Friday, June 26, 2009

Bowling Green State University, Bortel to Smith

Mr. Smith,

Thank you for your comments in your letter dated June 22, 2009. I will try to be brief in my response.

Yes, you mischaracterized our conversation. Your three-page letter attempting to capture our exchange parses and interprets my responses to make the issue seem to be about whether or not the gas chamber aspect of the Holocaust was a manufactured attempt by the Jews and the Western Allies to create a sense of moral equivocation for their military bombing tactics of the last few years of the war. Your selective recollection of my comments was also very disappointing. And you attempt to invalidate my responses by sensing my “discomfort” in having the conversation. That is another gross mischaracterization.

Our conversation is not the issue.

The issue is the advertising policy of The BG News and your ad. We have a policy designed to maximize the protection of commercial or political speech. The policy states, “All advertising is subject to approval by The BG News. No advertisement will be accepted that is discriminatory, degrading or insulting on the basis of race, creed, sex or national origin.” That’s it. It’s intentionally broad to protect the rights of commercial free speech. At our publications unit, full-time staff, not students, make the final decision on acceptance or rejection. That has been our policy for nearly 30 years. Other publications, under other advising and management models, have student advertising managers and/or a blend of editors and advertising student staff that make those decisions. Other publications mirror our model.

Your ad, in our determination, is racist and discriminatory to Jewish people in that it asserts certain aspects of the Holocaust didn’t exist, based simply on the premise that Eisenhower didn’t mention that in his book. It is racist in that it attempts to discredit an important aspect of Jewish heritage. The body of published books and photos, survivor accounts and internal records of the Nazis (sic) Party, Gestapo and the SS, provide a more compelling argument that it did.

You may want to schedule a series of campus panel discussions where you can debate either local historians on the merit of your argument, or find campuses to sponsor your own panel of experts, to fully vet your position. The campus newspapers, including The BG News, would cover it.

Is the issue here free speech and censorship, or what some may characterize as anti-Semitism cloaked in a broader argument of debating the Holocaust?

And for accuracy sake, please note that you referred to me as a professor, I am not. And you sent your original email to my son, not to me.

Thank you.

Bob Bortel
Robert W. Bortel
Director of Student Publications
214 West Hall
Bowling Green State University
Bowling Green, Ohio 43403

[Contact numbers deleted by Editor]

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