February 12, 2005

What's worth "bothering" about in the Ward Churchill controversy.

Sean Hackbarth tries to answer a question I asked him in email. He had written to me to call attention to a post of his that complained about Ward Churchill coming to UW-Whitewater "to grab as much attention as he can." My question, meant to imply why I wasn't going to link, was: Aren't you helping him get attention?

He titles the new post "Should we even bother?" which suggests he's not really getting or not admitting what my point was. I recommend doing what is best, not doing what takes less effort. Denying someone the springboard of your outrage might be better. That it's less bother is just a bonus.

But if your outrage at things Churchill has written is creating a fund of energy that you want to expend on something useful, what I have recommended and continue to recommend is to focus on the institutions that hire and promote undercredentialed political ideologues like him. By focusing on Churchill, you make it easier for those institutions to avoid responsibility for what is a much broader problem. You make it all too easy for these institutions to retaliate against the one individual that critics have locked onto. You help them make it seem as though they've done enough. That the retaliation also offends free speech values further demonstrates how dysfunctional the focus on the individual speaker is.

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