When Reality Strikes: Ward Churchill on Radio

Posted on 10 April 2009 by


Two radio programs are the focus of this post, and you can listen to both below. Both deal, in very different ways, with the significance of the jury’s verdict in Ward Churchill’s wrongful termination suit against the University of Colorado.

The first one is an interview with Ward Churchill that took place earlier this morning — see Ward Churchill on WBAI Pacifica Radio 99.5 FM in New York City, on 10 April 2009, (also see here).

“I felt vindicated,” Churchill says, adding that the “University’s case for research misconduct was not deemed credible by the jury.” Ward Churchill also flatly denied and contradicted a report in The Daily Camera, “Churchill to ask for $1M if judge won’t reinstate CU job,” stating that he is not asking for any money. He also made the point, one that he noted the mainstream media continues to ignore, about the extent of fraud and falsification in the University of Colorado’s own investigative committee’s report about his research. He does not back down from the fact of American genocide against Natives, and he notes how so many get away so easily with genocide-denial and genocide-minimizing, which is politically correct only when speaking of American Indians.

Returning to the result of the jury’s verdict, Ward Churchill got $1 more than he asked for, and five out of six jurors wanted to amply compensate Churchill, as repeatedly attested to by Bethany Newill (see here and here). The reality is, as Churchill in his radio interview this morning reminds those who will listen and have the capacity to understand, that Churchill’s legal team did not detail the economic costs of Churchill’s losses as a result of his wrongful termination. The jurors, for their part, did not want to jeopardize their unanimity around the core issue of the case which, as clearly specified in the complaint submitted by Churchill’s legal team (see here), was always about his being wrongly fired for exercising his free speech rights. They also agreed, and as I said before this greatly increased my estimation of the jurors, that certain issues and qualities cannot be monetized, contrary to the capitalist logic that most North Americans routinely imbibe.

Listen to Ward Churchill (26 mins., 37 secs.):


The second radio program is about the verdict of the jury in Ward Churchill’s lawsuit. It comes from Caplis and Silverman on Denver’s 630 KHOW radio station, and it manifests the striking ability of two individuals to construct an alternate reality by severely truncating the range of facts that they are willing to listen to or able to absorb through their extremely dense ideological filters. Thus, in the world according to Caplis and Silverman, the jury’s verdict was a “total repudiation of Ward Churchill,” a “big win for CU and a rejection of Ward Churchill.” All that really matters to them is what Ward Churchill had to say about 9/11, as one of them says: “it’s hard to erase the horror of Ward Churchill’s speech.” They then project their emotions into the minds of the jury, asserting that their award of $1 meant that they “did see through Ward Churchill and they rejected him.” To make this case, they have to insist that Ward Churchill and his legal team “wanted money.” Sure, the jury’s verdict was also about the “free speech Amendment, and all that,” but that this verdict is still about the “jurors’ rejection of Ward Churchill.” One of them goes back and states that, yes, a “majority” of jurors did find that CU’s termination of Churchill’s position was a violation of Constitutionally protected free speech — but note the wording: a majority, as opposed to the actual fact, that it was unanimous, which is the only way there could have been a verdict. Back to the drum beat, as they continue: “Pat O’Rourke won…he won the case,” referring to the defense attorney for CU. They insist, because they have to or else their world falls to pieces around them like so many shards of a collapsing WTC tower: this was “such a tremendous victory to have the jury reject Churchill that way,” and, alright, “there was that one part” of the verdict that went for Churchill, but really this was “a personal slap down.” “Churchill hates us because we exposed him,” they say with pride. It’s an interesting conclusion: I hate what they do too, and they have never even mentioned me.

The issue of money weighs very heavily on the “minds” of Caplis and Silverman, and they then seek to prove that the case was all about money, so they play a barely audible tape (to make sure their voices are louder) of Churchill’s attorney David Lane, speaking during closing arguments: “Churchill didn’t ask for a nickel, he said ‘All I want is my job back,’…What are ‘damages’ in this case? Damages are justice.” Caplis and Silverman repeatedly talk over the muffled audio of Lane, interjecting with what they think are clever little quips, waiting for any mention of money to interject “sounds like money to me,” so that even if one were to say, “I don’t want money” that is transformed by them: “Oh look! He said money.”

Then Bethany Newill comes in, and reality strikes Caplis and Silverman: they got the facts completely backwards. They had argued all along that the majority of jurors did not want to award money, except for one (the exact reverse of that was true). It seems that they were unable to absorb what she was telling them, that the focus for the jurors was not about the money, since it is too difficult to come to an estimate of the dollar value of a reputation; and, had Churchill’s legal team ever bothered to specify the losses, and provided evidence, then Newill said the jury would have definitely awarded a lot of money. But never mind the verdict now, or any of the facts of the case, and let’s hark back to the glorious tragedy of 9/11.

Caplis and Silverman are thus left to do what? To try to convert Newill to something entirely irrelevant to the case, that Churchill somehow advocated and condoned “terrorism.”

I was “impressed” by the program, but by “impressed” I mean the same way that I might be impressed if, while suffering from an overdose of hallucinogenic drugs and extreme sleep deprivation, I were to be forcibly marched through a mile-long freak show inhabited by howling ghouls and mutants. Caplis and Silverman are extraordinary cowards, on a moral and intellectual level, if I may be so bold as to use the term “intellectual” in the same sentence as their names.

Listen to Caplis & Silverman (53 mins., 40 secs.):


God’s Terminal Nation

No wonder that many people in the U.S. media continue to speak as if the attacks of 11 September 2001 came out of nowhere, had no cause, no roots, no justification. When you think, for too long, that God is always on your side, eventually some begin to think that their nation actually is God, and any attack against God can only be the work of the Devil. Not just the work of evil people, but cowards: Caplis and Silverman call Churchill a coward — and yet he stood up and spoke out in public, at great personal cost, saying what was most politically unpopular at the time, breaching patriotic correctness.

As for the 9/11 hijackers, I would like to see anyone who thinks they were “cowards” spend years of their own lives consciously training for their own personal annihilation in the service of a greater cause, learning to fly a large passenger jet so as to crash it into a skyscraper, and that after taking the plane by force. I could not do it — could you? Robert Fisk put it a different way on 14 September 2001:

This is a formidable enemy. To dismiss it as a bunch of cowards perpetrating senseless acts of violence is complacent nonsense. People willing to kill thousands of innocents while they kill themselves are not cowards. They are deadly, vicious warriors and need to be treated as such. Nor are their acts of violence senseless. They have a very specific aim: to avenge alleged historical wrongs and to bring the great American satan to its knees. (source)

Bill Maher, for his part, also agreed with none other than right wing academic Dinesh D’Souza that the 9/11 hijackers were anything but cowards:

Panelist Dinesh D’Souza mentioned that he didn’t think the terrorists were “cowards,” as George Bush had described them. Maher replied: “We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from two thousand miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly. You’re right.” (source)

Some of us may have forgotten the White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, who responded to Bill Maher’s comments (ignoring, or ignorant of D’Souza’s own comments) by urging Americans “to watch what they say”: “This is not a time for remarks like that. There never is” (see here and here).

Cowards, it would seem, are those who use a radio microphone to speak silence into the ears of listeners, afraid to ever question or challenge the authorized truths of their society. Yet, there is also the semblance of the courage of a hijacker here, and Caplis and Silverman may share more with the 9/11 hijackers than they would ever care to admit.

God Commands That We All Drown Together

The extremely astute anthropological conclusion that a culture that cannot escape itself is a culture that is terminal, originally came to me from a single sentence in a newspaper column by the late Lloyd Best, a column I may have preserved somewhere but which I have not seen in at least a decade. Shutting down dissent, leading pitchfork parades against critics, and committing the cardinal sin of not recognizing the vital role of dissent as part of the existential fibre of the true university, is very much like watching people in a room filling with poisonous gas as their leader commands that all exits be sealed. It would be like the captain of a sinking ship ordering that all lifeboats be cut loose and all passengers chained to the deck. The voyage must continue, even if to the bottom of the ocean.

Consensus won by force — fire the critics, deny them a livelihood, pursue them everywhere with threats, ridicule and scorn — is the way a previously hegemonic culture turns into orthodoxy, in a vain attempt to buy itself time and to stall its impending decline. “America” today is the forced product of an illusion of agreement, where the logic of state became a de facto religion, now degenerating into a violent sectional cult. Consensus won by argument demands contestation, and that requires the most vigorous dissent possible. By castigating dissent, the Caplis and Silvermans of the world would gut the university, and have everyone sink with them. However, just as some people push back, some also prefer not to drown. I love how Ward Churchill swims.

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