Several days ago, WorldNetDaily, a conservative website, published an article entitled “Libertarians Who Loathe Israel,” by Ilana Mercer (email), a self-described libertarian who is a WND columnist. In her article, Mercer wrote in part,
I understand that libertarians like Sheldon Richman (and the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review) believe, mistakenly, that all ‘the land’ belongs to the Arabs.
Sheldon’s response to this vicious attack, “Disregard for the Truth,” which WorldNetDaily posted on its website, stated in part,
More seriously, placing me in the company of “the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review” can only have been intended to imply that I am a Holocaust-denier. Re-read her sentence and the title of her article. Since the people at IHR are not known to be libertarians, there was no other purpose in mentioning the organization. In other words, Mercer has smeared me. Since I am a Jew, she was denied the opportunity to accuse me of anti-Semitism and so had to settle for hinting that I deny that millions of Jews were slaughtered by Hitler and the Nazis. As one who lost family in the Shoah, I find this more than a little ironic.
Sheldon’s response caused Mercer to publish a new article entitled “Foaming at the Mouth over Israel,” which was posted on WND, in which she suggested that it was never her motive to suggest that Sheldon was a Holocaust denier by comparing him with the premier Holocaust revisionist organization in the world.
But no matter how much Mercer now might try to suggest that her use of “the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review” was just an innocent rhetorical device, the fact is that she had to know the reaction that such a comparison would produce in the minds of WND readers, especially those who are not acquainted with Sheldon Richman and the fine libertarian organizations with which he has been affiliated over the years, including the Institute for Humane Studies, Cato Institute, The Future of Freedom Foundation, and The Foundation for Economic Education. She had to know that some people were likely to reach a false and erroneous inference with respect to his position on the Holocaust.
Ask yourself: In comparing positions on who has title to land in Israel, why didn’t Mercer simply select libertarian organizations that have taken the same position as Sheldon? After all, wasn’t the title of her article “Libertarians Who Loathe Israel”? Or why not simply compare Sheldon’s land position to, say, that of Arab organizations?
Why, indeed? There is one — and only one — answer: Mercer doesn’t like Sheldon’s position on the land issue and decided to use the comparison with “the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review” as a way to smear him for his position on the land issue.
This raises the role of the conservative WorldNetDaily in this entire sordid affair.
When Sheldon wrote to WND vehemently objecting to Mercer’s use of “the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review” as her point of comparison on a land-title issue, here’s how WorldNetDaily commentary editor Tom Ambrose (email) replied to him:
Regarding your assertion of a “smear,” I specifically asked Ilana for a response on that and her only intention was to point out that this is a position held by other groups which “loathe” Israel, not to lump you in with those groups themselves. In other words, these sentiments toward Israel, from her view, are spreading beyond the usual groups which people might guess hold such views.
What other groups, Mr. Ambrose? If you’ll re-check that article, I think you’ll find only one — “the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review.” And if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see that regardless of any innocent intentions that Mercer now claims to have had, the inference that is likely to be drawn by an uninformed reader is that Sheldon shares that perspective.
The fact is that, while Mercer bears full responsibility for her misconduct, it is WorldNetDaily that bears ultimate responsibility for the publication of her false and despicable insinuation. Upon receiving Sheldon’s response, it was morally incumbent on the editorial executives at WND to do the right thing and apologize for having published Mercer’s shameful attack.
Not only did WND fail to do that, it actually compounded Mercer’s original misconduct by publishing a new false insinuation by her. In her rejoinder to Sheldon’s response, Mercer wrote,
I’m glad Richman resents being mentioned in the same breath with what Raimondo calls “the nutball Institute for Hysterical Review.” Given Richman’s vocal protestations at the mere mention of the IHR in connection with his views on Israel, I am presuming that his own publication in the Journal of Historical Review, Volume 18, No. 1 (January–February, 1999), p. 36, is in all likelihood an unauthorized reprint. But I can’t be sure.
The article by Sheldon that Mercer referred to is “Killing Noncombatants,” which The Future of Freedom Foundation published in 1995. Despite her cute disclaimer of “But I can’t be sure,” Mercer’s insinuation is obviously designed to create the impression that Sheldon gave reprint permission to “the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review,” thereby creating the correlative insinuation that there might be a relationship between Sheldon and IHR.
Did either Mercer or WorldNetDaily actually ask Sheldon how our article came to be reprinted in IHR’s journal? Don’t forget that Ambrose and Sheldon were exchanging emails before Mercer wrote her rejoinder and submitted it to WND. Did either Mercer or WND bother to contact me or anyone else at The Future of Freedom Foundation and ask how it was that our article ended up in IHR’s journal? Isn’t that what responsible journalism and a commitment to truth are all about?
As Sheldon points out in a letter to the editor ,” in response to Mercer’s rejoinder, which WorldNetDaily posted today (August 25), the answer is: They did not.
Mercer’s cute disclaimer, “But I can’t be sure” is patently disingenuous. The fact is that she could have become sure simply by asking Sheldon about how the article got reprinted, or asking The Future of Freedom Foundation, or even the director of “the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review,” with whom, according to her rejoinder, she periodically has exchanges.
Instead, she knowingly, deliberately, and intentionally chose not to pursue the truth, obviously hoping that her cute disclaimer “But I can’t be sure” would cure the problem. And her superiors at WorldNetDaily compounded the problem by knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately failing to require her to do so.
So how did the article end up getting published in IHR’s journal? Prior to the late 1990s, FFF had a free reprint policy for articles published in our journal, Freedom Daily, which meant that anyone could reprint them without checking with us. When we learned that the IHR was reprinting FFF articles, we were embarrassed and I even wrote Sheldon to tell him that I had bad news to give him. We later changed the reprint policy to enable us to decide which organizations and publications would be permitted to reprint our materials.
For those who are interested in FFF’s position on the Holocaust and why I was embarrassed to have one of our articles reprinted in that journal, here are just a few relevant links;
As every conservative knows, we libertarians have remained faithful to the principles of liberty, free markets, nonintervention, the Constitution, and limited government that once guided our nation. That’s one reason that we hold the hope for the future direction of our nation. Our vision for America provides not only the means by which to escape the moral, political, and economic morass in which both leftists and conservatives have mired us but also the means by which to achieve a society based on liberty, free markets, peace, harmony, charity, and limited government.
Think about it: What do many conservatives stand for today? They stand for nothing more than developing reforms to the socialist New Deal-Great Society programs that they now embrace and that their predecessors once called for repealing, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They also favor public (i.e., government) schooling, income taxation, the IRS, economic regulations, illegal invasions and occupations, the drug war, indefinite detentions, suppression of civil liberties, gun control, an ever-growing military-industrial complex, uncontrollable government spending, especially on America’s 51st state, Iraq, and executive nullification of constitutional provisions.
But rather than admit the error of their ways and reject the socialistic and interventionist means that their predecessors once opposed — rather than join up with us libertarians to lead America and the world to the highest reaches of freedom, peace, and prosperity ever attained by man — all too many conservatives now remain steadfastly committed to embracing the omnipotent state, even while incessantly calling for new reforms to fix the perverse results of this morally and economically bankrupt system.
Equally tragic, in the process some conservatives seem to have added a new war to all the others that they are waging around the world — a war against libertarianism and truth. What a shame.