Tonight, I attended the first lecture of HIS 3314, History of WWII. Five minutes ago, I dropped it.
I have never heard such reprehensible gibberish in person, let alone from a tenured professor. I thought I'd seen reactionary, anti-American, anti-Bush madness in classes before; I was wrong. I should have counted myself lucky to only hear an occasional offensive joke, rather than a bizarre conspiracy theory dressed up in the pretense of a coherent lesson.
Professor Brian Villa announced in the first five minutes of class his pride in being a revisionist historian, which really should have tipped me off that in the rest of the lecture laid only horror.
He started out with recounting one of his earliest memories. His father was a civil servant in a Latin American country (which, he didn't mention), and he claims to remember, at the age of three, watching a late-arriving newsreel in his local movie theatre showing American forces liberating the death camps of Germany. Not thirty seconds later, he outlined his overarching philosophy: War is always wrong and never justified, not even to stop genocide.
I cannot comprehend what kind of amoral excuse a rational person could make in coming to such a conclusion. That alone makes him an equivocating monster, in my book, but it got worse. He has "unconventional" theories, you see - theories he freely admits are based only upon his personal opinions, and without any factual proof, but are (believe him!) true, regardless. I was reminded of Dan Rather, but even Dan Rather has never tried to make leaps of logic as loopy as these.
These were the most lunatic conspiracy theories I've ever heard. Not only, in his mind, did FDR know about Pearl Harbor (I'm inclined to believe he didn't), but also told all his generals, in order to warn them not to attack Japanese forces until after he'd spoken to Congress. (There had to be a short period of confusion and anger to build support for declaring war, you see.) WWI, to Villa, was a conspiracy of the great powers to oppress Germany. Both FDR and Winston Churchill personally plotted, throughout the 20s and 30s, to cause another war. Pearl Harbor was justified by racist immigration policies in California (!). And those don't include the tenuously plausible theories, such as that Edward VIII wasn't really pro-Nazi, but just part of a strategic ploy to cause Germany to assume British neutrality, or that Neville Chamberlain's policy of appeasement was actually a clever means of stalling to build up British forces.
At some point, the mind just boggles. Then it turned to outrage, as he proceeded from the 'FDR purposely let Pearl Harbor happen to build support for war' concept to a laughter- and applause-gathering implication of "Know anything like that that's happened recently in the US?" I mean, Lordy
, I thought I'd avoid loons like this if I didn't take any Poli-Sci courses.
The one thing I'll say for him is that he doesn't appear to be anti-Semitic. That's something, I suppose. Lunatic conspiracy theorists don't often miss placing the Jooooos
somewhere near the heart of imagined evil geopolitical machinations.
I've never walked out of a class, but I wanted to tonight. Not just that, though; I wanted to punch this hateful and withered old wretch in the face on the way out, too. I did neither. I'm not that kind of person. But I did pack up and leave as soon as he called a break.
The only thing that fits in my schedule to replace that class is a survey course on Early Modern Europe, which isn't my cup of tea at all. I picked it up anyway. No matter how dull, it's still better than the meeting of the tinfoil hat club that's going on down the hall.
UPDATE 9/24: More here