r u g e l e p h a n t s
There is an old saying about sweeping the dust under the carpet. Instead of picking it up, it gets hidden. We will borrow the saying and transform it into the name of a form of very bad manipulation of historical evidence. As an addition to your intellectual toolbox, a weapon to help you combat historical thinking that is slick and sleazy, we have created:
s w e e p i n g t h e e l e p h a n t u n d e r t h e r u g
In a nutshell, it refers to trying to hide or ignore some enormous body of evidence that goes against the case that one is trying to prove. Remember, revisionism can be legitimate and change an entire historical perspective, but only if it directly and effectively addresses the evidence that it is challenging or seeking to revise. It cannot legitimately ignore evidence that figuratively is as big as an elephant. And it cannot make that evidence go away by simply asserting that it is wrong. Step-by-step, it has to explain and document why that evidence is wrong, or why it can be viewed fairly from an entirely different angle.
One example of "Sweeping the Elephant Under the Rug" has to do with how denier sites deal with Holocaust eyewitnesses. A common response in such sites is to assert that eyewitness testimony is unreliable, and consequently no eyewitness accounts relating to the Holocaust can be accepted as evidence.
Historians know that eyewitness accounts can at times be unreliable. They can also be extremely valuable. If there are literally tens of thousands of eyewitness accounts, as is the case with the Holocaust, accounts that include concentration camp survivors, Nazi camp commandants and guards, Allied liberators, and others, the accounts can be cross-referenced with each other and with documentation to make a compelling, highly detailed, solid case. Rejecting in advance all eyewitness accounts relating to the Holcaust makes an elephant-size lump under the rug.
Take a look at this interesting example from a site that denies the existence of the Holocaust:
"AS DOCUMENTARY 'PROOFS' for the mass murder of the European Jews fall by the wayside, Holocaust historians depend increasingly on "eyewitness" testimonies to support their theories. Many of these testimonies are ludicrously unreliable. History is filled with stories of masses of people claiming to be eyewitnesses to everything from witchcraft to flying saucers.
The paragraph implies that documentary proof of the Holocaust is supposedly being disproved and that this collapse of hard evidence is forcing "Holocaust historians" to fall back on unreliable eyewitness testimony to support their "theories." For such an assertion to be taken seriously, it would need to be supported by evidence. What "documentary proof" has been disproved? What eyewitness testimony is "ludicrously unreliable" and why? What evidence is there that the Holocaust is the product of mass hallucinations? Saying it is so does not make it so, something that the writer of the paragraph does not understand. Assertions alone are not valid History. History is the careful building of evidence and judgements that rest upon the foundation of verifiable facts. What comes across in the example above is more an attitude then a valid piece of reasoning. There is no effort to build a case, to explain or document. "It is so, because I say it is so!" That is the tone and approach of the writer.
Take a look at another example, one in which the writer uses evidence and a footnote to disprove his own assertion.
||"The Gas Chambers: Truth or Lie?" from The Journal of Historical Review|
And an even more curious thing: there does not exist to this day any book, nor even any article from the Exterminationist school on the subject of the "gas chambers." I know that perhaps certain titles can be quoted to me, but these titles are deceptive. In reality, in the formidable mountain of writings devoted to the German camps, there exists nothing which concerns their sine qua non: the "gas chambers!" No Exterminationist has written on the "gas chambers."
 footnote Among deceptive titles one can cite that of Pierre Serge Choumoff, Les Chambres a gaz de Mauthausen (The Gas Chambers of Mauthausen), Amicale des Deportes et Familles de Disparus du Camp de Concentration de Mauthausen (Association of Mauthausen Victims), 31 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris 5e, 1971, 96 pp.
No books, no articles, exist on the gas chambers, says the author. The phrase "to this day" adds a special note of emphasis. Nothing has been written on supposed gas chambers. Then we are told that "certain titles" might be cited to contradict this assertion, but they are "deceptive." Since "deceptive" here is confusing, we welcome the footnote and assume that it will explain why the titles are deceptive and not really about gas chambers, even though we might at first make that assumption. When we look at the footnote, it is no help. It gives us an example of a book that is not supposed to exist, according to the author. If it is deceptive, how is it so?. This is a rather sad case of using a footnote to suggest scholarship and then having the unruly thing shoot you in the foot. And as you will see in the sites we look at later, there is writing on the gas chambers. It just gets pushed under the rug.
There is some mixed-up logic and rug elephant work in the following comments on the photographic evidence from the liberation of the forced labor camps within Germany. The photographs are real, the writer claims, but responsibility for the atrocities they depict rests ultimately with the Allied bombing, "the most barbarous form of warfare in Europe since the Mongol invasions."
"WE have ALL SEEN "The Photographs." Endlessly. Newsreel photos taken by US and British photographers at the liberation of the German camps, and especially the awful scenes at Dachau, Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen. These films are typically presented in a way in which it is either stated or implied that the scenes resulted from deliberate policies on the part of the Germans. The photographs are real. The uses to which they have been put are base. There was no German policy at any of those camps to deliberately kill the internees. In the last months of the war, while Soviet armies were advancing on Germany from the east, the British and US air arms were destroying every major city in Germany with saturation bombing. Transportation, the food distribution system and medical and sanitation services all broke down. That was the purpose of the Allied bombing, which has been described as the most barbarous form of warfare in Europe since the Mongol invasions. Millions of refugees fleeing the Soviet armies were pouring into Germany. The camps still under German control were overwhelmed with internees from the east. By early 1945 the inmate population was swept by malnutrition and by epidemics of typhus, typhoid, dysentery and chronic diarrhea. Even the mortuary systems broke down. When the press entered the camps with British and US soldiers, they found the results of all that. They took "The Photographs." Still, at camps such as Buchenwald, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen tens of thousands of relatively healthy internees were liberated. They were there in the camps when "The Photographs" were taken. There are newsreels of these internees walking through the camps streets laughing and talking. Others picture exuberant internees throwing their caps in the air and cheering their liberators. It is only natural to ask why you haven't seen those particular films and photos while you've seen the others scores and even hundreds of times."
The writer asserts that the photographs are real, then gives them a shove under the rug by claiming that they depict the results of "barbarous" Allied bombing campaign, not any systematic policy by the Germans. Not a Holocaust. In a remarkable flip-flop, the photographs become an indictment of the Allies, not the Germans. There is no evidence given to substantiate the claim that Allied bombing caused the breakdown of support systems, no documents, no testimony from German officers, military historians assessing the bombing, no German orders on how to combat the problem in the camps and save lives. A blanket assertion is made that seems to wipe out an entire body of evidence, to push it under the rug, but no proof is given. Once again, saying it is so does not make it so.
There is an interesting new thread in the example that will lead us to the next very questionable history-making technique that we will study. Since the end of the war, the photographs have been used in a "base" way. It is not that the photographs show the results of incredibly base human behavior. Rather they have become a propaganda tool for the Allies, the people who created the problems in the first place. This line of reasoning, and the last paragraph of the quotation point toward supposed evil intentions and dark forces. But before we go there, remember:
Free the rug elephants everywhere!