Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Free speech applies only to Ward Churchill, apparently

From Hawaii Reporter: Hawaii Reporter Ward Churchill will be speaking in Hawaii.

Free Speech is Not a One-Way Street
Colorado University Ethnic Studies Professor Ward Churchill Attacks U.H. Cartoonist, Ignoring His Free Speech Rights, While Professing His First Amendment Right to Speak Out Against the United States
By Grant Crowell, 2/18/2005 5:40:23 PM

Editor's Note: Ward Churchill, the controversial Colorado University professor who attacked the victims of 9-11 comparing them to Nazis, while endorsing the terrorists who slammed into the World Trade Center towers as combat teams, is scheduled to speak at the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2005, at 7 p.m. in the Art Auditorium on the U.H. Manoa Campus. See more about the event "Ward Churchill Scheduled to Speak at University of Hawaii" His topic: "Speaking Truth to Power: Academic Freedom in the Age of Terror. Grant Crowell shares his 1994 experience as a student and cartoonist at the student newspaper Ka Leo O Hawaii with Churchill who attacked Crowell during his speech for being "racist."

As a former campus cartoonist and student of both the University of Hawaii-Manoa and the University of Colorado-Boulder, I was naturally interested in the national debate around Professor Ward Churchill, whose virulent condemnation of the 9/11 victims garnered national news coverage, has apparently interested some U.H. Professors into bringing him back to Hawaii for a "public symposium on civil liberties."

For the uninitiated, the origin of the controversy and debate stems from Churchill's 2001 essay and later book, "Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens."

In the essay, Churchill characterized the September 11th attacks as "rational military reaction" to a long history of U.S. abuses and exploitations abroad. He also asserted that World Trade Center workers weren't innocent victims, but rather "technocrats of empire." He described the white-collar, corporate workers killed in the attack as "Little Eichmanns," an allusion to Nazi Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann -- a soundbite that echoed throughout the country in recent weeks.

But it wasn’t Churchill’s comments in his essay which fueled my personal indignation -- it was how he prattled afterward in a televised event, demanding that others defend his academic freedom, his First Amendment rights.

My own experience with Dr. Churchill a decade ago proved that he had no real interest in free speech for others, and would actively campaign against it for students if he thought it would suit his own self interest.

Fall 1994. I was an editorial cartoon columnist for the Ka Leo O Hawaii student newspaper at the University of Hawaii-Manoa campus in Honolulu. Like many academic environments, we had our share of "sacred cows" -- issues and individuals considered to be so volatile that oftentimes they were ignored or actively avoided, lest a demonstration appear outside our newspaper building (or on some tempestuous occasions -- people storming into the building.)

At this same time, Ward Churchill was being flown in by the student senate for a paid speaking engagement on his latest book, Fantasies of the Master Race: Racism in the University.

Coincidentally, the student newspaper had just published a cartoon of mine that caused outrage among left-wing activists: I had depicted one of Ward Churchill’s close colleagues on our campus, Professor Haunani K. Trask, U.H.’s Hawaii Studies Director, reading an excerpt from her recently published poetry book, entitled "Racist White Woman," who described in lurid detail her fantasy of punching, knifing, mutilating and ultimately murdering a white colleague she despised.

Churchill arrived, as planned, and began his speech. Shortly thereafter, Churchill's speaking engagement changed from a book discussion into a public protest rally featuring Trask and Churchill both of them blaring into microphones over my "racist cartoon" and demanding my dismissal.

During Churchill’s speaking time at the event, this man -- a man who had never met me and refused to do so before and during the event -- included in his speech a reference to me as "vermin," and shared aloud a story of how an unnamed Nazi cartoonist was tried at the WWII Nuremburg trials, executed, dismembered and then cremated. Churchill’s ended this story with his own personal comment of, "Now, I’m not saying that should happen to Grant, but it would be a good thing."

To me, it's highly ironic that a man with such "extreme" opinions -- even which can easily be perceived as advocating violence toward individuals -- cannot himself be tolerant of other's opinions, whether they be extreme or even "mainstream." Instead, Churchill prefers to pull the "Hate Speech" card -- say somebody else’s speech is offensive to your (assumed) ethnicity, gender, political status, etc., and effectively shut them up. After all, if they hate it, you can’t debate it.

As a Jew with a very small part Potawatomi Indian, I realize that the First Amendment protects all of us, even of us who fail to understand that the First Amendment is supposed to apply to everyone.

But what CU students (and others who are up in arms about Churchill's perceived persecution) should realize is that Churchill is not a man who stands for their own academic freedom, the First Amendment, free speech, or anything of the kind.

My experience has shown that he ultimately aspires to be a demagogue, where criticism on him or his cronies would ultimately be considered "genocidal hate speech" with serious repercussions.

But Churchill’s mistreatment of me, his scholarly abuse and hypocrisy, make me no less fervent a supporter of his free speech rights.

I can support the ACLU for protecting Churchill's rights the same way they protected the Nazis' rights to march in Skokie, because real free speech means being able to separate the principle from the person.

And yes, I do consider myself a real free speech advocate. Meaning, I don’t demand other’s freedom be protected if I am not willing first to stand up for the rights of people who’s opinions I strongly disagree with. I am even willing to be disparaged by my members of my own community for it.

Churchill needs to get it through his skull that it's called the "First Amendment," not the "Me-First Amendment."

Free speech is not a one-way street where Churchill can clog up the whole lane with his SUV-sized ego. If your ego is so big and intolerant that it cannot bear the expression of others you personally find offensive, then perhaps its time for people like myself to come out again, sharp minds and pens blazing. Maybe it's time for me (and others like me) to draw a few satirical cartoons, and pop the bloated academic egos.

And I won’t charge you a hundred grand salary, either.

Grant Crowell, a University of Hawaii graduate, worked as a cartoonist at Ka Leo O Hawaii, the University of Hawaii student newspaper. Today he is the CEO from Grantastic Designs, Inc., an online solutions marketing firm specializing in search-and user-friendly Web sites that provide measurable success. See http://www.grantasticdesigns.com or read the marketing book, "Search Engine Visibility" at http://www.searchenginesbook.com for more details. To contact Grant Crowell, write to him via email at mailto:grantc@ix.netcom.com


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