The Harvard Crimson is the official student newspaper of Harvard University. The paper has come under intense criticism as a result of an advertisement it ran questioning the reality of the Holocaust. The paper claimed that that ad was rejected over the summer and run in error.
The advertisement, submitted by Bradley Smith, founder of the Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, challenged readers to “provide, with proof, the name of one person killed in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” The ad also raised questions about then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s account of World War II.
In a CNN article, Crimson President Maxwell L. Child stated that three weeks of summer vacation between the submission of the advertisement and the publication of the paper was the reason that the ad “fell through the cracks.”
Was the publication of the ad simple incompetence injected into a fine tuned editorial review process? Was it something more?
On the most basic level I am willing to accept that the ad “could” slip through the ‘cracks” of the Crimson editorial/ad review process. If the SEC can be incompetent enough to miss Bernie Madoff, it is not a far stretch believing that the staff of the Harvard Crimson can achieve that same level and miss the Holocaust Denial Ad.
I approached Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz for his input. He stated:
“If a newspaper eschews all substantive standards and publishes all adds,regardless of their content(the”taxicab”approach) then I would have no quarrel. But if it rejects some ads because they are patently false,offensive etc and did not exercise its freedom to reject this one,it has some explain to do. I thinkis in the latter category unless it had dramatically changed its long time policies.”
When I asked if he accepted the University’s explanation that the ad simply “fell through the cracks” he stated:
“Probably but this issue has recurred on many campuses”
I won’t tried to read the mind of Professor Dershowitz but I will read between the lines. That does not sound like a ringing endorsement of the Maxwell Child’s “oops statement”
Without a smoking gun, we will probably never know whether this was real or feigned incompetence on the part of The Crimson. We do know however that in end there had to be a real person that put real eyes on that ad and made a conscious decision to let it run. Who is that person? What is his/her explanation? Where did the buck stop right before that ad went to print? We may never know.
For guidance we can look to the tried and true axiom. It’s always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Did someone at the Harvard Crimson go through that exact thought process?
Again, we may never know…
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