Sean Spicer

Perhaps no one should be surprised that Sean Spicer is a Holocaust denier. The administration for which he works is buttressed by a clown parade of racists, anti-Semites, woman-haters, Libertarians and Donald Trump’s own family.

But the reaction to Sean Spicer’s claim that Hitler never used chemical weapons hasn’t laid hard enough into the fact that the official voice of the Trump administration ignored the crimes for which Nazi Germany was so famous: using poison gas to murder millions of people.

Dan Rather posted a Facebook note that said, “This line of rhetoric is so unhinged, so amateurish, so lacking in the context and perspective necessary for statesmanship and diplomacy that I do not see how Mr. Spicer can be allowed to continue in his current position.” Nancy Pelosi has called for his resignation. Indeed, his head probably will roll after this.

But Pelosi’s statement refers to Spicer’s comments as “downplaying the horror of the Holocaust.” It’s a record scratch of a line: Spicer didn’t downplay anything. He outright denied that Hitler used chemical weapons against “his own people.”

It was the Anne Frank Centre that came out with the clarifying and what should be obvious point, that to deny that Hitler used chemical weapons “on his own people” is denying the Holocaust.

Sean Spicer (let’s call him SS) is just a symptom of the influence that extremist elements hold over the U.S. President’s office. The folks who tipped the scales in favour of Trump listen to these comments with a keen ear. While some pundits engaged in the debate: is SS just stupid or does he honestly not know about Hitler, as if that question matters, the reality is that Trump’s administration knows exactly what its doing.

Trump bombing Syria was seen as a betrayal to some who believed that Making America Great Again doesn’t include continuing Democrat wars. What better way to kill several birds with a statement, than to:

  1. Amp up the rhetoric around how bad Assad is to justify the foreign policy of bombs, and
  2. Shout out your racist buddies by denying the Holocaust. You dogwhistle to your activist, racist base while assuring the more moderate racists who voted for you might buy the line.

George W. Bush had the same line as SS when he was drumming up support to go to war with Saddam Hussein. Of course, Bush’s “The New Hitler” line worked best because it wasn’t also mixed with denying the Holocaust.

Clearly, Holocaust denial has become mainstream. While mounting expressions of anti-Semitism have brought targeted attacks against Jews back into mainstream news, the New Holocaust Denial takes a more dangerous form than the Ernst Zundels of the world from a generation before.

As a series of segregated conversations ferment, I wonder to myself: is anyone among the alt-right debating whether or not SS is an idiot? Probably not. He has laid bare that in the world of alt-fact and fake news, the President of the United States’ Spokesperson can deny the Holocaust and, once fired, most people will move to the next crisis.

SS tried to clarify his comments by claiming that he meant that Hitler never used chemical weapons on his own citizens, and here the intent behind his denial is in sharp focus. First, the U.S. uses chemical weapons. Chemical weapons are routinely used against protesters in the United States. And, they use them more broadly too: The New York Times found that hundreds of chemical weapons caches have been found across Iraq, including weapons that had been sold by the United States. The United States used chemical weapons when they bombed Fallujah in Iraq and the impact on Iraqis has been horrific. The Vietnam war is synonymous with the U.S. use of Agent Orange…and on and on.

But SS’s attempt to elevate Assad over Hitler and gloss over his own country’s use of chemical weapons was very intentional. He chose his words carefully. He wants his base to hear that the Germans (mostly Jews) who were killed by the Nazi regime weren’t real Germans. In an era where this administration is trying to convince Americans that Muslims aren’t real Americans, his comments expose something even more sinister.

Whether or not SS is an idiot, and whether or not he actually believes this, it doesn’t matter. This is an administration by and for a vast range of racists in the U.S. and denying the Holocaust while talking to your racist base is in important reminder: not only do we need to make racists afraid again, but we need to snuff out anti-Semitism too, and this includes calling the New Holocaust Denial exactly what it is.

Image: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

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Nora Loreto

Nora Loreto is a writer, musician and activist based in Québec City. She is the author of From Demonized to Organized, Building the New Union Movement and is the editor of the Canadian Association...