Saturday, March 14, 2009

Where the President of Youngstown State uses name-calling to respond to a question about history

Following is the letter that Dr. David Sweet, President of Youngstown State University sent to The Jambar, the student newspaper on that campus, in response to my ad titled A Question for the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. I do not see Dr. Sweet's letter as showing his better side, which I am certain is in there somewhere.

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Dr. David C. Sweet
Office of the President
Youngstown State University
One University Plaza
Youngstown, Ohio 44555

14 March 2009

Dear Dr. Sweet:

On 17 February The Jambar published a letter from you addressing the fact that the editorial board had decided to publish an advertisement written by myself titled “A Question for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.”

You quote Dr. John Silber who was President of Boston University when I ran an ad in the student newspaper there in 2000 titled “Holocaust Studies: An Appointment with Hate?” In responding to the text of my ad Dr. Silver wrote:

“Anyone who cares about the truth is under the obligation to think twice before offering a platform to those who systematically lie by denying the Holocaust. Those lies are at the heart of the advertisement submitted by Mr. Smith."

In your own letter to The Jambar you quote Dr. Silber’s defamatory accusations against me as if they were true. At the same time you do not even attempt to demonstrate that I am in fact a “systematic” liar (I am not), or that there is one lie in the advertisement Dr. Silber attacked (there is not).

You quote President John Silber: “The advertisement begins by misunderstanding the idea of the university. It is not merely to promote intellectual freedom, but also to promote intellectual responsibility in the pursuit of truth. It is contrary to the ideal of the university to promote deliberate lies.”

If you read the text of that ad—and I suggest that it is good policy for university presidents and even regular faculty to read those texts they quote from—you will find that is not what I wrote. I wrote that “one” ideal of the university is to promote intellectual freedom. “One.” It’s there in black and white. So not only have you used Dr. Silber’s words to unjustly defame me, but you have carelessly used his words where he misquotes me.

That the president of Boston University should misquote me, and the president of Youngstown State University should repeat this misquote in the context of identifying me as a “systematic” liar, would be a small affair (who am I?) if the effective purpose of these slurs were not exploited to forward the taboo against all critical observations made regarding gas chambers and other stories included in the Holocaust canon.

You then write about going to the movies with your wife where you saw a motion picture about the Holocaust based on a novel. I hope you had a pleasant evening. Such a story, recounted in this context, suggests that because you watch motion pictures made in Hollywood about the Holocaust you can, without shame, participate in defaming as systematic liars those of us who have questions about gas chambers and other conventional Holocaust stories.

In this same letter to The Jambar you write: “I encourage the editors of The Jambar to join with our Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies to sponsor a forum exploring the range of issues covered in your editorial, as the concept of "promoting intellectual responsibility" while protecting freedom of speech.

A sound idea. I will be pleased to attend, and to participate, in the forum you suggest. If I see you there, maybe we can get together, have a beer.

Sincerely,

Bradley R. Smith

NOTE: I will copy this letter to colleagues and others.

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Today I copied this reply to Dr. Sweet to 150-plus Youngstown academics and student organizations. I'm thinking that a couple students who attend the upcoming "round table" set for the 19th might find herein a could hints for recognizing how the central question being addressed -- is not addressed, but evaded. Perhaps it will occur to a couple students to ask why this should be. I do not expect such questions to issue from the mouths of any academic who shows up at the round table. But then, I've been wrong before.

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