The other day, in the midst of a discussion about one of my posts about Holocaust denial, an anti-Semite posting as “bernarda” demanded:
Then I read books like Norman Finkelstein’s Holocaust Industry and understood that it [the Holocaust] has just become a propaganda tool to create a permanent guilt complex, even on Americans who had nothing to do with it. Why are there several holocaust museums in the U.S. but no slavery museum?
The answer is pretty simple: Because the U.S. did not perpetrate the Holocaust. It helped to end the Holocaust. In contrast, the U.S. did perpetrate slavery. That’s probably why, and it’s just that simple. Because of that it’s easier to build political and financial support for opening a Holocaust museum than it is for opening a slavery museum. (Even so, I would point out, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum was not without its controversy and indeed took over 15 years to be built from planning to opening). It’s also probably why there are slavery museums in nations like Senegal and Ghana, where slaves were captured to be taken to the U.S., but not the U.S. itself. Douglas Wilder, who has spearheaded a drive to build a slavery museum, has addressed this issue head on:
To Wilder, it’s striking that it seems easier for Americans to confront the shameful history of Nazi-sponsored genocide. “None of it ever happened here, none of it,” he says. “To the extent that Jews were persecuted here, they were persecuted along with African-Americans. There was anti-Semitism, anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-anything in terms of people who weren’t the true bloods. I want to show that there aren’t any true bloods in America. I don’t want to talk about what was good and what was bad and who was right and who was wrong. I want to lay out the facts, so you can tell the story for yourself.”
After all, although slavery was a great evil, in some parts of the U.S. the Civil War is still to this day known as the War of Northern Aggression. In many parts of this nation, not all necessarily restricted to the Old South, Confederate flags are still displayed proudly. Such a museum would be a monument to one of the darkest chapters of U.S. history, a reminder of the evil that we as a nation perpetrated on the Africans captured or sold and then brought over to tend our farms and do other work as slaves. Building it would, in essence, involve delving deeply into a dark chapter of American history that many would prefer not to remember and particularly not to emphasize. As Louise Witt wrote three years ago discussing a planned slavery museum:
However harmless Wilder’s effort seems in the early 21st century, it is sure to provoke renewed controversy over the Civil War — and slavery’s legacy — in a place where the dominant culture views the past through a lens of romance and denial. There’s no dispute that slavery is a part of the history of the North and the South. But slavery cannot be discussed without delving into the antebellum South’s role in perpetuating and expanding it westward, and the Confederacy’s stalwart defense of it.
For some Southerners, especially the Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose modest membership of 35,000 belies its formidable political clout, that’s simply not acceptable.
“If Douglas Wilder plans on telling the whole story of slavery, then it’ll be good,” says Bragdon “Brag” Bowling, commander of the Virginia division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. “If not, it’ll be more of the same: trying to demonize Southerners and leaving out Northern shipping merchants and the blacks who turned over other tribes to the Dutch and the English slaver traders. I’m concerned that the Southerner will be the bad guy in this and it was a whole lot more than that.”
In fact, the entire premise of bernarda’s question above will soon be incorrect, as there is finally actually a U.S. National Slavery Museum , slated to open in 2007. It even turns out, not surprisingly that Douglas Wilder is the founder, and Bill Cosby is a key supporter of the effort:
RICHMOND, Va. Sep 22, 2006 (AP)– Bill Cosby called Friday on each American to contribute $8 to help build a national slavery museum amid the battlefields of the Civil War. Cosby, who already has committed $1 million to the project, joined Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder on Friday in launching a new campaign to raise $100 million toward the Fredericksburg museum’s $200 million price tag.
“The incentive is that they would join in with the rest of the United States of America in saying yes, as an American, I gave $8 to help build something that tells the story,” he said in a teleconference with Wilder.
In a nation of some 300 million people, even a tepid response would surpass the $100 million goal, Cosby said.
He admitted this kind of campaign “generally fails badly.”
“But I’m going to try again because I’m going to present this national slavery museum as a jewel that’s missing in a crown.”
The campaign marks the latest attempt at fundraising for the U.S. National Slavery Museum, a project in the works for more than a decade.
Wilder struggled to find a location before settling on a site near the Rappahannock River, a region where many Civil War battles were fought.
I. M. Pei has designed the buidling, which is to be located in Fredericksburg, VA. Contributions are accepted here, and it certainly sounds like a worthy project. The U.S. should be open about this chapter of its history and overcome the difficulties that acknowledging slavery causes.
Of course, “bernarda” almost certainly has no real interest in slavery in the U.S. The mention of the lack of a national slavery museum in the U.S. was merely an obvious red herring designed to distract readers from his anti-Semitism, to make it seem less like the blatant anti-Semitism that it is. Now that I’ve answered his red herring, I have to point out that bernarda’s praise of Iranian President Ahmadinejad, coupled with his evasiveness and undisguised anti-Semitism, has set my Holocaust denier detection antennae twitching. Look at the rhetoric that follows my challenging “bernarda”:
None of the things in Ahmadinejad’s interview are discussed and none of the things I discussed are debated. It is all personal insults. Is that how scientists now work?
As to this site, apparently there is some insolence which is not very well tolerated. So I am not PC on the shoah business. So what? 6 million jews were killed in WWII, and what about the other 50 to 60 million that were killed?
Maybe 20 to 30 million Chinese were killed by the Japanese, where is their lobby and their museum in the center of Washington? I know Chinese who were in the war or the children of them. They don’t bring up the holocaust there at a drop of a hat.
Typical of orc’s character assassination is attributing to me “Holocaust happened and the Jews deserved it” Where did I say anything like that? Why not say that I think the other 50-60 million people deserved it?
I just say that all that is now history and it is time for you to get over it. Have you ever heard one zionist express concern over the Chinese who were massacred or even the 4 million Indonesians that were massacred in WWII?
You seem to be saying that they deserved it.
Ding ding ding ding! We have a winner! Smells like a possible Holocaust denier to me. First, let’s recap where he gets denial points:
- Whines about character assassination when I infer from his rants about Israel using the Holocaust as justification for their occupation of the West Bank and Gaza that he doesn’t like Jews and might even think they “deserved what they got” in the Holocaust. Check.
- Seems to think that President Ahmadinejad of Iran’s statements are worthy of serious consideration and contemplation, even though Ahmadinejad frequently spews the most obvious and easily debunked denier rhetoric. Check.
- Brings up a canard about either slavery or other atrocities and demands why more attention isn’t given to those atrocities? Check. (By the way, perhaps we should give those events more attention, but the fact that we don’t is largely irrelevant to the historicity of the Holocaust, nor does our failure to memorialize them more justify bernarda’s Jew-hatred. I’m guessing that in actuality bernarda probably doesn’t really give a rodent’s posterior about slavery, Japanese massacres in China, or the massacre of Indonesians. His harping on them is a blatant diversion from the topic at hand.)
- Uses tortured “logic” (“Have you ever heard one zionist express concern over the Chinese who were massacred or even the 4 million Indonesians that were massacred in WWII? You seem to be saying that they deserved it”). Check. (By the way, bernarda is using another red herring here, as he did more than fail to express concern over the Holocaust. He actively dismissed it contemptuously as not important and implied that the Jews profit from it and use it to justify their occupation.)
So, is bernarda a Holocaust denier? I don’t have enough information yet, but indications are pretty good that he probably is. At the very least, he is an anti-Semite, for which ample evidence exists in a Google search and in discussion threads in blogs, including my own, sometimes pulling the “why no slavery museum?” gambit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. (Oh, and bernarda clearly knew before asking the question that started this post that there is indeed a slavery museum under construction. Make your own conclusions about bernarda’s truthfulness.) Otherwise, why would he so blatantly dodge the questions I posed? This is all that I asked:
- Did the Nazi regime implement a program to expel or exterminate European Jewry in Nazi-occupied territory, the fruits of which were the deaths of between five and six million Jews? Yes or no?
- Were there homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz? Yes or no?
- Do Jews exaggerate the number of deaths in the Holocaust? If so, how and by how much?
They’re fairly simple questions–if you’re not a Holocaust denier. Holocaust deniers, however, seem to have a lot of problems giving a straight answer to them, particularly the first two questions. (The third question might be answered yes by your run-of-the-mill anti-Semite.) Of course, even if bernarda surprises me and answers all of them without equivocation, that would just mean that he’s your basic anti-Semite, not a Holocaust denier.
Finally, I will admit that bernarda is correct about one thing. There is one form of insolence that I do not have any tolerance for on this blog, and I never claimed otherwise. I do not tolerate racism or bigotry here. Racists and anti-Semites should not expect the insolence that I direct at them to be in any way “respectful.” In fact, one reason that I do not simply delete such comments with extreme prejudice is that I want my readers to see how these people think. In any case, racists, bigots, and anti-Semites do not deserve my respect, nor will they get it.