Thursday, May 27, 2010

Courage, lies, and David Bernstein

David Bernstein finds it useful not to enable comments to his posts on Israel, possibly because that assists him in making stuff up without being called on it.

Most recently, he joins the attack on Peter Beinart's NYRB essay on "The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment." Claiming to summarize Noah Pollak's rebuttal, DB writes:
Beinart claims that he is engaging in an act of courage by criticizing Israel and the American Jewish establishment, but nothing is more trite, and better for one’s career in left-wing circles, than to be a Jewish liberal/left intellectual publicly attacking Israel.
That this is not an incidental point is indicated by DB's post title: "Peter Beinart - Trite, Not Courageous."

Three problems here:

(1) Beinart never says that in the essay.

(2) Pollak's claim that Beinart says that is therefore indirect at best:
Beinart suggests a great burden to bear in becoming an Israel critic: "The hardest thing I've ever written," he said in announcing his essay on his Twitter feed. * * * In Beinart’s work, we are not witnessing an act of courage but rather a spectacle of conformity.
See? That's how it's done. You move from Beinart's saying it's "hard" to write the essay, to a denial that it's "an act of courage," without having quite asserted that Beinart claimed to be courageous. But of course, DB is not constrained by the facts.

(3) Beinart has expressly rejected any claim to be "courageous" in writing his essay (as relayed by Jon Chait, who's been quite critical of the essay):
We live in the U.S., not Iran or Zimbabwe. There's very little threat of physical--let alone state-sponsored--violence for anything you say politically. So in a global context, it's hard to say anyone in the U.S. is really brave no matter how unpopular their views. With that caveat, I think there is something a little brave for a member of Congress or an administration official to criticize AIPAC or criticize Israel harshly because it could end their political career. Let's just imagine that a Senator or Cabinet Member said what Barak and Olmert have said about Israel being on its way to being an apartheid state if it doesn't give back the West Bank. That would be a serious career-threatener. For a journalist/pundit, however, it's completely different. In the press, criticism--even harsh criticism--of Israel is common, and in fact, I think in the blogosphere it is almost becoming the norm.
Nor, it seems, does a law professor have to be "brave" to simply lie about what other people write.

... DB backs down after an e-mail from Beinart, though he doesn't change his post title. TBA remains unclear why DB felt impelled to manufacture something untrue that required only good-faith reading, not an e-mail from the author (Intentional e-Fallacy?), to spot as untrue.

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