What Would Happen If …

Published: 2015-07-31

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The following is an imagined memorandum or e-mail from the colleague of a Harvard University professor who, in an undergraduate history class, stated a “sensitive” historical fact concerning the Holocaust. No professor at any American university is known to have done any such thing in any such setting, nor would it seem at this time even remotely likely, not only because of the opposition of donors and funding agencies to such heterodoxy, but because of the ability in the present day for students to file complaints with the federal government under Title IX of the US Education Amendments of 1972 of a “hostile learning environment” (see tinyurl.com/pfk48ly)

For the time being, the situation is entirely hypothetical, although with the increasing inroads being made by revisionist scholars, an incident of this kind, or even perhaps a series of them, would seem practically inevitable over a sufficient period of time. However, Harvard in particular would seem an unlikely venue for early instances of such a momentous event. The percentages of Jewish students and faculty, which in reality change over time, are meant to be illustrative, not necessarily factual. Both professors are assumed to hold tenure.

Date July 10, 2015
To Dr. Heedless Historian, Harvard
[no real person, yet]
From Dr. John Q. Colleague
[not anyone’s real name, either]
Subj Historical Heterodoxy
With your now-famous “no written order” remark, and refusal to retract or amend it in any way, you’ve crossed a line that can only get you “killed” professionally, and drag down a lot of the rest of us here at Harvard with you. The coverage, starting in our own Harvard Crimson and escalating to the Wall Street Journal, the Jerusalem Post, and the United Nations itself, must exceed your own expectations for it.

Or did it? Why did you have to blurt such a thing, in an undergraduate classroom containing something like 40 percent Jews, along with the rest of us, steeped all our lives in the historical brew consisting chiefly of Nazi guilt for the Holocaust? Our faculty, itself 25 percent or more Jewish, seems to stand shoulder-to-shoulder against you, along with the rest of the world, at least so far as it is reflected in the media.

OF COURSE no written order for the Holocaust from Hitler or anyone in the level below him has been adduced as yet—every historian on the planet knows that. But in making such a bald statement to a group of impressionable undergraduates, you’re blatantly committing Holocaust Denial, a crime in many civilized countries, and worse than a crime here in Cambridge, where not only our student body and faculty ranks are almost 30 percent Jewish, but at least 80 percent of our donations are estimated to come from Jewish alumni. And that doesn’t even count the many millions every year that come from our Uncle in Washington, all now threatened by the flood of Title IX “hostile learning environment” complaints coming not only from your students, but from others here who read the Crimson articles and report feeling threatened. You could bankrupt our employer just with the legal bills for dealing with these complaints, let alone the discontinued donations and federal funding.

Your recourse to claims of “academic freedom” is not only pathetically hollow, it has failed utterly to protect the dozen or so graduate students whose dissertation committees you’re on, not to mention the poor sods who had the misfortune to be your teaching assistants and graduate assistants. These unfortunates have scrambled to take the unprecedented step of “firing” you from their associations with you, but they have already lost all their scholarship funding, and no other professor will take the risk of taking your (vital) place in their embryonic academic careers. Collateral victims, you could call them, but they’re YOUR victims, and I hope you appreciate that, even as you yourself head toward bearing the consequences of your rash action; I hear your publisher has opted out of the contract you had for the publication of your next book, which seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with the Holocaust.

I don’t hate the history you’re doing, nor even hate your discreet and suitably equivocal disclosure of it to qualified audiences, but I do very much hate your noising such sensitive information about in quarters which you know very well will visit massive retribution upon at least dear old Harvard, if not the professoriate generally. The allegory of Eve (and the Serpent) persuading Adam to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge pales in comparison with the expulsion from the Garden of Eden that we may experience as the result of your intemperate remark and subsequent obstreperousness.

And you’re going to lead the rest of us out of the Garden, be assured of that. You’ll be in early retirement by this time next year; I hear you’ve been relieved of all teaching duties already. Personally, I entertain hopes that Harvard will be able to buy off the feds with fines totaling under a billion. Adding legal fees to the amount I hope for, most definitely will break into the ten-digit range, which may very well affect my own retirement, nine years behind what yours would have been if you had not committed, and stuck to, the Gaffe of the Century. No one will ever be able to reckon how many millions—or billions—will be withheld by Jewish alumni and the many others who see things as they do.

We who embark on academic careers in the service of Clio, the muse of history, do so with full awareness of the public’s (and the government’s) preferences among the many things Clio might whisper in our ears, and the great among us succeed in so winnowing these mutterings as not only to advance knowledge, but as well to motivate those who provide our daily bread, be that bread from voluntary donations or from taxes exacted from the swarming, benighted multitudes.

As for you, you have made your mark, and I see it as a blazing H, if you will, upon your forehead, which you will wear throughout the rest of your life, wherever you may go to elude those who pursue you and your descendants in time. Even Turkey, where Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry and former (non-tenured) professor at DePaul University, hides today from the wrath of our own Alan Dershowitz, won’t be nearly far enough away from the scene of your crime.

I’m sorry, after all our years of collegial and personal collaboration, not to wish you well.

I just can’t afford to.


Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Jett Rucker
Title: What Would Happen If …
Sources: Smith's Report, No. 214, August 2015, pp. 6f.
Published: 2015-07-31
First posted on CODOH: July 31, 2015, 12:41 p.m.
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