Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Play nice with the Internet, kids

It is official; we have a flame war. There is even a Star Trek reference.

Christopher Hitchens in Slate has assailed Professor Juan Cole for an off-the-record email that posits religious and poetic nuances to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's analysis of the Israeli state vis-a-vis cartography.

Hitchens writes in compact prose, so I will excerpt with some reluctance:
However, words and details and nuances do matter in all this, so I was not surprised to see professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan denying that Ahmadinejad, or indeed Khomeini, had ever made this call for the removal of Israel from the map. Cole is a minor nuisance on the fringes of the academic Muslim apologist community. At one point, there was a danger that he would become a go-to person for quotes in New York Times articles (a sort of Shiite fellow-traveling version of Norman Ornstein, if such an alarming phenomenon can be imagined), but this crisis appears to have passed.
Cole counters that Hitchens took only a small amount of the email in question and then embellished. The professor then imagines several motives:
Back to Hitchens. How to explain this peculiar behavior on the part of someone who was at one time one of our great men of letters?

Well, I don't think it is any secret that Hitchens has for some time had a very serious and debilitating drinking problem. He once showed up drunk to a talk I gave and heckled me. I can only imagine that he was deep in his cups when he wrote, or had some far Rightwing think tank write, his current piece of yellow journalism. I am sorry to witness the ruin of a once-fine journalistic mind.

But the other reason for Hitchens's piece may be that he has become a warmonger, and it is possible that he wants a US war against Iran.
This crosses the line. Andrew Sullivan enters the keyboard-fray:
Cole, however, trashes whatever high ground he might have sought by accusing Hitch of writing the piece drunk, or, worse, having it ghost-written. By pure coincidence, I was at Hitch's yesterday as he filed the piece. He was stone-cold sober. And on top form. It is Cole who owes Hitch an apology. Hitch stuck to the issues; Cole got personal.
Though the first one who made this confrontational was Hitchens, not a stylistic departure. His conclusion:
But this apologist, who affects such expertise in Persian, cannot decipher the plain meaning of a celebrated statement and is, furthermore, in need of a remedial course in English.
Hitchens' reference to Cole's typos point out a matter of fact, however this was a little too confrontationl. This blogger will not throw stones, lest he be pelted.

As this is an issue of war and national security, the battle lines are swiftly and predictably drawn.

Decision '08:
Cole then proceeds to go on an anti-war tirade complete with slogans, pictures of severed limbs, and denunciations of the warmongers. Judge for yourself who is more credible…
Neo Neo-Con sees (surprise) Munich:
Read it and weep. Weep for the opportunities lost, for what Chamberlain himself called "facile optimism:" so noble, so hopeful, so well-meaning, so deadly, so fatally wrong about the benign intents of totalitarian dictators who threaten others.
Frequent Cole commenter Abhinav Aima headlines: "Juan Cole Pummels Christopher Hitchens, Ruins Iran War Plans"

Buddy Bemuses:
University of Michigan Professor Cole is normally rather retiring and "academic," but not today! He's fighting mad about dirty tricks he feels have been used against him for the benefit of those who would suck us into a war with Iran.
What was originally at issue, back in the discussion thread on that personal email, was the worldview appropriate toward militant Islam. That remains at issue, however the debate is obfuscated by not so sober allegations of writing under the influence and digs at proofreading. This is unfortunate as Hitchens and Cole could probably have had a productive debate on the issue, at least before today's flame war.


Blogger Ezzie said...

Most importantly, Cole is trying to throw smoke over what he said. He's pretending that Ahmadinejad doesn't want to wipe Israel off the map - that's simply stupidity.

Cole is a Muslim apologist, hiding from reality.

5:07 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

This has been weird.

I cannot believe Cole played the drunkard card. I've heard the persistent rumor, but it was quite inappropriate.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Dedicated to seeking out the misinformation of the right wing machine."

Ummm, ok. That's a mission statement.

I totally dug the Star Trek reference, but I am a Trekkie myself.

If I have the time, I will read what is being discussed; a brief overview tells me that this is an interesting catfight, which derives from the main focus of the website itself.

Gotta love it! Whenever Liberals open their big fat (oh, never mind, you get the point) but being fair, it's the same from both sides, is it not...except for the fact that we're not birthed from dirty hippies (come on, guys, just a jibjab; I am in a particularly good mood today and I hope all of you are as well).

12:31 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

It is an interesting cat fight!

I just can't stand when people who should know better (i.e.: public officials, college professors, British columnists... anyone richer than me) act like children.

4:24 PM  

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