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In its Dec. 8 edition, the college paper ran a half-page advertisement in which Smith attacks the integrity of Holocaust authorities like Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel. "The unspoken ethical and intellectual scandal in Holocaust Studies is that key materials used in these programs are soaked through with fraud and falsehood," Smith writes in the ad, "led by the use of false and ignoble eyewitness testimony."
Smith, who maintains a website (www.codoh.com) dedicated to casting doubt on the Holocaust, asks student newspapers around the country to publish his ads. In recent years they've been accepted by schools ranging from Brandeis and Georgetown to Notre Dame and Northwestern.
In October, Smith placed a 27-page insert in Hofstra University's Chronicle that questioned whether millions of Jews had actually been slaughtered in Europe during World War II. Smith's revisionist writings, which included a chapter called "Gas Chamber Skepticism," prompted harsh criticism on the Hofstra campus. Now, they've also met with protest at SUNY Stony Brook.
After hearing from Jewish leaders and irate students, the Press business manager, senior Daniel Yohannes, says the paper regrets publishing the ad. Yohannes says the decision to run "Holocaust Studies: Appointment with Hate?" was made by the paper's executive boarda group that includes both editors and advertising staffbut insists most of the blame should be his. "As business manager, I take responsibility," he says. "I was the one who accepted the advertising."
The Press' response is a far cry from the entrenched position of Hofstra Chronicle editor Shawna Van Ness, who defended Smith's insert as an exercise of free speech and refused to apologize. It's also a far cry from an unsigned Press editorial that accompanied the ad. "[W]e didn't find the contents of Mr. Smith's ad horribly offensive," the Stony Brook editors wrote, "and we thought it might be a good opportunity to hammer home our favorite tenet: freedom of speech."
After a campus outcry Yohannes describes as "very rapid" and "very calm," that favorite tenet was apparently thrown out of the window. Yohannes says the paper's staff researched Smith before accepting his ad, but not enough to discover he was anti-Semitic. Once the staff figured out he was a bigot, they no longer backed their earlier declaration of Smith's right to express his views "in an open forum."
"The ad appears in support of a hate group, and we do regret that," Yohannes says. "We didn't know who Bradley Smith is."
Yohannes says the paper now intends to pursue a story next semester about people who front for hate groupsa strategy the paper could have pursued in the first place while still running the ad.
Smith's ads usually appear in clusters, says Holocaust scholar Richard Levy, a professor of German history at the University of Illinois at Chicago and host of a cyber discussion group on prejudice against Jews, H-Antisemitism. Levy says that when a wave of the ads crops up, there's little that offended readers can do except publish their own opinions, since cracking down on public funding for student papers usually just gives ammunition to hate-mongers like Smith. "He can't be stopped," says Levy. "When we succeed it doesn't do us any good, and when we fail it doesn't do us any good.