“All I want for Christmas is White Genocide.” With that Christmas Eve tweet, George Ciccariello-Maher, a Professor of Politics and Global Studies at Drexel University in Philadelphia, started a firestorm of controversy. Plenty of conservative, moderate, and libertarian professors have gotten themselves in hot water because of public statements that might have sounded eminently reasonable or commonsensical to the general public but that, in the eyes of their academic confreres, were crying out for censure. The difference with Ciccariello-Maher is that he earned his instant nationwide notoriety as the result of a statement that put him at the very extreme edge of the far left. For faculty members around the country, this made him not a pariah but a hero.
At Current Affairs, a self-identified “left-wing policy journal,” Amber A’Lee Frost began her defense of Ciccariello-Maher with a simple confession: “I do not like George Ciccariello-Maher.” She met him, she recalled, “probably through some ridiculous ultra-leftist Facebook group,” and found him “very rude and condescending.” And she went on:
He felt the need to “warn” me about my more “problematic” friends, which I consider a sort of sexist paternalism. I didn’t like his politics, which I found shallow and histrionic, or his passive aggression, which I found cowardly.
But Frost asserted that “none of this matters, because George is under attack.” She proceeded to join him in blaming the public outrage over his tweet on “right-wing media opportunists.” “The hysteria of reactionaries,” she wrote, “is nothing new.” Drexel’s criticism of Ciccariello-Maher constitute “a ridiculous breach of both academic freedom and free speech.” Bizarre statements in an era when the academy is famous for its hysterical readiness to crush faculty and students alike who have been accused of saying or doing things perceived as violating left-wing orthodoxy. It is a well-known fact that many university campuses – and Drexel is assuredly one of them – have long since ceased being free-speech zones. Has Ciccariello-Maher ever criticized that? Has Frost?
No matter. Frost went on about “solidarity” and the “shared struggle for dignity, liberation and rights” among those involved in “the work of left politics.” And she concluded: “We at Current Affairs stand with George Ciccariello-Maher without qualification or reservation, and we believe he would do the same for us. We’re with you, comrade. Don’t let the bastards get you down.”
At the wacky far-left rag Counterpunch, Mike King was even more supportive, describing Ciccariello-Maher as “a colleague, co-author and personal friend” who “has always excelled at exposing and challenging injustices in sharp, uncompromising terms that highlight hypocrisy with passionate and often blunt wit.” In a true Alice-through-the-looking-glass moment, King charged that we live in a time of “insidious” McCarthyite “Red-baiting” by purveyors of “overt racism” such as Fox News and Breitbart – bigots who were now seeking “to undermine a vibrant anti-racist voice and celebrated decolonial writer while further legitimating fantasies of institutionalized anti-white bias and persecution.” At Slate, Matthew Dessem blamed the dust-up over Ciccariello-Maher’s white-supremacist tweet on “the internet’s worst people.” As for Ciccariello-Maher’s statement that the massacre of whites during the Haitian Revolution was a good thing, Dessem sought to explain it this way: “In context, it seems clear that he was tweaking white supremacists for their repurposing of the term white genocide, which is disingenuously invoked nowadays to pretend that uncontroversial things like interracial dating are as threatening as the slaughter that took place in Haiti in 1804. But Ciccariello-Maher’s tweets were as good a reason for a witch hunt as any, and what better time to hunt witches than Christmas?”
So what happened to Ciccariello-Maher? We’ll wrap up tomorrow.