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Denial

Denial

Definition

Denial is the refusal to acknowledge the existence or severity of unpleasant external realities or internal thoughts and feelings.

Theory of denial

In psychology, denial is a concept originating with the psychodynamic theories of Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, three mental dynamics, or motivating forces, influence human behavior: the id, ego, and superego. The id consists of basic survival instincts and what Freud believed to be the two dominant human drives: sex and aggression. If the id were the only influence on behavior, humans would exclusively seek to increase pleasure, decrease pain, and achieve immediate gratification of desires. The ego consists of logical and rational thinking. It enables humans to analyze the realistic risks and benefits of a situation, to tolerate some pain for future profit, and to consider alternatives to the impulse-driven behavior of the id. The superego consists of moralistic standards and forms the basis of the conscience. Although the superego is essential to a sense of right and wrong, it can also include extreme, unrealistic ideas about what one should and should not do.

These three forces all have different goals (id, pleasure; ego, reality; superego, morality) and continually strive for dominance, resulting in internal conflict. This conflict produces anxiety. The ego, which functions as a mediator between the two extremes of the id and the superego, attempts to reduce this anxiety by using defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are indirect ways of dealing or coping with anxiety, such as explaining problems away or blaming others for problems. Denial is one of many defense mechanisms. It entails ignoring or refusing to believe an unpleasant reality. Defense mechanisms protect one's psychological wellbeing in traumatic situations, or in any situation that produces anxiety or conflict. However, they do not resolve the anxiety-producing situation and, if overused, can lead to psychological disorders. Although Freud's model of the id, ego, and superego is not emphasized by most psychologists today, defense mechanisms are still regarded as potentially maladaptive behavioral patterns that may lead to psychological disorders.

Examples of denial

Death is a common occasion for denial. When someone learns of the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, at first he or she may not be able to accept the reality of this loss. The initial denial protects that person from the emotional shock and intense grief that often accompanies news of death. Chronic or terminal illnesses also encourage denial. People with such illnesses may think, "It's not so bad; I'll get over it," and refuse to make any lifestyle changes.

Denial can also apply to internal thoughts and feelings. For instance, some children are taught that anger is wrong in any situation. As adults, if these individuals experience feelings of anger, they are likely to deny their feelings to others. Cultural standards and expectations can encourage denial of subjective experience. Men who belong to cultures with extreme notions of masculinity may view fear as a sign of weakness and deny internal feelings of fear. The Chinese culture is thought to discourage the acknowledgment of mental illness, resulting in individuals denying their psychological symptoms and often developing physical symptoms instead.

Certain personality disorders tend to be characterized by denial more than others. For example, those with narcissistic personality disorder deny information that suggests they are not perfect. Antisocial behavior is characterized by denial of the harm done to others (such as with sexual offenders or substance abusers).

Denial can also be exhibited on a large scale among groups, cultures, or even nations. Lucy Bregman gives an example of national denial of imminent mortality in the 1950s: school children participated in drills in which they hid under desks in preparation for atomic attacks. Another example of large-scale denial is the recent assertion by some that the World War II Holocaust never occurred.

Treatment of denial

Denial is treated differently in different types of therapy. In psychoanalytic therapy, denial is regarded as an obstacle to progress that must eventually be confronted and interpreted. Timing is important, however. Psychoanalytic therapists wait until clients appear emotionally ready or have some degree of insight into their problems before confronting them. In the humanistic and existential therapies, denial is considered the framework by which clients understand their world. Not directly confronting denial, therapists assist clients in exploring their world view and considering alternative ways of being. In cognitive-behavioral therapies, denial is not regarded as an important phenomenon. Rather, denial would suggest that an individual has not learned the appropriate behaviors to cope with a stressful situation. Therapists assist individuals in examining their current thoughts and behaviors and devising strategic ways to make changes.

Traditional treatment programs for substance abuse and other addictions view denial as a central theme. Such programs teach that in order to overcome addiction , one must admit to being an alcoholic or addict. Those who are unable to accept such labels are informed they are in denial. Even when the labels are accepted, individuals are still considered to be in denial if they do not acknowledge the severity of their addictions. From this perspective, progress cannot be made until individuals recognize the extent of their denial and work toward acceptance. However, there is much controversy in the field of addictions regarding the role of denial and how it should be addressed. Traditional programs stress direct confrontation. Other professionals do not insist on the acceptance of labels. They believe that denial should be worked through more subtly, empathically focusing on the personal reasons surrounding denial and seeking to strengthen the desire to change. This subtle form of addressing denial is known as motivational enhancement therapy, and can be used with other types of disorders as well.

See also Grief; Psychoanalysis; Psychodynamic psychotherapy; Substance abuse and related disorders

Resources

BOOKS

Bregman, Lucy. Beyond Silence and Denial: Death and Dying Reconsidered. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999.

Millon, Theodore and Roger Davis. Personality Disorders in Modern Life. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000.

PERIODICALS

Cramer, Phebe, and Melissa A. Brilliant. "Defense Use and Defense Understanding in Children." Journal of Personality 69, no. 2 (2001): 297322.

Parker, Gordon, Gemma Gladstone, and Kuan Tsee Chee. "Depression in the Planet's Largest Ethnic Group: The Chinese." American Journal Of Psychiatry 158, no. 6 (2001): 857864.

Schneider, Sandra L. and Robert C. Wright. "The FoSOD: A Measurement Tool for Reconceptualizing the Role of Denial in Child Molesters." Journal of Interpersonal Violence 16, no. 6 (2001): 545564.

ORGANIZATIONS

The American Psychoanalytic Association. 309 East 49th Street, New York, New York 10017. (212) 752-0450. <http://www.aapsa.org>.

Sandra L. Friedrich, M.A.

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denial

denial, in psychology, an ego defense mechanism that operates unconsciously to resolve emotional conflict, and to allay anxiety by refusing to perceive the more unpleasant aspects of external reality. In the psychoanalytic theory of Sigmund Freud, denial is described as a primitive defense mechanism. Anna Freud studied the widespread occurrence of denial among small children and explained that the mature ego does not continue to make extensive use of denial, because it conflicts with the capacity to recognize and critically test reality. Most people employ denial at some time in their lives when coping with stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's influential theory describes denial as the first stage of a dying person's progress in coming to terms with terminal illness. In such instances, denial may be considered adaptive. It is considered maladaptive, however, when it becomes delusional. In recent years, the term is used more generally, to describe the suppression of reality rather than a particular defense mechanism in the Freudian sense.

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denial

de·ni·al / diˈnīəl/ • n. the action of declaring something to be untrue: she shook her head in denial. ∎  the refusal of something requested or desired. ∎  a statement that something is not true. ∎  Psychol. failure to acknowledge an unacceptable truth or emotion or to admit it into consciousness, used as a defense mechanism: you're living in denial. ∎ short for self-denial.

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denial

denial (di-ny-ăl) n. a psychological process in which an individual refuses to accept an aspect of reality despite robust evidence of this. It is seen particularly in dying patients who refuse to accept their impending death and in those who have problems with alcohol or drug dependency.

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denial

denial An assertion taking the form that a particular statement is false.

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denial

denialdenial, dial, espial, Lyall, mistrial, myall, Niall, phial, trial, vial, viol •sundial •knawel, withdrawal •avowal, Baden-Powell, bowel, disembowel, dowel, Howell, Powell, rowel, towel, trowel, vowel •semivowel •bestowal, koel, Lowell, Noel •loyal, royal, viceroyal •accrual, construal, crewel, cruel, dual, duel, fuel, gruel, jewel, newel, renewal, reviewal •eschewal •artefactual (US artifactual), contractual, factual, tactual •perpetual •aspectual, effectual, intellectual •conceptual, perceptual •contextual, textual •habitual, ritual •conflictual • instinctual • spiritual •mutual • punctual • virtual • casual •audio-visual, televisual, visual •usual • gradual • individual •menstrual • actual •asexual, bisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, psychosexual, sexual, transsexual, unisexual •accentual, conventual, eventual •Samuel •annual, biannual, Emanuel, Emmanuel, manual •Lemuel •consensual, sensual •continual

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Denial

Denial

Definition

Theory of denial

Examples of denial

Treatment of denial

Definition

Denial is refusal to acknowledge the existence or severity of unpleasant external realities or internal thoughts and feelings.

Theory of denial

In psychology, denial is a concept originating with the psycho dynamic theories of Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, three mental dynamics, or motivating forces, influence human behavior: the id, ego, and superego. The id consists of basic survival instincts and what Freud believed to be the two dominant human drives: sex and aggression. If the id were the only influence on behavior, humans would exclusively seek to increase pleasure, decrease pain, and achieve immediate gratification of desires. The ego consists of logical and rational thinking. It enables humans to analyze the realistic risks and benefits of a situation, to tolerate some pain for future profit, and to consider alternatives to the impulse-driven behavior of the id. The superego consists of moralistic standards and forms the basis of the conscience. Although the superego is essential to a sense of right and wrong, it can also include extreme, unrealistic ideas about what one should and should not do.

These three forces all have different goals (id, pleasure; ego, reality; superego, morality) and continually strive for dominance, resulting in internal conflict. This conflict produces anxiety. The ego, which functions as a mediator between the two extremes of the id and the superego, attempts to reduce this anxiety by using defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms are indirect ways of dealing or coping with anxiety, such as explaining problems away or blaming others for problems. Denial is one of many defense mechanisms. It entails ignoring or refusing to believe an unpleasant reality. Defense mechanisms protect one’s psychological well-being in traumatic situations, or in any situation that produces anxiety or conflict. However, they do not resolve the anxiety-producing situation and, if overused, can lead to psychological disorders. Although Freud’s model of the id, ego, and superego is not emphasized by most psychologists today, defense mechanisms are still regarded as potentially maladaptive behavioral patterns that may lead to psychological disorders.

Examples of denial

Death is a common occasion for denial. When someone learns of the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, at first he or she may not be able to accept the reality of this loss. The initial denial protects that person from the emotional shock and intense grief that often accompanies news of death. Chronic or terminal illnesses also encourage denial. People with such illnesses may think, “It’s not so bad; I’ll get over it,” and refuse to make any lifestyle changes.

Denial can also apply to internal thoughts and feelings. For instance, some children are taught that anger is wrong in any situation. As adults, if these individuals experience feelings of anger, they are likely to deny their feelings to others. Cultural standards and expectations can encourage denial of subjective experience. Men who belong to cultures with extreme notions of masculinity may view fear as a sign of weakness and deny internal feelings of fear. The Chinese culture is thought to discourage the acknowledgment of mental illness, resulting in individuals denying their psychological symptoms and often developing physical symptoms instead.

Certain personality disorders tend to be characterized by denial more than others. For example, those with narcissistic personality disorder deny information that suggests they are not perfect. Antisocial behavior is characterized by denial of the harm done to others (such as with sexual offenders or substance abusers).

Denial can also be exhibited on a large scale—among groups, cultures, or even nations. Lucy Bregman gives an example of national denial of imminent mortality in the 1950s: school children participated in drills where they hid under desks in preparation for atomic attacks. Another example of large-scale denial is the recent assertion by some that the World War II Holocaust never occurred.

Treatment of denial

Denial is treated differently in different types of therapy. In psychoanalytic therapy, denial is regarded as an obstacle to progress that must eventually be confronted and interpreted. Timing is important, however. Psychoanalytic therapists wait until clients appear emotionally ready or have some degree of insight into their problems before confronting them. In the humanistic and existential therapies, denial is considered the framework by which clients understand their world. Not directly confronting denial, therapists assist clients in exploring their world view and considering alternative ways of being. In cognitive-behavioral therapies, denial is not regarded as an important phenomenon. Rather, denial would suggest that an individual has not learned the appropriate behaviors to cope with a stressful situation. Therapists assist individuals in examining their current thoughts and behaviors and devising strategic ways to make changes.

Traditional treatment programs for substance abuse and other addictions view denial as a central theme. Such programs teach that in order to overcome addiction , one must admit to being an alcoholic or addict. Those who are unable to accept such labels are informed they are in denial. Even when the labels are accepted, individuals are still considered to be in denial if they do not acknowledge the severity of their addictions. From this perspective, progress cannot be made until individuals recognize the extent of their denial and work toward acceptance. However, there is much controversy in the field of addictions regarding the role of denial and how it should be addressed. Traditional programs such as these stress direct confrontation. Other professionals do not insist on the acceptance of labels. They believe that denial should be worked through more subtly, empathically focusing on the personal reasons surrounding denial and seeking to strengthen

KEY TERMS

Antisocial behavior — Behavior characterized by high levels of anger, aggression, manipulation, or violence.

Cognitive-behavioral therapies — An approach to psychotherapy that emphasizes the correction of distorted thinking patterns and changing one’s behaviors accordingly.

Defense mechanisms — Indirect strategies used to reduce anxiety rather than directly facing the issues causing the anxiety.

Dependent personality disorder — Personality disorder characterized by a constant, unhealthy need to be liked and appreciated by others at all costs.

Ego — In Freudian psychology, the conscious, rational part of the mind that experiences and reacts to the outside world.

Humanistic and existential therapies — Therapies that focus on achieving one’s full potential, guided by subjective experience.

Id — A construct in Freudian psycho dynamic theory that represents the irrational, self-centered aspects of human thought.

Motivational enhancement therapy — Therapy that focuses on increasing motivation for change by empathically comparing and contrasting the consequences and benefits of changing or not changing.

Narcissistic personality disorder — Personality characterized by continually exaggerating one’s own positive qualities and refusing to recognize personal defects or flaws.

Psychoanalytic therapy — Therapy based on the psycho dynamic theory of Sigmund Freud.

Psychodynamic — Referring to the motivational forces, unconscious as well as conscious, that form human attitudes and behavior.

Superego — According to Freud, the part of the mind that represents traditional parental and societal values. The superego is the source of guilt feelings.

the desire to change. This subtle form of addressing denial is known as motivational enhancement therapy, and can be used with other types of disorders as well.

See alsoGrief; Psychoanalysis; Psychodynamic psychotherapy; Substance abuse and related disorders.

Resources

BOOKS

Bregman, Lucy. Beyond Silence and Denial: Death and Dying Reconsidered. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999.

Millon, Theodore, and Roger Davis. Personality Disorders in Modern Life. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000.

PERIODICALS

Cramer, Phebe, and Melissa A. Brilliant. “Defense Use and Defense Understanding in Children.” Journal of Personality 69, no. 2 (2001): 297–322.

Parker, Gordon, Gemma Gladstone, and Kuan Tsee Chee. “Depression in the Planet’s Largest Ethnic Group: The Chinese.” American Journal Of Psychiatry 158, no. 6 (2001): 857–864.

Schneider, Sandra L., and Robert C. Wright. “The FoSOD: A Measurement Tool for Reconceptualizing the Role of Denial in Child Molesters.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 16, no. 6 (2001): 545–564.

ORGANIZATIONS

The American Psychoanalytic Association. 309 East 49th Street, New York, New York 10017. Telephone: (212) 752-0450. <http://www.aapsa.org>.

Sandra L. Friedrich, M.A.

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Denial

Denial

Deniers of genocide and other massive human rights violations are engaged in obsessive quests to demonstrate, via fallacious arguments, erroneous facts, and historical distortions, that the events never occurred or are grossly exaggerated. The denial speech, notwithstanding its effort to be perceived as an historical debate, is about contemporary political motivation, racism, and anti-Semitism. It is an ideology, not an historical endeavor. Deniers' conclusions precede their research and analyses. They aim, not to destroy the truth, which is indestructible, but to eradicate the awareness of the truth that prevents the resurgence of past criminal ideologies.

Denial of the Armenian Genocide

Denial of the Armenian genocide is the most patent example of a state's denial of its past. In this case, the state of Turkey officially denies the genocide committed against its Armenian population. Turkey has tried for decades to deny the burden of guilt that the genocide represents for an emerging nation trying to build itself a different past. The debate created by the Turkish state centers on the definition of genocide and its application to the crimes committed against the Armenians, rather than on whether the massacres ever actually occurred. Thus, the spurious debate about the Armenian genocide is more political than the one invoked in Holocaust denial, which is racially motivated. The international community, for the most part, acknowledges the existence of the Armenian genocide, but Turkey still threatens other states with diplomatic reprisals when the question of such recognition is debated.

Denial of Japan's Atrocities

Historical revisionism controversies are becoming frequent in Japan. Radicals from the Japanese political right reject historical accounts in which Japan is portrayed as guilty of crimes against the Chinese population. They deny or outrageously minimize the aggression and atrocities committed by the Imperial Army in the first half of the twentieth century. An example of the massive human rights abuses that the Japanese right minimizes or denies is the Rape of Nanking, during which Chinese women were held in confinement to be used as sex slaves and tortured. Similar to Turkey in its intent, the Japanese denial movement aims, not at perpetuating discriminatory behavior toward Chinese, but to exonerate Japan for atrocities committed on behalf of the state. Denial of events such as the Rape of Nanking has recently even found its way into schoolbooks. The books were later withdrawn, however. South Korea and China protested the introduction of the books in the classrooms, and most public schools rejected them. Denial also recently found its way into Japanese comic-book novels called manga.

Denial of the Rwandan Genocide

The denial movement of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda is still limited in size and influence. The proximity in time of the killings of approximately 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus makes it more difficult for deniers to claim that Tutsis were not targeted and killed. In this context, deniers focus more on the notion of "double genocide" than on the nonexistence per se of the genocide of the Tutsis. Extremist Hutus, both from the diaspora and within Rwanda, plead that a genocide was committed against them by Tutsis and the Front Patriotique Rwandais (FPR). By doing so, they put the two events—the genocidal violence against Tutsis and the killing of Hutus—on an equal footing. The difference between the concepts of genocide and killings, or even slaughter, is not only etymological, however. By assimilating the concepts, Hutu deniers downplay the importance of the crime and the intent behind the genocide. It removes the stigma of killers from the Hutu extremists. It suggests that, since genocide was committed on both sides, there are no victims and no perpetrators; and that all are equal in the scale of crimes. Some Rwandans, working primarily through survivors' associations, are lobbying for legislation in the Rwanda legal corpus prohibiting the denial and the minimization of the 1994 genocide.

Denial of the Holocaust

Holocaust denial has, over the last couple of decades, become an important and active anti-Semitic movement. It consists of the denial or minimization of all aspects of the Nazi genocidal enterprise—its intent, its means, as well as its results. It aims at reshaping history in order to rehabilitate the reputation of the Nazis. The movement focuses on denying the existence of the gas chambers and challenging the validity of the claim that six million Jews were killed, because these are the Holocaust's most vivid and most frequently used symbols. It is mainly active in Canada, in the United States, and in Western Europe. Deniers are also becoming active in some Arab countries.

France is considered the cradle of the movement. Maurice Bardèche and, even more so, Paul Rasinnier are considered by many to be the fathers of the movement, but Robert Faurisson, a literature professor at the University of Lyons, has been its true leader. La Vieille Taupe, a publishing house, has played a significant role throughout the years in the promotion and distribution of Holocaust denial materials. Henri Roques, Roger Garaudy, and Jean-Marie LePen, who brought Holocaust denial into politics, are other prominent members of the movement.

The origin of a structured Holocaust denial movement in the United States goes back to the creation of the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), a so-called academic organization, in the late seventies. The IHR uses its Journal of Historical Review and conferences to disseminate its propaganda. Contrary to what its name seems to suggest, the IHR is not engaged in good-faith historical research, but serves instead as a platform for racist publications and speeches. Members of the IHR include anti-Semite propagandists such as Ernst Zündel, David Irving, Roques, Faurisson, and Bradley Smith. They can also count on the support of self-proclaimed scholars such as Arthur Butz. Bradley Smith, under the guise of the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, was active in the 1990s, placing paid advertisements in college newspapers inviting students to engage in "open debate" on the Holocaust, thereby implying that its very occurrence is subject to legitimate controversy.

Deniers' Arsenal

Holocaust deniers question what is indisputable, volunteer false evidence while denying historical evidence detrimental to their thesis, dwell on details to reject all testimonies of survivors, and hide behind claims of scientific or scholarly status without having any relevant scholarly background. Deniers plead the absence of specific written orders emanating from Hitler proving the genocidal intent. For deniers, the gas chamber is a myth. On that point, they rely heavily on a false report produced by Arthur Butz, who claims to prove that the Nazis lacked the technical capability to build the chambers. Having dismissed the technical feasibility of the killing centers, deniers move on to claim that places such as Treblinka, Chelmo, and Sobidor, but even more importantly for deniers, Auschwitz-Birkenau, are propagandist fantasies created by Jews. From this, they argue that the figure of six million Jewish victims also cannot be true. Finally, they claim that the International Military Tribunal was a fraud, set up by the Allies to make Germans feel guilty in order to obtain financial compensation for Jews.

By denying the Holocaust's most outstanding features, deniers achieve three goals. First, they remove the status and significance of the Holocaust as a point of reference. The deniers want to erase the teaching of the event, its prophylactic role. In other words, by eliminating the event from conscience and history, deniers hope to influence the present. This is why they disavow the existence of the gas chambers and the genocidal function of Auschwitz. Their agenda is the rehabilitation of the reputation of the Nazis: If such a crime was never committed, then there is nothing wrong with pursuing Nazi policies again. Finally, if the Holocaust is itself a propagandist fraud, deniers can confirm the basis of their racist rationale, which is that the Jews manipulated the world before World War II and still do. The evidence of this ongoing manipulation, claim the deniers, is their ability to impose a lie of such magnitude—the Holocaust, in other words—for so long. In all cases, Jews are the targets.

When they do not simply deny that it occurred, deniers argue the Holocaust was only one event in a long list of similar crimes committed in the past. By putting aside the unique aspects of the Shoah and by minimizing the suffering of the Jews, deniers disavow the specific racist intent of the Nazis. But it is pointless to indulge in claims of comparative pain suffering, nor is it useful to enter into a competition over the head count of victims. To attempt to say, as deniers do, that all crimes are equivalent is to engage in historical distortion. For example, the use of the gas chambers is not just a different kind of technology employed in war—it has wider implications. The chambers were built with the specific intent of killing a mass of people, and were used with the goal of total annihilation of a group. When deniers seek to expunge the gas chambers from history, they are denying not just a detail of the larger event but one of that event's defining concepts.

Debate, Censorship, and the Prosecution of Deniers

Those who wish to confront the deniers of genocide face a dilemma. Should they engage in refuting deniers' allegations? Should the state forbid the publication of denial literature and depict it as "hate propaganda"? Should the state prosecute deniers, or does freedom of expression protect deniers' rights to promulgate their propaganda? Solutions have varied considerably from one region to another, but the issue is always the same: balancing the deniers' rights to freedom of speech against the protection of the rights of the people targeted, who are mainly minorities.

Freedom of speech is a basic element of any democratic society. Fundamental international, regional, and national laws protect it. Most of those laws, however, reject the idea that freedom of speech is absolute and not subject to certain restrictions. In most countries, Holocaust denial exceeds the limit of freedom of speech and is considered an act of racism. Countries facing active and influential denier movements, such as France and Germany, have specifically adopted and adapted legislation penalizing the denial of gross human rights violations. Other countries, for instance Canada, have relied on the prohibition of hate speech. In the United States, the First Amendment guarantee of the freedom of speech is sacrosanct and, it is argued, cannot be subject to much limitation. For this reason, there is a relative absence of jurisprudence against Holocaust deniers in the United States.

In Europe, where most Holocaust denial jurisprudence originates, the European Commission of Human Rights has generally ruled that deniers' complaints about limitation of their freedoms were manifestly ill founded. It has also determined that deniers' speeches and writings are aimed at the destruction of the other rights and freedoms as set forth in the European Convention for Human Rights, and that they are engaged in a campaign against peace and justice, the values on which the Convention is based. For the European Court of Human Rights, the protection of the interests of the victims of the Nazi regime outweighs the freedom to impart views denying the existence of gas chambers. Thus, in the opinion of the Commission, Holocaust denial exceeds the freedom of speech.

The Gayssot Act, adopted in 1990 in France, makes it a punishable offense to engage in the denial of any of the crimes mentioned in the Charter of the International Military Tribunal of August 8, 1945. It was on the basis of this charter that Nazis were tried in Nuremberg. The prominent Holocaust denier, Robert Faurisson, was convicted in 1992 by the French court, but challenged the legitimacy of the Gayssot Act before the United Nations Human Rights Committee, charging that it violated his freedom of speech according to section 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee dismissed Faurisson's claim.

In Canada, where no specifically adapted legislation exists, Ernst Zündel was unsuccessfully prosecuted for spreading false news. Zündel's pamphlet, entitled Did Six Million Really Die?, suggested that the Holocaust was a myth perpetrated by a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. The Supreme Court of Canada found the scope of the provision (i.e., the statute prohibiting the spread of false news) to be too broad and, thus, that the limitation of freedom of speech was in this context unjustifiable. Other cases brought against deniers in Canada were prosecuted under laws prohibiting hate propaganda. In the case of Q. v. Keegstra (1990), the Canadian Supreme Court held that the defendant's expressive activity (denial propaganda) was only tenuously connected with the values underlying the guarantee of freedom of expression, that is the quest for truth and the promotion of individual self-development. Thus, the court went on to rule, the prohibition of such propaganda does not unduly impair freedom of expression. More recently, Canadian courts found Zündel, who hosted a web site dedicated to Holocaust denial, guilty of using telecommunication devices to spread heinous messages against minorities.

In Great Britain, the High Court rejected David Irving's claim that Professor Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books had slandered him when she named him as a Holocaust denier in one of her books. In court, Irving persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence to portray Hitler in an unwarrantedly favorable light, principally in relation to his attitude toward and responsibility for the treatment of the Jews. The court agreed with Lipstadt that Irving was indeed an anti-Semite, a racist, and an active Holocaust denier.

It is worth mentioning that not all legislation prohibiting denial of gross human rights violation applies to all such events. The Gayssot Act, for instance, leaves outside its scope the Armenian genocide, in part because an independent judicial body did not establish the genocide. In Switzerland, to the contrary, section 261bis of the Criminal Code, prohibits the denial or the gross minimization of any genocide or other crimes against humanity.

An increasing body of international legislation condemning the denial of crimes against humanity and the Holocaust has contributed to the formation of a soft-law corpus, or multilateral non-treaty agreements, on the issue. Some legal authorities have recommended combating the dissemination of negationist (denial) theories by introducing or strengthening penalties and improving the opportunities for prosecution. Those who still oppose the prosecution of deniers argue that that everything can and should be debated and that truth ought not to be imposed by governments or the law. This utopian belief assumes that lies are always revealed when they are freely debated, and that this would benefit everyone in a free society. This is the "light-of-day" argument taken to its extreme. But the deniers' debate exists only because of such utopian protections.

History vs. Pseudo-History

Deniers aim to confound history. By their denials, they aim to confound history. They pretend to be engaged in a legitimate and credible scholarly effort, a genuine attempt at presenting alternative historical interpretation. But denial propaganda is not interpretation; instead, it is a tissue of lies and distortions. Denial literature and other forms of denial propaganda oppose truth with lies. Historians may engage in historical revision of past events when new evidence supports a rethinking of earlier interpretations, but no such new evidence exists to raise serious questions about the fact that the Holocaust occurred. The deniers' only true goal is a racist one: to attack genocide targets for a second time.

Some fear that prosecuting deniers will lead to the imposition of state-sponsored versions of historical truth. Such fears seem unjustified. The prosecution of deniers is not done with the intent to impose a state-sponsored version of historical truth, but rather to protect the historical record. The fact that the Third Reich is responsible for the Holocaust has been established in trials around the world, but none of the fraudulent allegations of the deniers has ever been established on the strength of verifiable evidence. In addition, legislation such as the Gayssot Act does not preclude research on the historical facts. It only sets aside one historical fact—the very existence of the Holocaust—on the basis of authoritative evidence, such as that which was presented at the Nuremberg Trials, that the Holocaust did, indeed, occur. Postmodernists argue that history is subjective, pointing out that it is an intellectual reconstruction of events that the historians themselves have not lived through or witnessed. History may indeed contain subjective elements, but this does not mean that a good-faith reconstruction of the past is impossible, or that interpretations can be based solely on ideology and still make a claim to legitimacy. Even historians of the postmodern school cannot escape the supremacy of evidence—including physical evidence and eyewitness accounts—and therefore must concede that the Holocaust did, in fact, occur, or they cease to be historians.

SEE ALSO Holocaust; Propaganda

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Akcam, Taner (2001). "Le tabou du génocide arménien hante la société turque." Le Monde Diplomatique 568:20.

Bihr, Alain (1997). "Les mésaventures du sectarisme révolutionnaire." In Négationnistes: Les chiffonniers de l'histoire. Paris: Golias and Syllepse.

Edeiken, Yale F. (2000). "Irving's War." Available from http://www.holocaust-history.org/irvings-war/.

Guttenplan, D. D. (2001). The Holocaust on Trial. New York: W. W. Norton.

Hobsbawm, Eric (1997). On History. London: Abacus.

Lipstadt, Deborah (1994). Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory. New York: Plume, Penguin.

Pons, Philippe (2001). "Controverses sur l'histoire en Asie." Le Monde Diplomatique 571:16–17.

Rousso, Henry (1990). Le syndrome de Vichy, de 1944 à nos jours, 2d ed. Paris: Seuil.

Shermer, Michael and Alex Grobman (2000). Denying the Holocaust: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Ternon, Yves (1999). Du négationnisme: Memoire et Tabou. Paris: Desclee de Brouwer.

Vidal-Naquet, Pierre (1991). Les assassins de la mémoire: "Un Eichmann de papier" et autres essais sur le révisionnisme. Paris: La Découverte.

Martin Imbleau

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