Campus Watch Disputes Charge of “McCarthyism.”

Campus Watch, the brainchild of former Bush administration official Daniel Pipes, has once again claimed I misrepresent their mission and raison d’être in a recent post. This is the unexpurgated “correction” of this academic-policing organisation followed by my response:

Setting The Record Straight

Campus Watch corrects false allegations made against it.

Response to:

Campus Watch: Returns with Another List of Back to the Future McCarthyisms
by Peter N. Kirstein
Peter N. Kirstein’s Web Log
January 12, 2009

Allegations of attacking professors who criticize Israel
Allegations of suppressing free speech
Alleged dossiers on professors
Allegations of attacking critics of America’s policy in the Middle East

In a web log post titled “Campus Watch: Returns with Another List of Back to the Future McCarthyisms,” Peter Kirstein writes:

Campus Watch one of the New McCarthyism’s most egregious excesses continues to list academics and other critics of its barnstorming, intellectual-cleansing crusade.

Campus Watch is in no way a McCarthyite organization. We are not an agent of the government, do not have (and do not seek) the power to issue subpoenas or otherwise order anyone to do anything, and do not seek to silence anyone. Rather, we critique Middle East studies for epistemological and pedagogical shortcomings, as laid out clearly in our mission statement.

(Posted by Winfield Myers)


I never claimed Campus Watch was an agent of the government. A charge of McCarthyism does not have to apply literally to government officials or agencies but to ANY group that uses its ideology as a litmus test for loyalty and publicly denounces those with whom it disagrees. Even during McCarthyism, however, purges were rampant both in the public and private spheres from government to Hollywood to higher and secondary education. I never claimed Campus Watch desired the power to issue subpoenas which again is referring to Congressional committees such as the House Un-American Activities Committee. A defence of not being a governmental entity with subpoena power does not parry effectively the charge of McCarthyism.

I never accused Campus Watch of explicitly collecting dossiers on academics which is again an effort to limit the charge of McCarthyism to a Procrustean Bed of 1950s literalism with Red Channels lists and Federal Bureau of Investigation Responsibilities Programmes. They have, however, compiled lists of educators whom they consider disloyal and a threat to the United States. As I wrote in my blog critique:

…”it was Campus Watch that was established in 2002 with the mission to “monitor” Middle East Studies departments on university campuses throughout the United States. They published a list of professors whom they construed as disloyal, sympathetic to terrorism and anti-American with the intent of marginalising or cleansing them from the academy. Hundreds of aroused non-specialists, including myself, demanded they be included in the blacklist as an act of anti-McCarthyism solidarity. 

“Mr Pipes then dutifully published another list with the provocative title: “Solidarity With the Apologists.” “Apologists” was an explicit reference to a term bandied about during the witch hunts of the 1950s, in which academics, Hollywood filmmakers and other intellectuals were accused of being “apologists” for the Kremlin and the “communist menace” in general. Then Mr Pipes removed the original blacklist and the solidarity list from his website. He knew he had gone too far and had to retreat from this excess.

“However, to set the record straight, Daniel Pipes as Colin Wright wrote in Situation Analysis, Spring 2004, believes that those professors who disagree with him should essentially be arrested or expelled from America. Writing for the New York Post, Pipes’s columns were entitled, “The Terrorist Next Door,” (August 12, 2003), “Profs Who Hate America,” (November 12, 2002) and “Terrorist Profs,” (February 24, 2003). Such uncontrolled rodomontade exceeds anything from any of those listed on Cinnamon’s latest list.”

Campus Watch does not directly refute any of my facts or sources. It does not produce any evidence that would merit a correction. Therefore, I believe Campus Watch’s stunning denial of “attacking professors who criticise Israel…or critics of American policy in the Middle East” is risible. Does Daniel Pipes himself deny that Campus Watch is unabashedly “pro-Israel” and that it does not attack or criticise academicians who critique Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians? Does Daniel Pipes himself claim that his organisation does not feel threatened by academicians who construe US policy as biased and contrary to the national interest in its failure to protect the innocent and be an honest broker in the region?

Campus Watch is entitled to its ideology, its passion and its position on the issues. Yet when it crosses the line in demonising and derivatively attempting to influence the academic due process of review and assessment particularly in Middle East Studies programmes, then it should be vigorously denounced and challenged. If it were to issue even a one-sentence apology for its blacklists and efforts to marginalise professors, it would enhance its credibility in its efforts to “set the record straight” and offer “corrections” to its many critics.

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