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Mar 23, 2005 4:23 pm

Your Front Page News ...

If you go over to David Horowitz's Front Page Rag, you'll find it features Steven Plaut's cleverly titled article,"Old Juan Cole, A Very Sad Soul." It is the usual attack on a major academic voice. The list of academic voices subject to such attacks grows longer and longer. By now, it includes at least five of us at Cliopatria: Tim Burke, Oscar Chamberlain, Jon Dresner, Mark Grimsley, and me. As several of us have noted, one of the problems with Horowitz and his drones at Front Page Rag is that they are reckless with evidence.

The most recent attack, on Juan Cole of Informed Comment and the University of Michigan, is no exception to the Rag's recklessness. Plaut writes:

In a New York Times editorial, [Juan] Cole said that he saw the elections in Syria as a model for other Arab countries to follow:"The last thing the Arab people need is a red herring like ‘free and open elections' to distract them from the international Zionist/Neo-Con conspiracy to take their oil." Professor Cole then added that President Assad's ability to gain such a high percentage of the vote"all the while maintaining an oligarchic cult of personality oppressive regime mired in nepotism and corruption" was"truly impressive" and a positive sign of"Arab solidarity."
Matthew Barganier at points out that the New York Times never published an op-ed by Cole that said any such thing. Plaut took the quotation and its attribution from a clumsy satire published by an Iraqi blog.

Horowitz has spent considerable energy lately demanding retractions from bloggers. Responsible bloggers have corrected their posts as new information became available. Caught with his documentation down around his ankles, Plaut offers neither correction nor retraction. David: give yourself a salary cut and hire some fact-checkers! Thanks to David Beito at Liberty & Power for the tip.

Oh, and Horowitz, congratulations on the high quality of discussion that goes on at your site!

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Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

This post was removed by the editor because it violated our civility standards as outlined here:

Sandor A. Lopescu - 4/16/2005

Here's what I'm talking about--now pay close attention Ralph and get out your yellow highlighter. In 2002 Juan Cole said that George W. Bush wants to keep Saddam in power because he knows the alternative, democracy, would lead to a Shiite regime, and that would displease his friends in Israel.
In 2003 he denied having said it, and, when read the quotation, shot back that he was talking about "real democracy," not the sham the that Jews, sorry, the "Likudniks" in Washington want.
Now that's a lie, right?

Ralph E. Luker - 4/11/2005

Mr. Nelson, I take it that you do not regard Horowitz as a "shameless propagandist"? Am I right about that? If I refer to myself as a Republican, am I engaging in second rate adolescent behavior?

Jason Nelson - 4/11/2005

Mr. Horowitz,

If you examine Mr Lukers tactics more closesly you will find that they usually resemble the tactics of a very sharp yet misguided teenage debating runner up. Name calling is only one of the many adolescent tools that Mr. Luker uses to persuade this audience.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/10/2005

Professor Plaut did not retract his false attribution of a quote to Juan Cole. He merely felt obliged to toss in an additional quotation.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/10/2005

Mr. Horowitz is correct that I do not like what he does. I am, therefore, anything but jealous. I do resent Mr. Horowitz's baseless smears of decent people. Does Mr. Horowitz deny that he is a "shameless propagandist"? Where is the shame? I'd like to see some evidence of it.

david horowitz - 4/10/2005

Ralph Luker doesn't like me; he is also jealous and resentful of my work. But that doesn't excuse him for violating the civilities of these threads. Name-calling is not an intellectual argument.

david horowitz - 4/10/2005

Of course the truth is that Plaut retracted this error (he mistook satire for the real thing, an understandable error when dealing with Cole)as soon as it was pointed out.

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/26/2005

Don, actually, I agree with you in this. I see little downside in my 15 seconds of fame via FrontPage. It would have been nice if he had reported what I had said carefully, but I guess when that happens, it's gravy.

Don Willis - 3/25/2005

Thank you both for your respectful replies, because after hitting the send button, I was plagued by guilt that someone might misconstrue my reference to Oscar Chamberlain as an insult, especially since I am an underemployed holder of a doctorate. But my main point was that citations of one's work, even when it comes in dubious packages, should be welcomed. The only downside I could imagine is if it leads to a deluge of hate email from misinformed or uninformed attack squads. But I suspect that a lot of people who react to the overheated stuff on Front Page are willing to do a little additional reading before storming the board of regents.

Oscar Chamberlain - 3/24/2005

For those who may be concerned, I've been on annual contracts at UW--Eau Claire since Fall 1997 and at UW--Barron since Fall 1998. Although I would prefer tenure (and the paychek that goes with it), I'm rather proud of my association with both institutions, where I have found a respect that people in my position are often denied.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/24/2005

Mr. Willis, Though most of the criticism of us by Horowitz and his minions have occurred at FrontPage, some of them occurred here at Cliopatria. If I'm not mistaken, Oscar Chamberlain teaches at two different branches of the UW system. In the terms of your reference, that's already several steps above me, because I teach nowhere. But you've found yet one more of many, many examples of the recklessness with which information is treated over there.

Don Willis - 3/24/2005

I did a 2-cent search on the Frontpage web site, and while I could not find the attacks on all of the people from this web site mentioned in this post, I did find some. My response: at least they spelled your names right! They even provided some hypertext links to the offending passages (which includes this web site). It can't hurt to have more traffic directed to the original commentary, even if it includes frothing lunatics trying to cherry pick out-of-context quotations. In one particular article (28 Feb 2005), they even referred to Oscar Chamberlain's affiliation as the University of Wisconsin. Normally, doesn't such a reference conjure up images of Madison, Lake Mendota, etc.? Check your college basketball tournament brackets this week, for example. Yet the link atop this page for Chamberlain brings us to a community college directory page. I mean no disrespect to Chamberlain, as I realize that one's abilities may not necessarily correspond to one's current station, but it seems that some inaccuracies function as promotions, even if only in cyberspace.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/23/2005

Cite your sources, Mr. Lopescu. Give us the links. I don't accept mere assertions.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/23/2005

Two points, Mr. Lopescu:
1) It is ludicrous to say that Juan Cole "brings out the worst in everyone" when the subject of the post is David Horowitz. Cole is a respected scholar; Horowitz is a shameless propagandist.
2)You are right on the edge here. I have, myself, been forced to retract a charge on HNN that someone was "a liar" because it is defamatory. You'll have to prove your case. Otherwise, I'll assume that you don't know what you're talking about. In fact, I'm already assuming that.

Ralph E. Luker - 3/23/2005

Well, yes and no. Plaut _hasn't_ retracted the claim that Juan Cole said this in a NYT op-ed. All Plaut _has_ done is to offer another quotation he attributes to Cole that Plaut thinks is just as offensive. Plaut hasn't admitted a thing.

Sherman Jay Dorn - 3/23/2005

According to Barganier, there's been some backtracking, but without acknowledgment of the original sloppiness.