The BSA changes its mind about Bolton
The Broadcasting Standards Authority seems to have a habit of delivering its decisions at very inconvenient times. Last year, a couple of days before Christmas, the BSA announced that it was upholding the complaint that Kerry Bolton, New Zealand's longest-serving and highest-profile neo-Nazi, had made against yours truly. Now it has chosen to reverse its decision on the brink of the New Year, when most of the country is at the beach or at the barbeque.
Back in the middle of 2009, during a discussion about Holocaust denial and other types of pseudo-history on Radio New Zealand's Ideas programme, I called Bolton a veteran and still-active Holocaust denier, and also cited him as the creator of the myth that an ancient race of white people settled New Zealand long before Maori. Bolton complained that my statements were inaccurate, and the BSA responded with an extraordinarily turgid report which refused to 'take an opinion' on whether Bolton was a Holocaust denier but concluded that the evidence I had provided for the claim was 'scant'.
In the best spirit of pseudo-scholarship, Bolton had deleted a number of webpages I had cited as evidence for his Holocaust denial before the BSA could get to them. There was still plentiful evidence of Bolton's Holocaust denial available to the researcher - self-published books like The Holocaust Myth, for instance, and rants about the charms of Adolf Hitler, the merits of concentration camps, and the supposed control of postwar Germany by Jews in letters to The Listener and other publications - but the journalists who sit on the BSA failed to do any legwork. Their judgment was a Christmas gift to anti-semites, and was gleefully reproduced on neo-Nazi websites around the world.
The BSA's decision to side with Bolton was condemned by political commentators like Chris Trotter, by Jewish community leaders, and by academic experts on anti-semitism and neo-Nazism like Waikato University's Dov Bing. Radio New Zealand made the unprecedented step of appealing the BSA's verdict to the High Court, which ruled in August that the BSA had an obligation to consider whether or not Kerry Bolton is a Holocaust denier before it ruled in his favour. The BSA was ordered to reconsider Bolton's case, and in its new judgment the media watchdog has chosen not to uphold Bolton's complaint.
The text which accompanies the BSA's new decision is just as full of turtuous legalese as its predecessor, but it does manage to acknowledge that I was offering an 'expert opinion', rather than promoting some unspecified agenda, when I spoke to Radio New Zealand, and it notes that my claims about Bolton have been supported by three different academics who have made close readings of texts which the man has produced over the years.
An article in today's Otago Daily Times reports some of the evidence for 'Dr' Bolton's Holocaust denial, and claims that 'the BSA said that through his own writings' Bolton 'was shown to be a Holocaust denier'. Talking to the Otago Daily Times, Bolton has accused me of dealing in 'lies', and presented himself as someone who is agnostic about the Holocaust. 'I simply don't know' he says, 'to what extent it happened'. Bolton's comments make him look rather idiotic, because the Holocaust is not a subject on which any sane person can be seriously agnostic. The murder of millions of Jews by Nazi Germany during World War Two is one of the best-documented events of the twentieth century. The testimony of hundreds of thousands of people, both Gentile and Jew, vast collections of documents, and the remains of death camps like Auschwitz and Belsen all provide irrefutable proof of the events Bolton has spent his life denying. With his own words, Bolton has confirmed the accuracy of the arguments I made against him a year and a half ago, and the wisdom of the BSA's decision to reverse the unfortunate judgment it made last year.