Santa Cruz Indymedia :
Santa Cruz Indymedia

Commentary :: Alternative Media : Media Criticism : Resistance & Tactics

Can the Left Tolerate Dissenting Views? The Case of Ward Churchill?

Censorship has inveigled itself into many Indymedia servers around the country. If the folks running the servers are going around deleting and ip banning posts from people more to the center, the whole ((i)) project is endangered. This writer questions whether we are going to allow dissent on the Ward Churchill controversy...a thread that has already been banned at one of three IMC's...
Can the Left Tolerate a Dissenting View on Ward Churchill? Current rating: 0
by The Hobbit
29 Mar 2005

Ward Churchill characterized World Trade Center workers as "Technicians of Empire". And, as we have heard ad nauseum, that made them little Nazis. But most employees - dare I call them Proletarians? - did not ever work for in such a militaristic capacity as Ward Churchill himself. He worked for Robert K. Brown's Soldier of Fortune, a magazine dedicated, outright, to the cause of mercenaries.

Moreover, Churchill led the charge to repudiate the Sandinistas, on the sketchy basis that their emergency evacuation of North East Nicargua constituted genocidal intent, which it clearly was not. While the FSLN measure may have been a human rights wrong, it was by no means intended as genocide, but as Chruchill joined with Steadman Fagoth and others on the side of t he CIA, the left opposition whithered. The Sandinistas were ousted, and Reagan is celebrated as the man who keep Fidel contained and the Kremlin out of the Western hemisphere.

Perhaps Professor Churchill's analysis is correct, and the Sandinista project is, as would thus then be any Marxist or socialist project, doomed to repeat the horrors of Stalinist purges. Some anarchists would agree, and reluctantly allowed the CIA contra forces to do their dirty work to outst the revolutionaries. Personally, I am not so sure of that.

It is difficult to imagine that Professor Churchill has not brought his problems on himself. He rejects nonviolence; he rejects Ghandi; he rejects Martin Luther King. He belittles nonviolent activists. And now he wonders why we don't have his back, at least, not all of us.

Ward's karma ran over his dogma. He authored an attack on the core concepts of nonviolent activism: Pacifism as Pathology. The vast majority of activists endorse non-violence. Chruchill does not. Given that distinction, is Ward Churchill a First Domino worthy of support, or is he an ultra-leftist who discredits the nonviolent left?

I believe that Churchill is a special case of intellectual negligence, and in fact recklessness. We should not worry too much about proliferation of the Churchill-take-down-model. Few speak so recklessly as he.

An early rebutal to my argument contended:

It is extremely dangerous to ignore churchill's, or anyone's for that matter, allegations by appealling to an ad hominim logical fallacy ("He's so far out there.. his allegations certainly can't be true.")

This is not however an ad hominen. It is a criticism of his views. Neither is it an attack on the man. Undoubtedly though, this criticism of him will unleash a torrent of vituperation from ultraleftists who can't stand debate. Is it a coincidence that those who are fascinated by the rhteetoric of revolutionary violence do not countenance free debate on the left?

Be sure of this: supporting the Sandinistas does not make me a freeper or a troll. The ad hominen is however the usual way of silencing dissent on the left. I am ready for it. But at the end of the day, the left will have to evaluate its own internal censorship and its own priorities. Are we to allow the right wingers to pick our battles and pour all of our resources into defending our left flank, or are we to let people like Ward take the rap for their errors.

All he ever really had to do would have been to admit he was wrong, and the whole controversy would have collapsed. How many of his avid defenders are willing to fess up that his "little Eichmann's" remark was just downright wrong?
There is no defending those statements. The measure of a man may be his ability to admit to a mistake. I don't see Ward doing that, and I don't see those misguided individuals who have advocated violence and gotten into trouble acknowledging their errors.

The measure of a man may well lie in how well he handles criticism, and the measure of a movement may be in how well it handles dissent and debate. This view - that Churchill simply messed up and should have admitted it - will be unpopular in certain circles that should know better. The tone of the critique of these remarks will be a litmus test: are we really any better than the righties?

New Comments are disabled, please visit


some people push back - on the justice of roosting chickens

this is ward churchills famous essay that it seems not too many people have read but that alot of people are talking ABOUT. i read it a few years ago, even made copies of it and distributed it among some other stuff i distribute (i distribute alot of anarchist & feminist literature). no one ever said anything about it until the corporate media made a stink about it 3 years after it was put out there. so - here it is, so you know what you're talking about.

Re: Can the Left Tolerate Dissenting Views? The Case of Ward Churchill?

When I went to Nicaragua in the 1980s it was ruled by a popular revolutionary government that had overcome the butchers of the U.S. imposed Samoza family and was facing the mass murder of the U.S. organized and financed Contra War. Yet I was greeted by the Nicaraguan people as a friend, not as an enemy or little Eichman of the empire as Churchill would characterize the American working class. So many people came to me to tell me that I had to go back to the United States to tell the truth because as they saw it, if the Americans truly knew what the U.S. government was doing to the people of Nicaragua, they would outraged and stop it.

An apologist for that mass murder of Nicaraguans by the CIA was Ward Churchill with his false claims against the Sandinistas.

Likewise an apologist for the mass murder of working class people at the World Trade Center was Ward Churchill.

The Sandinistas made a revolution against the murderous U.S. installed and backed Samoza dictatorship without the philosophy of Gandhi. Nonviolence against that U.S. puppet government would have only gotten them killed.

Yet tactics of violence in other than self defense, and often even in self-defense, will generally only get you killed in America at this stage in the revolution here.

Unlike Churchill in his academic Ivory Tower, the revolutionary people of Nicaragua in the 1980s knew that the American working class was a potential ally in the struggle against imperialism that needed to be convinced, not blown up. The Nicaraguans saw from their own experience under the Samoza dictatorship that governments often do not represent the people and they saw the American people’s struggle against the U.S. war of aggression in Vietnam as a possibility that could be repeated.

Unfortunately the U.S. succeeded in destroying the popular and democratically elected government of Nicaragua through a long dirty war (terrorism), blackmail of more war, and massive intervention in their elections.

Churchill was on the wrong side then and he is on the wrong side now. He is a petty bourgeois academic scoundrel that is getting publicity because of his outrageous statements while many better people in America, especially but not limited to Arabs, are loosing their jobs and being imprisoned for their beliefs.

Re: Can the Left Tolerate Dissenting Views? The Case of Ward Churchill?

The whole issue at hand was his mentioning of "Technicians of Empire" who died in WTC attack were obviously not the service workers or firemen/police he was refering too but were the true "Technicians of Empire" in the top floors of the towers the ones who make the economic
wheels turn or as Colin powell called them "command and control of Infrastructure" that was the target. Ward Churchill was never wrong in what he said the , people can whine and complain about what was said but it was indeed the truth and truth hurts somtimes.

Re: Can the Left Tolerate Dissenting Views? The Case of Ward Churchill?

I second Skidmark Bob's distinction here, and I believe if you read and understand what Churchill stated in his essay (and later in his book based on the premise) you will see that he is referencing not the "proletariat" and working classes, but the CEO's and such. To me there is a big difference between CEO's and janitors. Bob said it well enough, there is no need for me to belabor the point.

But another point I wanted to address is Hobbit's claim that Churchill "rejects nonviolence; he rejects Ghandi; he rejects Martin Luther King," in his book, "Pacafism as Pathology."

I don't know about that. I read the book and my understanding was that he claims that the non-violent actions of both Gandhi and King were effective only because of the more militant movements that were going at the time, in that they offered safer alternatives to the more militaristic branches of these same movements.

In fact, he provides quotes in the book by both Gandhi and King that acknowledge and back up his point.

My reading is that Churchill criticizes non-violent movements insofar as their presumed denouncement of violent resistence movements. His criticism is aimed at the branches of the non-violent movement that condemn any tactics outside of non-violence (think those that condemned black blockers in Seattle). He instead pleads (throughout his opening and closing arguments) for solidarity throughout the movements and an understanding that militaristic self-defense plays a critical role in the movement, equal to (and in some cases more critical than) the non-violent counterparts.

Along those lines, I remember him discussing with admiration proponents of non-violence who were willing to put themselves in harms way to make there point (like King and Gandhi), focusing his criticism more on those who would believe that marching in state sanctioned protests and candle light vigils, will, in and of themselves, bring about the ending of empire.

To me those are thoughtful points worthy of bringing about sane discussion amongst the left.

Re: Can the Left Tolerate Dissenting Views? The Case of Ward Churchill?

heres a special mp3 audio mix featuring Wards explanation
check it out...

Re: Can the Left Tolerate Dissenting Views? The Case of Ward Churchill?

I'm glad to see this discussion taking place.
I too am concerned about the lockstep politically correctness which has infected SC IMC in the past few weeks. As said above:

"If the folks running the servers are going around deleting and ip banning posts from people more to the center, the whole ((i)) project is endangered."

If we allow this kind of wholesale banishment from SC IMC of those who hold some kind of dissenting point of view, then we are no better than corporate media censors. We have lost any kind of moral high ground.

I do agree that some posts should be removed--such as those which are only an ad hominem attack on a personality (e.g. "Becky's Brain --written by a known anti-semite and filled entirely with personal attacks) or threatening comments (e.g. the Plymouth Street Neighborhood Council). I note that these are allowed to stay up for months and months by the SC IMC monitors.

But when someone posts a critique of known leftists, certain SC IMC monitors have taken it upon themselves to delete these posts rather than simply write a rebuttal.

Its hard to write a good rebuttal. Its easy to privately and anonymously delete an opposing argument.

SC IMC should have a realistic editorial policy and this should apply to all those who post, not selectively used against one person and ignored when many others violate the guidelines as long as they are supporting the Politically Correct viewpoint in accordance with the bias of the SC IMC monitors!! This kind of "solidarity" is the opposite of free speech!!

Re: indymedia

The following are three excellent reasons why increased moderation is needed on Indymedia websites.

- People posting racists/hateful comments are usually cops, feds or trolls (people who just sit in front of their computer all day and spew venom). They are merely provocateurs, and we don’t need to provide a free home for their rants.

- Hate groups already have their own web sites, if you want to read their stuff, go to their site, but keep it off Indymedia.

- People will be intimidated by these kinds of comments and may decide to stop using Indymedia. This is exactly what these (racist, hateful, troll, fed) people want. We need to censor them out and maintain a safe place for our ideas and stories.

"Indymedia is a democratic media outlet for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of truth." Indymedia is NOT a discussion board.

Indymedia volunteers have NOT given people the "right" to publish on IMC websites, rather we are providing an opportunity to publish. We provide that opportunity to anyone with the ability and resources to log on to an Indymedia website. But, articles and comments intended to spark flamewars and/or endless debate, are not welcome. Indymedia is an outlet for the production of radical media.

to those folks looking for a "free speech, discussion forum" i say, DIY. go start your own. WE are Indymedia. ((i))

Moving from Churchill to Santa Cruz: the Censorship Controversy

Interesting Churchill discussion and new information (for me) from the main poster and Steve A. I tend to support Skidmark Bob's view, having heard the tape of Churchill's own defense before the U of Colorado audience.

On indymedia: I'm glad that santacruz indymedia does focus on underreported stories. I thank the volunteers for keeping the website going (even with all the software glitches). Indymedia is a great community resource that I'm really grateful to have had access to.

That said. Becky is neither "a cop, a fed, or a troll." She doesn't have "her own" website. And I doubt she intimidates anyone.

I often find her pro-Israeli government perspectives infuriating and wrong-headed.

But I still think, for santacruz indymedia, the better way is generally more dialogue, not systematically deleting and hiding rightist commentary (if that's what's happening). Unless it's clearly ad hominen abuse or spam or ads for MacDonalds.

It's not that indymedia volunteers don't have the right to censor (and that's what it is). They obviously do. It's a question of judgment.

I hate to see good activists denouncing and devaluing each other (inevitable as it may be in the heat of controversy). It should not be the basis of a long-range "removal of comments" policy.

There's an angry exchange of views on Free Radio on the subject on my 3-27 radio show. Becky presented some initial charges of censorship by indymedia volunteers to which Vinnie and others responded strongly. It's archived at and the relevant section is about about forty-five minutes into the (3 1/2 hour) show.

Incidentally, I recognize that the original theme of this tread was Ward Churchill, so perhaps the "censorship at santacruz indymedia" discussion should be moved to another thread.

Re: Can the Left Tolerate Dissenting Views? The Case of Ward Churchill?

This article no longer appeared on the front page for a while so I posted my response to Skidmark Bob as another article:

That post has the actual quote from Churchill.

Churchill is an apologist for CIA operative and mass murderer Osama Bin Laden and the left would do well to distance themselves from those who want to claim the CIA’s monster for the left.

As for the so-called censorship at Indy Media, Becky Johnson’s police informant ultra-right hate organization, Dafka, already has its own web site that would never post our views there, and the Indy Media volunteers are under no obligation to promote her racist views here.

Re: Can the Left Tolerate Dissenting Views? The Case of Ward Churchill?

Johnson, your racist hate speech against Arabs violates the guidelines and purposes of Indy Media. Your organization has its own website and you would never post our views there. Indy Media is under no obligation to promote your racism here.

Those of us that are not on the payroll of a racist genocidal government do not have time to work full time refuting your racist lies Johnson.

Your organization is ultra-right, racist, receives money from Israel, and by your own admission has infiltrated the antiwar movement and turned names over to the police. This makes Johnson a police agent.

Johnson's support for pro-war racist Kerry against pro-war racist Bush does not let her off the hook.

Re: Can the Left Tolerate Dissenting Views? The Case of Ward Churchill?

Skidmark Bob said
The whole issue at hand was his mentioning of "Technicians of Empire" who died in WTC attack were obviously not the service workers or firemen/police he was refering too but were the true "Technicians of Empire" in the top floors of the towers

So Bob it's OK to murder 3000 AMericans if you get a couple dozen Technicians of Empire while you are at it??? I think when Rumsfeld targets Bathist and Taliban targets he usually goes for a higher Taret/Collateral Ratio that that.

Re: Can the Left Tolerate Dissenting Views? The Case of Ward Churchill?

Since I have been personally attacked here, I hope the SC IMC monitor (censors) will allow me to defend myself.

Steve, you claim I hate Arabs but I don't, have not written anything that degrades Arabs, or is untruthful about situations occurring in Arab countries. If you feel that I have written comments which could be interpreted as racist against Arab people, please include those quotes in your critique. Just calling me a racist is meaningless.

Vinny was on Free Radio for 20 minutes attacking me and slandering me. He claimed he had "so many examples" of my "racism" but failed to provide a single example. (listen for yourself to the archived show on Mar 27 2005 at

Your main contention that I am a racist (and Vinny's on that FRSC radio show) was that I am a Zionist (I'm not, but he claims I am) and that Zionism is inherently racist. So I am a racist.

Thats a pretty long stretch.

I am against racism, feel racism is a cause of many of the world's conflicts, and am constantly re-examining my own attitudes for internal racist attitudes. I fail to see why you call me a racist, nor do I have a clue what you are basing this charge on, other than possibly Vinny's convoluted rationalization.

Where I differ from you, Steve, is that I support the right of the State of Israel to exist, and to exist as a secular democracy AND as the national homeland for the Jewish people.
This does not make me a racist. It does make my point of view different than yours.

You want to destroy the State of Israel. You do not accept its right to exist. In this sense, you are more of a racist against Jews since you advocate that they have NO national homeland.

The Palestinians already have a national homeland in Jordan (60% Palestinian Arabs). There are 22 Arab/Islamic countries which take up 500 times the land area of Israel. Yet you can't stand for one, tiny, postage stamp sized country for Jewish people (primarily anyway) to exist in the whole world.

Dafka is not an "ultra-right wing organization." Right wing organizations in the USA oppose abortion, oppose teaching evolution, oppose intermarriage of people of different races, oppose the use of stem-cell research, promote traditional male/female roles, are opposed to homosexuality, etc. Dafka is none of these.

Dafka is a pro-Israel organization (not Zionist).
Its purpose is to educate the public on the pro-Israel position. Many liberals support the the right of Israel to exist, so this is hardly a position held exclusively by the right.

Dafka receives no government funding from either the USA or Israel. I myself am an unpaid volunteer. If anyone wants to see for themselves, they can visit and see for themselves what kind of articles are posted there. Claims that Dafka "would never post our articles there" are also false. I know of no one who has presented an article and been turned down.

I don't agree with everything posted there, either.

Another person posted: "Indymedia is NOT a discussion board"

BECKY: SC IMC is a peoples' journalism website, but it doesn include a comment section where many discussions occur. Apparently only I am chastised for "discussing" the article posted.
A double standard? How can anyone conclude otherwise?

Finally, SC IMC, by preventing certain opinions from being aired (and I am not saying opinions that violate the editorial policy) shows itself to be repressive, thin-skinned, closed, isolated, self-deluded, and against free speech.

Re: Can we let weak liberal arguments endanger people?

harpers_ferry (at)

(my 5 minute rebuttal to a weak argument)
Your arguments are so full of holes I don't know where to begin. Have you read 'pacifism as pathology'? He never, in that book, or any subsequent essays or speeches says that non-violence is not viable or should not be practiced. What he does is deconstruct (with mixed
results) the liberal ideologies of politics from those in privilege in this country, those that can choose non-violence. Especially white, hetero, middle-class, male americans who when faced with difficult or dangerous struggles can fall back to the state or withdraw support from those affected and marginalized communities.

There are people and communities that are NOT able to choose non-violence or pacifism as a lifestyle, strategies or tactics. (A peace vigil with candles didn’t stop families from being brutally murdered in El Salvador at the hand of U.S. funded forces.)

If you can't draw the connections in those two towers that fell and some of the technocrats who benefited from the work inside then I would say come out from your cave. This doesn't imply that ALL the people in there were terrible people or even deserved to die. But he was making the point that in some ways we in the u.s. are all complicit to a degree in the oppression and suffering of
those outside the u.s. The argument doesn't say we should all be killed, but that we need to do two things. One is recognize that we all in the u.s. are complicit to the destruction of people and the planet to varying degrees , and two that some (in this case 'freedom fighters'/'terrorist'/'army')
from another country deemed the WTC a legitimate military target, much as your president Bill Clinton did when he bomb the aspirin factory in the 90's or your president Bush is doing when
he orders death in Iraq and Afghanistan now.

Churchill didn't say that his arguments or ideas were the only way. He simply and many times has illustrated that people, like you, with liberal politics should think about how you can and do sell out marginalized communities by not wanting to give up ANY of the privilege that you have been granted in this country of ours.

Your essays weak argument are ‘proof in the pudding’ of what you don't see, because it would require closer examination and a real challenge to your privilege and politics in this country.
When you pull that lever in the voting booth it helps no one but yourself (whether left or right).

All that said it doesn't mean, and I will stress this part, that it is not violence vs. non-violence.
That is a 'red herring' liberal/conservative argument. As Churchill has said over and over and I will reiterate. It takes ALL kinds of tactics and strategies to make changes in this world we live in. your lack of support for actions outside of your ‘comfortable zone’ are a disservice and dangerous to those who have no choices and for those of us who choose to use our privilege in many different ways of struggle.

The fact that you copyrighted your lame essay on an open publishing forum says something about your commitment to change. Continue on your path to be lulled in the democratic party and let those of us who want real change challenge those ideas and do our work without your hinderance.



No events for this day.

view calendar week
add an event


Media Centers

Syndication feeds

Account Login

This site made manifest by dadaIMC software