This week we will start with a reader mail again… though this one is in response to last week’s submission and is quite harsh on your editor:
Re: Is Nationalism GOOD?
Dear Anya Leonard, It says very little for your professionalism, your ethics, or your credibility that you would print, in your newsletter, a letter from a reader calling the history of WWII and Germany “fake news” and include them in a round-up that you so cheerfully deem “very worth reading.”
It’s disgusting and forces me to question your commitment to academic research and advocacy.
You should be ashamed. I’ll be unsubscribing from your newsletter and blocking your Twitter account.
Well, first off, I was (believe it or not) extremely pleased with Jane’s email. I was happy she caught it and wrote in expressing her views. I had actually included the mailing on purpose in order to prompt the next discussion.
But before we delve into that, I would like to quickly address the accusation at hand. We believe publishing is not equal to endorsement and this is evident by the wide spectrum of ideas present in every mailbag.
Moreover, I can most definitely assure all my readers that I am not a Holocaust denier. Indeed, many branches of my family tree were unceremoniously shorn off in one single day, ancestral villages and communities ‘alive’ only in memory and on plaques.
Moreover, I’ve been to Auschwitz twice, the second time while pregnant – a poetic triumph in my mind. So the idea that the camps, the events both during and leading up to WWII were all ‘faked’ seems absurd.
So why print a reader mail that suggests that? Excellent question, dear reader!
Unfortunately antisemitism (which is tragically on the rise) grows in the shadows and is enflamed by censorship, whether it’s well intentioned or not.
The whole “don’t shout fire in a theater” analogy is the perfect example. While many erroneously feel that this statement justifies a level of control over what is or is not printed, the actual events tell a very different story. The case of Schenck v. United States included Yiddish socialists protesting the draft… the exact opposite from inciting violence.
So where does this leave us? When we see or read a bad idea… what should we do to combat it? How do we make the change we want to see?
This is particularly pertinent right now. There is a movement to ban a platform because of an individual podcast or podcaster, for example. While I’m not saying ANYTHING about the particulars of said podcast (we have enough controversial topics at hand at the moment, thankyouverymuch), is shutting down the medium in which it is presented Right?
From truckers blocking borders and Iranian teachers crowding plazas to individuals rebelliously going to school or carefully penning letters to the editor… there are many ways -both violent and nonviolent- that folks make their voices heard.
Of course there are plenty of fantastic (many apocryphal) tales of protest from the ancient world. On the comic end, we can think of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata, where the women on mass withhold sex in order to force their husbands to negotiate for peace. Women once more take center stage in the story of Agnodice, the first female physician who was sentenced to death for the gall of practicing while female, until the citizen wives stormed the courtroom and demanded her release.
On the historical spectrum, in 508 B.C., the people took to the streets to protest the system in the hopes of revolutionizing politics in Athens, resulting in Democracy… and in ancient Rome, the plebs would abandon the city en masse in a protest emigration and leave the patrician order to themselves, a process formerly called the secessio plebis.
While protests still take place in our modern era (which is more than evident for anyone taking a passing glance at the newspaper), we have many more options for distributing ideas. Beginning with pamphlets and concluding with twitter hashtags, everyday people can chime in on big topics, whether it’s national policy, the education of our children, or the dangerous undercurrents of prejudice.
But now that we all have a voice, what should we do with it? Once more I ask you, dear reader, how do you combat bad ideas? What is the best way to make change?