ARGUMENTATION AND ADVOCACY 42 (Spring 2006): 190-205

DISINGENUOUS CONTROVERSY: RESPONSES TO WARD CHURCHILL'S 9/11 ESSAY
by John Fritch, Catherine Helen Palczewski, Jennifer Farrell, and Eric Short
The response to Ward Churchill's essay, " 'Some People Push Back': On the Justice of Roosting Chickens," is used to explore disingenuous controversy, that is, controversy that closes off, rather than expands, argumentative space. An interesting mix of public argument about U.S. foreign policy, the national grieving process, and negotiation over collective memory positioned Churchill's essay as a location through which to assert disciplinary power over what is (not) considered an acceptable statement about 9/11. The time was ripe for pseudocontroversy as a means of stifling genuine controversy. K e y words: controversy, disingenuous con-

troversy. Ward Churchill, 9/11, collective memory, ripeness

At the end of January 2005, controversy' erupted concerning an online essay that University of Colorado Ethnic Studies Professor, Ward Churchill, authored on September 11, 2001, entided " 'Some People Push Back': On the Justice of Roosting Chickens." In this essay, Churchill argues that U.S. foreign policy created the conditions of resentment that made the 9/11 attacks a reasonable response to U.S. imperial policy. Given a history of intervention into other countries, including the 1991 bombing of Iraq's infrastructure, and U.S.-imposed sanctions (which he labeled a genocide), Churchill (2001) muses that the attackers' response was proportional. Their four assaults with explosives represented "about 1% of the 50,000 bombs the Pentagon announced were rained on Baghdad alone during the [first] Gulf War" ("On Matters of Proportion and Intent" section, H 1). The attacks, according to Churchill, simply gave Americans "a tiny dose of their own medicine" ("On Matters of Proportion and Intent" section, ^ 3). Although his essay contained numerous arguments, the segment that triggered intense reaction appears about one third of the way through, in which Churchill questions the claim that the attackers targeted "innocent civilians." Churchill argues that, according to U.S. targeting strategy, the World Trade Center was not a civilian target but, instead, was filled with people who "formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire-the 'mighty engine of profit' to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved" ("They did not license themselves to 'target innocent civilians'" section, ^1). Churchill labels those who were killed on 9/11 "little Eichmanns inhabiting the
John Fritch and Catherine Helen PalcKfwski, Department of Communication Studies, University of Northern Iowa Jennifer Farrell, New Student Programs, Iowa State University; Eric Short, Department of Communication Studies and Theatre Art

Concordia College (Minnesota). The essay was presented in an eariier form at the U * Biennial Conference on' ArgumentaUon, Alta, Utah, August, 2005, and at the NaUonal CommunicaUon AssociaUon conference, San Antonio, Texas, November, 2006, where it received "Top Paper" honors from the ArgumentaUon and Forensics Division. The authors would like to thank Randall Lake and the reviewers for their helpful criUcisms. Correspondence concerning this arUcle should be addressed to John Fritch, Department of CommunicaUon Studies, Universitv of Northern Iowa Cedar Falls, Iowa .50614-0139. E-mail: john.fritch@uni.edu 'IniUally, we use controversy only to reHect media labeling of the issue (Curtin, Pankratz, & Kane, 2005- Ensslin 2005; Flynn, 2005; Goodman, 2005; Kane, 2005; Merritt & Pankratz, 2005; O'Reilly, 2005b, 2005d 2005e- Oriando Direct AcUon, n.d.; Smallwood, 2005; Tankersley, 2005; Worthington, 2005; and York, 2005). We recognize that the literature disUnguishes among types of controversy. Ono & Sloop (l999) disUnguish between "commensurable" (where two or more posiUons disagree on the outcome of a shared quesUon") and "incommensurable" controversies (where "the legiUmacy of the logics and insUtuUons employed are at base being undermined") (p. 529). Boyd (2002) disUnguishes between science-based, regulatory, and social controversy. Phillips (1999) differenUates rhetorical from discursive controversy.

2005h. the response was minimal (e. 2005d. this review also found that allegations of research misconduct warranted further investigation. including his speech. 2005). On March 4. abusive. 2005g. On February 24. 2005). The Chancellor's preliminary investigation concluded that. 2006). more than 40 months after the essay was published. On Friday." his First Amendment rights protected him from university censure {Report. 2005i. although none did. When this essay appeared online on September 12. national and international news coverage. The Daily Show devoted a segment to Churchill (Karlin & Stewart. during which O'Reilly {2005g) discouraged him from engaging Churchill in dialogue. bloggers learned that Churchill would appear on a panel entitled "Limits of Dissent?" on February 3 at Hamilton College.^ Media coverage did not end. . January 28. Little or no discussion followed this lone incident. Hamilton College PresidentJ. this review was extended to examine charges of research misconduct. Later. caused by the resignations of two members in November 2005. Real Time with Bill Maher featured Churchill and Michael Faughnan. an investigative panel then was named by the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct After some delay. 2005). provide any grounds for dismissal for cause. although "Professor Churchill has outraged the Colorado and national communities as a result of profoundly offensive. the Rocky Mountain News (Ensslin. ^ 11). Stewart (2005) canceled the panel. Stories appeared in The Denver Post (Harsanyi. 2005c. 2005j). The New York Times (York. citing "[c]redible threats of violence" as the reason. On February 4. Two days later. and continued on The O'Reilly Factor (O'Reilly.. 2005. Bill O'Reilly devoted ten segments to Churchill between January 28 and March 3. rather than be associated with Churchill. and misguided statements relating to the victims of the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks on America. CNN's Paula Zahn Now interviewed Churchill and Hamilton President Stewart (Nelson.191 ARGUMENTATION AND ADVOCACY FRITCH ET AL sterile sanctuary of the twin towers" ("They did not license themselves to 'target innocent civilians'" section. 2005a). His "Roosting Chickens" essay was (re)discovered and became the focus of nationwide attention. Summary of the Chancellor's review and decisions. as part of protests against the bombing of Afghanistan. Crey. Merritt & Pankratz. 2005. 1] 1). particularly because the "Roosting Chickens" controversy helped sparked an external review of UC-Boulder's tenure process (Fogg. Between February 2 and February 20. 2005f. Gurvitz. The controversy expanded with additional regional.g. his final March 3 "Talking Points Memo" declaring: "Professor Ward Churchill is a traitor" (2005j). 2005). a liberal arts college in central New York State. the panel found that Churchill had committed academic misconduct and the university's interim chancellor initiated procedures to fire Churchill. 2005. on January 26. at rallies in Burlington and the University of Vermont. & Griffiths. more than 25 editorials appeared in newspapers across the country (Hamilton College. 2005b. 2005). Carter. 2005e. Many protest organizers indicated that they wanted to revoke his invitation to speak. and Churchill continued to lecture around the country. the Colorado Board of Regents convened in special session and ordered a 30-day University of Colorado-Boulder internal review to determine whether "Professor Churchill's conduct. Hemingway. one group withdrew its sponsorship of a rally. 2005).^ whose brother had died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and who wrote an open letter (Faughnan. it is an interesting window into the closely related topic of the ways that universities cope with controversy. Then. Nonetheless. On February 1. when a reporter discovered the essay. ^Faughnan also appeared on Vie O'Reilly Factor. H 1). the top story on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor iocused on Churchill's essay and his scheduled appearance at Hamilton (O'Reilly. however. Churchill was scheduled to speak in late November 2001. 2001). 2005). 2005. 2005) to Churchill responding to the "Roosting Chickens" essay (Maher. However." assuming such a dismissal would not infringe on his First Amendment rights (DiStefano. Even South Park joined the fray with '^The academic investigation of Churchill is not our primary focus. Per established procedures. H.

in the response to Churchill's essay. Given that Churchill's essay appeared the day after 9/11. then. Exploring the origin of the controversy over Churchill's essay enables an inquiry into the conditions and timing of an emergent controversy. controversy becomes a necessary means of creating the conditions for argument to proceed. THE DARK SIDE OF CONTROVERSY Within argumentation studies. Johnson. Willard. Even as this article goes to press. as well as the meaning of consumption in a late . we argue that the time was ripe for disingenuous controversy. In fact. 5). instead.192 DISINGENUOUS CONTROVERSY SPRING 2006 references to the Eichmann comment (Parker & Stone. Thomas Goodnight (1991) celebrated controversy because it "pushes the limits of the available means of communication [and] becomes generative of new. Specifically. yet Churchill received the most vociferous reaction. changing in response to shifting beliefs. In Goodnight's conception. However. the national grieving process. declaring "South Park Bitch Slaps Ward Churchill" (Shackelford. and negotiation over collective memory defined Churchill's essay as a location through which to assert disciplinary power over what is (not) considered an acceptable statement about 9/11. 2). 2001. 2002).S. Roy. foreign policy. Regardless. 2004. how the controversy emerged. it now is widely accepted that consensus is not necessarily the only desirable outcome of disagreement (Olson & Goodnight. reevaluation. Zizek. an appearance of controversy that stifled genuine controversy. has value. We posit that an interesting mix of public argument about U. which some viewers praised. Dissensus.. In his Alta Argumentation Conference keynote. often is a sign of a public capable of evolution. it is important to understand the origin of the batdes. Controversy. Working with Goodnight. unorthodox communication strategies and subversive of established ones" as it "expands cultural. Analysis of Churchill's argument. is not a sign of a sick society or a demos incapable of action but. we are interested in why the controversy erupted at the time that it did. West. instead. Although ongoing batUes over Churchill's scholarship were triggered by the controversy over his 9/11 essay. 2005. a controversy that pushes and pulls at the boundaries of the public and private. allows us to explore both the conditions that contribute to the ripeness of a controversy and the possibility of disingenuous controversy that closes off. 2005). 2005). 1996). as much as consensus. we explore the timing and intensity of the reaction to Churchill and his essay. when belief systems are so calcified that critical engagement seems unlikely. G. rather than expands. Kathryn Olson later would expand this theory through an analysis of the fur controversy in the United States. and conditions. "controversy is a site where the taken-for-granted relationships between communication and reasoning are open to change. historical. Analogizing from legal and agricultural conceptions of ripeness. and development by argumentative engagement" (p. argumentative space.g. Chomsky. and how it proceeded. and intellectual arguments" (p. why did the controversy emerge more than three years later? What suddenly made Churchill's essay a focal point at that particular time? Several commentators had made similar arguments (e. norms. After reviewing controversy theory. the internal mechanics of university review processes is beyond the scope of this essay. 1994. 2004. 1996. fallout from the controversy continues. social. because the controversy during this time focused on Churchill's 9/11 essay. Our interest here is not primarily in what Churchill wrote but. we focus on the two months from January 26 to March 26.

ChurchiU's oppositional argument occurs almost exclusively in the discursive realm. or overthrow a system of human domination" (pp. those critical of his discursive claim have focused attention on the nondiscursive claim that he enacts. Is the presence of an oppositional consciousness necessary for the development and deployment of oppositional argument? In any case. 1994.193 ARGUMENTATION AND ADVOCACY FRITCH ET AL capitalist society. 250). habitually ignored. 2002). as appears to be the case with Churchill. The nondiscursive can be collapsed almost completely into the performative element of the discursive.* Central to their analysis is a consideration of the way oppositional argument functions in both its discursive and nondiscursive forms. This is especially the case because even •"The relationship between oppositional argument and oppositional consciousness. A complete understanding of the dynamics of controversy requires attention both to controversy's genuine abihty to expand discursive space and to its artificial deployment so as to divert attention from the claims advanced. in the form of an online essay (perhaps the most disembodied form of discourse available). it also is important to note that oppositional argument always already entwines both discursive and nondiscursive forms and. 252). hence. poses provocative questions. Claims are refuted and norms of participation disputed through discursive argument. . 4-5). They focus not on his (discursive) arguments but on (nondiscursive) him. 83). p. functions (Palczewski. Oppositional arguments work outside and against traditional practices of influence" (p. Olson and Goodnight's clean distinctions may obscure the ways in which discursive and nondiscursive arguments may intersect and stoke false controversy. or routinely disconnected from public appearance" (Olson & Goodnight. 2002). dissenters from Churchill's claims object by dissenting from Churchill. reform. Although enactment often is used for productive ends (Palczewski. 250). We would caution against Olson and Goodnight's formulation of the discursive and nondiscursive as possessing two distinct functions. The purpose of oppositional argument is not necessarily to persuade (or find bases of identification) but to render evident and sustain challenges to "communication practices that delimit the proper expression of opinion and constrain the legitimate formation of judgment within personal and public spheres" (p. Randall Lake (1990) notes that personae in argument invite assent at both the discursive and nondiscursive levels because "arguments seek assent not only to the claim stated but also to the claim enacted" (p. Attention to this intersection is important because those seeking to expand the productive limits of argument are not the only ones who may call on the nondiscursive's intersection with the discursive. when assessing forms and functions. which Mansbridge (2001) defines as "an empowering mental state that prepares members of an oppressed group to act to undermine. Mansbridge's warning about the possible excesses of oppositional consciousness are important because such excesses may be replicated in oppositional argument: "Oppositional consciousness is not always good for the subordinate group" because it may exaggerate one's difference from the dominant group. 252). Given that they recognize the performative role of the discursive argumentative objection. 16). However. The move to close off these discursive challenges often channels communication into nondiscursive argument that can "usher into the public realm aspects of life that are hidden away. where the arguer becomes as much an issue as the argument. nondiscursive arguments can "redefine and realign the boundaries of private and public space" (p. in this case it seems to be used to close off consideration of the claim advanced. When deployed by those who seek to engender controversy. Olson and Goodnight (1994) contend: "Social controversy challenges the parameters of public discussion by extending argumentative engagements to the less consensually-based cultural and social regions of oppositional argument. and lead to essentialism (p. generate resistance to considering information outside of one's ideological framework. Thus. Flipping Lake's terms.

Ono and Sloop (1999) correctly note. Instead of air time being devoted to genuine controversies. We can find no evidence that D'Souza ever was criticized while ABC decided not to renew Maher's contract. 2001. 513). not disoriented. still was anathema. "controversy cannot be valorized as resistance leading to change causing reform" because "controversy can be contrived in the interest of indefinite repetition of activities bulwarking the clandestine growth of private power" (p. 1991. Churchill's 19-page essay attempts to explain the actions of the hijackers. The responses ignore Churchill's explanation for 9/11 and concentrate instead on his phrase. "public discourse is not always everything it claims to be. condemns American complacency about this policy's "Churchill's case was not unique: Two other tasty media confections were served up as poison apples to those who would challenge the Bush administration's construal of the 9/11 attacks. which could be opposed to false controversy. antagonistic articulations. Phillips believes. new subject positions arise. 11). REACTIONS TO CHURCHILL'S 9/11 ESSAY Writing in response to 9/11. the essay outlines the effects of U. As he notes wryly. (p. The Churchill controversy demonstrates that not all controversies function similarly. 520). making controversy less about the claims advanced than the personalities and tastes displayed. Monitor (or Patriot. "little Eichmanns." The controversy became: Should Churchill have said what he said in the way he said it? Like other instances in which the parameters of public discussion are reinforced rather than redrawn. These antagonisms reveal the limitations of existing formations of discourse and create a space where alternative discursive and material systems may be proposed. . 7). for the purpose ot making an entirely different point. only Maher was condemned (see Kim. p. mass media tend to focus on those tasty (though neither healthy nor filling) confections that are consumed more mindlessly. Kendall Phillips (1999) describes controversies as moments where nodal points of fixed meaning are destabilized by alternative.' this case demonstrates that disingenuous controversy can be deployed to close off oppositional arguments. For example. Although Churchill's essay could be read as testing taken-for-granted relationships between communication and reasoning. responses to the essay fomented a controversy wherein dominant systems of discourse were reoriented. . and Maher agreed Yet.194 DISINGENUOUS CONTROVERSY SPRING 2006 Goodnight's critics take controversy to be an unconditionally positive occurrence. leading Goodnight (1999) to criticize Phillips for assuming that all controversies "function in a similar manner" (p. Perhaps for this reason. 7). "Publics that may sometimes function as counter-publics rarely get adequate air time to be understood or evaluated" (p. five months after 9/11. p. We agree with Goodnight: Not all controversies are alike. Structured in a problem/cause/solution format. The first was an exchange involving conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza on September 17. As Goodnight (1999) argues. reports differ) and his editor were fired after the newspaper published Marland's cartoon of the President flying an airplane labeled "Bush budget" into tvrin towers marked "Social" and "Security " So sacred was the iconic image of the burning towers in public memory that Marland's appropriation.S. on Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher D'Souza opmed that those who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center could not be called cowards. 494) Out of these moments of disorientation. 536). Second. policy in the Muslim world.. 2002." in part because "any of the controversies that now receive critical [and media] attention are those served up by the contemporary mass-media's version of 'publicity'" (Goodnight. p. Goodnight strives to theorize "genuine controversy" (p. Mike Marland of the Concord New Hampshire. 1991. 520). which he previously described as "the confections of mass media" (Goodnight. . [CJontroversial articulations serve to dislocate or disorient dominant systems of discourse.

2005. or elegant critique of U. foreign policy. H 13). Churchill posits that U.Jeffs. He concludes by proposing an alternative. actions a "dehberate genocide" (Introduction section. foreign policy and repositioning the United States at the center of analysis. \\ 4). He also argues that American civilian casualties were no greater than those resulting from the sanctions imposed on Iraq and the collateral casualties of the first Iraq war. however.N. it also contains many arguments that invite dispute. This does not mean. Churchill commits this error. Such a gesture matches the media overkill to "mourn" the dead with every possible sentimentality and thus attempt to contain the sublimity of Ground Zero. nor were they insane. 2005. is undoubtedly worthy. 2005.S. including a new round of conflict in Iraq and limitations on U. Even so. comparing the U. his essay contains some well-reasoned arguments and some of his predictions have come to pass. After describing the extent of the devastation experienced by the Iraqi people. Churchill next examines the hijackers' actions. Churchill turns to the American public's reaction to that devastation. More importantly.S. foreign policy. unique. imperial policy to both the United States and the Muslim world.195 ARGUMENTATION AND ADVOCACY ' FRITCH ET AL devastating effects. Given the costs of U.S.S. a "humanitarian strategy" based on the conviction that. For over three years. (p. cannot be condoned as a legitimate result of bad US policy abroad.S. the essay went unnoticed. legitimating the attack as the reasonable outcome of U.N. suddenly. Churchill outlines two possible responses to the events of 9/11: continuing the status quo or change. and calls for a changed U. sanctions. 2006. Parts of Churchill's essay are simply inflammatory.S. 2005. once the U.S. policies will be more of the same. she elaborates: This act of global confrontation . Churchill asserts that the hijackers were neither cowards nor Islamic fundamentahsts. stops killing Iraqi children. . the only part of the 5. military actions and U. losses on September 11 were far from proportional to the U.-caused devastation in Iraq. even though U. the essay warrants attention because of the reaction it provoked.S. coming out promptly in response to every crisis . Reflecting on 9/11. Churchill quotes former U. Why the Intense Reaction? Throughout the media coverage of. the controversy. argues that the hijackers' actions were reasonable given this policy. . Gayatri Spivak (2004) argues that "statements describing US policy. actions in Iraq to the actions of Nazi Germany during World War IL Churchill claims that the hijackers' actions can be understood as a reaction to the despair caused by U. 87). as in the usual US-centered political analyses. Fogg.S. Then. Even those who protested the war went no further than "waving signs" ("The Politics of a Perpetrator Population" section. Harsanyi. and participation in. claiming that they did not "initiate" the war but were retaliating for U. often requiring personal courage. that its arguments present a trenchant. In an eerily prescient prediction. a firestorm of criticism erupted. ^ 2).. The essay begins by exploring the effects on the people of Iraq of the first Gulf War and the sanctions that followed. . aggression in Iraq ("Meet the 'Terrorists'" section. Kane. He contends that the American people were largely silent about the loss of Iraqi hves. retaliation will cease. Gurwitz. but it is not a response" (p. citizens' rights. .657-word essay that was direcdy quoted or referenced (repeatedly) was Churchifl's two-word labeling of those working in the World Trade Centers as "litde Eichmanns" (Ensslin.S.S. Nonetheless. 95) In many ways.S. officials who declared U.S. Hanson. 2005.

Maher. Even though Eichmann was the chief logistical officer of Nazi Germany and never personally murdered anyone. ^ 1). but because commentators construed it as representative. were accorded such little attention. 2005). Churchill explained that the "litde Eichmanns" comment was grounded in Hannah Arendt's (1963/1994) thesis on the banality of evil. My brother was not anything that would even remotely resemble evil" (as quoted in Maher et al. & Kane. Only twice did the media even report this explanation (Maher et al. p. Controversy formed around an inflammatory insult rather than around Churchill's perfectly serious argument. This exchange illustrates how Eichmann is remembered as an active. 2005). Commentators constandy challenged Churchill to justify the phrase. even ignored Churchill's use of the adjective little. critics alleged. 2005h. Preoccupation with the phrase helps explain why Churchill's genuine arguments. 2005) and "a Nazi war criminal" (Pimentel..196 DISINGENUOUS CONTROVERSY SPRING 2006 2005. Tankersley. 2001. direct participant in the murderous genocide of the Holocaust. his widely televised trial brought the evils of the Holocaust to the world's attention. Bill Maher invited both Churchill and Michael Faughnan onto his March 4th show. This slippage between Eichmann-the-bureaucrat-of-the-Holocaust and Eichmann-the-Holocaust . and fixed him in collective memory as a war criminal in a way that the Nuremburg defendants were not (Felman. Morson. explaining that he was referring to Arendt's analysis of the banality of Eichmann's evil. construing Churchill as saying that "the victims of 9/11 deserved what they got because they were like Nazis. but Nazi exterminators" (^ 2). into their cell phones" ("They did not license themselves to 'target innocent civilians'" section. Merritt & Pankratz. either. And not just litde Nazis. incessantly and self-importantly. 2005. foreign policy because they were "too busy braying. Barry Farber (2005). O'Reilly. 2005. stories reported that Churchill likened those in the Twin Towers to a "notorious Nazi" (Elliott. We do not dispute diat the "little Eichmanns" phrase is incendiary. York. This comparison. meant that Churchill was "demonizing the victims of Sept. in turn. in which Churchill had condemned the technocracy's refusal to see the evil of U. In defense. but to the controversy. Pankratz. Churchill responded to Maher. When not quoting direcdy. and that Eichmann never hit anyone over the head with a shovel. Talk show host and NewsMax. imperialism or the seemingly rational responses of the hijackers. We focus on the responses to this phrase not because the phrase conveys a serious argument that represents the whole of Churchill's essay. at worst were simply oblivious to the killing. 2005). Maher remembered Eichmann as the murderer who actively kills by wielding the weapon. in contrast. to make a similar point. 2005). 2001). 2005). Worthington. 205).S. 2005. York. Faughnan contested Churchill's comparison: "Eichmann was an evil man.. The dynamics of these instances are instructive: They reveal that the intense reaction to Churchill's comparison is grounded in a collective memory of Adolf Eichmann that forgets Eichmann's actual role in the Holocaust.com contributor. 2005. about U. Contrasting one who hits another over the head with a shovel with one who is oblivious to the act because s/he is on a cell phone. Post-hoc justifications. His trial transformed him into the quintessential Nazi-no disconnected technocrat. 2005. Forgotten was the person who enables or facilitates atrocities executed by others. 11" (Curtin. not the substance of his argument. those in the World Trade Center. an evildoer.S. Attention to the phrase's many interpretations becomes important because its meaning and significance became central not to the essay. picked up on another part of the essay. but the most heinous perpetrator of violence-as it transformed the most detached of crimes into "the highest-and not just the newest-crime against humanity" (Eelman.

. In turn. which in turn came to stand for opposition per se.197 ARGUMENTATION AND ADVOCACY FRITCH ET AL underlay the outrage at Churchill's comparison. oppositional understandings of 9/11.. . 2005). This slippage. . foreign policy at the same time that it inoculated the public against other possible. He's an American hater" (O'Reilly. Others charged that he had plagiarized and misrepresented other scholars (O'Reilly. and a letter-to-the-editor labeled him "a sick puppy in dire need of a distemper shot" (Storatz. Interestingly. a critic who thought that Churchifl had called the 9/11 victims "exterminators" concluded that "insect powder" was the appropriate response (Farber. it was often suggested. O'Reilly called him "vile" (2005h). widespread contempt for freedom" (Harsanyi. enabling us to consider when. Churchill (2005) himself noted "the diversion. 2005. and under what conditions. . 2005g). Not only did Churchill-the-man become the argument. In fact. contaminat[ed] young students' minds" (Jeffs. treacherous savage used against indigenous peoples throughout American history. instead attacking his character. even as commentators questioned Churchifl's Indian-ness. instead.). . even by the lax standards of his field" (Gurwitz. Churchifl was: a less-than-human animal (in need of a shot). all criticism of the dominant understanding of 9/11 was reduced metonymically to Churchill's essay. alternative interpretations are permitted. Colorado: "Kill and scalp all. 2005i). 2005b). because his was the only oppositional understanding to be pubhcized widely. The meaning oi Churchifl's words was not considered.. Pataki cafled him a "bigoted terrorist supporter" (quoted in Elliott.. 2005) and "his treasonous hate speech [had] . Churchill's personality was targeted (Curtin et al. and dirty (polluting students' minds). Preoccupied with the Eichmann analogy. Massacre at Sand Creek. one described his scholarship as "meager. Controvert as diversion. 2005). to one phrase out of one sentence out of one twenty page essay . and a basic lack of understanding of fair play and human under- . Respondents shifted their refutation from the discursive to the nondiscursive. . they happily deployed the stereotype of the dirty. that one litde phrase" (n. 2005). should be removed from his university position because he had "polluted" (John Gibson on O'Reifly. 2005). critics overlooked Churchill's critique of U. 2005h). "hurtiul language" (Faughnan on O'Reifly. however. nits make lice" [People & events. "terribly insensitive" (Pat Hayes as quoted in Ensslin. Such a reaction eerily recafls Colonel John Chivington's infamous order to commence the 1864 massacre at Sand Creek. the animal. was their emotional effect "cruel" (O'Reilly. Kane. Churchill's interpretation of 9/11 differs radically from that of the administration. 2005b).. 2005).S. 2005). O'Reilly repeatedly called Churchifl a "radical" (2005c. and the thiefbecame the argument to which one would assent. Critics' interpretation of the Eichmann comparison diverted attention from ChurchiU's criticisms of U.S. Because the phrase came to stand for the essay as a whole. or not. Some suggested that Churchill had a violent streak (Curtin et al. they argued that Churchill's argument should be rejected because Churchill should be rejected. Eventually. but even his discursive claims were reduced to their emotional import. and others called him an "America-hating activist [with a] . also is precisely the basis upon which Churchifl defended his comparison.p. Outrage against the Eichmann analogy was deployed as a way to marginalize Churchifl. 2005d) the minds of "impressionable students" (Harsanyi. it became possible to condemn all oppositional understandings by condemning the phrase. who was "so over the top and so hateful. Churchfll-the insect. a liar. violent. a thief (of others' scholarship). showing "a total lack of sensitivity and decency. H 24). 2005). 2003. H 1). 2005). Virtually no discussion of his essay's central ideas occurred. functionally. the liar. 2005. big and litde. What mattered. Churchill. policy and his attempt to understand the hijackers. 2005f.

H 8). policy. we examine this move to the sacred in the memorialization of 9/11. indicating ripeness. Faughnan argued. By misdirecting attention to the arguer instead of the argument. HI). Bond (1983). but reactions to it did not encourage genuine discussion of U. which change the color of a fruit over time. because ambient ethylene also enables fruit to spoil. Churchill "disgracefully use[d] the victims of 9/11 to advance your own cause" (H 9). saying the right words at the right time. Faughnan observed that coverage had "moved away from the message you are trying to convey. Summary of the Chancellor's review and decisions. or rotten. In fact. metaphorically (in law) and literally (in agriculture). Even tbe Cbancellor of the University of Colorado described the essay as "profoundly offensive. Each of these factors possesses a temporal dimension.198 DISINGENUOUS CONTROVERSY SPRING 2006 standing" (Smith. Why Now? Timing played a crucial role in the controversy over Churchill's 9/11 essay. 2005). 2005. We extend this concept to the ripeness of controversy. and the extended passage of time creates conditions under which fruit rots. influence its ripeness.S. Our discipline and its Sophistic tradition highlight the importance of kairos. your scholarship and your right to speak" (H 10). a disingenuous controversy was stoked. and the hardship of delay is certain. ripe. Ripeness is a critical determinant of the appropriate time to act (for example. 2005h). 1967. and misguided" (Report. 2006). your integrity. In this case. abusive. Gardner. 149). Produce ripens through exposure to ethylene and ambient ethylene. Ripeness requires that the individual has standing to sue. Ripeness as a condition of time has been explored in other fields. Even comparatively measured responses focused primarily on Churchill and only secondarily on his message. The merits of the essay's arguments were never engaged. combined with the passage of time. assessments of ripeness require the evaluation of "both the fitness of the issues for judicial decision and the hardship to the parties of withholding court consideration" {Abbott Laboratories v. 614). just as some issues do not have legal standing and some unripe plants are inedible. Interestingly. Thus. Nonetheless. not everything rises to a level that . overly ripe. In law. take responsibility and work to understand and change the wrongs tbat have been committed" (Faugbnan. 2005. the Court explains: "Ripeness does not exist when the question rests solely on a probability that an event will occur" (p. it sometimes is called the "death hormone" (Webb. whose insight into the controversy was unusually nuanced. Similarly. he acknowledged that Cburcbill's essay possessed a nobler purpose: "the desire to tell the American people that we must be aware of ourselves in the world. damage has occurred. we are interested in the conditions that make the time ripe for the wrong words to gamer attention. Churchill's description of those who died on 9/11 as technocrats dehumanized them by reducing them to "mere symbols" (H 3). Faughnan. In an open letter. to attacks on your pedigree. particularly because ripeness draws attention to the interaction of multiple factors that are affected by time. Elements external to the fruit. agricultural ripeness is affected by time. to hear a case or pick a fruit). Produce can be unripe. In Buechner v. understood more clearly than most that Churchill had provoked such vehement reactions because "he has stepped on sacred ground with us" (on O'Reilly. Tbe veracity of Churchill's essay may be open to question. Michael Faugbnan alone seemed willing to engage Churchill on the merits. p. Ripeness is relevant to social controversy in many ways. First. Next.

I don't understand why the school would want to give him that" (quoted in Nelson. conservative agents sought to shift attention from Iraq by framing criticism as unpatriotic. Shordy after the Hamilton College story broke in Syracuse's Post Standard. Linking Iraq to the war on terrorism and. conservatives attacked Churchill as a way of encouraging support for Bush and the war in Iraq. In order to stifle such discussion. more than 500 comments critical of Churchill had been posted on litdegreenfootballs. As was illustrated during the 2004 presidential election. 2005). over-ripen) the controversy? Ripening factors. the emergence of blogging provided a ripening agency (see RodzviUa. Joseph. by Inauguration Day. controversies may emerge not when they are ripe. Not until two days later. blogs increasingly serve as the lower courts to the national news media's high courts: "Blogs appear to play an increasingly important role as a forum of public debate. hence. (2) the increasing role of blogs. and only following extensive postings on two conservative weblogs (litdegreenfootballs. to the events of 9/11. Bloggers' increasing role as agenda setters clearly inUuenced the Churchill controversy. 4). 2005). Hamilton College provided a ripe scene (Smallwood. (3) declining support for the Iraq War. As 2004 drew to a close. p. As Coppo concluded.com) did the national media pay any attention. 2001-2004) and Bush declared that he would use his political capital. his approval ratings jumped to 53% (Roper. a series of events raised questions about the President's policy in Iraq. and (5) the grief cycle and its relation to collective memory. What conditions changed during this period to ripen (or. died in the 9/11 attacksturned ChurchiU's prospective oppositional speech into yet another devastating attack on innocent victims. when bloggers first probed the problematic CBS-Dan Rather memo. Coppo agitated to have ChurchiU's invitation revoked: "For him to stand up and preach that all the September 11 victims deserved it and then to reference them to Nazis. conservatives renewed efforts to frame the war in Iraq as a part of the larger war on terrorism. conservative . constructed ChurchiU's opinion of 9/11 as typical of opposition to the war in Iraq. however. Second. These factors coalesced to create conditions under which a formerly unnoticed essay suddenly was thrust into the spotlight. ChurchiU had attempted to place the 9/11 attacks within a broader discussion of U. The college president and Churchill received death direats (Nelson. with knock-on consequences for the media and for politics" (Drezner & Farrell. 2001). just as there are times after which a case or fruit is no longer ripe. First. 58% of the public disapproved of Bush's handling of the war ("Inauguration. Because he dared compare 9/11 victims to Nazis. Several factors contributed to the Churchill controversy's apparent ripeness: (1) the location of ChurchiU's speaking engagement. blogs erupted. just as external factors influence a case's or fruit's ripeness." 2005). Its New York location and students-particularly Matthew Coppo. Churchill became the epitome of anti-American opposition to Bush. (4) broader scrutiny of the University of ColoradoBoulder. 2005). 2005). but when they are rotten. Controversy over ChurchiU's essay did not emerge for more than three years. Second. conservative commentators charged that critics of the Bush administration were un-American. the ripeness of a controversy is contingent on surrounding conditions. 2004. possibly. within just a few hours. Immediately after his re-election.S. Second. Third. Churchill's essay provided a foil. "It's a little remembrance thing" (quoted in Nelson.199 ARGUMENTATION AND ADVOCACY FRITCH ET AL warrants public attention.com alone (Smallwood. 2005). As Bush's approval ratings slipped. The campus furor attracted the national media. foreign policy.com and Freerepublic. Third. First. Commentators relied on two primary strategies to bolster sagging support for the President. whose father.

Whether public memory accurately remembers the past is less important than whether it is useful in the present (Gray & Oliver. This characteristic explains why critics did not attack Churchill's version of past U. is less certain. Ripeness in public discourse is more difficult to gauge than legal or agricultural ripeness. and agency converged to produce a situation so overly ripe that it was "rotten with perfection" (Burke. comments comparing some Sept. offensive . After a period of mourning. . Instead.S. most agree that one stage fixes the deceased in survivors' memories (Dunne. Barry Schwartz (1982) notes: "Recollection of the past is an active. 2005). 68) Although prediction may not be possible. To remember is to place a part of the past in the service of conceptions and needs of the present" (p. and perhaps most interestingly. Place. effective traitors pstss on highly accurate information. A controversy's ripeness. indeed. especially when the controversy concerns remembrance. Finally. Calling him a traitor doesn't challenge his veracity. the 9/11 grief cycle enabled apparent ripeness to develop. more precisely. 1997) remembrances of 9/11. 2004). . . Its football team was investigated for mistreatment of a female player and for plying recruits with sex and alcohol.. 2001).200 DISINGENUOUS CONTROVERSY SPRING 2006 commentators equated 9/11 and terrorism with the war in Iraq while simultaneously painting dissent as unpatriotic. The time was ripe to judge the acceptability of out-law (Sloop & Ono. 374). p. we only know this after the fact. became further evidence of his (and academe's) failings. and is (re)made continually to fit the needs of the public it serves. Although the stages of grief follow no set timeline. Fourth. not a simple matter of retrieving information. Churchill's essay became controversial because it challenged efforts to protect a sacred public memory. instead. 16). The apparent vulnerability of the university's embattled president encouraged even louder calls for an investigation of Churchill. in which a liberal professor could make "moronic. the grieving nation moved collectively to remember the victims of 9/11. Churchill was seen as further evidence of a university run amok (O'Reilly. 2005i). attacked the man as a traitor. . p. the University of Colorado faced intense scrutiny even prior to the Churchill controversy. . Controversies arise for many reasons. a school tainted by scandal. To say that memory disputes happen when something hits a sensitive public nerve may be part of the explanation. constructive process. time. agents. 11 victims to Nazis" (Cohen. Churchill's position as a professor at the University of Colorado. The controversy surrounding Churchill became ripe only as numerous factors coalesced at a unique juncture." Americans had arrived at the point in the grief cycle when it was appropriate to settle the way in which the deceased would be remembered. 1966. most of the time. Legal rules determine when a case is ripe and one can predict when a fruit will be ripe. The nature of public memory may explain how controversy can silence dissent and entrench dominant perspectives rather than "dislocate or disorient dominant systems of discourse" (Phillips. in contrast. (p. retrospective understanding of the reasons why they arise helps us assess whether controversies have been productive. Public memory is grounded in the present. 1999. foreign policy and. on the manner in which Churchill's comments dishonored their memories: Recall Coppo's comment that "It's a little remembrance thing. or no easy way to predict that this rather than that memory production will serve as a site for articulation of opposite views. Complicating ripeness. Many criticisms of Churchill concerned the manner in which victims should be remembered and. however. not the past. Iwona Irwin-Zarecka (1994) explains: There is no inevitability of conflict. 494).. .

216-217). Indeed. We argue only that the criticisms q/^this essay (excepting Faughnan's) generated a disingenuous controversy that foreclosed genuine controversy. Instead of challenging . p. Critics made clear: "Dissenters look like Churchill. The conditions that provoked the spurious controversy about his name-calling also guaranteed that attempts to rehabilitate his serious arguments would fail. CONCLUSION In this essay. Obsession with the very specific "little Eichmanns" comment squelched dissent just as it was beginning to surface. even in the face of uncertain outcomes. Further. They/we resist the very possibility of a (reasoned) account of the tragedy. agency. they must remain innocent to keep the attacks horrible. Understandably.201 ARGUMENTATION AND ADVOCACY FRITCH ET AL the traitor label alleges that Churchill is working (presently) against a nation in mourning. Churchill's essay became a lightning rod for efforts to suppress oppositional interpretations of 9/11 and the Iraq War. even clinging to. Disingenuous controversy does not facilitate the open exchange of ideas. Churchill was not the only one to voice oppositional arguments concerning American complacency and responsibility. That Churchill subsequently tried and failed to cloak his counterargument with Arendt's thesis is significant. the media and public turned on Churchill. Disingenuous controversies stifle dissent and re-center an orthodox form of communication. Time. we sought to distinguish disingenuous from genuine controversy by examining the reaction to Ward Churchill's 9/11 essay. and certainly not in the victims of 9/11. 1991. Critics of the essay were not attempting to foster productive argument by isolating Churchill as a polemicist. perhaps this is why we remember the Twin Towers but conveniently forget the Pentagon. rather." This case illustrates controversy's dark side. and during wartime. Controversy emerged after Churchill questioned whether the victims and the nation were innocent. he may have used the most "unorthodox communication strategies" (Goodnight. We are not arguing that Churchill's essay exemplifies genuine controversy. When the absence of clear military success in Iraq and Bush's dogged linkage of Iraq to terrorism clouded the meaning of 9/11. Victims of evil are often identified as of a 'kind' or with their nation states" as they assume a "metaphysical innocence" (pp. and whether the attacks-in relation to devastation in Iraq-were so horrific. continuity. rather than in the days immediately following 9/11 and the essay's appearance. Ruddick finds that "the moral horror of the attacks emerges more clearly in the construction of the victims. 228). calcifies beliefs and practices and stifles alternate perspectives. The victims must remain pure to keep the nation pure. a robust public memory silences opposition. Sara Ruddick (2003) has remarked: "Since September 11 the danger of mythologizing. thus. 1995. place. the horrible has been evident" (p. and agents converged to ripen the issue to the level of disingenuous controversy in the early days of 2005. and stability (Zelizer. Churchill's inability to reframe the evocative gesture of his "little Eichmanns" phrase created conditions of backlash that publicized radical views in order to contain them. Americans do not wish to see evil in themselves. His incendiary "little Eichmanns" analogy threatened the metaphysical innocence of the victims and. Ward Churchill is known more widely now than before. However. condemning the man but silencing his counterargument. 2). Evocation of a powerful public memory nullifies counterarguments that would subvert group goals of cohesion. Don't dissent. 214). the cohesion and stability of the public's memory of 9/11. but. p.

optimistically. 62). REFERENCES Abbott Laboratories v. Stephen Browne (2004) finds. Arendt's thesis about Eichmann and the banality of evil also sparked controversy. forcefully collapse the discursive and nondiscursive components of oppositional argument. (Original work published 1963) Boyd. In contrast. Regrettably. that is. foreign policy merit sustained debate. particularly in government and the mainstream press. Public and technical interdependence: Regulatory controversy.S. Although the tone and appropriateness of her book were criticized. even though its speculations about the hijackers' motivations clearly were ripe for discussion in the days and weeks immediately following 9/11. disingenuous controversy that is stoked not in order to expand the spaces of argumentative engagement. Many aspects of U. and public character. . Eventually. The Churchill controversy certainly was overripe. Although much argumentation scholarship celebrates controversy (and rightly so). serious engagement with the ideas presented in "Roosting Chickens" has yet to occur. Even now. but of a somewhat different form. debates about universities generally and the University of Colorado in particular. H. a controversy so delayed. this nascent controversy was overwhelmed by further developments that over-ripened these conditions and sparked a diversionary. His essay had lingered in obscurity on the internet for more than three years. so ripe. retreating into a politics of personal tragedy rather than civic accountability. we also should beware its dark side.S. not just her prose. disingenuous controversy. emphasis added). Overripe controversy may focus more on an argument's emotional effects than on its substance. 39. in its animation. Browne believes. that it has begun to stink. Eichmann injerusalem: A report on the banality ofeviL New York: Penguin Books. (2002). out-law discourse. Thus.S.202 DISINGENUOUS CONTROVERSY SPRING 2006 taken-for-granted relationships between communication and reasoning. public "discussion" was limited to outrage at the Eichmann comparison. 387 U. Criticism of Churchill lacks a public character. seriousness. and refuse to engage in the heavy lifting that is remembering more than we want to forget. 2007. 62. Retrieved February 13.J. that. Although his other scholarship is being examined. this tasty media confection reoriented and fixed the dominant discourse system's control over public memory. This confection may well have been rotten. we believe. policy. Clues to the presence of disingenuousness may be found in an overripe controversy. declining support for the war. The reaction to Churchill's essay teaches us that not all controversies are created equal. 136 (1967). (1994). reactions. the controversy surrounding Churchill sought to end an argument. The same ethylene that ripens produce eventually leads to rot. Those who disagreed with Arendt disagreed with her ideas. and the messy case of Olestra. but to close off disagreement and re-center dominant memories. Argumentation and Advocacy. 91-109. from Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe database. and the cycle of grief for those killed on 9/11 crystallized a disingenuous controversy over Churchill-the-traitor that refused to engage his serious arguments and silenced criticism of U. although coalescent events created conditions ripe for genuine controversy. public deliberation about 9/11's meaning has not prospered. and Churchill's essay warranted consideration within such a genuine controversy. Thus. Arendt. can be found a kind of redemption for the ideas [concerning the function of speech] professed in The Human Condition and the praxis that was Eichmann in Jerusalenf (p. Gardner (Electronic version]. Arendt "started an argument" (p. and interpretations. in this "criticism.

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