Following is an email communication I received from Shearle Furnish, Dean of
the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Youngstown State University. It is in response to my letter addressed to the President of Youngstown State, Dr. David Sweet, where I demontrated that while he had referred to me as a "systematic liar" he could not demonstrate that I am, that he did not attempt to, and for other silliness. I copied my letter to Youngstown faculty and student organizations. Dean Furnish here attempts to protect the reputation of Dr. Sweet. Not easy. Following the Dean's letter, we have Dr. Butz's reply.
24 April 2009
As the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at Youngstown State University, home to the Jambar, YSU History Club, and the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies, I have been offered the opportunity to write the response to your email of 14 March.
The History Club hosted an open forum on your ad, the Jambar’s decision to publish it, and controversy in the wake of publication. The forum took place in the student center on campus, on the evening of Thursday, 19 March 2009. I judge that the attendance fell between forty and sixty, mostly students but also small numbers each of administrators, faculty, and community members. Asked by the officers of the History Club to do so, I moderated the discussion. It was covered by the Jambar, whose student editors also attended as interested parties.
Though there were those present who challenged the propriety of the paper’s decision to accept and run your ad, they were few, and little of the evening’s proceedings dwelt on the rather clear first-amendment issues, upon which the student editors spoke with eloquence and confidence. Instead, the interest of those assembled turned quickly to your views on the Holocaust, the State of Israel, the movement you call "revisionist," and the rhetorical strategies of your ad, blogs, and published address. No one in attendance spoke in your defense.
Your blogs and address at the Tehran Holocaust Conference make frequent, derisive reference to “professional” scholars’ evasion of your One Question, so I imagine you might have enjoyed two hours of sustained attention from scholars young and old, paid and unpaid.
Contributions to the discussion shed light on why “professional scholars,” as you call us, regularly and correctly choose not to engage you. Your One Question, besides constituting a reductio ad absurdum, also begs the question. As one who has charged hoax, the burden of proof belongs to you. You might feel an intellectual annoyance similar to that which readers of your ad experience if I ask you, “can Bradley Smith prove (to my satisfaction) that the number of Jewish dead by gassing at Auschwitz is zero?” Neither question answered to the satisfaction of the interrogator would prove anything much larger than itself. Scholars know a trap of sophistry when they see one. You argue disingenuously with the academic community. They choose not to respond.
For another instance, it was clear to those in attendance that your chief interest is not “the gas-chamber fantasy” but rather the founding of the modern state of Israel, whose legitimacy you seek to draw into question by suggesting that somehow it would make a difference if the dead at Auschwitz were shot or starved, not gassed, or if the total number of dead could be shown to be fewer than historians have estimated or calculated. Again, you argue disingenuously.
Other problems mentioned at the forum were the hardly checked violence of your imagery and expression and your sarcasm, which is supposed to pass for wit. If instead you were to play fair with the broad field of evidence, do genuine scholarship and research, and avoid trying to prove propositions by negatives, you might enjoy more attention from “professional scholars.” Otherwise, they have much other good work to attend.
Shearle Furnish, Dean
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
ARTHUR BUTZ REPLIES
May 4, 2009
Dean Furnish's letter is difficult to follow because the sole useful
paragraph is confusing and I don't see the "reductio ad absurdum"
She asks "can Bradley Smith prove (to my satisfaction) that the
number of Jewish dead by gassing at Auschwitz is zero?" Your
original "one person,with proof" question did not have the
parenthesized "(to my satisfaction)".
You surely can't be annoyed by his question, except in one sense I
shall mention below. To the extent that there is any burden of proof
that is yours, you have the proof.
Revisionists have shown, not strictly speaking that there were
no gas chambers at Auschwitz, but that the specific alleged
homicidal gas chambers there were not that in fact. It follows
that not a single Jew was gassed at those sites, nor a single
gypsy, nor a single unemployed poet, nor a single ex-weightlifter.
On the other hand your challenge ("one person, with proof") is
regularly met, with forensic and other evidence, in ordinary murder
trials. The question you are asking is not "sophistry" but
perfectly routine. Prosecutors do not "feel an intellectual
annoyance" in being asked to provide proof beyond the usual
standard of a reasonable doubt.
Both your question, and Furnish's question, are acceptable bases for
useful historical discussion. Her assumption that they are not is
supportable only on the basis of radical skepticism, which must be
rejected if historical discussion is to be possible at all. For
example, I can't prove George Washington was our first President
in the sense that I can prove a mathematical proposition, given
the axioms, or in the sense that I can prove there are trees in
front of my home, but surely I believe in George. If the
Dean's game is radical skepticism, we ought to be annoyed, but
we ought also note the nature of the intellectual refuge she
Arthur R. Butz