Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ward Churchill and the Black Panthers

On February 23, 2005,The Rocky Mountain News published an interesting article called "Ward Churchill and the Black Panthers." It was subsequently reprinted in Front Page Magazine.

Here is an interesting quote from the article:

"Churchill has written extensively on the Black Panthers...pushing the common view that they were besieged and all but exterminated by a coordinated campaign emanating from the FBI.

That the FBI targeted, harassed and infiltrated the Black Panthers is not open to doubt. Then again, the agency would have been irresponsible not to be concerned about this group, whose celebrated public image of providing armed defense to the black community concealed vicious, systematic criminal activity - much of which its surviving leaders admitted in later years. In 1998, for example, Eldridge Cleaver told 60 Minutes, 'If people had listened to Huey Newton and me in the 1960s, there would have been a holocaust in this country.' Newton, a founder of the Black Panthers, was a predator and drug addict who was eventually murdered in 1989 by a drug dealer.

Churchill is all but oblivious to the Panthers' criminal side. Instead, in an essay published in 2001 in an anthology titled Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party, he laments the 'fallen warriors of the Black Panther Party' and urges others to take up their banner. The essay is a 40-page slog, but Churchill's casual commitment to truth is fully betrayed in a table on page 109 in which he lists 'The Panther Dead: Police-Induced Fatalities, 1968-1971' - a description meant to convey the idea that 29 activists were murdered by police. In fact, the list includes numerous Panthers killed by relatives, colleagues and other armed militants, or who perished in clashes with police that they initiated. He includes the likes of Alex Rackley, tortured and murdered by fellow Panthers; George Jackson, killed in an attempted jailbreak from San Quentin; Frank Diggs, whose murder was never solved (as Churchill actually admits elsewhere in his text); and Bobby Hutton, shot trying to escape (witnesses agreed) after a 90-minute gun battle with police in Oakland.

As long ago as 1971, Edward Jay Epstein debunked claims of "a pattern of genocide" in a meticulous article in The New Yorker.

Additional revelations since have rounded out our knowledge, including Cleaver's admission to journalist Kate Coleman in California Magazine in 1980 that he and other Panthers provoked the battle resulting in Hutton's death by ambushing a patrol car.

To be sure, some cases are ambiguous or subject to conflicting testimony and may well have involved official lies or misconduct (the deaths of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark in Chicago certainly did), but Churchill is not interested in drawing such distinctions. He is first to last a propagandist masquerading as an academic."

It is interesting that the Rocky Mountain News writes that the Panthers provoked a battle by ambushing a police car. The Panther's ambush of the police reminds me a lot of the ambush of the two FBI agents on Pine Ridge on the symbolic anniversary of Custer's last Stand that I have written about here and here.

Churchill's claim that the Panthers were nearly exterminated by a coordinated FBI campaign reminds me of his absurd claim that 342 AIM activists or their relatives were murdered by FBI-backed death squads at Pine Ridge.

It seems like Ward Churchill just keeps putting retreads on the same old lies.

The ironic thing is that Churchill even plagiarized his fabrication about the FBI-backed death squads at Pine Ridge by copying an actual historical event from the history of the FBI's investigation of the Osage Indian Murders.

Churchill depicts the Black Panthers as civil rights activists when they were really violent criminals. He also depicts Leonard Peltier as an Indian rights activist when Peltier was really just a violent criminal, too.

Here is the FBI "Wanted" poster for Peltier.


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