Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Teaching is a Political Act: The Brave Adjunct Lecturer Who Invited the Murderous White Nationalist Frazier Glenn Miller to Speak to His Students

White Nationalist Frazier Glenn Miller shot and murdered 3 people at two Jewish community centers outside of Kansas City.

While the KKK tries to remake itself as a "respectable" organization that is not in fact one of the largest terrorist organizations in the United States, Miller offered no apologies for his hate and violence. Other White Nationalists have disavowed him--of course--as a man whose actions and rhetoric was "embarrassing" and "misrepresented" the movement.

For example, there is a beautiful ugliness in the following comments from a prominent White Supremacist:
Of all the people and organizations decrying the shootings Sunday that killed three people at two Jewish centers outside Kansas City, perhaps the most unlikely is Stormfront.org, one of the oldest and largest white nationalist forums on the internet. 
“We have enough of a problem with how we are portrayed without some homicidal whack job coming along and reinforcing that,” Stormfront founder Don Black told The Daily Beast.

As the folksy truism suggests, you can't put lipstick on a pig or polish a turd.

Black continues:
But Black said Miller has long been rejected by much of the white nationalist movement, not only because of his work as an FBI informant but because he allegedly fathered two children by an Asian woman when he was younger. Now, argues Black, Miller is all over the news giving the white nationalist movement a bad, or worse, name. 
“From the news reports, it seems that none of his victims were even Jewish,” said Black. “Everybody is outraged because killing people at random is pretty horrible. It was bad enough when it looked like he had targeted and killed Jews, but the fact that he didn’t even do that is really kind of weird and suspicious”
...In the SPLC’s initial report disclosing Miller as the sole Kansas City shooting suspect, the center noted that a forthcoming study “will show that nearly 100 people in the last five years have been murdered by active users” on Stormfront.org. 
Black said he’s “waiting with bated breath” to see that study. “There have been a few people who have come through [Stormfront] that are mentally unstable and went on a killing spree, but their posts didn’t indicate anything like that and they certainly wouldn’t have been tolerated by our moderators if they had,” he said. 
“We’ve got 286,000 registrations. We’re going to have a few people like that,” he went on. “I’m sure Facebook and Twitter have a lot more than that, and I’m sure we’re a lot less tolerant of any kind of suggestion of illegal violence than those sites.” 
After all, he said, Miller was not allowed to post on Stormfront.
Hatred is so normalized that white racial chauvinists are unable to see how distorted their sense of reality and moral compass actually is. Frazier Glenn Miller is one of their tribe. Only now that he has acted on the collective violent fantasies of the White Right is he to be shunned instead of valorized...in public.

We often talk about the transformative power of teaching and how the classroom is a political space. Unfortunately, the importation of neoliberalism into the classroom, with its please the customer at all costs approach and accompanying destruction of academic freedom, has subverted the ability to have truly transformative moments which challenge students by taking them out of their comfort zone.

David Embree, a very brave adjunct lecturer at Missouri State University, was not intimidated by such realities. In January of 2012, he invited Miller to speak to his students. Embree also had supportive supervisors and administrators who believe that learning should involve exposing students to a world that is not necessarily nurturing, validating, safe, or supportive, and in which their priors and egos will be sustained and validated.

Embree allowed his student to see, in the flesh, that there are people who hate the very fact of your existence because it is offensive to them.

As an adjunct, he has no job security. A complaining student or their parent could cost him his job. Embree did not sacrifice his truth-telling, however pragmatic and understandable such a choice would have been, in the face of the real possibility that a sincere commitment to teaching as a real vocation is a firing offense in today's neoliberal model of higher education.

I do not know what silly hoops and obstacles such as "trigger warnings", consent forms, or allowing students to opt out of a difficult class activity, David Embree had to negotiate. In many elite institutions, the worst aspects of political correctness--what has become the very thing that Right-wing authoritarians and Culture War bloviataing types have caricatured and mocked--would have precluded Embree's inviting a White Supremacist like Miller to speak to his classroom.

Or alternatively, Miller would have been granted a visit but only after there were safe rooms and spaces for "emotional decompression" and "sharing" fully equipped with counselors and psychologists to protect the children of the privileged from intellectual and emotional shrapnel.

David Embree did a great service by inviting Frazier Glenn Miller to speak to his students. We need more college professors and lecturers like him. Unfortunately, men and women like David Embree are being silenced and/or forced out of the profession by the onerous weight and surveillance of crooked and myopic student evaluations, and a business model where pushing the students through to graduation  in order to take in their monies along the way, is transforming the college and university into a glorified and overpriced trade school and degree mill.


Myshkin the Idiot said...

Surprised no one has commented.

I would wonder if getting speaking opportunities for these types would inflate their ego and sense of importance and righteousness. I would hope there would be opportunities for the teacher and maybe even the students to dismantle their world view in front of them. I agree that education should take more bold steps and confront an array of worldviews in the classroom.

DanF said...

“From the news reports, it seems that none of his victims were even Jewish. [...] It was bad enough when it looked like he had targeted and killed Jews, but the fact that he didn't even do that is really kind of weird and suspicious”

It sounds like StormFront cares more about his lack of competence than his morally reprehensible behavior. How unshocking.

What Prof. Embree did is why tenure is important. I'm glad Prof. Embree was supported by the administration, but this is a huge risk for an adjunct to take. Hopefully in light of the shootings, the admins will still get his back - but I'm sure if someone complains loud enough, he's gone.

chauncey devega said...

Sometimes we have a grand chorus other times a nice intimate conversation. There is a question here too regarding radical politics--do we create a space for these types in the public sphere to monitor them because light is a great sanitizer or do we/the state stamp them out because of how noxious and dangerous they are? The UK and other other countries are grappling w. that in regards to radical political Islam.

chauncey devega said...

I hope not. I would not be surprised. You need to protect the snowflakes from the truth at all times.

chauncey devega said...

Thanks for the book suggestion. How dare you suggest that the White Conservative Citizens Council and the Birchers have some relationship to the Kochs, Freedom Works, and the astroturf useful idiots the Tea Party? Or that the neo CSA Republicans are racist! How dare you! You are the real racist!!!

Somewhere a fool is saying just that...

joe manning said...

Like when I pointed out that Clarence Thomas was an Uncle Tom I was called a racist. Duh!

DanF said...

Sometimes you just need to look at Influenza unsder a microscope in the lab to learn about it. It's not something you want to expose people to everyday, but in the proper Petri dish, it can be a helluva a learning vector.

Miles_Ellison said...

You can only try to polish a turd if it's been frozen. Don Black's comments sound like he's in the process of transferring the turd from the dog's ass to the freezer.

chauncey devega said...

Didn't Myth Busters test that one?

joe manning said...

If he's given a platform which stipulates that there is a 50/50 balance between his views and opposing views, as is corporate media s.o.p. it would be, and is, a travesty. But I think its abundantly clear that the KKK guest lecturer on campus (excluding Oral Roberts U.) is an outlier and liar. A case in point is Frazier Glenn Miller, who we wouldn't known already if not for his public appearances. Such high profile white supremacists are crying out for help.

joe manning said...

Yes, it cuts both ways. Its basically a mental health question: should white supremacists who repeatedly threaten violence be institutionalized? In the case of Frazier Glenn Miller the answer is yes, he should have been.

skilletblonde said...

On April 15, Rachel Maddow began her show with a list of terror acts perpetrated by domestic right wing groups. She was perplexed by the rejection Homeland Security received when it issued a report in 2009 that hate groups were escalating. If you recall the loudest detractors were the Republican Party. The Mainstream Media in its ongoing position as firewall for the Republican Party made light of the report and quashed it. Homeland Security did not pursue the matter any further.

For a moment Rachel appeared to be exercising some courage on this subject. That is, until she invited her expert guest on. His name is Michael Leiter. Who? Never heard of him! Well, he was previously head of the United States National Counterterrorism Center, under the Bush Administration. He remained in the position under the Obama Administration until 2011. A look at his Wikipedia page under controversy reveals he wasn't so great. And, considering his answer to Maddow for muffling the report, that seems to be a reality. He said, and I am paraphrasing,

Here is an exchange between Leiter and Maddow:

MADDOW: So you were at the Counterterrorism Center when this report in
2009 from Homeland Security on right-wing extremism, it was -- it was
produced and then leaked and never finally reported. Do you remember what
was going on around that report at the time?

LEITER: I do, very well. The fact is that people in the U.S. government

and the counterterrorism community really were worried about right-wing

extremism. And the report talked about some of those factors. Frankly,

the report also used what I would consider really bad, sloppy language and

some bad analysis about some other things, like the potential for returning

vets to become right-wing extremists.

And that raised the ire of many in Congress, especially in the right,

stating that the Department of Homeland Security shouldn`t be in the

business of looking at people like veterans and anyone else for purely

political views and why those weren`t terrorists, those were patriotic


MADDOW: In terms of recognizing the threat from right-wing extremist

groups, though, did the backlash to that report, the fact that it was never

even released in any other form, should we read that as essentially the

government getting shy about identifying this as a real threat? Because

they were worried about that backlash?

LEITER: And there is no doubt that when Congress reacts very, very badly

to something the executive branch does, it makes people gun shy. And I

don`t want to say that people stop looking at right-wing extremism. I

think Aryan Nations and other associated groups, a lot of the ones you`ve

mentioned, the intelligence community, the Department of Homeland Security,

the FBI, still did focus on them.

obscureference said...

Ahh. I could read this blog all day...and I will. Shameful to say I was reading the Root up until two years ago when I decided it'd be better to gouge my eyes out.

chauncey devega said...

Thank you for the kind words. We don't cause eye gouging just headaches :)