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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

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

   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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