18 March 2008
Professor Noam Chomsky
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Dear Professor Chomsky:
On 04 February I wrote Professor Deborah Lipstadt of Emory U to ask if she could provide “the name of one person, with proof, who had been killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.”
I understand that it is against her principles to address such a question or any person who would ask it, so I copied the letter to academics in history and journalism at Emory, U of Georgia, and the campus and off campus press in that neck of the woods. No one attempted to answer the question. I have since sent it to academics at a number of other universities, and no one has attempted to respond to the question itself.
My name is Bradley Smith. I am not an academic, and I am not an independent “scholar.” I do have a web page that addresses the gas-chamber and related questions from an angle that emphasizes intellectual freedom vs. the taboo that protects these questions from a routine examination – www.codoh.com . If you go to the Founder’s Page there you will find my unlikely personal background.
I would like to ask you a question that is not what I asked Professor Lipstadt, but one that is related to it. Do believe it “reasonable” or “unreasonable” for me to ask historians and other academics the question I have asked Professor Lipstadt, and do you think it “reasonable” or “unreasonable” for me to think that if a million or so innocent civilians were murdered in gas chambers at Auschwitz, that our historians should be able to provide “the name of one person, with proof,” who was actually killed in one of those contraptions? One out of a million?
The other night when I was first thinking of writing you it occurred to me to take another look at your article “We Own the World” that appeared originally in Z. When I first came across the title I felt I understood where you would go with it without having read it, and that I would agree with your thesis. I had a similar “epiphany” when I first saw the title to [Buchanan’s] “A Republic, Not an Empire.” In any event, I am very glad I returned to your article We Own the World. It ends by addressing exactly the issue that I have been struggling with for two decades now, unsuccessfully.
There you quote Orwell regarding the question of intellectual freedom where he suggests that there might be about as much of it in a “free” society as there is in a totalitarian one. You write:
“In the introduction to Animal Farm he said, ‘England is a free society … but unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force … one reason is the press is owned by wealthy men who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed. And the second reason -- and I think a more important one -- is a good education. If you have gone to the best schools and graduated from Oxford and Cambridge, and so on, you have instilled in you the understanding that there are certain things it would not do to say; actually, it would not do to think. That is the primary way to prevent unpopular ideas from being expressed.’”
That is exactly my experience with the “taboo” that in my view protects the gas-chamber allegations from the routine examination that all other historical questions are open to. In America our wealthy media owners and those with good educations understand it would “not do” to question the Auschwitz gas-chamber allegations, or the “unique monstrosity” of the Germans and Adolf Hitler. Yet, as you note in WOTW, the Hitler/gas-chamber story is exploited endlessly to morally legitimate the belief that we do, in fact “own” the world and have the “right” to do what we want with it. With our intellectual elites, it would appear to “not do,” indeed to “not think” of the possibility that the German gas-chamber story might be the first great WMD fraud, encouraged by largely the same folk who invented the second WMD fraud – Iraq.
I have neither wealth nor a good education. That may be the reason I am willing to ask historians for the name of one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz. Why I am willing to encourage journalists, who write about it endlessly, to ask our historians for that one name, with proof. I think it would very well “do” to ask such a question, and to answer it.
My question again -- do you think it reasonable or unreasonable for me to ask academics for the name of “one person, with proof, who was killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz?” Do you find it reasonable or unreasonable that I should expect journalists, and those who teach journalism, to see this as a legitimate question to ask, and to ask it?
This communication will remain private for ten days, until 02 [April], while I await your response. If you respond to my query, I will post this letter and your response to it on my Blog "One Person With Proof" (you will find the link to it at www.codoh.com). If you choose to not respond, I will post this letter alone.
Thank you (in advance as they say) for your time.
Bradley R. Smith
Desk: 209 682 5327
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rather than emailing this letter to one of my volunteer editors before I sent it to Professor Chomsky, I did the reverse. The next day my editor pointed out that I had named “Gingrich” as the author of A Republic, Not an Empire in my letter to Professor Chomsky. Ever willing, eager even, to confess to my errors, I emailed Chomsky on 19 March 2008:
“OK. I have to admit it. It wasn't Gingrich. I can be careless. Anyhow, it was only an epiphany. I hope the question interests you.”
In the event, Professor Chomsky has not replied. Perhaps it really would not “do” for him to say what he thinks. I don't know.