Holocaust Denial Ad in Harvard Crimson Causes Criticism

When I went to bed, it seemed like a highly regrettable minor production snafu. When I awoke, it had apparently become an international incident.  In case you’ve been stuck on no-journalism-allowed island in the last 48 hours: In what its editors are calling a mistake, The Harvard Crimson ran a Holocaust denial ad on page seven of its Tuesday issue.  (Hat tip to the wonderful Adam Hemphill.)

Do I believe it was an honest mistake?  Yes. I also accept the editor’s apology and explanation that running the ad “was a logistical failure and not a philosophical one.”  And I applaud the good faith and highbrow response of groups such as Harvard Hillel, whose president and director declared the Crimson response “extraordinary mature student leadership in response to an unfortunate situation.”

These things happen.  The Crimson mea culpa– a public apology, a basic accounting of what went wrong, and promises to stop running the ad, return the money accepted for the ad and to work harder to ensure it is a one-time mistake- has been pitch-perfect.  What has become the main deplorable aspect of this “unfortunate situation”: the over-hyped press coverage.

I respect that anything occurring at this school among schools will resonate more widely than incidents elsewhere, especially on campuses without Ivy or those enrolling mere mortals.  But the news reports I have seen so far, embodied by an overblown CNN piece, are a step too far.  Take the start of CNN’s story (with my critiques in parentheses):

“Harvard University, one of America’s premiere academic institutions, is coming under fire for running an advertisement in its campus newspaper questioning the reality of the Holocaust.”  (Show me one person who is actually blaming the *university* for its *independent* student newspaper’s snafu and I’ll show you someone with half a brain and absolutely no understanding how journalism at the college level works.)

“Recently named for the second straight year as the No. 1 school in U.S. News & World Report rankings of American colleges, Harvard is known for its rigorous scholarly standards and prestigious reputation.  On Tuesday, however, The Harvard Crimson, in what it said was an error, ran the Holocaust-questioning advertisement . . .”  (Meaning what, exactly?  That the newspaper betrayed the school’s high-ranking or that these things should not happen at such “rigorous” or “prestigious” places or at the very least could be more understandable at schools not ranked No. 1???)

The photo accompanying the CNN story also literally includes smokestacks from what is left of the former Birkenau concentration camp, a horrifically off-kilter visual that again appears to place the newspaper (and according to the lede sentence, the entire university) in opposition to the atrocities that occurred there and elsewhere during World War II.

A note to CNN and others: This is NOT World War III.  It was an honest logistical mix-up by one of the world’s finest student newspapers, without any hint of a hidden ideological agenda.  Take a step back.  Take a deep breath.  Accept the apology.  And realize, these things happen.  (One exampleOne more.)

3 Responses to “Holocaust Denial Ad in Harvard Crimson Causes Criticism”
  1. Julie says:

    Do you expect people to be able to write off a case of accepting/running an ad by bigots that easily? I understand, ads slip through cracks, we don’t get paid to work on the paper and have other things in life to deal with. But other people without working knowledge of being at a paper aren’t always able to do that.

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