Professor Alan Wolfe
Alan Wolfe has been a busy man for a long time.
He’s an American academic with many books to his name and maintains connections with several east coast universities.
His Boston College bio says:
Alan Wolfe is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College. His most recent books include Does American Democracy Still Work? (Yale University Press, 2006) Return to Greatness: How America Lost Its Sense of Purpose and What it Needs to Do to Recover It (Princeton University Press, 2005), The Transformation of American Religion: How We actually Live our Faith (Free Press, 2003), and An Intellectual in Public ( University of Michigan Press, 2003). He is the author or editor of more than ten other books including Marginalized in the Middle (1997), One Nation, After All (1998), Moral Freedom: The Search for Virtue in a World of Choice (2001) and School Choice: The Moral Debate (editor, 2002). Both One Nation, After All and Moral Freedom were selected as New York Times Notable Books of the Year.
His achievements go on and on:
In the fall of 2004, Professor Wolfe was the George H. W. Bush Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin.
A contributing editor of The New Republic, The Wilson Quarterly, Commonwealth Magazine, and In Character, Professor Wolfe writes often for those publications as well as for Commonweal, The New York Times, Harper’s, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, and other magazines and newspapers. He served as an advisor to President Clinton in preparation for his 1995 State of the Union address and has lectured widely at American and European universities.
Professor Wolfe has been the recipient of grants from the Russell Sage Foundation, the Templeton Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Lilly Endowment. He has twice conducted programs under the auspices of the U.S. State Department that bring Muslim scholars to the United States to learn about separation of church and state. He is listed in Who’s Who in the World, Who’s Who in America and Contemporary Authors.
Such a busy man can be expected to make a few slip-ups from time to time. In the late 1970s, it would appear, a much younger Professor Wolfe made a beauty.
Professor Arthur Butz: has survived more than one chorus of demands for his dismissal
He joined a chorus of angry, outraged complaints about publication of ‘The Hoax of the 20th Century’ by Arthur Butz. Butz was (and remains) an academic at based at Northwestern University in Illinois. Wolfe decried the ‘incompetence’ and ‘moral turpitude’ of the author.
But it seems Professor Wolfe didn’t do basic homework. Here’s a short extract from the third edition of Butz’ notorious book published in 2003. It’s a book that is banned in numerous western countries and has never been available via highstreet booksellers in the English-speaking world (emphasis added):
I have suggested that the negative reactions to revisionists of the Final Solution have been on the whole emotional, and I made no distinction between reactions of professional scholars and laymen. This was no oversight. I am sad to report that to an extent that stunned me the reactions of very many scholars have been what one might have expected from a hyperemotional Jewish grandmother.
In the early stages of the public reactions to my book one Prof. Wolfe of New York University made a fool of himself by writing to the New York Times that Northwestern University should bring me up on charges of “academic incompetence” and “moral turpitude” for authoring and publishing the book whose title, he reported in his letter, was “Fabrication of a Hoax.”
Clearly he had seen the New York Times story about the book, which reported an incorrect title, and he had not seen the book itself.
That was an extreme case but it is still true that scholars who should know better have made a lot of noises while saying almost nothing of substance…
IF the actions of Professor Wolfe were inaccurately reported by Professor Butz in that extract – AND/OR if the Professor Wolfe concerned is not the same Professor Wolfe as the gentleman identified above – I will amend this article accordingly and/or issue a prompt and prominent retraction.
It’s important to clarify the historical record. At least, I believe so. After all, on these touchy topics – thanks to a sustained campaign over many decades by people like the censorious Professor Wolfe – a great deal can be at stake. In some countries, it’s a matter of a jail sentence.
As things stand, I have to wonder about the credibility of an academic who hastens to call for the academic persecution of another scholar over an ‘offending’ book whose title he misquoted and which he apparently hadn’t read. Let’s hope Wolfe’s major academic endeavours meet a higher standard.
Just to be clear, the correct title/subtitle of Butz’ book is not Fabrication of a Hoax. It is The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry.
In the 1970s, when this brouhaha first erupted, some scholars had access to an early variant of Internet, but there was limited material online and no easy-to-use World Wide Web with fast, powerful search engines such as Google.
New York Times: carefully controlled media, sometimes sloppy too
At that time, to check the title of a book a critic had to actually sight a copy – or at minimum quote from a reliable source. Presumably Professor Wolfe thought the New York Times is such a source? It’s a common error…
Today, even in distant lands such as Australia, it’s possible to verify the title of this book for yourself via the web.
In places such as public service offices, schools or in Parliament House, Canberra – where Internet connections are already ‘filtered’ – you may currently find the URLs inaccessible. But when you retire to the privacy of your home Internet connection, you can easily locate the book via Google – and in this case read it online.
For now, that is…