I am taken to task for my harsh assessments of the jury in the Ward Churchill trial (my April 4 blog is here, and the comments follow).
I would change nothing of what I wrote. I have never served on a jury, but am married to and related to and friends with people who have, and their testimony is consistent that very often there are people of average intelligence—“average” perhaps being a euphemism—sitting on juries. Attorneys like to have them there because (they assume) such people can be easily led. “The world is run by C students,” goes the old saw; what must that mean for the great numbers of people who serve on juries? Not all of them, certainly, but some of them? If in the course of living on earth one has not observed even reasonably intelligent people getting browbeaten, bullied, confused, panicked, and ultimately worn down by others around them, perhaps strong personalities disposed to glibness or the persistent mau-mau, then one is simply not paying attention. Thus my lack of confidence in the jury. It is true that I phrased my response in somewhat disrespectful terms. This is not the first time I have been found guilty of disrespect.
For Churchill himself, my feelings about CU’s hiring, tenuring, and tolerance of him up to that point likewise remain unchanged. I will say, AM, that the word “inane” (defined by my American Heritage Dictionary as “lacking sense or substance”) is in no way sufficient to describe Churchill’s characterization of those incinerated on 9/11 as “little Eichmanns.” For comparison’s sake, here’s Jerry Falwell famous take on the backstory to 9/11, courtesy of truthorfiction.com:
Falwell said, “The ACLU has got to take a lot of blame for this. And I know I'll hear from them for this, but throwing God...successfully with the help of the federal court system...throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools, the abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked and when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad...I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen.”
I see a clear parallel between Churchillian and Falwellian perspectives, here. Like Churchill, Falwell ascribes blame (“helped make this happen”) for the events to a relatively small number of people who were NOT responsible, but whom he would like to blame because of his political views. (One difference, of course, is that those Falwell blames weren’t incinerated.) So, does this poison merely rate the civilized word “inane”?
Bluntness is not everyone’s cup of mead, I know. Falwell is a preacher—a law unto himself—but Churchill was a professor, upon whom ethical and humanistic responsibilities ought to weigh heavier than on a power-mongering, thuggish loon of the Falwell or Robertson stripe. Nonetheless, the jury was not, apparently, convinced that in addition to the varieties of academic malfeasance (misrepresentation of various kinds) and bona fide hate speech—forbidden on many campuses, and you know better than I if CU is one of them or not—is not just cause for getting tossed.
A strident response in the face of this kind of land-of-upside-down amorality is justified. I mean: really.