Wednesday, February 02, 2005

 

American terrorism

I graduated from Hamilton College in 1976. It was a nice, little place (emphasis on the "little"), a fine, traditional liberal arts college (with a not so traditional "sister" school, Kirkland College, for women, across the road). Hamilton was founded in 1812, Kirkland in 1968. By 1977, Hamilton had decided to pull its funding from Kirkland as a separate school, and after much internal controversy, the two merged (it was really more of a takeover). I loved my time at Hamilton and still revere and respect my old school.

Since then, I have eagerly sought mention of Hamilton in the news, which rarely occurred. Now, alas, all that has been made up, and in the worst possible way.
College Cancels Speech by Professor Who Disparaged 9/11 Attack Victims

By PATRICK D. HEALY

CLINTON, N.Y., Feb. 1 - Over the last five days, tiny Hamilton College in upstate New York has been barraged with more than 6,000 e-mail messages full of fury, some threatening violence. Some donors have canceled pledges to an ambitious capital campaign. And prospective students have withdrawn applications or refused to enroll.

Then, on Monday night, a caller to the college threatened to bring a gun to campus.

Stunned and frightened, Hamilton leaders sought to end the turmoil on Tuesday by canceling the event that set it off: a planned speech by a Colorado professor who was invited to talk about American Indian activism but whose earlier essay on the Sept. 11 attacks fueled the criticism and threats. The professor, Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado, Boulder, wrote disparagingly of the victims inside the twin towers and referred to them at one point as "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Holocaust.

The speech, scheduled for Thursday night, was canceled for security reasons, Hamilton officials said. Mr. Churchill said he and his wife had received more than 100 death threats, and other warnings of violence mentioned Hamilton officials, including the president, Joan Hinde Stewart. Yet the uproar also adds a twist to decades of battles over free speech on campus, showing the powerful emotional resonance of Sept. 11.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday night, Mr. Churchill called the threats against Hamilton College "American terrorism." He urged those making the threats to "take a look in the mirror."

In recent days, Gov. George E. Pataki said he was appalled at Mr. Churchill's remarks and at Hamilton for inviting him, and a Fox News host, Bill O'Reilly, repeatedly urged viewers to e-mail the college in protest. Ms. Stewart, the president, as well as the professors who invited Mr. Churchill, said they did not know about his essay before asking him to campus. She denounced his comments in December, but said rescinding the invitation would harm First Amendment principles.

"His remarks about the victims of 9/11 are repellent, but our reaction to 'repellent' is how we test the right to free speech," Ms. Stewart said in an interview on Tuesday shortly before addressing the turn of events with the Hamilton faculty, who gave her a standing ovation.

"We did our best to protect the principles and the values that we believe in - the right to speak, to study, to teach freely - but the point came that I simply felt that this threat was too large for us to handle," said Ms. Stewart, who was told by campus security that even additional police officers could not ensure safety.

Hamilton, a campus of 1,750 students, has always had a reputation for accepting divergent voices. In November, the same program that invited this speaker - the Kirkland Project for the Study of Gender, Society and Culture - hired Susan Rosenberg, a former member of the Weather Underground, after her release from prison on explosives charges. She later withdrew in the face of protest.

On another end of the political spectrum, the scholar Elizabeth Fox-Genovese equated abortion to murder during her talk to a packed, polite campus auditorium last Thursday. According to The Spectator, the weekly student newspaper, she also said that empowering humans to choose who lives and who dies "opens the road to the Holocaust."

Mr. Churchill - who had planned to give his remarks Thursday in a flak jacket with two bodyguards in tow - was originally scheduled to speak by himself, but Ms. Stewart and others added three people to the panel and changed its focus to free speech. One of those added was Mr. Churchill's wife, who is also a scholar. The Churchills were to be paid $3,500, but volunteered this week to forgo the money because of the complaints.

In his original essay, Mr. Churchill wrote that the thousands killed at the World Trade Center had played a role in American sanctions on Iraq that "translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants."

"If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I'd really be interested in hearing about it," he wrote.

The bulk of the outraged e-mail messages began arriving last weekend, after Mr. O'Reilly of Fox had urged viewers to contact Hamilton.

Controversial speakers are nothing new to academic institutions: For years, Leonard Jeffries of the City University of New York would create a stir on campus and elsewhere with provocative remarks, and a Columbia University faculty panel is now investigating remarks by some pro-Palestinian professors that offended some Jewish students.

In 2002, Harvard College's English Department canceled a campus reading by a poet who had once referred in verse to the Israeli Army as a "Zionist SS." and had criticized American-born Jewish settlers. As at Hamilton, professors at Harvard said they had not known about the remarks of the poet, Tom Paulin, before inviting him.

As Hamilton was trying to contain the outrage on Tuesday, political and university officials in Colorado were criticizing Mr. Churchill.

Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, called on him to resign from the university, while Representative Mark Udall, a Democrat, said in a statement that the professor was "factually inaccurate" about the terrorist attacks and owed the families of victims an apology. Mr. Churchill gave up his chairmanship of the ethnic studies department this week, and a spokeswoman said that the university's governing body, the nine-member Board of Regents, would meet Thursday to discuss his future.
I am extremely disappointed with my old school and have written to tell them so. I won't join in the national piling on of Mr. Churchill.

I can see his point. America has done good things and bad things around the world, and much of the world thinks we have profited from the poverty that they think our actions have caused. The destruction of the Twin Towers was, in a way, the "ghetto's revenge". The victims of the 9-11 attack were just that, victims; and celebrating their deaths is nasty and, I'm sure, intentionally provocative. I've read elegies on them that praise them for their extreme devotion to capitalism and making money, as if enriching oneself is an unalloyed good.

My point is, those are points of view. Mr. Churchill is not a government official charged with making policy. He represents no one but himself - in exactly the same way that Bill O'Reilly does or Leonard Jeffries or anyone else speaking as a private citizen. If he had made that point in class and refused to listen to alternative viewpoints and had disparaged students who disagreed with him or gave them lower grades - that would be not only objectionable but also actionable.

But to threaten him - and the college that offered him a chance to speak in public - merely because you find his views offensive - that is an American form of terrorism. If this country is about anything, it is about the right to say things that may - indeed, will - offend others. Andrew Sullivan is a terrorist when he calls those who oppose the president's was in Iraq "fifth columnists." Bill O'Reilly is a terrorist when he calls for his viewers and listeners to bombard Hamilton with threatening emails. (And likening a liberal arts college that invited a controversial speaker to Auschwitz, as one emailer did, is beyond offensive and into derangement. Far more outrageous than anything Churchill did.)

I understand that people get angered by anything that challenges the national consensus that the victims of 9-11 are all now holy martyrs. Although nobody seems to mind when they are used by conservative politicians to promote their own anti-democratic agenda (except some of the victims' families, and their sensibilities can't be permitted to get in the way of the Republicans' jihad on the world and on American freedoms). I can understand Hamilton feeling that they got caught in a buzzsaw of wingnut manufactured outrage and injured amour-propre. I can understand them panicking and deciding simply to bag it rather than risk seeing it go from bad to worse.

But I wish they'd shown the courage to let Churchill speak and defy the professional outrage-mongers and skilled haters and numbskull chauvinists. I wish they'd stood up for free speech - which, if it is free only when the extremists say it is, is not truly free - and said, We disagree with what he said, but the cure for offensive speech is not censorship, it is a true debate. They should have invited Bill O'Reilly and the governor of Colorado and anyone else who wanted to challenge Churchill - and anyone who wanted to support him, and anyone in between - to speak. They should have swallowed the cost of extra security and used the opportunity to show what real courage looks like.

I can understand why they didn't, but I am very disappointed with Hamilton this morning. This is not how I wish to see my beloved old college in the news. And for what? Cravenly cancelling the event will not save them from the controversy. They already had the black eye; they might as well have gone the full mile and truly earned it. They could have bravely stood up for freedom, for free speech in the face of screaming know-nothings who feel empowered by George W. Bush's conservative counter-revolution since 9-11 to give vent to their worst instincts of fear and anger against anyone who dares say anything that challenges their tidy, comforting notion of America as a land of conformity and uniformity.

Now the bullies know that they can force academia to obey them. Is that the message Hamilton wants to send to the wingnuts? Does Bill O'Reilly need even more power?

The cure for obnoxious speech is more speech. Hamilton had a chance to demonstrate this. For understandable but regrettable reasons, they shrunk from their moment of truth. I love Hamilton College, but today they have severely disappointed me.
Comments:
This is a copy of ae-mail sent on the subject of two evil snobby bullying evil elitist snide thugs Tom Pualin and Andrew O'Hagan. Why does your paper employ and listen to snide bullying thugs like Tom Paulin and Andrew O'Hagan. They are bullying thugs the sort who would join the NAZIs in the thirties. They are snobby elitist bullying thugs. Both are literally psychopaths and have commented on wanting the deaths of people they don't like for no reason. Paulin wants Jews in Israel murdered, he also hates shy qiet men who live on their own. I think i will be like that when i grow up, so fuck off to Pualin. . . While O'Hagan wants all shy men who live on their own to kill themselves because the snobby evil thug O'Hagan thinks if he hates people then they should surely carry out the punishment on themselves, as punishment for O'hagans psychotic mindset. O'Hagan and Paulin are psychotic evil elitist snobby scum.
 
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Hi Blogger. Just read your post American terrorism. I've written a piece about novus tek etc on how I discovered novus tek and my related projects. Regards, Nathan.
 
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Comments: "
This is a copy of ae-mail sent on the subject of two evil snobby bullying evil elitist snide thugs Tom Pualin and Andrew O'Hagan. Why does your paper employ and listen to snide bullying thugs like Tom Paulin and Andrew O'Hagan. They are bullying thugs the sort who would join the NAZIs in the thirties. They are snobby elitist bullying thugs. Both are literally psychopaths and have commented on wanting the deaths of people they don't like for no reason. Paulin wants Jews in Israel murdered, he also hates shy qiet men who live on their own. I think i will be like that when i grow up, so fuck off to Pualin. . . While O'Hagan wants all shy men who live on their own to kill themselves because the snobby evil thug O'Hagan thinks if he hates people then they should surely carry out the punishment on themselves, as punishment for O'hagans psychotic mindset. O'Hagan and Paulin are psychotic evil elitist snobby scum.
 
" "
Last month I made $12,124 with Google Adsense...Click
here for free on how you can do the same!

 
" "
Another beneficiary insurance law life Resource... LifeLaw.org . A discussion forum for all that deals with such hot-button issues as beneficiary insurance law life .
 
" "
Help Mommy, there are Liberals! underneath my bed!!! (No, seriously, that's the name of the book...) Don't believe me? The dang thing's on Amazon, not some hippie-press bullcrap ;) Anyway, thought you might enjoy, pinko ;)
 
" "
I had that happen to me . I sent an email to admin and they took care of it. Payday Loans Cash Advance
 
" "
Hi Blogger. Just read your post American terrorism. I've written a piece about novus tek etc on how I discovered novus tek and my related projects. Regards, Nathan.
 
" Post a Comment

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