Let me tell you how I ended up on Jihad Watch. This is a tale of the new red scare wending its way across college campuses. More than an account of my own travails, this is an anatomy of how critical thought about Islam and Judaism, the Arab-Israeli conflict, anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim racism is today monitored in the academy with the goal of chilling reflection.
In March, at the University of Rochester, I gave a lecture entitled “Judeophobia and Islamophobia” in which I sought to consider the links between Muslims and Jews in contemporary European and American discourse and put it into historical perspective. In attendance was an appointed watchdog for Campus Watch, A. J. Caschetta, a lecturer in English at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
In May, he published his “report” of my talk on the website of the Middle East Forum. It was a pastiche of falsehoods, innuendos and quotes out of context, entirely obfuscating what I actually said. I was accused of maintaining that Islamophobia has replaced Judeophobia, an indefensible position given the rising tide of anti-Semitism globally. It was also alleged that I deny the history of Islamic Judeophobia historically and at present. These charges stem from the fact that I sought to consider the two forms of hatred in tandem. While it is demoralizing to suffer through this kind of defamation, the real harm is the way anti-anti-Semitic hit men like Caschetta feed hate speech.
I had a sense something had happened in the blogosphere when I began to receive anti-Islamic hate mail in my inbox, and requests for the lecture from as far away as Sydney, Australia. This happened because Campus Watch flies its flag under the auspices of the Middle East Forum, a well-financed initiative under the leadership of Daniel Pipes that monitors Middle East studies in the academy.
Campus Watch is part of a network of networks, including StandWithUs, AMCHAInitiative, the David Horowitz Freedom Center and most recently Canary Mission, linked to groups like Jihad Watch. Jihad Watch and these other fora send daily blasts to all those who sign up to receive them on their websites and use email and social media to share their message. Within this self-referential set of bubbles, each consumes the propaganda of their fellow warriors in what they describe as a war for hearts and minds. College campuses are thus key strategic territory in the battle since this is where young minds are shaped.
In her final chapter of The Origins of Totalitarianism, “Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government,” Hannah Arendt suggested that what linked Stalinism and Nazism was the reduction of history to ironclad laws, whether race or class. What they shared in common was the truth about the movement of history. Today the “clash of civilizations” has cemented as this new truth.
What I sought to accomplish in my lecture was a form of ideology critique. I did so by reflecting on a series of narratives that have emerged in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher murders that have split off the ideology of the Koachi brothers and Coulibaly from the sociology of their marginalized experience as Muslims in France.
I insisted that such a split, whether by the right or the left, is untenable if we seek to understand such events. My example was Lassana Bathily, the Hyper Cacher worker of Malian Muslim background who saved Jews by hiding them in the freezer of the kosher market. His story short-circuits the narratives about an essentially radical Islam, as well as the story about how oppression leads people to terrorism as the weapon of the weak.
I went on to discuss the history of the concepts of anti-Semitism (which was coined in the 1870s, racializing the much longer history of anti-Jewish prejudice) and Islamophobia (which was birthed as a term only in this generation but whose history goes back to the Middle Ages).
Then I addressed the vexing question of whether anti-Semitism should be hyphenated. The minutia of the hyphen actually has major consequences in how we think about the relationship between Muslims and Jews over time, and how this has changed in the last century. Those scholars who refuse to hyphenate anti-Semitism insist that “antisemitism” only applies to Jews and has always only applied to Jews. They also tend to insist that antisemitism is a unique form of racism, wholly different from anti-black or anti-Muslim discrimination.
But in the 19th century, when the term “Semite” was defined in opposition to “Aryan,” this was carried out in scientific, literary and artistic works that not only racialized much earlier tropes of Jews, but also images of Arabs, Saracens, Turks and Muslims. The two groups were unified by their shared Semitic language family.
I referenced a set of historical examples of this long history: the Crusades, which gave rise to the first mass killings of Jews en route to liberating holy sites in Jerusalem held by Saracens; the Fourth Lateran Council (1225), which mandated marking not only Jewish but also Muslim clothing; the Spanish Inquisition, which targeted not only Jews but Moors; post-expulsion Europe, when 90 percent of Jews lived under the crescent of Islam; the depiction of Jews as Turks in Renaissance art, as in many paintings by Rembrandt; and I cited authors like writer Johann Gottfried von Herder, who called Jews the “Asiatics of Europe,” and Benjamin Disraeli, who said the Jews were an “Arabian tribe” and the Arabs “only Jews upon horseback.”
I then explained that the sometimes overlapping images of Jews and Muslims were definitively decoupled around the time that the construct “Judeo-Christian” made its historical appearance in the 1930s. “Judeo-Christian” was originally a formula used to appeal to Christians to aid Jews who were targeted for annihilation in Europe by the Nazis. It was effective because it stressed a shared lineage.
Following the Holocaust and with the creation of the state of Israel, Jews stressed their Judeo-Christian commonality, which over time was interpreted as the foundation of Western civilization, and later of American democracy and human rights. What made the decoupling definitive was that this was precisely the period when large swaths of the Islamic world began to demonize Jews in unprecedented ways, drawing upon the iconography of the European anti-Semitic arsenal, spurred by the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This quick history is certainly not the whole story of either Judeophobia or Islamophobia -- their linkages and disconnects -- and only the briefest outline of what I addressed in my public lecture. But in talking about rising Judeophobia globally since 2000, I ended by explicitly critiquing the position that was then used as the title of Caschetta’s article: “Are Muslims the new Jews?” The entire point of what I discussed was to problematize such one-sided views.
The ear attuned only to ideology, as Arendt defined it, is tone-deaf to such deconstruction. The real jihadists don’t want to think critically and contextually. The narrative of the “clash of civilizations” explains everything to them. This is true of those warriors of the faith who seek who oppose the “Zionist-Crusader conspiracy” and restore the Caliphate just as much as for those crusaders who pull Judeophobic passages from the Quran and insist they meant the same thing in the eighth century as they have come to mean in the new millennium, as Caschetta did during the Q&A session.
Ideology, as Arendt suggested, is underpinned by an ahistorical belief in the truth of your understanding of the motor of history. Ideology critique is what some corners of the academy offer at its best. This is precisely why the new McCarthyism monitors its lecture halls with watchdogs. The Campus Watchers don’t want students to reevaluate and reframe the latest well-worn clichés. But not doing so stokes hate speech, and this can feed violence.
So what do I tell the members of my synagogue, fellow parents at the Jewish day school my kids attend, my colleagues in Jewish studies associations in America and Europe about why I ended up on Jihad Watch? I tell them the new McCarthyism has arrived.
Jonathan Judaken is the Spence L. Wilson Chair in the Humanities and professor of history at Rhodes College.
Eastern Washington University has removed the biography of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who represented herself as a black woman in leading her local NAACP chapter and teaching African-American studies at the institution. She had been listed here, with her biography, until Monday. The university told KREM2 News that Dolezal had been an adjunct and that her contract expired on Friday, the day she became a national news story. The university said that she has no contract to teach at the university in the upcoming academic year.
Another development in the story: Dolezal once sued Howard University for discrimination against her as a white woman, The Smoking Gun reported. The Smoking Gun's articles are based on documents, and in this case the website obtained decisions that rejected Dolezal's suit. Dolezal earned an M.F.A. from Howard in 2002 and sued for discrimination, charging that she was denied a teaching assistant position and experienced various other forms of discrimination because she is white. Courts rejected those claims.
A Howard spokeswoman said that the university considered the matter "closed" and would not have any further comment.
A student at California's Crafton Hills College and her parents are urging the institution to ban the teaching of several graphic novels, Redlands Daily Facts reported. The student says that the novels, including Fun Home, The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House and Persepolis are violent, pornographic or both. (The novels have all been widely praised by critics, winning awards.) Ryan Bartlett, associate professor of English, said that this is the third time he has taught a course on graphic novels, and the first time there has been a complaint.
“I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition,” Bartlett said in an email to the Daily Facts. “As Faulkner states, ‘The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.’ The same may be said about reading literature. The characters in the chosen graphic novels are all struggling with issues of morality, self discovery, heart break, etc. The course in question has also been supported by the faculty, administration and approved by the board.”
Association's annual meeting on academic freedom issues features a debate on whether Steven Salaita's rights were violated and consensus that Wisconsin politicians are undermining their university system.
A judge on Friday ordered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to release emails regarding the revoked tenure appointment of Steven Salaita. The American Indian studies scholar found himself without a job last year after Chancellor Phyllis Wise objected to the tone of his Twitter comments about Israel. Salaita has maintained that donors illegally influenced Wise’s decision, based on the previous release of some emails between Wise and unnamed donors. Salaita wants the full, unredacted email record regarding his nonappointment, but the university has maintained that such a request is unduly burdensome.
Robin Kaler, university spokesperson, said that the institution maintains the request is too large, and that it will “do its best” over the coming weeks to produce the some 9,600 documents regarding Salaita’s case. Kaler said the university tried to negotiate his request to a more manageable size, with little success. Maria LaHood, Salaita’s lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the university was trying to avoid transparency, but that the court agreed releasing the emails was in the public interest. “We look forward to seeing what the university was so eager to hide,” she said. Salaita has another ongoing lawsuit against university leaders and the John Doe donors for breach of contract and tortious interference, among other claims.
A South Carolina jury last week found that Erskine College violated the rights of William Crenshaw when it fired him in 2011 from his tenured position as a professor of English. The court ordered Erskine to pay $600,000 to Crenshaw. While the college has never been specific on the reasons it first suspended and then fired Crenshaw, many traditionalists in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, with which the college is affiliated, objected to many of his statements. Crenshaw, who won teaching awards and many student fans in 35 years of teaching, was known for encouraging critical thinking. He spoke out regularly about, for example, the need to study science even in ways that do not conform literally with the Bible. Crenshaw's suit said his dismissal violated his rights because the college ignored its own rules and its stated pledge to protect academic freedom.
A spokesman for the college said he could not comment, but said that an appeal was possible.
With retractions of scholarly papers attracting much attention these days, a study that will be released Wednesday will challenge conventional wisdom on the factors that encourage work that must be retracted. The paper will appear in PLOS ONE and features an analysis of retractions to look for trends. A summary of the paper is available now at Retraction Watch. "The hypothesis that males might be prone to scientific misconduct was not supported, and the widespread belief that pressures to publish are a major driver of misconduct was largely contradicted: high-impact and productive researchers, and those working in countries in which pressures to publish are believed to be higher, are less likely to produce retracted papers, and more likely to correct them. Efforts to reduce and prevent misconduct, therefore, might be most effective if focused on promoting research integrity policies, improving mentoring and training, and encouraging transparent communication amongst researchers," says the summary.
It adds: "Some factors were associated with a higher rate of misconduct, of course -- a lack of research integrity policy, and cash rewards for individual publication performance, for instance. Scientists just starting their careers, and those in environments where 'mutual criticism is hampered,' were also more likely to commit misconduct."
The trailer has arrived for a film, being released nationally next month, about the Stanford Prison Experiment (which is the name of the film as well), a controversial experiment at Stanford University in 1971 in which students were assigned to play the roles of prisoners and prison guards. The study had to be halted as the students playing the role of guards became sadistic. While many criticized the experiment, it remains much studied in psychology courses, and is cited when events such as the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib raise issues about how people change in certain situations.
Here is the trailer:
For those who want to review the scholarship about the experiment, here is a website about the experiment by Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford and leader of the study.
And for fans of film about controversial social science experiments about how good people can be led to do bad things, watch for Experimenter as well, about the Stanley Milgram experiments in which research subjects were led to believe they were administering shocks on others. The film is currently on the festival circuit and will be released generally later this year.