• August 31, 2015

Does Academic Freedom Protect Holocaust Deniers?

Two views on the question

Does Academic Freedom Protect Holocaust Deniers? 1

Michael Morgenstern for The Chronicle

Response by Cary Nelson

Response by Naomi Schaefer Riley

Cary Nelson Replies

Naomi Schaefer Riley Replies

It Depends on the Context

By Cary Nelson

Imagine the following classroom conversations:

Student in a world-literature class: "I'd like to write my final paper on Holocaust poetry. I'm trying to decide whether Yevgeny Yevtushenko's 'Babi Yar,' Paul Celan's 'Todesfuge,' or Jorie Graham's 'Annunciation With a Bullet in It' is the best poem."

Faculty member's answer: "You cannot take up that question unless you recognize that the poems are all flawed fantasies. None are based on fact. The Holocaust never happened."

Student in a political-science or philosophy class: "Which man-made disaster is worse: Bhopal or the Holocaust?"

Faculty member's answer: "There's no excuse for Bhopal. It didn't have to happen. But the Holocaust didn't actually happen at all. Give me a better comparison."

I could generate numerous similar scenarios. A student in a medieval-history course, for example, might contrast a natural catastrophe, the Black Death, with the Holocaust. A student in an art-history class might write about Holocaust painting or sculpture; a student in a music-history course study the role of music in the concentration camps; a student in an ethics class consider the burden the Holocaust has placed on future generations. Nothing in those syllabi might suggest beforehand that the Holocaust will arise, but it can—and does.

In some fields, the shadow of the Holocaust looms large, Modern European history being the most obvious. Basic knowledge about the Holocaust is a reasonable expectation for a 20th-century historian or literary critic. A faculty member who is a Holocaust denier might face a competence hearing before his or her peers—under certain circumstances. But one needs to know what he or she said, and in what context. The details matter.

Whether a faculty member recognizes that the Holocaust looms large in a field like postwar American or European literature depends in part on whether he or she is inclined to look. But academic freedom certainly means that a person can teach courses in those areas without ever mentioning the subject. It also means that faculty members teaching in those fields should not be required to be knowledgeable about Holocaust literature. Although it is part of the critical field of reference for contemporary literary history, so, too, are many other subjects, which individual scholars may never master.

Certain subjects, like the Arab-Israeli conflict, are likely to provoke discussion of the Holocaust whether or not a faculty member plans for it. And any course covering genocide—whether it be the near-extermination of American Indians, the Armenian genocide in World War I, or the mass murders in Rwanda in 1994—is almost certain to evoke Holocaust comparisons. The probability of the Holocaust's arising in class discussion is impossible to calculate for many disciplines, but it is certainly possible throughout the arts and humanities. Holocaust denial can be pedagogically disabling.

That takes us to Kaukab Siddique, who teaches literature and mass communications at Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania. He has used public forums outside the classroom to declare the Holocaust a "hoax." He cites writers like David Irving and the white supremacist Mark Weber. Siddique maintains that, in promoting Holocaust denial, he is simply speaking for the "other side" of the issue. But there is no credible "other side." No respectable historian advocates Holocaust denial.

To be sure, in some disciplines—engineering, veterinary medicine, accounting, chemistry, home economics—the Holocaust is largely irrelevant. If a student brought up the subject in those classes, the instructor could well declare it outside the boundaries of the course and move on to other matters. And professors can say what they want about the Holocaust in public settings. Writers on academic freedom like to cite the example of Northwestern University's notorious Holocaust-denying engineer Arthur R. Butz, who keeps his views out of the classroom.

But Siddique is walking a finer line. He is broaching Holocaust denial off campus, while teaching in a discipline in which the Holocaust has definite relevance. His university has appropriately said he cannot be fired simply for his extramural statements. He could even repeat those statements in a public forum on campus and be protected. It is less clear, however, that he could declare the Holocaust a fiction in class. A key question is whether, in a field like Siddique's, Holocaust denial merits a hearing before a committee of his peers. Is his professional fitness at issue?

Of course, we need to protect a very wide range of extramural freedom of expression. Unqualified efforts to suppress even so loathsome an endeavor as Holocaust denial carry their own dangers. The most obvious corrective on campus to Siddique's extramural Holocaust disinformation is other people's demonstrating that he is a deluded ideologue. Still, his extramural speech may at least merit a university warning that he has put himself at risk. If a version of one of the hypothetical conversations I offered at the outset were to take place between him and a student, a hearing and penalties might result. Even then, a faculty member's entire record as a teacher and scholar should be considered before the ultimate penalty of dismissal could be applied. I have no evidence that Siddique has tried to impose his views in class, but the controversy over his extracurricular remarks reminds us there is a bright line that must not be crossed.

We must also recognize that some efforts to establish that line are not compatible with academic freedom. It would be a violation for colleges to enforce the "Working Definition of Antisemitism," issued by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. While the text provides good suggestions for evaluating potentially anti-Semitic statements on campus, imposing sanctions on those who violate any of its protocols would trespass on academic freedom. Students have advocated enforcing it, but that would be a misuse of the document. It was never intended to police campus speech.

The definition includes drawing "comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis"—though that is essentially what the sociologist William I. Robinson, of the University of California at Santa Barbara, did in a 2009 e-mail to students that compared Israel's Gaza incursion to the Holocaust. I defended his right to do so, and the university cleared him after an unnecessary and potentially chilling investigation. People are free to criticize Robinson, but the university had no cause to consider penalizing him. I also maintained that the arguments of Neve Gordon, a faculty member at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in favor of an escalating boycott of his own country were protected by academic freedom. On the other hand, both the American Association of University Professors and I have consistently opposed boycotts of Israeli faculty members and universities by other countries.

Faculty members could also take issue with the term "Holocaust" itself, preferring another designation. Or they might analyze the ideological deployment of the Holocaust and offer a critique of the cultural and political privilege it is granted, or ask why some forms of historical denial make news and others (like denial of the Armenian massacre) often do not. But faculty members cannot stand before a class and announce that the Nazis did not kill six million Jews, along with numerous homosexuals, Gypsies, disabled citizens, and political opponents. I would not knowingly hire a Holocaust denier or grant one tenure in a discipline to which the Holocaust is relevant. A college does not benefit from institutionalizing ignorance and hatred.

Siddique's public comments have increased the likelihood that his students will ask him about the Holocaust in class. If he refuses to discuss his views, he may lose his students' respect, although that price is one he is apparently willing to pay by making his comments in the first place. Student reaction is not the university's immediate concern, despite the impact it might have on student evaluations. But if he argues for his views in class, he could face a hearing. Determining whether his ability to function as a faculty member has been fatally undermined may await further events. I have seen no evidence that Siddique should be fired, but academic freedom does not protect all of the actions that can flow from Holocaust denial.

Since historical accuracy is the determining issue, Holocaust denial is not inherently an example of speech that is politically controversial, although it certainly has been deployed for political purposes. Academe has no business enforcing conformity to political or religious beliefs or to matters about which there is substantive academic debate. But to describe Holocaust denial as fundamentally, rather than strategically, political is to fall short of the intellectual courage and professional responsibility necessary to describe it accurately. Holocaust denial is speech promoting falsity as truth. Unlike myriad lesser errors that academics might make, errors for which their competence should not be reviewed, Holocaust denial counters fundamental and well-established knowledge. It is also effectively hate speech, whatever the intent of the speaker. It denies people their history and obliterates the fate of their relatives on the basis of their religion and ethnicity.

The larger problem for faculty members who engage in Holocaust denial lies elsewhere. It is grounded in the question of disciplinary competence, but it also exceeds that question. Holocaust denial calls into serious question a faculty member's overall professional competence—the capacity to weigh evidence, to undertake rational analysis, to perform academic responsibilities reliably. I do not pretend that either this or the other questions I have raised are subject to easy answers. Nor do I pretend that my answers are definitive. But there is reason to discuss them.

Cary Nelson is a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and president of the American Association of University Professors. His most recent book is No University Is an Island: Saving Academic Freedom (New York University Press, 2010).

Apparently, if You’re in the Right Discipline

By Naomi Schaefer Riley

It isn't easy being Cary Nelson. The president of the American Association of University Professors sometimes has to decide which Holocaust deniers in the academy he will defend and which ones he will not. Nelson recently said there were grounds to question the competency of Kaukab Siddique, associate professor of English and journalism at Lincoln University, in Pennsylvania, who has been publicly declaiming against the legitimacy of the state of Israel and suggesting that the Holocaust was a "hoax." On other occasions, though, the AAUP has rushed to the defense of professors who don't believe six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis. The AAUP's reasoning in those cases requires the kind of intellectual backflipping that no amateur should attempt. And those gymnastics reveal just how bizarre our understanding of academic freedom has become.

Let's start with Siddique. In a pro-Palestinian rally in Washington in September, he proclaimed: "I say to the Muslims, 'Dear brothers and sisters, unite and rise up against this Hydra-headed monster which calls itself Zionism. ... Each one of us is their target, and we must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel—if possible, by peaceful means." (But if not, well ... he'll leave that to your imagination.) In an online newsletter called New Trend Magazine, he has called the Holocaust a "myth" and a "story."

Nelson says that criticizing the legitimacy of the state of Israel is well within the bounds of academic discourse. No surprise there, as anyone who has followed the trends of Middle East studies can tell you. But Nelson also says that a faculty member's criticism of Israel could cross the line into anti-Semitism, depending on what was said and in what context. According to Nelson, what academic freedom does not cover, on or off campus, are statements that call into question the ability of a scholar to teach his or her discipline.

As for Siddique, apparently Nelson thinks it is a problem for any humanities faculty member to engage in Holocaust denial, and that's why he believes Lincoln University would have grounds at least to investigate Siddique's professional competence. Really? It matters only if your Holocaust denier is teaching literature, say, or history? This is a distinction that will leave a lot of nonacademics scratching their heads.

But that's the distinction that has allowed Arthur Butz, a professor of electrical engineering at Northwestern University, to remain in his position for more than three decades, despite his own public record of Holocaust denial. In 1976, Butz's book The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry was published in the United States. He doesn't seem to have rethought his position much since then. Several years ago, in an interview with the Iranian press, Butz was asked about Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's views on the Holocaust. His reply: "I congratulate him on becoming the first head of state to speak out clearly on these issues and regret only that it was not a Western head of state."

So how does Arthur Butz get a free pass while Kaukab Siddique could merit a competency hearing in accord with the AAUP's position? Nelson has said that, for Butz, the issue is irrelevant because the Holocaust has nothing to do with his teaching or research. In fact, Butz's presence at Northwestern is a constant reminder not—as its mission statement suggests—that the university is committed to the "personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community," but rather that Northwestern is reaffirming its commitment to not running afoul of the ivory-tower authorities.

What would be funny about all this—if Holocaust denial were a laughing matter—is that Siddique himself has clearly figured out how to game the system. He told Inside Higher Ed recently that he is entitled to the protections of academic freedom precisely because this isn't his area of study. "I'm not an expert on the Holocaust," he said. "If I deny or support it, it doesn't mean anything."

You see, Siddique seems to be claiming, he's just like Arthur Butz. As long he doesn't engage in the study of the Holocaust in his job, his speech falls under the protections of academic freedom. Indeed, Siddique is a man who has the American academy completely figured out. "We can't just sit back in judgment and say those guys were bad and we were the good guys," he said. "I always try to look at both sides. ... That's part of being a professor." And if that language of moral equivalency weren't enough to ingratiate himself with his fellow academics, he also expressed concern about the interference of nonacademics into the affairs of universities. (Numerous politicians and pundits have called for an investigation into his activities.)

Even if they may have landed on opposite sides of the AAUP's academic-freedom line, what Siddique and Butz do have in common is that they are both tenured, which means it would be almost impossible to get rid of either one, should either of their institutions attempt it. Earlier this month, Lincoln University announced that it "cannot take action at this time" regarding Siddique's statements. But just think about the possible scenario if Lincoln decides in the future to take action because, as the AAUP would have it, the Holocaust falls within Siddique's academic purview. Imagine the scene in which Kaukab Siddique testifies that he can't be punished because he is not an expert on whether the Holocaust occurred and Cary Nelson claims that, yes, in fact, he is.

It's enough to make you wonder if maybe we need to rethink what we mean by academic freedom.

Naomi Schaefer Riley is author of God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America (St. Martin's Press, 2005). Her book on tenure will be published by Rowman & Littlefield in the spring.

Cary Nelson Replies

It is not actually tenure that may shield Kaukab Siddique from sanctions for his public statements about the Holocaust; it is academic freedom, a value that survives only if it protects remarks we despise as well as those we endorse. If Siddique were to be punished, he would no doubt immediately claim that his academic freedom had been violated. That would trigger due process and a hearing before a committee of his peers, whether he was a tenured faculty member, a first-yearassistant professor, or an adjunct faculty member teaching a single course.

Siddique is certainly trying to "game the system," but his fanaticism may nonetheless lead him where he should not go. The issue in a hearing would be professional fitness, which is a matter to be determined by a faculty review or hearing committee. That involves academic judgments about professional competence and professional boundaries. The American Association of University Professors distinguishes between speech that can be held to standards of professional competence and speech that has no bearing on professional competence. A biologist who asserts that the theory of evolution is a hoax would be in danger of demonstrating himself or herself unfit. Holocaust denial may have comparable status for someone teaching world literature.

Disagreeing about the meaning of the Holocaust is entirely permissible and, indeed, inevitable. The meaning of a historical event is always open to debate. It cannot be permanently settled. Nor can one assume one has all the facts now. New documents may be discovered indefinitely. But the fundamental truth that the Nazis successfully carried out an organized, even industrialized, program that killed millions of Jews is not in dispute.

Some have claimed further that comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is a factual error comparable to Holocaust denial, but I cannot agree. Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is a hyperbolic political analogy, an interpretation one may support or dispute, but it does not rise to the level of Holocaust denial. My reactions to Siddique's remarks are a mix of anger and sadness. He has absurdly asserted that there is "not one" document proving the Holocaust occurred. He has looked into the hollow gaze of concentration-camp victims and declared they were starving only because Allied bombing disrupted German food distribution. That suggests Siddique's humanity is distorted and degraded, but it is only his professional fitness that is at issue in reviewing his academic status.

Naomi Schaefer Riley Replies

Lincoln University claims to be the oldest historically black college in the country. Its graduates include Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall. Today Lincoln is employing a professor who has called the Holocaust a myth. Kaukab Siddique's "humanity is distorted and degraded," in the words of Cary Nelson. And yet, unless Siddique is teaching something directly related to the Holocaust, Nelson believes he has a legitimate claim to keeping his position. The school's most prominent graduates and its namesake are probably rolling over in their graves, but in the name of academic freedom, Siddique must stay.

In the process of standing up for the "remarks we despise as well as those we endorse," Nelson has lost sight of the noble principles that undergird this country and its educational institutions. Defending hateful statements is not the only good here. Professors should be not only passers-on of information; they should be models of intellectual and moral integrity. The idea that we should overlook Siddique's "distorted and degraded humanity" and consider only his "professional fitness" is plainly offensive.

I would add that Cary Nelson's attempt to divorce tenure from academic freedom is nothing short of baffling. For decades we have heard that tenure is vital to protecting academic freedom, but now it turns out that the AAUP thinks professors without tenure would be protected just the same. In fact, the way tenure has evolved, it is virtually impossible to get rid of faculty members who have it, even if they are, amazingly, Holocaust deniers.

It is hard to imagine that Lincoln would keep on Siddique or that Northwestern would have continued to put up with Arthur Butz were it not for their tenured status. Maybe there are adjunct or assistant professors with similarly offensive views out there, but I haven't heard about them. Some may think that's a sign that universities are failing to defend remarks they despise, but I think a university free of Holocaust deniers is something to be proud of. Which goes to show how low we have set the bar.

[Editor's Note: This article was updated with new replies from Cary Nelson and Naomi Schaefer Riley on November 14, 2010.]


1. crne5907 - November 07, 2010 at 07:36 am

It is not actually tenure that may shield Siddique from sanctions for his public statements about the Holocaust; it is academic freedom, a value that only survives if it protects remarks we despise as well as those we endorse. If Siddique were to be punished, he would no doubt immediately claim his academic freedom had been violated. That would trigger due process and a hearing before a committee of his peers whether he was a tenured faculty member, a first-year assistant professor, or an adjunct faculty member teaching a single course. Siddique is certainly trying to "game the system," but his fanaticism may nonetheless lead him where he should not go. The issue in a hearing would be professional fitness. A biologist who asserted that the theory of evolution was a hoax would be in danger of demonstrating himself or herself unfit. Holocaust denial may have comparable status for someone teaching world literature. Some have claimed that comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is a factual error comparable to Holocaust denial, but I cannot agree. Comparing Israel to Nazi Germany is a hyperbolic political analogy, but it does not rise to the level of Holocaust denial. My reactions to Siddique's remarks mix anger and sadness. He has absurdly asserted that there is "not one" document proving the Holocaust occurred. He has looked into the hollow gaze of concentration camp victims and declared they were only starving because allied bombing disrupted German food distribution. That suggests Siddique's humanity is distorted and degraded, but it is only his professional fitness that is at issue in reviewing his academic status.

Cary Nelson

2. janebuck - November 07, 2010 at 08:46 am

Making informed judgments is never easy, and Ms. Riley seems incapable of doing so.

3. andalucia - November 07, 2010 at 11:58 am

Cary Nelson is certainly reasonable enough to apply the same standards to any case involving Holocaust denial; simply because he chose one case as the basis of his argument is no reason to assume that's the only one he or AAUP would find objectionable. His contention that "Holocaust denial calls into serious question a faculty member's overall professional competence" has broad implications that any careful and conscientious reader would easily comprehend.

4. notsurprised - November 07, 2010 at 01:27 pm

Is Holocaust denial the inquisition question of our times?

If we are going to criminalize it or get people fired over "it", should we not define "it" exactly and explicitly so that we know when we're crossing the line?

Otherwise, who judges?

5. bradley1930 - November 07, 2010 at 01:57 pm

What is "it," in any specific context?

If I place an ad (I have) in student newspapers asking why Eisenhower did not mention the Germans WMD (gas chambers) in his Crusade in Europe, the commonplace reaction of faculty, administration, the ADL, Hillel etc. is to condemn the question, act to (institutionally) censor the question, effectively in the name of protecting students from being exposed to Holocaust "denial."

There appears (to me) to be an irrational fear of such simple questions being asked that suggests that, with regard to this issue, taboo trumps a free exchange of ideas on the American campus.

I'm willing to be convinced I am wrong to argue that the Holocaust question should be open to the routine examination that all other historical quesitons are open to.

6. 20ahabs - November 08, 2010 at 07:50 am

I think the distinction between "intermural" and "extramural" activity is important, but when does publishing material constitute extramural activity? Is someone safe to publish Holocaust denial literature so long as it isn't represented on a professor's university profile or CV? This is the question that vexes me--I'm not so sure any publication can ever truly be "extramural." Butz seems protected because he isn't publishing this as a humanities professor. Siddique doesn't seem to have "published" anything other than making his comments public a la Ward Churchill...

7. snwiedmann - November 08, 2010 at 08:10 am

A historian who denies the Holocaust is sufficiently incompetent to need firing. A literature professor who denies the Holocaust is, at best, a fool, but being a fool outside your discipline may not justify loss of the job.

8. iskander - November 08, 2010 at 08:55 am

The Holocaust is not a black and white question, and presenting it in such terms elevates it to the status of religion. Really it is presented in the same style of "Is there a God?"

I am certain the Germans killed a lot of people. Consider some of the potential gray areas. Who says 6 Million Jews; Why not 3 or 7 Million? What about other undesirables... How many were killed? Please apply the same rigor you apply to technical research to this question.

I am ready willing and able to be convinced. But I have searched for the proof that 6 Million were murdered and it is not conveniently available.... Please do not ask me to have faith in your answer. It is a number and numbers can be documented.

9. panacea - November 08, 2010 at 08:57 am

How can a literature professor be an expert in his field without being knowledgeable about the history of the times in which it was written?

10. evolve42 - November 08, 2010 at 09:10 am

Would Ms. Riley be just as disgruntled if a literature professor denied biological evolution?

11. woodstock - November 08, 2010 at 09:17 am

The "Holocaust" as well as "Anti-Semitism" function as untouchable state religion, enforced by a powerful international police. Academician that dear to challenge it, in or out of the class room,commit academic, and/or social, suicide. This is not unlike denying the divinity of Jesus Christ in the seventeen century when the Catholic Church commanded state police power.
The absence of free speech in the USA Academia and the public in general make the USA political process invalid, safe the under grown resistance.

12. meshabob - November 08, 2010 at 09:28 am

It is interesting that the same kind of alarms do not go off when American historians engage in holocaust denial about the American Indians, even within the purview of their discipline. As Ward Churchill once pointed out, you can deny a holocaust as long as you are the victorious holocaust perpetrator. In other words, there are no penalties for Turkish professors denying an Armenian genocide or Americans denying what happened to the Indians. I guess the lesson is that if Hitler had been victorious, none of this would be discussed now here.

13. 22221103 - November 08, 2010 at 10:04 am

I wish we could have a similar article and same discussion over intelligent design. I would hope the AAUP would be in favor of professor's being able to have academic freedom to discuss this issue freely and exchange ideas on the controversial topic of where did everything come from. But it seems there is no academic freedom in that area.

14. texas2step - November 08, 2010 at 10:10 am

Does Academic Freedom Protect Holocaust Deniers?

15. 11232247 - November 08, 2010 at 10:23 am

Academic freedom should not protect holocaust deniers. Neither should it protect flat earthers, people who advocate for the violent overthrow of the government, or anyone representing the "Religion of Peace and Love" who still believes in the quaint practice of stoning women to death.

The only stipulation I would place on the removal of these misguided (and sometimes dangerous) individuals is that any final decisions should be placed in the hands of leaders who have shown some previous competency in knowing the difference between scientific fact and scientific theory. Trust me on this. It matters.

16. jschantz - November 08, 2010 at 10:25 am

Wow...I am flabergasted...that academia has found a way to debate how many devils fit on the head of a pin. How it can be justified that holocaust denial is in any way a valid intellectual exercise, or worse a legitimate opinion is in itself profoundly wrong in so many ways? The entire reason for teaching about the Holocaust is to make sure it doesn't happen again: to ANYBODY. History has already repeated itself sine then, in spite of worldwide knowledge of it. What do you think will happen if these people have their way? The entire purpose of the academy is to seek the truth. Delusion and hate should not be included in that definition.

There are certainly people inside and outside academia who want to deny the Holocaust, de-legitimize Israel, and for that matter, see to it that the rest of us are dispatched to a similar end as quickly as possible. If academia is to play a role in preventing that, it needs to get back to essential basic principle:

Teach the Truth.

Not some crazy hate filled delusion of the truth, the ACTUAL truth.

Because after all, The truth will set you Free...

17. terrence_erdt - November 08, 2010 at 10:53 am

To "deconstruct" "Holocaust" I think shows the term has lots of baggage: it doesn't include all the peoples the Nazis were willing to exterminate, but seems to be used, in many contexts, primarily to designate just the Jews. And I think it could be argued that frequently it is thereby used to suggest, albeit perhaps peculiarly, the singularity of the Jewish people, their being God's chosen group, even if it means being singled out by madmen for destruction. This is a religious belief, which many educated and intelligent people might very well question. This is not to deny that the so-called "Holocaust" occurred, meaning certain ethnic and racial groups, were singled out for extermination, but to affirm that there were more than one, and that one might argue that the true horrow was that many, many millions of people, far more than those killed in the "Holocaust" itself, perished.

"Holocaust" is quite a powerful term by way of "political correctness," and so when trying to examine various issues disinterestedly, scholars may want to use more neutral terms. Did the Nazis want to exterminate the Jews and try systematically to do so, yes, indeed, but there are even larger, and even more horrific issues to consider. So, should "Academic Freedom" protect Holocaust deniers: it depends upon what they mean, for starters.

18. eander23 - November 08, 2010 at 11:03 am

Imagine your average non-academic browsing through a bookstore and coming across that title: The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry. Like that, a seed is planted. Just glimpsing the title implies that one can choose to "believe" in the Holocaust just as one can choose to believe in God, or abortion, or whether the Cubbies got it in 'em this year.

Now imagine that average non-academic seeing this book is written by a tenured professor. Of Northwestern University no less! Immediate credibility, coupled with the implication that this professor must be smart. And look at that long, smart-sounding title!
Ideally, this average non-academic opens the book and notices that this "professor" is actually a professor of engineering. Alarm bells go off. Understanding that engineering is a completely different culture than the humanities or social sciences, this average non-academic throws the author's credibility out the window, and, disgusted at how easy it would be for the next average non-academic to be fooled into entertaining the notion of denying the Holocaust as he or she denies that we actually landed on the moon because of a TV program, decides to burn the book. Then, remembering Heinrich Heine's quote, Where they burn books, they will end in burning human beings, the average non-academic resorts to re-shelving it. Spine-side inwards.

But I doubt it. Facetiousness aside, to the average non-academic, a professor is a professor is a professor. Regardless of what academic insiders know, to outsiders, professors are generally assumed to be trusted figures. Regardless of field, non-academics might hold words/arguments/quotes from a "professor" in higher esteem. A Holocaust denier abuses this authority, no matter the field.

19. michaelsantomauro - November 08, 2010 at 11:18 am

What sort of Truth is it that crushes the freedom to seek the truth?

As the publisher for Holocaust related books, I wish to express my outrage that the Holocaust, unlike any other historical event, is not subject to critical revisionist investigation. Furthermore I deplore the fact that many so-called democratic states have laws that criminalize public doubting of the Holocaust. It is my position that the veracity of Holocaust assertions should be determined in the marketplace of scholarly discourse and not in our legislatures bodies and courthouses.


Michael Santomauro
Editorial Director


20. victorl - November 08, 2010 at 11:28 am

Dear "Iskander" (#8):

Among some of the more well-known documentation of German government atrocities during the Holocaust:

(1) Einsatzgruppen Reports
The Einsatzgruppen were four paramilitary units established before the invasion of the Soviet Union for the purpose of “liquidating” (murdering) Jews, Romany, and political operatives of the Communist party. The "Operational Situation" reports on this website document these murderous activities and progress.

(2) The "Stroop Report"
SS Major General Juergen Stroop, commander of German forces that suppressed the Warsaw ghetto uprising, compiled an album of photographs and other materials. This album, later known as "The Stroop Report," was introduced as evidence at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. The URL above is to an English translation and pdf images of original pages of German text.

Other documents and detailed discussion of this issue can be found at the US National Holocaust Museum website page on "Combating Holocaust Denial." Links include (near the bottom): (1) "Evidence from the Holocaust," (2) "We will show you their own films," & (3) "Holocaust Deniers and Public Misinformation."

Ample evidence is out there for even the mildly curious to locate, view, and critically evaluate. There is no need to rely on the 2nd-hand comments of others, should you be motivated to investigate.

21. 11185500 - November 08, 2010 at 11:36 am

Would a physics professor be protected if he/she declared one (or all) of Newton's Laws of Motion to be false? In the classroom...NO! In a tweet to the Kiwanis club...YES! In a symposium at AAAS...PROBABLY, BUT IT WOULD BE A CAREER-LIMITING MOVE! As in everything, there is black, there is white, and there is gray.

22. navydad - November 08, 2010 at 11:48 am

"He told Inside Higher Ed recently that he is entitled to the protections of academic freedom precisely because this isn't his area of study."

Excuse my ignorance, but isn't this backwards?

23. michaelsantomauro - November 08, 2010 at 11:48 am

Amazon's Kindle or print book: DEBATING THE HOLOCAUST: A NEW LOOK AT BOTH SIDES By Thomas Dalton, Ph.D

Sample chapters AVAILABLE FOR FREE: http://www.debatingTheHolocaust.com

This is a book about the Holocaust, and about two competing views of that event. On the one hand we have the traditional, orthodox view: the six million Jewish casualties, the gas chambers, the cremation ovens and mass graves. Traditional historians have thousands of surviving witnesses and the weight of history on their side. On the other hand there is a small, renegade band of writers and researchers who refuse to accept large parts of this story. These revisionists, as they call themselves, present counter-evidence and ask tough questions. They are beginning to outline a new and different narrative.

Thus there has emerged something of a debate -- a debate of historic significance. This is no peripheral clash between two arcane schools of thought, regarding some obscure details of World War II. It is about history, of course, but it also speaks to fundamental issues of our time: freedom of speech and press, the operation of mass media, manipulation of public opinion, political and economic power structures, and the coercive abilities of the State. It is an astonishingly rancorous and controversial debate, with far-reaching implications.




There was no budget.

There was no plan.

There was no extermination order from Hitler.

Preeminent Holocaust expert Raul Hilberg said:

"What began in 1941 was a process of destruction not planned in advance, not organized centrally by any agency. There was no blueprint and there was no budget for destructive measures. [These measures] were taken step by step, one step at a time. Thus came about not so much a plan being carried out, but an incredible meeting of minds, a consensus -- mind reading by a far-flung bureaucracy."

Is this really a comprehensible explanation?

Thank you and remember:

Peace is patriotic!

Michael Santomauro
Editorial Director
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24. rjsax - November 08, 2010 at 01:00 pm

What if Mr. Siddique were Jewish?

25. lslerner - November 08, 2010 at 01:46 pm

Academic freedom is one thing but it does not extend to teaching transparent falsehood as truth or even as a defensible position. Holocaust denial, creationism, and many other positions are simply not defensible in the professional arena where the discussants are supposed to be masters of their subject matter. To give a simple example, it is one thing for an actress to claim that vaccination causes autism; quite another when a physician does. The actress gets publicity and the physician loses his license.

26. rjsax - November 08, 2010 at 02:12 pm

Hmm, seems funny, but when I earned my doctorate and was hired into the academic world, I felt then (and still do) that, as a professor (not to mention a responsible, educated citizen)it was contingent upon me to, for lack of a quicker term at hand, speak "ex cathedra" whan I opened my mouth anywhere that I might be identified as a college professor, or even an educated person. I have never believed in a right to spout asininity for no other reason than because it isn't my field of endeavor, or to enrage others, which, in my mind, is all that motivates Mr. Siddique.

27. panacea - November 08, 2010 at 02:27 pm

@#17: You said, ""Holocaust" is quite a powerful term by way of "political correctness,""

Holocaust is the term used by the survivors. It is appropriate, unless you think the systematic murder of 11 million people is anything other than a holocaust.

@ Mr. Santomauro: what is there to revise? Your arguments sound more like an apologia than a critical review.

Academic freedom is one thing. But when an educational professional denies large segments of information (be it in the humanities or the sciences) that person abandons the role of professional and takes on the role of demogogue.

It's one thing to debate the finer points of an event, the interpretation of art, or the methodology of scientific research. It is another to deny the validity wholesale of positions taken by the consensus of your field.

Such people are known as cranks.

28. katisumas - November 08, 2010 at 03:04 pm

OK, let me see if I get this. Suppose I'm teaching English Lit. and I go around saying, writing, speech making that gravity is a hoax? I defend my position by saying that since I'm not in engineering or any hard science I have the right to my opinion and have the right to express it to all comers including in class to my students.

So that would be ok? I would have earned my salary as an educator and my place in an academic community?

Incidentally will you please remember that the Holocaust involved the mass murder of members of other groups besides those identified or constructed as Jews (one of 8 great grand parents made you one, regardless of your actual religion). These groups included Romas gypsies, tziganes, Gays, Blacks, Seven Day Adventists, the disabled, anyone suspected of helping any member of these groups as well as any actual opponents or perceived opponents of the regime.

The legislation (the Nurenberg laws) to that effect can be readily consulted. Furthermore the Nazis kept meticulous records that included the names of each of their victims. Again, those archives are available to anyone interested.

I don't approve of Israel's policies and I sure don't approve of people justifying such policies by invoking the Holocaust (for personal reasons I find this particularly upsetting). As the wisdom of the ages tells us "two wrongs don't a right make". And as Dylan Thomas's poem still tells us "After the first death, there is no other" --which means that you can't justify murderous actions by saying "well we only killed (and are killing) a few thousand innocent people but they killed millions." All it takes is one victim to make be a Holocaust.

29. katisumas - November 08, 2010 at 03:12 pm

Panacea, you're so right!

Also, what keeps coming to my mind is that the word Holocaust was used to describe the mass burnings of the Cathar/Albigiencian spiritual elite in the twelfth century by the armies of the French king who was aiming and succeeded in taking over what is now southern France.

It is from there that Elie Wiesel came up with the word Holocaust to describe the mass murders of WWII.

30. tonycontento - November 08, 2010 at 03:17 pm

A few of the other commentors brought up Ward Churchill and his example is the probable course of action for most universities when dealing with "extreme speach." In 2005, after the content of an essay that Churchill wrote in 2001 about the "little Eichmans" dying in the Twin Towers, Churchill was formaly investigated for research misconduct at the University of Colorado - Boulder. He was found guilty by the university and removed from the faculty. Churchill sued for wrongful termination in state court, he won, but had both monetary damages and reinstatement stripped by the courts, regardless of the verdict. The courts declared that the university system was immune from the verdict.

Ward Churchill is a firebrand and a rabble-rouser. His role is to get people aware of the extremes in our society, with particular focus on Native American Rights issues. His foray into 9/11, however, was too sensitive an issue for the state of Colorado or the University to let stand. So, they kicked him out, however they could.

Was it right? A jury didn't think so. But if ole Ward got his walking papers, you can bet that a Holocaust denier will be given the same treatment.


31. rjsax - November 08, 2010 at 03:36 pm

That we have such discussions and that this character and others like him are not thrown out on their ear is testimony to the insular, ivory-tower nature of our profession. It is right for those on the outside to laugh incredulously at our discussions, which are just intellectual dances around the feces on the dancefloor. Our profession is showing the same lack of discrimination toward Mr. Siddique as the courts do toward truly trivial litigation. No, we do not have to be blind to idiots, and due process in the courts does not mean trivializing the court system, either. You know, I could write a detailed, scholarly analysis of a cheap honky-tonk drinking song, or a Mahler sympghony.... So however literate this discussion might be, it is not worth it to defend this cruddy excuse for a scholar.

32. bradley1930 - November 08, 2010 at 05:05 pm

While Mr. Siddique's language is not a language I would choose to use, his doubts about the subject he addresses--the Holocaust story--I share them.

One reason I share them is that the orthodox story is protected by taboo on the university campus, with the full cooperation of faculty and administration.

Related to that is the matter that you are not allowed to question, and if you do question, no academic will attempt to respond in public.

Example: I have asked some 4,000 academics at universities around the country if any one of them can provide the name, with proof, of one person killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. One out of a million, or four million, or whatever number academics are supporting this academic year?

Not one responded to the question. Not the Lipstadts, the Berenbaums, not one.

One name, with proof.

Bradley Smith, CODOH

33. dn871263 - November 08, 2010 at 05:24 pm

There is a simple way to resolve this. Teaching provable falsehoods as received truth to students should be grounds for dismissal, tenured or not (with all the appropriate protection of hearings at which the evidence is evaluated). It's incompetence, after all, and academic freedom does not protect incompetence. Telling geography students that the world is flat is incompetence. However, saying the Earth is flat to economics students is merely foolish, as long as you aren't grading them on it. Raising the question to students about the existence of the Holocaust is not grounds for dismissal - one is not teaching it as received truth, one lets the students evaluate the evidence and make up their minds; one does not take off points for disagreeing with the teacher. No foul. Making proveably false assertions in published work isn't grounds for dismissal, because one's colleagues should point out the errors, incompetent work won't get published in good peer-reviewed outlets. If one doesn't get tenure or gets post-tenure reviewed for lack of productivity, that's no violation of academic freedom. Making provably false assertions in public fora is protected by the First Amendment, and the university has nothing to say about that. I don't see anything complicated here.

34. cwinton - November 08, 2010 at 05:48 pm

By bradley1930's standard of reasoning, no one can "prove" much of anything; e.g., can he give me the name, with proof, of any soldier killed in the Revolutionary War who wasn't killed by friendly fire? His standard of proof apparently does not allow for the statements of multiple eye witnesses, victims, perpetrators, and liberators.

35. michaelsantomauro - November 08, 2010 at 10:10 pm

NOV. 8, 2010


To the Editor,

Cary Nelson's claims ("Does Academic Freedom Protect Holocaust Deniers? It Depends on the Context," Nov. 7), fall by the wayside when we consider that Prof. Nelson unthinkingly accepts and employs the highly partisan and distorting "Holocaust denial" neologism, which has seeped into the language of discourse concerning the vast history of World War II.

"Holocaust denial" Newspeak is limited to protecting one account of history. This is its defect and its function. The doyen in this field is Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, herself a denier of the Allied holocaust against the city of Dresden, Germany (cf. Forward, Feb. 18, 2005). Of course no one would dream of questioning Prof. Lipstadt's academic rights on the basis of her denial of the Dresden holocaust.

Prof. Nelson states, "...faculty members cannot stand before a class and announce that the Nazis did not kill six million Jews..."

Why is it that Prof. Lipstadt can drastically lower the number of Germans incinerated in Dresden without fear of interdiction of any kind? How is it that she has the freedom to question German history and deny German casualty figures, while the rest of us mere mortals may not question Allied and Judaic history and casualty figures, including the "six million"? Prof. Nelson believes that one of the evils attendant on questioning the "Holocaust" is that it "denies people their history and obliterates the fate of their relatives..." Yet Prof. Lipstadt is somehow righteously endowed with this right of "denial" and "obliteration"? Why has American academia consented to a two-tier caste that empowers radical questions about certain historical claims and not others?

Let me anticipate a common rejoinder that is a product of the distorting prism of "Holocaust" Newspeak -- that "denying the Holocaust" is tantamount to denying the American Civil War. The analogy is compelling only if one accepts that skepticism toward specific assertions about World War II, such as "six million dead Jews" or the existence of mass execution gas chambers in Auschwitz, is tantamount to "denying" that World War II happened.

I realize that Prof. Nelson is considered a liberal on the subject of academic freedom, but I believe this is a perception based more on the extremism of his opponents, rather than Nelson's own views, which are actually reactionary to a considerable degree. For example, the medieval ecclesiastical principle held that "error has no rights." Can anyone be a liberal and espouse this standard? Nelson writes, "Siddique maintains that, in promoting Holocaust denial, he is simply speaking for the 'other side' of the issue. But there is no credible 'other side." As in medieval times, so too now: there is only one "credible" truth.

In 1200 A.D. there was no other truth but the truth of the transubstantiated presence of Jesus Christ in the bread consecrated by the priest during the Mass. In 2010 A.D. there is no other truth but extermination by homicidal gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau, during the "Holocaust." Nelson is absolutely certain that heretics who have the audacity to doubt this gas chamber dogma are "promoting...hate speech....No respectable historian advocates Holocaust denial." First, no self-respecting independent revisionist thinker subscribes to or ascribes the "Holocaust denier" epithet to himself. Second, any historian who asks forbidden questions about the history of World War II automatically forfeits "respectability." Nelson ought to know this since he is party to demarcating several narrow apertures through which historians on university faculties must filter their research if they wish to retain their employment and, consequently their "respectability."

Like the imperial rights of the Israelis in Palestine, it seems that academics like Deborah Lipstadt have imperial "denial" prerogatives which others do not possess. With regard to revisionist historian Mark Weber, Prof. Nelson invokes white supremacy, an easy target. Has Nelson ever dared to consider the role of Judaic supremacy as a fundamental determinant in the matter at hand? How is that a professor who denies the genocidal bombings of Palestinians in Gaza or the Allied holocaust in Dresden is free to pursue his agenda without fear of "merit(ing) a university warning that he has put himself at risk"?

The test of any code of law is its universality. By this criterion, even Cary Nelson's "liberal" standards of "academic freedom" are unfair and unethical.

Michael Hoffman

36. ots1927 - November 08, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Academic freedom protects academics' ability to conduct research, ask questions, form conclusions, and espouse opinions without fear of political or other reprisals. It does not, in my understanding, give anyone license to deny historical fact for the sake of drawing attention to themselves, or for the promotion of irrational, unjust, and fundamentally dangerous ideologies. The historical existence of the Holocaust is not a matter of opinion. What it means, of course, is another matter.

37. mikeinthemiddle - November 09, 2010 at 03:56 pm

There are few things as troubling as Holocaust denial. in some cases, the denier's motivation is clearly related to anti-Sematism. Looking at Bradely Smith's treadbare websites, it is pretty clear that he has links to the "white identity" movement. Michael Santomauro and Michael Hoffman's names also show up on those sites. This is a movement that hates Jews (and blacks and much of the rest of the world). They put a lot of energy into denying that the Holocaut happened, even though it probably plays heavily in their fantasy life.

Is anti-Sematism the only reason for so passionately supporting this indefensable position? I fear it isn't. It seems that some supporters of an "open debate" are truely incapable of seeing that their is no debate over the fact of the Holocaust. These weak-willed people are drawn to conspiracy theories of all sorts and become unwitting supporters of Smith, Santomouro, Hoffman and all the other smiling fascists. They see themselves as free thinkers, but are, in fact, dangerous fools who allow history to repeat itself in unthinkable ways.

38. bradley1930 - November 09, 2010 at 05:48 pm

If I am to ask why Winston Churhcill in his six volume history of WWII did not mention the German WMD (gas chambers), that suggests (or proves?) what? It's only a question. After all, it could have slipped his mind.

If there is an academic who occasionally stops by this page, perhaps she will be able to imagine some sensible response -- other than the (to date) obvious one. She might even suggest that it is not hateful to encourage, rather than discourage, a free exchange of ideas on this historical question/s.

39. spirit_of_justice - November 11, 2010 at 02:16 am

Why is the massacre, mass killing of jews during the World War II called the Holocaust with a capital H? I must admist I am not a student of history, but applying my common sense I can see that if any massacre or genocide of that time were to be properly called Holocaust, it would be that of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki where real incineration of a large number of people undeniably happened. Why the gas chamber massacre of the Jews call the Holocaust and the real 'nuclear holocaust' of a people is not called one? Doesn't it reek of some sort of received view type academic, rhetorical-political naming and gaming?

40. firstsai93 - November 11, 2010 at 03:38 pm

I see no difference between Holocaust deniers, and academics who argue, that slavery was somehow, beneficial to African Americans, or arguments about genetic superiority. We either have academic freedom or we don't. To pretend that Holocausr deniers, are somehow, worse than academics who take up other controversial issues is a bit disengenuous, and smacks of selective suppression of free speech. Because I have read about the Holocaust, traveled to Germany, and talked to many surviving victims, I can comfortably state, in the absence of contravening evidence, that the Holocaust did happen, and nothing anyone says to me, be they politician or academic, can change that opinion. My concern however, would be, that if I were in the classroom of this individual, and that professor evaluated me, on my beliefs or work I produced in that class, based on their beliefs. Students who speak out and engage in heated arguments in class on controversial issues, risk the same fate, as professors who speak out. I believe we are going to see a rising tide of this debate, with the change in the political balance of power, and many new students arriving on campus willing to "go public" with the controversial views of their instructors.

41. firstsai93 - November 11, 2010 at 03:48 pm

spirit_of_justice, you make my point. There is little doubt that some Germans, aided by many other nationalities, embarked on a program to remove or exterminate European Jews. The only questions include how and how many. The destruction of Native Americans in this country is never referred to as a holocaust. The removal of millions of Africans from Africa, and their deaths during the middle passage, in the sugar cane fields of Haiti and Cuba, or the mines in Brazil, is not referred to as a holocaust, and the deliberate starvation deaths of millions of Ukranians by Stalin in the 1930's is not referred to as a holocaust. Why/

42. bradley1930 - November 11, 2010 at 10:31 pm

At the beginning it was a State issue, with the American, British, and Soviet States charging the defeated Germans with crimes that they themselves were guilty of, primarily the intentional killing of innocent, unarmed civilians -- which does not suggest that Germans were not guilty of that charge. Once the Allied story was set in stone during the post WW II war crimes trials, it was picked up by those who saw their fortunes before their eyes.

We now have the (Jewish) Holocaust Marketing Industry, one that is exploited to raise hundreds of millions of dollars yearly. Follow the money. And then the story is exploited to morally justify the conquest and occupation of Arab land in Palestine following WWII, as well as the U.S. alliance with Israel, past and present. How many billions is that one worth? Follow the money.

43. llevitt1 - November 15, 2010 at 12:01 pm

The word "Holocaust," adopted somehow in the U.S., is not a term preferred or promoted by the Jewish community; as it does, in the more accurate sense, denote a different kind of eradication of people. The preferred word is "Shoah," the Hebrew word for destruction. There is absolutely no jealously or proprietary interest in the word holocaust; and those of us in Shoah studies would prefer holocaust not be used with exclusivity nor, frankly, at all, as Shoah is so much more apt.It is not used in other countries -- Shoah is the prevailing word for the destruction of the European Jews in the era of World War II. Of course, the generic term, "genocide," is appropriate; and it is being used widely to denote what happened to the Armenians at the hands of Turkey, in Rwanda, now in the Sudan, to the American Indians, and to numerous other people in history who met the fate of genocide.

44. laurencejgillis - November 15, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I guess I am more worried about your hands over my ears than I am about his wool over my eyes.

So, please let the ignorant so-and-so mouth off, as an object lesson in why we must continually guard ourselves against being swayed by ignorant opinions.

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

Larry Gillis, Cape Coral FL

45. oldcommprof - November 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I'd agree with both writers. Nelson is right that unpopular topics and opinions should not be off-limits for inquiry and comment. It should be made clear, however, that such positions are intellectually barren. Riley is also right that unpopular topics and opinions should be roundly criticized as not academically viable. It should be made clear, however, that such positions are not punishable. This has nothing to do with the topic of Holocaust debate. It applies equally to other one-sided issues such as the creationism v. evolution debate. Lots of opinions are just stupid -- but stupid is not a crime.

46. jc100 - November 15, 2010 at 02:18 pm

It's a beautiful thing that we are free to believe whatever crackpot theories we choose. But does academia protect holocaust deniers? Only to the same extent that it protects anyone who maintains that the world is flat, the "reptilians" run a shadow world-government, or that Brittany Spears is a vocalist. The spirit of academic protection doesn't really protect nut-jobs as much as it tenures them.

47. froggiewent - November 15, 2010 at 02:37 pm

"Academic freedom" that values opinions over facts is a fraud.

48. bradley1930 - November 15, 2010 at 04:52 pm

I agree particularly with the observations of oldcommprof above. Addressing only his final observation that "Stupid is not a crime" we should note at the same time that the publication of revisionist argmments re the WWII German WMD (gas chambers) is very much a crime in the majority of European states, and Israel, that there are those working to make it a crime elsewhere, and that the American professorial class acts out the role of bystanders on the matter--accepting the imprisonment of individuals for thought crimes throughout much of Western culture on this one historical question.

Stupid, then, is as stupid does (to coin a phrase).

Bradley Smith

49. mortwinston - November 16, 2010 at 08:26 am

According the Gregory Stanton, a leading comparative genocide scholar, "denial is the eighth stage that always follows genocide." Denial characterized the response of perpetrators and their sympathizers to the Armenian genocide, the Cambodian, the Rwandan as well as the Holocaust. So we should allow academics who are also Holocaust deniers the right to speak: paradoxically their doing so provides evidence of the very crimes they seek to deny.

50. alv262 - November 16, 2010 at 02:31 pm

From an administrative standpoint, if in a position to recommend the dismissal of a professor for inciting hateful, bigoted attitudes that no doubt are not based on facts but merely a denial of documented, witnessed events, I would have no hesitation to do so. I would want no such person representing the university.

Let's call a spade a spade and dismiss these fears that not allowing holocaust deniers the right to spew garbage within classrooms is an invasion of "academic freedom." Just because most of those who lived through the holocaust are no longer here to speak out against it does not mean we should be any less vigilant in making sure such bigoted, racist views slip into classrooms. It is inappropriate and irresponsible!

51. bradley1930 - November 17, 2010 at 01:34 am

Has one specific revisionist argument published by Robert Faurisson, or Carlo Mattogno, or Jurgen Graf, or Arthur Butz, or Germar Rudolf, or Thomas Kues, or Fritz Berg, or Samuel Crowell or any number of other reviionists ever been addressed anywhere, at any time, by anyone posting here on CHE?

If so, I'm all ears. Meanwhile, it's only school-yard name-calling. Any kid can yell out naughty names on the play ground. It takes a moment or so of adult life to actually address a specific revisionist argument. Why the taboo against doing so? Every revisionist is wrong about this, wrong about that, wrong about something. Why not point it out? Specifically?

Well, you are then left with what's left over. What will you possibly do with all that? It that the problem? I believe it is.

The academic does not want to deal with a specific error or view in any specific revisionist text, because she would then be left with what's left over--all the stuff in that text that is on the mark. What could she possibly do with that? It could ruin her career to even take notice of it, threaten her source of income, and damage her good reputation in the eyes of her academic peers.

It's best that she follow the example of her American peers: support the university-wide taboo against the publicaton of revisionist arguments, and at the same time argue that there is a difference between the use of taboo on the American university campus and the use of taboo in any South Sea cargo cult.

It's worked so far. I think it will continue to work for some while yet. But we're working on fixing it. Working to replace taboo on the American university campus with a culture that encourages a free exchange of ideas. Is that an idea whose time has come? Not yet?

Bradley Smith

52. jsryanjr - November 17, 2010 at 09:15 am

Several European countries have laws that criminalize research results if they differ from findings of the Nuremberg tribunals or other widely publicized historical assertions.

Every society has a canonical history that it teaches to young people as more or less a national religion. Most usually the canonical history coexists with, and ignores, scientific history. Compounding this problem by criminalizing scientific history is unwise.

53. firstsai93 - November 17, 2010 at 01:18 pm

As I stated before, either we have academic freedom or we don't. I don't feel anymore threatened by holocaust deniers, than I do by people who believe the South won the Civil War. The body of evidence on the holocaust, is sufficient, so that any resonable persson can deduce, that the elements of the German government, acting with the direct or tacit approval of the German hierarchy and aided and abetted by the governments of several other countries, systematically murdered, or caused the deaths of millions of people. Exactly how many, and how, can still be debated, but the fundemental facts cannot. Rather than dennounce the holocaust deniers as being revioionists, or anti-Semitic, we should attack their scholarship, and let the devil take the hindmost.

54. amazonjn - November 17, 2010 at 03:47 pm

What about my tax dollars supporting Christian Colleges that fired me and will not hire me (a business professor) because I do not attend church or subscribe to their mythologies? What about the freedom of humanities professors to teach such myths as infallible truths? Some nonsense is politically acceptable in academe whilst other nonsense is privileged. We seem to be pushing the ball of enlightenment up a very steep hill of politics.

55. bobbyfisher - November 17, 2010 at 09:06 pm

The larger question at the background of this question of Holocaust denial is what is: the purpose of the university? Most people here implicitly suppose that it is to indoctrinate students with the right view, or at least, not the wrong view. That's the purpose of educational institutions in communist countries. It's also the view of Marxians like Marcuse; the best weapon against wrong opinions is censorship. There is a lot of censorship in universities now. Have any of you ever heard the argument that affirmative action didn't serve Blacks, that poor Blacks need to learn responsibility for their own lives more than subsidies for irresponsible living...A lot of this censorship is self-censorship, not from the fear of being proved wrong, but from the fear of intimidation by student and faculty activism against opinions they don't like, and the consequent caving in by the university administration to intimidation. This is unfortunate consequence of the liberal world view which is inherently elitist and authoritarian. Even the NYTimes, doesn't publish your opinions until their censors get through with them-- and they don't just drop posts with inappropriate language!

The traditional liberal (as in libertarian) view is that free speech is the best antidote to error. A universities job is to shine the light of reason upon error. For that job, the traditional liberal needs those who hold erroneous opinions to abandon their fear of anything other than reason and come out.

56. laoshi - November 20, 2010 at 12:02 am

The title of this article is a leading question. The first few what-ifs are also leading questions. To answer these questions is to affirm that there was a "Holocaust". Heck, even labelling this historic "event" is itself leading.

Leading questions have no place in academe. Let the students construct this knowledge for themselves. Well-intentioned or ill-intentioned, leading questions are an abuse of power smacking of propaganda.

57. bradley1930 - November 21, 2010 at 09:47 pm

I don't understand how we can ask any question about a historical event that cannot be considered, if one wishes, a leading question. Help.

--Bradley Smith

58. davidilieberman - November 22, 2010 at 08:03 pm

I wonder how either Professor Nelson or Professor Riley would deal with a scholar, working within his own discipline, who, while carefully skirting the question of whether the Holocaust took place, engages in demonstrable acts of intellectual fraud to promote a blatantly antisemitic agenda. Evidence of that this is not a purely hypothetical question here:


59. franticmanic - December 03, 2010 at 07:40 am

"Of course, we need to protect a very wide range of extramural freedom of expression"

We need to protect ALL expression, that's the basic premise of academic freedom. That's also the premise of the right to freedom of speech.

60. franticmanic - December 03, 2010 at 07:43 am

I mean North Korea and Iran could claim to "protect a very wide range of extramural freedom of expression." Being pragmatic about freedom of speech is bad

61. franticmanic - December 03, 2010 at 08:35 am

To make myself more clear, "very wide range" is up to subjective interpretation. Freedom of speech should cover ALL speech, this is the only way it can remain objective.

Mods, could you please merge my three comments?

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