Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Exposing Edward Said as academic fraud
A new book by Joshua Muravchik, Making David into Goliath, exposes the late academic Edward Said (pictured) as a fraud whose Orientalism turned history on its head: he made Arab Muslim imperialists into victims and colonised peoples into colonialists. The brilliant Daniel Greenfield explains in Front Page Magazine:
Edward Said transformed the Muslim and Arab colonists into the oppressed indigenous peoples pitted against European colonizers. The complex nuanced realities of legitimate scholars who recognized that Europeans and Arabs had both been imperialists and colonizers in their time were swept aside by Said’s nationalistic polemics.
By damning legitimate scholars as racist colonialist Orientalists, Edward Said was able to impose his own racist and colonialist revisionist history on academia.
The New Left had made Third World nationalism into its new creed. Said’s support of the PLO made him a voice for justice no matter how many lies he told or how his botched scholarship perverted history. Third World nationalists could legitimately call on Western guilt and act as moral voices on campus at the behest of a left that glibly assumed that only political terror would end the cycle of oppression.
The unfortunate truth of human affairs is that everyone is oppressing someone else. The great question that the left has been unwilling to address is who their designated victims are oppressing.
By treating the likes of Edward Said as reservoirs of unchallenged morality, the left had become complicit in the oppression of others. The old lessons of the USSR and the French Revolution, the danger of handing unlimited moral authority to outraged fanatics with an agenda, had not been learned. Instead class made way for race. The elites who had claimed to speak for the workers in France and Russia were dismissed. The new elites were wealthy prep school grads like Edward Said who claimed to speak for a non-existent people in an imaginary country based on three vacations he had taken there.
It was not only a breathtakingly impudent act of colonialism, but one that had severe consequences for the intellectual integrity of academia. Edward Said had staked out his place in the academic revolution by denouncing just about everyone else for their Orientalism. Facts were his weak point, but his tactics were Stalinist. Denouncing potential opponents as a class allowed him to turn his own Orientalism into the Lysenkoism of his field. It was not the quality of his scholarship that won him influence, but the broadness of his denunciation. Said’s work was not inclusive, it was exclusive. It came to bar the door.
In Making David Into Goliath, Joshua Muravchik dissects many of the myths and frauds that Edward Said built up around himself. And yet the myths can never be entirely destroyed because of the crucial role that he played in the alliance between the New Left and Third World nationalists. His ideas helped assign intellectual credibility to the intertwining of two reactionary totalitarian movements struggling to remain relevant by denouncing every newer system of government and thought.
Like many racists, Edward Said’s denunciations of others were really expressions of his own limitations. Said condemned his academic enemies for failing to see the diversity of the east, when it was Said who refused to see the diversity of the west. Edward Said reduced his opponents to crude stereotypes while accusing them of reducing Arabs and Muslims to crude stereotypes.
Edward Said accused his opponents of constructing colonialist myths, but his obsession with Israel led him to promote a colonialist myth in which his imperialist ancestors were the true indigenous people and the Jews, the majority of whom were Middle Eastern refugees, were foreign usurpers. (My emphasis)
Edward Said tainted scholarship with this revisionist nationalist history. His defense of Arab and Islamic colonialism in an era in which academia no longer looked kindly on conquerors required him to turn history on its head and manufacture a narrative of oppressed colonizers suffering at the hands of the newly liberated indigenous people whom they had oppressed.
This local perversion of history fitted into the larger global perversion of Orientalism which indicted Middle Eastern scholarship for its intellectual colonialism as part of Said’s effort to colonize the study of the Middle East with his own tribal nationalism. Like a thief who pretends to be a policeman to scare away the other competing thieves he imagines are lurking nearby, Edward Said disguised the imperialism and colonialism of his agenda by dressing it up as anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism.
From his biography to his ideas, from his head to his toes, Edward Said was a fraud. Neither a great scholar not a great thinker, Said’s private nationalism played into a larger intellectual debate taking place within the culture. His work lives on because of grants from Saudi princes and because it serves as a pillar of a post-American academia in which political indictments have taken the place of research.
Arafat hijacked planes in the name of a phony nationalism, but Edward Said hijacked academia. These two Cairo natives had briefly lived in Israel as children and built careers around their imperialist efforts to colonize Israel with myths and violence, with lies and terror, pretending to be the oppressed when they were actually the oppressors.
Read article in full
Placing the colonial boot on the Arab foot