Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Big Government's Philip Christofanelli Hides Fact He Is Conservative Activist


Philip Christofanelli has a gripe with unions and universities. He recently wrote a post for Big Government crediting his "exposé" in influencing two universities' ban on recording in the classroom.
Following my exposé this past spring of two Labor Studies professors at the University of Missouri who were using their positions to recruit students to the Communist Party and encourage the use of industrial sabotage, several universities have attempted to crack down on the recording of professors by students.

There are, no doubt, professors all over the country who are engaging in equally egregious teaching practices as Don Giljum (who reportedly resigned) and Judy Ancel (who’s now enjoying life as a Kansas City Occupier; she addresses #OccupyKC in the video below from 3:44 to 3:54 – hat tip to KansasWatchdog).

My guess is that enough professors complained to prompt faculty associations at both the University of Missouri and Washington University in Saint Louis (my alma mater) to pass resolutions calling for a ban on recordings in the classroom without the written permission of the instructor.
As a side note, Christofanelli implies that his actions were the result of his former professors' resignation and career change but another Big Government post points out that his professor, Don Giljum, had announced prior to Christofanelli's exposé that he would retire.

After reading Christofanelli's two posts I felt it necessary to point out a couple things - hypocrisies and false conclusions.

First, let's take a look at Christofanelli's first post - the supposedly damning "exposé."
In this post, I will try to describe, with careful attention to context and accuracy, what occurred in these public classrooms over the course of the semester. I believe that any reasonable person who takes the time to read this post in full will come to the same conclusion that I did: Professors Giljum and Ancel used a public university class to promote their own radical political opinions and organizations, and to train students and union members in negotiating tactics that are apparently illegal, and profoundly unethical. Their behavior was highly unprofessional and inappropriate, and the University of Missouri should simply admit that fact and take steps to ensure that classes are not taught in that way ever again.

I am in fact a Washington University student. I needed three more credits for my degree, and I chose to pick them up at UMSL. When I saw “Introduction to Labor Studies” in the course catalog, I expected a fairly straightforward class about unions, their internal structure, and their relationship to management. I signed up because I have always been fascinated by unions, and nothing similar was ever offered at Wash U.
Christofanelli talks about trying to describe accurately and in context the situations he has issue with but he admits that he has always been "fascinated by unions," meaning that he has had preconceived notions regarding unions and had wished to learn more about them, and based on the information in his posts we can figure out where Christofanelli stood regarding organized labor.

Now granted, the information presented by Christofanelli's teachers appears to be extremely pro-union, you cans tart to see Christofanelli's pre-conceived notions begin to take shape.

He attacks the author of his course's text, Michael Yates, for his other socialist magazine and then picks some choice excerpts from his book Why Unions Matter to prove it's bias, which is interesting because Christofanelli claims to be approaching this from a neutral perspective attacking Yates for his other publications yet Christofanelli is not being honest with the readers of his post - he was the founder of the Young Americans for Liberty who's mission is to "train, educate, and mobilize youth activists" to achieve their goal of "cast[ing] the leaders of tomorrow and reclaim[ing] the policies, candidates, and direction of our government."
  • An entire television network, Fox, spreads pro-business and anti-labor propaganda twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. (p. 132)


  • First, the Republican and Democratic parties are most obviously allied with and subservient to the most powerful employers in the nation.  The Republicans may seem to be more ruthless in their willingness to obey the dictates of capital, but the Democrats, in practice, are no different…[S]ince they are perceived as more liberal than they are, they are able to get away with more vicious attacks on workers. (p. 133)


  • If labor ties its star to the Democratic Party, it is tying itself to its class enemy. (p. 133)


  • Over the last ten years, especially during the administration of George W. Bush, our government has been increasingly under the thumb of corporate interests. (p. 12)


  • The AFL-CIO actively rejected the Republican Party’s Contract with America, which threatened vital social services. Its research department developed good materials that exposed the bogus statistics and analysis on which it was based. (p. 12)


  • Large numbers [of Mexican immigrants] have come to the United states intensifying competition in some labor markets, allowing employers to divide and conquer their workforces, and giving an excuse for xenophobes like CNN’s Lou Dobbs to foment anti-immigrant hysteria, which helps to keep domestic workers from seeing that it is their employers (and the employers’ allies in government) that are their true enemies. (p. 12)


  • In general terms, the employer must come to be understood as the class enemy of the workers, one that can only be defeated if workers stick together, acting as if an injury to one is an injury to all. (p. 64)

  • Christofanelli goes on to write:
    All of these assertions were made without presenting a shred of evidence or data. The book made very little effort to hide the fact that it was a piece of political propaganda, and not an academic text. Nonetheless, the professors saw no problem with making it the sole text for the entire class.
    Christofanelli is upset that he wasn't offered any evidence of these comments. The Midnight Review has decided to do just that - provide examples to prove the text's assertion.
    • An entire television network, Fox, spreads pro-business and anti-labor propaganda twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
    A simple search on Media Matters for "Fox News" and "unions" would yield dozens of incidences where Fox News presented a pro-business and anti-labor agenda.
    • First, the Republican and Democratic parties are most obviously allied with and subservient to the most powerful employers in the nation.  The Republicans may seem to be more ruthless in their willingness to obey the dictates of capital, but the Democrats, in practice, are no different…[S]ince they are perceived as more liberal than they are, they are able to get away with more vicious attacks on workers. (p. 133)
    If you look at the very site that Christofanelli writes for, you would find numerous posts discussing this very thing, although they mostly focus on Democrats.  How's that for fair and balanced?
    • If labor ties its star to the Democratic Party, it is tying itself to its class enemy
    Based on the previous statement - that there is no difference between the Democratic and Republican parties in regards to organized labor - then yes, this statement is true, and it is fair to accuse Republicans of being no friends to organized labor considering the numerous measures Republican legislatures have taken this year alone to strip labor unions and their workers of any power or rights they may have once had.
    • Over the last ten years, especially during the administration of George W. Bush, our government has been increasingly under the thumb of corporate interests. (p. 12)
    Law Memo points out numerous decisions ruled by President Bush's Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  To be more specific, Daniel J. Doyle wrote the following for Student Pulse:
    Upon their appointment, the members of Bush’s NLRB rejected precedent and overturned all of these decisions made by Clinton’s NLRB, as well as numerous others. While the NLRB made clearly partisan decisions prior the Bush Administration, these decisions were well supported as enforcing the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act. Bush’s NLRB made decisions that rejected precedent, were poorly justified, and often flew in the face of federal labor laws. In the U.S. Supreme Court case of Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc, the court decided that unless a statute speaks clearly to the contrary, the governing agency with jurisdiction over a particular field is given the final word on all policy decisions within its area of operation, “unless [it is] arbitrary, capricious or manifestly contrary to statute.”41 This means that the NLRB may make decisions on issues of labor law with very limited oversight. Chevron allowed Bush’s NLRB to make sweeping changes to labor policy, without the ability for any other governmental body to hold them accountable.
    • The AFL-CIO actively rejected the Republican Party’s Contract with America, which threatened vital social services. Its research department developed good materials that exposed the bogus statistics and analysis on which it was based. (p. 12)
    Consider the new "Contract with America" Republicans crafted last year and the actions Republicans planned on taking when retaking the House of Representatives.  Brent Budowsky wrote the following for The Hill:
    If elected, Republicans promise to privatize Social Security; cut back Medicare, oppose more jobs programs; raise costs for student loans; cut protections for credit card holders so banks can raise your rates; attack consumer protections for mortgage holders; defend Wall Street bonuses for bailed-out banks; oppose efforts to cut back outsourcing of U.S. jobs; support more tax cuts for the most wealthy; use taxpayer money to hire partisan Republican Congressional staff to turn the House of Representatives into a subpoena-churning partisan political operation; and bring their K Street project to seek special interest campaign money, this time in secret.

    Yeah, Republicans sure do have a new Contract with America. They won' tell you what it really is. I just did.

    For every assertion I make above, there are Republican legislative proposals, policy papers aimed at their right wing base or statements of high-level Republicans.
    Since that article was written (September 23rd, 2010), Republicans have continued to promise or attempt all of those things listed, which sound awfully like "[threatening] vital social services."
    • Large numbers [of Mexican immigrants] have come to the United states intensifying competition in some labor markets, allowing employers to divide and conquer their workforces, and giving an excuse for xenophobes like CNN’s Lou Dobbs to foment anti-immigrant hysteria, which helps to keep domestic workers from seeing that it is their employers (and the employers’ allies in government) that are their true enemies. (p. 12)
    Lou Dobbs isn't a xenophobe?
    • In general terms, the employer must come to be understood as the class enemy of the workers, one that can only be defeated if workers stick together, acting as if an injury to one is an injury to all. (p. 64) 
    Christofanelli is in a "labor studies" course to understand unions more and he is upset at the notion that there is an adversarial relationship between the employer and the employee and that it is in the benefit of the employers to band together?

    Christofanelli then complains that their grades were based heavily on opinion essays without mentioning whether or not students with opposing opinions were penalized and then, god forbid, Christofanelli was assigned to write a letter to his elected representative to discuss his position - not that of the professor's - on the Employee Free Choice Act.

    "Since our only materials were Yates’s very one-sided account of the legislation, and the professors’ similarly one-sided account," wrote Christofanelli, "how could any student be expected to produce a different position?"

    Apparently Christofanelli doesn't believe in critical thinking and free thought, and the fact that he is writing his "exposé" criticizing his course and professors kind of proves him wrong on the ability for "any student... to produce a different position."

    Christofanelli then goes on to talk about how the professors actively tried to indoctrinate the student body and recruit them into the Communist party.  He claims they discussed strategies to combat employers and when questioned, by Christofanelli himself, encouraged the students to engage in activities contrary to the law - an interesting complaint considering Christofanelli encourages students to ignore college rules and record their professors without their knowledge or approval.  His take on the matter is quite simplistic and hypocritical considering his implied principles: "After paying upwards of $45,000 annually to attend Washington University, students should be encouraged to record whatever they want," he wrote. "Students should never doubt their right to record and disseminate class material."

    This line of thinking is very interesting - Christofanelli, a consumer (student/customer of University of Missouri) claims to have rights and encourages fellow consumers to "never doubt their right to... disseminate class material," id est, consumers have a right to inform the public of the perceived wrongdoing of their corporate overlords.

    See a parallel with the Occupy Wall Street argument?

    One difference between Christofanelli and the Occupy Wall Street protesters is that he believes that since he is a consumer of a product, he is allowed to do whatever he wants because he is "paying upwards of $45,000 annually." He believes that he defines the terms of his consumption, yet he criticizes union workers for trying to define the terms of their employment through negotiation and less traditional methods, such as striking and protesting.

    Christofanelli hypocrisy stems from his belief that because the university receives some funds from the state of Missouri, as a taxpayer he has more authority then he actually has.
    Students at both universities should be commended for fighting back. University professors have more job security than almost any other members of the American workforce. They do not need a whole new set of rules and regulations to protect their bad behavior from public scrutiny, especially when that behavior is heavily subsidized by the taxpayer, as was the case at the University of Missouri.
    Christofanelli is mistaken - the University of Missouri system has shown stagnant and diminished state support over the past several years, to be underfunded when compared to the higher education of other states, ranked last in staff salaries when compared to 33 other public institutions of the Association of American Universities, and the per capita spending per student to be one of the lowest in the nation, meaning that the University of Missouri is not "heavily subsidized by the taxpayer," as Christofanelli insists.  His claims are evidence of his bias - not that of the schools' or professors'.

    Basically, Christofanelli misrepresented himself claiming to be an ordinary student who was only interested in labor studies when in actuality he was a libertarian student activist aiming to "reclaim" the government.  Based on that fact alone, the entirety of his "exposé" is questionable, but that could be expected being that he chose to publish he work on conservative propaganda website Big Government.  His dishonesty fits right in with the new breed of right-wing activists like James O'Keefe and Lila Rose.

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