It’s not clear what, if anything will happen to Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding now that its founder, benefactor, and namesake is under arrest in his Saudi homeland for bribery, extortion, and money-laundering, but chances are good that the current director, Jonathan A.C. Brown, will land on his feet. Allah knows there are plenty of other magnificent job opportunities in the Western world for top-flight apologists for radical Islam, and Brown is at the very tip of the top. Since converting to the Religion of Peace in 1997, as we wrote in March, he’s been an ardent apologist for Islamic slavery (which, he’s explained, is “kinder and gentler” than other kinds of slavery, because it’s not “racialized”), a defender of Koranically sanctioned child marriage, and a whitewasher of the sharia-imposed death penalty for gays.
Which brings us to Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, an assistant editor at Foreign Policy who, after Brown came under legitimate attack for his disgusting views, dismissed the criticism as Islamophobia. This, it turned out, was not a one-off: Allen, who’s married to a Muslim, had previously written an article in the Washington Post suggesting that her family was Islamophobic for serving non-halal food on Thanksgiving, and has since painted U.S. government terror probes as acts of bigotry. Yes, as we noted in May, Allen skirted the fact that these probes have uncovered widespread terrorist links, but never mind: in her world, Muslims are always innocent and concern about terror always a front for hate.
Then there’s Jordan-born Columbia University professor Joseph Massad, who consistently paints Israeli Jews as racist oppressors who’ve never felt a benign impulse and Palestinians as innocent victims who’ve never known a bigoted thought. In this regard, of course, he’s barely distinguishable from Brown and any number of other contemporary academics. What singles Massad out is that he’s a gay man who, on the grounds that gay identity is a Western construct, considers campaigners for gay rights in Muslim countries tools of colonialism and takes the side of their oppressors. When Egyptian cops arrested and brutalized 52 gay men in 2011, then, Massad approved, responding to U.S. congressmen who sought to help the victims by serving up this heartless comment: “It is not the same-sex sexual practices that are being repressed by the Egyptian police but rather the sociopolitical identification of these practices with the Western identity of gayness and the publicness that these gay-identified men seek.”
In April, we spent most of a week here discussing Yvette Felarca, a leader of “The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary,” known, for short, as “By Any Means Necessary,” and, for shorter, as BAMN. It’s a California group, founded in 1995, that has spent the last two decades holding protests, bringing lawsuits, and committing acts of violence – or, to use a word that both the FBI and the Defense Department have used to describe its activities, terrorism.
Felarca, who is also a middle-school humanities teacher in Berkeley, has participated fully in BAMN’s storm-trooper-type brutality – beating, rock-throwing, setting fires, breaking store windows, and so on – which she excuses as a legitimate means of defending America against the words of Nazis and fascists.
In June of last year, she was arrested at a demonstration in Sacramento; at her arraignment, which didn’t take place until August of this year, she was charged with “felony assault by means of force likely to inflict great bodily injury and two misdemeanor counts of inciting and participating in a riot.” (Reportedly, she had punched a man in the abdomen and told him to “get the fuck out of our streets.”)
This past February, Felarca was in the center of the action when vioent BAMN members managed to keep journalist Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking at UC Berkeley. Appearing on Fox News afterwards, Felarca charged Yiannopoulos with leading “a movement of genocide.”
Felarca experienced no professional blowback for her arrest in Sacramento or for her participation in the violence in Berkeley. At the latter event, the Berkeley police stood down. The mayor of Berkeley, asked for a comment, echoed Felarca’s absurd claim that Yiannopoulos was a white supremacist. Despite calls for Felarca’s firing, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) kept her on. So things stood when we last looked in on Yvette.
Here’s an update. On September 26, members of “Patriot Prayer” – a conservative Christian group based in Portland, Oregon – held a small, peaceful rally at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way in Berkeley. The speakers were “quickly…drowned out by protesters” from BAMN and another group, Refuse Fascism. (The latter is a campaign run by the Revolutionary Communist Party; BAMN itself is an RCF spinoff.) The “Patriot Prayer” contingent then marched down Telegraph Avenue to People’s Park, only to be trailed by the leftists; arriving at People’s Park, the conservatives began holding speeches, in response to which the BAMN and Refuse Fascism members heckled them. And worse.
By the end of the day, Felarca – who at the time was out on bail – was in cuffs, arrested on suspicion of rioting, obstruction, and battery. Along with two fellow BAMN members, both male, she was held at Santa Rita Jail. Her bail was set at $20,000. (The bail for her BAMN colleagues, who had apparently wreaked less havoc, was set at $10,000 for one and $5,000 for the other.) That evening, a spokesman for the school district replied to a query about Felarca by saying that it was “monitoring developments” and that, “[s]hould an occasion arise for the District to take action, we will respond in an appropriate manner, in keeping with federal law, the California Education Code and the BUSD collective bargaining agreement with our teachers.”
In other words, when a Berkeley schoolteacher is arrested at multiple public events for committing acts of violence, that, in itself, isn’t enough reason for school authorities to “take action.” One wonders what BUSD’s response would’ve been if Felarca had been on the other side.
Felarca will be arraigned on November 8. In the meantime, presumably, she’s still spending her weekdays in front of a Berkeley classroom. One can only imagine what she is cramming into her pupils’ heads in the guise of “humanities.”
Last Christmas Eve, George Ciccariello-Maher, a previously obscure professor at Drexel University and an enthusiastic booster of chavismo, made national headlines with a tweet reading: “All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide.” On Christmas Day, he referred fondly to the “massacre of whites,” explaining that, in his view, the mass murder of about four thousand caucasians during the Haitian Revolution “was a good thing.” Those who looked further into his Twitter feed discovered that earlier in the month he’d proudly boasted: “Sorry, I’m not ‘alt-left,’ just an actual communist.”
When the media got wind of all this, George blamed the fuss on “white supremacists.” If George had written such a thing about pretty much any other identity group, you can be sure he’d have been fired instantly and condemned by Drexel’s administration in the strongest possible terms; instead, the university issued a tepid press release slapping him on the wrist and promised an investigation. In response, George went on the offensive, describing his bosses’ action as a “chilling” and “frightening” reaction to “harassment” by outsiders. When leftist commentators and George’s academic colleagues stood up for him, blaming the media attention on right-wing bigots, the powers that be at Drexel withdrew their plans for an investigation,
In January we devoted a week to George’s case, which provided a perfect example of the double standards that currently rule the ivory tower roost. These days, a public declaration of even the mildest moderate or conservative opinion by a professor can lead to major trouble – to charges of having sown discord among students, caused them emotional distress, committed “microaggressions” against them. A biology instructor who makes even the most innocuous statement of fact about differences between the sexes can find his career in danger. But to express enthusiasm for the massacre of white people is fine – as Drexel’s president ultimately pronounced, George was simply exercising his First Amendment rights.
In March, George’s Twitter feed once again put his name in the headlines. On a plane, he saw a fellow passenger giving his first-class seat to a soldier in uniform. “People are thanking him,” wrote George. “I’m trying not to vomit or yell about Mosul.”
Now George is back in the news. On the morning of October 2, the day after the mass killing in Las Vegas, he took to Twitter again. So far, nobody knew anything of substance about the killer or his motives, but George had all the answers. “Yesterday was a morbid symptom of what happens when those who believe they deserve to own the world also think it is being stolen from them,” he wrote. “It is the spinal column of Trumpism, and most extreme form is the white genocide myth. The narrative of white victimization has been gradually built over the past 40 years. White people and men are told that they are entitled to everything. This is what happens when they don’t get what they want.”
Once again, the authorities at Drexel distanced themselves from George’s views, saying that their thoughts and prayers were with the survivors. There’s no reason to believe, however, that they’ll go any further this time than they did last Christmas. As far as they’re concerned, George has all the right in the world to spread his poison. What is appalling is that this man is responsible for teaching young people, and that the ranks of American university faculties are full of people who share his reprehensible views and have rushed to his defense for expressing them.
Richard Falk (b. 1930) is a famous Princetonian, although his fame doesn’t derive primarily from his connection to Old Nassau. Rather, his worldwide celebrity is rooted mainly in his nefarious activities in association with the UN.
Now a professor emeritus at Princeton (as well as a research professor at UC Santa Barbara), Falk boasted the grand-sounding title of Special Rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council from 2008 to 2014. His job, specifically, was to look into “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967.”
The Rapporteur became a subject of controversy even before he got around to issuing his first report. Jewish groups opposed his appointment, as did the Israeli ambassador to the UN. A former US ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, was outspoken about the selection, complaining that Falk had been picked “not to have an objective assessment” but “to find more ammunition to go after Israel.”
What was it about Falk that gave Bolton such an impression? Well, let’s just say that Falk had a long track record. He started teaching at Princeton in 1961, by which time he’d already publicly identified himself as Communist, expressed his hostility to the concept of nation states, and declared his fealty to world government. He’d been a big macher in such groups as the American Movement for World Government and the World Federalist Institute.
In 1973 he’d served as defense counsel for an activist who had bombed an army research lab at the University of Wisconsin, killing one and injuring four; in the murderer’s defense, Falk stood up for the use of violence by war resisters. In 1979, after visiting the Ayatollah Khomeini in France, Falk wrote a New York Times op-ed declaring that the widespread “depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false.” On the contrary, Khomeini was surrounded by a “moderate, progressive” entourage” and would likely provide Iran with a “model of humane governance.”
Years later, he’d compared America’s 2003 intervention in Iraq to the Nazis’ actions in World War II. In 2004, he’d written an introduction to a book claiming that George W. Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks. In 2008, he’d suggested that American neoconservatives might have helped plan those attacks. During much of this time, Falk had served on the editorial board of The Nation and written for Al Jazeera and for that kookiest of radical rags, CounterPunch.
And he’d made clear, over and over again, that he was one more Jew who despised the State of Israel. Only a year before his appointment by the UNHRC, he had written an article, “Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” in which he used the word “Holocaust” to describe actions by Israel.
He assured his critics that he’d be objective. But Israeli authorities weren’t fooled – especially after he publicly declared their blockade of Gaza a “flagrant and massive violation of international human law.” Falk went on and on about the subject, while remaining silent about Palestinian actions. A few days later, when he flew to Ben Gurion Airport on the first leg of what was supposed to be his first UN fact-finding mission to Gaza and the West Bank, Israel threw him out of the country. And banned him from coming back.
The New York Times and other major media had conniption fits. How could Israel subject such an august personage, dispatched by such an unimpeachable organization, to such abominable treatment? Never mind that the UNHRC has been dominated from its inception by countries considered “unfree” by Freedom House and that, as of 2008, when Falk took up his UN job, those members included Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Zambia, Senegal, Mali, Qatar, Pakistan, and several other countries whose names, when it comes to human rights, do not even deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Israel.
We last discussed Vivian Gornick a couple of months ago, when we took note of a piece she’d written for the New York Times romanticizing Stalinism. Gornick’s exercise in nostalgia, we observed, was pretty much a boiled-down version of her repulsive 1978 memoir The Romance of Communism. In her piece, as in her book, she portrayed American Communists as superior souls, driven by convictions that the non-Commie rabble were too ignoble to possess.
When we weighed in on Gornick’s Times essay, we hadn’t yet caught up with another recent item bearing her byline – namely, an article for the Nation entitled “Getting Even.” The subject was Diana Trilling (1905-96), the occasion a new biography of Trilling by Natalie Robins entitled The Untold Journal.
Who, you ask, was Diana Trilling? She belonged to a circle of midcentury Manhattan writers who went by various names – sometimes the New York intellectuals, sometimes the Partisan Review crowd, and sometimes (by insiders) The Family. Among her fellow Family members were Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, William Phillips, Dwight Macdonald, Philip Rahv, Delmore Schwartz, and, not least, Trilling’s own husband, Lionel, who was a professor of literature at Columbia University and a highly respected literary critic.
Most of the New York intellectuals were leftists, but none of them were, like Gornick, Stalinists; several of them would have identified, for a time anyway, as Trotskyites, although the Trillings were more moderate in their politics, pretty much personifying the mainstream liberal anti-Communism of the day. Lionel’s most celebrated book, indeed, was a collection of essays entitled The Liberal Imagination.
And Diana? She started out reviewing fiction for The Nation and went on to write social and cultural criticism and to publish three collections of essays, a biography (of a famous murderess), and a memoir. During her marriage to Lionel (who died in 1975), she also, as Gornick puts it, “kept house, organized their increasingly busy social life, and took an active hand in aiding her husband with his work.” That aid was by no means inconsiderable: Lionel was a subtle thinker but not a fluid writer, and Diana, by all accounts, edited him heavily and made him readable.
She called herself a “family feminist.” Any reasonable person would admire her as a model professional woman, one who managed to combine a respected career with a responsible family life. But this doesn’t do it for Gornick. In Gornick’s view, Diana Trilling wasn’t enough of a feminist – or, perhaps more accurately, wasn’t the right kind of feminist.
But even more troubling for Gornick than Diana’s take on feminism was her (and Lionel’s) view of Communism. Now, for any sensible person, the Trillings’ rock-solid anti-Communism is self-evidently admirable, especially given the tendency of many members of the New York crowd to look fondly on the Soviet Union (or, at the very least, to refuse to judge it harshly). Diana’s later distaste for the New Left and all its epiphenomena (hippies, student revolts, sit-ins, campus takeovers, the Black Power movement) also seems sane, mature, and prescient – especially, again, when viewed alongside the desperately puerile efforts by Family members like Norman Mailer to become a part of the youth movement and thus be seen as au courant, hip, with-it.
It’s no surprise that Gornick, an old Stalinist, has a problem with Diana’s politics. Here’s what Gornick has to say on the topic:
Communism in the United States was the great bugaboo of Diana’s life. From the mid-’30s on, she saw it as a threat to American democracy worthy of the highest moral outrage. Making no distinction between communists in the Soviet Union and those in the United States, she described the Communist Party USA as the evil within that operated under a “chain of Communist command” and that was bent on “the entrapment of innocents.”
Whom does Gornick think she is fooling? It has long since been established that the American Communist Party’s every move was indeed directed by the Kremlin. Its members were, in a very real sense, in the service of evil. They were the tools of a monstrous totalitarianism. There was no operative distinction between Communists over here and over there. Diana Trilling understood that more than half a century ago; Vivian Gornick, now in her eighties, is still in some perverse kind of denial about it. Gornick’s indictment of Diana’s politics continues:
She often thought it more important to fight this evil within than to secure and protect civil liberties, and she could truly never understand why this made others see her as a reactionary. To read her today on communism (with either a lowercase or capital “C”) is jaw-dropping, alternately ludicrous and frightening. Not once in all of her red-baiting diatribes does an insight emanate from anything that might resemble an emotional imagination.
What is Gornick criticizing Diana Trilling for here? She’s criticizing her, apparently, for seeing Communism precisely for what it was, for looking at it with unblinkered eyes, for refusing to buy into any of the rose-colored propaganda that filled so many of the intellectual and literary journals of the time, for seeing through the efforts of American Communists to hide behind freedoms they had sworn to destroy. Gornick, whose view of Communism has been befogged by sentiment throughout her adult life, is criticizing Trilling for not sharing her own repellent delusions. Good for Trilling. Shame on Gornick.
When we saw the headline and subheads of a July 1 article in the Daily Mail about an unsettling development at Salford University, the first thing we did was look up Salford University, because we weren’t even sure which country it was in. It turns out to be in England – specifically, in Manchester. In fact, Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who took 22 lives at that Ariana Grande concert, was a student there.
The Mail story was about another Muslim student at Salford – one Zamzam (yes, Zamzam) Ibrahim, the president of Salford’s Student Union. Zamzam, a recent recipient of a Bsc degree in Business and Financial Management, was elected to her Student Union office in March. She has also been elected to a leadership position in the National Union of Students (NUS). During her campaign for the latter office, she claimed that there had been a 41% rise in anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK since the Brexit vote and opposed the “PREVENT” strategy, a UK government policy that is intended to keep terrorist events from taking place and that Zamzam calls “racist.”
But that’s nothing. The Mail discovered that during the last few years, Zamzam has shared a good many strong opinions on social media. Specifically, she has expressed a desire to “oppress white people,” has said that she considers “friendship between men and women…un-Islamic,” and has wished that everyone would read the Koran, because it would lead to “an Islamic takeover!”
After the Mail‘s discoveries were picked up by other news media, another British newspaper, the Independent, gave Zamzam space to defend herself. She argued as follows. First, she’d made the comments quoted by the Mail back in 2012, when she was only 16; they were, in other words, the “adolescent comments of a young girl” who was “struggling with my view of the world and my place in it” and “grappling with the deep injustices I could see around me and trying to figure out how I could make the world a better place.”
Second, the Mail had “twisted” her comments “to make them seem far more sinister than they ever were intended to be.” Third, she has since grown up, and the comments cited by the Mail “do not reflect my views today.”
One reader who commented on Zamzam’s article noted a couple of important details in her piece. First, an apparently deliberate error: in 2012, she was 18, not 16. Second, some of her offensive messages don’t date back to 2012 – they’re only a few months old.
Another reader noted that Zamzam, although given plenty of space by the Independent, hadn’t explicitly rejected any of the assertions she’d made in her social-media messages. Instead, she’d made use of the opportunity to slam the image of Islams served up by the “right-wing media” and to play the victim – not just any victim, mind you, but one belonging to an intersectional bonanza of officially recognized identity groups: a woman, a black, and a Muslim.
“The question to Zamzam,” stated the reader, “is whether she has changed her beliefs in this period or she continues to hang onto them. Has she for example changed her views on whether males and females can mix in public and private places?….Does she for example still feel that Muslims are the oppressed and not the oppressors of Jews, Christians, yazidis, Armenians, converts to other religions, disabled and LGBT communities and many others living in their midst?”
Indeed, those are the questions. It seems clear even from Zamzam’s Independent article that she still views Muslims as an oppressed group. What, one wonders, did she post on social media after a student from her university committed that massacre at the Ariana Grande concert? We’ve tried to find out, but without success, because Zamzam – who, in every picture and video we can find of her, is wearing a hijab – appears to have deleted her social-media accounts.
During the last two days we’ve been looking at sociology professor Johnny EricTrin Williams, who, in June, over two decades after earning his Ph.D., finally did something to attract notice beyond the Hartford, Connecticut, campus of Trinity College, where he teaches: he wrote a couple of tweets in which he basically called for race war.
One thing that’s interesting about working on this website is how you keep running into the same people. Googling away for clues to Williams’s past, we found very little – let’s just say he’s not exactly ambitious or prolific – but one thing we did run across was a document that linked Williams to a couple of our old pals on this site, namely world-class race hustler Cornel West, who is currently on the Harvard faculty, and Bob Avakian, head of the Communist Party USA. The document was a statement by an organization calling itself “Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal.”
Mumia, of course, is a former Black Panther and cop-killer who was sentenced to death in 1982, whereupon bien pensant types around the world rallied to his support, presenting his conviction as a symbol of American injustice and racism and campaigning to have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. That effort eventually bore fruit in 2001; Mumia is now serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison.
But on to the statement by the “Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal,” or EMAJ for short. The statement was critical of a November 15, 2014, event at New York’s Riverside Church, where Avakian and West discussed “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion.” EMAJ, which noted that it had “supported the event beforehand,” was nonetheless unhappy with the discussion because of its “singular focus on one predominating voice, of its disrespect for black radical leadership and all leaders of color, and of its failure to uphold the radical democratic values needed in revolutionary movements.”
In other words, West and Avakian, the latter of whom, at least, is an advocate of violent, murderous totalitarian revolution in the United States, were not radical enough for the members of EMAJ. The EMAJ statement went on to quote an essay by Mumia and Angela Davis, who, as we’ve seen on this site, was an accessory to murder. The essay envisioned “a socialist future” that would involve “the abolition of institutions that advance the dominance of any one group over any other”; in writing their essay, they drew on “Black, indigenous and other traditions.”
This, complained the EMAJ, was something that West and Avakian, but mainly Avakian, had failed to do at the Riverside event. In the view of EMAJ, Avakian, who is white, had taken up too much time, which “was disrespectful of Dr. West,” who is black. To EMAJ, this amounted to “an implicit racism” and a sense of “white privilege and white supremacy.” EMAJ condemned “what we witnessed at Riverside: one white revolutionary lecturing for more than two hours while a Black revolutionary sat on the stage. This is not what revolution looks like in the U.S.”
The EMAJ statement was signed by fifteen individuals, most of whose listed affiliations with academic institutions – among them Evergreen State College, Columbia University, and Union and Princeton theological seminaries. Williams was one of them. This, then, is the kind of nonsense in which he has been involved in recent years when he might have been engaged in serious sociological research.
Oh, well. The good news is that on June 26, the president of Trinity College put Williams on a leave of absence for his racist Facebook and Twitter posts. The bad news: the American Association of University Professors criticized Trinity for violating Williams’s “academic freedom” we suspect he’ll be back soon enough. Colleagues, too, rallied around Williams. From Inside HigherEd: “Matthew Hughey, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut and friend of Williams’s, said he ‘was merely the latest target of a campaign by the right-wing white supremacist outrage machine with the goal of silencing academics’ working to eliminate oppression.” (We’ve previously discussed Hughey on this site, by the way.) Our guess: Williams will be back in the classroom soon enough, likely doubling down on his hatred and infecting heaven knows how many students with it.