Smith's Campus Brief: Northwestern University

January/February 1997
Published: 1997-01-02

Northwestern University

Arthur Butz is in the eye of a storm once again at Northwestern. Butz published The Hoax of the Twentieth Century twenty years ago. In all these years not one professor at Northwestern, or any other academic or scientific institution, has been able to come to grips with the book. Many are eager to vilify Butz and willing to see him silenced, but none is willing to publish a scholarly paper demonstrating where Butz's Hoax is wrong about everything, or anything. What are they going to do with what's left over?

Sheldon L. Epstein was teaching a course on engineering design at Northwestern when he discovered Butz had established his own Website. This led to Epstein including a discussion of the ethical and social responsibilities of engineers, referencing particularly the Jewish holocaust. This was outside the perimeters of his course description and Epstein found he was dropped as an instructor.

I feel a good deal of sympathy with Epstein. I agree with him that engineers should take seriously the ethical and social responsibilities of their work. Why not? Why shouldn't the folk who design their miracles of modern technology take a look at the moral issues raised by their progeny? The hardware and other equipment used to maim and destroy one culture, one society after another around the globe? From what I hear there is more cooking with these people now than ever before. But Epstein got in over his head with this one. He disrespected (this ugly word is now acceptable in some of our universities) the rules of the people for whom he was working (Butz, on the other hand, has lived impeccably within the guidelines of his employers for twenty years, never burdening his engineering students with the ethical and social responsibilities of historians with regard to their profession) and he believes Butz's Hoax can be easily refuted, a sign that Epstein is unable to read Butz from an informed perspective, or even with an open mind.

If Epstein is allowed to reference the holocaust story with his engineering students, how will the department keep Butz from doing the same? Nobody at Northwestern is worried about Epstein. Everyone there is concerned with Butz. The administration and faculty understand perfectly well what the risk is. They know why no scholarly papers have been published challenging Butz's Hoax. Butz is the one with the power. Butz is like Emerson's babe in the cradle. His mere presence captures the attention of all who come near him.

There is no way to deal with Butz other than to keep the lid on him. He must be suppressed--no matter that a dozen Sheldon Epsteins have to be sacrificed. Butz is a fuse leading directly to the big bang of revisionist theory. Northwestern is no place for intellectual freedom when a man like Butz begins to practice it. He's the one man there who might let the cat out of the bag.

The Chicago Tribune picked up the story on 29 December. The Daily Northwestern reported it on 9 January, and the next day there was a piece in The New York Times by Pamela Mendels. Mendels even interviewed my old nemesis, Professor Peter F. Hayes, a tenured history professor who teaches a course in Modern Germany and the holocaust story at Northwestern.

In the Spring of 1991 Professor Butz was being attacked in a gratuitously insulting manner. On 4 February the Daily ran a paid protest, signed by some 150 Northwestern professors, Peter Hayes being one of them, titled "Holocaust Distortion at Northwestern." The text they signed included the statements that the professors found "this association of our University with Arthur Butz's malicious book to be intolerable ... The Holocaust is a dark chapter of history, and it must never be rewritten or forgotten."

I was flabbergasted to find that 150 professors would sign a statement demanding that an historical event never be rewritten, as I had always thought that that was what historians made their living at. The next thing I knew, an article appeared in the Daily (28 February) announcing that Butz fireside canceled after student's protest. The fireside had been organized by a Northwestern student dorm. I decided to place a small advertisement in the Daily to announce the existence of Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust and access to revisionist literature. The Daily accepted the ad and ran it one time a week for several weeks. A private party suggested I run a large ad rather than a small one and that he would pay to insert it. I was working on a leaflet at the time titled The Holocaust Story: How Much is False? The Case for Open Debate. I adapted it to a full page essay advertisement and it ran in the Daily on 4 April. It caused an uproar.

On 11 April the Daily ran an opinion piece by Peter Hayes with a head reading Some plain talk about the Holocaust and Revisionism. The professor wrote,

"Of course, there's been no suppression of free inquiry into the Holocaust. It is precisely because of extensive and vigorous research by bona fide scholars over the past three decades that we now know not only several of the facts that Smith manipulates in his ad, but also a good many that he does not want you to believe. There's no point in writing more here about the factual deceptions and distortions in Smith's ad."

No point in writing more? He hadn't written anything about the alleged factual deceptions and distortions in the ad. Not a word. He was doing with my little article what he and his professional colleagues had been doing with Butz's Hoax for the previous fourteen years and are still doing today. Hiding. Pretending.

The Daily was professional enough to print my brief response, running it as Smith to 'sissy' Hayes: Let's share a beer.

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Bradley R. Smith
Title: Smith's Campus Brief: Northwestern University, January/February 1997
Published: 1997-01-02
First posted on CODOH: Sept. 15, 2000, 7 p.m.
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