Respectful Insolence

“Debating” denialists

I happened to be listening to the Holocaust Denial On Trial podcast yesterday, specifically this episode which is a recording of a speech given by Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt about Holocaust denial and her experiences being sued for libel in Britain by arch Holocaust denier David Irving, who, much like the British Chiropractic Association taking advantage of the U.K.’s highly plaintiff-friendly libel laws to sue Simon Singh for libel now, took advantage of those same libel laws back in the late 1990s to sue Deborah Lipstadt. In the speech, she takes a position that I have argued on multiple occasions in this blog, stating plainly, “I do not debate deniers.”

OK, so far nothing remarkable about that. She also gave a number of reasons why she does not debate deniers that I completely agree with and that should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read this blog. What is remarkable was a metaphor that Professor Lipstadt used regarding why she does not debate deniers. “Debating a denier,” she said, “is like trying to nail a blob of Jello to the wall.”

She’s right.

There are a number of compelling reasons why it is often pointless at best and counterprodcutive at worst to debate a denier, denialist, crank, or whatever you want to call it. For one thing, for a debate to be an intellectually useful exercise, there have to be two reasonable points of view being argued, points of view that have evidence to support them. The evidence doesn’t have to be of equal quantity and quality on each side, of course, but it should at least be somewhere in the same ball park–or on the same planet. This isn’t a rule that is limited to just Holocaust deniers, either. Vaccine denialists (a.k.a. anti-vaxers), evolution denialists (a.k.a. creationists), scientific medicine denialists (a.k.a. alt-med mavens), HIV/AIDS denialists, or 9/11 Truthers, they all fall into this category They all desperately crave respectability, too. As much as they disparage mainstream thought in the disciplines that they attack, be it medicine, vaccines, history, or current events, they desperately crave to be taken seriously by the relevant disciplines. Being seen in the same venue, on the same stage, or on the same media outlet as an apparent equal gives them just what they want.

And, damn, some of them are really good at being the Jello that you can’t nail to the wall.

Another point that Lipstad brought up about Holocaust deniers that can also be applied to denialists of all stripes is that she said at the outset of her trial that she did not want it to become a trial over whether the Holocaust happened. That it did is irrefutable , backed by mountains of evidence, as is the historical fact that it was a planned, intentional program of mass murder and genocide. Rather, with the help of World War II historian Richard Evans, the defense looked at David Irving’s methods, not his conclusions. They traced the assertions in his book back to his original sources. Evans’ report to the court is long, but well-written and worth reading, having formed the basis of his book Lying About Hitler, which was basically a memoir of the trial, along with a new version of his expert report. One passage in particular stands out:

It has already been shown in the preceding sections of this Report how Irving adopts a variety of procedures which conform to several of the techniques of falsification and manipulation laid out in Lipstadt’s list. He bends and wilfully mistranslates reliable sources; he deliberately suppresses evidence which runs counter to his argument; he skews evidence and misquotes by omitting vital parts of documents and by mistranslating other parts which he does cite; he takes accurate and reliable sources such as the Himmler phone log and shapes and bends it to suit his purposes by including speculation and pure invention which is in no way warranted by the documentary record; he misrepresents data by presenting unreliable sources as reliable when they serve his argument; he relies on books such as memoirs and diaries that directly contradict his argument, and interprets them in a way that runs counter to what the authors intended, falsely attributing to them conclusions which they did not reach.

Sound familiar? It should. These are exactly the same sorts of technique used by denialist cranks of all stripes. Holocaust deniers are unusual in that their denialism is rooted in anti-Semitism and bigotry, often with more than a dash of Hitler apologia and/or neo-Nazi sympathies, but they are not unusual in that their views are based on ideology, not evidence. I’ve pointed out before that I don’t like to use Holocaust deniers as an example because, although it’s completely valid to compare their methods of twisting history to, for example, anti-vaccine activists’ methods of twisting science, the taint of eliminationist anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust is so strong, that it makes it too easy for the anti-vaccinationist to retort, “Are you calling me a Nazi?” Even so, there is a commonality among cranks in the types of fallacious arguments and twisting of data that they engage in. Being a “denialist” is not a matter of what is being argued, but how it is being argued. It’s about bad reasoning, bad science, cherry picking data, and misrepresenting sources to support a preexisting agenda.

Which is why in a debate they are so damned hard to pin down. Like Jello.

Comments

  1. #1 Martin Robbins
    February 17, 2010

    I gave a talk at SITP in London on Monday on homeopathy, in which I made exactly this same point, except that I used conspiracy theorists as my exemplar.

    The common thing, imho, with all of these groups is their inability to form a complete and coherent argument, narrative or theory describing their position. I have never seen a 9/11 Truther ever put forward a complete description of everything that happened, accounting for all the evidence, in the way that e.g NIST or the 9/11 Commission reports attempt.

    Ditto in climate denial, ditto here, and ditto with homeopathy, which as far as I can tell has no coherent theory behind you (you can’t even get agreement on theoretical basics, like what would constitute an overdose or even if such a thing is possible).

    Virtually all pseudoscience (or pseudo-reality) positions end up being defined by their opposition to the mainstream/official story/scientific consensus, in a sort of obsessively destructive rather than constructive manner. They have no apparent interest in developing explanations, more in attacking an explanation that they don’t like. Thus, perceived contradictions or discrepancies are seized upon even when those points are mutually exclusive.

    And of course that makes these people such a waste of time to debate with – they’re unwilling or unable to form any position of their own, and you can’t debate against somebody who doesn’t actually have a coherent argument.

  2. #2 David N. Brown
    February 17, 2010

    I seriously believe that there is an ideological link between Naziism and “anti-vaxers”. Specifically, “anti-vaxers” frequently appeal to an archetypal conception of “blood purity” as something of spiritual significance. This was also a major theme in Nazi ideology, particularly the neo-gnostic system developed by Alfred Rosenberg. This mostly just illustrates that Naziism did not arise in a vacuum, and it would be unduly provocative to draw too much attention to. But, it would almost be worth it just as a counter to their preoccupation with others’ personal backgrounds.

  3. #3 cervantes
    February 17, 2010

    You may not be calling anti-vaxers Nazis, but they are calling you something just about as bad. They maintain that there is a vast conspiracy of biomedical scientists and pharmaceutical executives to intentionally mass poison hundreds of millions of children just to enrich themselves, and that you are a part of it.

    That’s what they say about you. Why be so circumspect in talking about them?

  4. #4 mattand
    February 17, 2010

    @David Brown:

    I don’t know about. From what I’ve read, much of what drives the anit-vax is either anger or confusion or money.

  5. #5 Ian
    February 17, 2010

    @David N. Brown

    Yeah, that’s quite a logical gap you’re trying to span there. The idea of purity of blood in a Nazi sense has almost nothing to do with the anti-vax argument except for the accident of similar language. No anti-vaxer that I’ve ever heard of claims that certain groups of people are causing autism by impurely breeding, or that there is a group that has superior blood/genes which was the basic thesis of Naziism.

    I rather suspect that it is pseudo-logic and hyperbole like your example that is the very thing Orac is concerned about in this post. Perhaps you are posting your theory as some kind of example of irony that I am not sophisticated enough to appreciate, but if you do “seriously believe” in the link between Nazi ideology and anti-vaccine ideology, I “seriously believe” you need to re-examine your assertions.

  6. #6 kevinwparker
    February 17, 2010

    I have never seen a 9/11 Truther ever put forward a complete description of everything that happened, accounting for all the evidence, in the way that e.g NIST or the 9/11 Commission reports attempt.

    It’s the same way for Moon landing skeptics – they point out all sort of things in the evidence that they find dubious but run away from developing any sort of alternate hypothesis and subjecting it to the same treatment. (Creationism is very similar – there’s a lot of “Evolution can’t explain this, so we must be right.”)

  7. #7 DLC
    February 17, 2010

    Try to pin a “Troofer” down on anything and you get accused of “being in on it” . I once neatly and concisely refuted the “WTC 7 was blown up ” myth, only to have my opponent demand to know “Who’s payin you! who’s pulling your strings!”

    As for holocaust denial — Look, there was a time when global warming could be argued pro and con. There was quality science going both ways on it. But there has never been a factual issue of doubt with the holocaust — people were systematically murdered on an industrial scale. There just isn’t any room to doubt that it happened. So, denying the holocaust is a form of delusion. (Having been one of global warming/climate change’s skeptics, I can tell you, some people can and do change their mind based on the evidence) As a form of delusion it is not really possible to change their minds. It’s a matter of psychology.
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6076323184217355958&hl=en#

    I leave you with that to watch.

  8. #8 Jon Hendry
    February 17, 2010

    I suppose you could nail Jello to the wall if it were cold enough. Maybe a 1/4″ thick disk, not too large in diameter.

    Another expression you might use is “like striking a match on jelly”.

  9. #9 Liz Ditz
    February 17, 2010

    David N. Brown wrote

    seriously believe that there is an ideological link between Naziism and “anti-vaxers”. Specifically, “anti-vaxers” frequently appeal to an archetypal conception of “blood purity” as something of spiritual significance.

    It is important to note that there are various wings to the anti-vaccine movement, each having their own history and reasons for having anti-vaccination beliefs.

    The early 19th century anti-vaccination movement had a religious element, citing Old Testament and New Testament verses generally on refraining from consuming blood (“blood purity”). This religious element is still cited today by general anti-vaccination shills such as Len Horowitz. Tim O’Shea’s “The Sanctity of Human Blood” is now in its 13th edition, and covers the same ground.

    I believe that there’s a general extreme political conservative wing, perhaps allied with the anti-fluoridation movement, that rejects vaccination as being a government plot. The “Vax Lib” groups may have arisen from this motivation.

    Another wing of the anti-vaccination movement has its roots in extreme Christian “pro-life” groups. They imply that all vaccinations are made from “aborted babies” and that abortions are ongoing to provide vaccine ingredients.

    However, I don’t perceive a “blood purity” link with the “autism is vaccine injury” wing of the anti-vaccination movement.

  10. #10 TomS
    February 17, 2010

    Can we distinguish between denialisms, which are marked by not having an alternative narrative, from other “unconventional views” (take flat-earth-ism as an example) which do (or at least try to)?

  11. #11 Becca Stareyes
    February 17, 2010

    The only compelling argument I’ve seen for debating denialists of all stripes is to the degree it can reach the ‘mushy middle’ — the folks who through ignorance don’t hold an entrenched opinion on things — especially when they might not otherwise get exposed to the countering arguments to denialists through, say, a public talk or other means.

    The problem is, it takes different skills than giving a public talk or even discussing with another scientist over competing theories, because of the ‘nailing Jello to the wall’ aspect — the best way to make an impression is both to show you have a valid argument, and cut through any emotional appeal the denialists have to show they essentially have no basis in facts. It’s as much or more about emotion and presentation than it is about the facts, which is why I can see why people don’t do it. (And, as I said above, it’s only a good idea if it is more successful at reaching audience members who might not otherwise be reached — the person across from you is probably a hopeless cause, as well as many of the people who came to see him/her speak.)

  12. #12 Party Cactus
    February 17, 2010

    Not only like trying to nail down Jello, but trying to nail down Jello that gets more liquid-like with each attempted nailing. I was on a forum a few weeks ago on a thread about agricultural biotech, and as the arguments got worse and worse, between the poor appeals to ignorance/nature and the Goddidits and the intentional misunderstandings, I think all I did was strengthen the resolve of the true believers. Some people will be convinced that they’re buying into nonsense given evidence and time, but only if they’re willing to really listen and consider, and doing that to a dearly held concept is not fun (as a former young earther, I’d know), and a lot of the hard core believers in crank ideas are simply not interested in reconsidering and reevaluating those beliefs. They’re right, and by golly they know it, and no evidence that says otherwise is going to change that. Talking to that type feels pretty futile.

    Reminds me of a line from The Republic:
    “May there not be the alternative, I said, that we may persuade you to let us go?”
    “But can you persuade us, if we refuse to listen to you?”

  13. #13 debaser
    February 17, 2010

    Hehe, an apt analogy, nailing Jello to the wall. Its quite easy to puts nails through jello, just like their arguements tend to be soft and squishy. Getting it to stick to the wall, that’s tough.

    They pick cherries, yes, but conspiracy theory types take it even further. An easy way to spot these types is the “Anything that goings against my theory proves the conspiracy” move. Explain about how steel doesn’t need to be turned into a liquid to lose structural integrity, you’ve just proved that a secret team of ninjas run by the shadow government HAD to have performed a secret controlled demolition in precise timing with radio controlled planes.

  14. #14 Erik Jensen
    February 17, 2010

    While debating these people has its obvious problems, I think it does not serve science well if we issue blanket refusals. A debate may be the only way that good science will reach people who are otherwise insulated from it. If a fundamentalist church wants to host a creation/evolution debate, that’s probably better than the flock simply hearing from one side of the “controversy”. And it is absolutely imperative that scientists testify before hostile school boards when they want to teach theology as science.

  15. #15 Anthro
    February 17, 2010

    I see no difference between all of the above and mythology/religion in general. It’s just a matter of degree whether or not someone’s religious “faith” allows him to accept science into that faith or not. Yet, we are taught to “respect” the religion of others (as though everyone has one or another). Since this is enshrined in the constitution, it sets up the idea that all arguments are valid and should get equal time, which results in the mess we have today with CAM. The response I often get is that, “science is just your religion”. That kind of thinking brings us right back to the jello analogy.

    Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould had a pact that they would never “debate” creationists. This is also the first thing I was told in my History of Science class.

    And now, of course, we have the media taking a few relatively unimportant bits from the climate committee and making them out to be “grave errors” that amount to “serious doubt” on their overall credibility.

  16. #16 bluemaxx
    February 17, 2010

    QUOTE From #3:
    You may not be calling anti-vaxers Nazis, but they are calling you something just about as bad. They maintain that there is a vast conspiracy of biomedical scientists and pharmaceutical executives to intentionally mass poison hundreds of millions of children just to enrich themselves, and that you are a part of it.

    You know… the Nazi metaphor may not, as several have observed, fit too well overall for the anit Vacc crowd. BUT.. if you take the words about scientists and pharma and replace with “VAST ZIONIST CONSPIRACY”…it seems really really similar.

  17. #17 Ian
    February 17, 2010

    @bluemaxx

    What that suggests to me is that there are tools that are commonly used by those whose views fall well outside the verifiable scientific world. Stripped of all evidence, flummoxed by superior logic, but still believing in your heart of hearts that your position is correct, you have few ways of resolving this cognitive dissonance. The easiest and most convenient is to assume that the logic/evidence has been improperly stacked against you by a conspiracy.

    The only other way to resolve such a conflict is to admit that your position may be incorrect, at which point you either redefine it (shift goalposts) or renounce it altogether. As #12 so rightly notes, that renunciation is a really tough thing to do for closely-held values.

  18. #18 Green Eagle
    February 17, 2010

    I’ve thought about this problem for a long time- it’s been 40 years since I first tried engaging people like this. You are always confronted with the same problem. Briefly, if you engage them in public, they are able to claim that as a proof of their legitimacy, and if you do not engage them, they can breed in the dark like mold under a wet carpet.

    I don’t think there is a general answer to this. Sometimes it is of benefit, or even necessary to stand up to their views; sometimes they are best left to wither away.

    But certainly today, with all of the lunatic theories about Obama, global warming, health care and other issues, which seem to be gaining credence among a good part of the U.S. population, we can see the damage done by generations of rational people that didn’t think it appropriate to engage these people. And yes, I must say, I do see similarities to the spread of irrational beliefs in Germany in the 1920′s (and not just among Nazis.)

  19. #19 The Domestic Goddess
    February 17, 2010

    Whether it be Holocaust deniers, AIDS deniers, 9/11 Deniers, Moon landing deniers or anti-vaxxers, I’ve noticed a common thread.

    Fear. Anger. Hatred. Something to blame, something to direct the ugly at. It’s scary how passionate they can be and how ugly it can get.

  20. #20 Dave
    February 17, 2010

    You are always confronted with the same problem. Briefly, if you engage them in public, they are able to claim that as a proof of their legitimacy, and if you do not engage them, they can breed in the dark like mold under a wet carpet.

    Ridicule. It exposes their idiocy without granting them legitimacy. Granted, its not sufficient to simply point and laugh, were their positions that self-evidently absurd they wouldnt gain any traction. But its quite possible to address the claims while making fun of them. A great example is the NCSE’s Project Steve, as is Orac’s Hitler Zombie.

  21. #21 Dave
    February 17, 2010

    OK, not sure what happened with my blockquote tags above, but the first indent is Green Eagle @18 and the second indent is my comment.

  22. #22 Jeff Read
    February 17, 2010

    I’d say it’s more like wrestling with a pig: you both get muddy and the pig likes it.

  23. #23 Stephen Lennon
    February 17, 2010

    Something that I think of when I meet a conspiracy theorist or denier, (One of my friends thinks the moon landing was a hoax and my aunt believes that Dianna was murdered by the queen.) is that they are a recovering addict who has lost faith in some believe system and replaced it with something else. This new addiction becomes a crutch that they simply can’t let go of easily or at all. I also think of Richard Dawkins’, religion is a thought virus. If true then conspiracy theories would be a mutated form of that virus or a new strain, one that disguises itself as science by “asking questions”.

  24. #24 luke
    February 17, 2010

    I sat down at a double-date once, and midway through the dinner, found out that the other “gentleman” was a rabid anti-vaxer. After having a rather thorough converstion, with him going down a list of bullet points, and me soundly refuting them one by one, he realized he was out of arguments and ended the conversation with:
    “Do you believe everything they tell you?”

    F*#@!n jello…

  25. #25 Pablo
    February 17, 2010

    The problem with debating the denialists is that they can be completely open-ended. It’s primed for the Gish gallop. I’ve always contended that if such debates are going to happen, they have to be on very, very specific topics. None of this vague “Resolved: 9/11 was an inside job” or “Resolved: Evolution is impossible.” It has to be something very specific, like, “The formation of genuses specieses could not have occurred via evolution” or perhaps even more specific.

    A second thing I tend to say is that scientists run into trouble in these types of settings because they make the mistake of thinking that, sinc reality is on their side, that all they have to do is to talk about reality, and argue in good faith. The problem is, the other side isn’t bound by such rules. They have no trouble inventing anything. When that happens, the scientist is pretty much flummoxed, trying to figure out where this even comes from. Their only response can be, “I’ve never heard of such a thing” which only gives the impression of ignorance.

  26. #26 Rene Najera
    February 17, 2010

    You don’t mud wrestle a pig. You both get dirty, maybe even contract a communicable disease, but only the pig enjoys it.

    Rush Limbaugh (bring on the comments, I guess) said, “You don’t argue with an idiot because people can’t tell who’s the idiot.”

  27. #27 tresmal
    February 17, 2010

    Not to go OT, ORAC, on you but do think this is something you could get behind? Anyway Christopher Maloney is a quack.

  28. #28 Rich
    February 17, 2010

    You may find the following essay by a colleague of mine of interest.

    Why Revisionism Isn’t

  29. #29 Militant Agnostic
    February 18, 2010

    Totally OT, but check out the current issue of the National Enquirer (that’s right, the National Enquirer) the next time your are waiting in the checkout line. The top headline reads “Dr. Oz is a Fake”. The article is on page 43 or a bit further in. It includes quotes from Orac’s buddy Steve Novella as well as Orac’s “Friend who shall not be named” and a couple of other skeptical doctors and only one quote defending Oz. It mostly addresses his promotion of Reiki etc. Brought a smile to my face.

  30. #30 David N. Brown
    February 18, 2010

    To provide some perspective for my earlier comment: One of the latest AoA posts is about someone’s (I think it was Gardner Harris) brother having ties to a pharmaceutical company. How does this sound as an all-purpose rebuttal to this sort of nonsense:
    “Yeah, but you are influenced by theosophists, who influenced the Nazis!”

  31. #31 Mithrandir
    February 18, 2010

    What it comes down to, and the whole reason that we have this concept of “denialism,” is that for a human to maintain and propagate a belief in a hypothesis, not only without evidence but in contradiction with the evidence, requires a series of psychological tricks, a set of argumentative style, that distracts from the evidence and engages the emotions.

    The only thing that different stripes of denialism (Holocaust denial, anti-vax, creationism, anti-AGW) have in common is the fact that the evidence is against their pet hypothesis.

    I am starting to believe in crank magnetism, mind you – but again, that doesn’t mean the various kinds of crankery have anything inherently in common. It’s more that a mindset susceptible to building elaborate conspiracy theories to prop up a hypothesis against evidence is, by its nature, ill suited to detect dodginess in other things the person believes, or wants to believe.

  32. #32 rachel
    February 18, 2010

    Now that the whole GW hoax is being exposed piece by piece, those who deny that they have been scammed are now the “deniers”.

  33. #33 llewelly
    February 18, 2010

    cervantes | February 17, 2010 1:14 PM:

    You may not be calling anti-vaxers Nazis, but they are calling you something just about as bad. They maintain that there is a vast conspiracy of biomedical scientists and pharmaceutical executives to intentionally mass poison hundreds of millions of children just to enrich themselves, and that you are a part of it.

    That’s what they say about you. Why be so circumspect in talking about them?

    It’s not clear what you are saying here, (and obviously I can’t speak for orac), but calling vaccine denialists “Nazis” would not be correct. (If that is not what you meant, I apologize.) The deaths caused by vaccine denialists are not murder, because the vaccine denialists do not intend for their actions to result in murder. Also, the vaccine denialists are not necessarily the sole cause of the deaths that result from the comeback of vaccine-prevented diseases; in some cases the diseases would still cause deaths, but not as many. The most extreme description which could be used is manslaughter. Negligent manslaughter is probably better, but even that is perhaps not reasonable to apply to most vaccine denialists, who genuinely believe they are doing the best they can, and do not understand the implications of their actions at all. Furthermore – they have not, so far, caused a comparable number of deaths. Their rhetoric is also different in character, even if it is extremely ugly. Racial purity is not one of their goals.

  34. #34 FreeSpeaker
    February 18, 2010

    Cervantes asks “Why be so circumspect in talking about them?” Very simple: not to do so would require stooping down into their slime face first. Never use their tactics.

  35. #35 Natalie
    February 18, 2010

    Is there a nice, snappy name, or maybe an established logical fallacy, for the nit-picky type of arguing that denialists engage in. That is, the technique people have noted here of arguing a handful of minor facts to try to prove that an entire theory is invalid?

  36. #36 debaser
    February 18, 2010

    The paper linked to above in #28 (link works if you delete everything after the last “/”) brings up just such a thing (its a quick read)

    This has been called the “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus” condition (one thing mistaken equals all things mistaken). It means, for example, that if any single piece of [survivor] evidence can be shown to be wrong, all [survivor] evidence is wrong and is to be dismissed.

  37. #37 Katharine
    February 18, 2010

    “It’s not clear what you are saying here, (and obviously I can’t speak for orac), but calling vaccine denialists “Nazis” would not be correct. (If that is not what you meant, I apologize.) The deaths caused by vaccine denialists are not murder, because the vaccine denialists do not intend for their actions to result in murder. Also, the vaccine denialists are not necessarily the sole cause of the deaths that result from the comeback of vaccine-prevented diseases; in some cases the diseases would still cause deaths, but not as many. The most extreme description which could be used is manslaughter. Negligent manslaughter is probably better, but even that is perhaps not reasonable to apply to most vaccine denialists, who genuinely believe they are doing the best they can, and do not understand the implications of their actions at all. Furthermore – they have not, so far, caused a comparable number of deaths. Their rhetoric is also different in character, even if it is extremely ugly. Racial purity is not one of their goals.”

    Stupidity does not excuse the consequences. Therefore, negligent manslaughter is a reasonable label.

  38. #38 Vicki
    February 18, 2010

    The answer to denialist lies shouldn’t be “I’ve never heard of such a thing,” but “You made that up. Stop lying to these good people.”

  39. #39 Daniel J. Andrews
    February 18, 2010

    Rachel (32), see Vicki’s post (38). btw, I already know what you think is evidence for your position. It isn’t. Instead, the “evidence” is lies, misrepresentations, and made-up quotes attributed to scientists. Go back and reread Orac’s Evans’ quote because that is what your evidence is composed of. Locate and read the science articles for yourself instead of relying on media to tell you what the science says.

  40. #40 Bruce
    February 22, 2010

    Part of the problem with Holocaust denial is that the holocaust has been tied up in what is in reality an unrelated venture: Zionism and Israel.

    Many Zionists use the holocaust, falsely, as a logical justification for the existence of Israel. As if, if the holocaust was real, Israel must be allowed to exist. The problem is, Israel is founded on land mostly taken by expelling Arabs through force and terror tactics (read about the Haganah brigades if you don’t believe me). This continues to this day, with the illegal construction of Jewish buildings in settlements and Jerusalem (something as an aside, that Obama has called for an immediate END to, but Israels right wing government refuses). Sadly, some critics of Israel have accepted the false premise put forth by the Zionists, and feel they must dis-prove the Holocaust if the human rights of the Palestinian people are to be protected. Obviously, they are totally wrong about this, but I can sympathize with their position.

    What needs to happen, is a fundamental examination of the legality of the state of Israel, and an examination of the ideology of Zionism, which I believe is racist. Firstly of course, Israel must follow through with a halt to all settlement activity (as Obama requested) and the Palestinian people must be assisted in rebuilding (which Obama has done as well, but not enough). Once these issues are addressed, I think you will see Holocaust denial fade into oblivion.

  41. #41 v.rosenzweig
    February 22, 2010

    Bruce–why Israel specifically? How about the fundamental legality of the existence of the United States, founded on centuries of conquest, disposession, and broken treaties? (“They made us many promises, and they never kept but one. They promised to take our land, and they took it.”)

    Think about the millions who died and the many more exiled in the partition of India, in 1948? Does that render India and Pakistan illegitimate?

    How long is your statute of limitations?

  42. #42 Bruce
    February 22, 2010

    False analogy, the Zionists came into a land already settled with a modern nation state: The Ottoman empire and the British Mandate. They did not come into a land sparsely populated by nomadic peoples without a recognized government, as settlers to the United States did. In the case of Oklahoma and real Indian nations (with a newspaper, legislature and so on, the five civilized tribes) there is a recognition of wrongs perpetrated and a recognition of some form of sovereignty – as the case of the Choctaw Nation. I’m not arguing that the displacement of sparse native peoples by much more advanced groups is right, but it’s a generally accepted historical precedent (Japanese overwhelming Ryuku, Scandinavians absorbing Samii, Gauls dispelling Celts, Arabs absorbing various berber tribes).

    The case of Israel and the Zionists is completely different, because they came and specifically expelled and ghettoized the Palestinians living there. It is more Akin the Japanese invasion and occupation of Korea or Manchuria.