Thursday, September 30, 2021

Softcore Holocaust Denial is the Best Form of Allyship, Say Republicans

The eminent Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt introduced a very useful term into our lexicon when she spoke about "softcore Holocaust denial". Regular, or hardcore, Holocaust denial, is exactly what it sounds like: it claims the Holocaust didn't happen, period. Softcore Holocaust denial, by contrast, concedes that something bad happened, but seeks to minimize it. The most typical form of softcore denial is by spurious analogies -- whenever some minor public inconvenience (or even significant injustice that nonetheless falls far short of systematic genocide) is asserted to be "just like the Gestapo" or "the new Nazism", that's softcore Holocaust denial. 

Softcore Holocaust denial a form of denial because it contests and undermines the actual gravity of what happened. It has to, because once actually engages unflinchingly with the Holocaust was it is impossible to compare it to being insulted on Twitter or having your speech canceled at a public university. These things may be wrong,* but they are not the Holocaust, and the only way to allege they are the Holocaust is to willfully deny what the Holocaust actually was. Of course, the whole purpose behind softcore denialism typically is to preserve and appropriate the emotive gravity of the Holocaust and transport it to a different political context which cannot, on its own two feet, generate such weighty affect. The end result is to sap the Holocaust of its moral force, since it is now reduced to, at "worst", the sort of ordinary trials and tribulations that are a regular part of many people's political experience. But since softcore denialists are usually non-Jews, this is a "cost" they are more than willing to accept.

All of this is a run up to events in Anchorage, Alaska, where we had another iteration of 2021's most popular form of softcore denialism: comparing mask mandates and vaccination policies to the Nuremberg laws. As always, Jewish groups are unhappy to see this utterly spurious and outrageous comparison. And also as always, Republican politicians are defending themselves by lecturing Jews that actually they're doing us a solid:
“We’ve referenced the Star of David quite a bit here tonight, but there was a formal message that came out within Jewish culture about that and the message was ‘Never again,’” [Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson\ said. “That’s an ethos. And that’s what that star really means is, ‘We will not forget, this will never happen again, and I think us borrowing that from them is actually a credit to them.”

This is the face of modern antisemitism: gratuitously insulting Jews, then when called on it explaining that the insult actually is the product of the fondest of friendship. It's even worse than "I have Jewish friends" -- the antisemitic act is what supposedly establishes the friendship.

The only analogue I can think of on the left is folks who categorically deny that any form of anti-Israel discourse can be antisemitic and then respond to criticism by declaring that "what's really antisemitic is falsely conflating Israel with the Jewish people," like their denialism is doing us a great favor. The antisemitism is the allyship. It's grotesque. But one sees it more and more often, and it is positively epidemic among conservatives who simply refuse to listen to Jewish voices telling them just how offensive it is to compare COVID restrictions to Nazism.

* Of course, a huge swath of what is regularly compared to the Holocaust are not even wrongs of lesser gravity, but not wrongs at all -- COVID restrictions being a prime example.

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