Move over, Mumia. The Left has a new cause celebre that’s a guaranteed loser: Ward Churchill. The Colorado University professor and Native American activist is in a tub of hot water for the staggeringly outrageous remarks he wrote on the morrow of 9/11. Praising the “gallant sacrifices” of the “combat teams” who downed the World Trade Centers, he branded the those who perished as “little Eichmanns” i.e. technocrats who manage the Nazi-like U.S. Empire.
I saw the essay at the time and was nauseated by it. I have been tempted over the years to write something about it, but have always decided not to. Only because I consider Churchill to be an irrelevant and clearly deranged loner on the edge of the looniest left.
Now I regret not having denounced him. Too bad others on the left also didn’t quickly hurry to divorce themselves from this guy.
Churchill, as you know, surfaced in the news last month when he was invited to speak at an upstate New York university and some conservatives raised a ruckus – as they damn well should. If this guy can hang on to his tenure at CU fine. But damned if student funds from somewhere else should be used to host him as some sort of guest speaker.
The watchful ghouls over at the O’Reilly show and other right-wing blast furnaces hastened to chuck Churchill, a deliciously easy target, on to the fire. And now we see that the usual sort of weak-kneed university administrators at CU have set up a month-long review of him that could lead to his firing.
Free speech and the first amendment should cover all professors, no matter how repugnant. I think it legitimate to defend Churchill’s right to be a vocal asshole (heaven knows most universities are densely populated with such types on both the Right and Left).
What I’m worried about is the way that some liberal groups are hemming and hawing on what he actually said. I’ve seen that some Colorado peace groups are praising Churchill as some sort of font of wisdom and downgrading his remarks as merely “stupid.” Other similar groups are actually supporting him—like this statement from the Rocky Mountain Center for Peace and Justice who in lauding Churchill characterize his remarks as only “ill-chosen.”
No. Not ill-chosen. They were carefully selected, hateful, unforgivable and demented, frankly. And having kept half-an-eye on Churchill since he emitted his execrable screed, I noticed that he has continued to be invited as a guest or panelist at numerous lefty events instead of being ostracized and ignored.
The American Association of University Professors is rightfully demanding protection of the principle of academic freedom. As we all should. That should not stop any of us from excoriating Churchill and his more than unfortunate views. The only defense possible in this case is one of free speech. Yet some of his most knuckleheaded supporters showed up yesterday at the convening of the CU panel looking into his case and what did they do? They shouted down the university administrators. Isn’t that wonderful?
Here’s an excerpt from the Rocky Mountain News coverage of the story:
In a raucous meeting where university leaders were shouted down by Churchill supporters who defied orders to be silent, the regents voted unanimously to authorize a 30- day investigation to determine whether there is cause to fire Churchill, 57.
In what may be an unprecedented action by any major university, the regents also apologized "to all Americans, especially those targeted in the 9/11 attacks and those serving in our armed forces, for the disgraceful comments of professor Churchill."
Two protesters were arrested during the meeting.
Churchill has been the subject of a firestorm of controversy since concerns were raised last week about an essay he wrote on Sept. 11, 2001, in which he compared "technocrats" working in the World Trade Center to notorious Nazi bureaucrat Adolph Eichmann and said the United States invited the terrorist attacks through a long history of violent domination of other cultures.
The left needs better heroes and better martyrs than Ward Churchill.
UPDATE: Some other good stuff I'm finding on the Churchill story. Take a look at UCLA conservative corporate law professor Stephen Bainbridge who has a similar take as mine i.e. that Churchill is an "ass" but remember what Voltaire said. Decidedly non-lefty legal eagle Eugene Volokh, for his part, invokes Justice Hugo Black, to argues that the "depraved" Churchill not be fired.
And just so there's no accusation of punching of straw men, I'm reluctantly linking to the original horrifying essay scribbled by Chruchill. You can read it here. I forced myself to re-read it just now and actually find it more offensive than when I originally saw it right after 9/11. Church's basic "argument" is one of collective guilt-- it's precisely the premise used by the Nazis in their indiscriminate murder of Jews. I must say, I would be terrified if this guy was teaching my kid.