Stephen Hsu: An Irresponsible Leader

This is the sixth in a series of posts about Stephen Hsu. See the background here:

Hsu’s conduct during this controversy deserves a comment. It has been, in my opinion, reprehensible. A quick timeline might help.

On 27 August 2018, Ron Unz published a long essay in his “American Pravda” column endorsing Holocaust denial. He endorsed notorious antisemitic writers, he proclaimed Elie Wiesel a “fraud,” and proclaimed that Jews had basically invented the entire story of Nazi genocide:

Any conclusions I have drawn are obviously preliminary ones, and the weight others should attach to these must absolutely reflect my strictly amateur status. However, as an outsider exploring this contentious topic I think it far more likely than not that the standard Holocaust narrative is at least substantially false, and quite possibly, almost entirely so.

A few months later, on 16 May 2019, Hsu hosted his friend Ron Unz on his podcast holding him out as a brilliant person and allowing Unz to promote his “American Pravda” column at as a good place to start awakening Americans from their “slumber” (Hsu’s word) brought on by the mainstream media.

A little over a week ago, on 10 June 2020 the GEU pointed out Hsu’s relationship with the antisemitic Unz on a long twitter thread. The next day, I posted a long explanation of Unz, his racist website, and Hsu’s behavior on the podcast with his racist friend. What has Hsu done in response in the past nine days?

One thing he hasn’t done is try to defend his endorsement of He has not written or said a word about it. He has not taken any kind of responsibility for it. He has not apologized for it. He has not tried to explain how he is still fit for his job. I can’t really blame him. How would such an explanation or apology look?

Imagine him going to the  Holocaust scholars on this campus (and there are more than a few) and explain it to them. Imagine him trying to explain to them what a successful guy Unz is and thus Hsu should have had him on the show. Imagine him trying to explain to them how Unz’s views on mortgages were so important that Hsu could not find anyone else to present them to his audience. Imagine him explaining to Holocaust scholars how giving a Holocaust denier platform means Hsu is qualified to judge their research, to have a role in their funding, and to have a role in promoting and tenuring them. Imagine him in the room with them telling them these things.

Imagine him doing this against the images of the bodies stacked high, the pictures of the walking corpses upon liberation, the factories of death, the gas chambers, the murder vans, the films of people being shot into pits, the children’s faces as they were marched from their homes. Imagine him telling them that promoting a man who denies all this makes sense because he made a lot of money and has some things to say about subprime mortgages and has an IQ of 214. And then imagine him telling them that he, Hsu, is the real victim in all this because promoting someone who calls their scholarship a lie and part of a vast Jewish conspiracy is part of “free inquiry.”

Hsu, of course, has not tried to explain or apologize and, once you imagine him doing so, it is easy to see why. He has ignored this entire, awful thing. So have the letters of his defense. Whoever is soliciting those letters for Hsu, and I have no idea who is, is lying by omission. Go read them. None of them, save that of Hsu’s podcast co-host, address I wonder if Hsu’s supporters still would have written these letters of support had they known the full extent of Hsu’s actions, which they clearly do not. I wonder how many of them will regret supporting Hsu once they know of Hsu’s promotion of a Holocaust denier. I also wonder why Hsu is leaving his defense to others. Hsu fully knows what he did, unlike his supporters, why has he not explained his thinking?

Instead of engaging with his critics in an intellectual manner. Instead of trying to explain or apologize for his actions, Hsu resorted to trying to bully and intimidate his critics. On 15 June 2020 he posted this:


And then, later that same day, he took that response down. Hsu, who represents Michigan State University in matters of research, chose to threaten legal action rather than respond to his critics who are students and scholars at Michigan State University! If nothing else, this action alone shows Hsu does not understand scholarship, does not understand intellectual inquiry, does not understand academic freedom, and does not understand free speech. He has shown himself to be a bully who is all too eager to use his power to punch down to members of his own scholarly community who dare question his behavior. He has betrayed the mission and values of Michigan State University. If he remains in his current position, then the leadership of Michigan State University has betrayed those same values.

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2 thoughts on “Stephen Hsu: An Irresponsible Leader

  1. Pingback: Watching the Whitewash | Fardels Bear

  2. Pingback: Pedigreed Bunk: The Right Wing Media on the Hsu Controversy | Fardels Bear

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