Juan Cole: Complains that rightwingers keep distorting Wiki entries about him

Historians in the News

An encyclopedia article should be an objective accounting of a person's life and work. The wikipedia entry on me is constantly being distorted by a small group of far rightwing activists who put the comments of my ideological critics up into the body in an attempt to discredit me.

I never replied to the smear of me gotten up by Marty Peretz of the New Republic and carried out by a far rightwing Israeli historian named Ephraim Karsh, some time ago. It was beneath contempt.

Karsh used scurrilous propaganda techniques, attempting to insinuate that my criticisms of the Neconservative clique in the Bush administration are somehow like believing in the forged "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Of course, he put the insinuation in the negative, so as to protect himself from criticism. No serious person who knows me or my work would credit his outrageous insinuations for a moment.

Karsh charged that I am innocent of the 20th and 21st century history of the Middle East because much of my writing had been on earlier periods.

But in fact I have formally published in refereed academic venues on the Taliban, on September 11, the Ayatollahs of Iraq and democracy, on the historiography of the Muslim Brotherhood, on the Salafi leader Rashid Rida and many other twentieth century and twenty-first century subjects. My book, Sacred Space and Holy War contains chapters on the twentieth-century history of the Arab Shiites and on the modernity of the Islamic Republic of Iran and I have also published a chapter at McGill University Press on the treatment of religious minorities by the Islamic Republic, especially in the 1990s and early zeroes.

In addition to my writing on academic 20th century and contemporary topics, which has been extensive, I have published a raft of op-eds on contemporary affairs in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Salon.com, the Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, the St. Petersburg Times, etc., etc. I am a sought-after commentator in the media on contemporary Middle Eastern affairs, which I follow on a daily basis, having made appearances on the Lehrer News Hour, Nightline, ABC Evening News, the Today Show, Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, CNN Headline News, etc., etc. The news professionals are in no doubt of my expertise on the up to the minute happenings in the region.

I am a person of wide personal experience with the late twentieth century and contemporary Middle East. I worked as a newspaperman in Beirut in the late 1970s. I lived for several years in Cairo. I lived in Amman, Jordan. I lived and traveled widely in Pakistan and India. I have continued to visit the region frequently in the past 15 years, keeping in touch with the pulse of opinion and changing local views. I don't need to do that through interpreters. I speak fluent colloquial Arabic, Urdu and Persian, and can get around in Turkish.

I have written a lot about the earlier history of the Middle East and will go on doing so. But Karsh's attempt to paint me as a dusty antiquarian is simply implausible.

You will note, moreover, that a medievalist like Bernard Lewis, who for the most part wrote about the early Muslim period or the Ottoman Empire, is lionized by people like Karsh when he writes about current affairs. Lewis's experience on the ground in the Arab world is minimal compared to my own.
Read entire article at Juan Cole at his blog, Informed Comment

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