Rhodes College professor Jonathan Judaken imagines a vast conspiracy among those who critique his work.
Jonathan Judaken, a history professor at Rhodes College, has penned a histrionic attack on Campus Watch (CW) for the website Inside Higher Ed, blaming CW for a published report on a recent lecture he delivered at the University of Rochester. Among Judaken's numerous errors, one stands out: Campus Watch had nothing to do with the article that gave him the vapors.
Don't you hate it when that happens?
The report, by Rochester Institute of Technology English lecturer A.J. Caschetta, appeared first at Jihad Watch and then at the Middle East Forum, of which CW is indeed a project. But as anyone familiar with think tanks should know, articles appearing on one site do not denote sponsorship by another. It's a bit like saying, or, given the tenor of Judaken's piece, screaming while rending one's garment, that Rhodes College has attacked CW because of the ill-informed actions of a single professor.
For the record, CW did not commission, edit, or post Caschetta's article. Judaken's claim, therefore, that Caschetta is CW's "appointed watchdog" is false. Had he (or the editors of IHE) glanced at CW's mission statement, he would have seen that CW critiques the academic field of Middle East studies, plus moonlighters, non-specialists who publish heavily in the field. Since his specialty is modern European intellectual history, he should have concluded that CW had nothing to do with the essay.
More clues of CW's non-involvement abound: CW isn't mentioned in the author's byline, nor is the piece posted at CW's website or on any CW-related social media.
As for his other errors, bearing in mind the brevity of human life and so addressing only those concerning CW's alleged role, let's note just a few:
Campus Watch is a project of the Middle East Forum, a nonprofit organization under section 501 (c) 3 of the IRS code. It is not in any way related to the other entities he names (the David Horowitz Freedom Center, Canary Mission, et al.) as a "network of networks," which implies a formal, administrative connection. That various groups critique higher education from similar perspectives does not an organization or a conspiracy make.
Those who live in hermetically sealed bubbles often mistake the sting of words for the boot heel of the state.
But while Judaken has a hard time getting his facts straight, never let it be said that he isn't possessed of an ironic style, even if (especially if) he doesn't know it. Despite titling his essay "The New McCarthyism," he writes, "The Campus Watchers don't want students to reevaluate and reframe the latest well-worn clichés."
The charge that one's intellectual opponents are guilty of McCarthyism is surely the most hackneyed, unexamined, ahistorical cliché in the left's repertoire. It's employed so often one wonders when a "new" McCarthyism could have emerged from the old, since dissenters from academic groupthink have been fingered as such since tail gunner Joe himself strode the earth—before his death a mere 58 years ago. It's also absurd, since McCarthy was a U.S. senator who could bring the weight of the federal government down on opponents, while CW and other private organizations can only . . . write about them. But those who live in hermetically sealed bubbles often mistake the sting of words for the boot heel of the state, don't they?
Almost three-quarters of Judaken's essay consists of a breathless explication of the final chapter of Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism, "Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government." This gives him leave to write that, "Hannah Arendt suggested that what linked Stalinism and Nazism was the reduction of history to ironclad laws, whether race or class."
Casting oneself as a victim just isn't complete without subtly hinting that one's detractors (or even non-detractors who don't know you from Adam) are somehow akin not just to Joe McCarthy, but to Stalin and Hitler. It's what courageous professors who spend themselves in the service of fighting ideology do.
Judaken ends his essay by asking what he will tell others about how he "ended up on Jihad Watch" and answers, "I tell them the New McCarthyism has arrived."
What's arrived, in fact, is an era of shameless victimology peddled by fact-challenged academics who equate criticism with state-supported oppression. Call it the ideology of victimhood.
Winfield Myers is director of academic affairs at the Middle East Forum and director of Campus Watch,