Saturday, April 16, 2005

Ward Churchill Speaking Tour

Matt Labash is clearly a disciple of Tom Wolfe. When he reports on Ward Churchill, the last thing he’s going to do is get exercised about Churchill’s outrageous statements. Rather, he’s interested in the cultural ambiance that surrounds the racist professor from Colorado.
Having headed the Colorado chapter of the American Indian Movement (AIM) for several decades, having boasted of his affiliation with the Black Panthers and his days teaching bomb-making to the Weathermen, he’s more than just an angry professor. He’s a nostalgia ride at the Aging Radical Theme Park. Pay ten bucks, and it’s like watching your parents’ college yearbooks transubstantiated into flesh and blood. Pre-controversy, Churchill already did about three speaking gigs a month. But since, the number of invitations has tripled, and his fee, when he’s not doing pro-bono work, is at five grand plus expenses.
And further:
IN THE BERKELEY STUDENT UNION the next afternoon, it’s the usual fun and games, as Churchill speaks on a panel about academic freedom. Just outside the hall, a concessions kiosk does brisk business, pushing Churchill books and T-shirts with inscriptions such as “My heroes have always killed cowboys.” Revolutionary Worker Communist newspapers are passed around among students, while McCarthyism is decried. During the Q&A after Churchill and several other professors speak, he is given a tongue-bath. One interrogator actually asks him to sign her term paper, which was written about the Churchill saga.
Thus does America reward its extremists and crackpots, with semi-lucrative speaking tours and also with cultural irrelevance.

Like the Columbia professors who are still fighting sixties battles against ROTC they are comfortable but as old-fashioned as a lava lamp or love beads.


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