February 9, 2006


A Holocaust Denier Resurfaces (Scott Jaschik, 2/8/06, Inside Higher Ed)

A new generation of Northwestern University students is learning what many of their predecessors found out during their time in Evanston: A tenured member of the faculty is also a prominent Holocaust denier.

Arthur R. Butz, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, has been sharing his views about the Holocaust since the 1976, when he published The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry, shortly after he received tenure. Northwestern observers say that he tends to make a splash with his views every few years. Since students are by their nature transient, and weren’t around for previous debates over Butz, many were shocked when Butz’s views again became known this week.

The Chicago Tribune (free registration required) reported that Butz had come to the aid of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been under fire for his assertions that the Holocaust is a myth. In recent interviews with the Iranian press, the Tribune reported that Butz said of the Iranian president and his views on the Holocaust: “I congratulate him on becoming the first head of state to speak out clearly on these issues and regret only that it was not a Western head of state.”

Many Northwestern students were shocked by the report, which was circulated widely online at the university, prompting considerable discussion — among Jewish students especially — of how to protest Butz. [...]

Adam Simon, executive director of Hillel at Northwestern, said that many students were quite upset to learn about Butz. Hillel organized a forum scheduled for last night at which students could talk about their feelings — and what an appropriate response would be to Butz’s statements. “Students are concerned. They want to know that this is a safe space for Jewish life, which it is, but they want to be reassured of that,” Simon said.

Simon said that he did not favor trying to have Butz fired. “There is freedom of speech and he hasn’t broken any laws or university rules,” Simon said. [...]

One thing that Hillel will not do, Simon said, is just sponsor events to say that the Holocaust happened. That approach would legitimize Butz and not accomplish much of anything, he said. “If the headline on all of this is just ‘Jews say Holocaust happened,’ then we will have done something wrong,” he said.

Debating raving crackbrains like Butz or Peter Singer only does them a favor. The duty of all decent-minded people is to make fun of them.

Posted by Matt Murphy at February 9, 2006 10:51 PM

To not fire him is to condone his views.

Posted by: oj at February 10, 2006 8:27 AM

This is an instance in which the Jews could use a lesson or two from our Muslim brothers. A nice massive demonstration or two, along with a refusal to contribute from Jewish alumni, might move Northwestern off the ludicrous claim that academic freedom requires that a professor of electrical engineering be allowed free rein in his Holocaust-denying hobby.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 10, 2006 8:29 AM

Where has everybody been? Butz was a huge issue when I was in grad school at Northwestern in 76-77. Nothing was done then and nothing will be done now. Too many insiders have a stake in tenure absolutism. In the profs' view any crack in the absolute sanctity of tenure would put them on the slippery slope to accountability.

To the faculty embarrassments like Butz are a small price to pay for absolute personal security.

Posted by: Jeff at February 10, 2006 9:43 AM

Matt, If someone interjects a slur into a conversation, ridiculing them no less than trying to engage them in a debate, is useless. Ignoring them with perhaps a shrug or an eye roll, works best.

David and oj. Demanding that Butz be fired would only make him a martyr and the attendant publicity would make even more people aware of his crackpot ideas.

What alumni and students of all faiths, not only Jews, should do, is demand standards for faculty that disallows propaganda in the classroom and on campus. Failure to comply to result in dismissal. The university, by allowing Butz and others to exploit their positions on the faculty to promote their political agendas, is tacitly approving them.

Posted by: erp at February 10, 2006 9:47 AM

erp: I suspect that if he were out there ridiculing the Prophet the reaction in all quarters would be different. After all, with the publication of those silly cartoons, our once great newspapers have finally found an issue that trumps freedom of the press.

The difference here isn't anti-semitism, it's that Jews don't take this stuff sufficiently seriously. I don't think that's something Jews should be proud of.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 10, 2006 10:09 AM

Jews should speak up about anti-Semitism. Sure, but whose minds would they change? Holocaust deniers have a wider agenda than just Jew baiting. They're looking for moral equivalency for Arabs ousted from their lands involuntarily and Jews voluntarily emigrating from Europe and other parts of the world to Israel.

David, as usual, you make many interesting points, but "Real Life" rears its ugly head, so my attention must be diverted.

Just a quick point, Jews had been seen throughout history as many things, but militant wasn't one of them. Now the Israeli soldier and the legendary Mossad are just that, stuff of legends and I'm not sure the mostly liberal, intellectual Jews in the U.S. are quite comfortable with that image. There have been millennia of pious scholarship and only a few decades of Jewish military might for them to wrap their minds around.

When Jews start voting Republican, we'll know they've successfully made the transition. Gosh, I hope that'll be soon. I really, really don't want a President McCain

Posted by: erp at February 10, 2006 11:44 AM

put out some anti-muslim tracts with butz name on them, fill his email account with false messages supporting views in the documents, etc.

Posted by: toe at February 10, 2006 11:52 AM

No, just paint a cattle car on the wall outside his office. Put pictures (actual photos of the SS going about their business) on the wall. Build a small stack of Zyklon-B canisters in the hallway (perhaps even spelling his name - BUTZ). Put a few lampshades on stands next to the door. Issue business cards with his name and swastikas on them, and number each one with a tattoo. Scatter some teeth on the floor, painted gold. Rename the hallway "Auschwitz Alley" or "Dachau Drive" or "Sobibor Street". And like that. Punish him with the truth.

And if Northwestern doesn't like it - then do the same thing in front of the President's office. Have a "die-in", with a hundred students wearing striped rags with yellow stars on them, right in the hallway in front of the President's door. Don't leave until he has to step over each and every one to go home.

If the students want to protest, there are plenty of ways to do it - write something that gets linked to Instapundit and the university will have to respond.

Posted by: ratbert at February 10, 2006 12:34 PM

Any relation to Earl Butz, Sec. of Agriculture under Nixon/Ford. Although without the sense of humor. Earl Butz famously quipped that Coloreds wanted....ah..nevermind.

Posted by: h-man at February 10, 2006 12:42 PM

erp: I'm not looking to change minds, I'm looking to drive Butz off the Northwestern campass and mau mau his fellow travelers into silence, just like bigots, homophobes and Bush voters.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 10, 2006 1:18 PM

Freedom of speech does not extend to employment. It just means you can't be prosecuted, it doesn't mean you can't be fired. How can so many people get this wrong?

Posted by: Robert Duquette at February 10, 2006 3:29 PM

I actually browsed the Amazon page for his book (anybody else notice that the book's title is a rip-off of Alfred Rosenberg's book The Myth of the Twentieth Century?). It's disheartening to see so many apparently smart reviewers praising this book, but informative to learn why they think he's convincing. Any student of crank historians will recognize the method: Fish around for bits of discordant information, exploit technical disagreements among scholars as proof that the subject being discussed is a gigantic lie, etc.

The reason not to debate this guy is simple: He is, as one reviewer noted, an "articulate idiot." A bad argument can sound convincing in a standard debate format, if the debater is smart and knows how to play his audience -- i.e., knows how to make it sound like he knows what he's talking about. Taking him seriously is dangerous -- better to simply mock him.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 10, 2006 3:34 PM

By the way, here's a picture of him. Naturally enough, he looks like a loon.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 10, 2006 3:36 PM


I'd heard of him before, too: I could've told you he was an engineering professor at Northwestern who was a Holocaust-denier, although I couldn't have previously attached a name to that description. Kind of interesting that I knew that and so many Northwestern students didn't.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at February 10, 2006 3:45 PM