Born in July 1958, Robert Jensen is an Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Texas. He has opposed the American military reprisal for 9/11, the war in Iraq, and even the most minimal precautions to protect U.S. borders against illegal immigration. Calling America a warlike nation, Jensen is a Marxist who denounces “U.S. aggression against innocent people in the rest of the world.” “Given the bloody record of the United States in the past 60 years,” he adds, “and the seemingly limitless capacity of U.S. officials to kill without conscience, I must confess I am not optimistic that such aggression will stop anytime soon, in large part because those corporate structures that drive the killing are still around. … I am hopeful about the possibilities but not optimistic that in my lifetime I will see the demise of capitalism, corporations and wage slavery.”
In the 1990s, Jensen was the individual most responsible for launching the movement against the sanctions that the United Nations had initially imposed against Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq in 1990. Claiming that “each month 5,000 to 6,000 children die as a result of the sanctions,” Jensen was joined in this crusade by Edward Said, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky. The four jointly issued a January 1999 statement condemning the situation in Iraq as “sanctioned mass-murder that is nearing holocaust proportions.”
In a 2004 article on the Web publication Alternet, Jensen dismissed American efforts to bring democracy to Iraq. He endorsed Ward Churchill’s characterization of the victims of 9/11 as “little Eichmanns,” and he has rejoiced in the American military’s setbacks in Iraq, referring to the war as a “Defeat for an Empire.” He has expressed his wish to see “God condemn America, so the world might live.” And he denounces Israel’s efforts at self-defense, citing its “brutal occupation of Palestine.”
On racial matters, Jensen views the United States as a nation rife with “white privilege” and a corresponding lack of justice for nonwhite minorities. “White privilege,” he says, “like any social phenomenon, is complex. In a white supremacist culture, all white people have privilege, whether or not they are overtly racist themselves.” From that premise, Jensen rejects not only merit-based hirings and school admissions, but the capitalist economic system in its entirety.
In an introduction to a published collection of his speeches, Jensen writes: “Citizens of the United States are citizens of the empire … reaching for global domination through the use of military and economic power. The consequences of this imperial project have been grim for many people around the world — those who have been the targets of U.S. military power; those who have lived under repressive regimes backed by the United States; and those who toil in economies that are increasingly subordinated to the United States and multinational corporations. Scratch the surface of U.S. rhetoric about its quest to bring freedom and democracy to the world, and one finds the suffering of the people who must live with the reality of U.S. foreign policy.”
Jensen’s academic performance at Texas has come under fire by his colleagues as well as by those outside the university. According to a November 6, 2003 Cybercast News Service report, he was accused on the “Professor Watch List” of using his “Critical Issues in Journalism” class as a forum for indoctrinating students into socialism and for denouncing “white privilege.” A conservative student organization audited Jensen’s “Journalism 101” course in the spring of 2004 and posted this evaluation:
“In a survey course about Journalism, one might expect to learn about the industry, some basics about reporting and layout, the history of journalism, the values of a free press and what careers make the news machine function. Instead, Jensen introduces the unsuspecting student to a crash course in socialism, white privilege, the ‘truth’ about the Persian Gulf War and the role of America as the world’s prominent sponsor of terrorism. Jensen half-heartedly attempts to tie his rants to ‘critical issues’ in journalism, insisting his lessons are valid under the guise of teaching potential journalists to ‘think’ about the world around them.”
Jensen is the author of the 2004 book Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity, a harsh critique of American post-9/11 policy, the War on Terror, and the Bush administration. He also authored Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (2001). He co-authored Pornography: The Production and Consumption of Inequality (1998), and co-edited Freeing the First Amendment: Critical Perspectives on Freedom of Expression (1995).
Jensen is a member of the radical NoWar Collective and the Third Coast Activist Resource Center.