denial piece, deleted by the Indo archive eight years later.

    From the article..
    “Let me say from the outset; I’m with Bishop Richard Williamson on this. There was no holocaust, (or Holocaust, as my computer software insists) and six million Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich. These two statements of mine are irrefutable truths, yet their utterance could get me thrown in the slammer in half the countries of the EU.
    “Moreover, there certainly was no holocaust. For if the word is to have any literal validity at all, it must be related to its actual meaning, which comes from the Greek words holos, ‘whole’, and caust, ‘fire’. Most Jewish victims of the Third Reich were not burnt in the ovens in Auschwitz. They were shot by the hundreds of thousands in the Lebensraum of the east, or were worked or starved to death in a hundred other camps, across the Reich.
    This programme was begun informally by Nazi armies in 1941, and only took organised form after the Wannsee conference in January 1942. Thus was born one of the most satanic operations in world history, in which millions of Jews were murdered. To be sure, you can use the term holocaust to describe these events, but only as a metaphor.
    However, to turn that metaphor into a political dogma, a denial of which can result in imprisonment, is to create a religio-penal code of which Torquemada would have approved”.

    This is a pretty trivial discussion of a massive theme, based on a quibble about the definition of holocaust. Myers is saying that the massacre of millions of Jews (he rejects six million but doesn’t expand on the number) wasn’t wholly carried out by fire and is a “metaphor” for mass slaughter. Therefore he says that makes him a holocaust denier. .
    Holocaust denial shouldn’t be a criminal offence in the countries that fought for free speech. I see the force of the latter point. But he fails to understand the reasons for it in Germany and Austria where legal denial is designed to counter any re-emergence of an anti Semitic big lie of the kind that so powerfully fuelled the rise of Nazism and all that followed.

    Sorry Kevin you’d have to have seriously quarrelled with the numbers to qualify full

    8 years on, the latest on “ bishop” Williamson whom Myers defends as a Holocaust denier.

    . https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/05/catholic-sspx-resistance-uk-harbours-clergy-accused-sexual-abuse-richard-williamson

    “A British Catholic priest who has been excommunicated twice by different popes is allegedly harbouring clergy accused of sexual abuse in his renegade religious order.
    Richard Williamson, who was illicitly ordained as a bishop in 1988 by an ultra-conservative group, the Society of St Pius X (SSPX), and later convicted of Holocaust denial by a German court, is now head of the “SSPX Resistance”, based in Broadstairs, Kent.
    Two Catholic SSPX priests who have been accused of sexual abuse have found a refuge in Williamson’s breakaway movement, according to an investigative documentary to be aired on Swedish television on Wednesday.
    1988, Williamson was one of four SSPX priests ordained as bishops by the SSPX founder, archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, against the orders of Pope John Paul II. All four were instantly excommunicated.
    But in January 2009, the excommunication was reversed by Pope Benedict XVI in an attempt at reconciliation with the order. Three days earlier, in a filmed interview with Fegan, Williamson insisted that no Jews were killed in Nazi gas chambers. The Vatican said it had not known of Williamson’s Holocaust denial when it lifted the excommunication.
    The move came under fire from Jewish groups and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. In February 2009, a German court fined Williamson €12,000 after convicting him of Holocaust denial. In 2014 the conviction was upheld on appeal but the fine reduced to €1,600!.

    Kevin trivialises the theme and kept very poor company.. I would have spiked it as an adolescent’s provocative treatment of a huge subject.

  • aquifer

    “mischief making of the most pedantic” to point out weekly hate speech? Worth the trouble, we should agree by now.

  • Damien Mullan

    This faintly reminds me of the furore over Senator David Norris’s bizarre musings on Greek Pederasty that broke as he began campaigning for the presidency in the summer of 2011.

    Why, O why, do people venture into these areas. These are intelligent intellectual beings that seem to have a compunction of channeling their inner Marquis de Sade every now and again.

  • Damien Mullan

    Hubristically nitpicking the word Holocaust in 2009 seems like venturing for trouble of your own.

  • Starviking

    On the ‘Holocaust Denial’ charge, Kevin’s own words show what he really feels, and perhaps this is why there was no frothing outrage back in 2009:

    Moreover, there certainly was no holocaust. For if the word is to have any literal validity at all, it must be related to its actual meaning, which comes from the Greek words holos, ‘whole’, and caust, ‘fire’. Most Jewish victims of the Third Reich were not burnt in the ovens in Auschwitz. They were shot by the hundreds of thousands in the Lebensraum of the east, or were worked or starved to death in a hundred other camps, across the Reich.

    This programme was begun informally by Nazi armies in 1941, and only took organised form after the Wannsee conference in January 1942. Thus was born one of the most satanic operations in world history, in which millions of Jews were murdered. To be sure, you can use the term holocaust to describe these events, but only as a metaphor.

    However, to turn that metaphor into a political dogma, a denial of which can result in imprisonment, is to create a religio-penal code of which Torquemada would have approved.

    Of course, now, we may merrily quote small snippets of the 2009 article to show how vile Kevin is, and under no circumstances wonder why the good people of 2009 tolerated such a writer…

  • aquifer

    He did report on our troubles, so no shrinking violet. And he usually cares for truth and for language, which have their own enemies around here. Better than hubris plus pistols.

  • aquifer

    Think of it as a mental work out with a nasty trainer. Not bad for us at the end.

  • file

    His comment about Jews is pro-Jewish, not anti-Semitic. The article is very misogynist, though. He’ll get another job and the storm will leave the tea cup. Has anyone asked Winkleman or Feltz if they were offended?

  • hgreen

    Yep. And they were.

  • Granni Trixie

    Doesn’t it compound his wrong that Myers apparently is “keeping his head down” …instead of (a) putting his hands up and apologising (b) defending what to others is mistaken judgement and moral wrong?

  • Clanky

    I am lucky enough to have been at sea for the whole thing so didn’t read the latest article and I was not aware of the original, I am however glad to see the Jewish Council of Ireland defend his right to be critical of jews.

    There is far too much pussyfooting around the less pleasant aspects of both some forms of the jewish religion and some forms of jewish society for fear of being branded anti-semitic, in the same way that any criticism of Islam leads to accusations of islamaphobia.

    While any form of hate speech should rightly be banned and punishable by law, there are many who twist any form of criticism into hate speech, not only in the jewish and muslim communities, but in christian communities not so far from home too,

    I can understand the rationale behind the holocaust denial laws when they were first passed, but surely an open debate of the holocaust and the ability to critically analyse the evidence would take a way the voice from the conspiracy theorists and those who (unlike Myers) deny that it happened in any form. What other event in history is it illegal to debate critically?

  • Jim M

    I found the article, on a blog called ‘The Proud Zionist’ (I picture the Shinner posters spluttering into their 1916 coffee mugs). The blogger actually thinks Myers is neither a Holocaust denier or (necessarily) an antisemite, but certainly obnoxious. I read it – I think it actually is flirting with Holocaust denial, in that it claims the six million figure was originally the total estimated concentration camp body count. This implies (although Myers does not go there, merely making the infantile point that it wasn’t precisely that figure) that the Jewish body count was much lower than six million. Now I have seen estimates that are closer to five than six million, in respectable sources, but Myers does seem to be hinting (as seen in his reference to ‘hundreds of thousands’ being shot) at a body count of possibly less than a million, which to me is definitely in denialist territory. As for his comment about ‘Holocaust’ being an inaccurate word – seriously, Kevin? The word means a ‘burnt offering’ and is a metaphor. We used to talk about ‘nuclear holocaust’ – of course not everyone who died in that would be burnt. Kevin has form for deliberate obtuseness- I’ve seen it in a Bel Tel column he did where he compared paying for sex to getting a massage – but this is particularly bad. As the ‘Proud Zionist’ blogger points out, Kevin is, deliberately or not, in a tradition of people playing word games or casting doubt on elements of the Holocaust, not as historical enquiry but in bad faith.

  • james

    “Branding Kevin Myers as either an anti-Semite or a Holocaust denier was “an absolute distortion of the facts”, according to the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland.

    “More than any other Irish journalist,” said the council in a statement, “he has written columns about details of the Holocaust over the last three decades that would not otherwise have been known by a substantial Irish audience.
    “The knee-jerk responses from those outside Ireland appear to care little for facts….”

    It’s hardly a ”limited defence”…..

  • Starviking

    But did they read the article? Many people are offended by things because they’ve been given a ‘summary’ of the offending thing.

  • PV Nevin

    Myers attended Ratclffe College public school. Former puls include two of Thatcher’s ministers.
    Went then to UCD Dublin, an institution that faithfully promotes cynicism in its staff and students, loyally serving business and the state.
    L

  • the rich get richer

    He is well hidden . Whose’s afraid to face the music .

    His disappearance does not show him in a good light……

  • the rich get richer

    Maybe his misogyny comes from resenting his nanny or female bosses…..get a psychiatrist…… do get a psychiatrist….

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Having lived in Leicester myself, I and others frequently observed a certain curmudgeonly tendency: an overblown sense of resentment and defensiveness among some. Interestingly, it was only manifest among the white population not that I’m insinuating any cause and effect – just a noticeable difference.

  • PV Nevin

    Sue Towsend was from Leicester, a decent woman. Working class.
    Identity politics is not the opposite of racism etc. It actually reinforces the rotten ideologies of the bourgeoisie and their reactionary followers.
    Identity politics is a trap.
    The issue at bottom of everything is class.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    I met Sue Townsend on a number of occasions when she was patron of the organisation where I worked and had a lot of admiration and an instinctive liking for her.
    My observations though weren’t restricted to the working class of the town. In fact the white middle classes were more inclined to show the characteristics that I mentioned and to the best of my knowledge Myers isn’t from a working class background.
    It’s also worth noting that rapid ‘social mobility’ or increasing affluence is particularly well known among those of an Asian background in the UK.

  • PV Nevin

    Certain types or layers who are ambitious to get on the gravy train are found amongst all nationalities, religions, genders and sexual orientations. Such issues of identity are purely secondary.
    It is class conciousness that is the crucial question. Petty greed and meaness of spirit being aspects of absence of class conciousness.
    A world outlook that incorporates the oppisite view, a desire to get rid of all exploitation, is the domibant view in the working class, but is given no voice by the identity politics brigade or the phoney socialists in Labour, unions or the pseudo-left.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Like the Daily Mail’s outrage at on of Christopher Morris’s satires (Brasseye I think) regarding media alarmism and paedophilia.
    Years after the show was aired…

  • Nevin
  • Granni Trixie

    I am extremely grateful for the link, Nevin, I found the intereview fascinating. Infact I was becoming impressed by Myers not least because he did apologise for having offended Jewish people, until near the end when he made it clear that he doesn’t grasp how offensive he was being In his generalisations about women.
    I think he prides himself on making a case against equality between the sexes and being anti feminist.

    LET ME AT HIM!

  • Nevin

    Glad to have been of some service!

  • lapsedmethodist

    Just love being lectured on ethics and morality by Greenslade.

  • file

    They should get out more.