What’s the difference?
November 16, 2007
“Some members of the board have been threatened with legal action over the decision as well as being on the receiving end of personal attacks,” writes Alan Feldman, president of the GrassRoots TV board (letters, Nov. 12).
Our guess is that these threats and attacks came from publishers and readers of neo-Nazi websites who were helping Steve Campbell, local promoter of the DVD “Judea Declares War on Germany,” to get it screened on Aspen public-access TV. As founders of an organization that is part of a growing nationwide network to confront terrorism from both foreign and domestic sources, we are concerned if members of
this community have received belligerent communications from neo-Nazis.
To fully understand what has been happening here, it is useful to draw a hypothetical analogy. Imagine a town in which a numerically significant proportion of the population is African-American, including several members of the board of the public access TV station, its president among them. An area resident wants the TV station to screen a film called “Negroes Declare War on Dixie,” which thesis is that American slavery was a humane institution for the education of an inherently inferior race.
This “revisionist” narrative contends that following the Civil War, while there may have been a few skirmishes between the races, lynching is a myth perpetuated by uppity Negroes intent upon conquering white America. The film claims to have irrefutable proof that Emmett Till was not lynched. Those horrific pictures were a fake, part of a plot cooked up by Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks to launch the Montgomery bus boycott, which would spark the movement that ended the honorable practice of segregation.
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Now let us imagine that in our hypothetical town the local promoter of this DVD is found to be in collusion with the Ku Klux Klan ” not really such an imaginative stretch because Campbell’s allies are white supremacists. This, however, is where we come to the end of what is imaginable.
We cannot imagine The Aspen Times taking the position that “Negroes Declare War on Dixie” is rendered harmless by its absurdity, as it did with the Holocaust denial film. Nor can we picture a white spokesperson for the local peace movement making a speech in favor of the screening in the name of free speech; even more unimaginable is the surreal specter of an African-American woman urging the same. Nor can we envision an African-American president of the TV station’s board offering the local promoter of the film a forum for presenting his perspective.
We have to halt our flight of fancy here at the border of what is imaginable. All that is left is this question: If the GrassRoots discussion is impossible to picture in an African-American context, why is it different when it’s about Jews?
Doug Weiser, Snowmass
Judith King, Glenwood Springs