I want to destroy Fascism. All the extreme-Right’s talk of “race” sends a chill down my spine. Millions have died because of this deadly nonsense. It has zero basis in science and is the antithesis of the Enlightenment. Fascism is ignorance & arrogance – two attributes that revolt me to the core. Fascists must be fought with vigour. Yet our simple gut reactions do not serve us well1. In 1928 the father of propaganda, Edward Bernays2, wrote “Propaganda carries to many minds an unpleasant connotation, yet whether [it] is good or bad depends upon the merit of the cause urged, and the correctness of the information published.” Most of us blithely assume we know the difference between what is “good” and what is “bad”. It is “obvious”. Fascist dogma is perpetuated through the concept that what they preach is just “common sense”3. Let us have a think about ‘common sense’ and how untrustworthy4 it is. I’ll start with a story.
During my childhood our local rural police force busted the den of an alleged motorcycle gang. The police laid out an array of weapons which they claimed the Hells Angels were intending to use in gang warfare. The images showed machetes, axes, bike chains, wooden clubs, knives and shotguns. Even at that early stage of my life I recognised the problem with reading too much into these images. Everything in the pictures could also be found in my family home and my Dad’s garden shed. My father was a farm worker. These were simply tools of the trade. The impression those images sold the viewer was that this “gang” was extremely violent. Yet, to me, they could have been farm workers, people from my own community, my own family…
Perspective is everything. You see what you want to see. In this case the police wished to show their success in breaking up a dangerous organisation. That was their propaganda and their information was “correct” and the “merit of their cause” undoubted. No doubt most people took the story at face value and believed it. Yet the Police evidence was far from conclusive and a thinking-person would have seen through this immediately. No doubt the fact that the “gang” had bikes, long hair and tattoos helped seal the deal. If that was all the police could find then they could lock up the average farmer on the same basis. Hence if you wish to avoid the arbitrary injustice of a police-state (Fascism) then you must engage in critical thinking. There-in lies the rub.
People hate thinking. They would rather do anything than actually have to think. This situation might be best summarised by Helen Keller:
“People don’t like to think, if one thinks, one must reach conclusions. Conclusions are not always pleasant.”
Henry Ford said something pretty similar. Sadly we live in a time when thinking is unpopular. People are told that they think too much. Going with intuition and gut feel is very much in vogue. Unfortunately intuition sucks5. Studies show that intuition is a myth, you may as well toss a coin6. This leads us to a dangerous place.
In the closing line of our last essay “History as Propaganda”7 we wrote:
“If we wish to beat Fascism we must face up to our own history with honesty.”
Within a week of writing those words an example crossed my desk that was stunningly serendipitous. An organisation I have supported and sympathised with since its inception – “Hope Not Hate” – started a campaign called “Turning the Page on Hate“8. Their objective was to stop major online book sellers from offering “extreme material”:
“Major booksellers Amazon, Foyles, Waterstones, and WHSmith are facing strong calls to stop selling extreme material, after a HOPE not hate investigation revealed a huge variety of far-right hate and antisemitic works listed for sale via their websites.”
They go on to add quotes by several authors, an MP and Jonathan Arkush, President, Board of Deputies of British Jews, who describe such materials using words like “hate-filled”, “abhorrent”, “vile”, “heinous”, “horrifying”, “hateful”, etc. You get the picture. (Imagine a table covered in machetes, axes, clubs and shotguns.) Subtly they add
“While we abhor these books HOPE not hate is not saying that people do not have the right to write and publish books we disagree with. We are arguing that major mainstream book sellers such as Waterstones, Foyles, Amazon or WHSmith should not profit from extreme hate content such as this…”
Well, that’s alright then… Hope not Hate go on to link these books with London nailbomber David Copeland, Ukrainian neo-nazi Pavolo Lapshyn and the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. However all three are only linked to the William Pierce book “The Turner Diaries” yet Hope Not Hate go on to list around 120 books by 22 authors. No others are actually linked with any specific hate crime.
Whilst I applaud the general gesture that Hope Not Hate are making the entire campaign is grossly simplistic to the point of being mystifying. The result seems somewhat patronising and slap-dash. It left me wondering exactly which books they actually recommend we read? The problem with drawing a line around 22 authors and 120 books is this: where is the line and why?
I am NOT arguing that everything in this list is harmless. Probably a lot of it is dangerous garbage of no genuine historical or scholarly merit whatsoever. Yet there are some curious omissions and inclusions here that are worth discussing. The reason I know this is that there are several titles here that I have read. I have read them because I study Fascism. I study Fascism because I wish to arm myself with knowledge. I do not wish to approach the problem from a position of ignorance. Nothing I have read has turned me into a Fascist, a Nazi, an anti-Semite, or changed by views. That would be absurd. I have no interest in becoming a Nazi! Yet I need to know why other people become Nazis. I have learnt much over the years from the many authors9 10 11 I have sampled which include several books targeted by Hope Not Hate. I would encourage people to read them not ban them.
Let’s take a book that isn’t even on this list: “Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler12. When the home of a violent Nazi in Italy was recently raided the police let it be known that this book was amongst those they found13. Ta da! But hold on a second.. When EDL Leader Tommy Robinson recently tweeted that the English Defence League as not just some political party but a “declaration of war” I knew instantly that he was paraphrasing Adolf Hitler. Hitler had written pretty similar words in “Mein Kampf” to describe the NSDAP in Germany. Without that historical perspective how are we to judge the abhorrent nonsense coming out from the social media feed of twats like Robinson? Yes, yes, I know… We just “know” he is a twat. Just like we “know” people with motorbikes and shotguns are definitely members of homicidal Hell’s Angel gangs.
Yet Mein Kampf still is not on the Hope Not Hate list despite its obvious influence on neo-Nazi twats. Why? Is it something to do with the Munich’s Institute of Contemporary History publishing its “Critical Edition”?14 This was the first Mein Kampf reprint in Germany since the war and entered its sixth print run in it first year (2016) after 85,000 copies were sold. So now Mein Kampf is a ‘serious’ book to be studied by ‘serious’ scholars. The mind boggles.
There are other peculiarities here. Hitler is not the only omission. For example, the Communist Party Manifesto is not on the list but eight books by Oswald Mosley15 are. Mosley may have lead the British Union of Fascists in the 1930’s but they had no power, they started no wars and had no death camps. They are a historical curiosity. They are history. Why would you not want to read about them? Certainly the Communist Manifesto is not a work of hate yet you could argue it lead to Stalin and the deaths of millions of starvation in the Ukraine16. You might as well ban “Catcher in the Rye” because of its link to John Lennon’s assassin17 had read it. Where do you stop?
Then there is controversial, but otherwise previously respected (at least until 1988), historian David Irving18. Many believe that his writing-up of history was certainly novel and somewhat refreshing. Yet his work is not always comfortable reading because it is challenges many of our deeply held beliefs. Hope Not Hate target the book “Hitler’s War” amongst 4 of his books. The only reason this highly regarded book is listed is because it is written from the point of view of the Germans and was written by Irving. Irving has been targeted because he is labelled as a “holocaust denier” after his infamous trial19 on the matter. Yet that trial was actually just a libel case he brought against his accusers. The trial was based upon his lectures, not his written work. You would have no idea that he had been accused of being a Nazi sympathiser and holocaust denier by reading his books.
If Irving makes the list then why not Norman Finkelstein20 or, for that matter Hannah Arendt21? Finkelstein is known for his books “The Holocaust Industry“22 and “Beyond Chutzpah“23 in which he criticises contemporary Israeli politicians for misusing the memory of the Holocaust for that nation’s Foreign Policy. Hannah Arendt equally drew the hatred of Jewish groups after World War Two for her criticisms of them and her writings on Adolf Eichmann24. Both Finkelstein and Arendt are, of course, Jewish. Both Finkelstein’s parent survived German Concentration Camps whilst Arendt narrowly escaped the Nazis with her own life. We cannot conclude this paragraph without an honourable mention to Noam Chomsky who has written at length to criticise Israel and has been accused of anti-Semitism. He is, of course. Jewish. Do we conclude that encouraging “hate” is not the only criteria for choosing this book list? Is it more to do with the author’s reputation that what they have actually written?
There are other noteworthy omissions here too. None of the books by Mike Walsh25 are listed. He writes about history with a strongly pro-nazi point of view. Benton L Bradberry’s book “The Myth of German Villainy“26 is not listed. Nick Kollerstrom’s “Breaking the Spell” is listed but his book “How Britain Initiated both World Wars“27 is not. Jame Heartfield’s “Unpatriotic History of the Second World War”28 is not listed either. From this we gather that criticism of the Allies’ conduct in World War Two and any revisionist history regarding the Nazis is actually OK. The watershed appears to be “holocaust denial” specifically. Yet “holocaust denial” is a pejorative slur lacking in any real meaning. The correct term is “revisionist” which covers the works of any historian who takes an unorthodox view of accepted history.
Thus it is that any “revision” of the official Holocaust historiography is deemed unacceptable. This is the judgement of society and an arbitrary one which is enshrined in law in many countries today including Germany. Its purpose is to prevent offence and stem a rising tide of contemporary Fascism there. Yet revision (of what we just “know” to be true) about the Holocaust, continues and has been going on “officially” since 1944 without any offence being caused. At the time of the Nuremburg Trials it was stated that 1.7 million souls had been murdered at Majdanek. This was not correct, it was propaganda. Scholars after the war quickly revised this down to 160,000 and this remains the generally accepted number today without any controversy. Today scholars estimate it may have been as few as around 42,000. In truth we will never know and the numbers should not matter. Yet this is the nature of history – we learn new facts. (Auschwitz was little different. At war’s end it was claimed the 4.5 million died there. This was officially revised down to 1.5 million although the official memorial outside the camp was not updated until the 1980’s. Today some scholars estimate that around half a million died there.)
History is being continually updated and is always in flux. Any history that is fixed in law is simply propaganda and should be treated as such.
Take an example we are familiar with. Poor old Germar Rudolf29 has been lumped into the Hope Not Hate list unhelpfully as a “convicted criminal”. In fact, as Hope Not Hate later recognise, his criminal record actually just consists of Holocaust Denial in Germany. That is not a criminal offence in most countries. Hope Not Hate suggest he has “links to the far-right”. We might suggest that before they judge him they may wish to actually read his “Lectures on the Holocaust” as I have. It is the only book we have ever read that actually discusses the ethical dilemmas involved in the re-examination of the Holocaust. It is in no way offensive. If you are offended by an author deep-diving into the morality of science versus officially-acceptable-history then you are a very sensitive reader indeed. There is nothing here to invoke hatred. It is challenging, thought-provoking, maybe wrong, but you should read it.
Nothing in the text of “Lectures on the Holocaust” suggests that its author has any sympathy with the Nazis. He is not some stereotypical knuckle-dragging, tattooed, skin-headed, neo-Nazi, ape. Like most of these authors he is an educated man and his work contains no anti-Semitical polemic or nonsense about “race”. You do not have to agree with all of his analysis, I certainly don’t, but his work is far more thought-provoking that the term “holocaust denial” reveals. I have not seen anything amongst these works that even denies the Holocaust. These works are largely technical and concern forensic chemistry and engineering in order to establish what can be proven with evidence. If you wish to read some quite offensive nonsense by a neo-Nazi then you can pick up the books by Mike Walsh freely available on Amazon.
From these examples I conclude that the Hope Not Hate list is built, not only from the reputation of the authors involved, but also without studying the books listed. It is a result of prejudice which is quite an issue considering their role is to fight violent bigotry. It has gaps you can drive a bus through whilst including serious scholarly books that people should probably read. It is a blunt instrument that somewhat degrades the merit of what Hope Not Hate are trying to achieve. Certainly it contains the right sort of polemical outreach messaging and the sort of ‘signalling’ that will appeal to the many young activists who support Hope Not Hate. Yet it remains guilty of the very failure-to-think that is our way-marker on the road to Fascism.
Certainly the Hope Not Hate “Turning the Page on Hate” author-list contains a lot of disreputable characters. Even among the many much-maligned group of the history revisionists there are writers who come over as arrogant. For example Germar Rudolf cannot hide his dislike of Communism and makes a big deal of his victimhood. The revisionist work is often written with false certainty whereby the authors suggest over and over that they have “proven” something when all they are doing is ignoring other explanations. Only a fool has no doubts and many of these authors are very foolish. The casual reader should not be misled into believing all the alleged revelations these books contain. Herein lies the dilemma for Hope Not Hate: all readers are different. For every amateur scholar (such as myself) who study these books, there may well be some impressionable young mind who could easily by lead astray because they lack the maturity and the analytical tools to critique what they are reading. How do we protect such vulnerable people without denying the rights of scholars to study such works?
Maybe we should treat the sale of such works as we do cigarette, guns, alcohol and pornography? This is top shelf material for people who can treat it appropriately. Unfortunately we live in neo-liberal times when Governments do not see fit to regulate such areas of our private lives. The right solution would be a licencing system to restrict these books to those of a certain age or to those who have a genuine interest in studying them for academic reasons. But then how do you prove that? Arguably such a licence would never work since books are so easily traded over the internet.
Hope Not Hate may not yet have realised that, since Amazon bowed to pressure in 2017 to not sell some of these books, 95% of all the Holocaust Handbooks (available from Castle Hill Publishers) can be downloaded for free (in Kindle or PDF formats) from the publisher’s own website. I guess all that Hope Not Hate can achieve is to remove some titles from the big online retailers in some hope that this might deter the casual buyer. Of course that is some hope. Where does it lead? If these books are physically available in Libraries should we suggest they be removed? If they are not removed should they be force-ably removed? Maybe they should be burnt? The precedence is not a good one. It is easy to conclude that Hope Not Hate are solving nothing with this campaign. It is a gesture and one that, oddly enough, ended up creating a handy reading list for anyone interested in this somewhat esoteric list of publications. And now we know where to buy them.
What to do? I suggest that Hope Not Hate focus on a smaller list of proven hate publications. The idea that Waterstones, Amazon, Foyles or WHSmith should seriously consider removing chemical analysis reports, from the Auschwitz gas chambers, (by Fred Leuchter) is laughable. Some quality control to get the list down to manageable proportions would certainly help their case. Nothing by David Irving, Oswald Mosley or Germar Rudolf should even be on this list. And if Hope Not Hate are serious why not rope in Book Depository who sell all the Holocaust Handbooks? Intriguingly although Hope Not Hate name just four vendors their downloadable PDF file contains screenshots of Google searches with a hit on Goodreads. Are these not “major book sellers”? For now the most positive contribution Hope Not Hate could make to our understanding of hate is to recommend books we should be reading.
Maybe the problem of hate does not stem so much from the books we are reading, but from the fact that we are not reading enough books?
The Hope Not Hate campaign, although commendable in spirit, is Quixotic in nature. It makes all the right noises but will have no impact on the spread of hate. Suppressing the sale of a few books will not stop Fascism. The causes of the hard-right dogma rest in a complex matrix of social conditions, ignorance, education, culture, economics, Government leadership and history. It is a wicked problem that defies simplistic solutions. Having the analytical skills to see through stereotypes will be essential. If not the campaign will fail for all the same reason Fascism succeeds – because we don’t want to think about it. It isn’t sufficient to jump to conclusions about people because you find a copy of “Mein Kampf” or a shotgun in their home. People are complicated, beautiful and diverse. If you cannot see that then you are part of the problem, not the solution.
- See for example “The Self-Attribution Fallacy” written about here http://www.monbiot.com/2011/11/07/the-self-attribution-fallacy/
- See Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaganda_(book)
- See just one typical example of this nonsense here: “UKIP Peterborough promises to offer ‘common sense policies’ after voting in vain to save ex-leader Henry Bolton”
- See “We can’t trust common sense but we can trust science” https://theconversation.com/we-cant-trust-common-sense-but-we-can-trust-science-53042
- See for example “When intuition misfires” http://www.apa.org/monitor/mar05/misfires.aspx
- “Why you should NOT Trust Your Gut Feelings or Gut Instincts?” https://www.perchingtree.com/the-power-of-gut-instincts/
- See our essay “History as Propaganda” http://www.post-carbon-living.com/blog/index.php/2018/03/14/history-propaganda/
- See “Turning the Page on Hate” http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/2018/03/19/turning-page-hate/
- See for example “The Anatomy of Fascism” by Robert O. Paxton ISBN 9780-141-01432-6 Penguin Books 2004 which we reviewed here http://www.post-carbon-living.com/blog/index.php/2014/11/08/the-anatomy-of-fascism-by-robert-o-paxton/
- Another example Detlev J. K. Peukert “Inside Nazi Germany” ISBN 0-14-022845-4 Pelican Books 1982 which we reviewed here http://www.post-carbon-living.com/blog/index.php/2007/02/16/detlev-j-k-peukert-inside-nazi-germany/
- Another example “The Third Reich – A New History” by Michael Burleigh ISBN 978-0-330-48757-3 Macmillan 2000 which we described here: http://www.post-carbon-living.com/blog/index.php/2014/10/16/when-people-give-in-to-hate/
- See our own essay “The Barbarian Who Came to Tea” here http://www.post-carbon-living.com/blog/index.php/2017/12/27/the-barbarian-who-came-to-tea/
- “Hitler book, supremacist flag found in Italy suspect’s home” http://www.foxnews.com/world/2018/02/04/hitler-book-supremacist-flag-found-in-italy-suspects-home.html
- “Germany’s Latest Best Seller? A Critical Version of ‘Mein Kampf’” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/03/world/europe/germanys-latest-best-seller-a-critical-version-of-mein-kampf.html
- See Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oswald_Mosley
- See the “Holodomor” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor
- “Is Catcher in the Rye an assassination trigger?” https://atomicpoet.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/is-catcher-in-the-rye-an-assassination-trigger/
- See Wikiedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Irving
- “David Irving and why the Holocaust went on trial” https://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/denial/why-the-holocaust-went-on-trial/
- See Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Finkelstein
- See Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Arendt
- “The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering” Verso books 2015 ISBN-13: 978-1781685617
- “Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-semitism and the Abuse of History” Verso Books 2008 ISBN-13: 978-1844671496
- “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil” Tanto Media ISBN-13: 978-1452651651″
- See for example “Heroes Hang when Traitors Triumph” CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2015 ISBN-13: 978-1507723838
- “The Myth of German Villainy” Author House 2012 ISBN-13: 978-1477231838
- “How Britain Initiated both World Wars” CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2016 ISBN-13: 978-1530993185
- “Unpatriotic History of the Second World War” Zero Books 2012 ISBN-13: 978-1780993782
- See Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germar_Rudolf