Alternative Facts are Nothing New

Holocaust denial and the rejection of consensus truth has been around a long time. How can it be countered?

By Peter Bjel

“You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Denying that Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe during the Second World War—thereby willfully murdering up to six million, or one-third of the world’s Jewish population—is akin to claiming that the Earth is flat. Among 20th-century genocides, the Holocaust is unique not only for its broad scope and use of modern infrastructure, but because it is incredibly well-documented.

Though they were the first to deny the scope and intent of their actions, the Nazis left behind a massive detritus of planning, orders, correspondence, action reports, and logistical details that proved to be too copious to destroy as Germany’s defeat grew imminent. Nonetheless, a movement has evolved, alongside organized racism and fascist ideology, denying that the Holocaust ever happened. These Holocaust deniers would remain marginal were it not for their adroit tactics of cloaking the intent of their ideas.

This past December, Google was forced to take action when it emerged that online queries about the Holocaust performed via its search engine returned results that emanated from neo-Nazi and Holocaust-denying websites.

“This is a really challenging problem, and something we’re thinking deeply about in terms of how we can do a better job,” declared a Google spokesperson to the BBC. “Search is a reflection of the content that exists on the web.”

At other times, Holocaust denial has been publicly brought to light via criminal and libel trials in both Europe and North America. This spring marks seventeen years since one of the biggest and most significant of these trials took place in London’s Royal Courts of Justice. Over the span of three months, from January to April 2000, a libel suit brought against …

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