Monday, September 07, 2009


I see that Dawkins has started referring to Creationists as ‘history-deniers’. In places like this people talk about ‘climate change deniers’. I yield to no man in my admiration for master-blaster Nick Cohen, but I did once hear him say that people who denied that we are facing a major ecomonic recession should be treated with the same contempt as climate change deniers.

I don’t like this creeping prevalence of ‘denier’, not one bit. The explicit reason for it is to suggest that the sceptic, being so deluded in the face of the facts, is the (anti) intellectual equivalent of the Holocaust-denier. The implicit, but equally obvious, reason is to suggest that the sceptic is the moral equivalent of the Holocaust-denier. Nasty.


Update - the ever-vigilant Dave Lull points me to these professional Denier-Finder Generals.


Uncle Dick Madeley said...

Absolutely right. It's perhaps a sign of how bitter and extremely unpleasant debate has become in this nation of ours.

Brit said...

The internet does intensify these debates - in a virtual world where all you do is debate with strangers, perspective gets a bit lost. Consider Waldo/Anonymous over at Nigeness recently, who jumped in and instantly denounced everyone as an an idiot - which he (hopefully) wouldn't do were he to meet us in the flesh and have a similar debate in the pub. Things get nastier quicker on the web.

That said, people have been spectacularly rude to each other in political debates throughout history, so maybe it's nothing new.

Uncle Dick Madeley said...

I see your point but I do think that there has been a hardening of stances over the last few years. It's just my impression that things have become more ideological. I’ve always believed that things tend to work in cycles of opposition; so after the old ideologies (Marxism, etc.) were dismissed by a kind of ‘everything goes because Derrida says so’ approach, we’ve now retreated (against that kind of loose thinking) into some really trenchant positions. Academics are again defining themselves by ‘isms’, which, for a while at least, were set aside.

To be perfectly honest, I always read those exchanges and want to contribute the most pointless comment possible, simply because their earnest caterwauling becomes soul destroying. There's a danger they can destroy a blog.

David said...

And, of course, the other side is that, by using "denier" on issues that are not, in fact, settled, this trend lets the Holocaust deniers up off the mat.

Anonymous said...

Roman-denialism? Surely that is the mother of all slippery slopes. I can understand why Dick the Dawk is lobbying for cross-disciplinary support, but Latin scholars? What's next, the chilling spectre of mass symphony-denial?

I rather liked Berlinski's quip that one never hears a beleagured epidemiologist proclaim pugnaciously that denying germ theory is akin to denying Darwinism. They're not stupid.

The wave of "denialism" we are witnessing in the intellectual world operates much as "human rights" has come to operate in the legal world. In both cases the beautiful people have decided that the little people are simply too unpleasant, stupid and obstreporous to listen to ("Whatever was Marx thinking?"), but it simply won't do to trash democracy openly and so alternative methods of disenfranchisement must be found.

Vern said...

The constant waves of demonisation are exhausting and depressing.