It might be said that the measure of any decent smear campaign is the level to which the subject's own peers turn against them. If that's the case, Ward Churchill's defamers must be pretty pleased with themselves these days, as people of all political stripes line up to heap scorn on him. . . .True, true.
Talking to him, you know this man is anything but defeated [uh-huh]. Following his recent dismissal from the University of Colorado, he's taking his polemic show on the road, with stops next week in Ottawa, Toronto and Guelph. . . .He gives Canada a small attaboy:
Churchill is no stranger to unpopular ideas. Many of his writings have focused on the genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada and the US. Inspired in part by resistance to his own work, Churchill's current speaking tour focuses on what he calls "the denial of genocide in American academia."
Overall, he says, Canadians have been more receptive than Americans to his message. He does as many talks in Canada as he does in the US, despite the much smaller population.But immediately takes it back:
"One suspects it is in part because Canadians - and even progressive Canadians - tend to view their history as rather less genocidal than that of the United States," he muses.He ought to know. Nobody's profited more from "racist society" than Wart.
"Canada didn't resort to the same direct killing techniques... but that's hardly an indication that the genocidal policy wasn't effective, just that the techniques employed were different."
"Surely in Canada it's clear that native peoples are subjected to various forms of psychological battering, and physical battering in the sense of endemic poverty," he says. . . .
Likewise, the Canadian myth of a "mosaic" society is deliberately oblivious to systemic racism. "You have to be in a state of extreme denial to be blind to the profundity of racism in society," he adds. "You really have to be a Nazi or a Klansman to come out and celebrate being a racist... At least they're honest. They're relatively easy to deal with. It's the mass of deniers who continue to profit from a racist society which is far more insidious."
"Give me a Klansman any day; at least I know exactly who I'm dealing with."That apparently passes for wit in Canada:
Churchill's sense of humour comes through again as he turns to the controversy surrounding his 9/11 essay. His favorite moment, he recalls, was reading a headline in a Maoist publication: "Ward Churchill fired for calling little Eichmanns little Eichmanns."Gee, haven't been over to MIM in a while. (It was MIM that said that, wasn't it?)
"The only people upset are in fact those who would be encompassed within my meaning of the term little Eichmanns," he says. "I'm not getting it from communities of colour. I'm not getting it from poor people."Parking lot attendants, baggage handlers, homeless people . . .
With all of the focus on his dismissal from university, there is a risk that people aren't listening to what he has to say about racism and imperialism, and clearly that's what frustrates him most.Yeah, sure.
"If they can discredit my scholarship they can discredit my analysis, and if they can discredit my analysis they can reinforce the status quo," he fumes.If?
Some detractors went as far as questioning his Native American heritage. And although there were rumblings that Karl Rove had a direct hand in his targeting [bwahahaha--oh, chest pains again], Churchill, who has written extensively about the government's illegal and corrupt Counterintelligence Program (Cointelpro) against civil rights era activists, shrugs them off.Todd who? Just kidding, but I don't remember him saying anything about the case.
"Cointelpro has been assimilated into the media to the point that you don't actually need intelligence agencies' involvement most of the time," he says.
Still, there's more than a hint of those bad old days in the air, with leftist writers and academics eagerly siding with those who want to dismiss Churchill as a kooky extremist. People like Todd Gitlin--who are considered left, but not too left, get a big share of the media attention surrounding this case.
"Most of my generation has sold out so long ago for so fucking cheap that it gives me generational embarrassment," Churchill says.No, we need an irresponsible left:
He believes that there is still hope for a broad social justice movement, outside of the currently established left. "It's not going to be people who work for the Nation, or the Progressive. It's certainly not going to be any part of the 'responsible left.'"
"We need to constitute an actual left. And that's going to come by and large from the new generation."Well, Benjie's not exactly "new generation," but he'll have to do.
As a professor, Churchill was extremely popular with University of Colorado students, who have invited him to teach a "voluntary" class. The course is entitled "ReVisioning American History: Colonization, Genocide, and Formation of the US Settler State."So that's what it's called. Snappy. I like the capital "V" in "ReVisioning." You think when the interviewer was writing this down, Chutch leaned over and said, "that should be a capital 'V'."
After years of weathering attacks, Churchill offers advice to budding activists. "Take clear positions and remain consistent and people will come to you. Don't worry about alienating people who are fundamentally sold out... Strip them of their privilege, they're gonna be alienated. I thought that was the goal."Then, for those who might follow Churchill around like a fatter, heavier-smoking, (much) less-talented Jerry Garcia, the Dominion gives Chutch's speaking schedule:
OTTAWA: October 16, 7 pm
Alumni Auditorium, University of Ottawa
$5-20 sliding scale admission, nobody turned away
Tickets available at Exile Infoshop, OPIRG Carleton, and OPIRG Ottawa
TORONTO: October 17, 7 pm
MacLeod Auditorium of the Medical Sciences Building, 1 King's College Circle
University of Toronto
Sliding scale of $5-$20
CERTAIN DAYS calendar committee - www.certaindays.org
EXILE INFOSHOP – exilebooks.org
York GSA - www.yugsa.ca
GUELPH: October 18, 7 pm
University Centre, Room 103, University of Guelph
Suggested donation $5-20. Proceeds will go to Indigenous struggles and solidarity work
Space is limited – register in advance to guarantee a seat
OPIRG-Guelph, 519.824.2091, firstname.lastname@example.org