Monday, April 11, 2005

More on Ward Churchill, who's already gotten way more attention than he deserved

When I first came across the Ward Churchill controversy, I wrote that in an article on Holocaust denial that he had linked at his Web site, he came across a lot like a rightwing anti-Semite. I speculated that he might be a case of an ethnic-nationalist intellectual winding up with with reactionary ideas. And I returned to the idea after the Minnesota school shooting, linking to David Neiwert's explanation of how far-right groups have tried to appeal to Native Americans.

I've just come across this article from last month that reasons along the same lines: The Tragedy of Ward Churchill by Matthew Rothschild The Progressive 03/04/05. Rothschild bases his arguments on the 2001 article that the rightwing zealots were frothing at the mouth about, and also on a speech Churchill gave at the University of Wisconsin. He observes, "Churchill has become a tar baby of the right. His free speech rights and academic freedom are shamefully under fire."

But he also analyzes the ways that Churchill's piece justifying the 9/11 attacks was way off the tracks. Including this:

Just as, in his article, he exaggerated the culpability of those in the Twin Towers, in his speech, he minimized the culpability of Eichmann.

"Eichmann, who the hell was Eichmann?" he asked the audience. He said he was using Eichmann the way Hannah Arendt did, to illustrate the "banality of evil."

Then he said, "Not that he killed anyone," especially not any Jews. "He sat in a bureau in Berlin." Eichmann arranged the train schedules so Jews would arrive on time at the concentration camps, Churchill said, and Eichmann made sure the deliveries of Zyklon B for the gas chambers got there, and that the trains returned full of the gold from the extracted teeth of the concentration camp inmates.

"He was a nondescript bureaucrat who performed his job proficiently," he said.

Now to say that Eichmann didn't kill anyone (evidently, Churchill would need photos of Eichmann strangling Jews with his own bare hands or shoving them into ovens) when he was responsible for seeing that millions of Jews went to the camps where they would be killed is to give Eichmann an enormous pass. ...

Churchill claimed that Eichmann "didn't even believe in the policy" of the Nazis. But according to the Colombia Encyclopedia, he was a zealous Nazi and was promoted in 1939 to be "chief of the Gestapo's Jewish section. "Eichmann promoted the use of gas chambers for mass extermination of Jews in concentration camps, and he oversaw the maltreatment, deportation, and murder of millions of Jews in World War II," the encyclopedia says.

Churchill almost made Eichmann out to be a Renaissance man. "He knew Hebrew," said Churchill. "He knew more about Judaism than a lot of Jews."

This is stuff right out of the Holocaust denier playbook.

Couldn't the Oxycontin crowd make a little effort to think about what they're bashing as leftwing anti-Americanism before they start shooting off their mouths about it? If there's anything "left" or liberal about particular positions Ward Churchill takes, it's a coincidence. Because from everything I've seen, he does seem to be working from a reactionary, ethnic-nationalist perspective. And I'm not trying to make any philosophical point about how it's "objectively" reactionary or some such thing. It's straight-out reactionary and pretty much blatantly Holocaust-denier nonsense.

He does seem to enjoy packaging his points in double-talk, not an unusual trait for extremists. His argument in his speech, as reported by Rothschild, is that he wasn't saying anything very bad in calling the victims killed on 9/11 in the World Trade Center "little Eichmanns" because, hey, he doesn't think Adolf Eichmann was such a bad guy!

Speaking of Eichmann and Holocaust denial, the deniers always challenge the standard six million figure for the number of Jews killed by the Holocaust. The figure originally came from Eichmann, who after all was in a position to know. And it has been validated by later detailed research. (Eichmann himself later revised his claim to "only" five million killed.)

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1 comment:

purcellneil said...

I can't understand how this guy Churchill has come to such notoriety.  He said some outrageous things, and I am guessing he does that on a regular basis.  But he has no standing of any weight in the world, and his offensive and absurd remarks have all but ensured that nobody will ever hear him should he offer up anything worthwhile.  

It suits the right to label him as left, but I certainly don't see him as one of us.

Neil