The Holocaust never happened. The planet isn’t warming. Vaccines cause autism. There is no such thing as AIDS. The Earth is flat.
Denialism comes in many forms, dressed in the garb of research proudly claiming to represent the best traditions of scholarship. Its influence is insidious, its techniques are pernicious. Climate change denialists have built well-funded institutions and lobbying groups to counter action against global warming. Holocaust deniers have harried historians and abused survivors. AIDS denialists have prevented treatment programmes in Africa.
All this is bad enough, but what if, as Keith Kahn-Harris asks, it actually cloaks much darker, unspeakable, desires? If denialists could speak from the heart, what would we hear?
Kahn-Harris sets out not just to unpick denialists’ arguments, but to investigate what lies behind them. The conclusions he reaches are disturbing and uncomfortable:
Denialism has paved the way for the recent emergence of what the author tems ‘post-denialism’; a key component of the ‘post-truth’ world. Donald Trump’s lack of concern with truth represents both denialism’s final victory and the final collapse of its claims to scholarly legitimacy.
How should we adapt to the post-denialist era? Keith Kahn-Harris argues that there is now no alternative to enabling denialists and post-denialists to openly express the dark desires that they have sought to hide. This is a horrifying prospect, but perhaps if we accept the fact of ‘moral diversity’ and air these differences in the open, we might be able to make new and better arguments against the denialists’ hidden agendas.
Praise for the book:
‘An elegant exploration of how frail certainties really are, and how fragile truth is. While Kahn-Harris offers no easy answers in how to deal with ‘post-truth’, he does inspire you to act’.
Peter Pomerantsev, Author – Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia
‘This powerful book dives deep into the darkness that drives denial. A very useful book for anyone who is concerned about the state of the world, and a must-read for anyone who is not.’
Naomi Oreskes, Co-author – Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming
‘An essential guide to the phenomenon of denialism in the so-called ‘post-truth’ era.’
Dr Nicholas Terry, University of Exeter, Department of History – co-editor of Holocaust and Genocide Denial: A Contextual Perspective (2017)
‘Kahn-Harris captures the seductions of organised denial, the creative energy which goes into it, its love-hate relationship with the Enlightenment, and the strange mutations through which it is passing in the age of Trump.’
Dougald Hine, Writer and co-founder of Dark Mountain
Articles about the book
‘Denialism: what drives people to reject the truth’Guardian Long Read 3 August 2018 Also available as a podcast
CBC Radio programme ‘The Dangers of Denialism’, 27 May 2019
RSA Polarised podcast, March 21, 2019
Featured in several episodes of BBC Radio 4 series The Age of Denial, March 2019
CBC Radio, 16 August 2018
Tel Aviv Review podcast, 6 August 2018
Talks about the book
‘Denialism, Post-Denialism and the Boundaries of the Speakable’, at CRASSH, Cambridge University, 11 June 2018. Watch video of talk here.