Monday, December 11, 2006

RSVP'ing to The Iranian Holocaust Conference: To Attend, or Send Regrets

The New York Times today reports on a conference being hosted by the Iranian Foreign Ministry titled "Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision." The conference is the brainchild of the president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose own views on the Holocaust have been widely reported. Speakers at the conference include such notorious deniers of the Holocaust as David Duke and Robert Faurisson, although the Times report suggests that the conference organizers provided enough contrary information to offer at least a window-dressing version of diversity of viewpoint (if one can even speak of diversity of viewpoint concerning the historical existence of the Holocaust). Let me make a couple of observations about this conference; it may be giving undue attention to what is undoubtedly a parliament of knaves, but so be it.

The first is to note that part of the ammunition for such a conference stems from European and Canadian laws restricting or criminalizing the denial of the Holocaust altogether. Thus, some of the conference participants from Western nations effectively described the very existence of such a conference as liberating, noting that, for instance, "We are forbidden to have such a conference in Germany." Of course, these speakers could have pointed to these laws for purely opportunistic reasons. Nevertheless, as a matter of optics, it might be said that this is a conference underwritten not only by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, but also by the existence of laws in otherwise openly speech-loving and epistemically agnostic societies that criminalize the very fact of Holocaust denial. among other forms of dangerous speech. Of course, notwithstanding the efforts of the conference organizers to equate "Western taboos [concerning the Holocaust] and the restriction imposed on them in Europe," any pressures against Holocaust denial in the United States come solely from social forces, and not from any legal restrictions. By avoiding any legal penalty for stating such wrongheaded ideas, American law both permits such ideas to circulate and strips from their adherents the dignity of martyrdom. They are protected, but they are also at the mercy of the marketplace and likely (one hopes) to be generally ignored as a lunatic fringe. If David Duke were a German, he would be an insurgent and a champion of free speech; here, he is reduced to his natural state -- laughingstock. I'm glad he has to travel to Teheran to get any attention.

One might ask a separate question, though: What would be the proper response to such a conference for someone who writes and speaks in the area of Holocaust studies -- who, in other words, quite rightly understands the Holocaust as a historical event? Is it better to ignore such a conference altogether, or would it be more beneficial to take advantage of the conference's pretense of fair-mindedness and show up to refute the denialists? I can't definitively answer such a question, and there is much to be said, of course, for ignoring the conference altogether, so as to avoid giving the appearance of controversy to what ought to be uncontroverted. But so, too, there would be something to be said for appearing: for showing up long enough to squarely address and definitively refute the claims made by denialists -- not for the sake of the conference audience, but for the sake of the world at large, and also out of a sense of defiance, a will to demonstrate that the truth just is, and demands to be heard anywhere and everywhere. Such issues of course also arise when considering debates on intelligent design, race, and a variety of other issues. But they are certainly raised in a particularly striking fashion in this case.

11 comments:

Caleb said...

How far does the idea that making something illegal creates martyrs take us?
Take marriage as an example. Laws banning interracial marriage created a class of people who were "martyrs" to a law, and their existence pointed to the injustice of the existing rule. I think the same is true for the non-recognition of gay marriage today. But what about pedophelia or even polygamy? Don't laws banning those practices create "martyrs" as well? How do we justify allowing Holocause denial and not those practices.

One way might be to say that the two I suggested are harmful, or that we have decided that certain participants are unable to consent to them. That seems fair to me. But, what we're doing there, is enacting a societal judgment about harm. X is too harmful and therefore illegal. If societal judgments are at the heart of these types of rules, then - I think - there's no principled way to strike down Holocaust-denial rules except by saying that those societies were wrong when they judged that Holocaust-denying speech was harmful and that the harm outweighed arguments in favor of allowing it. Yes it might create "martyrs" but society has already judged that it prefers one risk to the other. Of course, I might be missing something other way to limit the principle.

In the end though - I suspect that these people will always be "martyrs" to a certain group of society. The trick is to chip away at the edges of that group so that it's always getting smaller and not larger. (Unfortunately, I have no good suggestions for accomplishing this)

Derek said...

Building on your final thoughts, I think it's important to distinguish between two possible types of conference:

Intelligent Design Paradigm - A conference with arguments purporting to be scientific, but which are rather bad by scientific standards. Nonetheless, the participants believe they are doing real science.

Racist Paradigm - A "conference" supposedly about race relations, but really just a thinly veiled excuse for expressing racist sentiment and propaganda.

I think if the Tehran conference is like the ID paradigm then Holocaust scholars should attend. In such a case, the deniers would see themselves as doing real history (what we'd say is bad history), and it should rightfully be combated with good, historical arguments.

On the other hand, if it's just an anti-semitic charade, then I don't see that Holocaust scholars really ought to attend. I suppose they could attend as counter-protestors of sorts, but you don't need to be a Holocaust scholar to protest, and it might unduly legitimate the "conference" if real scholars (not just KKK outcasts) attended.

Of course, it might not be obvious which sort of conference this is in advance. But I think the key would be to figure out how the participants subjectively think about what they are doing and how closely they adhere to the principles of their disciplines.

On a related note, I attended a conference on human rights in Iran a few years ago and a similar issue arose. People were worried that the conference, partially sponsored by the government, was just an excuse to bash human rights as a western tool of imperialism. True, there were bashings of that sort, but there were also well reasoned, interesting arguments on both sides, by both western and non-western scholars.

I'm not suggesting that Ahmadinejad's conference will follow suit. I really can't imagine that it will. But I think that at least sometimes there can be a fruitful scholarly exchange even when the host of the conference has an ulterior motive based on a well known, and maybe even distasteful, bias.

Anonymous said...

In conjunction with reiterating the historical veracity of the Nazi holocaust we might also, with Norman G. Finkelstein, discuss the ideological representation of 'the Holocaust:' The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (London: Verso: 2001 ed.).

Craig J. Albert said...

Why dignify these lunatics with a response at all? A debate takes place in the mind of the listener, not in the air. By listening and responding, you give these people a forum; by ignoring them, you deny them a forum. My disappointment is that this story is being covered at all.

Anonymous said...

It is also can not live without eve isk. Here, for the violence or robbery had been friends apologize in the eve online isk. I request members are on the local increase or decrease in the number of judgments quickly in buy isk. The game has a good excellence is that the cheap eve isk. The other side rather than back into the space station is POS, and buy eve online isk.

Anonymous said...

酒店喝酒,禮服店,酒店小姐,制服店,便服店,鋼琴酒吧,兼差,酒店兼差,酒店打工,伴唱小姐,暑假打工,酒店上班,日式酒店,ktv酒店,酒店,酒店公關,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,酒店上班,酒店打工,禮服酒店,禮服店,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,經紀 彩色爆米花,經紀人 彩色爆米花,酒店傳播,酒店經紀 彩色爆米花,爆米花,童裝,童裝拍賣,童裝大盤,童裝寄賣,童裝批貨,酒店,酒店,童裝切貨,酒店,GAP童裝,酒店,酒店 ,禮服店 , 酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,招待所,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店上班,暑假打工,酒店公關,酒店兼職,酒店經紀

Anonymous said...

看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,美髮儀器,美髮,儀器,髮型,EMBA,MBA,學位,EMBA,專業認證,認證課程,博士學位,DBA,PHD,在職進修,碩士學位,推廣教育,DBA,進修課程,碩士學位,網路廣告,關鍵字廣告,關鍵字,課程介紹,學分班,文憑,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,日式料理, 台北居酒屋,日本料理,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,台北結婚,場地,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,造型系列,學位,SEO,婚宴,捷運,學區,美髮,儀器,髮型,看房子,買房子,建商自售,自售,房子,捷運,學區,台北新成屋,台北豪宅,新成屋,豪宅,學位,碩士學位,進修,在職進修, 課程,教育,學位,證照,mba,文憑,學分班,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,台北住宿,國內訂房,台北HOTEL,台北婚宴,飯店優惠,住宿,訂房,HOTEL,飯店,婚宴,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,場地,結婚,場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,婚宴場地,結婚,婚宴場地,推車飲茶,港式點心,尾牙春酒,台北結婚,場地,居酒屋,燒烤,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,美髮,儀器,髮型,小套房,小套房,進修,在職進修,留學,證照,MBA,EMBA,留學,MBA,EMBA,留學,進修,在職進修,牛樟芝,段木,牛樟菇,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,PMP,在職專班,研究所在職專班,碩士在職專班,PMP,證照,在職專班,研究所在職專班,碩士在職專班,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,SEO,廣告,關鍵字,關鍵字排名,網路行銷,網頁設計,網站設計,網站排名,搜尋引擎,網路廣告,EMBA,MBA,PMP
,在職進修,專案管理,出國留學,EMBA,MBA,PMP
,在職進修,專案管理,出國留學,EMBA,MBA,PMP,在職進修,專案管理,出國留學,婚宴,婚宴,婚宴,婚宴,漢高資訊,漢高資訊,比利時,比利時聯合商學院,宜蘭民宿,台東民宿,澎湖民宿,墾丁民宿,花蓮民宿,SEO,找工作

住宿,民宿,飯宿,住宿,民宿,美容,美髮,整形,造型,美容,室內設計,室內設計,室內設計,室內設計,室內設計,漢高資訊,在職進修,漢高資訊,在職進修,漢高資訊,在職進修,漢高資訊,在職進修,漢高資訊,在職進修,住宿,民宿,飯店,旅遊,美容,美髮,整形,造型,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,進修,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,羅志祥,周杰倫,五月天,蔡依林,林志玲,羅志祥,周杰倫,五月天,蔡依林,林志玲,羅志祥,羅志祥,周杰倫,五月天,蔡依林,住宿,民宿,飯宿,旅遊,住宿,民宿,飯宿,旅遊,美髮,整形,造型,美容,美髮,整形,造型,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,設計,室內設計,裝潢,房地產,比利時聯合商學院,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,比利時聯合商學院,在職進修,MBA,EMBA,漢高資訊

Anonymous said...

www.eshooes.com .
www.pumafr.com.
www.myshoess.com.

www.eshooes.com .
www.pumafr.com.
www.myshoess.com.
[url=http://www.pumafr.com]puma shoes[/url]
[url=http://www.eshooes.com]chaussures puma[/url]
[url=http://www.myshoess.com]nike air max ltd[/url]

Anonymous said...

,,姐.,便服/,,

Anonymous said...

酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店經紀,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店工作,
專業酒店經紀,
合法酒店經紀,
酒店暑假打工,
酒店寒假打工,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店工作,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店經紀,
專業酒店經紀,
合法酒店經紀,
酒店暑假打工,
酒店寒假打工,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店工作,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店經紀,

,

Anonymous said...

Lladies, do you want to a pairs boots? do yours heared ugg brand? It is from Australia, and it is now trusted by more and more people. Even celebrities also love to them. hold it you will have no longer afraid to go out,in the winter , our deal with UGG Boots Sale ,in our shop categories for Ugg Halendi Sandal
UGG Nightfall
UGG Sundance
UGG Tall Boots
UGG Tasmina
Ugg Cardy Gray UGG Ultra Short
UGG Ultra Tall friend, these Women Uggs all fashion trend this year, and now you have any idea? welcome to shopping!