With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Comments About Historians Archives 10-3-03 to 12-4-03

Comments in some cases have been edited. Click here for the archives.

Click here to return to top of page.

Nicolas Baverez: The French Are in Decline (posted 12-4-03)

Lara Marlowe, writing in the Irish Times (Dec. 3, 2003):

The theme is as old as the Romans and crops up through history with persistent regularity. A decade ago a book about "the fall of the American empire" was a huge success in the US. This autumn France was seized by its own bout of declinisme, thanks to the economist and historian Nicolas Baverez.

Mr Baverez's book, La France Qui Tombe (France is Falling), has remained on the best-seller list since early September. "I was surprised by the effect it had, and by the violence of some reactions," he said in an interview. "I've received piles of mail, all of it positive, but the reaction of the polticial and media establishment has been very negative." The decline of France, real or imagined, has been debated on virtually every radio and television programme. The Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, reportedly hates Mr Baverez's book. Yet when given the opportunity to debunk the careful accretion of facts and figures demonstrating two decades of diminishing economic and political influence, Mr Raffarin is silent....

Mr Baverez sees only one way to reverse France's decline: reform, reform, reform. "Europe cannot do it for us," he says. The US, Britain and now Germany have made the effort, he notes.

Reducing the highest taxation in Europe, abrogating the 35-hour working week (which translates into a 2 per cent annual reduction in the number of hours worked by French people) and tackling the health system's E30 billion deficit are "urgent measures" recommended by Mr Baverez.

Reform would thin the ranks of France's 5.1 million civil servants, he says, but that would be the result, not the beginning.

It was a sure sign of decline when French diplomats went on strike for the first time in history on Monday. Paris maintains the world's second-largest diplomatic service on a shoestring budget.

The Foreign Ministry's paper supplier stopped deliveries because of late payments. Staff were asked to use both sides of every sheet, and the European Affairs Minister had to buy her own notepads.

Click here to return to top of page.

Conrad Black: Reviled as a Businessman, Celebrated as a Historian (posted 12-4-03)

Tina Brown, writing in the Washington Post (Dec. 4, 2003):

It's odd how fast grandeur becomes gloomy when the miasma of misfortune sets in. No one could have predicted that the book party for Conrad Black's monumental study of Franklin D. Roosevelt at New York's Four Seasons restaurant would coincide with his stepping down as CEO of the publishing company Hollinger International -- owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Jerusalem Post and, in the U.K., the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and the venerable conservative weekly the Spectator -- under a cloud of allegations of financial self-dealing and an SEC investigation.

Even with hosts as luminous as philanthropist Jayne Wrightsman and fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, acceptances shrank to a small band of loyalists like Henry Kissinger and Ronald Perelman. Unfortunately for Black, a packed, convivial book party for former treasury secretary Robert Rubin was coincidentally raging in the next room. "I'm just doing a fly-by," one society hostess said as she scurried through to the Rubin fiesta beyond.

The strangest moment was when the deposed chairman of Sotheby's, and ex-con, Alfred A. Taubman sidled in. In December 2000, when Lord Black celebrated his wife's 60th birthday with a luxe blowout at another swell New York restaurant, La Grenouille, he baffled the guests with a long, mellifluous toast to the honesty, sobriety, integrity etc., of Taubman -- the relevance of which became clear only months later when honest Al was indicted in a price-fixing scandal at the venerable auction house. Now Taubman was offering reciprocal loyalty.

The meager turnout was a bummer, since Black's 1,300-page biography has had stellar reviews. Historians from Alan Brinkley to Daniel Yergin have hailed it as the best single volume on the many perplexing aspects of FDR's political life. A belligerent neo-con before it was fashionable, Black has paradoxically contrived to write an admiring appraisal of Roosevelt's pre-Pearl Harbor reluctance to fight the Nazis and the economic interventionism of the New Deal for which neo-cons of the '30s bitterly reviled FDR as "that man."

What's interesting about Black is that he's a throwback to the era when media moguls were still called press lords. His eyes sparkle with self-regard but he is at logorrheic ease on any subject with a historical reference. His wife, Barbara Amiel, writes a sharply barbed, rousingly pro-Israel column in the Telegraph. She famously caused interesting trouble when she wrote up the anti-Semitic remarks made by the French ambassador at a dinner he thought was private. She gets away with it because she's not only Lady Black but a brainy, brunette femme fatale with spectacular cleavage. Once, at a dinner party at the publisher Lord Weidenfeld's Chelsea apartment (the party was for Al Taubman, as it happens), I appreciated the deftness with which at cocktail hour she reconnoitered the dining room to switch place cards and seat herself next to a less grand but more amusing man. It was a moment right out of Anthony Trollope.

Click here to return to top of page.

Steven L. Kaplan: He Knows More About the History of French Bread than Anyone Ever Has (posted 12-4-03)

Deborah Baldwin, writing in the NYT (Nov. 29, 2003):

Steven L. Kaplan stared through the window of a Paris bakery one Sunday morning, looking like an osprey ready to swoop.

"I've watched him work," Mr. Kaplan said hungrily, speaking of the baker, Dominique Saibron, and his tenderly cultivated sourdough starter, known in the business as levain.

If Mr. Kaplan admires your levain, it is no small thing. He knows more about French bread than practically anyone else, some of France's top bakers say.

A relentless researcher, Mr. Kaplan was one of the people who helped salvage the crusty mainstay in the 1980's, when many baguettes tasted like sliced white bread.

Mr. Kaplan has, in fact, done so much to ennoble the baguette and its cousins, the boule and the bâtard, that he has twice been dubbed a chevalier by the French government for his contributions to the "sustenance and nourishment" of French culture.

The bread baron Francis Holder, who runs Paul, the innovative international chain of bakeries, calls Dr. Kaplan's expertise extraordinary. Jean Lapoujade, a director of the renowned bakery Poilâne, said, "We look forward to his next work with impatience."

Not bad when you consider that Mr. Kaplan, 60, is not a baker and not even French. He is an American professor at Cornell University who grew up in Brooklyn and Queens. "We ate kornbrot," he said, speaking of the dense European rye....

In his award-winning books and many papers on the cultural and political significance of French bread, Mr. Kaplan has charted its role in the revolution of 1789, its anchoring of the French table through the early 20th century and its decline during the 50's, when the baguette became a voluptuous but empty emblem of postwar prosperity. A victim of hypermechanization, fast-acting industrial yeast and suppressed fermentation, Mr. Kaplan said, "it looked lovely but was barren of odor and taste."

Scholars say Mr. Kaplan was the first person to put a shift in consumer tastes into the context of a changing workplace and society.

Click here to return to top of page.

So Who Is David Brooks? (posted 11-28-03)

George Gurley, commenting on David Brooks, the new NYT conservative columnist; in the NY Observer (Nov. 11-24-03):

"He's every liberal's favorite conservative," said Michael Kinsley, founding editor of Slate. "He may have no enemies, but that will
change: If he still has no enemies writing a column for The New York Times for a couple years, he's failed."

"People were always stopping me, saying that they liked his stuff,"
said The Times' Ms. Collins. "There is something about him-he's like the conservative guy who can talk to liberals."

"Obviously he's a post-Raines hire, and a very, very smart one," said Andrew Sullivan, the conservative blogger and occasional Times contributor. "He's every liberal's idea of a sane conservative, and he 's every conservative's idea of what a liberal's idea of a sane conservative is. He's not a fire-breather. My boyfriend much prefers his stuff to mine. But I can deal with that."

On this day, the normally unflappable Mr. Brooks seemed nervous: He was tearing up pieces of paper and fiddling with an empty coffee cup.
There was a party in his honor that night, and he admitted that being a conservative in New York City can be "socially unpleasant."

"It's a question you don't want to come up," he said. "You'd rather just have a conversation. And then if you say, as I used to, 'I work at The Weekly Standard,' you get the Hitler salute or something like that. I've been at bar mitzvahs where people are seated next to me and they would get up and leave the table. I'm sure it happens to liberals in Alabama, too."

Still, Mr. Brooks isn't exactly swapping spit with the Republicans'
far right: He said he finds Fox News' Bill O'Reilly to be "an insufferable ass" and that he "strongly dislikes" leggy blond author Ann Coulter. "I think she creates more liberals than anybody in America," he said.

He's not as harsh on Attorney General John Ashcroft.

"I don't agree with a lot of what he's done, but I think he's been unfairly attacked," Mr. Brooks said. "There's sort of a Saturday Night Live divide in this country. For some people in this country, it's totally out of their realm of sensibility, and John Ashcroft is one of those people. I can't imagine he's sitting around watching Saturday Night Live and loving it. And I'm sort of on the coastal Saturday Night Live divide, on the same side as most of the people who read The Times."

Mr. Brooks said he's against the death penalty, "incredibly mushy-headed" on whether a second-trimester abortion should be legal (he thinks it's O.K. in the first, not in the third), and believes in gay marriage and gays in the military. "It's from personal observation that gay people don't have a choice in being gay," he said.

Although he's not enamored of the Bush tax cuts, he's upbeat about the economy ("The numbers speak for themselves," he said), but the big domestic issue for him is polarization. "We're increasingly dividing-geographically, culturally, religiously, commercially-into totally different segments," he said. "People don't even talk to each other."

And don't call him a neocon.

"I have a rule that if the word 'neocon' appears in a sentence, there'
s a 90 percent chance that everything else in that sentence is untrue," he said. "Because people have this idea that there's a secret conspiracy, which I know for a fact is untrue. What people miss is that when they talk about [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz and [Pentagon adviser Richard] Perle and [Weekly Standard editor William] Kristol, they think they're somehow all conversing all the time-but I know for a fact they're just three people who share some ideas but don't talk all that much, and they're not particularly close."

Click here to return to top of page.

Should Columbia University Tell Who Funded the Edward Said Chair in Middle East Studies? (posted 11-20-03)

Jonathan Calt Harris, managing editor of Daniel Pipes's www.Campus-Watch.org, writing in frontpagemag.com (Nov. 19, 2003):

Columbia University’s newly established Edward Said Chair in Middle East Studiesis noteworthy for several reasons. The position is named for the recently deceased professor best known for his defense of Palestinian “resistence.” And Rashid Khalidi, an overt supporter of Palestinian violence and – according to a just-published biography of Yasir Arafat from Oxford University Press – a former PLO press spokesman[i], has joined Columbia to fill the post.

But there is something even more objectionable about this chair: It is anonymously endowed and Columbia University – perhaps against the law – refuses to disclose the donors. According to Columbia, the donors’ names are confidential. “We don’t disclose them without their permission,” said spokeswoman Katie Moore, adding that Columbia has “the same policy that every school would have.”[ii]

But what “every school” does is not the issue. What counts are Columbia’s own regulations.

Several donors to the chair’s endowment fund have been identified. The Hauser Foundation, headed by New York philanthropist Rita Hauser, is one of them. Ms. Hauser’s former law firm, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, has been registered as recently as 2001 with the Justice Department as an agent for the Palestinian Authority.

Another donor is the Olayan Charitable Trust, a New York-based charity affiliated with the Saudi-based Olayan Group. The vice president of corporate communications at Olayan’s New York offices, Richard Hobson, has said that while the trust does not publicize its donations, that he believed it is, “one of the lead donors but not the lead donor.”[iii]

And Martin Kramer, editor of the Middle East Quarterly, reports he has a list of contributors to the chair that includes a foreign government.[iv]

Hiding the donors goes against Columbia’s own rules, which stipulate that a “principal investigator” involved in any university grant or contract is mandated to release information for “dissemination to members of the University community” when such requests are made.[v] An endowed chair is not specifically a university grant or contract, but neither is it that different.

“It is highly unusual, to say the least, for the donor or donors of an academic chair to hide their identity,” says Columbia’s Awi Federgruen, a former dean of the graduate business school. “In the face of various precedents,” he continues, “at Berkeley, Michigan and most recently the Zayed chair donated by the United Arab Emirates to the Harvard Divinity School, one cannot blame the public for being concerned.”[vi]

(Harvard Divinity School recently came under fire for accepting a $2.5 million dollar donation from Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the President of the United Arab Emirates’, in July, 2000. Zayed was also the namesake sponsor of the Zayed Center in Abu Dhabi, a center known for forwarding anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism. Surprisingly, the storm of criticism resulted in the Zayed Center’s closure but Harvard Divinity School is yet debating whether or not to keep the gift.)[vii]

To keep a gift from a foreign government secret is at minimum a major lapse in judgment and perhaps illegal, on two grounds:

· Khalidi now heads Columbia’s Middle East Institute and in this capacity will oversee nearly $1 million in federal funds over the next three years. Funding for the Said Chair is not simply Columbia’s business, given the incumbent’s oversight of public monies. The public needs to know how the person disbursing taxpayer funds is himself paid.

· Federal law requires that a higher education institution accepting gifts from foreign entities valued at $250,000 or more disclose these contributions and their source,[viii] and New York State law further requires donations of $100,000 to be disclosed.[ix] Research in 2002 by the New York Senate Higher Education Committee revealed there is little, if any, compliance with this law.[x]

Even apart from Khalidi’s shameful bias and Columbia’s blind acceptance of it, the new professor’s clandestine chair puts the entire university under a cloud of impropriety and the only way to fix this is by fully disclosing the funds for his appointment. Federgruen correctly observes that “the sooner matters are out in the open, the better it will be for all parties concerned.”

Columbia needs to come clean and reveal who is funding the Edward Said Chair in Middle East Studies.

[i] Rubin, Barry, and Rubin, Judith Colp, Yasser Arafat, A Political Biography, Oxford University Press, 2003. Pg. 78. Notes 8 and 9.

[ii] “Hauser Helps Fund Professor of Hate”, By Adam Daifallah, New York Sun, July 23, 2003.

[iii] “Hauser Helps Fund Professor of Hate”, By Adam Daifallah, New York Sun, July 23, 2003.

[iv] “Concealment Continues as Columbia”, By Martin Kramer, Sandstorm, September 9, 2003. http://www.geocities.com/martinkramerorg/2003_09_08.htm

[v] “Regulations Governing Externally Funded Research and Instruction,” http://www.columbia.edu/cu/vpaa/fhb/app/app_h.html

[vi] Awi Federgruen, Charles E. Exley Professor in Management at the Graduate School of Business, Columbia University, interview, August 2003.

[vii] “Arab nation seen halting center aid, Students criticized donation to Harvard” by Jenna Russell. Boston Globe, August 20, 2003.

[viii] US. Code Title 20, Chapter 28, Subchapter I, Part B, Sec. 1011f. http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/20/1011f.html

[ix] New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, April 9th, 2002. Press Release Archive. http://www.senatorlavalle.com/press_archive_story.asp?id=199

[x] New York State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle, April 9th, 2002. Press Release Archive. http://www.senatorlavalle.com/press_archive_story.asp?id=199

Click here to return to top of page.

Historians Rewrite History: The Campaign to Exonerate Doris Goodwin (posted 11-13-03)

Timothy Noah (aka"Chatterbox"), writing in Slate (Nov. 14, 2003):

Chatterbox never intended to revisit the Doris Goodwin plagiarism case. She's paid her dues, however unwillingly, and her forthcoming book about Abraham Lincoln deserves to be judged on its merits. But when the New York Times publishes a letter denying Goodwin ever committed plagiarism—signed by a pack of distinguished historians, including Arthur Schlesinger Jr., John Morton Blum, Robert Dallek, and Sean Wilentz—the violence done to the truth is too much to bear silently. Historians, of all people, should know better than to rewrite history.

The letter in question appeared in the Oct. 25 New York Times. (To read it, click here.) It was written in response to an Oct. 4 Times story headlined "Are More People Cheating?" that placed Goodwin in the same rogue's gallery as former Tyco Chairman L. Dennis Kozlowski and accused rapist (and confirmed adulterer) Kobe Bryant. Admittedly, that was pretty rough, perhaps rougher than necessary. But what really seems to have provoked the historians' ire was the following perfectly accurate sentence: "Renowned historians like Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose have plagiarized colleagues' work." ...

Goodwin is no Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass. What she did was wrong, but it shouldn't be career-destroying. Nonetheless, it's quite a stretch to say that Goodwin hews to the "highest standards of moral integrity." A true moral exemplar wouldn't duck the "plagiarism" label, as Goodwin has. And a true moral exemplar wouldn't have hidden the evidence of her plagiarism for many years, acknowledging it only after the press found out about it. That's exactly what Goodwin did. Goodwin's best-known borrowings were lifted from Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times, a biography of JFK's high-spirited sister. The author Lynne McTaggart discovered the plagiarism in the late 1980s, threatened legal action, and reached a quiet settlement with Goodwin's publisher, Simon & Schuster. Goodwin didn't come clean even about her "inadvertence" until news of it broke last year in the Weekly Standard. More to the point, Goodwin left the plagiarized portions intact in subsequent editions of the book in question, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, until the Weekly Standard revelations compelled her to fix them.

Moreover, Goodwin is no one-time offender. In August 2002, the Los Angeles Times ran a story by Peter King reporting that Goodwin's subsequent book, No Ordinary Time, also contained passages that were lifted from other books (though once again, Goodwin had scrupulously footnoted).

Click here to return to top of page.

Edward Alexander: Historian Martin Jay Argues that Jews Are to Blame for Anti-Semitism (posted 11-11-03)

Edward Alexander, writing in frontepagemag.com (Nov. 11, 2003):

"There is a great temptation to explain away the intrinsically incredible means of liberal rationalizations. In each one of us, there lurks such a liberal, wheedling us with the voice of common sense." -- Hannah Arendt

In the Winter-Spring 2003 issue of Salmagundi, Berkeley professor Martin Jay argues that Jews themselves are "causing" the "new" anti-Semitism. Chief among these perfidious Jews, he names Ariel Sharon, the "fanatic settlers" and also the American Jews who question the infallibility of the New York Times and National Public Radio. ("Ariel Sharon and the Rise of the New Anti-Semitism".)

Unlike the late Edward Said (of whom he writes with oily sycophancy), Jay does not deny the existence of a resurgent anti-Semitism. On the other hand, he, in effect, dismisses its manifestations -- vandalized synagogues and cemeteries, "tipping over a tombstone in a graveyard in Marseilles or burning Torahs in a temple on Long Island [as] payback for atrocities [my emphasis] committed by Israeli settlers." At the same time, he ignores its more serious expressions: stabbings, shootings, murder—all of which have been unleashed against Jews in Europe, as well as in Israel. "The actions of contemporary Jews," Jay concludes, "are somehow connected with the upsurge of anti-Semitism around the globe" , and it would be foolish to suppose that "the victims are in no way involved in unleashing the animosities they suffer."

The academic boycotters of Israeli universities and the professorial advocates of suicide bombing are in the front lines of the defense of terror, which is the very essence of Palestinian nationalism. But they themselves are supported by a rearguard of fellow travelers, a far more numerous academic group whose defining characteristic is not fanaticism but time-serving timorousness.

In the Thirties, "fellow travelers" usually referred to the intellectual friends of Communism (a subject well analyzed in David Caute's book on the subject), although both Hitler and Stalin tried to attract people from America and Britain who served their purposes in the conviction that they were engaged in a noble cause.

At the moment, the favorite cause of peregrinating political tourists is the Palestinian movement, and the reason why fellow travelers favor this most barbaric of all movements of "national liberation" is that its adversaries are Jews. Jews are always a tempting target because of their ridiculously small numbers (currently 997 out of every 1000 people in the world are not Jews) and their image as avaricious corrupters of the young, thieves, agents of Satan, conspiring human devils and Zionist imperialists. As a representative example of the academic fellow-traveler in the ongoing campaign to depict Israel as the devil's own experiment station, Martin Jay is exemplary.

Although Jay's main concern is the (supposedly) "new" anti-Semitism, his heavy reliance on the thesis of Albert Lindemann's unsavory book, Esau's Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews (1998). He suggests that he believes political anti-Semitism, from its inception in the nineteenth century, has been in large part the responsibility of the Jews themselves. Lindemann's book argued not merely that Jews had "social interactions" (a favorite euphemism of Jay's) with their persecutors but were responsible for the hatreds that eventually consumed them in Europe; anti-Semitism was, wherever and whenever it flared up, a response to Jewish misbehavior.

According to Lindemann, the Romanians had been subjected to "mean-spirited denigration" of their country by Jews, and so it was reasonable for Romania's elite to conclude that "making life difficult" for the country's Jewish inhabitants, "legally or otherwise, was a "justifiable policy." His abstruse research into Russian history also revealed to him that whatever anti-Semitism existed there was "hardly a hatred without palpable or understandable cause." The 1903 Kishinev pogrom, Lindemann grudgingly admitted, did occur but was a relatively minor affair in numbers killed and wounded, which the Jews, with typical "hyperbole and mendacity," exaggerated in order to attract sympathy and money; it was a major affair only because it revealed "a rising Jewish combativeness." (As for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Lindemann apparently never heard of it, for it goes unmentioned in his nearly fifty pages on Russia.) In Germany, Jews (especially the historian Heinrich Graetz), were guilty of a "steady stream of insults and withering criticism...directed at Germans"; by contrast, Hitler (who published Mein Kampf in 1925-27) was a "moderate" on the Jewish question prior to the mid-1930s; besides, "nearly everywhere Hitler looked at the end of the war, there were Jews who corresponded to anti-Semitic imagery." In addition to being degenerate, ugly, dirty, tribalist, racist, crooked, and sexually immoral, the Jews, as depicted by Lindemann, further infuriated their Gentile neighbors by speaking Yiddish: "a nasal, whining, and crippled ghetto tongue."

Although Jay is by no means in full agreement with Lindemann's thesis (as he is with that of an even cruder polemic by Paul Breines called Tough Jews), he is intensely grateful to this courageous pioneer for breaking a "taboo" on the "difficult question about the Jewish role in causing anti-Semitism," for putting it "on the table." (Readers familiar with this dismal topic will be disappointed to learn that neither Lindemann nor his admirer Jay is able to explain the "Jewish role" in causing the belief, widespread among Christian theologians from St. Augustine through the seventeenth century, that Jewish males menstruate.) This is a remarkable statement to come from a historian. Washington Irving's Rip van Winkle lost touch with history for twenty years while he slept; Jay's dogmatic slumber seems to have lasted 36 years, since 1967, when the brief post-World War II relaxation of anti-Semitism came to an end.

A brief history lesson is in order here. At the end of the second World War, old-fashioned anti-Semites grudgingly recognized that the Holocaust had given anti-Semitism a bad name, that perhaps the time was right for a temporary respite in the ideological war against the Jews. But in 1967, the Jews in Israel had the misfortune to win the war that was unleashed against them by Gamal Nasser, who had proclaimed—in a locution very much akin to Jay's style of reasoning—that "Israel's existence is itself an aggression."

After their defeat, the Arabs reversed their rhetoric from "Right" to "Left," de-emphasizing their ambition to "turn the Mediterranean red with Jewish blood" and instead blaming "the Middle East conflict" on the Jews themselves for denying the Palestinians a state (something that, of course, the Arabs could have given them any time during the nineteen years that they were entirely in control of the disputed territories of "the West Bank"). Since that time what Jay calls the "difficult question about the Jewish role in causing anti-Semitism" has not only been "on the table"; it has provided a royal feast for such heavy feeders as Alexander Cockburn, Desmond Tutu, Michael Lerner, the aforementioned Said, Patrick Buchanan, Noam Chomsky, most of the Israeli Left, and scores of other scribblers. Indeed, the New York Times, which during World War II did its best to conceal the fact that Jews were being murdered en masse, now admits they are being murdered, but blames them for, in Jay-speak, "unleashing the animosities they suffer."

The particular form given by nearly all these forerunners of Lindemann is, of course, blatant reversal of cause and effect in taking for granted that it is Israeli occupation that leads to Arab hatred and aggression, when every normally attentive sixth-grader knows that it is Arab hatred and aggression that lead to Israeli occupation. Jay is very fierce not with Lindemann for regurgitating every anti-Semitic slander dredged up from the bad dreams of Christendom but with Lindemann's "overheated" critics (in Commentary, in the American Historical Review, in Midstream). In the same manner, his outrage about suicide bombings is not against the bombers or their instructors and financiers but against "American Jewish panic" and "Israeli toughness" in reacting to them and so perpetuating (no cliche is too stale and stupid for Jay) "the spiral of violence."

Just as Jay insinuates some mild criticism of Lindemann, he also "qualifies" every now and then his insistence that the Jews themselves are to blame for anti-Semitism, but always in a way that only serves to make his core argument all the more gross and flagrant. "Acknowledging this fact [that the Jewish victims are "involved in unleashing" hatred on themselves] is not 'blaming the victim,' an overly simple formula that prevents asking hard and sometimes awkward questions, but rather understanding that social interactions are never as neat as moral oppositions of good and evil."

Like most liberals, Jay cannot credit the existence of the full evil of the world. "In the case of the Arab war against the Jewish state," Ruth Wisse has observed, "obscuring Arab intentions requires identifying Jews as the cause of the conflict. The notion of Jewish responsibility for Arab rejectionism is almost irresistibly attractive to liberals, because the truth otherwise seems so bleak." Although Jay tries to twist Hannah Arendt's well-known criticism of Sartre's foolish argument that the Jews survived in exile thanks to gentile persecution into an endorsement of his own foolish argument about Jewish responsibility for that persecution, he is himself a classic case of what Arendt called the wheedling voice of "common sense" that lurks inside every liberal, explaining away the "intrinsically incredible," such as the fact that a people would choose to define itself entirely by its dedication to the destruction of another people.

Click here to return to top of page.

The Historian as Deadhead (posted 11-13-03)

Interview with Dennis McNally, published in The Door Magazine (Nov./Dec. 2003):

Dennis McNally is a board member of two non-profit organizations, the Northern California affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union and Music in Schools Today. He comes from a military family and graduated from High School in Maine. He attended St. Lawrence University, received a Masters degree and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in American History. His Doctoral dissertation was a biography of Jack Kerouac, the Beat writer, which was published by Random House, in 1979, bearing the title Desolate Angel: Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation, and America. By the late 1970's he became a Deadhead, moved to San Francisco, and was hired by Jerry Garcia to become the Grateful Dead's biographer and historian. By 1984, the Dead made him their publicist, a position he still holds today. After over twenty years of first hand experience and research he published the first and only official history of the Grateful Dead. In August 2002, Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc, published A Long Strange Trip. The Door sent its left coast correspondent, Bob Gersztyn to interview McNally, in between his numerous bookstore and radio appearances.

THE DOOR MAGAZINE: How did you become the Grateful Dead's biographer and historian?

MCNALLY: It's not really all that complicated a story. I wrote a book about Jack Kerouac called Desolate Angel and in the course of it I wanted to write a book about The Grateful Dead. I felt that there were all kinds of direct historical connections. Neal Cassidy, who of course is the Dean Moriarty character in "On The Road" and was involved with "The Merry Pranksters" with the Grateful Dead, is the obvious link, but in general there's a historical progression there that I wanted to explore. It turned out Jerry Garcia thought the same thing, which was kind of convenient for me. On a more personal level I was thinking about doing something about the beat generation in general, and there was a guy in my life who one day said, 'no, you should do Kerouac, and I can help you out. You can stay with my friends in New York City.' When you're a broke graduate student this is very attractive, so, I started on the Kerouac book. He also turned me on to the Grateful Dead. I had this personal connection.

Click here to return to top of page.

Philip Nobile: Doris Kearns Goodwin Should Not Be Celebrated (posted 11-11-03)

Editor's Note: Last month the NYT published an article which included Doris Kearns Goodwin among a list of people who have been caught cheating. More than a dozen historians subsequently protested in a letter to the editor of the paper. Their letter was published. Philip Nobile, the investigative journalist who was critical of Ms. Goodwin in these pages, subsequently wrote a letter to the editor protesting the protest. The Times declined to publish his riposte, which follows:

To the Editor:

Despite the defense plea of Arthur Schlesinger, Douglas Brinkley, Robert Dallek, and David Halberstam, there is no innocent explanation for Doris Kearns Goodwin's massive (and still covered up) plagiarism (Letter to the Editor, Oct. 25, 2003). The historians who saluted Ms. Goodwin's "scholarship and integrity" and described her copying in "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys" as "errors result[ing] from inadvertence" have not done their homework.

First, regarding scholarship: quite apart from infamous looting of Lynne McTaggert's "Kathleen Kennedy: Her Life and Times," Ms. Goodwin has admitted to reproducing dozens of passages without proper attribution from additional books in her Kennedy work (NYT, Feb. 23, 2002). How many passages from how many books? She won't say, despite telling your paper that she had instructed her assistants to comb her biography for unattributed material in view of publishing a corrected version of "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys," a volume yet to appear. At the least, it is impossible to believe that a writer as sharp as Goodwin could accidentally copy ninety-one passages from McTaggert without noticing the difference between McTaggert's words and her own (Associated Press, March 23, 2002).

Second, Ms. Goodwin forfeited her integrity in 1987 when she (a) paid McTaggert a large sum to keep quiet about the plagiarism and then (b) successfully papered over her acknowledged theft by backdating a new preface to "The Kennedy and the Fitzgeralds" that granted McTaggert extra credit. Having bought her way out of disgrace, this former Harvard scholar did not do the next intellectually honest thing: in subsequent editions of her book she did not bother to put quotes around all of the McTaggert passages. "I made the corrections [McTaggert] requested," she waffled in TIME (Jan. 27, 2002), as if this private concesssion satisfied her obligation to history and the truth.

Until Ms. Goodwin makes full disclosure, that is, until she releases her research notes for "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys," the original manuscripts, the investigation by her assistants, and the legal settlement with McTaggert, including the amount of hush money, no historian dare claim that she is not a plagiarist, especially in light of the known evidence.

Click here to return to top of page.

Brian VanDeMark Found Guilty of Plagiarism (posted 10-29-03)

Nelson Hernandez, writing in the Washington Post (Oct. 29, 2003):

A U.S. Naval Academy history professor accused of plagiarism lost his tenured status and his pay was cut after a board of his peers concluded that he had committed acts of "gross carelessness" in his book about the atomic bomb, the academy's academic dean announced yesterday.

The three-member investigating committee found that Brian VanDeMark's book "Pandora's Keepers: Nine Men and the Atomic Bomb" "included a number of instances of improper borrowing and inadequate paraphrasing, and that these improprieties constituted plagiarism," Dean William C. Miller said at a news conference. The committee also found that the borrowing was the result of carelessness and not deliberate.

Miller said that effective yesterday, VanDeMark, a professor at the academy since 1990 and once considered a rising star, lost the tenure he earned in 1998 and will be on probation for at least three years, after which he may reapply for tenure. VanDeMark's status was also reduced from associate professor to entry-level assistant professor, and his annual salary was cut from $73,317 to $63,043. He also will be required to correct the instances of borrowing in "Pandora's Keepers" before it is republished. The book was recalled by its publisher, Little, Brown and Co., soon after the allegations were publicized in late May.

VanDeMark, 43, declined interviews yesterday but issued a statement through the academy in which he said: "I reiterate my personal responsibility and accept accountability for my unintentional mistakes.

"Pandora's Keepers was a big undertaking -- a 399-page biography of nine men with 676 footnotes and a bibliography including all of the sources used -- and I became overconfident about paraphrasing a lot of secondary sources."

The announcement ends VanDeMark's spell in academic limbo and allows him to resume teaching core courses at the academy in the spring semester. The academy began an investigation into the accusations immediately after they were published by the New York Times. Miller said that the investigation, conducted by his fellow history professors, was completed by late June or early July and that VanDeMark took nearly a month to respond.

After that, Miller was left to render his decision, bearing in mind that VanDeMark, like all of the academy's civilian faculty, is a federal employee and entitled to protections afforded civil servants.

Miller said that he spent much time pondering whether the plagiarism had been deliberate. "I relied very heavily on the judgment of the professors we used to consider this inquiry," he said, and they found that "the whole approach to documenting the sources of the book was flawed," pointing to sloppiness rather than purposeful theft. The academy did not release the text of the report on the grounds that it is part of VanDeMark's confidential file.

Click here to return to top of page.

In Defense of Doris Kearns Goodwin (posted 10-27-03)

Letter to the Editor of the NYT (Oct. 25, 2003):

We write as historians to attest to our high regard for the scholarship and integrity of Doris Kearns Goodwin and to protest vigorously your article "Are More People Cheating?" (Arts & Ideas, Oct. 4), with the photograph of Ms. Goodwin displayed in the company of some of the most notorious scoundrels in America.

Cheating is a deliberate intent to deceive or defraud. Plagiarism is a deliberate intent to purloin the words of another and to represent them as one's own.

Ms. Goodwin did not intentionally pass off someone else's words as her own. Her sources in her 1987 book, "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys," were elaborately credited and footnoted. Her errors resulted from inadvertence, not intent.

She did not, she does not, cheat or plagiarize. In fact, her character and work symbolize the highest standards of moral integrity.
New York, Oct. 9, 2003

Editor's Note: The NYT published just a few of the names of the signers of the letter. Here is the complete list:

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

John M. Blum

Gabor Borritt

Douglas Brinkley

Catherine Clinton

Robert Dallek

John Diggins

John Gable

David Halberstam

Walter Isaacson

Don Miller

Evan Thomas

Richard Wade

Sean Wilentz

Click here to return to top of page.

Michael Fry: Threatens to Sue TV Company Over BBC Production (posted 10-23-03)

Stephen McGinty, writing in the scotsman.com (Oct. 18, 2003):

KIRSTY Wark’s production company is facing a legal battle with one of Scotland’s leading historians following a money and copyright dispute over a historical television series.

Professor Michael Fry is unhappy at the use of his book, The Scottish Empire, by Wark Clements for their six-part examination of Scotland’s imperial past. He said his 2001 work was the main inspiration for Scotland’s Empire, produced for BBC Scotland by Wark Clements, owned by Wark and her husband, Alan Clements.

However, the production company insists a range of sources were used, including Scotland’s Empire, a new book by Professor Tom Devine, who was a consultant on the series.

Prof Fry said: "Unless they can satisfy me that I am not the chief inspiration for the series they are making then I will take legal action against them in order to secure my rights as an author and the usual financial acknowledgement in these instances."

A key plank of Prof Fry’s argument is that Prof Devine’s work only charts the Scottish empire until 1815, while his book and the television series continue until the present day.

Wark Clements, who also produced The First World War for Channel 4, said a fee of £7,500 for permission to use the book as research material was paid to John Tuckwell, the managing director of Tuckwell Press, who co-published Prof Fry’s book with Birlinn Press. Prof Fry said he was unaware of the deal until recently, and has had no money. He claimed the copyright lay with him, not Tuckwell Press.

Now both Prof Fry and Hugh Andrew, the managing director of Birlinn Press, are pursuing Wark Clements for financial remuneration and the opportunity to inspect the programmes in order to verify how much use was made of Prof Fry’s scholarship. Mr Andrew said: "I have exchanged one letter with Paul Murray of Wark Clements and written a second seeking further information, and until I receive more clarification, I would be spitting in the wind."

Wark Clements acknowledge the idea for the series sprang from the publication of Prof Fry’s book. Mr Murray, the company’s head of factual programmes, met the historian and later drew up a proposal for the series. But the production company insists that at an early stage in development, a decision was made that the series would reflect the opinions of a range of academics, not one author.

Scotland’s Empire, which has no scheduled transmission date as yet, covers a huge time period, from around 1700 and the disaster of the Darien Expedition, which brought Scotland to its knees, to 1997 and the handover of Hong Kong, a colony driven by Scottish business interests. Individual programmes tackle the involvement of Scots missionaries, adventurers and businessmen in nations such as the United States, Africa, India, the West Indies, South Seas and the Orient.

Click here to return to top of page.

Robert Donia: The Historian Who Testified at the Bosnian War Trials (posted 10-23-03)

Adam Supernant, writing in the Michigan Daily (Oct. 21, 2003):

Called to be an expert witness in the trials following the Bosnian war of the 1990s, Robert Donia has testified against seven Serbian and Croatian war criminals at The Hague during the past six years.

The University alum brought his experiences on how history can be used or abused in international law yesterday as the annual DeRoy Visiting Professor in Honors speaker.

Donia ended up testifying at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia through a series of coincidental circumstances.

Hailed as one of the most significant challenges facing international law in recent history, the Netherlands-based ICTY aims to prosecute those responsible for violating international law during the Bosnian war, including Slobodan Milosevic, the former president of Yugoslavia.

Serving as an expert witness for the prosecution, Donia testified against Serbian and Croatian criminals charged with genocide, murder and other war crimes.

The uniqueness of his position is that since all of the trials were successfully appealed, the focus of the trial would be factual evidence while the appeal would be based on the more specific points of international law.

Given Donia's background as a leading historian of the region, his work centered on testifying in the actual trial rather than the appeal.

"If historians and lawyers were lined up on opposite ends of the field, John Madden could say these teams don't like each other," he said.

Expert witnesses for the defense would often omit certain pieces of fact, Donia added.

They would attempt to legitimize the Bosnian war by arguing Serbia and Croatia's claims to the area have been longstanding and that Bosnia and Herzegovina was and still is part of medieval Croatia.

Another defense argument was that the Balkan people as a whole were "inherently incapable of possessing superior organizational skills," based on the argument that while fast food was prominent in Western Europe and America, food preparation takes much longer in the Balkans.

"I think it's somewhat unexpected that history is such a part of international law trials. It seems peculiar that he is testifying at the war crimes tribunal," Law School student Scott Risner said....

Donia was drawn to studying the Balkans by "just a series of coincid