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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Free speech, but not hate speech

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It has come to our attention that Norman Butler, the owner of the Contented Cow and Chapati, has invited a man named James Fetzer to speak at the Contented Cow four times between February and May as part of a series of “Cow Talks.” Mr. Fetzer is a conspiracy theorist who argues, among other things, that six mil- lion Jews were not exterminated by the Nazis in the Holocaust, that Israel and the United States conspired to destroy the World Trade Center on 9/11, and that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax (no one actually died). Other posts of his assert a vague connection between Israel’s intelligence agency (the Mossad) and the recent killings in Paris, the loss of Malaysian airliners, and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. His views, ex- pressed in dozens of articles and blog posts, are readily available on the Internet.

Some members of the community have quietly approached Norman and his wife, Diane, to urge them to disinvite Fetzer on the grounds that we should not promote such hateful, slanderous speech in our community. He has so far declined. A few of us wrote him discrete emails along the same lines. He declined to respond, but did forward them on to Fetzer (who, in turn, included them in his latest blog post, which then elicited threatening, hateful responses from some of his readers.)

We respect the rights of people in a free society to hold and discuss unpopular views. Free speech is an important right and no doubt Norman Butler is legally entitled to give a platform to such people. But what is legal is not necessarily ethical or prudent. Supporting speakers like Mr. Fetzer, who deny well-established facts about historical atrocities and who publish malicious lies about whole groups of people, is contrary to the values of civil society and academic discourse. It offends all standards of decency and is an affront to those murdered in the events referred to. We object in the strongest possible terms both to Fetzer’s views and to Butler’s decision to promote them.

Customers also have rights, including the right to direct their business away from people who traffic in hateful speech. That is a right we will choose to exercise and we invite you to considering doing so, as well.

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