Monday, May 30, 2005

sesso hu sangan....

I'm in the midst of finals so not much to post right now. Instead I'll be posting my response papers for some of my classes. They are kind of interesting and bring out alot of scattered, yet important points. The first one that I'll post here is my sleepy and somewhat nonsensical response paper to "The Experience of Freedom" by Jean-Luc Nancy.

The Experience of Freedom by Jean Luc Picard…I mean Nancy.

I’ll begin this by using a quote that Zizek used from Rosa Luxemberg (that I actually used in a response paper earlier this quarter), “freedom is for those who think different.” Zizek uses this quote to articulate his own ideas of freedom, and early in both his and Nancy’s analysis, I think the share some important similarities. For Zizek, in today’s postpolitical dubiously permissive society, that quote from Luxemberg needs a little fine tuning, namely that “freedom is for those who think.” Nancy I think would agree, and maybe even add on just a little more, saying that freedom is for those who think freedom.
Earlier today I attended a forum on academic freedom organized by some UCSD students. And it was listening to the question and answer period afterward and some of the points raised that reminded me of this point. Traci, from our program made a statement about freedom, which is both easily fetishized yet undeniably important, in that thinking freedom is a form of freedom. This of course is easily co-opted into becoming a “free speech” or “free thought” issue, where sooner or later someone will chime in that there are men and women standing on the walls connecting watchtowers, or flushing copies of the Qu’ran down the toilet, or asking you to remove your shoes before you pass through security, to defend that very freedom! But this very productively and purposely misses the point. Even dating back to Kant and his reaction to the French Revolution we can see freedom articulated, not just as any random thinking, but as particular ways of thinking. For Kant the French Revolution illustrated freedom, not in the sense of the revolution itself, but more so in the way people reacted to it. Namely the enthusiasm that people met hearing of it with. That for Kant was where the real “revolution” was.

(Warning, only terrifyingly bad and sleepy misreadings of poor Jean Luc lie beyond this point)
For Zizek freedom is not elsewhere, but is something which is to be seized every moment (which is why he adores Lenin, and partially bases both his conceptions of freedom and his articulations of the authentic political act on Lenin’s decision to break with the Mensheviks). This of course relates to Nancy’s ideas of freedom. For Zizek it is assuming the potential exceptionality of every moment that leads to freedom, which Nancy also discusses in relation to Kant, where freedom exists outside of empirical causality. (What I can’t seem to articulate here (I’ve tried and just erased what I’ve typed) has to do with Nancy and exactly what his relationship would be to transcendentals. Most of me wants to say that by setting up his investigation into freedom by emphasizing existence, he is attempting to evade predetermined principles or universals, and instead see freedom as something “ungrounded.” Like a gift which we never know who its from (like the “machine” from Total Recall). But is he doing that? More importantly than, is he doing it, is, can anyone do that?) (But I guess what I’ve missed with these comments is that fact that Nancy is speaking of recognizing a finite freedom for a finite subject as opposed to a finite freedom for an infinite subject (cogito) or an infinite freedom for an infinite subject. (and that this is his “grounding”))
Although I am not sure that this is what Nancy means to say, this is where my mind is headed in reading him. What we get from Kant is freedom, is a choice of a sort of atemporal character.
This is most obvious in the way he discusses evil, and assigns the evil choice as one outside of the subject’s experience. It is because of Kant’s intervention that we find it easy sometimes to identify with the most evil or reprehensible characters in films or literature. When we deal with “evil” figures we constantly contextualize their evil, providing historical moments which can help to explain their acts, yet at the same time, none of these histories provide a fullness of interpretation, there is always something about that person which resists explanation in this way, a kernel of evil which is particular only to that person. The thing to see here is not so much that we negotiate between these two points (duh), but that there exists something outside of this, beyond the subject which we can’t exactly pinpoint, but constantly react to. We all know this figure well, because it is through him that we can discern the properly ethical quality of evil that Kant brings out. (examples of this can be found everywhere, whether with Zizek’s favorite examples from Mozart (such as Don Giovanni) or to Hindi movies and the archetypal beyond reforms types (such as Amitab Bachan in Deewar) or my most recent favorite Anakin Skywalker and his fidelity to the dark side in Revenge of the Sith (Anakind Skywalker is actually a really interesting example, in that the choice of evil was made well outside of the horizon of the three latest movies and therefore (for those who have seen the previous three first) we can admire and appreciate his fidelity to that choice (it would be interesting to read together and against each other the ethics of evil for Anakin Skywalker and Agent Smith from the Matrix trilogy (different articulations of acceptance of ethical inevitability)))
Freedom and free choice in a sense also lie outside of the subject. If we think about this in relation to Heidegger’s ideas about community and a subject as thrown into a body/culture/community, that freedom which we discuss daily and hold onto and seem to enshrine is never really present. First of all, existence within a community means that freedom exists, but only as long as it is a certain type of freedom. Such as, we are free to chose, so long as we chose the right choice. The wrong choice means the loss of freedom itself. (As Zizek notes, we see this very often in the signing of documents. When I was applying for a job at the University of Guam, there was a line which required me to swear and sign that I “would not seek to overthrow the government of the United States.” I asked if I was required to sign this line and was told that I didn’t have to if I didn’t want to. After filling out the rest of the form and turning it in, I was told that I couldn’t work at the University unless I signed that line.) (This paradox of “freedom” being one of the reasons no doubt that some of Nancy’s work deals with rethinking community).
It was interesting seeing Nancy’s use of Derrida, because it gets at another part about freedom, that being how the experience of freedom is always in a sense deferred. That the freedom never arrives in the present but is always on its way, or is always already present. What Nancy attempts is to use Heidegger and his language, such as daisen to incorporate freedom into it, making it just as “essential” as being is. Thus attempting to show how the search for being, is in itself not a search for freedom, freedom itself.
If I haven’t butchered Nancy enough, let me take a few more stabs at him. Although it may not be obvious from this text, Nancy is very interested (like Derrida) in forming possibly new and possibly different ways of organizing human communities. His position on the ethical treatment of the other seems similar to Levinas. As Nancy says, my freedom does not end where the other begins, instead in recognizing a responsibility to the other, one’s real freedom begins. Much of what Nancy has to say echoes Levinas, in emphasizing the horizontal and the proximity as the start for an ethics outside of sameness. Thus, in a way we are all radically responsible for existence and this world, but what freedom in this world means is accepting the fact that our lives can no longer be effectively governed by towering metaphysical frameworks. But Nancy would probably be quick to point out that this isn’t a moral problem, although many people would frame it that way (such as like every movie about humans and robots, such as I-Robot or even films about cloning and genetic engineering such as Godsend or Gattaca). For Nancy this problems are not moral, but ontological, which require more investigating into existence. (This is of course where Japanese anime is light years ahead of Western science fiction, in seeing current trends in science not as moral dilemmas, but as ontological ones. (the latest and more interesting example I’ve seen is Appleseed. Where the traumatic ontological kernel that must be repressed is actually called Appleseed, a technological seed which has the ability to bridge and go well beyond the gap between humans and bioroids (their creations)).

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Kao taklalu yu'?

Malago yu' na bei sangani hamyo despensa yu' yanggen kalang taklalu i sinangan-hu. Ti hu hasngon muna'taiguini lao sesso kalang mana'bubu yu', ya ti hu hulat muna'suha todu, ya pues machuda' didide' gi i tinige'-hu siha.

For the past few weeks I've seen a sharp increase in the amount of hate mail that I've been getting. Ai lana, manggof na'bubu este siha. So first off I want to apologize if my writing and emails have sounded a bit pissy.

See, I average a couple of hate emails a week. This in addition to the dozen or so nice emails I get, seeking information or responding to issues. The hate emails can be divided into three groups, religious Chamorros, patriotic people, and young Chamorros. Sure, there is some overlap but, the emails tend to fall obviously into one of these categories.

Religious Chamorros often send me emails telling me that they are praying for me. Praying that I renounce my sinful ways, that I see the light of the lord. They say that the United States is the chosen nation by God and that with my writings, my emails, my websites I am "spitting" in the face of God or vandalizing his handiwork.

Patriotic Chamorros often make the same arguments but use different language and metaphors to make their points. To them, I am spitting in the face of Uncle Sam, and I am "biting the hand that feeds me" and every other "lazy Chamorro on welfare." To them, the most natural and obvious rule of this world is that Guam is under the United States and that it must stay that way.

Young Chamorros are the ones that have been causing me the most trouble. A few days ago I posted about a young Chamorro who is looking to make Chamorro Hip Hop and refuses to listen to anything, and tends to just yell at anyone who even thinks about discussing "Chamorro Hip Hop." He isn't the only one I get regular angry emails from. Chamorros who email me sometimes don't like the responses I give. Young Chamorros who wander onto my message board thinking its just another hang out spot, sometimes get rudely awakened when people actually call them on their shit, and are actually forced to try and defend their positions.

So this is both apology for the past as well as a pre-emptive one. I've got to learn to stop letting these emails bother me.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Chamorro Student Conference

Me some cousins and some friends have been discussing possibly putting together a Chamorro college student conference for sometime next year.

Originally it was me and my cousin Alfred who were discussing this after attending the Association of Asian American Studies Conference in April. At the conference I shared with Alfred how invisible Pacific Islanders are, and even when their are moments of potential limited visibility they tend not to take advantage of them. While speaking to other Chamorros in college or younger I never get the sense that to them the Chamorro in their identity is very productive. What I mean by this is it isn't something to organize their politics or their lives around. We see this manifest in the ways that Chamorros come and think together, which tend to be in social settings only. When does Chamorro mean something? At a party usually. And not just any party, but a Chamorro party.

Much of my work recently has dealt with trying to bring out the political potential of being Chamorro. What does decolonization mean? At the most basic level it means assuming the political implications of even the most simple and basic acts or statements. In my master's thesis I tried to retell Guam's history in a way through which the political implications and complications of subscribing to this history would be obvious.

I think a Chamorro college student conference would be important in drawing out for many young Chamorros out there with inklings with goosebumps with uncertain feelings about what being Chamorro means, what it might and can mean. Most importantly, instilling some senses of responbility. Despite being brown, most Chamorros stateside assimilate and acculturate white, and this shows in the why they understand collectivity. Their Chamorro identity is not necessarily forged out of oppression or because of feelings of collective marginality, but instead due to the symbolic coolness of it all. The symbol which can be put onto a t-shirt or be placed in a pocket precisely because it is considered to be innocent or harmless.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

ESPN article

I once heard Tony Palomo say something very interesting, and beyond what I'll say after this sentence, its even more interesting considering how many different ways the statement could be taken.

When asked during a documentary interview, if he could, what would he say to the United States of America, what would he tell them about Guam/Chamorros, what would he want them to know? Tony slyly responded, that maybe he didn't want Americans to know about Guam.

Isn't the ESPN's recent article on cockfighting in Guam a good example of why Tony Palomo might have a point? (If you haven't seen it already here's the link )Any piece of knowledge from here can be lifted and spirited away, taken wherever and made to mean practically anything. Once it leaves, it loses any temporal fixing, any fixing of cultural or historical meaning.

For those who recall the Marie Claire incident, the lesson seems to be that having other people know about us can be a very dangerous thing. For those who don't know about Marie Clare, they published an article on interesting facts from around the world, and one of said pretty much that on Guam having a daughter who is a virgin is shameful and that its practically a job to go around and deflower girls. The problem with this was that they had taken a practice from ancient Chamorro society, prior to colonization by Spain, and then used it to make a claim about the present, used it to create a very gross representation of Chamorros today, which sharply contradicts with main current Chamorro Catholic ideas and self-beliefs.

But now we reach the aporia. Representations are ever under anyone's complete control. They float around, just like knowledge and anyone can snag them and try to make them mean something. As Chamorros seek to fend out the limiting invisibility that Western notions of history and geography have forced upon them, this is the danger. Any attempts to put ourselves out there, to publicize our existence, can be flipped around, made to mean something completely different.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Ai, despensa yu' ta'lo

Para hamyo ni' fumakcha'i na hassan i biahi na hu post guini, magahet hamyo, magahet. Gof motmot iyo-ku schedule pa'go, sa' gaige i umeskuela-ku, i che'cho'-hu gi i internet, yan i mangge'-hu para lepblo yan magazines siha.

Lao cha-miyu chathinasso. Sigi ha' bula manlaolao gi i hinasso-ku, so gigon na mas libianu iyo-ku schedule bai hu post guini mas sesso.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Homo Sacer Soldiers

Here's the abstract I just finished the other day for a chapter that is going to be submitted for an anthology on feminisms and militarisms. Its the first time anything I've ever written has been requested to be part of a book (as opposed to a newspaper, magazine or internet site, which I've experienced), so I'm filling a little giddy about it.

On December 8, 2004 Christopher Rivera Wesley, a Chamorro from Guam was killed in Iraq. Four months later, another Chamorro, Michael Aguon Vega also died. The next October, a third Chamorro, Jonathan Pangelinan Santos would be also be killed. Despite the unequal status of Guam in relation to the United States, all media reports and public discourse surrounding these deaths made little to no mention of Guam’s colonial status. When family members in Guam commented on the deaths of the soldiers, no one expressed anger over their not being able to vote for the President of the United States. No one said with regret that they wish they had a voting representative in Congress. Instead, local representations and discussions hovered around issues of justified sacrifice, honorable duty and service to country. Rather then being situated in the century’s long history of colonial abuse, exploitation and control in Guam, these deaths are celebrated as sad but appropriate payments for debts Chamorros owe the United States for their freedom and liberty. This loyalty has been numerically proven in countless ways, whether through high levels of Chamorro military enlistment, casualty rates or spectacular parades of devotion for the “liberation” of Guam during World War II.

This paper is an attempt to explain these high levels of Chamorro military participation and patriotism despite their colonial status, through the creation of a genealogy which connects contemporary Chamorro impulses to join the military to the colonization of the Guam by the United States Navy from 1898-1941. During this period before World War II, the Navy established several spheres of influence (such as health care, political tokenism, civil service, compulsory education) in Guam to assist in controlling Guam’s strategic space as well as its indigenous inhabitants. Chamorros entering these zones were bombarded with differing forms of instructional presence or absence, which intersected to form heavy and invasive discourses on Chamorro inferiority, incompleteness and impossibility. Two effects in particular are the subject of this paper, first the colonizing insinuation of the Chamorro as a non-teleological thing and second the enticing construction of easy means through which movement and agency can be attained or regained, namely military service. But this “new and improved” teleology isn’t without cost, the price is the sacrifice of the Chamorro soldier’s body, as evidenced in the deaths of Wesley, Vega and Santos, which in turn cover up the inconsistencies of the US nation, most importantly its colonies and its Empire.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Chamorro Hip Hop

I've been getting regular emails from this young Chamorro in the states who is determined to make Chamorro Hip Hop. I support him, I don't see anything intrinsically wrong with this project, but me and those who frequent my message board have given this kid some questions and problems that he has to deal with. He usually just responds angrily saying, "why should he listen to us" or that we "don't know shit." Meaning that our questions or cautious are pointless.

He emailed me asking me to help him with some translations to help him start making Chamorro Hip Hop. He wants to know what words like "cold" or "jumping" are in Chamorro. If he would listen to the things I've asked him to consider, he would know why making "Chamorro Hip Hop" isn't as easy as he thinks it might be.

How can you make something like this, which won't just be haunted as shameless coyping or borrowing? What are the ways that you can craft your work to avoid being dismissed the way some Chamorro artists are, of just taking English songs and translating them into Chamorro?

By just asking me what "jumping" is in Chamorro is not going to help him. Because in asking this he is assuming the priority of English slang and English language culture, and therefore is proposing to make Chamorro culture, Chamorro art from this translation. Instead of seeking something from existing within now, he's going to rely on this translation which will help to ensure whatever he creates is most likely not thought to be Chamorro, but just copied from black culture or from American culture. Which is in itself problematic, but will be the position most Chamorro have on it, which will keep them from actually engaging with it, in the way the artist would probably want.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Conference on Media Reform

Hu gof guaiya Si Bill Moyers, gof maolek i sinangan-na, ai adai, annok na malate' gui'. Dimalas na ma na'retire gui'.

Take Public Broadcasting Back
by Bill MoyersClosing address
National Conference on Media Reform
St. Louis, MissouriMay 15, 2005

I can’t imagine better company on this beautiful Sunday morning in St. Louis. You’re church for me today, and there’s no congregation in the country where I would be more likely to find more kindred souls than are gathered here.
There are so many different vocations and callings in this room -- so many different interests and aspirations of people who want to reform the media or produce for the media -- that only a presiding bishop like Bob McChesney with his great ecumenical heart could bring us together for a weekend like this.
What joins us all under Bob’s embracing welcome is our commitment to public media. Pat Aufderheide got it right, I think, in the recent issue of In These Times when she wrote: “This is a moment when public media outlets can make a powerful case for themselves. Public radio, public TV, cable access, public DBS channels, media arts centers, youth media projects, nonprofit Internet news services . . . low-power radio and webcasting are all part of a nearly-invisible feature of today’s media map: the public media sector. They exist not to make a profit, not to push an ideology, not to serve customers, but to create a public—a group of people who can talk productively with those who don’t share their views, and defend the interests of the people who have to live with the consequences of corporate and governmental power.”
She gives examples of the possibilities. “Look at what happened,” she said, “when thousands of people who watched Stanley Nelson’s ‘The Murder of Emmett Till’ on their public television channels joined a postcard campaign that re-opened the murder case after more than half a century. Look at NPR’s courageous coverage of the Iraq war, an expensive endeavor that wins no points from this Administration. Look at Chicago Access Network’s Community Forum, where nonprofits throughout the region can showcase their issues and find volunteers.”
For all our flaws, Pat argues that the public media are a very important resource in a noisy and polluted information environment.
You can also take wings reading Jason Miller’s May 4th article on Z Net about the mainstream media. While it is true that much of it is corrupted by the influence of government and corporate interests, Miller writes, there are still men and women in the mainstream who practice a high degree of journalistic integrity and who do challenge us with their stories and analysis. But the real hope ‘lies within the internet with its two billion or more web sites providing a wealth of information drawn from almost unlimited resources that span the globe. . . If knowledge is power, one's capacity to increase that power increases exponentially through navigation of the Internet for news and information.”
Surely this is one issue that unites us as we leave here today. The fight to preserve the web from corporate gatekeepers joins media reformers, producers and educators -- and it’s a fight that has only just begun.
I want to tell you about another fight we’re in today. The story I’ve come to share with you goes to the core of our belief that the quality of democracy and the quality of journalism are deeply entwined. I can tell this story because I’ve been living it. It’s been in the news this week, including reports of more attacks on a single journalist -- yours truly -- by the right-wing media and their allies at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
As some of you know, CPB was established almost forty years ago to set broad policy for public broadcasting and to be a firewall between political influence and program content. What some on this board are now doing today, led by its chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson, is too important, too disturbing and yes, even too dangerous for a gathering like this not to address.
We’re seeing unfold a contemporary example of the age old ambition of power and ideology to squelch and punish journalists who tell the stories that make princes and priests uncomfortable.
Let me assure you that I take in stride attacks by the radical right-wingers who have not given up demonizing me although I retired over six months ago. They’ve been after me for years now and I suspect they will be stomping on my grave to make sure I don’t come back from the dead. I should remind them, however, that one of our boys pulled it off some two thousand years ago -- after the Pharisees, Sadducees and Caesar’s surrogates thought they had shut him up for good. Of course I won’t be expecting that kind of miracle, but I should put my detractors on notice: They might just compel me out of the rocking chair and back into the anchor chair.
Who are they? I mean the people obsessed with control, using the government to threaten and intimidate. I mean the people who are hollowing out middle class security even as they enlist the sons and daughters of the working class in a war to make sure Ahmed Chalabi winds up controlling Iraq’s oil. I mean the people who turn faith based initiatives into a slush fund and who encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets. I mean the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy.
That’s who I mean. And if that’s editorializing, so be it. A free press is one where it’s okay to state the conclusion you’re led to by the evidence.
One reason I’m in hot water is because my colleagues and I at NOW didn’t play by the conventional rules of beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if, instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.
Jonathan Mermin writes about this in a recent essay in “World Policy Journal.” (You’ll also want to read his book, “Debating War and Peace, Media Coverage of US Intervention in the Post Vietnam Era.”)
Mermin quotes David Ignatius of the Washington Post on why the deep interests of the American public are so poorly served by beltway journalism. The “rules of our game,” says Ignatius, “make it hard for us to tee up an issue...without a news peg.” He offers a case in point: the debacle of America’s occupation of Iraq. “If Senator so and so hasn’t criticized post-war planning for Iraq,” says Ignatius, “then it’s hard for a reporter to write a story about that.”
Mermin also quotes public television’s Jim Lehrer acknowledging that unless an official says something is so, it isn’t news. Why were journalists not discussing the occupation of Iraq? Because, says Lehrer, “the word occupation...was never mentioned in the run-up to the war.” Washington talked about the invasion as “a war of liberation, not a war of occupation, so as a consequence, “those of us in journalism never even looked at the issue of occupation.”
“In other words,” says Jonathan Mermin, “if the government isn’t talking about it, we don’t report it.” He concludes, “[Lehrer’s] somewhat jarring declaration, one of many recent admissions by journalists that their reporting failed to prepare the public for the calamitous occupation that has followed the ‘liberation’ of Iraq, reveals just how far the actual practice of American journalism has deviated from the First Amendment ideal of a press that is independent of the government.”
Take the example (also cited by Mermin) of Charles J. Hanley. Hanley is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the Associated Press, whose fall 2003 story on the torture of Iraqis in American prisons -- before a U.S. Army report and photographs documenting the abuse surfaced -- was ignored by major American newspapers. Hanley attributes this lack of interest to the fact that “It was not an officially sanctioned story that begins with a handout from an official source.” Furthermore, Iraqis recounting their own personal experience of Abu Ghraib simply did not have the credibility with beltway journalists of American officials denying that such things happened. Judith Miller of The New York Times, among others, relied on the credibility of official but unnamed sources when she served essentially as the government stenographer for claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
These “rules of the game” permit Washington officials to set the agenda for journalism, leaving the press all too often simply to recount what officials say instead of subjecting their words and deeds to critical scrutiny. Instead of acting as filters for readers and viewers, sifting the truth from the propaganda, reporters and anchors attentively transcribe both sides of the spin invariably failing to provide context, background or any sense of which claims hold up and which are misleading.
I decided long ago that this wasn’t healthy for democracy. I came to see that “news is what people want to keep hidden and everything else is publicity.” In my documentaries – whether on the Watergate scandals thirty years ago or the Iran Contra conspiracy twenty years ago or Bill Clinton’s fund raising scandals ten years ago or, five years ago, the chemical industry’s long and despicable cover up of its cynical and unspeakable withholding of critical data about its toxic products from its workers, I realized that investigative journalism could not be a collaboration between the journalist and the subject. Objectivity is not satisfied by two opposing people offering competing opinions, leaving the viewer to split the difference.
I came to believe that objective journalism means describing the object being reported on, including the little fibs and fantasies as well as the Big Lie of the people in power. In no way does this permit journalists to make accusations and allegations. It means, instead, making sure that your reporting and your conclusions can be nailed to the post with confirming evidence.
This is always hard to do, but it has never been harder than today. Without a trace of irony, the powers-that-be have appropriated the newspeak vernacular of George Orwell’s “1984.” They give us a program vowing “No Child Left Behind” while cutting funds for educating disadvantaged kids. They give us legislation cheerily calling for “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” that give us neither. And that’s just for starters.
In Orwell’s “1984”, the character Syme, one of the writers of that totalitarian society’s dictionary, explains to the protagonist Winston, “Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?” "Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now? The whole climate of thought,” he said, “will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking -- not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.”
An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy – or worse.
I learned about this the hard way. I grew up in the South where the truth about slavery, race, and segregation had been driven from the pulpits, driven from the classrooms and driven from the newsrooms. It took a bloody Civil War to bring the truth home and then it took another hundred years for the truth to make us free.
Then I served in the Johnson administration. Imbued with cold war orthodoxy and confident that “might makes right,” we circled the wagons, listened only to each other, and pursued policies the evidence couldn’t carry. The results were devastating for Vietnamese and Americans.
I brought all of this to the task when PBS asked me after 9/11 to start a new weekly broadcast. They wanted us to make it different from anything else on the air --commercial or public broadcasting. They asked us to tell stories no one else was reporting and to offer a venue to people who might not otherwise be heard. That wasn’t a hard sell. I had been deeply impressed by studies published in leading peer-reviewed scholarly journals by a team of researchers led by Vassar College sociologist William Hoynes. Extensive research on the content of public television over a decade found that political discussions on our public affairs programs generally included a limited set of voices that offer a narrow range of perspectives on current issues and events. Instead of far-ranging discussions and debates, the kind that might engage viewers as citizens, not simply as audiences, this research found that public affairs programs on PBS stations were populated by the standard set of elite news sources. Whether government officials and Washington journalists (talking about political strategy) or corporate sources (talking about stock prices or the economy from the investor’s viewpoint), Public television, unfortunately, all too often was offering the same kind of discussions, and a similar brand of insider discourse, that is featured regularly on commercial television.
Who didn’t appear was also revealing. Hoynes and his team found that in contrast to the conservative mantra that public television routinely featured the voices of anti-establishment critics, “alternative perspectives were rare on public television and were effectively drowned out by the stream of government and corporate views that represented the vast majority of sources on our broadcasts.” The so-called ‘experts’ who got most of the face time came primarily from mainstream news organizations and Washington think tanks rather than diverse interests. Economic news, for example, was almost entirely refracted through the views of business people, investors and business journalists. Voices outside the corporate/Wall Street universe -- nonprofessional workers, labor representatives, consumer advocates and the general public were rarely heard. In sum, these two studies concluded, the economic coverage was so narrow that the views and the activities of most citizens became irrelevant.
All this went against the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 that created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I know. I was there. As a young policy assistant to President Johnson, I attended my first meeting to discuss the future of public broadcasting in 1964 in the office of the Commissioner of Education. I know firsthand that the Public Broadcasting Act was meant to provide an alternative to commercial television and to reflect the diversity of the American people.
This, too, was on my mind when we assembled the team for NOW. It was just after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We agreed on two priorities. First, we wanted to do our part to keep the conversation of democracy going. That meant talking to a wide range of people across the spectrum -- left, right and center. It meant poets, philosophers, politicians, scientists, sages and scribblers. It meant Isabel AlIende, the novelist, and Amity Shlaes, the columnist for the Financial Times. It meant the former nun and best-selling author Karen Armstrong, and it meant the right-wing evangelical columnist, Cal Thomas. It meant Arundhati Roy from India, Doris Lessing from London, David Suzuki from Canada, and Bernard Henry-Levi from Paris. It also meant two successive editors of the Wall Street Journal, Robert Bartley and Paul Gigot, the editor of The Economist, Bill Emmott, the Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel and the Los Angeles Weekly’s John Powers. It means liberals like Frank Wu, Ossie Davis and Gregory Nava, and conservatives like Frank Gaffney, Grover Norquist, and Richard Viguerie. It meant Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bishop Wilton Gregory of the Catholic Bishops conference in this country. It meant the conservative Christian activist and lobbyist, Ralph Reed, and the dissident Catholic Sister Joan Chittister. We threw the conversation of democracy open to all comers. Most of those who came responded the same way that Ron Paul, Republican and Libertarian congressman from Texas did when he wrote me after his appearance, “I have received hundreds of positive e-mails from your viewers. I appreciate the format of your program which allows time for a full discussion of ideas… I’m tired of political shows featuring two guests shouting over each other and offering the same arguments… NOW was truly refreshing.”
Hold your applause because that’s not the point of the story.
We had a second priority. We intended to do strong, honest and accurate reporting, telling stories we knew people in high places wouldn’t like.
I told our producers and correspondents that in our field reporting our job was to get as close as possible to the verifiable truth. This was all the more imperative in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. America could be entering a long war against an elusive and stateless enemy with no definable measure of victory and no limit to its duration, cost or foreboding fear. The rise of a homeland security state meant government could justify extraordinary measures in exchange for protecting citizens against unnamed, even unproven, threats.
Furthermore, increased spending during a national emergency can produce a spectacle of corruption behind a smokescreen of secrecy. I reminded our team of the words of the news photographer in Tom Stoppard’s play who said, “People do terrible things to each other, but it’s worse when everyone is kept in the dark.”
I also reminded them of how the correspondent and historian, Richard Reeves, answered a student who asked him to define real news. “Real news,” Reeves responded, “is the news you and I need to keep our freedoms.”
For these reasons and in that spirit we went about reporting on Washington as no one else in broadcasting -- except occasionally “60 Minutes” -- was doing. We reported on the expansion of the Justice Department’s power of surveillance. We reported on the escalating Pentagon budget and expensive weapons that didn’t work. We reported on how campaign contributions influenced legislation and policy to skew resources to the comfortable and well-connected while our troops were fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq with inadequate training and armor. We reported on how the Bush administration was shredding the Freedom of Information Act. We went around the country to report on how closed door, back room deals in Washington were costing ordinary workers and tax payers their livelihood and security. We reported on offshore tax havens that enable wealthy and powerful Americans to avoid their fair share of national security and the social contract.
And always -- because what people know depends on who owns the press -- we kept coming back to the media business itself -- to how mega media corporations were pushing journalism further and further down the hierarchy of values, how giant radio cartels were silencing critics while shutting communities off from essential information, and how the mega media companies were lobbying the FCC for the right to grow ever more powerful.
The broadcast caught on. Our ratings grew every year. There was even a spell when we were the only public affairs broadcast on PBS whose audience was going up instead of down.
Our journalistic peers took notice. The Los Angeles Times said, "NOW’s team of reporters has regularly put the rest of the media to shame, pursuing stories few others bother to touch.”
The Philadelphia Inquirer said our segments on the sciences, the arts, politics and the economy were “provocative public television at its best.
The Austin American Statesman called NOW “the perfect antidote to today’s high pitched decibel level - a smart, calm, timely news program.”
Frazier Moore of the Associated Press said we were “hard-edged when appropriate but never Hardball. Don’t expect combat. Civility reigns.”
And the Baton Rouge Advocate said “NOW invites viewers to consider the deeper implication of the daily headlines,” drawing on “a wide range of viewpoints which transcend the typical labels of the political left or right.”
Let me repeat that: NOW draws on “a wide range of viewpoints which transcend the typical labels of the political left or right.”
The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 had been prophetic. Open public television to the American people -- offer diverse interests, ideas and voices … be fearless in your belief in democracy -- and they will come.
Hold your applause – that’s not the point of the story.
The point of the story is something only a handful of our team, including my wife and partner Judith Davidson Moyers, and I knew at the time -- that the success of NOW’s journalism was creating a backlash in Washington.
The more compelling our journalism, the angrier the radical right of the Republican party became. That’s because the one thing they loathe more than liberals is the truth. And the quickest way to be damned by them as liberal is to tell the truth.
This is the point of my story: Ideologues don’t want you to go beyond the typical labels of left and right. They embrace a world view that can’t be proven wrong because they will admit no evidence to the contrary. They want your reporting to validate their belief system and when it doesn’t, God forbid. Never mind that their own stars were getting a fair shake on NOW: Gigot, Viguerie, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Stephen Moore of the Club for Growth, and others. No, our reporting was giving the radical right fits because it wasn’t the party line. It wasn’t that we were getting it wrong. Only three times in three years did we err factually, and in each case we corrected those errors as soon as we confirmed their inaccuracy. The problem was that we were getting it right, not right-wing -- telling stories that partisans in power didn’t want told.
I’ve always thought the American eagle needed a left wing and a right wing. The right wing would see to it that economic interests had their legitimate concerns addressed. The left wing would see to it that ordinary people were included in the bargain. Both would keep the great bird on course. But with two right wings or two left wings, it’s no longer an eagle and it’s going to crash.
My occasional commentaries got to them as well. Although apparently he never watched the broadcast (I guess he couldn’t take the diversity) Senator Trent Lott came out squealing like a stuck pig when after the mid-term elections in 2002 I described what was likely to happen now that all three branches of government were about to be controlled by one party dominated by the religious, corporate and political right. Instead of congratulating the winners for their election victory as some network broadcasters had done -- or celebrating their victory as Fox, The Washington Times, The Weekly Standard, Talk Radio and other partisan Republican journalists had done -- I provided a little independent analysis of what the victory meant. And I did it the old fashioned way: I looked at the record, took the winners at their word, and drew the logical conclusion that they would use power as they always said they would. And I set forth this conclusion in my usual modest Texas way.
Events since then have confirmed the accuracy of what I said, but, to repeat, being right is exactly what the right doesn’t want journalists to be.
Strange things began to happen. Friends in Washington called to say that they had heard of muttered threats that the PBS reauthorization would be held off “unless Moyers is dealt with.” The Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson, was said to be quite agitated. Apparently there was apoplexy in the right wing aerie when I closed the broadcast one Friday night by putting an American flag in my lapel and said – well, here’s exactly what I said.
“I wore my flag tonight. First time. Until now I haven't thought it necessary to display a little metallic icon of patriotism for everyone to see. It was enough to vote, pay my taxes, perform my civic duties, speak my mind, and do my best to raise our kids to be good Americans.
Sometimes I would offer a small prayer of gratitude that I had been born in a country whose institutions sustained me, whose armed forces protected me, and whose ideals inspired me; I offered my heart's affections in return. It no more occurred to me to flaunt the flag on my chest than it did to pin my mother's picture on my lapel to prove her son's love. Mother knew where I stood; so does my country. I even tuck a valentine in my tax returns on April 15.
So what's this doing here? Well, I put it on to take it back. The flag's been hijacked and turned into a logo — the trademark of a monopoly on patriotism. On those Sunday morning talk shows, official chests appear adorned with the flag as if it is the good housekeeping seal of approval. During the State of the Union, did you notice Bush and Cheney wearing the flag? How come? No administration's patriotism is ever in doubt, only its policies. And the flag bestows no immunity from error. When I see flags sprouting on official lapels, I think of the time in China when I saw Mao's little red book on every official's desk, omnipresent and unread.
But more galling than anything are all those moralistic ideologues in Washington sporting the flag in their lapels while writing books and running Web sites and publishing magazines attacking dissenters as un-American. They are people whose ardor for war grows disproportionately to their distance from the fighting. They're in the same league as those swarms of corporate lobbyists wearing flags and prowling Capitol Hill for tax breaks even as they call for more spending on war.
So I put this on as a modest riposte to men with flags in their lapels who shoot missiles from the safety of Washington think tanks, or argue that sacrifice is good as long as they don't have to make it, or approve of bribing governments to join the coalition of the willing (after they first stash the cash.) I put it on to remind myself that not every patriot thinks we should do to the people of Baghdad what Bin Laden did to us. The flag belongs to the country, not to the government. And it reminds me that it's not un-American to think that war — except in self-defense — is a failure of moral imagination, political nerve, and diplomacy. Come to think of it, standing up to your government can mean standing up for your country.”
That did it. That – and our continuing reporting on overpricing at Halliburton, chicanery on K-Street, and the heavy, if divinely guided, hand of Tom DeLay.
When Senator Lott protested that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting “has not seemed willing to deal with Bill Moyers,” a new member of the board, a Republican fundraiser named Cheryl Halperin, who had been appointed by President Bush, agreed that CPB needed more power to do just that sort of thing. She left no doubt about the kind of penalty she would like to see imposed on malefactors like Moyers.
As rumors circulated about all this, I asked to meet with the CPB board to hear for myself what was being said. I thought it would be helpful for someone like me, who had been present at the creation and part of the system for almost 40 years, to talk about how CPB had been intended to be a heat shield to protect public broadcasters from exactly this kind of intimidation. After all, I’d been there at the time of Richard Nixon’s attempted coup. In those days, public television had been really feisty and independent, and often targeted for attacks. A Woody Allen special that poked fun at Henry Kissinger in the Nixon administration had actually been cancelled. The White House had been so outraged over a documentary called the “Banks and the Poor” that PBS was driven to adopt new guidelines. That didn’t satisfy Nixon, and when public television hired two NBC reporters -- Robert McNeil and Sander Vanocur -- to co-anchor some new broadcasts, it was, for Nixon, the last straw. According to White House memos at the time, he was determined to “get the left wing commentators who are cutting us up off public television at once -- indeed, yesterday if possible.”
Sound familiar?
Nixon vetoed the authorization for CPB with a message written in part by his sidekick Pat Buchanan who in a private memo had castigated Vanocur, MacNeil, Washington Week in Review, Black Journal and Bill Moyers as “unbalanced against the administration.”
It does sound familiar.
I always knew Nixon would be back. I just didn’t know this time he would be the Chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Buchanan and Nixon succeeded in cutting CPB funding for all public affairs programming except for Black Journal. They knocked out multiyear funding for the National Public Affairs Center for Television, otherwise known as NPACT. And they voted to take away from the PBS staff the ultimate responsibility for the production of programming.
But in those days – and this is what I wanted to share with Kenneth Tomlinson and his colleagues on the CPB board - there were still Republicans in America who did not march in ideological lockstep and who stood on principle against politicizing public television. The chairman of the public station in Dallas was an industrialist named Ralph Rogers, a Republican but no party hack, who saw the White House intimidation as an assault on freedom of the press and led a nationwide effort to stop it. The chairman of CPB was former Republican congressman Thomas Curtis, who was also a principled man. He resigned, claiming White House interference. Within a few months, the crisis was over. CPB maintained its independence, PBS grew in strength, and Richard Nixon would soon face impeachment and resign for violating the public trust, not just public broadcasting. Paradoxically, the very Public Affairs Center for Television that Nixon had tried to kill – NPACT - put PBS on the map by rebroadcasting in prime time each day’s Watergate hearings, drawing huge ratings night after night and establishing PBS as an ally of democracy. We should still be doing that sort of thing.
That was 33 years ago. I thought the current CPB board would like to hear and talk about the importance of standing up to political interference. I was wrong. They wouldn’t meet with me. I tried three times. And it was all downhill after that.
I was naïve, I guess. I simply never imagined that any CPB chairman, Democrat or Republican, would cross the line from resisting White House pressure to carrying it out for the White House. But that’s what Kenneth Tomlinson has done. On Fox News this week he denied that he’s carrying out a White House mandate or that he’s ever had any conversations with any Bush administration official about PBS. But The New York Times reported that he enlisted Karl Rove to help kill a proposal that would have put on the CPB board people with experience in local radio and television. The Times also reported that “on the recommendation of administration officials” Tomlinson hired a White House flack (I know the genre) named Mary Catherine Andrews as a senior CPB staff member. While she was still reporting to Karl Rove at the White House, Andrews set up CPB’s new ombudsman’s office and had a hand in hiring the two people who will fill it, one of whom once worked for… you guessed it … Kenneth Tomlinson.
I would like to give Mr. Tomlinson the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t. According to a book written about the Reader’s Digest when he was its Editor-in-Chief, he surrounded himself with other right-wingers -- a pattern he’s now following at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. There is Ms. Andrews from the White House. For Acting President he hired Ken Ferree from the FCC, who was Michael Powell’s enforcer when Powell was deciding how to go about allowing the big media companies to get even bigger. According to a forthcoming book, one of Ferree’s jobs was to engage in tactics designed to dismiss any serious objection to media monopolies. And, according to Eric Alterman, Ferree was even more contemptuous than Michael Powell of public participation in the process of determining media ownership. Alterman identifies Ferree as the FCC staffer who decided to issue a ‘protective order’ designed to keep secret the market research on which the Republican majority on the commission based their vote to permit greater media consolidation.
It’s not likely that with guys like this running the CPB some public television producer is going to say, “Hey, let’s do something on how big media is affecting democracy.”
Call it preventive capitulation.
As everyone knows, Mr. Tomlinson also put up a considerable sum of money, reportedly over five million dollars, for a new weekly broadcast featuring Paul Gigot and the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. Gigot is a smart journalist, a sharp editor, and a fine fellow. I had him on NOW several times and even proposed that he become a regular contributor. The conversation of democracy -- remember? All stripes.
But I confess to some puzzlement that the Wall Street Journal, which in the past editorialized to cut PBS off the public tap, is now being subsidized by American taxpayers although its parent company, Dow Jones, had revenues in just the first quarter of this year of 400 million dollars.
I thought public television was supposed to be an alternative to commercial media, not a funder of it.
But in this weird deal, you get a glimpse of the kind of programming Mr. Tomlinson apparently seems to prefer. Alone of the big major newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, has no op-ed page where different opinions can compete with its right- wing editorials. The Journal’s PBS broadcast is just as homogenous –right- wingers talking to each other. Why not $5 million to put the editors of The Nation on PBS? Or Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now!” You balance right-wing talk with left-wing talk.
There’s more. Only two weeks ago did we learn that Mr. Tomlinson had spent $10,000 last year to hire a contractor who would watch my show and report on political bias. That’s right. Kenneth Y. Tomlinson spent $10,000 of your money to hire a guy to watch NOW to find out who my guests were and what my stories were.
Ten thousand dollars.
Gee, Ken, for $2.50 a week, you could pick up a copy of “TV Guide” on the newsstand. A subscription is even cheaper, and I would have sent you a coupon that can save you up to 62 %.
For that matter, Ken, all you had to do was watch the show yourself. You could have made it easier with a double Jim Bean, your favorite. Or you could have gone on line where the listings are posted. Hell, you could have called me -- collect -- and I would have told you what was on the broadcast that night.
Ten thousand dollars. That would have bought five tables at Thursday night’s Conservative Salute for Tom DeLay. Better yet, that ten grand would pay for the books in an elementary school classroom or an upgrade of its computer lab.
But having sent that cash, what did he find? Only Mr. Tomlinson knows. He apparently decided not to share the results with his staff or his board or leak it to Robert Novak. The public paid for it – but Ken Tomlinson acts as if he owns it.
In a May 10th op-ed piece, in Reverend Moon’s conservative “Washington Times”, Mr. Tomlinson maintained he had not released the findings because public broadcasting is such a delicate institution he did not want to “damage public broadcasting’s image with controversy.” Where I come from in Texas, we shovel that kind of stuff every day.
As we learned only this week, that’s not the only news Mr. Tomlinson tried to keep to himself. As reported by Jeff Chester’s Center for Digital Democracy of which I am a supporter, there were two public opinion surveys commissioned by CPB but not released to the media – not even to PBS and NPR! According to a source who talked to, “the first results were too good and [Tomlinson] didn’t believe them. After the Iraq war, the board commissioned another round of polling and they thought they’d get worse results.”
But they didn’t.
The data revealed that, in reality, public broadcasting has an 80% favorable rating and that “the majority of the U.S. adult population does not believe that the news and information programming on public broadcasting is biased.”
In fact, more than half believed PBS provided more in-depth and trustworthy news and information than the networks and 55% said PBS was “fair and balanced.”
I repeat: I would like to have given Mr. Tomlinson the benefit of the doubt. But this is the man who was running The Voice of America back in 1984 when a partisan named Charlie Wick was politicizing the United States Information Agency of which Voice of America was a part. It turned out there was a blacklist of people who had been removed from the list of prominent Americans sent abroad to lecture on behalf of America and the USIA. What’s more, it was discovered that evidence as to how those people were chosen to be on the blacklist -- more than 700 documents -- had been shredded. Among those on the lists of journalists, writers, scholars and politicians were dangerous left wing subversives like Walter Cronkite, James Baldwin, Gary Hart, Ralph Nader, Ben Bradley, Coretta Scott King and David Brinkley.
The person who took the fall for the black list was another right-winger. He resigned. Shortly thereafter, so did Kenneth Tomlinson, who had been one of the people in the agency with the authority to see the lists of potential speakers and allowed to strike people’s names.
Let me be clear about this: there is no record, apparently, of what Ken Tomlinson did. We don’t know whether he supported or protested the blacklisting of so many American liberals. Or what he thinks of it now.
But I had hoped Bill O’Reilly would have asked him about it when he appeared on The “O’Reilly Factor” this week. He didn’t. Instead, Tomlinson went on attacking me with O’Reilly egging him on, and he went on denying he was carrying out a partisan mandate despite published reports to the contrary. The only time you could be sure he was telling the truth was at the end of the broadcast when he said to O’Reilly, “We love your show.”
We love your show.
I wrote Kenneth Tomlinson on Friday and asked him to sit down with me for one hour on PBS and talk about all this. I suggested that he choose the moderator and the guidelines.
There is one other thing in particular I would like to ask him about. In his op-ed essay this week in The Washington Times, Ken Tomlinson tells of a phone call from an old friend complaining about my bias. Wrote Mr. Tomlinson: “The friend explained that the foundation he heads made a six-figure contribution to his local television station for digital conversion. But he declared there would be no more contributions until something was done about the network’s bias.”
Apparently that’s Kenneth Tomlinson’s method of governance. Money talks and buys the influence it wants.
I would like to ask him to listen to a different voice.
This letter came to me last year from a woman in New York, five pages of handwriting. She said, among other things, that “After the worst sneak attack in our history, there’s not been a moment to reflect, a moment to let the horror resonate, a moment to feel the pain and regroup as humans. No, since I lost my husband on 9/11, not only our family’s world, but the whole world seems to have gotten even worse than that tragic day.” She wanted me to know that on 9/11 her husband was not on duty. “He was home with me having coffee. My daughter and grandson, living only five blocks from the Towers, had to be evacuated with masks -- terror all around … my other daughter, near the Brooklyn Bridge … my son in high school. But my Charlie took off like a lightening bolt to be with his men from the Special Operations Command. ‘Bring my gear to the plaza,’ he told his aide immediately after the first plane struck the North Tower…He took action based on the responsibility he felt for his job and his men and for those Towers that he loved.”
In the FDNY, she continued, chain-of- command rules extend to every captain of every fire house in the city. “If anything happens in the firehouse -- at any time -- even if the Captain isn’t on duty or on vacation -- that Captain is responsible for everything that goes on there 24/7.” So she asked: “Why is this Administration responsible for nothing? All that they do is pass the blame. This is not leadership… Watch everyone pass the blame again in this recent torture case [Abu Ghraib] of Iraqi prisons…..”
She told me that she and her husband had watched my series on “Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth” together and that now she was a faithful fan of NOW. She wrote: “We need more programs like yours to wake America up…. Such programs must continue amidst the sea of false images and name calling that divide America now….Such programs give us hope that search will continue to get this imperfect human condition on to a higher plane. So thank you and all of those who work with you. Without public broadcasting, all we would call news would be merely carefully controlled propaganda”
Enclosed with the letter was a check made out to “Channel 13 –NOW” for $500.
I keep a copy of that check above my desk to remind me of what journalism is about.
Kenneth Tomlinson has his demanding donors.
I’ll take the widow’s mite any day.
Someone has said recently that the great raucous mob that is democracy is rarely heard and that it’s not just the fault of the current residents of the White House and the capital. There’s too great a chasm between those of us in this business and those who depend on TV and radio as their window to the world. We treat them too much as an audience and not enough as citizens. They’re invited to look through the window but too infrequently to come through the door and to participate, to make public broadcasting truly public.
To that end, five public interests groups including Common Cause and Consumers Union will be holding informational sessions around the country to “take public broadcasting back” -- to take it back from threats, from interference, from those who would tell us we can only think what they command us to think.
It’s a worthy goal.
We’re big kids; we can handle controversy and diversity, whether it’s political or religious points of view or two loving lesbian moms and their kids, visited by a cartoon rabbit. We are not too fragile or insecure to see America and the world entire for all their magnificent and sometimes violent confusion. There used to be a thing or a commodity we put great store by,” John Steinbeck wrote. “It was called the people.”

Journalist Bill Moyers, the author of Moyers on America: A Journalist and His Times and many other books, is the host most recently of PBS's NOW With Bill Moyers.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Russian Solution

Did you ever hear the story about how NASA spent millions of dollars developing a pen that will write in zero-gravity? Do you know how the Russians solved the problem for far far less? They just used a pencil.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Hitchhiker's Glitch


I watched both the BBC tv version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as well as the recent US version. It was interesting to read these two films, which deal with the same basic story against each other. According to Zizek, the difference between "reality" and the Real lies in the difference between similarities and differences in repitition. To see reality, one finds what is similar throughout different perspectives (such as eye witness testimonies of a crime, the element that stays constant provides the reality of the different versions). To find the Real however, one must find what is different about the different versions (such as in dream analysis or psychoanalysis. The key is to see what changes in the different (re)tellings).

What is different between the two versions lies in the basic theme, the "lesson" if you will. In the 2005 version there is a romance, the earth is remade after being destroyed, and none of the main characters die or disappear for very long. The basic lesson would have to be that love is what the universe is about and that everything will be alright in the end.

The BBC version gets more into the nature of the universe, and actually works at the questions of existence that the 2005 version flirts with lightly.

In both versions the answer to "what is Life, the Universe...Everything all about? is revealed. The answer being "42." This of course makes no sense to anyone, because no one really knows what the actual "question" to what Life, the Universe...Everything is all about. In this year's film the question is deferred past the horizon of the story (only a silly desperate speech on the main character's love for the last female human in the universe standing in for it). In the BBC film, the question is actually revealed, and thus touching on an important part of existence which everyone feels, yet even as the remake shows, must deny.

In both versions, Arthur's paranoia over the nature of the universe is assuaged by the planet designer (who loves making fjords) who says that there isn't anything fundamentally wrong with the universe that's just your paranoia, everyone is like it. While this is let go in the 2005 version, in the BBC version is remains, and is dealt with at the film's end. Stranded on the planet earth, 2 millions years before it will be destroyed, Arthur and Ford try to unlock the ultimate question to Life, the Universe...Everything which they were told is in Arthur's brain. Knowing that the answer is 42, they soon learn that the question is, what is six times nine.

Thus, the fact that everyone in the universe is fundamentally paranoid, shouldn't be something dismissed as mere paranoia, but is instead something which connects us to as Zizek calls it "the proto-ontological structure of the universe." That insecurity over a gap, or a glitch in reality, is the Real which is either assumed into meaninglessness or refused to be recognized. When people remark too often that things don't make sense or that they just don't work, they are often trapped in the assumption that the question and the answer of the universe are meant to fit. What they miss constantly, especially in terms of understanding and expectations is that there is always this gap, this glitch.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

lana, war reparations

Senators Cruz, Unpingco come out firing on war reparations bill
by Sabrina Salas Matanane,
KUAM NewsTuesday, May 10, 2005

Guam's efforts to secure compensation for the survivors of the Japanese occupation could be dead in its tracks. Last month a Guam delegation left to the nation's capitol to provide testimony before the House Resources Committee on House Resolution 1595 - the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act - introduced by Guam congressional delegate Madeline Bordallo (D).On our News8 Extra program last night, two members of that delegation contend the island's quest for war reparations have come to a screeching halt.Senators Tony Unpingco (R) and B.J. Cruz (D) dropped the bomb about HR-1595. Said the latter during a live interview, "It's dying, if it's not dead already." Both policymakers were on the Guam War Claims Review Commission, which went out of existence after the completion of the Commission's report evaluating the treatment of island residents during the Japanese occupation. And whether the compensation provided to the victims was comparable to that provided under other claims statues covering world war two losses.The report was submitted last year to the House Resources Committee, the Department of the Interior, and the Bush Administration. The report was incorporated into the Guam World War II Loyalty Recognition Act practically in its entirety. Just days before last months hearing, concerns were raised about the 1990 cutoff provision which would exclude eligibility for compensation to survivors of the Japanese occupation that died before this year.Despite the objections against the inclusion of the provision, those who were scheduled to testify in Washington D.C. agreed to present a unified position. According to senators Unpingco and Cruz it was Governor Felix Camacho's opposition to the 1990 provision and Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo's comments on the floor to perfect the bill that turned the tide, creating the tsunami that swept all hope for progress out to sea.Senator Cruz would continue to say ,"Because delegate Bordallo, congressmen [Robert] Underwood, [Ben] Blaz, senator Unpingco and myself - we had all gotten the marching orders to go down this one line but all of a sudden she's taking off in one direction, and the Governor's taking off in another direction and we're sitting here saying, 'Whoa! When did you guys make the decision, why didn't you guys tell us about it?'"According to Governor Felix Camacho, no one should be blamed for what happened; rather the issue at hand is that compensation should be provided for all survivors. And if the bill is dead, it's not because Guam didn't present one voice but rather the United States isn't willing to own up to its responsibility.The Governor told KUAM News today, "I think nobody is trying to dismiss anybody here. If blame is to be laid out, I think the blame is not with one or the other but rather the body itself, Congress, in giving justice to the people of Guam, not on any one provision but giving us our fair share of war reparations and that's where it will really ought to be is will they give our people a chance to make our case."While the fate of HR-1595 is unknown, according to senators Unpingco and Cruz, the writing is on the wall. "We're fighting for something we shot ourselves in the foot," said Senator Unpingco, the former speaker of the Guam Legislature, "and that's why I'm frustrated on this issue right now."The Governor wasn't the only one opposed to the 1990 cutoff provision. As we reported, I Nasion Chamoru (The Chamorro Nation), Democratic Party of Guam chairperson Mike Phillips, and Senator Lou Leon Guerrero (D) also objected for the inclusion of the provision. Just today, Senator Leon Guerrero introduced Resolution 72, expressing the unity of the Guam Legislature and the people of Guam relative to war claims for all.According to Senator Leon Guerrero, the resolution presents a more unified voice for war reparations for all and it would also record the most current position of our leaders.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Let's chat in Chamorro about Hindi Movies part 3!

Miget: Gof ya-hu umegga' The Rising.

Rita: Sa' hafa? Ya-mu Si Amir Khan?

Miget: Hunggan, lao ti put enao ha'.

Rita: Hafa otro?

Miget: Achokka' gof kapas na bulako Si Amir, ai adai i estoria ni' muna'gaiinteres yu'.

Rita: Hafa sumagan-na?

Miget: Put un mumun linhayan giya India gi i ma'pos na century.

Rita: Hafa maloffan?

Miget: Maloffan na manlalalu i Indians nu i British ni' estaba i manggubetnu guihi. Pues manmumu kontra siha.

Rita: Oh, so pues ya-mu sa' "action movie" este.

Miget: Ahe'. Lana dei, guaha mas tahdong kinu enao ha'! Manmumu ayu siha kontra colonialism. Lao guini giya Guahan, ti sina ta cho'gue taiguihi, sa' matulaika i tiempo. Yanggen malago ta na'suha colonialism, ti ma'cho'cho taiguihi, sa' mas fotte' i US kinu i British way back. Debi di ta espiha empenu sin minimu.

Rita: Oh magahet. Pues malago hao umegga' este, kosaki sina un guife put hafa malago hao chumo'gue, lao ti sina.

Miget: Ai adai, kalaktos malaktos hao. Lao, lana, magahet. hehehe.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Invisible Pacific

Since 9/11, there has been a regular stream of semi-jubliant and proudly patriotic news stories in Guam's media, about the steady build up in military presence that's going on there.

Except for Joe Murphy, this fact is always dealt with polite but obvious finatta. I say finatta', because it is a form of haughty bragging. In the common historical discourse, meaning the ideas one can get without actual investigation, but instead just passive inundation with Guam's media and gossip networks, the poor economic times in Guam are publicly because of Japan's poor economic condition, but more quietly, but nonetheless importantly because of Guam's biting the hand that feeds it during the 1980's. That's right, in the 1980's and 1990's some people, Chamorros in particular who had their families' land taken, or who were mistreated by the US military in Vietnam, or just hate being colonial citizens began to resist the US military and openly promote critiques against the US and the US in Guam. At some point during this emergence of Chamorro critical consciousness, the military closed down some of their bases and shrunk down their operations in Guam. In most people's minds, this closure, didn't just coincide with the grassroots activism that was coming out, it was actually caused by it!

In order to understand the loose and scattered points I'm making typing this at 1 in the morning, we have to consider the role of the "military" in discussions in Guam. The military is the ultimate point of hegemonization, meaning it is the point, the idea, the image, the structure which does the most in forming basic understandings and opinions in Guam. This comes in the form of what Guam means to the rest of the world (something which if the US wasn't here, some other country would invade and snatch up!), how Guam relates to the US, and how Guam survives economically.

Joe Murphy as an editorial writer for the PDN is particularly important in making this point. It is not that Murphy is a good writer, for he is definitely not. But its just that his points fall on the side of power, so one needn't be a very good writer for them to be heard. Fox News is of course a perfect example of this. If you play to the basest nationalist or cultural understandings, even if you're i mas brodie na taotao, ya kalang mababa i lu-mu, you will be heard loud and clear. If you are going against that grain, then you better be an exceptional writer, with a huge amount of knowledge at your disposal.

The current forms of finatta' over the military deal with how since Guam's economy is so poor nowadays, no one can question the current military increases. (The war on terror helps as well). Thus, there are rarely any more protests, rarely any voices saying, "Federales, fanhanao tatte!" So this basic, ultimate hegemonic, powerfully pragamtic point of the military, as the economic lifeline to Guam, can now go almost completely unquestioned, uncritiqued.

So in an article on last week, they were discussing the most recent potential increase, some Air Force inetnon from Idaho. As usual, representatives from the military said that this increase was not in response to any particular threat in the area. The interesting thing however is that, the "area," namely the Pacific and Guam are completely invisible in these statements. For if they were visibile, then one would very quickly grasp, that the movement of these planes themselves, represent a huge threat to the region!

From here, it doesn't require must effort to see the ways that institutions creates threats, create the aura of threateningness, and then part of that consutruction is the assumption that the thing which creates the threat is the best remedy or tool against said threat.

Friday, May 06, 2005


When people ask me lately what is a movie that I recommend, the film "Closer" always comes to mind. Its not an easy movie to watch, as the characters pretty much verbally, sexually and emotional beat the crap out of each other, but for those who can get past the hyper-emotional and hyper-painful veneer, it is an interesting analysis of relationships, secrets and most importantly truth.

The self is built upon secrets and the film portrays that in interesting ways. When one forms a relationship, there must necessarily be some disavowed content, which isn't static but constantly changes as you change in relation to the person. The revelation of this content, its Real intrusion, forces the dissolution of that self. We can see this in the end of the film when Jude Law and Natalie Portman's character get back together. Many people react to this scene as being unbelievable, "how can someone change? fall out of love 'just like that!?'"

But that was the secret which the self-in-love-with Jude Law could not reveal, when he forced her to reveal it, that self vanished, leaving only an insistent ickiness about his behavior unfiltered with feelings of in love.

What the film forces us to miss, with its "cool" amibguous ending, which hints at some overarching, farreaching duplicity on behalf of Natalie Portman, who never was the one that Jude Law loved, is this crucial point. Relationships are not buily upon lies, but they are buily upon secrets. Secrets which because the truth of such is not a revelatory practice but a deconstructive lever, is not some object which can be illuminated by truth, but is instead obliterated by it. What the "she was never really the one he loved" thesis misses, is that we never are that person in love. If Lacan's too often quoted thesis "there is no such thing as a sexual relationship" is true, then what we see in every relationship is the creative, innovative attempts to overcome this prohibition, which requires the fromulation and reformulations of different versions of the self, different ways of cutting the self in order to reach the other that is loved. Each person possesses a kernel according to Zizek, and ethics and love are built around the relationship to that kernel, but what we can't ever forget is that our relationship to that kernel requires we recognize the multiple selves which are always already embedded and embedding, preventing us from ever directly encountering that, but always looking and loving awry it.

Moving on to truth. What is interesting in the film is that each character's positions in the film are guided by how they relate to and understand the functioning of truth. This is what sets apart Clive Owen as the film's Superman, in that he amongst the four knows best what truth and truth telling is. For the others, truth is a paralyzing, colonizing force. What sets Owen apart is the understanding two things. First that, honesty, the telling of truth, the forcing and revealing of it shouldn't be linked automatically to any morality. Good and honest are not necessarily the same, and this is because of the second thing he understands, in that the truth is almost always strategic. Telling of the truth always involves a manipulation, a strategy on behalf of the truth teller. When Owen forces Julia Roberts to admit to the dirty truth, when he reveals to Jude Law his sexual liason with Natalie Portman, what we see from these scenes is that truth and its telling doesn't give one any automatic position of morality and ethical uprightness.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

How to End the War

Published on Thursday, May 5, 2005 by In These Times
How to End the War
by Naomi Klein

EDITORS' NOTE: The following essay is adapted from remarks made at the National Teach-in on Iraq sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. The teach-in was held on March 24, the 40th anniversary of the first teach-in on the Vietnam War, which was held at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The central question we need to answer is this: What were the real reasons for the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq?

When we identify why we really went to war—not the cover reasons or the rebranded reasons, freedom and democracy, but the real reasons—then we can become more effective anti-war activists. The most effective and strategic way to stop this occupation and prevent future wars is to deny the people who wage these wars their spoils—to make war unprofitable. And we can’t do that unless we effectively identify the goals of war.

When I was in Iraq a year ago trying to answer that question, one of the most effective ways I found to do that was to follow the bulldozers and construction machinery. I was in Iraq to research the so-called reconstruction. And what struck me most was the absence of reconstruction machinery, of cranes and bulldozers, in downtown Baghdad. I expected to see reconstruction all over the place.

I saw bulldozers in military bases. I saw bulldozers in the Green Zone, where a huge amount of construction was going on, building up Bechtel’s headquarters and getting the new U.S. embassy ready. There was also a ton of construction going on at all of the U.S. military bases. But, on the streets of Baghdad, the former ministry buildings are absolutely untouched. They hadn’t even cleared away the rubble, let alone started the reconstruction process.

The one crane I saw in the streets of Baghdad was hoisting an advertising billboard. One of the surreal things about Baghdad is that the old city lies in ruins, yet there are these shiny new billboards advertising the glories of the global economy. And the message is: “Everything you were before isn’t worth rebuilding.” We’re going to import a brand-new country. It is the Iraq version of the “Extreme Makeover.”

It’s not a coincidence that Americans were at home watching this explosion of extreme reality television shows where people’s bodies were being surgically remade and their homes were being bulldozed and reconstituted. The message of these shows is: Everything you are now, everything you own, everything you do sucks. We’re going to completely erase it and rebuild it with a team of experts. You just go limp and let the experts take over. That is exactly what “Extreme Makover:Iraq” is.

There was no role for Iraqis in this process. It was all foreign companies modernizing the country. Iraqis with engineering Ph.D.s who built their electricity system and who built their telephone system had no place in the reconstruction process.

If we want to know what the goals of the war are, we have to look at what Paul Bremer did when he first arrived in Iraq. He laid off 500,000 people, 400,000 of whom were soldiers. And he shredded Iraq’s constitution and wrote a series of economic laws that the The Economist described as “the wish list of foreign investors.”

Basically, Iraq has been turned into a laboratory for the radical free-market policies that the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute dream about in Washington, D.C., but are only able to impose in relative slow motion here at home.

So we just have to examine the Bush administration’s policies and actions. We don’t have to wield secret documents or massive conspiracy theories. We have to look at the fact that they built enduring military bases and didn’t rebuild the country. Their very first act was to protect the oil ministry leaving the the rest of the country to burn—to which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld responded: “Stuff happens.” Theirs was an almost apocalyptic glee in allowing Iraq to burn. They let the country be erased, leaving a blank slate that they could rebuild in their image This was the goal of the war.

The big lie

The administration says the war was about fighting for democracy. That was the big lie they resorted to when they were caught in the other lies. But it’s a different kind of a lie in the sense that it’s a useful lie. The lie that the United States invaded Iraq to bring freedom and democracy not just to Iraq but, as it turns out, to the whole world, is tremendously useful—because we can first expose it as a lie and then we can join with Iraqis to try to make it true. So it disturbs me that a lot of progressives are afraid to use the language of democracy now that George W. Bush is using it. We are somehow giving up on the most powerful emancipatory ideas ever created, of self-determination, liberation and democracy.

And it’s absolutely crucial not to let Bush get away with stealing and defaming these ideas—they are too important.

In looking at democracy in Iraq, we first need to make the distinction between elections and democracy. The reality is the Bush administration has fought democracy in Iraq at every turn.
Why? Because if genuine democracy ever came to Iraq, the real goals of the war—control over oil, support for Israel, the construction of enduring military bases, the privatization of the entire economy—would all be lost. Why? Because Iraqis don’t want them and they don’t agree with them. They have said it over and over again—first in opinion polls, which is why the Bush administration broke its original promise to have elections within months of the invasion. I believe Paul Wolfowitz genuinely thought that Iraqis would respond like the contestants on a reality TV show and say: “Oh my God. Thank you for my brand-new shiny country.” They didn’t. They protested that 500,000 people had lost their jobs. They protested the fact that they were being shut out of the reconstruction of their own country, and they made it clear they didn’t want permanent U.S. bases.

That’s when the administration broke its promise and appointed a CIA agent as the interim prime minister. In that period they locked in—basically shackled—Iraq’s future governments to an International Monetary Fund program until 2008. This will make the humanitarian crisis in Iraq much, much deeper. Here’s just one example: The IMF and the World Bank are demanding the elimination of Iraq’s food ration program, upon which 60 percent of the population depends for nutrition, as a condition for debt relief and for the new loans that have been made in deals with an unelected government.

In these elections, Iraqis voted for the United Iraqi Alliance. In addition to demanding a timetable for the withdrawal of troops, this coalition party has promised that they would create 100 percent full employment in the public sector—i.e., a total rebuke of the neocons’ privatization agenda. But now they can’t do any of this because their democracy has been shackled. In other words, they have the vote, but no real power to govern.

A pro-democracy movement

The future of the anti-war movement requires that it become a pro-democracy movement. Our marching orders have been given to us by the people of Iraq. It’s important to understand that the most powerful movement against this war and this occupation is within Iraq itself. Our anti-war movement must not just be in verbal solidarity but in active and tangible solidarity with the overwhelming majority of Iraqis fighting to end the occupation of their country. We need to take our direction from them.

Iraqis are resisting in many ways—not just with armed resistance. They are organizing independent trade unions. They are opening critical newspapers, and then having those newspapers shut down. They are fighting privatization in state factories. They are forming new political coalitions in an attempt to force an end to the occupation.

So what is our role here? We need to support the people of Iraq and their clear demands for an end to both military and corporate occupation. That means being the resistance ourselves in our country, demanding that the troops come home, that U.S. corporations come home, that Iraqis be free of Saddam’s debt and the IMF and World Bank agreements signed under occupation. It doesn’t mean blindly cheerleading for “the resistance.” Because there isn’t just one resistance in Iraq. Some elements of the armed resistance are targeting Iraqi civilians as they pray in Shia mosques—barbaric acts that serve the interests of the Bush administration by feeding the perception that the country is on the brink of civil war and therefore U.S. forces must remain in Iraq. Not everyone fighting the U.S. occupation is fighting for the freedom of all Iraqis; some are fighting for their own elite power. That’s why we need to stay focused on supporting the demands for self-determination, not cheering any setback for U.S. empire.

And we can’t cede the language, the territory of democracy. Anybody who says Iraqis don’t want democracy should be deeply ashamed of themselves. Iraqis are clamoring for democracy and had risked their lives for it long before this invasion—in the 1991 uprising against Saddam, for example, when they were left to be slaughtered. The elections in January took place only because of tremendous pressure from Iraqi Shia communities that insisted on getting the freedom they were promised.

“The courage to be serious”

Many of us opposed this war because it was an imperial project. Now Iraqis are struggling for the tools that will make self-determination meaningful, not just for show elections or marketing opportunities for the Bush administration. That means it’s time, as Susan Sontag said, to have “the courage to be serious.” The reason why the 58 percent of Americans against the war has not translated into the same millions of people on the streets that we saw before the war is because we haven’t come forward with a serious policy agenda. We should not be afraid to be serious.

Part of that seriousness is to echo the policy demands made by voters and demonstrators in the streets of Baghdad and Basra and bring those demands to Washington, where the decisions are being made.

But the core fight is over respect for international law, and whether there is any respect for it at all in the United States. Unless we’re fighting a core battle against this administration’s total disdain for the very idea of international law, then the specifics really don’t matter.
We saw this very clearly in the U.S. presidential campaign, as John Kerry let Bush completely set the terms for the debate. Recall the ridicule of Kerry’s mention of a “global test,” and the charge that it was cowardly and weak to allow for any international scrutiny of U.S. actions. Why didn’t Kerry ever challenge this assumption? I blame the Kerry campaign as much as I blame the Bush administration. During the elections, he never said “Abu Ghraib.” He never said “Guantanamo Bay.” He accepted the premise that to submit to some kind of “global test” was to be weak. Once they had done that, the Democrats couldn’t expect to win a battle against Alberto Gonzales being appointed attorney general, when they had never talked about torture during the campaign.

And part of the war has to be a media war in this country. The problem is not that the anti-war voices aren’t there—it’s that the voices aren’t amplified. We need a strategy to target the media in this country, making it a site of protest itself. We must demand that the media let us hear the voices of anti-war critics, of enraged mothers who have lost their sons for a lie, of betrayed soldiers who fought in a war they didn’t believe in. And we need to keep deepening the definition of democracy—to say that these show elections are not democracy, and that we don’t have a democracy in this country either.

Sadly, the Bush administration has done a better job of using the language of responsibility than we in the anti-war movement. The message that’s getting across is that we are saying “just leave,” while they are saying, “we can’t just leave, we have to stay and fix the problem we started.”

We can have a very detailed, responsible agenda and we shouldn’t be afraid of it. We should be saying, “Let’s pull the troops out but let’s leave some hope behind.” We can’t be afraid to talk about reparations, to demand freedom from debt for Iraq, a total abandonment of Bremer’s illegal economic laws, full Iraqi control over the reconstruction budget—there are many more examples of concrete policy demands that we can and must put forth. When we articulate a more genuine definition of democracy than we are hearing from the Bush administration, we will bring some hope to Iraq. And we will bring closer to us many of the 58 percent who are opposed to the war but aren’t marching with us yet because they are afraid of cutting and running.

Naomi Klein is a columnist for In These Times, the British Guardian and The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper and the author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.
© 2005 In These Times

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Ethnic Studies Letter

I was forwarded this from the Ethnic Studies Department at Colorado University, Boulder. The letter is followed by a list of hate mail that the department has received since the Ward Churchill "controversy" erupted. If anything, what the terrible hate mail shows, and the lack of support from the university for the Ethnic Studies Department is that Ethnic Studies is very very very necessary in this country.

An Open Letter from the Department of Ethnic Studies,
University of Colorado at Boulder to the Board of Regents,
President Betsy Hoffman and Interim Chancellor Phil DiStefano

The University of Colorado¹s official policy on diversity states:

"Diversity among students, faculty, and staff is fundamental to the
University of Colorado as it fulfills its mission to provide a quality education to the
citizens of the state. A vision of the University of Colorado as an
institution that promotes a free flow of ideas and perspectives, values diverse
viewpoints and interactions, and encourages constructive engagement across racial,
gender, sexual orientation and other lines of difference is central to this mission.
Diversity at the University of Colorado includes populations historically
underrepresented and disadvantaged by virtue of race, ethnicity, gender,
gender identity, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, disability, nationality,
and religion. To fulfill its mission, CU must develop purposeful recruitment and
retention strategies for a diverse academic community."

We in the Department of Ethnic Studies (DES) feel a particular
responsibility to fulfill this mission. The purpose of Ethnic Studies as a discipline is to
introduce the diverse perspectives of historically underrepresented
communities into the curriculum, and we offer interdisciplinary courses in African
American, American Indian, Asian American, Chicano, Comparative Ethnic, and American
Studies. By definition, we must counter the standard ³canon² of the
humanities and social sciences, and academic freedom is essential to this endeavor.

The Laws of the Regents (Article5, Part D) recognize that we have not
only the right but the responsibility to engage in such critical analysis:
. . . ³academic freedom² is defined as the freedom to inquire, discover,
publish and teach truth as the faculty member sees it . . .
. . .academic freedom requires that members of the faculty must have
complete freedom to study, to learn, to do research, and to communicate the results
of these pursuits to others. . . . [Faculty members] . . . should not be subjected to direct or indirect pressures or interference from within the university, and the university will resist
to the utmost such pressures or interference when exerted from without
(emphasis added).

For more than thirty years the University has expressed concern about its lack
of racial and ethnic diversity. Large sums of money have been spent on
cosmetic efforts and committees have repeatedly been appointed to study the
problem but the recommendations of those committees have consistently been
disregarded. After all these years, only about 15% of the faculty and the
student body are persons of color; and only 1% of the full professors in
Arts & Sciences at CU-Boulder are women of color.

Ethnic Studies is the only department on campus with a truly racially and
ethnically diverse faculty. We offer the only institutionalized alternative
to an overwhelmingly eurocentric curriculum, and have provided a safe haven for
many students in what they perceive to be an otherwise hostile environment.
The Department¹s predecessor unit, the Center for Studies of Ethnicity and
Race in America (CSERA) was formed in the late-1980s and soon attracted a stellar
faculty of national repute, including Manning Marable, Vine Deloria, Jr., Evelyn Hu DeHart, and Ward Churchill. Of these only Ward Churchill remains, and the institution is making every effort to drive him out.

The Department itself came into being in 1995, with an initial core of younger but highly promising faculty members, including Joy James, Jualynne Dodson, Lane Hirabayashi, David Pellow and Lisa Park. All left, largely as a result of the lack of institutional support and resources provided the Department. Having rebuilt the Department for the third time, we are again under siege.

Since late January, the Ethnic Studies Department and individuals within it
have been publicly and personally denigrated. At the height of the media
frenzy, the Department received about 1000 e-mails and dozens of phone calls
each day, many explicitly racist and/or threatening. We have a wonderful,
incredibly dedicated staff. Already overloaded, these individuals,
including our student assistant, have had to cope with this onslaught.

Despite repeated requests, the University has offered no public defense of the
Department, given no support to our already overworked staff, and provided
no additional security in the face of threats to students, staff and faculty.

To give just one small example, campus police were recently sent to pressure
DES staff about taking down a painting created by youth in an anti-gang
program in which ³stop the lynchings² is superimposed on an American flag. Shortly
thereafter, the campus police simply stood by and watched while a local
resident prominently displayed a picket sign which falsely accused Ward
Churchill of advocating that people ³Rape B*tches² and ³Lynch N*ggers.²

Our students have been subjected to racist communications and threats, as have
our faculty. After some incidents targeting students received widespread
media coverage, the Regents and the Administration claimed ³outrage,² yet an
actively hostile environment which encourages such attacks has been fostered by the
institution¹s own conduct..

The University is well aware that Ward Churchill and other members of the
Department have been subjected to death threats, threats of violence and
overtly racist attacks. It could have publicly condemned these threats of
violence and expressions of racial hostility. Instead, its stunning silence
has effectively empowered the attackers to continue.

Such overt racism is closely linked to attacks on academic freedom. Ward
Churchill is the most prolific and cited scholar in his field, an enormously
popular teacher, and the recipient of numerous CU teaching and service
awards. Faced with politically motivated assaults on Prof. Churchill¹s speech, there
are many steps that University officials could have taken to diffuse the situation.
The institution could have highlighted its particular responsibility to defend
free speech and to promote diversity of opinion, or noted Prof. Churchill¹s
scholarly achievements and his 25 years of exemplary service to the

Instead, University officials violated the Regents¹ own laws on academic
freedom, denounced Prof. Churchill¹s constitutionally protected speech,
disparaged his reputation, denied him any sort of due process, and announced
that his racial identity is to be determined by committee.

As you well know, such attacks have not been limited to Ward
Churchill. After working with our Department for more than a decade, Adrienne Anderson¹s
contract was terminated and her courses, which were cross-listed in Ethnic Studies, eliminated as a result of political pressure, without DES ever being consulted. A senior faculty member¹s sabbatical was also denied. The obvious lack of institutional support for the Department has seriously hampered our ability to recruit new faculty, and is raising questions about our ability
to retain the faculty we have.

Last week a sign was pasted on the door to our building, ³warning² the public that the views expressed therein did in any way represent those of the University. Is this true? Are we simply being tolerated until we can be eliminated? We have attached a small sampling of e-mails and letters which we believe illustrate that a strong Ethnic Studies program is needed now more
than ever.

As the Regents and the top administrators of this University, you have tremendous influence over the future of this institution. If you want Ethnic Studies to disappear, intend to chill the speech of all professors, and wish to actively discourage the recruitment of students and faculty of color, you need only continue on your current path. We hope this is not the case and offer
to work with you to proactively change - not ³study² - the climate on campus.

Department of Ethnic Studies *
University of Colorado at Boulder
April 25, 2005

* This letter was approved by consensus at a faculty meeting from which two
members were absent.

While we have received expressions of support from tens of thousand of people
around the country, we also think it important to note the racism and intolerance that lies so close below the surface. Following are excerpts from e-mails and letters received by the Department of Ethnic Studies, Ward Churchill and other faculty and staff between January 31 and April 15, 2005. They are not the most hateful, threatening or obscene that we have received, but particularly reflect the racism, sexism, and lack of historical understanding
that we work to counter. Other than the asterisks inserted in bold, the spelling and grammar are from the original correspondence.


[To the Department of Ethnic Studies:]
Regarding Ward Churchill¹s remarks about 9-11 victims being ³little Eichmanns,²
it seems to me that the debate over free speech rights misses the point. . .
So let us suppose that the victims were little Eichmanns, fully deserving of their fates. In the spirit of diversity and inclusion, I would then like to add the following:
(1) Blacks in the UC Boulder Ethnic Studies department are little pickanninnies.
(2) Females in the UC Boulder Ethnic Studies department are little pom- pom
(3) Hispanics in the UC Boulder Ethnic Studies department are little banditos.
(4) Asians in the UC Boulder Ethnic Studies department are little yellow perils.
. . . . Mind you, I wouldn¹t ordinarily write this, except that Œdiversity and
inclusion² is such a compelling interest, and I feel that it is necessary to achieve ³critical mass.²
With all due respect,
Robert Allgeyer

From: David Bland
To: Chancellor Phil DiStefano
CC: Ward Churchill
I am writing this letter . . . to voice my distaste and gross disappointment in
your dubious judgment in hiring and retaining such a repugnant and repulsive
human being as Ward Churchill. . . . I suppose for a pathetic American Indian
like himself, he sees this as some sort of payback to the United States for
what he sees as injustices to the American Indian 150 years ago. . . . I
implore you not to be intimidated by this pathetic excuse for a man and a human
being. Fire his sorry *ass! . . . It¹s too bad that he is one Indian that got away!

From: Chuck McGrory
To: Natsu Saito
CC: Ward Churchill
Subject: How squaw bitch . . .
tell um Chief Ward Wigwam: Look like pale face who want um to be um red face is
um disgraced. Why don't you BOTH come on a tour of the east coast when u do your
little stop in NY. We'd love to see both of you crazy mutherf*ckers! We're looking forward to seeing you w/ no reservations. We'll go out and have some fire water. On an unrelated note, Is it possible for "indian givers" to give "indian burns." ?

From: Dennis McDonald
To: Emma Perez
After viewing your comments last night, it appears that American Indian
³wannabe² Churchill and his wife are not the only *ssholes in the Ethnic
Studies Dept. You are a disgrace to the teaching community and are probably just like
Churchill - a person who never held a real job and spent years as a radical in college and eventually got some half *ss degree from some crumby little school. . . .
. . . . let me give you a few phrases that may help in your next job; ³Would you lie fries with that?², ³Sir, can I supersize that order?²

CC: Ward Churchill
[ writes:]
I wonder what practical use there would be for a graduating student with a degree in Ethnic Studies, oops Victimology
It comes in handy when calculating reparations ­ or settlements in the countless
lawsuits that seem to plague their lives.


From: Nathan Utt
To: Ethnic Studies
The proper response to . . . ³Chief² Ward Churchill is to shut down the ethnic
studies department entirely. . . . it has no legitimate function, but instead
is merely a forum for disaffected pseudo-intellectuals who use the mask of
ethnicity to disquise their own personal dysfunctionability. . . . How about
getting real jobs instead of leeching off the taxpayers with your pc thuggery?

From: Rob Ebright
To: Ethnic Studies
Subject: Ward Churchill is a d*ckhead
I must laugh at your so called college department. Tell Ward, my ancestors killed a lot of Indians and I¹m proud of it . . . .
From: david owens
To: Ethnic Studies
what a collection of f*cking faggots and victocrats. No wonder ³ethnic² studies
is a universal joke. . . .
From: Chance Chamberlain
To: Ethnic Studies
Subject: Enjoying the exposure?
. . . . This has got to be one of the most useless departments in the CU system.
. . . ³Ethnic Studies² perhaps should be renamed ³The Department for Militant
Liberalism, Hate Speech against all Whites, Doctored Resumes and Anti-Americanism²
Good idea?
Fax received in Ethnic Studies Office from Westboro Baptist Church
WBC to picket Univ. Of Colorado Prof. Ward Churchill at the fag-infested
Kirkland Project of Hamilton College . . . . God Hates Fags! & Fag-Enablers!
Ergo, God hates Hamilton College, the sodomite whorehouse masquerading as
The Kirkland Project. . . and Arminian heretic Ward Churchill . . . .

From: Dave
To: Ethnic Studies
Dear Ward. . . .
Why don¹t you take a silly-*ss muslim name like Mohammed Mohammed Mohammed
and wear a diaper on your head. . .

To: Ward Churchill
I¹ll keep this brief, one - too bad you weren¹t in the cockpit of one of
those jets. And two, with a comment like that, I¹m glad the Indians were wiped
That is all.


From: Don McCurdy
To: Ward.Churchill
. . . . Your people are a lazy bunch of scum! The Native American, without intigrating himself into the modern world, has become a burden on society. . . .
I can prove to you that the Native American is nothing more than a blip on the
radar screen on the over all realm of the world. . . . they are just a mole on the body of the planet.
I am a 52 year old son of the people that have made this miserable patch of
ground called America, the greatest force of good in the world! Your sorry
ancestors could not have created in their wildest dreams a force that which
has such wide spreading ideals. We The People Have given Freedom to all of Europe and Japan, and we are . . trying to bring fredon to the middle East.
THESE ARE THE HISTORIC FACTS. . . . . as a native of Colorado I will force you to become a piece of trash in the dust bin of history with the rest of your ³ancestors.²


From: Ralph Lancaster
To: Ward Churchill
You, sir, are about as much American Indian as my dog. . . .


To: Ward Churchill
You¹re finished Cigar Store. . . . ..
I¹ll be marching in the coming Columbus Day Parade as an honourary Italian
for a day.


From: Gerald McCawley
To: Ward Churchill
. . . . It is a sad day in American education when a ³man² with your views
can head anything more than a janitorial crew. Of course that is why so many of
our kids come out of college with useless degrees in Native Studies, Diversity, or the like instead of useful, productive ones in science or mathematics. They are hard to earn while all you had to do is make a career of whining and complaining and contributing nothing to society. . . .

From: Katy Roberts
To: Ward Churchill
I am working on article about you and want to verify that your Indian name is ³Colostomy Bag That Walks.²

From: Irv Yaffa<>
To: Ward Churchill
. . . .put a feather on your head and leave this wonderful country that I fought for. . . .

To: Ward Churchill
Hey Chief - the ³7th Cavalry² is coming after your worthless *ss. . . .

From: Greg Fountain
To: Ward Churchill
. . . . Move away from the United States. It¹s people like you that always seem
to forget what it cost our forefathers to give you a place to be free to be such an *ss. . . .

From: sassy
To: Ward. Churchill@Colorado.EDU
. . . . What I would like to know is why you liberal commi scumbags in this
country hate it here so much . . . WHY THE F*CK ARE YOU HERE. . . .
mostly due to liberal mental disease, but there is no where else I¹d rather live. . .


From: Tay Weinstein
To: Ward Churchill
. . . . I feel like I am owed a personal explanation by whoever wrote this
bullsh*t, i.e. fake injun, aka Ward Churchill. . . . I wouldn¹t expect a
f*cking squaw pussy like you to understand . . . Move to Canada, they¹d love
you there, and for all you know, thats where your ancestors are from. F*ck you, goto hell.


From: stelbt28
To: Ward Churchill
Subject: Info regarding class...
Hey buckwheat. . . . I despise you and your redskin tactics. . . . go find your
reservation and sit on welfare, you worthless scoundrel.


To: Ward Churchill
. . . . according to the Bell Curve you are a prime candidate for having a
low IQ and I do not doubt that one bit, kid. I can¹t believe you get paid to do
anything. You should be on a reserve harvesting corn and huffing fire


To: Ward Churchill
Dear Squanto/Crazy Horse

To: Ward Churchill
You are an absoulute moron. You have a stick up your *ss about the whole thing of the whites kicking you out of your ³land². Get over it. . . . You show this country how you and your people are. . . .

From: Harold Liles
To: Ward Churchill


From: American
To: Ward Churchill
Subject: I am a concerned Native American
. . . My parents are of European descent, but having been born here, they are Natives. I was born here, and I am therefore also a Native American. However, I suffer along with hundreds of millions of other American who are discriminated against because of simple chronology. . . . [I]t vexes me every time I hear the term Native American used to describe a tiny fraction of the American population. . . .

[From the same source:]
You are nothing but an Asian-American. . . . [Y]ou never mention the fact that before the Europeans ever went ³abroad,² pseudo-indigenous peoples around the world behaved no differently than Europeans. . . . There is as much barbaric behavior among the Indians and other Œnatives² around the world to equal any heinous acts, real and alleged, perpetrated by Europeans.

[And again:]
I do not doubt your Indian heritage. I can see it in your face and ears. . . . Just because Indians were on the losing side, it does not absolve them of their own sins. . . .


From: Dennis Tedder
To: Ward Churchill
Subject: Commie-pinko bed-wetting left-wing long-haired faggot
. . . . I say f*ck the press. Given my way, you¹d be throw into a dark cell for ten years, then execute you after that, you homo. . . . . PS: You may be interested in knowing that my god son has killed over 30 ragheads, destroyed 15 tanks and 10 Toyota pickup trucks from his F-18.

[From the same source:]
. . . . I¹ve had enough of buck-teeth, genetically inbred, backwood cretins from de souf. You may also be interested in knowing that in Œ83 I was personably
responsible for the death of over 80 Syrians. . . . Like Hitler, were I in charge it is
the pseudo-intellectuals like you who I¹d put in a camp first.
Muslims and Arabs. Where is A. Hitler now that we need him? Even gas wouldn¹t handle this many vermin.


From: Michael Groves
To: Ward Churchill
. . . . I had a brother who . . . was a professor, and he once said there are very ignorent people teaching in the campuses around the country. People who
shouldn¹t be allowed near a person so there garbage garbage dosn¹t rub off on people. Your one of the people he was talking about. I²m not a man of violence, but I can see things that might happen. . . .. Opinons are like *ss holes, everyone has one, some just stink more then others, then I think some will wipe yours clean. You Creep. I¹d like to see someone punch you right
in the big fat loaud moth. You ignorent white man. Your not Native American, you¹re a wanna be.


From: John F Marrinan
To: Ward Churchill
. . . . I only have a BA, MBA, JD . . . I make $650,000 a year. . . . Maybe you should go back to school and obtain a PhD in world history and you might understand that we fried the Japsbecause they bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. . . . I served two tours in Viet Nam . . . and I just love the good old USA. . . . .


From: Arnold Giannetta
To: Ward Churchill
ward, you such big buffalo d*ck, you c*cksuker ingine motherf*cker


To:, . . . .
CC: . . . . Ward.Churchill
[Thom1s writes:]
Personally I¹d like to see a resurrection of the House UnAmerican Activities
Committee and a new set of alien and sedition laws aimed at the domestic pro-terrorist enemies in our midst. . . .
Hallelujah!! I agree with you 100%! . . . . I¹m sending your above recommendation for the ³resurrection² of an oversight committee to thwart further expansion of the mind destroying ³Churchill-Kent¹isms² to my two Senators. . . . . NEGOCRATS, Robert C. BYRD and John ROCKEFELLER!!!!! . . . . I encourage you and Salena to persevere and continue your ³fight for
the ³right² as I and others undertake a serious effort to get rid of the
nasty/smelly dropppings left on the floor of the Senate by a pathetic,
strutting, cocky, BYRD! We are working to rid the national scene of our state¹s embarrassment on
Capitol hill, the decrepit BYRD in 2006 and the carpet bagging ROCKEFELLER in 2008!
Jim Wright
Huntington, WV


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