A Note from the Editor: Reflections on the Last Few Days

Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian (Photo Mary Frasier/The Gettysburgian)

Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian (Photo Mary Frasier/The Gettysburgian)

Among the most important lessons I learned my freshman year while participating in the Garthwait Leadership Center’s Leadership Certificate program was the importance of making regular time for reflection. As I reflect on what has transpired over the last four days, I see a situation that clearly transcends Bob Garthwait. In reading every one of the hundreds of comments posted across The Gettysburgian‘s digital platforms and in conversing with dozens of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, the only thing that is clear to me is that almost everyone simultaneously has an opinion and unanswered questions, and a great many of those opinions and questions go to huge, societal issues that move far beyond this situation.

While I would say that is a troubling dichotomy, on reflection, I very nearly fell into a similar trap. Last evening, when our editorial board met, I broached the subject of a possible staff editorial on this matter. Fortunately, that suggestion was met with instantaneous and unanimous disapproval by my fellow editors. All of us, myself included, still have unanswered questions, and to take an editorial position before those questions were answered would have been irresponsible. I very nearly got ahead of myself and pushed my editorial board to rush to judgment on a situation about which we are constantly learning more.

Over the coming days, we will continue to follow this story and do our best to answer some of those lingering questions. Chief among them are the historical context of the television show “Hogan’s Heroes,” the life and career of Bob Garthwait, and the current state of affairs with respect to anti-Semitism on the Gettysburg College campus. But, before we begin pursuing the answers to those questions, we are going to take a breath.

Earlier this evening, I notified my team that I am declaring a 48-hour hiatus on coverage of anything connected to this situation. Everyone needs a chance to reflect emotionally and intellectually, and, frankly, everyone needs to take a moment to decompress.

We will continue to publish this weekend on a range of subjects including the whereabouts of Gettysburg’s beloved gazebo and the women’s basketball team’s performance in the Centennial Conference playoffs, but we are taking a short break from this story. I would encourage our readers to do the same.

In closing, I would like to publicly thank my team for their Herculean efforts over the past several days; it is an inspiring and energizing group with whom to work. I would also like to thank those who have read and responded to our coverage. There will be more of it to come, but, for this weekend, we are hitting the pause button to give folks a chance to think deeply about how our campus should move forward in light of the last four days.

If, while doing so, you come up with a question you think we might be able to help answer, I would welcome your input via email (editors@gettysburgian.com) or via this form.

As always, thanks for reading.

Benjamin Pontz ’20, Editor of The Gettysburgian

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Author: Benjamin Pontz

Benjamin Pontz '20 served as Editor-in-Chief of The Gettysburgian from 2018 until 2020, Managing News Editor from 2017 until 2018, News Editor in the spring of 2017, and Staff Writer during the fall of 2016. During his tenure, he wrote 232 articles. He led teams that won two first place Keystone Press Awards for ongoing news coverage (once of Bob Garthwait's resignation, and the other of Robert Spencer's visit to campus) and was part of the team that wrote a first-place trio of editorials in 2018. He also received recognition for a music review he wrote in 2019. A political science and public policy major with a music minor, he graduated in May of 2020 and will pursue a master's degree in public policy on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Manchester before enrolling in law school.

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  1. So predictable, irresponsible and gutless. The Gettysburgian staff, with nothing better to do, uncovers an almost 40 year old frat party pic, proceeds to take it completely out of context based on their own naïveté, which leads to the resignation of a valued alumnus, supporter and trustee of the college, and now you want to call for a 48 hour hiatus. Why, because the majority of the responses to your story on Bob Garthwait were in support of Bob and negative toward your story and writer. As a result, and to show your immaturity, you now want to hide behind a hiatus. Sorry Mr. Editor and staff, it doesn’t work that way in the real world, as you will soon find out when you graduate. Time to grow up, take responsibility for your misguided actions regarding this story, and stick to reporting on things relevant to today’s world, not an irrelevant costume party pic – just ridiculous!

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    • To be clear, The Gettysburgian neither uncovered the photo nor published any report until after Mr. Garthwait resigned from the Board of Trustees. The idea that the campus newspaper would not report on what led one of the college’s most notable alumni and donors to resign from the Board of Trustees of is preposterous; we have and will continue to do so.

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      • To be clear, Benjamin, your newspaper should come out strong AGAINST the lynching that has taken place against an alumnus and generous donor to the college. America is LAUGHING at Gettysburg College. As noted in multiple posts, the show Hogan’s Heroes LAMPOONED the Nazis. The whole premise of the show was MAKING FUN OF THE NAZIS. Get it? The actors who portrayed Nazis/Germans in Hogan’s Heroes were JEWS WHO HAD FLED NAZI-CONTROLLED EUROPE. Get it? Actor John Banner, who Mr. Garthwait was dressed up as, was a Jew who fled Nazi Germany. Benjamin, why don’t you become a hero by coming out strong against hypersensitive leftists who get offended by everything? This man has been slandered by the actions of a student, a faculty member, and your president. Do you have no sense of fairness? I thought liberals were all about fairness?

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  2. Below I am sharing a link to a short piece on WWII propaganda cartoons that is linked to the Holocaust Museum website. Prompted by recent events here on campus, where I have taught for many years, I found the link while looking up the old WWII cartoons of Daffy Duck, Donald Duck, and Bugs Bunny that I remember seeing as a child. Now revisiting those cartoons online many decades later, I observe the visual symbols they employ from the perspective of someone who has done a little research on political propaganda over the years. I observe that Donald Duck’s nightmare experience working in a WWII German munitions factory ends with him waking up and literally hugging the Statue of Liberty (sorry for the spoiler). The message of his nightmare experience, should anyone view the film online, is not far to seek. Some of the messages of Hogan’s Heroes, which I also remember watching on black and white tv as a child, share some themes in common with Donald Duck’s experience, as I recall the show now.

    As a scholar, some of my research has examined Cultural Revolution propaganda created for children. I have lectured on that subject to students in China, and I have also taught a course on comparative Chinese-Soviet propaganda in Eastern Europe to students who personally experienced the Soviet occupation. What I learned from those students was very humbling. Many profoundly sensitive political, historical, cultural, and emotional issues are triggered in the experience and interpretation of visual symbols. I learned that symbols are understood and experienced differently by different people, that their meanings and nuances change subtly but significantly over time, and that it is crucial to understand them within their historical and cultural context. Comprehending their use and misuse, their interpretation and misinterpretation, and their appropriation for various agendas requires great care.

    Here is the link:

    Best wishes,
    Deborah Sommer

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  3. In 2001 the Taliban used dynamite to destroy statues of Buddha which had been carved into the cliffs of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley more than 1,700 years ago. I think of that crime against humanity often these days, whenever the past is reinterpreted and all too often misinterpreted by the light of current orthodoxies and used to justify the destruction of institutions and lives. Which brings us to Bob Garthwait and a Hogan’s Heroes party held almost 40 years ago.

    Am I assigning equal weight to the two events? No. Am I equating the forces that brought Mr. Garthwait low with the Taliban? No. Am I insensitive to the reality of anti-Semitism? No. Am I a closet Nazi? Am I doing anything but using the first event to make an extremely narrow point about the second? I assure you, no. If you insist otherwise you are mistaken.

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