il portale dell'ebraismo italiano

The consequences of denialism

By Anna Foa
Surfing on Facebook, it struck me to find out how denialism, or at least one type of denialism, is constructed. Among countless examples, here is one. A long and important post, written by a famous writer who clearly took inspiration from the terrible picture from the NYT showing nine Ukrainian civilians in Bucha who, under the threat of Russian guns, are heading towards execution. As we all know, there is more to this. The following day, a video that demonstrates what happened after this picture was shot. And it shows the corpses of those nine Ukrainians lying on the ground. Below the post, delusional comments. Among those, the one of a woman who wrote: “And how do we know that they have killed them?”. I replied telling her that perhaps they were just playing hide-and-seek. I know I should not have replied, but I could not resist. Her reply was mind blowing: “Did you see them with your own eyes?” Of course not, because I was not in Bucha. But what does this mean? That you can only believe in what you see for yourself? And what if you hallucinate? How can you believe what you see? And in case there is a video? It may have been manipulated, of course. And if there are witnesses? There are no reliable witnesses. Witnesses can be forewarned, bought off, threatened. The reality no longer exists. It is more and more evident today, with this war in which denying any evidence, any testimony, any image of what is happening before our eyes and in front of the cameras is the most appealing narrative. The one that makes you believe you are different from the others, that you are not fooled by power, that you are complex, that you do not see the world in black and white.
At the end of World War II, Shoah denialism was born through the same mechanism, demolishing any possibility of access to a documented reality. It did not matter that the reconstruction of the Holocaust was based on endless evidence and documentation. Denying, always denying, and questioning the value of any evidence was the one and only thing to do. Denying that one could come to grasp the actual unfolding of the events. The same mechanism is at work today. But now that we know where it leads, we may have more tools to to nip it in the bud. The reality does exist and, today, those nine human beings led to slaughter are the reality.

Translation by Margherita Francese, revised by Maria Cianciuolo, students at the Secondary School of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Trieste, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities – Pagine Ebraiche.