Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Geoff, Weisberg owes Juan Cole an apology

and the opportunity to rebut on Slate the latest drunken fuckery from Hitchens. I hope you'll drop Jake a note about this, or send me his email address and I'll do it. Please let me know if/when.

Posted by HERE.

It'd be easier to pass the message along if you could ground it in some reasons (assume, arguendo, that Freditor's got a final tomorrow and hasn't the time to figure out for himself why an apology is owed).

I get tons of demands Expand... that Slate apologize for grievances, both real and imagined. I'm supposed to take Dahlia Lithwick to task for misanthropy, Saletan for misogyny, and the entire Slate staff for hating on housepets.

I know your qualitatively different - but if you're asking me to scold my boss for you, I need something more than just a simple declaratory announcement to pass along.

As Fraywatch editor, I'd be happy to feature prominently any response from Juan Cole. If he wants or deserves more prominent treatment, he should talk to someone higher up the local food chain. I'd be surprised if he doesn't already have a personal line of communication to any authors who have written about him recently.

Posted by HERE.

Hitchens excerpted a portion of an email from a private discussion list and used it to slime Cole without contacting him first to verify the accuracy of the email or offering him an opportunity to contest Hitchens' interpretation. You can read Cole's reaction here. I seriously doubt Cole has a pipleine to Hitchens; he certainly didn't to John Fund at WSJ, the last prominent fool to attack him. He's an academic with a blog.

I'm not a fan of the Slate practice of dumping responses in the Fray. If a response is worth publishing, it's worth doing so on the same platform where the insult occurred. I don't know if Cole will even want to respond here, but I think it would be appropriate for Weisberg to make the offer.

Posted by HERE.

Weisberg owes nothing of the kind.

Juan Cole's complaint is cartoonish bullshit.

First he complains because Hitchens got a message off a so-called "private email discussion group" by (per Cole) "somehow hack[ing] into the site, or join[ing] and lurke[ing], or ha[ving] a crony pass him things." Cole should put up or shut up. If he doesn't even know enough about the group to know whether Hitchens is a member, then his indignation that it is not 100% private is just plain dumb. If you say things in a public, or even a semi-public, forum, to dozens or hundreds of people you don't even know, then you lose all right to complain about your "private communications" being displayed. Speaking of apologies, also bear in mind that Hitchens accused Cole of moral ignorance, whereas Cole here (with less basis) accuses Hitchens of a crime (hacking a private system). I won't hold my breath for Cole's retraction.

Also please note that Cole does not dispute the substance of what Hitchens posted. For example, it might be problematic if Hitchens only referenced half an email (e.g. "Yes, he doesn't exactly mean that" without also including the qualifier "but nonetheless it's a concern.") In fact, Cole goes out of his way to reiterate the position. No problem there.

Then he complains because he wasn't consulted. Of course, being a pundit himself, Cole knows that Hitchens is a columnist, not a reporter. To the best of my knowledge, Hitchens is upfront about his editorial stance... contra, e.g., Helen Thomas. I don't particularly like Hitchens, or even agree with him, but this sensitivity vaudeville routine of Cole's is laughable.

Finally, none of this has to do with Slate or Weisberg. If Hitchens breached a personal promise to Gary Sick, or convinced someone else to forward him the email, then that is between Hitchens and the listgroup.

Bottom line: Cole doesn't like being called out for what he admittedly wrote, and descends into paranoid hysteria as a consequence. That doesn't mean it's unethical to write about it. The call for the apology is entirely out of place.

Posted by HERE.

The point is that Cole wasn't apologizing for Ahmadinejad, as his email and other writings make perfectly clear. He was objecting to the translation of a phrase. Hitchens uses the same translation to prove Cole was wrong, and then adds another Khomeini excerpt, which doesn't even contain the phrase in question, to bolster his argument.

And the smear is the very essence of McCarthyism. Hitchens intent is to damage Cole's academic career and get him blacklisted from outside writing and speaking gigs. John Fund did the same thing in the Wall Street Journal a week or so ago, only even more explicitly and with the added fillip of labeling Cole an anti-Semite. And Cole's sin isn't that he contested a translation but that he doesn't think Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, an opinion supported by Israel's continued existence, or the U.S.

But maybe you're right. Maybe academics shouldn't join a list moderated by a reputable academic with the assurance of privacy without first vetting all the dozens of participants for discretion. In fact, maybe they should only meet to discuss controversial subjects in small groups in open fields after signing contracts guaranteeing confidentiality and agreeing to monitor one another's communications. Maybe they should never engage in discussions which might result in the evolution or change of a position, because someone might provide a vicious and widely published sot with a fragment of one of those discussions. I'm quite sure everyone who contributes to that list is looking over his or her shoulder now, and I'm quite sure that's exactly what Hitchens intended. His Trotskyist past is serving him well.
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