My contracts professor in law school, a man I will always remember for introducing me to the concept that, as he put it, “all professions are an organized conspiracy against the layman,” also had an explanation for why some outcomes are foregone conclusions. He said, “it's no big deal for the magician to pull the rabbit out of the hat after he's put it there.” I'm sure magicians will bridle at the simplicity of this explanation, but it has much broader application to the world at large.
So, it came as no surprise to me that Iran, a state whose two avowed geopolitical purposes are the extinction of the State of Israel (and its inhabitants) and the development of nuclear weapons (the latter being instrumental in the accomplishment of the former), is holding a conference on whether or not the Holocaust ever happened. No kidding; they're really holding a conference to investigate the existence of this indisputable historic event. A clue to the agenda of this gathering (other than who's sponsoring it) is that a keynote address is going to be given by none other than the noted American authority on the place of Jews in society, David Duke, the former Grand Whacko of the Ku Klux Klan.
Iran's president, Ahmadinejad , has publicly and loudly announced, at every opportunity, that the Holocaust never happened. In other words, he's stuffed that bunny in the hat. And now he's going to hold a “conference,” the central premise of which will be that the Holocaust never happened (ta-da: behold---the rabbit). Isn't that amazing! This is the equivalent of the religious right sponsoring a “conference” entitled: “Gay Marriage: Is It A Good Thing?” or PETA holding a conference called “Killing Animals: Is It Really Humane?”
For me, the verifiability of the Holocaust was as tangible as the tattooed number my father bore on his forearm for most of his life, a vestige of his captivity in Auschwitz, and the absence from my life of both sets of grandparents, and many uncles cousins and aunts, all thanks to the ethnic cleansing practiced on my family by the Nazis. Needless to say, I don't take kindly to Holocaust deniers. We live in a society where denial of verifiable fact remains the option of the lunatic fringe. Evolution? Can't prove it to the creationists. Global warming? A hoax, according to a United States senator and the oil industry. An embryo isn't a human being? Blasphemy, according to “pro-lifers.”
How does one deal with people who insist on believing that it is pitch black outside at high noon, or worse, who manipulate (or ignore) facts to fit their agenda? The answer is, one doesn't. Intelligent discourse relies on the existence of intelligence, and belief, whether it's religiously or otherwise irrationally (as opposed to logically) based, is immune to intelligence. This also, by the way, is why it is a fool's errand to argue with the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Anne Coulter, and why George Bush will never be convinced that the U.S. should pull its troops out of Iraq.
The Iranians are taunting the West (read: America) by holding this conference. They claim they're testing our tolerance for freedom of speech, especially in light of what they perceive to be the abuse of that freedom symbolized by the Muhammad cartoon imbroglio. The irony of a totalitarian regime flaunting a freedom that does't exist under its rule obviously escapes them. And it, of course, represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the uniquely American constitutional guarantee, which, as everyone familiar with the “yelling fire” exception, is not absolute. Nor, Mr. Ahmadinejad is about to learn, does it protect a madman who attempts to rationalize genocide by revising its history.