Sunday, January 31, 2010

Response to a reckless attack

A Seattle blogger named Richard Silverstein who publishes a blog he calls "Tikun Olam" (rough translation: 'repair the world') has published a reckless attack on me, one filled with name-calling, and baseless charges of bigotry and McCarthyism. You can get a sense of its tone by the tag he gives the post: Adam Holland Holocaust Obsessed | Tikun Olam-תקון עולם: Make the World a Better Place and by its title: "THE BEAT GOES ON: DERSHOWITZ SLANDERS ME IN JERUSALEM POST TOO, GHOULS REJOICE."

By way of background: on January 19, Silverstein published an attack on Israel's provision of aid to Haitian earthquake victims (read here). On January 26, I published a column detailing a number of articles and videos condemning Israel's aid, including Silverstein's blog post (read here). Silverstein's was the mildest of the attacks I discussed. I started with his and went in roughly ascending order to al-Manar's charge that Israel was illegally harvesting human organs in Haiti. Here's an excerpt from what I wrote about Silverstein:

In a strongly worded column he calls "The Zionization of Disaster Relief" ... Silverstein writes that sending portable toilets, rather than doctors, medical equipment and rescue teams, would have been more useful to the Haitians. Silverstein condemns Israel's decision to send doctors instead of toilets as being based on public relations considerations. He also claims without providing a source that a Haitian woman who gave birth in the Israeli field hospital was pressured by the Israelis to name her child "Israel". He captions a photo of the mother and child posted on his blog "A baby named Israel...who, if he reaches adulthood, would never be welcome in Israel". (On the contrary, that child would be very welcome there, but if he does visit, Silverstein will condemn it as Zionist PR.)

In response to this, Silverstein has accused me of being both a "Muslim hater" and a "McCarthyite". Senator Joseph McCarthy infamously waved around an empty page at a senate hearing claiming that it was a list of communists working for the State Department. I challenge Silverstein to publish his list of my anti-Muslim statements. If he can't do this (and he can't), readers can judge for themselves who's the McCarthyite. I believe that the list he claims to have is an empty page.

Strangely, after charging me with practicing McCarthyism, Silverstein writes the following of my column:

The attack is also coordinated along with internet activists recruited by the Foreign Ministry. Dershowitz and buddies of his like Weissman and Holland also play a useful role. I call it the vast right-wing hasbara conspiracy-crusade.

This allegation that I am part of a "vast right-wing hasbara conspiracy-crusade" originating in the Israeli Foreign Ministry, a charge for which Silverstein offers no evidence whatsoever, is false (of course) and verges on paranoia. It's a good indication of how unreliable his reporting is. It also further clarifies which of us is practicing McCarthyism. (Vast conspiracy indeed.)

Silverstein writes:

I’m not even going to get into how badly Holland mischaracterizes my views in the Haiti post I wrote. More interesting to me is the McCarthyite guilt by association rhetorical style of demagogue-goons like Holland (and Weissman, Horowitz, Pipes and others):

Silverstein’s column has traversed the left-right wormhole and has been published by the neo-Nazi blogger (and David Irving associate) Michael Santomauro at his Reporters Notebook website (read here). Alan Dershowitz read this reposted version of Silverstein’s column and blasted it in a column of his own…Silverstein’s column has also been reposted on Russia’s Pravda English language forum and the Arab website Uruknet.

Considering that Silverstein claims that his rant was elicited by the purported inaccuracies in my criticism of his column, it seems odd that he chooses not to address them at all. Not one word detailing my purported errors! Not one word of correction! For some reason he doesn't really want to write about the content of my criticism, focusing instead on raising a dust storm of counter-attacks. (Readers can judge for themselves why that might be so.) Silverstein instead accuses me of practicing guilt by association, then practices it himself, linking me to right wing hawks David Horowitz and Daniel Pipes by saying we share the "rhetorical style of demagogue-goons".   As best I can see it, this is based exclusively on support for Israel.  My liberal politics have little in common with Pipes' and Horowitz' conservatism.

Contrary to what Silverstein asserts, I do not hold him responsible for who reposts his writing without his permission be they neo-Nazi, Russian nationalist, anti-Israel, or advocating any other ideology. It happens all the time, as I well know. I mentioned that his column was reposted by the neo-Nazi Michael Santomauro both to provide the factual background of Dershowitz' column about it (Dershowitz read Santomauro's repost of Silverstein's column) and to indicate who liked it well enough to publish it. These reposts are noteworthy because they show who agrees with Silverstein's views on Isreal's Haiti relief, not because he supports those who repost his writing. As he well knows, I don't believe that he supports neo-Nazis and never claimed that he does. It's a red herring -- a way to raise the guilt-by-association trip and to avoid discussing the content of my criticism of his column.

As is the case with Silverstein, my writing has been reposted by a variety of far-right websites which I would prefer not do so. I've been reposted by Stormfront, David Duke, the Ron Paul Forum and by a number of others less well known. Those websites publish my writing as examples of what they oppose, not what they support. It comes down to this: Silverstein isn't guilty of anything by dint of who republished his column without his permission; the only thing he's guilty of is publishing something that is wrong. Who chooses to republish it reflects just how wrong it is.

Silverstein correctly points out that I focus on writing about anti-Semitism, anti-Israel bias, and about the Holocaust, although I'm unsure why he condemns this. Those subjects interest me, and I hope to contribute something to the debate about them. I write about a number of other subjects and in support of a liberal Democratic agenda (roughly speaking). I write in support of Israel both as a Zionist and as a supporter of liberal democracy -- not because I feel Israel can do no wrong, but because I feel not to support a friend under attack would be wrong.

I have never before been called a demagogue, a goon, a ghoul, a McCarthyite or anti-Muslim. I'm not used to hearing such things. I try not to indulge in name-calling or baseless accusations of bigotry. I try my best not to let my emotions get the better of me, even when I am under a harsh and baseless attack. Among other things I do here, I attempt to write with a minimum of rancor and maximum of accuracy. If I sometimes argue ad hominem, I do so to make a point about the reliability of a source. If I sometimes attach an ideological label to whomever I write about, I do so to accurately reflect their views and not to tar them with a broad brush. On the other hand, in response to even relatively mild criticism, Silverstein immediately resorts to smears and name-calling as a simulacrum of argument. He distorts the views of his adversaries. He also practices guilt by association on a routine basis, equating his adversary of the moment with ideological villains -- it's his stock in trade. It seems that, the more outrageous and far-fetched the accusation he makes, the stronger he thinks his argument. In this piece, he calls me a "ghoul", a "big, fat, sweaty hack heavyweight" (?), a "demagogue-goon", "of little brain", and "McCarthyite". Tikun Olam indeed! Physician, heal thyself.

Now, let's see how he backs up his outrageous and false charge that I am anti-Muslim. He should provide evidence of this or apologize.

UPDATE (Feb. 1, 2000):
Friends have told me that Richard Silverstein a) is not worth taking seriously and b) seems to equate being "anti-jihadi" with being a hater of all Muslims. On the first point, Silverstein's attack, as silly as its name-calling was, made the very specific false charge that I am a hater of Muslims. I want him to either back that up or retract that statement. If he doesn't do either, the lack of merit in his charges will be clarified in the minds of anyone with any doubts. On the second point, I don't know what Richard Silverstein thinks about being anti-jihadi, or why he singles me out as one. Of course I am anti-jihadi. Does he disagree with this point? Does he, favor peace at any cost? I feel that liberal, democratic values are worth defending. I feel Israel is worth defending.

Mostly, I found the tone of his column so foul and so disproportionate a response to what I had written, that I felt compelled to answer. I have seen this before in writers of various beliefs: the tendency to wrap themselves in the mantle of their belief in a cause they believe just and treat others in an uncivil, irrational manner. I doubt that the blogger who was capable of writing this particular foul attack is capable of seeing that, but I wanted to make it clear to anyone who cares.


Anonymous said...

if the Israeli Foreign Ministry ever gets around to paying bloggers then please let me know as I definitely want in ;=)

Adam Holland said...

I'd be happy if they'd just provide advance notice when I'm part of their vast conspiracies.

Rebecca said...

Yes, that's the problem with the Jewish conspiracy - it just doesn't pay very well....

TNC said...

Consider it a badge of honor to be held in low regard by that scumbag.

Adam Holland said...


Thanks for your support.

You're right that it is a badge of honor to be slandered in this way, but it's one I'd rather not have. The slanderous accusation that Silverstein made -- that I hate Muslims -- is very hurtful to me. His preface to that -- that I practice McCarthyism -- seems to be a projection. He offers no evidence to back his charges, and no counter-arguments to what I wrote about him. He just waves his empty page of "evidence" and shouts baseless accusations.

But ixnay with the umbagscay. I generally try to avoid name-calling here -- especially when writing about someone who so readily resorts to name-calling as an easy substitute for rational discussion.


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