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Israel W. Charny, "The Psychological Satisfaction of Denials"
The Psychological Satisfaction of Denials of the Holocaust or Other Genocides by Non-Extremists or Bigots, and Even by Known Scholars
by Israel W. Charny
Denials of known genocides are not only the work of bigots, such as antisemites and neo-nazis who deny the Holocaust or Turkish ideologues who deny the history of the Armenian Genocide, but are voiced by many people in all walks of life, and even by bona fide respectable academicians. It is important to understand the motivations and thinking and mind formulations through which such denials are constructed and promoted. The present paper focuses on a concept of 'innocent denial' where the denier really may not be consciously entirely aware of the facts and not necessarily aware of their personal interests in choosing to join with deniers of a known genocide. However, it is emphasized that one must be alert to deniers who pretend 'innocence.' Five "thinking defense mechanisms" or ways of constructing and justifying denials are analyzed in a comparative analysis of two examples of denials, by German professor Ernst Nolte who denies the Holocaust, and Jewish professor Bernard Lewis who denies the Armenian Genocide. Interpretations are also given of David Irving a denier who denies being a denier, and Noam Chomsky who stands adamantly for the free speech of deniers in their relationships to denials of the Holocaust, and two case histories of denial of the Armenian Genocide in Israel are presented.
Introduction to Analysis of Denials of Known Genocides
In 1985, I formulated a first grouping of psychological dynamics of denials of genocide, that denials of known events of genocide must be treated as acts of bitter and malevolent psychological aggression, certainly against the victims, but really against all of human society, for such denials literally celebrate genocidal violence and in the process suggestively call for renewed massacres -- of the same people or of others (Charny, 1992b, 1991). In the same year (1985), a remarkable advertisement appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post and several other prominent newspapers in which some 69 academics, any number of them very well established and well known scholars in various fields pertaining to Middle East Studies, called on members of the U.S. Congress who were then considering a resolution to create a Day of Commemoration for the victims of the Armenian Genocide to go slowly until all the records of the era had been researched by way of the archives of the Ottoman government which up until then had been inaccessible. A new era of sophistication and camouflage in denials of genocide was now launched, and a new era of co-option of bona fide members of the academic establishment was begun. To this day, and repeatedly, the above advertisement is referred to by deniers of the Armenian Genocide as proof of the "academic controversy" about the genocide.
In 1990, I proposed a major extension of our understanding of denials also to include what I termed 'innocent deniers,' i.e., those who may not really be aware of the genocide they are helping to deny, and are not necessarily in touch with why it is important to them -- what benefit accrues to them -- by standing with the negationists, skeptics and deniers of the genocide (Charny & Fromer, 1990; Charny, 1991; Charny & Fromer, 1998). I suggested that by analyzing the dynamics of such 'innocent deniers' who may not be aware that they are consciously seeking any benefit from their denials of a known genocide, we may be able, for the first time, to create a psychological framework for understanding the millions of everyday people, in all societies, who join the bandwagons of denial without necessarily knowing that they are doing so or why they are doing so. However, one must also realize that there are also many instances of ostensible or seeming 'innocent denials' which are not at all innocent, but are the full-blown lies of deniers who are attempting to look like honest scholars and peace-promoting people and are doing so to infiltrate the world of scholarship with sophisticated denials.
The present paper works with five thinking defense mechanisms which are used by the mind to justify sophisticated denials. The formulation of these defense mechanisms emerged from content analysis of the responses of signators of the 1985 advertisement to a study of their motivations to participate in the ad and their thinking about the meaning of that advertisement. We apply the same categories of thinking defense mechanisms to analyses of the cases of two well known academics who respectively deny the Armenian Genocide (Professor Bernard Lewis) and the Holocaust (Professor Ernst Nolte). Additional examples of denial are analyzed, including of statements by an historian (David Irving) who has been a notorious denier of the Holocaust, even as he denies being a denier, who is seen as an out-and-out antisemite and adorer of Hitler who hides behind an academic facade; and a well-known liberal intellectual (Noam Chomsky) who stands up so adamantly for unrestrained free speech that he becomes an inadvertent supporter of a denier of the Holocaust -- which makes Chomsky himself culpable of 'innocent denial.'
The above examples are placed in the perspective of a recently published conceptual framework (Charny, 2000) for locating the structure of different denials along two continua. The first is a Continuum of Malevolence of Denial of Known Genocides: 'Innocent Denial' to Malevolence; and the second is a Continuum of Celebration of Violence and Denials of Known Genocides: 'Moral Innocence' and Disavowals of Violence to Celebration of Violence.
Finally, the stories of two cases of denial of the Armenian Genocide in Israel are presented and analyzed. In conclusion, it is argued that denials are becoming more sophisticated and complex, and that there needs to be a concerted battle against all forms of denials.
The Anti-Life Meaning of Denials of Genocide
At the outset, I should like to state that the clear-cut purpose of this essay on academicians who deny a known case of genocide is to enable us to fight back, discredit, and one would hope also shame those professionals of the academic cloth who utilize the advantages of their positions in the service of denials of the cruelest events of mass murders of peoples.
Let me also caution that the analysis that I will be presenting will include, along with the denials by killers, fascists and bigots, a wide range of denials which fulfill selfish pragmatic and exhibitionistic needs of deniers as well as the forms and dynamics of denial which I have dared to identify as 'innocent denials,' which means that the denials are based on a kind of moral 'innocence' and naiveté. In these cases, the deniers are relatively unaware of the real facts of the genocide, and/or are seeking to picture our universe as more decent and secure for human beings than it really is; and in the process to project themselves as fine, justice-seeking, reconciliation-advancing "good" people. These conscious qualities are then used as a cover for unconscious choices and delight in joining in the celebration of genocidal violence that is in effect implied by all denials of known genocides.
Although I attempt some understanding of such 'innocent denials,' I do not for a moment suggest that we should be anything but resolute and powerful in combatting these forms of denial. Indeed, we need to attack the seemingly 'good' people who engage in such 'innocent denials,' first of all because the impact of their rewriting history is no less vicious and dangerous than denials generated by anti-Semitism, or anti-Armenianism, or a generic anti-life position of celebrating the deaths of any victims of mass murder; and secondly because these deniers are engaging in a vicious form of intellectual and moral dishonesty. In fact, my thesis is that such forms of 'innocent' participation in processes of denial are similar to the dynamics of the endless numbers of accomplices and bystanders who, in the course of actual events of genocide, enable and allow the actual perpetrators to execute the genocide.
In this paper, I shall focus primarily on the two major instances of the Armenian Genocide in the years 1915-1920 and the Holocaust of the Jews in World War II, but the framework that is developed is intended to be used for analysis of denials in a wide range of cases of genocide (see the Special Triple Issue of Internet on the Holocaust and Genocide on "Denial of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Contemporary Massacres" ).
Let us begin with a brief look at examples of vicious and even sloppy forms of denial. These have been well known to us for some time. Generally each victim people reports the brazen denials of its people's suffering (Anti-Defamation League, 1993; Armenian Assembly of America, 1983; Housepian Dobkin, Marjorie, 1993; Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1994), but it is also important to see how the basic methodology of denials is comparable in denials of the genocides of different peoples. There is recently a beginning literature comparing denials of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust (see Hovannisian, 1997). Table 1 presents two simple examples of traditional bald and brazen rewriting of the records of the histories of the Armenian Genocide and of the Holocaust.
full text http://www.ideajournal.com/articles.php?id=27
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