DAVID DUKE'S candidacy for president is the product of years of social decline and the not-so-benign-neglect of the plight of desperate Americans. When times get tough, the politics of hate points to scapegoats. In the United States, as well as across Western and Eastern Europe, xenophobia, ethnic rivalries, and racial attacks are on the rise.
Exploiting this climate of fear, organizations like the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) and the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust - whose shared goal is to prove that the Nazi mass murder of Jews never happened - have launched a campaign to win the hearts and minds of America's college students and faculty. This assault on the truth raises questions: Should campus, professional, and intellectual publications publish these groups' announcements and advertisements? Does refusal to do so abri dge free speech?
Mark Weber, one of the founders of the Visalia, Calif.-based Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, is a former member of the neo-Nazi National Youth Alliance. He is editor of the newsletter of IHR, which was founded by William Carto, a well-known anti-Semite. Mr. Weber's partner, Bradley Smith, has orchestrated the attempt to blanket campus newspapers with expensive ads claiming to offer "proof" that the Holocaust is a fiction. Ads have run in newspapers at the University of Michigan, Duke Universi ty, and Cornell University.
IN another move, the Journal of Historical Review, the official organ of the IHR, published an appeal for scholarly articles in the newsletter of the Organization of American Historians (OAH), the nation's most prestigious historical association. Seeking scholarly substantiation for their views, the IHR solicited articles on "FDR's campaign to get the US into war, the background to the Pearl Harbor attack and the treatment of European Jews during World War II."
Publications are not obligated to publish racist or anti-Semitic gibberish that violates the elementary canons of truthfulness. Prof. Joyce Appleby of UCLA, the president of OAH, in an open letter disagreed with the executive committee's decision to print the Journal of Historical Review's ad. She argued: "The First Amendment protects free speech. It does not enjoin organizations like ours to publish repugnant announcements. To use this constitutional guarantee of free speech to justify running the Insti tute's call for papers is to evade professional responsibility under the guise of upholding civil rights.... We are constantly discriminating between good and bad evidence, good and bad methods, good and bad interpretations, and even good and bad faith."
At Duke University, historians took out their own ad to protest the Journal of Historical Review's blatant lies about Holocaust scholarship. A growing list of campus publications - at UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania, Harvard, Yale, Rutgers, Wisconsin, and Brown - have refused to run the ad. Even the editor of the Dartmouth Review, the notorious conservative campus publication, refused the ad, arguing that a publisher has the right to choose ads based on "decency" and "accuracy."
I am a passionate advocate of free speech: I have held my nose, closed my ears, and covered my eyes to protect the First Amendment rights of repugnant speakers, repulsive exhibits, and vile demonstrations. But I applaud those who refuse to run the ad and profoundly disagree with publications that have granted legitimacy to a group dedicated to distorting historical truth. Scholars and students must reject the wrongheaded view that they are obligated, in the name of free speech, to abdicate all journalist ic or academic standards when somebody, waving money at them, requests that their announcement be published.
Every day editors make choices about what to publish. A bond of trust is created between a publication and its readers. If editors knowingly publish historical lies, that trust is violated. With the power to publish comes the responsibility to seek truth and avoid defamatory propaganda. Mr. Duke's candidacy is only the most sensational manifestation of the new politics of demonization. History does not repeat itself precisely. But if we've learned one thing from the rise of Nazism before World War II, it
is that too few people took it seriously or challenged its legitimacy. It is a history lesson worth remembering.