Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Another guy I don't get

Martin Kramer rips Juan Cole over comments about the killing of Steven Vincent in Iraq last week. Kramer writes:

The Ora-Cole of Ann Arbor, author of the mega-blog "Informed Comment," and El Presidente-elect of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), Professor Juan Cole, shares his keen ethnographic insights into the killing of American journalist Steven Vincent (pictured right) in Basra last week. An article in the London Telegraph (to which I also linked) reported that investigators were exploring whether Vincent's murder was some sort of "honor killing." The thesis: his relationship with his (Iraqi female) translator offended local sensibilities. This provides Cole with an opportunity to dismiss Vincent as a cultural novice:

'In Mediterranean culture, a man's honor tends to be wrought up with his ability to protect his womenfolk from seduction by strange men. Where a woman of the family sleeps around, it brings enormous shame on her father, brothers and cousins, and it is not unknown for them to kill her. These sentiments and this sort of behavior tend to be rural and to hold among the uneducated, but are not unknown in urban areas. Vincent did not know anything serious about Middle Eastern culture and was aggressive about criticizing what he could see of it on the surface, and if he was behaving in the way the Telegraph article describes, he was acting in an extremely dangerous manner.'

In other words, Vincent got himself killed, out of ignorance. Implication: his journalism should be dismissed.

From what I know of Cole's blogging, that's pretty much par for the course. Cole strikes me as one of the most self-important, self-appointed know-it-all's going.

Kramer also points out Vincent's own take on Cole's Middle-East 'expertise': Beneath his haughty dismissal of Vincent ("did not know anything serious") lies the fact that Vincent had the audacity to challenge him. Vincent didn't think much of Cole's armchair expertise or his claim to be driven by concern for Iraqis, and told Cole just that on his weblog:

'You might want to review your own site and how well it reflects love and concern for the Iraqi people. After all, on "Informed Comment," pro-liberation Iraqi bloggers are accused of being CIA agents, the elections are practically dismissed as window-dressing and every terrorist--no, I mean guerrilla, as Cole would have it--attack is given marquis billing, as if their psychopathic bloodlust discredits the liberation of 26 million people. Whoops, I mean 23.5 million--because according to Cole's Wednesday post, 2.5 million Iraqis support the "resistance."

Well, I thank Cole for revealing his gut-level concern for the Iraqi people... My question to the Professor is, which Iraqi people--the fascist thugs he calls the "resistance," or the police, National Guardsmen, politicians, everyday people and eight million voters who comprise the true Iraqi "resistance"? We await his Informed Comment.'

Kramer rounds it all out in closing by pointing out Cole's own lack of firsthand knowledge about Iraq. I hesitate to ever get involved in such high-profile pissing contests--a lesson I learned the hard way at the place that shall never again be named--but there's almost a compelling sort of need to comment.

I've never understood the fascination with Cole. He strikes me as a stereo-typical self-aggrandizing academic who feels the need to prove his intellectual superiority by bullying his way through every argument.

Informed Comment? More like Pretentious Pontification.

No comments:

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