Defend George Ciccariello-Maher

On Christmas Eve, George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor at Drexel University whose excellent work on Venezuela and political theory you may know, tweeted, “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide.” The next day, he followed up with this: “To clarify: when the whites were massacre during the Haitian revolution, that was a good thing indeed.” After denouncing the tweets, the university said, “The University is taking this situation very seriously. We contacted Ciccariello-Maher today to arrange a meeting to discuss this matter in detail.”

Folks, we’ve been here before. Over the years, it has become a pillar of our organizing around here that no one should be punished by his or her employer for political speech off the job. This is a cornerstone of academic freedom, but many of us believe it should be extended to all forms of employment.

I’ve been absolutely consistent on this principle over the years, even when it has involved employees expressing views I find abhorrent. I defended Glenn Reynolds, a right-wing professor at the University of Tennessee Law School, against calls that he be fired after he tweeted that car drivers should “run down” protesters blocking traffic in Charlotte, North Carolina over a fatal police shooting there. I defended a nurse—also in Philadelphia, as it happens—who was fired for posting awful racist comments on her Facebook page. (I am not equating or comparing George’s tweets with those of Reynolds or the FB posts of that nurse: I’m merely noting my bona fides here, sadly, because I have to.) The principle, as I say, is simple: no one should be fired—and suffer all the consequences of what that means in a country like the US—for their political speech, particularly when it’s off the job.

From long experience, I know there will be an impulse to forget, ignore, or temporarily suspend this principle in order to get into a long debate about the substance of George’s tweet, to assess whether he crossed a line or not. I know there will be an impulse to have a long debate about how far our principles of tolerance should extend, with a whole array of hypotheticals marshaled at either end to test the limits of our principles. Or perhaps we’ll have a long debate about the problems with the left’s focus on race and whiteness.

From long experience, I ask you to resist that impulse and to recognize that there really are extraordinarily powerful forces arrayed now against George, newly empowered by the results of this election. (Breitbart’s site, for example, is all over this one.) I often point out that my posts are not meant to organize us politically, that they are places and threads to explore larger issues. This is not one of those posts. This is a simple call to arms, a plea for clarity, a request (polite, I hope) that we exercise some judgment here, and recognize that this particular controversy is not going to be the occasion of a law school seminar or a late-night Jacobin bull session.

There’s one task here, and that is to defend George. What that means will become clear in the coming days. For now, share this news far and wide.

Updated (12:30 pm)

You can contact the following leaders of Drexel at these addresses below. Be polite, be civil, and point out that the American Association of University Professors is very clear that extramural political speech ought to be protected.

Drexel’s President John Anderson Fry: jaf@drexel.edu

Drexel Provost M. Brian Blake: mbrian.blake@drexel.edu [and/or try this one: mb3545@drexel.edu]

Drexel Media Relations Executive Director Niki Gianakaris: ngianakaris@drexel.edu

Updated (4:30 pm)

As I mentioned above, I have no desire or intention of getting into a debate about the content of George’s tweets. It’s irrelevant in my experience. But George posted this statement about what he was doing, and I think it’s worth passing on for everyone to read (thanks to John Protevi for posting it in the comments below):

On Christmas Eve, I sent a satirical tweet about an imaginary concept, “white genocide.” For those who haven’t bothered to do their research, “white genocide” is an idea invented by white supremacists and used to denounce everything from interracial relationships to multicultural policies (and most recently, against a tweet by State Farm Insurance). It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I’m glad to have mocked it.

What I am not glad about is that this satirical tweet became fodder for online white supremacists to systematically harass me and my employer, Drexel University. Beginning with Breitbart.com—formerly the domain of Special Counselor to the President-Elect, Steve Bannon—and running through the depths of Reddit discussion boards, a coordinated smear campaign was orchestrated to send mass tweets and emails to myself, my employer, and my colleagues. I have received hundreds of death threats.

Drexel University issued a statement on the matter, apparently without understanding either the content or the context of the tweets. While Drexel has been nothing but supportive in the past, this statement is worrying. While upholding my right to free expression, the statement refers to my (satirical) tweets as “utterly reprehensible.” What is most unfortunate is that this statement amounts to caving to the truly reprehensible movements and organizations that I was critiquing. On the university level, moreover, this statement—despite a tepid defense of free speech—sends a chilling message and sets a frightening precedent. It exposes untenured and temporary faculty not only to internal disciplinary scrutiny, but equally importantly, it encourages harassment as an effective means to impact university policies.

As my students will attest, my classroom is a free-for-all of ideas, in which anyone is welcome to their opinions, but expected to defend those opinions with argument. I teach regularly on the history of genocidal practices like colonialism and slavery—genocides carried out by the very same kind of violent racists who are smearing me today. That violent racism will now have a voice in the White House is truly frightening—I am not the first and I won’t be the last to be harassed and threatened by Bannon, Trump, and co.

White supremacy is on the rise, and we must fight it by any means. In that fight, universities will need to choose whether they are on the side of free expression and academic debate, or on the side of the racist mob.

79 Comments

  1. John Gee December 26, 2016 at 2:51 pm | #

    Many thanks for this reminder and call to action.

    From the Drexel Provost’s Office website, it looks like the provost is Brian not Bryan, including in the email address.

    http://drexel.edu/provost/about/contact/

  2. Ian Rr December 26, 2016 at 3:10 pm | #

    This issue aside, it’s nice to see Drexel eventually got normal email addresses — when I went there my email address was st952dwj@unixmail.cc.drexel.edu or some fool thing like that. 🙂

  3. Hal Ginsberg December 26, 2016 at 3:18 pm | #

    Professor Robin believes that academic liberty – the freedom of professors to express any opinion publicly now matter how vile without fear of losing their job – must always be protected. I respectfully disagree.

    • milx December 26, 2016 at 3:23 pm | #

      Agreed. His request that we not debate the limits of tolerance is untenable. If our borders of tolerance do not include Ciccariello-Maher’s speech then we should not defend it. Robin is asking us to defend his speech without considering first whether it is worthy of our defense. There is no first principle that you can say whatever you want without fear of losing your job.

    • drechsau December 26, 2016 at 3:26 pm | #

      We can all have opinions, thankfully.

      I disagree with your disagreement.

    • emily December 26, 2016 at 10:43 pm | #

      Read the statement he released because you so obviously didn’t do your research. He spells it out for you.

  4. John Protevi December 26, 2016 at 3:29 pm | #

    The AAUP position is that extramural speech can only be reviewed if it calls into question the professional competence of professors, and such review must place the statements in the context of the professor’s total scholarly output.

    • Hal Ginsberg December 26, 2016 at 3:49 pm | #

      If you believe that some of your students should be massacred because of their skin color, how can you competently educate them and how can they feel safe in your classroom?

      • John Protevi December 26, 2016 at 3:55 pm | #

        No one believes that, Hal, and I really doubt you think GCM believes that. Here is GCM’s statement:

        On Christmas Eve, I sent a satirical tweet about an imaginary concept, “white genocide.” For those who haven’t bothered to do their research, “white genocide” is an idea invented by white supremacists and used to denounce everything from interracial relationships to multicultural policies (and most recently, against a tweet by State Farm Insurance). It is a figment of the racist imagination, it should be mocked, and I’m glad to have mocked it.

        What I am not glad about is that this satirical tweet became fodder for online white supremacists to systematically harass me and my employer, Drexel University. Beginning with Breitbart.com—formerly the domain of Special Counselor to the President-Elect, Steve Bannon—and running through the depths of Reddit discussion boards, a coordinated smear campaign was orchestrated to send mass tweets and emails to myself, my employer, and my colleagues. I have received hundreds of death threats.

        Drexel University issued a statement on the matter, apparently without understanding either the content or the context of the tweets. While Drexel has been nothing but supportive in the past, this statement is worrying. While upholding my right to free expression, the statement refers to my (satirical) tweets as “utterly reprehensible.” What is most unfortunate is that this statement amounts to caving to the truly reprehensible movements and organizations that I was critiquing. On the university level, moreover, this statement—despite a tepid defense of free speech—sends a chilling message and sets a frightening precedent. It exposes untenured and temporary faculty not only to internal disciplinary scrutiny, but equally importantly, it encourages harassment as an effective means to impact university policies.

        As my students will attest, my classroom is a free-for-all of ideas, in which anyone is welcome to their opinions, but expected to defend those opinions with argument. I teach regularly on the history of genocidal practices like colonialism and slavery—genocides carried out by the very same kind of violent racists who are smearing me today. That violent racism will now have a voice in the White House is truly frightening—I am not the first and I won’t be the last to be harassed and threatened by Bannon, Trump, and co.

        White supremacy is on the rise, and we must fight it by any means. In that fight, universities will need to choose whether they are on the side of free expression and academic debate, or on the side of the racist mob.

        • Hal Ginsberg December 26, 2016 at 4:03 pm | #

          I have neither the time nor inclination to fact-check assertions by Professor Robin since I have found him to be an extremely reliable and trustworthy source. I read his original post as saying that Professor GCM expressed unironic support for “white genocide.” In light of your clarification of GCM’s remarks, which I likewise accept at face value, it would seem clear that his job is and should remain safe.

        • Mitch Guthman December 26, 2016 at 4:54 pm | #

          But this would seem to be exactly what Ciccariello-Maher believes: “To clarify: when the whites were massacre (sic) during the Haitian revolution, that was a good thing indeed.”

      • DrDick December 26, 2016 at 3:55 pm | #

        As Protevi states, such statements must be “uch review must place the statements in the context of the professor’s total scholarly output.” There is no evidence that this professor really believes this.

        • Hal Ginsberg December 26, 2016 at 4:22 pm | #

          Professor Robin argues that it matters not whether GCM believes in white genocide. He should be free to express such an opinion without risk of job loss. Do you agree?

        • Mitch Guthman December 26, 2016 at 5:04 pm | #

          Except, as I mentioned above, for his followup statement “To clarify: when the whites were massacre during the Haitian revolution, that was a good thing indeed.” It seems like an unequivocal statement of Ciccariello-Maher’s opinion. There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly “satirical” about either statement. It just seems to be a statement of opinion saying that the massacre of whites during the Haitian revolution was “good”.

          I suppose it’s possible that the “satirical” aspects of the comments were unclear for the reasons given by Louis Proyect above, although I think it would take a huge amount of explaining about the “satirical” nature of saying that the massacre of civilians is sometimes “good”.

          It seems to me that everybody except the deplorable should abandon Twitter. Nothing good ever comes from this stupid Tweeting business. Twitter really does seem to be the Devil’s workshop.

  5. louisproyect December 26, 2016 at 3:37 pm | #

    Isn’t it high time that the left abandon Twitter? First, Salaita got screwed and now they are going after George. Because Twitter restricts you to 140 characters, YOU CANNOT PROVIDE CONTEXT. First Salaita and now George is being forced to explain after the fact what they really meant. This is not to speak of the brain-dead character of Twitter in general. If it is Donald Trump’s preferred medium, what in fuck’s name are we doing with it? I will be writing about all this tomorrow on my blog: louisproyect.org.

    • Hal Ginsberg December 26, 2016 at 3:50 pm | #

      The solution is to write a long-form article that you post at your website and then link to it in Twitter.

    • jonnybutter December 26, 2016 at 8:47 pm | #

      I know the 140 characters can be a problem, but does it really matter if there’s context? Pinheads will spring out of the woodwork in seconds to deliberately misunderstand *anything* whether there’s context or not. Even when satire is the entire point of the tweet, which was the case here, the zombies will rise and march. No one should give up any platform they like.

  6. Mike Schilling December 26, 2016 at 4:12 pm | #

    While GCM’s tweets are clearly satirical rather than a call for violence, I can’t sign on to the principle that speech should never have consequences. If UTenn had wanted to sanction Reynolds in some way for advocating violence, more power to them. Likewise if UIUC had refused to hire with Salaita (as opposed to luring him away from a tenured job and then claiming he’d never been hired, which was dishonest as hell.) In this case, let GCM make his case to Drexel before hitting the panic button.

    • jonnybutter December 26, 2016 at 8:11 pm | #

      Hey Mike,

      No one said it’s a ‘principle’ that ‘speech should never have consequences’. You could scroll up and see what CR wrote but here I’ve pasted it for you:

      ..no one should be punished by his or her employer for political speech off the job. This is a cornerstone of academic freedom, but many of us believe it should be extended to all forms of employment.

      That seems like a very clear, and attractive, principle to me. The problem with what you wrote is its lack of any discernable principle. Why would you be ok with sanctioning (the moronic) Reynolds but be ok with this? Should someone lose their job for being hyperbolic (arguably)?

      How about for making crude straw man arguments?

  7. J. Otto Pohl December 26, 2016 at 6:13 pm | #

    First I am going to have to agree with Louis Proyect that Twitter is a very bad platform for trying to express any type of ideas. Second while there are non-lethal forms of genocide, the 1948 treaty enumerates three of them, the follow up regarding Haiti points to advocacy of the lethal kind. Finally, most of the well known cases of genocide including the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and the Holodomor have been against “white” groups by regimes ruled by other “white” groups. So the idea that “white” people can never be victims of genocide is a very strange one. I live in the middle of a site of genocide against a “white” group (Kurds) by a “white” regime (Ba’athist Iraq). The professor of course has the right to advocate that the descendents of European colonists in places like Haiti, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Kenya should be brutally murdered. But, such opinions are a key reason that I am a reactionary and not a “progressive.”

    • Hal Ginsberg December 26, 2016 at 6:37 pm | #

      As a reactionary, what do you believe is or should have been the appropriate reaction by victims of colonialism to their oppressors? Should the descendants of victims, if they are in a subordinate economic or political status, react to the better-off descendants of oppressors? If so, how?

      • J. Otto Pohl December 27, 2016 at 12:09 am | #

        Other than Algeria all of the independence and anti-apartheid movments in Africa had very lenient policies toward their populations of European descent after achieving majority rule. South Africa is usually the case study brought up here. But, Kenya is a much earlier one. In both these cases the white population was granted full citizenship and allowed to keep their property. Neither Mandela or Kenyetta committed genocide against them like US “progressives” evidently advocate. Fortunately, the South African and Kenyan governments are not soliciting their advice in this matter.

  8. jonnybutter December 26, 2016 at 6:57 pm | #

    It just seems to be a statement of opinion saying that the massacre of whites during the Haitian revolution was “good”.

    What do you think enslaved people should have done, Mitch? Had a roundtable with their masters on Charlie Rose?

    • Mitch Guthman December 26, 2016 at 8:06 pm | #

      Since the Haitians carried out the massacres in 1804, they’d actually have been having a roundtable on Charlie Rose with their former masters but, yes, I think that would be much better than massacring thousands of human beings (including children) after first raping the women.

      • jonnybutter December 26, 2016 at 8:33 pm | #

        Mitch, your comment makes no sense. So let me ask another simpler question. If you were a slave in Haiti in the early 19th century and you’d had a chance to revolt, which meant killing your enslavers, would you do it or not?

        To answer in an intelligent way, you have to know what slavery was like in the ‘West Indies’. It’s been called ‘factory slavery’ because they figured out it was economic to feed the slaves just enough to survive till they could be worked to death before they could get old. Also, since the slaves so greatly outnumbered their white masters, it was thought that discipline needed to be especially brutal, so it was.

        So, what would you have done?

        • Mitch Guthman December 26, 2016 at 8:52 pm | #

          But by 1804 the slave revolt was over, the revolution was over, and there was actually no threat from the French on that part of the island. Dubois and James are both clear on that point. So basically, you’re not talking about a fight for freedom but a thirst for revenge. On that basis, I would have gone on Charlie Rose like a good liberal.

          • jonnybutter December 26, 2016 at 10:58 pm | #

            Hey Mitch, another utterly senseless answer. OK. Have a nice day

          • jonnybutter December 27, 2016 at 11:22 am | #

            You deserve a better reply from me than my last, FWIW.

            I will bet that GCM knows more about this period and region than you and I do (he certainly knows more than *I* do). What is controversial about this academic possibly making the judgement that it turned out to have been prudent for rebels to finally eradicate the people who had been committing (and re-committing to) a sort of factory terror and genocide on hundreds of thousands of their brethren? If that’s even what he’s saying.

            BTW, it is racist, not to mention idiotic, for white people (as such) to allow only one response – convenient, meek Christian forgiveness – from brutalized people. Revenge for me but not for thee. Clemency for me but not for thee. Humanity for me, but…

            I apologize for having forgotten what the post is about: the right to have and express a political opinion off the job (any job) without getting harassed/fired for it. I have never heard a convincing argument against having that right.

          • s.wallerstein December 27, 2016 at 2:06 pm | #

            jonny butter,

            If he had tweeted, what you say above, that it may have been prudent (or understandable or even justifiable, I add) for rebels to exterminate those who had been oppressing them and enslaving them for centuries, I believe that there would be little argument in this thread at least that that’s not controversial. However, he tweeted that he was dreaming of a white genocide, which is a bit different, especially since he is dreaming of a white genocide, not from his position as a slave or as a guerrillero in the hills struggling against white slave-owners, but from his comfortable chair in a U.S. university. I agree that he has every right to say it and that he should not lose his job, but something turns me off about his tweet.

          • jonnybutter December 27, 2016 at 2:38 pm | #

            S wallerstein – the tweet that turns you off is separate from the one I was talking about (and it was a tweet, so he couldn’t have said what I said anyway!).

            Tweets are like one-liners or quips – if they have to be explained, it may be that they aren’t very good; or it may be that partisan zombies deliberately misinterpret them. Or they might need to be explained because something doesn’t translate culturally, which might be what’s happening here (aren’t you Chilean?).

            To me (middle aged American) it is obvious that he is mocking movement racists and nazis. Instead of ‘dreaming of a white christmas’ (from the ubiquitous Bing Crosby song: ‘And may ALL YOUR CHRISTMASES…BE WHIIITE’) he is citing racist delusions – dreams – about white genocide. Don’t understand what there is to be offended by there, no matter who or where he is. But it may look different to me than to you.

            Glad you don’t think he should be fired for tweeting.

          • s.wallerstein December 27, 2016 at 3:05 pm | #

            jonnybutter,

            I’m from Chile, yes.

            My father, who was not an intellectual by any means, once warned me that if I wrote for the public, I should watch out for what he called “the idiot factor”. That, he explained, meant that idiots would misunderstand or deliberately misinterpret anything that I write.

            That certain applies to tweets. I can understand that the professor was playing ironically on the title of the song “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” (which is undoubtedly offensive to many black people) and on the use that the racist far right makes of the phrase “white genocide”, but being over age 17, he should have realized that his tweet would be misinterpreted and seem to some that he wanted to exterminate all whites. Twitter can be read by everyone.

            Maybe he wanted to provoke controversy, I don’t know. If someone who works in a sweat shop for sub-minimum wages tells me that all capitalists should be executed, I’ll probably nod my head and say “I understand where you’re coming from”. If a professor with a doctorate says that all capitalist should be executed, I’ll have a more complex reaction because I suppose that he should have the intellectual tools to understand that expropriating the expropriaters does not necessarily involve executing all of them.

            Once again, it seems like a serious error of judgement on Professor Ciccariello-Maher’s part, but no, he should not be fired for that.

          • jonnybutter December 27, 2016 at 6:39 pm | #

            S. Wallerstein:

            Maybe he wanted to provoke controversy, I don’t know.

            You don’t? I’d say he wanted as hard as he *could* to provoke controversy. It’s possible that he wanted to bait, or provoke for the sake of it. Like you, I smell a whiff of that and don’t think it was wise on his part. But I wouldn’t call it any kind of ‘serious error’, unless looking like a jackass is a serious error. No one was hurt in any way because this guy tweeted this.

          • milx December 27, 2016 at 6:59 pm | #

            “I apologize for having forgotten what the post is about: the right to have and express a political opinion off the job (any job) without getting harassed/fired for it. I have never heard a convincing argument against having that right.”

            Because no one should be forced to hire someone who holds reprehensible beliefs? Am I obligated to keep on an employee who dons a white hood and disseminates race “realism” online in his free time? How about an employee who has a second job as a Holocaust denier? Or one who advocates for marital rape and domestic abuse against women and children? What are the first principles that demand an employer retain an employee no matter what they say after work? There are none because it’s dumb as hell.

          • jonnybutter December 27, 2016 at 7:03 pm | #

            Obviously, we disagree about whether “oppressed peoples” are given a blank check to do what they will to revenge themselves

            Obviously this is a giant strawman. We were talking about this professor, not me; I don’t give *anyone* a blank check. But..strawman, so I guess that’s the end of this. Oh well. (Why is ‘oppressed peoples’ in scare quotes, btw?).

            I see now that it’s worth noting that he did say the slaughter of slavers during the revolution (not after) was a good thing. So maybe he didn’t mean the colder blooded slaughter we were talking about up thread – which *I* was not advocating, btw. I was trying to understand what he might be thinking. I don’t know that much about this period, unfortunately. I will definitely do something about that.

            I thought I was pretty clear that what I object to is people in entirely different shoes who would lecture to utterly brutalized people how they may react to being liquidated. It’s the final insult.

  9. doncoffin64 December 26, 2016 at 6:58 pm | #

    My email to the three administrators for whom you provided email addresses:
    I have read, with some dismay, that Drexel University had provided what I can only call equivocal support for Professor George Ciccariello-Maher’s rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution, to express, even in forceful (and satirical) language his opinions. I find it troubling that an institution of Drexel’s stature would had not stood behind Mr. Ciccariello-Maher in this situation. Particularly given the vehemence, including death threats have been made against him, the need for him to receive institutional support is even more important.
    I find this statement, attributed to a Drexel press release even more troubling: “The University is taking this situation very seriously. We contacted Ciccariello-Maher today to arrange a meeting to discuss this matter in detail.” The inference to be drawn from this–which I sincerely hope is incorrect–is that Drexel will be asking Mr. Ciccariello-Maher to refrain from similar tweets in the future, perhaps under peril of disciplinary action.
    All of us in higher education need to have a particular sensitivity to infringements of the First Amendment; they have been used in the past, as we all well know, to silence voices of dissent and to enforce ideological conformity. I trust that Drexel will see that the only course of action for a University committed to free inquiry is support for ​Mr. Ciccariello-Maher.
    Sincerely.
    Donald A. Coffin
    Associate Professor Emeritus
    Indiana University Northwest

  10. RickM December 26, 2016 at 7:32 pm | #

    Twitter (n, early 21c; from the Latin, twit) Internet sensation developed primarily to allow otherwise intelligent human beings to make royal asses of themselves.

  11. WillM December 26, 2016 at 8:06 pm | #

    It seems worth noting that “White genocide” is a shibboleth of the so called “alt-right” or at least the gamergate/4chan/young people on the internet column and refers solely to long term demographic changes from interracial relationships or even just a combination of birth rates and immigration. Given this context, and that Breitbart, for one, (home of gamergator Milo Y) is leading the harassment brigade against him, it’s hard to see Ciccariello-Maher’s statement as violent at all, much less out of the bounds of contemporary discourse. I see that commentor Protevi covered this above, but it bears repeating just because of the craven misrepresentation coming from those who invented the phrase and certainly understand its contextual meaning as directed back at them.

  12. xenon2 December 26, 2016 at 9:39 pm | #

    Look at what someone named Isotropic has posed on http://www.alternet.org/comments/breitbart-leading-smear-campaign-against-scholar-mocking-white-supremacy-and-his-university-isnt#disqus_thread

    isotropic • an hour ago

    One would think that being bashed by Breitbart should be career-enhancing for someone in academia.

    Let’s all go to that link and upvote him!

  13. Glenn December 26, 2016 at 9:59 pm | #

    In a nation that holds “pussy grabbing” as protected speech—whether referring to actual pussy grabbing or merely language used as locker room banter—as not reaching a level of inappropriateness requiring firing, but to the contrary, to be acceptable speech in the hiring process for high office, am I not correct to assume Trump’s signaling the end of an era of politically correct speech?

    The ability to use language that shocks and stimulates thoughtful discussion, even if not prefacing such language as satire, is no reason in this era to fire, but to hire.

  14. BSolDavidson December 27, 2016 at 12:40 am | #

    Corey (and others):

    I follow you on Facebook, and noticed the following comment to your post:

    “Blake Brian replied to my email CCing an administrator at my university. I imagine this is standard practice, but the culture of fear these people are trying to create among academics is as pathetic as it probably is effective, unfortunately.”

    ….What the heck? Is this considered “standard practice?!” And I wonder what exactly Brian Blake said.

    I’m staff at a university (i.e., not a high-level administrator, and not with an academic appointment, let alone tenure), and that creeps the heck out of me. I haven’t yet e-mailed anyone at Drexel about this, and I had been planning to do so from my personal (not institutional) e-mail anyway (and wasn’t even sure if I would provide an affiliation), but this certainly means that I would have to do so. I realize that no e-mails are really private, and I generally avoid writing down anything that I don’t want unintended recipients seeing, but directly CCing a superior seems like blatant retaliatory BS.

    (I would have posted this on FB, but since I’m not friends with you, I can’t. Hoping other academic-types will comment here).

  15. Bill Michtom December 27, 2016 at 2:29 am | #

    This seems appropriate to this discussion:
    The power of domination and exclusion is central to the belief in being white, and without it, “white people” would cease to exist for want of reasons. — Ta-Nehisi Coates

    • J. Otto Pohl December 27, 2016 at 4:27 am | #

      This is just stupid. In many cases the opposite has happened. For instance a very good argument could be made that Afrikaans music and other cultural expressions have flourished after the end of apartheid specifically because of the end of political domination and exclusion by Afrikaners.

    • Glenn December 27, 2016 at 12:07 pm | #

      The concern of whites over the maintenance of white racial purity has long been a justification for White support of the practice of White executed genocide, of White Genocide in support of White racial purity.

  16. bob mcmanus December 27, 2016 at 6:57 am | #

    There is a lot more “context” here than Breitbart and the alt-right, and the academics know it. “Whiteness” and settler colonialism studies, T Allen and Roediger, #killallwhites hashtag, “White Rage” and a storm of discussion, much of it enraged about the “white working class” and “white men” before and since the election. The line between claiming “whiteness,” white privilege, and white supremacy are problems and white people are the problem is crossed frequently.

    Sorry, I am not so confident about how the Professor’s intended audience would interpret that tweet.

    • bob mcmanus December 27, 2016 at 7:10 am | #

      As far as Drexel and the Professor’s free speech rights go, I can’t say I really care. I have kicked my own share of hornet’s nests in my time. But I will join in the hilarious jocularity for the holidays.

      Unfortunately, the oppressed minorities currently lack the means to a Final Solution of the “Whiteness” problem.

      ha-ha.

      • bob mcmanus December 27, 2016 at 10:57 am | #

        Delete this please, the 7:10 comment. Wrong people could misinterpret it.

  17. bystander December 27, 2016 at 10:22 am | #

    Seems germane…

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2016/12/26/drexel_censures_professor_for_white_genocide_tweet.html

    Seems white genocide doesn’t mean what I thought it meant.

    • bob mcmanus December 27, 2016 at 10:44 am | #

      Oh I suspect part of what made the tweet entertaining to those who support the professor is that the term carried multiple meanings and connotations. As I am certain that the alt-right use alludes to holocaust denial or other forms of anti-semitism. I hope no one here will make a claim that what could be construed as eliminationist rhetoric never ever pops up among the radical anti-racists. As I said I can help there.

      You know what? A pox on all your multicultural houses. Have at each other.

  18. Rich Puchalsky December 27, 2016 at 10:22 am | #

    Without debating the content of the Tweet, I’ll write what I wrote on Twitter: responding to these cases ad hoc doesn’t help much. Many people refused before Rosa Parks and they were forced / ignored: her action worked because it was part of a pre-planned campaign. Have some lawyers figure out the ideal case that you want, have a volunteer tweet it, go to court and get some kind of general rule reinforced.

  19. Roquentin December 27, 2016 at 10:45 am | #

    These scandals have a symbolic importance and take on a life of their own. I tend to think of most news as a kind of porn. Outrage porn is the most popular. It gets the synapses of the readers firing away and coming back for more. The media is primarily a system for either delivering eyeballs for advertisements, paying subscribers, or both. All other concerns pale in comparison. People need their daily dose of ideological smut, and there’s no shortage of publications willing to provide it. It’s perhaps most obvious with a paper like the NY Post, whose crude headlines mirror the crassness of the titles of pornographic films, lacking the sophistication which typically masks this dynamic in other places.

    GCM has been hand-picked to star in the smut Breitbart readers crave. The role, the rote cliche of the sneering academic, was ready-made. All he had to do was step into it. What they want to see is GCM get humiliated and have his career destroyed. That is what they are visiting Breitbart.com to see.

    It needs to be said that the left does this constantly as well, it’s just a different porno. That baseball announcer who got sacked from ESPN for posting trans-phobic cartoons on Twitter comes to mind. Curt Schilling reminded too many people of their racist, homophobic Republican uncle and seeing his career ruined was a kind of psychological compensation for that.

  20. Mike Huben December 27, 2016 at 1:56 pm | #

    Evidently the critics are unfamiliar with A Modest Proposal. Drexel administration should be reminded of it.

    • Mitch Guthman December 27, 2016 at 4:46 pm | #

      Saying the 1804 massacres were a “good thing” doesn’t seem even remotely like “A Modest Proposal”. It may be the case that the medium doesn’t lend itself to that sort of thing but CGCM really just seems like an asshole who tweeted some really stupid stuff and is now trying to dig himself out of a deep hole by pretending to be Jonathan Swift.

  21. Mitch Guthman December 27, 2016 at 5:28 pm | #

    @ Jonny Butter,

    I don’t doubt that GCM knows more about Haitian revolution than I do. Which is why I am so critical of his statement that the massacre of the whites was “a good thing”. As to whether it’s “prudent” to slaughter helpless Europeans on the off chance that they might someday become troublesome, I can’t comment; as to whether it was right or moral, it wasn’t. I am opposed to slavery because it violates essentially same moral principles which make me opposed to the raping and slaughtering of helpless captives.

    Obviously, we disagree about whether “oppressed peoples” are given a blank check to do what they will to revenge themselves but I would also point out that the same moral principles that you condemn as a scam, were the same ones that created forceful advocates for the abolition of slavery, for the rights of women and against the slaughter of civilians (children in particular). Indeed, for the entire enlightenment project.

    If the raping and slaughtering of helpless captives is acceptable either as revenge or as a “prudent” policy, then what is the moral basis for condemning slavery? It seems to me that if everything is situational and relative, then maybe the French decision to institute a brutal regime of chattel slavery could be justified on economic grounds or grounds of national interest. Now, speaking for myself only, slavery is simply wrong and can’t be justified on any grounds, just as raping and killing captives is wrong and can’t be justified. But my question to you is what is your situational basis for condemning the enslavement of millions of Africans?

    • s.wallerstein December 27, 2016 at 6:36 pm | #

      Mitch Guthman,

      I’m not jonny butter, but I’ll try to answer your interesting question.

      What oppressed people rise up, in this case, slaves, the result is not pretty. They can be cruel, revengeful, merciless. As the poet W.H. Auden writes: those to whom evil is done/do evil in return. Or as Mao Tse Tung (not very popular these days) says: the revolution is not a dinner party.

      You’re either on the side of the oppressed who rise up or on that of the oppressors or I suppose that you can sit things out in the name of higher principles. For better or for worse, I’m on the side of the oppressed.

      By the way, there’s a fascinating debate between Chomsky and Foucault available online. Chomsky says that he supports the oppressed in the name of justice. Foucault says that he suppports the oppressed period. Today at least I feel closer to Foucault.

      • Mitch Guthman December 27, 2016 at 8:08 pm | #

        I would have to say that Chomsky has the better of the argument. If you stop evaluating whether or not the actions of “oppressed peoples” are morally acceptable, you’re really giving them a blank check in perpetuity. And creating an almost impossible slippery slope of moral disasters and definitional contortions going forward. Really, what you end up with is a lot atrocities that certainly intellectuals excuse on the grounds that the perpetrations were once oppressed.

        On another level, if one accepts Mao’s doctrine, there isn’t any right or wrong, there’s just power. If the revolution isn’t a dinner party, nothing else needs to be either. And we’re back at the question of why was it wrong for the French to enslave Africans. Presumably, if enslaving Africans suited the needs of the revolution in France, it would be morally permissible for you.

        But I think there’s just a fundamental disagreement about something else that’s just as important. The relationship between the French revolution and the Haitian revolution is complex and convoluted. But the French ultimately semi-abandoned slavery in Saint-Domingue out of their belief in the principles underlying their revolutionary movement. Yet the ordinary French people were themselves arguably an oppressed people. Why shouldn’t they be allowed to own slaves—after all, you’re either with the oppressed or you aren’t.

        Either slavery is wrong or it isn’t. Either raping and slaughtering captives is wrong regardless of who does the raping and killing or it isn’t. What you’re describing is simply a world of barbarism in which some of the barbarians smugly claim the moral high ground as justification for what would be unforgivable atrocities if done by others.

    • jonnybutter December 27, 2016 at 7:08 pm | #

      M Guthman – I somehow replied to you further up instead of here. These threads can get to be a big mess. Maybe it’s Chrome…

      • Mitch Guthman December 27, 2016 at 10:01 pm | #

        I’m not lecturing to oppressed slaves in Saint-Domingue because they’re all dead and gone. And most of them ended up as surfs after the revolution, so instead of being slaved owned as property, their ownership ran with the land to which they were bound. All I’m really saying is that it’s despicable and evil to rape and murder helpless captives, even when it’s done by an oppressed people.

        As for GCM, I have no idea what’s going on with him. There were comparatively few atrocities against slaveholders or other whites and mulattos during the actual revolution and when one speaks of “the massacres” it’s typically a reference to the 1804 massacres. But regardless of the timeframe within the revolution, I really question whether rape and murder of helpless captives can ever be thought of as good. Understandable, perhaps even excusable. But good? Never.

        • jonnybutter December 28, 2016 at 10:14 am | #

          But regardless of the timeframe within the revolution, I really question whether rape and murder of helpless captives can ever be thought of as good. Understandable, perhaps even excusable. But good? Never.

          Who would disagree with you? He didn’t say ‘massacre’ and didn’t say ‘rape and murder of helpless captives’ was ‘good’, and he did say ‘during the revolution’; and you said ‘after the revolution’.

          I apologize for over reacting to you (M Guthman) in the first place. I know nothing about you, but I somehow got the impression that you belonged to a species of ‘sophisticated’ racist that just makes me froth, especially now that there are so many people more/less like that scurrying around my country (US). I neither have nor had any evidence for that impression of you (although I still wonder about the aforementioned scare quotes around ‘oppressed peoples’). So..pardon me please.

          All this is way off topic (although still interesting thanks esp to S Wallerstein via Chomsky/Foucault). I prefer Corey’s take, but Amber A’lee Frost also puts the same posture in a useful form. I prefer a more theoretical defense of GCM, because I think the idea that criminalizing or otherwise penalizing speech is a singularly terrible, infantilizing idea.

  22. jonnybutter December 27, 2016 at 8:04 pm | #

    [Milx, I can’t seem to reply to you below your comment]

    Because no one should be forced to hire someone who holds reprehensible beliefs?

    Salaita was already hired, then ‘un-hired’ (fired) because of his tweets. His career was ruined because – and only because – of personal political opinions. What’s the ‘first principle’? That you shouldn’t be able to fire people because you disagree with their personal politics, even publically (civically) expressed. Doesn’t seem to hard to me.

    Am I obligated to keep on an employee who dons a white hood and disseminates race “realism” online in his free time?

    The problem here is that you think employing someone is a form of ownership, rather than a contract. No – you are paying them to do a job for you and doing that job without disrupting your business is roughly the extent of their responsibility to you, or should be. If they tweet something you don’t like and you cause a fuss, it is not they who are being disruptive, but you. Employing someone is a contract, not doing them a favor.

    And btw, if you want to quickly turn your education system into a pieza de mierda, train your teachers to fear controversy of any kind.

    • milx December 27, 2016 at 8:20 pm | #

      Employing someone isn’t a form of ownership except the ownership of the right to associate with the people you want. I see nothing in your comment that suggests that an employment contract somehow eliminates your rights of association. There are categories of [identity discriminatory] things for which you legally cannot fire someone but someone’s opinions are not the same as their race, gender or [even] religion; they are malleable and many of them are abhorrent. The problem is that you believe that hiring someone is a contract that happens within a context of agreement that they cannot be fired for marching in a Klan rally. I see no reason why a) that should be ethically so or b) that should be legally so.

  23. jonnybutter December 27, 2016 at 9:10 pm | #

    Freedom of association, like freedom of speech, is a freedom from government interference to associate with whom you want to associate with, and say what you want to say. These legal freedoms don’t exist in the private sector (although I think they should).

    I don’t understand the other part. If you hire someone and they go to a klan rally one day you should be able to fire them because…freedom of your association? I don’t get that one.

    I said you are treating workers as possessions, and you tell me about ‘possessing’ the right to associate? That’s a really different use of the word ‘possession’, no?

    You point out that opinions are malleable – yes they are, including yours- the employer’s. Why should only the changeability of your opinions be allowed?

    It just doesn’t seem workable OR fair to be able to fire someone because you or they changed their minds about something having nothing to do with the work they do for you (or you for them). There is no principle there, so I think we ought to err on the liberal side. And there can be other benefits to that, most obviously in an educational institution. Again, the idea is you aren’t doing someone a favor paying them to do a job for you. You need the job done and you agree on a price.

  24. jonnybutter December 27, 2016 at 9:26 pm | #

    I would have to say that Chomsky has the better of the argument.

    I very much agree with this, M Guthman.

  25. af7 December 28, 2016 at 6:49 pm | #

    How is this significantly different from what Susan Sontag wrote about 5 decades ago?

    The white race is the cancer of human history. It is the white race and it alone – its ideologies and inventions – which eradicates autonomous civilizations wherever it spreads, which has upset the ecological balance of the planet, which now threatens the very existence of life itself.

    Or, what George Carlin said about whites and their ability to “inspire” the blues in, say, folks at the receiving end of white supremacy:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcr8dm9Prkk

    Who can doubt that the one country left in the World whose Government Ministers proudly refer to it as a “White Man’s Country” is also busily eradicating indigenous civilizations?

    http://africasacountry.com/2012/09/the-white-man-comment

  26. Roquentin December 29, 2016 at 2:19 pm | #

    One last thing, I don’t know if you read The Charnel House, but I do, and the the post directly mentions this blog.

    https://thecharnelhouse.org/2016/12/28/free-speech-on-and-off-campus-in-defense-of-george-ciccariello-maher/

    • s.wallerstein December 29, 2016 at 2:47 pm | #

      Thanks Roquentin.

      I had never heard of that blog before, but it seems worth looking at.

      • Roquentin January 3, 2017 at 10:40 pm | #

        I’m glad you like it. There was a follow up post today, and the part referencing this blog post is too funny not to repost:

        Jac­obin re­pos­ted Corey Robin’s call to “De­fend George Cic­car­i­ello-Ma­h­er” from his per­son­al blog, a reas­on­able enough piece, des­pite its praise for the as­so­ciate pro­fess­or’s “ex­cel­lent work on Venezuela and polit­ic­al the­ory.” With all due re­spect to Robin, Cic­car­i­ello-Ma­h­er’s stuff on Venezuela is lazy tripe. It amounts to little more than re­hash­ing the crudest talk­ing points pre­pared by the Bolivari­an re­gime. He once gran­ted an in­ter­view to Amy Good­man of Demo­cracy Now! in which jus­ti­fy Ma­duro’s jail­ing of Leo­poldo López, the mod­er­ate op­pos­i­tion lead­er, back in 2015. López was sen­tenced to four­teen years for fo­ment­ing un­rest and al­legedly plot­ting to over­throw the gov­ern­ment. Guess what evid­ence was presen­ted as proof of his crime? Yup, that’s right: prob­lem­at­ic tweets.

        Between this and GCM’s comments on Charlie Hebdo, more or less implying they got what was coming to him I don’t personally like the man, his ideas, his hypocrisy, or have much sympathy for him. However, sites like Breitbart don’t get to decide when an academic crosses the line and I’ll defend him on general principle for that reason alone. Sometimes you have to defend people you don’t like or even respect.

        • s.wallerstein January 4, 2017 at 8:38 am | #

          One thing you learn in politics is that not everyone on your side is particularly honest or even decent or likeable and that some people on the other side are honest, decent and likeable and that it’s a question of chosing sides on big issues which affect millions of people, not on selecting whom you like or whom you’d want to have a beer with or whom you’d want leading your 10 year old son’s scout troop.

          Orwell, whom I realize is not your favorite role model, says somewhere that he avoids going to social events with conservatives and with the power elite in general because he realizes that he might end up liking them as people and that that would cloud his political judgment.

  27. Marc Remillard January 1, 2017 at 2:09 pm | #

    Accepting at face value that you do not employ a double standard as Drexel does (we all know for a dead certainty that if the word “black” had replaced the word “white” in his tweet that he would have been thrown out the door faster than it could have possibly swung back to hit his backside) I wonder how far you’re will to go? If a professor is on Twitter organizing a coup he doesn’t get fired? If a professor is calling, unsatirically, for the deaths of all black people, that’s OK too? What about a professor at a research university who decides to tweet classified information? Free speech?

    Is your position really that one can say anything they want?

    • jonnybutter January 4, 2017 at 1:03 pm | #

      we all know for a dead certainty that if the word “black” had replaced the word “white” in his tweet that he would have been thrown out the door faster than it could have possibly swung back to hit his backside

      Sigh. Funny how the center of your argument is a counterfactual. Since blacks didn’t enslave whites and whites didn’t revolt against their black masters, there is no double standard at all, except in your imagination.

      Also amusing that you wonder if a professor organizing a coup should……be *fired*. I’d say a prof seriously organizing a political coup (in the wrong country of course), on twitter, will have more pressing problems than being fired.

      • halginsberg1963 January 4, 2017 at 1:19 pm | #

        The problem with your argument is that to the extent that GCM was calling for genocide, he wasn’t calling for the people responsible for slavery and colonialism to be murdered, he was calling for the murder of their descendants and lots of other people whose families were completely uninvolved in these twin evils. Moreover, many who would participate in the “dream[ed] of” genocide would in fact be direct descendants of the worst perpetrators. Almost without exception, killing people based on race or making jokes about doing so is just plain wrong. I get there may be a couple of exceptions. In an ante-bellum slave revolt, like Nat Turner’s, the understandable default was to assume that all whites were dangerous. But even then there were lots of whites who were fighting for abolition.

        • jonnybutter January 4, 2017 at 6:11 pm | #

          killing people based on race or making jokes about doing so is just plain wrong.

          One of these things is not like the other.

          I think GCM managed to be provocative in a fairly dumb way. But it was pure rhetoric. No one will get killed, and he absolutely was not calling for anyone to get killed.

          You are indulging in (tiresome) rhetoric too -subtly equating racist killing with ‘making jokes’ about it – the latter being very vague, and could mean many benign things.

          He was trying to provoke racist idiots, ‘alt’s’, et. al. and he succeeded. I guess. So what? He should lose his job for that? I don’t care how big an asshole he is, the answer is ‘no’. And no one should lose their job for off the job political speech.

          BTW, the other argument, from Marc, also doesn’t make sense just on the face of it. It just occurred to me that it’s a kind of *tu quoque*. Not an argument at all.

          Plenty of people on here riled up about this, though. My, my. Why?

          • Roquentin January 5, 2017 at 10:23 am | #

            I never really gave what he said much thought, frankly. I’ve met plenty of his type in my life. White men, driven almost exclusively by shame, to the point where they project their whiteness and maleness on everyone but themselves. These people will say far worse things about white people than any person of color I’ve ever met. That’s the real twist. They think it makes them look good, but they’re annoying even to those who are sympathetic to their views and a walking joke to everyone else. CGM fits that profile to a T. I’ve had a policy of googling photos of the authors of pieces on things like white privilege, and more often than than not the picture comes back very white.

            I also find the mental gymnastics people are going through to paint his comments as innocent to be absurd. I could actually respect it if he’d own what he said. If it really was just some kind of abstract joke, meaning “genocide” where no one actually dies, why the follow up comment on the Hatian Revolution, whether you think it was justified or not, where white people very clearly were physically killed? His bullshit isn’t even internally consistent. I’m not here to cry crocodile tears for the former French slave owners in Haiti, but CGM is full of shit. I don’t know why his type does so well in academia, but he’s like a cartoon version of the professor everyone loves to hate.

  28. mark January 4, 2017 at 9:01 am | #

    See wikipedia for The Golden Rump.

    Disclaimer, The Golden Rump in no way refers to president-elect Donald J TRump.

  29. Anne Hanna January 4, 2017 at 6:31 pm | #

    Looks like Drexel has moderated their stance a bit. It’s still not a perfect statement (I would’ve liked to see a stronger explicit stance against the type of bigotry Ciccariello-Maher was trying to satirize), but it probably would’ve been fine as an initial response. I both emailed the administrators and submitted a letter to the editor to the Philadelphia Inquirer in the wake of the initial statement, to criticize their lackluster defense of him, and now I’m going to follow that up with positive feedback for the change in stance.

    http://drexel.edu/now/archive/2016/December/Message-to-community-on-academic-freedom-inclusivity/

Leave a Reply to DrDick Cancel reply