Denial tells the story of American Holocaust studies professor Deborah Lipstadt who is sued for libel by David Irving when she declares in lectures and writings that he’s a fervent Holocaust denier. The film takes a turn when Lipstadt discovers that in the UK the accused has the burden of proof, meaning that Lipstadt’s legal team must prove that Irving lied. As the trial nears completion, the judge suggests that if Irving believes he is telling the truth, then he cannot be lying, (sound familiar?). It’s an intriguing story with ethical dimensions.
While the Lipstadt suit took place 25 years ago, it’s shocking to see that Holocaust denialism continues today.
In a January 2019 poll taken by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, five percent of adults in the UK do not believe the Holocaust took place and one in 12 believes its scale has been exaggerated.
In 2019, the total population in the UK was 66.65 million. Let’s be really conservative and say that only 25 percent—16.5 million—account for the total adult population. At five percent, roughly 800,000 deny that 5 to 6 million European and German Jews were systematically murdered by German Nazis.
That’s an astonishing amount of defiance.
You can probably guess where I’m going with this.
“Three months after a mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to try to overturn his November election loss, about half of Republicans believe the siege was largely a non-violent protest or was the handiwork of left-wing activists ‘trying to make Trump look bad,’ a new Reuters/Ipsos poll has found.”
Writing for Reuters, James Oliphant and Chris Kahn report, “Six in 10 Republicans also believe the false claim put out by Trump that November’s presidential election ‘was stolen’ from him due to widespread voter fraud. . .
“Hundreds of Trump’s supporters, mobilized by the former president’s false claims of a stolen election, climbed walls of the Capitol building and smashed windows to gain entry while lawmakers were inside voting to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory.”
Last week, the New York Times reported, “Election officials in dozens of states representing both political parties said that there was no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the outcome of the presidential race. . .”
“In a recent interview with Fox News, Trump said the rioters posed ‘zero threat.’ Other prominent Republicans, such as Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, have publicly doubted whether Trump supporters were behind the riot.”
And in what I can only describe as one of the most egregious acts of moral contempt, “Twenty-one House Republicans . . . voted against awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to all police officers who responded to the Jan. 6 violent attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob,” the Washington Post reported (June 15).
In a tweet, Republican Representative Adam Kinzinger declared, “How you can vote no to this is beyond me. . . To the brave Capitol (and DC metro PD) thank you. To the 21: they will continue to defend your right to vote no anyway.” Kinzinger, one of Trump’s harshest critics regarding the Capitol attack, wrote that the disinformation campaign run by Trump and his allies is “such a dangerous, disgusting spin on reality. . . . and what’s even worse,” Kinzinger added, “is that it goes unchallenged by so many in the Republican Party.”
“The refusal of Trump and prominent Republicans to repudiate the events of Jan. 6 increases the likelihood of a similar incident happening again, said Susan Corke, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups.”
American democracy is being held hostage by Republican denialism on a massive scale not previously seen.
“‘That is the biggest danger – normalizing this behavior.’ Corke said. ‘I do think we are going to see more violence.’”
“‘Republicans have their own version of reality,’ said John Geer, an expert on public opinion at Vanderbilt University. ‘It is a huge problem. Democracy requires accountability and accountability requires evidence.’”
The Reuters/Ipsos poll reports that “Most Americans — about 60% — also believe Biden won the November election fair and square and said Trump should not run again.”
In, Denial, Lipstadt makes a forceful statement about opinion versus disinformation.
Not all opinions are equal. And some things happened just like we say they did. Slavery happened; the Black Death happened; the Earth is round; the ice caps are melting, and Elvis is not alive.
Trump did not win the 2020 presidential election; massive voter fraud never happened; hundreds of Trump supporters climbed the walls of the Capitol building, smashed windows and gained entry as lawmakers were voting to certify President Jo Biden’s election win.