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Wednesday, April 02, 2003

More Academia Nuts

More on our favorite Columbia University airhead.

From the New York Post: De Genova gets death threats.

De Genova claimed death threats forced him to skip his 2:40 p.m. Latino History course at the university's Hamilton Hall - the first lecture he had scheduled since the March 26 anti-war "teach in"... "Because Nick is afraid for his life, nobody knows where he is," said one [of his grad students], who refused to identify herself.

From the Columbia Spectator: Students Wage Silent Protest for De Genova

Students of Professor Nicholas De Genova staged a silent, motionless protest on Low Plaza yesterday in support of their absent teacher... De Genova was not present in class because he is currently "in hiding," one graduate student said. She added that "he and his wife are fearing for their lives" after receiving "over one thousand death threats by phone and e-mail"..."We feel silenced by Nick's absence," added one of the other graduate students.

From Newsday: Columbia Prof.'s Remarks Spark Threats

[Faculty members] also bemoaned a more innocent victim of the comments made last week by Assistant Professor Nicholas De Genova. The campus anti-war movement.

"I'm afraid the consequences could be that they could silence us," Jean Cohen, a political science professor, said of those making the threats.

No! Not They!

Cohen, an organizer of last week's teach-in where De Genova called for the killing of U.S. soldiers, said she and other organizers have received threats, even though they denounced De Genova's statements.

"It's frightening for me to get all these e-mails," Cohen said, adding that she was puzzled how De Genova could have called for "a million Mogadishus"... "It ended up drowning out all the other voices and tarring the anti-war movement with being anti-American and anti-patriotic," she said.

Newsday portrays Cohen as distressed and mildly bewildered about De Genova's words, which is quite different from the way she appears in this issue of the Spectator. Come enjoy watching the Peace People eat their young:

"He and the press have hijacked this teach-in, and I'm very, very angry about it," said Jean Cohen, Professor of Political Science, who first had the idea for the event. "It was an utterly irresponsible thing to do. And it's not innocent. ... This was a planned undermining of this teach-in."

Cohen emphasized that De Genova had not originally been invited to speak. He was replacing Kimberle Crenshaw, a law professor who dropped out because of a medical emergency.

"At the last minute someone couldn't speak, and he just kind of appeared," Cohen said. "... He ended up on that platform by accident, almost by manipulation."

Cohen said that as soon as it was clear that there was an opening in the program, De Genova was "right there, all ready with his speech--which makes me suspicious."

"It's bad luck that there was an opening, but he was all too ready," she said.

Round and round and round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows. Place your bets! Was it the FBI? CIA? MI6? Mossad? Or maybe the Stonecutters? Freemasons? Elks? Moose? Lions? Knights of Columbus? Knight Ridder? Microsoft? MacDonalds? Disney??

As you might have heard, Columbia president Lee Bollinger put up a notice on the University website to the effect that he was shocked (shocked!) that someone would say such a thing, concluding that he was "especially saddened for the families of those whose lives are at risk". Heaven knows who that refers to.

An innocuous enough statement, one would have thought---especially since Bollinger made sure to utter the Worship Words "academic freedom". But their gravitational pull warped knickers anyway:

"If the president is using the home page of Columbia University to condemn a particular perspective of a faculty member--and to condemn it in very harsh terms--then that counts as the University taking a position, and it creates a chilling effect," said Nate Treadwell, CC '05 and e-mail list administrator for the Columbia Student Solidarity Network.

Beware the dreaded chilling effect!

"I have no objection to Bollinger saying whatever the hell he wants, one way or the other, on the war," Treadwell said. "But it bothers me that Bollinger would use official University avenues to advertise his own political position, especially considering the threats of violence that De Genova is receiving."

Imagine that, the President of the University is using Official! University! Avenues! (totally unlike the University's email system, which Treadwell uses, not to mention the teach-in itself) to express the controversial opinion that Columbia's professors really ought not to call aloud for the defeat and slaughter of American troops during wartime.

Leigh Johnson, CC '03 and an anthropology major, had similar concerns.

"Bollinger made an emotional and political statement that silenced De Genova's speech on the part of the University, and that will certainly intimidate any faculty from speaking with similar positions," she said.

Johnson worries about the damage done to the anti-war movement by the strong reaction against De Genova's remarks.

"I think we have to resist every attempt of pro-war and conservative reactionaries to turn what De Genova said into an indictment of the anti-war cause, and we have to instead shift the debate to his constitutional right to say those things," Johnson said.

Because we wouldn't want anyone to actually examine his remarks to try to discover whether they were accurate, let alone appropriate. Freedom of speech means speech entirely free of consequences of any kind, including examination for something resembling "truth".

There are comments to this Spectator article, and the overwhelming majority are negative. But someone posting as Leigh Johnson, the woman quoted above, says:

Prof. De Genova stood in solidarity not with the dictatorship of Iraq, but with oppressed peoples around the world, people like those five year-old children fleeing Nasiriyah who were assassinated by U.S. death squads. People like innocent black men on death row in the U.S. who are denied fair trials. Those who call for Prof. De Genova to go live in Iraq miss the fundamental point that neither Iraq nor America are "free" or just countries. U.S. soldiers have a choice to participate in this unjust desert slaughter, and De Genova courageously encouraged them to say "no". No to empire and no to killing ordinary Iraqis, with whom American enlisted working class men and women have more common interests than they do with the racist tzars who run this country.

Lessee, ya got yer race baiting, yer class wars, yer big-eyed children, yer US "death squads", yer moral equivalence, and yer "empire". Somehow she missed misogyny; have to dock her for that.

There's oh so very much more in this article, including slamming the press for focussing on just this one speech, thereby tarring the whole "Movement".

I remember my college years. (This is going to be a "when I was your age, sonny" rant, so those of tender years might want to turn away now.) I spent my nose in a book, because I foolishly chose to major in a subject where you had to have actual right answers (more or less), rather than just make crap up, or find a subject where I could indulge my own prejudices, and write outrageous things just for the cachet of being a campus radical. How much more fun college would have been! I could have been an Eager Young Person, "fighting" for the rights of disenfranchised [fill in the blank], rather than actually learning anything.

And now it's coming back to haunt me. I can't get a university position now, not even at a much less lofty place than Columbia, but guys like De Genova can. That's what really ticks me off, you see. If they attempted to fire him there would be a great outcry that he was being fired for political reasons, when in reality he ought to be fired for simple incompetence. Then again, they'd probably have to fire 3/4 of the humanties professors on that score.

Finally, here's a New York Times article about a student in De Genova's class who'll be entering the Marines this summer.

Via several sources, including Big Arm Woman, Critical Mass, (hey, check out her link to Eric Foner's assertion that "any" news broadcast presents the government's arguments for war, with the insinuation that anti-war arguments are never aired; he's serious, so fire him too), and the Country Store.

UPDATE: A "blockquote" tag got lost; I've inserted it, and changed some spellings. I need an editor. I probably missed things, too.