The Great Genocide Denial Debate: Goldhagen Versus Storobin
“Survivors of all genocides say the same thing: We want the truth told. We want people to know what happened so that it will not happen to others…We should honor the survivors’ wishes everywhere for truth and justice, and this means that, whatever the momentary political costs, we must insist that the truth be told about all genocides. The Turks murder of the Armenians included. Those who fail to do so perpetrate a moral and human scandal, and cast a bad light on themselves…” –DANIEL GOLDHAGEN
Every once in a while, an article jumps off the page of a newspaper (it is not currently available on the web) that just makes one scream “Yes! Yes! Exactly!”
I had this experience while reading Daniel Goldhagen’s superb “THE OTHER DENIED GENOCIDES” in the February 17, 2012 Edition of THE FORWARD (currently still on the few newsstands which carry this fine paper).
The son of a Holocaust survivor, Goldhagen became a scholar in the field of Holocaust studies, but eventually expanded his reach to analysis of what he characterizes as “eliminationist assaults.” In 2009 Goldhagen published Worse Than War, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity. He interviewed genocide perpetrators and victims in Rwanda, Guatemala, Cambodia, Kenya, and the USSR, as well as politicians, government officers, and private humanitarian organization officers. Goldhagen’s aim was to help "craft institutions and politics that will save countless lives and also lift the lethal threat under which so many people live.” He believes "eliminationist assaults" are preventable, because "the world's non-mass-murdering countries are wealthy and powerful, having prodigious military capabilities (and they can band together)", whereas the perpetrator countries "are overwhelmingly poor and weak." The book was later adapted into a documentary film of the same name.
Though written for a Jewish paper, the point of Goldhagen’s new article is that the Holocaust is part and parcel (albeit the largest part and parcel) of a much larger picture.
And this point includes its crucial subset: that Holocaust denial is part and parcel of the larger phenomenon of genocide denial (and perhaps not even the largest part).
“If Holocaust denial is the best-known and most widely practiced form of genocide denial, it is neither the only or the oldest. Already this year, in the span of just a few days at the end of January, we saw a few potent examples of the pushback against those who would try to bury the memory of mass murder. The French legislature criminalized the denial of the Turks’ genocide of the Armenians in World War I….
…Every denial movement is organized and led by political leaders, often at the helm of a state, who place enormous obstacles to the truth being told or to justice done. Denial movements cast doubt on, and confuse people about…the Serbs genocide of Bosniaks in the former Yugoslavia from 1992 to 1994…
…The Turks’ denial of their slaughter of 1.5 million Armenians is the oldest, most consistent and, probably, most effective large scale genocide denial phenomenon.”
As some may have noticed, I’ve recently written about a couple of incidents of genocide denial involving a Republican State Senate candidate named David Storobin.
“In the early 1990s, Yugoslavia fell apart along ethnic lines. The most contentious place was Bosnia where the Muslims clashed with Christian Serbs. Both sides committed atrocities…”
“It was thus hardly surprising that Bill Clinton chose to help Bosnian Muslims over the Serbs. What was unusual was the vilification of the Serbs as the only side that committed atrocities. While it is true that the Serbs committed crimes, it was always doubtless that Bosnians did as well.”
“Bill Clinton's grotesque unofficial and indirect alliance with Osama bin Ladin and Iranian Ayatollahs against Orthodox Christians (Russians and Serbs) was presented as a fight for human rights.”
condemned both Bosnian Muslims and Christian Serbs for committing atrocities.”
“Mr. Storobin said he had now “adjusted” the article to reflect that the atrocities were more “one-sided” against the Muslims.”
“And liberal Jewish organizations must remember that should they support KLA terrorists in Kosovo, Russia and its allies would be fully justified in aiding Hamas in Gaza as payback.”
Turkey has actually criminalized telling the truth about the genocide, and the Turkish state…has continually made falsifying this history a central foreign policy stance, threatening and sanctioning and influencing countries and individuals (including scholars) who would otherwise speak the truth about it…While German have all been confronted repeatedly with the truth about their countrymen’s perpetuation of the Holocaust, most Turks have been fed lies by their government, have never been exposed to how their countrymen exterminated Armenians and believe their claims about the genocide are merely attempts to blacken Turkey’s name.
DANIEL GOLDHAGEN: Like the Holocaust itself, Holocaust denial is a well known if often misunderstood phenomenon. In its most naked form, it denies the historical fact that during the Nazi period, German, helped by other Europeans…sought to kill the Jews of Europe and managed to slaughter 6 million of them. In somewhat less brazen form, it denies not the German perpetration of the Holocaust in its entirety, but merely central aspects of it, such as that they used gas chambers or that they killed a number close to 6 million Jews…
…Holocaust denial consists of more than outright denial of the Holocaust. It includes a variety of attempts to cast doubt on, cover up and confuse people about the Holocaust, in essence to falsify the history of this period and to fabricate a fictitious version, because it serves many people in diverse ways, primarily politically, to have such a fictitious history become accepted…In this sense, the original name that the Holocaust deniers gave themselves, “Holocaust revisionists,” is correct insofar as they used a variety of strategies, many of which were not outright denial, to revise (albeit falsify) the understanding of the Nazi period and what the Germans and others did to Jews.
Goldhagen seems sanguine about using the long arm of the law to deny Holocaust deniers and genocide deniers a forum. It is a rare area where we disagree. People should be free to publish what they want. In America, we have freedom of speech and press I’m all for it.
Let no government prevent anyone from saying or publishing what they want.
But they’re not free to say it in my space.
In my space, I get to set limits. That is the right of the owners of this space under the First Amendment, and my right under the terms set by the owners of this space.
G-d bless America!
Free speech means I not only get to deny genocide deniers space on my site to spread their vile filth, but it means I get to call out those who spread such filth, like David Storobin (regarding the genocide committed against the Bosnians and Kosovars) and those who enthusiastically host such filth, like David Storobin (regarding the Holocaust against the Armenians).
I judge such people guilty of crimes against humanity.
The sentence is a total ban from civilized public affairs until there is a complete and though public apology, followed by a long period of exile.
But David Storobin can barely acknowledge he did anything wrong.
Storobin said…“My views have evolved over the years, but there's nothing I've been ashamed of. I'm very proud of the stuff I've written.”
Storobin thinks non-existent “adjustments” and disappearing his paper trail without even an apology suffices for his sins.
It does not.
To be clear, this piece is not merely a diss of David Storobin.
A few days ago, a
Nunes then posted a response in my thread, the substance of which was that Nunes was not a Holocaust denier; he only denies the existence of the gas chambers.
He actually proudly declares himself a “Gas Chamber Denier.’
Nunes went on to give full illustration to these views, and in keeping with my policy about how decent people treat genocide deniers, I did not respond by saying, as David Storobin would “
Nor did I, in the manner of Storobin, cowardly delete Nunes’ post without comment or acknowledgement.
I deleted it and said why.
; there is a slight distinction between what he does and pure Holocaust denial.
But it is not much of a distinction.
As far as I'm concerned, Nunes is entitled to take a tiny bit of umbrage, but not much more than that.
It would be as if some crazed right wing blogger turned State Senate candidate who gave sicko bigots an uncritical forum to express their hateful fringy views, (while dog whistling his approval of their views and sometimes expressing that approval openly), then got angry because someone naturally assumed that he might be connected to the sort of people he repeatedly gave a forum to.
In response to my comments, Nunes has seemingly threatened my life.
“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord?
A false witness will not go unpunished,
…Remember, I didn't start this fight, but I will finish it.
“What a ball-less wonder.
I predicted this course of action… you better not slander my person with the term "Holocaust denier" ever again.
Here's something to consider:
No one gets threatened for believing Elvis or Jim Morrison is still alive;
No one gets threatened for believing in the Bell Curve;
No one gets threatened for believing the Earth was created 6,000 years ago;
You're just a fool.
Mention me again, and I'll be all over you like the bad smell from your female private parts.
GOD bless America!”
I don’t recall making any threats, the only threats I see are from Mr. Nunes.
I just stated my belief, which is probably a majority view, that “gas chamber denial” is a species of “Holocaust denial.” I think Mr. Goldhagen adequately explains why.
Perhaps I will report now report Mr. Nunes deranged ravings to the 76th and 84th Precincts.
That, my friend, is a threat.
And not an idle one.