Thursday, February 10, 2005

Ward Churchill and KRS-One- 9-11 is no joke

When I heard about University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill's controversial comments about September 11th victims, the first thing that came to mind was KRS-One. Last fall, he participated in a New Yorker panel with Henry Rollins and Nirvana's Krist Novoselic about politics and music. Rollins talked about visiting troops in the Middle East and Novoselic was in full politico mode, saying "I can't WAIT to vote for John Kerry!" (kind of sad to think now). KRS had some interesting insights about the rap community and then claimed that some of them cheered when 9-11 happened and thought that justice had been served. He did in fact say that- I was there and I heard it. I was in disbelief. Surely, he would qualify his comments. He didn't there though. When it came to question and answer time, almost no one would call him on it, maybe afraid of attacking a respected member of the hip hop community. I was disappointed that moderator Sasha Frere-Jones didn't call him on it either.

And I was disappointed with myself for not calling KRS on it either then and there, probably for the same reasons above. He seemed to be saying that he was speaking for his community but I wondered about that. I flashed on Dr. Dre saying how he cut a check for a million dollars for the Trade Center fund. There was also the Coup who eerily released Party Music on September 11th with a cover of them destroying the towers. Needless to say, the record company changed the cover and the group disavowed that they had any solidarity with what happened that day. Their intent was not to cheer the murder of people there but the destruction of the institution that the Towers represented. Al Qaida didn't just want to destroy the institution figuratively but also literally and take 1000's of lives with them.

I wanted to believe that KRS was down with the Coup. Surely, he couldn't be down with Osama? Of course not but he didn't do himself any favors by throwing out a controversial statement and not explaining himself fully. By the time that he did explain himself in an article, he was already reviled in the press for appearing to be a terrorist sympathizer. During the panel, he also got into a spirited argument with Novoselic about the futility of voting (KRS was against voting) but obviously such a debate isn't going to interest any tabloid.

And then there was Churchill's recent comment were he likened the September 11th victims to Adolf Eichmann. Obviously, there had to be more to this than meets the eye and there is. Like KRS, he didn't explain himself well and the press had a field day flaying him for this. Think about his comparison. Of course, if he had used Stalin or Pol Pot in a comparison, he'd barely raise an eyebrow but when you bring up the Nazis, look out- which is to say that they were all horrendous murderers but for some reason, we only truly revile the Third Reich (who murdered a lot of my family during WWII). Also, Churchilll didn't name Goebbels or Himmler or Rommel or even the Furher but instead Eichmann. Why? Eichmann was the one who implemented the Nazi's 'final solution' which meant the extermination of six million people. So, by association, the people killed in the 9-11 attacks were thus planning the extermination of an entire race?

According to part of the logic of Coup/KRS, the occupants of the Trade Center were indeed spreading poison worldwide. Were they actually ordering the killing of people? No, obviously not.

If you want to make the leap that the policies of multi-national corporations that they work for were involved in international genocide, you're ignorant of the way these companies work. There's not enough room or time for a full critique of capitalism's international agenda but the bottom line is that business is business. Sometimes this does lead to horrible events that kill people (like the Bhopal disaster) but I don't see that as the intention, as opposed to the Nazis who actively pursued a program of mass extermination. Things like that are simply bad for business, which sounds callous but it's true- that's how they work. This doesn't mean these companies are benevolent but that too many times, they ignorantly or arrogantly ignore some of the consequences of their actions. To say that all of their employees then have blood on their hands and must be punished is too much of a goddamn stretch for me, especially when you think about who deems themselves worthy to decide this and carry out judgment. Don't fool yourself- if you want to take things to their logical conclusion, does Churchill think that the U of Colorado or any other organization he represents is totally 'innocent'? You could take this to ridiculous lengths and ultimately point the finger at all of us. But that's ridiculous and I don't buy it. I don't buy that multi-national companies shouldn't be held accountable for misdeeds but mass murder and terrorism isn't the solution. I'll make no bones about this- I denounce violence, period.

Churchill and KRS are ultimately saying that 9-11 is an example of what happens to America and its corporations as a result of abusive power, arrogance and such. Even if you're willing to go along with that argument, does that necessarily make the actions of terrorists noble? I don't believe that it does. If you take a look at Israel and Palestine for example, you see exactly what happens with an endless cycle of attacks and retaliation. What you see there is that an old saying holds true- an eye for an eye leaves us all blind. In this particular example again, you see now that both sides are only now again having any hope at stabilizing their worlds because both sides are ready and willing to talk sensibly about peace.

Though Churchill's been acting pretty defiantly as of late, when he was speaking of his initial reaction, he admitted that "it's not completely reasoned and thought through." Indeed.


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