The Importance of Peter Falk’s Bar Mitzvah

The dissident Holocaust documentarian  known as "Denier" (interviewed by The Hoover Hog here) has done the world a small favor by posting footage of a 1994 Donahue program  featuring Bradley Smith, David ColeMichael Shermer, Edith Glueck, and an angry mob. It's a marginally important pop-cultural document made more relevant — and more interesting — by Denier's deconstructive narrative annotation.  Bradley is a mite testy at times, but Cole is in great form, at least up until his mysterious departure between segments. Michael Shermer is simply disingenuous. Donahue is a master of misdirection.

Here is Part One.

Here is Part Two.

Here is Part Three.

Here is Part Four.

Incidentally, I know that people continue to cite David Cole's gun-to-the-head recantation as though it somehow indicates that he truly abandoned his Big H skepticism.  For what it's worth, Cole's last public statement on the issue  (to my knowledge) comes from a 2003 article originally published by The Campaign to Decriminalize World War II History. Here is what he said then:

When
Rubin put the “hit” on me, I realized I had to get out. In the end,
regardless of my love of history, I didn’t want to die. It was just
that simple. And that’s what happens when violence and intimidation, or
the threat of prosecution, like in Europe and Canada, are introduced
into a debate. Anyone who has anything to lose shuts the hell up, or
gets the hell out.

Criminalizing
Holocaust history hasn’t made the field safe from the lunatic fringe –
the anti Semites, the “Holocaust deniers,” the people who have nothing
to lose anyway. All it’s done is make serious researchers too
frightened to say anything that might get them in trouble. And frankly,
it’s irrelevant to me whether the historians who’ve been fined or
thrown in prison are right or wrong in their theories and conclusions.
Historians should have the right to be wrong. To me, this is a
fundamental right that applies to people in every discipline.

What’s
needed now is what I call a “post hysteria cleanup.” Whenever society
has one of its episodes of mass hysteria, like the “Communist menace”
scare of the ’50s, or the “satanic child molestation” hysteria of the
’80s, the media and the politicians jump on the bandwagon and people’s
rights get trampled. But after the hysteria inevitably comes the
“cleanup,” when we have to clean up the mess we made when we thought
the sky was falling.

During
the 1990s, there was a hysteria, especially in Europe and Canada, about
“Holocaust denial,” and one country after another passed laws aimed at
punishing historians, writers, and publishers who step out of line.
Well, the hysteria’s over now. It’s time for a cleanup; time to repeal
those laws. There are a lot of good reasons to do so, but for me, the
number one reason comes down to a basic, simple principle: no one
should be thrown in prison for writing a book.

Memento mori.

4 thoughts on “The Importance of Peter Falk’s Bar Mitzvah

  1. I’ve watched the clips more closely, and it prompted me to wonder something. I am by no means a Holocaust denier or revisionist or whatever you want to call it, but when I see one guy get verbally beaten up by a self-righteous and mob whipped into a frenzy by a smirking mob leader (in this case, Phil Donahue), I instinctively side with the guy getting beaten up. How many other people who watched this show, do you think, had a similar reaction?
    And how many went even further? How many were made to think that Bradley Smith might even be right because his arguments weren’t even being listened to and rebutted but instead were being dismissed out of hand as impertinent, and he was a being called a vile excuse for a human being just for asking them in the first place? Isn’t this tactic of just taking a guy out and flogging him for having the wrong opinion likely to backfire, i.e., cause sympathy for him? If so, then why do the people who promote the Holocaust Museum and other venues so often take this tack aginst their opponents?
    Or am I wrong? Do most people instinctively side with the angry, self-righteous mob against the person being attacked? I could understand if the person being attacked were a child rapist or something… but just for having eccentric, misguided, or unorthodox beliefs?

  2. Most people can’t read a bus schedule.
    In Bradley’s first book there is a line: “If sincerity isn’t to be taken seriously in human relationship, what is?”
    I think there’s a lot of bad faith on all sides with this subject, but I’ve come to trust Bradley’s sincerity. And David Cole didn’t take shit from anyone, until his life depended on it.
    Donahue plays to the house. It’s cynicism as performance, cloaked in moral certitude and parsed with caveats that no one will remember. He isn’t even curious.
    I’m a fan of the hated man. I want to hear him out. I’m genuinely curious. It’s a character flaw, I suppose.

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