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Facts, Opinions and Lies: A Response to the Publishing of an Interview with Michael Thurlow

The editor-chief of The Baron has received much criticism surrounding their decision to publish an unedited interview with, Michael Thurlow: the leader of the National Socialist Canadian Labour Revival Party, an organization that could accurately be described as anti-Semitic, white supremacist, and racist. The views expressed in the interview, and an additional opinion piece written by Thurlow and published without commentary by The Baron are reprehensible to say the least, attacking Jewish people and First Nations, and providing justification for the posters put up by the group on UNBF’s campus. It is safe to say that I vehemently oppose the views expressed in both these publications, and fundamentally disagree with the reasoning behind The Baron’s decision to publish. The Baron’s editor-in-chief argues that in order to fulfill their desire to have their paper be unbiased, narrative driven, and neutral, they must publish anything that they receive, however distasteful, so that their readers can make a decision free of the coddling of a left-wing bias. Implicit in this argument is that The Brunswickan was tainted in their reporting of NSCLRP and the poster campaign because of this left-wing bias. However, The Baron and their editor-in-chief are wrong.

I am a Master’s student in History at the University of New Brunswick Fredericton, studying anti-Semitism in post-war Germany. I am writing this letter because I am concerned with The Baron’s decision to publish the Thurlow pieces, and especially with the defense of and justification for given by The Baron’s editor-in-chief. The Baron styles itself as “Uncensored. Unbiased. Completely Unafraid.” in its byline, and the editor-in-chief has explained in their justification that unlike the Fredericton campus’s Brunswickan, The Baron is not an activist newspaper. They argue that only by presenting everyone’s ideas can true dialogue occur. The editor-in-chief argues that they strive to be journalistically neutral, and trust that “students are smart enough to condemn racism on their own, and we don’t need to hold their hands on that.” In short, unlike The Brunswickan, which coddles their readers and presents an inherently biased opinion that racism is bad, The Baron upholds a true journalistically neutral narrative that empowers students to condemn the racism they read on their own and will publish anything so that everyone can learn for themselves.

The problem is, they are not presenting a neutral, unbiased perspective by simply publishing Thurlow’s ideas unedited and without context. Michael Thurlow’s ideas misrepresent and falsify history, attack Jewish people and First Nations. By publishing his ideas, The Baron allows him to normalize his ideology of National Socialism, which, even as he describes it in euphemisms, is the same as every other white nationalist, neo-Nazi ideology. His ideas are morally reprehensible and presenting them as anything other than lies as such allows him a shred of credibility which is unearned and undeserved. A truly neutral presentation of his ideas would provide the historical context for which his ideas are based on and correct the historical falsehoods he presents in his writings. It would refute his arguments concerning the causes of Anti-Semitism, his blatant falsehoods regarding the history of First Nations, and expose his racist ideology for what it is. This is not a matter of left-wing bias. Providing a neutral, journalistic experience doesn’t work if you publish lies. There is something to be said for not wanting to censor ideas, to paraphrase the words of the editor-in-chief to “clutch our pearls in horror” every time a neo-Nazi speaks. But there is a huge difference between publishing a variety of opinions and publishing falsehoods. There is nothing ideological in revealing historical truths.

After Jewish historian Deborah Lipstadt was sued for libel by Holocaust denier David Irving and won, she argued that outright censorship of deniers is the wrong way to confront and deal with their ideas. Rather, she said, she was glad that she was able to disprove Irving’s denial using historical fact, irrefutably proving Irving was a liar and falsifier of history. Truth, she argues, is most important in fighting deniers. David Irving argued that Auschwitz was not a death camp, and that any who died there died of typhus, not gas, among other blatant falsehoods attacking Jews and exonerating Hitler. These falsehoods were for years published as historical fact, until, during the trial, a team of historians proved that he had lied and manipulated his sources to produce his conclusions. Lipstadt said the trial taught her that “there are facts, there are opinions, and there are lies.” The parallels could not be clearer. Michael Thurlow and NSCLRP present a warped view of history, which denies the horrors of the Indian Residential School System and which presents a racist, white supremacist interpretation of historical fact that is patently false. The editor-in-chief believes that they and their readers are smart enough to know that these are racist lies. That is an irresponsible assumption to make. Without clear refutation, these pieces simply become propaganda for NSCLRP, and another way for them to spread their lies and falsehoods that have been misrepresented as opinion. In seeking to provide a journalistically neutral narrative devoid of political activism, The Baron has eschewed their responsibility of journalistic integrity and allowed a neo-Nazi to publish his racist and historically false opinions as truth, unchallenged, and unedited. As an historian, I must vehemently disagree with the decision of The Baron’s editor-in-chief to do this, and I urge the editor-in-chief to rethink their decision. To quote Lipstadt again, “there are facts, there are opinions, and there are lies.” It is a fact that the opinions of Michael Thurlow are lies and should not have been published unedited and without context in The Baron, or any other reputable news outlet.

Alan Jones

University of New Brunswick

 

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