Blogs > Cliopatria > Additionally Noted Things

May 20, 2006 9:27 pm

Additionally Noted Things

At Siris, Brandon Watson will host an ancient/medieval edition of Carnivalesque Button on Sunday 21 May. Send your nominations of exemplary posts in ancient or medieval history since 13 March to him at branemrys *at*yahoo*dot*com or by using the Blog Carnival submission form.

Jonathan Wilson,"Marsilio of Padua," The Elfin Ethicist, 19 May, is a good introduction, with references, to the 14th century political theorist.

Something interesting happened yesterday. A story originally published by the National Post at and claiming that the Iranian parliament had passed legislation requiring Jews to wear yellow, Christians to wear red, and Zoroastrians to wear blue badges flashed across the net. Commentators like Michelle Malkin, Andrew Sullivan, and others seized on it as yet more confirming evidence of"Islamofascism." A few commentators, like Daniel Larison at Eunomia, bothered to point out that the Iranian precedent isn't Hitler's Germany, but a very early caliphate. Hitler's Germany is our frame of reference, our historical baggage. Not theirs. Oh, and besides, the report was probably false anyway. It tells you a lot about what fevered brains want to believe about an"enemy." Lots of backpeddling going on. Some don't even bother.

John K. Wilson,"The Footnote Police v Ward Churchill," Inside Higher Ed, 19 May, is the strongest critique of the the University of Colorado's review committee's report that I've seen. Still, I don't find it persuasive. Am I free, as a scholar, to publish work in other people's names and then cite it, as if my claims are supported by a community of scholarship? Am I free, as a scholar, to cite work that contradicts my claims, as if it supported them, without clearly indicating the contradiction? [Ed.: erm, You have been there before. Not. Going. There. Again.] I can do it, but I think I should be held accountable for having done so.

Finally, I'm just going to plagiarize Brandon Watson:

"A distinguished symbologist","an alluring cryptologist" (and how!),"a legendary bloodline","a secret code": you can see it all in The Norman Rockwell Code. Be sure to view the trailer, if you can; it's good. The best line is"Well, history was one of my favorite subjects. I got a C- in it." I'll definitely be looking out for the full version; the trailer is actually better than any trailers I've seen for that other Code.

Actually, that link takes you to the fuller version of the film. Very funny.

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Jonathan Dresner - 5/21/2006

'It is still unclear .... it is not inconceivable

Oh, yeah. That's a high standard of evidence for ya.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/21/2006

You selected just those passages that invoke Nazi precedent, when my point was that, for Iran, the compelling precedent isn't and wouldn't be Hitler's Germany, but an early caliphate. You also ignored the assurance by a Jewish member of Iran's parliament that the discriminating badges had never been under consideration. It is your determination to believe the worst that you can imagine of Iran that causes you to make the selections of "evidence" that so feeds the fevers in your brain. You have my condolensces.

William Hopwood - 5/21/2006

Quoted below is some of what has been called "propaganda." It was "latched onto" in Dr.Luker's link to the New York Sun article referenced above.

Whether the clothing insignias originated with some ancient caliph or with the Nazis, is irrelevant to the issue at hand and apparently mentioned in this context only as a means for some to express their scholastic self esteem.

The issue is racial and/or religious discrimination at the hands of the Iranian regime. Perhaps if Dr. Luker considers the information outlined below to be "propaganda," he might wish to further elucidate.

"...The executive vice chairman of the conference of presidents of major American Jewish organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, said yesterday... 'It is still unclear whether the legislation will require a uniform code of dress or for Muslims or whether it will extend to non Muslims having to wear some identifying marker.' Mr. Hoenlein added that it is not inconceivable such regulation, reminiscent of the Nazis, would be contemplated under President Ahmadinejad, a man who has publicly questioned whether the Nazi atrocities ever occurred.

"Iran's constitution already carves out special status for non-Muslims. For example, it prohibits non-Muslims from obtaining senior posts in either the army or government A national ordinance made into law in 2000 and 2001 requires all non-Muslim butchers, grocers, and purveyors of food to post a form in the window of their place of business warning Muslims they do not share their faith. At the time the code was defended in order to enforce Islamic dietary law. Muslims in Iran officially enjoy preference over non-Muslims in terms of admission to universities and colleges."

Ralph E. Luker - 5/20/2006

Commodore Hopwood -- bro' -- give it up. Malkin and Sullivan have. You can, too. You are not obligated to believe the propaganda that you latch onto with such fevered fervor.

William Hopwood - 5/20/2006

"Commentators like Michelle Malkin, Andrew Sullivan, and oth ers seized on it as yet more confirming evidence of 'Islamofascism.' ... Oh, and besides, the report was probably false anyway. It tells you a lot about what fevered brains want to believe about an 'enemy.'"

Of course, the "fevered brains" of Ms. Malkin and Mr. Sullivan promptly updated with info that the story was probably false. Why were these two singled out by name for special disparagement? Because their blogs are so widely read? Additionally, some might wonder how apologists for the Iranian regime might find reason to ignore the possibility that the story might turn out to be true. The last paragraph of Dr. Luker's link to the New York Sun story by Eli Link provides considerable room for thought in that connection.

Thomas Brown - 5/20/2006

We don't need to go all the way to Germany to find this particular type of historical baggage. Americans were there first:

"in the towns of Wilmington, Washington, Edenton and Fayetteville free negroes were required to wear a badge of cloth on the left shoulder, "and written thereon the word 'Free' ". In addition they had to register with the town clerk and pay a fee of ten shillings three days after arrival in these towns."

Sherman Jay Dorn - 5/20/2006

I'm not surprised that Anne Neal (head of ACTA) responded to Wilson's article but not Timothy Burke's.

I'm quite surprised (and saddened), though, that the ACTA blog written by Erin O'Connor had a long entry on Wilson without acknowledging Burke's criticism.

Alan Allport - 5/20/2006

Fair enough, and I have no quarrel with that (I dislike overuse of those particular f- and n-words myself).

I am pleased to see that Mr. Larison is willing to describe the Iranian government for what it is, a theocratic despotism. The last time I used a similar formula here I seem to remember two of my colleagues reproducing the phrase in scare-quotes, presumably because it was regarded as poor form or bad taste to admit something so vulgar.

Ralph E. Luker - 5/20/2006

I'm making no claim that the Iranian legislators are ignorant. I am suggesting that the American commentators who glammed onto the story did so without any awareness of the middle eastern practice of both more immediate and much greater vintage.

Alan Allport - 5/20/2006

But the implication of your claim is that it can't possibly have entered the minds of those Iranian legislators that there might be a historical precedent nearer to hand, even if it didn't take place in the Islamic world itself. These things don't have to be spelled out to be influential. Do you really think the Iranians would be shocked - shocked! - to discover that the Nazis had also done something like this?

Ralph E. Luker - 5/20/2006

I certainly would hate to think that Alan Allport thinks I've said something "silly." Nonetheless, I think it's highly unlikely that Iranian legislators would appeal to the Third Reich for precedent for legislation such as this, when middle eastern caliphates _are_ the historical antecidents both much older and much more closely at hand.

Alan Allport - 5/20/2006

Hitler's Germany is our frame of reference, our historical baggage. Not theirs.

Ralph, that's a silly claim. The story may well turn out to be untrue. But if it is, the Iranians will hardly be unaware of the Nazi precedent and its implications, even if it isn't 'their' baggage. Cultural histories aren't hermetically sealed off from one another.

William L Ramsey - 5/20/2006

Dr. Luker is right on target as usual (with a few rare exceptions). I have taken the time to read the report and track all criticisms of Mr. Churchill back through the footnotes to the purported sources where it concerns my area of specialty. Is that wrong? And the report is right within my area of specialization: colonial America. Mr. Churchill's citations of Neal Salisbury are criminally incorrect. So here is my real invitation to permanent excommunication from the academic community: Is this the fault of the review commitee (which is clearly responding to political pressure) or the fault of the peer-review process which allowed Mr. Churchill's crap into print without adequate scrutiny in the first place?

Nathanael D. Robinson - 5/20/2006

I've grown tired of the right's facile understanding of political systems--not just fascism, but democracy as well. It would be nice, every once in a while, if they could throw in some comparisons to Italy, or Spain, or Agentina, or South Africa. Or if they must obsess on a single example, why not that nation's treatment of aliens.

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