Friday, July 30, 2010

Campus Watch "Setting The Record Straight" 2010 Update

Cinnamon Stillwell

Since our last update, the number of corrections in Campus Watch's "Setting The Record Straight" section has grown exponentially. Hardly a day goes by when Campus Watch (CW)'s opponents aren't hard at work hurling false accusations, smears, and paranoia in our direction. The nature of the fabrications generated by CW's critics over the years has remained predictably static, and they tend to fall into just a few categories. The most ubiquitous are the histrionic allegations that we "silence," "censor," "harass," or "intimidate" academics; that we engage in "blacklisting"; that we interfere in tenure decisions; that we represent a threat to "academic freedom"; and that most hackneyed cliché of the Left's vocabulary—that we practice "McCarthyism." Only in the insulated world of academia would mere criticism and accountability be likened to state-sponsored repression. Moreover, the irony seems to be lost that eight years after CW's 2002 launch, such academics are still busy talking—about being silenced.

Nonetheless, the hysteria continues. For example:

Dorit Naaman, Alliance Atlantis Professor of Film and Media at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, writing in the Canadian Association of University Teachers Bulletin, demonstrates an active imagination when she sucks Campus Watch into the vortex of a vast conspiracy theory involving a conference to which we had no connection--an error she follows with the unimaginative claim that we "employ the tactics of McCarthyism."

At his blog, Informed Comment, University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole devises a brilliant new method for smearing Campus Watch: accusing us of being "a neo-McCarthyite organization." Well, at least it's a step up from McCarthyite.

In another new twist on the same old, same old, St. Xavier University history professor Peter Kirstein, writing at his blog, describes Campus Watch as "one of the New McCarthyism's most egregious excesses."

Nora Barrows-Friedman, writing for the Electronic Intifada, misunderstands CW archives—they are divided into material we produce ourselves, and material we merely archive—and concludes that we've launched "smear campaigns" against one professor about whom we've never written and another who was the subject of exactly one article. She made only two errors: there was no smear and no campaign.

Others fall back on that most banal of tactics—playing the race card:

After falsely accusing Campus Watch of intervening in tenure decisions (the "CW Positions on Speakers and Tenure" page at our website explicitly states otherwise) and making "overtly racist complaint[s]" in our "initial mission statement" about professors of Middle Eastern background, Hussein Ibish, writing at his blog, concludes that CW "should admit failure and be gone forever." In light of all these mistakes, Ibish might want to take his own advice.

In the course of criticizing a Sunny Hundal Guardian piece that misrepresented Campus Watch [more about which below], an anonymous blogger writing for the Spittoon misrepresents CW by claiming that we "vilify Muslim academics." Wrong, again.

Another fictitious indictment that arises with depressing regularity is fueled by the belief that Campus Watch is part of an omnipotent and interconnected cabal of individuals and organizations that make up what is commonly labeled the "Israel Lobby." As we've noted repeatedly, CW is a project of the Middle East Forum, a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization founded and directed by Daniel Pipes, and is not affiliated with any other individuals, organizations, or government entities.

Daniel Pipes has challenged "Israel Lobby" conspiracy theory peddlers such as John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt (co-authors of the infamous The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy) on numerous occasions to provide documentation proving that CW receives marching orders from on high, but to no avail. Instead, they claim that this "Leninist caricature of the lobby" is not to be taken literally—even as they continue to spout the same nonsense.

Similarly undeterred by facts, our critics press on:

South African-Dutch journalist Adriana Stuijt, writing for Digital Journal, recycles the myth that David Horowitz is affiliated with Campus Watch.

In a paranoid diatribe about the "Israel Lobby" in the Palestine Chronicle, Franklin Lamb erroneously describes an organization called the Zionist Freedom Alliance (ZFA) as "a spin-off of Campus Watch." That's news to us.

Writing for the journal Social Research, Hebrew University of Jerusalem professor of political science Itzhak Galnoor incorrectly alleges that the organization is connected to Campus Watch. Is there any group to which CW isn't supposedly connected?

Sergio Yahni, writing for the Alternative Information Center, distorts the words of Middle East Forum adjunct scholar Asaf Romirowsky (from his August 2008 article, "In Academia, Hiring Token Jews") and accuses Campus Watch of aiding "Israeli attacks on dissenting voices." CW director Winfield Myers put it best: "I've yet to take an order from anyone in Israel—or anyone connected with the so-called Israel lobby in America."

Many of CW's detractors either ignore or willfully misconstrue our mission statement to suit their own preconceived notions. Our interest in improving Middle East studies is not, as is often charged, for the purpose of promoting "pro-Israel" or politicized scholarship, but for promoting rigorous, objective scholarship untainted by political, ethnic, or religious agendas. Yet, the mischaracterizations keep on coming:

Sharmila Devi, writing for the National (Abu Dhabi), claims that Campus Watch "target[s] professors" for being "anti-Israel and pro-Islam." In fact, we critique professors for being anti-objectivity and pro-politicization.

After correctly diagnosing the field of Middle East studies as suffering from "high levels of politicization," the anonymous author of the "Road to Academia" blog charges Campus Watch with "trying to politicize ME Studies," when, in fact, one of our goals—per our mission statement—is to combat the "mixing of politics with scholarship" in Middle East studies. Talk about confusion!

In a Tikkun Magazine article bemoaning the alleged trials and tribulations of "Israel's Campus Critics," David Theo Goldberg and UCLA English professor Saree Makdisi declare that CW was started by "pro-Israel activists" whose goal is to "harry academic scholars for their criticisms of Israeli policy." And the inaccuracies don't end there.

Writing for the Socialist Worker, Brian Napoletano claims that CW "attacks" (i.e. critiques) scholars who criticize Israel and routinely accuses them of anti-Semitism. Neither is true, but why let that stand in the way of a good propaganda opportunity? Napoletano's comrades would be proud.

Then there are the repeat offenders, who, obviously, haven't learned any lessons from past mistakes:

Harvard University international affairs professor (and co-author of the aforementioned The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy) Stephen Walt takes his fourth swipe at Campus Watch and has no better luck getting his facts straight than before.

Ben-Gurion University political geography professor David Newman makes the first of two (so far) appearances in our corrections department with a rambling rant in the Jerusalem Post in which he calls Campus Watch a "disgrace for anyone who believes in the concept of freedom of speech"—for practicing free speech.

Writing again for the Jerusalem Post, David Newman rears his histrionic head for the second time to accuse Campus Watch of—yawn—McCarthyism. As proof of this tiresome canard, he accuses us of "turn[ing] students into spies" because some have had the gall to report their classroom experiences to the outside world via CW. He figured out our dastardly plan!

Others substitute scary, buzzwords for facts:

In an article for the National (Abu Dhabi), Jonathan Cook associates Campus Watch with the terms "neoconservative," "right-wing groups," "climate of fear," and "witch-hunt." Oh, my!

Some of CW's critics either suffer from a lack of journalistic or academic ethics, are merely lazy, or are greatly in need of a fact-checker:

Delivering the August 2007 convocation address at Whitman College, Shampa Biswas—Global Studies director and associate professor of politics—couldn't seem to get her facts straight about Campus Watch, so, instead, she just made stuff up. Now there's a nifty lesson for college grads.

In an article on the retirement of Central Connecticut State University history professor Norton Mezvinksy, Bristol Press staff writer Scott Whipple erroneously describes Campus Watch as an "on-campus group."

Guardian blogger Sunny Hundal relies on the old "according to one critic" trick to make all manner of untrue and nonsensical accusations against Campus Watch. We're still waiting for Hundal to disclose the mysterious identity of his unnamed source; Deep Throat, perhaps?

It would be nice to think that these corrections will someday no longer be required, but as long as Campus Watch's critics prefer name calling, demonization, and conspiratorial thinking to substantive rebuttal, there will be a need to correct their errors.

This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

No comments: