Last month, in a column entitled, “Some Ramblings on the Fringe,” we compared the Amanda Knox-Raffaele Sollecito “guilters” and Frazier Glenn Miller, Jr. – the white supremacist who opened fire outside two Jewish community facilities in Kansas – to the Holocaust deniers. We got some criticism for that, particularly from those who disagree with us about who killed Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. The white supremacists, not surprisingly, didn’t bother to respond. We wonder if many of them can even read.
But while we don’t take either of these groups too seriously as intellectual threats, we do take their comments extremely seriously, particularly in this age of Internet ubiquity. And two new incidents this week will help demonstrate why.
In Mystic, Connecticut, there is a playground dedicated to the memory of Grace McDonnell, a beautiful blond seven-year-old, one of the 20 precious children killed by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on December 14, 2012. Lately, the playground has been vandalized, according to David Moye in The Huffington Post, by “truthers” who believe that the massacre either didn’t take place or that it was a conspiracy on the part of the government to justify the confiscation of firearms. Among the acts of vandalism has been the repeated stealing of the 50-pound vinyl sign bearing Grace’s name.
Grace’s mother Lynn has even been verbally assaulted by an individual claiming that she is part of the conspiracy and that the child never existed.
Remember those who claimed the 9/11 attacks were organized by the American and Israeli governments to justify a holy war against Muslims?
But it’s not just the lunatic fringe – at least the traditional lunatic fringe.
As reported yesterday by Coral Davenport in The New York Times:
“The Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board found that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.
“In addition, the report predicted that an increase in catastrophic weather events around the world will create more demand for American troops, even as flooding and extreme weather events at home could damage naval ports and military bases.”
The report, based on solid and ongoing scientific data and analysis, is being taken with great seriousness in the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House.
One place it is not being so regarded is in the office of Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. Senator Inhofe is a vocal critic of global warming and climate science.
Why is it always the Republicans who deny science?
In response to a comment about climate change from retired Air Force General Charles F. Wald, a contributor to the report and a longtime expert on the subject, Inhofe commented, “There is no one in more pursuit of publicity than a retired military officer. . . For anyone to say that any type of global warming is anywhere close to the threat that we have with crazy people running around with nuclear weapons, shows how desperate they are to get the public to buy this.”
No one denies the threat of rogue nuclear weapons, but what about the threat of rogue reality deniers?
If we cannot make our public decisions – be they decisions about climate, criminal justice, history, race relations, foreign policy or whatever – based on legitimate and responsible evidence, if we cannot maintain our society on a foundation of truth, we will be living in a spiteful dream world of alternate reality that will ultimately lead to doom.
Some years ago, one of us (Mark) was honored to attend an event and have dinner with writer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel. During the conversation, Dr. Wiesel, a onetime resident of Auschwitz, mentioned the Holocaust deniers. Mark commented that he thought there was an interesting subtext to the deniers. You didn’t find them among the “friends” of Jews, Israel or the United States. They all seemed to be white supremacists, antisemitic nut cases like Mel Gibson’s father Hutton, or weird Hitler and Nazi apologists like so-called historian David Irving.
So what these people are really implying, is that the Holocaust didn’t take place, but they wish it did. So the effect of hate and malice in their fevered brains is the same; you just add conspiracy to the mix. Wiesel said he hadn’t thought of it this way, but agreed completely.
And that is what it all comes down to. If you deny things for which the evidence is overwhelming, you are engaging in nothing but wishful thinking, as hateful as it may be.
You can deny the Holocaust while still targeting the Jews as the evil controllers of the world economy. You can claim Amanda Knox murdered Meredith Kercher. You can claim a little girl killed by Adam Lanza was never born. And you can claim that climate change is a liberal hoax.
But all the denying and wishing in the world doesn’t make any of this so. It just makes these folks extremely dangerous in their influence on other deniers like themselves.