Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Good, the Bad, and the Sheepish | Eric Blair | 07 July 2009

You probably know the story. A man's wife returns home from church one Sunday morning and finds her husband where she left him: In the kitchen, with the Sunday newspaper spread out across the kitchen table. He looks up and, with a quiver of bad conscience for staying home, asks the woman what the preacher's Sunday sermon had been about. "Sin," she replies.

"What did he have to say about sin?" he asks.

"That it was bad, and that we should avoid it," she replies.

There is often a dimension of priggish simplicity in the matter of gauging the degree to which a person embraces the Holocaust story. When Canada's national broadcaster, the CBC, aired Brian McKenna's documentary trilogy "The Valour and the Horror" in 1992, it ticked off a lot of war vets and establishment historians by the evenhanded treatment it gave the World War Two Allied bombing campaign over Germany in the segment called "Death by Moonlight: Bomber Command." The film-maker was summoned to appear before a Senate committee hearing to answer questions concerning his film.

Did he "believe in the Holocaust" was one of the tripwire questions that Brian McKenna was asked. Understandably shaken, he assured the senator who posed it that his past work included an impressive trove of scholarly research and documentaries, as well as many instances of personal dedication to furthering the cause of understanding the World War Two Jewish tragedy. Had he veered off in the direction of Holocaust revisionism during the hearing, it would have been tantamount to committing professional suicide; to wildly confessing to midnight trysts with the Devil.

McKenna's inquisitor might have been a stand-in for some red-baiting American senator with the House unAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) during the McCarthy era asking a Hollywood screenwriter, suspected of Communist Party affiliation whether he, in fact, did believe in God. In that charged context, a screenwriter professing his atheism would, naturally, have implied an unAmerican (read: subversive) streak in his character make-up.

It's the kind of Sunday school priggery illustrated by this paragraph culled from Time for Change's Journal from an essay titled "Holocaust denial."

"[T]here is a very important reason why Holocaust denial is a bad thing: The Nazi Holocaust is perhaps the most evil event ever to have occurred in the history of the world, in terms of the magnitude of human suffering that it caused. It is crucially important to learn from history so that humanity can take steps to prevent bad things from recurring and facilitate the good things. Denial of important historical events makes it impossible to do that. We can’t learn from history
if we fail to acknowledge the most important historical events. It’s that simple."

Or, as the sheep on George Orwell's Animal Farm used to mindlessly declaim: "Four legs good, two legs bad!"

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