Jason Smathers’ Feb. 25 article titled, “UW community strong enough to face ad, reject it,” is an unfortunate step back for The Badger Herald. Clearly, Smathers wants to maintain the paper’s principles, and he believes the student community can reject the ad at first glance. The most troubling statement I found was, “Any student of this university who views the page (or, perhaps even the link) would recognize his mission as a wholesale rejection of truth and, in turn, dismiss it.”
That is unfortunately incorrect. Many students at Wisconsin have little, if any knowledge about the Holocaust. If they see something that looks legitimate — like Bradley Smith’s website, for example — they might accept it as fact, and the comment board, now at a round 100, has exhibited that problem.
Making things more troublesome are the comments below the article. We’re starting to see more holocaust deniers use The Badger Herald as a platform for their blatantly false and truly offensive rhetoric. Although Smathers no doubt hoped the UW community would reject the Holocaust deniers at first glance, it seems as if students have little to counterbalance the hatred posed on the comment board.
This raises an important question: Is Holocaust denial anti-Semitic? If yes, how could the Herald staff allow any such comments onto the website? How are Holocaust deniers any different from those bashing Jews following the AEPi article? I don’t see much of a discrepancy, and though you might have to look a little bit deeper to see how the two relate, it is not hard to see how the two issues are intertwined.
I was initially somewhat pleased with Smathers’ decision to keep the advertisement up. After all, it was only text, about one square inch on a computer, and didn’t even catch my attention until someone informed me about it. I, like Smathers, hoped the Wisconsin Jewish community would realize the Herald’s quest to strengthen first amendment rights.
But that obviously didn’t happen the way Smathers wanted. Instead of igniting a debate focused on the validity of Smathers’ statements, the Herald has turned into a place where Holocaust deniers can influence a young audience that — unfortunately — has yet to form their own opinions. That, coupled with Bradley Smith’s most recent posting on Youtube, where he commends the Herald for defending his rights, seems to point towards a major backfire for the Herald Board of Directors.
I know every member of the Herald Board of Directors, and I know not a single one of them has an ounce of hatred toward Jews. However, the mere fact they could allow the Herald to make such a terrible mistake is inexcusable. For Smathers to compare the Holocaust to the 9/11 attacks is unfair and irresponsible, and though the Herald has had a history of controversial advertisements, this goes too far. Holocaust denial is no different from racism or sexism, and though Smathers claims the ad isn’t of libelous nature, those who are affected by it would claim quite the opposite.
I don’t think this problem will linger much longer. I will not boycott this newspaper and I will continue to support it when it deserves my support. I am sure that when the advertisement passes so will this setback. It is simply unfortunate that the UW campus’ largest and most successful student newspaper will now permanently exhibit anti-Semitism on its website. That is one stain that is very difficult to remove.
Jonah Braun ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in Hebrew and Semitic Studies. He is also a former Sports Editor of The Badger Herald.