March 2, 2005

Ward Churchill comes to Wisconsin.

Ward Churchill spoke at UW-Whitewater last night. The American Mind has a lot of photos of the pro- and anti-Churchill doings outside the hall. Here's the Badger Herald's report on the speech:
Churchill ... lashed out at media coverage of his essay, in which he condemns American foreign policy and compares Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi official, saying he did not advocate the terrorist attacks.

“I never anywhere in that essay use the word ‘justify,’” he said. “I didn’t justify anything. I spoke to a phenomenon that I believe to be natural and inevitable.”...

Addressing the most controversial portion of his essay, Churchill said his comparison of the workers in the World Trade Center to Nazi official Adolf Eichmann has been repeatedly misrepresented.

Although Eichmann did not directly kill prisoners in German concentration camps, he was responsible for the structures’ daily operations. According to Churchill, the WTC workers acted in the same way — they merely ensured America’s profit-maximizing, capitalistic hegemony remained a well-oiled machine.

Wouldn't everyone working for a living count as an Eichmann in that calculation? If the man is just foaming about capitalism, why are we letting the fact that he came up with an outrageous metaphor keep us from ignoring him the way we ignore all the many people who hate capitalism?

Here's the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Report:
The people he was referring to as "little Eichmanns" in his essay were the same types of "nondescript" bureaucrats or technocrats who, unwittingly or not, keep the American killing machine rolling, he said.

Churchill further defended his remarks by saying the CIA and the Department of Defense had facilities in the World Trade Center, making the twin towers legitimate targets under the same rationale the United States has used to bomb military targets in civilian surroundings in other countries.

The Wisconsin State Journal has this:
To lessen hostility toward the United States around the globe, he said, every American needs to engage in "some direct confrontation with power," and thus compel the government to follow appropriate international law "by whatever means ultimately are required to be effective."

That didn't go over so well. Neither did the several times he suggested that every American - including himself - was a murderer because the government has killed innocent people abroad with repressive military and economic policies.

When the response to such remarks was a tiny smattering of uncertain applause, if that, Churchill was quick to note it.

"Oh, I made 'em nervous," he said at one point.

"Oh my God," he added, in mock imitation of what he assumed the audience was thinking, "we might be responsible for doing something."

Sorry to write such a long post on Churchill, which I'm only doing because he came to Wisconsin. I find him incredibly boring, saying the sort of tired old things that radicals have been saying for as long as we can remember. He's getting way too much leverage out of a metaphor, and it's not even an inventive metaphor, just the same old America is Nazi Germany metaphor that radicals have been using for as long as we can remember.

UPDATE: Bob Taylor connects this comment of mine with the idiotic invocation of Nazis made by Robert Byrd from the floor of the Senate yesterday:
Many times in our history we have taken up arms to protect a minority against the tyrannical majority in other lands. We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men.

But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends. Historian Alan Bullock writes that Hitler's dictatorship rested on the constitutional foundation of a single law, the Enabling Law. Hitler needed a two-thirds vote to pass that law, and he cajoled his opposition in the Reichstag to support it. Bullock writes that "Hitler was prepared to promise anything to get his bill through, with the appearances of legality preserved intact." And he succeeded.

Hitler's originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.

And that is what the nuclear option seeks to do to Rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate.

It seeks to alter the rules by sidestepping the rules, thus making the impermissible the rule. Employing the "nuclear option", engaging a pernicious, procedural maneuver to serve immediate partisan goals, risks violating our nation's core democratic values and poisoning the Senate's deliberative process.

For the temporary gain of a hand-full of "out of the mainstream" judges, some in the Senate are ready to callously incinerate each Senator's right of extended debate..

You know, the Nazis incinerated human beings, and the Republicans might incinerate the fillibuster. But if you think that's outrageous, maybe we ought to stop referring to getting rid of the fillibuster as the "nuclear" option. Maybe we shouldn't invoke the image of a nuclear holocaust lightly either. But we "nuke" our foods in the microwave. And there's the "Soup Nazi." So I'm thinking we shouldn't be so prissy and easily riled about imagery. After all, we say "I'm starving" when we're just a little hungry, showing no sensitivity to the millions of human beings who actually have starved. All of which is one more reason to ignore Ward Churchill. His Eichmann line is just another wavelet in the sea of metaphor we swim in.

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