A high school student in this West Bank town has been arrested for "multiplication denial," after repeatedly insisting that a negative number multiplied by another negative number yields a negative product. A world-wide consensus of mathematicians determined long ago that two negative numbers multiplied together produces a positive product.
"It's obvious," protested the 14-year-old student, Rihab Hanafi, as she was led away in chains by Uzi-toting guards. "Multiplication magnifies; therefore two negative numbers multiplied together necessarily produces a more negative product."
Hanafi's dogmatic insistence on her own point of view, and her refusal to instantly accept the word of others, gave her away as a died-in-the-wool Denier right off the bat. "This kind of superficially plausible reasoning is characteristic of Holocaust Deniers, to which Mathematics Denial is obviously related," said Abraham Foxman, Director of the Anti-Defamation League. "But the underlying motive is obviously hatred for truth and hatred for Jews, the principal bearers of truth."
According to the Anti-Defamation League, Hanafi's antics are just the latest in a series of anti-math atrocities that are making the world a perilous place for number theorists. Last year, a Belgian neo-Nazi announced he had discovered a new whole number, which he claimed belonged between 3 and 4. He was arrested for trivializing the integers. A short time later a Palestinian detainee claimed that Israel's policy of reserving 92% of the land for the Jewish people made it mathematically impossible to achieve equality with the Palestinians. He is currently serving a life sentence for denying the decimals.
Given the growing threat to objective numerical truth, Rihab Hanafi has been placed in solitary confinement, and her website arguing her case has been removed from the world wide web. ADL officials stated yesterday that thousands of innocent victims around the world have been led astray by her multiplication deviance. The Hanafi family lawyer responded that if Enron could proceed on the basis that a negative plus a negative is a positive then there is no reason his client can't bring "creative accounting" to the multiplication tables. Israeli officials will soon charge him with numerical anti-Semitism.
Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel, reached for comment at an international conference on Peace Through Guilt, said that the negative numbers fiasco highlights the terrifying fragility of quantitative truth. "Numbers are the foundation of civilization. Once we allow them to be questioned, only disaster can ensue. If Mathematics Denial is left unchecked, buildings will fall, bridges collapse, cities grind to a halt. Just think where we would be if Einstein had deliberately miscalculated e=mc2. Hiroshima might never have become famous." Asked for an estimation of how serious the current situation is, he replied: "Today negative numbers, tomorrow the extinction of world Jewry. Never again."
A spokesman for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, which has spent years tracking down Nazi war criminals that escaped Allied prosecution at Nuremberg, added his opinion that, "Denying the properties of negative numbers is no different than denying that six million Jews died in the Holocaust. Next thing you know Deniers will argue that Jesus's mother was not a virgin. We can't have that. Skepticism in any form is but a first step towards genocide against Jews."
In a surprise development, Jews are no longer alone in fighting off Denial. Political activists the world over are now finding parallels with their own struggles in the Hanafi case. Randall Berry of "No More Gays," a pro-family group, says that Procreation Deniers are his biggest challenge. "They just don't get it. We tell them over and over that same-sex relations are sterile, but they consciously lie and say that any two people who love each other ought to be left alone. How sick can they get?"
And there are many other examples, including:
Islamofascist Deniers, who argue that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is a crime. "None of them will admit that Muslim evil predates 2003," observes Vanity Fair columnist Christopher Hitchens, "and therefore is the cause of the current war."
Merit Deniers in the affirmative action movement. "It's incredible," says UC Regent Ward Connerly, "these people actually think that social conditions have something to do with one's station in life. It's some kind of bizarre mystical doctrine."
Free Market Deniers, who insist people have a right to the resources they need to live a decent life, regardless of whether they can prostitute themselves to the private owners of the economy. "The entitlement mentality is running amok," warned economist Milton Friedman just before his death.
Fetal Holocaust Deniers, who cannot get it through their thick heads that a child conceived in rape is just as precious in the eyes of God as any other. The consequences of their selfish delusions have long since reached genocidal proportions.
American Dream Deniers, who would substitute the perverse ideal of bio-diversity for the opportunity to consume without limit. What can they be thinking of?
Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire," and the satire, "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker), both with Common Courage Press.