Academic freedoms and Ward Churchill

by Henry on February 4, 2005

Stephen Bainbridge steps in for the right, and says that basic principles of free speech and academic freedom mean that Ward Churchill shouldn’t lose his job. I think he’s right; but I also think that there is something to Timothy Burke’s argument that Churchill shouldn’t have been invited to speak at Hamilton in the first place (the two positions are of course not contradictory). Not because of his extreme opinions – but because he seems to be neither a good nor thoughtful academic.

In Tim’s description:

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).
… 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.

What Tim is saying is that academic freedoms shouldn’t be an end in themselves – there should be some real degree of quality control. People who use their academic positions to spout self-evident nonsense shouldn’t be fired – but other scholars shouldn’t be inviting them to give guest lectures, or providing any of the other little marks of recognition that academics prize. There should be some minimal degree of self-regulation – people whose purported scholarship is political hackwork shouldn’t be rewarded for that, whether they’re on the left or the right. Which isn’t to say that you need to be politically neutral to be a good or interesting academic, but you do need at a bare minimum to be interested in dialogue, to recognize that there are other valid political positions to your own (and that your own position has weaknesses), and to engage in real argument rather than polemic, when the scope for a real argument is there. People whose ‘scholarship’ consists entirely of polemic are not, by virtue of that fact, scholars.

One final point: Tim says that:

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.

I think that’s rather unfair to Reynolds (Me? Defending Glenn Reynolds? Makes for a bit of a change). Churchill’s hackwork is his scholarship, and his scholarship is his hackwork – the two are indistinguishable. I’ve not read any of Reynolds’ academic work, but my understanding is that he does have a substantial body of scholarly output which is quite independent from his blogging. To my knowledge, only the latter is marked by the mendacity and vicious jingoism that we’ve come to know, if not especially to love. While I think that Reynolds can be, and should be, vigorously criticized as a ‘public intellectual’ (using that term in its very loosest sense), I don’t have any reason to believe that he’s betraying his vocation as a scholar – he seems to keep the two fields of activity quite separate.

Update: this hasn’t posted thanks to our server issues; for another outbreak of Reynoldsism and a purported reply to my earlier post, see this.

{ 44 comments }

1

IF 02.05.05 at 2:38 pm

Yes, but what other than slippery slope arguments militates against firing Ward Churchill for being a dolt and a hack.

Speaking personally, I went to law school, rather than pursuing a PhD, almost entirely based on the advice that it would be almost impossible to get a job in academia. And now I get you — nice, clever guy that you are — telling me that, “Yeah, we get morons and buffoons making a living in academia, but that’s OK cuz we don’t invite them to our parties!” No, seriously, you’re kidding me, right? No colloquia for Churchill? That’s IT? THAT’s the answer?!

Is the position really that a College/University can fire someone for being a complete moron, but that if the person is a complete and offensive moron then he is untouchable?

Am I just being naïve here?

What we seem to be forgetting here is that jobs in academia are a scarce resource. This isn’t really about the ability to say or think what you want. Quoting Bainbridge, here,
“This one of those occasions when those of us on the right need to suck it up and echo the line famously attributed to Voltaire: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’” Yes, but I’m not sure I should defend his right to be paid for these views, especially at a place that is supposed to be about increasing knowledge. It’s been a few years since the relevant epistemology or Philosophy of Language courses, so forgive me if I muff the formulation of this little bromide, “Knowledge is not co-extensive with crap!” And that’s all Churchill is bringing; not knowledge, just crap.

Is the argument ultimately just that: 1)“Slippery Slope”, and 2) “Ward Churchill is just the tax society must pay to create a climate conducive to real academics”? or is there some distinction between the term “Hack”, as Burke uses it, and “Buffoon/Idiot/Moron”, as I use it to indicate someone lacking the will, insight, ability, or perspective to make a real contribution to either scholarship or teaching? If Churchill is really just sitting there, doing badly what others do well, then what’s the point of his staying? Since when did “Academic Freedom” come to mean the refusal to make subtle, but real, distinctions?

2

Uncle Kvetch 02.05.05 at 2:55 pm

A factual question: did “Hamilton College” invite Churchill to speak, or was it an organization on campus? If the latter, the College doesn’t really have much say. Ann Coulter speaks on college campuses because she’s invited by the College Republicans; it’s not like the colleges involved are granting a seal of approval.

3

Henry 02.05.05 at 3:12 pm

if – Since I posted this (or at least tried to post it), “Eugene Volokh”:http://www.volokh.com/archives/archive_2005_02_00.shtml#1107553264 has provided an argument which I think goes some way to answering your query.

4

IF 02.05.05 at 3:31 pm

Thank you Henry. Crooked Timber is one of the first sites I check — Volokh being fifth or sixth — so I had not yet made my way to his explanation this morning. Frankly, it was Volokh’s earlier claims of Academic Freedom in relation to John Yoo and Condoleeza Rice (and Churchill) that set me off. Frankly, I still think that his thinking is sloppy. He seems to persist in collapsing the notions of quality and offensiveness (or treating offensiveness as somehow mysteriously supervening); as in he seems hard put to admit that a thing might be bad as a matter of scholarship, in addition to (or notwithstanding) it’s being bad as a matter of offensiveness. I suppose I should just write him.

5

abb1 02.05.05 at 3:36 pm

The suggestion that someone shouldn’t be invited to speak just because Henry Farrell thinks of him as ‘neither a good nor thoughtful academic’ is obviously ludicrous. This whole smear is clearly reminiscent of McCarthyism, though.

Next time you write something, Henry, make sure it doesn’t sound too polemical or, god forbid, controversial – for your own sake.

6

jet 02.05.05 at 3:58 pm

Abb1,
I think the issue is the quality of the polemic, not the existence of polemic. Se If’s first comment for a more detailed (and lively) explanation.

7

jet 02.05.05 at 4:03 pm

Something of interest to this discussion is Fox News’ Bill O’Reily did a bit on Churchill. He discussed what horrible drivel Churchill spouted and what a bad person he was, but then went on to say that he should not lose his job. It sounds like O’Reily’s opinion matches somewhat what we see on CrookedTimber. How….disturbing.

8

Matt 02.05.05 at 4:07 pm

My understanding is that Reynolds’ academic work is pretty much all in his past, and that he’s essentially a full-time hack now. That doesn’t contadict Henry’s point that he didn’t make a career out of his hack-work from the get-go, but it’s pretty much only for his hack-work that anyone cares about him today. (Or for that matter why most anyone would have cared about him, as otherwise he’s just a modestly sucessful law professor at a middle-of-the-pack school.)

9

Scott Lemieux 02.05.05 at 4:19 pm

if–but, as I think Volokh makes clear, the error was made at the error of granting Churchill tenure (and hiring him in the first place.) It’s regrettable that (and I haven’t read his work, but I truts Henry’s judgment) Churchill was hired and tenured, but that’s were your arguments about perserving scarce academic jobs are relevant. You can’t plausibly argue that you’re firing him for shoddy scholarship *now*.

10

zero 02.05.05 at 4:40 pm

The problem with this argument is that “self-evident nonsense” is not self-evidently nonsense to everybody in the same way. Be it about political theories, or evolutionary psychology theories, sociological theories, gender theories, or anything that is open to controversy. You’ll never get everyone to agree on one definition of “self-evident nonsense”.

There is already a “self-regulating mechanism”: those who consider x nonsense, or taboo, will not give space to x in their own circles, whereas those who think x is offering valuable insights, or thought-provoking material, or anything worthy of being heard anyway, will give it the space they want.

Advocating some further vague form of sanitisation of political discourse seems totally unnecessary, especially in America. It’s a bit sad, really.

Maybe the left at political level would benefit from an official split into more than one party. So the mainstream sophisticated left wouldn’t have to worry all the time about being associated with people with more radical, disturbing, uncomfortable ideas (or “nonsense”, if you wish, depending on point of view) – people who don’t even actually want to be associated with the Democrats or moderate left in the first place.

Or maybe they could learn from the Republicans, who are happily and cleverly unoncerned in the least by the radicals on their own end of the political spectrum, even though these radicals reach all the way to top party and government positions, or help bring many votes through millions of listeners, or teach in universities the kind of idea that get them a post at the AEI. They just don’t bother with reputation and respectability from opponents. They laugh at the very idea. While at the same time expecting the moderate left or centre-left or anyone loosely in that camp to “denounce” and distance themselves from anyone already to the left of the left, otherwise, it’s shock and horror and outrage and treason and freedom-hating communists. Why is everyone so eager to play this game?

11

Louis Proyect 02.05.05 at 4:54 pm

I think it is a mistake to see Ward Churchill as an academic primarily, although I am familiar with his writings on the American Indian and got to know him through email exchanges after chairing a meeting for him at the Brecht Forum in NYC. Ward is primarily an activist and uses his university post to agitate for American Indian rights. He was arrested for protests on Columbus Day a couple of years ago. I think that Ward is far more interested in reaching a broad public with books like “A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present,” which is ranked 1168 in sales by amazon.com. By comparison, Henry Farrell, who–judging from his cv– has never written a book in his life, contributes to obscure books that are read only by other academics. He contributed an article to “Political Economy and the Changing Global Order,” a book that is ranked 540,478 by amazon.com. So one can understand why Ward Churchill is not very interested in the opinions of people like Henry, who agitate for the status quo.

12

Henry 02.05.05 at 5:04 pm

zero, abb1 – this is a straightforward post about academic standards. It’s a quite basic point – academics are supposed to be dedicated to critical enquiry into the truth. Academics who aren’t, and who see their academic work as setting out a partisan viewpoint that they will defend come hell or high water, have betrayed their vocation. Doesn’t matter whether they’re on the left or right. Defending hacks because they’re ‘our’ hacks is a betrayal too. This isn’t about jumping in on the Instapundit blame-game (see his post attacking me if you don’t believe me) – it’s about maintaining academic standards _qua_ academic standards. In the end of the day, my commitment as an academic to maintaining a space for argument is stronger than my commitment to a specific partisan agenda. I don’t have, nor claim to have, a monopoly on the truth, nor does the left in general, and the only way that we can get a little closer to the truth is through argument. Academics who aren’t committed to argument push us further away from this, whether they be left wing or right wing. If this bothers you, well, it isn’t my problem. I’m not a politician, nor a political activist – I’m a scholar, and my fundamental commitment is (it has to be) to the academy.

13

Donald A. Coffin 02.05.05 at 5:16 pm

For what it’s worth, more and more colleges and universities have adopted “post-tenure review” policies, designed to provide some check on post-tenure perofrmance of their faculty. At my institution (Indiana University–the entire institution, from the research campuses on), it’s possible to lose tenure–and your job–if your performance slides into unacceptable. (There is faculty control, more or less, of the entire process, by the way.)

14

IF 02.05.05 at 6:08 pm

Scott Lemieux:

Yep, Volokh did address the issues with which I was concerned. I skipped over that particular posting and read the one before and the one after. This was my error. You are absolutely correct in this.

But, I am uncomfortable just leaving it at tenure. For example, Commenter Louis Proyect states above, “Ward is primarily an activist and uses his university post to agitate for American Indian rights.”

There is just so much politics in the hiring and tenuring processes. So many fads come and go. [I’m not calling Indian Rights a fad, BTW]

On the one hand, I appreciate the structural need for tenure as an element of academic freedom. On the other hand, mistakes are made, and I NAIVELY wish for an objective [magical?] process that would not be abused [fantasy land?] or politicized [oh, I wish for a magical fantasy land!].

Ultimately, the process requires certain limitations on the power of the administration, OK! Fine!

What this does not answer, however, is the John Yoo questions. Untenured? Crazy Memo? Poorly reasoned Memo? Seems outside the tenure issue. But, other “legitimate” academic writing. So, I’ll just shut-up about that.

15

djw 02.05.05 at 6:44 pm

I think it’s worth remember that while tenure is a pretty strong form of job protection, lots and lots of other industries and professions have talent-challenged hacks who are inexplicably successful. To the extent that this is academia’s problem, it’s hardly academia’s problem exclusively.

16

zero 02.05.05 at 6:58 pm

I’m not a politician, nor a political activist

But others may prefer to be both political activists and academics. And others may like to read and listen and hear academics who are also political activists. If it weren’t so, our culture as we know it wouldn’t even exist.

Who establishes for everyone one set of standards and a level of academic purity in pursuit of “the truth”, that is “betrayed” by taking overt political stances? Those who are hacks to some may be worthy and good and thoughtful enough to others, and viceversa.

I don’t have, nor claim to have, a monopoly on the truth, nor does the left in general, and the only way that we can get a little closer to the truth is through argument.

Exactly. But it all depends on who’s forsaking the argument part.

You may be thinking purely in academic terms here, but academic standards are not what the whole discussion over Churchill’s outrageous comments or 9/11 being inspired by leftist German nihilists is about. It’s about a right wing majority managing to dictate the rules for debate via straw men and populist manipulation tactics. So that certain views are automatically deemed taboo. Not just the kind of stuff on Zmag, but anything that is not patriotic enough and moderate enough and comfortable enough for the current climate. When even a pro-war Democrat candidate is called a radical socialist antiamerican, no one can fool themselves that it will ever stop at outrage at Ward Churchill because it’s already gone way beyond that.

17

Jim Harrison 02.05.05 at 7:18 pm

Faculties are full of dead wood, but does anybody seriously think that attacks on tenure will address that problem? Anyhow, the graver failing of American academia isn’t that we have too many abraisive associate profs but that we don’t have enough.

18

asg 02.05.05 at 7:41 pm

This isn’t about jumping in on the Instapundit blame-game (see his post attacking me if you don’t believe me)

Lest no one else point this out, it’s an odd use of the word “attack” to describe a post replying to one of yours, in which you refer to Reynolds as making a “disgusting effort” at a “smear.” It seems to me that you are the one doing the attacking.

If Reynolds has ever said anything negative about you personally without your first having taken a shot at him, I’m unaware of it, and indeed a search on [“Henry Farrell” site:instapundit.com”] seems to bear this out.

I have never understood the bile thrown Instapundit’s way from this site. No answer is needed, obviously; I don’t want to hijack this thread. I just don’t understand it.

19

Dustin 02.05.05 at 7:54 pm

As an anthropologist studying the relationship between Indians and academics (especially anthropologists, of course), I’ve found some of CHurchill’s work useful, and not just for the outrage. But, too, let’s keep in mind that being an academic is not all, or even mainly, about one’s published work (despite the importance such things take on in tenure review, for instance). Churchill was hired, tenured (I assume), and ultimately *made chair* of his department — reflections that *someone*, at least, felt his work and professional demeanor were appropriate to the topic he is expected to teach. These processes don’t occur in a vaccuum — other, ostensibly well-informed, academics are present at every step of the way.

The bottom line is, does Churchill contribute to the goals of his department which, I hope, are primarily about teaching and promoting research? His fellow department members thought so, his Uni admin thought so (at least until last week), and whatever academics made up the search committee that hired him and the tenure committee that tenured him thought so. This isn’t to say that these are perfect systems, but people are speaking about Churchill as if he just popped full-blown into a department chairship, even though he’s “just a hack”. The emerging academics who write for and frequent this site know how hard it is to even get a crappy academic job — do they think the system puts up a billion barriers to smart folks like us but allows a “hack” like Churchill to just waltz in and take over a department?

As I said, written output isn’t necessarily indicitive of classroom teaching skills. I think I’m a pretty good teacher (even great, from time to time) but I am only just now getting ready to get my first publication. My best professors had published little or nothing past their dissertations — even though they were in their 60s.

I’ve written more about CHurchill and academic freedom at my site: http://www.onemansopinion.org/pivot/pivot/entry.php?id=350 I’d be pleased if anyone would visit.

20

Henry 02.05.05 at 8:02 pm

asg – if it makes you happier, I’m quite glad to acknowledge that I did attack Reynolds previously, and that his post was a response to this. Indeed, I already _have_ acknowledged this – if you read the post above, you’ll see that I describe his post as a “purported reply.” I’m not going to even begin to try to explain why I and others have a visceral disgust for Reynolds’ site and posting habits – if the Reynolds post that I linked to a couple of days ago isn’t sufficient explanation in itself, I can’t think of any argument that is likely to convince you.

21

Pollie Anon 02.05.05 at 8:18 pm

asq, yep this site does indeed spend an awful lot of time Glenn Reynolds dissing and, like you, I’ve often wondered why.

Where does the Instapundit vilification come from and what drives it?

Is it his traffic or his views or both?

22

mw 02.05.05 at 8:24 pm

But why did Churchill succeed in academia in spite of “an oeuvre [that] is practically a guided tour of every trope of identity politics”?

Isn’t it the case that such an oeuvre has actually been a pretty good recipe for success in many academic fields? Most left-leaning academics (which is to say most academics) may not share Churchill’s extreme politics, but it seems that virtually all have been willing to give him a pass on them. It took commentators outside the academy to raise a stink.

Here, I think, is another interesting blog phenomenon. Academics like Churchill are used to operating in relative obscurity outside their fields–they don’t expect their lecturing or writing to ever come to the attention of the larger university community who would be deeply offended (in particular members of the community with money–alumni/parents/donors). From the perspective of the university administration, they didn’t care what the various ‘little-Churchills’ on their campuses were saying so long as the public at large never became aware of it.

But blogosphere seems have changed that. Far-left diatribes will be picked up and publicized. Parents, alumni, state legislators, etc, will find out and there may be financial implications.

“Tenure” and “academic freedom” are perfectly good answers to the question of “Why don’t you fire that jerk?” but they are not an answer at all to the question “Why do you hire and promote jerks like that in the first place?”

23

reader 02.05.05 at 8:35 pm

Ward Churchill has a response to the media uproar at Counterpunch. You may not find it completely convincing; however I think that substantive further engagement/debate with Churchill, including invites to conferences, speeches, etc. would be all to the good.

24

reader 02.05.05 at 8:47 pm

Update: Alex himself has now posted a piece on Counterpunch’s front page
also worth reading.

25

abb1 02.05.05 at 8:53 pm

Most left-leaning academics (which is to say most academics) may not share Churchill’s extreme politics, but it seems that virtually all have been willing to give him a pass on them. It took commentators outside the academy to raise a stink.

Here’s another outrageous example of an extremist academic who was given a pass. Thank God for J Edgar Hoover for keeping an eye on him.

FBI.gov File Summary:

An investigation was conducted by the FBI regarding the famous physicist because of his affiliation with the Communist Party. Einstein was a member, sponsor, or affiliated with thirty-four communist fronts between 1937-1954. He also served as honorary chairman for three communist organizations.

26

Donald Johnson 02.05.05 at 9:01 pm

I thought Churchill’s comments were unsavory and beyond the pale for one specific reason–he seemed to be saying that some victims of 9/11 had it coming. He can’t criticize the US and its allies for indiscriminate violence and then defend people who play the same game.

So here’s my perfectly reasonable compromise–no college should invite Churchill to speak, and no college should invite people like Kissinger, Elliot Abrams, John Negroponte, Madelaine Albright, and on, and on–that is, any American official who has lied about or said something breathtakingly callous about the victims of American foreign policy. We can extend this to professors as well, but should start with former government officials. I mean, wouldn’t parents and rich donors be upset to know that someone like Kissinger was corrupting the minds of college students?

27

mw 02.05.05 at 10:20 pm

Here’s another outrageous example of an extremist academic who was given a pass. Thank God for J Edgar Hoover for keeping an eye on him.

There is an enormous difference between secret government surveillence and public dissemination and discussion of the published writings and public statements of a scholar (especially one who also happens to be a government employee).

That said, my impression is that Einstein did not hide his communist sympathies, and so they were generally known by the public as well. He was treated as a white-haired ‘secular saint’ at the end of his life, but fortunately his political views were not much listened to…

28

John Lederer 02.05.05 at 10:55 pm

29

Ophelia Benson 02.06.05 at 12:19 am

“People who use their academic positions to spout self-evident nonsense shouldn’t be fired”

Err…yes they should.

Depending of course on what is meant by self-evident nonsense. Political opinion is obviously debatable, but issues of basic competence are another matter. If you have someone either teaching or writing that, I dunno, Paris is the capital of Antarctica, or Rabelais wrote The Tale of Genji, or pineapple is good on pizza – well that someone shouldn’t be teaching nursery school, let alone tertiary.

Here’s a bit from an LA Times article –

“One argument that could be made is that his writings and speeches have degenerated to a point where they are representative of professional incompetence,” said Paul Campos, a law professor at the university and a columnist for the Rocky Mountain News. “In the same way, a college would not tolerate a member of the history department who said the Holocaust didn’t happen.”

30

Jon 02.06.05 at 12:25 am

I don’t recall Fox being too upset after the disgusting/psychotic post-9/11 culture war rage of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson:

“I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.'”

For more, see:

“The American Taliban”

31

john c. halasz 02.06.05 at 2:00 am

Actually, having perused the original offending screed, what was most offensive about it was its self-appointed pose as moral spokesman for the oppressed. That there has been massive colonial/imperial violence perpetrated by the U.S. and other Western powers on weaker, non-Western peoples is very little in doubt, and the technological sophistication of the means is hardly a mitigation. But by what political reasoning or logic of political action or organization his screed was supposed to count as effective opposition to that violence is a mystery to me. It struck me as another instance of “leading with your chin.”

32

Ophelia Benson 02.06.05 at 2:45 am

“its self-appointed pose as moral spokesman for the oppressed.”

Yup. Some of whom want nothing to do with him. It’s pretty funny, reading all those Native Americans saying Hey, he’s not one of our friends, and he’s not a Native American, either, he just says he is.

And one wonders if Churchill seriously thinks al Qaida is on the side of the oppressed? I can think of one or two oppressed women who don’t think so.

33

T. Paine 02.06.05 at 5:47 am

Two thoughts: First, it’s terribly interesting that discussion of Churchill’s writings have revolved around the media spin on them. I haven’t seen any actual, y’know, refutation of his central assertion. I don’t recall red herrings (identity politics!) or ad hominems (incivility!) qualifying as evidence.
Second, is it any wonder that Churchill (and others) are militant in their rhetoric? There’s a commenter above denying his “Indian-ness”, for goodness sake! How many Jews (including me) can claim non-miniscule-fraction blood-based connection to Jewish people living in Israel 6,000 years ago? Why should we have to? It should be obvious that the same argument holds true for Churchill and his ethnicity. And this type of argument about who gets to be Indian helps to prove some of Churchill’s points.

34

abb1 02.06.05 at 10:01 am

Questioning someone’s Indianness or Jewishness is like using the word ‘nigger’ – it’s very wrong when outsiders do it, but it’s the most common and most fun thing to do for the members of each group.

35

john c. halasz 02.06.05 at 11:15 am

Just to be clear, when I remarked about what was most offensive about Churchill’s screed, I meant that much else in it was scarcely offensive: much of its points are susceptible to rational reconstruction. I find the readiness to take offence at Churchill’s remarks still more suspicious than Churchill’s desire to give offense. Something of the same sort of point was made by Sontag in the New Yorker immediately afterward,- the only objection being to the superciliousness of her tone,- and still better by another writer in the same issue, who had extensive experience touring the world’s war zones. The randomness of the violence of the 9/11 actrocity,- an objection to all terrorism,- is mirrored in the randomness of the much more extensive violence in “the other”. That would not, however, constitute a brief for setting up non-random violence as a rationalist ideal. Still, the idea that academics in their cubicles should be solely dedicated to the disinterested search for truth belies the larger context in which truth unfortunately is to be found. Churchill’s inauthenticity is perhaps the lesser instance.

36

v 02.06.05 at 6:27 pm

“There is an enormous difference between secret government surveillance and …”
Einstein could not really be touched because of his pre-eminence. One does not openly persecute the greatest physicist after Isaac Newton, for basically harmless political views, unless one is a Nazi. However, the McCarthy hearings very much were in the business of public persecution of anyone who had remotely communist opinions, and they did try to go after academics. Also, secret govt surveillance is sufficient to ruin a person’s ability to get employed if the govt so chooses, and this is not exactly a trivial thing.

I think though that this present furore is pretty harmless compared to what happened then. The person involved has not lost his job, and neither is he the subject of govt investigation. However, I believe that this is indicative of a general trend among many right-wing circles to use straw men to attack anyone who disagrees with them. Another prime example of this is the fuss made in some circles about the non-recognition of Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion”.

37

mw 02.06.05 at 6:48 pm

I think though that this present furore is pretty harmless compared to what happened then. The person involved has not lost his job, and neither is he the subject of govt investigation. However, I believe that this is indicative of a general trend among many right-wing circles to use straw men to attack anyone who disagrees with them.

Straw men? Ward Churchill seems flesh & blood enough to me. I don’t see any problem with those who are offended by Churchill’s writings in:

1. Calling public attention to them.

2. Protesting his occupying a position of authority at a state university or being honored with speaking invitations by other universities.

I have a hard time seeing a problem with either of these activities. They are nothing like secret government surveillance nor being called to testify before the HUAC.

38

mw 02.06.05 at 6:49 pm

I think though that this present furore is pretty harmless compared to what happened then. The person involved has not lost his job, and neither is he the subject of govt investigation. However, I believe that this is indicative of a general trend among many right-wing circles to use straw men to attack anyone who disagrees with them.

Straw men? Ward Churchill seems flesh & blood enough to me. I don’t see any problem with those who are offended by Churchill’s writings in:

1. Calling public attention to them.

2. Protesting his occupying a position of authority at a state university or being honored with speaking invitations by other universities.

I have a hard time seeing a problem with either of these activities. They are nothing like secret government surveillance nor being called to testify before the HUAC.

39

abb1 02.06.05 at 7:02 pm

Einstein could not really be touched because of his pre-eminence. One does not openly persecute the greatest physicist after Isaac Newton, for basically harmless political views, unless one is a Nazi.

Well, it depends on the meaning of ‘touch’. According to reviews of The Einstein File: J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret War Against the World’s Most Famous Scientist

From 1933 until 1955, the Federal Bureau of Investigation compiled a 2,000-page file on Albert Einstein, hoping to “destroy” his immense stature by linking him to Soviet espionage activities. At one point, not long before the scientist’s death, a serious attempt was made to have him deported.

Accusations of subversive activity ranged from the surreal (mind control and death rays) to carelessly recycled Nazi propaganda. Hoover’s only hope lay in exposing Einstein as a Soviet spy, a task he fruitlessly pursued from 1950 to 1955 (when Einstein died).

It was part of Hoover’s secret, 23-year campaign to undermine Einstein’s influence, a campaign that included illegally opening the scientist’s mail, monitoring his phone, trying to link him to Soviet spies, and trying to take away his American citizenship – a campaign detailed for the first time in The Einstein File.

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David T. Beito 02.06.05 at 8:11 pm

During this week, academic freedom has not only been under assault at the University Colorado but also at UNLV. In many ways, this case is even more troubling.

For more on Hans Hermann-Hoppe, see here

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David T. Beito 02.06.05 at 8:13 pm

During this week, academic freedom has not only been under assault at the University Colorado but also at UNLV. In many ways, this case is even more troubling.

For more on Hans Hermann-Hoppe, see here

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David T. Beito 02.06.05 at 8:14 pm

During this week, academic freedom has not only been under assault at the University Colorado but also at UNLV. In many ways, this case is even more troubling.

For more on Hans Hermann-Hoppe, see here

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Oscar 02.08.05 at 12:04 am

Ward Churchill should be fired if it is proven that he is either incompetent, or that he got his postion under false pretenses (in which case I would support firing the committee that fell for those pretenses.) Barring those two reasons, why should UC get rid of him?

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Juegos de casinos 02.11.05 at 12:08 pm

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