Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Colorado Talk Radio and Ward Churchill

You can listen to Denver radio talk show host Peter Boyles's interview with Ward Churchill here. Also a second interview with Indian activist Russell Means. And two Ward Churchill parody songs. The first is less than successful; the second (to the tune of Paul Revere and Raiders' "Indian Reservation) is not bad. Interestingly, both parodies focus less on Churchill's "little Eichmann" remarks than on recent questions concerning his claims to Native American heritage.

Update, 4:25 a.m.: I've heard the entire Churchill interview.

Peter Boyles deserves respect for handling a volatile subject with more grace and professionalism--by far--than any radio or television talk show host I have yet heard.

Boyles's principal guest, besides Churchill, is Peter Gadiel, whose son James Gadiel worked as an assistant trader for Cantor Fitzgerald. (For Cantor Fitzgerald's story of how it coped with 9/11, check here.) A 2000 graduate of Washington and Lee University, James was 23 years old when he died. Peter Gadiel is a director of 9/11 Families for a Secure America, an organization that emphasizes the need to maintain strict controls on traffic across U.S. borders. Gadiel, incidentally, condemns any and all death threats received by Churchill.

Churchill, to my ears, has a difficult time explaining himself in this and in other interviews. This is a bit odd considering that he is a very plain-spoken individual who on most subjects is not hard to follow. But he really can't get the "Eichmann analogy" to pop, and I rather have a suspicion the failure is purposeful. If you're an academic already familiar with his work, you can fill in the gaps and silences he leaves, but he misses repeated opportunities to explain the analogy. After a while it's hard to avoid the impression that he has a nicely-developed technique for provoking people unfamiliar with his work while sounding patient and reasonable to those knowledgeable about it.

Toward the end of the interview, Colorado state senator Tom Wiens calls in with a few background queries about Churchill. He says he was going to plut a staffer to work researching the questions, but thought he would take advantage of the interview to ask Churchill directly. His questions concerned Churchill's credentials, teaching load, and salary. Churchill gave him candid answers to each. Wiens went on to say that he had skimmed the online version of the controversial essay and averred that his main concern was its seemingly poor scholarship. Churchill asked what were Wiens's qualifications to evaluate the essay. Wiens replied, in essence, that he had received a good education and could make intelligent evaluations about thesis, argument, use of evidence, and adequacy of citation. (He assuredly sounded as if he could. Indeed, all in all, Wiens came across as the sort of intelligent, serious, sober-minded legislator I'd like to have representing me.)

All in all, the Peter Boyles interview, though a bumpy ride, makes Scarborough Country look like the pathetically incompetent pseudojournalism it is.

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