UT journalism professor Robert Jensen receives backlash after writing editorial criticizing Thanksgiving

David Maly

An editorial by journalism professor Robert Jensen criticizing the celebration of Thanksgiving stirred critics during the holiday break, prompting a stream of email and editorial responses.

In an editorial “No Thanks for Thanksgiving,” republished on alternet.org, Jensen discusses the history of the holiday, calling the actions of English settlers genocide.

“Simply put: Thanksgiving is the day when the dominant white culture (and, sadly, most of the rest of the non-white but non-indigenous population) celebrates the beginning of a genocide that was, in fact, blessed by the men we hold up as our heroic founding fathers,” Jensen’s editorial stated.

The editorial goes on to compare the values of some of the founding fathers to those of Nazis.

In an interview with The Daily Texan, Jensen said he has published several other editorials on the topic since 2005, but this republishing of a 2007 article on the day before Thanksgiving has received more attention than in the past.

Jensen said since Wednesday, he has received roughly 300 emails responding to the editorial and almost all have criticized the piece.

He said the emails range from raw anger with insults and profanity to criticisms of his understanding of the holiday’s history. He said many support traditional Thanksgiving celebrations, because they focus on sharing and thankfulness and believe the holiday can be celebrated separately from what he referred to as “the beginning of a genocide.”

Jensen said, however, Thanksgiving cannot be separated from its historical context.

Since its republication this year, Jensen’s editorial has been critiqued through editorials on several online news outlets, including examiner.com, wizbangblog.com and cnsnews.com.

Dan Gainor published an editorial on Jensen’s piece Thursday on CNS News, a conservative online news source.

In it, Gainor claims that Jensen is “bashing” America with his editorial.

In an interview with The Daily Texan, Gainor said he sees Jensen’s editorial as inaccurate.

“That’s so monsterously wrong in so many different ways,” Gainor said. “It attempts to apply 20th century thought circumstances and morality to the American Revolutionary War,” referring to Jensen’s comparison of some of the founding fathers to Nazis.

Jensen said he was prompted to write the editorial partly by discomfort he felt celebrating Thanksgiving, something he felt others could relate to.

“I wrote that piece, in part, for people that were struggling with the same practical problems that I was,” Jensen said.

He said he also wanted to give those who did not feel such discomfort insight into the historical context of the holiday.

“The purpose is to put in front of those folks an argument that they can ponder,” Jensen said.

Jensen has published other works in the past challenging American actions throughout history, including a 2001 editorial he wrote for the Houston Chronicle titled “U.S. just as guilty of committing own violent acts.”

The 9/11 attacks were “no more despicable as the massive acts of terrorism — the deliberate killing of civilians for political purposes — that the U.S. government has committed during my lifetime,” Jensen stated in the 2001 editorial.

He said the 2001 article was the last time he received so much criticism for one of his editorials.

Jensen has published dozens of editorials on American politics in between.

“I believe that there are a lot of issues this country needs to come to terms with quickly,” Jensen said.

Printed on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012 as: Holiday editorial receives criticism