“If [the War on Terror] is about terrorism and terrorism is the killing of innocent civilians, then the United States is also a terrorist.” That is the stated philosophy of Gordon “Gordie” Fellman, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies Program at Brandeis University.
Fellman believes that all responsibility for the Muslim world’s immense hatred of America lies with America itself. “The only rational way to address [terrorism],” he says, “is to acknowledge the humiliations inflicted by centuries of colonialism and imperialism . . . which appear to underlie the complaints against the West. Some people who identify with Islam appear to be determined either to restore the former glory of Islam somehow through force, or at least to have the humiliations and degradations inflicted upon Islamic cultures by the West avenged.” Fellman explains Islamic suicide-bombings as “ways of inflicting revenge on an enemy that seems unable or unwilling to respond to rational pleas for discussion and justice.”
Regarding Operation Iraqi Freedom, Fellman claims that the conflict was foreordained by the Bush administration. “This war has been planned since before Bush became president,” says Fellman. “It sets a horribly dangerous example of preemptive war. It is consistent with Bush’s violation of all international treaties. . . . For Bush to claim that Saddam is evil for ignoring the United Nations — if he were more self-conscious, he would be talking about himself.”
A prominent theme of Fellman’s courses is war, which he considers to be “the way of the weak,” a pursuit that “only reasserts masculinity.” The thesis of Fellman’s 1998 book, Rambo and the Dalai Lama: The Compulsion to Win and Its Threat to Human Survival, is that all human relationships are fundamentally rooted in the desire “to overcome the other,” or what Fellman calls the “adversary tendency.” “The ultimate expression of the adversary tendency is murder, and that collectively is war” Fellman argues.
To counter this tendency, Fellman advocates a “mutuality paradigm” of universal brotherhood that would end war and conflict once and for all. It is to encourage his students to embrace this paradigm, even more than being a professor, that Fellman regards as his primary objective: “My goal is to move beyond analysis in offering hope in the form of visions of mutuality to bring it about,” he says. This goal is evident in Fellman’s course, “War and the Possibility of Peace,” which accords a special emphasis to the “role of imagination in social change.”
Fellman has turned his crusade against the War on Terror into a campus-wide phenomenon at Brandeis, creating the Faculty Coalition Against the War and attending antiwar rallies.
Fellman’s political agenda also informs his other courses at Brandeis. The syllabus for his class “Marx and Freud,” for example, stipulates that students must attend three “Marx-related events” during the semester.
Explaining away the past failures of Marxist governments, Fellman holds that genuine Marxism has never actually been implemented. To help students better appreciate the merits of Marxian and Freudian ideas, Fellman urges them to adopt a “willing suspension of disbelief.” Ideas derived from Marx underlie Fellman’s course “Social Class and Social Change,” which examines “theories of class, inequality, and imperialism.”
Fellman is notorious for making “personal evolution” — the degree to which a student assimilates Fellman’s worldviews — count for one-third of his or her grade.
This profile is partially adapted from the article “Leftist War Studies at Brandeis,” written by Thomas Ryan and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on July 21, 2004.