Saturday, July 16, 2005

Weekly Jackass Number Thirty-Five: Juan Cole

Juan Cole, if you are unfamiliar with his work, is a History Professor at the University of Michigan, and a blogger for many years at Informed Comment. His specialty is the Middle East, and he's a harsh critic of the Bush Administration's policy in that regard. Nothing wrong with any of that, including criticism of the Bush Administration. Of course, there's more to Cole than those few sentences convey.

Cole is not as bad as a Chomsky; for example, in a recent post, you'll find this sentence:
It is alarming that although Osama Bin Laden's popularity has fallen dramatically in most Muslim countries, according to a recent Pew poll, 51 percent of Pakistanis at least some of the time place some confidence in him to affect world affairs.
It's inconceivable that those words would ever issue from the pen of Noam. Cole's problems are of a different sort. Join me, please, as we journey into the fabulous world of Professor Juan Cole.
  • Cole, the hypocrite: In the heady, long-gone days of November, 2004, in the infancy of the very blog you are reading, Cole made a huge stink over a lawsuit against him by the excellent organization MEMRI, after he made a series of absurd allegations concerning its funding and connections. Certainly, Cole was right to be alarmed; anyone who isn't concerned when threatened with a lawsuit is living in fantasyland. Cole's indignation, though, would have been a lot more credible if he wasn't so quick to trot out the same tactic himself (don't sue me, Juan!), threatening legal action against Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes for the offense of (gasp!) linking to his work.

  • Cole, the self-inflated, paranoid, pompous wannabe spy: Cole seems to have a very active imagination, and frequently speaks of a world straight out of James Bond, with statements like this:
    It has come to my attention that your organization, Middle East Forum, is maintaining a Web site with "dossiers" on me. Further, that you have publically called upon others to monitor my speech and actions on a constant basis and to provide to your internet Web site reports on me, which you intend to post.
    and this:
    ...the wonderful folks over at Daily Kos, to whom I am most grateful for defending me, should please do up an oppo research diary on Martin Kramer. Who is he? Where did he come from? When he was head of the Dayan Center in Tel Aviv, to whom did he report in the Israeli intelligence community? Who funded his work on Hizbullah? Was he fired from heading the Dayan Center? How does he suddenly show back up in the US after a 20-year absence with a book that blames unpreparedness for 9/11 on US professors of Middle East Studies instead of on the Israeli Mossad and the US CIA/ FBI? What was his role in getting up the Iraq War and in advising the US on the wrong-headed policies that have gotten so many Americans killed? Who pays his salary, now, exactly? What are his links with AIPAC, and with the shadowy world of far-right Zionist think tanks and dummy organizations?
    being far too typical. Q: How many Juan Coles does it take to screw in a lightbulb? A: Just one...he holds the lightbulb and the universe revolves around him.

  • Cole, the world's worst pundit: Part of punditry, of course, is making predictions, and you would be hard pressed to find a pundit with a worse record in that regard than Cole. Here's Cole on the Iraqi elections:
    It seems highly likely that the Iraqi elections scheduled for January 2005 will be postponed for a good long time, allowing caretaker Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to consolidate his power.
    Wrong! Here's Cole on the will of the Lebanese people:
    Bush administration spokesmen keep talking about Syrian withdrawal being the demand of the "Lebanese people." But 40% of the Lebanese are Shiites, and 15% are probably Sunnis, and it may well be that a majority of Lebanese want to keep at least some Syrian troops around.
    Wrong again! I could do this all day, but here's one last bad call, on the subject of the London terror attacks:

    First, we still have no idea who did this. It is very likely the "Qaeda al-Jihad in Europe" group that claimed responsibility immediately. Their statement appeared very quickly after the bombings and yet had none of the appearance of being rushed. That suggests it was carefully composed before the fact. The rumors that the statement has errors in the Arabic or the Quran citation are absolutely incorrect ...

    The statement was probably not written by a second-generation Arab Briton or even by a long-term, integrated Arab Briton resident.

    So, if the statement is a guide to the identity of the attackers, this bombing could not have emanated from the British Muslim community.

    Wrong, wrong...WRONG!

  • Cole, the historical 'revisionist': The most damning indictment of Cole, though, and the real reason he is this week's Jackass, is his bad habit of playing fast and loose with the facts. Cole likes to try to cover up his tracks when he is wrong (admittedly, a full-time job), seeming to forget that when you post something on the Internet, people may actually read it and remember what you said. This habit came to light recently when Cole made the incredible assertion that 9/11 was partially a response to the non-existent 'massacre' at Jenin, an Israeli military operation that took place in April, 2002.

  • That's a huge error for a History Professor specializing in the Middle East, and it's quite revealing of Cole's mindset re: Israel. When Cole was caught in this outrageous error, he tried to cover it up by changing the post. When he got caught at that, he put up the following obviously false explanation:
I post late at night and sometimes am sleepy and make mistakes. My readers are my editors and correct me. If the corrections come the same morning, I make them directly to the text, as a "second edition." If the posting has been up a few days, I put a footnote when making a correction. That is, I consider the text correctable for the first day or so. That is my editorial policy. Like it or lump it. If someone wants to accuse me of occasionally making minor errors, then sure. I occasionally make minor errors. This is a one-person dog and pony show, with no fact checkers, editors or very much in the way of compensation. That is why I can say like it or lump it.
Of course, 99.99% of bloggers do it all themselves, and we all know that when you change something substantive, that is, something that affects the meaning of a previous post, you put in an update or correction, but you leave the original text as is. That's just the way the game is played. Correcting punctuation is one thing; erasing bad errors in an attempt to cover them up is another thing altogether. Dishonesty, I believe the word is.

Cole wasn't through yet; when his new 'editorial policy' was widely ridiculed, he deleted that, as well. If you go to his site now, this is what you see. No Jenin slip-up, no ludicrous excuses...just perfect ol' Juan Cole! Fortunately, there are people like the invaluable Martin Kramer to at least try to keep Cole honest.

It is this blatant bit of 'correcting the historical record', so inexcusable coming from a professional historian, that has earned Professor Cole the 35th Weekly Jackass award. Long may you bray...

UPDATE 8:58 p.m. central: For more on Cole's latest shennanigans, see this excellent post at Winds of Change...

UPDATE 2 10:18 p.m. central: On the other hand, if the professor thing doesn't work out for Juan, he could always get a job at the L.A. Times (hat tip to Michelle Malkin)...

UPDATE 3 07/17/05 10:59 a.m. central: Thanks also to AcademicElephant for the link...

UPDATE 4 07/18/05 8:42 p.m. central: And a big thank you to Jon Henke - if you're not checking out his site, you should be ...

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