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Some People Get Fired.
July 25, 2007 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Ward Churchill fired. The Colorado Board of Regents made a point to say that he was not fired for the infamous essay in which he called financial workers killed in the World Trade Center attack to "little Eichmanns" for their role in facilitating US corporate financial interests. They insist that he was fired for "serious, repeated and deliberate research misconduct that falls below the minimum standard of professional integrity, including fabrication, falsification, improper citation and plagiarism," allegations made against Churchill even before his controversial post-9/11 remarks. While others warned that the firing signaled a breach of academic freedom and assault on the idea of tenure itself, Churchill announced he is suing the university. (previously)
posted by inoculatedcities (156 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think it does warrant an FPP because of the implications of the firing. This isn't "OMGCeLEbRITyGOtSArrESTeDLULz" news, which apparently warrants an FPP post.
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:55 PM on July 25, 2007


- post. Sorry for the redundancy.
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:55 PM on July 25, 2007


When did the university discover for the first time that he had problems with credentials and citations and research difficulties? Did his work get published and peer reviewed and accepted? Or....
posted by Postroad at 6:00 PM on July 25, 2007


If he had tenure, then's it's clearly a rightwing scalp. And i hope he gets millions.
posted by amberglow at 6:00 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Good riddance.

I had some great professors at CU on both extremes of the political spectrum. They said all sorts of controversial things in class that would make bloggers nowadays go nuts.

But they were also great scholars with original research and didn't represent themselves as what they weren't in order to get ahead.

I'm sure Churchill will wash up elsewhere, but it's time CU moved on. There's just too much good research and teaching going on in Boulder that's getting ignored by the Churchill and football scandals.
posted by dw at 6:00 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


If he had tenure, then's it's clearly a rightwing scalp. And i hope he gets millions.

Clearly.
posted by Krrrlson at 6:03 PM on July 25, 2007


If he had tenure, then's it's clearly a rightwing scalp.

Churchill was fast-tracked to tenure because he was thought to be an Indian and his inclusion in the faculty would bring about "diversity". The normal process of vetting his work and credentials were bypassed.

Then they discovered that he was as white-bread as I am, and a lot of his credentials were faked, and his academic work was shoddy and riddled with errors and outright lies. (For instance, he's the one responsible for the lie about delivery of smallpox-infected blankets to Indians by the US Army. Turns out he fabricated it completely, and there's no credible evidence for it.)

As part of the process of terminating Churchill, the regents also tightened up the vetting process for tenure to make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:08 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


How long until they realized that stuff? When was he granted tenure originally, and how did any of that come up now, and why didn't it come up then?
posted by amberglow at 6:10 PM on July 25, 2007


Then they discovered that he was as white-bread as I am,

Maybe he's a member of the Wanabi tribe.
posted by jonmc at 6:12 PM on July 25, 2007 [5 favorites]


Clearly the guy had been working at the school for 25 years, and now they discover that he has academic problems and decide now to tighten up vetting process...the guy might have been given tenure because of what they believed he was (Indian) but then this happens to lots of academics these days who have questionable credentials. For more on the case, go to
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/07/25/churchill
posted by Postroad at 6:12 PM on July 25, 2007


Oh wow, I totally got this guy confused with Ward Connerly.

Anyway, I hate plagiarists, so fire away, CU.
posted by infinitewindow at 6:12 PM on July 25, 2007


Ah--he was tenured since 91--and none of that stuff ever came up? Not possible.
posted by amberglow at 6:13 PM on July 25, 2007


Well, I guess that means the conservatives win! As we all know, Ward Churchill was a leading light among the left, right up there with Nanci Peloci, Micheal Moore, Al Gore, his Grandfather Winston and Artrios.

This news will probably mean the dems lose the house. All liberals carry a little red copy of his book On the Justice of Roosting Chickens and wear an iconic gas mask around their necks. They'll be too dispirited to vote in next years election and Tom Tancredo will walk into 1600 pencilvania with a brand new republican, filibuster proof congress. Woe is me.

Double.

Uh, no.
posted by delmoi at 6:13 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think SCDB's right on this one...I looked into this awhile ago, and although I don't have links handy right now, I'll be happy to dig them up if other Mefites don't beat me to it. Being a voice of dissent doesn't give you the right to pull an Iron Eyes Cody.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 6:13 PM on July 25, 2007


What's interesting is a lot of plagiarists are getting caught thanks to the miracle of computers. It's almost like a killer who's been free for 20 years getting busted based on DNA tech that didn't even exist when he committed the murder.
posted by delmoi at 6:15 PM on July 25, 2007


When did the university discover for the first time that he had problems with credentials and citations and research difficulties? Did his work get published and peer reviewed and accepted? Or....

A lot of it was rumor and whisper for years, though it was covered in the Native American press, and a few Native scholars considered him a fraud. And it does seem on some level University and College administrators knew there was a problem. After all, they gave him tenure even though he lacked a PhD.

The real damning bit was that he was representing himself as a Keetoowah Cherokee, and they have some stringent requirements for blood quantum (being that the Keetoowah are the Cherokee equivalent to the Levites), unlike the regular Cherokee who rely on the Dawes Rolls. Turns out he was trading on an "honorary membership" card. Churchill keeps saying he's a member of a tribe, but still hasn't provided any ancestry to show quantum or a relative on the Dawes Rolls.

A Native American scholar claiming to be Native but turning out not to be a member of any tribe and unwilling to prove it.

Why did CU turn a blind eye? He was a controversial Native American scholar. He was good press. He made the diversity numbers look good. And the students liked him.

Where I work now we have controversial faculty, some of whom have been in the press and ripped apart by conservative bloggers. But they're not frauds. That was Churchill's problem in the end. It just took the foaming-at-the-mouth pajamas wearing conservajihadists to finally put the pieces together.
posted by dw at 6:18 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


It probably wasn't right that the fired him, and I'll admit that I conceptually agreed with the statements that started the initial firestorm. But then, I saw a couple of interviews with him and he completely outed himself as a sloganeering jackass.

There are definitely legitimate arguments for the "little Eichmanns" bit, but he just couldn't come close to articulating them.
posted by Tommy Gnosis at 6:20 PM on July 25, 2007


Ward Churchill is the Tawana Brawley of left-wing academics: someone who assumes the mantle of persecuted minority to shield their own bad behavior, thus making it all the more difficult for actual persecuted minroties to pursue legitimate complaints.
posted by googly at 6:21 PM on July 25, 2007 [7 favorites]


- post. Sorry for the redundancy.

It's not really redundant since Ward Churchill's firing is a new development in the story that's certainly newsworthy.
posted by jonp72 at 6:22 PM on July 25, 2007


A Native American scholar claiming to be Native but turning out not to be a member of any tribe and unwilling to prove it.

He apparently lied about his service in Vietnam and his membership in the Weather Underground as well. If this guy told me my mother loved me, I'd call her and check first.
posted by jonmc at 6:22 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


All liberals carry a little red copy of his book On the Justice of Roosting Chickens

I just love the irony that that's the title of the book that led to his downfall. The chickens came home to roost, indeed.
posted by dw at 6:23 PM on July 25, 2007


If he had tenure, then's it's clearly a rightwing scalp

Not really. The right-wing brought the attention to him, but from the little I've seen, his academic integrity seems really damn flimsy.

There is no way in hell should or can be fired for what he said about 9/11 victims, wether one likes it or not, and that's a good thing. But, assuming things are on the level, the negative press was just enough to get the regents moving on a firing that should have happened any way, for legitimate reasons.

The University case does deserve to be heavily scrutinized, because of the circumstances, but it doesn't appear to be wrong.
posted by teece at 6:24 PM on July 25, 2007


Ah--he was tenured since 91--and none of that stuff ever came up? Not possible.

You never went to CU. Back when I was there (1991, natch), they were struggling hard with diversity issues -- lots of pressure from African American, Native American, and Hispanic and Chicano groups to get more minority faculty and students. The place was lilywhite except for the sports teams.

And once he had tenure, it didn't matter, at least until the Internet made it possible to put all the pieces together.
posted by dw at 6:33 PM on July 25, 2007


Bill O'Reilly rules Amerika. There are plenty of toad eating cowards who foam at the mouth in defense of blacklisters who are morally offended, and who assume that there is always enough reasons to fire any tenured professor, buried somewhere in his or her past of course. It's the same herd mentality of the witchhunts, and they would probably agree to a more severe punishment on much less evidence if it were offered.
posted by Brian B. at 6:34 PM on July 25, 2007


This news will probably mean the dems lose the house.

Don't be silly. This will have exactly zero electoral effect.

But if we're lucky, it may begin the process of asking serious questions about tenure. Is it about making it possible for academics to voice unpopular opinions, or is it a shield for incompetent charlatans?

These days the answer seems to be "yes", and that's not good. So how do we change the system so that tenure accomplishes the positive (and arguably essential) function of protecting unpopular scholarship, without protecting lying charlatans? Is that even possible? If not, then is the positive aspect of tenure worth the negative?

I don't know the answers, but I do think that the questions are long overdue to be discussed. The problem is that too many academics treat tenure as sinecure, and that's fundamentally pathological.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:41 PM on July 25, 2007


Man, I hate when my token hires aren't quite as token as they made themselves out to be. Well, at least they still have C. Thomas Howell over in the Drama Dept.

And no, I am not currently looking for any tokin' hires.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:42 PM on July 25, 2007


It's not really redundant since Ward Churchill's firing is a new development in the story that's certainly newsworthy.

I meant calling an FPP an "FPP post." That's redundant.
posted by inoculatedcities at 6:53 PM on July 25, 2007


Clearly, the fact that Churchill was fired means Bush is right.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:58 PM on July 25, 2007


Dude is a known fronter. Doesn't mean George Bush wins the superbowl guys, jerk off if you like, you never know what tomorrow might bring.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:58 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Doesn't mean George Bush wins the superbowl guys,

He'd do OK in the cheerleading competitions, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 7:01 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Unaccustomed as I am to saying it, SCDB has it. Churchill was a 100% bullshit peddler, and deserves to be fired for it. Of course, he's actually being fired for his 9/11 comments, no matter what anybody says, and he probably would have slid on the other stuff without them. As someone who believes passionately in the importance of tenure for protecting radical opinions, it makes me a little uncomfortable.

But not that uncomfortable. Good riddance.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:01 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Churchill was a 100% bullshit peddler, and deserves to be fired for it. Of course, he's actually being fired for his 9/11 comments, no matter what anybody says, and he probably would have slid on the other stuff without them.

Yup, life's rough, if you're going to pop tough stuff you need to be tough stuff.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:09 PM on July 25, 2007


I don't care if he was more forcefully investigated because he's a leftist and wrote some Coulteresque stuff about "little Eichmanns." You plagiarize, you're out. Tenure is not relevant here.
posted by rxrfrx at 7:09 PM on July 25, 2007


(and by "plagiarize" I also mean fabricate and other related academic dishonesties)
posted by rxrfrx at 7:10 PM on July 25, 2007


Clearly, the fact that Churchill was fired means Bush is right.

That's silly, too. The two are completely unrelated.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:15 PM on July 25, 2007


Yet you're still counting coup, looks like Churchill isn't the only fake Indian 'round these parts.
posted by Divine_Wino at 7:20 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I buy some rope, can I be a cowboy?
posted by jonmc at 7:21 PM on July 25, 2007


No, jonmc. And wash those chaps before you return them.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:26 PM on July 25, 2007


Apparently, the 'fabrications' here are that he 'misrepresented sources' to state that John Smith intentionally infected Indians with smallpox.

If that's all there is, he was obviously fired for his 9/11 essay. You don't terminate tenure based on something that small.
posted by Malor at 7:29 PM on July 25, 2007


Also note: the deliberate infection theory has been around a lot longer than he has.
posted by Malor at 7:31 PM on July 25, 2007


Malor, that wasn't all there was.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:33 PM on July 25, 2007


So how do we change the system so that tenure accomplishes the positive (and arguably essential) function of protecting unpopular scholarship, without protecting lying charlatans? Is that even possible?

(Full disclosure: I have tenure.) In this case, tenure obviously did not prevent the lying, incompetent charlatan from being bounced out on his ass, so that part seems to be working OK. Maybe what needs to be improved is the standards for granting tenure and heck, even basic hiring procedures such as checking the credentials of applicants.

Meanwhile, I'd like to see some hard evidence to back up this oft-repeated claim that "most" or "many" tenured profs are lazy, inert slackers who stop making an effort because they can't be fired. Tenured faculty can be fired for cause, and if universities don't follow through on disciplining or deep-sixing the actual problem profs, it's for a complex assortment of reasons (often including administrators' own lazy inertia).

I work at a teaching- rather than research-focused joint, and so for me and many others in the same position, the value of tenure (as well as a faculty union) has little to do with its traditional purpose of protecting potentially unpopular scholarly voices than it does with protecting my students from the tender mercies of non-faculty administrators who might otherwise have leverage to make me allow them to interfere with instructional matters such as curricula, teaching methods, course content and delivery, in ways that are absolutely not appropriate for people who aren't teachers.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:35 PM on July 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


work was shoddy and riddled with errors and outright lies. (For instance, he's the one responsible for the lie about delivery of smallpox-infected blankets to Indians by the US Army. Turns out he fabricated it completely, and there's no credible evidence for it.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:08 PM on July 25


If this is true, he should be beaten up once for each time that stupid story is cited in dumb internet arguments.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:39 PM on July 25, 2007


You don't terminate tenure based on something that small.

Malor, "small" is not at all the word I would use to describe that kind of academic malfeasance. I would say it's precisely the sort of thing that should cost someone tenure, and Churchill was guilty of more besides. It's the only way to keep a highly privileged system like tenure remotely honest.

(I would wax more wroth if I didn't agree with your other point. He totally was fired for his 9/11 essay. So why don't you wax Roth for a while.)
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:40 PM on July 25, 2007


(For instance, he's the one responsible for the lie about delivery of smallpox-infected blankets to Indians by the US Army. Turns out he fabricated it completely, and there's no credible evidence for it.)

Hmm...I'd never heard of this legend before. I've heard of such blankets being delivered by "the white man," but never specifically the US Army. And that particular legend is more than likely true.
posted by dgbellak at 7:46 PM on July 25, 2007


He totally was fired for his 9/11 essay.

Well, his credentials were hinky, and he decided to draw attention to himself by shooting his mouth off. Dumb move.
posted by jonmc at 7:50 PM on July 25, 2007


If that's all there is, he was obviously fired for his 9/11 essay. You don't terminate tenure based on something that small.
posted by Malor at 10:29 PM on July 25


It is inconceivable that he was fired for that essay, because that essay is dumb. It's a random collection of non sequiturs and "junk" statistics that was slapped together to be shocking.

After reading it now, I recall that I had read it when it was first published, and promptly forgot it.

That essay is simply too dumb and too poorly written to have nearly the kind of impact that would motivate a university administration to take action.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:53 PM on July 25, 2007


But if we're lucky, it may begin the process of asking serious questions about tenure

Not likely, since about 50 to 75 tenured professors get canned in the US every year without any such process taking place (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 10, 2005, via Wikipedia, "Tenure").

If, indeed, tenure is granted in order to protect academic freedom, it necessarily bestows upon the tenured a duty of absolute integrity, and upon the grantors of tenure an obligation to monitor and enforce that integrity. Plagiarism, fabrication of data, and other forms of deceit are clearly violations of that trust and should result in termination.

For reference, from the Univesity of Colorado's Laws of the Board of Regents on termination of tenured faculty:

"A faculty member may be dismissed when, in the judgment of the Board of Regents and subject to the Board of Regents constitutional and statutory authority, the good of the university requires such action. The grounds for dismissal shall be demonstrable professional incompetence, neglect of duty, insubordination, conviction of a felony or any offense involving moral turpitude upon a plea or verdict of guilty or following a plea of nolo contendere, or sexual harassment or other conduct which falls below minimum standards of professional integrity."
posted by beagle at 7:55 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


In this case, tenure obviously did not prevent the lying, incompetent charlatan from being bounced out on his ass, so that part seems to be working OK.

Arguably it didn't work very well in this case. As mentioned above, Churchill's misconduct has been ongoing for fifteen years, and it was only when the public spotlight was shined on him that the authorities at CU began to move.

I do not claim that the majority of professors are "lazy, inert slackers" etc. I'm sure that's not the case.

But the minority who are "lazy, inert slackers" and/or who have been engaging in similarly poor scholarship are bringing all of academia into disrepute.

Academics are granted unusual protection. No other profession has anything like the kind of job protection that academics have. And arguably they need unusual protection if they're doing their jobs well.

But like lawyers and doctors, the general public also relies on academics to police their own. Lawyers and doctors largely do a pretty good job of that, and as a result the occasional instances of poor professionalism which come to light don't tend to reflect badly on the profession as a whole.

However, there's an increasing impression among the general public that academia has been failing the job of self-policing. Lawyers are disbarred for misconduct all the time, but aside from Ward Churchill, how many misbehaving academics can you think of who have lost tenure and been fired?

Lawyers are human, and there will be a certain number who don't deserve a license to practice. Lawyers collectively know this, and that's why lawyers get disbarred.

Professors are also human, and there will be a certain number who don't deserve tenure. But when gross cases of academic misconduct come to light, then what you will see is academics rallying to defend the one who committed the misconduct.

I understand why, but I think that's the wrong message to send. It makes the professoriate look as if they see themselves as a secular priest class, immune to all criticism from outside -- and that's almost exactly what you don't want outsiders to think of you.

The public will trust academia if they think that academia is doing a good job of keeping its own house in order. It shouldn't have taken a public spotlight and years of process for Churchill to be terminated -- and there are others like him who are not in the spotlight and whose positions are therefore not in peril.

I don't think the system did work in this case. What this looks like is a case where academia was forced to act, against its will, by overwhelming public pressure and attention.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:57 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


I am a white guy writing and teaching about American Indian history. Churchill has loomed very large in our field. No one thought that his scholarship was absolutely first rate, but he was really more of a polemicist than a scholar anyway. He was a very aggressive and often gifted writer. One of his most popular books, about Indians in films, was called Fantasies of the Master Race. He was extremely left wing and extremely pro-Indian and that bought his a lot of credibility in some circles. It also gave him a certain immunity to the whispers that had been circulating for years that he wasn't really an Indian at all. His very aggressiveness was his best defense, he never hesitated to denounce anyone he disagreed with in the most virulent terms. He was a non-white who was quick to play the race card and that scared people--academic people particularly.

His works formed something of a canon in some Indian Studies and Ethnic Studies department. He had the edge of Gerald Vizenor without the postmodern gobbledygook. He had the promise of a younger hipper Vine Deloria.

The first to blow the whistle on Churchill were the Indians themselves, or some of them. The newspaper Indian Country Today led the charge (1, 2) but CU resolutely looked the other way until the uproar over his "little Eichmans" remarks brought things to a head. It was the same controversy that brought out the plagiarism/falsification scandal. This is my field and I had not even heard about this issue before the controversy.

Why did CU play dumb and ignore all this? First of all, qualified Indian scholars are incredibly difficult to hire. There are damn few American Indians with PhDs in the humanities and a lot of schools that would love to hire them. So his masters plus a stack of books and articles that had a wide readership made Churchill a hot commodity. Second, academics and especially academic administrators live in fear that someone somewhere might someday call them racists. Third, after hiring Churchill at a rank for which he lacked the requisite degree and giving him instant tenure, CU would have a lot of explaining to do to reverse their decision.

Finally--the recent cases of Churchill and a few others are the tip of the iceberg of academic plagiarism. I know of a dozen cases that don't get talked about and are pretty much being ignored or covered up. And there are dozens or hundreds more to be uncovered. All over the country tonight bored and bitter grad students are pasting portions of their advisor's first book into Turnitin.com and Google Book Search and saying "Holy shit--hey come look at this!" There is going to be a wave of such discoveries.
posted by LarryC at 7:58 PM on July 25, 2007 [14 favorites]


how many misbehaving academics can you think of who have lost tenure and been fired?

...about 50 to 75 tenured professors get canned in the US every year...

I was not aware of that. Perhaps academia would do itself a favor by publicizing this more.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:59 PM on July 25, 2007


Not a fan of the man, but these allegations have mostly been falsified or shown to be distortions:

The Footnote Police vs. Ward Churchill

The Plagiarism Charges Against Ward Churchill


Frankly, I wish that I could be sticking up for someone I respect, but sadly injustices happen even to unlikeable fellows.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:00 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's high time we teach those leftwing academic snobs how the real world works. Firing was too good for that treasonous hippy scumbag. Back when men were men, he would have hung from the flagpole for smearing sweet Lady Liberty. Good Germans Americans should be celebrating in the streets.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:04 PM on July 25, 2007


That's silly, too. The two are completely unrelated.

You know that, and I know that, but the Malkinites , Freepers and such and, presumably, a good deal of the pundit class don't seem to know that. Or, to be more accurate, what they believe is more along the lines of:

Clearly, the fact that Churchill was fired means Bush is right Democrats are wrong.
posted by dgbellak at 8:07 PM on July 25, 2007


Clearly, the fact that Churchill was fired means Bush is right Democrats are wrong that he's an asshole and a fraud.

True, his fraud probably would've gone unnoticed were it not for his inflammatory essay, but that's his own stupidity.
posted by jonmc at 8:10 PM on July 25, 2007


You know, I have a lot of respect for hated, goofy professors -- even ones that I disagree with.

Take Dr. Weikart, for example. He teaches history at a university I briefly attended. His big "idea": Darwin caused Hitler.

Is he a creationist nut? Yes.

But did he teach respectable, sourced and accurate German history? I never took any of his classes, but I'm told by some of my friends who did that he was an incredibly boring lecturer but never ventured too far off into revisionist la-la land.

If I sat on his tenure committee, theres no doubt I would be tempted to fire him for being a bevets-esque creationist nutbar. I would also see if I could sneak in a proviso making sure that he doesn't teach "Evolution and Modern Society 101" unless he is very, very careful with the way that he presents evidence to the class. If thats all that happened, though, he would probably stay.

But the minute that he starts citing discredited sources, or fabricating evidence, or plagiarizing, he's out. Period, end of story. I'd fire him, and do so with gusto.

Its the same deal with Churchill here: Did people on the tenure committee want to fire him for being a wild-eyed lefty? Sure. Did Churchill make it really easy for them to do so? You bet.

Lesson for future radical academics: Be extra careful with your writings. Double and triple check every source. Make your scholarship impeccable. That way they'll have to work extra hard to have your ass on a platter.
posted by Avenger at 8:11 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


who cares about old blankets, Ward Churchill also spread the dangerous lie that there were no WMDs in Iraq
posted by matteo at 8:15 PM on July 25, 2007


The obvious first hire at Amberglow U. A no-brainer, as it were.

given some of the horrendously dumb fucks that come out of a big name college like, say, Harvard, I'll take Amberglow U, thank you very much. as giovanni said, the parties there must be awesome.
posted by matteo at 8:18 PM on July 25, 2007


Um, on the smallpox blankets thing:
People in this thread are confusing two separate incidents. In one incident, which happened during the French and Indian War, a British general (I believe it was Jeffrey Amherst) distributed smallpox blankets to enemy Indians. This incident is 100% verified and canonical.

What Churchill fabricated was a story about that same technique being used in the early 19th century in the West, during an Army inspection tour, I believe, down the Missouri River.

And it wasn't just that story. A year or so ago the link to the actual misconduct report was posted on MeFi, and this report cited numerous other instances of misconduct, each of which individually would have gotten him severely reprimanded and/or suspended. (publishing multiple papers in a collection under the names of other people, for instance; or fabricating information, then citing whole books without page numbers to obscure the fabrication).

And come on. You think a faculty committee at Colorado would have a right wing bias? You have no idea about academia.
posted by nasreddin at 8:20 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jonmc College always whups their ass in the Rose Bowl. They ask us to, they're into that.
posted by jonmc at 8:20 PM on July 25, 2007


SCDB, you raise several excellent points, and I've argued these same views lots of times to colleagues -- on a much smaller scale -- more or less echoing beagle's point that we have an ethical obligation to maintain professional integrity in all areas of our workplace.

But I think also that the tendencies you describe -- the "circle the wagons" mentality (which I certainly don't share -- Churchill and his ilk should be tarred and feathered) as well as the tendency for institutions to turn a blind eye to people who need to be disciplined or fired -- well, those are common in any large organization, particularly self-perpetuating bureaucracies.

At every private sector business I've worked at even briefly, where employees could be fired at will, there were always at least a few deadbeats or outright frauds, and everyone knew it, and none of the people in power typically did thing one about it. Nearly every sector of our culture -- corporations, lawyers, certainly police and religious organizations, government -- do an abysmal job of keeping their own houses in order. For every high-profile disbarment, there is plenty of sleazy chicanery going unchecked.

That doesn't make it all right for academe to do an equally lousy job of self-policing, but I'm not exactly sure why tenure means we need to be singled out as having some special holy responsibility no other profession does. There is de facto lifetime job security in a number of fields (civil service, anything with a union). Tenure itself doesn't need to be rethought; we simply need administrators and faculty with the guts to discipline and fire people for cause when there is genuine cause. As beagle indicates, every college has policies and procedures in place for doing this. You could change the procedures, paint tenure purple and call it Aunt Milly, but that's not going to make a culture of no-consequences suddenly decide to start holding people accountable for their behavior.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:21 PM on July 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


The first to blow the whistle on Churchill were the Indians themselves, or some of them. The newspaper Indian Country Today led the charge (1, 2) but CU resolutely looked the other way until the uproar over his "little Eichmans" remarks brought things to a head.

CU resolutely looked the other way over a political cartoon and an op-ed piece disagreeing with his nativeness and the 9/11 controversy? You had me until then. At least your arguments can't word for word be used for ridding us of the freedom of the speech. Tenure turned out to be a major red herring here.
posted by Brian B. at 8:23 PM on July 25, 2007


And by "culture of no-consequences," I mean American culture on the whole, not academic culture.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:24 PM on July 25, 2007


I just love the irony that that's the title of the book that led to his downfall. The chickens came home to roost, indeed.

If you want to talk hubris, I read one of Ward Churchill's books where he accused former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of being a fake Indian.
posted by jonp72 at 8:24 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


...about 50 to 75 tenured professors get canned in the US every year...

I was not aware of that. Perhaps academia would do itself a favor by publicizing this more.


And perhaps Muslims should be out in the streets condemning the terrorist attacks so people won't question their patriotism.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:26 PM on July 25, 2007


Here's the official report of the CU investigation.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:28 PM on July 25, 2007


Apparently, the 'fabrications' here are that he 'misrepresented sources' to state that John Smith intentionally infected Indians with smallpox.

If that's all there is, he was obviously fired for his 9/11 essay. You don't terminate tenure based on something that small.


Evidently, historians really have to watch their ass these days, because your footnotes and sourcing will attract a lot of extra scrutiny if you piss off somebody with a lot of free time and an ideological ax to grind. The fact that Michael Bellesiles was exposed for shoddy methods because he pissed off the NRA makes me wonder whether other historians have gotten away with bad research simply because they haven't pissed anybody off ideologically speaking.
posted by jonp72 at 8:29 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, academia is riddled with frauds and fabricators; the ones that get caught usually do something to attract the attention of the wider, non-quid-pro-quo real world. This happened with David Irving; when he was convicted, lots of British dons said things like "how unfair, if you went through all of our work with that kind of small-tooth comb, no one would survive!" Good argument, dudes.
posted by nasreddin at 8:32 PM on July 25, 2007


The retribution element is scary, but if they'd simply cite their fucking sources correctly, there'd be no ass-watching necessary. And if they can't cite sources correctly, which is something we cover in first-year comp., then someone should scrutinize the accreditation of the diploma mills that awarded these maroons PhDs.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:36 PM on July 25, 2007


FelliniBlank, part of the reason Churchill couldn't cite sources correctly is that a lot of those sources didn't say what he claimed they said. In fact, in some cases they directly contradicted him.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:43 PM on July 25, 2007


The big incentive for what fraud and fabrication there is (mainly at your big-league hot-shit schools) is the tired old "publish or publish more, big books = big bucks, be a rockstar at the annual conference" trip, which makes me really glad to be a nobody fifth-rater because the little contact I ever had with that lame dick-swinging hooey made me roll my eyes so far back in my head they might stick there.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:44 PM on July 25, 2007


SCDB, to clarify, I realize that he made up material from wholecloth; I was referring in that comment to jonp72's observation that historians would now need to watch their asses because political enemies might target them for retribution by poring over the citations.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:46 PM on July 25, 2007


More back dirt on the Indian-or-not controversy. I don't know enough to take an absolute stand, but it does illustrate some of the unfortunate in-fighting that goes on.

Native ancestry can be such a touchy, touchy subject. It involves everything from reservation voting/hunting/fishing rights to certifying Native artworks to grant money to casino checks. Those who are on the outside could either be unjustly dispossessed people, or they could be hucksters in a long historic line of people trying to steal Native heritage and resources. It's a tough issue.

Another statement from this part of the country. Note that this criticism is coming from well-known individuals who are most definitely not right-wingers (and also are longtime adversaries of Churchill).
posted by gimonca at 8:49 PM on July 25, 2007


Fellini, the problem is, that in an average book one would cite several hundred sources, and an average article maybe even up to 100. Some of these sources are highly irregular (scrap of paper in bottom of unboxed folder in messy archive). No reviewer has either time or inclination to check these citations, other than from memory, and virtually every historian has irregularly cited something--usually inadvertently--without the world blowing up. Peer review and the Profession in general rests on the premise that Assume Good Faith is a fairly reasonable policy.
posted by nasreddin at 8:51 PM on July 25, 2007


I hope nobody ever notices that I steal all my best comments from other people.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 8:52 PM on July 25, 2007


I hope nobody ever notices that I steal all my best comments from other people.
posted by nasreddin at 8:52 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Interesting. I wonder how many of yawl commenting have read Ward.

Mostly this whole scandal makes me sad. He clearly exaggerated and plagiarized. And it's becoming increasingly clear that he's probably not an Indian - which is really the worst of all possible lies. When I saw him speak live, I was left with an extremely bad impression. He was a bully in the question and answer session, shouting down anyone who questioned his ideas in the slightest.

But I also think he is both a skilled and gifted writer, and that he genuinely cares passionately for the political causes which he supports. I know that because of his politics, he has been treated differently than a middle-of-the-road academic would be. Doris Kearns Goodwin for example, continues to publish, to be interviewed in various historical documentaries, and to be treated as a legitimate researcher despite her obviously plagiarizing.

I've read 4 or 5 of Ward's books. I find him to be a fine author - compelling, clear, and focused. Most of his analysis feel very right on to me. I loved Fantasies of a Master Race which is less about research and more his personal reflections about media presentations of Native people. That book changed the way I think about a lot of things.

Pacifism as Pathology is also mostly just his personal ruminations, and parts of it pissed me right off, but it's also very sharp and I'd challenge anyone to try to read that book and be unaffected by it.

Agents of Repression is an exhaustive look at Cointelpro. It is one of the most heavily footnoted books I've ever read, and most every claim he makes in it seems to be backed up by references - mostly to the actual published papers of the FBI. That book was co-written with someone else though.

It's sad to watch someone self-destruct. I believe he lost his wife in a car accident a few years ago. He's now hated by people of all political stripes. It seems very lonely. I know that for me, I'll miss reading him, and I'll always be grateful to him as one of the writers that truly changed my life.
posted by serazin at 8:56 PM on July 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


My hope is that everyone will fail to notice that I liberate my best comments from people who are not me. (<--observe how the finely wrought paraphrase obscures the theft!)
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:56 PM on July 25, 2007


It's sad to watch someone self-destruct.

Actually, Ann Coulter and O'Reilly have been working against Churchhill for years now. It was only a matter of time.
posted by Brian B. at 8:59 PM on July 25, 2007


Some of these sources are highly irregular (scrap of paper in bottom of unboxed folder in messy archive). No reviewer has either time or inclination to check these citations, other than from memory, and virtually every historian has irregularly cited something--usually inadvertently--without the world blowing up.

Ah, right (RTFA, Fellini) so this is a problem specific to history or fields using types of sources for which there's no standardized documentation format. Yeah, if I were a prominent, ethical rabble-rouser, I'd be freaked.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:00 PM on July 25, 2007


Having spent my time among many a like-minded flaming librul grad. student, I don't think too many tears are going to be shed over this. Churchill was way out there, and CU only has themselves to blame for giving tenure to somebody with dubious credentials.

Then again, I think a lot of departments made certain hires during the late 80's and 90's that they're going to regret, based on fashion rather than smarts and acumen. Churchill was arguably the fore-runner of making ill-advised hiring and tenure decisions.

(This is from the perspective of someone who was in an English department, so YMMV.)
posted by bardic at 9:05 PM on July 25, 2007


I was not aware of that. Perhaps academia would do itself a favor by publicizing this more.

Sure, just as soon as the AMA and ABA put out their annual press releases trumpeting how many doctors lost their licenses and how many lawyers were disbarred.
posted by dw at 9:10 PM on July 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Doris Kearns Goodwin for example, continues to publish, to be interviewed in various historical documentaries, and to be treated as a legitimate researcher despite her obviously plagiarizing.

I dunno. I think a lot of serious historians know she's still a fraud, along with Stephen Ambrose. She's one of those rare creatures though, a public intellectual, so she still gets invited on to do the talking head thing. But I'm more hip to this stuff than most people -- I tried to tell a relative about Ambrose's plagiarism, and all he could do was tell me how great Band of Brothers (the television series) was. And I thought it was too, but honestly, academics generally take plagiarism a lot more seriously than the rest of the world does.
posted by bardic at 9:11 PM on July 25, 2007


Academics are granted unusual protection. No other profession has anything like the kind of job protection that academics have.

That's not remotely true. Nearly all civil service workers are at least as well protected against arbitrary or bad-motivation firing as tenured professors are. And they're not nearly so safe as you make out. If they don't do their jobs well enough, they can be fired. If their administrators don't like their department, their department can (under most tenure systems I've heard of) be eliminated. If their school faces a financial crisis, they can be fired.

But like lawyers and doctors, the general public also relies on academics to police their own. Lawyers and doctors largely do a pretty good job of that, and as a result the occasional instances of poor professionalism which come to light don't tend to reflect badly on the profession as a whole.

I would be interested in visiting your timeline, to see what a world that holds lawyers in high esteem would look like. In my world, lawyers rank near the bottom of social prestige surveys and people make jokes about unprofessional ambulance-chasers.

However, there's an increasing impression among the general public that academia has been failing the job of self-policing.

I assume you can back up this claim with some sort of evidence.

But when gross cases of academic misconduct come to light, then what you will see is academics rallying to defend the one who committed the misconduct.

Um. Except, you know, for cases like the one in question in which the professor was fired. By other academics.

Or is "rallying" code for "at least one member of the set of all professors spoke in favor of Churchill on at least one occasion," such that any group would constitute "rallying"?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:18 PM on July 25, 2007


But I also think he is both a skilled and gifted writer, and that he genuinely cares passionately for the political causes which he supports. I know that because of his politics, he has been treated differently than a middle-of-the-road academic would be. Doris Kearns Goodwin for example, continues to publish, to be interviewed in various historical documentaries, and to be treated as a legitimate researcher despite her obviously plagiarizing.

True, but at no point did DKG ever claim to be a woman only to have it later discovered that's not a banana in her pocket.
posted by dw at 9:18 PM on July 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


As for tenure, I remember a number of conservative professors all being very cautious about the Churchill fiasco, because tenure was protecting them from being axed.

Can't think of where I read that, though. I do know that when I was at CU I think I had two professors one would classify as openly conservative, and one was anti-Communist paleo-con firebrand Ed Rozek. Brutal class, but he was a hoot to hear lecture.
posted by dw at 9:27 PM on July 25, 2007


In any normal world, this firing would be another amusing footnote of academia in which a guy gets outed for fabricating credentials and plagiarizing.

As it is, unfortunately due to Bill O'Reilly developing a single-minded obsession with Churchill over one of his essays, he devoted dozens of shows to Churchill, day after day, turning him into a household name among senior citizen fox news viewers who couldn't shut up about Churchill's insidious influence to every relative within shouting distance around the Thanksgiving table.
posted by deanc at 9:35 PM on July 25, 2007


No reviewer has either time or inclination to check these citations

Unless the reviewers were the citations cited...

Citing someone else's work that your experiments contradict who happens to be someones reviewing your work can be dicey... I'm not so sure about the humanities where there's no such thing as a physical and reproducible result.

Then again, people with wierd diseases aren't easy to get a hold of and who's to say the wierd disease diagnosed (re:syndrome) are really the same disease in Germany vs Canada.

posted by porpoise at 9:58 PM on July 25, 2007


OK.

From reading this thread, I'm beginning to understand the whole "anti-academic" thing.

As a liberal arts undergrad with a focus on the hard sciences, I never really got that "academics" included English and history and poetry and psychology (just kidding) and fine arts and poli sci and economics and &c.

On the flip side; when people think of "academics" and "ivory tower," do they think only of the arts/humanities or are the sciences (mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology) included in the set that "academics" belong within?
posted by porpoise at 10:05 PM on July 25, 2007


Well, porpoise, the whole anti-environmental / anti-climate change / creationist crowd are increasingly trying to push that sort of distrust of academics into the hard sciences. Which has, thus far, mostly failed, because repeatable scientific experiments are much harder to question and discredit than vague, subjective ideas like "history" and "art".

Having said that, there have been some notable academic frauds lately, tending towards physics / chemistry where the rate of publication is high, and reviewers have appeared to have missed blatant fabrications (for example, submitting the same graph in multiple papers, while claiming the graph showed something different in each).
posted by Jimbob at 10:20 PM on July 25, 2007


On the flip side; when people think of "academics" and "ivory tower," do they think only of the arts/humanities or are the sciences (mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology) included in the set that "academics" belong within?

I'm not sure who you mean by "people," but to the tiny extent that they think about professors at all, I'd venture to guess that the majority of Americans don't identify us as "academics" but as "the teachers at my/my kid's college." And most people's kids don't attend Ivy, Ivy pretender, elite private or flagship state schools, which is where most heavy-hitter academics are.
posted by FelliniBlank at 10:30 PM on July 25, 2007


Lesson for future radical academics: Be extra careful with your writings. Double and triple check every source. Make your scholarship impeccable. That way they'll have to work extra hard to have your ass on a platter.

Great point. It's why Noam Chomsky's always been such a heavyweight and why Alan Dershowitz can do nothing but shriek and stamp his feet every few months every time he or Norman Finkelstein say anything about Israeli policy.
posted by inoculatedcities at 10:34 PM on July 25, 2007


No matter how high the bar of academic accuracy is set for tenured professors to jump over, populist assholes like Malkin, Coulter and O'Reilly will continue to slide under that bar on their bellies, will get paid a hundred times more, and will have their lies believed by a thousand times more idiots.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:56 PM on July 25, 2007 [4 favorites]


i am elated that this hateful phony indian got canned!
posted by bruce at 10:57 PM on July 25, 2007


On the flip side; when people think of "academics" and "ivory tower," do they think only of the arts/humanities or are the sciences (mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology) included in the set that "academics" belong within?

At least for me, my esteem for professors as a class is proportional to the extent to which they must master and use mathematics in their field of expertise. (Chemists also get a by.)

When I think "Ivory Tower" (and when I think "charlatan"), I visualize professors who are in areas whose names include the word "studies". Little good or valid has ever come from "studies".

But I'm sure that opinion is far from universally held, especially here.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:36 PM on July 25, 2007


This person gets too much publicity.
posted by moonbiter at 1:07 AM on July 26, 2007


Not just 9/11 and not just footnoting. As I remember,

1) he also claimed to have co-written articles (thus gaining additional credibility) with others and it turned out he'd written the whole thing himself.

2) he wrote articles under assumed names and then cited them as agreeing with his views.

3) he published papers in an edited collection without permission of the author

Not good practice and for me, sign of his incorrigible arrogance.,
posted by A189Nut at 4:02 AM on July 26, 2007


Little good or valid has ever come from "studies".

And that, amigos, is the conservative mindset in a nutshell.
posted by John of Michigan at 5:08 AM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love this kind of story because it's a useful litmus test to separate the honest lefties from the knee-jerks. Honest leftie: "I'm glad they finally weeded him out, fakes like him make the rest of us look bad." Knee-jerk: "OMG! Right-wingers are attacking us! Circle the wagons and deny all allegations!!" (Note: not accusing anyone here of being knee-jerk, but we all know what I'm talking about.)

There are definitely legitimate arguments for the "little Eichmanns" bit, but he just couldn't come close to articulating them.

Why don't you take a stab at articulating them? Because on the face of it that's a disgusting, vile attitude, and the only reason I can think of for saying such a thing is to garner publicity.
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on July 26, 2007 [5 favorites]


It's why Noam Chomsky's always been such a heavyweight and why Alan Dershowitz can do nothing but shriek and stamp his feet every few months every time he or Norman Finkelstein say anything about Israeli policy.

Well, Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz are both good examples of academics for whom the tenure system works well. They're pretty much untouchable, despite some of the crazy things Dershowitz has advocated (torture warrants) and Chomsky's very public radical advocacy. They're not going to lose their jobs because their work and CVs are scrupulously honest and free of fraud.

Despite the tenure system, you can get rid of the dishonest and venal and corrupt. However, it's almost impossible to get rid of the unproductive. Strange as it is, had Churchill not misrepresented himself, yet then never published anything since being awarded tenure, he'd probably still have his job today.

Actually, in terms of academic fraud the story of Marilee Jones (self link) amused me much more.
posted by deanc at 6:47 AM on July 26, 2007


When I think "Ivory Tower" (and when I think "charlatan"), I visualize professors who are in areas whose names include the word "studies". Little good or valid has ever come from "studies".

Especially not international studies. All that area produces is State lifers and CIA station chiefs, and we have too many of those eevl liburyals.
posted by dw at 7:13 AM on July 26, 2007


Honest leftie: "I'm glad they finally weeded him out, fakes like him make the rest of us look bad." Knee-jerk: "OMG! Right-wingers are attacking us! Circle the wagons and deny all allegations!!"

That's funny, because I look at the Churchill case as a test of someone's fairness: if an academic approves of his firing on the basis that he's an asshole, it makes me question their sense of the procedural justice. Hell, I worked two blocks from the World Trade Center, I knew some of the people who died, and if Churchill repeated his arguments to my face in a social setting, I would ask him outside to settle the issue to my satisfaction. Taken together, the proven charges do not demonstrate the bad faith necessary to really indict the man as a moral monster or a fraud. The fact remains that similar charges of ghostwriting and fabrication would net a less-controversial academic a much smaller penalty, but because we don't like him, we throw out the rules and the precedents and the careful vetting procedures we usually require to remove someone from a tenured post.

I think this argument about self-supporting footnotes is particularly disingenuous, as does Mayer:
The Report says that publication under another name is particularly egregious if the author subsequently uses his own ghost written work as a supposedly independent authority for claims he is making. The report cites about a dozen footnotes (out of well over 10,000 in Professor Churchill’s collected works) in which Churchill references an article he has ghost written. From the gravity of the rhetoric, one would think that Churchill was building academic Ponzi schemes by sustaining controversial propositions with recursive citations from his own ghost written texts. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, the Report cites two footnotes in which Churchill references an article on“The Demography of Native North America” that he ghost wrote. These footnotes do not defend a debatable hypothesis, but provide a convenient source of information about the size of the Native American population. The particular citations are buried within a multitude of other footnotes (118 in one of the articles indicated and 189 in the other). Elimination of these particular references would have absolutely no effect on the credibility of the overall argument in either article, or even on the credibility of any discernible sub-thesis.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:57 AM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


At least for me, my esteem for professors as a class is proportional to the extent to which they must master and use mathematics in their field of expertise. (Chemists also get a by.)

Oh brother, how I love that brand of anti-intellectualism that purports to cherish the life of the mind and the need to protect the integrity of academe and then blithely excludes or at least denigrates about 80% of all intellectual endeavor.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:02 AM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love this kind of story because it's a useful litmus test to separate the honest lefties from the knee-jerks.

Perhaps you're right-- it is a decent litmus test. The thing is that the people turning this into a public spectacle cared very little about his fabricated background and academic dishonesty and were obsessed -- obsessed -- with an article none of us had ever heard of, written by a guy we hadn't heard of either. And suddenly we were told that this was somehow one of the most important public issues of the day.
posted by deanc at 8:04 AM on July 26, 2007


The fact remains that similar charges of ghostwriting and fabrication would net a less-controversial academic a much smaller penalty, but because we don't like him, we throw out the rules and the precedents and the careful vetting procedures we usually require to remove someone from a tenured post.

what another panacea said.

It's languagehat who is being kneejerk. Many tenured professors are guilty of the same or worse, yet because they're not turned into public figures by the right's organized campaign against academia, we don't hear of it and they're not fired or punished.
posted by amberglow at 8:07 AM on July 26, 2007


Right, and the way to fix that is to fire and punish the other malefactors, not to wring our hands over Churchill's well-earned plight. Listen, philosophically I'm so far left that any second now I'll circumnavigate the political sphere and bump into Ayn Rand on the other side, and I hate a hatchet job as much as the next guy. And I'm willing to accept that some of the charges against Churchill might be tenuous. But the preponderance of evidence from over the years clearly forms a pattern of wilful legerdemain, and you don't need to be using Ann Fucking Coulter's opera glasses to see it.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:17 AM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Right, and the way to fix that is to fire and punish the other malefactors
Fine, if that was done ever, i'd be fine with that, but it's not.

Lawrence Tribe, Alan Dershowitz, Doris Kearns Goodwin--all documented and admitted plagiarists and Harvard professors and public figures as well. Why should they continue to have tenure?

Go for it. Either do it for all, and clean up your house thoroughly based on academic things alone, or stop only responding to rightwing coordinated campaigns about professors who speak out on things you disapprove of.

This doesn't happen in a vacuum. Ignoring why and how this came up at all for this guy alone is foolish.
posted by amberglow at 8:25 AM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


very related: DePaul Rejects Tenure Bid by Finkelstein and Says Dershowitz Pressure Played No Role-- ...Mr. Finkelstein’s case has excited widespread interest, in part because of the involvement of Alan M. Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard University. The two scholars have sparred repeatedly in public. Last fall, Mr. Dershowitz sent members of DePaul’s law and political-science faculties what he described as “a dossier of Norman Finkelstein’s most egregious academic sins, and especially his outright lies, misquotations, and distortions.” ...
posted by amberglow at 8:31 AM on July 26, 2007


All I can say is, I'm glad amberglow won't be heading my tenure committee.
posted by nasreddin at 8:43 AM on July 26, 2007


Thanks amberglow - this point about other plagiarists is really key to understanding this. Someone with different politics would never have gone though this, and would porbably still have been employed.

It doesn't make me think what Ward did was OK - as someone who has read his work and loved it, I feel more personally offended by his dishonesties than I imagine most people commenting here can - but I'm not going to fool myself that Churchill is somehow an anomaly, or somehow worse of a human being than most of us heavily compromised human beings.
posted by serazin at 8:43 AM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


At least for me, my esteem for professors as a class is proportional to the extent to which they must master and use mathematics in their field of expertise. (Chemists also get a by.)

Oh, yuck.
posted by rtha at 10:11 AM on July 26, 2007


Can't everyone just agree that Churchill was both failing in his academic rigor, and the victim of a smear campaign?

I'm not sure how I see those as being exclusive in any way.

It is the case that he probably received tenure for questionable reasons. However, he had tenure, through whatever method, and griping over that at this time is pointless.

It is true that he had a withering eye cast upon him because of his inflammatory remarks. This made academic abuses that would quite likely never have been noticed become highlighted.

He is ABSOLUTELY being fired because of his inflammatory remarks, and the relentless campaign of public conservatives. And he is being fired despite his tenure, which is specifically designed to protect academics in this sort of situation.

Either he was speaking professionally, and therefore his viewpoint is protected by his tenure, or he was speaking as a private citizen, and therefore his speech is constitutionally protected, and it had no bearing of any kind on his professional status.

The fact he was granted tenure on shaky grounds and some of the sins he has committed make the decision much easier, and make for convenient, however inaccurate, deflection.

As mentioned several times above, this would not have been an issue for most tenured professors. I have an intense, burning hatred for plagiarism or intellectual/academic dishonesty. But, truth be told, no other tenured professor of 15 years with his level of publishing would be outright FIRED for a handful of questionable citations out of a veritable mountain of research.

But, since he was a polarizing figure, and he did have these stains, purposeful or not, on his research, it was easy to justify his firing.

Note carefully that I'm not excusing or supporting any fraud he participated in. But, everything happens in context. A new associate professor who has published 2 articles gets caught with a dozen manufactured footnotes, yeah, easy decision, he gets canned.

But, take a full professor who has generated hundreds of articles, as well as a stand of books, and there are a dozen manufactured footnotes across 2 decades of work... the administration would be quite unlikely to outright terminate that professor. At MOST, some sort of reprimand, and that would be done under an impenetrable veil of secrecy.

So yes, Ward was dishonest, and he probably deserved to loose his position. And this looks great and perfectly defensible on a personnel record.

However, in the real world, it is more than obvious this was a draconian punishment for the scale of his transgression, and would have simply never been NOTICED, much less considered, if it weren't for him reaching national prominence through a particularly inflammatory opinion. A dozen out of 10,000 citations is a 99.9% accuracy rate. Hardly a hack.

Is .1% still unacceptable? Yes, both theoretically and dogmatically. But practically, it would never raise an eyebrow.

The moral of the story is to check all of your references three times, and to never, ever disparage, question, or impugn anything marginally related to 9/11.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:15 AM on July 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


"There are definitely legitimate arguments for the "little Eichmanns" bit, but he just couldn't come close to articulating them.

Why don't you take a stab at articulating them? Because on the face of it that's a disgusting, vile attitude, and the only reason I can think of for saying such a thing is to garner publicity."

It's pretty easy, once you get past the perfunctory outrage— many of the financiers etc. who worked in the WTC were the bloodless bureaucrats furthering policies that lead to oppression and structuralized violence. It's a reference to Arendt's analysis of the "banality of evil." He expounds on it here, and the phrase only appeared in a longer, expanded essay (after the initial wave of outrage). Is it a sentiment that I heartily endorse? No, but to pretend that either of us, Languagehat, are shy about hyperbole is to dissemble needlessly.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on July 26, 2007


Why don't you take a stab at articulating them? Because on the face of it that's a disgusting, vile attitude, and the only reason I can think of for saying such a thing is to garner publicity.
posted by languagehat at 8:41 AM on July 26


lh: I assume you've not read his writings and statements on 9/11, because it's really not that hard to follow. I think someone of your intellect would have no trouble parsing it.

Basically, Americans suffered on 9/11 for blindly supporting the American administration, both current and previous, in inexcusable attacks on Iraqi populations. When you kill people by the hundreds of thousands, then it does start to approach a "purge".

He then likened the support of the American populace to these administrations to the support of the German populace for their administration, which was unwavering until almost the end.

it was pious Americans who led the way in assigning the onus of collective guilt to the German people as a whole, not for things they as individuals had done, but for what they had allowed -- nay, empowered -- their leaders and their soldiers to do in their name.

The Twin Towers were full of people who were, directly or indirectly, hearty supporters of the administration, but more importantly, part of the "machinery" of the enemy. These "technocrats" were the grease that helped the American war machine rumble forward. Therefore, they were legitimate targets, just like German people and manufacturing centers were legitimate targets during WWII.

It's really not hard to follow.

Now, whether or not I agree with him is an entirely separate matter. I think he has some valid points, but is grossly oversimplifying things, and is also being needlessly caustic, and the language is overriding the message by several orders of magnitude.

But, actually following his discussion is not hard. Not at all challenging.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:56 AM on July 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


Oh, dear, klangklangston, you're speaking in less-than-reverent tones of those who were callously and cowardly murdered by gutless terrorists on that fateful September day six years ago!!!

At last, sir, have you no shame!?!
posted by John of Michigan at 10:57 AM on July 26, 2007


Also, breathlessness aside, didn't the CIA and the armed forces have offices in the twin towers? If those gutless terrorists were trying to take out the CIA and the military presence there, then what we had was a textbook case of collateral damage.

Think about that the next time we shoot up a wedding party in Iraq or Afghanistan when we're huntin' down the terr-ists.
posted by John of Michigan at 11:00 AM on July 26, 2007


Reading this PDF (which was written, incidentally, by one of his supporters) shows that what Churchill did goes way beyond a few sloppy citations. In what is, to me, the most damning incident described, a paper withdrawn from an anthology his wife and collaborator was editing re-appeared in that same anthology, slightly re-written and credited to him (and some collaborators), not the original author! Of course he claims that this is just an error, that he didn't do more than proofread the paper, etc. etc. But I don't see any way that something of this magnitude could have been some kind of good-faith misunderstanding.

This sort of wholesale plagiarism by any academic should be grounds for immediate firing, and I think the Regents clearly made the right choice.
posted by myeviltwin at 11:06 AM on July 26, 2007


....slightly re-written and credited to him (and some collaborators)...

In fact, the article was not credited to him, but to a group he founded with a bunch of others. See, this is what I hate about these sorts of disputes: the distortions that occur through our attempts to rush to judgment. What you've done here is exactly what got Churchill fired: make a false claim and link to an article as if it provided proof, when in fact it disproves your claim. But because so many people hate him (like so many Native American scholars hate the US Army, I guess,) it's easy to do.

I don't see any way that something of this magnitude could have been some kind of good-faith misunderstanding.

You don't know much about the referee process, then. I see your argument, but it assumes its conclusions: a bad guy like Churchill must be guilty, right? If an article was plagiarized, he must be in on it, right? Yet this begs the question. Since he denies writing it, how could he be the plagiarist? Generally, plagiarism requires one to take credit. In a collaborative work, like an edited volume or a co-authored paper, doesn't it seem more likely that someone else , one of the non-scholars, is the culprit and that he simply failed to notice? Again from Mayer:
The paper has the earmarks of a manuscript written by a committee. It is an ungainly integration of a text about fishing rights law with a text about the Native American fishing rights movement. A few unanalyzed time series are thrown in for quantitative relief. Communication between the presumably multiple authors of the manuscript seems imperfect at best. For example, footnote sixty-two on page 232 explains how Native Americans do not like the term “treaty rights”. This term implies that the rights involved were created by the treaty rather than existing beforehand and being simply acknowledged by the treaty. The writer of this section seems unaware that the very same point is made twelve pages earlier in an extended quote by a Indian elder.
But let's not let our witchhunt against fabrication get in the way of our own personal fabrication, right? As Emerson said, "...consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds." (See how I made him say the opposite of what he said by leaving off the beginning of the quote?) I've said before that the proven charges show no malfeasance, just inadequate care. This is one of those unproven charges, which, if proven, could change quite a lot of my analysis. That'd be nice, because then I wouldn't have to stick up for him anymore. Unfortunately, the evidence weighs against the charge, not in favor of it.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:10 PM on July 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Many tenured professors are guilty of the same or worse, yet because they're not turned into public figures by the right's organized campaign against academia, we don't hear of it and they're not fired or punished.

Many preachers and politicians are guilty of committing adultery, yet because they're not turned into public figures by the left's organized campaign against religion, we don't hear of it and they're not fired or punished. Or something like that. Have Tom DeLay proof that, it's his rhetoric I'm plagiarizing from.

If you're a public figure (and he certainly was before the Hamilton College speech cancellation), you will be scrutinized. Period.

And honestly, it's not just the plagiarism. It's the general level of dishonesty he's conducted himself at. If it were just him copying something into a book or paper without attribution, he'd have been slapped on the wrist and O'Reilly and Coulter would have foamed at the mouth more than usual. But it was the continuing pattern of misrepresentation and lies that brought him down.
posted by dw at 12:29 PM on July 26, 2007


Um, on the smallpox blankets thing:
People in this thread are confusing two separate incidents. In one incident, which happened during the French and Indian War, a British general (I believe it was Jeffrey Amherst) distributed smallpox blankets to enemy Indians. This incident is 100% verified and canonical.


It was actually during Pontiac's War. Even then, I don't know if Amherst actually put out the order. He discussed doing it, but I don't know if the actual order happened.
posted by NoMich at 12:30 PM on July 26, 2007


anotherpanacea:

In fact, the article was not credited to him, but to a group he founded with a bunch of others.

From the PDF:

Although the list of contributors to The State of Native America book credits him with taking the lead in preparing of this article, Churchill insists this is not correct.

I parse this sentence as: the text credits the article to him. Now that it's apparent that the article was plagiarized, he's denying that he was involved. I do not find this terribly convincing.

Do you have an alternative interpretation? I'd honestly be interested to hear it.
posted by myeviltwin at 1:05 PM on July 26, 2007



It was actually during Pontiac's War. Even then, I don't know if Amherst actually put out the order. He discussed doing it, but I don't know if the actual order happened.


Fuck. I am a terrible historian. Now I have to sacrifice a hecatomb to Clio.
posted by nasreddin at 1:12 PM on July 26, 2007


also related: Neocons Torpedo Juan Cole Academic Appointment at Yale (with info on others --Rashid Khalidi, Joel Beinin, Stephen Walt -- denied appointments because of their political views and not because of their credentials or scholarship)

The whole tenure and appointment process is political in itself, and when people are politically targeted from outside in concerted well-funded campaigns as well, talk of any sort of ethical or moral or academic standards remains just that. High standards and academic freedom are not being practiced, and rigorous inspection of all is not being done.
posted by amberglow at 3:01 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


many of the financiers etc. who worked in the WTC were the bloodless bureaucrats furthering policies that lead to oppression and structuralized violence. ... Is it a sentiment that I heartily endorse? No, but to pretend that either of us, Languagehat, are shy about hyperbole is to dissemble needlessly.

I would never deny I enjoy and use hyperbole. I would also never lump together a bunch of people who happened to be in a large building at a particular time "bloodless bureaucrats," let alone "little Eichmanns." And I don't think you would either. I don't care what his theoretical justifications might be (ooh, trendy references to Hannah Arendt, I'm impressed!), it's a disgusting, vile attitude and use of language, much like those used by the actual perpetrators of genocide. First we lump our enemies together, then we demonize them, then... you do the math. And no, that's not hyperbole, that's an honest expression of outrage. I don't believe in playing down my reaction to what I consider unacceptable, anti-human behavior in order to score coolness points.

lh: I assume you've not read his writings and statements on 9/11, because it's really not that hard to follow. ... Basically, Americans suffered on 9/11 for blindly supporting the American administration, both current and previous, in inexcusable attacks on Iraqi populations. When you kill people by the hundreds of thousands, then it does start to approach a "purge". ...

The Twin Towers were full of people who were, directly or indirectly, hearty supporters of the administration, but more importantly, part of the "machinery" of the enemy. These "technocrats" were the grease that helped the American war machine rumble forward. Therefore, they were legitimate targets, just like German people and manufacturing centers were legitimate targets during WWII
.

Bullshit. The Twin Towers were full of people, end of story. Some of them were commodity traders, some of them were waiters, some of them were commuters, some of them were probably bums looking for a place to spend some quiet time. All that other stuff is pure rhetoric, equating a random collection of people (many of them, by the way, not even American) with Rumsfeld, Cheney, et al. You want to get Rumsfeld, go get Rumsfeld, don't kill a bunch of random people. And if you have any moral sensibility at all, don't justify such killing to show how postmodern and progressive and righteous you are.

It's really not hard to follow.

Neither is Mein Kampf.
posted by languagehat at 3:02 PM on July 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


They weren't a random collection of people (neither would a Garment District collection of buildings have been, or targeting Rockefeller Center where many media companies have hqs, etc). There were also many government offices in the complex--from Port Authority to the Mayor's Emergency HQ to federal agencies.

Overwhelmingly Financial tenants on the whole tho, as expected near Wall St.
posted by amberglow at 3:11 PM on July 26, 2007


Oh, and just to preempt the comeback: yes, I suffer from a bad case of bourgeois morality. If I were a true progressive I would realize that you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, the end justifies the means, and the deaths of a few waiters and bums is meaningless before the proud march of history.
posted by languagehat at 3:12 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


(bldgs 6 and 7 were where most of the Federal Govt offices were.)
posted by amberglow at 3:13 PM on July 26, 2007


languagehat -

Come now. I don't expect you to agree that bombing the towers was justifiable or wise. In fact, Churchill himself was not advocating that action as a strategy. But he was pointing out a point about what an enemy of the US might see as a justifiable target. Stock traders and CIA employees are, in a very real and direct way, responsible for death and suffering of poor people all over the world. Corporate interests, US Federal Government policy, and secret CIA actions actually kill people in the real world.

And while I certainly don't want to kill anyone, and in fact, oppose war in most of its forms (precisely because I don't think killing almost anyone, 'legitimate' target or not, is useful or justifiable) I think that an organization that is at war with the US would be quite reasonable as seeing the people who decide corporate and government policy as reasonable targets.
posted by serazin at 5:36 PM on July 26, 2007


late to the party, I just wanted to comment on some of the "well X got away with worse, why isn't his tenure revoked" bitsies....I once worked for a large corp where after a year as FullTime, it was much like tenure, where you could be well known for being useless, and still keep your job, so long as you didn't actually break any rules.

When I arrived, our manager was notoriously one of those 'tenured' folks that everyone wished could be fired. It wasn't just his incompetence, he was also racist, sexist...just an all around bad guy to have in your employ. But he'd been there for years, and most people thought he'd always be there.

I'm usually a live and let live kind of guy, but as sometimes assistant manager and full-time team lead, his decisions had a tendency to make my professional life more difficult. So I started writing down all the things he did, with dates, people affected, what was said, outcome, what I think should have been done, what would have been the outcome if the more rational choice had been made, etc. When I turned it into HR, they called me into a conference room, and I thought I'd made a horrible career-ending mistake. Instead, once the door was closed, the HR person started gushing about just how happy there were that someone had finally given them the ammunition they needed. A week later, he was fired. The point of this story is that documentation makes all the difference between someone-with-lots-of-complaints-against-them and an ex-employee. If you think someone is a fraud, and you want to make a difference, write it down, don't just talk about it.
posted by nomisxid at 6:38 PM on July 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Twin Towers were full of people who were, directly or indirectly, hearty supporters of the administration

And all this time, I thought the custodial staff were just motivated by their love of changing trash bags...
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:41 PM on July 26, 2007


Stock traders and CIA employees are, in a very real and direct way, responsible for death and suffering of poor people all over the world.

In the first place, that's bullshit. You might as well say we are all, in a very real and direct way, responsible for death and suffering of poor people all over the world, and go on a random killing spree. But even accepting the premise for the sake of argument, if you want to kill stock traders and CIA employees, go kill them. Don't destroy entire buildings that probably contain a fair number of them while also happening to contain a lot of other people. If you believe such other people can be written off as collateral damage, I have nothing to say to you. If you don't, why are you bothering to defend this? Don't you realize the concepts of collective guilt, "no such thing as innocent bystanders," and "collateral damage" are used to justify every episode of mass murder? It doesn't matter to me what the ideology of the murderers is, and to my mind one measure of a person's intellectual honesty is whether they condemn the thugs on "their side" as fervently as they do the others.

I defend the right of tenured professors to spew crap and not get fired for it, but I shed no tears for this asshole. And it's perfectly in order for him to be fired for massive fraud and misrepresentation. Tenure doesn't mean a blank check.
posted by languagehat at 5:03 AM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


languagehat:

I don't want to kill stock traders and CIA employees. I am not interested in or advocating killing anyone. And I certainly don't believe that mass killing ever has value. I'm a fucking vegetarian - I can't even bring myself to kill a chicken.

What I'm saying is, that if you were a member of an organization, government, whatever, that saw itself as at war with the US, you would not be off base in seeing the towers as a military target. If you disagree then tell me - what is a valid military target?

And yes, we all, especially all of us in the first world, do have responsibility for US foreign policy. It is that policy that supports our lifestyles here - our ability to sit here on the internet blabbing at each other. This is in fact Churchill's point – that the lifestyle that we enjoy comes at a cost in human lives – and that, as in the words of Malcolm X on the occasion of the murder of John Kennedy, the violence we sow internationally did eventually come back to us all.

But don't people who own stock in Haliburton or who actually own and run companies that exploit the labor and resources of the third world have particular culpability for the poverty and environmental destruction that results from their practices? And is there any way that, for a person who sees themselves as at war with the US, these owners and bosses are somehow as "valid" as targets as soldiers - mostly 18 year old boys from poor backgrounds who have absolutely zero say in US foreign policy?

Churchill himself never said that he supported the bombings. He simply said that the bombings were a natural repercussion of the policies that people like those in the WTC enacted.
posted by serazin at 9:35 AM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


But don't people who own stock in Haliburton or who actually own and run companies that exploit the labor and resources of the third world have particular culpability for the poverty and environmental destruction that results from their practices?

I'm pretty sure the bombings had sweet fuck-all to do with revenge for capitalist policies at their core; Socialism is hardly the philosophy of Bin Laden. So Churchill would be wrong on this count. And the idea that the attacks were driven out of concern for environmental destruction is ridiculous.

As for treating stock brokers as being as legitimate millitary targets as soldiers because of their "foreign policy influence"? Well, that would be a brave reassessment of the Geneva Convention, I guess, but it's certainly not the way states and non-state actors conduct themselves if they expect to be regarded with any sort of legitimacy.
posted by Jimbob at 10:20 AM on July 27, 2007


"I'm pretty sure the bombings had sweet fuck-all to do with revenge for capitalist policies at their core; Socialism is hardly the philosophy of Bin Laden."

You're wrong. You know why? Because socialism isn't the only ideology that opposes capitalism, and because Bin Laden himself has said that capitalist policies were a motivation.

And the way to attain legitimacy as a "non-state actor" is to blow up the fucking World Trade Center.
posted by klangklangston at 10:34 AM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't want to kill stock traders and CIA employees.

Didn't say or think you did. I thought it was clear that the "you" in that sentence was the generalizing pronoun equivalent to "one." I was addressing you in particular in "If you don't, why are you bothering to defend this?" You may say "I'm not defending it, I'm just explaining what Churchill said. And he's not defending it, just explaining it." Which brings us to this:

What I'm saying is, that if you were a member of an organization, government, whatever, that saw itself as at war with the US, you would not be off base in seeing the towers as a military target.

What does that even mean? You could argue that I "would not be off base" in seeing the entire country as a military target, especially given this "we are all responsible" attitude. So I can see how "an organization, government, whatever, that saw itself as at war with the US" might well wipe out the entire US if they could. So what? We can all see how men with deficient moral compasses and an inflated sense of the urgency of their political goals can do any damn thing they want and can get the weaponry for, justifying it later (if and as needed) with reference to the favored "national liberation" rhetoric du jour. What does it mean to point this out? Specifically, what does it mean for someone to point it out, underlining the "justification," who would not provide similar justification for the similarly immoral activities of other organizations, governments, etc.? I don't see any moral difference between the Saudi assholes who attacked the WTC and the American assholes who invaded Iraq, but a certain (quite widespread) group of lefties will come across as apologists for the former because they work so damn hard to explain it, but will vent endlessly about how awful the latter is without making the slightest effort to "see it from their point of view."

I can understand despising all the killers, as I do, and I can understand (while despising) those who cold-bloodedly use other people's lives as pawns in their little geopolitical games. But I have a very hard time understanding "progressives" who play this "I'm not justifying it but I want you to understand it" game in which they spout all these bullshit notions of collective guilt and what have you, and then when called on it say "But I'm not justifying it! I wouldn't hurt a fly!" I'm sorry, but if you choose to parrot bullshit "explanations" while refusing to condemn (out of some sort of "solidarity" with the "oppressed," and because condemning might make people think you were a Republican or something), you're tarring yourself with the nasty brush.
posted by languagehat at 11:04 AM on July 27, 2007 [3 favorites]


There is de facto lifetime job security in a number of fields (civil service, anything with a union)

This is really here nor there, but I worked in a very big, very stable union shop for 7 years, as a member of the Communications Workers of America (one of the biggest unions in the USA).

There is nothing resembling de facto lifetime job security in even that giant, heavily secure union environment (hi! CWA member, laid off in 2002, after 7 years. Not even remotely close to being alone in that. Less experienced union members, like me, were laid off. More experienced members were demoted or transferred).

And very secure union shops like the CWA ones are a completely dying breed today. Methinks you underestimate the volatility of the American workforce.
posted by teece at 11:28 AM on July 27, 2007


I really wish that this thread hadn't turned into a consideration of the absurdly hateful and ill-considered things Churchill said about 9/11.

languagehat does a good job in his explanation of the inconsistency, but I'd like to add: Churchill devoted his analytic skills to a fairly weak explanation, but his rhetorical skills are mustered in defense of their actions. There's no other way to read it: it's not, "this is why this happened," but "this is why we deserved it." The article is no careful historical survey of the respective harms exchanged by two nations, but a hateful screed against one of them. This isn't the same thing as Bill Maher's principled stand on the definition of bravery and cowardice, it's a hatchet job against everyone who worked in the area, including the guy who worked down the hall from me and spent most days flirting with the ladies in Human Resources. I don't think he was in any danger of becoming an Eichmann, or even a technocrat. He was just a guy who helped out around the office, delivering mail and sorting files, when he could have retired. He didn't deserve to die for the crimes of the CIA or the US Military or some dictator his government propped up. Neither did the technocrats and stockbrokers.
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:23 PM on July 27, 2007


But there's nothing wrong with positing "this is why we deserved it", especially for a professor. And it's not a hateful screed by any means but a critique of our society, actions, and values. You can say it's ill-considered. You can say it's ill-argued. You can say whatever you want about it, but the mere fact of using it as a topic is is no way stupid or hateful or a screed.
posted by amberglow at 12:36 PM on July 27, 2007


Klangklangston, you always throw a lot of unnecesasry words into your post, so let's just distill that last one down to it's core for the benifit of the kids:

- Oh yes, rich, infrastructure-tycoon Bin Laden actually gives a shit about the deadly effects of capitalism on po' Arabs, and thought attacking the WTC etc. would actually improve their lot. Weird how he was happy to take that imperialist US money and products of the millitary industrial complex when it suited him. I guess he's a reformed man.
- Environmental issues...oh shit, you didn't say anything about that.
- The 9/11 attacks have Al Queda "legitimacy" in their cause.

All complete bullshit.

The 9/11 attacks happened because he was a complete fucking nutter...a rich, inspiring nutter who managed to get a pile of other young nutters to kill themselves for him...a nutter who played the media like a lute, both in the west and the middle east, with brave tales of "fighting the infidels" and pathetic justifications.

"Liberals" try to analyse the situation, which is noble, but what they come up with is possible political explanations for the attacks, the sort of bullshit Bin Laden talks to in his videos, not actual root causes. "Conservatives" just bullshit about how "THEY HAS HATE OUR FREEDOMZZ". Fact of the matter is, I believe, the whole thing was just a chaotic outlier on the bellcurve of human nastiness.
posted by Jimbob at 4:15 PM on July 27, 2007


"Weird how he was happy to take that imperialist US money and products of the millitary industrial complex when it suited him. I guess he's a reformed man."

Yes, almost as if he considered Soviet domination of Afghanistan more pressing at that moment than US economic imperialism.

"The 9/11 attacks happened because he was a complete fucking nutter...a rich, inspiring nutter who managed to get a pile of other young nutters to kill themselves for him...a nutter who played the media like a lute, both in the west and the middle east, with brave tales of "fighting the infidels" and pathetic justifications."

That's the stupidest fucking bullshit I've heard in a long time. I mean, sure, you want to establish some sort of vague cred for not buying the "liberal" or "conservative" lines, but by entering the "SHIT HAPPENZ LOLZ" theory, you've only proven that you should stay quiet while the adults are talking.

Hey, how about this for why Germany had a holocaust— Hitler was a nutter! Or why the Japanese had deathmarches— Hirohito was a nutter! Why'd we have a Trail of Tears? Andrew Jackson was a nutter! Why'd the Civil War happen? The Confederacy was full of nutters! Why bother explaining or analysing anything, it's all the work of nutters! LULZ!

Because when we have both years of someone giving a clear line of what they see as a justification for their actions, and years of analysists and academics both interpreting that rhetoric and making predictions that have come true based upon interpretations of the rhetoric, it's much simpler to just dismiss it as the machinations of "nutters." And hey, all the continuing strife in Iraq? Nutters!

I'm sorry if this seems invective-filled, but I'm just gobsmacked at the jaw-dropping stupidity of your "analysis." I mean, you have bothered to read Bin Laden's speech transcripts, right? And noted the rhetorical similarity between them and Hitler's right? Oh, wait, I forgot, Hitler was just some nutter who made a whole lot of other people insane, and then they did some crazy things, all in the throes of some sort of spastic fit for ten to fifteen years.

Here's a brief thought— how about we take a moment to, you know, take a look at the causes of this "nuttery," and treat them with a modicum of credulity, since this "nuttery" seems to keep recurring with remarkable similarity throughout human history. We can pretend that it's like psychology, if that makes you feel better (though I imagine that you find generalized nutters just as inscrutible), only, you know, broader and dealing with societies and political systems and rhetoric. We can call it sociology and political science and, well, rhetoric, and even establish schools that teach it.

And you can continue telling the rest of the punters at the pub that you've solved it all and it's because they're "nutters," you fucking yobbo.
posted by klangklangston at 4:42 PM on July 27, 2007 [1 favorite]


"But but but Kearns Goodwin!" excusing Churchill here sounds an awful lot like "But but but Clinton!" excusing Bush elsewhere. Anyone have a rationale as to why one is okay and the other isn't?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:22 PM on July 27, 2007



"But but but Kearns Goodwin!" excusing Churchill here sounds an awful lot like "But but but Clinton!" excusing Bush elsewhere. Anyone have a rationale as to why one is okay and the other isn't?


It's not meant as an excuse, but a pointing to clear and obvious double standards. Why is it ok for some to plagiarize and others not? Why do some get fired and lose tenure and others don't?

and what klangklang said...we have a clear record of Bin Ladin telling us over and over again why. (I won't even get into how Bush has done every single thing Bin Ladin wanted)
posted by amberglow at 6:00 PM on July 27, 2007


I really wish that this thread hadn't turned into a consideration of the absurdly hateful and ill-considered things Churchill said about 9/11.

That's really what it's about. Notice how the fraud, charlatan, plagiarism, and tenure-purity accusations lack the gritty details, right out of O'reilly and Coulter's editorials. It's a bluff, because the arguments wouldn't be agreed to by most people most of the time, and especially by those who know that scholars interpret their sources and are allowed to write polemical pieces like anyone else. We have a firm "truth is absolute" mindset among his detractors here, which makes it easier for them to base their accusations on.

What most people don't understand is that once a publicly-funded intellectual becomes vulnerable in a religiously red state like Colorado, they are done with. O'reilly and Coulter know this, because self-righteousness is what they desperately need to maintain, nothing more. That's both how and why poor people vote conservative, because their moral superiority was offended by a liberal. That's the reason they were making a big deal about it for so long. (It's also a clever way for them to vote away their rights, one witch at a time.)
posted by Brian B. at 6:09 PM on July 27, 2007


Notice how the fraud, charlatan, plagiarism, and tenure-purity accusations lack the gritty details, right out of O'reilly and Coulter's editorials.

Wait, did your preconceived notions cause you to erase from your consciousness the 90-page PDF of substantiated allegations of plagiarism and fabrication?

A question for you: What would Churchill have to do for you no longer to support him? (Become a Jew?)
posted by nasreddin at 6:42 PM on July 27, 2007


nasreddin argues for the sum-of-their-sins approach. If you need 90 pages from a career combing and still can't make a case, then you may as see if he can survive a bonfire too.
posted by Brian B. at 7:13 PM on July 27, 2007


Seems like they made their case pretty well. Of course, people who defend Churchill for his politics will never be satisfied, so no one asked them.

(and I am not a right-winger; I'm well to the left of Churchill himself)
posted by nasreddin at 7:18 PM on July 27, 2007


Seems like they made their case pretty well.

Except their editorial policing authority, when they were forced to address thought crimes as attributional errors, which is too little too late. But maybe they were sending a hidden message about their distaste of the whole scandal. Someone should cryptoanalyze the 90 pages. Or just read between the lines.

Of course, people who defend Churchill for his politics will never be satisfied, so no one asked them.

Which only makes sense if he is a political scapegoat...

(and I am not a right-winger; I'm well to the left of Churchill himself)

...and a religious one too.
posted by Brian B. at 7:41 PM on July 27, 2007



Except their editorial policing authority, when they were forced to address thought crimes as attributional errors, which is too little too late. But maybe they were sending a hidden message about their distaste of the whole scandal. Someone should cryptoanalyze the 90 pages. Or just read between the lines.


This is gibberish.


...and a religious one too.

I'm an atheist.
posted by nasreddin at 7:47 PM on July 27, 2007


I'm an atheist.

And the more you personalize it, the more I'm convinced it isn't personal for you?
posted by Brian B. at 7:58 PM on July 27, 2007


Of course it's personal for me. I'm a historian; I want my profession to be as free of deranged frauds and liars as possible. Of course, Churchill isn't alone; I don't care.
posted by nasreddin at 8:07 PM on July 27, 2007


Of course it's personal for me.... I don't care.

Glad we cleared that up. But if you substitute your words "historian" and "my profession" with anything under the sun, it makes the the same prejudicial statement. "I'm [insert identity or location here] and I want my [blah, blah, blah] to be as free from deranged frauds and liars as possible."
posted by Brian B. at 8:15 PM on July 27, 2007


It's not meant as an excuse, but a pointing to clear and obvious double standards.

So if the rules were enforced against both of them (as they should be), would you approve of that?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:32 AM on July 28, 2007


of course, Lentro.

The 3 people i mentioned above (Tribe, Goodwin, Dershowitz) are all highly public academics and writers and have all been guilty of the same or worse. Yet even tho they were well-known, nothing happened to them, while an unknown guy who only became known because of the rightwing's campaigns against him is now fired. And you have others who i also mentioned who are not being hired because of their political views.

Either academic freedom and ethics/conduct rules mean something or they don't. It shouldn't be that it's only sometimes a hiring or firing offense, and sometimes not. All the talk here and everywhere else about the high standards that need to be maintained, and the obvious wrongdoing here, etc, remain just empty talk otherwise.
posted by amberglow at 10:03 AM on July 28, 2007


I agree. I can't bring myself to feel bad for Churchill, and I consider his dismissal a positive thing, but it does seem like his case was pursued for the wrong reasons.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:32 AM on July 28, 2007


great thing on the attacks and campaigns: Feminists, Marxists and Post-Modernists, Oh My!
posted by amberglow at 6:10 PM on August 2, 2007


Perfect: Ward Churchill, or Peggy Noonan in the WSJ?
posted by amberglow at 5:17 PM on August 17, 2007


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