Across the Bay

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Lies of a Hackademic

Remember this old fiasco when Michael Young exposed this lying hackademic for claiming, without a shred of evidence, that Syrian dissident Michel Kilo traveled secretly to Morocco in to meet with the head of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood?

Well, here's what happened since then. The author whose article the regime's court jester deliberately misrepresented, wrote a letter of complaint to the editors of the journal where the article appeared. In it, the author, Andrew Tabler, disclosed the following information. I'm highlighting the crucial points, which you should keep in mind as we proceed further:

In the Winter 2006-07 edition of The Washington Quarterly, Joshua Landis and Joe Pace wrote in the article “The Syrian Opposition” that in February 2005 the then-arrested and now-imprisoned Syrian civil society activist Michel Kilo met with Syrian Muslim Brotherhood Chief Ali Sadreddin al-Bayanouni in Morocco and Europe. The authors attributed the meeting to my March 2006 report on the Syrian opposition entitled “Democracy to the Rescue” for the Institute of Current World Affairs.

However, my article only cited that “two unnamed members of the Syrian Committee for the Revival of Civil Society” flew to Morocco to meet Bayanouni. In a subsequent email exchange with Landis following Kilo’s arrest by the Syrian authorities in May 2006 for his work with the opposition, I did not confirm Kilo’s alleged meeting with Bayanouni.

This is a sensitive subject in Syria. Membership in the Muslim Brotherhood is punishable by death under Syrian law, and association of Syrians with the organization is strictly prohibited. To my knowledge, no other journalist or researcher has confirmed the alleged meeting.

During subsequent email correspondences on the matter, Landis said he made the allegation based on an interview with an anonymous source. Landis claims a line reading “interview with anonymous” in the footnote citing my article was removed by TWQ editors prior to publication.

I do not claim Landis’ accusation directly led to Kilo’s conviction, but given the fact that he was in state custody at the time, the sensitivity of the matter is obvious. Following his arrest, Kilo was charged with “provoking religious and racial dissent, insulting official institutions, weakening national sentiment, damaging the image of the state and exposing Syria to the danger of aggression.”

On May 13, 2007, Kilo was sentenced to three years imprisonment on charges of “weakening national sentiment.”

I request a clarification on this matter in the pages of your respected journal.

Let's recap quickly:

* Tabler never mentioned Kilo in his article which was referenced by Landis -- the only reference provided by Landis for his claim.

* Tabler was unable to confirm in any credible fashion, from anyone in Syria, that Kilo met with Bayanouni in Morocco.

* When asked by Landis in an email correspondence, Tabler never confirmed the claim.

* When exposed by Young, Landis after lying the first couple of times, trying to pin the blame on Tabler, proceeded to blame the editor of The Washington Quarterly for allegedly removing an additional item in his footnote that claimed Landis got the information not from Tabler, but from another "anonymous" source.

* Despite all this, and this is important, neither Tabler nor Young claimed that Landis' article was directly responsible for, or in anyway led to Kilo's arrest. You can revisit what Young actually said here and here. All Young said was that publishing that kind of claim while Kilo was in detention, and without any documentary corroboration, was risky for Kilo, as Tabler noted. Landis knew that, which is why he invented an "anonymous source" to justify himself.

Now, Landis' shoddy article was translated into Arabic, but the controversial claim about Kilo was reproduced in full, in Arabic, despite all the clear evidence that this claim rests on a dishonest and false basis.

When confronted by a reader on his blog, Landis pulled an OJ and stuck to his lie: "Michael Young," he told the reader, "didn't expose me. He is just wrong."

Michael Young once again interfered to correct the lying professor/flack, I again highlight an important point:

Joshua,

I am surprised to hear you say that I am wrong about Kilo. That’s because, as you very well know, Andrew Tabler will be publishing a letter in the Autumn issue of The Washington Quarterly in which he highlights the fact that you mis-cited him in your footnote as the source for Michel Kilo’s alleged trip to Morocco to meet Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni; he also stresses that “given the fact that [Kilo] was in state custody at the time, the sensitivity of the matter [namely your stating that Kilo was the person who met Bayanouni, when you provided no evidence for this allegation] is obvious.”

I am also surprised, because in an email you sent to me you said that The Washington Quarterly had removed from your footnote reference to an “anonymous” source as your source of information for Kilo’s visit with Bayanouni. In other words, your excuse was that TWQ was to blame because the magazine had deleted any reference to this “anonymous” source, making it seem as if Tabler was the source. I don’t believe you. In fact, as you also know, the editor of The Washington Quarterly will be writing in the Autumn issue of TWQ that “neither the original submitted draft nor the revised draft contained a reference to an anonymous interview in the specific endnote.”

Finally, I am surprised because in the Elaph Arabic translation of your article you failed to correct the error in your original English-language piece about Kilo. There is no effort to clarify there from where you got the information about Kilo’s alleged trip to Morocco. After our initial disagreement, the least you could have done is clarify the issue for readers, instead of making the situation worse for Kilo by restating your questionable argument in Arabic.

As for your analysis of Lebanese politics and the motives behind Suleiman’s statements, my only real comment there is that your reading of Lebanese politics is as superficial and tendentious as your reading of Syrian politics.

Let's recap again:

* When exposed repeatedly -- after lying repeatedly -- Landis came up with another lie: it was the editors of TWQ who were to blame for removing an item from the footnote that would've clarified everything.

* The editor of TWQ denied there ever being such an item in the footnote, in any version of the article. Landis, therefore, lied repeatedly and compulsively.

Faced with this what does this tool of the regime do? He lies yet again, this time pinning the blame back on Tabler, rehashing the earlier pathetically obvious lies he had made when Young initially exposed him. This is what he wrote back to TWQ, the journal he had blamed for messing with his article -- another lie, as the editor of the Quarterly revealed:

Dear Dr. Lennon,

The publication of Joe Pace’s and my article on the Syrian opposition in the Winter 2006-07 issue of The Washington Quarterly has stirred up a controversy, focusing on whether Michel Kilo, one of the central architects of the secular Syrian opposition, traveled to Morocco in February 2005 to meet with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in an effort to unify Syria’s splintered opposition and agree on the principles of what became the October 2005 Damascus Declaration, as we wrote.

When I was preparing to write this article, I emailed Andrew Tabler for confirmation of Kilo’s role as a key architect of the Damascus Declaration. Andrew had already written a fine article on the opposition, describing the Morocco trip without saying who had gone on it. Andrew replied that “According to several people I interviewed, Kilo was the guy who went to Morocco and met with Bayanouni in [February] 2005.” Ali Sadreddin Bayanouni is the head of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

I was grateful to get what I believed to be this confirmation of Kilo’s central role from Andrew and to find out that “several” activists he had interviewed had told him “Kilo was the guy who went to Morocco.” I replied to Andrew to ask how I might credit him for his help and if he would co-author. He wrote back: “just give me some kind of special credit in the footnotes. That would be enough for me.” I understood this as confirmation that Kilo went to Morocco and that I could use it in my article if I credited Andrew. I cited his published article, but did not mention our email exchange. I should have.

I am aware of no one who denies that Kilo went to Morocco; but beyond the controversy about whether he did or about footnotes, in my mind, is a separate question: whether I should have written what I did as the Syrian government was cracking down on the opposition. The following is my rationale:

First, the Syrian authorities already knew who had traveled to Morocco long before our article was published. They had Kilo and other leading activists under investigation, had their passports, and would simply have had to look to see who had Morocco stamps in them. Second, Michel Kilo did not try to hide his role as one of the central architects of the Damascus Declaration or subsequent declarations. Like most other brave reformers, he tried to get as much coverage for the opposition as he could to build public consciousness and pressure on the government.

I believe that it is better to raise public awareness of his central role in trying to knit together a viable Syrian opposition at great risk to his freedom. Not only do I believe it corresponds more closely to Kilo’s own efforts, but I also believe that only public pressure is likely to gain his release from jail.

Joshua Landis
Damascus, Syria
July 21,2007

Let's break down this pathetic pile of lies, dishonesty, red herrings, and slimy nonsense.

Now that blaming TWQ didn't work, Landis fell back on his original plan: blame Tabler. So what Landis wants to show now, through the typical use of irrelevant red herrings, is that Tabler did confirm to him that Kilo met with Bayanouni. Be careful not to slip, as the levels of slime are quite elevated:

* "I emailed Andrew Tabler for confirmation of Kilo’s role as a key architect of the Damascus Declaration."

Of course, as I noted from the beginning, the issue is not whether Kilo was a key architect of the DD. That's an irrelevant red herring, Landis' typical dishonest modus operandi. But the key word is "confirmation" from Tabler -- which Tabler in his letter (see above) says he never gave.

Tabler said in the email that he heard from "several people" (in fact, when I picked this up, it turned out that it was basically a couple of persons, both of whom questionable, as Tabler himself told me) that it was Kilo who went to Morocco to meet Bayanouni.

But here's where the dishonesty lies. Tabler got this information but never included it in his article because he didn't find it credible.

* Landis interpreted Tabler's email as he pleased, didn't substantiate the claim or verify it in any way that could remotely be called "scholarly" (only highlighting Young's charge that Landis is a slap-dash academic), and didn't even ask Tabler if this is what he actually meant, or why he didn't include this in his article. This may be another reason why he invented the "anonymous source" story later on (a complete lie) as he knew that Tabler's email alone wasn't enough. In other words, it was dishonest to say the least (and I think it's more).

* Landis (careful, slime alert) then makes it seem in his letter that Tabler asked him to credit him on a claim that Tabler never made, which was completely and exclusively in Landis' head in a footnote by only citing his article! The slime and dishonesty involved here are the stuff of legend. Landis is now saying 1- Tabler did confirm it (Tabler did not), and 2- Tabler asked him to only cite his article, which did not make the claim (because Tabler found it not credible)! I.e., in terms of a lying 8-year old trying to cover his behind: "Andrew made me do it! Andrew told me to do it!"

Of course, this only means that Landis has just admitted that he had lied about there being an additional item in the footnote that TWQ allegedly removed. He made it all up, got rebuffed by the editor, so he fell back on Tabler, and the new spin now is that it was Tabler who asked him to only cite his article! I guess the "anonymous" source that allegedly confirmed it to Landis, as he initially claimed in his first lie (or was it second? I lost count), simply "died" (you know, like Hariri). The level, and the pathological nature, of the lies is astounding.

* What is Landis' lame excuse? He should've mentioned the email! But that too is a dishonest, slimy red herring, like everything Landis says. His initial excuse was that he had independent confirmation from an additional "anonymous" source -- not Tabler -- and that TWQ removed it from the footnote! Secondly, Tabler's email did not confirm anything, and Tabler himself did not include any of that material in his own article precisely because it was hardly a confirmation.

* Confirmation, as I said earlier, is the key word. Landis knows this, and since he's deliberately constructing an elaborate (albeit pathetically obvious) lie, he is consciously using Orwellian language (as he always does) to evade the issue. So he turns the matter around: "I am aware of no one who denies that Kilo went to Morocco." (Emphasis mine.)

The slime is overpowering. What began as a matter of "confirmation" becomes a matter of lack of "denial"! In order to cover his shoddy, lazy, dishonest, and frankly sinister behavior, he now tells us that what's important is not getting confirmation from anyone, but not getting a denial to a question that was never posed to anyone of relevance, because if it were, then all Landis had to do was quote that, as opposed to lying about Tabler and inventing a fictitious "anonymous" source and then blame TWQ for deleting it!

The modality of the sentence is remarkable. A researcher's job is to get confirmation for specific claims! The question is not whether Landis is or is not aware of anyone who denies the claim. It's whether he is aware of anyone, and I mean anyone, who confirms it. The answer, as obvious from the elaborate construct of lies, is no.

The dishonesty in Landis' behavior, from how he dealt with Tabler's email to his twisting of the rationale of confirmation, is unmatched. The guy is a congenital liar.

Andrew Tabler himself commented on this:

My article and emails on this matter hardly contain enough evidence on which to base such an accusation. To my knowledge, no journalist or researcher in any language confirms the rumor. I could not confirm it either – and therefore have never stated such a claim as fact.

Tabler also spots the screaming lie in Landis' lame letter:

What happened to the “interview with anonymous” Landis cited in his response to Michael Young on this issue last spring (which Landis cc’ed to me at the time) is anyone’s guess. But the interview certainly wasn’t with me. Perhaps it was the genie in the lamp?

Finally, Landis revisits two of his dishonest red herrings which he had thrown out in his first lie, which I had deconstructed here.

This court jester of the Syrian regime has a pathological problem: he cannot stop lying.

He did a hatchet job against a Syrian dissident now languishing in jail. He got caught, shown that his scholarship is shoddy, dishonest and sinister. So what does he do? He lies. He gets caught again lying, and what does he do then? Stick to the lie and just keep lying.