Saturday, February 26, 2005

More Tribune Hypocrisy

It was utterly predictable. The Marquette Tribune endorsed the right of Ward Churchill to speak at the University of Wisconsin -- Whitewater.

Churchill, in case you have been paying no attention at all to the news, is the University of Colorado professor who compared the victims of the 9/11 attacks in the twin towers in Manhattan to Nazi Adolph Eichmann.

In the context of robust support for free expression on campus, this is most certainly a defensible position. Unfortunately, that’s not the context at the Tribune. The paper’s liberal editorial board sided with the Marquette administration in shutting down a College Republican display raising money for an organization supporting American military snipers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

When one is taking positions based on ideological bias and not logic, the proffered “logic” will tend to be strained. And this is certainly true of the Tribune editorial. It asserts:
Churchill should be allowed to speak, since the basis of his address does not appear to be directed at reiterating or in any way concern his earlier remarks on the subject [of 9/11].

What is more, Churchill was not invited to Whitewater to speak specifically on the subject of 9/11, but rather on the subject of “Racism against Native Americans.”

A rough equivalent to this would be asking Jerry Fallwell [sic] to speak at Marquette not on 9/11 and his remarks on the subject, but rather on the popular perception of the Baptist religion.

While neither Fallwell [sic] nor Churchill are experts on terrorism and socioeconomic motivations thereof, they are both experts in their respective fields, and an unimpeded academic community would ideally not overlook this.
In the first place, while Falwell’s comments in the wake of 9/11 were certainly controversial and arguably ill-considered, he never ever supported the terrorists.

In the second place: how likely is it that Falwell will be invited to Whitewater (or Marquette) and offered $4,000 from the institution’s money for coming?

But in the third place, Ward Churchill is hardly an expert on “Racism against Native Americans.” He is in fact an academic charlatan who writes stories of Indian victimization that aren’t supported by any primary sources, and who in fact has lied about even being an Indian. A bona fide expert on “Racism against Native Americans” might be a good person to have speak -- although such an expert might very well be a white male.

In the fourth place, Churchill’s virulently anti-American attitudes can’t be divorced from his view of “racism” toward Indians. They are part and parcel of the same vicious worldview. Having him speak on racism is like having a Holocaust denier speak on the foreign policy of Israel.

Some idea of how utterly vile Churchill is can be gained from an interview with Satya, an e-zine that bills itself as being concerned with “vegetarianism, environmental advocacy, animal advocacy, social justice.”

Satya: That brings me to one question, which is, in general, people like to think they’re pretty decent. They don’t like to think of themselves as violent or complying with a system that is oppressive...

Churchill: Heinrich Himmler viewed himself in exactly that way. He was a family man, he had high moral values, he’d met his responsibilities, blah, blah, blah—a good and decent man in his own mind.

Satya: Do you think that applies to most American people?

Churchill: In the sense that it applied to most Germans [during the Third Reich].
One can, of course, defend the notion that “provocative” speakers should be brought to campus -- even if they aren’t academic experts, and even if their views are entirely disreputable.

Again, this notion is defensible if consistently applied. But when is any university going to pay $4,000 to some White Supremacist or Neo-Nazi to give a “provocative” speech?

The Tribune goes on to commend the Whitewater administration for a “compromise" solution, and opines:
This attempt toward balancing competing interests is an idea that Marquette should use as a model in developing constraints for the student government, particularly in the wake of the highly publicized “Adopt a Sniper” incident. To avoid the appearance of censorship of political organizations, organizations that, rightly or wrongly, enjoy a priveleged [sic] status within the First Amendment, the university should publicize constraints or qualifiers that come with the restrictions, to make the restrictions less arbitrary and to give Marquette students a voice in the process of establishing the acceptable level of public discourse.
Is this a retraction of their earlier support for shutting up the College Republicans? Certainly, the “restrictions” invoked to stifle that group were arbitrary to the point of being incoherent.

One has to suspect, however, what then “competing interests” are “balanced” views on the right will continue to be shut up, and those on the left will continue to be tolerated. At the Tribune and the Office of Student Development the “balancing test” will mean what it means to the U.S. Supreme Court: we will go thought the motions of considering both sides, and then will come down on the side we happen to like.


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