Norman Finkelstein: students should be taught about Holocaust denial, ideally by a Holocaust denier

US Academic says Facebook and Twitter’s ban saying supressing Holocaust denial to combat antisemitism ‘lacks in logic’ 


American academic Norman Finkelstein has responded to Facebook and Twitter’s ban on Holocaust denial by saying he believes “that Holocaust denial should be taught in university and preferably by a Holocaust denier.” 

In an article released on his website responding to the move – which he claims had been rejected by “multiple ‘progressive’ publications” – Prof Finkelstein argues that if “Holocaust denial does constitute an actual or potential contagion”, then it should be taught in academic institutions “to inoculate students”. 

He continues: “To profess both that Holocaust denial shouldn’t be taught and that it poses a clear and present danger defies logic.  

“The claim by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that an alleged global rise in antisemitism and ignorance of the Nazi Holocaust justify suppression of Holocaust denial no less lacks in logic.” 

Drawing on arguments made by influential proponent of liberalism John Stuart Mill, Prof Finkelstein argues that it is best practice to subject beliefs to opposition in order to strengthen them from such attacks, especially those that we believe to be certainly true. 

He said: “Even granting the facticity of the Nazi holocaust, giving deniers a platform would still be warranted. Just as the profundity of ‘all men are created equal’ […] is not entirely obvious, so the profundity of the Nazi holocaust is not entirely obvious. If depths of meaning lay buried in it, then, they can only be plumbed in unfettered discussion.  

“It can only be wondered how quick is the reflex to stifle Holocaust denial, even as conjuring taboos will inevitably reduce a human tragedy, however profound, to a sterile mantra, an object of blind worship, or in Mill’s terms, a dead dogma.” 

Prof Finkelstein went on in the article – an excerpt from his forthcoming book Cancel Culture, Academic Freedom and Me – to state that entertaining Holocaust denial would ultimately weaken it, rather than allowing it to fester. 

“Haven’t the taboos enveloping the Nazi holocaust — the fear of questioning (facets of) it, the sacrosanct status it occupies — not only caused it to calcify into a lifeless ritual, but also spawned a raft of spurious testimonial literature and preposterous pseudo-scholarship, the paradoxical outcome of which is to provide fodder for the deniers’ mills?” 

Such “fodder” includes small discrepancies in evidence of individual events, which Holocaust deniers attempt to use to suggest that the entire Holocaust is a fabrication.

He says:  “If one is committed to the purity of truth, not just in its wholeness but also in its parts, then a Holocaust denier performs the useful function of ferreting out ‘local’ errors, precisely because he is a devil’s advocate — that is, fanatically committed to ‘unmasking’ the ‘hoax of the 20th century.’” 

He adds: “If a purported witness enjoys immunity from cross-examination — as does every Tom, Dick and Moishe pawning himself off as a ‘Holocaust survivor’ — the human propensity is to exaggerate, which, if left unchecked, will harden into a lie.” 

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