ASPEN " A controversial Holocaust-denial film is raising questions about free speech at Grassroots Television, an Aspen community-access station.
Steve Campbell, founder of Citizens for 9/11 Truth, asked the station to air "Judea Declares War on Germany: A Critical Look at World War II" on Monday, but Grassroots board members stopped the screening.
The one-hour program features Dr. Frederick Töben, an Australian national and member of the Adelaide Institute, an organization that denies that the Holocaust happened.
"This film is offensive not only to Jews in the world but to any sensible person," said Grassroots Executive Director John Masters.
But the question of airing the film he called "like an homage to [Joseph] Goebbels" has stirred a "healthy debate" at the community TV station, Masters said.
"Judea Declares War on Germany" will be pre-empted by an Aspen High School football game and delayed until after an upcoming Grassroots board meeting.
Questioning historical assumptions about the Holocaust brands anyone a "hater," according to Campbell.
"I think there's a lot of preconceived ideas that have been indoctrinated into people's minds as to what the Holocaust is all about," Campbell said. Showing the film would give people an opportunity to decide for themselves, he said.
In the film, Töben says "alleged" concentration camp gas chambers were used to save lives by disinfecting prisoners and that the Holocaust was a fabrication.
"You are not supposed to learn these historical facts, which are contained in this video," Töben said in the film.
According to the Adelaide Institute website, Töben has faced litigation and is under a federal gag order in Australia.
Campbell delivered the DVD to Grassroots on Thursday and sent board members copies of letters to local newspapers announcing the screening.
In the past, Campbell has aired controversial films on Grassroots TV trying to debunk facts about the 9/11 attack. He said he has not run into this problem before.
"John was very defending of Grassroots programming and being able to air just about anything except pornography and obscenity," Campbell said. "I'd think the board members would look at the Grassroots policies and say that [the film] doesn't fall into the realm of something that deserves censorship."
"I believe the First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy and you can't start to chip away at it," Masters said. "What that means is that I need to allow offensive, hateful, racist programming as something that is protected by the First Amendment."
Begun in 1971 as one of the first community-access television channels, Grassroots airs community programs twice for free and charges for additional screenings or special placement, Masters said.
"We're not restricted in any way by the [Federal Communications Commission], nor do we get any government funding," Masters said. Material on Grassroots is governed by people's desires and the discretion of the board, which represents the community, Masters said.
Masters has not had to deny any program before, he said.
"I've personally always felt that if you don't want to watch something, then turn it off."
Alan Feldman, president of the board of directors at Grassroots, called the film "bigoted" and "historically inaccurate."
"What's objectionable about the film from my personal point of view is that it is a Holocaust denial film," Feldman said.
Feldman said the board is not skirting the issue or denying Campbell's right to air the film, but is giving the issue "tremendous attention."
"Certainly I think this world would be a much better place if we didn't have to address issues of bigotry and anti-Semitism," Feldman said. "But I also welcome the opportunity to address them from an intellectual standpoint."
Feldman stressed the board is not going to argue with Campbell on his Holocaust thesis, but will focus on station policy.
"We're not here in my opinion as a platform for racial bigotry. We're here to promote our fantastic community and to bring the community together," Feldman said.
He invited anyone in the community to get involved in the open meeting to decide policy on the matter.
The board has a tentative meeting time scheduled at the Red Brick Building on Thursday at 12:30 p.m.