Friday, September 27, 2002

Campus Watch yet again: this New York Times article commits two substantial mistakes. The first is that it makes it sound as though the only people who have problems with Campus Watch are those who share the politics of John Esposito or Judith Butler. The second is that (egged on by the Butler petition, I suppose) it perpetuates the idea that Campus Watch is simply monitoring the published views of professors, with no mention of either CW's anonymously-sourced monitoring of teaching or its "dossiers" on nonviolent student speech. The article offers the strange statement that CW is "citing... professors and... universities for their views on Palestinian rights or political Islam." Most universities don't have views as such. The insidiousness of the "university dossiers" is masked by that anthropomorphification of universities; it's the views of students and faculty that are being monitored. On the other hand, that phrasing in the leadoff paragraph is a significant rhetorical victory for Butler et. al., since it doesn't mention anti-Semitism, personal links to terrorist groups, or suppression of classroom dissent, all of which CW alleges about some of the cited professors.

The Judith Butler quotation utterly grates on me, and I want to be clear that by criticizing Campus Watch I am not aligning myself with her political viewpoint. I'm arguing that there could be a legitimate role for someone to do some of what Campus Watch does, but that CW is doing it in disreputable, shoddy, and dangerous ways. That sloppiness is in evidence in Pipes' comment that the associations with the word "dossier" just never occured to him. This is either disingenuous or a sign of (politely) a tin ear or (less politely) stupidity.

Martin Kramer's careful comment on CW discussed below is starting to strike me as Kramer distancing himself, as much as politeness to his colleagues and friends allows, from CW's lack of careful judgment. (For my initial commentaries on CW, see here and here. For another problem with the NYT article, see yourish, link courtesy of Instapundit.)

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