Smallpox-infected blankets to the Indians

[Collection re the alleged infection of Indians with smallpox blankets.]

Jeffrey Amherst and Smallpox Blankets

Plains Indian Smallpox

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Perjury (Part Five): Ward Churchill's "Sourcing" for his Smallpox Blankets Claim

By Alex Constantine

Churchill's courtroom comments on the introduction of smallpox-infected blankets to the Indians by the U.S. Army: "I've been hearing this all my life from traditional sources and mainstream sources. It's enshrined in songs and oral traditions specific to the Mandan." ... Churchill said he's attended several speaking engagements since the misconduct allegations arose and people are stunned when he tells them that he is accused of making up facts about smallpox being introduced by the Army, something he considers common knowledge. ... "

Churchill considers the smallpox blanket story to be "common knowledge" - yet resorted to inventing sources to document it, despite his sworn misstatements:

"... Churchill cited Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Big Horn and Russell Thornton’s American Indian Holocaust and Survival but neither book says anything about the army playing such a role. ... "


Re: “Jury to have last word on Churchill’s suit vs. CU,” March 9 news story.
Denver Post

I am a retired teacher with a master’s degree in American studies focusing on outdoor museum management, more than 60 graduate hours, and many hours of study and experience as a volunteer at such sites as Bent’s Old Fort and Fort Laramie. Ward Churchill is an embarrassment to all who strive for accuracy and truth in Western American history.

For example, the canard regarding the distribution of smallpox-infected blankets to the Indians by the Army was refuted years ago, as Mr. Churchill should have known had he been an adequate student and researcher. Couldn’t he find a more original lie?

If Mr. Churchill wanted to make his mark, why didn’t he pursue the yet-to-be-written history of some of our forgotten Western citizens — women, the Hispanics who actually built Bent’s Old Fort, the Native Americans/Indians/First Americans (take your pick) who kept commerce flowing there, even Dick and Charlotte Green, William Bent’s slaves — instead of masking his arrogance and lack of scholarship in the guise of academic freedom?

Dan McCrimmon, Littleton’s-trial-5-letters/

Secret Report Reveals Participation of Medical Professionals in Torture at CIA Black Sites
April 6, 2009.

The report describes "three principal roles" played by medical professionals, including "monitoring the ongoing ill-treatment" of prisoners.

Medical professionals working for the CIA played a central role in the "ill-treatment" of terror suspects in U.S. custody overseas, according to a previously confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross. The 2007 report describes interviews with 14 "high value detainees" who were transferred to Guantanamo Bay in September 2006, revealing the full extent of complicity and participation by medical personnel in a wide and grisly range of torture methods inflicted upon them. Listed in the table of contents of the 41-page report, these methods included "suffocation by water," "prolonged stress standing," "beatings by use of a collar," "beating and kicking," "confinement in a box," "prolonged nudity," and more.

The ICRC report describes "three principal roles" played by medical professionals in the torture of prisoners in U.S. custody. "Firstly, there was a direct role in monitoring the ongoing ill-treatment which, in some instances, involved the health personnel directly participating while certain methods were used."

Secondly, there was a role in performing a medical check just prior to, and just after,each transfer. Finally, there was the provision of healthcare, to treat both the direct consequences of ill-treatment detailed in previous sections, and to treat any natural ailments that arose during the prolonged periods of detention.

According to the report, which was obtained by journalist Mark Danner -- who first published excerpts last month and has now published its full contents on the website of the New York Review of Books -- certain methods required more active participation by medical professions. For example, in subjecting prisoners to "suffocation by water," "it was alleged that health personnel actively monitored a detainee's oxygen saturation using what, from the description of the detainee of a device placed over the finger, appeared to be a pulse oxymeter." ...


Monday, April 6, 2009

Perjury (Part Four): Truthiness v. Scholarship - Ward Churchill’s Day in Court

By Thomas Brown

Mr. Brown is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Northeast Lakeview College. He has published several analyses of Churchill’s research misconduct. He testified for the defense.

"Well, anybody who knows me knows I'm no fan of dictionaries or reference books - they're elitist. Constantly telling us what is or isn't true or what did or didn't happen. Who's Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was finished in 1914? If I want to say it was happened in 1941, that's my right." -- Stephen Colbert

Postmodernist epistemology battled empiricism in a Denver courtroom over the past month, and both came away bloodied. The University of Colorado fired Ward Churchill in 2007 for committing repeated acts of research misconduct, including plagiarism, fabrication, falsification, and self-citing articles he’d ghostwritten under other names. Churchill retaliated with a lawsuit, alleging that CU violated his free speech rights by firing him. The court case culminated last week with the jury finding for Churchill, and awarding him one dollar in damages.

CU fired Churchill after three separate faculty committees all unanimously found him guilty of misconduct for fabricating details in his charge of smallpox blanket genocide against the US Army (as well as committing plagiarism and various other research misconduct offenses).

In a story developed across at least six different essays, Churchill claimed that Army officers called a meeting with the Mandan Indians at Fort Clark in 1837, and gave them smallpox blankets taken from an Army smallpox infirmary in St. Louis. When the first Indians became ill, Churchill says that Army doctors told them to “scatter”, and “run for the hills”.

None of Churchill’s sources corroborate his story, and no historian who has studied this episode has ever even mentioned an Army presence within eight hundred miles of Fort Clark – which was a fur trading depot, not a military installation.

Churchill has since abandoned all of the fabricated aspects of his story, while simultaneously claming that he did not fabricate it, because he still feels in his gut that the story is correct.

• Churchill now says that when he indicted “Army officers” for passing out smallpox blankets to the Mandans, he meant to refer to the local Indian agent instead.

• Churchill now admits that he has no evidence that any blankets came from an Army smallpox infirmary in St. Louis. His new story is that genocidal blankets were brought from Baltimore by a disgruntled fur trader.

• Churchill now says that when he indicted “Army doctors” at Fort Clark for violating quarantine in order to deliberately infect more Indians, he meant to refer to fur traders doing so.

• Churchill now holds that when he said that the Mandan tribe had been deliberately infected, he used the word “Mandan” not to refer to the actual Mandan tribe, but instead to refer to all Indian tribes in the Northern Plains, extending across the border into Canada.

In other words, Churchill no longer defends his original indictment of the Army, given that there is absolutely no evidence of Army presence anywhere in the vicinity for hundreds of miles. But he still refuses to concede that his tale of Army genocide is fabricated. Churchill holds that because he had heard stories about the Army giving smallpox blankets to Indians, he is justified in holding the Army accountable for this specific outbreak, and justified in inventing details of blanket distribution by the Army – details that he now admits he cannot substantiate. Churchill’s story still feels right to him, even though he has no evidence whatsoever of Army presence, much less Army involvement.

According to TV’s satirical pundit Stephen Colbert, “truthiness” is something you feel to be correct, regardless of inconvenient facts or reason. Colbert, speaking out of character, says of truthiness:

"It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything. […] Truthiness is 'What I say is right, and [nothing] anyone else says could possibly be true.' It's not only that I feel it to be true, but that I feel it to be true. There's not only an emotional quality, but there's a selfish quality."

Churchill built his case against CU on the epistemology of truthiness. He argues that the function of Indian Studies is to challenge “the Master Narrative” of standard history. This permits Churchill to view history as a white conspiracy against Indians. Churchill explains away the lack of any evidence demonstrating an Army smallpox blanket genocide by imagining a conspiracy to cover up the crime. More problematic for Churchill’s claim is the complete lack of any genocidal motive on the part of either the Army, or the fur traders who Churchill indicts in his more recent versions of his conspiracy theory.

Churchill’s oppositional stance towards the Master Narrative also gives him license to use data in any way he pleases. For example, he has variously claimed that the 1837 epidemic killed 125,000 and 400,000 Indians. None of the sources that Churchill cites give these estimates. In trial testimony, Churchill argued that he is justified to use either figure, depending on his mood that particular day. Churchill also argued that his sources “suggest” these numbers to him, and that he is therefore justified in citing sources that disagree with him in order to validate his own estimate.

Churchill and one of his witnesses – Michael Yellow Bird, a social work professor at University of Kansas – also claim the right to invent data when it is convenient. They complain that conventional histories of the 1837 epidemic blame Indians. There were two theories advanced by eyewitnesses.

One said that an Indian swam aboard the steamboat and stole a blanket from a sick passenger. Another held that three sick Arikara women were passengers, and that they infected their tribe when they disembarked. Churchill and Yellow Bird transform the blanket thief into an “Indian Chief”, and transform the three Arikara women into “prostitutes”. However, none of the primary sources identify the blanket thief as a chief. Nor do they identify the three sick women as prostitutes.

Thus Churchill and Yellow Bird feel no shame in falsifying the Master Narrative in order to condemn it. Yellow Bird even argued that that a "fabricated, made-up account promotes truth." Another Churchill witness, Derrick Bell, pointed to his fictional tale of space aliens capturing African Americans as an example of the enlightening qualities of fabrication.

Perhaps. However, an honest scholar is expected to distinguish his fictions from his facts, and to disclose which is which to his readers. Churchill was fired for presenting his fictions as conclusive, “documentable” facts – even though the sources he cites contradict his assertions.

Eric Cheyfitz, a Cornell English professor, is another Churchill defender who is willing to falsify his sources to mean what he wishes they meant. Cheyfitz relies on Richard Posner’s conception of plagiarism, in order to excuse Churchill. Cheyfitz quotes the following passage from Posner:

"The reader has to care about being deceived about authorial identity in order for the deceit to cross the line to fraud and thus constitute plagiarism."

Cheyfitz then says: “If I follow Posner here, in order for the reader ‘to care about being deceived by authorial identity’, the reader must feel that there has been intent to deceive with ‘intent’ implying for gain.” But of course Posner says nothing whatsoever about the author’s intent to profit. For Posner:

"Plagiarism is a species of intellectual fraud. It consists of unauthorized copying that the copier claims (whether deliberately or carelessly) is original with him and the claim causes the copier’s audience to behave otherwise than it would if it knew the truth."

Cheyfitz feels free to imagine that Posner defined plagiary in terms of the author’s intent to gain. But Posner makes plain that he defines plagiary in terms of the reader’s reaction to being deceived. The CU faculty made plain that they objected to Churchill’s deceit, but Cheyfitz dismisses their concerns.

Cheyfitz then falsely states that none of Churchill’s plagiarized essays “were written for the purpose of building an academic career.” In fact, Churchill listed them on his CV, and on his annual faculty report, and sold them in edited collections to his students out of his office.

It would seem from the examples of Yellow Bird and Cheyfitz that unabashed intellectual dishonesty is a prerequisite for supporting Churchill’s claim to innocence. Yellow Bird says that fabrication is acceptable. Cheyfitz says that plagiarism is acceptable so long as you don’t intend to profit – and falsifies his own source in the process.

For Churchill and his postmodernist defenders, facts simply do not matter. Instead, truthiness is the new standard.

"Jerry, just remember, it's not a lie … if you believe it." -- George Costanza


Perjury (Part Three): Stanley Fish to the Rescue

By Alex Constantine

And now for something completely ludicrous ...

Over at the New York Times blog, in a defense of Mr. Ward Churchill - a highly controversial Caucasian - attorney Stanley Fish (a media propagandist who opines, "within a year of the day he leaves office, and no matter who succeeds him, George W. Bush will be a popular public figure, regarded with affection and a little nostalgia even by those who voted against him. ... ") finds academic fraud a frivolous matter:

Fish: "I won’t even go into the roster of big-time historians who in recent years have been charged with (and in some instances confessed to) plagiarism, distortion and downright lying. With the exception of one, these academic malfeasants are still plying their trades, receiving awards and even pontificating on television."

Fabricating data, plagiarism? A triviality, less than a footnote in the analysis of a researcher's character ...

" ... Why, given these examples of crimes or errors apparently forgiven, did Ward Churchill lose his job (he may now regain it) when all he was accused of was playing fast and loose with the facts, fudging his sources and going from A to D in his arguments without bothering to stop at B and C? In short, standard stuff. The answer Churchill’s partisans would give (and in the end it may be the right answer) is 'politics.' ... "

On Stanley Fish's Academic "Standards"

R.V. Young in Fish’s Wikipedia entry:

"Because his general understanding of human nature and of the human condition is false, Fish fails in the specific task of a university scholar, which requires that learning be placed in the service of truth. And this, finally, is the critical issue in the contemporary university of which Stanley Fish is a typical representative: sophistry renders truth itself equivocal and deprives scholarly learning of its reason for being. . . . His brash disdain of principle and his embrace of sophistry reveal the hollowness hidden at the heart of the current academic enterprise. ... "


Perjury (Part Two): Provocateur Ward Churchill Lied about Academic Fraud on the Stand

" ... Did the jury verdict exonerate Churchill on the accusations of academic fraud? Not by a long shot. ... "

By Alex Constantine

It was a victory for hate speech, academic fraud and perjury.

The University is apparently considering an appeal: "University of Colorado at Boulder Interim Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano released this statement on the university's Web site, saying: 'While I am disappointed by the jury's decision, I am still confident that the process we used to review allegations of research misconduct was appropriately applied in this case. The university attorneys will evaluate the next steps in the legal process.' ... "

In Part One, we witnessed "Dr." Ward Churchill lying blatantly on the stand about his ethnic background. As I explained in the introduction, Barbara Mann, an English teacher at the University of Toledo, whose testimony "supported" Churchill's academic writing, was once herself fired for fabricating information in an article - an infraction that I verified, since I worked in the same office with Barbara Mann for over a year and witnessed the firing at close range.

Below we find "Dr." Churchill lying about his own work after Mann had "confirmed" his research on the stand. - AC

Excerpt: "Howling mob put CU team in tight spot"

... Credit Churchill's attorney, David Lane, and his legal team for their excellent work, but don't fault CU's very capable lawyers for the outcome. ...

CU's attorneys faced a near-insurmountable legal challenge. After all, the primary legal inquiry posed to the jury was whether, for a majority of the nine regents, the essay was a "substantial or motivating factor" in the dismissal.

How could it not have been, since just 2 1/2 years earlier, eight of the same regents who fired Churchill passed a resolution decrying his "disgraceful comments" that brought "dishonor" to the university.

Did the jury verdict exonerate Churchill on the accusations of academic fraud? Not by a long shot.

The erstwhile professor's explanation for how verbatim passages of another's work wound up in an essay credited to him was unconvincing, and his citation of his own "ghostwritten" article still seems academically dishonest.

To be totally fair, the evidence on the claims of falsification and fabrication was underwhelming, more like nit-picking than legitimate examples of scholarly wrongdoing.

What probably motivated the jury to seek to award Churchill next to nothing was instead the same essay that cost him his job.

The inflammatory nature of that piece, which characterized World Trade Center workers as "little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers" who really had it coming, surely won him no friends among the jurors.

Indeed, the margin of victory, if you can call it that, was very narrow. Judging from one of the jury notes sent out, it appears that five of the six jurors wanted to award nothing but were advised by Chief District Court Judge Larry Naves that if they found no damages, they should award $1.

The potential for appeal on that ruling aside, the difference between $1 and a "no damages" verdict in this case is monumental.

As the "prevailing party" on a civil rights claim, Churchill is entitled to attorney fees, which likely total in the mid-six figure range.

Luckily for CU, Churchill could not make good on his reported earlier boast that he would end up "owning the University" if fired. The verdict is $2,999,999 less than the $3 million it cost CU to be rid of former football coach Gary Barnett.

But then again, CU may still have Churchill to kick around once Judge Naves rules on Churchill's upcoming request for reinstatement, which is the preferred remedy in wrongful discharge cases.Credit Churchill's attorney, David Lane, and his legal team for their excellent work, but don't fault CU's very capable lawyers for the outcome.