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Holocaust Denial and Social Media

In Apologetic rhetoric, New media on May 20, 2009 at 10:41 am

I started looking into the apologia strategies of Holocaust denial groups on sites such as Facebook. My initial review indicates that most groups use a combination of denial, transcendence, and attacking the accuser.

The denial aspects appear to be carefully constructed to acknowledge some suffering by Jews during the war, but deny a systematic extermination. Instead, they argue that the Holocaust is exaggerated and, in so doing, they frame the number of deaths and the suffering of Jews as similar to other groups during the war. Essentially, they deny the Holocaust by acknowledging only a small number of Jewish deaths and by positioning those deaths as unfortunate casualties of WWII rather than the targeting of Jews.

The denial groups also attempt to reduce the offensiveness of the Holocaust with transcendent appeals to the abstract values of “freedom of speech,” “expansion of historical knowledge,” and calling for people to “do the research and come to their own informed decision.”

These groups also use a strategy of attacking the accuser to reduce the offensiveness. That is, they rhetorically frame themselves as victims of abuse by “Zionists.” For example, one group explicitly claims that “Many Holocaust revisionists have suffered abuse, whether legally or physically, they had their business ruined, were prosecuted legally and beaten” for merely “thinking” about the Holocaust. Additionally, a number of the social website groups that deny the Holocaust attack Israel as the perpetrator of “a REAL everyday Holocaust for Palestinians” that is going on today.

Perhaps these apologia strategies are not surprising, since they have been employed in books and other media by people who deny the Holocaust. What may be more interesting is to examine the chaining out of these rhetorical strategies in the discussions and connections that are inherent in social media. Additionally, it may be interesting to analyze the support offered for claims through links to other social media sites (e.g., YouTube) and websites.

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  1. This is why your work is so important

  2. Interesting stuff, Emil. I’d like to see what you, Jen, and others find through your research–research with heavy duty social significance. I wish I could have been there for the presentations this year.

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