One of my favorite comments (about me) came when selecting material for my first show. A photographer I respected was helping me. After looking at a large number of my prints, he said:

You aren’t very subtle, are you?

I suppose that might be a contributing factor to my current career in Rhetoric. I’ve had to learn to cope with increasing levels of subtlety, in literature and in other forms of discourse. It doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m usually embarrassingly direct.

When Spitting Image linked to a page on Hitler’s Art I was curious about just where this resource was coming from. I used several articles on the art of the Third Reich to demonstrate the rhetorical bias behind them in class last semester, so I couldn’t help but question this. The Hitler Historical Museum?

The aim of the site seems innocent enough:

The Museum’s chief concern is to provide documents and information that shed light on Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist Party. Because of the numerous contradicting, disjoint[ed], biased, confused, and deficient interpretations that exist, few scholars are able to gather the facts and to understand and explain them coherently. Whether this failure is from a lack of information, scholarship ability, or honesty is unimportant. What is important is that historical information be made freely available and gathered into exhibits that allow researchers to derive indepedent (sic) conclusions from the relatively well preserved writings of this time period.

Of course, there is an ideological statement:

The teaching of history should convey only facts and be free from political motives, personal opinions, biases, propaganda, and other common tactics of distortion. Every claim that is made about history should also be accompanied by documentation proving its basis. Only responsible scholarship and teaching should be permitted. Those who intend to support particular political interests and agendas should have their biased historical interpretations criticized for lacking proof.

Sounds great— ill informed (communication without bias is an oxymoron)— but noble at any rate. Responsible scholarship? I needed to look at this more deeply.

A quick check of the links page revealed what was really going on. As you might guess, there was no link to what I would consider a reputable historical site, The Holocaust Museum, but instead a link to an article called The Hoax of the Twentieth Century. I read the first line of the introduction, and then stopped:

I see three principal reasons for the widespread but erroneous belief in the legend of millions of Jews killed by the Germans during World War II: US and British troops found horrible piles of corpses in the west German camps they captured in 1945 (e.g. Dachau and Belsen), there are no longer large communities of Jews in Poland, and historians generally support the legend.

Legend? The scary thing that this is the page of a US computer-science academic, complete with .edu address.

I cannot believe that Northwestern University actually underwrites the presence of such utter crap on the web. But they protect themselves with a convenient disclaimer:

The content of all Pubweb pages is solely the responsibility of their authors and not the responsibility of Northwestern University or any of its employees engaged in management or administration of the Pubweb service. Northwestern University will not monitor Pubweb page content except as necessary to investigate allegations that such content violates federal, state, or local laws or University policy.

Following the link-train reminded me of the reason why I spend so much time focusing on reading responsibly. You’ve got to be careful out there. Free from political motives? Yeah, right!