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When Challenging the Expertise of Others, It’s Preferable To Be At Least Minimally Informed

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K.C. Johnson kinda sorta defends Steven Salaita’s academic freedom, but things go quickly off the rails:

The Steven Salaita case at the University of Illinois continues to engender controversy. The three most perceptive commentaries came from FIRE and Steven Lubet. In comments with which I entirely agree, FIRE condemned the public statement of Illinois chancellor Phyllis Wise, who justified the revocation of Salaita’s offer on the grounds “we cannot and will not tolerate . . . personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse . . . viewpoints themselves.” But why, as FIRE noted, should anyone be prohibited from “disrespectfully” “abusing” ideas”—such as racism or sexism or homophobia? Lubet analyzed the differences between Salaita’s academic freedom and legal claims, and correctly took to task a group of mostly left-of-center law professors who penned a letter defending Salaita but in the process minimized or even whitewashed Salaita’s extremist views. He spoke of his own experience with the ACLU defending the Nazis’ right to march at Skokie—but added that “the ACLU never soft-pedaled the Nazis as merely passionate critics of international banking.”

To argue that Salaita shouldn’t have been fired but his comments are more offensive than some of his defenders claim is, as far as it goes, a perfectly defensible position. The Lubet op-ed Johnson uncritically cites on this point, however, is a disaster. Lubet’s point about “whitewashing” Salaita is supported by three tweets, and he completely botches two of them:

That brings us to the political dimension, where Salaita’s position is weakest of all. Many of Salaita’s supporters have been unfortunately eager to obscure the true nature of his tweets, usually by calling him a passionate supporter of Palestinian rights who reacted strongly to recent events in Gaza. That does not begin to tell the whole story. Salaita’s demeaning comments about Israelis and Jews predate the current fighting, and they go far beyond the bounds of civil, or even passionate, discourse. For example, Salaita celebrated the kidnapping (and subsequent murder) of three Israeli teenagers and proudly called for more such crimes to be committed: “You may be too refined to say it, but I’m not: I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing.” He once retweeted a vile suggestion that journalist Jeffrey Goldberg ought to get “the pointy end of a shiv.”

Salaita also traffics in anti-Semitism, having tweeted: “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948.” It should go without saying that racism — toward any group, for any reason — is never honorable, despite Salaita’s own indulgence of bigotry. Even bigots, of course, are entitled to academic freedom, but Salaita’s supporters have been regrettably disingenuous. A committee of the Illinois AAUP, for example, argued that Salaita had merely made “an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East.” This is manifestly untrue. Salaita has not called for an end to violence against Israelis. Quite the contrary, he has reveled in it.

The tweet about settlers, as I’ve said, is completely indefensible. But the Goldberg re-tweet — and, let’s repeat, re-tweet — did not say that “Jeffrey Goldberg” should end up “at the pointy of shiv,” but that his story should be. That’s a huge difference, particularly in a context in which UIUC apolgists like Cary Nelson are trying to argue that the re-tweet was a literal incitement to violence. And reading the “since 1948” tweet as anti-Semitic makes little sense even in isolation and is transparently wrong in any kind of context. So well it might be true that some people are minimizing the offensiveness of Salaita’s tweets — although I still don’t know who this might be because no specific examples of minimization are cited — we can say that Lubet and Johnson are substantially exaggerating them. The fact that Johnson is not sufficiently informed enough about the case to spot Lubet’s howlers is not encouraging.

Johnson, however, does not let his ignorance about basic facts get in the way of making much larger claims. Johnson attempts to argue that Salaita is unqualified and was hired for solely political reasons. Much of his post is taken up, however, involves a running out the clock by returning to Ward Churchill. An extensive LGM investigation has determined, however, that Ward Churchill and Steven Salaita are different people, and so the former’s plagiarism says less than nothing about the academic work of another scholar hired by another department. When we finally get to the evidence about Salaita’s alleged lack of qualifications, we can see why Johnson decided to run out the clock discussion a decade-old reactionary cause celebre — he’s got nothing:

Salaita was hired for a position in an American Indian studies program. His academic specialization, to the extent it can be called that, appears to be Middle Eastern or Arab-American studies. (His last book was entitled, Israel’s Dead Soul). As the Kramer excerpt illustrated, it can be hard sometimes to distinguish between the quality, tone, and substance of Salaita’s “scholarship” and that of his tweets. Subsequent work by David Bernstein (examining some of Salaita’s book reviews) and Liel Liebovitz (discussing some of Salaita’s “academic” publications) reinforces the concern with the quality of his work.

So we have two sources cited to support the claim that Salaita was unqualified. The first is a discussion not of his scholarship but his Goodreads book reviews. So we can ignore this entirely, while pondering the extent to which Johnson is insulting the intelligence of his readers. The second we’ve been through in far more detail than it merited. To summarize, it was not a review of Salaita’s scholarship as a whole but a review of one of his books, a collection of essays written for a general audience and hence not where you’d begin. And the reviewer had already determined that Salaita was unqualified based on on a tendentious-at-best reading of his Twitter feed, so I’m not inclined to take his word even about the merits of this one book.

The fact that Johnson uses this pathetically weak evidence to attack not only Salaita’s qualifications but the value of an entire field puts is reminiscent of Naomi Schaefer Riley’s dismissal of African American Studies based on titles of dissertations she hadn’t read. Johnson, natch, defended Riley, and is still using similar techniques to issue broad attacks on fields of scholarship he knows virtually nothing about. I have no idea if Salaita was the best candidate for the position or not, but Johnson has given me less than no reason not to defer to actual experts in the field who are actually familiar with Salaita’s work.

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  • Patick Spens

    But the Goldberg re-tweet — and, let’s repeat, re-tweet — did not say that “Jeffrey Goldberg” should end up “at the pointy of shiv,” but that his story should be

    I agree with most of your article, but Goldberg’s story here was autobiographical. I’m not sure what the difference is between wanting that story ended at the point of a shiv, and wanting Goldberg ended the same way. Maybe Goldberg was supposed to be non-fatally stabbed?

    • twbb

      “I’m not sure what the difference is between wanting that story ended at the point of a shiv, and wanting Goldberg ended the same way”

      Really? Unless you’re willing to extend the rights of personhood to typewritten sheets I would think the difference is extremely noticeable. When we talk about “killing a story” we mean stopping the dissemination of the story but that usually does not involve killing the person who wrote it.

      • Patick Spens

        There’s two ways to read that tweet. One is that it’s talking about a specific piece of writing, “Killing a story” like you said. The problem with that is that Jeffery Goldberg didn’t write a story any time near that tweet that would have garnered that response. The only thing story he published in the week leading up to it was a call for a Kurdish Nation. Additionally “Killing a story” is more or less a dead metaphor. I’m not familiar with people shaking it up by saying “shot a story” or “shanked a story”

        The other way of reading it is that Free Palestine meant it to refer to Goldberg’s life story. That makes the sentence construction much more orthodox, people often talk about someone’s story ending with suicide or in a fight. After all, Goldberg was an Israeli prison guard in a jail that had Palestinians. His story ending at the point of a shiv was an actual possibility. And I doubt very many “Free Palestine” types would have been particularly upset if it had.

        • Scott Lemieux

          That’s a reasonable point. But 1)the fact that it was a re-tweet seems particularly relevant here, and 2)this wasn’t Lubet’s argument; he just flat-out misquoted the tweet.

          • Patick Spens

            This might just be me being Bad At Twitter, but most retweets I’ve seen are either 1) “I agree with this” 2) “this is interesting” or 3) “look at this asshole”
            and this seems like more a 1 then a 2 or 3.

            As for your second point I agree. I’ve just seen that defense of Salaita in a couple of places it bugs me.

  • brugroffil

    I pointed all of this out to David Bernstein when he tried to use KC Johnson’s post as support for the idea that Salaita had been found to be academically inept and obviously this was just a hiring based on personal politics. He never did bother to respond.

    If you notice in Johnson’s post, he quickly moves from citing Liebovitz and Bernstein’s “reviews” of Salaita’s “academic” work to a paragraph or to later stating plainly that Salaita’s academic rigor is a joke.

  • mikedonnel22

    Here is Salaita, arguing that the oppression of Palestinians is the result of the efforts of world Jewry to cultivate their “specialness”:

    “In the past century, the Palestinians have been dispossessed of their land,
    repressed in every facet of their civic and political life, and subjected to a 40-year military occupation that Desmond Tutu has described as worse than South African Apartheid (Paulson 2007). Others around the world have faced similar forms of oppression. What stands out in the case of Palestinians is the fact that they are blamed inveterately for their own dispossession. Their oppressors, the Jews, not only have managed to cast themselves as victim in the Israel-Palestine conflict, they have justified that self-image through an assiduous emphasis on their specialness, which grants them access to exceptional privileges.”

    And how do you cultivate that “specialness”? Well claiming to be victims of anti-Semitism is certainly one way to do so, even if acts of anti-semitism have to be fabricated as Salaita says in Israel’s Dead Soul

    “it is worth noting that numerous cases of anti-Semitic vandalism in 2007 and 2008 were found to actually have been committed by Jews.” A claim that is problematic, in the sense that his no basis in reality.

    You would think that, confronted with this, members of the academic community would introspect and ask what path brought their profession to this point, where blatantly anti-semitic garbage can make its way into respectable journals (the above was from the International Journal of Critical Indigenous Studies), and how those that author said garbage get tenure. But instead all we’ve seen are shrill cries of “academic freedom!” and denials, that border on the absurd, that the process that led to Salaita’s consideration for the tenured role was some how not political.

    • J. Otto Pohl

      I can only speak for myself. But, I don’t recall seeing anybody denying a political role in Salaita’s appointment. I think the fact that the department he was applying to was run by his PhD dissertation supervisor, Robert Warrior, played an important role in his appointment. But, I believe such networking is pretty widespread throughout academia and every other sphere of employment in the world. The interference by the Chancellor to stop the appointment, however, set a very bad precedent for changing employment practices for the worse in academia. If Salaita was fired for almost any other political opinion other than being pro-Palestinian, say for being being pro-choice or supporting same sex marriage, the discussion would be much different. But, Palestine is still a third rail in the US.

    • Gator90

      Their oppressors, the Jews, not only have managed to cast themselves as victim in the Israel-Palestine conflict, they have justified that self-image through an assiduous emphasis on their specialness, which grants them access to exceptional privileges.

      I don’t think the above is anti-semitic, though I would remind Salaita that to the extent Jews enjoy any privileges, those privileges were, to put it very mildly, hard-earned.

      He is certainly correct that many Zionist Jews have a bass-ackwards view about who is oppressing whom (as do many gentiles, I would add).

      it is worth noting that numerous cases of anti-Semitic vandalism in 2007 and 2008 were found to actually have been committed by Jews.

      This is indeed problematic, especially as I strongly suspect that Salaita has taken unwarranted liberties with the word “numerous.” Maybe I’ll try to dig up the context and see why he thought this was “worth noting.”

      • J. Otto Pohl

        On the second point it is evidently because there were numerous cases of such vandalism by one particular person from Bulgaria named Ivanov claiming to be Jewish.

        • jben

          I don’t think that this is quite as dis-positive as Salatia or you suggest. There may well be instances where anti-Semitic incidents have been committed by Jews. The head of the Nazi organization that marched through Skokie was later found to be of Jewish descent, for example. But that does not mean he wasn’t anti-Semitic (well, he was at the time, later he got over it). While the term “Self-hating Jew” has been overused and bent out of shape by many Pro-Israel people, it does describe a real phenomenon! It certainly does not mean that Jews are deliberately staging anti-Semitic incidents to make themselves look victimized!

      • MacK

        One issue I have is that Jews in Europe and the US tend to be more critical of Israel than non-Jews, in the US by about 2% points (they are better informed about what is happening.) It is a basic error to conflate Jews with Israel supporters, or for that matter to assume that all Jews are Zionists, or that all Zionists agree with Israel’s settlement policy or treatment of Palestinians.

        Of course AIPAC and Likud push the line that someone is a self-hating Jew if they in any way disagree with the most extreme Israeli policy. As far as AIPAC is concerned of – all Jews must support AIPAC (or if J-Street be banned from campus), all Jews must be Zionists and support settlements, all jews must volunteer to bear Netanyahu’s love child or they are not proper Jews. Funny how so many anti-Semites like say John Hagee, Admadinjad, etc. agree with them.

      • jben

        Their oppressors, the Jews, not only have managed to cast themselves as victim in the Israel-Palestine conflict, they have justified that self-image through an assiduous emphasis on their specialness, which grants them access to exceptional privileges.

        I don’t think that comment was anti-Semitic.

        I take issue with that comment from Salatia for a number of reasons. In general, I object to the part where he refers to their oppressors as “the Jews”. I take issue with this because it is generalizing a particular subset of Jews with the Jewish people as a whole. Many Jews, particularly Diaspora Jews, do not in fact support with the occupation or the policies of the current Israeli government. In fact, some Jews are even anti-Zionist (Chomsky for example, as well as some of the posters here). If Salatia had said “some Israeli Jews”, or even “Israelis”, than it would not have been as problematic. But in saying that “the Jews” were the Palestinian’s oppressors, he implied, however unintentionally, that all 12-15 million Jews are oppressing them. That strikes me as anti-Semitic, in the sense that it blames the whole of the Jewish people for the bad actions of some of them.

        Now this does not mean that Salatia is somehow an irredeemable monster, or a die-hard bigot. Anti-Semitism, like other kinds of prejudice, tends to run in a spectrum from mild, often almost unconscious prejudice, to extreme rabid hatred. It is quite possible for someone to hold stereotypes and misconceptions about Jews (or any other group), and still work with them, treat them with respect and kindness, and even live with or love individual Jews. I do not think that Salatia hates all Jews, or anything like that. I don’t even think that he is consciously anti-semetic! He is probably a perfectly decent human being! However I do think that this quote reveals a certain prejudice on his part that he should try to overcome. At the very least, it was ill-chosen.

        That said, this does not change the core of the issue for me. Even given the potential anti-semitism of some of the things he has said, he still should not have been fired! The whole point of academic freedom is that it is supposed to protect a very broad range of views, including those which we find repugnant! Repeatedly maintaining the badness of what he said does not change that one bit! You would think that an avowed civil libertarian like Nelson would understand that!

    • jben

      You see, you still don’t get what the issue here is!
      I am not denying that most of what Salatia said was at best unwise and at worst appalling. Moreover, I think the latest quotes you have presented are much better indicators of antisemitism than his tweets, or some of the weak-ass shit that his detractors have previously used as proof. I do think that those statements are very repugnant! But that does not mean that he should have been fired! As I said earlier, academic freedom is meant to protect even repugnant opinions! The fact that his opinions were repugnant in no way justifies his firing!

      and denials, that border on the absurd, that the process that led to Salaita’s consideration for the tenured role was some how not political.

      Do you have any evidence at all that his hiring was political, apart from your belief that the American academic world is hopelessly anti-Israel? Or do you just assume that it must have been?

      I mean seriously, a large part of your argument has been an implicit assertion that academia is dominated by a leftist, anti-American, anti-Israel cabal that systematically promotes their own views and pushes out any dissenting voices. This is so dramatically at variance with what I have observed that I pretty much have to take everything you are saying with a wheelbarrow of salt!

  • J. Otto Pohl

    I don’t think the missing settler tweet is completely indefensible. There is a rather long history of anti-colonial struggles demanding that colonial settlers leave their territory and return to Europe. This has been true even in cases like South Africa and a lesser extent Rhodesia where the colonial population has almost completely severed its original political ties with Europe. Usually this comes after a long period of time in which the colonial power and the settlers are so intransigent that all other solutions get rejected by the colons. This happened in Algeria and may very well happen in Palestine. A situation where the Jewish settlers in the West Bank are forced to return to Israel within its 1949-1967 borders might cause them some hardship. A situation where Jewish Israelis are given the option of accepting equality with Arab Palestinians or leaving the territory also would lead to some hardship for many of them. But, even an Algeria like situation where almost all Israeli Jews were relocated to Europe where many of them either already have citizenship and many more are eligible for it is not completely indefensible. A lot would depend on how such a relocation was carried out. If it was carried out like in Algeria then I think it is defensible. If it is to be carried out like the 1948 Nakba or the expulsion of ethnic Germans from East Central Europe then it would obviously be completely indefensible.

    • Happy Jack

      Asking Jews to be subjected to the tender mercies of those savages in Europe is beyond the pale. Europeans have proven over the centuries that they can’t rise above barbarism when it comes to Jews.

      • J. Otto Pohl

        There are over 1.5 million Jews in the European Union currently and I don’t see the majority of them rushing to settle in Palestine.

      • DrDick

        But demanding that Palestinians submit and acquiesce to the tender mercies of the Israelis s not? After all, they have proven over the last y decades that they cannot rise above barbarism when it comes to Palestinians.

    • gmack

      Sure. If one wants to be charitable, one can translate the Tweet into a hope that the settlements get closed and the settlers return to the pre-1967 borders (or that there are agreed-upon land swaps). Yet the context of the tweet (the kidnapping of the teenagers) does not make me inclined to give this charitable reading; or rather, I’m guessing that the charitable reading is the position that Salaita probably would want to defend, but the context of the tweet means that his particular choice of expression (“I wish all the Israeli settlers would go missing”) is utterly indefensible, at least in my view. Given the kidnapping and murder of the teenagers, it is rather easy (and in my view most natural) to interpret the wishing for disappearance to be a hope that the settlers meet similar fates (again, I doubt that’s the position he wants to express or defend, but it is what his words express given the context).

      • Hogan

        Yeah, “go missing” is an extremely weak synonym for “withdraw peacefully to within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.”

      • J. Otto Pohl

        Yes, but missing does not necessarily mean killed. It means removed from the West Bank. In practice anti-colonial rhetoric tends to be quite violent, but often after achieving independence the reality is often different. The Whites in Kenya, Rhodesia (at least for the first couple of decades), and South Africa were allowed to stay as citizens and keep their property after independence. Given that Salaita himself is not even a member of any armed group, I don’t think this particular tweet is really that big of a deal.

        • gmack

          As I said in another thread, I don’t think the tweet was an “incitement to violence” (which is how many of his opponents read it); but it was at the very least in really poor taste. (On a personal note, I was and am a strident Salaita supporter, in the sense that I think his firing was pretty horrible and I engaged in what action I could to oppose the UIUC’s action; but for whatever reason, this particular tweet really stuck in my craw).

          • DrDick

            I would agree that it is rather inflammatory, though I do not have as strong a reaction to it as you do. It is also no more inflammatory than many comments by his critics or supporters of Israel (many of whom advocate full on genocide). This whole issue is caged in overheated rhetoric. We seem to be much better at filtering out the pro-Israel eliminationist rhetoric.

            • Snarki, child of Loki

              Well, at least he didnt’ say “heads on sticks”, because that would have been beyond the pale.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Sure. If one wants to be charitable, one can translate the Tweet into a hope that the settlements get closed and the settlers return to the pre-1967 borders (or that there are agreed-upon land swaps). Yet the context of the tweet (the kidnapping of the teenagers) does not make me inclined to give this charitable reading; or rather, I’m guessing that the charitable reading is the position that Salaita probably would want to defend, but the context of the tweet means that his particular choice of expression (“I wish all the Israeli settlers would go missing”) is utterly indefensible, at least in my view.

        Right. I mean I’m sure if you asked him he would clarify that he doesn’t favor ethnic cleansing, he just wants the settlements dismantled. But that’s not what he wrote; in the context in which the “missing” were kidnapped and killed, it suggests eliminationism, which is indefensible. I’ll also add that the “You may be too refined to say it” intro would seem to be the left-wing equivalent of “I don’t mean to be politically incorrect but…”; it’s another way of saying “I’m about to be an asshole who wants praise for brave truth-telling.”

        • One small point: that tweet came days before the poor kids were discovered. As I understand it, there was some precedent for kidnapping in exchange for prisoner release. Finally, the IDF tactics for the hunt killed people and destroyed homes.

          So, still not really defensible. While I think it unlikely than any friends or family of the teens would have seen the tweet, it wasn’t remotely appropriate. However the context wasn’t that the teens were kidnapped and killed (as far as he knew) but that the teens were kidnapped and the IDF was running amok.

        • jben

          The “settlers go missing” tweet was the one that I had the most problems with. While I had some initial trouble with the “making anti-Semitism honorable” one, I did realize that it was probably meant in the manner that Scott reads it, (though that is the sort of comment that is really prone to being misunderstood on twitter). And the “point-of-a-shiv” one I for some reason did not find as nearly as offensive as some here do.* But the settlers one I found indefensible. Yes, the settlers are on occupied territory, and are making the situation worse, and yes some of them do harass, intimidate, or even murder Palestinians. But they still do not deserve to be kidnapped and killed. They have as much right to life as any person.

          And as I recall, a fair number of the settlers moved there in the first place because the Israeli government made land in the Occupied Territories artificially cheap.

          So they aren’t all zealots anyway (at least I don’t think they are). I frankly would blame the government for encouraging the settlers more than I would many of the settlers, though some of them are quite extreme.

          *This could be because I interpreted it in a metaphorical way, much like the “heads-on-sticks” thing with Loomis. Or it could be because of a certain dislike I have of Jeffery Goldberg, who does tend to hackery on this particular issue. But I obviously do not think he should be threatened or killed either.

          • Of all the critiques is the settlers tweet, the idea that they are relatively innocuous is probably wrong.

            Look, settlers in the US west were often attracted by artificially cheap land or didn’t have a specifically expansionist agenda per se. Does this mean that Native Americans were simply wrong for violently resisting them?

            Settlers are really problematic.

  • dl

    Here are two other tweets that Lubet highlights, in a blog post:
    http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2014/09/why-did-salaita-lose.html

    But really, his tweets drip with contempt and invective. Take this one, for example, which he tweeted on April 25 (that is, well before the recent fighting in Gaza): “I’ve had a horrible influx of Zio-trolls today. It’s like getting a case of the scabies. They burrow in and you want to rip off your skin.” Or this one, from July, “There’s something profoundly sexual to the Zionist pleasure w/#Israel’s aggression. Sublimation through bloodletting, a common perversion.”

    • cs

      Wait, he has some kind of Freudian idea that everything is about sex? That does seem kind of objectionable.

  • Davis X. Machina

    I’d be more interested, quite frankly, on K.C. Jones’ take on Salaita’s situation.

    • Manny Kant

      His teammate and namesake Sam Jones was a substitute teacher at my high school. The NBA apparently had a really, really terrible pension plan back then.

      • Davis X. Machina

        No doubt. I did notice that KC is working in the AD’s office for basketball powerhouse the University of Hartford. (K.C. coached for a while when the money was decent, though…)

    • elm

      Heck, I want to know what KC and the Sunshine Band think of the Salaita situation.

  • wengler

    The Salaita firing was clearly a hit job by a pro-Israel lobby that was feeling defensive over Gaza. It is completely clear that any emotional or over-the-top rhetoric is only acceptable if you are on the Jewish Israeli colonialists’ side.

  • CJColucci

    Since Ward Churchill’s name came up, I’ll pass along the best explanation I’ve heard of the jury’s verdict in his case: The University started a witch-hunt and, to everyone’s surprise, actually found a witch.

    • elm

      That’s a great way of putting it. My reading of the evidence in the Churchill case was that he was certainly guilty of academic misconduct but that no one would have noticed if a politically-motivated investigation had not been started.

      Salaita’s case is clearer, though. No credible evidence has been provided that he is guilty of academic misconduct, only that he tweeted some inflammatory and (in my opinion) ill-adviced and/or ill-concieved statements. In other words, Salaita was fired because he weighed as much as a duck and not because he was actually a witch.

      • I rather suspect the Churchill punishment was disproportionate. Compare with Wegman, who got a letter of reprimand.

        Wegman is an interesting case as his general conduct was scientifically ridiculous. A true embarrassment even before getting to the malpractice. And done so in the service of climate denialism.

        Alas, that performance is, and should be, protected under tenure. However, the shaming should be enormous.

        • The Dark Avenger

          The punishment Churchill received was for his remarks, they used the plagiarism charge to inflict it on him.

      • DrDick

        Churchill has always been a notoriously sloppy researcher, better known as a polemicist than a scholar.

        • Bruce B.

          It’s worth noting that Churchill had been on the American Indian Movement’s list of white people making fraudulent claims about American Indian status and promoting bad scholarship about American Indians for a good while. Their warnings about such things routinely go dismissed and/or ignored right up until someone else gets motivated to investigate and finds that the warnings were entirely justified, after which the dismissals and ignoring resume.

          • Hogan

            Why should we listen to American Indians about scholarship on American Indian studies when we have KC Johnson? I ask you.

  • MacK

    I have read Salaita’s twitters – and even by my standards (and I can get pretty harsh) I though they were pretty strongly worded. But then his critics say things about arabs, palestinians etc. that would make Salaita sound moderate (barbarians is kind.) In short Lubet should whack himself in the face with a brick. So I do not like the way in which Salaite expressed himself – except that in this debate, Israel’s defenders are unable to complain, since they are typically so much much worse, plus they are often determinedly racist, which Salaita was not. In short, if Salaita does not deserve tenure, most of his critics should resign theirs.

    • Bruce B.

      This, exactly, as far as I’m concerned.

      • shah8

        In other words: The presence of bad faith is usually relevant to the discussion and is a acceptable basis for dismissal of arguments.

    • jben

      But then his critics say things about arabs, palestinians etc. that would make Salaita sound moderate (barbarians is kind.)… Israel’s defenders are unable to complain, since they are typically so much much worse, plus they are often determinedly racist

      See, I don’t think this is true. (though I suppose it does depend on what you mean by typically). I am well aware that there are a number of “Pro-Israel” people who do say offensive and bigoted stuff (step forward, Glenn Reynolds!), and that some of them are even relatively prominent. I know that that they can be quite widespread in certain parts of the internet, and that some of the stuff they post wrt Palestinians is worse-sometimes much worse-than what Salatia said about settlers or Israelis. However, those people are largely internet screamers, die-hard “Christian Zionists” and other assorted nut-jobs, as well as the occasional right-wing pundit, or editor of the New Republic.

      In short, my impression is that they are usually not prominent in academia, unlike many of Salatia’s critics. I thought most of the academics criticizing him, at least give the appearance of moderation and refrain from saying those kinds of things about Palestinians. I would be very suprised if many pro-Israel academics were anywhere near as offensive as say, Marty Peretz.

  • cpinva

    “When Challenging the Expertise of Others, It’s Preferable To Be At Least Minimally Informed”

    I must vigorously disagree! there is an entire industry, devoted to doing exactly that. many of the people in that industry are paid 6-figure and higher salaries, to do this daily and publicly, on tv, in print or online, or all three. many write incomprehensible tomes, filled with outright lies or distortions, that make the best seller lists. all this supported by shadowy groups and/or individuals, with billions to spend, and their own agendas to push.

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