The big lie

In his column of Jan. 16, Wes Swietek renews discussion concerning the ad that your newspaper printed denying that there was a holocaust in Europe during World War II and soliciting money and supporters for that big lie. Swietek affirms both the truth of the Holocaust and the right of the Northern Star to print an ad that tells an untruth. Instead of believing that truth will make us free, Mr. Swietek defends the publishing of the big lie.

His point is that the Star must print a lie in order to be a free press. That is an untruth. Across the nation many campus newspapers refused to print that ad because it was an obscene falsehood intended to make mischief and spread hate: Are those campus newspapers less free than the Star? Also, Mr. Swietek should know that the Star’s own written policies declare that it may reject an ad it deems unworthy of printing.

Is freedom of expression at stake? Let me put the question this way: will the Star print this letter and every letter that it receives on the issue? I know that it did not print every letter, I know that it should not. What, however, is the difference between my letter and that ad? What guarantees the printing of the ad and not my letter? It is one thing: the ad was accompanied by money. Indeed, if my letter is too long, the Star will arbitrarily abbreviate it or refuse to print it. I can live with that “censorship”. However, if I send money with this letter, I too should be able to buy all the space I want in the Star. That is not the idealism of a free press you are defending, Mr. Swietek; it is money_grubbing materialism.

Again, is freedom of expression at stake? Absolutely not. The people who ran that ad may speak on any street corner, print any message, begin their own newspaper, etc. One of them may even run for president and repeat the same big lie__if he or she dared. But the Constitution does not guarantee the right to advertise. The courts have held that cigarette companies do not have the right to advertise on television.

Finally, I have to wonder about what the Star will do in the future. Will the Star print an ad for support of a big lie such as one that asserts that the Katyn Forest massacre of thousands of Polish soldiers by the Soviets during World War II never happened? Or that the Ku Klux Klan never lynched a single person in the American South during the 1920s and 1930s? Or that Apartheid in South Africa promoted Unity in diversity? Or that smoking is good for your health?

I hope not. Neither you nor I would tolerate such lies in the classroom; why do we have to print them in the Star? The campus is a place that is dedicated to free inquiry in pursuit of truth. We do not need to accept dollars from any mini_Hitler crackpot or hatemonger seeking both followers and money to help spread his big lie. I want our only campus newspaper to be committed to fact and truth__not dollars.

Jordan A. Schwarz

Distinguished Research Professor

Department of History