In an uninformed entry at the blog Huffington Post, Marjorie Cohn, a professor of law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego and president of the National Lawyers Guild, misrepresents Campus Watch.
Cohn's subject is University of California at Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake's ham-fisted hiring of Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky to become the first dean of UCI's new law school. Drake withdrew his offer of employment not long after he made it, an act that caused outrage across the political spectrum. This afternoon, UCI announced that Chemerinsky was in fact becoming dean after all.
In an error-filled post, Cohn does her best to put a negative spin on CW's founding (which occurred five years ago tomorrow):
A few months later [after 9/11], a blacklisting Internet cite called Campus Watch was launched. It publishes dossiers on scholars who criticize U.S. Middle East policy and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.
Campus Watch is not a "blacklisting" site. For fewer than two weeks in September, 2002, it posted the dossiers of professors whose apologias for Islamists was but a part of their overall efforts to politicize the field of Middle East Studies. CW removed these dossiers after they had served their purpose, and has not posted any since then. In fact, CW critiques Middle East studies with the aim of improving them. Had Cohn taken an even cursory look at CW's site, she might have avoided this error. Then again, it's much easier to make sweeping generalizations than to engage in a bit of research. As I wrote just a few days ago, CW has neither the capacity nor the desire to threaten anyone's freedom of speech. How, precisely, could we accomplish such a grand scheme?
Not content with misrepresenting Campus Watch, Cohn does the same with two other organizations:
This is the latest chapter in the post September 11 attack on academic freedom under the guise of protecting security. Two weeks after 9/11, former White House spokeman [sic] Ari Fleischer cautioned Americans "they need to watch what they say, watch what they do." The American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a group founded by Lynne Cheney and Senator Joe Lieberman, accused universities of being the weak link in the war on terror; it included the names of 117 "un-American" professors, students and staff members....Earlier this year, the Bruin Alumni Association at UCLA offered students $100 to tape left-wing professors.
Her assertions contains three more errors or misrepresentations:
- The founding of CW as a project of the Middle East Forum had nothing to do with any statement by Ari Fleischer, or any other White House or government official. Cohn's juxtaposition of Fleischer's statement with CW's founding is nothing more than low-brow conspiracy mongering--an act one has come to associate with the liberal left.
- The American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), which Cohn lists along with CW as a threat to academic free speech, in fact spoke up in favor of Erwin Chemerinsky after Chancellor Drake withdrew his offer. ACTA issued both a press release condemning the withdrawal and a letter to Drake protesting his action. Again, had Cohn bothered to do a bit of research, she could have easily discovered this for herself.
- The Bruin Alumni Association at UCLA made their offer to pay students for information on their professors last year, in 2006, and not "earlier this year," as Cohn erroneously asserts.
With so many errors in such a short post, and from the president of the National Lawyers Guild, no less, it is little wonder that Cohn and so many of her peers hold such a skewed worldview. Accuracy matters, and a bit of research would have put it within her grasp. If Cohn's as sloppy in her lawyering as she is in blogging, I'd choose to represent myself in court before I relied on her to defend me.