Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch corrects false allegations made against it.

Response to:

Can Anthropology Overcome Its Imperial Past?
by Yasmin Nair
Electronic Intifada
May 25, 2016

False allegations of attacking professors who criticize Israel
False allegations of suppressing free speech
False allegations of attacking critics of America's policy in the Middle East

Campus Watch Responds:

In a review of Anthropology's Politics: Disciplining the Middle East, by Lara Deeb and Jessica Winegar (Stanford U. Press, 2015), Yasmin Nair falsely accuses Campus Watch (and other organizations) of attempted censorship and harassment:

Groups like Campus Watch, The David Project and Canary Mission have proliferated on campuses. They serve as watchdogs to monitor and control conversations and harass teachers and students, going so far as to enlist students to monitor and report on their professors.

As if further evidence of the academic left's obsession with criticism of their hallowed grounds were needed, Nair's hyperbolic language is long on emotion and short on facts.

Campus Watch does indeed "monitor" Middle East studies, but the notion that CW has the power or desire to "control conversations" and "harass teachers and students" is false and unfounded, to say nothing of paranoid and preposterous. Just how would CW "control" what professors say? Do we secretly implant computer chips into their heads that feed rational, reasoned, rigorously-derived thoughts? Have we (Soviet style) poked them with an umbrella on a London bridge and inserted an electronic node that delivers a shock when they speak out of turn (don't ask how we hear them)?

In what kind of "harassment" would CW engage? Donning overcoats and shades and driving by their homes repeatedly and menacingly, mob-style, or perhaps shouting down their lectures? (Isn't that what they and their supporters do to speakers with whom they disagree?)

CW does occasionally receive student reports on professors, but why would any academic wish to curtail the free speech rights of those entrusted to their care? It wouldn't be that they're implacably opposed to the very transparency and liberties they demand for themselves when it's used to critique them, would it? That would be hypocritical in the extreme, not to mention evidence of skin so thin (and egos so fragile) that one wonders about their emotional health.

In fact, CW does nothing more or less than critique the highly politicized yet crucial field of Middle East studies by listening to and reading what professors say and write and subjecting their work to rigorous evaluation. But for a pampered profession unaccustomed to being held accountable for the tendentious, ahistorical, and apologetical nature of its output, anything beyond accolades is unacceptable and, to many, evidence of control and harassment. It's past time for this coddled elite to accept the responsibilities that come with their vaunted status.

(Posted by Winfield Myers, Director of Academic Affairs and of Campus Watch, Middle East Forum)