In response to the cancellation of his speaking series at the Contented Cow, conspiracy theorist and alleged holocaust denier Jim Fetzer will give a talk organized by the Muslim Jewish Christian Alliance for 9/11 at the Northfield Library Wednesday, Feb. 18.
The Alliance argues that the official narrative for the terror attacks of September 11 is false and used to prompt anti-Islamic sentiment.
The talk is titled “Free Speech and Terrorism: Sandy Hook and the Boston Bombing.”
Kevin Barret, the head of the Alliance, scheduled the talk in response to what he characterizes as attempts at censorship. He called those protesting the original appearance “free speech terrorists” for their use of “emotive language,” such as describing Fetzer as an anti-Semite.
In response to this new development, Norman Butler, the owner of the Cow, said: “One is pleased and relieved that our Library is open and available to the expression of non- mainstream opinion.”
The Northfield Library is currently obliged to allow the appearance of Fetzer because it cannot prevent a non-profit organization from using a library meeting. However, the Library is not organizing or endorsing the event, according to Teresa Jensen, director of library and informational services.
The debate surrounding Fetzer’s appearance follows the pre-existing dialogue between freedom of speech and the harms caused by alleged hate speech.
James Fetzer is a notable proponent of conspiracy theories and has published numerous books on the subject. He has attributed the attacks of 9/11 to an Israeli-U.S. conspiracy, blamed Jewish interests for the attacks on the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris and claimed the Sandy Hook shooting was a hoax.
But the most controversial of his claims is that the Holocaust did not occur as claimed, with the death toll much smaller than the historically accepted figures. It is this particular claim, as well as the frequent accusations of Jewish or Israeli conspiracies and the use of inflammatory rhetoric, which has caused some to view him as an advocate of hate speech.
In response, several community groups organized in protest. Some Carleton faculty and students urged people to show their disapproval of the event by boycotting the Cow and of Chapati’s, which has the same ownership as the Cow.
Fetzer claims that the faculty who protested his appearance where “betraying” the values of the
College, according to an article he wrote in Veteran’s Today.
Initially, the Cow refused to cancel, arguing it was exercising its freedom of speech. The owner of the Cow, Norman Butler, had forwarded letters and emails to Fetzer to keep him abreast of developments.
Unbeknownst to Butler, Fetzer published these emails and contact information of their authors on his website. Some of Fetzer’s supporters subsequently sent threatening emails to the authors of those emails.
The ensuing bad publicity for the Cow caused Butler and Diane Burry to cancel Fetzer’s talks.