Hard to believe that it's been a year to the day that the first post went up on this blog. No, Holocaust denial is not dead yet. But in looking over the events of the past twelve months, it might as well be. We won't claim any strategic role in this development, we'll not crow about our part in their downfall, but it behoves us to point out how Holocaust Revisionism, that much-vaunted ideological tool of the far right, has increasingly proven a blunter and blunter sword.
Contrary to a thousand internet message board arguments over the past 365 days, this isn't because of the legal cases. There is now widespread consensus among the liberal intelligentsias of Europe and the rest of the world that jailing deniers only breeds martyrs and contradicts the principle of freedom of speech. What deniers have yet to realise is this is now a Pyrrhic victory. Defending someone's right to say it doesn't mean that their words will be listened to. Debates about the abstract principles of free speech, which make up virtually the sole discussion of Holocaust revisionism in the mainstream media, and discussions about the legalities, which now make up nearly 80-90% of the content of the sole surviving denier journal VffG, mean that the underlying ideas are not being discussed. Far from stimulating interest in revisionism, the free-speech martyrdom strategy has simply reaffirmed what public opinion largely already held to be the case: they can say what they like, but they are still assholes.
So, Irving was released in December to a brief burst of publicity, and then nothing. He will have to work hard to regain much momentum or credibility after his repeated U-turns and bizarre statements. Zündel's attempt to portray himself as the denier Joan of Arc slowly backfired over the course of the year; by the time he was jailed, there wasn't even much of an echo at places such as RODOH or the Phora. No one has even posted a thread concerning Germar Rudolf's 30 month jail sentence on either board. The propaganda value of these acts of 'martyrdom' have, strange as it is to say, diminished utterly.
There are several reasons for this turnabout. The first can be summed up in one name: Ahmadinejad. Far from ushering in a new golden age of Historical Revisionism, the endorsement and state sponsorship of Holocaust denial by a Middle Eastern head of state has done more to discredit the creed than any other event barring the Irving libel trial defeat. In hindsight, the ritual denunciations by governments, NGOs and institutes of the vapidity and offensiveness of the Tehran Holocaust conference seem overblown. No doubt they needed to be said; and no doubt there will be some who 'discovered' the joys of denial because of it, but as a propaganda stunt, it backfired totally. An ageing cast of no-name Z-listers as well as the overly ubiquitous Faurisson, still trading on the impact of his 'intervention' more than a quarter of a century ago, does not add up to a reputable cast of intellectual adventurers. Henceforth, Holocaust denial will be associated almost exclusively with the Islamic world, and thereby damned by association with state-sponsored propaganda and terrorism. The obvious sound of axes grinding in Tehran and elsewhere in the Islamic world is now drowning out the revisionist 'message'.
The second reason for the accelerated decomposition of revisionism can be found closer to home in the United States, and that is the comet-like rise and fall of the 9/11 Truth movement. If Holocaust denial was, once upon a time, an offensive intellectual tragedy, then 9/11 denial is pure farce. The Truth Movement has passed through the same cycle of emergence, word-of-mouth growth and pseudo-intellectual articulation, followed by the same cycle of circular firing squad contradictory and competing explanations, splits, feuds, and debunkings. More importantly, it has distracted from its older cousin, simply by providing what Holocaust denial lacks: immediacy, video footage and no need to delve into obscure historical matters involving strange foreign languages like German. That there is a proven, demonstrable overlap between the two forms of woo, as well as other conspiracisms, serves only to discredit and self-debunk both of them. The next time you encounter a Holocaust denier, ask them how the Twin Towers collapsed, and if they spout Truther nonsense, you have already shown them up for the gullible fools that they are.
There is a third reason, which derives from the struggles internal to the white nationalist/ racialist far right that has long made up the core constituency for Holocaust denial. Namely, that many racist organisations have begun to distance themselves from the more obviously insane and pathological mantras of Jew-hatred and Hitler-worship in an endeavour to mainstream themselves. There is now an undeniable split in the far right between organisations such as American Renaissence and the British National Party on the one hand, who wish to forget about the 'Jewish Question' in the interests of reaching a wider audience, and the hardcore of neo-Nazi uniform fetishists on the other. So far, this split has yet to filter down to the numbskulls, but can be seen in the often bitter debates on the Phora and certain other locations. It is as if it has finally dawned on many self-styled white nationalists and racialists that after nearly sixty years of post-1945 propagandising along Nazi lines, and after equally as much emphasis on the 'Jewish Question', that perhaps these were not the most effective tactics to espouse. The downside to this development is that racist ideas may yet achieve a wider appeal; the upside is that this wider appeal will not emphasise Holocaust denial or antisemitism as much as has been historically the case.
Optimistic? Perhaps. One can easily point out many contrarian trends, and future posts will no doubt do so. But it's helpful to keep a perspective. Part of that perspective comes from the 350+ posts we have racked up, and the internal discussions we have had within the blog team. Simply put, we know much more about Holocaust deniers' arguments and where they are fallacious than we did 12 months ago, and by creating this repository of posts, so too do many other internet surfers, acquaintances, friends and strangers. Andrew, Roberto and Sergey have almost finished debunking the 'denierbud' YouTube videos, and there is more to come. I myself have been fairly inactive this past while both because of teaching commitments at university but also because I have been researching this milieu on a more systematic basis for a future academic monograph. Some of the fruits of this reading will be posted as trial balloons over the next few months. In the meantime, we resume our normal (albeit irregular) service.