When is a number not a number? When the media says you can’t discuss it.
Hypothetically, if I post or pass opinion such as this:
I think the climate change statistics are incorrect.
I’ll maybe get some flack and be branded a Climate Change Denier, regardless that the very thought, and my inaction due to that belief, could result in the deaths of over seven billion people on the planet. I’d potentially be a mass murderer but that, it seems, is okay.
Compare that to another hypothetical opinion:
I think the Holocaust statistics are incorrect.
With that one I’ll get serious flack and be branded a Holocaust Denier, which carries with it the potential for imprisonment, or worse.
Why? What do the Jewish faith have to hide, in order that the number requires shielding from global scrutiny with threats? Surely debate is healthy in any reasonable and so-called free society? It fuels change; opens minds.
Depending on which source you cite, the WWII Holocaust death toll was six million. So if I asked a historian: “Are you sure? Could it have been six million and one?” he’d presumably scream at me for denying the atrocities ever occurred and call the authorities? Geez, I’d be glad I never asked if it might have been 5,999,999. It seems that by questioning the number in any form whatsoever, I’m somehow sticking my fingers in my ears, going “La La La” and pretending it never happened at all. Give me a break.
I wasn’t there, but there’s too much convincing evidence to deny it ever happened. Records were kept of the victims who were officially processed. But there could be millions that slipped through the system; killed by patrols and never documented, or who escaped to a neighbouring country and hid. There’s a chance that official records may have been lost, destroyed or falsified in the name of propaganda. It wouldn’t be the first time someone in power lied.
None of the online sources truly agree and, I suspect, copied off each other or quoted a single source and changed the numbers a bit to make it look as if they didn’t. Some claim exact figures, most cite “about”. Have they rounded up or rounded down? Could be a big margin of error, up to half a million each way. Census information at the time was an estimate at best. Record centres get bombed in wars.
Nobody knows how many Japanese died when the Americans and British deliberately wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nukes during the same period of history. One hundred and thirty thousand? Quarter of a million? Depends who you ask. Depends how you define the ‘cause’ of that death: direct blast, radiation, mutation, etc. But the point is, I’m free to ask. Free to talk about it. Not so with the Holocaust.
If anything, the fact that there are such severe penalties for even questioning the number of Jews killed gives credence to the notion that something’s not quite right with the figures. If only I was allowed to say so. Are we protecting the memories of the dead or, for reasons we are not privvy, repeating without thought the numbers we’ve been told in school, which may have been an order of magnitude higher or lower?
Look at it this way, during the September 11 attacks, 2,996 people were reportedly killed. Regardless of the circumstances behind the atrocity, the ongoing debate over which members of the upper echelons of power allowed it to happen, which explosive was used in the detonation charges placed in the buildings, blah blah ad infinitum, the numbers are a hard fact.
Or are they?
Granted, a few thousand people are more easy to account for than millions, but Wikipedia, the well-known tertiary and often wildly inaccurate, source of information to today’s world states:
Originally, 2,973 victims were confirmed to have died during the initial attacks. However, in 2007, the New York City medical examiner’s office began to add people who died of illnesses caused by exposure to dust from the site or went missing in the years after the attacks to the official death toll.
Wait, so after the event, the death toll increased? And the numbers changed only through public debate, public inquiry and official investigation, which are all reasonable things to do in the aftermath of such an event.
Who knows, perhaps next week someone will go, “Hey, you remember Bill, that recluse from Accounts? Haven’t seen him for a while” and the death toll might go up again. Or a widower might die earlier than they would have otherwise, had their spouse survived and been able to look after them. Are they technically a 9/11 casualty and should be included in the death toll? Nobody can say, but I’m free to ask the question.
My point is, by questioning a number, nobody’s denying it ever happened. By saying the Earth’s going to collapse due to carbon emissions a year later than the “experts” say so, doesn’t mean I’m denying that global warming is a major socio-political issue. But that’s exactly the sort of knee-jerk reaction that any scrutiny whatsoever into the wartime atrocities garners.
There’s something that feels intrinsically wrong about that.