Does the truth matter to Canterbury University?

Free speech is a two-edged sword as it allows liers to lie and dishonest people to deliberately manipulate facts. The beauty of free speech is that while it does not allow us to silence those who lie or who are dishonest it does allow us to expose their lies and their manipulation by countering their narrative with cold hard facts.

Sadly New Zealand’s Canterbury University despite the truth being comprehensively proved in a famous court case, continues to house in their library a master’s thesis by Joel Hayward that has been assessed as being ‘ a thoroughly tendentious, biased and dishonest piece of work.’ While I understand that they may view it as a freedom of speech issue to protect a dishonest and biased thesis they should at the very least label the thesis as containing references and conclusions based on false information since it references the work of the thoroughly discredited writer David Irving. Irving is a Holocaust denier who was found in a famous legal case to have manipulated, distorted and deliberately falsified historical evidence.

We are now living in the era of post-truth and alternative facts, the internet is awash with unsupported opinions – some absolutely outrageous and many completely unfounded… This is a movie that says truth is important and really matters and you can find out about it and you can nail people’s lies. […]

Professor Emeritus Sir Richard Evans

[…] The movie ‘Denial’,  […] is based on a real life high court trial that took place in London in 2000. Notorious Holocaust denier, David Irving, brought a libel action against historian Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher, Penguin books, alleging that Lipstadt had defamed him by saying he was a Holocaust Denier, thus damaging his career as a writer and impeding his livelihood. By filing his case in an English High Court, the burden of proof lay with the defendant, rather than the plaintiff, in contrast to the US.

With the help of two research assistants over a three year period, Evans produced a detailed 740 page report on the English and German writings of Irving. Although the movie presents part of Evans’ evidence in a dramatic 3 minute segment, the reality was entirely more tedious, lasting 28 hours over 10 days, in which Irving (who represented himself) cross-examined Evans by traversing his report line by line.

Evans was ultimately able to help the defence prove incontrovertibly that Irving had deliberately falsified, distorted and misrepresented historical evidence. The judge found Irving to be a“Holocaust denier, anti-Semite and racist who had deliberately manipulated historical evidence”, and ordered him to pay more than £2m in legal costs. The 330 page judgement has been described as ‘the most savage judgement ever dumped on an English plaintiff in a high court’.

New Zealand media have reported Evans’ appearances and discussed the Irving trial, the continuing Holocaust denial on social media, and the importance of truth. Conspicuously few journalists have mentioned the report that Sir Richard wrote for submission to the Canterbury University enquiry, assessing a Master of Arts thesis written by Canterbury University student, Joel Hayward, in 2000.

Hayward referenced Irving numerous times in his 360 page master’s thesis, supervised by Dr Vincent Orange, entitled ‘The Fate of Jews in German Hands’. It concluded that “the weight of evidence supported the view that the Nazis did not systematically exterminate Jews in gas chambers or have extermination policies as such”.

Evans argued that Hayward’s thesis was ‘a thoroughly tendentious, biased and dishonest piece of work’ that clearly constituted Holocaust denial. He recommended that Canterbury University strip Hayward of his master’s degree.

The Canterbury Working Party eventually rejected the “perverse and unjustified conclusion” of Hayward’s thesis. Astonishingly, that same committee refused to cancel Hayward’s degree based on the premise that they “could not find the necessary element to establish dishonesty”. While the Canterbury Working Party argued that Hayward’s thesis was not worth an A+, they suggested that the supervisor should  have returned the thesis to Hayward with an instruction to rewrite it. Both the supervisor Professor Orange and the external examiner Professor Jensen  from Waikato University refused to alter their A+ assessment of the thesis. Canterbury remains the only reputable University in the world to allow a Holocaust denying thesis to remain in their library.

[…] Hayward went on to complete a Doctoral degree, also at Canterbury University, and then joined the History Department of Massey University as a Lecturer. He has since become Chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, and is now a Shaykh. Evans described Hayward as “one of these people who morphs rather strangely…”

I am not at all surprised that a holocaust denier would convert to Islam. Jew hatred is in the Koran after all.

[…] The Irving trial and the Hayward case both raise serious questions over scholarship, truth and accountability. Evans described Irving’s work as “of no academic interest, although popular“ and Irving was found to be dishonest through a court of law. However, the more ‘academic’ Hayward was subject to an internal university enquiry which should have upheld standards of academic rigour and provided a safeguard from the distortion of truth but instead provided institutional cover for holocaust denial.

[…] Irving, Hayward, and their ilk now have the internet at their disposal and social media tools to spread their pernicious lies […] This democratisation of information with few gatekeepers places an even greater onus on the custodial integrity of educators at schools and universities.

Freedom of speech allows for people like Irving to publish their books and it allows for people like Lipstadt and Evans to highlight their maleficence. However, universities should be places where truth prevails and minimum standards of scholarship and ethics are taught, not where holocaust deniers enjoy imprimatur.

 

-Shalom Kiwi


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