Thursday, June 29, 2017

On Salaita

Steven Salaita put up the following Facebook post. I added the numbers.
Don't ask me to define liberalism. I can't. I won't even try. But I can identify a liberal whenever somebody... 
1. ..chooses to ally with reactionaries rather than leftists
2. ...adamantly defends the speech rights of fascists while ignoring people of color punished for speaking up 
3. ...angrily blames horrible rightwing policies on leftists rather than on the people who actually implement them 
4. ...can't get past the idea of voting as the core expression of political life 
5. ...pounces on any opportunity, however dubious, to condemn Palestinians as inherently anti-Semitic 
6. ...says #AllLivesMatter, we're all originally from Africa, I don't see color, let the justice system take its course, Martin Luther King would have..., or suchandsuch is so divisive 
7. ...is always on about dialogue but never discusses relations of power 
8. ...thinks Donald Trump is the worst thing that's ever happened in the United States 
9. ...modifies "capitalism" with adjectives like "crony," "excessive," or "unchecked"  
10. ...doesn't know that North America is still colonized but really digs Native American folklore


1.  I don't know whom he defines as a reactionary. As a Sanders supporter, I agree with about 75-80 percent of the beliefs of the left, although I don't even know how it's defined at the moment. I went for Clinton in the general. I hate to admit it, but reactionaries got one or two things right in the last 100 years.

2.  I am a free speech extremist, not an absolutist. I believe Charles Murray should have been allowed to speak at Middlebury. I felt the same about Ann Coulter at Berkeley. I am all for people who want to speak out against these figures. I am opposed to physical violence in campus debate.

3.  A Hillary Clinton presidency would have been better than a Donald Trump presidency. There is plenty of blame to go around for her loss. I'm a leftist who canvassed for Obama in 2008, but didn't phone bank for Clinton in 2016. I should have done more. All of us should have done more. And the people who chose not to vote at all piss me off.

4. I guess I know people who pounce at every opportunity to call the Palestinians anti-Semitic. I wouldn't call those people liberal, let alone leftist. But to claim that Hamas is not an anti-Semitic organization is inherently dishonest. Would Salaita care to name the instances in which he has heard Palestinians say anti-Semitic beliefs? I would be happy to offer the long list of Israelis and American Jews who have expressed hatred for Arabs.

5. I happen to believe we need to have some trust in the justice system. Frankly, I know too many people who have devoted themselves to the justice system in order to better serve their communities to have much patience for Salaita's bs. As for the rest, we're on the same side.

6. We're on the same side here.

7. He's not. But he's pretty goddamn bad.

8. Got me there. I'm not a socialist.

9. We're on the same side.

Liberal/leftist. Good/bad. This all reminds me of Bill O'Reilly's traditionalists/secular progressive trope from a few years back. I know Salaita is a martyr for every mistreated academic, but I honestly don't get the love for this lousy writer or for the tendency of otherwise smart people to adopt binary thinking. Oh, and if you don't think this tweet is anti-Semitic, we don't have much to talk about: "Zionism: transforming 'anti-semitism' from something horrible to something honorable since 1948."

By the way, I was appalled by Salaita's firing too. I still get to call him an asshole.

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