Michael Totten

Fisking Juan Cole

I hardly ever – ever – pick fights with other bloggers. But I’m not finished with Juan Cole yet. It’s long past time to give the professor from Michigan a double-whammy shellacking.
Yesterday he made up a conspiracy theory (all by himself, this time) about the Iraqi bloggers who write at Iraq the Model.

A related practice has been called by Josh Marshall “astroturfing,” where a “grass roots” campaign turns out actually to be sponsored by a think tank or corporation. Astroturf is fake grass used in US football arenas. What Mailander is talking about is not really astroturfing, but rather the granting of some individuals a big megaphone.

He wouldn’t want to let any individuals have a big megaphone. Especially not liberal-democratic Iraqis who don’t hate America like they’re supposed to.

The MR posting brings up questions about the Iraqi brothers who run the IraqTheModel site.

See what I’m talking about?

It points out that the views of the brothers are celebrated in the right-leaning weblogging world of the US, even though opinion polling shows that their views are far out of the mainstream of Iraqi opinion.

The brothers call b.s. on this one, but I don’t know. I don’t live in Iraq. Neither does Juan Cole. We’ll see what happens after the election in January.
But why should it make any difference to the right side of the blogosphere whether or not the Iraq the Model guys are mainstream or not? They are obviously friends of Americans. They share our liberal-democratic values. They helped found the Iraq Democracy Party. They aren’t running around bitching about America or cutting off heads. They’re the good guys. That’s why we like them.
Juan Cole would rather align himself with anti-American Iraqis like the blogger Riverbend. Okay, whatever. But I have no idea why he expects conservatives and centrists to do any such thing. Most people in this world don’t reflexively side with those who hate them. One reason he is in the political wilderness and I’m not is because he does and I don’t.

It notes that their choice of internet service provider, in Abilene, Texas, is rather suspicious, and wonders whether they are getting some extra support from certain quarters.

Well, Lord help us. Someone in America supports liberal Iraqis against fundamentalism, Baathism, and jihad. Ooo, how suspicious. Better come up with a “theory.”

Contrast all this to the young woman computer systems analyst in Baghdad, Riverbend, who is in her views closer to the Iraqi opinion polls, especially with regard to Sunni Arabs, but who is not being feted in Washington, DC.

Maybe she’s more in line with the Sunni Arabs. I really don’t know. But she certainly isn’t in line with the Sunni Kurds, who conveniently ceased to exist on the left the instant the United States government took Bill Clinton’s regime-change policy seriously.

But anyway. Why on Earth would an anti-American Iraqi be celebrated in Washington? Professor Cole might want to try really really hard to remember which country he lives in and, more important, which country Washington is in. That way he might be slightly less baffled by what happens outside his bubble.

The phenomenon of blog trolling, and frankly of blog agents provocateurs secretly working for a particular group or goal and deliberately attempting to spread disinformation, is likely to grow in importance. It is a technique made for the well-funded Neoconservatives, for instance, and I have my suspicions about one or two sites out there already.

As it turns out, Jeff Jarvis – who was an outspoken supporter of John Kerry – probably helped pro-American Iraqi bloggers, including those at Iraq the Model, more than anyone else. But it’s much more fun for a certain kind of person to write off Arabs who support freedom and democracy as pawns in a neoconservative plot. Every time I come across this hystetical knee-jerk formulation my opinion of neoconservatives goes up and my opinion of illiberal so-called “liberals” goes down.
It’s no wonder, really, that so many conservatives dismiss liberals and leftists out of hand as self-declared enemies of freedom and democracy. Not everyone on the left is like this, I know. Jeff Jarvis is only one of the more obvious examples of a liberal who’s actually liberal. But Juan Cole is the “national security” hero on the left side of the blogosphere. It’s not the right’s fault that it has come to this.
UPDATE: Ali at Iraq the Model responds to the professor.

[Y]ou’d better focus on something other than Iraq. Talk about Lebanon, or Yemen. Yemen is good! You haven’t messed up with a Yemeni blogger I assume? Or if you can’t live without talking about Iraq, then keep it poetic. It saves my time and your reputation.

SECOND UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis, bless his bleeding liberal heart, accuses Juan Cole of libel and says he is pond scum.

THIRD UPDATE: Barb O. in the comments section points to Juan Cole’s page on RateMyProfessors.com. Some of his students don’t like him very much. The person who wrote the top entry says he’s “a hypocritical, double-standard spouting apologist for racism and religious fascism.”
CORRECTION: The professor linked to a Martini Republic post about “blog trolling” (his characterization.) I didn’t read that post so I didn’t realize MR came up with this silly conspiracy theory first. Cole didn’t invent it, he just repeated it.