Friday, February 04, 2005

Profile in Discourage(ment)

A few days ago, I linked to a Michael Bérubé posting, where I also mentioned that he injected some humor (yes, humor!) into the Ward Churchill controversy. I made no comment on Churchill, but have now been badgered by an anonymous commentator regarding my posting.

I won't hide behind anonymity. Even though I did not assert anything about Churchill, I will now, based on my limited knowledge of reading several news reports, analysis, and such. I have not read Churchill's own writings beyond selected quotes.

I believe: Churchill's language is inflammatory, but not impervious to reasoned discussion. Unfortunately, bringing Nazi war criminals into juxtaposition with SOME Twin Tower employees/victims silences opportunity for much critical thinking on the issues. One could ask, where does the analogy work, if anywhere, and where does it break down?

Unfortunately, that doesn't seem possible. Shocking language drowns out sweet reason and debate.

On the other hand, how many of us have come to terms with Nazism? How many of us, and there are many thinkers who have dwelled more profoundly on this topic than I, have thought about the origins of fascism, and the thoughts behind the construction of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany?

I simply do not know, having not read Churchill's works (remember, I am an academic, and furthermore, trained in philosophy, where evidence and argument are paramount, not politicized assumptions and anonymous hate mail). I don't know that much about Eichmann beyond what most college professors who are not specialists in Nazi Germany know.

And, here is a statement I fully support, from the AAUP, quoted in today's CHE article about the controversy:

"We must resist the temptation to judge such statements more harshly because they evoke special anguish among survivors and families of the September 11 victims. The critical test of academic freedom is its capacity to meet even the most painful and offending statements."

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