There is a fringe element of the global left who will work with anyone — including genocide deniers and perpetrators – if it means vilifying the US, the UK or “the West” in general. This is the crowd that loved Sadaam Hussien, Gadhaffi and Slobodan Milosevic. It is guys like John Minto in New Zealand who argued after 9/11 that the Taliban were misunderstood liberal democrats who were just trying to bring about a semblance of law and order in Afghanistan. These forces happily array against the small African country of Rwanda, whose leader Paul Kagame has become one of their targets-du-jour.
One of the leading Kagame-haters is Ann Garrison whose obsessive efforts to defame, diminish and defeat the Rwandan President has long since rendered her a muttering, sputtering fringe-dweller whose self-styled journalism attracts reactions ranging from head-shaking pity to “who on earth is this Ann Garrison woman, and remind me never to invite her to a dinner party.”
Garrison’s latest ally in her jihad against Paul Kagame is a very minor history professor at Sacramento State University where the President was scheduled to give a keynote address on genocide, a topic he is rather self-evidently qualified to address since he — I don’t know, remind me again, oh yes that’s right — stopped one that killed a million people planned and carried out by Ann Garrison’s ideological stablemates back in 1994. His name is Michael Vann. Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of him.
Associate Professor Michael Vann who, based on my research, appears to be a Marxist historian who specializes in French colonial history, especially in Vietnam if my reading is not mistaken. My research does not fill me with confidence since the name Michael Vann or Associate Professor Michael Vann or Michael Vann Sacramento or any variation thereof attracts almost no hits on Google, Google News, Google Blogs or, most importantly, Google Scholar. Vann is all but invisible; his published work is hard to find and far from abundant; and he is a demonstrable featherweight as an academic historian. His Marxist approach to the study of history, to which I have no fundamental objection, is consistent with the other fringe leftists who align themselves to the anti-Rwanda cause as well as the men and women who made up the Committee to Defend Milosevic.
Vann gets published very rarely — “which is the way one academic might politely describe another as “not that great at their job.”— but one publication that loves his work in the Radical History Review. This amused me since it told me everything I needed to know about why this small-potatoes academic time-server would jump on the feral fringe of the Kagame-obsessed denier crowd spear-headed by Garrison.
The Radical History Review was memorably described by a fellow leftist publication The New Criterion as:
“a publication that plainly states it ‘rejects conventional notions of scholarly neutrality and ‘objectivity,’ and approaches history from an engaged, critical, political stance.’”
You will note that TNC is quoting the journal directly, in its own words: the Radical History Review explicitly take pride in rejecting neutrality and objectivity. The latest edition of the journal, for example, is solely dedicated to blaming America for 9/11 including a piece that claims that the very notion of terrorist threats are the product of an FBI-run conspiracy.
In its own words, the Radical History Review addresses “issues of gender, race, sexuality, imperialism, and class, stretching the boundaries of historical analysis to explore Western and non-Western histories”. RHR is the favored publication of the strand of historicism that places Western (white, male and patriarchal) misdeeds at the heart of every single thing wrong with the world, past and present.
So it should come as no surprise that in her desperation to find someone — anyone — at Sacramento State to join in her monomaniacal loathing of President Kagame in the lead-up to his proposed keynote address there, the only person Ann Garrison has managed to find to speak out on her behalf is a minor Marxist with ties to a school of historicism that explicitly rejects the needs for facts and evidence to get in the way of a good story. (Due to a scheduling conflict, President Kagame has delegated the Rwandan senate president to deliver his remarks and lead a group of Rwandan scholars to the genocide conference in question).
In their shared aversion to any notion of objective fact and evidence-based truth-telling, Garrison and Vann are a match made in heaven. Did I say heaven? I meant to say the fiery pits of hell.
Phil Quin is a New York- based writer and commentator on media and politics.