My response to Alan Dershowitz's essay “The origin of fake news in holocaust denial” published at Gatestone Institute
An American lawyer and Harvard law professor for many years, the 78-year-old Alan Dershowitz has always been a strong supporter of Israel.
By Carolyn Yeager
I DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT GATESTONE INSTITUTE, but it appears to be comprised of Neo-Conservative, pro-Israel Washington DC-New York types, with John R. Bolton paid to be the figurehead. I didn't think this essay written by Alan Dershowitz claiming holocaust denial to be an example of 'fake news' was up to any sort of quality standard, but Dershowitz himself is listed on the Board of Governors, so that explains it.
The well-known Jewish attorney takes the Trumpian theme of “fake news,” which perfectly fits the changing holocaust narrative through it's 73 years of existence, and turns it to mean denial of the holocaust is what constitutes fake news. I, on the other hand, have used the terms fake news and fake history to describe the holocaust itself.
Dershowitz brings up the importance of “facts and evidence” quite a number of times in distinguishing between the official holocaust narrative and holocaust denial, yet he produces not a single fact or piece of evidence in his argument. He starts out with a number of unproved statements presented as though they are fact. The underlining is all in the original – I didn't add any.
“Holocaust deniers have generated fake news for decades. The deniers have funded "research" "institutes," "journals," books, magazines, videos, websites, newsflashes – all designed to provide a patina of academic respectability to demonstrable falsehoods.”
Mr. Dershowitz has not demonstrated that everything (all) he lists above is false, nor have any of his implied but not named pro-holocaust scholars. The extent of what they have done is to put forth a narrative that cannot withstand the criticisms/opposing arguments of the revisionists (deniers). When this became apparent, they solved this problem by refusing to engage with the revisionists! When this did not stop the journals and books from being produced, they criminalized the questioning and threw the most effective revisionists in prison! Now they're in the process of banning sale of the books in the U.S., in spite of the First Amendment. So Dershowitz's statement would more correctly be directed at the holocaust defenders than at the deniers.
“This entire enterprise is devoted to proving that the holocaust – the systematic murder of more than six million Jews in gas chambers, mass shootings, mobile killing units and other means of implementing the carefully planned genocide – simply did not occur.”
It is by now pretty well known that homicidal gas chambers did not physically exist. Not one has been demonstrated, proven, or photographed during its operation. Not a single autopsy of concentration camp dead showed poison gas as the cause of death. The corpses or ashes of these claimed millions of dead have never been recovered. Studies and trials have shown it was impossible for the Germans to kill and incinerate the huge number of human beings claimed, in the time and with the resources available. The number 'six million' (6,000,000) is a symbolic and religious figure in Jewish history, and was used in hundreds of publicity reports describing threatened Jews in Europe from the 1890's onward. There is no credibility at all in the number six million.
So for Alan Dershowitz, who is not a holocaust historian and does not claim to be, to make such a foolish statement about what the holocaust is, without knowing these basic FACTS I just outlined, while presenting no facts of his own, is pretty foolish. He goes on:
“It [this entire enterprise] was made up out of whole cloth for financial and political gain.”
Once again, he is turning the argument around. Where is the evidence there was any financial or political gain for revisionists? “Made up out of whole cloth” is patently false, since every phase of the holocaust narrative is meticulously responded to, much of it refuted with ample counter-evidence and scholarly arguments, plenty of source notes and all, by the best, most serious revisionists. But Dershowitz must be completely ignorant of all this. I'm sure I wouldn't be wrong to say he has never read a serious revisionist book by Carlo Mattogno or Germar Rudolf, let alone even read Arthur Butz's 1979 revisionist classic. Therefore, he knows not of that which he speaks.
No reasonable person with a modicum of intelligence can actually believe that Hitler and his Nazis co-conspirators did not plan the mass extermination of Jews at the Wannsse Conference, and that they did not carry it out at death camps, such as Treblinka, Sorbibor, Majdanek and Auschwitz, Birkenau, as well as by SS mobile killing units that gathered Jews in such places as Babi Yar and the Ponary Woods.
Dershowitz is getting deeper into the weeds now. He takes myth for actual fact – I suppose because he truly believes that the holocaust story has been proven by the "historians" when it has not. Even Yehuda Bauer, prestigious professor of Holocaust Studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem said in 1992 at a London conference that the claim that Wannsee was a “master plan” to kill Jews was nothing but a “silly story.” He said that Wannsee was a meeting but “hardly a conference” and “little of what was said there was executed in detail.”
It is now widely accepted even by holocaust historians that the Wannsee Conference was not a planning meeting for the alleged “Final Solution” but a meeting on how the Jews would be deported to the east. So who is it that doesn't have a 'modicum of intelligence' here, but Dershowitz himself! He is also wrong about the existence of “death camps” – there were only detention camps, labor camps and transit camps, with the same problem in proving so many “deaths” took place there as I commented on above. Similarly with Babi Yar and Ponary Woods – where are the remains, where is the credible evidence that these things happened? There isn't any and he offers none.
Yet, thousands of people, many with academic degrees, and some with professorial positions, persist in denying the undeniable.
In anything other than the subject of holocaust, Dershowitz would never make such a statement because it's illogical. Would highly educated, professional people deny something that was truly "undeniable?" Of course not. Dershowitz is the denier who won't listen to a different point of view from his own. If he just read a single book by an academic “denier” he would be shaken to his core.
These professional liars are given legitimacy by some reputable scholars such as Noam Chomsky, who not only champions the right of these fake historians to perpetrate their malicious lies, but who actually lend their names to the quality of the "research" that produce the lies of denial. In a widely circulated petition signed by numerous scholars, Chomsky and the other signatories actually described the false history of the notorious denier, Robert Faurisson, as "findings" based on "extensive historical research," thus giving them an academic imprimatur.
I bolded the five ad hominems because Dershowitz has not yet provided a single argument as to why they are lies. He is incensed that Noam Chomsky, a fellow liberal Jew he respects, has shown respect for the historical research of Robert Faurisson, a prominent revisionist. In the next paragraph, Dershowitz continues with his attack on Chomsky:
I, too, support the right of falsifiers of history to submit their lies to the open marketplace of ideas, where all reasonable people will reject them. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution does not distinguish between truth and lies, at least when it comes to historical events. Just as I defended the rights of Nazis to march through Skokie, and the right of KKK racists to burn crosses on the [sic] own property, I defend the right of mendacious holocaust deniers to spin their hateful web of lies. But, unlike Chomsky, I would never dream of supporting the false content of these lies or the phony methodology employed by these liars. Chomsky should be praised for defending the right of Holocaust deniers, but he should be condemned for his complicity in lending substantive and methodological credibility to their false history.
But in saying he supported Nazis' right to march through Skokie (a march organized by a Jew!) and KKKers' to burn crosses, he doesn't say that such events are good for the Jews, not harmful. The march in Skokie resulted in a brand new, modern holocaust museum built in that Chicago suburb.
The marketplace is one thing, but let me be clear that I do not believe that any university should tolerate, in the name of academic freedom these falsehoods being taught in the classroom. There is not and should not be academic freedom to commit educational malpractice by presenting provable lies as acceptable facts. Universities must and do have standards: no credible university would tolerate a professor teaching that slavery did not exist, or that the Earth is flat.
“Provable lies” he says, but makes no attempt to provide the proof. Instead, he relies on the old slavery and flat earth comparisons – as Deborah Lipstadt does! Dershowitz and Lipstadt are on the same level – they talk about facts and evidence but don't offer any, instead turning to name-calling and less than accurate comparisons. Slavery would be comparable to the fact of concentration camps and forced labor, but not to the fantasy of 'death camps' and homicidal 'gas chambers.'
Holocaust denial does not meet any reasonable standard deserving the protection of academic freedom.
There he goes again making an unsupportable sweeping statement. Whose standard is he using? His own! Whose protection? All academic workers are ideally given academic freedom. Dershowitz admittted in the beginning that among the “thousands” of deniers, many have academic degrees and hold professional positions.
This is not to say that outside the classroom, academics should be limited in their research output, or prevented from publishing improbable claims.
But the difficult questions remain: Where should the line be drawn between demonstrably false facts and controversial matters of opinion that may turn out to contain grains of truth? Should professors be allowed to teach that there are genetic differences between blacks and whites that explain disparities in outcomes? (A Nobel winning Stanford professor of Engineering tried to teach such a course on what he called "dysgenics.") Should the president of a university be allowed to speculate in public about possible genetic differences between men and women regarding the capacity to do ground-breaking work in math and science? (Harvard's former President Lawrence Summers lost his job over that.) How should the media deal with obviously false facts put forward by elected public officials?
It is not only questioning the holocaust that is outlawed in Dershowitz' ideal classroom, but race and gender differences as well. This makes it clear that truth is not the goal, but the enforcement of liberal/Marxist political correctness in general.
I have no problem with courses being taught about the phenomenon of Holocaust denial – it is after all a widespread concern – just as I would have no problem with courses being taught about the phenomenon of false history, false facts and conspiracy theories. But the classroom, with its captive audience of students being graded by professors, is never an appropriate place to espouse the view that the Holocaust did not take place. The classroom is not a free and open marketplace of ideas. The monopolistic professor controls what can and cannot be said in his or her closed shop. Accordingly, the classroom must have more rigorous standards of truth than the book market, or the internet.
The revisionist (or 'denial') argument is not that the (misnamed) “Holocaust” did not take place, but that it did not take place in the way that is described by Dershowitz in the beginning of his essay. But he insists on that version, as do most holocaust defenders. They distort the revisionist position by asserting it must be all one extreme or all the other – all their way or nothing. This is completely dishonest and doesn't fit the reality of the situation.
The same dishonesty applies when he writes here "the classromm is not a free and open marketplace of ideas ... the professor controls what can and cannot be said," but at the recent American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference he spoke to hundreds of student government representatives with a different message about the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel: "Don't let them push you around. Don't let your teachers mislead you. Stand up to your teachers. It's your university. You have the right to fight back. You have the right to demand fairness" and so on. [@4:47] Trial lawyers don't win because they're the most truthful person in the courtroom.
The responsible media should behave in a similar fashion to the professor in the classroom. They should report on the phenomenon of Holocaust denial but not themselves publish unsubstantiated claims that the Holocaust did not occur. There is no way to impose such standards on the free-wheeling internet, where Holocaust denial is rampant. It isn't clear whether the apparent recent surge in online Holocaust denial has been caused by an increase in deniers, or whether closet deniers now have public platforms or social media that they previously lacked.
How then does this all relate to the current phenomenon of false political news and facts? How should the media, academics and the general public deal with politically motivated accusations that the "news" or "facts" they publish are false? Should they report on news and facts asserted by politicians that they have fact-checked and found to lack credibility? Who, in a free and open democratic society, is to judge of whether news, facts, history or other forms of expression are false, true – or somewhere in-between? Do we really want governmental (or university) "truth squads" empowered to shut down stalls that are purveying false goods in the marketplace of ideas? And if not, what are the alternatives?
Censorship is, of course, a matter of degree. There is, moreover, a hierarchy of censorship, with the worst being governmental prior restraint, or criminalization of dissent. Following that would be university denial of academic freedom to express unpopular views outside the classroom. (I do not regard it as impermissible censorship for universities to impose reasonable standards of scholarship in the classroom and for hiring and retention decisions.) Then there is refusal by the media to report on events or issues out of fear of losing readership or advertising revenue. Finally there is self-censorship, based on fear of violating community norms.
Criminalization of dissent is what has taken hold in Europe, and our American constitutional First Amendment has prevented here so far. But Dershowitz doesn't think this freedom extends to the classroom, where the teacher or professor makes the rules. He acknowledges the media can be controlled by reader and advertiser pressures – this is how Jews early in the 20th century targeted certain newspapers and then bought them out cheaply. Owning the majority of the media allows them to heavily reinforce the community norms they prefer. Certainly, holocaust has been fully supported as a "community norm" since 1945.
The government – particularly the executive and legislative branches – must be kept away from the daunting task of striking the appropriate balance between speech and the dangers it may pose, because dissent against the state must remain the paradigm of protected speech. The courts will inevitably have to play a role in striking that balance, but should invoke a heavy presumption in favor of speech. The university administration should maintain reasonable standards in the classroom and hiring decisions, but it must not interfere with the right of faculty and students to express unpopular or even "false" ideas outside the classroom. And the media should articulate and enforce reasonable journalistic standards in reporting and fact-checking on information that some claim is false. In the unregulated world of the internet and social media, there will neither be universal standards nor all- encompassing censorship. There are no "publishers' or censors in the cyber world. In the end, the people will decide what to believe, what to doubt and what to disbelieve. And they will not always make wise determinations in a world where lies spread with far greater speed than when Winston Churchill reportedly observed that a lie makes it halfway around the world before the truth can "get its pants on."
Churchill also certainly said that History would treat him well because he was going to write it. So put that in your pipe …
Dershowitz is filling space but has made no progress in justifying his opening statements. He still considers himself the determiner of what is “true” and “false”. He mentions the university administrations, but they cannot make that determination. Neither can the media he puts so much faith in. Nor the Internet or Social Media he does not have any faith in. So it's left, in the end, to “the people,” where it should be even though he does not trust 'the people' to decide correctly. But in a “free society” there is no other acceptable solution.
There is no perfect solution to this dilemma. There never has been, and I venture to predict there never will be.
Freedom of speech and the open marketplace of ideas are not a guarantee that truth, justice or morality will prevail. The most that can be said is that freedom of expression is less worse than its alternatives such as governmental censorship, official truth squads or shutting down the marketplace of ideas. Like democracy itself, untrammeled freedom to express hateful and dangerous lies may be the "worst" policy – except for all the others that have been tried over time.
So let the purveyors of fake news – from Holocaust denial to current fake information – try to spread their falsehoods. And let truth tellers respond with facts and evidence. (END)
I have responded with some few facts and evidence, but Dershowitz has provided none. I ask him: What have you actually accomplished with this essay? You have exposed your ignorance of history and specific holocaust revisionist arguments. You have revealed your lack of democratic principles while you hypocritically espouse them. You have accused respectable researchers of promoting “malicious lies” while you accept hateful hearsay from un-cross-examined “witnesses.” You have shown yourself to be closed-minded on this topic while presenting yourself as an open-minded democrat. I think if “the people” could vote in this instance, Mr. Dershowitz would be rejected on the grounds that he failed to make his argument.
He never does tell us what he thinks is the origin of fake news in holocaust denial. Did I miss it? Does he mean it to be the revisionist movement, not a single member of which he mentions by name? Did the writer prove to us, or even convince us, that holocaust “denial” (revisionism) is fake news? Or do we come away suspecting or believing that he is all bluff and no substance?
Dershowitz seems to think he wants people to live in freedom, except when it comes to anything to do with Israel. The holocaust is one of those things. So as he's compelled to push for what is in Israel's interests – that everyone believe, or at least accept, the narrative of 6 million murdered Jews – you are not allowed to question any aspect because it's such a nutty, vindictive piece of insanity that its keepers have no intelligent answers to give you. Did you hear anything from the former trial lawyer that actually convinced you of anything you didn't already agree with? If you did, please write in and tell me what it is.