Yale to Hire a Blogger!

Monday, April 24, 2006

John Fund continues his outstanding coverage of Yale's betrayal -- via the enrollment of a Taliban official with an elementary school education -- of academic standards, its proud history, and its country.

Being an academic who will blog under a pseudonym for the foreseeable future thanks to advice from none other than The Chronicle of Higher Education (HT: Noodle Food), I was rather amused and amazed at the twist that the story has taken.

Fund, after he first reports that Yale appears to be looking for a way to bow to pressure (without appearing to bow to pressure) to "lose" the Taliban official, notes that the university is apparently getting ready to "stick it" to alumnus, George Bush, in another way -- by hiring far-left moonbat blogger Juan Cole!

Mr. Cole's appointment would be problematic on several fronts. First, his scholarship is largely on the 19th-century Middle East, not on contemporary issues. "He has since abandoned scholarship in favor of blog commentary," says Michael Rubin, a Yale graduate and editor of the Middle East Quarterly. Mr. Cole's postings at his blog, Informed Comment, appear to be a far cry from scholarship. They feature highly polemical writing and dubious conspiracy theories. [bold added]
Compare this to what the Chronicle says about the usual shift given to bloggers who apply for academic positions. I present the two things most pertinent to the case of Juan Cole.
The pertinent question for bloggers is simply, Why? What is the purpose of broadcasting one's unfiltered thoughts to the whole wired world? It's not hard to imagine legitimate, constructive applications for such a forum. But it's also not hard to find examples of the worst kinds of uses.

A blog easily becomes a therapeutic outlet, a place to vent petty gripes and frustrations stemming from congested traffic, rude sales clerks, or unpleasant national news. It becomes an open diary or confessional booth, where inward thoughts are publicly aired.

Worst of all, for professional academics, it's a publishing medium with no vetting process, no review board, and no editor. The author is the sole judge of what constitutes publishable material, and the medium allows for instantaneous distribution. After wrapping up a juicy rant at 3 a.m., it only takes a few clicks to put it into global circulation.


It would never occur to the committee to ask what a candidate thinks about certain people's choice of fashion or body adornment, which countries we should invade, what should be done to drivers who refuse to get out of the passing lane, what constitutes a real man, or how the recovery process from one's childhood traumas is going. But since the applicant elaborated on many topics like those, we were all ears. And we were a little concerned. It's not our place to make the recommendation, but we agreed a little therapy (of the offline variety) might be in order. [bold added]
So let's pretend we're on a hiring committee at Yale and ask ourselves why, exactly, we'd like to hire someone whose blog expresses agreement with a paper even Noam Chomsky won't touch with a ten-foot pole....
Mr. Cole says that he is often unfairly attacked for being anti-Semitic, when in reality he claims he is only critical of Israeli policy. But Michael Oren, a visiting fellow at Yale, notes that in February 2003 Mr. Cole wrote on his blog that "Apparently [President Bush] has fallen for a line from the neo-cons in his administration that they can deliver the Jewish vote to him in 2004 if only he kisses Sharon's ass." Mr. Oren says "clearly that's anti-Semitism; that's not a criticism of Israeli policy." (Exit polls showed that 74% of the Jewish vote went to John Kerry.)

Mr. Cole appears to be the only prominent academic in America to have embraced "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," a highly controversial paper by John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard. Mr. Cole told the Chicago Sun-Times yesterday that the paper argues the "virtually axiomatic" point held by the rest of the world that a "powerful pro-Israel lobby exists." The result is that "U.S. policy toward the Middle East has been dangerously skewed."

But the paper has been roundly attacked for sloppy generalizations. The two authors claim that "neither strategic nor moral arguments can account for America's support for Israel." Even Noam Chomsky, a far-left critic of Israel, wrote that we "have to ask how convincing their thesis is. Not very, in my opinion." But Mr. Cole praises the two professors for seeking "to end the taboo [on discussions of the "Israel lobby"], enforced by knee-jerk accusations of anti-Semitism." [bold added]
Are these merely Cole's "unfiltered thoughts" -- or are they his professional opinions? Does Yale want a loose cannon or a crackpot, and why? And how will having hired someone like this undo the damage that Yale has already done to itself by enrolling that Taliban fellow?

And consider Cole's respect for freedom of speech.
Mr. Cole wants to enforce his own taboos on free expression. In February, he told the Detroit Metro Times that the federal government should close the leading cable news channel. "I think it is outrageous that Fox Cable News is allowed to run that operation the way it runs it," he said in summarizing his view that Fox "is polluting the information environment." He went on to claim that "in the 1960s the FCC would have closed it down. It's an index of how corrupt our governmental institutions have become, that the FCC lets this go on." [!]

Appointing someone as hotheaded and intolerant as Mr. Cole to a prestigious appointment at Yale wouldn't seem to make any sense. The drive to hire him can be explained in part by the same impulses that prompted Yale to admit Mr. Hashemi. "Perhaps the folks who still want to let Taliban Man into the degree program are also thinking Cole would make a great faculty advisor for him," jokes Mr. Taylor, the alumnus leading the NailYale protest. [bold added]
To the contrary, it is an "index" of how far our culture has declined that a prestigious university is seriously considering Cole for employment, and that he furthermore has employment in higher education in the first place! Of course, Yale probably thinks it will get away with this, considering how common people like Cole are on university faculties these days.... Perhaps, in bringing this little matter up, Yale has unwittingly brought it to the table for a public debate. Lord knows, it's about time.

This hire would be an even worse sin than the prior one, for Cole, as a faculty member, would have the chance to shape the next generation of students from Yale. If nothing else, credit them for philosophical consistency: If they can't have an actual participant in a regime that stifled free speech, they'll settle for an advocate of the same thing.

I hope the folks who are up in arms over Hashemi seize this opportunity to take this battle to the next level. If they do, Yale will have opened a can of worms that has been sitting on the shelf for, oh, about forty years too long.

-- CAV

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