The Propagander ™ FAQ

Is It Revisionism or Denial, and Why Does it Matter?

Historical Revisionism is an essential functional process of historiography. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., wrote:

But others, especially in the United States ... represent what American historians call "revisionism"--that is a readiness to challenge official explanations. No one should be surprised by this phenomenon. Every war in American history has been followed in due course by skeptical reassessments of supposedly sacred assumptions ... for revisionism is an essential part of the process by which history, through the posing of new problems and the investigation of new possibilities, enlarges its perspectives and enriches its insights.

A modern example of Historical Revisionism concerns the controversy over the responsibility for the inception of WW1. The established, orthodox view of a majority of post-war historians was that the Kaiser's Germany was the major cause of WW1 because the Kaiser desired world domination, or European hegemony at the very least. A group of historians proposed a Revisionist view that maintained that it was the system of alliances that was the major causitory factor in the wars inception, not the Kaiser's ambition. This Revisionist view was eventually accepted by a majority of historians and thus became the established, mainstream view.

So it was the process of Historical Revisionism that brought about this change in perception, and thus once again proved its worth as a major functional process of historiography. Without Historical Revisionism, history would be stuck on whatever the first mainstream view of any event happened to be, for better or worse. Historian James McPherson, put it like this:

... revision is the lifeblood of historical scholarship. History is a continuing dialogue between the present and the past. Interpretations of the past are subject to change in response to new evidence, new questions asked of the evidence, new perspectives gained by the passage of time. There is no single, eternal, and immutable "truth" about past events and their meaning. The unending quest of historians for understanding the past--that is, "revisionism"--is what makes history vital and meaningful. Without revisionism, we might be stuck with the images of Reconstruction after the American Civil War that were conveyed by D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation and Claude Bowers's The Tragic Era. Were the Gilded Age entrepreneurs "Captains of Industry" or "Robber Barons"? Without revisionist historians who have done research in new sources and asked new and nuanced questions, we would remain mired in one or another of these stereotypes.

The essential and invaluable process of Historical Revisionism has been given a bad name by Deniers through misuse. Deborah Lipstadt, author of Denying the Holocaust, points out that the Holocaust Deniers have coopted Historical Revisionism, disingenuously using the term to describe their own activities. She explains that Denial and Historical Revisionism are two entirely different things and that the Deniers cannot really be called Revisionists:

Legitimate historical revisionism acknowledges a 'certain body of irrefutable evidence' or a 'convergence of evidence' that suggest that an event ... such as the Holocaust ... did occur. Denial, on the other hand, rejects the entire foundation of historical evidence.

This distinction by the brilliant Lipstadt is profound and should be adopted as correct usage. The fact that Deniers have so far been successful in wrapping themselves in the mantle of Historical Revisionism is typical, as the misuse of precise terminology by low-information observers--blogers, newscasters, pundits, etc.--is rampant in our culture. Unfortunately, misuse of the term Revisionism is now as prevalent as using the word Conservative for someone who would put no restrictions on the exploitation of natural resources for profit.

Once a term becomes fixed in popular usage, it is extremely difficult to correct. But in this instance, it would be preferable that the Deniers be denied use of such terminology to legitimize the dishonest exercise of Denial. A Holocaust Denier is a Holocaust Denier, not a practitioner of Historical Revisionism. They should not ever be allowed to get away with labeling their insidious activities in such a way. Something simply must be done.

Having said the above, I doubt that it is possible at this point. Unfortunately, it seems that Historians will have to change the terminology of what they do from Historical Revisionism to some other term, and leave the sadly now-perverted term to the Deniers. Revisionism has gone the way of the words gay and faggot, and one supposes that historiography will just have to adjust.

Having addressed the terminology, the question remains: Why do Holocaust Deniers propagate the lie that there was no Holocaust? There are two major types of Holocaust Deniers:

1. The Sincere Denier - Facts and evidence mean nothing to these people. They will "believe" anything that fits their preconceived notions and dismiss anything that does not. You cannot reason with such people any more than you can reason with a religious fundamentalist. They simply believe what they want to believe. It is that simple.

These people are True Believers; simple-minded soul whose undiscerning "intellect" has determined either that The Holocaust is just so horrible that people could not possibly have done such things, or is something that was made up by "the Jews" to further a political agenda.

2. The Cynical Denier - A more insidious type of Denier and akin to the Flat Earth people. These folks are, of course, aware that the earth is not flat, but they simply delight in mustering every possible argument in favor of their fantasy theory to infuriate those naive enough to take them seriously. While the Flat Earthers are a harmless group of satiric polemicists, the cynical, insincere Holocaust Deniers of this type have a much more mischievous and hateful intent. Their mission is to continue the Holocaust on yet another level, a sort of physiological warfare against the victims of the Holocaust.

Every simple-minded fool that they can convince that the whole thing is a "Holohoax" is yet another psychological canister of Zyklon B opened up among the long-suffering victims of Hitler's genocidal tragedy. It is a form of bullying, really, and is often defended as Free Speech by those who refuse to accept the reasonable concept of Hate Speech.

In either case, that of the Sincere Denier or the Cynical Denier, it should simply not be tolerated. While I in no way advocate vigilantism or "street justice," I do truly believe that those who hide behind well-meaning but often abused principles such as Free Speech to abuse their fellow human beings deserve the full force of the rage they create in their victims. When a Denier is physically attacked by someone they have baited (which is why most Deniers, cowards that they are, do their baiting anonymously on-line), my attitude is, to quote Chris Rock: "I'm not saying its right, but I understands!"

Conclusion: Holocaust Deniers are not Historical Revisionists, they are Holocaust Deniers. The evidence supporting the reality that the Holocaust did indeed take place, just as a majority of historians have determined, is overwhelming and cannot be refuted factually. Those who persist in their Denial are not historians, they are Conspiracy Theorists at best, and racalist ideologues at worst. In either case, they should be vilified and ignored.
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