Although I'm back in the United States – and have been for more than a week – I've been hoping to finish my Egyptian epic before turning back to the daily atrocities of life in Dick Cheney's America. But the atrocities, it seems, won't wait in line. They're right back in my face, gibbering and leering and showing me their hideous sores, like the inmates of an insane asylum for cancer patients.
I'd go on ignoring them, and write more about the ethereal beauty of ancient tomb paintings, but the news that a committee of scholarly bootlickers has blackballed Juan Cole's candidacy for a tenured professorship at Yale absolutely refuses to leave me in peace.
This may not seem like particularly noxious news, at least when compared to the stench of putrefying corpses hanging over Haditha, or the Nazi stab-in-the-back myths now being recycled in Right Blogistan, but it's touched an extremely raw nerve with me – because of what it says about the age of fear and intellectual intimidation that we live in, because of the unadulterated vileness of the self-appointed commissars involved, and, not least, because I consider Juan Cole my friend, and a man who won't take the time to speak up for a friend who's being blacklisted is, as the Godfather might put it, less than a man.
That notorious anti-Semitic hate sheet, the New York Jewish Week, has a blow-by-blow account of how the filthy deed was done. The evildoers are familiar, but the lengths they've gone in this particular case to enforce the neocon version of omerta – i.e. criticize Israel and you sleep with the fishes – is really quite remarkable:
When Cole's potential hiring became publicly known, several of his detractors, including the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Rubin and Washington Times columnist Joel Mowbray, took various steps to protest the decision. They wrote op-ed pieces in various publications and Mowbray went as far as to send a letter to a dozen of Yale's major donors, many of whom are Jewish, urging them to call the university and protest Cole's hiring.
In addition to Rubin and Mowbray, we've also had John Fund (the poor man's Humbert Humbert) sliming Cole on the Wall Street Journal op-ed page, David Horowitz doing his impersonation of Andrei Vyshinsky over at Planet Conspiracy, plus the usual blog wannabes, like the Powerlie bundists and the little green fascists, bringing up the rear – the tail end (in more ways than one) of the lynch mob.
Of course, the Likudniks (American branch) put out the contract on Juan Cole long ago. But until recently the hit men have consistently missed their target – or, like Jonah Goldberg, have staggered back to their hideouts with their guns wedged firmly in their own rectums. Mowbray has practically made Cole his pet journalistic obsessive compulsive disorder (on Rev. Moon's dime) but this had had only trivial effects – if even that – on Cole's credibility and access to the mainstream media.
But with the Yale deal, the gang that couldn't shoot straight finally found an opening – a way to use money and influence to achieve what lies and slander could not. And so one of America's most prestigious institutions of higher learning (I use the term loosely) was given an offer it couldn't refuse. Again, we turn to that scurrilous pro-terrorist propaganda rag, the Jewish Week, for the details :
Then Mowbray went a step further. He drafted a letter, which he forwarded to a dozen of Yale's prominent donors, most of whom are Jewish, urging them to make their disapproval of Cole's hiring known . . . Last week, as Cole's hiring was being discussed by the tenure committee, the letter's recipients apparently weighed in, according to sources. Several faculty members said they had heard that at least four major Jewish donors, whose identity the faculty members did not know, have contacted officials at the university urging that Cole's appointment be denied.
As Dylan said: Money doesn't talk, it swears – even if at Yale, it swears politely. It's getting hard to tell what the difference is between Yale University and your average New York street hooker, except that one works on 42nd Street and the other in New Haven, and one sells pussy while the other peddles . . . well, I'm not sure what. Endowed chairs, I guess. (Or, to quote the late great Ruth Brown: "If I can't sell it, I'm gonna sit on it. Why should I give it away?")
There are a couple of salient points to make about this nasty affair – only one of them being that Joel Mowbray is a deranged, vindictive rodent who ought to be fed to a boa constrictor. (I realize I'm going to get hammered by the snake lovers over that one.) Mowbray's journalistic droppings are filled with innuendo and guilt by association. He's basically made a career out of smearing people and organizations – Gen. Zinni, Kofi Annan, the FBI – as shrieking anti-semites. It's his calling card, his schtick – his way of differentiating himself in a field just crammed with conservative pundits willing to profess their total, slavish support for the most extreme elements of the Israeli settler movement. As in most totalitarian cults, the best and safest way to make a name for yourself in this crowd is to shout the most hysterical charges about the enemy within, and Mowbray, for all his runtiness, has learned to shout louder than most.
Mowbray also is, at least by the current neocon definition, a filthy traitor – a journalistic trafficker in government secrets. In 2002, Mowbray was actually detained and questioned by State Department guards after he showed up at a press conference claiming he had a classified, illegally leaked document in his possession. This was decried by his employers, the editors of the National Review, as a Gestapo-like abuse of the First Amendment, whereas now, of course, they would be howling for the government to ship his criminal ass to Guantanamo – just to be consistent.
But what's really bizarre about this business is the massive propaganda firepower being trained on one mild-mannered Middle East specialist with a blog. Just the thought of Juan Cole at Yale was enough to send the Rubins and the Mowbrays and the Powerliars into a full-blown conniption fit – like the lady elephants in Dumbo once the mouse shows up. This reaction reeks of fear, in much the same way as the panicked response to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's recent paper on the Israel Lobby. It's totally out of proportion to the political threat these Ivory Tower types would seem to pose to the great and powerful Oz.
But this is not, as some would have it, simply another petty academic quarrel. As Cole himself has noted in the past, the U.S. scholarly community is under relentless pressure from the pro-Israel lobby and its camp followers, who are determined to purge Middle Eastern Studies departments of anything and anyone who contradicts the party line. The goal, quite simply, is to choke off any possible source of independent information and analysis that might challenge the steady stream of distortions issuing from the right's favorite think tanks and from propaganda artists like Mowbray and Rubin.
It almost brings to mind the old Brezhnev-era KGB, obsessed with tracking down every obscure dissident with a mimeograph machine and packing him or her off to the nut farm, while the Soviet versions of the Moonie Times and Fox News thundered at full volume about capitalist plots and foul slanders against the people's vanguard party.
This is only a moderate exaggeration. The neocons may not be in command of a fully functioning police state – yet – but like the enforcers of Brezhnev's Politburo, they seem to understand instinctively that their ideological monopoly is too fragile to tolerate much dissent. All three branches of the government, both political parties and virtually every major media organization are firmly in the hands of people who believe – often passionately – in America's alliance with Israel. Politicians compete to see who can offer the most generous aid concessions, or utter the most strident denunciations of Israel's enemies, or turn the blindest eye to the latest illegal settlement expansion. Polls show the public overwhelmingly supports these positions. And yet, somehow it's still not enough. And so one academician/blogger who believes, and publicly states, that the Palestinians are human beings – and have rights that are being violated daily by the Israeli government and the settlers – becomes a mortal threat, to be fought with every weapon the gang can bring to bear, including Yale's Jewish donors.
I'm sure Mowbray doesn't have a clue about the perverse irony of what he's done – which plays directly into every conceivable anti-Semitic stereotype about wealthy Jews pulling strings from behind the scenes. Neither Al Jazeera nor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could dream up a scenario more calculated to confirm every Middle Eastern prejudice about what (and who) drives U.S. foreign policy. How can we explain to them that it's just the educational bureaucrats at Yale, who would probably do whatever it takes to please any well-heeled group of donors – even if it involved putting on bright red lipstick and getting down on their knees. Especially that.
I also wouldn't expect our pro-Israel blacklisters to recognize the contrast between their own conduct, which makes a total mockery out of their sanctimonious twaddle about intellectual freedom on campus, and Cole's staunch defense of Israeli academicians who've been threatened with boycotts. It's in the nature of hypocrites to ignore their own hypocrisies, of course, but in this case I think it reflects a more fundamental blindness. To the neocons, "academic freedom" is merely a slogan – a political club to use against their enemies. In reality, their commitment to political correctness is absolute, as David Horowitz has already proven, first from the left and then from the right. The idea that someone like Cole might actually believe in academic freedom – and might insist on it being extended to everyone, including scholars from a country he allegedly despises – probably just doesn't compute for them. They're intellectual thugs, and they expect their enemies to display the same thuggishness.
Well, they've finally got their man (I almost said their pound of flesh, but then I remembered where that particular expression comes from) The Bush administration has done a 180 on Iran policy, the GOP Congress is stumbling towards defeat, the Likud Party (Israel branch) has been reduced to a corporal's guard and the dream of a Greater Israel is irreparably lost – in other words, the neocon world has come apart at the seams – but at least Juan Cole isn't going to Yale. Mission fucking accomplished.
In the end, however, I suspect this neocon coup de main will backfire just as thoroughly as the rest of the gang's master strokes. Juan Cole at Yale probably would have been under considerable pressure to tone down his public views, and might have felt compelled to devote more attention to his scholarly research and less to his blog. As things stand now, though, I expect, and hope, that he'll have the time and the freedom to continue his informed commenting, both on his blog and in the mainstream media. He might not agree, but the free education he's providing his readers is far more important than anything he might have accomplished at Yale.
As for Cole's neocon tormentors, well, I wish I could believe their lies, vindictiveness and poisonous, totalitarian methods will catch up with them someday, but I'm too old and cynical to believe the truth always wills out. I don't have that much confidence in the ability of the American people to figure out they're being conned. But if they ever do get it, if they ever come to understand how thoroughly they've been manipulated into blindly putting another country's interests – or rather, the interests of a narrow, fanatical group of extremists within that country – ahead of their own, watch out. The pack of contemptible smear artists currently dogging Juan Cole's heels could very quickly go from being the hunters to the hunted.