January 29, 2005

More Reader Mail on Ward Churchill

Zena Hitz writes in:

I meant to write to you earlier today about your Churchill post, but others I see have beat me to it. Still, I have somewhat different criticisms. So I agree with you about the shocking degree to which views like Churchill's are widespread. I remember similar conversations after 9/11. But I disagree a) that they all originate in a love of irony and b) that this attitude is behind Bush hatred. First of all b) I know so many people who had the same reaction to 9/11 that you and I had, and who hated the Churchill people as much as anyone, who are clear and violent Bush-haters. As I remember it the Iraq war was really what set the fire. These people are not overly ironic or cynical or relativistic. But they felt (rightly or wrongly) that the Iraq war was wrong and worse, that it was dishonestly pursued and exploited 9/11 for purposes quite foreign to it. I don't agree with this view, but it doesn't fit into your picture, and anecdotally speaking it is extremely common.

Secondly, a lot of opposition to Bush like anti-Americanism generally is actually very idealistic and un-ironic. Take all the world's human rights activists for instance. They hate Bush to a man, but you would hardly call them ironic or cynical or relativistic. They hate him because they see him as an enemy of human rights. Likewise, a lot of al-Qaeda's tacit and explicit supporters are ideological; they are Third-Worldist in some form or other and so basically America is seen as a quasi-colonial power that exploits the third world to feed its own materialist capitalist appetites etc. etc. and so deserves what it gets. Plenty wrong with this view, but not a love of irony or hatred of straightforward idealism, at least not obviously.

Still, I have to say I'm glad to see that the Ward Churchill's of the world can still ignite the outrage they deserve.

I didn't mean to indicate that the prevalence of irony in the postmodern millieu was the only variable causing much of the Bush hatred. Far from it, of course. Still, I take Zena's points. (NB: Speaking of irony--isn't it ironic that cretinous Ward's surname is Churchill?)

Meanwhile, another reader writes in from Ann Arbor:

I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the Univ. of Michigan, and people here are very proud of the fact that the SDS and Tom Hayden got their start here at the univ. There are quite a few morons like that [Ward Churchill] here in University faculty, and among the grad and undergrad students, plus among this town's population of ageing hippies.

Can't say I'm surprised...send in your war stories from Cambridge and Berkeley too!

Posted by Gregory at January 29, 2005 11:55 PM | TrackBack (8)

I used to think that the cure for the excesses of Postmodernism was to reapply the values of postmodernism: tolerance, diversity, an appreciation of irony... now, I'm not so sure.

When it comes to Bush hatred, I think it's all about an anti-USA ethos that metastasised at the dregs of the Cold War and implanted itself into academia. Our well was poisoned.

Democrats moved so far Left that they effectively dropped the qualities that figured the Postmodern. For example, irony. Somehow, irony stopped twisting just when it became apparant that Bush just might be serving the interests of freedom and democracy worldwide by waging a war for it.

The blogosphere has hung the label of reactionary around the necks of the political Left, and it won't come off, and the inability to see the irony twisting there is amazing. It is almost as if by defining the Postmodern, they/we thought it can thus be controlled. But lo! Irony twisted again, and the Democratic Left cannot see it at all!

Posted by: dennis at January 30, 2005 10:22 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Are you sure that Ward F*(khead isn't just seeking publicity? If so, the best thing non-terrorists can do is surely to ignore him and he'll try and provoke somebody else.

Posted by: PJ at January 30, 2005 11:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Your reader wrote:

Take all the world's human rights activists for instance. They hate Bush to a man, but you would hardly call them ironic or cynical or relativistic.

He is wrong. Their hatred is entirely cynical. President Bush has done far more for human rights than any of them have (see the Taliban, Saddam Hussein). If they valued human rights, they would love President Bush.

But they value their failed beliefs more. President Bush's two "crimes" are that he disagrees with them, and he's successful. And thus they hate him.

That is cynical, to the extreme.

Posted by: Greg D at January 31, 2005 03:37 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I would applify you reader's point that one can dislike Bush and his policies -- including above all his Iraq policies -- without being a relativist or an ironist. Moreover, I'd add that even if one isan ironist, one can easily support the war effort. For evidence, one need look no further than Sullivan's blog, but if you prefer visual proof, just check out this imfamous picture of Andrew you may remember from TimeOut.

In short, Greg, I think you need to work much harder to prove your case that there exists some causal link between anti-foundationalist philosophical notions -- "postmodernism" as you would have it -- and political amorality.

I wouldn't bother trying, though, because you'll in fact find that it's pretty impossible to pin down the case. In fact your post -- and the incoherent nature of rant that several interlocutors pointed out is symptomatic -- is in fact less interesting as a historical argument than as a manifestation of the typical irritable mental gestures that pass for ideas on the right today regarding the etiology of all that the right considers wrong with the modern world. Once upon a time, the argument goes, prior to the publication of Of Grammatology and its military analog, the Tet Offensive, all was right in the world. Men believed in certainties, and their women believed them, and the children did question these things, and there was never any doubt on the right course of action. Then came "the Sixties" -- a scare word for all that's wrong with the world today -- and bada-boom-bada-bing the cultural contradictions of capitalism became manifest, and the country went yella, and pacifists and vegans and bra-burners took things over and everybody began to doubt everything and everything went to hell. Kinda like what happened in 1938, except this time with French philosophers greasing the skids.

Do I have your drift more or less right, Greg?

Greg, this kind of nonsense isn't an actual historical argument; rather, it's a statement of a multilayered ideological position that masquerades as an historical argument.

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