Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Baseless Accusations, Tonight at 11

"Jimmy Carter Accused of Distorting History," we're told by CNN. What's this news clip about? According to Emory professor Ken Stein, Carter, along with his new book, has gotten the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict wrong for two reasons: 1) He's a former president, not a historian; and 2) He's making an argument about an emotionally charged topic.

So be it, I would usually say. In Israeli-Palestinian-debate-world, it's quite permissible to accuse presidents who make history of being unqualified to jot down a few words about it. Better leave that to the real historians, I think is the general opinion. Equally permissible is to criticize someone's argument for ... their making an argument, where instead, perhaps, they should be doing something like saying nothing, or saying something egregiously wrong, or doing more of that fun, supportable, democracy-promotion stuff like election monitoring, or writing novels about the Revolutionary War, or histories about Europe.

But I think, ultimately, this news piece goes a bit too far off the loony-tunes end. In addition to the bit outlined above, the second half of the news clip is about a map that appears on p. 148 of Palestine: Peace not Apartheid, which may or may not have been derived from a different source, which may or may not have been knowingly used by Carter -- who was using a source from an Israeli research institute -- without attribution. Phew! Pretty confusing, eh? Too soon, perhaps to assign blame to anyway.

But wait! We're told that Stein "suggests Carter took material [from this other source] without attribution. In other words, that he committed the very definition of plagiarism, right? (In the sense, you know, that plagiarism basically means "taking material from another source without attribution.")

But no! Not in bizarro-world CNN story, which tells us that "Stein is clear: he's not accusing Carter of plagiarism." Huh?

This is just the worst news clip I've ever seen. A terrible combination, it seems, of atrocious editing, silly statements by interviewees, and this absolute garbage about a stupid map. And who really cares?

Well, one thing no one seems to care about is Jimmy Carter's actual argument. While necessarily grounded in history, it's nonetheless about something happening right now -- which is exactly his point. Forget the history. Anyone with a conscience who visits the West Bank will be horrified by what they see, he reminds us. Period. If we can't agree on the history, or the maps, can't we at least use this -- innocent human suffering -- as a basic starting point for discussion? Or is this just simplifying the many complexities of History and Cartography?

5 Comments:

Blogger Scantron said...

Jimmy Carter is in deep doodoo for one reason: he used a Very Bad Word to describe Israeli policy, a word that begins in "a" and ends in "partheid." Seriously, if he had written a book called "Palestine: Peace in the Middle East" NO ONE would give two shits. And that's even if the book were filled with "abberations and misrepresentations," no specific instances of which, of course, have been offered. So far as I can tell, "misrepresentations" means "not agreeing with my hawkish Israeli policy." It means "You don't agree that Palestinians have only themselves to blame for the conflict, Israeli has done everything it possibly can to remedy the situation, it's all Arafat's fault," etc. Aside from the maps, I have not heard one word to substantiate claims of factual distortion or plagiarism. Let them come, and I will assess them. But right now this is about one little word.

4:46 AM  
Blogger Scantron said...

Coincidentally, I also got into my first EVER conversation-killing Israel-Palestine debate tonight. I can't believe this has never happened before (doesn't it happen once to everyone?), although I don't think that I hold extreme views about the situation at all. What's weird is that the other person and I seemed to agree on everything. a) the leaders and media of states such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are guilty of vicious anti-Semitism. b) the United States is viewed as an aggressor for its Middle East wars, especially the debacle in Iraq.
c) the Israel-Lebanon war was a "mistake," and can legitimately be viewed as more aggression on the part of the United States in supporting Israel. d) ergo, as has historically been the case, Israel and the United States are seen as close allies waging a greater struggle against the ME countries. (I suppose I pressed more on the point that what this means, in effect, is that they've [we've] killed a lot of people. Maybe not always unjustifiably! But we've killed a lot of people.)

Somehow these shared premises yielded an awkward and somewhat hostile silence. I think it had something to do with Hezbollah embedding itself among civilians. So it turns out, you really should just shut up about the whole thing. You have to learn these things personally, I guess.

5:02 AM  
Blogger Austin 5-000 said...

As a SigEp brother who lovez to have a good time, I can tell you that the Israeli-Palestinean Conflict is bad for parties and therefore SUX balls!

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The IDF has just bulldozed all of the HUD homes that Carter has helped build over the years to send a stern message that support for terrorism will be severely punished.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Josh the Hippie Killer said...

my dad's name is also ken stein

9:59 PM  

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