Academic Silencing

The Attack on Ward Churchill

The relentless pursuit and persecution of Ward Churchill is a revealing instance of the witch-hunting McCarthyist ethos that is currently threatening academic freedom. . . . Without critical thought, learning tends toward the sterile and fails to challenge inquiring minds. For this reason alone, it is vital that we who belong to the academic community join together to protect those who draw repressive fire, whether or not we agree or not with the ideas or expressive metaphors of a particular individual.

Professor Richard Falk, Nov. 19, 2006

What is Academic Freedom?

"By academic freedom I understand the right to search for the truth and to publish and teach what one holds to be true. This right also implies a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true. It is evident that any restriction of academic freedom serves to restrain the dissemination of knowledge, thereby impeding rational judgment and action."

Albert Einstein

Why Protect Academic Freedom?

“The essentiality of freedom in the community of American universities is almost self evident. No one should underestimate the vital role in a democracy that is played by those who guide and train our youth. To impose any strait jacket upon the intellectual leaders in our colleges and universities would imperil the future of our Nation….”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, Sweezy v. New Hampshire (1957)

Why Ward Churchill?

Perhaps because if an oft-cited tenured full professor and department chair can be vilified for his critiques of mainstream history and ideology, those less secure in their positions will be scared into submission.

Imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu Jamal may have explained it best:

"Ward Churchill is bitterly critical of the politicians, the military, and other government agencies, who have unleashed a wave of terror upon, people around the world. He does not mindlessly genuflect to the dead from the world trade center attacks, he explains as best he can, that such unbridled violence abroad lead to violence here. Churchill is not a safe or guild historian. He does not speak obliquely of the vanishing Indian or the glories of manifest destiny, he teaches of the madness of Empire, and from the position of the people on the periphery, the outskirts of Empire."  Read more…

Imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu Jamal, Live from Death Row, Feb. 11, 2005

Some people are allowed to criticize American empire, at least if they do it politely. But not those who also refuse to be silenced about American Indian genocide. Introducing Ward Churchill’s A Little Matter of Genocide, American Studies professor David E. Stannard says,

“Ward Churchill is a man looking for trouble. Of course, anyone familiar with his voluminous writings during the past two decades—on subjects such as racism in American film and literature, New Age spiritual hucksterism and counterfeit Indians, U.S. government death squads, the damage done to indigenous peoples by the forces of capitalism and Marxism, and a great deal more – know that Churchill quite audaciously has been courting (and finding) trouble for some time now. But with A Little Matter of Genocide he is certain to bring on the enmity of an entirely new and particularly vitriolic collection of critics. And this is a shame because the sentiments of his new book are extraordinarily compassionate and humanitarian, while its overall argument is eminently fair, deliberative, and reasonable. . . . It is only because of trouble-makers like him that the deadened conscience of this nation might some day begin to stir. May his kind multiply.”

David E. Stannard, Introduction to A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas, 1492 to the Present

Who's Behind the Attacks?


"I have often said that if I could hold a pen and write books I would write exactly what Mr. Churchill has written . . . . My family, the Western Shoshone people and all indigenous peoples across this country have lived for too many years with governmental lies and cover-ups. It is individuals like Mr. Churchill who are heroes to our struggle to have the truth told, finally."

Carrie Dann, Western Shoshone Elder and Activist May 22, 2006