Antisemitism in America
Deborah E. Lipstadt
On 6 January 2021, supporters of President Donald Trump launched an insurrection at the United States Capitol. Their avowed purpose was to halt Congress’s certification of the election of Joseph Biden as president – a ceremonial formality that is, according to the United States Constitution, part of the peaceful transfer of power. The notion that the senators and representatives taking part in the ceremony could change the outcome of the election, as was claimed by a variety of leaders including the then president, was a falsehood. That falsehood was based on yet another falsehood: the claim – rejected by more than sixty courts and close to one hundred judges – that President Trump won the election, that it had been “stolen” from him. Some in Congress supported this claim, noting that “many people have questions” and “people have doubts”.
As I watched the modus operandi inherent in this drawn-out process – the election denial had begun in early November – I was reminded of the modus operandi of Holocaust deniers, who skew and distort a set of legitimate facts and, in so doing, render them lies. On occasion they invent facts, and in other instances they change dates or the sequence of events, thereby falsifying their meaning. In both cases, the falsifications and inventions are cited by one denier and then another in a merry-go-round of tautological legitimation. Sometimes the denial is expressed tentatively, yet it is no less dangerous. I have described this form of denial as the “yes-but” syndrome: Yes, of course there was a Holocaust, but I’ve heard that gas chambers were impossible. Yes, Trump may have lost, but the election was not fair. There is a parallel between the “methodology” of these two types of denial – though, I stress, certainly not between the events themselves. For the deniers to believe their version they must ignore reams of documentation and evidence, and countless witnesses.