The good part about being publicly demonized by the likes of John McCain is that it reaffirms your value and relevance as a scholar. In other words, McCain makes you look good. No flattery is intended, he would have made you look good anyway, pretty well by virtue of the fact that he is John McCain and that happily for all your ancestors and descendants, you are not.
The bad part is that there are millions of voters, thousands of desperately frustrated right wing political bloggers, and enough of your own silent colleagues and students who might actually pay some serious attention to McCain. If not, there would currently be no real political contest, as much as one has to admit that one way or the other McCain is heading to the ash heap of history as fast as his rusted ramjet will fly him there. Nuke-ya-later alligator!
For now however there is still a tiny bit of time left to bash one more scholar in the hope of smearing Barack Obama. And if we practice guilt-by-association, then McCain is also smearing a majority of American voters: what a “clever” way of trying to win their votes. But then again, who cares, because as the Palins and Bachmanns of the Republican trash cart proclaim, those voters may not be real Americans, that is, really real pro-American Americans, *wink*. “Clever” again.
Following from Bill Ayers, the next target of the Hate Talk Express is Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies and director of the Middle East Institute at Columbia University. Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed has just published a very good article about this situation, well worth reading. I want to reproduce some select quotes from “Will Khalidi Displace Ayers as McCain’s Favorite Prof?” below:
Then Wednesday, Palin focused on Khalidi in a speech in Ohio. “It seems that there is yet another radical professor from the neighborhood who spent a lot of time with Barack Obama going back several years,” Palin said. “This is important because his associate, Rashid Khalidi … in addition to being a political ally of Barack Obama, he’s a former spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organization.” A CNN “Fact Check” on the Palin speech declared it “misleading,” noting that Khalidi has had minimal contact with Obama for years, that the two men disagree strongly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that Khalidi plans absolutely no role in the campaign, and there is considerable dispute over whether Khalidi ever worked for the PLO….
What does it mean that in the closing days of a presidential campaign, the Republican candidates are once again focusing on a “radical professor” over alleged ties to Obama? Does it matter that in addition to going after specific professors, the campaign has been mocking specific kinds of research, such as studies involving fruit flies? Does this raise concerns for academics, regardless of what they think about the campaign or the professors involved?
Some experts on academic freedom have been viewing the increasing use of professors by the GOP campaign with alarm. While anti-intellectualism is no stranger to American campaigns, the specific and repeated targeting of professors in such a prominent way is worrisome to them, and fallout is already taking place. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln called off a speech by Ayers,…
Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, said that he plans to raise the issue of these attacks on professors when the AAUP’s academic freedom committee meets later this week. While “there is always a certain amount of insanity from all sides during a presidential election,” he said he could not remember “such virulent” attacks directed at scholars in recent years.
“This fuels the notion that false claims about scholarship are an acceptable form of public discourse,” said Nelson. And there is a connection between “these Republican castigations of two accomplished scholars” and efforts of politicians in recent years to intervene in tenure decisions. “You can plausibly start to worry about the impact of the notion that faculty can be evaluated on the basis of slander, innuendo and opportunistic claims,” he said.
When the election is over, Nelson said, the AAUP would consider whether there are steps that can be taken to prevent such attacks in future races. Of course, he noted, the outcome of the election may itself have an impact. “Scandalous techniques that work are more of a problem than scandalous techniques that fail,” he said.
Via e-mail, Khaladi said Wednesday night that he was “not speaking to the media at this time, and certainly not until this nonsense has passed.”…
Of course, McCain-Palin get away with a lot when they villify persons who will not even respond. But I forgot this gem in the first draft of this post:
One irony of the attack on Khalidi is that McCain himself has ties to him. As The Huffington Post noted, McCain led a Republican institute that in the 1990s sent several grants to a Palestinian research center founded by Khalidi. “Of course, there’s seemingly nothing objectionable with McCain’s organization helping a Palestinian group conduct research in the West Bank or Gaza. But it does suggest that McCain could have some of his own explaining to do as he tries to make hay out of Khalidi’s ties to Obama,” the blog said.
It seems that the war hero has once again shot himself in the foot, which is quite a feat considering that the foot was lodged firmly in his mouth. See this hilarious commentary on McCain-Palin’s latest McCarthyist idiocy: