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Academic Malpractice: The Case of Grover Furr

I was not going to write about Prof. Grover Furr of Montclair State University. I did not want to call more attention to him, which he obviously craves. But now that the video of his speech at a recent forum has gone viral on the internet, thanks to the Washington Examiner, and is being featured on other sites as well, I have decided it is time to speak out about this particularly imbecilic member of the Academy.

Professor Furr is a professor of medieval English literature, but what has led to all the hullabaloo about him is his decades-long defense of the old Soviet Union, and in particular of the years in which one of the 20th century’s most horrendous monsters, Josef Stalin, wreaked havoc on the lives of the people living under his reign of terror. Professor Furr has been in the business of Stalin worship for quite some time.

So shameful is this man that he actually tried to lead a protest against a speech by one of the most brilliant contemporary scholars, Timothy Snyder of Yale University. Snyder is the author of the magisterial and highly acclaimed book Bloodlands, which the Economist rightfully chose as its “Book of the Year.” Professor Furr, it seems, cannot countenance any scholar who engages in rigorous research. “Instead of studying Nazi atrocities or Soviet atrocities separately, as many others have done,” Anne Applebaum writes, Snyder “looks at them together,” revealing that “the two systems committed the same kinds of crimes at the same times and in the same places, that they aided and abetted one another, and above all that their interaction with one another led to more mass killing than either might have carried out alone.” Applebaum’s accolades are among many Snyder has rightfully received. His book is one of lasting value that not only informs, but leads one to see the past in a new way.

Without engaging in the kind of real scholarly work that Timothy Snyder and Anne Applebaum have both done in their respective works, Furr simply takes to his computer to put out blast after blast at anyone who dares to tell the truth about Stalinism or to cast aspersion on the years in which the USSR existed. He actually writes that “Snyder is a most unsuitable speaker for any discussion of the Holocaust, or of Eastern European history generally.” As most sane people realize, that judgement applies more accurately to Furr himself, rather than to a major historian like Timothy Snyder. That Furr can even write these words about Timothy Snyder is itself an indictment of Furr, and reveals to anyone with an  ounce of intelligence what a fraud he is.

What has now created the storm that has made Furr visible are his statements at the recent forum at Montclair, where he called it a “big lie” that Stalin killed millions of people. “I have yet to find one crime -- yet to find one crime -- that Stalin committed,” Furr said. “I know they all say he killed 20, 30, 40 million people -- it is bullshit. ... [Nazi propagandist] Goebbels said that the Big Lie is successful and this is the Big Lie: that the Communists -- that Stalin killed millions of people and that socialism is no good.”

His field might be medieval literature, but if you consult his own website, it is readily apparent that what most interests him, and the cause to which he is singlemindedly devoted, is defense of Stalin’s reputation. Evidently a member or follower of the 1960s era Maoist group the Progressive Labor Party -- a breakaway movement from the Communist Party U.S.A. that saw fit to defend China during the years of the Moscow-China split and to try to build a new Marxist-Leninist communist organization to replace what they called the “revisionist” official American Communist group -- Furr now appears as its only remaining public face.

Think for a moment that someone like this is actually teaching at an American public university.