It's a good time to recall the standard disclaimer: the author of this column, me, Dr. Wes Browning, is solely responsible for its content. Real Change, its management, staff, and volunteers have all said on many occasions that I, Dr. Wes, am nuts, and they assume no liability for anything I say here or anywhere else.
I had just finished saying, last week, that Susan Sontag was right about something and that Ed Koch may or may not have been. I also mentioned the Planters Nut Company. What you all may not have known, because I didn't tell you, was that last week's entire column was an attempt to write about Ward Churchill that got sidetracked.
Ward Churchill is the Colorado University professor who has taken a lot of flak for an essay he wrote after the 9-11 attacks in which he pointed out that the Pentagon was a military target and added that many (not all) of the people in the World Trade Towers at the time of the attack were willing participants in "America's global financial empire." One particular phrase that fetched Mr. Churchill a heap of heat was "little Eichmanns."
"Oh boy, talking about this will be fun!" That's what I've been thinking. I thought, "Let's talk about Nazi technocrats and the Americans who can be compared to them, ha, ha!" That's when I remembered what Susan Sontag said and got distracted.
Now Bill Maher has got back in the news and distracted me. Bill Maher said essentially the same thing that Sontag said, that the 9-11 attackers had not been cowards, whatever else they were, and got his show yanked from TV. Now he's back with a new TV show and he's getting himself in deep by disparaging evangelical Christians, and the conservative Christians are romping all over him.
OK, he said something real bad about Christians in general, and it was TOTALLY inappropriate. Christians do NOT all have neurological disorders. Bad talk-show man! BAD! No talk-show man cookie!
As if that isn't distracting enough, Chris Rock gets picked to host the Oscars and he lets fly that he thinks no straight black man would ever watch the Oscars and that, in general, awards for art are f-ing idiotic. You might think that would mostly offend gays, but actually right-wing conservatives are doing most of the complaining, with the same ones calling for his dismissal from the Oscars as are calling for Bill Maher's new show to be cancelled.
Just as I'm hearing about all this and I'm reassuring myself that everything is all right, we still have First Amendment protection of freedom of speech in this country, I find out that the House of Representatives passes a so-called Broadcast Decency Act which will give federal regulators power to levy massive fines against broadcasters for airing material they deem indecent.
Remember when conservatives used to oppose regulation of markets?
There I go again, digressing. Which as I see it is the continuing problem, and what's wrong with the whole picture.
Instead of having a serious national discussion about what Ward Churchill said, we are immersed in a war of words over whether he should be allowed to keep his job, having said that much. We are all forced to join the fight to keep the debate open rather than debating. Things like the Broadcast Decency Act only serve to prove that we are right to be concerned. Today they would fine CBS for an exposed breast; tomorrow it will be for a quote from Chris Rock (or even Alfred Kinsey); the next day it will be for "unpatriotic" speech.
All of which keeps all of us from talking about the extent to which Ward Churchill was right, and in all the confusion no one notes what the corporations that built the World Trade Towers do to the rest of the world in our names.