Dec 14, 2006

Objectively reporting Holocaust denial

Not possible. At least not in the two-sides-to-every-story sense. Yet that didn't stop the New York Times when previewing Iran's Holocaust denial conference.
The headline reads: Iran Invites Scholars to Assess Holocaust as History or Fiction.

One is tempted to say (or to wish) that there was a note of satire in the hed, one that conjured up an alternative Onion-like hed: Iran Invites Scholars to Assess Whether World Is Round or Flat.

But the Times story takes things much more seriously, and at least in certain respects, this is a wise decision: This conference deserves serious attention. It is, alas, not a joke, this convocation of evil clowns summoned by a genocidally-minded regime whose policy it is to perpetrate a Holocaust while attempting to deny that one has already happened.

Serious attention, yes—but what kind of serious attention? Is it the serious attention implied by the headline’s use of the word “Scholars” (significantly, a second story on the conference, published by The Times on Dec. 12, used the phrase “discredited scholars” and remedied some, but not all, defects of the first story) and the verb “Assess” (implying a judicious deliberative dialogue between Holocaust flat-earthers and “the other side”). Is this what being “fair and balanced” means? Equal time for truth and lies? Does the language and tone of the hed impute a legitimacy to this parliament of fools?

The correct way to report on a Holocaust denial conference is to heap scorn upon the organizers and attendees and to take as a given the fact of the Holocaust. And the gas chambers.

The Times and other media outlets are all too ready to take as a given "facts" which are by no means settled. A couple that spring to mind: That watching the Super Bowl leads men to assault their partners, that there was a homeless epidemic during the Reagan and Bush I administrations that magically disappeared upon Clinton's inauguration, that the Iraq war was solely about weapons of mass destruction or that the implications of global warming have been resolved. Compared to these examples the Holocaust is as much a fact as 2+2=4. Indisputable.

The correct way to report a Holocaust denial conference is to point out in the first graf the agenda of the organizer--in this case the president of Iran--and his wish to "wipe Israel off the map."

The correct way to report on Holocaust deniers is to point out, as Ron Rosenbaum does in the above article, that Hitler was the first Holocaust denier and that:
Almost all Holocaust deniers follow in Hitler’s footsteps, share Hitler’s two-faced view of Holocaust denial: They deny it happened but are glad it did. Mr. Ahmadinejad has taken this one step further, I’d argue: He denies that it happened, is glad that it happened, and wants to make it happen again.

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