Wednesday, February 09, 2005

This Whole Ward Churchill Controversy

I've been watching and reading some of the massive controversy that surrounds Ward Churchill's 3-year old essay on 9/11. I happen to be familiar with a good deal of Ward Churchill's work, having researched his writings vis a vis US policy toward Native Americans for the past 5 centuries or so. He makes a stunningly convincing case for calling what we've done to the Native Americans genocide by going through the official definition of the word and pointing out the 5 areas that constitute what really is genocide.

That being said, I have read the essay, called "Some People Push Back" as well as Churchill's response to the recent criticism. Overall, the essay is very angry and pointed. I agree with an analysis I saw elsewhere that said Churchill could have used a good editor. The essay, however, makes great points about the double standards that we apply to other nations without looking at how they must certainly be applied to us. In many ways, his argument is similar to things that Noam Chomsky and Chalmers Johnson (author of the great book Blowback). So why is Churchill targeted with death threats and not others who have said the same thing? Two words: "little Eichmanns." The corporate media has seized upon those two words like my cat Crouton seizes on a twist tie. Much like the media is known for doing, they have refused to listen to any explanation. The only thing they want is for Churchll to apologize for what the media has taken out of context! The "little Eichmanns" comment was NOT calling victims of 9/11 Nazis, nor was he comparing the two in any way. All you need to do is read Churchill's response. The reference was to a specific piece by Hannah Arendt called "The Banality of Evil." The importance of Eichmann is that while he did not directly kill people, his job was to ensure that the Nazi system ran smoothly. This is like those who are upper class businessfolk whose job it is to see that the capitalist military-industrial complex runs smoothly. This is NOT to say that the victims are like Nazis but that, like the system the Nazis built, the American capitalist system is wrong/bad. Those who actively work to ensure its continued growth and success should not be surprised if some people push back.

Churchill was merely applying Americans to the same standard we hold to the rest of the world. I read the transcript where he was on Paula Zahn's show. It was painful to read the transcript...I can only imagine what it was like to watch the actual exchange. Churchill explained his Eichmanns reference, and Zahn was just like "I wanna go back to what you said...that was bad...shouldn't you apologize?" She kept asking him if he was pro-terrorist. I mean, she was asking him tougher questions than were EVER asked of the Dubya Administration vis a vis WMD! Churchill's comments have become a bigger scandal than the fact that Dubya led us to war based on FALSE DOCUMENTS!!! Double-you Teeee Effffffffff?!?!

Read the pieces linked for yourself if you have not already. It just pains me that we have this predicament where using language some people don't like can get you fired but lying about why thousands of people have to die needlessly doesn't.


alexmason said...

I absolutely have no problem with Ward Churchill utilizing his right to free speech no matter how repugnant I find his views. It just strikes me as ironic that the Liberal press wants to give Churchill a free pass but absolutely shut down Harvard president Larry Summers for his views on women. A little hypocritical if you ask me.

Blake said...

First of all, I don't know who you're referring to as the "Liberal" press. Most of the press went after Churchill or tried to distance themselves from him for fear that they would be called the same names that he's being called.

As for Larry Summers, I don't think those two situations are analogous. Churchill's comment was simply that this country has done some terrible things and that they have consequences. 9/11 was a consequence of 25 years of intrusive foreign policy, not a random act by people who are just evil and bored. His comments have been taken out of context by the press (liberal and conservative). Summers actually said that womyn are inherently inferior to men. No need to read into that one or take it out of context. He has not denied that statement. That view is one that many find repugnant...I just don't see them as similar instances.