On Holocaust Memorial Day AntiSemitismWatch.com reflects on how Holocaust denial, though not a new phenomenon, remains a matter familiar to many in the modern world. However, in the contemporary social media age it has taken on a new vigor and potentially a wider meaning.
William Allington, a PhD Candidate in Jewish Civilisation at the University of Sydney, has studied the nature of Holocaust denial and particularly its modern online forms.
“It’s self-serving to whomever is denying it – it relegitimises national socialism, it’s used to discredit the state of Israel, and rekindle Anti-Semitism,” he said.
“In fact, Holocaust denial is a modern form of Anti-Semitism.”
In a conclusion that will surprise some, Mr Allington explained that Holocaust denial is not simply a trait of Middle East radicalism.
“A lot [of it comes from] the Middle East, yes, but most of it comes from the West – UK, Australia, America, Germany,” he said.
The rise of social media has certainly facilitated this worldwide spread. Holocaust deniers, “Carve out little areas where they broach discussions.”
“[Holocaust deniers] published and wrote pseudo-intellectual books, articles, and journals,” he said.
“As a result, to the trained eye it was nonsense, but it created the reference material to get any untrained eye to believe it.”
As an example, Mr Allington points to the American historical figure Willis Carto, the founder of the Liberty Lobby (a Holocaust denial group) which was affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan and used Holocaust denial as an extending form of propaganda against Jewish people.
“That’s continued as a strain within online American communities,” Mr Allington said.
Online Holocaust deniers gain traction through by posting tangential comments on vaguely related, and “fairly benign” topics, Mr Allington said.
“Usually with posts on historical areas someone will post something tangential, like ‘Did Hitler actively kill the Jews’, to instigate a reaction,” he said.
Mr Allington likened these commenters to “trolls”, commenters who aim to ignite controversy online.
However these Holocaust deniers have greater ambitions than simply stirring the pot – they want to recharge Anti-Semitism and destabilise the Jewish community, according to Mr Allington.
But given the amount of studies and details we have concerning the Holocaust and its existence, it seems at odds for such a large community of online users to be denying it, he said.
Have you encountered this form of Anti-Semitism online? If so do let us know at AntiSemitismWatch.com.
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