Refusing to Look Through Galileo’s Telescope

As Galileo engaged in his examination of the solar system with the aid of a newly invented scientific instrument, the telescope, he must have known his heliocentric theory of the solar system, if accepted, would destroy many Christians’ belief system. Was that the purpose of his investigations? We can never know for sure, but I don’t think so. He simply wanted to arrive at the facts, to understand the world around him.

Nonetheless, should he have stopped his investigations, or at least kept quiet about his findings, so as not to shatter people’s faith and thus cast aspersions on the Christian faith in general? The Church thought so and therefore brought him before the Inquisition. Hauled before the inquisitors, Galileo begged them to simply look through his telescope, to see what he had seen. They refused to do so. They were sure they had nothing to learn from such an exercise. They knew the nature of the solar system. They had learned it from the Bible.

Today we laugh at the smug arrogance and closed-mindedness of the Catholic hierarchy back then, but most people should look to their own refusal to “look through the telescope” with regard to a contemporary, potentially revelatory experience; namely, finding out what so-called Holocaust “deniers” have to say. While not on the scale of a shift from a geocentric to heliocentric solar system, concluding that there were no gas chambers would be so belief shattering as to cause some to wonder if the sun will indeed rise in the east come the morrow.

I had a personal experience in this regard recently when I hosted a talk entitled “Did the Holocaust Really Happen the Way We’ve Been Told: An Introduction to Holocaust ‘Denial’” at a trendy, left-leaning watering-hole here in the nation’s capital. I hoped for a turn-away crowd, assuming most people were aware that such a heresy is out there and knowing most people don’t have a clue what the argument of the “deniers” is, or, worse, have grotesquely ignorant misconceptions. One person showed up for my talk. I had overestimated peoples’ open-mindedness and intellectual curiosity. I should have taken to heart H.L. Mencken’s observation that “No one … has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people”,1 expanding it to include more than just the “plain” people.

In particular, I had overestimated a certain class of peoples’ open-mindedness and intellectual curiosity: the antiwar crowd I hang around with. I thought they would be particularly open to listening to what the “deniers” had to say and susceptible to the heretical facts they presented, as the peaceniks had proven sufficiently astute to pierce the veil of lies and distortions surrounding our many wars. I knew they had taken to heart another of Mencken’s astute observations: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
In other words, I thought they belonged to that “dangerous” class of individuals “able to think things out… without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos” who inevitably come to the conclusion that “the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable”,2 as Mencken also opined. Unafraid to seem unpatriotic to their flag-waving compatriots, these heretics, I thought, would be not only especially inclined to perceive the myths surrounding the propagandized Holocaust narrative but brave enough to expose the myths.

When will I grow up! The political cognoscenti may be even worse in this regard than the hoi polloi. Having gained a reputation as a Holocaust “denier” through a previous defamatory episode in my life which had landed me on the front page of the Metro section of the Washington Post, I was aware this was the case, but “hope springs eternal” (to quote an aphorist other than Mencken for a change).

I had too much faith in another class of people, as well. I had sent an announcement of my event to Washington Jewish Week and the magazine (which had initiated coverage of my earlier escapade) had graciously included it on their calendar. I expected, therefore, a vociferous crowd of angry Jews at the event and welcomed it. After all, they’re the ones most directly involved, and I believe they are being as misled by their leadership as the rest of us are by ours.

I think the failure to have an accurate understanding of what happened during the Holocaust hangs over the Jews like a sword of Damocles. Such an understanding could have been attained in the early 1990s when revisionists were beginning to have some success in publicizing their views (two appeared on the Phil Donahue Show), but the Holocaust denial laws adopted in Europe in the late 90s and the barrage of Holocaust movies churned out by Hollywood ad nauseam put an end to that. “Deniers” cannot get on even the outer fringe of television talk shows today.

This is dangerous. If bad things ever happen (e.g., our policy in the Middle East goes even farther south than it has) and the Gentiles, looking around for a scapegoat, rediscover the Jews (when have Gentiles ever held anything against the Jews?), the orthodox Holocaust story will be a treasure trove of condemnatory evidence. The phrase “lying Jew” will gain new currency and respectability. Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel will be re-christened (metaphorically) Elie “The Weasel”.

Best that things get straightened out now before this has a chance to happen. I welcomed heckling from Jews at my event because I think it would go a long way towards exonerating the Jews of propagating a myth (and they did in fact have lots of help from non-Jews) if it were the Jews themselves who led the way in straightening things out. As it is, of 15 million bright, inquisitive, perceptive Jews in the world, I know of only one, David Cole, who publicly questions the Holocaust story (and has paid a price for it; read his autobiographical Republican Party Animal). This does not redound to the credit of the Jews.

There was another disconcerting aspect of my recent public speaking engagement. Of the three people who showed support for my endeavor (one of whom constituted my audience), two clearly had something against the Jews, i.e., they thought Jews controlled the world (and not for the better!) or were striving to. This makes me question, like Galileo must have, whether it is a good thing to light a candle in the darkness or not. If shattering a near universally held worldview results in misuse by those who would plunge us into a different darkness, a darkness of potentially tragic consequences, should I facilitate it by striking a match?

In the end, I have decided to continue to speak what I believe to be the truth. “The truth shall make us free” (from another wise aphorist), so speak the truth, let the chips fall where they may, and all will come out well in the end. That’s my belief, my faith. So, I will try to line up further speaking engagements (I’ve got an awesome, two-hour PowerPoint presentation I have so far shared with only one person). A synopsis, of sorts, of what I would say can be found here, if you are willing to “look through the telescope”?

  • See also “The Inalienable Right to Question History.”
    1. Notes On Journalism” in the Chicago Sunday Tribune (19 September 1926). []
    2. “Le Contrat Social”, in Prejudices: Third Series (1922). []
    Ken Meyercord is a retiree living in the Washington, DC area, where he haunts think-tank events by asking impertinent questions of the pompous, the hypocritical, and the dishonest. He recently published his memoir of the Vietnam War years, Draft-Dodging Odyssey (under the penname Ken Kiask). He can be reached at: kiaskfm@verizon.net. Read other articles by Ken.