Debunking Denialism

Defending science against the forces of irrationality.

Mailbag: Is Debunking Denialism “Biased” Against Holocaust Deniers?

mailbag letter

It is time for another entry into the mailbag series where I answer feedback email from readers and others. If you want to send me a question, comment or any other kind of feedback, please do so using the contact form on the about page.

One of the biggest problem facing denialists is that they cannot defeat scientific evidence or overcome skeptical arguments. Instead, they need to deploy various smokescreens, such as accusing their skeptical opponent of being “biased”. This tactic is easy to see through because no actual evidence is presented and they do not engage any of the arguments. A good example of such an approach can be seen in the following comment submitted by stewart on the tour de force debunking article The Intellectually Barren Wasteland of Holocaust Denial.

This article seems as asymmetrically biased as the holocaust deniers themselves.

This is the classic “you are biased, but I refuse to provide examples or interact with your arguments”. In what way is it “asymmetrically biased”? Note that rejecting one side in a struggle based on overwhelming historical evidence is not the same as being biased. Quite the contrary, refusing to accept the most reasonable position (namely that the Holocaust is a historical fact) and trying to portray both sides as equally reasonable would be a clear case of false balance, which is certainly an enormously biased way of tackling these issues.

It’s as though your playing a game of tit for tat with them instead of rationally debunking their points with poignant clarity.

Again, no example is provided so this claim this cannot be evaluated. Luckily, the article stands for itself and it does qualify as a rational debunking “with poignant clarity”.

You instead turn it into a smear discussion to simply prove that they are ignorant and don’t know what they’re talking about and you get to take pleasure in mocking them.

Yes, Holocaust deniers are often ignorant and do not know what they are talking about. Yes, I take pleasure in debunking them and all other forms of science or history denialism. So?

This is not debate.

This is absolutely true. Historians and Holocaust deniers are not two equally valid positions. The Holocaust is a historical fact and the claims made by Holocaust deniers have been repeatedly debunking and destroyed. This is not a debate.

Youv’e [sic] simply used references that suit your claims and intellectual platforms then go on a childish tirade mocking these “deniers”.

The article in question discussed general objections to conspiracy theories, the fallacy of moral equivalences, the “revisionist” gambit, how Holocaust deniers abuse the intentionalist/functionalist debate, Zyklon-B amounts and usages, the details of the Leuchter report and many other issues. How is this “childish”? If Holocaust deniers feel mocked by rational debunking of their claims, then so be it.

It is also telling that this person writes “deniers” in scare quotes. This is a key piece of evidence that this individual is not a disinterested bystander, but rather has some sort of ideological investment in the denialist position.

You only have 4 references to validate this entire argument.

It is not about the absolute number of references, but rather about having enough references to back up the historical arguments made. This was the case for the article in question.

I think I’ll get my info from somone [sic] who isn’t on a crusade to demonize and judge people based on folley [sic].

Fortunately, the truth of a claim does not rest on the person making the claim. This commenter believes that I am on a “crusade” to “demonize and judge people”. However, even if true, it has no relevance for the validity of the arguments or historical evidence presented.

I want to learn not judge.

Learning to judge arguments is a key component in learning. If you cannot evaluate arguments, then your learning is shallow and superficial.

Enjoy your place on the other extreme of the argument,,, you’re just as bad as the “deniers.”

Yet this commenter failed to provide a single example. If the article was extremist or “just as bad as Holocaust deniers” (again used in scare-quotes), that should have been easy. In the end, this person failed to address any of my objections to the claims made by Holocaust deniers. Despite the distractions and smokescreens, the fact remains that Holocaust denial is fundamentally untrue. Rejecting Holocaust denial because of the evidence is not evidence of “bias”, but of intellectual honesty.

One response to “Mailbag: Is Debunking Denialism “Biased” Against Holocaust Deniers?

  1. Criticaldragon1177 August 9, 2014 at 17:20

    Emil Karlsson,

    Accusing someone of bias for not taking seriously the ridiculous claims of holocaust deniers is like accusing someone of bias for not taking seriously the ridiculous claims of creationists. The evidence for the holocaust is overwhelming and there is no compelling reasons to doubt that it happened. At least creationists aren’t necessarily denying genocide and spitting on graves of innocent people who were systematically murdered.

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