RMN Editor's note: In an interview that appeared in Saturday's Rocky Mountain News, University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill said "It's been announced in pretty clear terms by both David Horowitz and Newt Gingrich that I am just the kickoff for a general purge they have in mind." In the following column, Horowitz, who is editor-in-chief of FrontPageMagazine.com and president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles, explains what his actual position is in the debate over whether Churchill should be fired for his inflammatory statements.
It will probably come as a surprise to many people, both friend and foe alike, that I am opposed to any attempt to fire Ward Churchill for the essay (now part of a book) that has become notorious in which he denounces his own country as a genocidal empire, supports America's terrorist enemies, and says that 9/11 was a case of the "chickens coming home to roost."
We live in country whose cornerstone document is a Bill of Rights that guarantees Americans a right to make fools of themselves if they so desire. State institutions like the University of Colorado are forbidden by our Constitution from firing people for expressing opinions, however offensive, idiotic or evil (and Churchill's comments on 9/11 qualify as all three). If, on the other hand, as some have charged, Churchill is not really a Native American as he claims, then of course he should be fired for fraud.
Yes, Churchill is a self-declared ally of our enemies in the terrorist war against us. But so are many academic leftists, including those now rallying to his defense. A decent university system with serious academic standards would probably not have hired Churchill in the first place, let alone promoted him to a position of responsibility and honor as the chair of the Ethnic Studies Department. But that does not give the regents of the university the right to fire him because he has embarrassed them now.
The real question is why wasn't anybody embarrassed before? In 1998, to cite one example, Churchill published a book - Pacificism as Pathology - which was essentially an argument for violent revolution to overthrow America's democracy. It was dedicated to an American terrorist who blew herself up while making a bomb intended to kill Army recruits and their dates at a social dance at Fort Dix. Why weren't any of his colleagues or superiors upset about this?
Churchill is most widely known, in fact, for his academic writings in defense of the Black Panthers, a leftist gang that murdered a dozen people, and for his academic treatises accusing America of plotting and carrying out genocide against minorities throughout its history.
Those who marvel at the current spectacle should keep in mind the fact that there is absolutely nothing new here, nothing that has not been not publicly known for years. The offending essay itself was published three years ago. No, whatever sin he has committed has not only been a matter of public record for more than 30 years, it has been reviewed over and over by duly constituted academic authorities at CU. The opinions that have suddenly catapulted this professor into the limelight have been examined and applauded by his university professors, the search-and-hiring committees that put him on the faculty of CU-Boulder, the promotion-and-tenure committees that made him a full professor, and the department that elected him chair.
In sum, Churchill's views, which are both hateful and ignorant, represent the views a substantial segment of the academic community at Boulder and on campuses generally. Robert Jensen, a leftist professor at the University of Texas whom I have debated on TV over the Churchill matter, fully shares Churchill's views that America should lose the war on terror and that the terrorists are in fact "resistance" fighters opposing the American empire. A well-known required text for "Peace Studies" programs authored by two professors at well-known universities teaches students that the word "terrorist" describes the American Founders, that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" and that America is the world's "most terrorist state." Churchill's new book, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens, which contains his offending essay, is up for a Gustavus Myers Award, a "civil rights" award administered by academics.
The Churchill affair is an expression of the degenerate state of American social science and humanities faculties. It illuminates the political subversion of the academic enterprise by tenured radicals who have made universities like Boulder political institutions of the left, and in the process so diminished the presence of conservative, libertarian and even centrist thought from university faculties that hate-America radicals like Churchill are now pillars of the profession.
The remedy for this situation is not to purge the Ward Churchills from academic faculties. Their ideas are by now entrenched in the university curriculum and cannot be stamped out by firing an individual even if that were advisable (which it is not). They need to be confronted intellectually. Their scholarly incompetence needs to be exposed, and students need to be presented with an alternative view of history that is closer to reality.
The remedy for the Churchill problem is first of all to embrace the idea of intellectual diversity as a primary university value. This will insulate the university from attempts by legislators to remedy the situation themselves. The American public will accept the presence of an extremist like Churchill on a university faculty if they are convinced that the university is a true marketplace of ideas and that Churchill's perverse views will be answered by his peers.
The real problem is that there is no such diversity at the University of Colorado at Boulder today. In the present academic system, conservatives are as rare as unicorns, and have an almost impossible barrier to overcome in order to get hired. That is because search and hiring committees are composed of professors like Ward Churchill. That is the problem that the regents of the University of Colorado (and similar institutions) need to begin to address, now.