Review of “Confronting Holocaust Denial with David Baddiel” (2020)
Seen in 2021.
Baddiel, a comedian, is aware of the context of this production and acknowledges the likely boost denialism will receive through any mainstream publicity, but decides to meet a couple of deniers anyway, because he also understands that social media have overtaken earlier mass media. One of the men Baddiel meets is a Lithuanian who denies that resistance hero Jonas Noreika knowingly contributed to genocide by collaborating with the Nazis, while the other is a more typical West European troll agitator who contacts Baddiel on Facebook and believes that the entire Nazi effort was a money-making Jewish hoax. These two men are well chosen: Though articulate and representative of the most important types of denialism, they are clearly ignorant and driven by forces unrelated to the evidence, which is the problem.
Baddiel takes a decent whirlwind tour of the Shoah and the evolution of denialism over the years, with quick stops to excuse Palestinian denial, read a Ministry of Information PM clearly stating that the mass murder of Jews should not be publicized because Jews would be considered the guilty party by the British audience in WW2, and read a similarly revealing leaked policy document from the Daily Stormer explaining the use of comedy for Nazism. Meeting with Facebook censor Richard Allen, Baddiel is also right to point out that anti-semitism is a safe assumption for the motive behind denial, which Facebook purposely fails to acknowledge.
Baddiel intelligently references Louis Theroux on the subject of an appropriate confrontation with extremists. However, he does not manage to stick to any explanatory model for denial or confrontation. In the last scenes he asserts that confronting deniers in the media is important because the historical fact of the Shoah is evident and confrontation will therefore be successful, but then—with a cut—he flips to the opposite line of argument, that a memorial is needed because the Shoah is “unbelievable”.
I think the production needed a stronger focus on either the Shoah itself (cf. Shoah), the flaws of the knowledge deficit model with the Shoah as a salient example, the history of denialism, or the problems of confrontation and media attention. It might have done any two of them well, but manages only one of them—the history of denialism—in trying to do all at once.