I have read Churchill's defense of his comments, and he's well off base to be sure. But what’s of particular interest is not the stridency of his writing, but the manner in which the right-wing echo chamber has fashioned the scholar as a poster child for “loony liberal” academia, which they claim has America's intellectual community in a headlock.
Malcolm A. Kline, a conservative commentator for the media watchers at Accuracy in Media, writes, “Americans should know that there are a platoon of 'Little Churchills' in colleges and universities throughout the United States.” Kline goes on to condemn a long list of American academics for suggesting that the US may have been partly to blame for the War on Terror. Is Kline suggesting that we muzzle all scholars who express opinions about the war not in step with the Bush Administration?
After reading a recent Los Angeles Times article on Churchill, Kevin Drum investigated how a story about an obscure academic infiltrated mainstream news coverage and became an effective right-wing tool for attacking "liberal" institutions.
Drum’s is an account of the right-wing echo chamber in full effect, but he also pegs The New York Times for lending credence to the conservative buzz saw by running a prominent story on Churchill:
The right wing machine pushed, the New York Times responded, and then the rest of the press followed. Within days, the previously insignificant Ward Churchill had become a household name and a virtual poster boy for lefty nihilism based on something that no one on either the left or right had cared a whit about in the three years since he wrote it. Truly an object lesson for us all.Prior to the Times’ January 31 story, coverage of the Churchill story was almost exclusively in the domain of conservative outlets including the Murdoch-owned New York Post (January 27), Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News Channel (January 28) and Moonie-owned Washington Times (January 29). The Scaife-owned Pittsburgh Tribune Review weighed in on January 30. The AP story blanketing the nation this morning makes no mention of this right-wing provenance.
Paul Waldman at Gadflyer writes:
The moral of the story isn't just the Times' unrivalled agenda-setting power. Obviously, there are conservo-drones in the basement of Heritage or AEI or FOX whose job it is to scour the wires and every little news outlet searching for cases where somebody -- preferably a professor or someone associated with the entertainment industry -- says something unpatriotic, freedom-hating, or just plain stupid. This item can then be fed to all the nodes of the Noise Machine, enabling them to vibrate with outrage for days on end.And it doesn't end at the gates of the rabid-right asylum. The Associated Press story is running today on the pages of the Arizona Daily Sun, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Louisiana Times Picayune, the Grand Forks Herald, the Wilmington Morning Star, the Myrtle Beach Sun News, the San Luis Obispo Tribune and other newspapers near you. The message machine can mark up another victory as it rolls across America. . .