Archive/File: orgs/american/codoh/university.response umiami.002 Last-Modified: 1994/06/22 From: Int'l Institute for Energy Consrv.
Newsgroups: alt.revisionism Date: 15 Apr 94 13:19 PDT Subject: Richard Cohen Column Message-ID: <1560600010@cdp> Lines: 88 AP 04-15-94 12:25 PET 87 LINES bc-cohen-column advIMMEDIATE RICHARD COHEN COLUMN (SPECIAL COLUMN for IMMEDIATE RELEASE--April 15, 1994) By RICHARD COHEN WASHINGTON--The University of Miami has made a potentially costly mistake. Its student newspaper, the Hurricane, picked up $288 for running an ad by a notorious Holocaust denier questioning whether gas chambers were used by the Nazis to kill Jews and others. As a result, an eyewear tycoon is reconsidering whether to give the University a $2 million gift. The wages of ignorance in this case come to precisely $1,999,712. Ignorance of what? Well, in the first place of the obligations of a newspaper. The Hurricane, backed by a pained university president, tussled with the issue but felt it had to err on the side of the free exchange of ideas. But what ideas? That the Holocaust never happened, which is the real import of the ad? That gas chambers were not used and that Washington's Holocaust Memorial Museum provides ``no proof whatsoever'' that they were? This, though, is not an idea. It is the opposite of one--a lie. The ad in question was placed by Bradley R. Smith and has been run in some 25 student newspapers, including Brandeis'. Others, like Harvard's and Berkeley's, have rejected it. The Washington Post has declined similar ads and would so again. It feels it is under no obligation to run every ad submitted. It does not accept gun ads, nor would it run one that, say, insulted the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. This is the policy of the paper's owners. In the case of the Hurricane, its ``owner'' is the university. The school's president, Edward T. Foote II, functions as the publisher. He had the authority to reject the ad, but he did not do so. In a column written for The Miami Herald, he characterized his decision as a tough one. As if in mimicry of a gutsy publisher, he came down n the side of his editors, backing them as if they were right. But they were wrong, and he was, too. One of the more pernicious doctrines to surface in recent years holds that there have to be two sides to every story. You say the Holocaust never happened, I say it did, so let's debate the proposition. But what is there to debate? You have an opinion, I have facts. You have a feeling, I have eyewitnesses, the accounts of confessed war criminals, the contracts and specifications for the gas chambers--records and archives and films. This is a debate between knowledge and ignorance, reason and prejudice. The two sides are not equal. In substance, one does not even exist. Deborah Lipstadt, a professor at Emory University and the author of a recent book on Holocaust deniers, found to her dismay that she was always being asked to debate the issue on this or that radio show. ``Debate what?'' she would ask. ``The issue,'' she would be told. This is like debating whether slavery ever existed or the earth is flat. It posits that all opinions are somehow equal--one based on research and knowledge and one concocted out of whole cloth. Worse, it grants the morons a seat at the table. At the Hurricane, though, the staff did not think they were getting the proverbial other side of the story from Smith. On the contrary, the paper's business manager, Julio Fernandez, told me it was his intention to expose Smith, that the Miami University community ``should know that there are people like him.'' Moreover, Smith worded his ad as a series of questions. ``He has questions, but you cannot say the questions are lies,'' Fernandez said. Indeed I can. The questions merely mask a set of lies which are themselves rooted in prejudice. They do not represent honest, if controversial, inquiry but are designed to advance a belief that has no basis in fact and that, moreover, profoundly painful to many readers. Sometimes, of course, the truth is painful, and pain therefore unavoidable. But a lie? That is a different matter. The Hurricane would surely reject reportage that raised such questions. It should have no different standards for an ad--and it does not really matter that it donated the $288 fee to the Holocaust museum. In fact, it makes matters worse. Fernandez, in his conversation with me, had some difficulty distinguishing between protest--howls from the Jewish community, objections from some faculty and staff--and censorship. University President Foote, though, is no kid. It was his obligation to instruct on the difference between a genuine debate and a false one designed only to publicize a hatemonger and his ideas. As the personification of the university, it was incumbent upon him to assert scholastic, even journalistic, values and say that even in the vaunted marketplace of ideas, some goods are so rotten they have no value. Now, though, both the university and Foote have learned a painful lesson. The eyewear magnate, Sanford Ziff, is reasonably wondering whether his money should go elsewhere--maybe to an institution whose ethical, moral and scholastic values are more substantial than a set of trendy cliches. The university stands to lose a bundle. But then on this issue, at least, it has already lost integrity. (c) 1994, Washington Post Writers Group
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