Know Your Right Wingers
SOURCE: August Pollak
Have you ever suspected that your campus may be little more than the intellectual equivalent of an Al Qaeda training camp, dutifully churning out youthful armies of Osama Bin Laden-hugging, America-hating traitors? Well, fear not. Pundit and right-wing crusader Daniel Pipes is keeping an eye on your university and the treasonous activity percolating therein. Thanks to Pipes and his website, Campus Watch, you can rest assured in the knowledge that someone is working to bring your subversive, un-American professors/terrorists to justice, Joe McCarthy-style, and to replace their indoctrination sessions with a curriculum as fair and balanced as FOX News.
Pipes’ nostalgia for the Cold War may be hereditary. His father, Harvard historian Richard Pipes, headed Team B, a group of extremely hawkish analysts devoted to studying Soviet military and political strategies. A Boston native, Daniel Pipes enrolled at Harvard, where his father was still teaching, in 1967, to study mathematics. Unfortunately, the abstract world of numbers went over his head. “I wasn’t smart enough,” Pipes confessed, “so I chose to become a historian.” While his classmates staged sit-ins in the Harvard administration building to protest the Vietnam War, he wondered why anyone would walk out of classes or miss meals they had already paid for.
Upon earning his B.A. in history, Pipes spent two years studying Arabic in Cairo, and then returned to Harvard to begin working on his Ph.D. in medieval Islamic history. In the late '70s and early '80s, in the wake of the Iranian Revolution and the assassination of Anwar Sadat by an Islamist militant, he abandoned his initial interests and became obsessed with radical Islam.
Pipes held teaching positions at the University of Chicago, Harvard, and the Naval War College, but did not get tenure. The field of Middle Eastern studies was in the midst of a radical paradigm shift, brought on by the publication of Edward Said‘s Orientalism, that would embitter Pipes for decades to come. According to Said, Western portrayals of the Middle East—from paintings and literature to traditional scholarship—contained a supremacist ideology of “Otherness” that served to justify imperialism. Said’s book changed everything within the field. Suddenly, Middle Eastern studies professors began preoccupying themselves with cultural sensitivity, rejecting notions of Western superiority and the “primitive, exotic” Arab. Pipes decided that academia no longer had a place for him.
In 1986, he began running the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a hard-line think tank which would begin agitating for war with Iraq immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Since 1994, Pipes has been founding director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, which “seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East” through an aggressive policy of military intervention. Its journal, The Middle East Quarterly, has published such enlightening pieces as “Western Feminists: At the Service of Radical Islam” and “The Arab Mind Revisited,”
which discusses the “inhibiting effects” of the Arabic language and stereotypes Arabs as having a “proneness to exaggeration” and a “tendency to blame others for [their] problems.”
Amid post-9/11 xenophobia and attacks on dissent, Pipes’ extreme views earned him celebrity status. The author of numerous books on Islam and the Middle East, he is a fixture on FoxNews and has appeared on CNN, the BBC, and Al Jazeera. His screeds appear in columns on “Islamofascism” for David Horowitz‘s Front Page Magazine and in an array of national publications, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The
Pipes began his own personal "war on terror" with a 1995 piece in National Interest entitled “There are No Moderates,” which declared: “Unnoticed by most Westerners, war has been unilaterally declared on Europe and the United States.” Pipes made this statement shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing, which he and fellow right-winger Steven Emerson erroneously blamed on Muslims.
Pipes has been accused of spreading “Islamophobia” by organizations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which condemns his “history of hostility toward Muslims in general and to the American Muslim community in particular.” Pipes defends his statements, asserting that “the enemy is militant Islam, not Islam, the personal faith.” However, numerous statements reflect a general antipathy toward Muslims and a tendency to label all Muslims as supporters of terrorism. In an October 2001 speech at the American Jewish Congress Convention, he warned that the “increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims…will present true dangers to American Jews.” Around the same time, Pipes wrote a column for the New York Post, “Muslims Love Bin Laden,” which noted: “President Bush says bin Laden represents a ‘fringe form of Islamic extremism…rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics.’…Well, that ‘vast majority’ is well hidden and awfully quiet, if it even exists.”
Pipes is a strident supporter of U.S. intervention in the Middle East, promoting the view that it is through overpowering force alone that the region’s problems can be solved. A proponent of the Iraq war from the get-go, he said in an interview that the invasion would have a “positive effect” upon “militant Islam, the energy market, the Israeli conflict, the general problem of the Arab states modernizing, you name it.” He opposes any peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and writes frequently about the need for Israel to “crush the will” of the Palestinians. In 1988, during the first Palestinian intifada, he published a New York Times column calling an eventual Palestinian state a “nightmare” for its intended beneficiaries. Statehood, he argued, “would hurt Arabs far more than Israelis.” Recently, he has set his sights on Iran, arguing in 2003, that the “situation has become crude and binary: either the U.S. government deploys force to prevent Tehran from acquiring nukes, or Tehran acquires them.” Of course, the recently released National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear capabilities has proved Pipes’ fears to be thoroughly overblown.
Given Pipes’ militaristic thinking and utter disdain for diplomacy, it struck many observers as deeply ironic when, in 2003, President Bush nominated him to the board of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a congressional institution dedicated to “peacebuilding.” Despite a maelstrom of controversy—Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), among others, vigorously opposed the nomination—Bush bypassed Congress with a recess appointment after the Senate session on his confirmation ended without a vote.
Pipes’ ideological crusade is not limited to the Middle East. It is a battle he has decided to take to college campuses throughout America, excoriating professors who fail to dutifully parrot the right wing’s ideology. In a November 2002 piece in the New York Post entitled “Profs Who Hate America,” he singled out a number of professors critical of going to war in Iraq. “Why do American academics so often despise their own country while finding excuses for repressive and dangerous regimes?” Pipes asked.
That year, he also created Campus Watch, a special project of the Middle East Forum. The Campus Watch website, condemned by The Nation as an example of modern McCarthyism, targets professors and students who hold views on the Middle East deemed unacceptable by Pipes. Campus Watch encouraged students to submit reports on teachers, which were published in “dossiers” on the site. Most controversially, the site published a blacklist of eight scholars and 14 universities. Among them was Georgetown University professor John Esposito, who has called for an examination of the root causes that lead to terrorism.
Subsequently, the blacklisted professors were attacked by spammers who sent large numbers of enormous files to their e-mail addresses. Among the victims was University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole, who reported that his e-mail had been disabled by thousands of hate messages the day after his name appeared on Campus Watch. In protest, over 100 professors around the country wrote letters denouncing Campus Watch for its “attempts to silence and muzzle dissenting voices.” Some insisted on being added to the list, in a gesture of solidarity. The website complied, listing the protesting faculty and distorting their protest, which he claimed was “in defense of apologists for Palestinian violence and militant Islam.” Eventually, Pipes removed the dossiers “in a gesture of goodwill,” but the site continues to update its “survey of institutions.”
Pipes swells with pride at the thought that his intimidation efforts may have had an impact. In a speech at David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend in November 2003, Pipes remarked: “I flatter myself perhaps in thinking that the rather subdued academic response to the war in Iraq in March and April may have been, in part, due to our work.”
Indeed, the hysteria fomented by Pipes is far-reaching. In 2003, ripples of Pipes’ efforts reached Congress, prompting the House of Representatives to pass legislation (HR 3077) that would establish an advisory board to “study, monitor, appraise, and evaluate” university area studies programs. The bill also made federal funding under Title VI of the Higher Education Act contingent upon the “fair and balanced” nature of the curriculum. Pipes enthusiastically backed the bill, which was the result of a campaign by Stanley Kurtz of the National Review Online (a frequent publisher of Pipes’ work), who accused Middle Eastern Studies of tending to “purvey extreme and one-sided criticism of American foreign policy.”
The bill did not pass in the Senate, but its specter, along with the combined efforts of Pipes, Horowitz, and their ilk, has left a lasting impact upon college campuses. Their attempts to stifle debate continue to create an obstacle to serious discussion of crucial issues.
Memorable Quotes: The Wisdom of Daniel Pipes
On racial profiling: “For years, it has been my position that the threat of radical Islam implies an imperative to focus security measures on Muslims. If searching for rapists, one looks only at the male population. Similarly, if searching for Islamists (adherents of radical Islam), one looks at the Muslim population.”—“Why the Japanese Internment Still Matters”, New York Sun (December 28, 2004). (And yes, the article does applaud the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII.)
And: “There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military, and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism, as do Muslim chaplains in prisons and the armed forces. Muslim visitors and immigrants must undergo additional background checks. Mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches, synagogues, and temples. Muslim schools require increased oversight to ascertain what is being taught to children.”—“The Enemy Within (and the Need for Profiling)”, New York Post (January 24, 2003).
On Iraq: Pipes wrote in the New York Post that Iraq needed a “democratically-minded Iraqi strongman” since its people “mentally live in a world of conspiracy theories” and were not quite ready for full-fledged democracy.—“A Strongman for Iraq”, New York Post (April 28, 2003).
On immigrants: “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene… All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.”—“The Muslims are Coming! The Muslims are Coming!”, National Review (November 19, 1990).
On black Muslims: Pipes referenced “a well-established tradition of American blacks who convert to Islam turning against their country.”—“[Beltway Snipers]: Converts to Violence?”, New York Post (October 25, 2002).
Valerie Saturen is a writer and activist with an M.A. in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Arizona. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.