by Ashley Howes
About the proposed EU Holocaust Denial Law
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” — George Orwell, 1984
IF THE EU is going to craft new ‘Holocaust Denial’ legislation, surely it must first be defined. Mainly it is used to label those who, in the opinion of the one using the term, minimize the suffering of Jewish Holocaust victims and thereby foster the potential for future state-organised mass murder. The imagery of the über-industrial Holocaust is so gut-wrenchingly horrific that anyone challenging the story is deemed criminally guilty of intent to incite racial hatred or civic disorder.
The subjectivity involved in evaluating intent explains the many glaring examples of double standards surrounding the ‘holocaust denial’ controversy. For example: the ‘establishment’ historian Raul Hilberg states that the number of those murdered in Auschwitz was not four but one million, whilst the total number of Jews who died in WW II was not six but five million. When he makes such revisions, this is not considered ‘denial’. Yet when an ‘unapproved’ historian such as David Irving cites the same figures or, for example, that the gas chamber at Auschwitz is a post-war Soviet construction, during his trial in Austria he was not allowed to bring in the Auschwitz director to testify because no question regarding the truth or falsehood of any aspect of the Holocaust was allowed. In most courts where such cases are tried, there is virtually no defence against ‘denial’ accusations even if the revision in question is generally agreed-upon by ‘non-denier’ Holocaust historians.
Not only do these surreal double standards make Kafka appear a realist, but also the changing story makes defining the Holocaust, let alone ‘denial’, almost impossible. Although all mainstream ‘approved’ historians accept that the systematic mass murder of millions took place more or less as narrated, the specifics have changed considerably in the light of new evidence, usually uncovered by those they label ‘deniers’. At first, the method was not gassing but steaming, mass burnings and so forth, with people sentenced to death based on numerous eyewitness testimonies (without cross-examination). Later, gassing was established as the main method with hundreds of further eyewitnesses recalling in graphic – and conflicting – detail as to how this was perpetrated in camps in Germany proper. But years – and more testimonies, convictions and executions – later, all mainstream holocaust historians agreed that there were no gassings within Germany, rather outside, most of them in the Auschwitz complex. But when later forensic analysis, witness cross-examinations and other documentary analysis (train schedules, official German inmate records released from Russian archives, trials etc.) revealed that this too was inaccurate, the numbers in Auschwitz shrank from four to around one million, though the global total of six million remains.
Whether or not the total is accurate or even important, always overlooked is this glaring fact: the latest approved version means that previous versions, largely based on eyewitness testimonies in this ‘most documented event in world history’, were false. In other words, even though we know for certain that many events – such as making soap from Jewish fat – did not occur as related in sworn testimony used to execute ‘war criminals’, pointing this out or challenging any aspect of a decades-old narrative riddled with inconsistencies and thousands of outright lies can be construed as hate speech, whereas the original falsehoods, which themselves are clearly hate speech – indeed blood libels – are neither characterized as such nor are the perpetrators prosecuted.
What matters, it seems, is not the facts but simply who is telling the story. ‘Kosher’ storytellers can revise the narrative freely whilst their non-kosher opponents are sent into solitary confinement for years, such as Zündel and Rudolf in Germany. Right now, the kosher historians all ‘deny’ the following: that gassing happened in German-based camps, that soap was made from Jewish fat, that six millions were killed systematically, that four millions were killed in Auschwitz, and most – but not all – that Hitler gave written orders for mass extermination. They are not guilty of ‘denial’. However, if any non-kosher authors state any of the above they can be prosecuted for the crime of hate-speech.
From Denial to Confession
Even assuming such a thought-crime statute were to be passed, it should not exclusively refer to those denying only the Jewish Holocaust during WW II. The point is often made that the Jewish Holocaust receives disproportionate attention because other genocides, such as in Ukraine, Armenia, China or Russia, are generally ignored. Although true, this still misses the key issue, namely the Holocaust’s main function as propaganda whose purpose is to preserve our sense of self-worth and honour by demonising the enemy in order to deflect attention away from the atrocities perpetrated by the victors.
For example, it is time the Allies cease ‘denying’ a literal holocaust (death or sacrifice by fire) that we perpetrated against about 900,000 Germans, mainly civilian women and children in phosphorous-aided firebombing raids. [photo] We deliberately burned them to death, thousands of them roasted alive in airtight bomb shelters which remained so hot from the raging flames in the fire-induced tornadoes outside that, when the doors were opened long after the raids were over, the sudden inrush of oxygen caused families of desiccated corpses to spontaneously burst into flames. We literally roasted living people to death. There are many photographs; but few have seen them.
Similarly, it is time the US admitted how many hundreds of thousands (some say well over a million) of German prisoners we starved to death in open fields, with US guards, as ordered by Eisenhower, on pain of execution, not to provide any food or shelter whatsoever. The detainees ate all the grass available, drank rainwater and died in their hundreds of thousands. We did this. Also, the post-war forced winter march of several million ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe during which over two million starved or froze to death – not to mention, no doubt, other atrocities along the way.
One of the first to raise this explicitly was Justice Wennenstrum in the Chicago Daily Tribune, February 23rd 1948, shortly after quitting the Nuremberg Trial proceedings in disgust:
“If I had known seven months ago what I know today, I would never have come here. . . The initial war crimes trial here was judged and prosecuted by Americans, Russians, British and French with much of the time, effort and expenses devoted to whitewashing the Allies and placing the sole blame for World War II upon Germany…. The prosecution has failed to maintain objectivity aloof from vindictiveness, aloof from personal ambitions for convictions. It has failed to strive to lay down precedents which might help the world to avoid future wars.” (Chicago Daily Tribune, February 23rd, 1948).
Many say that the main value of remembering the holocaust vividly is so that ‘never again’ as civilised peoples will we allow such horror to arise in our midst; this is a convincing point, and usually sincerely made. However, by overlooking much of the overall story in favour of allowing one particular slant to dominate the meta-narrative and thus core identity of ‘modern’ society, we are already doing it again. How else to explain how we believe that since 1990 we have starved and slaughtered well over one million Iraqis, mostly women and children, through sanctions, bombing and invasion all in the name of ‘justice’, ‘decency’ and ‘freedom’? The only way we can buy into such self-serving deception is because of this powerful belief in our own righteousness. This belief allows us to ‘deny’ that we have perpetrated such war crimes because, thanks to our meta-narrative, we do not perceive ourselves as capable of such crimes even whilst actually committing them, as we are collectively doing even today. Belief trumps facts every time.
More importantly, this collective collusion on our parts drives the process. Even assuming ‘ruling elite societies’ exist, it is not they who pull strings in a vacuum, rather we who need puppet-masters to assume responsibility for determining our collective imperatives in the right sort of ‘feel-good’ way. So the murder of a million Iraqis in the past decade, and the displacement of over three million since 2003, is the result of our own mutually engendered ‘conspiracy’ for which we are all responsible.
The Atrocity God
‘Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!’ – Sir Walter Scott
How can ‘good’ people like us be the ones perpetrating such crimes even now? Answering this question reveals the ongoing function of the Holocaust narrative in our lives today.
The Holocaust is part of a much larger history involving most of the world during the past century. However, the emotional core of WW II, itself the essential crucible in which today’s world order was forged, is experienced viscerally within the Holocaust imagery. This is of far greater emotive import than the outer official ‘history’. For us today, the pith of the entire catastrophe known as World War II is captured in the imagined mental image of a few score naked civilians huddled together in a shower room dying an unspeakably horrible death. This vivid imagery provokes immediate, viscerally felt horror. Just as we would deplore anyone who tortures an infant, we feel natural revulsion towards the perpetrators.
To understand this dynamic as it plays out today, we need to examine the nature of the belief system. Since the WW II Holocaust narrative helps shape our belief in who we are as people by defining our role in this seminal period of modern world history, its function is similar to that of a deity – in this case one whose imagery focuses on atrocity, cruelty, injustice, anguish, hatred and so forth. Strangely enough, the past and current examples of our crimes mentioned above are not because of ‘holocaust deniers’ who in essence question the veracity of this ‘Atrocity God’, but its adherents who believe that by ‘worshipping’ images of hatred, injustice and brutality they can in turn dish out atrocity themselves without doing wrong, because ‘they’ who make us fear atrocity, deserve to suffer it themselves, whilst ‘we’ who fear and fight against atrocity, are always reasonable people acting in reluctant but heroic self-defence. This sort of view allows Israel, for example, to keep taking more territory in the name of self-defence without seeing the glaring hypocrisies involved. Zbigniew Brzezinski remarked on this during a recent congressional hearing about Iran, namely that after some sort of attack on ‘us’ – false-flag or otherwise – we could then go after them ‘defensively’.
This deceptive view is far more than simple self-serving opportunism: it is sincerely believed, something most critics and victims do not understand. Shortly after he left office, President Clinton said that his biggest mistake early on was to assume that his opponents were aware of their hypocrisies; however, later on he realised that they truly believed they were doing the right thing, which is why they were so powerful.
The ‘prayer’ invoking such demons into our world is any dynamic which solidifies antagonism between self and other – collectively ‘us’ and ‘them’. This ‘satanic’ prayer has great ‘evil’ power, and we see it invoked day after day in so many ways. By praying to such Manichean deities, we engender their type of emotion-based aggression to incarnate in reality. Our world takes on the atmosphere of our perception, as any mystic, lover or good housekeeper well knows, so we should be far more careful about the nature of the gods we worship. Our contemplation essentially summons them into our mind and body streams, invoking a living presence which then looks out through our eyes, walking amongst us, permeating personal and public life. This power, far greater than any individual’s, is all pervasive but invisible and as such is a form of deity, or god.
Our ‘belief’ in this ‘god’ allows us to ignore the degree to which its living emotional impact shapes our collective identity by confirming us as those who combat demonic forces and from there being able to deny – sincerely – that we are anything but the good people we ‘believe’ ourselves to be. We enjoy cheap chocolate and coffee – the products of exploiting child (aka slave) labour, third world farmers, local governments and crooked international funding mechanisms – starve children, bomb civilian populations and so on, secure in the knowledge that we are the good guys who stood up to the totalitarian psychopath Hitler and the mesmerized fanatical German masses who gassed millions of living, innocents, huddled naked and helpless in chambers disguised as public showers.
The story IS the Deity
The meta-narrative is the peg on which we hang the rest of our self-righteous identity. Anyone who criticises ‘us’ is ‘them’, whom we are now cognitively ‘programmed’ to perceive as emotionally identical to those holocaust-perpetrating monsters of yore. Emotion always trumps reason by having a higher volume on the scale of experience, since emotions are felt viscerally in the body-mind, that agent which anchors our experience to specific place and time, aka ‘reality’. This is why arguing the facts never challenges a core belief system.
Furthermore, it is not the story that creates the Manichean dynamic, rather that dynamic which creates the story, our desire to have our cake and eat it, to perpetrate injustice and selfishness in the name of justice and altruism. Attacking the story is attacking ourselves and is therefore verboten. The debate about whether or not the story is true or its detractors thought criminals is a diversion; rather, we must become more aware of how we use it to avoid responsibility for our own crimes, past and present.
If we in the modern age feel that because of our reliance on science we are less ruled by belief or myth, we are fooling ourselves; there is no power greater in the human realm. Stories mirror how we weave physical, cognitive and emotional faculties into one overall tapestry of experience – aka ‘real life’. Without narrative context, we could not progress moment by moment through getting up, bathing, dressing, eating breakfast, going to work and returning back home; we could not grow up, marry, raise children, age and then die in any coherent fashion.
Because all experience is filtered through this narrative cognitive process, ‘real life’ combines objective and subjective. Each individual at the family dinner table views the same ‘facts’ differently depending on how they fit into their own particular subjective ‘story’ or viewpoint. Similarly, we combine fact and fiction to fashion our collective identities from which manifest national institutions, language, dress, highways, schools, technology and so forth. This is called ‘culture’, something so quintessentially human and real, but which is clearly a blend of reality and artifice. Without such storytelling faculties, we could make no sense of space and time, there would be no society or culture. This faculty binds together our physical, cognitive, emotional and spiritual faculties into that which ‘makes sense’.
So the ongoing story of life is a primordial art form; and the art of life is how we fashion the tale to engender mutually enlightening culture, not one that wags us into hell. Hell is where every interaction involves aggression and fear, i.e. intense angst and pain. Intensifying aggression between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is that which fuels the furnaces of hell.
Because ultimately we can never separate fact from fiction, in the context of this issue what is most important is to see how we use narrative, including visceral imagery, to empower the Atrocity God to ‘bless’ our belief that no matter who ‘they’ are and what we do to ‘them’, we will always remain on the side of decency, ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and so forth because ‘they’ are evil. Through such belief, we are possessed by the demon of self-serving deception – and it is deception, because of course ‘they’ are of the same nature as ourselves, breathing the same air and sleeping each night under the same celestial canopy of stars.
Propaganda in some form or another is a natural function of all States, for when all is said and done it involves how a collective tells its meta-narratives to itself. In other words, even a totally enlightened society will have its narratives, or ‘propaganda’; the issue is whether or not they reflect sanity and wisdom rather than deception and neurosis.
Beyond the Manichean:
Whilst I was slowly writing this article, William Pfaff published one in the NY Review of Books about America’s current myth of, or belief in, cultural exceptionalism. He too seems to be echoing the theme here that a society’s ‘meta-narrative’ determines how we view ourselves, also that the life of a nation resembles the plot-line of any work of fiction, in this case tragedy.
“Schumpeter remarked in 1919 that imperialism necessarily carries the implication of
an aggressiveness, the true reasons for which do not lie in the aims which are temporarily being pursued…an aggressiveness for its own sake, as reflected in such terms as “hegemony,” “world dominion,” and so forth…expansion for the sake of expanding…. This determination cannot be explained by any of the pretexts that bring it into action, by any of the aims for which it seems to be struggling at the time…. Such expansion is in a sense its own “object.”
Perhaps this has come to apply in the American case, and we have gone beyond the belief in national exception to make an ideology of progress and universal leadership into our moral justification for a policy of simple power expansion. In that case we have entered into a logic of history that in the past has invariably ended in tragedy.”
Being alive at all is a great blessing, and any ‘enlightened’ society nurtures and celebrates this, whereas unenlightened ones pervert living into some sort of endless nightmare. All over the world billions of parents love their children and vice versa; all over the world, there is sun, wind, rain, trees, flowers, foods to eat. Each blade of grass and dewdrop thereon is saturated with a limitless abundance of basic goodness. However, any or all of us can become ‘possessed’ by an Atrocity God or any other demonic principle which perverts our basically good nature into an overly selfish, I-versus-other dynamic.
Any aspect of human life that is essentially good, uplifted, decent etc. can be so perverted, be it speech, food, dress, thought, love, marriage, community, solitude, scholarship, monasticism, religion, politics, parenting – and so on ad infinitum. Such deception covers up our naturally good, kind nature, polluting us with the poison of hatred-spawning aggression from which comes all the horror of immorality, societal neurosis and war. Perfectly good people are capable of this, as we proved not only by the literally millions of atrocities we perpetrated during WW II, but also by the ways in which we continue to perpetrate more of the same whilst denying them – and again: sincerely so.
Interestingly, although natural and perverted can be differentiated, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are not simply two sides of the same neutral coin; rather there is fundamental goodness, and then its perversion. The Manichean fallacy is to perceive them as being essentially equal, like two different colours. Although philosophically seminal to the issue under discussion, it is beyond the scope of this short essay, not to mention the wisdom of its author, to expound on further as it deserves.
Even if we are ‘good’ and happen to be facing those possessed by such demons, the way to ‘overcome’ them is not by becoming worse demons ourselves, because such aggression only intensifies the demonic ‘us-versus-them’ dynamic, making the Atrocity God stronger as ‘He’ seduces more of ‘us’ into being willing inhabitants in His hell realm. First we should not buy into deceit-derived ‘us-them’ dynamics; then, starting with our own view, we must find a way to perceive ‘them’ as ‘us’ and in turn invite them to feel similarly. In this way, we become of the same kin, which has the same root meaning as ‘kind’. True kindness is a virtue, not a vice or weakness – contrary to what so many pseudo ‘conservatives’ nowadays preach!
If one is not under its spell, this sort of deception is quite easy to spot because it always involves using other to define self, often blaming someone else, or ‘them’, for one’s own condition, a function of solidifying the (illusory) difference between self and other. Those who keep building their narrative edifices using the bricks and mortar of accusing others of being ‘liars’ or ‘mass-murderers’, for example, are reflecting their own state of hostility as projected onto others, whilst denying responsibility for their own aggression. So the us-versus-them dynamic is quintessentially aggressive.
This goes back to the deity principle: the deity image (like anything in life) is a symbol of its own nature. The Atrocity God, whilst pretending to champion the opposite, in fact worships atrocity, injustice, cruelty and so forth because that is the aggressive nature of its imagery – its viscerally, and thus literally embodied, state of being. The lie always reveals the nature of the liar just as the object of worship reveals the nature of the worshipper. For example, consider this famous quotation:
“Every Jew, somewhere in his being, should set apart a zone of hate – healthy, virile hate – for what the German personifies and for what persists in the German.” — Eli Wiesel, winner of 1986 Nobel Peace Prize
Since he is a leading member of ‘the Church of Atrocity’, such outrageous statements do not merit hate-crime prosecution. He is a part of ‘we’, and therefore ‘good’ (even worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize) so we all basically agree that his hatred is ‘healthy’, whereas ‘theirs’, of course, is beyond the pale. And yet the expression is clearly one of other-demonisation in order to justify hatred.
Criminalizing those who question core aspects of our collective meta-narrative only further empowers this Atrocity God, one of whose favourite deceptions is to prevent us from understanding that pointing out the falsehoods in our other-demonising, self-sanctifying narratives is not necessarily the same as saying that ‘they’ are all good and we are all ‘bad’. In other words, if we strip away the victors’ propaganda, we might find that the Germans of WW II were no worse or better than the British, American and Russians, or in other words that we are no better than they who are no worse than ourselves.
But saying this about past or current adversaries is regarded by many as so offensive that any statements intimating that our enemies are anything other than demons or that we are anything other than noble is ipso facto perceived – first emotionally and now legally – as such clear evidence of a ‘hate crime’ that no defence is even permitted and the perpetrators banished from society.
Threat to our individual or collective identity and thus sense of reality, engenders a viscerally-felt fear response, such inner emotional turmoil instantly projecting out distorted versions of other. Having thus projected onto other our own fear-spawned hatred, using the typical response of aggression which essentially places self above other, we strive to eliminate the threat. Our own fear, born of clinging to the false identities that give existential meaning to our lives, engenders such monsters. Rather than listen to what they have to teach about our own distortions, we destroy them. Because challenging the meta-narrative is threatening, arousing hatred in ourselves, those who claim that denial is a hate crime are sincere, but the question remains: whose hatred is in play: those of the deniers, or those who disagree with them?
Even considering such thought-crime legislation evidences the degree to which the us-versus-them Demon of Aggression, the Atrocity God, holds sway in our culture. And the obvious fact that such laws are now being introduced in Europe sixty years on indicates the narrative’s seminal importance in our culture today.
Ashley Howes is a Canadian citizen who grew up in the UK. He works in Sydney, Cape Breton, NS, paying modest bills and watching the larger world go by through the lens of the Internet. Occasionally, he likes to voice his opinion as an individual citizen of this our world.