Star justified

When Professor Schwarz (Star, Letters to the Editor, Friday, Jan. 24, 1992) and other such critics characterize the Star’s running of the Holocaust ad as “printing lies,” they obscure what should be an obvious point. In publishing a piece clearly marked as an advertisement, signed by “The Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust,” the Star was not endorsing the content of the ad. It only conveyed to its readers that this “Committee” stood behind the views expressed in the ad.

Thus what the Star (implicitly) said was absolutely true, even if the ad itself was a tissue of falsehoods. For myself, I found the Star’s information valuable; since there is such a Committee, I would rather know about it than remain ignorant.

Critics also complain that the Committee was fomenting hatred, undermining rational discourse, and seeking monetary contributions for these disreputable purposes. But this is hysterical nonsense. The Committee presented itself as (a) promoting freedom of discussion__”open debate”__and (b) maintaining that the Holocaust never occurred. It solicited contributions for these activities, and for no others.

The former, (a), is the promotion, not the undermining, of rational discourse. (Of course, there won’t be much of a debate when the evidence is almost all on one side!). The latter, (b), concerns a purely historical matter. The ad does not say or imply that Jews are especially evil or are inferior in any way; it says only that the Nazis did not systematically murder huge numbers of Jews. This (I agree) is wrong, but it is not “hatemongering.”

I salute the editors of the Star for standing up to the barrage of criticism which their action has provoked, much of it from their administrative and scholarly superiors__Distinguished Research Professors, Faculty Senates, Deans and even the President of the University. We must all realize that such people’s opinions, no matter how vehemently expressed, are not validated just by having emanated from on high; as members of a university we should not accept the appeal to authority. Instead we should evaluate the arguments offered to support these opinions, rejecting weak ones whatever their source. The top people must earn our assent to their views; in this case (I submit) they have not done so.

If student interest were sufficient, there should be no bar to NIU’s staging a debate between a “Holocaust revisionist” and say, a member of the NIU History Department. I propose no such debate partly, for fear that the former would be routed so easily that the contest would be uninteresting. But there is a bar_the administration would surely veto such a debate because the subject is taboo. This fact shows how far NIU falls short of what a university ought to be.

James Hudson

Associate Philosophy Professor