B.o.B Diss Track That Mentioned Holocaust Denier Vanishes

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The rapper B.o.B's saying the Earth is flat seems wacky, but Jewish leaders say his seeming to support Holocaust denier David Irving is far more troubling. Carlo Allegri/REUTERS

Promoting conspiracy theories about space, as rapper B.o.B did this week, can be all in good fun. But research shows that conspiracy theorists tend to believe clusters of unrelated conspiracies, and B.o.B’s recent claims seem to have come paired with an additional denial—of the Holocaust, just prior to International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

B.o.B’s beef started on Sunday, when the rapper got into a Twitter feud with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson about the shape of the Earth. B.o.B suggested the planet is flat and posted several images to “support” his claims. Tyson tweeted a series of responses—“Being five centuries regressed in your reasoning doesn’t mean we all can’t still like your music”—before the two reached an impasse.

On Tuesday, B.o.B released the three-and-a-half-minute song “Flatline,” dissing Tyson and NASA. (Tyson’s nephew, a rapper who goes by the name TYSON, posted a response track later that day.) But several lines in B.o.B’s song also seem to support the research of a Holocaust denier and call into question the federal government’s relationship with the Jewish community.

The lines come about halfway through the song:

But before you try to curve it

Do your research on David Irving

Stalin was way worse than Hitler

That’s why the POTUS gotta wear a kippah

David Irving is a well-known Holocaust denier and discredited World War II historian. In a 2000 court ruling for a libel case involving Irving, a judge reportedly said: “Irving is anti-Semitic. His words are directed against Jews, either individually or collectively, in the sense that they are by turn hostile, critical, offensive and derisory in their references to Semitic people, their characteristics and appearances.... Irving has made claims that the Jews deserve to be disliked, that they brought the Holocaust on themselves.”

Speaking with The Fader on Tuesday, Irving said B.o.B was “quite right” in not supporting the media’s representation of him and that the rapper’s line about Stalin and Hitler was accurate.

The other B.o.B lyric apparently refers to instances of United States presidents wearing yarmulkes, or Jewish skullcaps, as President Barack Obama has done. The line may also refer to the relationship between the federal government and Jewish or Israeli constituents and interests.

“The fact that he includes a line about  Jews, about the Holocaust, and cites David Irving, speaks to this broader reality that when we’re dealing with conspiracy theories, people tend to associate that with Jewish conspiracy theories,” says Oren Segal, director of the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism. “It seems like an unnecessary sort of random attack on Jews in an otherwise, I don’t know, wacky, lazy-lyricized effort.”

Research shows that people who believe one conspiracy theory, even something as banal as the Earth's being flat, are more likely to believe other, perhaps more concerning, conspiracies.

“Belief in a particular theory is strongly predicted by belief in others—even ostensibly unrelated ones,” researchers from the University of Kent wrote in a 2011 paper in Social Psychological and Personality Science. “For instance, someone who believes that the American government was behind the 9/11 attacks is very likely to also believe that Princess Diana was deliberately assassinated.... Over time, the view of the world as a place ruled by conspiracies can lead to conspiracy becoming the default explanation for any given event.”

“What is well known is that belief in conspiracy theories tends to form a cluster,” says Stephan Lewandowsky, a professor at the University of Bristol who has studied conspiracist ideation. “If you like one...you certainly are more likely to be susceptible to believing other conspiracy theories.”

Lewandowsky says clustering may occur because for conspiracists, believing in the theories is less about questioning facts and more about the desire to question them. “The people who believe in conspiracy theories tend to feel disenfranchised and disconnected from society, and they feel like the world owes them something, usually,” he says. “They tend to be slightly disgruntled, disengaged, usually males.”

While promoting the belief that the Earth is flat will likely fall on deaf ears, Lewandowsky says, espousing certain beliefs can have consequences. His research has found a connection between the spread of conspiracy theories about vaccinations and a decline in vaccination rates, for example.

The B.o.B song appears to have been removed from his SoundCloud page on Wednesday. A representative for Atlantic Records and B.o.B declined to comment.