Friday, March 27, 2009

Thoughts On Ward Churchill

Reason recently mentioned the Ward Churchill brouhaha, so I thought I'd comment on it.

First, there's Churchill's original essay that started the whole controversy. I actually think it's a well-written, provocative essay in many respects. It's rare that someone is able to convey the true brutality of US foreign policy in such a brief and effective manner.

Unfortunately, his over-the-top comment about "little Eichmanns" kind of spoiled it for me. "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," Churchill wrote. As much as I hate to sound like a conservative, this is pretty close to cheering on the deaths of the 9/11 victims, is it not? The 9/11 victims were just as big of victims of US imperialism as those in the Middle East. Churchill's moronic "little Eichmanns" comment was a huge stain on what could have been an excellent essay.

After Churchill came under public scrutiny for his "little Eichmanns" comment, it was found that he had made some academic boo-boos (plagiarism/fabrication and whatnot) in other areas, so he was fired. Churchill is now suing to get his job back, using the "free speech" schtick.

Of course, the problem with this is that Churchill's "free speech" rights have not been violated in any way, shape, or form. The government has not arrested or punished him for his speech. Churchill was fired for academic misconduct. But even if there was no academic misconduct, the university should have the right to fire him anyway.

Churchill and his lawyer do not understand the meaning of freedom of speech. Freedom of speech simply means freedom to speak without being persecuted by the state. It doesn't mean freedom to have someone else provide a forum for you to speak in, or freedom to keep a job after pissing off your employer.

This applies equally to everyone across the political spectrum: whether it's Ward Churchill, Don Imus, or Rush Limbaugh. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from getting fired after your speech hurts your employer's reputation. If I'm a secretary who greets every caller with "go fuck yourself," and my boss decides to fire me as a result, he's not violating my "free speech" rights.

So hopefully Churchill will lose.

UPDATE: WC interview on anarchism here, for anyone interested.

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