On the Prehistory of Holocaust Denial


Skull on top of a book.

My very first blog post was this one. It was on the “softcore Holocaust denial” of one of the first actions of the then-new Trump administration: remembering the Holocaust without mentioning the genocide of European Jews. The guy I thought chiefly responsible for this statement was Sebastian Gorka who is no longer with the administration. He’s now landed a gig with an antisemitic website. The good news is that he’ll be in Canada so…..   Well, that really isn’t good news, is it? He’s still around being a racist jerk.

A year later, Holocaust denial is back in the news. Arthur Jones, bona fide neo-Nazi and denier is running, unopposed, for Congress in Illinois (I hate Illinois Nazis). In Poland, it is now illegal to claim that Poles were complicit in the Holocaust.  Holocaust denial, in its endless variety, is still out there. It is time, therefore, to take another look at it.

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The Anti-Racism of Rose Wilder Lane

A picture of Rose Wilder Lane

Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968)

Whether you realize it or not you’ve probably read the words of Rose Wilder Lane (1886-1968). She was the daughter of famed children’s book author,  Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose Little House books have delighted several generations of children (and adults) and which were adapted into a long-running, if somewhat mawkish television show. For all intents and purposes, Rose, an accomplished journalist and novelist in her own right, co-authored those books with her mother.

She was also one of the “three furies” of libertarianism. In 1943 three women published books that are considered important sources of modern libertarian thought. The best-known is Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.  Also in the annus mirabiles were Isabel Paterson’s The God of the Machine and Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom. These books have often marked Rand, Paterson, and Lane the “founding mothers of American libertarianism.”

Albert Jay Nock, the dean of American individualist/libertarian writers was deeply impressed by Lane. Writing to a correspondent he declared:

You must read The Discovery of Freedom. I don’t know who Sister Lane is. but she is a credit to the Cause, I assure you.

On anything basic she always shoots straight to centres, and hits damn hard. Another odd thing is that while she has the philosophy of individualism down fine, she seems to have got it entirely out; of her own head. There is no evidence that she has read the individualist writers, and considerable evidence that she has not–I believe she hasn’t. I think this is a remarkable achievement, and darned creditable. I’m all for Rose.

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Trump’s Shithole Logic

Drawing of an outhouse

Trump thinks that we don’t need immigrants from shithole countries like Haiti, El Salvador, or the entire continent of Africa. Instead he thinks we should let more Norwegians in. Since a racist is a person who consistently makes racist remarks, Trump is a racist. Naturally, Fox News insists that pointing out Trump’s racism is the real racism. Just for the record: calling out racism is not racist. Being a racist is racist. Trump is a racist. The logic behind his statement is racist logic. Here’s why.

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The Origins of Holocaust Denial

A Map depicting Nazi concentration camps.

We are only a few weeks away from International Holocaust Remembrance Day: January 27. If you will remember, last year the Trump administration marked the day without mentioning that Jews were special victims of the Nazi regime and called the critics of of its silence asinine and and pathetic. To my knowledge, the administration has never apologized for this or amended what they said. Who knows what kind of insulting statement is in store for this year.

In anticipation of that fateful day, it might be worthwhile to explore the origins of Holocaust denial in the United States. Who was the first American to deny that the Nazis exterminated six million Jews and what was the basis for their denial?

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Ayn Rand on Racism

The cover of a pulp magazine, FAMOUS FANTASTIC STORIES listing Ayn Rand's Anthem on the cover.

I’ve been purposefully avoiding discussing Ayn Rand on this blog. The reasons are entirely personal. I, like many of you I’m betting, had too many pointless discussions with Rand devotees when I was in my twenties. Like arguing with a three-year old, it was all very tiresome. Still, some of those emotionally and intellectually stunted Rand devotees are now ruining the country for us all. But, it is a New Year and all, so I decided to start things off by holding my nose and discussing Rand. Hold your nose if you must.

My topic is Rand’s 1963 essay on “Racism” which is often held up as proof that libertarians can’t be racists! This is usually accomplished by taking some choice quotations from the essay, most often the opening paragraph:

Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.

Strong stuff! Rand has never been criticized for being insufficiently provocative. Reading the rest of the essay, however, shows how deeply flawed Rand’s thinking about racism was.

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Merry Christmas!

Stylized sign reading

Good news everybody! Our long national nightmare is over. For the first time in almost a decade, we can say “Merry Christmas” to each other again! Thanks to our Glorious Leader!  What’s that? You are one of the 76% of Americans who think that the whole “War on Christmas” thing is a lie “made up for political reasons?”  Yeah, me too.  So, from Santa and me, Merry Christmas!

So, here on Christmas Eve, here are some Alt-Right-free tidbits for you!

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Want to Read A Sample Chapter?

A telegraph with the caption: "Hot off the Wire."

Hey! Remember this post? The one where I threatened promised to share some of the book I’ve been writing? I know you’ve been waiting on tenterhooks but now the wait is over. So put the tenterhooks away. Honestly, I don’t even know where you got those tenterhooks. Are those my tenterhooks? Did you borrow my tenterhooks without even asking me? Get your own tenterhooks!  Honestly, some people……

So, a few words about what I’m offering up on the sacrificial alter of the Internet. This is a first stab at a “sample chapter” which will eventually become part of a book proposal. According to Susan Labiner in Thinking Like Your Editor:

A sample chapter is not really a chapter at all. It looks and smells like a chapter, in that it usually runs about a chapter’s length and had a beginning, middle, and end. But like no chapter in the your final book, it succeeds by cannibalizing other chapters, stealing the best material in the book and presenting it in such a way as to showcase the dramatic potential of the book or the power of the argument, or the richness of the topic.

Did I do that? Who knows? Its a first draft and, as my freshman writing instructor told me college, “The first draft is supposed to be shit.” Or to be more hopeful: The first draft has the same relationship to the final draft as compost to roses.  So, follow the link and give it a read. If you want to send me comments  criticisms, please do so. These can range from large conceptual problems you see as well as spotting typos and formatting errors. There are undoubtedly a lot of problems. Tell me about them.

The Sample_Chapter

Codebreaking the Alt Right: “Russia is Our Friend!”

Map of the Russian Empire, 1820

Martin Shkreli, the infamous “pharma-bro” who first came to attention by endangering people’s lives by raising the cost of an Aids drug by 800% is back in the news. Shkreli, who obviously wasn’t hugged enough as a child, was convicted of securities fraud and is now being forced to part with some of his one-of-kind possessions.  The one that is getting the most headlines is the single copy of the Wu Tang  album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. Shkreli bought the album just so no one else could hear it because he’s that kind of guy. I hope his prison stay is unpleasant.

Also among those possessions is an Enigma machine, a cryptography device most famous for Alan Turing’s work with it that help break Nazi codes during World War II.  Today’s Alt Right also likes to use codes, but rather than hiding troop movements they do so in order to enjoy a smirking frat-boy (and I do mean boy) “joke” at the expense of the rest of us. And the codes change all the time; Pepe the Frog is out, Groyper is in. A “reporter” for the Gateway Pundit (aka Jim Hoft, aka “the stupidest man on the internet”) recently gave a speech entitled “Its OK to Be White” that was chock full of such coded language to signal to the Alt Right that he was one of the cool kidz. This included drinking milk during the speech as a way of showing off his superior Nordic genes. Then he allegedly attacked a woman. Like I said, the Alt Right has a problem with women.

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What’s So Alt About Alt America: David Neiwert’s New Book

Cover of Alt America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump

Imagine you live under a totalitarian regime. It is a led by a foreign invader who rules with an iron fist. He has started rounding up citizens and imprisoning them in camps. You are a member of the Resistance; you keep in touch with others who are brave enough to resist his diktats. Your once-great country lies in ruins, but there is still hope that you and your fellow freedom-fighters can save it. It will take courage and nerves of steel, but you are ready to fight for your freedom and those of others.

And then, one day, the worst possible thing happens: the uniformed, jack-booted thugs show up at your door on some ridiculous pretense. You know why: they are there for you. They are there to “disappear” you; to take you away to the camps for god-knows-what. What do you do? Richard Poplawski knew what to do. And that is why Pittsburgh police officers Paul Sciullo III, Stephen Mayhle, and Eric Kelly died that day.

This is only one of the many, many terrifying stories of violence and destruction recounted in David Neiwert’s new book, Alt America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump. Neiwert is an investigative reporter for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and has written several important books on the racist right in the past two decades. Alt America is just out and you should buy it, read it, and then join the fight against the figures he discusses. Today.

The great strength of Alt America is the detailed reporting on some of the more notorious antics of the Alt Right. Neiwert details an almost shot-by-shot account of Dylann Roof’s massacre of nine people in Charleston (pp. 1-31). It is hard but necessary reading; the tragedy of the country is that we have become almost numb to such occurrences because they are so damn common. By recounting the details of Roof’s murders it brings into focus the absolute horror of such an event.

My read of Alt America might be cutting against its author’s intention, but I think the central message of the book is that there is very little “alternative” in “alternative right.”

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