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February 08, 2005


nur al-cubicle

Looking back at the McCarthy era, people who thought it was ungentlemenly to refute spurious suine accusations and remain above the sty got covered in mud just the same.

nur al-cubicle

ah, sluuurp, coffee! ungentlemenly? ungentlemanly!

the aardvark

Well, you may be right. Juan might be too prominent to let it slide, and he's probably getting a bit fed up with being incessantly attacked by people who seem a bit overly obsessed with him. Here, he certainly gets the better of the exchange, but to what end? Goldberg continues to be a buffoon, but he'll claim victory and his echo chamber and the Cole-bashing brigade will agree with him. Meanwhile, Cole has now spent valuable minutes/hours thinking and writing about it.

Plus, it reminds me of the end of a Season 4 classic Buffy, the haunted house episode:

The floor rumbles as they all stare in horror. We get a close up of Gachnar, and he's one ugly dude. Gachnar looks up and the camera pulls back to reveal that he is tiny, maybe a half a foot tall, if that.
Buffy: This is Gachnar?
Xander: Big overture. Little show.
Gachnar: I am the dark lord of nightmares! (Buffy tries not to laugh) The bringer of terror! Tremble before me. Fear me!
Willow laughing: He - he's so cute!
Gachnar: Tremble!
Xander bends down: Who's a little fear demon? Come on! Who's a little fear demon!
Giles: Don't taunt the fear demon.
Xander: Why, can he hurt me?
Giles: No, it's just - tacky.

End quote. I'm taking the Giles position. Sure, Cole can defeat Jonah Goldberg in rhetorical combat... but at the end of the day, it's just all kind of... tacky.

the aardvark

Of course, judging by how many people are linking to the exchange, I seem to be in the minority in finding it a waste of time. And heck, here I am spending time on it too - what a hypocrite!

Leila Abu-Saba

I linked, and I also linked to Cole's answer to Daniel Pipes' charge that he's an anti-Semite.

The right is gunning for informed professors. They don't like people who may be Arab-lovers. Abu-Aardvark, you could be next, you know. You have a suspiciously deep knowledge of Arabic, and you're so sympathetic to Arabs, Al-Jazeera and Muslims that you even got nominated for a Muslim Blog award. You may have tenure but you're just a young whippersnapper. What would you do if folks started agitating on campus that you're an anti-Semite, a terrorist sympathizer, and an apologist for America's enemies? Do you have the political power at your college to fend off a concentrated, worldwide assault on your integrity?

I don't think this exchange has been a waste of Cole's time. The McCarthyite wingnuts have their pitchforks at the ready, and they are gunning for people like Juan Cole. You're not in the line of attack at the moment, maybe, but you keep doing what you're doing and you might be next (God forbid, as we Semites say). If that time comes (and I hope it doesn't) I will be signing petitions etc. You can bet Juan Cole will be doing a lot more than that on your behalf.

Yes, in the end, it's all a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing, and yes we should all get back to work, but I am glad Cole is making a point of this. It's more than just a catfight with an uninformed commenter, it's about the nature of discourse in this country. It's a freaking national security issue - morons like Goldberg helped propel us into this disastrous war. Nobody in the mainstream media is calling them to account. If Cole doesn't, who will?

the aardvark

Leila, I agree with you up to a point. That's why I supported Juan Cole very, very publicly in his dispute with MEMRI a few months ago. And you may be right that there's some value in taking the offensive and not allow the Jonah Goldbergs of the world to get away with setting the agenda. And last of all, your comment about the witch-hunt is very well taken.

But Jonah Goldberg - a clown who nobody really takes very seriously - seems like a bad fight to pick. Unlike what's going on at Columbia, or MEMRI's lawsuit threat (whatever happened to that, anyway?), there was no real threat or, for that matter, significance, to Goldberg's remarks. That's the point of the "pig" joke: no matter how well Juan argues his case, he is still getting down to that level and comes away looking smaller.

But once again, I seem to be in a distinct minority on this one. Everyone loves a good cat fight, I suppose.


now you're mixing metaphors, is it a pig fight or a cat fight?

actually, i think this controversy is both great fun as a spectator sport and almost productive. when you argue with a buffoon like goldberg, they inevitably say stupid things (like goldberg's reasons for not personally volunteering to fight in iraq). he may never be discredited in the eyes of the hard-core wingers, but they are not the only people in the audience

John Emerson

The problem is that CNN apparently takes Goldberg seriously, and so do the several million voters who watch CNN. Jonah also has more access to the movers and shakers than Cole does. I'm sure that mid-level policy-makers read Cole, but I wouldn't be surprised if Bush or Cheney occasionally sees a Goldberg clipping.

The futility I see isn't the waste of Cole's time, but the fact that even though he won the argument, nothing will change because Goldberg has the soapbox.


The fact that Goldberg appears on CNN says more about CNN that it says about Cole.


There seems to be only one solution. Drop Cole and Goldberg in Fallujah and see which one makes it to Baghdad alive.

nur al-cubicle

What Difda doesn't seem to understand that the issue is not just public troll vs. public academic. It's that troll gets in the national media regularly (viz. John Emerson's "soapbox" above) and is thus "distinguished" as part of the Wurlizter of Defamation of US Intellectuals and Depredation upon the Public. And Goldberg is not trying to refute one of Cole's arguments. By implication, he's "iterating"...by attacking the professor's tenure at UMich and his scholarship. Such a weapon was used regularly during the McCarthy years. Some of the worst offenders in the '50s were local newspapers, who'd publish letters from Anonymous attacking some poor academic as the first step towards takedown. "So prove to the public you're not a commie", they'd say.

Yes, I agree Goldberg is a clown, but so was Mussolini. But what to do? Beg your pardon, but it's beyond a petty catfight. My biggest academic hero was the rector of the University of Padua during Italy's fascist 40's. At Commencement, he delivered a red-hot invective against the crimes of Mussolini and the Grand Council. After the speech was over while the audience was still reeling, he put on his hat and coat, walked out and joined the Resistance.


"... and the pig likes it."

I'd say it looks like the entire menagerie isn't having too bad a time.

The Liberal Avenger

I thought that the quotes Goldberg referred to in his latest article that made it look like Cole had been calling for war were particularly disingenuous. Naturally, tracking the quotes down and reading them in context tells a far different story than when they appear as part of Goldberg's anti-Cole screed.

That Cole's rhetoric on Iraq has shifted slowly as events on the ground have changed over time should lend credence to his status as an expert in the field. Cole didn't leave the gate "hating freedom."

Brad {;i,er

Great quote! Though the version I've always heard runs something like: "Never argue with an idiot. They'll drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience." Not quite as metaphorical, but a bit more precise.

Brad Plumer

The fighting's so intense I couldn't even spell my own name correctly! Oh well.

No Body's Bidnezz

Jonah Goldberg's mother is LUCIANNE GOLDBERG -- does the name "Linda Tripp" ring anyone's bell ? Note to self: never wear an FBI wire and/or a blue dress whilst next to anyone with ties to the National Review....

In regard to our slighted but not slight Goldbergs ( and BTW: where is a harpoon when you need a dozen???) Juan has every right to take the gloves off with Lucianne's guppy Jonah. This is where it starts: first they came for Bubba, then they came for Juan, then they came for Spongebob, and now they've come for...Abu? Abu? Are you there?


Josh Stacher

Despite Cole's argumentative superiority in the dealings with Goldberg, I think we should keep Goldberg talking. It seems everytime he steps up to offer his analytical credentials such as books he's read, he horridly undermines himself without intention. In that vein, I can see the absurdity and seriousness of situation.

Humor aside, I am inclined to side with Nur al-cubicle - this is much more than simply a battle between the intellectal vs. the pundit.

Now back to my beast.


Leila, one word: barf! Spare me the cliches. You want accountability? Why not ask the same of Cole? He supported the war and he's on the record doing so, so this cheap nonsense about Goldberg taking us to war is really silly. Do you actually believe that Goldberg or anyone else in the media actually helped take us to war?!

Oh, and in the name of national security Juan Cole has called for the investigation of Bernard Lewis, Walid Phares, and the ENTIRE Sephardic Jewish community for fear they might be infiltrated by the Mossad! Just remember that when you talk about MEMRI.

And there's that little thing he once said about Jarrah (the 9/11 highjacker) being traumatized by Israel's 82 Lebanon war that he became a suicide bomber. If people took that moron seriously, people like you would be suspect now, as you lived through that invasion. According to Cole's logic you're a threat to national security. Sure you're not traumatized there Leila? Any urges to blow yourself and 3000 people with you?!

Spare me the bullshit. Try to think a tad bit outside of the cliches. Same applies to the Aardvark. Besides he's safe from right wing harrassment. I mean, who can "monitor" an anonymous Aardvark?

the aardvark

Tony: if Juan Cole stopped blogging, what would you have left to do? The one time I checked out your blog because it showed up in my referral logs, pretty much all I saw there was a creepy obsession with Juan Cole which was kind of, well, creepy.

But really, you slay me. "Who can monitor an anonymous aardvark?" Um, well, you can - it's right here, at this blog, called Abu Aardvark, which you evidently found. And so it can be "monitored", whatever that means. Well, except for the *secret* part which only certain people get to read - oops! Heh heh.. just kidding.

And you can't really be serious when you say that the media had nothing to do with America going to war against Iraq. Are you serious? Really? Public opinion doesn't matter? Media has no influence on public opinion? It would be a novel, and pretty silly, proposition, but if you really want to defend it, feel free....

Anyway, don't waste your time here - you'd better go "fact check" Juan Cole some more! That's what the world really needs more of... attacks on Juan Cole.


Tony, I like a lot of your analysis on Lebanese and Syrian politics, but really ... you need to chill out, bro.

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