Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Mad Professor Churchill

I got an interesting comment on my post about the embattled Professor Ward Churchill that exemplifies a serious problem with the Left.

Take a few moments and read some of the distinguished Mr. Churchill's work, I think you will find very little to agree with no matter what side of the political fence you are on. AIM is disavowing his so-called Indian heritage and he is proving to be a pofessional contrarian. Freedom of speech on the public dole has limitations, and the soon to be unemployed Professor might have to "go sell crazy somewhere else".

I have no doubt there is little to be admired in the Professor's views. I don't endorse him. I merely suggest that we tolerate his unpleasant views and protect him from attack. The central premise of his essay, that there are historical reasons why we find ourselves in conflict with third world people, is not without merit. Most of his rhetoric is shit-witted, but so what? That's no reason to attack him personally and politically, or for us to tolerate, or even be cheerleaders for, his personal destruction.

How often do you see either side attacking Jerry Falwell or James Dobson in such a manner for their reprehensible views? What would happen to such extreme commentators if the Right folded at the first sign of criticism of their most outrageous statements? Right wing punditry in America would be hobbled. But the Right defends its own, even if they are 'selling crazy'. The result is that the range of acceptable debate on the Right is much greater than the acceptable range on the Left.

By accepting the demonization of the demented Professor, liberals shoot themselves in the foot. By failing to protect the extreme commentators of the Left to speak freely, we open all commentators on the Left to criticism and attack. We fall once again, head-long and willing, into a trap set by the Right to silence the Left.

I don't care if you are a militant lesbian Trotskyist advocating the enslavement of all men in service of Gaia in a feminist world state; I'm going to defend your right to speak out, no matter how obnoxious you are to me personally. And every other person on the Left should, too. Because if we don't, we expose the people advocating for universal health care, protecting the environment, the right to unionize, a fair wage and all-day Kindergartens to attack by the Right as looney leftist extremists. For the Left to be central to the nation's political debate, there has to be an extreme left fringe as contrast. We have to defend and push that fringe as far out there as possible, even if we don't endorse its views.

The Conservatives understand this; we don't. Thus we spit on Ward Churchill as he burns.


At 8:22 PM, Blogger boadicea said...

"I don't care if you are a militant lesbian Trotskyist advocating the enslavement of all men in service of Gaia in a feminist world state..."

Who told?

All joking aside, you're right. Protected speech only has meaning if it protects UNpopular expressions.

It seems like that should go without saying, but it does not.

Refute the ugly suckers, but you don't get to shut them down.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger BillyBudd said...

Freedom of speech is one of the constitutional cornerstones Americans hold most dear. I would give my life to defend that right of all Americans to express themselves without fear of persecution. The point that I was trying to make and obviously failed at was that freedom of speech does not automatically mean freedom from responsibility.

Ward Churchill has made a comfortable living assailing the country of his birth and residence. The history of those who protest against the goverment has no alignment of idealogy or political party, there has always been a place for those who question the motives and aspirations of our elected officials. Mr. Churchill, however has made inflammatory remarks that have put him in the firing line and brought notoriety and outrage to his doorstep.

It is interesting that righteous indignation has been directed at those who question the validity and accuracy of the dear professors remarks without examining them at face value. Dobson and Falwell have not escaped the wrath of the left and some of it was justified, but I am not sure they cried censorship and violation of their first amendment rights in defense the heat they have taken.

There has to be a line that defines the difference between freedom of speech and sedition when you hold the position of teacher at a public institution. Private citizen Churchill may climb to a mountain top and scream his philosophy to all who are interested, university employee Churchill must understand the ramifications of his controversial lectures have potential consequences.

Sooner or later we are all held accountable for our actions, this happens to be Mr. Churchill's time.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger BillyBudd said...

After a period of reflection I believe your position on Ward Churchill has merit and is a reasonable alternative to my hasty call for his head. I am a small businessman here in Tucson and the old saying that "Good business takes care of itself and bad business takes care of itself" may be applied in the case of Professor Churchill. He has proven to be less than honest in many facets of his life and work and that will lead to his loss of stature. People in this country have embraced spokesmen from many causes no matter how kooky they may seem, they do not however tolerate wigglers, liars, and scam artist very long. I do believe that censorship at this level is a dangerous path and appreciate you clarity on this matter.



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