On the first day of my college freshman physics class, my professor brought out a boxful of letters from cranks. He read one of them out. It was from a man who claimed that he’d proven the laws of thermodynamics wrong and that he’d invented a perpetual motion machine. Of course, he hadn’t. The machine he drew was a back-of-the-napkin variation of one that had already been proposed, and debunked, and proposed, and debunked again for over a century. (Several other letters in the box also claimed to have invented pretty much the same machine.) My professor was having a bit of fun, but he also intended the letter reading as an object lesson in the difference between doing legitimate science and being a legitimate fool.
The internet has greatly increased the volume of material cranks can ship to legitimate academics and experts, and it’s greatly facilitated networking for devotees of particular kinds of nonsense. Some of these cranks, Holocaust deniers, have discovered me. Now they’re trying to post to my Facebook fan page wall with invitations to debate or to discuss with them “well meaning” questions about articles that they claim support various positions of Holocaust denial. This was inevitable, given the nature of some of my literary work, but it’s still a drag.
But I will give the deniers one answer: no.
No, I’m not interested in debating with you. No, I’m not interested in discussing anything with you. I find your views and arguments at turns silly, boring, and irrelevant. I don’t claim the same level of expertise on the Holocaust that Richard J. Evans or Deborah Lipstadt or Robert Jan Van Pelt have. But I do know that they’re experts engaged in legitimate historical research, reaching their conclusions based on the evidence before them, not their ideological wishes or their dreams of unearned academic acclaim. If they make mistakes, other expert historians challenge them, and older theories about the progression of the Holocaust are replaced with newer, better theories. After 70 years of research and fact finding, the history of the Holocaust has been, for all practical purposes, settled, with new evidence confirming what we already knew. Arguing about the 20th century’s most notorious genocide as if those 70 years of work never took place is as big a waste of time as arguing whether the laws of thermodynamics are right or whether the Earth orbits the Sun. If you want to spend your time that way, you’re welcome, but I’ve got real work to do.
So, when it comes to this blog, my Facebook page, and all social media, anyone who tries to argue in comments or via posts, Holocaust denial, will be blocked. Their comments will be deleted, their emails, ignored.
So the policy is written. So it shall be.
Oh, and the same policy goes for evolution deniers, 9/11 truthers, global warming deniers, anti-vaxers. See how fair I can be?