Blogs > Liberty and Power > Does Ward Churchill Even Exist?

Mar 25, 2005 4:11 am

Does Ward Churchill Even Exist?

In the academic freedom cases of Hans Hoppe and Ward Churchill, I chose to support Hoppe, but not Churchill. Those who supported the latter, might wish to read the following piece by Victor Davis Hanson

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David T. Beito - 3/26/2005

FIRE has argued that CU's investigation produced essentially the right result:

William Marina - 3/26/2005

Certainly, it would be silly to imagine that BU would have the guts to take away King's doctorate. What does time lapse have to do with it? Is there a statute of limitations on such plagiarism?
For myself, I will continue to refer to him as Rev., rather than Dr.

Sudha Shenoy - 3/26/2005

If Churchill _is_ finally dismissed for fraud, at least the principle will have been upheld. The left will always champion the _content_ of what he said; they have no concern for principles. The fact is, that two separate issues _are_ mixed together here. We cannot ask life (or history) to ensure that all cases of fraud are simple & straightforward.

Steven Horwitz - 3/26/2005

I was being cute Mark. I have not heard anything problematic about that book either.

Mark Brady - 3/26/2005

I'll grant you that I didn't fully spell out my argument but I don't see that my remarks about Victor Hanson were an ad hominem attack. I wrote as follows:

Victor Hanson, of course, writes for National Review online where he regularly defends the American empire. I have to wonder how reliable his commentary on Ward Churchill is likely to be. Certainly Churchill must seem an easy target for journalists in the Republican camp who are looking to fight another battle in the culture wars.

What I had in mind is that, as a defender of the American empire (and American nationalist), Hanson would be opposed to Ward Churchill's suggestion that 'the U.S. had it coming' (echoes of Chalmer Johnson's Blowback) and would be looking to find fault with him. And, as the author of some egregiously awful articles defending recent U.S. foreign policy, Hanson is none too reliable a source on (at least) some of the topics he writes about.

It may well be that "[a]ll the charges he makes in that piece are ones I've seen elsewhere, and well documented" but I wouldn't wish to cite Hanson as my source.

Mark Brady - 3/26/2005

Your point is taken (and thanks for the link). However, I haven't seen any suggestion that the book I read was plagiarized.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/25/2005

I know something about Martin Luther King's plagiarism in his dissertation and in his other academic work. Spent several years of research life on it, in fact. It wasn't discovered until 20 years after King's death. Don't you think that revoking the degree awarded in life to a person after his death would be, well, a little silly?
I do agree with you that the integrity of Churchill's publications and self-representation ought to be subject to close review by the University.

Aeon J. Skoble - 3/25/2005

"his critics did not define it in those terms"
That's true, but I don't see how that speaks against my point. You're saying that he shouldn't have been targeted because of acadmic freedom, but my point is that he's not entitled to academic freedom in the first place if he defrauded his way into his position. I don't see how firing him would set any precedent other than that frauds will be outed.

William Marina - 3/25/2005

Churchill's fraud cannot be tolerated by Academics; no one has the "freedom" to defraud others.
Clearly there are levels of punishment for plagiarism in Academia.
The Rev. ML King plagiariszed huge portions of his dissertation, but none dare suggest taking away his title of Dr.
I could give other examples of that art, of which I am aware, but have not yet discussed at length, but will do so in the near future in the appropriate venues.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/25/2005

I recommend that you read the preliminary report of the internal review committee at the University of Colorado first. It is very clear that the University understands Churchill's public remarks on 9/11 and other controversial issues to be protected speech and will not continue to inquire about them. Charges of plagiarism and self-misrepresentation are referred to a standing committee of the faculty for review. That should satisfy David's requirements. The question now is whether the standing faculty committee will have the courage to face the substantive charges against Churchill without prejudice.
Hanson's piece, as usual, is provocative and well-written. It isn't intended to have the even-handed judiciousness that the University's preliminary report has.

David Timothy Beito - 3/25/2005

If Churchill is found guilty of fraud, should he be fired? Yes. Unfortunately, his critics did not define it in those terms and any firing will be interpreted as a successful attack academic freedom and will be used as a precedent. This is the crux of the problem. Perhaps the best thing right now is to let this cool off and carry out an investigation when sober minds can prevail. That is unlikely to be possible, however.

Aeon J. Skoble - 3/25/2005

But David, if he's a fraud -- specifically, if he has an academic position as a result of fraud -- then he isn't entitled to the academic freedom you'd seek to protect.

David Timothy Beito - 3/25/2005

I agree that Churchill is probably a fraud but here is the problem: his critics did not launch their original attack on that basis. Gingrich, Governor Bill Owens, started the (and pretty much continue) the movement to "fire Churchill" solely on the basis of his post-911 comments.

Had Churchill's critics treated this like the case of Michael Besilles (who was forced from Emory on fraud charges after even his strongest defenders deserted him) Churchill might be into the door by now.

They didn't, however, and the two issues are now almost impossible to separate as a practical matter. If he is removed for fraud, administrators and other faculty will still conclude that the "real reason" was for his political statements. This is why right now my first priority in this matter right now would be to defend Churchill's academic freedom. Having said this, I realize the possible contradictions in my position.

Aeon J. Skoble - 3/25/2005

Talk about ad hominem! It's irrelevant what magazine Hanson regularly writes for. All the charges he makes in that piece are ones I've seen elsewhere, and well documented. Churchill is a fraud.

William Marina - 3/25/2005

I agree that Hanson is virtually a Neocon in his defense of war and the "wonders" of the Empire.
Several days ago he had a piece criticizing others use of facts about the Nazis and several times mentioning the "six" million Jews killed. I emailed him pointing out that recent scholarship indicated "four," instead, a still
horrendous number.
It appears his criticisms of Churchill are pretty much on target.
I would defend anyone's right to free speech.
I would not defend someone's right to pretend to be something he is not, and to gain tenure on that basis, with plagiarism along the way.
If his credentials prove to be lies, he should be fired for that, not for what he said.

Steven Horwitz - 3/25/2005

Mark - just make sure what you're reading are actually words he wrote. Politics aside, there are substantive charges of plagiarism against him, not to mention the questions, if not outright lies, that Hanson details. Whatever Hanson's views on American empire (and I'm with you on that), it's still possible he's right on the fact on Churchill. A good summary of the issues can be found right here on our very own HNN.

Mark Brady - 3/25/2005

Victor Hanson, of course, writes for National Review online where he regularly defends the American empire. I have to wonder how reliable his commentary on Ward Churchill is likely to be. Certainly Churchill must seem an easy target for journalists in the Republican camp who are looking to fight another battle in the culture wars.

Perhaps Churchill is a complete charlatan. However, having now read most of the first two chapters of his book A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present (City Light Books, 1998) and glanced at some of the rest, I have to say that it struck me as a reasonably thoughtful and scholarly contribution to the subject. Churchill is certainly a lot more prolific and interesting a writer than many other tenured professors with doctorates.