Counterpunch, a widely-read left-wing political newsletter edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, published a rambling interview the other day with America’s nuttiest professor, Ward Churchill.
It seems I’ve gotten under the blithering professor’s skin. When the interview first appeared, Churchill was quoted accusing me of “blatant plagiarism” (screenshot via Shock and Blog) and lifting “a lot” of my most recent book, In Defense of Internment, “line for line” from another author, Lillian Baker. (Can you spell Freudian projection?) Yesterday I pointed out in e-mails to Counterpunch and Churchill that this allegation is completely false, as were other allegations attributed to Churchill. Whether the plagiarism allegation “is also defamatory may be for a jury to decide,” I noted.
Here’s where things get interesting. Neither Counterpunch nor Churchill issued a correction, retraction, or apology. However, my e-mail seems to have had some effect. If you look at the latest version of the interview you’ll see that the plagiarism claim has been altered. Instead of saying that I am guilty of “blatant plagiarism” and that I copied the bulk of my book line for line from author Lillian Baker, Churchill now is quoted saying falsely that the bulk of my book “derives” from Baker. There are no ellipses or brackets indicating that substantive edits have been made to the interview transcript.
Counterpunch’s editors have not acknowledged to its readers that they changed the remarks attributed to Churchill. Nor have they explained why they made these changes. They appended my e-mail to the bottom of their article, which I appreciate, but the point in my e-mail about Churchill’s plagiarism allegation appears to make no sense because it refers to comments that have been excised from Churchill’s remarks.
I’m writing the Counterpunch editors again to ask them to publish an explanation.
It’s increasingly clear that as long as Churchill can keep the argument (and outrage) centered on his words rather than his actions (without stepping into “incitement” territory), the outcome of the legal question of “Why is he losing his job?” will most certainly be “because he said outrageous and hurtful things.”
We pointed out here back in February that Churchill (and the Left) would work strenuously to recast the argument in First Amendment and academic freedom terms. We didn’t realize at the time, however, that Churchill would take such a proactive approach to that recasting, ensuring with each new “frag the officers” outrage that it would be more difficult for a judge to see the argument as anything but a freedom of speech issue.
And that means Churchill wins—he keeps his job or gets a huge settlement from CU, or both—and the CU system and the people of the State of Colorado lose. CU’s reputation and that of academia in general will, of course, be damaged—but not irreparably so. But that will not change the fact that Ward Churchill will have won.
Reader Andrea S. writes:
I especially like how they printed your tiny spelling error with (sic) but change their words without notice or explanation. Those jobs at the MinTruth seem to be working out for them well.
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