Historical revisionism (negationism)
Historical negationism is a form of historical revisionism that distorts the historical record for political, ideological, and cultural purposes. The English term negationism derives from the French phrase Le négationnisme, which identifies Holocaust denial as claims that the Holocaust did not occur, as understood in the collective memory of society; therefore, the term “negationism” identifies the distortion of history meant to publicly deny the factual, documented reality of war crimes and crimes against humanity; such as the Armenian Genocide denial; the Japanese History textbook Controversy; and Historiography in the Soviet Union.
In order to recast the past, as perceived by contemporary society, negationism revises the historical record using techniques inadmissible in proper historical discourse, such as presenting forged documents as genuine; inventing ingenious, but implausible, reasons for distrusting genuine documents; attributing negationist conclusions to sources that report the opposite; manipulating statistics; and mistranslating foreign-language texts to support a predetermined worldview.
In English literature, the science fiction novel Nineteen Eighty-four (1949), by George Orwell, depicts the mechanics of historical negationism, the ideological results, and the human consequences wrought upon the society of Oceania, a life of perpetual wartime.
- 1 Purpose
- 2 Techniques of negationism
- 3 Examples
- 3.1 Book burning
- 3.2 United States history
- 3.3 War crimes
- 3.4 Soviet history
- 3.5 North Korea and the Korean War
- 3.6 Holocaust denial
- 3.7 In textbooks
- 3.8 French law recognising colonialism's positive value
- 4 Ramifications and judicature
- 5 Negationism in fiction
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Historical negationism is the revision of history meant to present an interpretation of the historical record that will influence the politics, ideology, and perceptions of the reader, the listener, and the viewer for a specific ideological purpose; the negationist historian understands Plato's dictum that, “Those who tell the stories also hold the power”. Usually, the purpose of historical negation is to achieve a national, political aim, by transferring war-guilt, demonizing an enemy, providing an illusion of victory, or preserving a friendship. Sometimes the purpose of a revised history is to sell more books or to attract attention with a newspaper headline. The historian James M. McPherson said that negationists would want revisionist history understood as, “a consciously-falsified or distorted interpretation of the past to serve partisan or ideological purposes in the present”.
The principal functions of negationist history are the abilities to control ideological influence and to control political influence. In “History Men Battle over Britain’s Future”, Michael d’Ancona said that historical negationists “seem to have been given a collective task in [a] nation’s cultural development, the full significance of which is emerging only now: To redefine [national] status in a changing world”. History is a social resource that contributes to shaping national identity, culture, and the public memory. Through the study of history, people are imbued with a particular cultural identity; therefore, by negatively revising history, the negationist can craft a specific, ideological identity. Because historians are credited as people who single-mindedly pursue truth, by way of fact, negationist historians capitalize on the historian's professional credibility, and present their pseudohistory as true scholarship. By adding a measure of credibility to the work of revised history, the ideas of the negationist historian are more readily accepted in the public mind. As such, professional historians recognize the revisionist practice of historical negationism as the work of “truth-seekers” finding different truths in the historical record to fit their political, social, and ideological contexts.
History provides insight into past political policies and consequences, and thus assists people in extrapolating political implications for contemporary society. Historical negationism is applied to cultivate a specific political myth — sometimes with official consent from the government — whereby self-taught, amateur, and dissident academic historians either manipulate or misrepresent historical accounts to achieve political ends. In the USSR (1917–91), the ideology of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Soviet historiography treated reality and the party line as the same intellectual entity; Soviet historical negationism advanced a specific, political and ideological agenda about Russia and her place in world history.
Techniques of negationism
Historical negationism applies the techniques of research, quotation, and presentation for deception of the reader and denial of the historical record. In support of the “revised history” perspective, the negationist historian uses false documents as genuine sources, presents specious reasons to distrust genuine documents, exploits published opinions, by quoting out of historical context, manipulates statistics, and mistranslates texts in other languages. The revision techniques of historical negationism operate in the intellectual space of public debate for the advancement of a given interpretation of history and the cultural-perspective of the “revised history”. As a document, the revised history is used to negate the validity of the factual, documentary record, and so reframe explanations and perceptions of the discussed historical event, in order to deceive the reader, the listener, and the viewer; therefore, historical negationism functions as a technique of propaganda. Rather than submit their works for peer review, negationist historians rewrite history and use logical fallacies to construct arguments that will obtain the desired results, a “revised history” that supports an agenda — political, ideological, religious, etc. In the practice of historiography, the British historian Richard J. Evans describes the technical differences, between professional historians and negationist historians:
Reputable and professional historians do not suppress parts of quotations from documents that go against their own case, but take them into account, and, if necessary, amend their own case, accordingly. They do not present, as genuine, documents which they know to be forged, just because these forgeries happen to back up what they are saying. They do not invent ingenious, but implausible, and utterly unsupported reasons for distrusting genuine documents, because these documents run counter to their arguments; again, they amend their arguments, if this is the case, or, indeed, abandon them altogether. They do not consciously attribute their own conclusions to books and other sources, which, in fact, on closer inspection, actually say the opposite. They do not eagerly seek out the highest possible figures in a series of statistics, independently of their reliability, or otherwise, simply because they want, for whatever reason, to maximize the figure in question, but rather, they assess all the available figures, as impartially as possible, in order to arrive at a number that will withstand the critical scrutiny of others. They do not knowingly mistranslate sources in foreign languages in order to make them more serviceable to themselves. They do not willfully invent words, phrases, quotations, incidents and events, for which there is no historical evidence, in order to make their arguments more plausible.
Deception includes falsifying information, obscuring the truth, and lying in order to manipulate public opinion about the historical event discussed in the revised history. The negationist historian applies the techniques of deception to achieve either a political or an ideological goal, or both. The field of history distinguishes among history books based upon credible, verifiable sources, and were peer-reviewed before publication; and deceptive history books, based upon incredible sources, and which were not submitted for peer review. The distinction among types of history-book rests upon the research techniques used in writing a history. Verifiability, accuracy, and openness to criticism are central tenets of historical scholarship. When these techniques are sidestepped, the presented historical information might be deliberately deceptive, a “revised history”.
Denial is defensively protecting information from being shared with other historians, and claiming that facts are untrue — especially denial of the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated in the course of the Second World War (1939–45) and the Holocaust (1933–45). The negationist historian protects the historical-revisionism project by shifting the blame, censorship, distraction, and media manipulation; occasionally, denial by protection includes risk management for the physical security of revisionist sources.
Relativization and trivialization
Comparing certain historical atrocities to other crimes is the practice of relativization, interpretation by moral judgements, in order to alter public perception of the first historical atrocity. Although such comparisons can often occur in negationist history, their pronouncement is not usually part of revisionist intentions upon the historical facts, but an opinion of moral judgement.
- The Holocaust and Nazism: The historian Deborah Lipstadt said that the concept of "comparable Allied wrongs", such as the the expulsion of Germans after World War II from Nazi-colonised lands and the formal Allied war crimes, is at the center of, and is a continually repeated theme of, contemporary Holocaust denial, that such relativization presents "immoral equivalencies".
Repositories of literature have been targeted throughout history (e.g., the Library of Alexandria), including recently, such as the Burning of Jaffna library and the destruction of Iraqi libraries by ISIS during the fall of Mosul.
Chinese book burning
The Burning of books and burying of scholars (traditional Chinese: 焚書坑儒; simplified Chinese: 焚书坑儒; pinyin: fénshū kēngrú; literally: "burning of books and burying (alive) of (Confucian) scholars"), or "Fires of Qin", is the purported burning of writings and slaughter of scholars during the Qin Dynasty of Ancient China, between the period of 213 and 210 BC. "Books" at this point refers to writings on bamboo strips, which were then bound together. This contributed to the loss to history of many philosophical theories of proper government (known as "the Hundred Schools of Thought"). The official philosophy of government ("legalism") survived.
Nazi book burning
In the mid–1930s, the Nazi book burnings were part of a campaign of anti-intellectualism conducted throughout Germany and Austria by the Deutsche Studentenschaft (German Student Association) of the Third Reich (1933–45). The burning of books was a public ceremony in which the works of authors whose politics were classical liberal, anarchist, Socialist, pacifist, and Communist were fuel for bonfires. Given the official Anti-Seimitism of the Reich, the works of Jewish writers were specifically identified for burning; thus did Nazi Germany rid themselves of writers deemed subversive of the National Socialist ideology.
In Poland, the Sonderfahndungsbuch Polen (Pol.: "Specjalna księga Polaków ściganych listem gończym", "Special Prosecution Book — Poland") was the book of political proscription for the killing of socially important Poles who might lead resistance against the Nazi Occupation of Poland (1939–45). Compiled before the Second World War began in 1939, the Special Prosecution Book — Poland contained lists that identified more than 61,000 members of the Polish élites — political and social activists, the intelligentsia, scholars, actors, former military officers — as enemies of the state dangerous to the Third Reich.
In Occupied France, anti-fascist exiles made a Library of Burned Books of every book that Adolf Hitler had ordered destroyed in France. The Library of Burned Books listed copies of titles that had been burned. The book burnings in France were an idea that the French fascists, of the collaborating Vichy government (1940–44), borrowed from the Nazis, to cleanse French culture of Jewish intellectualism and the foreign politics of pacifism, decadent literature, and degenerate art, as the Nazis had cleansed German culture. In the event, after the Final Solution had concluded, for the post-war world, the Nazis had planned to establish a museum of Judaism that would have featured selected books of Jewish culture, preserved in memoriam of the extinct Jews of Europe.
United States history
The historical negationism of American Civil War revisionists and Neo-Confederates claims that the Confederate States of America (1861–65) were the defenders, rather than the instigators, of the U.S. Civil War (1861–65), and that the Confederacy's motivation for secession from the United States was the maintenance of the southern states' rights and limited government, rather than the preservation and expansion of the chattel slavery of Africans.
About confederate revisionism of the U.S. Civil War, the historian Brooks D. Simpson said that:
This is an active attempt to reshape historical memory, an effort by white Southerners to find historical justifications for present-day actions. The neo–Confederate movement's ideologues have grasped that if they control how people remember the past, they'll control how people approach the present and the future. Ultimately, this is a very conscious war for memory and heritage. It's a quest for legitimacy, the eternal quest for justification.
In the early 20th century, Mildred Rutherford, the historian general of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), led the attack against American history textbooks that did not present the Lost Cause of the Confederacy (ca. 1900) version of the history of the U.S. Civil War. To that pedagogical end, Rutherford assembled a “massive collection” of documents that included “essay contests on the glory of the Ku Klux Klan and personal tributes to faithful slaves”. About the historical negationism of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the historian David Blight said:
All UDC members and leaders were not as virulently racist as Rutherford, but all, in the name of a reconciled nation, participated in an enterprise that deeply influenced the white supremacist vision of Civil War memory.
Japanese war crimes
The post-war minimisation of the war crimes of Japanese imperialism is an example of "illegitimate" historical revisionism; some contemporary Japanese revisionists, such as Yuko Iwanami (granddaughter of General Hideki Tojo), propose that Japan's invasion of China, and the Second World War, itself, were justified reactions to racist Western imperialism of the time. On 2 March 2007, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe denied that the military had forced women into sexual slavery during the war, saying, "The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion". Before he spoke, some Liberal Democratic Party legislators also sought to revise Yohei Kono's apology to former comfort women in 1993; likewise, there was the controversial negation of the six-week Nanking Massacre in 1937–1938.
Editor-in-chief of the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun Tsuneo Watanabe criticized the Yasukuni Shrine as a bastion of revisionism: "The Yasukuni Shrine runs a museum where they show items in order to encourage and worship militarism. It's wrong for the prime minister to visit such a place". Other critics[who?] note that men, who would contemporarily be perceived as "Korean" and "Chinese", are enshrined for the military actions they effected as Japanese Imperial subjects.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings
The Hibakusha ("explosion-affected people") of Hiroshima and Nagasaki seek compensation from their government and criticize it for failing to "accept responsibility for having instigated and then prolonged an aggressive war long after Japan's defeat was apparent, resulting in a heavy toll in Japanese, Asian and American lives". Historians Hill and Koshiro have stated that attempts to minimize the importance of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is revisionist history. EB Sledge expressed concern that such revisionism, in his words "mellowing", would allow us to forget the harsh facts of the history that led to the bombings.
Serbian war crimes in the Yugoslav wars
There have been a number of scholars and political activists who have publicly disagreed with mainstream views of Serbian war crimes in the Yugoslav wars of 1991–1999. Among the points of contention are whether the victims of massacres such as the Račak massacre and Srebrenica massacre were unarmed civilians or armed resistance fighters, whether death and rape tolls were inflated, and whether prison camps such as Sremska Mitrovica camp were sites of mass war crimes.
These scholars are labeled "revisionists" by their opponents. For example, Diana Johnstone's controversial book, Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, Nato, and Western Delusions, questions whether genocidal killings occurred in Srebrenica. The book was rejected by publishers in Sweden prompting an open letter in 2003 defending Johnstone's book (and her right to publish) which was signed by, among others, Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy, Tariq Ali and John Pilger: "We regard Diana Johnstone's Fools' Crusade as an outstanding work, dissenting from the mainstream view but doing so by an appeal to fact and reason, in a great tradition." On the other hand, Richard Caplan of Reading and Oxford University reviewed the work in International Affairs, where he described the work as "a revisionist and highly contentious account of western policy and the dissolution of Yugoslavia". The historian Marko Attila Hoare called it "an extremely poor book, one that is little more than a polemic in defence of the Serb-nationalist record during the wars of the 1990s—and an ill-informed one at that".
The Report about Case Srebrenica by Darko Trifunovic, commissioned by the government of the Republika Srpska, was described by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as "one of the worst examples of revisionism in relation to the mass executions of Bosnian Muslims committed in Srebrenica in July 1995". Outrage and condemnation by a wide variety of Balkan and international figures eventually forced the Republika Srpska to disown the report.
Turkey and the Armenian Genocide
Turkish laws such as Article 301, that state "a person who publicly insults Turkishness, or the Republic or [the] Turkish Grand National Assembly of Turkey, shall be punishable by imprisonment", were used to criminally charge the writer Orhan Pamuk with disrespecting Turkey, for saying that "Thirty thousand Kurds, and a million Armenians, were killed in these lands, and nobody, but me, dares to talk about it". The controversy occurred as Turkey was first vying for membership in the European Union (EU) where the suppression of dissenters is looked down upon. Article 301 originally was part of penal-law reforms meant to modernise Turkey to EU standards, as part of negotiating Turkey's membership to the EU. In 2006, the charges were dropped due to pressure from the Turkish government.
On 7 February 2006, five journalists were tried for insulting the judicial institutions of the State, and for aiming to prejudice a court case (per Article 288 of the Turkish penal code). The reporters were on trial for criticising the court-ordered closing of a conference in Istanbul regarding the Armenian genocide during the time of the Ottoman Empire. The conference continued elsewhere, transferring locations from a state to a private university. The trial continued until 11 April 2006, when four of the reporters were acquitted. The case against the fifth journalist, Murat Belge, proceeded until 8 June 2006, when he was also acquitted. The purpose of the conference was to critically analyze the official Turkish view of the Armenian Genocide in 1915; a taboo subject in Turkey. The trial proved to be a test case between Turkey and the European Union; the EU insisted that Turkey allow increased freedom of expression rights, as a condition to membership. The Republic of Turkey does not deny the Ottoman Armenian casualties, but denies they were genocide, specifically claiming that said deaths were consequence of war, and also were criminal killings neither approved nor committed by the Ottoman Empire.
During the existence of the Russian SFSR (1918–1991) and the Soviet Union (1922–1991), the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) attempted to ideologically and politically control the writing of both academic and popular history. These attempts were most successful in 1934–52 period. According to Mehnert, the Soviets attempt to control academic historiography (the writing of history by academic historians) to promote ideological and ethno-racial imperialism by Russians. During the 1928–56 period, modern and contemporary history was generally composed according to the wishes of the CPSU, not the requirements of accepted historiographic method. According to some authors, such as Mehnert, this practice was fundamentally corrupt.
During and after the rule of Nikita Khrushchev (1956–64), Soviet historiographic practice is more complicated. Although not entirely corrupted, Soviet historiography was characterized by complex competition between Stalinist and anti-Stalinist Marxist historians. To avoid the professional hazard of politicized history, some historians chose pre-modern, medieval history or classical history, where ideological demands were relatively relaxed and conversation with other historians in the field could be fostered; nevertheless, despite the potential danger of proscribed ideology corrupting historians' work, not all of Soviet historiography was corrupt.
Control over party history and the legal status of individual ex-party members played a large role in dictating the ideological diversity and thus the faction in power within the CPSU. The history of the Communist Party was revised to delete references to leaders purged from the party, especially during the rule of Joseph Stalin (1922–53).[note 1]
Original: Nikolai Yezhov at Stalin's left.
In the Historiography of the Cold War, a controversy over negationist historical revisionism exists, where numerous revisionist scholars in the West have been accused of whitewashing the crimes of Stalinism, overlooking the Katyn massacre in Poland and disregarding the validity of the Venona messages with regards to Soviet espionage in the United States.
North Korea and the Korean War
Since the start of the Korean War (1950–53), the government of North Korea has consistently denied that the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched the attack with which began the war for the Communist unification of Korea. The historiography of the DPRK maintains that the war was provoked by South Korea, at the instigation of the United States:
On June 17, Juche 39  the then U.S. President [Harry S.] Truman sent [John Foster] Dulles as his special envoy to South Korea to examine the anti-North war scenario and give an order to start the attack. On June 18 Dulles inspected the 38th parallel and the war preparations of the 'ROK Army' units. That day he told Syngman Rhee to start the attack on North Korea with the counter-propaganda that North Korea first ‘invaded’ the south.
Further North Korean pronouncements included the claim that the U.S. needed the peninsula of Korea as “a bridgehead, for invading the Asian continent, and as a strategic base, from which to fight against national-liberation movements and socialism, and, ultimately, to attain world supremacy." Likewise, the DPRK denied the war crimes committed by the North Korean army in the course of the war; nonetheless, in the 1951-52 period, the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) privately admitted to the "excesses" of their earlier campaign against North Korean citizens who had collaborated with the enemy — either actually or allegedly — during the US–South Korean occupation of North Korea. Later, the WPK blamed every war-time atrocity upon the U.S. military, e.g. the Sinchon Massacre (17 October – 7 December 1950) occurred during the retreat of the DPRK government from Hwanghae Province, in the south-west of North Korea.
The campaign against “collaborators” was attributed to political and ideological manipulations by the U.S. About which the high-rank leader Pak Chang-ok said that the American enemy had “started to use a new method, namely, it donned a leftist garb, which considerably influenced the inexperienced cadres of the Party and government organs.” In Soviet Aims in Korea and the Origins of the Korean War, 1945–1950: New Evidence from Russian Archives (1993), by Kathryn Weathersby, confirmed that the Korean War was launched by order of Kim Il-sung (1941–2011); and also refuted the DPRK’s allegations of biological warfare in the Korean War. The Korean Central News Agency dismissed the historical record of Soviet documents as “sheer forgery”.
Holocaust deniers usually reject the term Holocaust denier as an inaccurate description of their historical point of view, instead, preferring, the term Holocaust revisionist; nonetheless, scholars prefer "Holocaust denier" to differentiate deniers from legitimate historical revisionists, whose goal is to accurately analyze historical evidence with established methods.[note 2] Historian Alan Berger reports that Holocaust deniers argue in support of a preconceived theory – that the Holocaust either did not occur or was mostly a hoax – by ignoring extensive historical evidence to the contrary.
Hence, as retroactive minimisation of the Holocaust, Holocaust deniers have attached themselves to the Heimatvertriebenen (ethnic Germans expelled mainly from the eastern quarter of Germany annexed by Poland and the Soviet Union after the war), and have, per their opponents, attempted to use sympathy for said Germans, and blame the Jews for the suffering of the Heimatvertriebenen. Moreover, when the discredited author David Irving[note 3] lost his English libel case against Deborah Lipstadt, and her publisher, Penguin Books, and thus was publicly identified as a Holocaust denier, the trial judge, Justice Charles Gray, concluded that:
Irving has, for his own ideological reasons, persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence; that, for the same reasons, he has portrayed Hitler in an unwarrantedly favorable light, principally in relation to his attitude towards, and responsibility for, the treatment of the Jews; that he is an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-semitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism.
On 20 February 2006, Irving was found guilty, and sentenced to three years imprisonment for Holocaust denial, under Austria's 1947 law banning Nazi revivalism and criminalising the "public denial, belittling or justification of National Socialist crimes". Besides Austria, eleven other countries—including Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, and Switzerland—have criminalised Holocaust denial as punishable with imprisonment.[note 4]
The history textbook controversy centers upon the secondary school history textbook Atarashii Rekishi Kyōkasho ("New History Textbook") said to minimise the nature of Japanese militarism in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–95), in annexing Korea in 1910, in the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), and in the Second World War (1939–45). The conservative Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform commissioned the Atarashii Rekishi Kyōkasho textbook with the purpose of traditional national and international view of that Japanese historical period. The Ministry of Education vets all history textbooks, and those that do not mention Japanese war crimes and atrocities are not vetted; however, the Atarashii Rekishi Kyōkasho de-emphasises aggressive Japanese Imperial wartime behaviour and the matter of Chinese and Korean comfort women. It has even been denied that the Nanking massacre (a series of violences and rapes carried on by the Japanese army against Chinese civilians during the Second Sino-Japanese War) ever took place (see Nanking massacre denial). In 2007, the Ministry of Education attempted to revise textbooks regarding the Battle of Okinawa, lessening the involvement of the Japanese military in Okinawan civilian mass suicides.
Allegations of historical revisionism have been made regarding Pakistani textbooks in that they are laced with Indophobic and Islamist bias. Pakistan's use of officially published textbooks has been criticized for using schools to more subtly foster religious extremism, whitewashing Muslim conquests on the Indian subcontinent and promoting "expansive pan-Islamic imaginings" that "detect the beginnings of Pakistan in the birth of Islam on the Arabian peninsula". Since 2001, the Pakistani government has stated that curriculum reforms have been underway by the Ministry of Education.
Ex-Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo)
In the 1990s following a massive western media coverage of the Yugoslav civil war, there was a rise of the publications considering the matter on historical revisionism of the Ex-Yugoslav region. One of the most prominent authors on the field of historical revisionism in the 1990s considering the newly emerged republics is Sir Noel Malcolm and his works Bosnia: A Short History (1994) and Kosovo: A Short History (1998), that have seen a robust debate among historians following their release. For example, following the release of Kosovo: A Short History (1998), the merits of the book were the subject of an extended debate in Foreign Affairs. Critics said that Malcolm's book Kosovo: A Short History (1998) was "marred by his sympathies for its ethnic Albanian separatists, anti-Serbian bias, and illusions about the Balkans". In late 1999, Thomas Emmert of the history faculty of Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota reviewed the book in Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans Online and while praising aspects of the book also asserted that it was "shaped by the author's overriding determination to challenge Serbian myths", that Malcolm was "partisan", and also complained that the book made a "transparent attempt to prove that the main Serbian myths are false".
In May 2009, Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, established the History Commission of Russia (formally, the Presidential Commission of the Russian Federation to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia's Interests) to counter aggressive attempts to rewrite history to Russian disadvantage, yet Alexander Cherkasov of the Memorial human-rights group, called it a regression to Soviet-era control. Historian Isaak Rozental says, "Their [the Kremlin's] approach is not to study history but to use it." The textbook History of Russia and the World in the 20th century (2004), by Nikita Zagladin, replaced the National History: 20th century, by Igor Dolutsky; Zagladin's textbook was produced under the aegis of President Vladimir Putin, who wanted a more patriotic textbook. Critics of the textbook note the lack of detail about historical events such as the Siege of Leningrad (1941–44), the Gulag forced-labour camps, the Russo–Finnish Winter War (1939–40), the First Chechen War (1994–96), and the Second Chechen War (1999–2000), as serious factual inaccuracies; most egregious, the critics propose, is the absence of the Holocaust (1933–45), and the glorification of the rule of Josef Stalin (1922–53).
French law recognising colonialism's positive value
On 23 February 2005, the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) conservative majority at the French National Assembly voted a law compelling history textbooks and teachers to "acknowledge and recognize in particular the positive role of the French presence abroad, especially in North Africa". Criticized by historians and teachers, among them Pierre Vidal-Naquet, who refused to recognise the French Parliament's right to influence the way history is written (despite the French Holocaust denial laws, see Loi Gayssot). That law was also challenged by left-wing parties and the former French colonies; critics argued that the law was tantamount to refusing to acknowledge the racism inherent to French colonialism, and that the law proper is a form of historical revisionism.[note 5]
Ramifications and judicature
Some countries have criminalised historical revisionism of historic events such as the Holocaust. The Council of Europe defines it as the "denial, gross minimisation, approval or justification of genocide or crimes against humanity" (article 6, Additional Protocol to the Convention on cybercrime).
Some council-member states proposed an additional protocol to the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention, addressing materials and "acts of racist or xenophobic nature committed through computer networks"; it was negotiated from late 2001 to early 2002, and, on 7 November 2002, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers adopted the protocol's final text titled Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cyber-crime, Concerning the Criminalisation of Acts of a Racist and Xenophobic Nature Committed through Computer Systems, ("Protocol"). It opened on 28 January 2003, and became current on 1 March 2006; as of 30 November 2011, 20 States have signed and ratified the Protocol, and 15 others have signed, but not yet ratified it (including Canada and South Africa).
The Protocol requires participant States to criminalise the dissemination of racist and xenophobic material, and of racist and xenophobic threats and insults through computer networks, such as the Internet. Article 6, Section 1 of the Protocol specifically covers Holocaust Denial, and other genocides recognised as such by international courts, established since 1945, by relevant international legal instruments. Section 2 of Article 6 allows a Party to the Protocol, at their discretion, only to prosecute the violator if the crime is committed with the intent to incite hatred or discrimination or violence; or to use a reservation, by allowing a Party not to apply Article 6 – either partly or entirely. The Council of Europe's Explanatory Report of the Protocol says that the "European Court of Human Rights has made it clear that the denial or revision of 'clearly established historical facts – such as the Holocaust — ... would be removed from the protection of Article 10 by Article 17' of the European Convention on Human Rights" (see the Lehideux and Isorni judgement of 23 September 1998);
Two of the English-speaking states in Europe, Ireland and the United Kingdom, have not signed the additional protocol, (the third, Malta, signed on 28 January 2003, but has not yet ratified it). On 8 July 2005 Canada became the only non-European state to sign the convention. They were joined by South Africa in April 2008. The United States government does not believe that the final version of the Protocol is consistent with the United States' First Amendment Constitutional rights and has informed the Council of Europe that the United States will not become a Party to the protocol.
There are various domestic laws against negationism and hate speech (which may encompass negationism), in sixteen different countries including
- Austria (Article I §3 Verbotsgesetz 1947 with its 1992 updates and added paragraph §3h),
- Argentina (National Law 23054 and 23592),
- Belgium (Belgian Holocaust denial law),
- the Czech Republic,
- France (Gayssot Act),
- Germany (§130(3) of the penal code)
- Hungary,
- Israel,
- Liechtenstein,
- Lithuania,
- Luxembourg,
- Poland (Article 55 of the law establishing the Institute of National Remembrance 1998),
- Portugal,
- Romania,
- Slovakia,
- and Switzerland (Article 261bis of the Penal Code).
Additionally, the Netherlands considers denying the Holocaust as a hate crime – which is a punishable offense. Wider use of domestic laws include the 1990 French Gayssot Act that prohibits any "racist, anti-Semitic or xenophobic" speech., and the Czech Republic and the Ukraine have criminalised the denial and the minimisation of Communist-era crimes.
Negationism in fiction
In the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), by George Orwell, the government of Oceania continually revises historical records to concord with the contemporary political explanations of The Party. When Oceania is at war with Eurasia, the public records (newspapers, cinema, television) indicate that Oceania has been always at war with Eurasia; yet, when Eurasia and Oceania are no longer fighting each other, the historical records are subjected to negationism; thus, the populace are brainwashed to believe that Oceania and Eurasia always have been allies against East Asia.
The protagonist of the story, Winston Smith, is an editor in the Ministry of Truth, responsible for effecting the continual historical revisionism that will negate the contradictions of the past upon the contemporary world of Oceania. To cope with the psychological stresses of life during wartime, Smith begins a diary, in which he observes that “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future”, and so illustrates the principal, ideological purpose of historical negationism.
- Academic integrity
- Big Lie
- Black Legend
- Cognitive dissonance
- Dunning School
- Dustbin of history
- History wars (Australia)
- Information warfare
- Lost Cause
- Memory hole
- Selective omission – biases to taboo some elements of a collective memory .
Cases of denialism
- An example of changing visual history is the Party motivated practice of altering photographs.
- To clarify the terminology of denial vs. "revisionism":
- "This is the phenomenon of what has come to be known as 'revisionism', 'negationism', or 'Holocaust denial,' whose main characteristic is either an outright rejection of the very veracity of the Nazi genocide of the Jews, or at least a concerted attempt to minimize both its scale and importance ... It is just as crucial, however, to distinguish between the wholly objectionable politics of denial and the fully legitimate scholarly revision of previously accepted conventional interpretations of any historical event, including the Holocaust." Bartov, Omer. The Holocaust: Origins, Implementation and Aftermath, Routledge, pp.11–12. Bartov is John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History at the Watson Institute, and is regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on genocide ("Omer Bartov", The Watson Institute for International Studies).
- "The two leading critical exposés of Holocaust denial in the United States were written by historians Deborah Lipstadt (1993) and Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman (2000). These scholars make a distinction between historical revisionism and denial. Revisionism, in their view, entails a refinement of existing knowledge about a historical event, not a denial of the event itself, that comes through the examination of new empirical evidence or a reexamination or reinterpretation of existing evidence. Legitimate historical revisionism acknowledges a "certain body of irrefutable evidence" or a "convergence of evidence" that suggest that an event – like the black plague, American slavery, or the Holocaust – did in fact occur (Lipstadt 1993:21; Shermer & Grobman 200:34). Denial, on the other hand, rejects the entire foundation of historical evidence ..." Ronald J. Berger. Fathoming the Holocaust: A Social Problems Approach, Aldine Transaction, 2002, ISBN 0-202-30670-4, p. 154.
- "At this time, in the mid-1970s, the specter of Holocaust Denial (masked as "revisionism") had begun to raise its head in Australia ..." Bartrop, Paul R. "A Little More Understanding: The Experience of a Holocaust Educator in Australia" in Samuel Totten, Steven Leonard Jacobs, Paul R Bartrop. Teaching about the Holocaust, Praeger/Greenwood, 2004, p. xix. ISBN 0-275-98232-7
- "Pierre Vidal-Naquet urges that denial of the Holocaust should not be called 'revisionism' because 'to deny history is not to revise it'. Les Assassins de la Memoire. Un Eichmann de papier et autres essays sur le revisionisme (The Assassins of Memory – A Paper-Eichmann and Other Essays on Revisionism) 15 (1987)." Cited in Roth, Stephen J. "Denial of the Holocaust as an Issue of Law" in the Israel Yearbook on Human Rights, Volume 23, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1993, ISBN 0-7923-2581-8, p. 215.
- "This essay describes, from a methodological perspective, some of the inherent flaws in the "revisionist" approach to the history of the Holocaust. It is not intended as a polemic, nor does it attempt to ascribe motives. Rather, it seeks to explain the fundamental error in the "revisionist" approach, as well as why that approach of necessity leaves no other choice. It concludes that "revisionism" is a misnomer because the facts do not accord with the position it puts forward and, more importantly, its methodology reverses the appropriate approach to historical investigation ..."Revisionism" is obliged to deviate from the standard methodology of historical pursuit because it seeks to mold facts to fit a preconceived result, it denies events that have been objectively and empirically proved to have occurred, and because it works backward from the conclusion to the facts, thus necessitating the distortion and manipulation of those facts where they differ from the preordained conclusion (which they almost always do). In short, "revisionism" denies something that demonstrably happened, through methodological dishonesty." McFee, Gordon. "Why 'Revisionism' Isn't", The Holocaust History Project, 15 May 1999. Retrieved 22 December 2006.
- "Crucial to understanding and combating Holocaust denial is a clear distinction between denial and revisionism. One of the more insidious and dangerous aspects of contemporary Holocaust denial, a la Arthur Butz, Bradley Smith and Greg Raven, is the fact that they attempt to present their work as reputable scholarship under the guise of 'historical revisionism.' The term 'revisionist' permeates their publications as descriptive of their motives, orientation and methodology. In fact, Holocaust denial is in no sense 'revisionism,' it is denial ... Contemporary Holocaust deniers are not revisionists – not even neo-revisionists. They are Deniers. Their motivations stem from their neo-nazi political goals and their rampant antisemitism." Austin, Ben S. "Deniers in Revisionists Clothing", The Holocaust\Shoah Page, Middle Tennessee State University. Retrieved 29 March 2007.
- "Holocaust denial can be a particularly insidious form of antisemitism precisely because it often tries to disguise itself as something quite different: as genuine scholarly debate (in the pages, for example, of the innocuous-sounding Journal for Historical Review). Holocaust deniers often refer to themselves as 'revisionists', in an attempt to claim legitimacy for their activities. There are, of course, a great many scholars engaged in historical debates about the Holocaust whose work should not be confused with the output of the Holocaust deniers. Debate continues about such subjects as, for example, the extent and nature of ordinary Germans' involvement in and knowledge of the policy of genocide, and the timing of orders given for the extermination of the Jews. However, the valid endeavour of historical revisionism, which involves the re-interpretation of historical knowledge in the light of newly emerging evidence, is a very different task from that of claiming that the essential facts of the Holocaust, and the evidence for those facts, are fabrications." The nature of Holocaust denial: What is Holocaust denial?, JPR report No. 3, 2000. Retrieved 16 May 2007.
- Further information of how Irving was discredited as a historian:
- "In 1969, after David Irving's support for Rolf Hochhuth, the German playwright who accused Winston Churchill of murdering the Polish wartime leader General Sikorski, The Daily Telegraph issued a memo to all its correspondents. 'It is incorrect,' it said, 'to describe David Irving as a historian. In future we should describe him as an author.'" Ingram, Richard. Irving was the author of his own downfall, The Independent, 25 February 2006.
- "It may seem an absurd semantic dispute to deny the appellation of 'historian' to someone who has written two dozen books or more about historical subjects. But if we mean by historian someone who is concerned to discover the truth about the past, and to give as accurate a representation of it as possible, then Irving is not a historian. Those in the know, indeed, are accustomed to avoid the term altogether when referring to him and use some circumlocution such as 'historical writer' instead. Irving is essentially an ideologue who uses history for his own political purposes; he is not primarily concerned with discovering and interpreting what happened in the past, he is concerned merely to give a selective and tendentious account of it in order to further his own ideological ends in the present. The true historian's primary concern, however, is with the past. That is why, in the end, Irving is not a historian." Irving vs. (1) Lipstadt and (2) Penguin Books, Expert Witness Report by Richard J. Evans FBA, Professor of Modern History, University of Cambridge, 2000, Chapter 6.
- "State prosecutor Michael Klackl said: 'He's not a historian, he's a falsifier of history.'" Traynor, Ian. Irving jailed for denying Holocaust, The Guardian, 21 February 2006.
- "One of Britain's most prominent speakers on Muslim issues is today exposed as a supporter of David Irving. .. Bukhari contacted the discredited historian, sentenced this year to three years in an Austrian prison for Holocaust denial, after reading his website." Doward, Jamie. "Muslim leader sent funds to Irving", The Guardian, 19 November 2006.
- "David Irving, the discredited historian and Nazi apologist, was last night starting a three-year prison sentence in Vienna for denying the Holocaust and the gas chambers of Auschwitz." Traynor, Ian. "Irving jailed for denying Holocaust", The Guardian, 21 February 2006.
- "Conclusion on meaning 2.15 (vi): that Irving is discredited as a historian." David Irving v. Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt/II.
- "DAVID Irving, the discredited revisionist historian and most outspoken British Holocaust denier, has added further fuel to the controversy over his early release from an Austrian jail by recanting his court statement of regret over his views." Crichton, Torcuil. "Holocaust denier reneges on regret", The Sunday Herald, 24 December 2006.
- "Discredited British author David Irving spoke in front of some 250 people at a small theatre on Szabadság tér last Monday." Hodgson, Robert. "Holocaust denier David Irving draws a friendly crowd in Budapest", The Budapest Times, 19 March 2007.
- "An account of the 2000 – 2001 libel trial in the high court of the now discredited historian David Irving, which formed the backdrop for his recent conviction in Vienna for denying the Holocaust." Program Details – David Irving: The London Trial 2006-02-26 17:00:00, BBC Radio 4.
- "Yet Irving, a discredited right-wing historian, was described by a High Court judge after a long libel trial as a racist anti-semite who denied the Holocaust." Edwards, Rob. "Anti-green activist in links with Nazi writer; Revealed: campaigner", The Sunday Herald, 5 May 2002.
- "'The sentence against Irving confirms that he and his views are discredited, but as a general rule I don't think that this is the way this should be dealt with,' said Antony Lerman, director of the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research. 'It is better to combat denial by education and using good speech to drive out bad speech.'" Gruber, Ruth Ellen. "Jail sentence for Holocaust denier spurs debate on free speech", j., 24 February 2006.
- "Deborah Lipstadt is Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies and director of The Rabbi Donald A. Tam Institute for Jewish Studies at Emory University. She is the author of two books about the Holocaust. Her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory led to the 2000 court case in which she defeated and discredited Holocaust denier David Irving." Understanding Auschwitz Today, Task of Justice & Danger of Holocaust Deniers, Public Broadcasting Service.
- "After the discredited British historian David Irving was sentenced to a three-year jail term in Austria as a penalty for denying the Holocaust, the liberal conscience of western Europe has squirmed and agonised." Glover, Gillian. "Irving gets just what he wanted – his name in the headlines", The Scotsman, 23 February 2006.
- "... is a disciple of discredited historian and Holocaust denier David Irving." Horowitz, David. The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, Regnery Publishing, 2006, ISBN 0-89526-003-4, p. 175.
- "If the case for competence applies to those who lack specialist knowledge, it applies even further to those who have been discredited as incompetent. For example, why ought we include David Irving in a debate aiming to establish the truth about the Holocaust, after a court has found that he manipulates and misinterprets history?" Long, Graham. Relativism and the Foundations of Liberalism, Imprint Academic, 2004, ISBN 1-84540-004-6, p. 80.
- "Ironically, Julius is also a celebrated solicitor famous for his defence of Schuchard's colleague, Deborah Lipstadt, against the suit for of libel brought by the discredited historian David Irving brought when Lipstadt accused him of denying the Holocaust." "T S Eliot's anti-Semitism hotly debated as scholars argue over new evidence", University of York, Communications Office, 5 February 2003.
- "Irving, a discredited historian, has insisted that Jews at Auschwitz were not gassed." "Irving vows to continue denial", Breaking News, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 7 February 2007.
- "David Irving, the discredited historian and Nazi apologist, was on Monday night starting a three-year prison sentence in Vienna for denying the Holocaust and the gas chambers of Auschwitz." "Historian jailed for denying Holocaust", Mail & Guardian, 21 February 2006.
- "Irving, a discredited historian, has insisted that Jews at Auschwitz were not gassed." "Irving Vows To Continue Denial", The Jewish Week, 29 December 2006.
- "The two best-known present-day Holocaust deniers are the discredited historian David Irving, jailed last year in Austria for the offence, and the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who wants Israel wiped off the map." Wills, Clair. " Ben Kiely and the 'Holocaust denial'", Irish Independent, 10 March 2007.
- "[Irving] claimed that Lipstadt's book accuses him of falsifying historical facts to support his theory that the Holocaust never happened. This of course discredited his reputation as a historian. .. On 11 April, High Court judge Charles Gray ruled against Irving, concluding that he qualified as a Holocaust denier and anti-Semite, and that as such he distorted history to defend his hero, Adolf Hitler." Wyden, Peter. The Hitler Virus: the Insidious Legacy of Adolf Hitler, Arcade Publishing, 2001, ISBN 1-55970-532-9, p. 164.
- "Now that holocaust denier David Irving has been discredited, what is the future of history?" Kustow, Michael. "History after Irving", Red Pepper, June 2000.
- "In Britain, which does not have a Holocaust denial law, Irving had already been thoroughly discredited when he unsuccessfully sued historian Deborah Lipstadt in 1998 for describing him as a Holocaust denier." Callamard, Agnès. "Debate: can we say what we want?", Le Monde diplomatique, April 2007.
- "Holocaust denier and discredited British historian David Irving, for example, asserts. .. that Auschwitz gas chambers were constructed after World War II." "Hate-Group Web Sites Target Children, Teens", Psychiatric News, American Psychiatric Association, 2 February 2001.
- "Holocaust denier: An Austrian court hears discredited British historian David Irving's appeal against his jail sentence for denying the Nazi genocide of the Jews.", "The world this week", BBC News, 20 December 2006.
- "Discredited British historian David Irving began serving three years in an Austrian prison yesterday for denying the Holocaust, a crime in the country where Hitler was born." Schofield, Matthew. "Controversial Nazi apologist backs down, but still jailed for three years", The Age, 22 February 2006.
- Laws against denying the Holocaust:
- Philip Johnston Britons face extradition (to Germany) for 'thought crime' on net in Daily Telegraph 18 February 2003
- Brendan O'Neill "Irving? Let the guy go home" [from Austria] BBC 4 January 2006
- Malte Herwig The Swastika Wielding Provocateur in Der Spiegel 16 January 2006
- "German neo-Nazi revisionist Zuendel goes on trial". European Jewish Press. 12 February 2006.
- 14 July 1990 Act prohibiting racist, antisemitic and xenophobic acts – loi Gayssot
- "Row over anti-revisionist laws". 4 January 2006.
- "Belgian Holocaust denier held at Schiphol". Expatica News. 5 August 2005.
- About Switzerland laws by the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and Racism
- Philip Johnston Blair's pledge on Holocaust denial law abandoned in the Daily Telegraph 21 January 2000 and Lithuania.
- In retaliation against the law, Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika refused to sign a prepared "friendly treaty" with France. On 26 June 2005, Bouteflika declared that the law "approached mental blindness, negationism and revisionism". In Martinique, Aimé Césaire, author of the Négritude literary movement, refused to receive UMP leader Nicolas Sarkozy, the incumbent president of France.
- "The two leading exposés of Holocaust denial in the U.S. were written by the historians Deborah Lipstadt (1993), and Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman (2000), who distinguish between historical revisionism and historical denial. Historical revisionism entails a refinement of existing knowledge of an historical event, not a denial of the occurrence of the event, itself; legitimate historical revision is realized with the examination of new, empirical evidence, or by a re-examination, or by a re-interpretation of existing evidence. Legitimate historical revisionism acknowledges the existence of a “certain body of irrefutable evidence” and a “convergence of evidence”, which suggest that an historical event, such as the black plague, American slavery, or The Holocaust, did occur (Lipstadt 1993:21; Shermer & Grobman 200:34). Whereas, denial rejects the foundation of historical evidence. Ronald J. Berger. Fathoming the Holocaust: A Social Problems Approach, Aldine Transaction, 2002, ISBN 0-202-30670-4, p. 154.
- Le négationnisme. Kornberg, Jacques. The Future of a Negation: Reflections on the Question of Genocide.(Review) (book review), Shofar, January 2001) The term Negationism also describes legitimate historical revisionism: (PDF) UNESCO against racism world conference 31 August – 7 September 2001 "Given the ignorance with which it is treated, the slave trade comprises one of the most radical forms of historical negationism." In International Law: Response to Professor Fronza's ‘The punishment of Negationism’ Pascale Bloch said that:
"Revisionists" are understood as negationists in order to differentiate them from historical revisionists, since their goal is either to prove that the Holocaust did not exist or to introduce confusion, regarding the victims and German executioners, regardless of historical and scientific methodology and evidence. For those reasons, the term revisionism is often considered confusing, since it conceals misleading ideologies that purport to avoid disapproval by presenting “revisions” of the past, based on pseudo-scientific methods, while, really, they are a part of negationism.
- Kriss Ravetto (2001). The Unmaking of Fascist Aesthetics, University of Minnesota Press ISBN 0-8166-3743-1. p. 33. (Accessed ProQuest Database, 12 October 2011)
- Mehnert, Klaus. Stalin Versus Marx: The Stalinist Historical Doctrine (1972), about the illegitimate use of history in the 1934–1952 period; a translation of the German Weltrevolution durch Weltgeschichte (1952) Port Washington NY: Kennikat Press.
- Roger D. Markwick, Rewriting History in Soviet Russia: The Politics of Revisionist Historiography, 1956–1974 New York; Basingstoke:Palgrave, 2001.
- Lying About Hitler: History, Holocaust, and the David Irving Trial, by Richard J. Evans, 2001, ISBN 0-465-02153-0. p. 145. Prof. Evans teaches Modern History, at the University of Cambridge, and was an expert-witness in the Irving v. Lipstadt trial; Lying About Hitler is about the trial, the expert-witness report, and research about the death count resulting from the Dresden fire bombing.
- Gary B. Nash, Forum on who owns history? History in the Classroom. Perspectives. October 1996.
- Harold D. Lasswell, Propaganda Technique in World War I. 1927, MIT Press, ISBN 0-262-62018-9 p.xxii-xxvii
- Matthew d'Ancona, History men battle over Britain's future. The Times, 9 May 1994; ProQuest Database (. Retrieved 12 October 2011).
- McPherson disagrees with this as the sole definition of revisionist history – he argues rightly that revisionism (academically) is the 'lifeblood of history.' James McPherson. Revisionist Historians. Perspectives, 2003. American Historical Association.
- Matthew d'Ancona; History men battle over Britain's future. The Times, 9 May 1994; ProQuest Database (Retrieved 12 October 2011).
- Propaganda Technique in World War I. MIT Press. 1927. p. 51. ISBN 0-262-62018-9.
|last1=in Authors list (help)
- Lasswell 1927, p. 53
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- Roger D. Markwick, Donald J. Raleigh, Rewriting History in Soviet Russia: The Politics of Revisionist Historiography, Palgrave Macmillan, 2001, ISBN 0-333-79209-2, pp. 4–5.
- Tennent H. Bagley, Spy Wars¸ Yale University Press, 2007. ISBN 0-300-12198-9, ISBN 978-0-300-12198-8, p.105.
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- Richard J. Evans. David Irving, Hitler and Holocaust Denial: Electronic Edition, 6. General Conclusion Paragraphs 6.20,6.21
- Barry Loberfeld, "Denying the Other Holocausts": Professor Lipstadt's Own Assault on Truth and Memory, Liberty, May 2002
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- "Holocaust deniers often refer to themselves as 'revisionists', in an attempt to claim legitimacy for their activities". (The nature of Holocaust denial: What is Holocaust denial?, JPR report No. 3, 2000. Retrieved 16 May 2007)
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