Keith Kahn-Harris, Denial: The Unspeakable Truth - Book review by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture

BOOK REVIEW #7 – Keith Kahn-Harris, Denial: The Unspeakable Truth (Notting Hill Editions)

With Denial: The Unspeakable Truth (Notting Hill Editions), Keith Kahn-Harris discusses a burning, sensitive, critical societal topic. If you had the opportunity to enjoy our review of John Berger’s What Time Is It? from the same publisher, be warned that this book is a very different matter. But not for worse.

Freshness of spirit and entertainment are not absent from Keith Kahn-Harris’ literary world and reflections, but do not expect a happy ending or some kind of burst of hope. Denial: The Unspeakable Truth is raw power that is not on a “rounding the corners” mission.

That being said, this book contributes to sharpen the view one can have on society, not with never-ending complaints disguised as weapons, but with an enlightened and elaborated train of thought that is not afraid to expose the incongruous and the dangerous.

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Keith Kahn-Harris, Denial: The Unspeakable Truth (Notting Hill Editions): our review.

A high-minded rethorical approach

Keith Kahn-Harris manages here to combine two mechanisms: captivating storytelling and academic style. Reading Denial: The Unspeakable Truth felt a lot like reading Leon Festinger (agreeably quoted in the book) adopting a style that The New York Times wouldn’t deny. This allows the book to breathe when the weight of history illustrating Kahn-Harris’ ideas might start to make the ingenuous reader feel uncomfortable. Humor is not absent, and this gives a lot of credit to the author, who could be accused by his most vivid detractors of spitting his rage mindlessly. 

Talking about credit and detractors, Denial: The Unspeakable Truth follows unsurprisingly the ideals of the intellectuals of the Enlightenment. Never the deniers are insulted or heavily despised. This book is not an invitation to debate, but an invitation for all political and ideological sensibilities to put things into context in good faith.

I don’t think all denialists are Nazis. While some denialists can be monstruous, most are regular people in an impossible situation. (…) Sincerity is almost impossible to judge without the ability to peer into their souls.

– Keith Kahn-Harris

Universal questions, personal answers

The author always goes straight to the point, but indisputably illustrates his arguments with a lot of relevance. Disambiguation of the terms, historical examples, empathy and understanding, everything is set in order to involve the reader, no matter their expertise on the field of denialism and skepticism among other concepts.

We think that a great book is a book helping people to learn about themselves. The historical and cross-cultural approaches adopted in Denial: The Unspeakable Truth do not only answer questions the alert reader might have, but also help to understand how one can function, and how the people around us function too. This is one of the most precious teachings a book of that kind can bring within the noise of our time.

The fact is that as much as people say they care, they don’t act like they care one bit.  

– Keith Kahn-Harris

Keith Kahn-Harris, Denial: The Unspeakable Truth (Notting Hill Editions)

Notting Hill Editions. Available.
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. 
 

About Keith Kahn-Harris

Describing himself as ‘professionally curious’, Dr Kahn-Harris has wide-
ranging interests. He has researched and published widely on heavy metal music and culture, and the British Jewish community. He also writes about politics, society and culture.

Since receiving his PhD from Goldsmiths College, he has developed a career deliberately intended to bridge the academic and non-academic world. He has conducted research and taught at a number of universities in the UK and elsewhere, as well as working as a freelance research consultant.

Visit Keith’s website.

About Notting Hill Editions:

We believe that a beautifully produced book enhances the reading experience. Written by some of the most unusual thinkers of our times, our linenbound pocket-size hardbacks are a joy to hold – as arresting on the inside as they are on the outside.

– Notting Hill Editions

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Written by Marc Louis-Boyard for Slow Culture.

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