"All great truths begin as blasphemies,"
said George Bernard Shaw. But not all blasphemies are the beginnings of great
truths, a distinction worth remembering when it comes to Ward Churchill.
The chairman of the ethnic studies program at the University of Colorado gained
notoriety for calling the victims of 9/11 "little Eichmanns." By this
he meant that those murdered in the Twin Towers were not innocent, but deserved
what they got. "They were civilians of a sort," wrote Churchill in
an essay titled "Some
People Push Back."
"But innocent? Gimme a break:
"They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global
financial empire – the 'mighty engine of profit' to which the military dimension
of U.S. policy has always been enslaved – and they did so both willingly and
"Payback can be a real motherf*cker," this subtle chap gloated. For
al-Qaeda, Churchill had only compliments. They were "combat teams"
and "secular activists" who made "gallant sacrifices."
An impenitent Churchill later pardoned food-service workers and janitors; apparently
the glib Nazi metaphor was intended only for stockbrokers, bankers, and the
likes. You see, Marxists hate the division of labor – the hallmark of civilization,
prosperity, and individuality. Churchill's ilk also refuse to believe that "Pizza
Hut opening an outlet in Lima is not the modern equivalent of Pizarro descending
on the Incas," to quote Henri Astier. Churchill's claptrap
caused one impressionable
9/11 victim to distance himself from the peaceful, productive
commerce his (deceased) father had conducted on the 104th floor of the north
For placing Churchill and his frothy verbiage on center stage, we have Hamilton
College's Nancy Rabinowitz to thank. The professor had invited Churchill to
speak about "American Indian activism" (his field of "expertise"),
as part of the college's Kirkland
Project for the Study of Gender, Society, and Culture.' (Churchill is the
author of tracts such as Fantasies
of the Master Race and From
a Native Son.)
The Project was founded to "help
women, gays, blacks, and Hispanics on a predominantly male campus."
Since gays are men too, and some blacks and Hispanics are saddled with
the Y chromosome, this original mission statement is confusing but unambiguous.
Translation: the "pale,
patriarchal, penis people," and what's left of Western civilization,
are the targets of The Project's agitprop. Similar programs proliferate on campuses
across the country, including the University of Colorado.
Churchill, who has also served as the acting director of the American Indian
Equal Opportunities Program at CU, may not be a real Indian chief, but he takes
the lead when it comes to reducing everything to a discourse of the "excluded"
and "oppressed." He is joined by all the other mediocre minds in the
country's cultural studies departments – Ethnic,
Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies – and in the humanities and comparative
literature enclaves, where they manufacture dogmas about victims and oppressors.
Government commissions have gleefully codified these dead-wrong doctrines into
law, giving blacks, women, Indians, and gays (the list is still under construction)
the power to displace and destroy unprotected species (white men, for instance).
And the torchbearer for this "tradition" dares to defile the free
traders of the World Trade Center? The temerity!
Before Churchill, the Kirkland cretins had courted another PR disaster by inviting
a 1960s radical and convicted felon, to be "artist/activist-in-residence."
I realize there are conflicting
views about Rosenberg's culpability in the crime for which she was convicted.
The point is immaterial to my argument, which is that Rosenberg, like Churchill,
is a political agitator, not a scholar. When Hamilton administrators called
her "an award-winning writer," they were referring to the PEN
award for prison writing.
When they dubbed her "a teacher who offers a unique perspective as a writer,"
they were crediting her criminal record. Some résumé requirements!
Unlike Rosenberg, Churchill is not violent, but he is a fraud and an impostor.
He lies about his ancestry (his impressive hairline is the only Indian thing
about him), his paratrooper's pedigree, and his service in Vietnam. He also
appears to be a plagiarist.
A perusal of his and Rosenberg's piss-poor prose (she also dabbles in poetry)
is enough to establish that UC, to say nothing of an elite liberal arts college
like Hamilton, owes its students a lot better.
The Churchill contretemps illustrates the need to distinguish between academic
freedom and free speech, as Roger
Kimball has done, with reference to the work of sociologist Edward
"Academic freedom is not the freedom of academic individuals to do
just anything, to follow any impulse or desire, or to say anything that occurs
to them. It is the freedom to do academic things: to teach the truth as they
see it on the basis of prolonged and intensive study, to discuss their ideas
freely with their colleagues, to publish the truth as they have arrived at it
by systematic methodical research and assiduous research.
"Although academic freedom includes political freedom, it is nonetheless
desirable that teachers should not expound their own political or moral preferences
and values in their classes … academic freedom is the freedom to seek and transmit
the truth. It does not extend to the conduct of political propaganda in teaching."
Libertarians should, naturally, reject Kimball's view that the law circumscribe
free speech. Only the owner of the proverbial crowded theater can permit
or forbid his patrons to disrupt a screening with bogus cries of "fire."
Hamilton is a private establishment (although
"private" is a misnomer in contemporary America, as taxpayers pay
and State Assistance Programs). It's up to Hamilton's proprietors and patrons
to decide the limits – or lack thereof – of free speech and academic freedom. When
alumni begin to protest and potential students and donors scuttle, the Kirkland
kooks (and CU, for that matter) will
be forced to contemplate their errant ways.
This is not to say that Churchill's tirades are bereft of any truth. He makes
some good points, the one about the American people's torpidity being an example.
But, unless one is a magpie, one doesn't rummage through garbage in search of
Churchill is not the answer to getting university students to think critically
about American foreign policy; a rigorous, unpoliticized, liberal education
that teaches law, history, philosophy, and literature is. This was once a tradition
on American campuses. The tradition is dead. Its killers – Churchill and company – are
at large in the ideology-driven, unscholarly covens across America's campuses,
where they indoctrinate rather than educate.