The long war
As my comics reminded me, fragments of the Japanese Imperial Army fought on, for months or years or even decades, on isolated islands in the Philippines and Indonesia, refusing to heed demands for their surrender, even when these demands came from their own postwar government. Instead of handing in their battle swords and shipping back to the home country, the Japanese 'stragglers' waged quixotic and increasingly feeble guerrilla wars in the hills and forests of their host islands, creeping into the villages of incredulous locals to shoot pigs and burn piles of harvested grain. Hiroo Onoda, the last of the 'stragglers', did not give up the cause until 1974 - the year I was born.
There is something about the sheer incorribility of the typical conspiracy theory that reminds me of the long war waged by Hiroo Onoda and his comrades. No matter how often and how patiently they are debunked, claims that 9/11 was an inside job, that whites were really the first people to reach New Zealand, or that vaccinations cause autism seem to resurface, again and again, on the internet or on talkback radio or in conversations at the pub, complete each time with new elaborations and distortions.
Here's a chain e mail which I received a couple of days ago, together with the reply I wrote to it:
When I was a kid, I couldn't understand why Eisenhower was so popular. Maybe this will explain why.
General Eisenhower Warned Us.
It is a matter of history that when the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.
He did this because he said in words to this effect:
'Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses - because somewhere down the road of history some person will get up and say that this never happened'
This week, the UK debated whether to remove The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offends' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. It is not removed as yet.. However, this is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.
It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the, six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians, and 1,900 Catholic priests Who were 'murdered, raped, burned, starved, beaten, experimented on and humiliated' while many in the world looked the other way!
Now, more than ever, with Iran , among others, claiming the Holocaust to be 'a myth,' it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets.
This e-mail is intended to reach 400 million people! Be a link in the memorial chain and help distribute this around the world.
How many years will it be before the attack on the World Trade Centre
because it offends someone???
Do not just delete this message; it will take only a minute to pass this along.
FREEDOM ISN'T FREE...SOMEONE HAD TO PAY FOR IT!
the message you are forwarding around the net is a hoax invented by far right anti-Muslim groups in Britain. The British government has not issued some sort of edict banning the discussion of the Holocaust in the schools of that country. There's a BBC story on the subject archived here.
Xenophobic groups like the English Defence League and the British National Party have been alleging for a while that Muslims and Western governments are conspiring to 'Arabise' Europe, and the charge that the Holocaust is being removed from public discourse in the UK as a concession to Muslims has been peddled as part of this conspiracy theory. (I blogged recently about the 'Eurabia' conspiracy theory, and the way that it inspired Anders Breivik to go on his killing spree in Norway.)
There are four things which ought to strike you as fishy about the message you are forwarding.
In the first place, the notion that the Holocaust should be some sort of offensive or sensitive subject for Muslims is absurd: it was, after all, Christian Europe rather than the Muslim Middle East which committed the Holocaust. Some parts of the Muslim world - areas in North Africa, for example - actually functioned as sanctuaries for Jews during the Holocaust.
The total absence of references in the message you have forwarded should also have struck you as suspicious. If a group of people wants to make an extraordinary and inflammatory claim then, if it wants to have any credibility, that group ought to identify itself, and provide links to some piece of primary material - a news report, a press release, a speech - which supports its claim.
The message's claim that 'ten million Christians' died in the Holocaust is very odd. The Holocaust is normally defined as a genocide suffered by Jews and Romanies at the hands of the Nazis. While many victims of the Nazis were Christians - Poland, for instance, suffered terrible losses during World War Two - I have never heard anyone allege that the Nazis set out to exterminate Christians.* The claim that Christians as well as Jews were victims of the Holocaust seems to me to be part of a bizarre attempt to reframe the event as some sort of Muslim-sponsored atrocity against Europeans.
The very unpleasant closing sentences of the message you have sent me should also have raised your hackles. The authors of the message suggest that, after banning discussion of the Holocaust, Muslims will next try to ban discussion of the 9/11 attacks. Such a claim is based on the premise that all Muslims are somehow responsible for and supportive of the 9/11 attacks. In reality, large numbers of Muslims died in the twin towers and few Muslims support Al Qaeda's campaign of terror.
The irony of all this is that the groups which peddle nonsense about Muslims wanting to ban the Holocaust are themselves filled with anti-semites. Both the English Defence League and the British National Party have their roots in Britian's neo-Nazi movement. The BNP has a very long history of Holocaust denial; the EDL is a much younger group, but its members have been seen giving Nazi salutes and waving swastika flags. The BNP, the EDL, and other far right groups have sniffed the breeze and realised that there is more anti-Muslim bigotry than anti-semitism about in today's Europe. They have therefore tried to pose as defenders of Jewish and Christian civilisation against the Muslim hordes which are supposedly taking over Britain and other European nations. We should not be taken in by them.
*It is true that large percentage of Jehovah's Witnesses were sent to concentration camps, but their persecution was a result of their refusal to do military service, not the simple fact of their religion. Jehovah's Witnesses could be released from the camps immediately if they pledged to do military service, though very few of these courageous people ever made such a concession to Nazism.