With the lies of political hacks filling the air, and the current meltdown of the banking system based entirely and only on greed and its yield, it may be a good idea to look at another example of a group that poses as intellectual, unbiased seekers of truth, who are actually merely craving for the popularity of their peers.
With the current decades old deadlock between the Palestinians and the Israelis in mind it may be a good moment to review a bit of recent history showing that it doesn’t pay to be honest about certain matters in America.
Not only was 1984 the title of the famous novel about Big Brother, but it was the year in which a book by Joan Peters was published. Maybe you read it. It was a best-seller, and went through close to a dozen printings. The title was From Time Immemorial.
It was an impressive book with lots of footnotes. Its main thrust was that all the Palestinians were recent immigrants to the Jewish settled areas of Palestine. They all came, it said, during the British mandate from 1920 to 1948.
It got rave reviews from everybody. All the big papers like the NY Times and the Washington Post were commenting positively on it. There were no negative reviews. And it was a book that seemed to prove that there were actually no Palestinians. The importance of that conclusion is that it wasn’t an important moral issue if the Jews kicked them all out because they only came in after the Jews had done their miracles in agriculture and in building up the country.
It contained charts and tables and the usual demographic analysis that sociological books are filled with, and this material was validated by the professor of demography at U of Chicago, who was Philip Hauser at the time. All the intellectuals were talking about this book as a wonderful achievement, and it was the main talking point of many academic cocktail parties.
At Princeton, that year was a brilliant, graduate student named Norman Finklestein. He had a strong interest in the history of Zionism and he read the book. Since he was by nature a student he began checking the references when a few things that the author said surprised him. He found that the whole book was a fake. It began to look like one of the things that the CIA is good at bringing out. It contained no truth at all, was well financed, and would undoubtedly cause a great stir that would form opinions that somebody wanted formed. In other words it was sheer propaganda, and probably from a government agency that wanted to push the pro-Zionist position of the administration.
Finklestein, who still believed in honesty in scholarship, wrote up a paper on the subject and sent it around to about thirty people who were professionally interested in the topic, asking them if they thought the matter was worth pursuing.
Only one person answered him, only one. That was Noam Chomsky, one of the greatest intellectuals of the current era. He told Finklestein that it was indeed an interesting topic, but if he pursued it he would be destroyed by the academic community, whom he would show up as intellectual frauds. Morally and intellectually he would of course be just in his cause. It certainly does make a difference morally if there is no factually true basis for driving a whole population from a country. Intellectually it would only make a difference to those to whom the truth is more important than their pocket book…a very limited population in the halls of American academia, where status is paramount.
Finklestein naively decided to go ahead. He wrote an article and sent it around to all the appropriate journals. Nobody even acknowledged receiving his article. His professors at Princeton, one of our top universities stopped talking to him. They refused to make appointments with him, refused to read any papers he submitted, and in effect drove him from the program.
He moved to another department but it didn’t help. When he wrote his thesis nobody would read it. None of them would come to his defense of his thesis for his PhD. Finally they had to give him a PhD because he was so smart, but they nullified the effect of that by refusing to give him a letter saying that he had ever been to Princeton. And those of you who have tried to negotiate the maze of bureaucracy that is endemic in American colleges know that only paper counts. The person at the desk is not likely even to look at you unless you can put the exactly right piece of paper in front of their eyes.
But the story isn’t over yet. Finklestein, being an honest man ,was justifiably incensed. He took the summer off, went to the New York Library and went through every reference in the book. It was completely fraudulent. Pretty soon the news got around that that the book was a fraud and some time the fraud was going to be exposed. Professors kept calling Finklestein and saying “Call this crusade off. We’ll make sure you get a good job.” and so forth. But he didn’t cave in to the hypocrisy.
Every time there was a favorable review in a journal he would send his article to the editor. And it wouldn’t get printed. But he was doing what he could as an intellectually honest man.
Chomsky contacted the editors who didn’t publish Finklestein and asked if they were ever going to respond to his efforts. They said no. Among them they had the whole system in their hands. There was never going to be a critical word about the book published in the United States, land of the free and exemplar of freedom of speech, if you believe the politicians. The editor is the toll-gate. I have been an editor and know this. If it doesn’t get past the editor it doesn’t get in the paper or the journal. Nobody reads it. No matter how true it is it cannot become public knowledge.
There are many now who realize that their truth can never be made public because it is an inconvenient truth to those in charge of what the public should see and read and hear.
But the publishers made a really big mistake in their efforts to increase the profits. They allowed the book to be published in England where they don’t have a stranglehold on the academic community. Chomsky, as a respected intellectual world wide, made sure that all the scholars and journalists interested in the Middle East received copies of Finklestein’s paper. They were ready for it when the book finally came out.
Every major journal…from the Times Literary Supplement to the Observer published reviews saying that the book didn’t even reach the level of nonsense. Words like ‘idiotic,’ ‘preposterous,’ and ‘ludicrous,’ were among the least scathing comments of the book that the American academics had praised without reserve.
Obviously this news got around the intellectuals here and they began backtracking like politicians. The New York Review did what it always does. If a book gets creamed or praised in England they have to react. If it’s a book about Israel they get an Israeli to review it. This is standard politics in literary reviews.
They gave the job to Yehoshua Porath, a specialist on Palestinian Nationalism. Then they didn’t publish his review until the dust died down nearly a year later. Even then it was never published in full. The New York Times even said that it wasn’t ever going to be published in full. Obviously there was intense pressure not to publish it. And obviously Yehoshua was another inconvenient honest man.
A few small extracts did finally appear. They did say that the book was nonsense. All the Israeli reviews were very critical. They could see easily how the ideas in the book would eventually reflect on Israel.
So the American intellectual and academic community non-ised the book. Nobody talked about it any more. It disappeared from current news. You can still find it on used book lists, but nobody talks about it because the community was shown up to be what they are, intellectually dishonest panderers to academic popularity.
Nobody ever acknowledged the work of the brilliant Finklestein who ended up living out of an apartment in New York as a part time social worker, whose clients are teen age dropouts. If he had followed the rules he would be an honoured and tenured professor in a big university. But he was too honest to obey the dishonest rules. This is how people are controlled in the land of the free without having to shoot them. What happened to Finklestein is what happens to honest people who blow the whistle when the forces against them are entrenched. They lose their jobs and any way of voicing their opinions.
After the April 19th attack in Oklahoma City the media totally ignored Timothy McVeigh’s explanations for his actions and stuck to the official line that he was a crazy man, not like the rest of us. Those who tried to show WHY he had done it were not published by anybody.
When an Islamic terrorist group struck at the two symbols of American world domination and bullying, Wall Street and the Pentagon, once again the question of WHY was not addressed in the media. The explanation by the President that Osama bin Laden was an evil man who envied our wealth, and goodness and freedom, made so little sense that I could hardly credit my ears when I heard it. Now of course I am used to his talking nonsense.
Two brilliant writers addressed the real issue…“ Why are we so hated that people are willing to die, as long as they take Americans down too?” They could not get any national publication to put out their work. Another inconvenient truth. Arno J. Mayer is the emeritus professor of history at Princeton. He wrote a piece called “Untimely Reflections” pointing out how Washington has organized the overthrow of governments, resorted to political assassinations, surrogate death squads, and the training of terrorists like Osama bin Laden, who had been on the CIA payroll fighting the Russians. He mentioned the killing of Lumumba and Allende and other such matters. He could not get anyone to even look at the manuscript which was based firmly on fact, unlike the Peters book. Eventually it was published in Le Monde, a conservative French newspaper.
Gore Vidal the famous journalist, also wrote a piece about WHY? that nobody would publish. He sent it to Italy and it became a best seller immediately, and was translated into a dozen languages. Our myth of free speech gets really dented by this sort of thing. Gore Vidal was also the man who extensively interviewed and corresponded with Timothy McVeigh, and could not get anything published that denied the official line.
Eventually a book by Gore Vidal did come out in America. It is called Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, subtitled How We Got To Be So Hated. ISBN # is 1-56025-405-X in case you want to really know why what was done was done. It includes an official listing of the nearly two hundred military incursions since 1945 in which the United States was the aggressor. These are registered and monitored by the Federation of American Scientists. They are undeniably accurate, but will never be headlines in the land, whose freedom we are told, is the reason Osama hates us.