Ward Churchill vs. Tony Randall


Over at National Review, Victor Davis Hanson likens Colorado's most famous academic product since Condi Rice to TV's Felix Unger (well, to be more precise, to one of the worst performances ever given by Tony Randall, thus keeping alive the weekend's unplanned bad movie meme, itself a result not of human design but of human action).

Ward Churchill proclaimed that he is a Native American of various tribal affiliations; he is not. Even his ridiculous costumes, occasional threats, and puerile rants cannot disguise that fact.

He seems to be a pop artist of sorts, but his canvasses are not quite his own either. Those of like political mind have praised his scholarship, but much of what he writes seems derivative, or misrepresents or outright plagiarizes others.

Churchill has spoken of the firsthand trauma of battle service as a combat veteran, both as a paratrooper and as a sniper–among the most hazardous of corps in the United States military. Once again, there is no such evidence that he served in any capacity other than what his official duties in a motor pool and as a projectionist entailed….

No one knows what to make of his various arrests, boasts of bomb-making, trip to Libya, angry and traumatized ex-wives, braggadocio about petty vandalism, tales of phone threats, and the variety of other sordid stories that surround this fabricated man….

Who really is this strange creature who calls himself Keezjunnahbeh? The Paris Hilton of the campus, a Peter Sellers-like fraud in his own Being There, or a Tony Randall turning into all sorts of strange beasts in Dr. Lao's circus? He is nobody in fact, but also everybody in theory.

Whole thing–an interesting analysis of how identity politics plays out at the faculty level at universities–here.

Tony Randall, RIP here.

And the real question: Who is academia's Jack Klugman, particularly the Jack Klugman of Who Says I Can't Ride a Rainbow, featuring TV's Oscar Madisoy (intentional mispelling, Odd Couple fans), as a desperate dreamer hoping to start a pony farm in Greenwich Village–a role only slightly more preposterous than his turn as the switchblade-savvy Juror #5 in Twelve Angry Men, the most unconvincing Hollywood portrayal of a Hispanic this side of Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil?

NEXT: FitzGerald Report

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  1. Charlton Heston has a weak pedigree playing Latino/Spanish characters. His other bad attempt was El Cid

  2. Jack Klugman was not supposed to be Hispanic in 12 Angry Men

  3. You mean Charlton Heston isn’t hispanic?

    What the hell kind of name is Charlton then?

  4. Hanson badly misreads Walter Mitty : Rule 2: Among the nerds and dorks, act a little like a Brando, Che, or James Dean, a wild spirit that gives off a spark of danger, who can at a distance titillate Walter Mitty-like admirers and closer up scare off the more sober censors.

    Walter Mitty had an accommodation with his wife. She didn’t actually dominate him, nor he her. It was, in short, a happy marriage. You could read it for a viable feminism too.

  5. Frank Sinatra’s Spaniard in The Pride and the Passion, complete with a Jose Jimenez accent, puts both Klugman and Heston in the shade. That picture was (mis)directed by Stanley Kramer, bringing bad movie weekend full circle.

  6. First off, enough Ward Churchill. The man, and those very few who agree with him, have absolutely no effect on the culture or the body politic–other than to serve as a boogeyman for crazed hawks like Victor Davis Hanson.

    “Enough is sufficiency!”, as one infamous tyrant is alledged to have proclaimed, at least according to one film. (Tab that one, movie lovers.)

    Secondly, bad ethnic portrayals were the norm until the 1960s, even in good movies–you guys haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. The Asians got the worst abuse. Try “The Hatchet Man”, a flick about a Tong assassin–portrayed by Edward G. Robinson, with his Chinese love interest played by Loretta Young (and hey, I LIKE this movie). A lot of taped eyes back in those days….

    Whole careers (such as they were) were built on such nonesense. Exhibit A, Ricardo Cortez (born Jacob Krantz in Vienna). OK, de-Hebrifying names so the masses of American idiots could “accept” them was a standard practice, but trying to fob him off as a Latin lover? Good lord….

    And Native-Americans–forget it. Jeff Chandler as
    fucking Cochise? Yeah, right.

    PS: I think Klugman was indeed supposed to be Hispanic in 12 Angry Men. His personal offence at an ethnic slur about “those people” is the clue (certainly not his overall portrayal).

  7. It’s interesting that nobody cares that Marlon Brando wasn’t of Italian extraction. But everyone cares that Zorro was played by Guy Williams. Worst part of that is the Mexicans get snaked again because the Zorro legend probably is based on an Irish guy who immigrated to what is now Mexico. Hispanics just can’t catch a break.

  8. Yes, TWC, but Hispanics have traditionally been first in line to play Arabs.

  9. Okay, I’m as full of crap as a Christmas Turkey. BRANDO IS an Italian surname.

    Sometimes words just fail me.


  10. Hey, Heston was great in Touch of Evil. He just played him with a thick American accent!

  11. Ah, but nobody, but nobody, can compete with Mickey Rooney for the award of most unconvincing portrayal of a Jpaanese person.

  12. I am not very good at explaining it, but somehow the Ward Churchill case IS important. I think it is because it tells us so much about our cultural blindspots. He had a knack for spotting and exploiting them. Viet Vet, Native American, 60’s protest-generation/Weatherman (even that is a fraud).

    But Churchill’s biggest fraud, is one you see a lot in these threads – he presumes to be better informed than he is. It is as if he listened to Pacifica Radio every night for twenty hears, and retained most of it…but he isn’t knowledgable – in a first-hand way – about ANYTHING.

    Too many posters in H&R pretend to be experts. I don’t…I’m just a guy who reads the paper.

  13. The SF Bay Area is lucky enough to have Colorado’s own Sockajewwontya at the Women’s Building last night, UC Berkeley today.

    other suggested nicknames for Prof. Churchill:
    (variations on Sitting Bull are too easy)

  14. Oscar Madisoy

    Hats off to the Bobby Riggs episode! Other try? Oscar Madisox!

  15. “I am not very good at explaining it, but somehow the Ward Churchill case IS important.”

    Well, you’re half right.

  16. Henry,

    Regardless of the politics, the story is important as it shows the type of total fucking nutcase that’s hired by universities. Of course, not all or even most profs are TFNs, but even one makes me wonder why people trust their educations to institutions that would hire such a person. It seems that universities are the last employment resort for the world’s biggest loser/freaks.

  17. A two-fer: “Highlander”, where Sean Connery (a Scot) plays a Spaniard and Christopher Lambert (a Frenchman) plays a Scot.

    Now that’s a WTF casting decision if e’er there were!

  18. Funny how Victor Davis Bigot Hansen does not address Churchill’s statements. Hmmm. You’d almost think this was an adhominem attack. Anything Churchill says is crap because he’s weird.

    Tit for tat. Anything VDH says is invalid crap because he’s a homophobic, racist, religious bigot.

  19. So what does that make you, instafaggot?

    Regarding Tony Randall’s “worst” performance in Dr. Lao, maybe it wasn’t so much a bad performance by Randall as it was a good performance of very bad writing.

  20. “You’d almost think this was an adhominem attack.”

    Hansen is known for that; I saw him do it – in writing – to a guy I know in a published “debate.” Hansen did little to address the issues; mostly he tossed around epithets. What an arrogant asshole. What do neocons see in him anyway? Oh, yeah…he tells them what they want to hear…

  21. How about the Duke starring as Genghis Khan.

  22. No, anything Churchill has to say is ‘crap’ because it’s, well, crap. And on top of that my blond haired, blue eyed kids have more Indian in them than Ward Churchill.

    That’s A Fact Jack Regards, TWC

  23. i’m pretty sure everyone who was in The Vikings weren’t vikings.

  24. “Regardless of the politics, the story is important as it shows the type of total fucking nutcase that’s hired by universities”

    Why is it news that a state-funded organization hired an unqualified moron?

    And it certainly isn’t limited to just universities. Florida’s state agencies are apparently chock-full of dud hires.

    I’m not sure why Churchill is particularly egregious, when you’ve got state employees who, rather than just being jackasses, are responsible for situations that have significantly harmed people’s lives.

    Case in point, the Florida social workers who let Rillya Wilson go unmonitored, resulting in her likely death.

    Or the Texas rail regulator, who signed railroad-provided affidavits saying that various accident-related railroad crossings were in satisfactory condition, when he had not in fact confirmed that. This, of course, was to the benefit of the railroads, and to the detriment of people injured or killed at those crossings.

    Just how much damage has Ward Churchill done, anyway? How many students have taken his classes and been warped? Probably not very many, actually, and any who took his classes were probably sympathetic to his views going in. As far as I’m aware, his field is a bit of a backwater cul-de-sac, not a popular, high-interest field attracting lots and lots of students. If he taught any generally required courses, the students probably wouldn’t be terribly receptive to ideological infection.

    I’m sorry, I just don’t think 99.95% of college students would do anything but make a mental note that the teacher’s an aging hippie kook. Some might be grade-conscious enough to change the content of their work to suit his biases, but I doubt most would bother. Even if they changed their work, they wouldn’t internalize Churchill’s biases.

    The only students who would provide Churchill with fertile soil for proselytization would be the sort of students who spent their high school years studying American policy in Latin America in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and wear lots of Guatemalan fashions and patchouli. ie, far-left activist types, who were like that before they took his classes.

    The only students who would be spending significant time under his influence would be those in his department, which would be few, and would be predisposed to agree anyway.

    Anyone who has him once, in four years, is unlikely to take any political influence from him. Student apathy is just too strong. They’d have to give a shit to pick up anything from him.

    So, really, I don’t see how he’s any great threat. It would be far worse if he were teaching in elementary school.

    He’s just one sucky, weird professor, who lucked into an undeserved tenure.

  25. his irrelevancy has nothing to do with his relevancy. churchill exists at the crossroads of democratic underground and free republic – just another dink for the fire.

  26. Ward Churchill was on C-SPan a couple of weeks ago and he lived up to the billing by speaking nonsense – for e.g, answering a question on his opposition to Columbus day, he sayeth that the 9’th Amendment superceded the First, cause of all the effin’ U.N treaties on human rights !!!!

    But he had a few things going his way –
    1. He claimed, caveat, that his course was so polular it paid his salary & more.
    2. The man was not intimidated by the opopsition. Best moment in the show was when he told a cliche spoutin’ flag waver to STFU and SIDDDOWN ! Go Ward.
    I’ll contribute a minor amount to his salary if he continues to annoy the usual suspects.

  27. Brando wasn’t Italian, he was German. Brando was short for Brandeis.

    How about the Magnificent Seven, with Polacks and Germans playing Mexicans?

  28. As a liar, fraud and poseur, Churchill seems more the counterpoint to Jeff Gannon/Jim G (the fake marine, etc).

    But does Churchill do any harm? Well, yes quite frankly.

    Higher education doesn’t need to be any more of a farce than it is. Yet there are aspects about academia worth defending.

    Not Churchill. He’s a perfect tool–a broad stupid brush with which to tar the entire enterprise.

    He’s waste of little goodwill and credibility seems left.

    He should be in the pay of those who want to undermine not just academic freedom in particular but the first admendment in general.

  29. “… Sean Connery (a Scot) plays a Spaniard…”

    “I’m not Spainish, I’m Egyptian.”

  30. Yeah, I never thought that Jack Klugman was supposed to be Hispanic in that movie. I just thought he was supposed to be a ghetto dude, y?know, poor, and urban, but of whatever kind of ethnic background. And that’s why there was the shot of him when the other guy said “those people” ? you know, the other guy meant poor people, not anything more ethnically specific. Still, I?ve always wondered about that shot of Klugman when the other guy says ?other people,? so maybe you?re right. But it turns out the movie is OK even if you don’t think Klugman is Hispanic.

  31. Was there ever a greater ethnic miscasting than John Wayne as Genghis Khan?

  32. So Ward Churchill’s despicable, plagiarizing frauds seem to be bottomless? So what? He strikes me as about as important as a burp in a hurricane and probably twice as influential.

    He DOES remind me of several of my college professors, and it doesn’t surprise me much that he’s tenured and even revered by some. There will always be people attracted to crap-tastic stories and conspiracy theories…

    Why universities keep hiring them to teach instead of studying them is beyond me!

  33. Good points rob. I’m glad Churchill’s not going to get fired because that would just make a martyr out of him. Already he’s getting a lot more publicity than he deserves, and remember there’s no such thing as bad publicity, especially when someone like Churchill is singled out for a witch hunt and crucification, yet the underlying absurdities on which his vitriol is based are rarely even addressed.

  34. fyodor – Now that you mention it, it IS like all of the Usual Suspects in one line-up. No wonder it’s getting coverage!

    Churchill will probably get a book deal of some sort wherein he, Al Franken and Michael Moore outline the “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” against them, and Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage put out a counter-book of their own sternly linking “Academics Gone Wild!” with the Decline of the American Family’s Culture of Life Values.

    With any luck, this will probably go down in history as another footnote of chorus screams from the right of “Traitor!” and “McCarthyites!” from the left.

  35. A two-fer: “Highlander”, where Sean Connery (a Scot) plays a Spaniard and Christopher Lambert (a Frenchman) plays a Scot.

    Actually, Connery played an Egyptian — who was pretending to be a Spaniard.

  36. The problem with Churchill is the primary concern of the Colorado tax payers who were ripped off. Of more concern to the rest of the country is how many more of them are there out there? It would be one thing if he were a great physicist or something who just happened to be a whackjob. If that were the case, you could say who cares what he thinks, he got on the faculty because of his research or whatever. The problem is that he seems to have been hired and promoted precisely becuase he was a leftist whackjob. Had been anything but that, he would never had been hired and if he had been in anyway devient from the leftist political correct line, he would be unemployed even if he were a brilliant scientist. You have to give him credit for understanding every cultural blind spot in the academy. I doubt he is the only one. At some point one has to ask why Americans are spending billions of dollars on a higher education establishment, especially the humanities, as it continues to respond to this commitment with complete distain hatred for society at large.

  37. You’re mischaracterizing Churchill’s comments about 9/11 — that summary is basically the “Fox News view” and is not what Churchill said.

    Churchill’s 9/11 comments dealt with the fact that the US is responsible for overseas crimes — overthrowing gov’ts, supporting tyrannies, waging war, economic exploitation (not uncommon views of US foreign policy). With that in mind, Churchill pointed out that the US should only expect that some people will “push back”. I hardly think that’s an unreasonable position — history teaches us that the attacked will usually counterattack.

    Churchill’s most inflammatory comment about 9/11 was to liken the financial and imperial “technocrats” — the people who, as international banker John Perkins reported, deliberately loan developing countries unpayable amounts of money in order to have control over them, etc. — to Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi who didn’t execute people but who instead coordinated and optimized trains and logistics for the Nazis, all with a lethal effect.

    Many have criticized Churchill and accused him of siding with terrorists or cheering the deaths of innocent janitors or firefighters at the WTC. Churchill has repeatedly stated that he has great sympathy for those who were killed that day. But those bogus charges obscure his real point — that quite a few of the victims of 9/11 were anything but innocent.

    While one can fault Churchill for not being polite, his analogy is spot-on in terms of insightfulness.

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