Ward Churchill: Six Degrees of Separation

[Posted 8:51 AM by Roger Kimball]

I know, I know: Churchill fatigue is setting in. How much about Ward Churchill can the human frame take? I and my colleagues have already written about the Ward-Churchill-Hamilton-College affair several times (e.g., here, here, and here). If, as everyone keeps saying, the fellow who compared the victims of 9/11 to "little Eichmanns" is beneath contempt, why is he not, after that acknowledgment, also beneath comment?

Well, for one thing, as I have noted, Ward Churchill is not the problem. He is merely a symptom of a much deeper disease, interesting and worthy of attention for the light he sheds upon the larger issue, which is the extent to which higher education is captive of the anti-American, politically correct Left.

It’s rather a large extent, as it happens, and it is remarkable at how many points Churchill intersects with the Left establishment. For example, in "The Ward Churchill Money Trail," an illuminating article for FrontPageMagazine.com, Joel Mowbray shows the connection between Churchill and The Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights, an institution dedicated to "living out diversity equitably." (Gustavus Myers, for whom the center is named, was the author of History of Bigotry in the United States [1943], a bible of the affirmative-action industry.)

The Gustavus Center clearly likes Ward Churchill. His book On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality, which contains his now-infamous "little Eichmanns" comment, received "honorable mention" in the Gustavus Myers 2004 book awards. And the center also lists several other titles written or co-written by Churchill in its "database" of "books that deepen our knowledge about dismantling oppression." (Sample title from Churchill: Struggle for the Land: Indigenous Resistance to Genocide, Ecocide, and Expropriation in Contemporary North America.)

As Mowbray observes,

At first blush, the Gustavus Myers Center could seem like a wacky, far-left ivory tower creation. Receiving honorable mention for its 2003 award, for example, was a picture book of �classic� gay erotica. Witness the group’s own description of the book: �Pencil, ink and chalk drawings claiming an erotic past as extremely important for notions of identity and community.�

Careful examination, however, reveals that the Myers Center is anything but fringe. Listed on its website as �sponsors� (a term that is not defined) are mainstream liberal organizations such as the NAACP, the Urban League, the Center for Democratic Renewal, and the United Church of Christ.

And the foundations that fund the Myers Center’s sponsors are key financial backers of the American left, such as George Soros’ Open Society Institute, the Ford Foundation, and the Public Welfare Foundation (which contributed to the anti-Bush America’s Coming Together).

The top funders of the Myers Center’s sponsors, and the amounts they gave in total since 2000, are:

* $650,000 from the Public Welfare Foundation, which has given over $5 million to �reproductive� causes and nearly $1.7 million to various gun control groups. It even gave $100,000 directly to the Blue Mountain abortion clinic in Montana, which has also received $50,000 from the (Ted) Turner Foundation.

* $1.3 million from the Open Society Institute

* almost $5 million from Lilly Endowments, which was founded by heirs of the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune. Though not typically known as a left-wing foundation, it has given, for example, more than $700,000 to Planned Parenthood.

* over $12.1 million from the Ford Foundation, most of which came in the form of $10.4 million in grants to the NAACP

To the best of my knowledge, Loretta Williams, the director of the Gustavus Center, has not compared the victims of 9/11 to Nazi bureaucrats. But she honors one who does. And she has, in an article reprinted on the Center’s web site, castigated the "U.S.-proclaimed war on terrorism" (her italics) as an unjustified campaign that, among other evils, leads to "ultrapatriotism," the "retrenchment of civil liberties," and the "scapegoating" and dehumanization of "Muslims, immigrants, those with darker skin."

Mowbray notes that "Since news broke that Churchill’s `little Eichmanns’ essay was honored by the Gustavus Myers Center, the group does not appear to have lost any of its sponsors. Still listed are all 12 sponsors listed previously, including, oddly enough, B’Nai Brith International."

Perhaps it is not surprising that the party of moveon.org and Michael Moore does not condemn loudly Prof. Churchill’s equating 9/11 victims to Nazis. But why haven’t the groups that sponsor the center that honored him for making that very comparison? And what about the funders who indirectly helped make such an honor possible?
Yes, what about them? Contemplating the Ward Churchill phenomenon, I am reminded of the play Six Degrees of Separation, the premise of which is that everyone on earth is separated from even the most distant person by no more than six friends of friends of friends. Perhaps. It does seem, however, that no one in the American left-wing establishment is far removed from the ravings of Ward Churchill. What does that tell us?