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77 North Washington Street

"FOR me," says D. D. Guttenplan, the author of this month's cover story, "The Holocaust on Trial," about the libel suit brought by the British writer David Irving against the American historian Deborah Lipstadt, "writing is a way of finding out what I think. So when I heard about the David Irving case, I was immediately intrigued. I had written several articles on the McLibel trial -- when McDonald's tried to use the British libel laws to silence its critics -- and knew how much any libel defense in England is an uphill battle. Still, Anthony Julius, the counsel for the defense, is no ordinary lawyer. If Irving lost, his credibility would be destroyed. But if he won, he would be able to say that a British court found his version of history -- in which Nazi gas chambers are a figment of Allied propaganda -- to be correct. And although the court would hear a great many facts, the central questions of the Irving case would be about historical knowledge, about how we come to know and what we come to believe."

Photograph by Nicholas Elder
  D. D. Guttenplan

Guttenplan is an American writer who since 1994 has been living and reporting in London. His career has been a varied one -- he has worked for a book publisher (Pantheon), a literary magazine (Granta), a newsmagazine (Newsweek), a glossy magazine (Vanity Fair), and two New York City newspapers (The Village Voice and New York Newsday). He is currently a contributing editor of The Nation. Guttenplan intends to continue covering the Irving trial, which may last as long as three months, and is thinking about writing a book on the subject. Meanwhile, he has for several years been researching a book about the life and times of the maverick journalist I. F. Stone.

From Atlantic Unbound:

Web Citation: "McSpotlight,"
"When McDonald's executives in the United Kingdom filed a writ of libel against two unemployed London environmental activists, they could not have imagined that the ensuing trial would drag on for seven years, making it the longest trial of any kind in British history."

Stone often went against the conventional wisdom. "The establishment reporters," he once said, "know a lot of things I don't know. But a lot of what they know isn't true, and a lot of what they know that is true, they can't print." At the time of Stone's death, in 1989, Guttenplan was working for New York Newsday -- writing a column on the New York media and covering national and local politics. He resigned in 1991 in order to work on his study of Stone. "I had a nagging sense of too many stories and not enough time -- of never being sure I knew what I was talking about. Stone's life seemed to me a chance to write honestly about some of the more contested episodes in the country's past -- to connect the dots of twentieth-century American history in a new way."

- THE EDITORS


Photograph by Nicholas Elder.

Copyright © 2000 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; February 2000; 77 North Washington Street - 00.02; Volume 285, No. 2; page 6.