SPIEGEL Interviewer Argues, Badly, with Ahmadinejad

For those who don’t know, Spiegel is a highly respected German magazine, which also has an English online site.

In this wide-ranging interview with Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, it’s interesting to hear Ahmadinejad in his own words on the US, soccer, nukes, and more. Unfortunately, Spiegel didn’t do a great job in the debating portion of the interview, specifically about the Holocaust and Israel. I was cheering for them, though.

Some things I noted:

Ahmadinejad was very cagy about his position on whether the Holocaust ever happened. This is an important issue to a German magazine, but the interviewer only sort of pinned him to offhandedly saying that Iran neither confirms nor denies it.

Every time they got close, Ahmadinejad was very good at shifting the conversation to one of two things:

1. “IF” the Holocaust happened, why does this mean that Israel should hurt Palestinians?

2. Why can’t anyone research the Holocaust and talk about it any way they want in Germany?

Of course, he wins both points. Palestinians shouldn’t suffer just because Germany murdered Jews. And Freedom of Speech is curtailed in Germany in a way that many democracies wouldn’t tolerate (it’s illegal to deny the Holocaust in Germany).

For the first point, Spiegel wasn’t able to consistently separate the Palestinian issue from the Holocaust issue. They weren’t able to say, “let’s finish one thing at a time. Let’s stop saying IF and hear whether you say it did or didn’t happen. Then we can move on to Israel if you want.” It’s pretty pathetic that Ahmadinejad can’t talk about WW II Europe without talking about Israel; Spiegel could have drawn that out a bit more.

For the second, Spiegel didn’t stress the thousands of eyewitnesses, photographs, written records, etc., that proves the case. An answer to, “why can’t all kinds of research be done” is  that all kinds has been done. According to any reasonable standard of historical research, the Holocaust has been proven in such overwhelming mountains of evidence that it’s ridiculous to continue to humor the crackpots. It’s on par with saying that more research should be done on whether the earth is flat.

[Side note: The flat earth question always reminds me of the fatwa issued in 1993 by Saudi Arabia’s Sheik Abdel-Aziz Ibn Baaz, saying that the earth is flat, and anyone who disagrees is an atheist who should be punished.]

Instead, Spiegel just kept sort of lamely saying, but it really DID happen. Really really. Which makes them sound exactly how he wants them to sound: as though they uncritically accept what’s fed to them. They occasionally tried out some other unsound arguments (status quo is best), and he blasted them. The problem isn’t that there are no arguments against his rhetoric. The problem is that the interviewer was out of his (or her) league.

Which brings me to one last main point: This wasn’t supposed to be a debate,  was it? It was an interview. I don’t know why they were arguing with him in the first place, instead of just asking him questions and giving him rope.

They can’t win against the guy, because he’s an ideologue, and probably much better trained than they are. He thought out his evasions and misleading chatter long ago (probably has a team of spin-doctors helping him out), and they don’t have a chance to change his mind or get him to back down.

Stick to interviewing, or get better at argument.

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