Michael Slate Interview with Professor Under Attack

George Ciccariello-Maher: “We need to fight and it’s going to be a fight”

July 31, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


The Michael Slate Show airs every week at 10 am Pacific time on KPFK 90.7 FM in Los Angeles, a Pacifica Network station. The show can also be streamed live and people can listen to or download archived shows.

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The following are excerpts from a July 7, 2017 Michael Slate interview with George Ciccariello-Maher.

Michael Slate: If people have been following what’s going on in academia, it’s quite disturbing. I recently came across a case that just knocked me back in my seat. It had to do with my next guest, George Ciccariello-Maher. George is an American political theorist, commentator, and activist. He is also an associate professor of politics and global studies at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Reactionaries are waging a vicious campaign against George because he is resisting fascist attacks on academics.

It began on Christmas Eve 2016 when George tweeted: “All I want for Christmas is white genocide.” He was responding to a racist backlash against State Farm Insurance for supposedly advocating white genocide by depicting an interracial couple in one of their ads. The infamous Trump supporters at the fascist Breitbart “news” said that George was calling for the mass murder of white people.

George has refused to back down in the face of this attack and he has also stood strong against Drexel University’s attempts to discipline him. I’m really pleased to welcome him to this show.

George Ciccariello-Maher: I’m glad to be on.

Michael Slate: You were recently accused by Brietbart and various other reactionary sites and people of unacceptable behavior and leftist militancy that’s totally inappropriate for a college professor. Tell people what happened.

George Ciccariello-Maher: So, this goes back to December and it goes back to a satirical tweet that I sent mocking this white racist, nationalist, fascist concept of white genocide. What’s really sinister, I think, about this idea is the fact that over the past 40 years there’s been this idea developed that on the one hand the United States is a colorblind society, but on the other hand what that implies is that anyone who’s actually demanding equality is involved in some kind of reverse racism or actually oppressing white people.

So, in this broader cultural context, white nationalist, fascist, open Nazis have turned to using these sort of, sneakier terms—what I understand to be Trojan horse ideas that play on a mainstream white understanding of “white victimization” as a way of covering the fact that they’re actually white supremacists. So, it’s much easier to gain a mainstream following by saying white people are being the victims of all these policies, than it is to say, you know, “we’re the master race.” So, this is a strategic tact that the fascists have taken. One of these ideas, a very crucial one, is this idea of white genocide, which I think for most of us is the height of absurdity—the idea that this is a real thing or any kind of threat in the world, that white people will be the victims of precisely the kinds of genocide that they have inflicted on the rest of the globe, is really too much to even take seriously. Yet, this is very serious for fascists. They think that white people are being slowly being out bred; that they’re being intermixed; that any kind of intermarriage is undermining the purity of the white race—and that all policies of cultural diversity are kind of enforced genocide on so-called white culture.

Of course, there’s no such real thing as whiteness. It’s a political category. There’s no white culture. There are sort of various ethnic cultures that are grouped politically under “whiteness.” So this entire concept is absurd, but in mocking it, I became a target for these white nationalist groups that use Breitbart as the bridge to the mainstream media, to Fox News, and to other kinds of far-right outlets that sort of maintain a foot in the mainstream. And they created a campaign of pressure against myself, against my university in Philadelphia, all calling for me to be fired for being a sort of “anti-white racist,” which of course is not a thing.




Michael Slate: And as I understand it, they also actually attacked your family and the people close to you, right?

George Ciccariello-Maher: Of course. And I got, you know, we’re talking about hundreds of threats. We’re talking about doxxing. We’re talking about releasing of my family’s home address, photos, all these things. These are really brutal kinds of organizations. I want to be clear that when we say fascists, while that term can be used I think, in a more broad fashion, I’m actually referring to actually fascist organizations—organizations that identify as fascist, as white supremacist, as anti-Semitic. For example, one of the main websites leading the charge on me was called “The Daily Stormer.” It was an anti-Semitic Nazi website.

Recently, you know, flyers were going up at Drexel, where I work, about anti-white sentiment on campus and trying to get students to come hear about fighting back against this anti-whiteness. These flyers were put up by people associating with the podcast called The Daily Shoah, Shoah being the word for the Holocaust. So, we’re talking about some of the most fringe, dangerous fascist, and Nazi organizations that were nevertheless tied by people like Steve Bannon to the Trump government, to the Trump administration and to these other mainstream figures like Ann Coulter, for example, who are explicit white supremacists and yet, maintain access, a very dangerous access, to mainstream media. Fox News and these outlets are running the words of people who explicitly are identified with upholding whiteness.

Michael Slate: What do you see as being at stake in relation to these attacks?

George Ciccariello-Maher: We need spaces to make those cultural ideological arguments. We need spaces to be able to interact with people where we can say, “Well, no listen. Trump is blaming migrants for the state of the economy and unemployment and wages, but that’s actually simply not true. That’s a total ruse.” And we need to be able to explain the ways in which it’s actually the capitalist structures and imperialist structures governing the world that are creating these conditions—not the fact that we’re competing say, with migrants or that Muslims want to destroy us, or any of these other sort of explanations that the Right is giving.

We need to do that in movement spaces. The university is in no way a substitute for movement organizing. But so many people move through universities—and we’re talking about public universities, private universities; really, universities that impact hundreds of thousands and millions of people. We need to be able to fight battles. We need to keep those spaces, not so we can simply educate people in better citizenship, but no, so we can actually interact with and create militants who are gonna be able to fight this fight going forward. The universities won important space in which that’s going to happen—in which that needs to happen. And that’s why the Right thinks that it can take it over, chase out the radicals as it has done in the past, you know, we’re talking about the ’50s and ’60s, and attempt to win this cultural war that they’ve been battling for so long.

Michael Slate: In this era of Trump that you’re talking about with a bona fide fascist in power, with these kinds of attacks continuing, how do you see fighting back against this? What do you think is required of people right now?

George Ciccariello-Maher: Well, the first thing to understand is that we need to fight. I think this is really the shocking thing is that you have on the one hand, Democrats saying, “Oh, Trump’s gonna be a fascist. Trump’s gonna be a fascist” and as soon as he was elected then they said, “Well, let’s give him a chance. Let’s see what he does, alright?” Then Trump, after a couple of months in power and under pressure, made some moves to accommodate himself to the, you know, to the very same policies that Hillary Clinton would be pursuing, for example.

And I think what’s being forgotten—and what’s being undermined consciously by the liberal sector is the need to fight and the need to really fight and the need to recognize that no matter, whether or not Trump was elected or not, he’s not a legitimate president with legitimate ideas. The forces behind him are the most reactionary and retrograde forces that need to be fought at all costs.

So, I think the first thing to do is to be organizing; is to realize that we need to fight and it’s going to be a fight—and look at the parameters of where that fight is going to come. I think defending the faculty on campus, which is by the way, also defending students’ rights to exist on campus and to have your ideas that they want to hear on campus and their own ability to organize. But, we’re also talking about fighting when it comes to police violence, which is going to continue. We’re gonna talk about fighting against the wave of Islamophobia and the wave of deportation and doing so in a direct-action way that allows people to organize self-defense structures in their own communities, that allows them to resist deportation, that allows them to resist police violence, as you were just talking about with the previous guest [Carl Dix], and to do so on a community level. These are the kinds of things that all need to be tied together. But we can’t write off the universities and say, “This doesn’t matter.” Because the Right is very, very clear about the fact that it does matter.

Unfortunately, you have too many professors and faculty that think that they live in a bubble and think nothing’s going to affect them or they have tenure or something. Well, you know I have tenure. I’m under investigation and who knows what’s going to happen. Even worse is the fact that most faculty now don’t have tenure because the universities are attempting to basically proletarianize their workforce by hiring adjuncts, by hiring people who aren’t even making minimum wage and making them do all the teaching in a way that makes them utterly expendable if they ever raise their voice or if they ever say anything controversial, as we’ve seen.

So, we need to create a united front across the universities as well, so that faculty, students, and everyone realizes that it’s an important fight; that it’s not just a couple of individuals. As I said, there have been more than a dozen cases over the past couple of months. This is a unified, coordinated attack by the Right and we need a unified and coordinated response by the Left.


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