The Attacks of the Right Wing Liars
David Horowitz' Frontpage.org is a study in the Stalinist approach to politics. When you disagree with an opponent and want to bring them down, instead of debating their facts and opinions honestly with your own arguments, the Stalinist prefers to attack using lies and distortion. Horowitz is on a witch hunt against non-conservative academics and he encourages people to target professors and other promient liberal figures with smears designed to destroy their reputation and thus undercut their contributions to public discourse. We should be thankful that Horowitz does not have the power to denounce his targets and put them into Siberian reeducation camps.
Juan Cole, the noted middle Eastern expert, professor and excellent blogger, has found that he has been made the target of one of Horowitz' acolytes. By taking words out of context, the defamer means to damage the reputation of the target. For those who know Juan Cole, the attack is easily dismissed, but for someone who is seeking information about Professor Cole, the lies are there for the taking. What should one do when assaulted by such aspersion? One thing is clear, you cannot let such an attack go unanswered.
When Dr. Alterman was slandered by Cathy Young in an opinion column in the Boston Globe, he vigorously answered the attack by making the editors and the publisher of the paper know that the lies of Ms Young must be refuted by the newspaper as she personally was unwilling to acknowledge her aspersions. When they refused to publish a retraction, Alterman publicized the controversy and others also expressed their disapproval. There must be some cost for this type of transgression.
An even more dangerous slander was launched against William Arkin, a well-known expert on national security and journalist recently. In Arkin's case, someone went to the trouble to forge a document that implied Arkin had been on Saddam's payroll in the 1990s. This week's OnTheMedia had an interview with Arkin who expressed some relief that the forged document was something that could be shown to be false. (You can listen to the interview here.) What would have been the consequence for him if the forger had been just a bit better with his lies or if Arkin had been unable to show others that the accusation was false? Where does this go next?
It seems that when one is an effective and visible opponent of the right wing machine, one consequence is that elements of that machine are more than happy to destroy you and your credibility by lies and slander. Only those who do not have confidence that their arguments can convince people that their viewpoint is correct, resort to such malignant attacks. But when their actions are exposed to the light, they expose the weakness of those arguments to their audience. Real conservatives should be horrified by the tactics of these totalitarians and they should make it clear that they vigorously disapprove of those who resort to such tactics.