The Chronicle of Higher Education is the trade paper of our nation’s college professors and administrators, much in the way that Variety is the trade paper of the Hollywood set. Now, the Chronicle has finally gotten around to covering the Ward Churchill controversy–he’s the self-described American Indian professor at the University of Colorado-Boulder who called the victims of the 9/11 massacre “little Eichmanns,” leading New York’s Hamilton College to rescind his speaking engagement there.
And wouldn’t you know, the Chronicle, undoubtedly reflecting the views of its famously liberal readership, isn’t covering the episode as a story of how Hamilton got bamboozled by a radical on-campus institute into inviting Churchill in the first place, or a story of how Churchill, who doesn’t have a Ph.D. and who doesn’t appear to be a genuine Indian (the American Indian Movement has disowned him) got to be a tenured professor and department head at a prestigious state university, or a story of how his “scholarship” (if you can call it that–it consists mostly of screeds published by left-wing presses) allegedly contains at least one made-up item of “fact”: the U.S. Army’s supposed genocide of Indians during the 19th century via blankets infected with smallpox.
Nope–the Chronicle is treating the story as a McCarthy-esque suppression of free speech. For after all, Churchill wrote the “little Eichmanns” article back in 2001, and some 40 colleges and universities around the country cared so little about it that they allowed him to give campus speeches. Then, along came–uh-oh–the dreaded Right Wing. In an article titled “Inside a Free Speech Firestorm,” Chronicle reporter Scott Smallwood writes:
“The answer lies in the power of Bill O’Reilly, Weblogs, and the families of September 11 victims.”
Yes, those pesky, pajama-wearing bloggers again. And those darned 9/11 families! How dare they complain when Churchill’s valuble right to free expression was at stake?
And then, horrors, the Right Wingers began persecuting Churchill! When a Syracuse, N.Y., newspaper not far from Hamilton broke the “little Eichmans” story on Jan. 21, the wingers started posting nasty messages on the Internet! Can you believe it! Yes, and they wrote protesting e-mails to Hamilton! No! Smallwood continues:
“A link to the article was posted on Little Green Footballs, a widely read conservative Weblog, at 9:40 a.m. Eastern time.
“Eleven minutes later a reader posted a comment, saying Mr. Churchill deserved to be shot in the face. And then just before 10 a.m., a different reader provided the professor’s e-mail address. Before 11 a.m., another reader announced she had just called the Colorado governor and had written letters to The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. She followed up a few minutes later with contact information for the newspapers so that others could do the same.
“Linking to a simple article from Syracuse had unleashed the power of hundreds of individuals, all using Google to add little bits of information. Within hours, 500 comments about the matter had been posted on Little Green Footballs alone. Readers linked to old news releases regarding squabbles between Mr. Churchill and the American Indian Movement. They linked to Hamilton news releases about alumni who were killed in the attacks. Someone requested the name of a September 11 widow from Colorado who might have political clout.
“The blogs reached beyond the water cooler. Many readers wanted to do something — even if it was just sending a message of protest or making a phone call. Over the next week or so, Hamilton would receive 8,000 e-mail messages about Mr. Churchill.”
Wasn’t that just awful? I love that bit about the “old news releases regarding squabbles between Mr. Churchill and the American Indian Movement.” The Rocky Mountain News conducted its own investigation and reported that Churchill has at best only a few drops of the Indian blood he claims. Oh, and Smallwood reports that O’Reilly had the nerve to interview Matthew Coppo, a Hamilton student whose father died at the World Trade towers in the 9/11 attack.
And now (sniff, sniff!):
“Mr. Churchill’s speaking engagements may dry up now, as other colleges back away from his fiery rhetoric. His wife, Natsu Saito, acknowledged that some speaking engagements have been canceled, but said other colleges have contacted the couple since the controversy. She declined to name them, saying ‘I don’t want them to come under fire prematurely.’…
“Vandals have spray-painted swastikas on his pickup truck, and he has received more than 100 death threats. And now a Lamar University sociologist is charging that some of Mr. Churchill’s research is fraudulent.”
Well, poor old Ward’s got problems. As I’ve said before on this blog, I think he had a right to say whatever repulsive things he wanted as long as he didn’t turn his classroom into the propaganda engine that he’s made out of his “scholarship,” but I don’t think that outfits like Hamilton College should be wasting their academic reputations and the tuition money of parents by inviting substandard characters like Churchill to their campuses to speak.
And it would be nice if the Chronicle of Higher Education, which devotes much ink to the plight of genuine scholars with real credentials who can’t find jobs, to cover this story of a guy with almost no credentials who’s bamboozled the system for decades with a little objectivity.
But nooo–that’s not what our academics want to read. If you don’t believe me, click to this latest Little Green Footballs post, linking to University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen’s claim that Churchill was right, ’cause “the United States is a depraved criminal nation bent on dominating the world.”