Thursday, May 06, 2010

Dershowitz "Muzzled" By Criticism

Alan Dershowitz is whining that Tikkun Magazine “is now trying to silence me by employing old fashioned McCarthyism tactics.” The reason? Some Tikkun writers are blaming Dershowitz, via his harsh criticism, of inspiring a group of vandals who glued posters to the home of editor Michael Lerner. According to Dershowitz, “On a scale of one to ten, having a few posters glued to your house ranks at about a one for seriousness. Lerner went to the press and is trying to use it to bully me into silence.” Actually, having your own home vandalized with posters denouncing you is a frightening and threatening act, as Dershowitz no doubt would realize if it happened to him. Dershowitz is correct when he says that he's not to blame for the actions of others.

But he is guilty for his own actions, including this absurd charge of “McCarthyism.” Actually, McCarthyism is when you try to silence your opponents by having them fired or their books banned. In other words, McCarthyism is what Dershowitz has done to Norman Finkelstein.

Finkelstein made some ridiculous charges against Dershowitz, such as claiming that his analysis of Dershowitz's book amounts to “conclusively documenting Dershowitz's plagiarism.” Finkelstein shows that Dershowitz isn't much of an original scholar, and that he makes shoddy use of footnotes. But none of it is plagiarism nor remotely close to research misconduct. Finkelstein also takes his charges against Dershowitz to absurd levels, falsely claiming that “he almost certainly didn't write the book.” However, in a free society, people are entitled to misuse the term “plagiarism” according to their own definitions, and to make claims they can't back up.

But none of that justifies Dershowitz's crusade against academic freedom. In 2004, Dershowitz wrote a personal letter (signed “Alan”) to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger asking him to intervene in the “impending scandal” of the Finkelstein's book being published by the University of California Press. Without ever mentioning that he was the subject of the book, Dershowitz declared: “If you can do anything to help prevent this impending tragedy, I know that many of your constituents would be very pleased, as would I.”

It's rather sickening to realize that a man who once was one of the leading First Amendment lawyers in the country actually wrote a letter to a government official asking to have a book banned because it dared to engage in criticism. It's even worse that this egomaniac regards it as a “tragedy” for a book to be published denouncing him. It takes some chutzpah for the man who tried to have the governor of California ban a book and then got Finkelstein fired to claim that he is being "muzzled" by criticism.

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