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Gooses, Ganders, Goodforness

Martin Kramer notes that Juan Cole hasn't been averse to making some legal threats of his own, drawing a parallel to the recent MEMRI unpleasantness. If you read Kramer's post you'll see the situations weren't really the same (Cole alleged that CampusWatch was creating a nuisance, in essence, while MEMRI alleged that Cole was, by criticizing them, committing libel), but that there's a certain similarity can't be denied.

November 25, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

Now that you mention it, why don't you elaborate on what this "certain similarity" is, and why it should make any difference?

Posted by: fightingdem | Nov 25, 2004 10:39:41 PM

You honestly don't see a SUBSTANTIVE difference between threatening legal action put an end to cyberstalking and harrassment, and a *false* suit for libel?

Posted by: Gar Lipow | Nov 25, 2004 10:43:53 PM

Note - hit post too quickly, threats in both cases; no actual suits filed in either case.

Posted by: Gar Lipow` | Nov 25, 2004 10:45:04 PM

This is a perfect, "yeah....but..." situation.

The similarities end with the threat of legal remedy.

Which is not to say that there is not some terrific irony in Cole's "Free sharing of ideas that makes the internet possible" comment. But irony does not make the two situations parallel.

Posted by: def | Nov 25, 2004 10:56:21 PM

Trying to encourage people to spy on then-private individuals considered un-American is not the same as making largely opinion-based claims about a public organization with a huge influence on our policy. The correct parallel would be if MESA itself were to sue Campus Watch.

Posted by: Brian Ulrich | Nov 25, 2004 11:10:28 PM

No matter how you cut it, Cole's threatened suit was frivolous, and it was designed to intimidate Campus Watch to prevent it from engaging in its particular style of criticism--a style that has been much more low-keyed than Cole's weblog. I found this link to Cole's response to Campus Watch, which shows how frivolous his threat was, since Cole didn't feel threatened by Campus Watch in the least. Interview with Electronic Intifada, http://electronicintifada.net/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/4/719

Nigel Parry: What are your initial feelings about the project?

Juan Cole: I am a public intellectual employed by a state university and expect what I say to be known and scrutinized. The one caveat is that judging from their examination essays, students are not always really good reporters of the substance of my lectures, and there is always danger of being misquoted or having an oral statement taken out of context and put on a Web site.

Nigel Parry: Have you noticed any monitoring on your campus? Have other faculty reported any such monitoring?

Juan Cole: No signs yet.

Nigel Parry: Do you feel this will affect academic freedom on campus? How?

Juan Cole: No, I can't see how it would matter.

Nigel Parry: Have you experienced pressure as a result of your views on the Middle East or any aspect of it? Has this come from the institution, faculty, students, or a mixture?

Juan Cole: No.

Posted by: cmp | Nov 25, 2004 11:42:20 PM

Apart from the negligible distinction that Middle East Watch is assembling and promulgating a blacklist, and Juan Cole isn't, the two cases are strikingly similar indeed.

Posted by: son volt | Nov 25, 2004 11:43:22 PM

"Campus Watch, Monitoring Middle East Studies On Campus" that is, not Middle East Watch; sorry about that.

Posted by: son volt | Nov 25, 2004 11:49:39 PM

Wow Matthew, you really hit the nail on the head, all recourse, or threat thereof, to the legal system is EXACTLY THE SAME. ALWAYS. NO MATTER WHAT.

You can only get sharp insightful analysis like this in the underground press.

Posted by: felixrayman | Nov 26, 2004 3:14:39 AM

Can people please admit that Juan Cole jumped the shark about six years ago. He may be an expert about Iraqi Shi'ites, but at least 80% of the content of his Web site is completely asinine. He writes maybe one insightful paragraph a week.

Posted by: Mark L. | Nov 26, 2004 3:22:59 AM

Can people please admit that Juan Cole jumped the shark about six years ago.

Can you give me an example of Mr. Cole's writing from 1998 that you like more than his current work?

Posted by: felixrayman | Nov 26, 2004 3:32:01 AM

He writes maybe one insightful paragraph a week.

Which is far than 99.9999999999% of the population at large, and probably far more than you ever will!

Posted by: Don Quijote | Nov 26, 2004 8:32:00 AM

I don't disagree in principle, but "99.9999999999% of the population at large" is about everybody on earth minus .006 of a person...

Posted by: mg | Nov 26, 2004 9:06:43 AM

felixrayman writes: Wow Matthew, you really hit the nail on the head, all recourse, or threat thereof, to the legal system is EXACTLY THE SAME. ALWAYS. NO MATTER WHAT.

Felix, did you read the part of Matt's (fairly small) post where he wrote: "the situations weren't really the same"

How you got "EXACTLY THE SAME. ALWAYS. NO MATTER WHAT" from that is pretty entertaining.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Nov 26, 2004 9:57:34 AM

I initially thought MEMRI's threat to sue Cole was shameful but at the same time ridiculous.

Now that I find he threatened to sue Campus Watch, it looks more like a bit of high camp irony. Which I for one didn't know Isrealis could do, I thought it was more of a galut talent.

Posted by: larry birnbaum | Nov 26, 2004 10:58:45 AM

Felix, did you read the part of Matt's (fairly small) post where he wrote: "the situations weren't really the same"

Which of course makes the rest of his post utter nonsense which deserves to be sarcastically mocked. I'm on it.

Posted by: felixrayman | Nov 26, 2004 12:12:01 PM

felixrayman is right on the money.

Matt is comparing oranges and fake plastic apples. Note how the similarities are not addressed. Note how there is nothing about wether Cole's lawsuit threat was justified... Matt pulled a dirty little "Drudge"...

Posted by: ch2 | Nov 26, 2004 2:36:36 PM

Sorry, but Cole's threat to sue seems at least as frivolous to me as MEMRI's, perhaps more so (I'm not a lawyer). He doesn't say they asked people to SPAM him, simply that they could have anticipated that listing his name and publicizing some of his comments would incite people to do so. It's unfortunate that he got ugly email but I'm not sure how Campus Watch can be held liable for that.

In any case, his threat to sue like MEMRI's strikes me as anti-First Amendment. If Campus Watch wants to say they don't like his views and publish the comments they don't like, they have a perfect right to do so, just as he has a perfect right to say that MEMRI is a tool of right-wing Israelis if that's what he believes.

Posted by: larry birnbaum | Nov 26, 2004 3:53:08 PM

Cole may not have had a true legal basis to sue....but can anyone blame him for being upset? How would you like to be deluged with SPAM that you know was linked to someone's call to action? It would have been exceptionally difficult to prove in a court, of course.

But I think that is goes to the heart of the difference b/w the two: one is the frazzled anger of a man being harassed (real or perceived), the other an organization seeking to silence it's critics.

They are different.

Posted by: 2shoes | Nov 26, 2004 4:57:03 PM

Cole's actions are not hypocritical, but entirely consistent with a single principle, defense of freedom of expression. Even if we accept for the sake of argument that his threatened lawsuit years back was an idle threat and legally frivolous, its purpose was to thwart actions by people dedicated to intimidating him and challenging his right to speak his mind. That's what these various "academic watch" spy groups do. I've seen them in action; their objective is to shut people up in the name of "balance" and "objectivity". MEMRI's threatened libel suit is also designed to shut Cole up, by trying to make the University of Michigan think they'll be in trouble if they don't do something to muzzle him. If you want to call Cole a hypocrite, show me a case where he acted in some way to try to force someone to stop expressing their opinion. Cole, more than most, has always been respectful of the right of his opponents to speak, as long as they don't try to intimidate or muzzle him. 100% consistency, Matt, you're just wrong on this one.

Posted by: the exile | Nov 26, 2004 5:32:15 PM

MEMRI's threatened libel suit is also designed to shut Cole up, by trying to make the University of Michigan think they'll be in trouble if they don't do something to muzzle him

And Cole's threatened lawsuit was an attempt to muzzle his critics too, in part anyway.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Nov 26, 2004 5:37:23 PM


Um..."criticism" doesn't mean you get to "harass".

Posted by: 2shoes | Nov 26, 2004 6:30:55 PM

It doesn't, but as others have basically said, the characterization by a plaintiff of harassment or potential harrassment and actual evidence of harassment are different things.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Nov 26, 2004 6:53:19 PM

make that potential plaintiff.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Nov 26, 2004 6:57:16 PM


We are not in possession of those facts, thus we can pass no judgement on Cole's case, other than to muse it would been extremely difficult for him, legally speaking, to directly link alleged harrassing behaviour to CampusWatch.

Cole may in fact have been harassed. Who can say? And he may have struck out at what he perceived to be the source of the harrassment. This cannot in any way be characterized as "an attempt to muzzle his critics."

As "the Exile" mentioned, please feel free to show us where and how Cole was trying to prevent someone from expressing an opinion.

Posted by: 2shoes | Nov 26, 2004 7:08:07 PM

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