Shootout at U. Texas Student Newspaper

David Cole Guns Down University President in Op-Ed Exchange on Free Speech + the Holocaust
Published: 1993-02-28

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On 19 February, after rejecting three separate advertisements from CODOH, the Daily Texan, the student newspaper of the University of Texas (Austin), published a half­page "Open Letter to the Daily Texan" by David Cole. The young Jewish revisionist's letter, written in a direct response to the Daily Texan's Orwellian refusal to publish a paid ad for our trail­breaking videotape on Auschwitz, "David Cole Interviews Dr. Franciszek Piper," is as engaging, as powerful, and as convincing a statement on who we revisionists are, on what makes us tick, and why our right to be heard is inseparable from the scholarly community's right—and duty—to hear us, as has ever appeared on an American university campus.

Three days later, University of Texas president Robert Berdahl, a self-styled "German historian" laying claim to vast knowledge of the Holocaust, countered with a response so petulant, so limp, and so laughable that it would have been sneered out of any intellectually healthy classroom. (Both Cole's and Berdahl's articles are reproduced on pages 4-5 of this newsletter.)

How did the professional historian and university president wind up being lugged off, feet first, to the intellectual equivalent of Boot Hill, after a head-to-head academic confrontation with a young revisionist intellectual? Pride goeth before a fall. Hypocrisy and stupidity are helpful too.

The text for the proposed Cole/Piper videotape ad was identical to that in the flyer you received from us last December. When I learned that the Daily Texan had refused this ad, just as it had last spring's "Human Soap" ad and my "Holocaust Controversy" ad the fall before that, I called the paper's advertising director, Jim Barger, to discover why. Along with the usual reasons, there was a new one. Some DT staffers suspected that the headline on the video ad, "Auschwitz Director Comes Clean About Fraudulent 'Gas Chamber' in Exclusive Interview" played cruelly and covertly on the title of the earlier ad about "Human Soap."

"Comes clean"—"Human Soap"… Get it?

I thought that was too comic, but I was astounded too. How could I have been so blind? Why hadn't I made the same deep, intuitive connections myself and seen to it that the headline for the ad was worded differently? Soap gets in your eyes, eh?


David Cole's open letter to the "Daily Texan". Click on it to read it.

While David and I hadn't anticipated so puerile a rationale for censorship, we were prepared for the rebuff. David had suggested a letter to the Daily Texan in response to the rejection. He called it Plan B, likening it to the tough-cop soft-cop routine. Whereas the ad for the video, intended originally for a revisionist audience, was hard and to the point and meant as a marketing tool, his letter to the editor would emphasize the free speech issues, would be personal, and the language would be "softer."

Meanwhile, I was receiving calls and notes from UT students urging me not to give up, that there was substantial support on the campus for publication of a revisionist point of view. I wasn't being told that students were yet buying revisionist theory. They were very much saying that they were tired of being pushed around by arrogant activist cliques representing the administration, faculty and certain students and spearheaded by Hillel. They were unwilling to passively accept the curtailment of their own intellectual freedom to placate the private agendas of others.

So David wrote his open letter, and I submitted it as a paid advertisement.

No sale! The open letter was rejected by both the editor and the ad manager of the DT. I promptly appealed their decision to the three­member newspaper review committee, which overturned that rejection. It was a vote in our favor, the first I had received at UT in a year and a half!

But DT editor Geoff Henley appealed that decision, and the ad went before the full Texas Student Board of Operating Trustees. The same board that had censored each of the three previous ads. I had no reason to feel particularly hopeful.

Nevertheless, this time we won. Of the seven votes needed to overrurn the review committee's decision, the forces for obscurantism and intolerance were able to muster only five. I have been informed that no student on the board (which contains a majority of non-students) voted to censor Cole's letter. If this is true, it looks like some of the most narrow-minded elements in the Texas administration and faculty, and at Hillel House, have cause to tremble.

David Cole's open letter ran the next morning. It produced the predictable responses from the usual special interests, culminating in President Berdahl's less than majestic intellectual fumbling. When students, or anyone else, compare David's honest, savvy, dedicated standpoint to Berdahl's inane posturing, both our friends among the students and the truly open-minded will find for Cole and revisionism, while partisans of censorship in the name of holocaust orthodoxy will be busy grinding their teeth over their champion's ineptitude.

This latest Daily Texan affair leaves an especially sweet taste in my mouth. This year, the bad guys were laying for us. We thought because we have a product to sell rather than straight opinion that the censors would be less brazen. Not a chance! But we developed a fall-back plan, implemented it and stuck with it.

We have not only advertised our Auschwitz video, all the more compellingly, to the entire University of Texas community, but thanks to David Cole we have spoken personally, forthrightly and effectively, in a free revisionist voice, to the scholars and students of a great American university.

Daily Texan, 22 February 1993

Holocaust ad violates TSP's own standard

Robert Berdahl

Robert Berdahl, Holocaust ad violates TSP's own standard

The Board of Operating Trustees of Texas Student Publications has final and complete control over decisions to accept or reject paid advertisement in The Daily Texan.

Neither I, as president of The University of Texas at Austin, nor any other person has the authority to overrule decisions of the board. This operating procedure has, for the most part, served the University and The Daily Texan well through the years, for it has provided a clear framework for support of the principle of freedom of the press, a principle in which I firmly believe. I am very disappointed by the decision to run an advertisement that seeks to foster doubts about the reality of the Holocaust.

Although I have no authority, and seek no authority, to overrule the board, I feel compelled to express my strong beliefs that the board should have seen fit to reject the advertisement as patently unsuitable for the pages of The Texan. There is no legal or constutional obligation on the part of a private newspaper or a student-operated public newspaper to publish such historically inaccurate and offensive advertisements.

In my opinion, the advertisement violates the board's own standards for acceptable advertising. Those standards obligate the board to protect readers from "misleading, inaccurate, fraudulent, doubtful, or ambiguous representation."

The board's standards also require it to refuse advertisements that contain attacks of racial or religious nature, or that might destroy the confidence of readers or advertisers. "This includes advertising that is misleading, deceptive, or that grossly exaggerates or makes unwarranted claims," according to the board's code of advertising acceptability standards.

The advertisement in question is and will be a source of great pain and anguish to the Jewish people. The advertisement is not only an insult to one religious group; it insults everyone who embraces religious tolerance in a free society.

Free and open discussion of public issues in news stories and editorials is one thing; insulting a community's standards of decency in paid advertisement is quite another.

As a German historian, I have spent a great deal of time in Germany. I have visited the death camps and have studied the history of the Holocaust. It happened.

There are no events in the modern history of Germany that are better documented than the Holocaust, The archival records are clear, and the visual evidence as well as the countless peronal testimonies document what happened at Auschwitz and Treblinka and the other death camps throughout Central and Eastem Europe.

The appearance of this advertisement is an unfortunate occasion tor The Daily Texan and the University. I am confident, however, that the campus community will use this occasion as an opportunity to renew its opposition to religious prejudice, racism and bigotry in all their forms, and to reaffirm and strengthen its dedication to the humane principles that underlie our democratic society.

I suggest that everyone read Lucy Dawidowicz's The War Against the Jews, Eugen Kogon's The Theory and Practic of Hell, Raul Hilberg's The Destruction of the European Jews or one of the other numerous historical books on this period.

Berdahl is president of the University.

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Bradley R. Smith , Robert Berdahl
Title: Shootout at U. Texas Student Newspaper, David Cole Guns Down University President in Op-Ed Exchange on Free Speech + the Holocaust
Sources: Smith's Report, no. 13, January/February 1993, pp. 1, 4.
Published: 1993-02-28
First posted on CODOH: Aug. 31, 2015, 7:12 a.m.
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