The GoogleSmear as Political Tactic
The Google search has become so popular that prospective couples planning a date will google one another. Mark Levine, a historian at the University of California Irvine, tells the story of how a radio talk show host called him a liar because he referred to an incident that the host could not find on google. That is, if it isn’t in google, it didn’t happen. (Levine was able to retrieve the incident from Lexis Nexis, a restricted database).
It seems to me that David Horowitz and some far rightwing friends of his have hit upon a new way of discrediting a political opponent, which is the GoogleSmear. It is an easy maneuver for someone like Horowitz, who has extremely wealthy backers, to set up a web magazine that has a high profile and is indexed in google news. Then he just commissions persons to write up lies about people like me (leavened with innuendo and out-of-context quotes). Anyone googling me will likely come upon the smear profiles, and they can be passed around to journalists and politicians as though they were actual information.
Recently Steven Plaut of the University of Haifa, an Israeli defender of the terrorist groups around the late extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, was commissioned by Horowitz (and probably others of that circle) to do yet another hatchet job on me, the second in just a few months. I replied to the earlier smear at my blog.
Plaut cited the earlier hatchet jobs and rightwing bloggers as authorities. (One defamation now becomes a “citation” for the next one!)
The GoogleSmear references a body of falsehoods. It creates a nexus of links that increase the chance that the calumny will come to the top of a google search.
Many thanks to Matthew Barganier for pointing out that Plaut just made up allegations against me, of having published an op-ed in the New York Times in which I am supposed to have praised the Syrian elections (?) and spoken against democracy. He must have been imbibing something illegal when he came up with that complete fantasy. Although Plaut at length removed the falsehoods from the page when repeatedly challenged, he did not apologize or issue a formal correction. Moreover, he posted the false allegation to a bulletin board under an assumed name (just to be sure that future GoogleSmears can reference the now-missing paragraph, elsewhere on the Web).
The GoogleSmear depends on subtle changes of wording that make the individual sound like an idiot. For instance, in one column, I wrote that “much of the Arab world has a formal peace treaty with Israel.” Egyptians constitute about a third of the Arabs, and with Jordan account for some 75 million persons. Over a third of the Arab population would be “much”, and the statement is perfectly correct. Moreover, the whole Arab League offered Israel a comprehensive peace only 2 years ago, which doesn’t sound like they want to destroy Israel, as the Zionist Right keeps alleging. Anyway, in the GoogleSmear version, it is implied that I said that a “majority” of Arab “states” have a peace treaty with Israel, which is not true (though the way things are going, it may soon be. Oman, Qatar and others are threatening to break from the Arab League consensus, as Egypt and Jordan have already done).
The Zionist far right is also upset that I pointed out that Palestinian and Hizbullah terrorism had its roots in Israeli military occupation of other people’s land. They argue that this thesis is invalidated by the military occupations that have not produced terrorism, as with Tibet in China.
But in fact the Chinese occupation of Xinjiang has produced some small terrorist movements. And the Chinese government certainly saw the Kampa revolt of 1959 to be a terrorist action. There are intervening variables in these matters, in any case. For instance, the Tibetan population was not socially mobilized (had low levels of literacy, urbanization, industrialization, modern communications, etc.), which reduced its organizational capacity.
Another stupid thing in Plaut’s GoogleSmear (there are so many) is a typical 189 Fallacy argument. The Zionist Right maintains that you can’t criticize Israeli violations of basic human rights and international law until you first criticize all the other 188 countries in the world. Plaut’s variation is to bring up the Sudan. (There are lots of massacres, deaths and tragedies in the world that I don’t have time to cover in my little blog; indeed, Iraq most often exhausts my time and energies all by itself.) As with the Zionist Right generally, he makes the mistake of racializing the Sudan problems, using anti-Semitic language accusing “Arabs” of killing thousands of “black Africans.”
But the “Arabs” of the Sudan are black (some are brown or lighter shades of black, but not by any means all, and anyway so are e.g. Eritreans just to the south). The Sudanese “Arabs” just speak Arabic or identify with the Arabs. It isn’t a matter of US-style race, which is based on color. Moreover, the people of Darfur are Muslims and many know Arabic. So the massacres in Darfur are not about “Arabs” versus “black Africans.” They are between two groups of Muslim black Africans.
I defy anyone to tell me which is the “black African” and which the “Arab” Janjawid in these pictures.
The rightwing Zionists want to racialize the Sudan conflict in American terms, as “Arab” versus “black African” because they want to use it to play American domestic politics, and create a rift among African-Americans and Arab-Americans. Both of the latter face massive discrimination in contemporary society, and they should find ways of cooperating to counter it. What is happening in Darfur is horrible with regard to the loss of life and the displacement of persons, but the dispute is not about race. It is about political separatism and regionalism.
I am well aware that the GoogleSmear and other techniques of propaganda may well succeed. Horowitz and his minions are funded to the tune of millions, and I am just one lone individual. And, maybe it is even dangerous to tangle with someone who admires Kahane and his followers.
But as of September 11, I’m not going to stand by and let extremists of any stripe drag my country into danger, as the Likud Party is doing. Silence is not an option.