Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Feeding the 'Conservo-Drones'

Have you heard about Ward Churchill yet? You will. The obscure University of Colorado ethnic studies professor is featured in an Associated Press story that's running today in more than 40 dailies across the country. He's at the core of a well orchestrated controversy sparked in part by comments he wrote three years ago about the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Poster Child of Convenience
In one essay, written in 2002, Churchill compared 9-11 victims to infamous Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann -- calling them "Little Eichmanns" for working in the World Trade Center as "technocrats of empire." In another, Churchill has called the terrorist attacks against the United States "a natural and unavoidable consequence of unlawful U.S. policy." These comments have resurfaced in the past two weeks casting Churchill into the center of a media storm, which has caused several universities to cancel scheduled speeches by the professor; Churchill’s also received death threats and been vilified as a hate-monger by two governors, talk-show hosts and lawmakers. The blogosphere has ripped him to shreds and, now, the University of Colorado is considering firing him.

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. . .


Anonymous said...

Re your comment: "I have read Churchill's defense and he's a certified nut to be sure" . . . I suggest that you read it again. While his statements may certainly be used to inflame the Bushies, most of what he says is right on the mark. OK, maybe the phrase "little Eichmanns" may be unfortunate, but if you really look at what he says, you'll find that it makes a great deal of sense. More to the point is your implied, though not explicit, argument that we have to be so very careful not to say something that can be used as ammunition by the right — because this amounts to the same thing as saying that someone who disagrees with a position that our government takes must sugar-coat h/is/er criticisms so that they become mild and inoffensive. Let's face it — anything that any of us says can be distorted by the other side and used to attack us. So does that mean that we should never say anything for fear that someone might be upset? I don't think that the framers of the First Amendment would have thought so.

Anonymous said...

We should have no fear of saying things that can be used against us, as you put it. If they are valid comments that they won't backfire, and only 'the other side' would look bad. But, this polarisation is boring and is what stifles the debate. We should not be concerned with a battle with 'the other side'.

Phil said...

"he's way off base to be sure"
"the lunacy of his writing"

Care to elaborate? What do you find so lunatic and off base about his writings?

You can rightly criticize the terrorists' means, but you can't deny that they have legitimate grievances (caused by the US government).

Anonymous said...

So with all that has happened, why doesn't the Left go after these Right Wing Nut Jobs or people on the Right more vigerously?

Anonymous said...

So with all that has happened, why doesn't the Left go after these Right Wing Nut Jobs or people on the Right more vigerously?

Timothy Karr said...

Calling those who worked and died in the WTC "little Eichmanns" went well beyond the pale; taken both in and out of context it was just plain stupid. Churchill disserves a swift kick in the ass for characterizing these people in such a way, but I'll allow that he had a momentary mental seizure and may have other more valid points to make. He's a marginally interesting intellectual who inadvertently stepped into the path of the right's messaging bulldozer. This is really not about him, but about the right's ability to drive story from the margins into the media mainstream.

Phil said...

The US war state and US-dominated international finance/trade system have killed and ruined (and continue to kill and ruin) far more people than the Nazi's ever did. I'd say Churchill was being rather light on the financial elites of the most powerful empire in human history to which he was referring.

jerry dolcini said...

Churchill states in an essay, "Some People Push Back," ...".if U.S. foreign policy results in massive death and destruction abroad, we cannot feign innocence when some of that destruction is returned." Looney ? Kooky? I think not, Mr. Karr. If the U.S. has been helping Israel kill Palestinians and other Arabs (Beirut) for decades wasn't a 9/11 foreseeable ? Jergoat

Steve J. said...

Bush has said something similar to Churchill, just phrased a little better:

“Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe -- because in the long run, stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty.” BUSH, 11/6/03
President Bush Discusses Freedom in Iraq and Middle East
Remarks by the President at the 20th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy
United States Chamber of Commerce
Washington, D.C.
11:05 A.M. EST http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/11/20031106-2.html

Anonymous said...

Well the right can accuse the left of being conspiracy theorists, but when we back up theory with fact. they are left, as usual, with egg and a silly grin on their faces.

They on the other hand take the conspiracy theory process to a new level-they actually put their rubbish out there as if it were in deed factual material. Any thinking person with a touch of the analytical mind and facts available can see their trash for what it is.

Phil said...

Speaking of Eichman, it turns out some of his men were employed by the CIA after the war.

Anonymous said...

Since Churchill has been disavowed by the Indian nations to which he's claimed to belong, I'd say his acquaintance with the truth is minimal. What he's saying is a pathetic attempt to garner his "15 minutes" of fame. Any valid points are hidden by his inability to communicate them in an intelligent and non-inflamatory way.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the lefties have a lot of catching up to do. The righties are masters (and monsters) at this game. They have brilliantly latched on to Churchill to get the country on their bandwagon that says our universities are full of nothing but liberal wacko professors. Ohio has just introduced a bill that would prohibit these "liberal" professors from discussing "liberal" points of view. I'm glad I'm moving out of this podunk state soon. But hey--what's up with Virginia?!

L. Havard - Mobile, AL said...

'Professor' Churchill is just a fake Native American trying to foment distrust for the Bush White House using analogies
to the history of the Jewish & Hitler
compared to the White Man & Indians which
is patently incorrect. The Jewish people were rounded up and killed by maniacs.
The Indians fought back against people wanting to take their land, killing sometimes as many as they lost. To which
I say; "BULLY!" Maybe Churchill should
study history while pondering where he'll
get his next job.

Amy said...

I'd like to know where to find a copy of this essay to read.

Anonymous said...

You should really listen to Churchill's speech last week at CU before making up your mind. It's in mp3 at

Anonymous said...

Who gets to decide who is a "real" Indian (or to be more exact a "real" member of the First Nation that Ward Churchill belongs to)? The commenter above is trying to spread hate because he/she doesn't agree with Ward.

I think Ward is right on the mark. The history of the United States is one marked by genocide - by a concerted effort to destroy the identity and lives of millions of First Nations.

I'm sure many people don't remember his reference to Eichmann in Jerusalem (a book by Hannah Arendt). It describes Eichmann's participation in the Nazi regime as one of the "banality of evil" where Eichmann was a bored bureaucrat who happened to send Jews to their death. The technocrats supporting the American hegemony in the world are just little Eichmanns - supporting evil.

Anonymous said...

Churchill is spot on! To elaborate on earlier debate, his comparisons to Eichmann are unfortunate however the message is clear and true. We should never be backward in coming forward and should attempt to, I believe, not only expose the truth to the public about the evil's committed by the Right and those aligned with them but maybe it is time we started to play them at their own game? The Left's guerrilla warfare style approach to shedding light on the unruly behaviour of the opposition cannot last forever and is not making the inroads into the general public's conscience like it should be. We cannot hide in dark cockroach corners of the Internet forever when many do not even know how to use the Internet! The whole debate is not only about truth and distortion of truth but it is about taking back the truth that the public own/ need to know - not a truth that Fox or any other mega corperation dominates. The public should take the power back!

Anonymous said...

It's wake-up time all over again.
A.N. Other

datadave said...

timothy, et al, I think Ward Churchill's getting some good defenses here. He was guilty at the most for a little intemperance.. but should academic freedom be eliminated and only the conservative view be allowed Everywhere? Okay, we know we don't think he should be fired...but why is that people like Rush Limbaugh are given millions to put out their empty headed propaganda.. and let one 'Left' leaning person say something controversial.. off with his head? There's a double standard here.. and Ward should be defended, not belittled. He worked hard to be an academic, from a pretty poor background... and he's a least giving the student's something to think about.. Unlike your average conservative academic.

Just shows how close to fascism we are. "eichmans" comment should've been protected speech but Ward should at least explain....who are the "Eichmans" of 9/11? Janitors, Firemen, or the greedy fools stuck in an upper suite of floors by a company asking for cheap rent.. Knowing that terrorists were targeting the WTC (I forget the name of the Wall Street brokerage that stuck their highly paid employees in harm's way....but I'd heard the principals got away with murder on that one..

9/11 was an expected event (I wasn't the least surprized, why were others?) and Bush and his buddies exploited it to the max. (but the twaddle that some people post about it being a fake event just makes the Left look nutty..)

Academia is the last refuge of an 'alternative' viewpoint as conservatives have effectively purged "leftists" from govt.. (with the DLC's and the Clinton's blessing) With people like Larry Summers of Harvard (an alleged 'Democrat') and many others on the warpath against "leftist" intellectuals.. we'll be a nation of fascists pretty soon.

nascarblue said...

I am very surprised to read your account of Churchill's piece as "nutty". What kind of crack are you smoking? Have you read the Bill of Rights lately? I mean really...have you?
Throw that aside for a minute and you're off your rocker if you think the basic message he was conveying wasn't dead on. Last month, right-wing Ann Coulter wanna-be Michelle Malkin recently referred to anyone who opposes the occupation of Iraq, along with the Napalm, nail bombs, and Cluster bombs, as "Eco-Luddites". How is this wordsmithing association any different? Or what about Coulter herself? "Anyone who isn't Christian we should bomb them, take over their country, and convert them to Christianity?" Come on!

If you take the time to watch the documentary "Uncovered" or Bush's Brain", you'll see flat out lies and straight up treason coming straight from the top.
There is a big difference between University discussion and "Saddam Hussein has been found to be seeking mass quantities of nuclear weapons from Nigeria" as Shrub said. Also the idea of "being careful" is ridiculous. That's been the problem with Democrats the past two years, they're so damn timid. So what if the MSM is controlled by the rightwing! All the papers are being forced to follow our lead these days. Do you really think we would have heard a peep out of the networks about "Jeff Gannon" if it wasn't for us pushing and pushing and pushing?

nascarblue said...

And by the way, we don't even know if we were truly attacked as Churchill assumed all those years ago. Remember the essay in question was written 3 years ago. We have learned quite a bit since then with the hordes of insider whistleblowers that have come forward since then and the fact that the 911 Commission report is basically pulp fiction written by Condi Rice's writing partner Philip D. Zelikow. Any questions in to this twist can be viewed and read extensively at http://911busters.com and http://www.reopen911.org