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Sometimes you have to pause, or even take a step backward, reassess the work you've been doing, then take another run at it from a new angle. This letter, then, will inform you how it came about that I decided to kill Smith's Report (SR) and what's on the burner for the immediate future.
The original purpose of Smith's Report was to keep financial contributors and those who supported me in other ways up to date on what I was doing through Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust (CODOH) and the Campus Project to promote open debate on The Controversy. I wrote about the successes I had, and about the failures. SR was never intended as an outreach publication, never had a print run of more than 700, and I never charged for it. SR was my way of informing and saying thank you to those who helped me one way or another.
Making a living with revisionist activism is almost impossible. I was fortunate in that The Institute for Historical Review (IHR) provided me with a financial safety-net. While it wasn't enough income to support us—my wife, our two children and my mother—it nevertheless added a note of stability to an otherwise shaky financial picture. I earned additional income from IHR when I was able to solicit radio and TV interview's for the Media Project.
IHR did not contribute to CODOH or to the Campus Project. These were my projects and I was entirely responsible for funding and directing them. Everything was going swimmingly until the 1993/94 season. The Campus Project was exploding on college campuses across the nation. I became so busy simply managing the project, which included an endless stream of time consuming but absolutely-necessary-to-do interviews for the print press, both on and off campus, that I couldn't make time to report on it fully and publication of SR became increasingly irregular.
While I was able to raise money. to buy ad space and otherwise promote the Project, I was unable to transform the success of The Project into enough operating funds to rent an office, or hire one full-time employee. I relied entirely on our daughter, Magaly, to help me a few hours a week in the comer of our family room and then out here in the garage.
The more successful the Campus Project became, the more work I had to do and the less time I had to get on top of it. There were days when I was on the phone four, five, even six hours with reporters, editors, students, media people. I was a one-man band. As publication of SR became increasingly irregular, my ties to my contributor list weakened. At the same time, developments within revisionism were beginning to take place which would further complicate an increasingly difficult situation.
David Cole and I had formed a handshake partnership to produce revisionist videos and I made it my responsibility to introduce him into every revisionist circle possible. My view was that we needed young men and women, and particularly young Jews, in revisionism. David is talented, knows video, is very well organized intellectually, and he's courageous. I was able to raise the funds for him to travel to Europe and update all the video work that had been done in the camps in Poland, Austria and Germany. When he returned he wrote and directed what remains the most widely viewed revisionist video yet produced: David Cole Interviews Dr. Franciszek Piper.
Nevertheless, because he's a Jew, there were misgivings on the part of some supporters about my association with David. Each time I introduced David into a new revisionist circle I would stop hearing from a couple contributors. I had rather expected that might happen but had decided up front that I would go straight ahead with what I thought right. Meanwhile, the profit we made from selling the Cole/Piper video made up, for the time being, losses from contributors who had grown uncertain of what David and I were up to.
About this time The Troubles at IHR began to affect my income. IHR Staff had rebelled against its founder, Willis Carto, taken control of the Board of Directors and thus the Institute. (I've discussed this in back issues of SR.) I saw the struggle as one for editorial control of the Journal of Historical Review. Because I understood that Carto wanted to change the editorial direction of the Journal, while I wanted it to remain what it was, I sided with Staff. For revisionists, the result of the split between Staff and Carto was profound, as it divided IHR supporters, perhaps a third of them leaving IHR to support Carto and his new journal, The Barnes Review.
Because I was open in my support of Staff against Carto, a significant number of those who sided with Carto stopped contributing to CODOH, and support for Smith's Report demonstrably weakened. A second direct consequence of The Troubles was that when Carto initiated a series legal actions against IHR staff, IHR legal costs began to drain IHR of its already diminished operating funds. Consequently, beginning in late 1993, IHR was unable to maintain the safety net it had provided me with before. One month IHR could send part of what it owed, the next month none of it. The downward spiral of my financial fortunes was now too clear to be mistaken. The irregularity and diminished circulation of SR; loss of contributors because of my association with David; and, most seriously, the much diminished support from IHR.
You might wonder how, if my financial fortunes wore falling so precipitously, I managed to provide for my family on the one hand, and manage the really (forgive me) brilliant Campus Project of 1993/94 on the other, the fallout from which is still being discussed on college campuses all across the country. The answer is simple.
Smith's Report had caught the eye of an especially important contributor. This one contributor,—for the purposes of this letter I'll call him "Mr. C."—not only took up a lot of the slack when IHR found itself unable to meet all its obligations, but funded David Cole's trip to Europe that made the Cole/Piper video possible, and was, alone, responsible for funding the largest part of the 1993/94 Campus Project. We were a terrific team. We were going head to head with mainline Jewish organizations which have access to budgets of tens of millions of dollars and hundreds if not thousands of legmen and we were carrying the day.
Nevertheless, Mr. C. was unable to take up all the slack. I began to borrow money against credit cards to pay household expenses. At the same time, I was aware of how all my eggs were ending up in the basket of one contributor and of the danger which that placed me in. But I was running like crazy to keep up with The Project and it didn't occur to me that I should slow down or back off or take the time to think about security. It was one or the other—staying on lop of The Project when it was at its most successful, or trying to plan my financial security. I was riding the tiger and I wasn't going to jump off in the middle of the run.
Then it happened. Mr. C. suffered a personal catastrophe. He had to largely withdraw from the Campus Project. He was finished for the short run, and possibly for the long run. He did not leave the struggle entirely, he still helps with part of my household expenses, but it was a new ball game. There was no one left to pick up the slack. I was suspect because of my association with David, and suspect because I supported IHR staff in its struggle against Carto. My contributor list was smaller than it had been in five years. The single most significant contributor to The Project was financially disabled. Smith's Report was not producing enough income to warrant its publication. I was three thousand dollars in credit-card debt.
I still had one trick up my sleeve. It was because of this one trick that I was willing to risk walking farther and farther out on the plank. David Cole was working on a second video documentary addressing "the physical evidence for the gas chambers." I was confident I could turn it into a blockbuster, the first-ever "crossover" revisionist video. It was the video we were to have had in the fall of 1993 but couldn't get. Now I would make it the heart of the Campus Project in the 1994/95 season, where it would cause apoplexy among the intellectuals.
But David had begun to run into one brick wall after another. He couldn't get all the pieces of the video together the way he wanted. One piece or another was always missing. The 94/95 Campus Project was delayed, then delayed again. The promotion and marketing of the video was pushed back, then pushed back again. The time came this past February when we acknowledged that we would not get the second video. We just wouldn't get it. Period. It was over.
I had no more tricks up my sleeve. I was staring at a black financial catastrophe roaring down on me like a freight train. There was nothing to complain about. You don't complain about fate and coincidence. They have their way with you in any event. By now, the first week in March, I owed $7,000 on credit cards and another couple thou to my printer, the telephone company and the rest of that gang. The freight train was roaring in my ears. There was danger in every direction I looked. Something was about to, had to, change.
Then, with a wonderful sense of timing, Willis Carto wrote an open letter addressed to me accusing me of all sorts of bad behavior, including the charge that I have milked IHR of a small fortune. He's sending the letter all over the place. The charges are not true, but many people will believe them, and I will lose yet more contributors.
There were two things I was certain of: I had to meet our household expenses, and I had to continue to forward the argument in support of intellectual freedom with regard to the Holocaust story. I had only two projects to work with. A newsletter written for a small and diminishing contributor base, and an unfinished book manuscript.
My heart was with the book manuscript—that's where my heart has always been—but I felt I couldn't take a chance with the book. No publisher will touch a book on revisionism written from the point of view of a revisionist, particularly the way I write. SR already existed, and it still had a loyal core of supporters. In the past I had put the immediacy of the Campus Project or other work first and SR second. If I wanted to develop a successful newsletter I would have to put the newsletter first and the rest of it second.
I would have to get SR on schedule, sell it by subscription rather than give it away, find a way to market it to a broad, crossover market because my name has become mud with too many revisionists, and still use it as a fundraising tool. If I couldn't earn an income and fund CODOH and the Campus Project through the newsletter, I would have to find some other way to do it. And then, when I had time, if I ever did have time, I would be able to work on the book manuscript.
I set to work in December to get Smith's Report on schedule. Issue 19 went to the printers the first week in January, issue 20 the first week in February and issue 21 the first week in March. They were good issues and they were on time. But by March, my back was to the wall financially. Plus, at the last moment, I got caught in the middle of the Faurisson/Cole flap over Struthof SR21 was completed when I decided I had to kill the original lead story (about David Irving at Berkeley) and some other stuff so that I could run the Faurisson letter on Struthof, which between the lines was critical of Cole, together with Cole's disrespectful reply to Faurisson.
During the previous three months I had been racking my brain to develop a solid promotional concept for Smith's Report but hadn't yet found one. How could I market SR to a crossover readership? Producing any kind of periodical is one thing. Doing it at a profit is another. I was drifting in the direction of increasing the page count and the number of writers published in it. Sixteen, 20, 24 pages or more. There I would have room to do interesting stuff. That would transform an essentially insider's newsletter into a package that, possibly, would be marketable to a crossover readership as well. I felt confident I could get plenty of material. Of course, a 24-page newsletter would entail much more work than one with 8 pages. I would have to put more work in the newsletter itself, and I would have to put the rest of my time—all of it—into marketing. Marketing is a full time job in itself. How was I going to set aside time to work on the book manuscripts? (Yes, there's more than one.)
It was Monday morning, March 6th. I was in the garage at the computer, and it had finally gotten through my thick skull that if I wanted to earn a living publishing a newsletter and fund CODOH's Campus Project with it at the same time, I would have to devote all my working life—all of it— to writing, editing and marketing the newsletter. I would have to really put the newsletter first. I would have to put the book manuscript last—permanently. I didn't want to do that. I really didn't want to put it aside again. I'd spent the last ten years setting aside one manuscript after another.
In 1987 I managed to get one book into print, Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist, Part I. Because of the already increasing work load, I laid Part II aside so many times it went stale and I never did finish it. In 1992 I published four excerpts from Part II with the idea of putting the rest of it out quarterly and using it as a promotional tool but by then the Campus Project was taking over everything and I couldn't follow up. The long and short of it is I have three book manuscripts in various stages of completion, including the one I'm working on now which I call, tentatively, Break His Bones.
For some reason I was up on my feet now walking in circles in the little open space in the center of the garage. I realized I was one small circle away from committing myself to a project that would require me to forget the book manuscripts once and for all. I had reached a turning point. I was sixty-five years old. That made a difference. It was as if I had one last chance to turn to the work I really wanted to do. I was either going to follow my heart and turn to the book, or I was going to put the book aside yet one more time and commit myself to developing a market for Smith's Report. It couldn't be both. I had to choose one or the other. Before, it had always been difficult to make that decision. This time it wasn't even close.
SR21 had been at the printers four days, waiting for a press that was down to come back on line. It was to be printed that morning. I called the shop and told them to hold the presses! I'd be right over. I turned to the computer and wrote out the Notice Notice Notice announcing that issue 21 of Smith's Report would be the last issue. I beat it over to the printers and pasted the notice up on page seven of SR21 and I said, Now it's ready, go ahead and run it. I was out of the newsletter business. I was going to turn to what the really practical thing is to turn to, in the sense that no matter how many times you forget or how many times you turn to everything else under the sun but what you know you should turn to, nothing is ever more practical or productive than following your heart's desire.
I can hear voices muttering in the background— What in hell does that mean? And will it matter?
It means I'm going to put the book before everything else and complete Break His Bones in the next four to six months. I've worked on it in my spare time for three years. Now I'm going to work on it full time until I have closure. It's not Part II of Confessions, though it addresses similar issues. You'll recognize the voice. I write the way I write and my voice isn't going to change much now. I know up front no mainline publisher will touch the manuscript, I know I'll have to publish it myself, but I know too that it's a marketable book. I know up front I will be able to use media, radio, TV, cable, the print press both on and off campus to promote and market the book myself, and I know the book will matter.
My relationship with media, which is where you sell books, is very different now than it was when I published Confessions. I've learned a lot about promotion since then. I know what media is and how it works. Media doesn't care about newsletter publishers one way or the other, but it loves book authors. Going to media with a book which, on the one hand, is about revisionism but on the other is a story told in the context of one individual struggling against great odds, together with others, to champion intellectual freedom for an idea both hated and dreaded by influential social and cultural forces—is a powerful media gambit. There is no project I could possibly represent to media and the public with more confidence than Break His Bones.
What is oftentimes not understood with respect to the Campus Project is that in spite of its extraordinary success in drawing attention to revisionism, it produces no direct income. I have a family to take care of. Directing The Project is not a paid position. All the planning, fund raising, the daily management of The Project, all the follow-up with reporters, students and other media people, the extravagant costs in terms of time and advertising money, it's all part and parcel of The Project, but it produces no regular income and no guaranteed income. My mug shot in the New York Times and Time magazine are worth the work it took me to get it in there but it paid nothing. I didn't get paid to fly to New York to appear on Donahue, or to be reviled in a hundred campus newspapers or in the mainline press. I did it for free. There was no other way for me to do it.
Now I'm going to make another way to do it. I'm going to use the book as the primary (not the only) instrument of the Campus Project and for opening up media again. Break His Bones may be the wrong book for many other purposes but it's a very good book for our purposes. It will open one door after another. If I can get media for Break His Bones similar to that which I got for the educational/ political advertisements we ran in the campus press—and I have no doubt whatever that I can (I'll discuss all this in upcoming letters)—it will change the nature of public discourse on The Controversy as it stands now. It will draw supporters in a way the first ads did not, and because a book is a product, not merely a statement, it will produce new sources of income. Is that good news or what?
If you are one of those who has been with me for vears, or who has come on board more recently but has kept in touch with information or contributions, you will receive a monthly letter, much like this one but briefer (I hope), keeping you up to date on how I am progressing with Break His Bones, and The Project in general (a couple things are cooking on that front even while I write this.)
On the surface my situation looks bleak. My credit-card debt is over $9,000 now. Under the surface I fee! inexplicably hopeful, confident even. I don't know why.
There are some situations in which optimism must be described as a character weakness. I've told you all this behind the scenes stuff, maybe more than you wanted to know', because I think it right that you understand how significant your support is to me, no matter how modest.
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Bradley R. Smith|
|Sources:||Smith's Report, no. 22, April 1995, pp. 1-4|
|First posted on CODOH:||Sept. 19, 2015, 5:12 a.m.|