For the many sins I committed in this life, and for the many more I doubtless committed in past lives–each of which featured me dying of old age (the better to get a veritable cornucopia of sins in before expiring)–I have been linked today by Conor Friedersdorf in response to this post. I really have things I would prefer doing this evening instead of engaging in yet another blogfight with someone at the Atlantic, but Friedersdorf completely and utterly misunderstands/misrepresents my post, and I want to set things straight.
We’ll start first with Friedersdorf’s blogpost title “Why Bloggers Avoid Writing About Israel.” Oh, but they don’t. The Daily Dish writes about Israel a great deal. Stephen Walt is famous for writing lots about Israel, and about the Israel Lobby in the United States. His sidebar links to a number of bloggers for whom writing about Israel is their raison d’être. I just scratched the surface here, but I trust I made my point. But more on blog post titles later. Much more. More than you ever wanted to know.
Friedersdorf starts off thusly:
When I blog here at The Daily Dish, I get a couple dozen emails a day from readers directing me to potential fodder. That’s how I came across this post by Philip Giraldi, linked here on 31 January 2011 – as you can see, it’s a relatively short post where Mr. Giraldi asserts three things: a) that Rand Paul’s call to eliminate all foreign aid, including aid to Israel, was getting insufficient press attention considering how unusual it is for a US Senator to say such a thing; b) that Israel is wealthy enough that it doesn’t need our aid; c) and that although Rand Paul has been attacked by the Israel lobby for his statement, President Obama’s review of aid to Egypt would be a good time to examine all our foreign aid to that region.
I excerpted the assertions to that affect, and added only this by way of my own commentary: “It would be a good time to re-examine aid flowing to every region, which isn’t to say that I want to eliminate all of it.”
That’s actually blogger code for this more involved thought process: I’d tentatively love to stop giving aid to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Colombia – especially stuff that flows through the DEA – but I actually don’t know all that much even about the specific US aid recipients that make me uncomfortable, nor do I really know a lot about Israel’s economy or aid to Israel, nor do I have particularly strong feelings about any of it, or a desire to read up on the subject for several hours. So rather than offer some half-cocked opinion about any of these countries, I’ll excerpt this post that seems kinda interesting, especially about Rand Paul bringing a new voice to the Senate. And then I’ll express my vague desire to look at these things more closely, which really is all I’m comfortable saying I think with confidence. Maybe I’ll even get some interesting e-mail back that helps me better flesh out my thoughts.
This shows why it’s good for the reader that bloggers aren’t forced to make all their thinking explicit. What tedium would ensue! But it was necessary in this post due to the curious way Pejman Yousefzadeh has responded to my earlier, unremarkable item. It seems that the author I quoted, Mr. Giraldi, wrote a controversial letter to the University of Chicago alumni magazine back in 1999, when I was nineteen.
Giraldi did a lot more than that, of course. As I mentioned in my post, “Giraldi believed–he still believes this, by the way–that Israel would try to instigate a war between the United States and Iran, that an effort is being made to frame Iran for American military casualties in the Middle East, that supporters of Israel (or more generally, people with whom Giraldi disagrees) are dual loyalists, and that Jews and Israelis control the media. In addition, Giraldi keeps track of how many Jews are surveyed in news stories(!).”
After quoting the letter, Yousefzadeh says this:
Given Giraldi’s plain and simple derangement, and the derangement that he excites in others, the question arises: Why did Conor Friedersdorf deem it necessary to throw Giraldi a favorable link, and to cite him as some kind of potential authority on the issue of foreign aid? Oh, to be sure, Friedersdorf cites Giraldi on foreign aid while at the same time assuring us that his decision to link to Giraldi’s post “isn’t to say that I want to eliminate all” foreign aid. But why is Giraldi allowed anywhere near the realm of polite conversation when it comes to this, or any other issue, given his insane views? Why is he given any semblance of respectability by a magazine like the Atlantic, which continues to maintain some respectability despite the determined efforts of the people associated with the Daily Dish to annihilate that respectability beyond salvaging?
He titles this post, “Philip Giraldi, Conor Friedersdorf, Andrew Sullivan, Anti-Semitism, and the Further Decline of the Atlantic.”
As it happens, I disagree rather strongly with some of what Mr. Giraldi wrote 11 years ago in that letter to the editor. But that is beside the point. I’ve taken the time to lay all this out because I think what Mr. Yousefzadeh is doing here is just vile, and that he should be ashamed of himself. Unless he is a very stupid man, he knows full well that no blogger in the world, having found a short blog post to excerpt, goes searching through the archives of alumni magazines at institutions they didn’t attend, just in case the person they’re about to link maybe wrote something wrongheaded in the letters section over a decade prior.
And this, is where the nonsense begins.
Notice, first of all, that Friedersdorf confines his comments regarding Giraldi’s writings solely to the letter Giraldi wrote to my/his alumni magazine. As noted, Giraldi has written a lot more than a mere letter, but Friedersdorf completely elides that fact. I am pleased, of course, that Friedersdorf “disagree[s] rather strongly with some of what Mr. Giraldi wrote 11 years ago in that letter to the editor,” though one wonders what Friedersdorf finds worthy of approbation in the letter (Friedersdorf doesn’t tell us).
Secondly, notice that Friedersdorf reads the title of my post, and the excerpt from my blog that he posted, as stating that what I am doing “is just vile,” and that I “should be ashamed” of myself for expecting that Conor Friedersdorf should go “searching through the archives of alumni magazines at institutions they didn’t attend, just in case the person they’re about to link maybe wrote something wrongheaded in the letters section over a decade prior.”
I actually don’t think that Conor Friedersdorf should go searching through alumni magazines, and never wrote as much. I do think, however, that Giraldi’s oeuvre is sufficiently discoverable and searchable so that Conor Friedersdorf could perhaps find out about Giraldi’s obsession with Jews including and beyond a mere letter to an alumni magazine. This obsession involves (I am sorry to have to repeat this, but it bears emphasis): (a) constant accusations without evidence that Israel is nefariously trying to get the United States to fight a war with Iran; (b) constant accusations without evidence that Iran is being framed for American military casualties in the Middle East; (c) constant accusations without evidence that American supporters of Israel with whom Giraldi disagrees are not sufficiently patriotic and have dual loyalties; (d) constant accusations without evidence that Jews and Israelis control the media; and (e) a predilection for counting how many Jews get referenced in a news report, the better to fire off an angry letter about if the number is too high (with no one save Giraldi knowing what constitutes “too high”).
Now, how could Friedersdorf have found out about all of these weird Giraldiisms? Well, it just so happens that this thing called “the Internet” has recorded all of these weird Giraldiisms for posterity. And it just so happens that this thing called “the Internet” can be searched in order to find out about weird Giraldiisms–and any other isms–by something called a “search engine.” I won’t give away the name of this search engine–why spoil a mystery for Friedersdorf as he seeks to find out what it is?–but let’s refer to it as Rhymes-With-Shmoogle.
Rhymes-With-Shmoogle is a lovely thing. It allows me to find out that whatever my disagreements with the policies of the Obama Administration, relying on sites like WorldNetDaily to help me make a case against certain Obama Administration policies is a bad idea, because WorldNetDaily is unhinged. Rhymes-With-Shmoogle points me to critiques of WorldNetDaily that are far more convincing than just about anything that WorldNetDaily writes. Rhymes-With-Shmoogle helps remind me–assuming that a reminder is needed in the first place–that however much the National Enquirer may have been on the nose regarding the John Edwards sex scandal, it is a bad idea to rely on it as a general source of news. And Rhymes-With-Shmoogle helps me discover–along with my own reading–that many a story in a British publication relies inordinately on anonymous sources, which gives one the heebie-jeebies about relying on that story, and the news that it purports to contain.
In short, Rhymes-With-Shmoogle would have helped Conor Friedersdorf discover all of the things I discovered about Philip Giraldi, and his exceedingly unhealthy obsession with Jewish people. It might also have helped him discover that Giraldi may not be coming to this particular debate with clean hands, and that his fulminations regarding Israel may be driven by ulterior motives. Again, it is worth noting–Friedersdorf’s contentions (doubtless disingenuous, unless he really had problems reading through my post) notwithstanding–that Giraldi’s objectionable writings regarding Israel and Jews go beyond a mere letter to an alumni magazine, and that Friedersdorf wasn’t being asked to find some kind of alumni-letter-needle in a haystack. There are plenty of Giraldian writings to be found courtesy of Rhymes-With-Shmoogle, and Friedersdorf could have found them, figured out where Giraldi was coming from, and perhaps decided that he could find a more authoritative, less objectionable source with whom to make arguments that perhaps we ought to reconsider our foreign aid policies.
But no. Friedersdorf failed to use Rhymes-With-Shmoogle, and he actually has the nerve to get upset that I called him on it. Amazing; I thought that journalists are supposed to do research. I thought that they are supposed to make sure that their sources are on the level. Friedersdorf, however, appears to have a different conception. Thus, the following botched attempt at an argument:
Yet here he is condemning me because I failed to banish this man from the realm of polite conversation? And claiming that whole magazines fall based upon such failures?! What kind of incoherent, blinkered model of public discourse is he assuming? At best, his is a system whereby every blog post requires a tedious series of long archival searches – and wherein authors who write perfectly typical blog posts are denied links in a permanent blacklist because of other stuff they wrote in an obscure letter a decade prior. His is also a system where the explicit focus is on the writers and their prior work rather than ideas themselves. I don’t think very much of his system, and the fact that literally no one in the blogosphere has adopted it makes me think that others don’t either.
Rhymes-With-Shmoogle was actually invented to obviate the need for “a tedious series of long archival searches.” I can’t wait for Friedersdorf to discover this tool, so that he is no longer intimidated by tedium at the archives. I can’t wait for him to employ Rhymes-With-Shmoogle to find out all of the information that I found out, using Rhymes-With-Shmoogle. And I can’t wait for him to discover that it only takes a few minutes to do so, as it only took me a few minutes to do so.
As for the rest of the paragraph, note anew that Friedersdorf continues to maintain the fiction that Giraldi’s past objectionable writings were limited to “other stuff they wrote in an obscure letter a decade prior.” Friedersdorf gives birth to, kills, and makes necessary a mournful funeral and a lively wake for scores of strawmen by pretending that I advocate “a system where the explicit focus is on the writers and their prior work rather than ideas themselves.” Fatuous nonsense. One can certainly consider the ideas themselves, and I have never stated or implied otherwise. However, I will admit to believing that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with investigating whether people behind certain ideas are advancing those ideas for ulterior motives. That doesn’t mean the ideas themselves may not be worth considering. That means, though, that people with ulterior motives ought to be excused from polite and adult conversation regarding the matter. There is a difference, however much Friedersdorf may try to pretend otherwise. And contra Friedersdorf, plenty of people consider whether players in various debates come to those debates with clean hands or not. In fact, had Friedersdorf been paying attention to the very blog he writes for, he would have discovered long ago that Andrew Sullivan questions the sincerity of the Tea Party on spending issues, because he believes that the Tea Party did not sufficiently protest (by Sullivan’s lights) George W. Bush’s spending plans. As a consequence, Sullivan believes that the Tea Party lacks credibility on the issue, that it now focuses on overspending simply because it wants to beat up on the Obama Administration, and that it cannot be taken seriously as a consequence. One may agree or disagree with the substance of Sullivan’s remarks, but there is nothing per se wrong with asking whether a person or entity comes to a particular political debate with credibility to the gills, or with clean hands. So it is with the debate over aid to Israel, and Philip Giraldi’s role in that debate. One can debate the nature of aid policy, without asking troglodytes (I am trying to be kind) like Giraldi to be a part of that debate.
But I actually think it’s much worse – that what he’s trying to do is attack any writer who broaches the subject of American aid to Israel, even if neutrally passing along a blog post by another writer – as a rhetorical intimidation tactic. Well, I don’t even think that we should withdraw all aid from Israel, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to be intimidated out of covering cogent arguments on either side of the debate. There’s nothing worse than an intellectual bully.
It is, at best, a spectacularly misinformed claim, and at worst, a damned lie that I am trying to “attack any writer who broaches the subject of American aid to Israel.” Friedersdorf has no evidence whatsoever to back up this claim, and if he has any decency or honor, he will withdraw it (I won’t hold my breath). I made clear in this post–clear enough for anyone, even someone with Friedersdorf’s many limitations–to understand that it is perfectly acceptable to discuss aid policy. To be sure, one ought to wonder about all of the calls to restrict aid to a state the size of Vermont, when a great deal more aid goes to a collection of other countries, and when foreign aid itself is such a minuscule portion of the federal budget that it is almost not worth discussing at all. But those are substantive disputes, not a claim that the issue should never be brought up. I never have written, and do not write now that the issue of American aid to Israel is off the table, nor do I seek, or ever have sought to “attack any writer who broaches” the issue. Again, Friedersdorf has no evidence whatsoever for this claim. If he fails to withdraw it, I’ll know that I am justified in believing that he is not an honest, or serious interlocutor, and that he either cannot understand, or deliberately refuses to understand my post, and my position on the issue.
As for his claim that he (a writer for the Atlantic) is being “bullied” by me (a blogger in my spare time), well, get out your exceedingly small violins, and play a sad dirge for the plight of poor Conor Friedersdorf.
The rest of Friedersdorf’s post is blather, but I want to close by taking on the following misstatement/lie: “. . . I hate it when a poorly reasoned blog post tries to tarnish me with anti-Semitism through some bulls***, guilt-by-association tactic.” The only “bulls***” here is Friedersdorf’s. Nowhere did I write that he is an anti-Semite. Nowhere did I accuse Sullivan of being one. Nowhere did I say that the Atlantic is an anti-Semitic magazine. These statements apparently need to be made, however, because of Friedersdorf’s gift for confusing the issue, and for misleading (inadvertently, because of incapacity, or deliberately, because of dishonesty) his readers. I did write that Friedersdorf and Sullivan have in the past indulged the likes of Giraldi with links that make Giraldi appear credible and within the mainstream, but that is not because of anti-Semitism on their parts. Rather, it is because they can’t use Rhymes-With-Shmoogle to do their homework. I called them “tools” for the same reason, and in the event that Friedersdorf wants to claim that being called a “tool” is like being called an anti-Semite, let me assure him that the meaning is quite different. In the event that Friedersdorf failed to understand the forgoing, let me repeat it again: I DO NOT THINK THAT CONOR FRIEDERSDORF, ANDREW SULLIVAN, OR THE ATLANTIC ARE ANTI-SEMITES/ANTI-SEMITIC. I DID NOT WRITE AS MUCH. I DID NOT IMPLY AS MUCH. I DO NOT WRITE SUCH STATEMENTS NOW, OR IMPLY THEM IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM.
Finally, let’s make sure that we discuss the specific issue of the title of the post Friedersdorf incompetently objects to. As he notes, it is titled “Philip Giraldi, Conor Friedersdorf, Andrew Sullivan, Anti-Semitism, and the Further Decline of the Atlantic.” A number of commenters from Friedersdorf’s post seem to think that by writing this title as I did, I meant to say that Conor Friedersdorf, Andrew Sullivan, and the Atlantic are associated with anti-Semitism, apparently because the words are in proximity with one another. For all I know, Friedersdorf believes this too (I don’t expect much from him). This truly is absurd; since we are dealing with Giraldi, Friedersdorf, Sullivan, the Atlantic, and the issue of anti-Semitism that is part and parcel of this particular debate, I wrote a blog post title indicating as much. But it no more means that Friedersdorf, Sullivan, and/or the Atlantic are anti-Semites than it means that Philip Giraldi writes for the Atlantic. Once again: I DO NOT THINK THAT CONOR FRIEDERSDORF, ANDREW SULLIVAN, OR THE ATLANTIC ARE ANTI-SEMITES/ANTI-SEMITIC. I DID NOT WRITE AS MUCH. I DID NOT IMPLY AS MUCH. I DO NOT WRITE SUCH STATEMENTS NOW, OR IMPLY THEM IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM.
I am sure, however, that since is now firmly saddled on his high horse, and since lacks either the ability, or the honesty to admit that he has made a series of false accusations against me, Conor Friedersdorf won’t take “I am not accusing Conor Friedersdorf, Andrew Sullivan, or the Atlantic of being anti-Semites” for an answer. As such, and as readers will see, I have titled this blog post “Pejman Yousefzadeh, Philip Giraldi, Conor Friedersdorf, Andrew Sullivan, Anti-Semitism, and the Further Decline of the Atlantic” to show that I don’t believe that the proximity of my name to the word “Anti-Semitism” means that I am possessed with either self-hatred, or hatred of my fellow Jews.
I have a feeling, of course, that Friedersdorf’s next post will have him in high dudgeon, accusing me of baselessly accusing myself of anti-Semitism, and demanding that I not bully myself intellectually.
UPDATE: The dénouement, I hope.