Tuesday, April 14, 2009

U Virginia Cavalier, Conflicting Views Complete History

A remarkably mature column by a Cavalier columnist. If anything more like this shows up anywhere I would appreciate being notified of it. And then, where is Rana now?


Conflicting views complete history

By Faraz Rana

Published: Friday, April 7 2000

HISTORY, I had always believed, was a study of facts. Questioning these facts was questioning what's already happened. At least in my history class, it was something that rarely was done.

In college newspapers throughout the country, Bradley R. Smith, founder of the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH) is attempting to make sure history does not remain indisputable anymore. CODOH publishes a pamphlet called The Revisionist, which includes essays that raise doubts on several aspects of the Holocaust.

Despite the unpersuasive nature of their arguments, CODOH should unreservedly be given the right to publish their opinion. As Smith argues, "It promises a free press, open debate, intellectual freedom, and political liberty. What's wrong with that?" However, the massive controversy that followed the publication of the pamphlet in Wake Forest University's student newspaper, The Black and Gold, along with the Duke University Chronicle's refusal to print the publication has ignited a debate over the limitations of freedom of speech. Additionally, The Cavalier Daily has refused to publish The Revisionist two years in a row.


The main controversy stems from whether the CODOH should be allowed to express its opinion through a public forum, such as a school newspaper. Aside from the constitutional right to freedom of speech, publishing the CODOH's pamphlets allows for a free flow of ideas and opinions. There is nothing to disclaim that some of those ideas may be offensive and perhaps even wrong, as it seems likely in this particular case.

However, there is no validity in a free marketplace of ideas if it only allows for popular and accepted opinions. An opinion retains its right to be expressed as long as it remains an opinion, and isn't forced upon people as the "truth."

The CODOH, by attempting to convince people to think differently, asserts that its principle aim is to promote "intellectual freedom." It never asserts that its motives are to establish a fact and even maintains that, "we remain open to being convinced that we are wrong."

An even more important consequence of allowing for this "intellectual freedom" is that it allows people to rectify any inaccuracies the CODOH might harbor of the Holocaust. While it may be hard to convince Smith and CODOH through simple rhetoric, publicizing their views probably will bring forth enough knowledgeable scholars to dispute the substance of their opinion, as opposed to their right to form one.

If those who are challenging the CODOH's right to form opinions are confident that their views are "objective fact," then they should be secure in the belief that any misperceptions can be proven wrong. Suppressing dissenting views will only foster their growth, and allow any inaccuracies of history to continue. In the article "Holocaust ads in campus paper renew revisionism debates" published in The Chronicle, editor of Duke's newspaper Katherine Stroup said, "my overreaching philosophy is that harmful, hateful ideas have to be aired so people can be aware, respond and act against them."

The study of history is not entirely a study of facts, as I had once thought. It is also a study of the interpretation of facts. Thus, while history itself will never change, our study of it remains boundless.

(Faraz Rana is a Cavalier Daily viewpoint writer.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Faraz Rana is now a corporate attorney in New York City.