Yet another welcome to Andrew Sullivan readers. Read this.
Carly Simon’s famously mysterious paramour could at least claim that the song written to poke fun at his vanity really was about him. My post on Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer certainly made reference to Andrew Sullivan, but wasn’t about him; it was about Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. Sullivan, however, seems to think that he was a chief target, rather than a minor one. Either that, or he is just being a publicity hound, who doubtless wants more publicity. He can consider his wish granted with this post, and with what follows below.
Unfortunately, Sullivan is not as good at telling the truth as he is at getting publicity. He starts out by saying that I “[do my] best to profess ‘shock’ at some writers’ view that the Israeli government has been damaging US interests and its own survival by its policies for the past few years, and that the immensely influential pro-Israel lobby bears some responsibility for enabling this.” Well, no, that’s not quite the case. My “shock” and my disappointment comes from the fact that two former teachers of mine, esteemed and respected, are twisting themselves into pretzels to advance highly selective theories and highly dubious arguments on the issue of Israel, the Israel lobby, and the Middle East, and that they are at best, oblivious to the fact that their arguments are being used by anti-Semites to try to prove their noxious theories about Israel and Jews. I am also shocked and disappointed that Walt and Mearsheimer seem to be unwilling to disavow–repeatedly, if necessary–those who take their arguments, and try to advance them to make openly anti-Semitic comments on the Web, oftentimes, against people who seek to refute Walt’s and Mearsheimer’s arguments. This is similar to the shock and disappointment that I would feel if a pro-Israel supporter turned a blind eye to the propensity of Baruch Goldstein fans to use that pro-Israel supporter’s arguments to advance noxious views of their own. All of this shock and disappointment is genuine, and the details and reasons attendant to my shock and disappointment were discussed at length in my post.
I can’t do anything about it if Sullivan refuses to believe that my feelings of shock and disappointment are genuine, but I have to think that his deficiency in understanding the nature of my emotions is due to the fact that Sullivan does not have emotions so much as he has affectations of emotions, which he uses oftentimes to garner the sympathy of the credulous. Additionally, I understand that my post was a long one, and if Andrew Sullivan really finds it difficult these days to read long-form books and essays with his inside-voice, then perhaps we could pass the hat to buy him a warehouse of Chapstick the next time someone writes a lengthy piece that mentions him in part, thus improving the odds that he might just read the whole thing, and comprehend it. But just because Sullivan’s attention span is now about as short as a mayfly’s lifespan, that doesn’t justify him misrepresenting the arguments of another.
Sullivan notes that I never encountered any anti-Semitism on the part of Walt and Mearsheimer when I was a student in their classes. He ignores, however, my comment that “Walt has become exceedingly irresponsible in his rhetoric since the time that I knew him.” He doesn’t even take on examples of this irresponsibility which I provided. He covers his eyes when he gets to Walt’s slimy, well-poisoning attack against Jeffrey Goldberg. He doesn’t try to support or justify Mearsheimer’s selective abandonment of realist theory and the advocacy of realpolitik principles when it comes to Israel (though to be fair, this latter failure may stem from the fact that Sullivan understands as much about international relations theory as he does about obstetrics and gynecology). Again, all of this is understandable if one assumes that Sullivan’s attention span is inversely proportional to his monomania concerning, say, Trig Palin’s matrilineal line, or if one assumes that Sullivan simply doesn’t want to grapple with uncomfortable truths, truths that he cannot refute on his blog. But again, it bears emphasizing that in trying to wish away arguments inconvenient to his prejudices-of-the-day, Sullivan is just trying to mislead himself, and mislead his readers. The former is Sullivan’s business. The latter, is entirely contrary to the principles on which the Atlantic is founded, principles that Sullivan has done his best to cast to the winds ever since the magazine’s unfortunate decision to hire him as a blogger and a writer.
Next comes this:
There is no attempt to exonerate me from the Tablet’s and The New Republic’s baseless smears – but Google will do. What Pejman’s point boils down to is that we, as writers, must constantly berate any and all vile anti-Semites who try to exploit or co-opt our arguments, without our knowledge. I guess I thought that went without saying. But my own diligence against anti-Semitism, in all its forms, in my own church in particular, is well-documented and has gone back decades.
First off, I never wrote anywhere that writers like Sullivan ought to berate anti-Semites who try to exploit or co-opt the arguments of writers like Sullivan without the knowledge of writers like Sullivan. It’s silly to ask Sullivan to berate anti-Semites he doesn’t know about. It’s not silly to ask him to berate anti-Semites he does know about, however, and my objection is that Sullivan refuses to take on this latter role. This is clear from my post, but as we have seen, Sullivan has the propensity to either misunderstand simple points, or to misrepresent them.
Secondly, Sullivan’s “diligence against anti-Semitism . . . in [his] own church in particular” smacks less of philo-Semitism these days, and more of “the enemy (read: Jews) of my enemy (read: the Catholic Church)–or, at the very least, my sometime adversary (read again: the Catholic Church)–is my friend in certain blog posts.” We Jews are grateful for help, but temporary, selective help is just that and nothing more. It’s not “Righteous Amongst Nations” behavior. Sullivan balances his supposed attempt to be a chaver for the Jews by attacking “those neocons” who disagree with him on Israel as people who “have almost uniformly backed this foreign government against their own president.” Curiously, enough, some of those “neocons” are Jews, and are therefore caught up in Sullivan’s not-so-subtle intimation that they are traitors to their own country merely for disagreeing with Barack Obama and Andrew Sullivan. I am sure that Sullivan will howl with rage if one points out that his nauseating statement brings up the “dual loyalties” libel and slander used against Jews for so many centuries, but Sullivan has no one to blame but himself for the fact that his rhetoric oftentimes makes people of enlightened sensibilities feel queasy, and disgusted. Oh, and as blogospheric old-timers are aware, Sullivan has a propensity for engaging in McCarthyite smears.
Finally, we get a supposed statement of moral courage:
I will not be intimidated from examining and criticizing both the actions of the Israeli government and the lobby that does so much to enable it, against what I believe are the long-term interests of the US and the West. Neither, I suspect, will the others now routinely targeted with these lies and smears.
Recall that when Jeff Goldberg got actual, anti-Semitic hate mail, and pointed out the obvious fact that he gets said hate mail whenever the likes of Stephen Walt and Glenn Greenwald happen to link to him, Sullivan’s response was “[l]ook: I know it’s awful to read bigoted emails. And relatively new bloggers may be unused to the routine bile. But you need to accept it as part of a new media with no filters.” I didn’t devote much space to Andrew Sullivan in my post on Walt and Mearsheimer, and I stated that when it came to Sullivan, Greenwald, and Philip Weiss, “the state of their souls means very little to me.” I certainly did criticize Sullivan to the extent that I discussed him, and I was rough on him. Deservedly so, I think. But I never called him names, I never made bigoted statements about him, and I didn’t wish hateful things on him. I don’t expect a medal for acting civilized, but it is worth emphasizing that tough criticism aimed at Andrew Sullivan which does not entail any name-calling or the like, is still “intimidation” by Sullivan’s reckoning, and is therefore ripe for denunciation in melodramatic fashion on the pages of the Daily Dish without even the merest attempt to engage the substance of the criticism, and to present it honestly. Meanwhile, according to Sullivan, Jeff Goldberg is supposed to grin and bear it when Jew-haters crawl out of their sewers, and into his inbox. George Orwell, whose statement Sullivan was once pleased to feature at the top of his blog, could very easily have been describing Sullivan’s own plight when he wrote that “[t]o see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” Thanks to Sullivan’s moral and intellectual myopia, everything even a nanometer past his nose is now engulfed by fog and mist.