Across the Bay

Sunday, September 18, 2005

That Good Ol' Expertise

Johnny Cole and the Angry Hair, the shiny face of ME studies in America, boulevardier and revolucionario extraordinaire, respectively, are tearing into Christopher Hitchens for daring to take a swipe at Cole during his debate with swamp-thing George Galloway the other day. Hitchens called Cole "egregious" and, while he should've said that Cole has never set foot in Iraq, he said that he hasn't set foot "in the region."

Cue Johnny Cole! In all his silly intellectual insecurity, Cole actually wrote a lengthy post reassuring his readers that he spoke Urdu at home, and that he's been rather close to Iraq, especially 25-30 years ago, although never actually set foot in the place. And while never actually writing anything on modern Iraq per se, the fact that he studied Shiism and hung out with "mainly Muslim" Indians (sic) and Iraqi expats in Dearborn, and had two chapters in his dissertation that touched on Iraq's history, and that he's been to Jordan, Egypt, and fishing for souls to convert to Bahaism in Lebanon 30 years ago (which is why when he wrote about Lebanon he sounded like an anachronistic buffoon with the most superficial knowledge and understanding of the place), made him more qualified to talk about present day Iraq (and Lebanon, and Israel, and Eminem, and the World Bank...).

Of course, Cole didn't realize that all he did was highlight not just his insecurity, and the fact that he is self-conscious about this, but also by listing how he's been everywhere but Iraq, he only accentuated the fact!

Anyway, I don't really care about Johnny and his insecurities (but again, without the languages, what else has he got!? I mean don't steal that away from him, he'll fall apart! He's got nothin' else!). But he made a reference today to the Angry Hair, "a real Middle East expert," because the Hair went to bat for him against Hitchens. Of course, as is common practice with these types, Hitchens is attacked for "posing" as a Middle East expert (something that must've escaped me! In fact, I'd say, based on the above, Cole is the one doing the posing as an Iraq expert, and is at pains to explain how and why!), and to prove it, the Hair points out that Hitchens said that the father of the head of the Lebanese Communist party was murdered by Syria (the reference I think was to George Hawi). Yes, I guess that's just as bad as saying that 9/11 was caused by the IDF's operation in Jenin! But note that the Hair never actually says what he thinks the mistake was: that Hawi's son is not the head of the party, or that Hawi wasn't killed by Syria! The other grave mistake is calling Saadeddine Ibrahim a "leader of the democracy movement in Egypt." Woooo, good one! That definitely beats Cole's brilliant etymology of the word "Levant": "The abrupt rise of the land from the sea to the mountains is what led the French to refer to it as the Levant (i.e., "the rising (land)." Well, I mean let's not go crazy, he only speaks Urdu at home, not French. He never claimed that his French "ma fi kasr."

But these two pillars of expertise never mentioned any mistake by Galloway! Of course not! I mean with Galloway calling Cole "more cerebral" than Hitchens and all! But I think it's rather telling that neither Cole nor (especially) the Hair noted Galloway's theory of why Lebanon is not really democratic, and why only a Maronite can be President (he never says anything about how only a Sunni can be Prime Minister, and how that is the most powerful office in the land, not the presidency). According to Galloway, it's because the Marines landed in 1958 and imposed that constitution on the Lebanese! That's right! I guess during the 15 years before that (and the earlier versions of that system), since Lebanon's independence, Muslims ran for President and Maronites ran for Prime Minister, until those damned Marines imposed that awful constitution on us! (Helena Cobban's version was that the French imposed it on us! Pick your colonial power of choice!)

The thing is, they probably agree with him! Not in that the Marines imposed it, but that the system is a colonial invention and imposition. So, he's in the ball park! I mean, As'ad most certainly agrees with the other stupidity uttered by Galloway on Lebanon, that the Christians are only 20% of the population. I mean, if you use Angry Hair numbers, the Shi'a are "at least 55%" of the population! Hell, the Christians would be lucky to make up 15%! That's real expertise! In fact, you can witness As'ad's expertise in his review of a book that refutes such figures as pure fancy. As'ad displayed his expertise and integrity by basically making up stuff and attributing them to the author in order for him to be able to bash him! Upon not a necessarily close or careful reading of the book in question, one clearly sees that the Hair makes up stuff as he goes along. Unlike Cole however, he doesn't go back and quietly delete them the next day so as to avoid embarrassment (like he did with the definition of "Levant" above). Now that's expertise!

That's why it was rather rich to see Cole calling Hitchens "nasty and dishonest!" Yes, it's horrible of Hitchens to attempt to discredit and smear Iraqi bloggers as "CIA agents," and calling for oppo-research on people, then deleting the post the next day. How about calling the war in Iraq a "noble enterprise" that's "worth all the sacrifices about to be made on all sides" then denying that you ever supported the war? Perhaps we should go with his justification of Steven Vincent's brutal murder by thugs in Iraq? Yes, those are quite nasty and dishonest things, Hitch! Oh wait... that wasn't Hitchens! That was none other than Juanito! OK, let's go with his claim about Sistani and his book Sacred Space and Holy War. Hold on... where exactly is Sistani mentioned in that book!? As for As'ad, dishonesty is his middle name, as you can see from that review in the link above, and countless other incidents on his silly blog.

Yep... nothing better than dishonest polemics masquerading as expertise in order to silence ideological opponents. MESA at its best, as represented by its President and its jester.

Update: Martin Kramer sets the record straight on Cole and Sistani.