Racial McCarthyism on the Right
The petition I set up to defend John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt from scurrilous charges of anti-Semitism (which is to say, racism) for daring write an academic paper on the Israel lobby, is percolating along, accumulating signatures from post-secondary teachers, as I had hoped. Academics from all over the country are signing, from all sorts of institutions, and it is a pleasure to see so many standing up for the principle of freedom of rational inquiry. (Of course people from all walks of life are doing so, and I’m only asking academics to sign because I think this issue affects them in their workplace and in their professional lives in a special sort of way).
But, I hope I won’t seem overly importunate if I complain that the petition has largely (not completely) been ignored by academic bloggers. At least, I can’t find much reference to it at technorati.com. Why? Isn’t this the first time a section of the academic community has come as petitioners to the Conference of the Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations? It really is important that we academics begin speaking to CPMAJO. For one thing, the latter is part of an extremely powerful lobby that weighs in on issues in higher education in Congress. Most of its constituents supported HR 3077, for instance, which was the most important attempt by Congress to impose censorship on American universities in decades. (It is now being reincarnated in this Congress).
One of the characteristics of a taboo is that it produces awkward silences, and the silences themselves have the effect of reinforcing the taboo.
Of course, the first petition site I set up was overwhelmed by sabotage from the Right (and, yes, that is indisputable). It is an index of the problem, that we just are not allowed to have a reasoned discussion of the Palestine question in the United States. You are met either with thunderous denunciations, character assassination, and frankly dirty tricks, or at best stony silence if you dare bring it up. The new petition is still being attacked by saboteurs from time to time, but this site has more convenient and flexible software for foiling them. And in their vicious and bullying way, they are underlining the real terms of the debate here. Just asking that political scientists not be smeared as racists when they aren’t, and that we join to vigilantly fight the real anti-Semitism, is being compared by these intellectual thugs to Nazism or Bin Ladenism. Do they think they are making any friends, or helping their cause this way? They just sound like the annoying nerdy guy with zits in high school who called you a fascist whenever you disagreed with one of his crazy ideas.
Personally, I don’t cotton to unreasonable taboos. Especially on an issue that deeply affects American national security, and where being unable to discuss it coolly endangers our security.
So, I’m asking academics not only to sign the petition, but also to at least do a squib at their blogs. I don’t care whether you agree or not. But this issue is not unimportant. Is it really all right for respected academics to just be smeared and crushed for their professional writing?
The larger issue of reverse race-baiting or “racial McCarthyism” has drawn the complaints of conservatives, whether justifiably or not. I believe that Mearsheimer and Walt have been given the royal “racial McCarthyism” treatment, of a sort that if it involved other races would have David Horowitz apoplectic (O.K., he’s always apoplectic). That is, although it is mostly conservatives who complain about this phenomenon, here you have conservatives engaging in it themselves.
It isn’t interesting enough even to discuss or link?
Or maybe everyone is afraid of the Taboo?