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Some Churchill............Some Dreck

irresponsible accusations, bad history, political hypocrisy, faux patriotism, faked military records and gene pool....freshen these drinks and pop that corn, I'm ready

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, February 09, 2005.

I enjoy the Ward Churchill controversy, for precisely the reasons that offend both ‘sides’ in it. First, I hate more than anything those who live to throw their saddle across the back of issues that can be patted into patriotic shape, like Governor Owens. Owens never served in the military, Churchill did, and for Owens to level the charge of treason over a mere opinion voiced is itself against everything this nation stands for. These arguments necessarily get messy, and only the strong survive them. It’s a form of bullying for both the powerful and the not-so who want to be rewarded by the powerful by doing their dirty work. It’s revolting either way.

Ward Churchill, a current CU Professor under fire, is a graduate of Sangamon State, originally the smallest of Illinois’ twelve state universities. He has a Master’s Degree in Communication. That’s it. How this qualified him to be head of the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Colorado is a mystery, but then so is anything called an ‘Ethnic Studies Department.’ There is rumor that when he was hired, it was because he was part Indian, and he does claim such heritage. There are increasing numbers of actual Indians who feel he lies about it.

A lot of coverage of this dust-up refers to Churchill as simply ‘Ward.’ In all circumstances like this, the implied depth of objectivity is lessened by times of reference by first name only. This bugs me. Churchill is imposing, and has been a popular professor, although whether that was due his grading curve in a vague course of study or because he puffed up the political fringe appealing to predictable types or because his scholarship was impressive and ability to impart it impressive is open to debate, and it is increasingly debated. I have never heard him called Professor Churchill, and that alone makes me uneasy.

After several decades of inflammatory rhetoric and questionable conclusions based on iffy research, Churchill wrote that those working in the World Trade Center were 'little Eichmanns,' and pretty much deserved their fate. This was discovered by the right wing, and all the ‘with us or against us’ rhetoric was wheeled out for their audience of unthinking morons as idiotic as those to whom Churchill addressed his own remarks on the opposite side. Churchill’s just Limbaugh Left.

Churchill’s printed works are for the intellectually undisciplined, and rarely if ever are printed in peer review venues. That’s because he is an inciter and not a scholar. Much of what he writes about history and current events can’t be elevated to hogwash by merely sentient standard regardless of the refreshing beverage chosen to accompany your reading. He’s simply a poseur paid to wow the uneducated left. His claims about Columbus and supposed Indian genocide are hyperbole and bonkers on their face, and as at least one debunker shows, Churchill’s own claimed sources often refute him, demonstrating his previous comfort nobody will check his facts.

Churchill is being called on research fraud by at least two scholars. His supposed Indian heritage is under fire by actual Indians, who care more about his anti-establishment credentials than his blood codes. If the term means having a significant amount of the right codes, he probably is not Indian, although a simple DNA test would lay this to rest. As long as Churchill is useful, he’ll be considered an Indian. When he isn’t, and that may be coming up, he won’t be. And, frankly, this is how Indians have always looked at it. Runaway slave? Runaway bankrupt? If you can cut the life, you’re a tribe member.

In the meanwhile, none of us should accord much weight to the statements of AIM, local or national, an organization that illustrates in microcosm the reasons Native Americans were never able to put up a decent fight against European invaders: they cannot agree on lunch, much less policy or point, or the sharing of increasing wealth and the power that would come with it. AIM often gives pettiness a bad name.

Then, as in many cases of his generation, his military record is not sure either, and what he has claimed and what is true are not necessarily the same thing.

I hate all this because it gives ammunition to conservatives, who simply want an all white, all male history of wars and a return to traditional patriarchal prerogatives. A left wing intellectual light weight caught in fabrications within a field of study seeming designed to grant good grades is a God-send to these types, who have the added advantage of being able to agree with Churchill's First Amendment issues and so seem objective, which they are not.

I love all this, because it calls the many pretensions of the academic Left into long overdue considerations by their actual icons as well as the public. The abject shallowness of the field of study and the clear blind for political indoctrination needs far more sunlight than not. Many of these classes exist solely as competition for the Naropas and the community colleges that siphon away moneyed but not prime students, and whatever the college, money is a concern. Their underpinnings are weak, and if Ward Churchill’s works may serve as examples, a lot of it is sloppy garbage and simply not true. The fact that homogenous fascism does exist in corporate America doesn’t excuse irresponsible accusations that cultural beneficiaries of upstream policy deserve violent death.

Although they profess many of the same political views, it is difficult to see a scholar like Noam Chomsky granting the works of Churchill a passing grade, but who knows? It wouldn’t be the first case of logrolling by political bedfellows, Left or Right.