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Friday, February 04, 2005

Comments

Marc Cooper

Randy.. a couple of points. Churchill is indeed a nobody and few piad attention to to him until the recent controversy. As I said in my original post, that is why I ignored him even though I did see his essay three years ago. He's no longer a non-entity as he's beeb blown up into a national news story. I read Drumn's comment yesterday btw and I saw he was denounced by a Vermont peace group.. but forgive me If I sound arrogant, but Im much closer to the world of the activist left than Drum and I can tell you that Churchill has gotten more support than flak over the years. He has now become unfortunately at least a minor cause celebre... someone that many on th left feel obligated to defend because the right wing attack is ferocious. I was actually kind of put off by the political naivete of Drum and of his commenters who didnt want to seem to ascribe any responsobility for this to Chruchill and instead contented themselves with the ritual denunciation of the Republican Media Machine.... well the Limbaua-OReilley machine certainly feeds off crap like this and amplifies it... but Churhcill indeed said what he said and no one should be shocked if political partisans move in to exploit it.

Randy Paul

Marc,

Third post warning. What I resent are the Glenn Reynolds of the world using Churchill's article to say that Churchill is the "very image" of the authentic left today to smear people. I consider myself on the left and proudly so, but I had never heard of Churchill before now. I deeply, deeply resent this attempt to smear people. What this comes down to is this: if we on the left are expected to denonce every single kooky person - regardless of whether we have even heard of them, what's the next step? Loyalty oaths?

I want to be judged on the basis of MY behavior and not Ward Churchill's. What is unreasonable about that? I don't assume that Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Michelle Malkin, Brent Bozell or any number of right-wing nuts speaks for everyone on the right. Perhaps those on the right can afford me the same courtesy.

Jesus Christ, I haven't seen "Fahrenheit 9/11" let alone "Bowling for Columbine." What did I do on 9/11/01? After I managed to speak to my wife (she was downtown that day, but not all the way downtown), I went to donate blood. I then went on to mourn the loss of a colleague who was on UA Flight 175, as well as the brother of another colleague who worked at Cantor Fitzgerald. I spent the next week assuring family members on two continents that apocalypse wasn't going to be now.

I'm completely fed up with the notion that EVERYONE on my side of the political aisle moves in lockstep. There is such a thing as the loyal opposition in this country and I have ZERO patience with anyone who tells me that I have to conduct an auto da fé every time some kook says something outrageous. BASTA!

Marc Cooper

Randy.. I agree with everything u said so Im not sure where the disagreement is. Neitehr you nor I are under no obligation to denounce anybody. 100% agreed. I just dont think that Churchill is "on our side." And I think it sometimes helps to pause and sort out who are one friends and ones enemies.

Chesty Puller, Lt. Gen. USMC (Ret)

"...I think it sometimes helps to pause and sort out who are one friends and ones enemies."

Can't we all just get along? ;-)

Ahmed

Marc your analysis of the entire Churchill affair is weak, misguided and entirely predictable. Churchill's main point is that as a society we sanction the philosophy of collective guilt and "collateral damage" when it applies to Palestinians, Iraqis and other official enemies that our country attacks, yet we utter horror when this awful mode of thinking is applied to us. If anything he was attempting to draw out moral hypocracies and delusions which allow us to rightfullly mourn and condemn slaughters of Americans, all the while justifying and feeling nothing for people who find themselves in the crosshairs of American foreign policy. The targetting of Churchill is not at all an individual case, but rather part and parcel of a braoder campaign aimed at anyone the mad dog right views as speaking outside the parameters of acceptable thought. Its disappointting but not too surprising that Marc misses this. Not a surprise, he thinks sving the life of a black man who clearly recieved an unfair trial trial and is on death row is testamount to "hero worship" so go figure. anyways, here's alex's much better take on the whole thing http://www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/s11/churchill_cockburn.html

Gamekeeper

Ahmed.....How ironic that should quote " The Mad Dogs of The Left" ie: Cockburn!

John Moore (Useful Fools)

Post #5 - short and discardable. But where else in marc cooper land can we go at this point?

Randy,
That does sound a bit overboard. One problem is that the definition of "left" is different to different folks. Many on the left - at least many public voices - do engage is some nasty smears. The Kerry campaign smeared friends of mine (Kerry would say they smeared him). But to the "authentic left," Kerry wasn't "left" anyway.

So it is a big muddle. On the right we get the same treatment. It is simply an issue of lack of human bandwidth - nobody wants to write a long treatise to define the target of their criticism. Nobody has time to read it.

Once again, the natural characteristic of humans to generalize/stereotype has obvious survival value in reducing communication time between people with shared understandings - this is classic Shannon's Information Theory.

Brian: Ann Coulter thinks? That's news to me :-)

GMRoper

I'm risking banishment, but this is near the end of the thread (I hope) and I can't let this pass.

"Churchill's main point is that as a society we sanction the philosophy of collective guilt and "collateral damage" when it applies to Palestinians, Iraqis and other official enemies that our country attacks, yet we utter horror when this awful mode of thinking is applied to us."

That is the most assinine, idiotic, mush headed bit of stupid "moral equivalence" I've yet seen posted on this bolg by a commenter. The difference is that collateral damage can be very real, but flying airplanes into buildings is not collateral damage, it's terrorism plain and simple. I'm surprised that anyone can even equate the two.

Marc Cooper

Ahmad: I admire you for allying with both Cockburn and Churchill.. two puppies out of the same rabid pack. Make sure your shots are up to date!

I offer this piece by Swarthmore African Studies prof Tim Burke as a wise, left of center counter to the rantings of Alex and Churchill.. neither one is a serious thinker.. both are crude propagandists...

http://www.swarthmore.edu/SocSci/tburke1/perma20205.html

February 2, 2005

Off the Hook

I’ve been reading in a few places about the controversy over Hamilton College’s now-rescinded speaking invitation to University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, and Churchill’s resignation as the head of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado.

In a way, it’s a pity that the whole affair has become so consumed by Churchill’s remarks on 9/11, because that’s allowed it to fall into the familiar, scripted form of public controversies over remarks that are deemed to hurt or offend. The remarks get repeated, mantra-like and disconnected from the general work or thought from which they came. Critics cite the personal pain and distress the remarks create. Defenders of the speaker first mobilize behind the figure of free speech, that we may disagree with the remarks but must defend the right of the person to make them. Finally, the speaker issues a non-apology apology, usually in the formula of “I am sorry if anyone has taken offense at my words,” which manages to make it sound as if the real offense lies with those who felt offended. Sometimes the original speaker may also clarify intent by saying that he or she merely meant to “start a conversation” or “make a useful provocation”.

It’s a tired dance on so many fronts. If there’s anyone who should know all the steps in it, it’s Ward Churchill, who is a prolific practicioner of the kind of identity politics that has helped to choreograph many such waltzes and minuets. Now everyone knows how to play that game, particularly American conservatives. Rinse wash repeat.

We lose so much in this pantomime. On one hand, it allows the less thoughtful critics of academia to go away with one more caricature in their bag, to imagine Churchill as a absolutely typical, representative academic. On the other hand, it allows many academics to walk away without having to think about the ways in which Churchill and the invitation to him from Hamilton is also not aberrant. If not representative, neither is he idiosyncratic.

Churchill should frankly be happy if this whole affair is confined to his isolated remarks on 9/11, to be handled with the usual pro forma apology, because his larger intellectual career is the thing that really raises some questions. Not the kinds of straightforwardly bombastic one-liners now descending on Churchill from right-wing pundits, perhaps, but pointed observations nevertheless.

Churchill is prolific in the manner of many careerist academics, meaning, he’s written the same thing in a great many formats again and again. He’s got a very long c.v., but the length misleads. Almost everything he’s written is part of one long metapublication. And what he’s written is highly formulaic kind of identity-based scholarship that expounds unthoughtfully on some of the characteristic themes and ideas of one very particular segment of the left, with particular application to Native American issues and questions.

I stress very strongly, not the left at large or overall. It’s a very small tradition of anticolonial, pseudo-nationalist radicalism that eclectically and often incoherently grabs what it needs from Marxism, poststructuralism, postcolonial theory, and even conservative thought now and again (though often in unacknowledged ways).

It is also a tradition that is completely unable to face its own contradictions. Churchill’s much-cited remarks on 9/11 are an indication, for example, of the underlying moral incoherence of his writing (and writing like his). The principles that are used to value some lives (Iraqi babies dying under sanctions) and not others (people in the World Trade Center) have no underlying ethical or moral foundation: they’re purely historicist and instrumental. The original sin of modernity is seen as the expansion of the West; it is perceived as a kind of singularity that utterly destroyed or erased historical experience to that point. The only moral vector, the only capacity to act immorally or to commit evil, descends from that original sin. If you’re associated by social structurewith that expansion, you are bad. If you are a victim of it, you are good.

This perspective on history and contemporary global politics is incapable of explaining its own existence. How is it possible to value life in a world produced by the expansion of the West, even the lives of the victims of colonialism? What are the sources, in a purely historicist account of ethics, of a belief in the sanctity of human cultures, or a belief that it is wrong to colonize or practice what Churchill would call genocide? Churchill, like others who write within his intellectual tradition, has no way to explain the genesis of his own political and ethical position. He can in fragmented ways claim an authenticity rooted in Native American traditions—but if it is possible today in the here and now to construct and disseminate a whole ethical practice founded in those traditions, then his claim of genocidal eradication by the West is clearly is false. If on the other hand, the West contains within it the seeds of its own critique, then the expansion of the West is itself a much more complicated phenomena than it would appear to be in Churchill’s writing.

Churchill, like others, constructs the hegemony of global capitalism and Western domination as being near-total. The unmitigated and simplistic totalizing that suffuses Churchill’s writing makes it impossible to explain his own existence and professional success or anyone like him. He is incarnated impossibility of his own analysis. The only contradiction Western domination faces is produced, according to his oeuvre, by the dedicated and militant resistance of its subjects. But how is it possible that a totalizing system of domination permits such an uncompromising practicioner of resistance to publish over 11 books and occupy a tenured position at a university? (I know, I know: doubtless from a Churchillian perspective, the recent controversy is the system finally getting around to slapping him down. Quite a delayed reaction if so.)

Churchill’s scholarly oeuvre is practically a guided tour of every trope of identity politics: polemical extensions of the concept of genocide into every possible institutional or social interaction between the colonized and colonizer, erasures of any historical or programmatic distinctions between colonizers in different eras or systems, reduction of all history and contemporary society into a sociologically and morally simple binary schema of colonizer and colonized (hence the remark that the people in the Twin Towers were “little Eichmanns” while Iraqis are literally infantilized into starving babies and nothing more), pervasive indictments of systems of representation, and aggressive assertions of exclusive cultural, moral, political and economic ownership of anything and everything connected with a particular identity group (Native Americans in this case).

Anything and everything can be fed, often with appalling casualness, into the polemic machine he builds: other scholars become, if not heroic comrades, mere “crypto-fascists” (there is no other possible position or posture). Mickey Spillane’s novels are part of a cohesive infrastructure for global hegemony. All power is endlessly and floridly conspiratorial. And so on.

The thing of it, there are very thoughtful people who take some or all of these positions. Churchill isn’t: he’s prolific but he’s also something of a hack. Herein lies the deeper problem that Hamilton College, Ward Churchill and many academics might be perfectly happy to escape notice, and that shouldn’t be reduced to one more example of right-wing polemicists beating on lefty academics.

Hamilton College’s first instinct, the first instinct of all institutions (including conservative ones) that get caught up in this well-rehearsed minuet, is to cite free speech as a defense. I think that’s perfectly proper in a highly limited way. Once an invitation has gone out, I think you generally have to stick by your guns. Everyone does have a right to speak and say what they want, whatever it might be.

But academic institutions also insist in many ways and at many moments that they are highly selective, that all their peculiar rituals—the peer review, the tenure dossier, the hiring committee, the faculty seminar—are designed to produce the best, most thoughtful community of minds possible. In response to criticism from conservatives who complain at the lack of conservatives in the academic humanities and social sciences, a few scholars even had the cheek publically (and more privately) to suggest that conservatism is one of those things that academic quality control quite legitimately selects against, that if the academy is liberal, that’s because it’s selective. Anybody has the right to speak, but nobody has the obligation to provide all possible speakers a platform, an honorarium, an invitation.

In that context, it becomes awfully hard to defend the comfortably ensconsed position of someone like Churchill within academic discourse, and equally hard to explain an invitation to him to speak anywhere. There’s nothing in his work to suggest a thoughtful regard for evidence, an appreciation of complexity, a taste for dialogue with unlike minds, a proportionality, a meaningful working out of his own contradictions, a civil ability to engage in dialogue with his colleagues and peers in his own fields of specialization. He stands for the reduction of scholarship to nothing more than mouth-frothing polemic.

We cannot hold ourselves up as places which have thoroughly and systematically created institutional structures that differentiate careful or or thoughtful scholarship from polemical hackery and then at the same time, have those same structures turn around and continually confirm the legitimacy of someone like Churchill. We can’t deploy entirely fair and accurate arguments about the thoughtless cruelty and stupidity of a polemicist like Ann Coulter only to fill our bibliographies with citations to Ward Churchill, not to mention filling our journals with highly appreciative reviews.

Certainly if you study contemporary Native American politics, you’d have to cite Churchill, but as a phenomenon who is part of that which you study, not as scholarly creator of useful knowledge who guides and instructs you in your own arguments or findings. There is a distinction.

That’s the deeper problem here: not Churchill’s particular remarks, but the deeper wellsprings of his legitimacy. Conservatives should not necessarily welcome a turn to those deeper issues: it seems to me that Glenn Reynolds, for example, would have to be held a hack by any standard that held Churchill to be one. Nor would I want to raise the banner of higher standards only to have that quash interesting, provocative, exploratory writing and thinking on behalf of dour, cautious and bland scholarship. But there is more here than just some callous remarks on 9/11 to worry about. Churchill has said before that his main critics are on the left, not the right, but far too many academics remain timid in the face of the retaliatory capacities of identity-based activism within the academy and therefore too silent in the face of thoughtless choices by their colleagues about whom to value, whom to canonize, whom to invite to speak. It might be a good thing to make Churchill's characterization the uncontested truth.

John Moore (Useful Fools)

Marc,
Please don't mention "rabid" :-)

Ahmed

No GM the most asinine, stupid and border line racist assertation i've seen on this blog actualy came from you fella, when you asserted that without any proof that half of all American Muslims believe in death for apostacy. How you came to this conclusion who knows, idiotic for sure. And as for state terrorism versus collateral damage you're either deluding yourself or playing with semantics buddy. In fact the world court itslef ruled America's activity in Nicaragua amounted to state terrorism. Furthermore, if you're denying that our own goverments haven't engaged ever in direct targetting of civilian populations using awesone firepower then you must have been asleep at the wheel during Vietnam, to simply mention one of the most brutal phases of US foreign domination. My point was that we often dehumanise the targets of war and collateral damage itself becomes part of a larger semantical device employed to dehumanise a set of victims.

Ahmed

"Ahmad: I admire you for allying with both Cockburn and Churchill.. two puppies out of the same rabid pack. Make sure your shots are up to date!"

Well, first off, if you're going to address me perhaps you should get me name right. And i could retort thaht you're aligning yourself with O'reilly and pipes, but i prefer arguments to stupid and asinine slurs. Sorry

PJ

Ahmed,
I don't understand why you post here when your blanket denunciations of the US are so final and so full of rage. I assume you live in a western democracy, so you have already unconsciously at least judged all the systems in the world on their merits instead of by grad student moralism and have come to the conclusion, ghastly tho it is, that a western democracy is a better place to live than the other choices currently available.

As GM says, flying planes into buildings is different from the Vietnam War. Only a Ward C or a child would say differently. Some day I hope you can appreciate the nuance and complexity of our essentially flawed human nature and use your brains for the betterment of the flawed world we live in.

Ahmed

Marc, i know I'm hovering over my limit but I'm going to ask for mercy and briefly reply to PJ. There seems to be some misrepresentation going on as to what I wrote, along with my thoughts on "collateral damage". I wasn't tying to get involved in an asinine and quite frankly stupid debate on moral equivalence. This is dumb and gets us nowhere. Rather, what i was trying to get at was the ways which lives are dismissed wholescale via arguments about collateral damage. Wasn't this what Albright was getting at when she said the thousands of iraqi children death was worth the cost. That they were expendable for a larger cost. Isn't that what deliberate targetting of civilian populations always entail, some sort of argument about collective guilt. When the Israeli goverment bombs what they know to be a civilian population (any human rights report tells you this happens) or when a suicide bomber aims at a discotheque they are both advancing a certain logic about an entire populations complicity. If you can't see how systematically our goverment has utilised this sort of logic in the advacement of imperial interests, then i can't really explain it anymore. That's all i was getting at. Nuance and complexity, i agree with. Its PJ's idiotic "love it or leave it" suggestion that i find distasteful.

John Moore (Useful Fools)

Ahmed

In order to understand your POV, could you answer the following (obviously, some may be too personal for the net in which case, feel free not to answer - obviously you have no obligation in any case):

1) What country do you live in?
2) What countries have you lived in?
3) What is your ethnicity?
4) Are you a Muslim? Practicing? What major denomination?
5) Where did you get your education (ages 12 onward)?
6) What is your approximate age?
7) What are your primary sources of news?
8) What languages do you speak?

Thanks

John

Useless Troll

Wow, John Moore what on earth gives? Blogs like this are suppossed to be forums of discussion and debate, hopefully devoid of race baiting idiocy. No one here should be singled out and have their ethnic origin demanded, as if it automatically carried with it immense explanatory powers. Creepy, especially when the person doing it has professsed their love for racist screeds like the bell curve not too mention a long list of other bizarre causes you're attached to. I hope marc deletes your bizarre census, and im sure ahmed will probably not respond to it

John Moore (Useful Fools)

I did not demand it. I asked it. There is a large difference. Ahmed is free to answer as many or as few as he feels.

Because I detest the idea that matters of race, ethnicity, religion, origins etc cannot be discussed intelligently without someone being called a racist, I am justifying my the reasoning for questions here in detail, not just for you but other readers.

I realize that to some on the left, the idea of inherent racial differences is taboo and anyone who brings them up is somehow automatically a racist. This is an unscientific viewpoint derived from ideology. It is as useless as Lysenkoism, the Soviet version of Evolution.

Ahmed can choose to tell us more about himself, or not. It is a free choice and if he doesn't answer, it means nothing negative about him.

It is simply a matter of curiosity on my part. When I see someone with strong feelings, I am curious about theperson behind the feelings or intellectual points of view. I see no problem with that, just as I see no problem with that person keeping the information private. When we are discussing ethnicity and religious related issues, as he has before, then identity is of interest.

I am perfectly willing to answer the same questions or related ones, under the conditions I asked them.

You call it racist. Fine. I've been called a racist before by people who do not truly understand the meaning of the word, and the meaning of my writings. That's you're problem, not mine, oh useless troll. I consider affirmative action or any other government or private program which is even aware of race (other than research) as racist. Most on the left do not.

Have you actually read The Bell Curve. I thought not, or you wouldn't call it a racist screed. If it has any racism in it, it is in exactly one of many chapters. Investigation of racial differences (or the existence of race) does not constitute racism, nor does accurate reporting on that. I am in a position to judge some of The Bell Curve's sources and conclusions, but not all.

Racism is when one has unfounded beliefs about all members of another race - stereotypes that are either incorrect or asserted as truth when they are actually speculation. Racism may also be the acting on such beliefs.

The Bell Curve makes statistical statements about racial differences, backed up by studies. If they cherry picked studies that support only racial inferiority/superiority, then they are racist. If they honestly put forward the scientific (as opposed to political) scholarship on the subject, and did not make overly broad conclusions from that information, then the "screed" is not racist.

PJ

You know I didn't say love it or leave it, Ahmed, and outrage is a poor substitute for rational argument. Yes, please, do "explain it all" and prove your accusations of US imperialism and targeting of civilians.

GMRoper

Ahmed, first, I don't recall saying 50% of American Muslims believe in death for apostasy, if I did, I was wrong. Secondly, what I believe I said was that probably over half of those Muslims who accept the radical ideas of Wahabiism (i.e., OBL etc.) believe in death for apostasy. In fact, if I'm not mistaken, its part of the Koran (though I don't read Arabic so I could be wrong.)

reg

This is a test - I have five posts...three were clusterd together and short, including a spelling correction, one was a link to a a source article without comment and one was an admittedly unhinged response to one of hitchcock's brazen lies (not opinion...lie).

I just want to see if I've been blocked and the crazed Moore, who's incredibly verbose serial posts on this thread make mine look like positively restrained hasn't been...

reg

Must be a dead thread...

jim hitchcock

"...and one was an admittedly unhinged response to one of hitchcock's brazen lies (not opinion...lie)"

Uh, think that was another Jim, Reg.

reg

sorry,sorry,sorry...I meant rockford.

Again, sorry...

jim hitchcock

I know...just couldn't resist having a little fun with it :-)

Useless Troll

Hey, John Moore your wreteced defence of charles murray's screed is telling. But why should i be surprised, you're the same useless fool who defended the swift boat liars. To engage you in a dialogue whether African Americans are genetically prone to low intelligence is to really debase myslef, so i won't. I will forward Adolph Reed's superb critque of the Bell Curve here http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1295/is_n12_v58/ai_15969296

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