Thursday, March 08, 2007

Time wasted

Somehow dragged myself to the teach-in at CU on the Ward Churchill case the other day. If, improbably, you didn't hear about it, Churchill's wife (and law prof) Natsu Saito, CU sociology professor Tom Mayer and CU ethnic studies instructor Ben Whitmer were scheduled to (and did) speak.

The confab was "happening" at the the Earth Sciences Building. Unfortunately I had no idea where that was, but just as I got to the main campus a guy carrying a "Disarm Bush" sign walked by, so I followed him. Remember in the Battle of Midway how the American flyer found the Japanese fleet by following the wake of an enemy destroyer? It was exactly like that.

Surprisingly, the teach-in was in a regular classroom, which wasn't even full--maybe 60 people, tops. In fact, the crowd was so small it was a little worrying: a couple of attendees brought guitars, and I was afraid folk singing might break out. But the guitars stayed in their cases--Natsu et. al, are definitely not the Union Maid type.

By the way, the first person I noticed when I got in the room was the only guy sitting behind a video camera. Somehow I knew who he must be: a volunteer for Grant Crowell, videotaping the event for Crowell's documentary on Churchill.

Actually it was easy to tell, because Ben Whitmer was over there ordering the guy to shut it down so people could "talk freely." The video guy demurred, pointing out the public nature of the event, etc., so Whitmer called the cops. They eventually showed, too, but the prior-restrainted videographer had stowed the camera. Nixonian, what?

Big news!

Well, more like "Extremely annoying news!" Saito, the first speaker up, said by way of prefatory remarks that the university would probably conclude Ward's case in the next couple of . . . months.

Sorry. That's what she said.

She also warned that, despite the aforementioned shutting down of the videographer, there were probably others among us bent on maliciously audiotaping the event. She said this several times, actually, and each time she did everybody gave everybody else the old hairy eyeball of right deviationism. Luckily, I was in disguise.

In between spy warnings Saito gave the usual twisted overview of the Churchill case. In talking of the Hamilton College brouhaha, for instance, she called Susan Rosenberg a "political prisoner." Working her way through the rightwing conspiracy--"Bill O'Reilly . . . major media . . . Pirate Ballerina" (that's how she said it--she's probably a little put out with PB at the moment), she noted that the "roosting chickens" story broke (cue ominous music) the day after Ward and his fellow Transform Columbus Day revolutionaries (including Natsu) were acquitted of loitering and other charges stemming from the 2004 Columbus Day protest.

This was significant, of course, because it showed how the VRWC was determined to "get" Churchill. Apparently, Denver politicos, Republican Gov. Bill Owens, cement head Bill O'Reilly and their media pals were all primed and ready with plan B if Churchill avoided the gulag on the loitering charge. They were going to take him out, any way they could. Almost sounds like the old Chutch TV series, doesn't it? Rowrrr.

Tom Mayer!

A jovial gray little fellow, was next. He basically read through a piece he wrote last year on the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct's findings, elaborating wherever he felt the need. His main lie, er, argument, was that the committee illegitimately "disregarded" Ward's reliance on Mandan oral tradition for his claim that the tribe was deliberately infected with smallpox. Of course, the committee actually did more or less the opposite, finding that Ward distorted those traditions to make his point ("it was genocide").

Mayer talked a long time, and said many ridiculous things. He compared the quality of Churchill's historiography (or at least his footnoting) favorably with that of earlier lefty historians like Bernard De Voto and Eric (spit) Hobsbawm. He also compared Churchill to Einstein, Galileo, and (I swear) Noam Chomsky, among others, as far as the difficulty they encountered gaining acceptance for their (irrefutable) theories.


Had to miss Whitmer and the Q & A, which no doubt was the best part of the 16-hour teach-in (the Q & A, not Whitmer). If I'd had the chance, though, I'd have asked about the supposed lawsuit. Neither Saito nor Mayer mentioned it.

Oh, almost forgot, just for attending the teach-in I got this lovely t-shirt:

I am.

I won't.

How cool is that? Yeah, not very. The whole thing was kind of pathetic, actually.

Update: Yes, I'll wash the t-shirt separately.

Update II: Whitmer claims the reason he shut down Crowell's videographer is that he didn't obtain permission to film from CU. He also calls the guy (Peter Fotopoulos by name) a sock puppet, because he's been quoted by Crowell making anti-Churchill statements in the past. Not exactly the same thing as using false identities like you and Ward and Natsu did, Ben, but nice try.

Whitmer, by the way, also mocks Fotopoulos for being (he says) a Boulder "burrito vendor." What an elitist.

Update III: Sorry, calling Whitmer merely an elitist, as if that were the worst of his bigotry, is way too soft. This is a guy who said Westword editor Patty Calhoun should be raped with a wood rasp, and encouraged best pal Charley Arthur to elaborate on a murderous sexual fantasy he had about well-known Denver blogger and journalist Lisa Jones. I forgot that for a second.

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