It struck me, while reviewing the patterns I found in postings to the AAA Executive Board’s blog on the statement condemning anthropological support for counterinsurgency, as well as the comments section of the Inside Higher Ed piece titled, “Questions, Anger and Dissent on Ethics Study” (Nov. 30, 2007), that those opposing our criticisms have found a means of consistently reinforcing our arguments. They reinforce our arguments by simply inverting them. In other words, they have found no place of their own from which to rise and make a stand for their own supposed principles, and that should be disquieting to them, to have to build their self-representations entirely on the basis of what opponents say of them. It also suggests that, beyond the level of ideologies of nationalism and patriotism, they have little to contribute to the discussion of research ethics. Instead, they reduce the discussion to a set of easily manipulable caricatures in an unimaginative rhetorical strategy.
With reference to the Inside Higher Ed piece above, I posted a short comment of my support for the AAA Executive Board’s statement:
“I applaud the many sensitive and sensible anthropologists who want to see the AAA become part of the mainstream of international, American, and above all else, Iraqi public opinion in wanting to see no more American occupation of Iraq. Any discipline that lends its support to the service of an invading and occupying state, that is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands, issues itself a death sentence”.
“Prof. Forte: The mainstream opinion to which you refer is the view of self-appointed elitists with a bias that prevents from looking at facts objectively. Surely you don’t support Saddam’s or Al Qaeda’s torture houses, or the gassing of the Kurds, or the beheadings. Personally I’m curious about what exactly it was that the Russian Special Forces took from Iraq and trucked into Syria shortly before the war started.”
Pure inversion, but with some invention borrowed from right wing conspiracy media (Fox “News”). The majority of public opinion is “elitist”? Invert majority, and you get minority. Invert public sanction, and you get this nonsensical “self-appointed” elitist. Criticize the US invasion, and you become a supporter of torture. Condemn the thinking behind the invasion, and Weapons of Mass Destruction suddenly “materialize” once more as myth.
Both the AAA blog and Inside Higher Ed see numerous postings by people whose names cannot even be traced to anyone with a position in anthropology, and often without even a degree in anthropology. These are individuals in other professions, in other walks of life, that stomped into anthropology to dictate to us what we should be doing. Anthropology’s new motto, so that these fanatical militarists can understand it readily, should be:
War? We don’t do war. Go elsewhere.
Then, someone calling himself “John-Michael Davis” comes back with more of the mirror image. If I refer to those who are not anthropologists, who seem to avidly support the militarization of anthropology, who desperately cling to a war that was a farce and became a tragedy rejected by almost everyone, everywhere, and thus constitute themselves as both fanatics and militarists… then that makes me the fanatic. If I say that those supporting the enlistment of anthropologists to serve in HTS in Iraq are out of step with the majority of American and Iraqi public opinion, then I am the one who is divorced from reality. If I criticize the invasion, then I must support torture?
Americans are the heroes, others are terrorists or perhaps innocent and neutral to the US occupation of their territories. Everything is reduced to a comic book script. We are doing good, saving the world, they are evil. Mild-mannered anthropologist by day, fighting villains and saving humanity by night (Superman and Spiderman). The academics are here, perverse, in their Ivory Towers, while the glorious HTS anthropologists are over there slogging through the mud, laptop in hand, roughing it out to the tune of $400,000…that’s right, almost the salary of four, full professors in Canada, for one guy without even a PhD in anthropology. Oh, what sacrifice!
And yet, funniest of all, is when such characters as “John-Michael Davis” try to hide behind grey areas, after having created a black and white discourse. What they oppose is reduced to black and white, and what they defend…well that’s all grey of course, nebulous, cannot be judged easily, maybe you should study it ethnographically.
At the end of the day we may remember that those who defended HTS anthropology were not anthropologists, and in some cases were really from the bottom of the discipline’s intellectual barrel.