Why has Butz had such power? First, Northwestern's main newspaper, The Daily Northwestern made the absurd decision to solicit and publish an article by Butz. The Daily and a few students who wrote letters to the editor have been operating under the hopeless naivite that a man like Butz is equally as honest as actual Holocaust historians and that revisionistsof his stripe are unfairly persecuted for unpalatable views. On the contrary, as historian Deborah E. Lipstadt of Emerson University accounts in a column from yesterday's Daily, it has been Holocaust revisionists who have tried to persecute others for their views:
I say this with over six years of legal experience defending myself against David Irving, once the world’s leading Holocaust denier. He sued me for libel for calling him a Holocaust denier in one of my books. He waited until the book appeared in the United Kingdom where the burden of proof is on the defendant.The Daily's decision to publish Butz seemed premised on the belief that Butz's methods for supporting his views are within the paramaters of intellectual honesty. As Professor Lipstadt explained so well, revisionists like Butz do not operate within such parameters. Witness her legal struggle with revisionist David Irving:
Rather than face any legal obstacles, Irving freely repeated his — and by extension Butz’s — arguments in court. The world press reported on them daily. No one faced any legal obstacles. No one was hauled into court except me.
I was able to mount an aggressive defense thanks to a defense fund which raised $1.75 million dollars. We hired a “Dream Team” of historians to closely examine Irving’s claims about the Holocaust. They found his work to be a “tissue of lies.”
By the end of my ten-week trial Irving was left looking like the Court Jester. He had called the judge “Mein Fuhrer,” a telling slip. When asked by Richard Rampton, my barrister, how he could say Herman Goring “goggled” at a certain exchange, when there was absolutely no evidence that Goring was even at this meeting, Irving declared: “author’s license.”
Butz is guilty of this same dishonesty:
Butz, in his column, engages in linguistic tricks. He claims that Timothy Ryback wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “there is little forensic evidence proving homicidal intent” in the ruins of Auschwitz. Butz ignores another portion of Ryback’s comment regarding Auschwitz: “these heaps of dynamited concrete and twisted steel are not only historic artifacts but among the few remnants of untainted, forensic evidence of the Holocaust.”
Why do we not enter further into “debate” with him? Because debating people who deliberately mislead is like trying to nail a blob of jelly to the wall. There is no end to the matter. If they have no fidelity to the truth how can you debate them? They just make things up as it suits them.
Professor Lipstadt's words should be heeded. Unfortunately, in today's Daily, a student columnist has picked up where Butz left off--constructing an uninformed argument that reveals this student's latent belief in age-old anti-Semitic conspiracies of Jewish cabalism and. There's no need to explicate the article itself: the main point is the deeply troubling sanctioning of anti-Semitic views by a student newspaper with a misguided understanding of free expression.