The Rutgers prof who considers the US worse than ISIS

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Deepa Kumar

Then came the tweet.

On March 26, 2015, Deepa Kumar – a Rutgers professor of media and Middle Eastern Studies whose career we’ve been tracing this week – tweeted the following: “Yes ISIS is brutal, but US is more so, 1.3 million killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan #NoToWar.”

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali

In previous years, she’d already taken to social media to swipe at her class enemies. In one Facebook post, she encouraged her friends to use the word douchebag “to describe rich, white entitled males and their misogynistic, racist behavior!” In another post, she smeared Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim whose campaign for the rights of Muslim women has made her a terrorist target and obliged her to have round-the-clock bodyguards. To many people, Hirsi Ali is a heroine; to Kumar, however, she is nothing more or less than an “islamophobe [sic] and native informant” – the latter apparently meaning that by shedding a light on Islamic misogyny she’s ratted on her own.

But these Facebook rants hadn’t sparked worldwide attention. Nor had Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire – the 2012 book in which she spun her views on the topic into book length, and which received glowing reviews in such venues as the International Socialist Review, the Egyptian news site Al-Akhbar, and the website of the Florida branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations.

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Max Abrams

But the ISIS tweet was another matter. Suddenly Kumar, whose years of defending terrorists and demonizing Islamophobia in academic journals and left-wing rags had taken place entirely under the radar of the general public, was making international headlines. The Daily Mail rounded up a few outraged responses. Max Abrams, a professor of political science at Northeastern University, expressed sympathy for Kumar’s students: “Only a complete ideologue could claim the United States is more brutal than Islamic State.” Well, as we’ve seen, Abrams was certainly right there: there are few ideologues more complete than Deepa Kumar. As Abrams noted, the U.S., unlike ISIS, “isn’t in the habit of rounding up thousands of young girls to have them raped dozens of times…or throwing homosexuals off rooftops.”

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Marion Smith

Meanwhile, Marion Smith of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation responded to some of Kumar’s positive tweets about Marxism, saying that no professor should be teaching young people to admire the “deadly ideology” that had taken the lives of tens of millions in China, Russia, and elsewhere. It was also noted that the previous year, Kumar had helped lead a successful movement to keep former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from speaking at Rutgers.

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Sebastian Gorka

Perhaps the most withering response to Kumar’s tweet came from Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism expert and professor at Marine Corps University whose parents had fled from Communism in Hungary – in other words, a man with no fatuous illusions about either Communism or Islam. Commenting in a TV interview, Gorka deplored Kumar’s comparison of “ISIS, which is crucifying people; which is killing children who aren’t fasting during Ramadan; that has used detonation cord to decapitate their prisoners,” with the U.S., “a nation that saved Europe twice in the last hundred years, and even in the 1990s saved the Muslims of Bosnia.”

But the dust-up ended soon enough; and Kumar remains at Rutgers, where she continues to indoctrinate students some of whose parents are paying upwards of $40,000 for the privilege.  

Deepa Kumar: hating Israel, loving Hamas

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Deepa Kumar

We’re on day three of our excursion into the career of Deepa Kumar – who, by the way, holds a B.A. from Bangalore University in India and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, and who teaches about media and the Middle East at Rutgers. We’ve seen how Kumar, after 9/11, was one of the louder voices decrying the West’s supposed Islamophobia. She doesn’t exactly whitewashing terrorism, but she rushes past it as quickly as possible in order to rail (a) that all this voice is a reaction to Western imperialism and oppression and (b) that the Western media and leaders have responded to it with a hysteria that has only intensified the general public’s irrational anti-Muslim bigotry.

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Hamas: a victim of bad PR?

We’ve already looked at a couple of pieces she wrote in 2006. Three years later came her essay “Behind the Myths about Hamas.” While containing a bit of mild criticism, it was essentially a love letter to that organization, which Kumar praised for rejecting the Oslo peace process and for “holding on to a vision of liberating all of historic Palestine.” She also defended Hamas from the charge of Jew-hatred, noting that “in 1990, it published a document stating that its struggle was against Zionists and Zionism, and not Jews and Judaism.” (Never mind the endless stream of anti-Semitic propaganda that Hamas has spewed out for decades, and the poisonous lies about Jews with which they fill their children’s heads from infancy onward.) Her main problem with Hamas: it’s insufficiently socialist, insufficiently concerned about the working class.

A gathering of Tea Party “lunatics in Lansing, April 2009

Then there was her 2010 essay, “Green Scare: The Making of the New Muslim Enemy,” in which she depicted 9/11 not as marking the start of a new phase of jihadist conquest but as laying “the basis for the emergence of a vicious form of Islamophobia that facilitated the U.S. goals of empire building in the 21st century.” Here as elsewhere, Kumar all but ignored jihad violence while focusing on the imperialist designs supposedly underlying the Western response to these acts. She also pushed the idea (popular among professors of her ilk) that there’s been a huge anti-Muslim “backlash” in the West, part of it taking the form of official probes of Muslims who are “charged with planning or being involved in terrorist activity.” (These authorities, Kumar proposed, should instead be policing “Tea Party lunatics.”) Her term “Green Scare” (green being the color of Islam) alludes, of course, to the post-World War II Red Scare, and in fact there’s a legitimate parallel: in the 1950s, there actually were Communists, on both sides of the Iron Curtain, who labored for world domination, just as today there are Muslims, both in the West and in the Islamic world, who seek to bring the whole of humanity into the House of God. But to Kumar, the Green Scare is, and the Red Scare was, utterly unfounded – products of pure paranoia and prejudice.

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Nidal Malik Hasan

What about such acts of terrorism as Major Nidal Hasan’s murder of 13 people at Fort Hood? Well, despite mountains of evidence that it was a jihadist act, Kumar insisted it was a reaction to racist harassment and overwork. Quoting media reports on a series of arrests of would-be “homegrown terrorists,” Kumar wrung her hands not over the terrorist plans themselves but over the media attention, which, she lamented, was laying the “groundwork…for the new ‘Green Scare.’” Her point, in sum: the problem isn’t Islamic terrorism but concern about it. Even President Obama’s constant readiness to praise Islam wasn’t good enough for Kumar: while he dropped some of Bush’s “worst Islamophobic rhetoric,” he “continued the project of imperial domination” – and exploited the public’s Islamophobia to pursue his imperial goals.

More tomorrow.

Zinn is winning

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Howard Zinn

David Greenberg, a professor of history at Rutgers, has vividly captured the impact of Howard Zinn‘s 1980 book A People’s History of the United States on the students who are assigned it as a school textbook. In a 2013 article, Greenberg recalled that when he was in school, he became “enamored” of Zinn’s opus.

In my adolescent rebelliousness, I thrilled to Zinn’s deflation of what he presented as the myths of standard-issue history….Mischievously – subversively – A People’s History whispered that everything I had learned in school was a sugar-coated fairy tale, if not a deliberate lie. Now I knew.

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David Greenberg

So it has been with millions of other American students. Zinn’s book was tailor-made to appeal to them – to, that is, low-information adolescents eager to rebel against their parents’ worldview. To be sure, a few of these kids go on to study history and, as Greenberg puts it, “come to realize that Zinn’s famous book is…a pretty lousy piece of work.” But a much larger percentage of students who’ve been brainwashed by Zinn never snap out of it, alas – they never realize the extent to which they’ve been misled. And consequently they grow into adults who truly believe that America has been the greatest blight on the world stage instead of the greatest blessing.

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Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting

Earlier this week we looked at Howard Zinn’s intense involvement with the American Communist Party, the details of which were made public just six years ago. What’s striking – if unsurprising – is that these revelations haven’t put a dent in the enthusiasm for his book on the part of “educators” and other fans. Among those fans are the movie stars Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. They wrote the 1997 movie Good Will Hunting, in which Damon’s character sang Zinn’s praises.

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Ben Affleck

After Zinn’s CPUSA past came to light, William Sullivan noted Damon’s and Affleck’s refusal to denounce Zinn for his Stalinism, and suggested that the only logical reason for this refusal must be “that they believe so fervently in America’s place as the wickedest of nations that they are unable to realize the absolute fact that Communism surpasses even National Socialism as the responsible ideology for more forced famine, death, and political oppression than any other governmental structure in modern history.” Sullivan elaborated:

To believe that Communism, in any form, could be less vile than our American republic is beyond comprehension, but Howard Zinn was guilty of it. And given that practical history screams the contrary of Zinn’s beliefs, one could argue that his followers have not so much been educated by the factual substance of his work, but indoctrinated by the slanted ideas therein.

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Stephen F. Cohen

We kicked off this week by discussing the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC). A 1995 article in the New York Times reported on the foundation’s plans to construct a museum in memory of the approximately 100 million people killed by Communism during the twentieth century. It is hard to imagine any decent human being criticizing such a project; but our old friend Stephen F. Cohen – the Russia “expert,” Kremlin sympathizer, and spouse of Nation publisher and limousine Marxist Katrina vanden Heuvel – disapproved strongly, telling the Times that the proposed memorial was “triumphalist,” an idea hatched by “cold-war warriors” whose “sermonizing against Communism” betrayed their lack of seriousness.

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The VOC’s Times Square display

That memorial has yet to be built. Meanwhile Howard Zinn’s magnum opus has sold millions of copies and poisoned millions of minds, as exemplified by the VOC’s own reports on young Americans’ ignorance of – and benign attitudes toward – Communism. Clearly, a serious nationwide educational effort is desperately required. The VOC itself has recently taken a small step in this direction, installing billboards in Times Square that seek to set the record straight on Communism. Kudos to them. But it’s only a drop in the bucket. Because Zinn – alarmingly – is winning.