April 06, 2009

Blogging about Churchill

Stanley Fish of the New York Times provides a good explanation of Ward Churchill's academic transgressions. His conclusion:

Ward Churchill ReduxThere is, as I think I’ve shown, a disconnect in the report between its often nuanced considerations of the questions raised in and by Churchill’s work, and the conclusion, announced in a parody of a judicial verdict, that he has committed crimes worthy of dismissal, if not of flogging. It is almost as if the committee members were going along happily doing what they usually do in their academic work—considering, parsing and evaluating arguments—and then suddenly remembering that they were there for another purpose to which they hastily turn. Oh, yes, we’re supposed to judge him; let’s say he’s guilty.Meanwhile, Jim Paine, who apparently is a conservative ideologue, has devoted an entire blog to destroying Churchill. As you may recall, Paine is the same one who provided a specious critique of Churchill's "little Eichmanns" essay. Clearly he has way too much time on his hands.

Paine on Fish

Here's a summary of what Paine posted about Fish's "defense" of Churchill:The essay is Churchillian in its mendacity.

Larry DeWitt serendipitously provides some real answers
It turns out [the intentional smallpox infection] story was completely fabricated by Churchill. In his 1997 pastiche, A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present, Churchill neatly juxtaposes two separate stories so that he can elide the distinctions between them, so as to give the appearance that the two stories support a broader claim.

...and Professor Thomas Brown examines Churchill's claims and finds them chockful of "truthiness"

None of Churchill’s sources corroborate his story, and no historian who has studied this episode has ever even mentioned an Army presence within eight hundred miles of Fort Clark--which was a fur trading depot, not a military installation.
And...that's it? None of Churchill’s sources corroborate his story, so it must be completely fabricated? I guess Paine and his cohorts can't think or read very well. They couldn't come up with an alternative to the two extremes, even though Fish posted one in front of their faces.

How many times does Churchill have to say he relied on oral traditions he didn't cite or quote before wingnuts like Paine will get it? You may not like this explanation, Paine, but it is an explanation. Quit pretending it doesn't exist and address it, you raving right-winger.

Fish on smallpox

Unlike Paine, Fish addresses this point by summarizing the investigative committee's findings:The conclusion? “We do not find academic misconduct with respect to his general claim that the U.S. Army deliberately spread smallpox.” In addition, the committee acknowledges that “early accounts of what was said by Indians involved in that situation and certain native oral traditions provide some basis for [Churchill’s] interpretation.”Note that Fish hasn't come up with his own defense of Churchill. He's merely quoting the committee's report. Yet Paine calls Fish "mendacious" for repeating these quotes? That says a lot more about Paine than it does about Fish.

Perhaps Paine and company will claim that Churchill pulled the wool over the eyes of a panel of accomplished academics. Yes, maybe Churchill did. But maybe the academics actually thought about Churchill's defense--something Paine and his fellow fanatics seem incapable of doing. Maybe they concluded that he wasn't lying outright about this claim--that he sincerely believed what he wrote.

And what if Churchill did "fabricate" the smallpox claim and the oral traditions he didn't cite or quote? One falsehood in a huge body of work is generally not a firing offense in academia. If you disagree, list all the cases where universities have fired professors for claiming a single fact that turned out to be false.

Rob on Paine

This posting shows the difference between a right-wing fanatic and a left-wing non-fanatic like me. I have no problem saying Churchill made good and bad points in his 9/11 essay. That he makes good and bad points in almost everything he writes. Life is complex, people; it's rarely black or white.

Fact is, Churchill can string words together better than the majority of writers I've read. If he were literally spewing nonsense, he'd be Jim Paine the little-known blogger, not an author with 12 books published.

For more on the smallpox claims, see The Facts About Blankets with Smallpox. For more on Churchill, see Churchill the AIM Groupie and Churchill the Indigenist.


Stephen said...

How is Paine a fanatic? Plus I could be wrong but I thik that Paine's had his fiction published under a penname. Also you posted Ward's weak defense which includes this lie:

"I mourn the victims of the September 11 attacks"

In his vile essay Ward say the 'technocrats' got what they deserved and the terrorist scum 'gave America a taste of it's own medicine'.

dmarks said...

Stephen: With that one essay, Ward proved that the only "little Eichmann" involved was the one he saw in the mirror, and that designation certainly did not belong on the innocent people he derided.

Stephen said...