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UW-Madison’s Badger Herald Must Remove Holocaust Denial Ad

February 26, 2010

For whatever reason I always have higher hopes and ideals for Madison than other places around the state.  Especially among the college crowd at UW-Madison.  Call that pride in my city.  I love Madison and what we stand for.  Therefore it was troubling and rather sad to read that the  Badger Herald, a campus newspaper, decided to allow the posting of an advertisement for a Holocaust denial site.   While I cherish  freedom of speech, and know newspapers serve an important role in our nation, I also am aware  that both come with responsibilities. 

How the ad came to be placed in the Badger Herald will give everyone a clue as to why it should never have been accepted.   In February the Herald ran an article that received a number of anti-Semitic comments from readers.  (Why online newspapers can not,  or will not, have the same ground rules for comments that printed versions of papers have for “Letters To The Editor’ is a matter that needs to be illuminated.)  Sensing, or hoping, that there was a larger group of like-minded anti-Semitic folks in the community, Bradley Smith, who is associated with Holocaust deniers, worked to place an ad in the Herald.  To put it plainly, the desire to have the ad was based on anti-Semitic comments.

For a mere $75.00 the Badger Herald placed the ad, and sold out their journalistic ethics.  What is the going market rate for the soul of a journalist these days?

To pretend that the Holocaust denial ad is akin to some other product or business that buys a link or space on the online version of the newspaper is just plain silly.  Worse yet it is dangerous.  Everyone knows that there is an increase in violence from right-wing extremist groups, of which Holocaust deniers are a part.  A detailed report from the Department of Homeland Security in April 2009 warned about these fringe groups. 

The report cited concerns that anti-Semitism is on the rise, and some groups are blaming the loss of U.S. jobs and home foreclosures on “a deliberate conspiracy conducted by a cabal of Jewish ‘financial elites’ ” in an attempt to recruit members.

Common sense, and the above report from 2009, underscore why I think it stunning that the Badger Herald accepted this hate-filled ad.  The only reason Bradley Smith wanted the ad was to lure other like-minded folks together.  For what purpose?  I think the Badger Herald, given the gravity of these extremist groups, needed to ask themselves that question, and probe the larger consequences.

Badger Herald Editor Jason Smathers tried to spin his decision in an editorial as if he were the good guy in a Frank Capra film.  You can almost hear the music soar as he writes that nothing is “so offensive that we cannot bring ourselves to hear them,”   He adds that he has faith readers will be smart enough not to pay heed to the ad.  That seems like a funny message from a newspaper that sells advertisements in the hope they are effective.  While most readers will turn away from such a hateful ad, we are all too aware in these times in which we live that it takes only one tortured mind to create madness.

The action by the Badger Herald needs to be roundly denounced, and the paper needs to remove the Holocaust denial ad at once.  By keeping the ad in place does not make any grand statement about First Amendment rights.  It does however send a strong message that the common decency and intellect of the UW-Madison, and the way we think about all those who live in Madison and call this place home, is not as solid as we hope it to be.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. lesterhunt permalink
    March 6, 2010 4:24 PM

    I blogged about this here:

    One thing I did not say there: I admire the courage of editor Jason Smathers, in appearing on a panel at UW on which, from published accounts, he seems to have had attackers and no defenders.

  2. warmwarmerdisco permalink
    March 4, 2010 12:06 AM

    This, seems to me, to be about pride — swallow it and remove the ad.

  3. February 27, 2010 11:19 PM


    You are from Massachusetts.

    You equate a dispute over Lincoln and politics to the extermination of the Jews?

    The way you framed your comment about Lincoln, and the fact you cant stand up against those who are trying to re-write history makes it clear where you stand. Also the site you tried to hustle here (which I removed) is a joke.

    Want an ad here…..ask for my rates.

  4. Joe permalink
    February 27, 2010 10:55 PM

    A bunch of censorship jerks those college newspapers if they want to censor this ad. HISTORY and that would include the holocaust, is available for criticism. In the USA we have a policy to criticize ALL our former presidents with revisionism for good or bad. Even Abe Lincoln has a great deal of different viewpoints that could change our minds on whether he was one of the greatest presidents or most dangerous. We can have a difference of opinion on Lincoln, Jefferson and most of our Founding Fathers, are we Anti-American? Is the criticism “hate Speech” Of course not, but discuss an alternate viewpoint on the holocaust and all hell breaks loose. These college kids need to stand up for free speech and tell these outsiders to go to hell.


  5. February 27, 2010 6:34 PM

    What’s up with canceling a 7-word ad that had no hate in it whatsoever?

    In point of fact, Bradley Smith (no relation) concedes that the Nazis destroyed Eastern European Jewish culture during WWII. How hateful is that?

    He doesn’t question “the Holocaust,” he questions the existence of homicidal gas chambers. If someone questioned the existence of flogging under slavery, would that make them a “slavery denier?”

    And don’t you think the Department of Homeland Security has a vested interest in promoting the idea that we are under growing threat from “extremist groups” whether we are in fact or not? Why are you taking their word for things as they move ahead with the destruction of the Bill of Rights?

    There is no logic to your editorial. Re-think it.

  6. Lynn permalink
    February 26, 2010 1:32 PM

    Right on! I love your passion over this issue, and the way you set it to words. Thanks. The Herald should pull the ad at once.

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