Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

The Mind in Chains


The latest efforts by folks in support of two well known university professors to either receive tenure or retain it is a little foreign to me but I’m workin’ with it. I’m from the generation that shut down universities during college strikes in the 1960’s. I can’t recall anybody chanting during demonstrations for professor so and so to get tenure. We were urging professors to drop out like everybody else and join in resisting a ludicrous war. Times change. But we’re still in a war.

What struck me about Ward Churchill’s essay that caused the stir leading to his current troubles, “The Roosting of Chickens” and the thing about little Eichmanns was that it was not that radical a piece of writing. (Something I bet he admits). It was catchy though. Telling Americans they’re like Nazis is like saying frog. They’ll jump.

When he wrote his essay I thought the analogy was already a little thread-bare. Using Germany or the “good German” as stereotypes of evil whether ultimate or banal strikes me as a little too easy. We’ve got plenty to work with by comparing ourselves to ourselves.

From the first grade on and up through the university system citizens are systemically taught not to judge for themselves. We are taught we have freedom of speech but we are trained not to think. We think we have academic freedom because we are trained to believe we are free. The ultimate goal of our educational system, the dogmatic smothering of minds is overseen by the Department of Education, state boards of regents and the university education departments. Universities are one of the most policed sectors of the State. Should a university professor happen to defy the knowledge factory he has defied the State which aggrandizes itself through the university system. That’s why so few do. It’s why we have people like Doris Kearns Goodwin, one of our foremost court historians to show us how the game is played.

Get sued for a million dollars for plagiarism and your academic cronies will protect you if you quickly produce a worshipful book about one of our most revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln. When countries all over the world were ending slavery by peaceable means Lincoln needed to kill seven hundred thousand Americans to do it. One of the most important myths coming out of the university system is sustaining the Lincoln Mythos which underpins our Democracy Mythos. Very few people educated in the U.S. school system think Lincoln was anything except a hero, our Great Emancipator. We don’t stop to examine that the slaves he emancipated were in states that already had seceded from the Union so “emancipating” them didn’t do them much good. Let alone that up until Lincoln’s presidency States had the right to secede from the Union until he took that freedom away making the states themselves enslaved to a centralized government. If we think about Lincoln other than how we are taught professors alert us that we are “state rights’ wackos” or something.

Another myth straight out of our schools is the notion that slavery existed for “ninety years” replaced by Jim Crow as if slavery wasn’t really slavery until the Constitution was ratified. Who then were those people in chains two hundred and fifty years before the Civil War? We are taught that our “founding fathers” ran America with an institutionalized system of slavery until a turn in consciousness made people realize that slavery was bad. That’s odd. Millions of people knew in the 1600’s that slavery was bad, namely the slaves. I guess it only counts if white people figure it out.

It is interesting that Ward Churchill’s essay dealt with the fact that if we have a bad foreign policy like the one after 1945 we might get it thrown back in our faces sooner or later. But our foreign policies had been resisted long before 9/11. Native Americans fought a courageous war against the whites for four hundred years. When they formally surrendered, they were thrown into concentration camps euphemistically called “reservations” where they’ve been ever since. See what I mean about comparing ourselves to ourselves? What do we need the Germans for?

We need Germany as the ultimate evil because if Germany is the ultimate evil the U.S. is less evil. That could be one of the reasons that the university system supported Steven Spielberg’s project to bring in thousands of computers as instructional tools teaching the German Holocaust to students of color. Black and Hispanic kids are taught that if they think they had it bad look at the Jews they had it worse. Two hundred and fifty years of chattel slavery undermined. The American Mythos preserved.

There is a pamphlet called “The Chickens of the Interventionist Liberals Have Come Home to Roost” by Harry Elmer Barnes. Written in 1973 it was directed against the liberals who thought nothing about smearing or destroying the lives and the reputations of the old liberal academics who wrote prescient books in the 1930’s about the policies of FDR, what the consequences of those policies might mean for us and for the world. Barnes’ screed meant to remind these people who were bitter about eventually getting McCarthyized that they once had been just as vicious against free speech when it served their purposes, war. Chickens roosting he wrote.

I admire Norman Finkelstein and Ward Churchill for writing what they did. They pissed off the wrong people. The universities are reacting as if their corns have been stepped on.

Yet the essential myths that comprise the American dream remain undisrupted.

EVA LIDDELL lives in the Pacific Norfthwest.




More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Qaddafi
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again