Deborah Lipstadt, Lost in the Age of Internet

suppressing information is not as easy as it used to be
Published: 2016-12-05
Early Holocaust Revisionists: Freedman, Hoggan, Barnes, and Rassinier

 

The Defenders of the Holocaust Faith have been outspoken about politics recently. On 14 November Deborah Lipstadt told Politico that she was “flabbergasted” and “almost at a loss for words” because of the appointment of Steve Bannon as Donald Trump's chief advisor, given Bannon's association with the so-called Alt Right (the meaning of that term being entirely vague). A week later the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum issued an ill-informed and inflammatory attack on ostensible Alt Right leader Richard Spencer. Now Lipstadt, in a recent interview on NPR's All Things Considered, is claiming to be an expert on the Alt Right, based on the premise that the Alt Right and “Holocaust Denial” are somehow the same:

“I know Richard Spencer; I mean, I don't know him personally, but he's David Irving.” (All Things Considered, NPR, 27 November 2016)

Lipstadt's comparison between the Alt Right and Revisionism consists mainly in the contention that both decided at some point to conceal their disreputable true natures by wearing suits and ties. She says that Holocaust Deniers went from "generally" being overt uniform-wearing neo-nazis to simulating the appearance of scholars:

“The switch came in the mid-70s when Deniers got rid of the outer accoutrements of neo-nazis and instead presented themselves as what they called Revisionists, people who wanted to revise mistakes in history.”

Lipstadt, who long ago succeeded in imposing herself as an expert on Holocaust Revisionism, uses the spurious claim that Revisionism and the Alt Right are the same in order to get airtime for pontificating against the Alt Right. What she says about the histories of the two movements happens not to be accurate.

One can learn from Lipstadt's own book, Denying the Holocaust, that Holocaust Revisionism did not begin with men in neo-nazi uniforms. Immediately after the war, there was Paul Rassinier, a Frenchman who had been a prisoner in Buchenwald and Dora and was not remotely fascist but wanted to tell the truth. In the United States, Harry Elmer Barnes, a professor at Smith College who had been editor of Foreign Affairs magazine, was a general skeptic about war-propaganda. Barnes, Lipstadt calls the father of Holocaust Denial in the United States. Barnes later met Rassinier and translated one of his books, The Drama of the European Jews, into English. In 1959 Benjamin H. Freedman, a Jew by birth, wrote “Six Million Jew Hoax,” which appeared in Common Sense (1 May 1959). Barnes's protégé was David Hoggan, a professor of history whose book, The Myth of the Six Million, was published anonymously in 1969. These were the initiators of Holocaust Revisionism in the United States. They were all professional men who wore suits and ties. This is all in Lipstadt's book (mostly in the fourth chapter). One wonders if she has read it.

By Lipstadt's own account it was relatively late, in 1959, that some men in uniforms, George Lincoln Rockwell and James Madole, showed some interest in Revisionism (perhaps after reading Freedman's piece in Common Sense). Although they may have been given more attention by the mass media, the men in uniforms have never dominated Holocaust Revisionism in the United States, nor was Holocaust Revisionism a major element in their presentations (at least not in the case of Rockwell, easily the most important such figure). This was just a convenient ad hoc lie for Lipstadt.

From this distorted representation of early Holocaust Revisionism, Lipstadt proceeds to a similarly distorted representation of the forerunners of what is now called the Alt Right. The interviewer, Lakshmi Singh, offers the term White Nationalists, but Lipstadt insists that they be called White Supremacists.

In the history of what is derogatorily called White Supremacism, there have always been men in suits and ties, but the mass media did not choose to present those men. Dr. William Pierce, who passed away in 2002, was one of them. Looking back on media coverage of the opposition to racial desegregation, he recollected:

“Why, I wondered, did the media always choose the least articulate segregationist available when they wanted to screen an interview, and why did they so seldom show the seamy side of the integration movement?” (William Pierce, "The Radicalizing of an American", National Vanguard No. 61, 1978)

Instead of screeching housewives in haircurlers or semiliterate Klansmen, the networks could have shown Carleton Putnam or Professor Revilo Oliver – professional men in suits and ties. But since those men were not shown on television, Deborah Lipstadt can pretend that they did not exist.

If there seems to be a difference in the image of “White Supremacists” today, it might be partly because in the Age of Internet the image is no longer channeled exclusively through a Jewish (or Jewish-influenced) filter. It seems that Lipstadt's real complaint might be the proliferation of alternative media (like France's Meta TV, recently a target of Jewish litigation) on Internet, and the circumvention of the filter, but such a complaint would not be well received by the American public. It is more acceptable to claim that bad men are deceiving the people by donning a civilized appearance.

She particularly complains about the fact that Alt Right spokesmen have been allowed on television as commentators (perhaps referring to Richard Spencer's and Jared Taylor's multiple appearances on Russia Today, which many Americans watch via Internet).

“When their ideas are allowed to seep into the mainstream through the media, through becoming pundits, writing op-eds and having them published, then we're in trouble.”

Lipstadt, who is notorious for saying that one should not debate with Holocaust Deniers, apparently would have advocated a total media-blackout against the Alt Right, but says that this is no longer feasible because of Steve Bannon's position in the future Trump Administration.

Since total suppression is no longer feasible, mass-media should refrain from treating the Alt Right's perspective as valid; they should not “normalize” the Alt Right, she says.

When the interviewer, Lakshmi Singh, objects that the Alt Right have the right of free speech, Lipstadt responds:

“I'm not calling for their silencing, because I believe in free speech. I don't want politicians deciding what we can and cannot say. But free speech and giving someone a platform are two separate things. Free speech means the government can't tell you what to say. Free speech doesn't mean the media's obligated to put you on and give you access. The airwaves are limited and the media controls that and has to do it responsibly.”

The irony in Lipstadt 's initial claim that she believes in free speech becomes apparent as she proceeds to clarify that she does not believe in allowing the marketplace of ideas to function; the public, in her view, cannot be trusted to sort things out. She wants public perception of the Alt Right to be managed, not through official censorship by the government, but with denial of a "platform," or in this case with biased coverage, unofficially mandated through organized Jewish pressure. This is Deborah Lipstadt's idea of free speech.

Her thinking seems a bit outmoded however, when she says that “the airwaves are limited.” The heyday of this kind of thinking ended perhaps in the 1990s when television was no longer dominated by three commercial networks and PBS. Then came the Internet and the development of alternative media that anyone can create and anyone can easily access. Suppressing information is much more difficult today than ever before. Online venues may yield to requests to ban certain types kinds of speech, but they pay a price if they do it very much. Twitter did so recently, with the result is that alternatives to Twitter (like Gab.ai) are growing. The whole concept of forcing media to be “responsible” to Jewish pressure is much less tenable in the Age of Internet. 

Additional information about this document

Author(s) Hadding Scott
Title Deborah Lipstadt, Lost in the Age of Internet, suppressing information is not as easy as it used to be
Sources http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/stephen-bannon-breitbart-backlash-231371 http://vho.org/aaargh/fran/livres2/LIPS.pdf http://www.npr.org/2016/11/27/503520818/the-risks-of-normalizing-the-so-called-alt-right
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Dates published: 2016-12-05, first posted on CODOH: Dec. 5, 2016, 6:32 a.m., last revision: n/a
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