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Professor: Journalism, outrage over academics’ provocative statements is ‘technique of repression’

Reporting, backlash ‘a cynical style of attack journalism,’ claims Cornell history professor

In the recent past, some outspoken professors have publicly cheered for “white genocide,” called President Donald Trump a “dangerous … racist sexist megalomaniac,” said white people should just be left to die, and suggested Israelis celebrate when Palestinians die.

But when “right-wing” journalists report on such statements — comments that go viral and upset observers, who then criticize the rhetoric — that’s a purposely orchestrated “technique of repression,” according to one Ivy League scholar.

Russell Rickford, an associate professor of history at Cornell University, makes this argument in a recent Black Perspectives piece, suggesting news coverage of academics’ controversial statements is really a conservative effort to silence liberal academics.

Progressive professors are “engulfed in controversy” because they exposed “unjust power,” argues Rickford. He blamed the outrage on “a collection of right-wing sites and organizations that have mastered a cynical style of attack journalism well suited for the mob mentality of the social media age.”

The article, titled “Neo-McCarthyism and the Radical Professor,” cites recent examples stemming from controversial comments made by professors George Ciccariello-Maher, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Johnny Eric Williams and Steven Salaita.

Professor Ciccariello-Maher made headlines for his December 2016 tweet that read “all I want for Christmas is white genocide.” Professor Taylor prompted media attention for her May 2017 commencement speech lambasting Trump, a speech that called him a “dangerous … racist sexist megalomaniac” who is also targeting the black community and undocumented immigrants.

Professor Williams received attention after his comments suggesting on Twitter in June that anyone witnessing white people in mortal danger should “let them fucking die” went viral. And Professor Salaita is well-known for his frequent and vitriolic anti-Israel tweets.

Rickford describes the “widespread outrage” that these comments inspire as “hullabaloo.”

“The technology is new but the agenda is not,” Rickford writes. “Recall that in the wake of the social revolutions of the 1960s and 1970s, conservatives and business interests launched a protracted campaign to neutralize colleges and universities as centers of radical influence.”

“We who see knowledge as more than bourgeois property must always defend our comrades against the hypocrisies of liberalism and the mechanisms of conservative attack,” Rickford says, calling professors in the recent media limelight “a small cadre of insurgent professors will continue striving to transcend the ivory tower, using their expertise and energy to bolster the self-activity of the exploited.”

The College Fix reached out repeatedly to professor Rickford and Cornell University for comment, but did not receive replies.

Rickford holds a master’s degree in African-American Studies and specializes in “the Black Radical Tradition,” according to his profile at Black Perspectives.

Rickford himself has made controversial comments in the past. In the summer of 2016, he was criticized for accusing America of committing a “genocide” against blacks while at a Black Lives Matter rally. At the same rally, he also spoke out against capitalism, arguing that replacing it “is imperative to creating a new system that values human life and needs.”

Editor’s note: The College Fix has publicly condemned hateful and/or threatening remarks directed at professors and college officials.

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About the Author
Matthew Stein is a political science and economics major at Swarthmore College. He is a board member on the Swarthmore Conservative Society and Swarthmore Students for Israel.

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