November 23, 2004

MEMRI Needs to Be Moved to "Unreliable"

Ah. Clearly it's time to stop reading (and citing) MEMRI.

Juan Cole writes:

Informed Comment : I just checked my campus mail and found a letter in it from Colonel Yigal Carmon, late of Israeli military intelligency, now an official at the Middle East Media Research Organization, or MEMRI. He threatened me with a lawsuit over blog comments I made here at Informed Comment. This technique of the SLAPP or Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation had already been pioneered by polluting industries against environmental activists, and now the pro-Likud lobby in the US has apparently decided to try it out against people like me.

I urge all readers to send messages of protest to memri@memri.org. Please be polite, and simply urge MEMRI, which has a major Web presence, to withdraw the lawsuit threat and to respect the spirit of the free sharing of ideas that makes the internet possible.

Here is the letter:

November 8, 2004

Professor Juan Cole
University of Michigan History Department
1029 Tisch Hall
435 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003

Dear Professor Cole,

I write in response to your article "Osama Threatening Red States?" published on November 3, 2004 on antiwar.com. The article included several statements about MEMRI which go beyond what could be considered legitimate criticism, and which in fact qualify as slander and libel. While we respect your right to argue the veracity of our translations, you certainly may not fabricate information about our organization. You make several claims that are patently false:

Trying to paint MEMRI in a conspiratorial manner by portraying us as a rich, sinister group, you write that "MEMRI is funded to the tune of $60 million a year." This is completely false.

You also write that MEMRI is an "anti-Arab propaganda machine" that "cherry-picks the vast Arabic press." If you have any level of familiarity with MEMRI, you should be aware of our Reform Project, which is one of the most important of MEMRI's projects, and which receives much of our energy and resources. The Reform Project (www.memri.org/reform.html) is devoted solely to finding and amplifying the progressive voices in the Arab world. It is especially disappointing that these charges do not come from an overzealous journalist, but from a member of the academic community, from whom one should be able to expect at least the minimum amount of research and corroboration.

In addition, you write that "MEMRI is one of a number of public relations campaigns essentially on behalf of the far right-wing Likud Party in Israel." This, too, is completely false. MEMRI is totally unaffiliated with any government, and receives no government funding. While I was formerly an Israeli official (and retired more than a decade ago), I have never been affiliated with the Likud Party, or any other party.

As such, we demand that you retract the false statements you have made about MEMRI. If you will not do so, we will be forced to pursue legal action against you personally and against the University of Michigan, which the article identifies you as an employee of. We hope this will not be necessary.

Sincerely,

[signed]
Yigal Carmon

Suffice to say that every criticism that Juan Cole has made of MEMRI has been more than doubly confirmed by this lawsuit threat.

Posted by DeLong at November 23, 2004 06:45 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Easy for me to say, but I'd tell 'em to flip off. I for one would have no problem contributing to a defense fund.

Posted by: venivedi at November 23, 2004 07:48 PM

For non-Arabists attempting to analyze the Mideast MEMRI and Juan Cole both have their uses and both lean to one side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The threat of the lawsuit is quite laughable - probably qualifying as frivolous, particularly in light of Cole's functioning as an agent of an educational institution. His comments were mild, well within the confines of normal scholarly discourse and are protected speech in any event.

Posted by: mark safranski at November 23, 2004 08:07 PM

It's the letter itself that matters, frankly. Anyone who takes MEMRI seriously after an embarrassing stunt like this has no credibility. This is not really a left/right issue, or anything like that -- it's a clumsy attempt to use the law to silence a scholar. Whether or not you agree with Cole is, or should be, beside the point.

Posted by: Thersites at November 23, 2004 10:03 PM

Brad DeLong errs in taking sides in what is, in essence, a flame war. It's juvenile behavior all around, and I'm certain he knows better. He certainly knows that Yigal Carmon's feeble legal threat is immaterial to the question of MEMRI's reliability or lack thereof.

Yigal Carmon errs in letting himself be baited by the likes of Juan Cole. Sure, Cole makes stuff up about people he doesn't like. But you've got to pick your battles.

Juan Cole errs in continuing to engage in his usual Israel-bashing and thinly veiled Jew-baiting. We all know what it means when he proclaims that MEMRI is powerful and well-moneyed.

Posted by: Squirrel at November 23, 2004 10:12 PM

We all know what it means when he proclaims that MEMRI is powerful and well-moneyed.

No. We don't. Be so good as to spell it out for us. Please. For the purposes of open discussion, kindly make your acusation in plain language without the innuendo, so Dr. Cole can respond fairly. I do not need to agree with Dr. Cole to insist upon this.

Dr. Cole was the one who received a letter threatening a lawsuit. This removes the discussion from the level of a "flame war." Please do not try to make him the aggressor for receiving such a preposterous letter.

Squirel, your post is dishonorable.

Posted by: Thersites at November 23, 2004 10:25 PM

It sounds like MEMRI supporters are asking us to investigate MEMRI finances and journalistic reliability.

Oh well, Wed's the day before Thanksgiving, might as well Google a bit...

Posted by: peBird at November 23, 2004 10:51 PM

Prof Cole is sufficiently high-profile that MEMRI ought to have some right to challenge him if he's just lying about them (well, seems more like conspiratorially misrepresenting them at worst) in public (though this seems a stupid challenge).

In other words, as you seem to concede, they have crap grounds for a lawsuit.

And it's precisely the threat of the lawsuit that is outrageous here, not the fact that they may have reasons to disagree with Dr. Cole.

There really should not be any argument that MEMRI has gone too far.

Posted by: Thersites at November 23, 2004 10:53 PM

Squirrel is a douche.

I heard the Insane Clown Posse threatens Juan Cole with a libel lawsuit after he likened them to Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Cheney and Bush. Any truth to that?

Posted by: ogmb at November 23, 2004 11:00 PM

Safranski: "particularly in light of Cole's functioning as an agent of an educational institution." I doubt that Cole can be seen as acting as agent of the U. of Michigan in posting his website comments. I also don't see how his affiliation with the university should, in principle, bear on the question of actionable libel. By the same token Carmon's threat as against the University seems to make little sense. Anyway the whole letter is contemptible, I agree, regardless what one thinks of Cole.

Posted by: scarface at November 23, 2004 11:03 PM

Thersites - sure, I think both Cole and MEMRI are acting unprofessionally here (with some chance that Cole is just right on the facts). I think Cole's acting in some sense as a reporter or news source and not as an academic here (maybe a bad and chilling distinction to draw, but ...) and should be held to somewhat different standards than someone just publishing scholarly articles and teaching and giving the occasional interview. I tend to think that the lawsuit threat is more silly and stupid than outrageous and that it's outrageous that someone as prominent in this area of discourse as Prof Cole thinks he can just make stuff up (assuming that's what he's doing), but that and $3 will get you a latte.

Posted by: rilkefan at November 23, 2004 11:16 PM

"Yigal Carmon's feeble legal threat"

What makes you think it's feeble? I think Cole is going to have to defend himself.

Posted by: Randolph Fritz at November 23, 2004 11:49 PM

I am with Squirrel and rilkefan: it is Dr. Cole who is behaving as one from Turdistan.

Professor Cole is a famous expert. His words carry extra weight because of his fame. When he makes unfounded accusations he inflicts far greater injury than your average troll. As a tenured professor he is furthermore immune from the more usual forms of retribution(On the inside of every professorís door should be tacked the message, ďI got tenure because I did excellent work and held my tongue. Why stop now?Ē).

Mr. Carmon is an unknown (who among us has ever heard of him before this incident?) and in the private sector. Mr. Carmonís reputation (and his paycheck) depend on the reputation of his organization. When someone of Dr. Coleís authority impunes the probity and motives of that organization, the accusation constitutes a serious, and very personal threat. Mr. Carmon has made a laughingstock of himself by threatening a lawsuit when he has no legal grounds upon which to build his caseóbut his intemperance is understandable.

Dr. Cole, of course, will find this argument risible.

Posted by: MTC at November 24, 2004 12:00 AM

Both MEMRI and Prof Cole seem more respectable than Prof De Longs comment that the "...every criticism that Juan Cole has made of MEMRI has been more than doubly confirmed by this lawsuit threat".

It is plain that writing a lawsuit letter does not, in fact, mean that MEMRI is funded to the tune of $120 million a year. Nor does it in any way confirm the $60 million figure. Prof De Long could have been more informative, and actually used his abilities, rather than making stupid, obvious lies. Should I believe anything else Prof. De Long ever writes, ever?

The comment that we should all stop reading MEMRI smacks more of censorship than of academic inquiry. Both Prof Cole and MEMRI take points of view which they defend admirably, and set a standard to which Brad De Long should aspire.

Posted by: Warren at November 24, 2004 02:17 AM

D*mn. Looks like MEMRI sent out its troll army.

Posted by: Barry at November 24, 2004 04:03 AM

D*mn. Looks like MEMRI sent out its troll army.

Posted by: Barry at November 24, 2004 04:07 AM

Memri.org posts articles from the Arab and Middle Eastern press, with full documentation and attribution. It is a resource site, not an opinion site. Do you think their selection is slanted? Fine - start your own Middle Eastern press review site. Juan Cole has made (at least) three obviously false, and obviously malicious, statements about MEMRI. Which of these parties is more appealing to those who pride themselves on being "reality based"?

I read, enjoy, and learn a lot from both MEMRI and deLong's site. I don't think I'm a troll. Try making some arguments instead of calling people names next time.

Posted by: Ben at November 24, 2004 05:19 AM

Brad Delong says:

> Suffice to say that every criticism that Juan Cole > has made of MEMRI has been more than doubly
> confirmed by this lawsuit threat.

How is the claim that "MEMERI is funded to the tune of $60 million a year" doubly confirmed by this lawsuit threat?
-

Posted by: Jon Ruby at November 24, 2004 05:40 AM

Cole says:
"So, the charge, that I claimed an "affiliation" of MEMRI with Likud, isn't true in the first place, and there is nothing to retract. That issue almost certainly generated the entire letter. MEMRI is a 501 (c) 3 organization, which is tax exempt in US law, and therefore cannot engage in (much) directly political activity without endangering its exemption. I don't think MEMRI does so directly intervene in politics as to make its 501 (c) 3 status questionable. But it is obvious that 501 (c) 3 is widely abused by rightwing think tanks. "

Taking Cole at his word, then, it isn't a SLAPP suit, and MEMRI sent the letter with a legitimate purpose. (Protecting its tax status).

Except for academics fronting for each other, I don't know why this should deem MEMRI "Unreliable" any more than Cole's consistent anti-Israel (and worse) viewpoint should label him "unreliable".

Posted by: Barry at November 24, 2004 06:27 AM

MEMRI is being overly sensitive regarding Cole, and the threat of a lawsuit against him is laughable. Does MEMRI think they have such as weak case to make that they cannot risk taking it to a court of public opinion first? One needn't resort to lawyering up just to get attention.

Posted by: David W. at November 24, 2004 06:46 AM

Is it somehow not libel to cast aspersions on a group based on a false assertion that it receives huge amounts of funding?

Is the point that the "pro-Likud lobby", as Juan calls it, has thereby surrendered its right to defend itself from libel?

Is this another double standard aimed at Israel and its supporters?

Now that Juan has thrown down the gauntlet, I think that the only honorable thing for him to do is to accept the challenge and demonstrate the truth of his assertions.

Posted by: Piranha at November 24, 2004 07:08 AM

Is it somehow not libel to cast aspersions on a group based on a false assertion that it receives huge amounts of funding?

Is the point that the "pro-Likud lobby", as Juan calls it, has thereby surrendered its right to defend itself from libel?

Is this another double standard aimed at Israel and its supporters?

Now that Juan has thrown down the gauntlet, I think that the only honorable thing for him to do is to accept the challenge and demonstrate the truth of his assertions. I don't think that whining about someone's exercising his legal right to defend himself against libel is the right approach.

Maybe it is, though. Truth has never been a factor in criticism of Israel and its supporters. Why should Juan be different?

Posted by: Piranha at November 24, 2004 07:09 AM

Scar,

Generally, in first amendment law cases the courts are inclined to give the widest latitude to defendants in cases involving journalists and academics. The difficulty for public figures to win libel suits has already been noted ( and in any event MEMRI probably would not welcome a discovery process regarding past affiliations of its employees). Cole's affiliation with his university was raised by MEMRI, possibly in hopes of accessing deep pockets or getting the university to put pressure on Cole.

For the record, I have disagreed with Cole on a number of topics related to Israel and American foreign policy. I've also found his expertise useful and interesting. I don't think MEMRI's proposed lawsuit ( as opposed to a straightforward answer to Cole's charges) has much of a chance of success.

Posted by: mark safranski at November 24, 2004 07:13 AM

Is it somehow not libel to cast aspersions on a group based on a false assertion that it receives huge amounts of funding?

Is the point that the "pro-Likud lobby", as Juan calls it, has thereby surrendered its right to defend itself from libel?

Is this another double standard aimed at Israel and its supporters?

Now that Juan has thrown down the gauntlet, I think that the only honorable thing for him to do is to accept the challenge and demonstrate the truth of his assertions. I don't think that whining about someone's exercising his legal right to defend himself against libel is the right approach.

Maybe it is, though. Truth has never been a factor in criticism of Israel and its supporters. Why should Juan be different?

Posted by: Piranha at November 24, 2004 07:14 AM

Is it somehow not libel to cast aspersions on a group based on a false assertion that it receives huge amounts of funding?

Is the point that the "pro-Likud lobby", as Juan calls it, has thereby surrendered its right to defend itself from libel?

Is this another double standard aimed at Israel and its supporters?

Now that Juan has thrown down the gauntlet, I think that the only honorable thing for him to do is to accept the challenge and demonstrate the truth of his assertions. I don't think that whining about someone's exercising his legal right to defend himself against libel is the right approach.

Maybe it is, though. Truth has never been a factor in criticism of Israel and its supporters. Why should Juan be different?

Posted by: Piranha at November 24, 2004 07:15 AM

Is it somehow not libel to cast aspersions on a group based on a false assertion that it receives huge amounts of funding?

Is the point that the "pro-Likud lobby", as Juan calls it, has thereby surrendered its right to defend itself from libel?

Is this another double standard aimed at Israel and its supporters?

Now that Juan has thrown down the gauntlet, I think that the only honorable thing for him to do is to accept the challenge and demonstrate the truth of his assertions. I don't think that whining about someone's exercising his legal right to defend himself against libel is the right approach.

Maybe it is, though. Truth has never been a factor in criticism of Israel and its supporters. Why should Juan be different?

Posted by: Piranha at November 24, 2004 07:19 AM

Yes, the troll army is out.

Posted by: dilbert dogbert at November 24, 2004 07:33 AM

Scar,

Generally, in first amendment law cases the courts are inclined to give the widest latitude to defendants in cases involving journalists and academics. The difficulty for public figures to win libel suits has already been noted ( and in any event MEMRI probably would not welcome a discovery process regarding past affiliations of its employees). Cole's affiliation with his university was raised by MEMRI, possibly in hopes of accessing deep pockets or getting the university to put pressure on Cole.

For the record, I have disagreed with Cole on a number of topics related to Israel and American foreign policy. I've also found his expertise useful and interesting. I don't think MEMRI's proposed lawsuit ( as opposed to a straightforward answer to Cole's charges) has much of a chance of success.

Posted by: mark safranski at November 24, 2004 07:47 AM

I think that there are some fact that are not in dispute.

* MEMRI was stupid threatening a law suit. They should have simply sent a notification that this was inaccurate, and pointing him toward their 501(c)3 data.
* MEMRI's translations are accurate, but some people claim that what they choose to translate shows a bias.
* Dr. Cole implied that MEMRI was an arm of the Likud, illegal under section 501(c)3, as opposed to a pro-Israel and pro-Zionist organization, which is legal under that section.

As MEMRI's mission is to translate the dialog among Arabs, as opposed to that presented for external consumption, and I see a fair amount (albeit on page B-12) regarding calls for democratization, etc. in the normal press, it's natural that they would cover the rather more extreme communications.

Bottom line is, no one, including Dr. Cole, has challenged the accuracy of their translations.

So, for the purpose of finding a quote from an Arab public figure, they are still a good source if the quote is there, though the absence of a translation does not mean an absence of a statement.

As to Dr. Cole, I'm of the mind that like many non Arab Arabists (and for that matter T.E. Lawrence), he all too frequently has the "Pet Arab" mind-set that Dr. Said described in "Orientalism".

BTW, I'm completely flabbergasted that I'm citing Said.

Posted by: Matthew Saroff at November 24, 2004 07:52 AM

Truth has never been a factor in criticism of Israel and its supporters. Why should Juan be different?

Never? There has never been a true criticism of Israel? Never ever?

Posted by: SqueakyRat at November 24, 2004 08:02 AM

For all you dopeheads criticizing Brad's statement

--Suffice to say that every criticism that Juan Cole has made of MEMRI has been more than doubly confirmed by this lawsuit threat. --

An erroneous statement about funding is NOT a criticism. Calling MEMRI a hack-organization, is. The lawsuit threat demonstrates that Cole & Brad are fundamentally right.

Posted by: ch2 at November 24, 2004 08:15 AM

I have respect for Cole on Iraq and Iran issues, but he is hopelessly and sometimes disgustingly biased against Israel. For example, here's a selection from Oct 17 2004:

"So I guess "things" have been "clarified" in the Mideast, after three years of shows of force on both sides. What is now clear is that there is not going to be a Palestinian state, and that the Israeli "democracy" now owns three million Palestinian plantation slaves indefinitely."

"Plantation slaves?" So now Israelis are SLAVEHOLDERS???

That doesn't even make sense - supporters of the Palestinians have complained constantly that Palestinians cannot get to jobs in Israel because of the security checkpoints.

It's hard to believe a tenured academic uses such language.

Posted by: Lisa at November 24, 2004 08:22 AM

ch2, well said. Saying MEMRI has more money than it does is NOT defamatory, especially in the absence of evidence that the factual errors re: funding are were not made knowingly, negligently, or with actual malice.

Posted by: Silent E at November 24, 2004 08:33 AM

Can an Israeli safely comment that any reading of MEMRI will show them to be no more than a propaganda vehicle. Thoroughly hateful. Care to sue me?

Posted by: Lev at November 24, 2004 08:35 AM

Cole says:
"So, the charge, that I claimed an "affiliation" of MEMRI with Likud, isn't true in the first place, and there is nothing to retract. That issue almost certainly generated the entire letter. MEMRI is a 501 (c) 3 organization, which is tax exempt in US law, and therefore cannot engage in (much) directly political activity without endangering its exemption. I don't think MEMRI does so directly intervene in politics as to make its 501 (c) 3 status questionable. But it is obvious that 501 (c) 3 is widely abused by rightwing think tanks. "

Taking Cole at his word, then, it isn't a SLAPP suit, and MEMRI sent the letter with a legitimate purpose. (Protecting its tax status).

Except for academics fronting for each other, I don't know why this should deem MEMRI "Unreliable" any more than Cole's consistent anti-Israel (and worse) viewpoint should label him "unreliable".

Posted by: Barry at November 24, 2004 08:39 AM

Lisa -

oddly,

"It's hard to believe a tenured academic uses such language."

works to Cole's favor in the context of defamation: insults and epithets are protected as "emotional outbursts" that merely demonstrate intense dislike but are not taken literally. If Cole's blog writings are prone to hyperbole, exageration, epithets, and insults, then

(a) they are less credible than writings published in traditional media (e.g., a referreed academic journal) and therefore less capable of causing damage to MEMRI's reputation because people discount the opinions of those they perceive as bitter hacks, and

(b) there is much greater leeway for Cole to claim that the particular statements at issue are merely insults and so are not actionable defamation.

Posted by: Silent E at November 24, 2004 08:41 AM

Now that Juan has thrown down the gauntlet, I think that the only honorable thing for him to do is to accept the challenge and demonstrate the truth of his assertions.

Posted by Piranha at November 24, 2004 07:08 AM
**************************************************
The assertion that MEMRI won't reveal it's funding source? MEMRI will have to reveal it's funding source if there is a real (unbiased) trial.
And if MEMRI reveals it's funding source, then Cole is exposed as wrong (or right). Which MEMRI could do right now if they wanted, or more precisely, if their funding source wanted. As a matter of fact, the funding source could reveal itself right now without reference to MEMRI.
Incidentally, MEMRI performs a valuable service. Who else is willing to find the most annoying trolls on the Arab language parts of the internet and translate their work for English language newspapers to publish?
They should be encouraged to continue their good work. No doubt they would be glad of your contributions. Now if we could just persuade them to translate our most annoying trolls into Arabic and publish them on the net to amuse the Arab people...who also could use a laugh.

Posted by: wkwillis at November 24, 2004 08:54 AM

I like Cole a lot, but it does bother me that he said that MEMRI is funded to the tune of $60M, but makes absolutely no effort whatsoever to tell us where he got that figure. Did he have a source? Or did he just make it up?

Posted by: joe at November 24, 2004 09:02 AM

I don't particularly like Juan Cole or his opinions, but I like intimidation by threat of legal action even less. Cole's got my vote on this one.

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein at November 24, 2004 09:08 AM

Is hyperbole a defense against libel? Without addressing Juan Cole's statements, it's clear to me that when Brad DeLong writes "Suffice to say that every criticism that Juan Cole has made of MEMRI has been more than doubly confirmed by this lawsuit threat." he is using hyperbole, a rhetorical device, and that this is pretty obvious to a rational reader.

Posted by: Paul Callahan at November 24, 2004 09:08 AM

Second to last sentence ends with a preposition. Poor form.

Posted by: Jumbo at November 24, 2004 09:11 AM

Israel-defenders like Lisa have a point. The Palestinians on the West Bank shouldn't be compared to plantation slaves--they should be compared to black South Africans under apartheid. There's a difference and shame on Dr. Cole for not recognizing it.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at November 24, 2004 09:12 AM

SHOE...OTHER FOOT:

http://www.aei.org/news/newsID.21599/news_detail.asp

Does this mean AEI's credibility is now enhanced in Prof. DeLong's mind?

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan at November 24, 2004 09:35 AM

Cole says:
"So, the charge, that I claimed an "affiliation" of MEMRI with Likud, isn't true in the first place, and there is nothing to retract. That issue almost certainly generated the entire letter. MEMRI is a 501 (c) 3 organization, which is tax exempt in US law, and therefore cannot engage in (much) directly political activity without endangering its exemption. I don't think MEMRI does so directly intervene in politics as to make its 501 (c) 3 status questionable. But it is obvious that 501 (c) 3 is widely abused by rightwing think tanks. "

Taking Cole at his word, then, it isn't a SLAPP suit, and MEMRI sent the letter with a legitimate purpose. (Protecting its tax status).

Except for academics fronting for each other, I don't know why this should deem MEMRI "Unreliable" any more than Cole's consistent anti-Israel (and worse) viewpoint should label him "unreliable".

Posted by: Barry at November 24, 2004 09:58 AM

The apartheid analogy doesn't hold either. Colonialism, yes.

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein at November 24, 2004 10:19 AM

Sorry, I meant to include a URL in the above comment on the apartheid analogy:

http://headheeb.blogmosis.com/archives/020496.html

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein at November 24, 2004 10:29 AM

I hope MEMRI sues. What's needed against the propoganda campaign of Israel and their sympathizers is a public forum that can evenly judge the evidence. Juan Cole, of course, is correct. What's needed, then, is a way to highlight that experts in the field are silenced through harrassment or propoganda is circulated, in forums such as this, and the mainstream media.

Posted by: Adam Morgan at November 24, 2004 03:00 PM

"no one, including Dr. Cole, has challenged the accuracy of their translations."

Actually, that's exactly wrong. This whole incident arises out of Cole accusing MEMRI of an inaccrate translation of Osama bin Laden's statement right before the US presidential election.

http://www.antiwar.com/cole/?articleid=3898

Posted by: rea at November 24, 2004 03:08 PM

Lisa,
Palestinians can complain of lack of access to jobs in Israel and still be in a position analagous to slaves. It is precisely the narrowing of their options that makes them vulnerable to exploitation either now or in the future. The slavery remark by Cole was hyperbole but still points to the linked realities of exploitation and exclusion.

Posted by: peter at November 25, 2004 06:30 AM

Same ol', same ol'... being pro-facts is "anti-Israel. Speaking critically of a bizarre political movement, AKA the Likud party, which embraces every sort of barbarism, is biased somehow. I guess I am biased. Does that make me pro-civilization?

Posted by: just pete at November 25, 2004 06:44 AM

Same ol', same ol'... being pro-facts is "anti-Israel. Speaking critically of a bizarre political movement, AKA the Likud party, which embraces every sort of barbarism, is biased somehow. I guess I am biased. Does that make me pro-civilization?

Posted by: just pete at November 25, 2004 06:52 AM

Please.

For the love of the ponies and pretty flowers.

If you simply MUST get into your Israel/Palestinian discussion, DO IT ELSEWHERE!

Topic Here: First Ammendment, Libel and Censorship.

Posted by: Waffle at November 25, 2004 11:31 AM

On the web, if you've got a complaint, just type it out and post it.

No need to threaten a lawsuit, even if there's a misundertanding as to your funding status.

Unless you're a vile scumbag. Oh, that's right, it's not your fault because of...

Posted by: Eat at November 25, 2004 12:08 PM

Also, please find the story of how Cole was very quick to threaten a lawsuit a couple of years ago. http://www.martinkramer.org/pages/899529/index.htm It's a funny read if you want to read about hypocrisy.

Ah, clearly it's time to stop reading (and citing) Juan Cole.

Posted by: TM at November 25, 2004 02:19 PM

How would one stop reading MEMRI?

It goes to tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of journalists and politicians etc, who repeat it. When you get it second or third hand, how do you even know where it came from? Usually the translations are reasonably honest, it's just biased sampling.

It's like somebody who wanted to make US public opinion look bad translating the worst comments from LGF along with an occasional liberal suggesting that LGFers shouldn't be that way.

Arabs who wanted to spend the money could translate something biased their way, and compete to get their point of view across. I doubt they could compete very well because americans have more appreciation for the MEMRI stuff than something more reasonable. It's more interesting.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 26, 2004 07:42 AM

TM wrote, "Also, please find the story of how Cole was very quick to threaten a lawsuit a couple of years ago. http://www.martinkramer.org/pages/899529/index.htm It's a funny read if you want to read about hypocrisy."

But Cole wasn't threatening a defamation suit. He claimed that Middle East Forum was encouraging harassment in the form of spam and so forth.

Posted by: liberal at November 26, 2004 11:13 AM

Remember when Richard Perle was going to sue Seymour Hersch for libel after Hersch's disclosure of Perle's Carlyle Group connections?
Didn't happen, did it?
This won't happen either.

Posted by: Angry Blue Planet at November 26, 2004 07:13 PM

Really, there are some people here who seem to have no idea about what libel is.

Libel means that when you publish something written which is false and defamatory, the victim can do something about it; they can sue you, prove what you said was false, and collect damages.

Truth is a defense to libel: if what was written was true, then it's not libelous.

Saying that what Juan Cole wrote is false but that a "lawsuit doesn't make sense here" makes no sense. If what he wrote was false, it would make sense for MEMRI to sue.

If it's not false, MEMRI will be advised by its own lawyers not to sue, because those lawyers know that unless MEMRI shows them proof that what Juan Cole said was false, its lawyers can be sanctioned for deliberately filing a lawsuit that has no basis. This is the reason I predict that MEMRI won't sue: its lawyers won't want to sign the papers.

And I notice MEMRI's supporters here aren't exactly encouraging it to file the lawsuit. Says a lot about what they truly think about what they post, doesn't it?

Posted by: Diana at November 26, 2004 09:09 PM

Correction: Cole earlier allegations weren't directed at MEMRI but of course rather Pipes and Kramer.

Posted by: liberal at November 27, 2004 05:14 AM

I don't know. It seems to me Cole has implied that MEMRI is violating the law and that media sources should go after it. But you're nit-picking now, in order to locate some substantive difference between Cole's behavior and MEMRI's. There really isn't one. In both cases, you see what is convenient and expedient for the "aggrieved" party.

Posted by: TM at November 27, 2004 09:18 AM

TM wrote, "But you're nit-picking now, in order to locate some substantive difference between Cole's behavior and MEMRI's."

No I'm not.

Pipes and Kramer's watchlist is McCarthyistic. Cole's behavior isn't.

Posted by: liberal at November 27, 2004 01:36 PM

I think it was pretty nasty of Cole to call MEMRI "anti-Arab." And Cole's failure to back up is $60 million figure is another blow to his credibility when writing about Israel and its supporters.

I'm no lawyer, but is it obvious that US legal standards rule here? It's much easier to prove libel in Britain. In Germany, I believe that the kinds of insults Cole hurled would be criminally actionable (punishable by a fine). I don't mean to dispute that US law probably is the relevant law, or that US law is the best, as other posters seem to assume. But it is possible that Cole's article has been published elsewhere or the Cole was posting from abroad.

Posted by: Ragout at November 27, 2004 02:30 PM

Ragout wrote, "I think it was pretty nasty of Cole to call MEMRI 'anti-Arab.' "

Yes, that's so *terribly* nasty of him. LOL!

"I'm no lawyer, but is it obvious that US legal standards rule here? It's much easier to prove libel in Britain."

I'm no lawyer either, but I assume he has to have some kind of "presence" in Britain to be sued there. And that God for that---British defamation law is ridiculous. (Even the US's law is leans far too much towards plaintiffs, IMHO.)

Posted by: liberal at November 29, 2004 12:35 PM

liberal,

Yes, it's nasty of Cole to say that MEMRI is "anti-arab," suggesting that they oppose Arabs as a whole, rather than merely opposing the ideas of particular Arabs or the actions of particular Arab government.

What Cole is doing here is exactly analogous to those who casually make charges of anti-semitism or racism. I'm surprised that no one is criticizing him for this smear.

Posted by: Ragout at November 29, 2004 12:46 PM
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