Saturday, May 31, 2008

History News Network -- Day Three

On May 30, 2008, at 2:03 PM, Bradley Smith wrote:

Professor Shenkman: Well, you have changed your mind. Not a crime.

You write: “My assistant editor tells me we banned you because your posts indicated you [have] questioned the existence of the Holocaust. Sorry, but that's beyond the pale.”

And you write: “Our assistant editor notified me that you were bounced from HNN because you expressed doubts about the Holocaust.”

At the same time, in the Mission Statement of History News Network, HNN promises that: “Because we believe history is complicated our pages are open to people of all political persuasions. Left, right, center: all are welcome.” I too believe that history is complicated, and that it is a good to welcome people of all political persuasions.

It appears, however, that while contributors to HNN can be from any political persuasion whatever, they must not “express doubts” about the Holocaust or question “the existence” of the Holocaust. This implies that for HNN there are political persuasions that go beyond left, right and center. I would like to know what these political persuasions are and why HNN does not list them so that we can all be on the same page here. Can you do so now?

It is not clear to me what you mean when you write that I question the “existence” of the Holocaust, or what you mean when you write that I express “doubts” about the Holocaust. So far as I know, History News Network has not published a definition of what HNN holds the “Holocaust” to have been. If HNN has published such a definition, please point me to it. You don’t have to defend it. Just point me to it.

Without any knowledge of how HNN defines that event, or better that vast accumulation of events symbolized by the word Holocaust, I cannot be aware of what questions HNN permits to be asked about its own definition of the Holocaust, or what questions HNN prohibits being asked about its definition of the Holocaust. Without such a definition, how I can follow the HNN rules on such an exchange? I am left in the dark.

If the Holocaust can be said to include all the authentic misfortunes that the Jews of Europe suffered during the Hitlerian regime, neither you nor your assistant editor can demonstrate that I have ever questioned the totality of those misfortunes (“the” Holocaust), and you cannot demonstrate that I have ever expressed doubt about the totality of all those misfortunes (“the” Holocaust).

On the other hand, if HNN has published its own definition of the Holocaust (let’s agree that we both understand “which” Holocaust we are talking about here) I need to see it so that I can promise, if I believe the HNN definition of the event/s is reasonable (not perfect, only reasonable), that I can, in good faith, neither question it or express doubt about it.

At the same time, I admit that among the vast number of misfortunes suffered by the Jews of Europe during the Hitlerian regime, there are some claimed misfortunes that I do question because they appear to me to not yet have been demonstrated to be true, or appear to me to be demonstrably untrue, or simply unbelievable on their face. I do not think we would want to get into any of these materials here, as we are not discussing the accuracy of every element in the orthodox accounting of the Holocaust.

At bottom we are talking about the right, the necessity in a free society, of access to participation in a free exchange of ideas in an environment of openness and good will. Particularly in public forums such as History News Network.

In short then, I believe you are wrong to ban me from HNN discussions because neither you nor your assistant editor, or anyone else at HNN, can demonstrate that I ever questioned the Holocaust as such. I have no idea how HNN defines “the Holocaust.” Why would HNN not tell me what the rules are, specifically, yet ban me from its forum for “questioning” and “doubting” what is prohibited at HNN to question or doubt?

From: HNN Editor
To: Bradley Smith
Sent: Friday, May 30, 2008 2:12 PM

We make clear that our pages are not open to Holocaust Deniers. I am told that you expressed doubts about Auschwitz. That's enough for me.
See: " ... we do not publish the views of Holocaust Deniers ..."

From: Bradley Smith
To: HNN Editor
Sent: Friday, May 30, 2008 4:45 PM

Professor Shenkman: In the HNN FAQ you link to above I find this:

"WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE ROUNDUP DEPARTMENT? At the same time we do not publish the views of Holocaust Deniers in Roundup--or authors who take similarly extreme positions. Including them in Roundup would indirectly give them a credence they do not deserve. We do of course from time to time run articles, excerpts and news stories about people who hold obnoxious views like Holocaust Deniers."

OK. This addresses the HNN Roundup Department. Am I to assume that the same standards are held for the HNN Articles page? For every page on HNN?

And BTW: What doubts did I express about Auschwitz? Where did I express them?

And most importantly: is there not one detail in the orthodox history of Auschwitz that can be questioned? Not one detail about which one can express a reasonable doubt, if it can be demonstrated to be reasonable? What are you saying here? For close to half a century the professorial class, as a class, forwarded the charge that some four millions were killed at Auschwitz. In the early 90s the professors came around to the idea that [only] about one million were killed at Auschwitz. If HNN were active at that period, in the early 1990s, would it have banned all those professors who were "denying" the four-million claim? Is that the standard of historical debate among academics that HNN is forwarding?

Again: what doubts did I express about Auschwitz on the HNN board? My memory -- and I have to trust to memory because the texts themselves have been dumped down the HNN Memory Hole by -- I don't know who, but it does not sound that you did it yourself. It does not appear to me here that you were particularly interested, or are now particularly aware, of what I was posting about the "Holocaust" on HNN (very little in fact), that you really don't know what I posted about Auschwitz (if anything), that you cannot tell me what statements about Auschwitz that I did make that offend what is prohibited by HNN rules.

In short: what "doubts" about Auschwitz are you talking about? Are you really familiar with any of this at all, or are you relying entirely on the judgment, without accompanying proof, of an assistant, which appears to be the case? Why set yourself up like this? It can't possibly be good for you, it can't possibly be good for HNN, and it gives the wrong signal to assistants who might have their own special agendas, especially when they can work behind the scenes.

I am willing to be convinced that I am wrong about anything I have posted on HNN, and I am willing to be convinced that I have expressed myself badly here and there and there. But I think each of us is talking about something here for which neither of us has a text to document that what was said was right or wrong, or was in good taste or bad taste. Where are the texts? What doubts?

"I am told that you expressed doubts about Auschwitz." That's what you write.

"That's enough for me." That's what you write.

I suggest that it should not be enough, not near enough, for the editor of a Web site that is run by historians, for historians. I suggest that you are being used here. It is well-intentioned, someone there sincerely sees me as a threat to her inner life, but that is not how a historian should run a Web page for historians. I am making these remarks based on the brief texts that you have sent me. Not on what someone has "told" me you wrote. Not on texts that have been "disappeared."

I sincerely urge you to base your decisions re myself on the relevant texts, not on gossip, rumor, and what an "assistant" relays to you behind the scenes. Or, as it just occurs to me, this knowledgeable person can himself provide the relevant texts. Surely he is using real texts in advising you on this matter. --Bradley

From: HNN Editor
To: Bradley Smith
Sent: Friday, May 30, 2008 5:01 PM

I am sorry but I am not spending any more time answering your emails.

From: Bradley Smith
To: HNN Editor
Sent: Friday, May 30, 2008 5:20 PM

OK. I don't blame you. You're busy, and you have hold of something here that you either don't understand, or do not want to understand. We'll see how it goes. --B

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