Friday, February 4, 2005

FOX Sics its Dogs on "Un-American" Professors

Here in the U.S. we have a Constitutional gaurantee of Freedom of Speech. The Founders purposely wanted to allow us to criticize anybody we wanted, without fear of punishment. We ought to be able to call for the Impeachment of a sitting President without concern.

In FOX Sics its Dogs on "Un-American" Professors we learn of two people being attacked viciously for their statements. The government isn't attacking them, but the attackers are part of the Right Wing attack-dog squadrons that have been running freely in this country. There have been several instances in the past couple years where they gathered their harummphing forces, and shouted for someones resignation or whatnot until it happened.

One is M. Shahid Alam, professor of economics at Northeastern University. By his name you might guess he is Islamic, from a middle eastern country. In todays climate, that makes him an easy target to attack. In any case in the piece referenced above they refer to two articles he published in Counterpunch:

  • America and Islam: Seeking Parallels - His characterisation of that essay is

    What did I say in this essay? I made two points. First, that the 9-11 attacks were an Islamist insurgency: the attackers believe that they are fighting--as the Americans did, in the 1770s--for their freedom and dignity against a foreign occupation/control of their lands. Secondly, I argue that these attacks were the result of a massive political failure of Muslims to resist their tyrannies locally. It was a mistake to attack the US.

  • The Waves of Hate: Testing Free Speech in America - In the second he says he simply repeated the assertions of the first. By the time of the second essay, there had already been a wave of attacking press aimed in his direction.

What happened? First there was a wave of angry and hate filled postings on several blogging sites, which he names in the article. Second, Fox News decided to profile him in a series of stories they are doing about Un-American Professors. Let me suggest that intolerance for dissent is itself Un-American, and that the people who are harumphing over his statements are the ones being Un-American.

Having read both (see the links above) I think they are very thoughtful and interesting articles. The characterisation he gives is fairly accurate, though the second piece spends a lot of its space detailing the attacks against him over the years. Basically what I see in his writing is that he is challenging the official picture, not only of the September 11, 2001 attack, but the whole relationship between the West and the Middle East. His main point is that the real cause of the September 11, 2001 attack was the failure of the Middle East to resist the tyrannical governments ruling the Middle East. He calls those governments surrogates for the Western powers and Western agenda.

The second is Ward Churchill, a Professor at the U of Colorado. He is a Native American who has been speaking out for years about issues of Indigenous peoples all over the world. Being a Native American probably makes him an easy target, as the ruling powers of this country have been beating up Native Americans for centuries.

Ward Churchill was also profiled in the Fox series on Un-American Professors.

The current attacks against him are best summed in this article. School May Fire Professor for 9/11 Comment ( Thu Feb 3,10:11 PM ET By CATHERINE TSAI, Associated Press Writer). He has been the Chair of his Department and due to the furor being aimed at him he had to resign, and from the article it appears the furorites aren't satisfied with that but are now calling for his resignation or expulsion from the University. The article details a hearing over whether he overstepped Academic Freedom, and whether the University should fire him.

The furor erupted last month after Churchill was invited to speak at Hamilton College in upstate New York. Campus officials discovered an essay and follow-up book by Churchill in which he said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were a response to a history of American abuses abroad, particularly against indigenous peoples.

Among other things, he said those killed in the trade center were "little Eichmanns," a reference to Adolf Eichmann, who organized Nazi plans to exterminate Jews. The college canceled Churchill's appearance, citing death threats and concerns about security.

University officials have previously condemned Churchill's comments but defended his right to express them. University President Elizabeth Hoffman declined to comment Thursday on Churchill's future.

I don't know where to find the original article or I would link it. While calling the people in the World Trade Center "little Eichmann's" is over the top, we don't know what context that statement appeared in, nor the entire flavor of his writing. To say that the September 11, 2001 attack was a response to American Agression certainly challenges the Accepted Belief, but if you think about it it's not far from the truth. Why would they come here to do that attack? Well, it's because they think we're some kind of enemy, right? And, the U.S. is committing various actions around the world which challenge others in the world, for example the continued presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait after the first Gulf War has been raising the ire of certain Islamics for years.

Conclusion

In both of these cases we have people who are daring to make statements that challenge the Accepted View Of The World. In response to those statements, they are attacked with extreme hatred, and their resignations being demanded, etc. Both are Professors and are supposed to enjoy not only the First Ammendment Free Speech gaurantees, but also the Academic Freedom that comes with having Tenure. Academics are expected to be exploring the boundries of ideas and thinking, and Universities are always expected to be looking at reality with fresh eyes to see what new can be learned. But these two Professors, when they exercise their role, are being hounded, attacked, and scorned.

One has to wonder, "Is this still America"?