There was a time when the Left in the United States was able to field its own intellectual heavyweights to try to offset opposing intellectual arguments. It was a Left of Michael Harrington and Irving Howe and others of similar caliber.
That Left is no longer in existence. The Left in recent years has shown itself incapable of distancing itself from its lunatic fringe. Rational leftists long ago abandoned the Left, resulting in a Left now filled with treasonous lunatics and hate-America neurotics whose politics reflect little more than an infantile anger at Mommy and Daddy.
There is today no difference between the academic Left and the Left of Mumia Abu Jamal and Ward Churchill. Churchill’s statement that Americans killed in the attack on the World Trade Center were “little Eichmanns” is by now familiar to all, although that’s just the tip of his iceberg of his anti-Americanism (see www.frontpagemag.com).
Nothing so clearly illustrates the demise of the “intellectual Left” than the self-recruitment of the stable of writers at “Counterpunch” magazine on behalf of Churchill.
In recent weeks, Counterpunch has morphed into almost a single-issue magazine, and that single issue is celebrating and defending Ward Churchill. This is not a “free speech” defense of Churchill by free speech absolutists, but rather an endorsement of the contents of Churchill’s anti-American and pro-terror speeches and articles by people staunchly opposed to free speech for neoconservatives.
Counterpunch is a web magazine owned and edited by Alexander Cockburn, whose anti-Americanism can compete only with his anti-Israel animus (some have called it out-and-out anti-Semitism), and Counterpunch largely promotes these two sentiments on its pages. Cockburn has been denounced for both his anti-U.S. and anti-Israel views by Franklin Foer of The New Republic, by Eric Alterman (on his MSNBC weblog), and by a variety of other journals, organizations and columnists, including the Seattle Times, the Declaration Foundation,, LeftWatch, and Christian Action for Israel. In the past Cockburn openly gave credence to reports that Jews spread anthrax in the U.S. and that Israel was part of a conspiracy to topple the World Trade Center. Cockburn insists Jews conspire to control the media (see http://counterpunch.org/alexgraham.html).
There is nothing that so clearly illustrates the collapse of thinking on the American Left as its near-universal embrace of Ward Churchill. Every “Indymedia” website in the country has carried multiple endorsements of Churchill. Cockburn’s Counterpunch has, as I write this, more than a dozen articles endorsing Churchill, and not a single article denouncing him.
Of all the leftist magazines and websites usually regarded as semi-civilized, Cockburn’s web magazine seems to be the most obsessed with glorifying Churchill, who has written, among other filth, that the Jews are worse than latter-day Nazis because “those who deny the Holocaust, after all, focus their distortion upon one target. Those [Jewish scholars] who deny all holocausts other than that of the Jews have the same effect upon many.” Churchill also supports Islamofascist terror (see http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=16917).
Earlier this month Cockburn himself led the flock of Cockburn Cockroaches in Counterpunch with “Ward Churchill and the Mad Dogs” (http://counterpunch.com/cockburn02052005.html), in which he not only backed Churchill unreservedly, but argued that Churchill did not go far enough. When Churchill wrote that the terrorists who destroyed the World Trade Center were heroes, given America’s evil nature, he should have reinforced his article with references to America’s bombing of Amariya civilian shelter in Baghdad in January 1991, with 400 deaths, Cockburn argued. Never mind that no one seriously thinks the U.S. intentionally targeted civilians in that or any other bombing operation, unlike Churchill’s role models.
Cockburn maintains that the whole outcry over Churchill is some grand right-wing conspiracy to suppress free speech. “Why,” he asks, “should Churchill apologize for anything? Is it a crime to say that chickens can come home to roost and that the way to protect American lives from terrorism is to respect international law?”
This hardly is the first time Cockburn’s web site has come out in favor of bin Laden. Earlier, it ran a piece by Shahid Alam, a tenured professor of economics at Northeastern University in Boston, titled “Poverty From the Wealth of Nations.” Alam argued that the 9/11 attacks were an Islamist insurgency, the attackers believing that they are fighting – as the American revolutionaries did in the 1770’s – or their freedom and dignity against foreign control of their lands.
A companion piece to Cockburn’s was “A Ward Churchill Kind of Day” by Kurt Nimmo, (http://counterpunch.com/nimmo02052005.html), which compared the attacks on Churchill and on some other pro-terror professors to the Nazi purges in German universities. Nimmo wrote, “I must say that I agree with Churchill: the financial and government institutions housed in the WTC, including the CIA, most certainly did employ “technocrats” comparable to Adolf Eichmann.”
He was echoed by Carolyn Baker, who, in “Ward Churchill and the Attack on American Higher Education” (http://counterpunch.org/baker02072005.html) compared at length the criticism of Churchill to Nazi suppression of dissident teachers in Germany. She bemoaned insufficient leftist indoctrination on campuses in the U.S. and concluded by writing: “The neo-conservative, neo-fascist standard for higher education is a mirror-image of German education in the 1930’s…”
In “The Censorship of Ward Churchill and Dancehall Reggae Music,” (http://counterpunch.org/collins02082005.html), Counterpunch’s Nate Collins characterized any criticism of Churchill as fascist censorship, writing: “What happened to the classic quote on the Nazis about how they go one group at a time until they get you?… I love Churchill for the same reason I love Dancehall Reggae artists, they have the voices of lions, regardless of any flaws jumped on by the p.c. liberal thought police.”
In another Counterpunch piece, “What Ward Churchill Didn’t Say,” by one “Mickey Z.”, (http://counterpunch.org/mickey02092005.html), Churchill is defended against the true terrorists, which include, in Mickey’s “mind,” Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Henry Kissinger, Bill Cosby, and others, most of whom are misquoted by Mickey.
Counterpunch proves better than anything else around that the term “thinking Left” is today an oxymoron in the United States.
Steven Plaut, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press, is a professor at Haifa University. His book “The Scout” is available at Amazon.com. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
About the Author: Steven Plaut is a professor at the University of Haifa. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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