Wednesday, January 09, 2008

How Deniers Distort Quotes

Author: Jonathan Harrison
A classic denial strategy is to take a quote from a historian and pretend that the historian is saying what the denier wants him to say. It's a subtle form of lying that we define as quote-mining. Here's an example.

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Germar Rudolf wants us to believe that historians have doubts about gas chambers, so he quote-mines Arno J. Mayer as follows:
The tendency in recent historiography seems to be more and more to abandon the gas chambers, for which the sources are "at once rare and unreliable", as Prof. Arno J. Mayer put it.
Was Mayer really abandoning the gas chambers, as Rudolf claimed? Rudolf clearly knew that he wasn't, because Mayer's full passage stated this:
Sources for the study of the gas chambers are at once rare and unreliable.. .there is no denying the many contradictions, and ambiguities in the existing sources. These cannot be ignored, although it must be emphasized strongly that such defects are altogether insufficient to put in question the use of gas chambers in the mass murder of Jews at Auschwitz.
This same quote-mine was employed by the late, but not lamented, Canadian denier, Doug Collins in 1993-1994, as part of a series of articles that led to a complaint being made to the British Columbia Press Council. On the issue of Collins' quote-mining of Mayer, the Council adjudicated:
The Press Council upholds the complaint on these points and finds that they breach the Code of Practice, Article One, in that they mislead the reader and misrepresent the original authors.
Quote-mining by deniers was thus exposed over a decade ago by a public authority, but deniers continue to practice the vice.


ngoodgame said...


Is this what you have been reduced to? Is there nothing of more substance that you can attack? I mean seriously is this your best example of the deceitful nefariousness of wicked revisionism? If not, why do you even waste your time with this nonsense?

Here, Rudolf is obviously not interested in whether or not Mayer, or Baynac still hold to the gassing theory although a few lines down, he implies that they do. The thrust of his argument is that even main stream historians admit that direct evidence supporting the gassing theory is few and far between. Or as Baynac is quoted, there is absolutely no “documents, traces, or material evidence” at all.

Rudolf is correctly representing (with quotes) an opinion held by mainstream historian Mayer. Rudolf is under no obligation either ethical or otherwise to put forth any other opinions that Mayer may or may not hold. Why would he be? What is important to Rudolf is that Mayer believes that sources supporting the gas chamber theory are “at once rare and unreliable”. If Mayer chooses to continue to believe in an event that he claims is based on rare and unreliable sourcing, more power to him. But Rudolf is under no obligation to make that known to his readers as it is superfluous to his argument.

Andrew E. Mathis said...

Good post, JH whom I like.


Jonathan Harrison said...

>> Rudolf is correctly representing (with quotes) an opinion held by mainstream historian Mayer.

False. Rudolf says historians are "abandoning" the gas chambers, and uses Mayer in that context, even though Mayer makes clear that his quote means no such thing.

He implies that Mayer has doubts that the evidence for gas chambers at Auschwitz is sufficient, but he omits the part of Mayer's quote which clearly shows that Mayer has no such doubts.

ngoodgame said...

“They now seek to restore their damaged image by trying to rescue the 'Holocaust' by sidestepping into a field where they believe revisionist criticism cannot reach them: into the endless Russian steppe” Does this sentence imply that historians such as Mayer are attempting to abandon the gas chamber theory or to cling to it despite the fact that sources supporting this theory are “at once rare and unreliable”? A fair reading of Rudolf in context would not leave the impression that Mayer has abandoned the gassing theory, but rather that they cling to it despite lack of “documents, traces, or material evidence”.

In conclusion, you appear to by guilty of the very quote mining you accuse Rudolf of.

I know from experience that unless I pin you down and demand an answer, you will just ignore the major thrust of Rudolf’s argument. So please, within the text of your next response, please answer the following question. Do you agree with Mayer that sources for the gas chamber theory are at once rare and unreliable? Or do you agree with Baynac that there are no documents, traces, or material evidence supporting the gas chamber theory?

Jonathan Harrison said...

I disagree with both of them. Mayer's study was shredded by Christopher Browning in a chapter of his "The Path To Genocide", which I would recommend you to read. Piper has also shown that Mayer's methodology was sloppy. In reality, we have plenty of sources, which can be found, for example, in the work of Pressac and Van Pelt.

The purpose of my blog was not to defend Mayer but to show how Rudolf dishonestly implied that Mayer was abandoning the gas chambers. Your attempted diversion has not succeeded in deflecting from this dishonesty: Rudolf's reference to the "Russian Steppe" is an attempt to argue that historians are switching focus from Auschwitz to the einsatzgruppen. I don't see how that is relevant to his earlier sentence concerning Mayer, whose study was clearly concerned with Auschwitz. It's also false because we have had books by, e.g. Van Pelt and Laurence Rees in recent years.

Robert Scott Kellner said...

A few weeks ago, a young lady in Holon, Israel, with the nickname of "Ilanushkah," created a YouTube video about my German grandfather, Friedrich Kellner, who was a justice inspector during the time of the Third Reich. As a Social Democrat, Friedrich Kellner campaigned against the Nazis in the 1920's and 30's. During the war, he kept a diary to record Nazi crimes. His diary will be on exhibit at the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library in May. In November, a Canadian documentary about the diary, "My Opposition - the Diaries of Friedrich Kellner," will be shown at the United Nations to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

The Israeli girl did a wonderful job creating the video, and it is getting a lot of praise, yet it is also attracting some neo-Nazi types and Holocaust deniers. YouTube has deleted some of the vile posts. I am hoping that you, and perhaps some of your friends, would take a few minutes to view the video. The increased number of views will help to keep the hostile views in perspective, to dilute the percentage of such views. At present, about 2,300 people have looked at the video.
This is the link to the Kellner diary video:

At the YouTube site, you will find links to Wikipedia articles about Friedrich Kellner. A very dramatic story about my courageous grandfather is online at Jewish World Review, which has reprinted an article that appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

I know you will find the video very helpful in this current fight against anti-Semitism.
Thank you,
Dr. Robert Scott Kellner (University of Massachusetts, Ph.D. 1977), College Station, Texas

Jonathan Harrison said...

Hi Robert,

Thank you for sharing this.

Could you register on RODOH, and email me privately at my username? I have some info that may interest you.

As an aside, the musical soundtrack is very beautiful. Can you let me know the artist/title?

Robert Scott Kellner said...

My email, is readily available by clicking on my name and going to my profile, and that could have been a simple way for us to get in touch directly. Nevertheless, I have registered on ezboard/yuku/rodoh so that I could send you an email. The music on the video is the song "Now We Are Free," from the movie Gladiator. The song is by Lisa Gerrard.
Scott Kellner

Jonathan Harrison said...

Scott, many thanks. I did not know your email address was in your profile. I have responded.

Butch said...

Did Churchill really say this about the Jews in Russian? Does that make him an anti-semite. Bastard!

He wouldn't even bomb the rail lines into Auschwitz.

"In violent opposition to all this sphere of Jewish effort rise the schemes of the International Jews. The adherents of this sinister confederacy are mostly men reared up among the unhappy populations of countries where Jews are persecuted on account of their race. Most, if not all, of them have forsaken the faith of their forefathers, and divorced from their minds all spiritual hopes of the next world. This movement among the Jews is not new. From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, and down to Trotsky (Russia), Bela Kun (Hungary), Rosa Luxembourg (Germany), and Emma Goldman (United States), this world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It played, as a modern writer, Mrs. Webster, has so ably shown, a definitely recognizable part in the tragedy of the French Revolution. It has been the mainspring of every subversive movement during the Nineteenth Century; and now at last this band of extraordinary personalities from the underworld of the great cities of Europe and America have gripped the Russian people by the hair of their heads and have become practically the undisputed masters of that enormous empire."

Can you believe the nerve of that guy!?

dantonj said...

Interesting that there is a mention of Nesta Webster, who I think was at least partially insane, I believe she said once that she was a French countess in a previous life and had actually witnessed the French revolution, which she blamed on the Jews, like most everything else. Even Hillaire Belloc thought she was a quack. I think even Jerfferson admired the ideas of the French Revolution, but simply deplored the violence, which was interesting considering what he thought about Indians and what government policy towards them should be. The Nazis were as violent as the Communists, and both groups took turns beating each other up and disrupting each other's meetings. The Communists actually succeeded in overthrowing the government of Bavaria, albeit briefly, and when Hitler tried to do that, he failed, but got a cushy jail sentence, which I think would have been harsher for a Communist. The Nazis in Austria assassinated the chancellor there, so that sort of trumps any assassination carried out by Communists.

The Allies did not bomb rail lines because they realized that the Germans could rebuild them and have them functioning again in one or two days. And from the air, Auschwitz looked like a bunch of barracks, and so they decided to just stick with targets like the big factory in Auschwitz III, where Primo Levi was sent. I always thought Emma Goldman took her ideas from Bakunin, one of the fathers of anarchy, which has its origins among French and Russian intellectuals.

But Goldman is often noted as one of its most prominent supporters, which I suppose is true enough. At least Churchill acknowledges the conditions that caused a lot of Jews to become revolutionaries, living under the anti-Semitic oppression of the tsar.