The controversy surrounding Ward Churchill will have a huge impact on intellectual freedom in the US and should not be ignored. The right-wing attack on Churchill specifically and intellectual freedom in general does not automatically justify what Churchill wrote, of course. That's a completely separate issue, one which might be debated in a reasonably tolerant and literate society. The mainstream liberal/left has washed their hands of the issue; they won't risk getting involved. How long can we afford to be so short-sighted? As Michael Albert points out, Churchill is an easy target (not unlike Afghanistan and Iraq). The reason for concern now is that this will lead to more bold attacks on less controversial targets.
The best writing I have seen on this whole issue is from Robert Jensen in his article Ward Churchill: Right to Speak Out; Right about 9/11.
In this context, I picked these quotes up from an article by Mickey Z. ...
Eugene Debs: "Do not worry over the charge of treason to your masters, but be concerned about the treason that involves yourselves. Be true to yourself and you cannot be a traitor to any good cause on earth."
William Burroughs: "Modern man has lost the option of silence."
Lenny Bruce: "Take away the right to say fuck and you take away the right to say 'fuck the government'."