Chronicle on Cole

by Cosma Shalizi on July 24, 2006

Under the rubric “Can Blogging Derail Your Career?”, the Chronicle of Higher Education has seven bloggers discussing Yale’s decision to not hire Juan Cole as a professor of history, and the role, if any, played by his blog in that decision: Siva Vaidhyanathan, Dan Drezner, Brad DeLong, Michael Bérubé (all: yay!), Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse (both: hiss), and Erin O’Connor (null result), with a “response” by Cole, which doesn’t actually address the others’ posts specifically, and reads like a separate essay on the same subject as the others. (Via DeLong.)

(Some of the things which were written about Cole as part of the controversy (e.g.,) give the impression of a professor who attains incomprehensibility not through obscurity but through foaming at the mouth. As it happens, though, I sat in on his seminar on millenarian movements when I was a post-doc at Michigan, and nothing could be further from the truth. I suppose I could have missed all the sessions which degenerated into hours-long rants about Zionist Entities… Of course, I don’t know why Yale didn’t give him the job, but if it was because they thought he was too spittle-flecked to be presentable to parents and alumni, they were misinformed.)

The fact that this post is not filed under “Middle East Politics” isn’t going to stop anyone in the comments, is it?

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{ 127 comments }

1

norbizness 07.24.06 at 10:33 pm

Couldn’t Althouse have typed “Whatever!” and saved me the goddamned time?

2

Richard Bellamy 07.24.06 at 10:41 pm

Juan Cole makes many good points, but I simply don’t _trust_ him or his sources in his bloggging. He knows what he’s talking about, but he also knows how to “spin” and use code words for the left as well as Reagan or Pat Buchanan could on the right.

He was on “On The Media” recently (transcript here):

http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/transcripts_021006_speech.html

and he used “anti-Semitic” to mean “anti-Arab”. It was very jarring to hear. Now, I recognize the technical meaning of the word “Semite”, but that is simply not what the word “anti-Semitic” means, and I have never heard it used that way by anyone who wasn’t trying to (anti-Semitically) re-brand the word away from the Jews.

It is stuff like that, or like citing to conspiracy mongerer Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com, that makes me question everything else he says, too.

Now, maybe he’s much more careful in his scholarly work (I hope he is), but it is this sort of carelessness (or, if you are so inclined, extreme carefulness) that makes me itchy.

3

felix 07.24.06 at 11:09 pm

and he used “anti-Semitic” to mean “anti-Arab”. It was very jarring to hear

In other words, he used the word correctly, instead of the way modern propaganda dictates that it be used, and you found the truth distasteful.

If you believe anti-Semitism (by its dictionary definition) is acceptable, but anti-Jewish sentiment is unacceptable, you need to start using words that make your prejudices clear, instead of implying that the dictionary should be rewritten to reflect your prejudices.

4

Henry 07.24.06 at 11:11 pm

and it begins ….

(as Cosma says, it doesn’t stop anyone, does it. Sometimes I hate blogs)

5

Toadmonster 07.24.06 at 11:16 pm

Because as we know, word meanings are timeless functions of transcendental truths rather than functions of use…

6

felix 07.24.06 at 11:27 pm

If the function of use is to claim that Semites one opposes for ideological or political reasons are not Semites, it’s time to stand up for truth. I’ll go first.

Anti-semitism is irrational opposition to Semites. If you want a word that reflects opposition to the religion of Sammy Davis Jr., come up with one, OK? Because anti-Semitism most definitely isn’t it.

7

Leinad 07.24.06 at 11:28 pm

Wherefore should we credential toadmaster? This thread can only descend into an inflammable mess.

8

astrongmaybe 07.24.06 at 11:28 pm

This is going off-topic alarmingly fast, but… as far as I know, the term “anti-Semitism” was coined and has always been overwhelmingly used to indicate prejudice against Jews, not against the “Semitic peoples”. It simply isn’t the case that it originally referred to all peoples of Middle Eastern origin and was somehow hijacked to refer only to anti-Jewish prejudice. (See, for example, the political parties explicitly naming themselves “anti-semitic” in late C19 Austria.) Claiming that “Semitic includes Arabs too”, as felix does (which dictionary you using?), is a relatively recent phenomenon. I can only speak for myself, but I’ve never found it to add anything much to debate on Middle Eastern politics, varieties of racism, or anything. Which is not to say that accusations of “anti-Semitism” haven’t been devalued in the last ten years by loose, disingenuous and exaggerated use. They have, same as charges of “racism” in general.

9

mcd 07.24.06 at 11:31 pm

“The fact that this post is not filed under “Middle East Politics” isn’t going to stop anyone in the comments, is it?”

Why on earth would it? Do you really think the non-hiring decision had nothing to do with Mideast politics?

10

felix 07.24.06 at 11:38 pm

Claiming that “Semitic includes Arabs too”, as felix does (which dictionary you using?)

When I look it up I get:

A member of a group of Semitic-speaking peoples of the Near East and northern Africa, including the Arabs, Arameans, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, Hebrews, and Phoenicians.

Which I think is the relevant definition – Semites are people that speak Semitic languages. Surely you can come up with a term that reflects prejudice against one subset of that language group. Unless that would be politically inconvenient, in which case you can tilt against the windmills of truth at your discretion.

11

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.24.06 at 11:49 pm

“The fact that this post is not filed under “Middle East Politics” isn’t going to stop anyone in the comments, is it?”

Ah, but it is descending into a totally different internet classic than you thought–the language flame!

My take, like “proportional” and “Euro-centric” it has one very commonly used meaning with its own under and overtones and another not wholly compatible academic meaning. Sometimes people confuse them on purpose, sometimes by accident.

But if Cole were to say to a general audience that the Danish cartoon riots were caused by Anti-Semitic cartoons, it would be rather confusing. He’s fully aware of that.

12

me 07.24.06 at 11:52 pm

Obviously, European history is brimming with political movements each of whose doctrines included hatred of Arabs, Arameans, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, Hebrews, and Phoenicians in roughly equal measures.

Now look, this is just plain stupid.

13

felix 07.24.06 at 11:57 pm

But if Cole were to say to a general audience that the Danish cartoon riots were caused by Anti-Semitic cartoons

Then that would be a god damn stupid thing to say, wouldn’t it? The cartoons were anti-Islam, and as a large number of Islamic people are not Semitic, and a large number of Semitic people are not Islamic, describing the cartoons as Anti-Semitic would be a really stupid thing to do.

Here’s a hint, for once, try to use words to clarify rather than to obscure.

14

Randolph Fritz 07.25.06 at 12:07 am

“as far as I know, the term “anti-Semitism” was coined and has always been overwhelmingly used to indicate prejudice against Jews, not against the “Semitic peoples”.”

Yet the original racist critique of Semitic people (Gobineau?) did include Arabs. It was, I suppose, a justification of Jew-hatred, but it really did.

“He knows what he’s talking about, but he also knows how to “spin” and use code words for the left […]”

Honestly, what are you *talking* about? I don’t pick up the classic communist cant in his writing.

15

Brad DeLong 07.25.06 at 12:14 am

Can’t all of us non-Aryan mongrels (and Aryan mongrels too) just get along?

16

ben alpers 07.25.06 at 12:18 am

Using the term “anti-semitic” to refer to hatred of Arabs is like using the term “homophobic” to refer to fear of things or people similar to oneself. It’s perfectly good etymology; it bears next to no relationship to the way that the vast majority of English speakers understand (or have understood) the word.

(I should add, in case it matters, that I generally like Cole and certainly wouldn’t conclude from what I would agree is an obscurantist use of the term “anti-Semite”– assuming that the description of that use above is accurate — that Cole is somehow not to be trusted in general.)

17

Gene O'Grady 07.25.06 at 12:36 am

I’m not sure Mr. Alpers’ point is correct — “homophobia,” I’m pretty sure, is formed by truncating the peculiar English word homosexual, with no reference to the Greek root for “same,” which in compound would (unless the heat has eaten my brain) be homoiophobia.

In case it occurs to anyone that “peculiar” above is directed at gay people, I should note that it refers to the mixing of Latin and Greek roots in the notorious 19th century. Which is still preferable to the Vatican document “Homosexualitatis problema,” pseudo-Latin if there ever was.

18

rilkefan 07.25.06 at 12:38 am

Ben Alpers: “[I] certainly wouldn’t conclude from what I would agree is an obscurantist use of the term “anti-Semite” […] that Cole is somehow not to be trusted in general.”

It strikes me as very worrisome for a professor to misuse the language of his field (or near-field) to score cheap rhetorical points. It makes me doubt his judgement.

19

Seth Finkelstein 07.25.06 at 12:40 am

Attempting to re-track the discussion:

My understanding is that the kind of people who make offer and tenure decisions consider ALL forms of “popular” writing (newspaper editorials, magazine pieces, blogs) or TV/radio punditry to be, at best, a frivolous hobby, or at worse, a negative factor indicating that the candidate has too much time on his or her hands which they should be devoting to academic publishing.

No matter that bloggy-blog-blog evangelists think bloggy-blog-blog postings are the gooshiest greatest bestest thing a person can do, they aren’t making the offer and tenure decisions.

Discuss.

20

Daniel 07.25.06 at 12:48 am

This sort of problem prevented AL Rowse and AJP Taylor from attaining the highest ranks in academic history, although I cannot recall whether history records if they gave a fuck.

In unrelated news, I think that if I was the kind of man who threw staplers, I could without moving from my desk bean at least six people who could write a more interesting article than Glenn Reynolds. I have no idea why anyone asks him to do these pieces when he is no good at them. I think I will start citing his prominence as a public intellectual as an example of the QWERTY effect.

21

felix 07.25.06 at 12:49 am

It strikes me as very worrisome for a professor to misuse the language of his field

For those playing along at home, that’s called circular reasoning. Mark your “lynch an academic” scorecards appropriately.

My understanding is that the kind of people who make offer and tenure decisions consider ALL forms of “popular” writing (newspaper editorials, magazine pieces, blogs) or TV/radio punditry to be, at best, a frivolous hobby, or at worse, a negative factor indicating that the candidate has too much time on his or her hands which they should be devoting to academic publishing.

Sure, DeLong will be getting his pink slip any day now, right?

Your claim is horseshit. Educating the public on matters one has been subsidized to study is not frivolous.

Why not just be honest and say you hate the messenger, and plan on ignoring the message?

22

Scott Martens 07.25.06 at 1:15 am

Well, I had the recent experience of inteviewing for a job from someone who has been reading my blog for some time. It was… odd. But I was offered the job.

23

rilkefan 07.25.06 at 1:15 am

“For those playing along at home, that’s called circular reasoning.”

No, it’s not – but there’s no point arguing subtle points with someone unable to accept the language as it exists.

“Sure, DeLong will be getting his pink slip any day now, right?”

You’ve heard of tenure – or have you?

24

Jim Harrison 07.25.06 at 1:32 am

I note that the response to Cole takes the form of changing the subject to a minor point, a key part of the Swiftboat strategy that crops up everywhere these days.

I think the real complaint about Cole is that his example shows up America’s brown-nosing intellectuals for the cowardly trimmers they obviously are. We really do live in a base age.

25

ben alpers 07.25.06 at 1:50 am

I should have bothered to read Cole’s usage of “anti-Semitic” before posting about it. Here’s the quotation in question (from this link provided above):

So, to take the Prophet Mohammed and to depict him with a large nose and a bomb in his turban, it’s a continuation of those exact same anti-Semitic and racist themes that have been characteristic of European colonial discourse for 150 years. This is not something new, and people in the Middle East are tired of it.

My reading of this passage is that the term “anti-Semitic” refers to the cartoon’s large nose. Now I think we can all agree that large noses are an anti-Semitic stereotype. I think that Cole is suggesting that this stereotype is, in this case, being applied to the image of Mohammed. Cole is, by way of noting this stereotype, drawing connections between anti-Semitism and broader European colonial discourses. But he is most certainly not using the term “anti-Semitic” simply (or perhaps at all) to refer to anti-Arab sentiments. He is linking these sentiments to anti-Semitism (in the manner in which most of us understand the term).

Perhaps it’s time to end this tempest in a teapot?

26

Seth Finkelstein 07.25.06 at 1:56 am

felix, parse the sentence I wrote. It’s not up to me, you, or all the triumphalists who run around saying how blogs are God’s gift to Enlightenment 2.0. It’s up to a very small set of people who may consider running off one’s mouth to be a job disqualification. And the disconnect can be made manifest in cases such as this.

For the record, my own blog mentions of him have all been more on his side than not. And though I don’t share his Middle East stances, I’m very sympathetic to what he endures in terms of wingnut attacks. I’d say he’s an interesting blog case study, as a popular blogger who isn’t a marketer, demagogue, celebrity, or slavering partisan hack. Though my view tends to thinking that his popularity is more being in the right place in the right time on the right topic, than any overall benefit of blogs to public intellectuals.

Which brings us back, I hope, to the (nominal) topic. I assert blog evangelism has gotten a free ride in terms of trumpeting the successes and burying the failures. The people who get jobs from their blogs are shouted to the skies, the people who lose jobs from their blogs don’t get held up as examples of what blogs can do. Some high-profile negatives are now proving difficult to handle for that hype machine.

27

Barry Freed 07.25.06 at 3:28 am

Wait a minute here. Michael Bérubé was in a band that once opened for The Ramones! Now that ‘s just so awesomely cool. Anyone got a link to that post?

28

abb1 07.25.06 at 3:57 am

I think the guy’s lacking a sense of humor. As’ad AbuKhalil sounds much more radical but much less tiresome. Not that it’s a reason to derail his (Cole’s) career, of course.

29

dave heasman 07.25.06 at 3:58 am

I thought I saw something about the origins of “anti-semitism”. Ah it’s here : -

http://philip.greenspun.com/politics/israel/

“antisemitism …… The word was coined in 1879 by Wilhelm Marrih to replace the then-current term Judenhass, which translates literally as “Jew-hatred”. Marrih hated Jews and conjectured that middle-class Germans were turning away from the practice of Jew-hatred because the term for the activity sounded ugly. The neologism antisemitism was intended to sound more scientific and therefore make hatred of Jews more appealing to educated people in an industrial age”

I doubt Marrih had much time for Arabs, either, but..

30

Jack 07.25.06 at 4:37 am

Anti-semitism has usually referred to European or American hate of jews but is derived from various racial justifications thereof in which arabs are equally despised. Using it to describe arab antagonism towards Israel seems an abuse, not so much because it is wrong about who is hated but wrong about who is hating.

Marrih may have attempted to popularise the term for the reasons described above but he didn’t invent it. Gobineau for one was using it before 1879.

31

Brendan 07.25.06 at 5:11 am

‘Wait a minute here. Michael Bérubé was in a band that once opened for The Ramones! Now that ’s just so awesomely cool. Anyone got a link to that post?’

Frankly this strikes me as a more interesting topic than the tiresome ‘anti-semitism’ discussion that this post has somehow generated. So: how about it? Academics who were once in rock bands, and what this says about their current research themes?

I am still waiting for the post I was promised on the Tomorrow People incidentally.

32

abb1 07.25.06 at 5:14 am

The word ‘anti-semit’ currently doesn’t have much of a meaning at all. It’s simply used to insult anyone who disagrees with the wingnut apologists of the Israeli wingnuts.

It’s like, for example, the word ‘neanderthal’. We know what the word means but I can certainly call you ‘neanderthal’ without literally suggesting that you are a neanderthal.

33

Oliver Kamm 07.25.06 at 5:42 am

Just for the record (for I have no wish to join the wider discussion about the subject of this post, or any unconnected discussion about modern Middle East politics): the name is Wilhelm Marr, not Marrih, which appears to be a typo that has spread through various unreliable web sites. The traditional German term for hatred of Jews is “Judenfeindschaft”, which Marr replaced with “Antisemitismus” on grounds of his racial theories. The newer term has the incidental drawback of encouraging the half-educated to make assertions about “the way modern propaganda dictates that it be used”, unaware that the term is itself an instance of modern propaganda.

34

Richard Bellamy 07.25.06 at 5:56 am

Ben Alpers truncates the quote in #25 to attempt to obscure Cole’s meaning.

35

otto 07.25.06 at 6:15 am

Moving right along…

Dan Drezner wrote this:
“After I was denied tenure at Chicago last year, there was news-media conjecture that my blog was partly to blame”

Now DD’s position is a little different from JC’s, because Cole was tenured at a top research institution, not to mention president of a professional association, but denied an offer at a different research institution, while DD was denied tenure at a top research institution, and got picked up at Tufts (great place, but not University of Chicago).

My question is, in relation to Drezner, could the argument confidently be made that he had the sort of publications that means that he should/would have been tenured at Chicago, if not for something else – perhaps blogging – weighing him down? Does he have a paper, for example, that’s now a must read for a grad seminar in IR? Or were his publications pretty good but not up to the rather high U of C bar? In other words, is Drezner’s U of C tenure decision a bone fide case of blogging martyrdom or not?

36

homais 07.25.06 at 6:35 am

Dear me:

Obviously, European history is brimming with political movements each of whose doctrines included hatred of Arabs, Arameans, Babylonians, Carthaginians, Ethiopians, Hebrews, and Phoenicians in roughly equal measures.

How dare you leave Nabotaens off of this list? Are you trying to deny their history? Are you some kind of anti-semite or something? ;)

37

dearieme 07.25.06 at 6:54 am

If you guys are going to be so remarkably punctilious at construing (please, not “parsing”) the term ‘anti-semite’, would you agree to stop using the preposterous “native American” when you mean”indigenous American”?

38

nick s 07.25.06 at 7:14 am

I’m going to try and avoid the derails, and note that blogging-once-happily-tenured is quite obviously a different phenomenon to blogging-while-hoping-for-tenure.

The Taylor/Rowse examples are interesting, because it raises the wider question of the relationship of the ‘public intellectual’ or popular academic to the academy. Consider Niall Ferguson, who has been able to turn his ‘teledon’ status into a Harvard professorship and a lucrative position on the rubber chicken circuit as Professor Neo-Imperialist — something quite different to his specialisation, which has meant he’s done precious little primary research and analysis since his Rothschild history.

A similar argument could be made towards Cole, since he’s working on the public stage with what could be called ‘day-old history': collating, translating where necessary and offering his own analysis of events. I personally find that preferable to what Ferguson is doing.

I have no idea why anyone asks him to do these pieces when he is no good at them.

The same reason why people continue to look at Instapundit: he got in early.

39

Jacob T. Levy 07.25.06 at 7:28 am

Otto’s
“question is, in relation to Drezner, could the argument confidently be made that he had the sort of publications that means that he should/would have been tenured at Chicago, […]?”

Yes.

That’s not by itself responsive to the question “is Drezner’s U of C tenure decision a bone fide case of blogging martyrdom or not?,” about which Dan was carefully circumspect in his Cole essay. But with respect to the question about quantity, quality, and citation-impact of publications, the answer is certainly yes.

40

MikeN 07.25.06 at 7:34 am

While I read Professor Cole religiously- Judaily, Shiitely, Sunnily- I have to admit that some of his anti-Israel stances leave me queasy, and I
don’t even believe Israel is a legitimate state.

Look at his recent assertion that Israel plans its wars for the summer because that’s when universities in Western countries are on holiday- that’s surely black-helicopter tinfoil-hat territory.

41

Brett 07.25.06 at 7:36 am

Brendan, you must have missed the Tomorrow People post.

42

Christmas 07.25.06 at 7:54 am

his recent assertion that Israel plans its wars for the summer because that’s when universities in Western countries are on holiday- that’s surely black-helicopter tinfoil-hat territory.

That really didn’t seem all that crazy or implausible to me. Back in the days when campus protests meant something in America, U.S. administrations often went to creative lengths to blunt them. Given that any kind of strident criticism of Israel coming from its closest allies would be more likely to originate on a college campus than from a newspaper editorial page, and given that this operation seems to have been planned well in advance of the actual Hezbollah kidnapping, it doesn’t seem totally paranoid to suggest that one factor for launching it might be that all those troublemaking kids in Europe and the U.S. won’t be around to say much about it.

43

otto 07.25.06 at 8:04 am

Jacob L: But with respect to the question about quantity, quality, and citation-impact of publications, the answer is certainly yes.

Thanks. Can you recommend one of DD’s publications for me to read?

44

William Sjostrom 07.25.06 at 8:08 am

The gratuitous insults to Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse (along with the bizarre anti-Semitism of some of the comments) will pretty much ensure that Reynolds and Althouse, who could easily have drifted to the left, will stay pretty much on the right. As a member of the right, I offer you my thanks.

45

ben alpers 07.25.06 at 8:09 am

Ben Alpers truncates the quote in #25 to attempt to obscure Cole’s meaning.

You’re half right, Richard. Rereading the quotation, I should have included more material. I was not, however, trying to obscure Cole’s meaning. I was just commenting too sloppily on a blog about a subject that I’d still maintain is not that important.

Apologies to all. I should have read and commented more carefully.

Now can we talk about something more interesting?

46

soru 07.25.06 at 8:12 am

‘So boss, why are us reservists going on a patrol near the border again?’

‘Well, strictly speaking you’ve got no need to know, but let’s just say it’s an operation planned jointly with the UC Berkeley campus police’.

47

Christmas 07.25.06 at 8:16 am

Okay, Richard, here’s the entire Juan Cole quote:

Well yes, but the question is what exactly is going on? And one thing that should be underlined is that it’s widely thought that the mere depiction of the Prophet Mohammed is somehow being objected to. I don’t think most Muslims care too much if the Danes want to draw pictures of the Prophet Mohammed. And indeed, there’s a famous issue of the French adventure magazine Tintin with the Prophet’s picture on the front, and nobody ever made a big deal out of that. The issue is really more a kind of racist depiction of the Prophet Mohammed. Now, we in America don’t have a strong sense of European colonialism, but most Muslim countries have been ruled for much of the last 200 years by Europeans. And while the Europeans were ruling places like Algeria, they weren’t nice to Islam or Muslims. And they had a racist discourse about it. They depicted Semites as fanatical, as violent, as irrational, and therefore, as needing European rule. So, to take the Prophet Mohammed and to depict him with a large nose and a bomb in his turban, it’s a continuation of those exact same anti-Semitic and racist themes that have been characteristic of European colonial discourse for 150 years. This is not something new, and people in the Middle East are tired of it.

I still don’t get the objection here. This seems a perfectly valid use of the term to describe racism against Semitic peoples within the larger context of European anti-Semitism and colonialism.

48

rea 07.25.06 at 8:17 am

“his recent assertion that Israel plans its wars for the summer because that’s when universities in Western countries are on holiday- that’s surely black-helicopter tinfoil-hat territory.”

Hardly black-helicopter tinfoil hat territory:

“From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”–Andrew Card, White House Chief of Staff, September, 2002, on the timing of the Iraq War.

49

Bro. Bartleby 07.25.06 at 8:18 am

Well now, all this time I thought anti-American demonstrations were directed at the United States, when in fact, they were directed at the native or inhabitant of a North American or Central American or South American country.

50

Christmas 07.25.06 at 8:21 am

Bartleby, could you try unpacking that for me? I can’t even tell who or what you’re replying to.

51

harry b 07.25.06 at 8:24 am

52

Kevin Donoghue 07.25.06 at 8:45 am

Richard Bellamy wrote:

…that is simply not what the word “anti-Semitic” means, and I have never heard it used that way by anyone who wasn’t trying to (anti-Semitically) re-brand the word away from the Jews.

Well, you should read more widely. I have seen Conor Cruise-O’Brien, amongst others, use the term in precisely the same way as Juan Cole uses it here. Specifically, after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, O’Brien attacked those who argued that the Saudis and Kuwaitis were too weak or too cowardly to defend themselves and didn’t deserve to be rescued from the rising tide of Arab nationalism. He detected racism, with the Iraqis being seen as less Semitic and therefore superior.

53

Richard Bellamy 07.25.06 at 8:52 am

I still don’t get the objection here. This seems a perfectly valid use of the term to describe racism against Semitic peoples within the larger context of European anti-Semitism and colonialism.

As was said sarcastically well up-thread in #5, “Because as we know, word meanings are timeless functions of transcendental truths rather than functions of use…”

Of course, words change their meanings regularly. Currently, “anti-Semitism” means discrimination against Jews. See: both definitions here:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/anti-semitism

#6 suggests that anti-Semitism should ONLY mean hatred of Semitic people, and not Jews.

This is sort of like arguing that “homophobia” should only be used in sentences like, “Ever since that gay man beat him to within an inch of his life, he’s hasn’t been able to walk into the same rule as a homosexual without breaking out in cold sweats — a clear case of homophobia!” and hatred of gays should get a new term.

Now, the question is, HOW a word with a clear, unambiguous meaning, could change meanings. Partially through middle east experts using it in a different way on news broadcasts. Then, the question is WHY Juan Cole, an expert who clearly knows the meanings, history, and common usage of the term would use it in a non-standard meaning if not to change the meaning . . .

and given that this operation seems to have been planned well in advance of the actual Hezbollah kidnapping

Irrespective of how you think this war is being carried out, if you were advising Israel, wouldn’t you suggest they have an operation all planned out for a Lebanese Hezbollah attack? (As well as numerous other potential attacks?) How is it probative of anything that Israel had planned ahead for one of the two or three most likely military eventualities?

54

Barry 07.25.06 at 8:54 am

Christmas: “I still don’t get the objection here. This seems a perfectly valid use of the term to describe racism against Semitic peoples within the larger context of European anti-Semitism and colonialism.”

It seems so to me, as well; it’s a quote which looks suspicious when extracted, but is not suspicious, in context. It’s just the Swift Boat guys, playing their games.

Christmas: “Bartleby, could you try unpacking that for me? I can’t even tell who or what you’re replying to.”

Do you remember that TV show ‘Taxi’, from back in the 1980’s? There was one guy who did too much drugs back in the 60’s. That’s Bro. Bartelby.

55

soru 07.25.06 at 8:57 am

Christmas: I think his point is that you can’t work out the meaning of the word anti-x by looking up the word ‘x’ in a dictionary.

See also the word ‘submarine’, which does not usually mean a member of a shipborn infantry unit with a particular sexual preference.

56

astrongmaybe 07.25.06 at 9:07 am

I think his point is that you can’t work out the meaning of the word anti-x by looking up the word ‘x’ in a dictionary.

Am far from gruntled with this thread, which simply shows just how not ert many positions on ME politics actually are.

Cole seemed to want to use a notional shared history of Orientalism as common ground for Arabs and Jews. An unorthodox basis for a solution to the ME conflict, but none of the rest are working, so maybe it’s worth a go.

57

David Sucher 07.25.06 at 9:08 am

I think that the objection is very simple:

Usage trumps theory when it comes to language.

People, generally, do not USE “anti-Semitic” to mean “anti-Arab.” They use it to mean anti-Jewish. Maybe that’s wrong in some theoretical sense. But language follows usage — not what is technically correct.

Again, in some technical sense “anti-Semitic” might very well mean “anti-Arab.” But that’s not how the term has been used for the past century.

Usage trumps theory when it comes to language.

58

Henry 07.25.06 at 9:12 am

bq. The word ‘anti-semit’ currently doesn’t have much of a meaning at all. It’s simply used to insult anyone who disagrees with the wingnut apologists of the Israeli wingnuts.

abb1 – you’ve been warned and have chosen to disregard those warnings. Whatever about the ways in which the term anti-Semitism is misapplied, anti-Semitism is a real and nasty thing. This is trolling. You’re barred from commenting on this blog for a week. Any comments that you make will be deleted as soon as I see them. I’d strongly advise you not to try to circumvent this ban through sockpuppeting or other means.

59

Pakal 07.25.06 at 9:12 am

It should be possible to hold that in this case Cole’s academic freedom was not violated, and yet still be concerned that:

1) Concerted and highly partisan outside pressure was put on the appointment process;

and that

2) this pressure caused top administrators to reject department-level decisions. At Yale decisions such as this are finally made at the very top; and the greater the threat to Yale’s public image–as in the related recent decision not to admit the so-called “Yale Taliban” as a regular student–the more autocratic the decision.The outside pressure in this case was directed as well in the direction of the $$endowment$$, which will remain inviolate at least until it is Bigger Than Harvard’s.
This decision most certainly was handed down from the President’s office;

and that

3)this sort of capitulation by the administration was certainly craven, but also is, in its own way, a threat to academic principles. The outside pressure that led to this decision would be deflected by a principled administrator, not channelled.

Curiously enough just yesterday I was talking to a colleague here, with some 20 years experience at Yale, who said the upper levels of administration at Yale were filled mostly by “cowards.” Hmmmm. . . .

60

Richard Bellamy 07.25.06 at 9:14 am

On a semi-related note, Cole also cited favorably to Justin Raimondo in this piece:

http://www.juancole.com/2005/10/government-of-war-criminals-press-of.html

Raimondo is a raging anti-Semitic (in the “Jew-hating” sense of the word!) right-wing conspiracy theorist who believes that Israel is behind 9/11.

http://www.antiwar.com/justin/j111802.html

Why cite a fringe lunatic if not to draw attention to his work?

61

Christmas 07.25.06 at 9:14 am

But look, the phenomenon of prejudice against Semitic people is real. What are we going to call that? I guess Cole could’ve just made up a word, and said “this racist caricature of Mohammed with shadowed eyes, dark skin and a hook nose is characteristic of Europe’s dark history of OOGYISM!”, but that would’ve been gibberish. As it was, he was talking about racial prejudice against Semites, so it really doesn’t seem unreasonable that he would use the term “anti-Semitism” to describe that. In context it doesn’t seem objectionable at all, and nobody else in that transcript seems to be confused (“What? But Professor Cole, it’s semantically impossible to apply the term ‘anti-Semitism’ to anyone but Jewish people, and Mohammed was not Jewish!”), and the reason they’re not confused is because his meaning is perfectly clear. This is not a stealth campaign by Cole to strip “anti-Semitism” of its meaning; it’s a legitimate use of broader, if less prevalent, meaning of the term which seems perfectly understandable within the context of the discussion.

62

nick s 07.25.06 at 9:15 am

Reynolds and Althouse, who could easily have drifted to the left

It’s a bit early to be drinking, William. Make sure you don’t drift too far to the left on the walk home, won’t you?

As a member of the right, I offer you my thanks.

And you’re quite welcome. Now a challenge: read no other blogs than Althouse and Reynolds for a week without clawing your eyes out.

63

Christmas 07.25.06 at 9:16 am

Jim Henley has also linked to Raimondo in the past. Should I start picketing outside his house now, too?

64

Christmas 07.25.06 at 9:18 am

This is trolling. You’re barred from commenting on this blog for a week.

Whoa. Did I miss something here? I’ve read/lurked at CT for quite a while, and if a line was crossed here I didn’t see it.

65

Richard Bellamy 07.25.06 at 9:28 am

“Anti-Arab” or “anti-Muslim” works very well for most purposes. “Semites” are a vague group of people who very rarely correlate exactly to whatever group of people you are currently hating (who hates Babylonians, Ethiopians and Cartheginians, but not Morroccans?). It adds confusion without increasing accuracy

There is a difference between citing Raimondo to call him “nuts” or to “Fisk” him as Henley did (do people still say “Fisk” anymore?) versus citing him to say, “Here are some good points.”

66

norbizness 07.25.06 at 9:30 am

88% of entire goddamned thread is trolling, Henry, as the term anti-Semitic neither appeared in the post nor in any of the linked articles to the post.

67

Pakal 07.25.06 at 9:32 am

Re. #59:
So providing a Devil’s Dictionary definition of anti-semitism is trolling? Jesus. I see the term used that way all the time, and as so many comments here point out, usage is the surest guide to definition.

It is getting mighty petty around here.

68

djw 07.25.06 at 9:38 am

I think I linked to Raimondo once. I don’t read him regularly; all I knew was that he was a conservative and anti-war. Is the new rule that we need to research all linkees for potential unsavory views to avoid being inexorably linked to them?

69

Kevin Donoghue 07.25.06 at 9:38 am

There is a difference between citing Raimondo to call him “nuts” or to “Fisk” him as Henley did (do people still say “Fisk” anymore?) versus citing him to say, “Here are some good points.”

Right, so let’s see what Cole actually said:

[Raimondo] makes the maximalist case for the significance of the scandal. I wish the argument were more nuanced, and there are many things in it with which I disagree…. But because Raimondo pulls no punches, he forces us to consider the degree to which Congressional foreign policy on the Middle East in particular has become virtually captive to the Zionist lobby…. He clearly goes too far, but how far should an analyst of this case go?

Richard, your efforts at sliming Cole are ridiculous. One only has to click on the link to see that you are misrepresenting him. This is what Brad DeLong rightly calls “defecating in the stream of public discourse”. You should be ashamed of yourself.

70

Richard Bellamy 07.25.06 at 9:50 am

DJW: You don’t need to do an FBI background check, but it’s usually a good idea to make sure he’s not selling this book on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0595296823/ref=s9_asin_title_1/002-9620310-4060066?n=283155

Juan Cole is a Middle East expert, though. There is always a potential fair case for ignorance when you just follow a link and read a webpage, but Mr. Cole should no better.

Kevin:
Do the arguments of David Duke, while clearly over the top, “force us to consider the degree to which” black people are ruining America? Or should they force us to consider our own racism in even listening to Mr. Duke’s arguments in the first place?

Conspiracy theorists and hater-mongers undercut their own arguments by going too far and should be either ignored or directly challenged. They do not force us to consider their arguments by making a “maximalist” case.

71

Richard Bellamy 07.25.06 at 9:51 am

“should no better.” That’s “should know better.”

72

Uncle Kvetch 07.25.06 at 10:07 am

Do you remember that TV show ‘Taxi’, from back in the 1980’s? There was one guy who did too much drugs back in the 60’s. That’s Bro. Bartelby.

If only he were half as entertaining.

73

Steve 07.25.06 at 10:28 am

Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse (both:yay!!!!)

Steve

74

neil 07.25.06 at 10:34 am

“should no better.” That’s “should know better.”

Turns out that the paragraph is no more coherent that way.

75

garymar 07.25.06 at 10:43 am

I’m amazed that nobody’s referenced what Cole said on his own blog about the matter. It’s right here, and he says that like baseball players, professors get looked over by other teams all the time. He didn’t apply to Yale. He’s perfectly happy where he is. In fact, he sees a move to Yale as a step down.

So maybe his blog didn’t have much to do with it. Would anybody here with experience standing before, sitting on, or observing academic hiring committees care to comment?

76

will u. 07.25.06 at 10:44 am

I greatly enjoy Cole’s blog, and he seems quite knowledgeable. It would surprise me if his scholarship were anything less than top notch. That said, his writing style occasionally is as amateurish, overearnest and (dare I say it?) shrill as that of a dKos diarist. Hence many a clunky metaphor, and hence this anti-semitism dust-up.

77

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.25.06 at 10:48 am

“Concerted and highly partisan outside pressure was put on the appointment process”

I certainly haven’t read all Cole’s scholarly output. The impression I get about his meteoric rise to fame is that it was linked more to his political-blog output rather than his scholarly output. If he had not written a blog, is he of sufficient stature in the field that it would have been likely he would be hired to one of the tip-top positions in it? When I look at Google Scholar I see that most of his work was pre-2000 on the Baha’i faith. Any Middle-East scholars out there?

What was his reputation like in 2000?

If we are to look solely at scholarly work is a specialist on the Baha’i faith with the overall Middle East scholarly reputation of Cole likely to get one of the very top spots? I would initially think “no” but of course I’m not in the specialty field in question. I would suspect that you would want someone with a specialty in a higher impact and more historically relevant religion in the region (Islam, Christianity, or even Judaism). But I’m aware that I’m not particularly informed in that opinion.

If my guess is correct, or nearly correct, it is possible that some portion of Cole’s writing on his blog influenced his reputation positevly in order to get consideration for the position. If that is true, which is pretty much unprovable at this point, the negative aspects of the blog should be available for consideration as well.

78

Barry 07.25.06 at 10:50 am

“Jim Henley has also linked to Raimondo in the past. Should I start picketing outside his house now, too?”

Posted by Christmas

And I’ve seen excellent commentary by William Lind, who’s a stark, but not raving, right-winger. Heck, even Patrick Buchanan has had some sane things to say about this administration (which probably just indicates how f*cked this administration is).

79

Stuart 07.25.06 at 11:15 am

I’ll do something unconventional here, and put up a comment that actually is about the subject of Cosma’s post.

I suspect to some degree Cole’s blogging did undermine his appointment to Yale’s faculty. For one thing, in his blog he was ranging outside the core area of his expertise, which I believe is Baha’i and some related 19th century history. Of course most people do that – we all have opinions outside of areas we’re trained in, and there’s no rule against blogging your opinions – but he was using his “Middle East studies professor” status to give his opinions more gravitas than they otherwise would have if he was posting as plain old “Juan from Ann Arbor.”

Second, at times he has lost his cool quite publicly on his blog (didn’t he say “one two three four, we don’t want your [expletive] war?”). It’s one thing to lose your cool in conversation, but in writing? When you have time to read what you wrote before hitting the “send” button? Spittle-flecked, indeed.

Third, he has voluntarily made himself a poster child for the leftie view of the Iraq war, Israel, and related subjects. The world being what it is, I don’t doubt that a number of influential Yale alumni voiced opposition to giving him the imprimatur of a Yale professorship. That’s their privilege to use their money as they see fit; they are not obligtated to give their money to Yale. It would be nice if people were totally altruistic and ignored what their contributions go for, but that’s not the real world. So to that extent, Cole is dealing with the downside of the added visibility he gave himself by his blog (complete with being asked to provide quotes to the media on issues of the day, which means he gets his name in the paper). I suspect he’d have snuck under the radar if he hadn’t made himself so visible.

80

Sebastian Holsclaw 07.25.06 at 11:25 am

“I suspect he’d have snuck under the radar if he hadn’t made himself so visible.”

But the question for academic freedom purposes is: is it likely he would have been seriously considered for the position in the first place without his blog?

If the answer is “yes”, it might be useful to consider the academic freedom issue or talk about some sort of unfair pressure applied in the decision-making process.

If the answer is “no”, it is a waste of time to consider the academic freedom issue in this case because it would not have been threatened.

I suspect the answer is “no”. But I worry that my judgment on that suspicion is ill-founded and/or colored by my more general dislike of Cole.

81

Jim Harrison 07.25.06 at 11:27 am

A great many American academics have pubically promoted war and oppression in Palestine and Iraq. Nobody seems very interested in parsing their unfelicitious sentences. Of course what’s wrong with the treasonous clerics is not what they say. It’s what they mean. And the fault isn’t stylistic, it’s moral. It’s about time that somebody start spraying luminol on the hands of all those tenured OpEd writers.

82

Bro. Bartleby 07.25.06 at 11:36 am

Richard Bellamy (#2) “Juan Cole … used “anti-Semitic” to mean “anti-Arab”.”

Felix (#3) “In other words, he used the word correctly…”

My response (#50) to the use of words ‘correctly’ was:

“Well now, all this time I thought anti-American demonstrations were directed at the United States, when in fact, they were directed at the native or inhabitant of a North American or Central American or South American country.”

Christmas (#51): Still more unpacking needed?

83

Stuart 07.25.06 at 11:46 am

Sebastian, I usually agree with you, but I’m not sure you’re right here. Cole was a big shot on the academic circuit without his blog. I don’t know him at all, but from a distance he appears to me to be the kind of guy who is good at networking and working the relationships that you need to get attention. He was president? chairman? of the Middle East Studies Association (or whatever the name of the thing is). So he seems to be the sort of ambitious, hard-working guy who knows how to move up in the world that would get enough attention to qualify for a Yale professorship. That’s a point in his favor, in my view. It’s the American way. His political views are, shall we say, sinistral in the extreme, but in academia that’s hardly unusual. No, I think the blog and some of the collateral effects of the blog are what killed the Yale appointment.

But don’t shed tears for Juan Cole – he has tenure at one of the nation’s top universities. And he still gets his name in the paper.

84

Christmas 07.25.06 at 11:58 am

“Still more unpacking needed?”

It helps that you actually noted what you were responding to instead of tossing your comment out as a non sequitur.

That said, if there was such a phenomenon as widespread anti-nations-of-the-Western-Hemisphere sentiment, I wouldn’t have a problem with someone desribing that, in context, as “anti-Americanism.” Beyond that, your weird little analogy has nothing to do with the Juan Cole quote anyway.

85

Juan Cole 07.25.06 at 12:07 pm

I fear that most of this discussion has been conducted in ignorance of nineteenth century French racial and colonial thought saw Muslim Algerians, e.g., as Semites and employed the same discourse, about rigidity, fanaticism, and torpidity, with regard to them as it did with regard to Jews.

See D Kimon, La pathologie de l’Islam et les moyens de le détruire : étude psychologique /
Paris : Chez l’auteur, 1897 (French Book Club)

and

Gabriel Hanotaux and Muhammad Abduh, L’Europe et l’Islam, Cairo: Imprimerie Jean Politis, 1905.

I didn’t invent this usage. It was widespread in the literature.

I’m not sure what it has to do with the subject of the Chronicle forum. But the posters who brought it up and flogged it are not only trolls, they are not very well read trolls.

86

Steve 07.25.06 at 12:52 pm

Why in the world is using a word in the way 19th century French did, when discussing a subject in a 2006 document in Michigan, written in English, considered proper, or proper English?

And I question the source: did 1896 French really use the world ‘anti-semite’? Or was it the French word for ‘anti-semite’ (peut-etre ‘mal-semite’ ou ‘sans-semite’ ou ‘on qui n’aime pas les semites’ ou quelque autre chose. Pardon, mon francais et tres mal). You see? Why is quoting the French language as used in 1896 viewed as somehow important for determining the proper use of English in 2006?

Steve

87

Beryl 07.25.06 at 1:12 pm

Regardless which side one takes in the “semitism” debate, the term’s application to racial or ethnic groups is considered by anthropologists to be pseudo-scientific nonsense. It seems “anti-Semitism”, the original term, was chosen because Marr and others believed in a now discredited theory that held that certain racial groups and linguistic groups coincide. In 1872 the German philologist Max Müller pointed out that “Aryan” and “Semitic” were philological, not ethnological, terms, but he was in a minority. “Semites”, at the time, were defined as natives of a group of Middle Eastern nations related in ethnicity, culture and language. Under this theory “Semites” included Jews, the various Arab groups, and ancient peoples such as the Assyrians, Canaanites, Carthaginians, Aramaeans and Akkadians (ancestors of the Babylonians). The theory of a Semitic “race” has long since been discredited, but the Semitic “languages” do include the above groups.

88

Barry 07.25.06 at 1:26 pm

Frankly, it’s pretty clear what Professor Cole meant, once the full chunk of text was posted – he was referring (using a crude metaphor) to the whole ‘hook-nosed arab/jew/etc.’ stereotype. That’s been settled – and note, only by bypassing the Swift Liars, and pulling the whole quote.

Stuart: “Third, he has voluntarily made himself a poster child for the leftie view of the Iraq war, Israel, and related subjects.”

Wrong, he’s presented the sort of politically incorrect truth that you don’t like.

89

Richard Bellamy 07.25.06 at 1:29 pm

Whatever about the ways in which the term anti-Semitism is misapplied, anti-Semitism is a real and nasty thing.

And apparently it has something to do with how the French treated the Muslim Algerians. Who knew?

It is suprising that a speaker of multiple languages would not understand that even the most direct translations have different connotations. Perhaps a French speaker, or one armed with a French dictionary, would understand the word differently coming from a culture that has a long history of oppressing both Jews and Algerians. Maybe not. I don’t know. That, however, is simply not English, as reflected by English language dictionaries.

Now: Is it not clear that once you have successfully changed the meaning of “anti-Semitic” (or, as claimed here, changed it “back” to its “true” origins in 19th century France), the next step is to state that the Jews of Israel are, in fact, European (not Semitic) in origin, and since the Jews of Israel hate their (Semitic) neighbors, then the parade example of anti-Semitism is, in fact, Jewish treatment of Muslims?

It goes beyond “unspeak” to reverse-speak, where the word ends up meaning close to its opposite.

90

Shelby 07.25.06 at 1:51 pm

Wrong, he’s presented the sort of politically incorrect truth that you don’t like.

Oooh, stunning rebuke, barry! “You can’t handle the truth!” Because X’s “politically incorrect truth” is absolute and could never legitimately be seen by Y as a “leftie view”. I’m glad that’s been definitively resolved; and now, back to your regularly scheduled analysis of irrelevant linguistic traditions.

91

Henry 07.25.06 at 1:53 pm

mk

92

Beryl 07.25.06 at 1:57 pm

Re #86… Prof. Cole,

It unclear whether you are saying that French authors of the time used (the actual term) “antisémitisme” for hatred of Algerian Muslims or merely that they “employed the same discourse“, i.e. a similar sort of racist language. Could you kindly clarify?

93

Barry 07.25.06 at 2:06 pm

“Oooh, stunning rebuke, barry! “You can’t handle the truth!” Because X’s “politically incorrect truth” is absolute and could never legitimately be seen by Y as a “leftie view”. I’m glad that’s been definitively resolved; and now, back to your regularly scheduled analysis of irrelevant linguistic traditions.”

Posted by Shelby

That’s a stunning rebuke yourself, Shelby – Stuart makes some stupid assertions, with no proof whatsoever, but you’re fine with that.

94

Bro. Bartleby 07.25.06 at 2:09 pm

#85 – “Still more unpacking needed?”

Semantics vs Ontology

common usage vs essense

truths vs Truth

95

garymar 07.25.06 at 2:26 pm

Is there some Middle Eastern equivalent of Godwin’s law at work here?

96

Juan Cole 07.25.06 at 2:28 pm

The French complained about Semites in general having certain character flaws. They explicitly referred to the Algerian Arab Muslims as Semites, and as sharing in those character flaws. They contrasted their irrationality to the rationalism of the Aryans, they contrasted their excitability to the calm of the Aryans, they contrasted their laziness to the enterprise of the Ayrans

Even Renan brought up these racial stereotypes in his lecture at the Sorbonne to which Sayyid Jamal al-Din “Afghani,” a founder of the Salafi movement, replied. Renan tried to show that the Arab Semites had not been responsible for most of the scientific advances in Islamdom, but rather it had been the Aryan Iranians and Andalusians. Afghani refuted this notion. See Afghani’s response.

When speaking, as I was in the interview, of the history of colonial and racial discourses as they appeared again in the cartoons, it was perfectly natural to instance the colonial discourse as it was practiced.

Gobineau and his successors are well known in the history of racialist thought and the history of European colonial racism has been well studied. The prejudice was against Semites in general, as they conceived them, of which anti-Jewish bigotry was a subset of the larger phenomenon.

97

Michael Bérubé 07.25.06 at 2:35 pm

Right! Let’s get back to the important stuff, namely, my band opening for the Ramones in 1982.

98

Anderson 07.25.06 at 2:42 pm

While I haven’t Prof. Cole’s expertise, I suspect that “anti-Semitism” was a handy way of tarring the assimilated Western European Jews with the racial brush of Those Arab Savages.

In other words, it was widely credited that Arabs etc. had certain disparaged characteristics, and by dubbing those “Semitic,” the racist ideologues were able to argue that the Rothschilds had the same characteristics. Beware the cultural veneer, they’re all the same under the skin, etc.

Certainly, the French are to be recognized for their consistency in hating Semites in general.

99

Richard Bellamy 07.25.06 at 2:45 pm

And Joey Ramone was himself Jewish!

Coincidence or conspiracy?

100

Richard Bellamy 07.25.06 at 2:49 pm

A non-answer answer from the Professor. The French considered them “Semites” and they didn’t like them. Therefore “anti-semitism”.

And yet . . .

101

luci 07.25.06 at 3:23 pm

Jeez………Seems to me the original quote, from comment #2, was perfectly clear in its context, and Mr. Cole doesn’t appear to be trying to make some back-handed or loaded point about “Arabs are semites too”:

…”most Muslim countries have been ruled for much of the last 200 years by Europeans. And while the Europeans were ruling places like Algeria, they weren’t nice to Islam or Muslims. And they had a racist discourse about it. They depicted Semites as fanatical, as violent, as irrational, and therefore, as needing European rule. So, to take the Prophet Mohammed and to depict him with a large nose and a bomb in his turban, it’s a continuation of those exact same anti-Semitic and racist themes that have been characteristic of European colonial discourse for 150 years.”

102

Brendan 07.25.06 at 3:41 pm

‘Right! Let’s get back to the important stuff, namely, my band opening for the Ramones in 1982.’

I’ve been trying to do this since comment 32, Michael, although I think it deserves a post of its own. On the other hand, I’ll probably just miss it, like I did the Tomorrow People one.

103

Barry 07.25.06 at 3:45 pm

Luci, I agree – when viewing the original quote, it’s quite clear. Now, there *might* have been honest confusion from those who viewed the trimmed version (I found it suspicious), but not any longer. It’s just more Swift Boat lying.

“Is there some Middle Eastern equivalent of Godwin’s law at work here?”

Posted by garymar

Yup – if one opposes even one policy of the state of Israel, one is anti-semitic, wars against God, and is disloyal to the USA (for US citizens).

104

Kevin Donoghue 07.25.06 at 4:01 pm

Certainly, the French are to be recognized for their consistency in hating Semites in general.

Also, let’s give the Brits their due. I’m pretty sure the point made by Juan Cole could be very convincingly illustrated by the correspondence of officials governing Palestine during the the Mandate – remarks about the similarities and differences between “the Jew” and “the Arab”. All Semites, old boy, the whole bloody lot of them.

In fact I’ve seen the point made so many times that I’m amazed anybody could think it is new. A quick attempt, using Google, to figure out where I first noticed it brings up this passage from Edward Said’s Orientalism:

Yet after the 1973 war the Arab appeared everywhere as something more menacing. Cartoons depicting an Arab sheik standing behind a gasoline pump turned up consistently. These Arabs, however, were clearly “Semitic”: their sharply hooked noses, the evil moustachioed leer on their faces, were obvious reminders (to a largely non-Semitic population) that “Semites” were at the bottom of all “our” troubles, which in this case was principally a gasoline shortage. The transference of a popular anti-Semitic animus from a Jewish to an Arab target was made smoothly, since the figure was essentially the same.

The resemblance was heightened by the fact that in OPEC’s heyday guys like Sheik Yamani were the new Rothschilds, natural hate-figures for cash-strapped motorists. I probably first saw complaints about racist cartoons of the sort Said describes at the very time they came into vogue. Quite likely many of the complaints came from Jews, who would naturally be quick to see what was going on.

105

soru 07.25.06 at 5:37 pm

It seems to me there are two fundamental racist archetypes:

1. rich, cunning, conspiratorial, greedy, secret killer

2. poor, stupid, lazy, angry, rapist

If you take ‘anti-semitism’ as a phrase in itself (some omit the hyphen), it means the first, and can be generalised to analogous bigotry about oil-rich arabs, perhaps Chinese in SE Asian countries, and other ‘market-dominant minorities’.

The French anti-Arab racism JC talks about seems to fit the second pattern better.

Howevere, the caveat is that Arab anti-Israeli/Zionist/Jewish feeling, even when extreme, prejudiced or bigoted, doesn’t always match either stereotype. I even think that when it apparently does draw from that tradition, as in Hizbollah dressing in black and giving stiff-arm salutes, it is sometimes a deliberate attempt to ‘push the buttons’ of the Israelis.

106

Stuart 07.25.06 at 8:41 pm

(94) “Stuart makes some stupid assertions, with no proof whatsoever”

Barry, what the hell are you talking about? All I wrote is some observations about Cosma’s post, and I was careful to identify what I wasn’t sure about and what parts of the post were opinion. Were you mixing me up with someone else?

107

Thom Brooks 07.26.06 at 3:31 am

I don’t disagree with much that Richard Bellamy has to say: it is certainly curious to hear “anti-Seminitism” as a term that includes groups beyond Jews given the term’s widely acknowledged (however contrived) use in English today. The point is fair enough.

That said, I don’t know why this should be grounds for becoming upset. For one thing, each of us have different areas of expertise: I work on Hegel (as has Richard, so perhaps this will be a good point). Hegel uses any number of terms in his native German (and translated English) that break quite a lot from their traditional usages. “Aufheben” is a common German word, transformed into a peculiar unity of creation, negation, and preservation. It has no English equivalent, although “sublation” seems the best available. Furthermore, Hegel’s use of “will,” “freedom,” “reason,” “the state,” and even “Christianity” are all rather different from any conventional understanding….or of his day (discounting similarities with fellow Idealists, such as Fichte).

Nor is this off-topic for another reason. Perhaps Richard might agree that Hegel and many other philosophers regularly espouse old words in new ways, but all of this lacks of sinister connotations that such a move with “anti-Semitism” might present us. However, of course, many a great mind has thought Hegel’s word games were worse: Sir Karl Popper argued that Hegel helped open the door for Hitler; Lord Bertrand Russell believed Hegel was the philosopher of totalitarianism.

Now I am sure Richard will agree with me that no matter Hegel’s *many* faults, he is no fascist, totalitarian. People who characterized him as such grossly misunderstood him. We might agree because we are both political philosophers with an interest in its history—although Richard is far, far more capable than I. We understand the nuances, terminology, etc of the Hegelian project. This is often obscure at best (if not impenetrable) to those who have not studied Hegel in depth.

In the end, my point is simple. I agree that Cole’s use of a term is curious and I can see why Richard might be troubled by it. However, the actual content of Cole’s use is on all counts innocent: there may be some reference to someone with nasty views—Richard’s interests in Italian Idealism may well have led him to cite Gentile…Fichte and perhaps Heidegger also held curious views that seem nasty—but such views are not Cole’s. The use of his term is not meant to cause war or great suffering, although there was a time that Hegel’s terms were thought to help contribute to the rise of Nazism (a far worse charge—however false—than anything levelled at Cole). If Hegel can be found to be ok and innocent of the charges, then surely Richard must agree Cole is ok.

He may well be genuinely distressed by Cole’s usage—I am sympathetic with this. However, neither he nor I are Middle East experts. If we were, we might have a greater understanding of the subject. What seems strange and alarming in Hegel and Cole might be less so for Popper/Russell and us if we had greater expertise. Many scholars still think Hegel dangerous and perhaps (with greater expertise) Richard’s views will continue to hold, but things would be different then.

I hope this resolves the issue…although I fear not!

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Thom Brooks 07.26.06 at 3:41 am

I’d like this thread to turn to the issue of blogging and promotion—not least as someone with a blog. We all know there are great benefits: perhaps a handful might read an academic paper each month I’ve written (being charitable!), but I’ve had 1,000 visitors reading my The Brooks Blog this week. The blog has created a new audience. Plus, the interaction on threads is terrific. It has helped me come into contact with new people and introduced my work to a larger audience—SSRN downloads have improved dramatically since I started blogging. These are all to the good.

However, a blog can work against you, too. For one thing, we all know the big names in the profession but perhaps are only familiar with a few choice papers or a key book–we don’t know *everything* they’ve done or their thoughts on football, tv, etc. Blogging opens up a new audience, but also give reasons for people to dislike you as more about you become known. Wise interview advice I gained from Leif Wenar (Sheffield) was to keep all answers short: if the panel wants more information, they’ll ask for it. Keeping it short avoids giving them reasons to count you out. Blogging gives loads of reasons against.

Other than the Cole experience at Yale, it will be interesting to see how Leiter’s experience at Chicago unfolds. I simply have no idea of Brian’s intentions (or Chicago’s). We all know the Leiter Reports—I think they’re terrific. His Philosophical Gourmet is one of the best things to happen to philosophy. (Dittos on law.) I am a major fan of his work and fellow legal realist. He’s also quite easy to get on with. He’ll be off soon to Chicago for a year and already his arch-nemesis, Burgess-Jackson, gleefully posts Chicago law student posts concerning Leiter’s visit. Leiter’s leftwing politics isn’t popular with everybody (nor his rankings) and there may well be a group (highlighted by KBJ) that would want to use the blog to keep him from joining the faculty.

Again, I have no idea what anyone’s plans are on his move and it would be inappropriate for me to say too much. That said, one would imagine that he would be quite a catch for Chicago—it will be interesting to see what lengths Chicago might go to in order to get him.

Of course, Leiter’s “fame” must be due in large part to his terrific blog. Even he acknowledges the help his standing (not to mention downloads) has received from the blog. He’s the case I’m looking at.

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bad Jim 07.26.06 at 3:51 am

Forgive a non-academic for asking, but how much more desirable is it to be a professor at Yale than at Michigan? Is the pay that much better? The campus? The students?

I don’t think the new address could have been much more prestigious.

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otto 07.26.06 at 5:38 am

Yale has more posh.

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RIchard Bellamy 07.26.06 at 6:27 am

Oh dear. To clarify for Mr. Brooks, who gives me more expertise than I deserve through an overlap of names, I am not a British professor, but merely a Philadelphia lawyer. (I am also not the fictional star of Upstairs, Downstairs, in case there was ever such a misconception.)

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RIchard Bellamy 07.26.06 at 6:28 am

I was, however, a Philosophy major, so get the point made.

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Thom Brooks 07.26.06 at 6:39 am

My apologies to Richard—I assumed he was my friend and professor at University College London. That said, I am glad to see my substantive point did not go unnoticed.

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otto 07.26.06 at 7:01 am

Also on Yale/Michigan: I remember reading while tenure-track pay is often similar, full tenured professor salaries at private research universities are often much higher than full tenured professor salaries at public research universities.

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Barry 07.26.06 at 8:07 am

Stuart, referring to your post #107:

“Third, he has voluntarily made himself a poster child for the leftie view of the Iraq war, Israel, and related subjects. “

“His political views are, shall we say, sinistral in the extreme, but in academia that’s hardly unusual. “

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Barry 07.26.06 at 8:10 am

thom brooks: “I don’t disagree with much that Richard Bellamy has to say: it is certainly curious to hear “anti-Seminitism” as a term that includes groups beyond Jews given the term’s widely acknowledged (however contrived) use in English today. The point is fair enough.”

Thom, once you read the full paragraph which Cole wrote, it’s much more clear – that’s the trick that the cole-bashers are using, of exerpting part of a paragraph.

Have you ever heard of the (legendary?) old British saying, ‘wogs begin at Calais’? Cole is clearly referring to that. I used the phrase ‘hook-nosed jew/arab/etc.’ to describe what Cole was discussing (IMHO); the general idea that ‘they’ are violent, dirty, untrustworthy, dark, etc.

Does this help?

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Thom Brooks 07.26.06 at 8:20 am

Barry, I do take your point. Essentially, I only meant to highlight that those of us who are not Middle East scholars may see some of their academic discussions out of the proper context. Thus, I see Richard’s worry. However, I am not a Cole-basher: as with Hegel, once read in the proper context, the worry goes away.

Besides I fail to see *anything* dangerous in Cole’s views in any event. He’s a highly accomplished chap who did not seem to earn what he deserved.

P.S. I’m afraid that while I live in the UK, I am actually from that New Haven place (forget the name of its main university though…) and poor at old British sayings…

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Richard Bellamy 07.26.06 at 8:29 am

I will only add that context is important.

Hegel using a word in a “technical” sense in The Philosophy of History is very different from one using a word in a “technical” sense in a news interview or a blog. The problems with Hegel stem from taking him out of context, not from Hegel placing them into a context in which they are inappropriate.

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Stuart 07.26.06 at 8:35 am

Barry, I’m sorry, but I just don’t see how anything I said was even that controversial, much less stupid. Cole has indeed been very visible and adamant about his views, and he gets quoted a lot, especially by bloggers on the left side of the spectrum – is it that you do not like the term “poster child”? And his views are indeed noticeably to the left (that’s what “sinistral” means – you can look it up if you don’t believe me). It might be that people to the left of me (I view myself as roughly centrist, tending to libertarian) don’t view him as particularly left – and that’s ok – but it’s a matter of perspective.

I don’t appreciate being called stupid. I find disagreement perfectly fine (I’m a lawyer, after all, so dealing with disagreement is my bread and butter), but there was no reason to call me stupid. I have opinions just like you do. If you find my conclusions erroneous, say so. I didn’t insult you, please don’t insult me.

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Barry 07.26.06 at 10:39 am

Stuart, please re-read what you wrote, because you’re missing a few things. I think that you’re in the ‘can’t edit your own writing’ mode that 99% of the human race (myself included) runs in.

‘sinistral in the extreme’
How is Juan Cole an extreme leftist?

‘…he has voluntarily made himself a poster child for the leftie view…’

He’s spoken the truth as he sees it, and, *again*, not for the ‘leftie’ view, but for the view of (probably close to) half of the US population.

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Stuart 07.26.06 at 10:49 am

Barry, to me he looks pretty far left. I base that on his pretty consistent (not 100%, but pretty consistent) opining that the US is wrong, that Israel is wrong, etc etc etc. That is a leftie trope these days – wasn’t always, but nowadays it is.

As I observed before, he might not appear left to you – if you’re standing on the left he might be close by to your views – but to those of us who are not consistent lefties, but are more eclectic, he sure looks very sinistral. I don’t doubt that he states the truth as he sees it, but don’t you see that “as he sees it” is a whopper of a qualifier? If I thought Pat Robertson was the second coming of Leonardo da Vinci, the total Renaissance man (I don’t, of course, but stay with me on this), then if I said so I’d be stating the truth as I saw it. And that view would be no less extreme than what you said about Cole. Yes, I understand that agree more with Cole than with Robertson (me, I tend to disagree with both), but the analysis is precisely the same. I believe Robertson has a doctorate, too.

This is an issue of perception, Barry – it’s not a stupid assertion by me about Cole, it’s simply a difference of how one views the world. You view it differently. That’s what makes the world go ’round.

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Stuart 07.26.06 at 10:51 am

That should be “Yes, I understand that you agree more with Cole than with Robertson”.

Sheesh, talk about bad editing……

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Barry 07.26.06 at 12:50 pm

Stuart, this means that ‘so-and-so is an extreme leftist’ becomes ‘*from my viewpoint*, so-and-so is an extreme leftist’.

Rather a different thing.

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Stuart 07.26.06 at 2:09 pm

Well, those sorts of observations are inherently statements of viewpoint, aren’t they? And I still maintain that on the left-right spectrum (to the extent that is a really sensible way of looking at things; I often wonder), Dr. Cole is rather far along to the left – and that that would be rather obvious to those not themselves well to the left of center. But as I said, different views are what makes the world go ’round.

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Blue Gal 07.27.06 at 12:31 am

Congrats on the C&L link. I can’t get hired as a high school history teacher in Alabama, but I think it’s because I won’t coach basketball.

Eventually the larger universe, and particularly academia, will recognize blogging as published writing and factor it in with every other hiring factor out there. It will be up to those bloggers seeking those rare openings at Yale (sorry not to get all choked up about it) to make sure their spelling and their stories are correct.

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Barry 07.27.06 at 7:46 am

Stuart, it’s not. For example, one could judge Cole’s position along the spectrum of US opinions. And when one is making absolute statements, one should try to do something like that, rather than dodging into ‘from my point of view’.

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Jacob T. Levy 07.27.06 at 10:07 am

Huh. For ages now I’ve assumed that Richard Bellamy the CT commentor was Richard Bellamy the political theorist. Live and learn.

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