GrassRoots mulls controversial film
October 12, 2007
ASPEN ” GrassRoots TV is facing some fundamental questions over a controversial film.
At a forum on Thursday, GrassRoots TV board members promised a decision in the coming weeks on whether the community-access station will air “Judea Declares War on Germany: A Critical Look at World War II,” a film that questions events during the Holocaust.
Steve Campbell, a Glenwood Springs resident and founder of Citizens for 9/11 Truth, recently asked station officials to air the film that has been banned in Australia. Members of the Adelaide Institute, which produced the film, are under a judicial gag order there.
“After previewing it, the board of directors found it significantly controversial,” said Alan Feldman, GrassRoots TV board chairman.
But before deciding, the board wanted to hear from the community, Feldman said.
More than 50 area residents filled the conference room at the Red Brick Center for the Arts for an often-heated debate, but no board decision.
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Among some 30 speakers who stepped up to the mic Thursday was one Holocaust survivor and others who had lost family members in camps during World War II.
Some denounced the film; others stumped for free speech.
“I think the issue here is hate speech and the damage of hate speech,” said Harriet Zimmerman of Aspen.
She remembered holding the telegram listing the concentration camp where her husband’s family had died.
“How can you deny that?” Zimmerman asked.
Rabbi David Ingber with the Aspen Jewish Grassroots Initiative called Thursday’s open-mic meeting an “expression of the highest ideals” of U.S. democracy, but said the film is a “waste of time.”
“To debate the historicity of the Holocaust is to give Hitler a posthumous victory,” Ingber said.
“When you allow hate to be propagated, it takes on a banality and a ubiquity,” said Melanie Sturm, who also lost family members during the Holocaust.
And when hate and “denying the undeniable” becomes an everyday thing, it creates violence and a “coarseness in society that is deleterious to us all,” Sturm said.
“If you’ve seen this film and you think it’s crap, why would you put crap on the air?” said attorney Jeff Wertz, who added that even the bulletin board at City Market has rules and suggested the film stay on the Internet.
Just nine people had seen the controversial film, and about as many raised their hands when asked if they believed the station should show it.
Campbell, who asked GrassRoots to air the program, said “Judea Declares War on Germany” does not refute the mountain of evidence about World War II atrocities; instead, “revisionists” in the film are trying to show that there is other evidence that is “different than what we’ve all been shown and seen.”
Feldman asked Campbell if, instead of airing the film, he would join a community forum about the issue on GrassRoots.
“I’m not a filmmaker,” Campbell said, but said he would consider it.
When Campbell stepped away from the mic, someone shouted, “You think it’s the Jews fault?”
Harvie Branscomb, who handed out a five-page letter stating his position, said for him the film raised some questions.
Branscomb said local newspaper reports about the controversy have been lopsided, and terms like “hate” and “Holocaust” prejudice people to the issue.
“I’m scared of information totalitarianism,” Branscomb said.
“I am afraid when I’m told I can’t see something,” said Sheila Markowitz of Glenwood Springs. “I would rather have this be seen and let people decide.”
“Our goal was to create a forum for the community,” said Richie Cohen, a GrassRoots board member who was part of the fledgling station in 1971.
GrassRoots has not been without controversy, Cohen said. The station was the first to show a bare breast on TV, for example.
But Cohen said, “In all these years, I can’t remember this much attention coming onto our station.”
“I haven’t been faced with this decision,” said Feldman.
The board will discuss the issue with board members who couldn’t make Thursday’s meeting and come up with a decision “quick,” Feldman said.
The board’s ultimate decision will focus on GrassRoots policy, not the content of the film at the center of the current controversy, he added. The ultimate goal is to put a policy in place that broadly addresses the issue.
“We don’t want to have to hold a board meeting over every controversial film,” Feldman said.
No specific date for a board decision was set.