Campus-watch was set up by Middle East Forum, a think-tank, "to monitor the attitudes of American professors and universities toward Islamic fundamentalism". Fair enough. But what gave campus-watch instant notoriety was its posting extensive "dossiers" on eight dubious professors. Students were invited to "inform" on any other of their teachers who should join the treacherous octet.
Those blacklisted were not mavericks - merely the worst of a very bad bunch. According to campus-watch, "Academics seem generally to dislike their own country." Beneath every gown beats the heart of a Benedict Arnold. The intention over time is to build up a database covering the whole morally corrupt profession.
The "dossiers" were a terrific PR coup. Within a fortnight the site was profiled in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, the Wall Street Journal and on TV. Eighty thousand hits were recorded in the first week.
The director of campus-watch is Daniel Pipes, a man with clear-cut views. "To me," he says, "every fundamentalist Muslim, no matter how peaceable in his own behaviour, is part of a murderous movement and is thus, in some fashion, a foot soldier in the war that Bin Laden has launched against civilisation. They are barbarians and must be treated as such."
Exterminate the brutes? Easily done, Mr Kurtz. The weaponry is already on yellow alert in the Gulf. But what to do with Osama's fifth column in the American classroom? You can't bomb Harvard. The professors' offence is not fundamentalism but its opposite - criminal open-mindedness. These academics "fan the flames of disinformation". They must be exposed and cut out like cancers on the body politic.
Heading campus-watch's "most wanted" list is John Esposito, of Georgetown University. He dared to suggest that American foreign policy, rather than inherent "barbarism", may have had something to do with 9/11. Moreover, the professor felt that his president's analysis was a tad simplistic: "The use of 'evil' all the time in religious terms translates into, 'You're a believer or you're a non-believer.' It is us and them, forces of good against forces of evil, and what this does is leave no middle-ground for anyone, whether it is countries or people."
This mild observation was enough to earn Esposito campus-watch's No 1 spot. In the fight to come, there is no middle ground: "You're either with us, or you are against us." So decreed the president. Your choice, Mr Professor; and don't give us any of that First Amendment crap.
Tenure - something that Margaret Thatcher wisely abolished in British universities - makes it difficult to apply pressure to get American academics fired. But their lives can easily be made hell. Esposito and the other bad professors are not, of course, being "monitored" but "targeted". They have no way of sheltering themselves from the shit-storm which campus-watch has maliciously directed against them.
The dossiers supplied the necessary "contact" addresses and numbers for any angry patriot .[Campus Watch: this is untrue, see http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/139#tag] What academic on the list will not hesitate before opening their email or suspicious packages? Will they think twice before offending any hot-headed student or doctrinaire colleague?
And academics not on that list will surely wonder whether the wise policy, over the next fraught months, will not be to keep their heads well below the parapet. And if any of my students don't like this article, please don't report me to www.campus-watch.org