Sometimes, the takes are such drool-dribbling nonsense that it is hard to craft a response. But for the likes of Zaid Jilani — and in defense of Dr. George Ciccariello-Maher — it is worth the effort to try.
Jilani’s piece is a mess from beginning to end. From claiming that it was a student who gave up their seat in first-class to a soldier — it was, in fact, an older businessman — to the notion that George’s call for “the spirit of John Brown to visit upon North Charleston” was a call for “vigilante mass murder”, the piece is a masterclass in lacking basic reading comprehension.
(This is to say nothing of the citations Jilani uses from websites like The College Fix, which has both structural and financial ties to Betsy DeVos and her coterie of right-wing anti-public education causes.)
That is, of course, before you get to the slavish devotion to official narratives in the story. For example, Drexel University is allowed to peddle the most ridiculous of bullshit when their media relations officer states that George was suspended for “his safety and the safety of Drexel’s community”. No follow-up. No response to how such safety concerns contrasted to the image of students occupying their professor’s classroom, demanding that Ciccariello-Maher be returned to work. Nothing. Just a middling statement from Foundation for Individual Rights in Education that plays a variation of the same “both sides” bullshit that treats the threats from Charles Murray and those who oppose him as equal in size and scope.
Let’s be very clear about Jilani’s piece: it stands up for the ability of fascists to speak on campus, untrammeled and unbothered by any pesky students of color or any other oppressed group that, say, the fascists rallying in Gainesville at the University of Florida would rather see wiped from the face of the Earth. It does not stand up for the rights and freedoms of those who would be affected by the aftermath of such speeches, nor does it stand up for those interlocutors who seek to clarify the oppressed’s positions on such issues. Disappointing, but not surprising from the same publication that publishes Lee “but why doesn’t anyone punch Chevron, HUH” Fang.
By contrast, we here at The South Lawn make it absolutely clear. We stand with Dr. George Ciccariello-Maher, a comrade and friend who has been vital to socialist organizing in this country, and has been willing to mentor so many in their come-up as organizers, writers, and freethinkers in a world that desperately needs all three. Drexel should return Dr. Ciccariello-Maher back where he belongs: his classroom.