Thursday, May 04, 2006

Slugfest: Hitchens V Cole

On June 12th, 2006, the NYT effectively declared Hitchens to be the winner of this slugfest by by sheer object factuality. I posted on it here.

Where have I been? After spending the last nine months in a professional exile from my family, we were recently gloriously reunited. So all my extra time has been consigned to them or stamping out fires at my new position. However, poking my head out of my foxhole, I thought I would distribute a map for the latest trials of that wacky Dr. Jually Cole:

1. Christopher Hitchens quotes a listserv in which our good Dr. Ferret-face argues that jihadi President Ahmadinejad didn't really mean it when he said he intended to "wipe Israel off the map". Hitchens argues from authority (Nazila Fathi of the New York Times Tehran bureau) that the meaning of the speech was exactly what everyone but Cole understood it to be. He further argues from context that Iran's President-Saint was explicitly referencing "Mr. Death to Israel" Imam Khomeini. He asserts, in effect, that Cole is a fraud who is either lying about the self-evident meaning of Ahmedinejad's speech or who wouldn't know Farsi from a sack of elbows:

"One might have thought that, if the map-wiping charge were to have been inaccurate or unfair, Ahmadinejad would have denied it. But he presumably knew what he had said and had meant to say. In any case, he has an apologist to do what he does not choose to do for himself. But this apologist, who affects such expertise in Persian, cannot decipher the plain meaning of a celebrated statement and is, furthermore, in need of a remedial course in English."

2. In an uncharacteristically long and (even for Cole) wildly thrashing post, Mr. Wiskers made a lame attempt at defending his own tortured exegesis of Ahmedinejad's speech, accused Hitchens of hacking the listserv to which Cole posted his stupidity, and implied that Hitchens was drunk when he wrote the article. Michael Young (Lebanese journalist and opinion editor of the Daily Star), described it thus:

a savage screed all his own, accusing Hitchens' of having a drinking problem, attacking the Right, the Bush administration, unspecified "US corporations", and much more with no connection to Hitchens' article.

Okay. This is getting good.

3. Andrew Sullivan steps in to superfluously point out that he was with Hitchens when he posted the article, and he was not drunk. He also analyzes Cole's so-called translation of Ahmedinejad's speech and agrees with Hitch that Cole couldn't find his butt with both hands if you gave him a map and a flashlight. Okay, Sullivan didn't actually say that, but it comes to the same thing.

From Sullivan's "Email of the Day":

It's alleged that Hitchens has a drinking problem. If so, perhaps you'd be kind enough to pass on specifics regarding his daily intake, so I can emulate...I have nothing but admiration for someone who can knock out a weekly Slate column, an erudite review for the Atlantic each month, a longer, bimonthly piece for Vanity Fair and a book a year...[as] a journalist...I'm obviously not drinking the right stuff.

4. Cole then responds that okay, maybe Hitchens isn't a drunk; he's just an "assinine thief" for daring to post the nonsense Cole asserted as a self-described expert within the privacy of his clique of tyranny-defenders rather than restricting himself to the nonsense Cole asserts as a self-described expert for public consumption.

Looks to me like Hitchens is not Cole's worst hacker problem.
Iowahawk has posted the "first draft" of Cole's response to Hitchens's lashing.

"I believe Hitchens has also somehow hacked into my private Kroger Fresh Values card. I recently received an e-coupon notification from Kroger that I would receive a free bottle of Pepsi® product on my next purchase, and that this included my choice of Pepsi®, Diet Pepsi®, Sierra Mist®, Mountain Dew® or Mountain Dew Code Red™. Imagine the Orwellian chill I experienced when the checkout woman informed me that my e-coupon “has already been redeemed.” Where is your shame, Hitchins? Where is my Pepsi®?"

5. Then, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, Hitchens called Cole "10th rate...a sordid apologist for Islamist terrorism, and for Islamist terrorist regimes", "a complete dim bulb", "the embodiment of the mediocre", "writes as if he's drunk, because [he has] to", "[knowing] no history".

6. Today, Cole takes it all back and says Hitchens is a drunk and quotes fellow tyrant-apologist Helena Cobban to prove it. Hmm. Okay. So what is Cole's drug-of-choice before he translates Farsi? I presume Cole's latest is not meant to retract the summation that Hitchens is an assinine thief.

Winds of Change posted a comment from an Iranian reiterating that Cole has his mortar board up his academic gown (h/t Grim's Hall):

"I am Iranian, and I can tell you Cole is wrong...The intent [of Ahmedinejad's statement] is to make Israel cease to exist. The word map is not literarly in there, but “wiped of the map” is a less exagerated translation that Professors Cole's translation is underreporting...[As for] the context: Here Cole is not a little of the mark, he is insane and ignorant.

Read it all.

As long as Cole and Cobban are engaged in unsubstantiated, irrelevant, ad hominem attacks, I want to remind everyone again that I was the first to assert a strong conviction that Cole is an agent in the pay of Iran's theocratic animal-farm regime. He's Iran's George Galloway. When it finally comes out in the papers, you read it here first.

I further propose that Tehran, with the things heating up for them in Europe, has recently begun an effort to expunge or explain away the year of "destroy all Jews" declarations (to say nothing of the last 30 years). For example, last week a Revolutionary Guards general stated that if the U.S. messed with Iran, "the first place we target will be Israel". Now this week, the government says that was "his personal view and has no validity as far as the Iranian military officials are concerned". Cole has received his orders.

I'm not the only one who finds something askance in Cole's recent acrobatics in defense of Iran's tyranny. Leftist and Cole fan, Jeff Weintraub sees it too. Calling Cole's response "hysterical", he says:

"Cole's recent apologetics for the actions and statements of the Iranian regime have become increasingly strained, misleading, irresponsible, and difficult to take seriously. I am afraid that Hitchens's criticisms of Cole in this piece are entirely deserved. And that's not all. What Cole has been saying about the Iranian nuclear program can most charitably be described as disingenuous. (E.g., "The IAEA found no smoking gun."--which denies a claim no one has made, and which Cole is smart enough to realize is entirely irrelevant to the real issues.) Perhaps Cole's concern about a possible US attack on Iran--which could, indeed, lead to disastrous consequences--is pushing him over the edge, but that's no excuse. He should get a grip on himself--and on reality."

Regarding Cole's clothes-rending over having his "private" discourse made public, Weintraub says:

Whatever the details here, this particular objection was a bit disingenuous on Cole's part, since he has expressed essentially the same views publicly in his blog and elsewhere. This is a red herring.

UPDATE 5/8/06
Someone asked Weintraub to back up this allegation and he did here. He goes on to state regarding Cole's hyper-literal and distorting exegesis of Ahmedinejad's speech:

[When Cole says] "His statements were morally outrageous and historically ignorant, but he did not actually call for mass murder (Ariel Sharon made the "occupation regime" in Gaza "vanish" last summer) or for the expulsion of the Israeli Jews to Europe."

I can't resist the passing comment that Cole keeps repeating that Gaza analogy, but it's pretty weak. I'm sure he knows perfectly well that ending the "occupation regime" in Gaza and ending the "occupation regime" in Israel (i.e.,ending Israel) are entirely different things.

Meanwhile, back to the shameless buffoonery Cole's writes for public consumption.

Today, IraqPundit continues to vivisect Cole's Rube Goldberg analysis and, coincidentally, he did the same for Cobban only a couple weeks ago.

UPDATE 5/5/06
Cole has posted a correspondence between himself and Jacob Weisberg, editor of Intriguingly, Cole doesn't post his initial email to Weisberg. Based on Weisberg's response, it must have been quite ripe for parody.

Anyhow, in their exchange, Cole asserts that Hitchens and Slate violated the law in posting an excerpt from the Gulf2000 list since it "has a requirement that no material appearing there be forwarded off the list". He says he only says this out of concern for Slate's reputation and has no immediate intention of pursuing litigation.

This is so patently silly, it out-strips even Raed's threat to sue the contributors of IBC for calling him a Ba'athist.

A) Hitchens is not (apparently) a member of the Gulf2000 list. So he didn't violate any rules there.

B) The no-forwarding rule granted Cole no illusion of privacy since list members, including Cole himself, regularly violated the rule: here, here, here, here, here, here,

and here (translation: "Someone is spreading my email to Gulf2000 project mailing list about my project to get Iranian-born Israelis blogging about their daily lives, as if it's been a secret email and I'd be embarrassed by it being publicized" (h/t Exit Zero, Rubin, and antimedia)

Finally, Cole's assertion that publishing even truly private correspondence is considered unacceptable in journalism suggests that the mad doctor has not read a newspaper or book in the last 200 years. To converse with someone with the understanding that the conversation is personal and private and then publish that correspondence is definitely not nice, although honorably done in certain situations.
But, of course, that is not an issue for Hitchens or Slate. And, anyway, it is evidently not an issue for the Gulf2000 circle-jerk.

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