If you think that you've just entered an intellectual minefield, in considering ways to combat Holocaust denialists, then you'd be right.
The temptation is therefore to simply make the issue go away, especially if you're not a trained historian.
Often it's not even a discussion about the Holocaust which prompts the arrival of such a troll. It wasn't on Wizzley, when we were visited by one. He subverted a debate about Suffragettes and the Titanic into denying the Holocaust. He didn't even attempt to demonstrate the relevance.
In those situations, there's even more impetus on moderators to delete revisionist comments. It's the equivalent of a chairperson intervening to keep the discussion on topic, so can neatly side-step any criticism of the action with reference to that.
Deleting the denier comments from your forum has the following advantages:
- Avoids providing a forum for Holocaust revisionism
- Doesn't leave the pseudo-science, twisted histories and dodgy 'facts' in a public place for casual readers to find
- Nips potential flame wars in the bud
- Keeps everything on topic, if the denier had diverted the discussion away from its true roots
It may appear to be the neatest solution of all, but this does open up a whole new can of worms. You open yourselves (and your whole website) up to accusations of stifling freedom of speech, disrupting the flow of information and promoting censorship.
As these are three of the hottest no-nos on the internet, enshrined in everything from the Hacker Ethic through the Cypherpunk movement, into the netiquette of most social networking forums, to underlying the ethos of cyber activist groups like Anonymous or whistle-blowers like WikiLeaks.
The notion that 'information wants to be free' has been so pervasive on-line for such a long time, that whole generations have grown up expecting it.
Deleting single-issue comments, like those perpetuated by Holocaust deniers, might seem like the sensible solution. But it risks eliciting a (probably silently expressed) black mark against your site and forum. People who couldn't care less about history, and all attendant factual debates, will now have your bit of the internet pegged as somewhere not acting within the spirit of the internet.
And that could be the most damaging aspect of all.