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« Expensing Options Makes No Sense | Main | Not Your Kids' Spychips »

Oh, Those Middle East Experts

The Washington Post this morning reports on a supposed anti-Muslim backlash in the United States:

James J. Zogby, president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, said he is not surprised by the poll's results. Politicians, authors and media commentators have demonized the Arab world since 2001, he said.


Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, agreed, saying Americans "have been given the message to respond this way by the American political elite, mass media and by select special interests."

Cole said he was shocked when a radio talk show host asked him if Islamic extremists would set off a nuclear bomb in the United States in the next six months. "It was ridiculous. I think anti-Arab racism and profiling has become respectable," he said.

Messrs. Zogby and Cole, Paging Messrs. Zogby and Cole, Please pick up the white courtesy phone, your spaceship has arrived.

Sure, it has all to do with that avalanche of Hollywood films showing Arabs and Muslims as the bad guys, that non-stop stream of race-baiting invective from the White House and Congress, and, no doubt, the posting of the Danish cartoons as reading material for the long lines of young, Middle-Eastern men being detained by TSA for screening.

Nothing at all to do Iran's eschatologically loopy President, riots and embassy bonfires over a few innocuous drawings, MSM depictions of an Iraq seemingly resistant to common sense, French Citroen-fueled marshmallow roasts, and a CAIR that's to be worried that the McCarthy era won't return and they won't be in charge. Indonesia and Malaysia stand as symbols of how Islam can work within the modern world, but they're not the ones getting the ink, and most (but not all) of the loudest American Muslim groups are less interested in battling for the soul of their religion than in protecting the "rights" of the opposition. That's bound to leave an impression, even if it's not the right one.

What's remarkable is that Juan Cole's opinions on the matter are still considered newsworthy. This and this leave little doubt as to the "special interests" he has in mind. Cole's reading of the 9-11 Commission report beggars description. And he's been a leader in the attempt to keep government money flowing to Middle Eastern Studies departments, while not producing the skilled language experts the money is supposed to help fund. (He's not anti-war; he's just on the other side.)

Finally, Cole is an intellectualy bully who has slandered the indispensible MEMRI, called publicly for opposition research on Martin Kramer, and spends a lot of time rejecting calls for intellectual honesty as McCarthyism while hinting darkly about lawsuits against his detractors.

The next time the WaPo needs a real Middle East expert, allow me to suggest Fouad Ajami, Amir Taheri, Bernard Lewis, Martin Kramer, or Daniel Pipes.


It's hard to know what point you're making here. It seems like you're saying that we should not be blaming this perception on the media bias, that in fact there are legitimate reasons for Americans to feel this way. And yet at the same time you allude to the real problem, which is the fact that Americans remain blissfully unaware of the full breadth and extent of the Muslim world, in that they are completely ignorant of Islam as it's being practiced in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world. Sure, Islam in the Middle East has gotten some bad press, but attributing the violence of that region entirely to religion, while ignoring the political influences of such violence, is absurd. In other words, don't be willfully ignorant.

Re. Alexander Wolfe's comment: Nuance must not be his strong suit. As to the selection of Juan Cole as a Middle East expert, what should one expect from a MSM that refers without irony to CAIR as a "civil rights organization"?

And further, congratulations on your own selection as PowerLine's first "Blogger of the Week".

I have just discovered your site from a Power Line link. I plan on making it part of my regular reading.

In regards to this article, it seems to me that today's media has a very bad habit of utilizing "experts" without verifying their credentials or disclosing their affiliations. These experts then proceed to espouse a far-leaning position while posing as 'neutral' commentators.

I see a similar pattern with paid analysts such as Judge Andrew Napolitano of Fox News. He is presented only as "Judge" Napolitano on the air and speaks as an expert legal analyst. I have read and heard his opinions on many subjects, including Federal Law and the U.S. Constitution. What most don't know is that he was a state judge for New Jersey and has no Federal Bench experience. This is misleading and in many cases his opinions are incorrect on points of U.S. Law.

Love your page!

Good points, in the original post and a couple of the comments.

Two reasons I mistrust "instant experts" -as well as opinion polls- (1) TV audiences are much too willing to accept the credibility of anyone they see on the tube and (2) I am convinced that people say in public, not their heartfelt convictions, but rather what they think makes them look good to the audience.

I realized the futility of arguing with some fellows on a newsgroup ( once they started to quote Juan Cole not as a commentator but as a neutral reporter of news.

I found you via the Power Line citation.

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