April 18, 2005

On Tour With Ward Churchill

Matt Labash is on the Ward Churchill beat for The Weekly Standard, and he files his report with his customary biting wit and sarcasm. Read it all, but here are some priceless excerpts:

Inside the Women's Building auditorium, I take my seat in the media balcony, "media" being used loosely to describe the people who point their cameras Churchill's way, then applaud everything he says. Below us is a mass of the usual suspects: the masked banditos, the grown men wearing chicken heads in homage to Churchill's book title, the tie-dyed frizz-balls who look like spokesmodels for Cherry Garcia ice cream, all emitting the dank human musk that is common in rooms full of people who are so concerned about the military-industrial complex that they don't have time to concern themselves with doing laundry...

Later, interviewing Churchill one on one, it gets a little ugly...

...I ask if he's an anarchist, and though they have an affinity, he says no. He's an Indigenist. Not quite sure what that entails, I ask him to explain. He's a wordy bugger, and goes on for a good while about a "consciously synchronous level of population" and a "latitude of action that is governed in a self-regulating manner" and a "unity in the differentiation that's consonant with natural order." I figure this would all go down a lot easier if I'd first eaten peyote...

...He insults my helter-skelter interview techniques, and questions whether I know anything about history. I insult his books, suggesting real scholars cite people other than Noam Chomsky and Ramsey Clark in their footnotes. Twice, Churchill storms out as if he's ended the interview (in fact, he just needed a Pall Mall). After growing frustrated at my increasingly frequent interjections, as I attempt to turn his dreary monologues into robust dialogues, he grabs my tape recorder once, and lunges for it another time, before I tell him to step back. When I follow him outside for a smoke break, he grows so frustrated at what he regards as my complete ignorance that he commands me to turn off my tape recorder, orders us off the record, and engages me in an exchange that journalistic convention forbids me to report, but which involves lots of colorful language on both sides.

We patch things up, for the most part. And by the end of the evening, I again posit to Churchill that he knows no transgression unless it's American transgression, that his calculus considers only the wars we've fought, but never the wars the world never had to fight as a result of American might. I tell him that communism, which set into motion so many of the American policies he detests, was no joke--it took the lives of 100 million people. At this, he blanches. "You don't really want to sit here and get into an arithmetical tally of who killed more people. Both have killed astronomical numbers of people in order to maintain themselves. Neither is defensible. The Soviet Union, however, has the virtue at this point of not being here anymore. The United States cannot claim that credit."

As I settle the check, and Churchill and his wife get up to leave, he says offhandedly, "Oh, and one more thing: F--you." I think he's joking, but in case he's not, on behalf of the little Eichmanns, I offer back with relish, "F--you too."

Posted by dan at April 18, 2005 12:10 PM