Denialism in the democracies

Certainly these denialists know what they’re doing: they learn, refine, become more ‘academic’, more sophisticated, more credible as alternative explainers or revealers of ‘truth’; more subtle and less ‘kooky’ than they appeared immediately after the war. But while they remain professionally isolated within their communities, they are at the same time collectivised. In other words, as disparate as they are geographically, they have turned themselves into a coterie, a cult, a collective who now meet publicly—or who are sometimes prevented from meeting publicly, as in Lebanon in 2001.[9] They are assembled in a fortress of their choosing, as purveyors of hate and merchants of prejudice. While they may have a certain mass appeal, they are no longer viewed as discrete, independent scholars, worthy of attention or of a serious intellectual or academic hearing. They see themselves as an army of combatants, although their visibility renders them more capable of being grouped into an identifiable body, quartered, quarantined and made both ridiculous and unbelievable.

In 2000, and again in 2001, on appeal in senior British courts, the hubris of the new Crown Prince of ridicule, David Irving, ‘the noted British historian, author of more than 20 books’, ensured that a great many Humptys fell off the wall.[10] In July 2001, the three-judge Court of Appeal supported Justice Gray's initial ruling in the libel case of Irving v Lipstadt & Penguin Books. They declared that Irving was ‘one of the most dangerous spokespersons for Holocaust denial…No objective, fair-minded historian would have serious cause to doubt that there were gas chambers at Auschwitz and that they were operated on a substantial scale to kill hundreds of thousands of Jews.’ Justice Gray had concluded: ‘Irving is anti-Semitic. His words are directed against Jews, either individually or collectively, in the sense that they are by turns hostile, critical, offensive and derisory’.[11]