Letter to the Editor to of The Daily Northwestern

Published: 2017-06-15


The Daily Northwestern

 [email protected]


Dear Editor

I am submitting this Letter to the Editor as a response to the April 28 Op-Ed piece by Ben Trachtenberg.  It is also written in remembrance of Teacher Bian Zhongyun and in support of academic freedom for teachers and professors.

Ben Trachtenberg called for the dismissal of Northwestern professor Arthur Butz for committing a"form of passive harassment."Professor Butz',sin was writing a book which "attempts to disprove... commonly-accepted knowledge..." Along with twisting logic and the English language, Mr. Trachtenberg shows a disconcerting disregard for academic freedom and an even more disconcerting concern for the "off-campus" personal activities of teachers.  

Academic Freedom is defined as, 

"freedom of a teacher to discuss or investigate any controversial social,economic,or political problems without interference or penalty from officials, organized groups, etc."  That seems simple. In contrast Mr.Trachtenberg's theory of "passive harassment" and his jumbled attempts at justifying the firing of a tenured NU professor are specious and incoherent.  They echo the Red Guard chants agains "cow ghosts and snake spirits." He also seems to share a desire with Red Guard students to publicly humiliate professors and teachers.In fact, to be honest, I could not follow how firing a long term qualified NU professor is anything other than nasty and bigoted.I certainly do not understand Mr Trachtenberg'sneering at Provost Raymond Mack'spraise of NU's administration as “'great First Amendment people.'” I think NU should be very proud to be First Amendment people!

I went out and bought a copy of Professor Butz's book to see what the fuss was about.  It was written 40 years ago.  Without going into details, the book is a critical but accurate analysis of popular views of Holocaust history circa 1975.  While the book is full of generally unknown facts, there is no false information in it.  In fact, the last 40 years of scholarly research has supported many of Professor Butz's points.  I wonder if Mr. Trachtenberg has even read the book.

If Mr. Trachtenberg is truly concerned about Professor Butz's book, he should notice another bit of "commonly-accepted knowledge," ie. that respect for the First Amendment, support for academic freedom, and open discussions are a far better way to fight ignorance than purging teachers.  CODOH founder Bradley Smith noted,  “The enemies of tolerance are not always the same. Nor are their targets. However, one certain sign of bigotry is an unwillingness to allow others to speak."

Yours for free speech, academic freedom, and accurate history.


David Merlin

Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust 

PO Box 20774

York  PA 17402

[email protected]



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Author(s): David Merlin
Title: Letter to the Editor to of The Daily Northwestern
Published: 2017-06-15
First posted on CODOH: June 15, 2017, 12:16 a.m.
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