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The Overturned Rock and Ward Churchill

This Augean Stable Needs the Flamethrower, and Churchill Handed Us the Match

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, March 18, 2009.

Some years ago, then CU Ethnic Studies Department Head Professor Ward Churchill suggested that those who died in the WTC were little Eichmans, a reference to the bureaucrat who ran the Holocaust. Having placed them in his ethical firmament, he felt no hesitation about claiming that the planes that struck the towers were just metal chickens coming home to roost. This infuriated many, including then Governor of Colorado and Chickenhawk Bill Owens, who demanded by phone that then President of CU, Elizabeth Hoffman, fire Churchill. Churchill eventually got fired, but not for that. He is now suing CU to get his job back in a trial that started last week.

There is tension between the testimonies of Owens and Hoffman, the latter says the phone call was threatening, and the former saying he doesn’t recall that. In any case, as attorneys have since pointed out and Owens since admitted, it would have been a clear violation of the First Amendment had Churchill been fired. For that.

But, there had long been complaints about Churchill, and these smoldering coals were now exposed to air and burst into flame. A commanding physical presence and teacher of narrow charisma, Churchill has been exposed as both a liar, posturing fraud, and pompous gasbag who was a very big fish in a very small academic pond with political baggage. Churchill was hooked and left in the sun, but the whole concept that bequeathed us Ethnic Studies – a need to demonstrate diversity - has now clearly become as bogus as Eubonics and recovered memory.

This was originally fanned into flame by conservatives, because they got to emote for the ages upon Truth and Political Correctness, and had an actual villain to kick around during the period when the Bush Administration was shown to be composed of Fourth Rate people who’d lied, were crooks, incompetent, and solely interested in using the government for their own sense of self, rather than for constructive purpose. Churchill was viewed as a counterpoint.

Didn’t last long. Churchill had actually served in the Army, and most of the louder neo-cons and conservatives had not, despite their flag lapel pins. And it turned out that most of Churchill’s writings under question were in an area – Native American and American history – about which most people know little, including his students and politicians, and they were happy to chant phrases and terms supplied by activists. Events made the war in Iraq unpopular, and after Abu Graib and other horrors, the issue of Churchill couldn’t be fluffed up to importance at all. It was left to western historians at small colleges to provide most of the damning evidence, arguably not for pure reasons. Meanwhile, CU’s incompetence with some other scandals cleared out much of the administration by resignation, including Hoffman, and Owens left office.

If Churchill can prove that the only reason he was fired was because of his essay, he’s safe, but his career of lying and fraud is pretty clear, and CU’s defense at the trial will focus upon that. It should be easy. Worse, as his acolytes may finally understand, his case exposes much left wing academic blarney.

Churchill claimed at various times he was an Indian, helping him get hired when CU was first seeking diversity. In 2003 he said "I am myself of Muscogee and Creek descent on my father's side, Cherokee on my mother's, and am an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.” But, back in 1992, Churchill said he was one-eighth Creek and one-sixteenth Cherokee. A year later, he told the Colorado Daily that he was one-sixteenth Creek and Cherokee. In 2005, he told the Denver Post he was three-sixteenths Cherokee. The supposed honorary membership in a tribe turned out to be the same one granted President Clinton. So there’s his supposed Indian blood, although research has turned up no evidence of even those paltry percentages.

Churchill also lied about his military service, claiming to have been a paratrooper and LRRP. But, he was a truck driver and projectionist. He writes extensive reference notes to his work, apparently knowing that people won’t check them but just be impressed by their volume. He fabricated facts, quotes himself writing under another name as source, does very little original research, just re-interprets what others have done. This guy became a Department Head at CU. Was does it say about those who hired, employed him? His supposed peers and students?

And what does it say when witnesses on his behalf claim their oral history, impossible to validate, is just as accurate as anything establishment historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists have. Not only does nobody laugh in their face, given the numerous examples of oral history nonsense, but they nod seriously. Ward Churchill is academic garbage, and he should not be alone with his pink slip.