Thursday, November 08, 2007

Oh, brother

Barf bags ready? Melon scoop for digging out those hard-to-remove eyeballs? Campus Press reporter Emily Sturges opinionates on a visit by Ward Churchill to her (apparently remedial) journalism class:
I like Ward Churchill.

When he walked into my journalism class on Wednesday I could smell fire from a mile away.
That was stale cigarettes and B.O., dear.

Churchill's crisp white shirt matched the white stripes in his hair, just as everything I knew about him up until meeting him was perfectly matched by his swagger. . . .
Christ, she's in love.

Enhanced by his mischievous smile and the witty banter to back it up, listening to Churchill talk was like taking part in a duel, except you forgot your arsenal. Every word from his clearly well equipped artillery is sharpened like a knife.

My mother would call him a smartass--a tall, highly publicized and irrefutable smartass. But isn't that why we love him? That's certainly part of it.
His irrefutability is definitely part of my love for him.

Ward Churchill is a man who, if nothing else, has seized our attention and caused us to think.

"When the Pope died I made (the) front page of the Rocky Mountain News," Churchill said.

Churchill is decidedly skeptical of the media, and with good reason. The media depicts him as "the embattled professor," a term which not only makes him a target, but also a modified noun.

A big, fat, nicotine-stained, modified noun.

What is the root of Churchill's grapple with the media? It's the apparent loss of integrity within the industry.
Take me now, Jesus.
"When asked about (the concept of) American journalism, I say it would be a really good idea," Churchill said, paraphrasing Ghandi.

Churchill began his lecture with his usual provocative remarks, the equivalent of hitting a class with a bullet. The message was dead-on: the media, Churchill said, is all about sensationalism.

He began to quiz the class about its knowledge of current events, such as their knowledge of the current economic and human rights affairs in Cuba. Our lack of knowledge, which did not go unscrutinized, was then compared to the knowledge we have of Britney's parenting skills and Anna Nicole's personal hygiene.
Ward Churchill's views on Cuba or Anna Nicole's personal hygiene. Which would you rather know all about?
"I bet you could all tell me the color of a certain ex-Playmate's toenail polish before she died," Churchill said.
Witty banter.
As his argument progressed, so did the twinkle in eye--he was ready for the kill.
A progressive killer twinkle! Okay, somebody, grab Snapple:
He began to comment on the media coverage of JonBenet Ramsey.

"Let's get a grip [he always says that]. Shirley Temple was killed. Right down the road from her, a little black girl was killed, ostensibly by her mother," Churchill said. "You all heard about that, right? You remember the details, right?"

As the media conglomerates grow the appreciation for facts is going down the drain, and so is the sense of the concept of truth. Churchill made this reality clear.

"When's the last time you saw Noam Chomsky on CNN?" Churchill asked.

In respect to his own relationship with the media, Churchill candidly recounted an experience he had with former Rocky Mountain News reporter Charlie Brennan.

"Charlie was interested in understanding the truth, and that's why I was willing to work with him, " Churchill said.
Willing to work with him.
However, as the stories on Churchill were shaped and molded through the editorial process, Churchill said he terminated his relationship with the reporter.
Churchill and the Dune Buggy Attack Battalion, of course, also terminated Brennan's coverage of the case, his job with the Rocky Mountain News, and possibly his marriage.

He nearly laughed at the mention of the word "fairness" [ha-ha!]. This certainly seemed to harden Churchill's view of the media.

The result: journalism has been reduced to editorialization. And those of us who call ourselves journalists are simply sensationalists.
Update: Emily probably also turned this piece in for a grade in her journalism class. Wonder what she got.

Update II: Over at PB, Noj asks a good question: was Wart really on the front page of the Rocky "when the Pope died" (2 or even 3 April 2005, when the News' paper edition perhaps first had the story of the Pope's death)? Commenter Leah found three articles on Churchill in the paper on April 2, and says the Rocky's archives for April 3 are incomplete. Because it's Churchill, I bet it's a lie.

Update III: It's a lie. April 2, 2005 was a Saturday, and, as a G. Gordon Liddy-like "Armando" at the RMN told me after looking it up, there was nothing about Churchill on the front page that day. And, since the Rocky doesn't publish on Sundays, there couldn't have been a front-page story about him on Sunday, April 3, either.

Update IV: "Armando," even though he told me the Rocky "doesn't bother much with Churchill anymore," was kind enough to send me the PDF of the April 2, 2005 front page, and I gar-an-goddamn-tee there's nothin' about Wart there (I just don't know how to link to an e-mailed PDF).

Why is it important whether or not Wart was on the front page that day? Who said it was important? On the other hand, the diligent blogger should never pass up the opportunity to nail another one of his lies.

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