A Professor Lashes Out
By: Jacob Laksin
Monday, March 27, 2006

Larry Estrada claims he was misrepresented in The Professors.
Professor Larry Estrada is none too pleased about being profiled on the pages of David Horowitz’s new book, The Professors. Estrada, an associate professor of ethnic studies at Western Washington University, was interviewed about the book by freeexchangeoncampus.org, a Web site created by the teacher unions and radical campus groups for the sole purpose of denouncing the Academic Bill of Rights and The Professors. Estrada’s interview is posted in a section of the site called “Horowitz Fact Checker” as part of a leftwing campaign to discredit the author. In the interview Estrada complains that the profile of him in The Professors “is full of inaccuracies that take the form of distortions, damaging inferences and out-and-out fabrications.” Serious charges indeed. As one who conducted the research on which Estrada’s profile is based, however, I can report with confidence that the charges are merely hot air.

Begin with Estrada’s claim that the book “misrepresents” him as a “radical ethnic separatist who believes that ‘Aztlan’ should secede from the United States…” But this description rests first of all on Estrada’s longtime membership in the Moviemento Estudiantil Chicana de Aztlan, otherwise known as MEChA, a radical ethnic separatist organization that believes “Aztlan“--the stretch of territory comprising the U.S. Southwest that some Mexicans believe to be their mythical land of origin--should secede from the United States.


The so-called “Plan Espiritual de Aztlan,” a foundational document adopted by MEChA in 1969--the year Estrada joined the organization-- states: “Once we are committed to the idea and philosophy of El Plan de Aztlán, we can only conclude that social, economic, cultural, and political independence is the only road to total liberation from oppression, exploitation, and racism.” Similarly, Article II, Section 1 of MEChA’s constitution makes clear that “general membership shall consist of any student who accepts, believes and works for the goals and objectives of MEChA, including the liberation of AZTLAN, meaning self-determination of our people in this occupied state and the physical liberation of our land.” It’s difficult, to say the least, to reconcile these official declarations with Professor Estrada’s assurance that “MEChA doesn't advocate secession.”


Likewise his insistence that the “vast majority of MEChA members are proud to be both Latino and Americans.” If that’s true, why then do MEChA’s members describe themselves as “a bronze people with bronze culture,” supposedly dispossessed by the “brutal ‘gringo’ invasion of our territories”? And what of their claim that “Aztlan belongs to those who plant the seeds, water the fields, and gather the crops and not to foreign Europeans. We do not recognize capricious frontiers on the bronze continent”? Such sentiments betray many fervent views, but an appreciation of America is not one of them. Finally, perhaps the professor can enlighten confused readers how precisely the organization’s notorious slogan--Por la Raza todo. Fuera de la Raza nada (“For our race everything. For those outside our race, nothing.”)--attests to its supposed good will?


Just as he cannot bring himself to admit the truth about MEChA, Professor Estrada declines to offer an honest account of his remarks about Ward Churchill. Churchill, it may be remembered, is the University of Colorado professor who argued in an Internet article that the September 11 terrorist attacks were justified. Estrada would have readers believe that his defense of Churchill was a simple matter of standing up for free speech. “I do not condone [Churchill’s] words on 9/11. I defend his right to say what he wants to say as an academic. The inference that I agree with his analogy is totally fallacious,” the professor indignantly claims. Were that in fact the case, his comments would not have merited a mention in The Professors. After all, David Horowitz himself defended Churchill’s right not to be fired for his article and opposed a legislative effort--led by his friend and Colorado governor Bill Owens--to force him from his job.


As it happens, however, Estrada went far beyond supporting Churchill’s right to express his obnoxious views. As recorded in The Professors, on at least one occasion he went so far as to suggest that Churchill had made an important contribution to scholarship, one that deserved serious attention, not admonition. “Churchill is really getting a bad rap for what he was trying to do, which was to explain why events like 9/11 transpired,” said Estrada in February of 2005. One wonders which part of Churchill’s “explanation” Estrada found most compelling: His belief that the “American public” bore the blame for the “genocide” allegedly carried out by its government? His theory that the World Trade Center was a legitimate “military target”? His conviction that the victims of the Word Trade Center were the functional and moral equivalent of Nazis--“little Eichmanns” in Churchill’s malevolent phrasing--who deserved the “penalty” visited on them that tragic day?


Possibly it was Churchill’s assertion that the 9-11 attackers, far from Islamic fanatics and terrorists, were “combat teams” engaging in traditional warfare. Estrada himself seemed to harbor doubts that terrorism was a real phenomenon when he advanced his view that the attacks on Churchill were part of a sinister “right-wing” crusade to find enemies of America where none existed. “If we can’t find terrorists, we’ll create terrorists in our midst,” was how Estrada put it then. That the professor believes such views make him a “moderate in terms of my political viewpoints” is a telling insight into the cultural insularity and political extremism that have taken up refuge in our nation’s universities.


In his Parthian shot, Professor Estrada grumbles that The Professors aims to “create fear and distrust of higher education and to spread the notion that our colleges and universities are full of dangerous people.” Distrust and fear may be the proper responses to the current academic climate. But if so, it is the casual mendacity and political radicalism of professors like Larry Estrada, rather than a book chronicling their habitual abuse of academic standards, that has brought matters to this regrettable pass.


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Jacob Laksin is managing editor of Front Page Magazine. His email is jlaksin -at- gmail.com