A popular checkmate to independent thought is the claim that those who hold opinions contrary to one's own are in "denial." The premise is that one's own views are infallibly rational and objective, while those who can't accept them are deluded neurotics. Apparently, human conceit is so great that we can't resist the convenience of pronouncing ourselves sane and others crazy, no matter how much evidence accumulates that we all suffer from a very similar set of emotion-driven intellectual impairments. Welcome to planet dogma.
Given our self-awarded immunity to criticism, hardly anyone seems to realize that denial and assertion are characteristic of argument, so that skeptics about gas chambers in WWII are no different in principle than those who can't make themselves believe that the twin towers were brought down on 911 by pre-planted explosives. In both cases believers in evidence unseen offer a cumulative proof, in which the favored conclusion emerges as an inference, rather than from direct physical evidence. Anyone with the nerve to question the value of fantastical eyewitness accounts in place of credible physical evidence, is quickly dismissed for a presumed inability to face the unfathomable evil that lurks in the hearts of the truly wicked. Thus, homicidal gas chambers in Nazi-dominated Europe and pre-planted explosives in New York's twin towers simply must have existed. Only "deniers" deny it.
In short, conspiratorial proofs are held to be self-evident. As theology professor David Ray Griffin explains in his book, "The New Pearl Harbor - Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 911," direct evidence and deductive logic are not essential to a "cumulative proof," which advances on the basis of a "preponderance of evidence" that suggests, but does not prove, a general conclusion. To wit: "I should perhaps emphasize that it is not necessary for all of the evidence to stand up, given the nature of the argument. (emphasis added) Some arguments are, as we say, "only as strong as the weakest link." These are deductive arguments, in which each step in the argument depends on the truth of the previous step. If a single premise is found to be false, the argument fails. However, the argument for official complicity in 911 is a cumulative argument. This kind of argument is . . . like a cable composed of many strands. Each strand strengthens the cable. . . if there are many strands, the cable can still hold a lot of weight even if some of them unravel." (Griffin's emphases).
Aside from the fact that his "strands" more closely resemble badly frayed threads, Griffin defines "complicity" so inclusively that the very existence of empire can be taken as U.S. culpability for 911. He even includes falsification in his definition of complicity, which, given the fact that a national security state cannot possibly avoid falsification on a virtually constant basis, essentially pre-supposes the argument that he is supposed to be proving. He also indicts failure to order the attacks prevented, without anticipating the mass panic that would have ensued if news of such an order had leaked, as orders constantly do in Washington. Even worse, he suggests that the only way to discredit empire is to prove that the Bush Administration was responsible for the 911 attacks (see his "911 and the American Empire"). In Griffin's view, since virtually all Americans would reject a leadership responsible for indiscriminate mass murder against its own citizens, those who have long opposed empire for quite other reasons may need to demonstrate that the attacks were indeed the product of an "inside job." Expedience is truth?
In their book, "Denying History - Who Says The Holocaust Never Happened And Why Do They Say It?", Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman demonstrate a similar preference for a "preponderance of evidence" cumulative proof, rather than direct evidence and deduction. Failing to note that Holocaust revisionists do not, in fact, deny brutal treatment of Jews and other non-Aryans subject to Nazi rule, they smear them as political lepers uniformly intent on resurrecting the Nazi regime. Purity of motive, not persuasiveness of argument, is their constant preoccupation. Expressing a touching faith in what they claim is mainstream historians' scientific history, they fail to convincingly rebut revisionist critiques complaining of a lack of (1) photographic evidence of homicidal gas chambers in WWII, (2) contemporary records of the gassing operation, (3) physical evidence of homicidal gas chambers (as opposed to delousing chambers), and (4) speeches by Hitler or other Nazis specifically mentioning gassing as a means of physically eliminating their racial enemies. Although gaps in the historical record should inspire doubt about the official version of events, people who question the evidentiary basis for homicidal gas chambers are instantly pronounced, "Holocaust Deniers," which is the intellectual equivalent of "Nigger!" It is difficult to believe this is the culmination of a scientific thought process.
Griffin, Shermer, and Grobman all suppose that the extravagant plots they believe existed could have been carried out without advance leaks or betraying direct evidence left behind. Where Griffin argues that fear of punishment would deter leaks of an "inside job," Grobman and Shermer simply assume that Hitler's call for a permanent solution to the "Jewish problem" is synonymous with extermination by fire and gas. Furthermore, they offer no explanation as to why they believe only the Allies could have supplied photographs of the existence of homicidal gas chambers: " . . . as for direct evidence, what could we realistically expect to see? The undressing, gassing, and cremation were all done inside the crematoria buildings. It was highly unlikely that an Allied plane would have flown over at the same time as smoke was coming out of chimneys or from an open-pit burning. Indeed, it would be an extraordinary coincidence if we had such a photograph."
It is unclear whether Shermer and Grobman are being naive or disingenuous here. A photograph of a gas chamber could never have been obtained from the air, so the real question is why no such photograph has turned up among the Germans. Isn't it hard to believe that some brutal guard, many of them, in fact, wouldn't have found it irresistibly tempting to take photographs that would preserve their post-Holocaust bragging rights? "Here's one of the last Jews in Europe being put in the gas chambers. I snapped the picture myself!" Shermer and Grobman can only weakly claim that " . . . we do have photographs of people in long lines being marched toward Crematorium V, where the gassing would have taken place. (my emphasis). The hypothetical construction tells us everything.
By the way, we should note here Shermer and Grobman's conflation of gas chambers, cremation ovens, and open pit burnings, a habitual sleight-of-hand tactic used by orthodox Holocaust proponents, as though gas chambers were not a central revisionist concern requiring a special focus. (Holocaust revisionists are not so skeptical of "the Holocaust" as they are of gas chambers.) The inability to respond to exactly what is in dispute is a classic sign of dishonesty. In any event, one should not need a cumulative proof to determine whether or not homicidal gas chambers existed in Nazi concentration camps, any more than one needs one to prove that the Roman aqueduct system existed. Physical and documentary evidence should suffice. Where is it? At the very least, shouldn't there be considerable correspondence between German engineering firms and the Nazi leadership, testifying to the myriad challenges involved in building, maintaining, and using homicidal gas chambers? How credible is the assumption that the Nazis carried out an industrial mass murder program involving millions of gassing victims without producing a single document directly referring to this fact?
According to Shermer and Grobman, there are six main sources of evidence that the Nazis used gas chambers (and crematoria) for mass murder: written documents, Zyklon B gas traces, eyewitness testimony, ground photographs, aerial photographs, and "the extant ruins of the (death) camps." However, like David Ray Griffin, they admit they are constructing a "proof" in which inferential speculation casts the deciding vote. To wit: "In presenting these six lines of evidence, we are not saying that each or even any particular one proves that gas chambers and crematoria were used for genocide. Rather, we are arguing that these lines of evidence converge on this conclusion." (my emphasis) In short, Shermer and Grobman are not engaged in proving that homicidal gas chambers existed, but that they must have existed, which is quite another matter. The idea that homicidal gas chambers had to have existed is sheer prejudice, a question-begging assumption that renders argument superfluous. Those who have made a career out of pointing this out, like Ernst Zundel, Robert Faurisson, and Germar Rudolf, have been repeatedly tried for heresy. If you value peace of mind, don't read what they have to say.
While conflating gas chambers with cremation ovens, Grobman and Shermer trivialize focusing on gas chambers by remarking that "murder is murder regardless of the method," which, during the Holocaust, included "beatings, overwork, starvation, disease, and the general unsanitary conditions at the camps." But if beatings, overwork, starvation, disease, and unsanitary conditions are evidence of genocide, then all colonial and imperial powers, in particular the United States, are genocidal almost by definition. Only the gas chamber claim makes the WWII Holocaust (and Jewish victimhood) unique. Without it, Israel's moral capital to torture and murder Palestinians with a clear conscience, would disappear.
This is what Shermer and Grobman regard as the Holy Trinity of the Holocaust: (1) gas chambers, (2) intention to exterminate, and (3) six million Jewish victims. They assert that "Deniers" are deniers because they disbelieve in all three of these tenets. But, in point of fact, it is sufficient to doubt the existence of gas chambers alone to be demonized into oblivion, even though a lack of physical and documentary evidence for something is normally considered reasonable grounds for doubt. As for the intention to exterminate, among the Third Reich's voluminous documents there is no command from Hitler to murder all of Europe's Jews, while, as late as the middle of 1944, there was an S.S. offer to trade a million Jews to the Allies in return for 10,000 trucks for use on the Soviet front, a curious proposal if exterminating European Jewry was more important to the Nazis than winning the war, a standard claim made by "scientific" historians. On the other hand, we do have statements of WWII-era U.S. leaders relishing the prospect of incendiary attacks on Japan's wooden houses, so temptingly convenient for the wholesale extermination Washington methodically planned and carried out with napalm sticks. So why have we not concluded that FDR was a genocidal maniac and all U.S. leaders who revere him in need of "denazification?" Finally, what scientific precision has ever been at work in determining that six million Jews were exterminated in Nazi death camps? Estimates from population studies and self-reports by families whose missing members are presumed dead in the Holocaust are hardly unimpeachable. To answer that Holocaust "Deniers" are not really interested in finding an accurate figure and simply want to minimize begs the question of why the six million figure is regarded as sacred in the first place.
In a book trumpeting its rational approach, one would expect to find careful treatment of the very human tendency to conflate rumor with fact, but this is not mentioned by Shermer and Grobman, who remain unalert to the problem of hearsay masquerading as fact. In citing a report requested by Dwight Eisenhower in May 1945 ("Atrocities and Other Conditions in Concentration Camps in Germany"), they do not comment on the admission by the report's authors that one of the classes of evidence they used was "the common knowledge of the camps," which allegedly allowed camp inmates to have "accurate knowledge of certain things which they have not actually seen with their own eyes." Though this obviously opens the door to collective hysteria, Shermer and Grobman take no note of it.
Perhaps for this reason much Holocaust eyewitness testimony contains wild impossibilities and continues to be insistent about points that have long since been disproven to the satisfaction even of faithful devotees of the Holocaust Industry, such as that murdered Jews were converted to bars of soap. But there are problems with the documentary and material evidence Shermer and Grobman rely on, too. For example, Allied ground and aerial photographs do not show homicidal gas chambers, but the outside of buildings said to house such gas chambers. And what the ruins of the German concentration camps reveal is in considerable dispute: revisionists argue that Zyklon B was used in fumigation chambers (typhus was a serious problem), and that the chambers used for this purpose could not possibly have served the dual purpose of mass execution chambers, since they were not hermetically sealed and lacked a proper exhaust system for removing the deadly gas between executions. As a reward for making arguments such as these, Holocaust revisionists have been deported from the U.S. to rot in jail in Europe, to the resounding silence of ACLU members, card-carrying or otherwise. Freedom of speech is reserved for those who hold the right views.
Although Shermer and Grobman claim to reject censorship, they issue no principled condemnation of book shreddings, heresy trials, blasphemy laws, and jailings, all routine punishments meted out to Holocaust revisionists. Apparently, such repression must be viewed with considerable sympathy, since Holocaust revisionists are held to be inherently despicable bigots who must be put in their place by hook or by crook. Grobman and Shermer have such contempt for free speech that they put the phrase in quotes when referring to the rights of Holocaust revisionists. In their minds critics of Holocaust orthodoxy invite the abuse directed at them, so it's really no big deal that they are beaten by mobs and manhandled by the courts.
In short, Shermer and Grobman cannot make a principled defense of free speech because those whose speech they hate don't deserve it: "We contend that instead of revising history, instead of modifying a theory based on new evidence or a new interpretation of old evidence, the Holocaust deniers are engaged in pseudohistory, the rewriting of the past for present personal or political purposes. Historical revision should not be based on political ideology, religious conviction, or other human emotions." Aside from failing to ask why holding the "right" views is a prerequisite to free expression, Shermer and Grobman also overlook the powerful political and religious ideology woven into the official Holocaust story, namely, that Gentiles are congenitally anti-Semitic and have persecuted Jews uninterruptedly for thousands of years, culminating in deliberate Judeocide by gas chamber and crematorium ovens during WWII. Why no comment from the authors on this prejudiced, highly emotional, and sweeping condemnation of the vast majority of humanity?
And what of the distorting effect of the human emotions of the eyewitnesses to the Holocaust? Didn't the harshness of their experience and the understandable hatred they harbor for their former captors make them predisposed to accept horrifying rumors and retrospective makeovers of their "repressed" memories of the concentration camps? It would be a miracle if this were not the case. But calls to evaluate the testimony of eyewitnesses, a routine academic responsibility whatever the historical event in question, are dismissed for allegedly being cruel and anti-Semitic. When it comes to the Holocaust, survivor testimony and Nazi "confessions" that resemble those from Stalin's show trials, are taken at face value. How can we possibly dignify this as being part of a scientific mode of inquiry?
Shermer and Grobman sum up their indictment of Holocaust revisionsists this way: "Deniers are routinely unreliable in their selection of historical facts. They often make outrageous claims. The claims are rarely verified by other sources, and when they are these sources are often incestuous. Deniers almost never attempt to disprove their claims and, instead, seek only confirmatory evidence. They generally do not play by the agreed-upon rules of historical scholarship, offer no alternative theory to account for the historical data, and thus can muster no convergence of evidence for their nonexistent theory. Finally, as we have demonstrated with a preponderance of evidence, Holocaust deniers' personal beliefs and biases dictate their conclusions."
Every accusation here could just as easily be leveled against mainstream historians. Unreliability in the selection of historical facts? How many studies praising nuclear deterrence cite evidence of the U.S.S.R.'s atomic arsenal successfully deterring Washington's terror and aggression? Outrageous claims? How many U.S. historians ignore the long record of U.S. military interventions abroad in favor of repeated declarations that the U.S. consistently supports "self-determination?" Lack of independent verification of incestuous claims? How many mainstream historians cite scholarship questioning the ahistorical thesis that the U.S. was an innocent bystander on December 7, 1941? No attempt to disprove one's claims? How many conventional historians cite U.S. genocide against the indigenous peoples of North America to call into question the alleged U.S. commitment to preventing genocide? Don't play by the rules of historical scholarship? How many historians canvass sympathetic treatments of Castro, Stalin, Mao, and Hitler, before rendering judgment about these political figures? No alternative theories for the evidence advanced? How many academic studies consider that Israel might just be a racist state, as opposed to "the Jew among the nations," constantly forced to act in self-defense against racist terrorism? Biased conclusions? How many mainstream historians have ever given a fair accounting of the death toll attributable to anti-Communist terrorism fomented by Washington for decades?
It would be wonderful if Shermer and Grobman's professed admiration for scientific investigation were actually reflected in their work, for the rational mode of inquiry demanded by science is as close to objectivity as human beings are ever likely to get. Science is the only mode of inquiry where rationality is not merely tolerated, but required, which makes intellectual fraud in the technical sciences extremely difficult to achieve, and easily detected when it does appear. Unfortunately, in history and the social sciences it's another story entirely. In these pseudo-disciplines dogma masquerades as objectivity and expertise is conferred on those who produce ideologically serviceable doctrines that facilitate the exercise of illegitimate power.
This gives a bad name to the world's oldest profession.
Michael K. Smith is the author of "The Madness of King George" (illustrations by Matt Wuerker) and "Portraits of Empire," with Common Courage Press. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org