I had heard only faint rumblings about a professor denied tenure at DePaul last summer/fall. I paid little attention and hadn't wittingly ever heard of Norman Finkelstein until his name came up on Little Green Footballs a couple of months back. (I'm not going to do the search just now to find the link.) Couldn't quite figure the whole thing out. LGF and others call him a Holocaust denier, which could be true for all I know, but maybe he's a "minimizer" instead, given that apparently his mother was a Holocaust survivor. "Minimizers," I gather, come in various shapes and forms, though they are odious enough.
I couldn't quite figure out exactly why he was denied tenure from an academic point of view. I mean, consider all the people who do have tenure. How did they find a way to deny this guy? On the other hand, he's apparently a sort of sycophantic attack-dog for his dear friend Noam Chomsky, which is probably enough to lower the quality of anyone's academic work. And no, I don't mean in linguistics.
As it happens, I have a friend who is on staff at DePaul who tells me that the word on the staff side is that you were lucky if you never had to deal with Norm, because he's a jerk. I put a lot of weight on this, by the way. In my opinion, staff at a large university pretty much keep the place running, sometimes nearly single-handed, and they probably deserve to get paid a lot more than they do get paid. If the staff think a faculty member is a jerk, odds are high that he is a jerk.
I'm not planning to run out and read Finkelstein's infamous Holocaust book, so I basically just went on not knowing very much about the guy but assuming he was bad news in general terms. Until the other day.
Watch this video clip only if you have a strong stomach. Because now I know in more detail that Norman Finkelstein is a scary and completely, ideologically crazy person.
In case you don't want to put your stomach to the test, here's a brief version. The linked video is an interview Finkelstein gave to Lebanese TV on a recent visit. In it he lauds Hezbollah to the skies and pours scorn upon those Lebanese people, including the female interviewer talking to him, who don't support Hezbollah. He calls Lebanese Hezbollah opponents "slaves"--to Israel and the U.S., of course. He calls the raining of rockets upon northern Israel in the summer of 2006 a mere "pretext" for Israel to attack. Because they just want the Lebanese people to be their slaves, apparently out of sheer sadism. George W. Bush, he says, "destroyed your entire country" that summer. (Really? The whole country? And Bush did that?) Norm is infuriated that Bush was received in Lebanon recently on a visit at all. He says that the French resistance against the Nazis in WWII (all of them?) were Communists and were harsh and brutal, but that we admire them--and he clearly thinks we should admire them--because they resisted the enslavement of their country by the Nazis. Hezbollah, he says, is like that. He says that war against Israel is the only way for Lebanon not to be slaves. (Guess that means more rockets fired on northern Israel then. They'd better get cracking. This guy must just love Hamas in Gaza.) Oh, and perhaps the wildest line: He says he wishes there were some other way than war and that probably Hitler, too, would have preferred if "his goals" could have been accomplished in some way other than by war.
A nut. A complete and bizarro nut.
So now I know all I need to know about Norman Finkelstein.
HT Israel Matzav