Daniel Pipes’s Campus Watch Excoriates Response to Post on N.Y.U. Academic Freedom Conference

 

The New McCarthyism is at hand on university campuses.

I spoke at New York University on February 23, 2008 at a conference on “Freedoms at Risk.” One of its major themes was academic freedom. Organised by the student council of the College of Arts and Science, it explored the assault from the thunder of the right on academic freedom. Professor Zachary Lockman, a world renown New York University Middle Eastern specialist and past president of the Middle East Studies Association, preceded me and noted that Campus Watch had carried a rather provocative comment on its website criticising N.Y.U.’s and other campus efforts to grapple with the clear and present danger to academic freedom. The Campus Watch post also misidentified Professor Lockman as president of M.E.S.A.

Cinnamon Stillwell

Campus Watch’s Northern California gendarme and San Francisco Chronicle online journalist Cinnamon Stillwell claims I misrepresented the provenance of her initial post and have made false accusations against Daniel Pipes’s crusade to banish from academe critics of the Israel Lobby, Israeli colonial occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan and apartheid against the Palestinians. She avers I inappropriately attributed the authorship of her post to Daniel Pipes, who was a Bush administration appointee to the prowar United States Institute of Peace. I did state that Mr Pipes posted the derisive comments against student-organised conferences. After all, he is the owner of the website and so that is functionally accurate but I did not identify the Pipesian staffer as its author. She is correct. I think, however, her complaint is somewhat trifling. Daniel Pipes is the “managing editor and publisher” if you will and I am certain he notes very carefully, if not actually approves, of all entries on its webpages. Now if Ms Stillwell wishes me to note that her writings are not to be associated with Mr Pipes and that staff comment should not be construed as reflecting Mr Pipes’s weltanschauung, I will dutifully comply.

Ms Stillwell claims I am ignorant of Campus Watch’s mission statement. I have read it numerous times and would politely note there is significant variance in their stated mission and their outlandish efforts to marginalise, destroy and ideologically cleanse those Middle Eastern scholars who are not diffident acolytes of the Israel lobby. She claims I lack “propriety” and have “lost all sense of perspective.” {Maybe Ms Stillwell has forgotten I was a major source of their reporting on the Doctor Norman G. Finkelstein tenure and promotion case last June.}

I would ask Ms Stillwell to note carefully Daniel Pipes’s Campus Watch mission statement. It claims to be the great crusader against “the mixing of politics with scholarship.” I believe it is essential to combine the two as long as scholarship does not distort the evidence, manufacture data or deliberately deceive the reader. I believe scholarship is a moral act and should have a progressive purpose to improve our world, ameliorate the human condition, seek the truth and challenge when appropriate elite oppression of marginalised and powerless groups. What the Pipesian statement is really saying is: “Do not write on Middle Eastern affairs if you are opposed to apartheid, colonialism and the presence of a Medieval, oppressive state religion.”

Mr Pipes’s website mission statement also hypocritically challenges the “intolerance of alternative views.” In Situation Analysis published at the University of Manchester, an issue contained an interesting summary of Campus Watch’s highly publicised crusade to blacklist Middle Eastern scholars who defy conventional wisdom. So much for respecting “alternative views.” I contributed an article to that issue that summarised my own struggles and position on the perils of free speech and academic freedom on American campuses: “Academic Freedom and the New McCarthyism,” Situation Analysis, Spring, 2004, 21-35.

Finally I would ask Ms Stillwell personally to be more consistent in adhering to the mission statement. It claims in classic Horowitzian rodomontade to defend the “abuse of power over students.” Yet Cinnamon sardonically belittles student-organised conferences at DePaul University, the University of Chicago and New York University that dare challenge the new McCarthyism as perpetrated by Campus Watch, No-Indoctrination.org, Mr Horowitz’s, Frontpagemag.com, the David Project and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. She repeatedly uses the rather bizarre image of violins–were they not used to deceive newly arriving internees in the late war?–to note excessive handwringing, empathy and sentimentality and not serious discourse would characterise these inspirational events.

Campus Watch might strive for an Emersonian “foolish consistency” as it declaims against the progressive, student-abusing Molochs of academia. Namely avoid the cruel and gratuitous effort to mock progressive students who have committed themselves to exploring one of the great issues of our time: the preservation of academic autonomy from politically inspired external pressure groups that seek to cast a pall of orthodoxy over our classrooms and our academic lives.

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