Ward Churchill speaking at the Anarchist Bookfair in San Francisco on March 26, 2005
Ward Churchill's second San Francisco appearance was at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, held in the San Francisco County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park, on March 26, 2005. (For the reports on his other appearances, click here.)
As its name implies, the Anarchist Bookfair is a popular event bringing together anarchists, punks, communists, eco-terrorists, homeless people, and every sort of fringe political movement that opposes the United States in particular and civilization in general.
There was a full slate of speakers scheduled for the day, but Churchill was the headliner, the final act.
Throughout the afternoon, as they waited for Churchill to appear, an overflow crowd cruised the dozens of vendor tables offering counterculture accoutrements.
Here, at a booth selling photocopied pirate editions of anarchist and anti-civilization tracts, Ward Churchill is juxtaposed with his philosophical soul-mate.
In fact, along with Churchill, Ted Kaczynski was the Philosopher King most popular amongst the crowd.
Further along...well, is a caption even necessary?
Outside, a trio of exhibitionists prepared a message of peace. [Note for the curious: yes, his scrotum is the size of a cantaloupe; he's a regular at San Francisco anti-war protests who's a fan of a procedure called "scrotal inflation" in which the testicular sac is infused with saline solution until it almost bursts. If you would like to try scrotal inflation yourself, click here to order a Scrotal Inflation Kit.]
(Due to popular demand, here is a close-up of "Scrotum Man," as he has come to be known.)
Just a few yards away, Churchill himself soaked up the atmosphere as he waited for his scheduled speaking time.
The crowd entertained itself with games such as "Pin the Molotov on the Cop Car."
It's impossible to summarize in any succinct way the wide variety of personal and political viewpoints on display at the event. As long as it was extreme, it was OK. This woman, for example, had demonstrated her disdain for "heteronormative beauty standards" by shaving her head and permanently tattooing a mustache on her upper lip.
It wasn't all peace and love. Some of the anarchist groups were in favor of taking the law into their own hands.
At least in theory -- most of the individuals displaying these messages seemed more goofy than menacing.
Somewhat out of place were the Wobblies, since their advocacy of a universal workers' union implies not only that there should be some sort of social structure, but that there should be workers at all -- both of which notions were at odds with the other groups at the fair, most of which sought the complete elimination of both the concept of "employment" and of civilization altogether.
Eventually it was: showtime! The crowd filed in to hear Churchill -- at least 500 people squeezed into the auditorium.
Churchill waited in the wings as the MC read an adulatory introduction.
When he took the mike, he launched into pretty much the same speech he had given the night before, with a few variations thrown in to please the anarchist audience.
Americans are no different from Nazis
This time around, Churchill went straight to the heart of the matter right off the bat and -- in no uncertain terms -- compared Americans to Nazis (QuickTime mpeg video, 1.6mb):
(Clicking on this link -- and all the similar links below -- will open a QuickTime video [or mp3] file of Churchill speaking. Each of the files will open in a new window. Below each link is an exact transcription of Churchill's words. Phrases [in brackets] indicate portions that are not clearly audible.)
"And I've got an answer for you and that answer is Eichmann! Eichmann! That is the mentality of Eichmann. Big Eichmann and little Eichmann. The good Germans that made that process possible are synonymous with the good Americans who voted for George Bush or thought that John Kerry was an alternative. [Audience applause.] And that explains the blind eye turned to a half-million Iraqi children. That's an entire coming generation because for every dead there's three more who are never gonna grow up other than in a twisted and physically deformed manner as a result of what's been done to them in order to impose the United States' will, and that's genocide. When you talk about it being imposed on a country of barely 20 million people, a half-million children is the future. The future was denied in the interest of American domination of the rest of the planet in order to support a material way of life and a mentality which is absolutely on its face indefensible to anyone with a scintilla of moral integrity. "
[As usual, Churchill's making up his own facts as he goes along: there's no evidence -- not even the hint of any evidence -- that 1.5 million Iraqi children are physically deformed because of the actions of the United States.]
Churchill spots a little Eichmann in the crowd.
People with jobs are not humans
One wonders what Hannah Arendt would have thought if she knew that one day her study of Eichmann would be used to dehumanize an entire nation of people -- which is exactly what Churchill did here when he said that "going with the program" (i.e. participating in society by, for example, having a job) "voids your humanity." Especially those people who happened to work in two particular buildings in Lower Manhattan:
"I took this from Hannah Arendt, who was a noted scholar of the experience of the Holocaust, and who asked for the assignment, as a journalist, to go from New York to Tel Aviv to witness the trial. She wanted to confront the real Eichmann. In her mind he epitomized the evil to her, expected to confront a monstrosity, and what she found instead was a mouse. An absolutely nondescript little everyman. And the true magnitude of the horror began to penetrate. And what it was that penetrated was not the malevolence of Eichmann as the Nazi, as the overseer of the Holocaust, but his absolute banality, his everyman dimension. Not that he was a Nazi, but that in his everyman capacity he obviously and clearly signaled the fact that everyone bound up in mass status society was potentially him. Him. His very absence of unique and monstrous characteristics was that which was most horrifying about him. Going with the program renders you Eichmann. Going with the program voids your humanity. Going with the program makes you not just complicit but a participant in the process of genocide." [Audience applause.]
Janitors not included
But wait! Bristling at criticism thrown at him from the left over his Little Eichmanns comment, Churchill reassures everyone that only educated and middle-class people have no humanity -- lower-class workers and menial laborers are of course exempt from this accusation. Whew. Wouldn't want to piss off the Marxists! (QuickTime mpeg video, .9mb):
"Eichmann was not in that building. The little Eichmanns were there. The first response from the left was to start screaming about food-service workers and janitors, passersby, and 18-month-old children. If there is a definition out there that makes the guy who pushes a broom for a living a technocrat, a technician of empire or something comparable to that, I'd really like to hear what it is. Obviously I was not talking about the food-service workers, the janitors, the passersby, or the children. I was talking about something very specific, that was understood, that was in the formulation. That was a diversion, a diversion from the real aspect of genocidal mentality with which this society is imbued."
In the entire audience there was one -- just one -- person who disagreed with Churchill's thesis. And she actually got up the nerve to speak out in a room full of people who regard her as the enemy:
Churchill: Eichmann. The real Eichmann. The big Eichmann was a bureaucrat --
Heckler: Victims of 9/11 were not little Eichmanns!
Audience member: Hey! Shut up! [Audience laughter.]
Churchill: (Speaking to the person who said "Shut up") Well said! Succinct. Very much to the point.
Unhinged Heckler #2
But she wasn't the only heckler. Someone else verbally confronted Churchill from the extreme other end of the political spectrum, insisting that conservatives and America-supporters planned and pulled off the 9/11 attacks -- one of the "Bush was behind 9/11" crowd. Churchill wasted no time dispensing with him, however, unleashing his standard "What? You think minorities are too stupid to have pulled this off?" comeback that gets 'em every time:
Churchill: Maybe what I said, something's gonna stick in your mind.
Heckler: The people attacking you arrangedĘ9/11! It was the same people.
Churchill: Which is to say the brown-skinned people couldn't come up with and carry this out on their own.
Churchill: It served their interest and then they seized on it and that's unquestionably true but that's different than you gotta have a smart white guy thinkin' up everything you're gonna do if you happen to be [imbued] with a brown skin.
The rest of the speech was pretty much a rehash of the speech he had given the night before. All the major media were on hand to record every word...
...including Florabelle, the talking anchorcow.
Power to the people
He wrapped things up with a Bay Area-themed flashback to the '60s (QuickTime mpeg video, 1.7mb):
"Together we can beat the Newt Gingriches and the David Horowitzes and the Bill Owenses and the Lynne Cheneys and the William Bennetts, and ultimately the Dick Cheneys and the Donald Rumsfelds and the George Bushes of the world. Bay Area kinda closing now it's not a thing I would normally close with, but something that's a refresher course to the community here. It goes like this: Power to the people!" [Audience applause.]
Just as I left, directly in front of the fair, a red car with a Kerry bumpersticker...
...and this emblem in the window...
...smashed into a blue car with a little American flag. The anarchists gathered around to see what the fuss was about, hoping for a confrontation with the police.
To everyone's great disappointment, the little Eichmanns did their job and left the anarchists in peace.
For Churchiholics, here's a selection of somewhat less informative reports about Churchill's appearance at the Anarchist Bookfair, that appeared in other media outlets:
The San Francisco Chronicle
The Rocky Mountain News
IndyBay #1, IndyBay #2
Click here to return to the main page covering all three Ward Churchill appearances in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Or click here to return to the main zombie page.