THERE IS A MOVEMENT growing quietly on the fringes of American and European politics. This movement politely calls itself the school of revisionist Holocaust history (sounds academic, doesn't it?), setting up such innocuous-sounding things as the Institute for Historical Review, Holocaust News, the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. Claiming to pursue a "historical truth," this small, insidious group propagates myth after mind-boggling myth: the Holocaust never happened, Anne Frank's Diary is a forgery, far fewer than six million Jews died in Nazi custody, those who did die were stricken by typhoid--not Zyklon-B gas.
They then argue that the Holocaust is simply an ingenious Jewish invention designed to attract world sympathy, or to oppress Germans and Palestinians, or to further a Jewish conspiracy, or whatever comes to mind.
Holocaust "revisionism" is not simply idiocy on an epic scale; it's not like saying that the French Revolution never happened or that the earth is flat. It is a blatant attempt to stir up anti-semitism. These monstrous lies are an insult to the memory of all those who were murdered in the camps--gays, Poles, gypsies and other social undesirables as well as Jews--but they are aimed at Jews. Behind the bogus footnotes lies a poorly disguised hatred.
Unsurprisingly, these Hitler apologists have recently focused their propaganda efforts on college campuses, looking to deceive a new generation that never saw the Third Reich firsthand. This fall, college newspapers across the country received a full-page advertisement--looking suspiciously like a news feature--explaining how the PC thought police was preventing academic debate about the Holocaust's non-existence, how the photographs, documents and eyewitness accounts proving the obvious in fact prove nothing, how "Zionists and others in the Jewish community" whose "purpose was to drum up world sympathy and political and financial support for Jewish causes" had led "a conspiracy to suppress the truth."
The advertisement closed with an appeal for contributions to the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust. "Your contribution to CODOH will be used to disseminate the good news of Holocaust Revisionism," it said.
Some college papers, including The Duke Chronicle and The Michigan Daily, printed the ad. Others, including The Daily Pennsylvanian and The Crimson, did not.
THE CRIMSON has a longstanding policy of defending free speech, even when the content is offensive. Over the years, many controversial arguments on controversial topics (date rape, homosexuality, Israel) have been made on these pages. We have not always agreed with those arguments, but almost always, we have printed them.
At the same time, we are a private newspaper, and as such we reserve the right to impose internal restrictions on what we will and will not print. Content matters. By choosing not to run an ad, or an editorial for that matter, we are not imposing censorship; we are simply refusing to offer our privately-owned assets--our printing press, our circulation network, our readership, our limited number of pages, and the name of The Harvard Crimson--to that material.
WE DON'T REJECT many advertisements. Then again, we don't get offered too many blatantly false ads from blatant anti-semites. (According to the Anti-Defamation League, CODOH was co-founded by Bradley R. Smith, the writer of the ad, and by a known member of an American Neo-Nazi Party.) We're not talking about a controversial argument based on questionable facts. We're talking about vicious propaganda based on utter bullshit that has been discredited time and time again by legitimate scholars of diverse ideological persuasions.
CODOH is free to pour their $700 into copying machines. They can print up flyers and hawk them around Harvard Square to their heart's content. In fact, the Square is occasionally graced by Lyndon LaRouche supporters distributing eye-opening ideas about Jewish conspiracies, and we don't do anything to stop them.
But we are under no obligation to run CODOH's hateful nonsense beneath the banner of The Harvard Crimson. We feel that providing CODOH a forum to promulgate malicious falsehoods in the name of "open debate" would represent an abdication of our editorial responsibility.
Ultimately, the problem with the ad, l ike the movement from whence it came, is not simply that it is moronic and false. CODOH's rhetoric, unlike equally silly claims that two times two is six, seeks to propagate hatred against Jews; that is why it has to put on the moronic and false charade. We would no more run this ad that we would run an ad reading "Niggers die." Let Gnomon Copies handle that one, thank you.
The fact that the ad we received chose to veil its message does not make it any more appropriate for our printing press. Simply put: We do not print just anything, and we do not intend to prostitute this newspaper to "disseminate the good news" of lies and hatred. There may be borderline cases for this rule, but this ad was not one of them.