Friday, September 17, 2010

K.C. Johnson's Critiques

I'm troubled by a lot of what K.C. Johnson writes in his latest essay on the Brooklyn College common reading program. First of all, he falsely implies that Bayoumi claimed that Johnson "clearly hadn't read" his book. Bayoumi said that about the right-wing blogosphere in general, almost all of whom hadn't read the book, not Johnson. Second, Johnson continues to falsely describe the book as being “mandatory” reading, even though there are no requirements for students to read it.

But Johnson also asserts that in my quick comment on his essay, I lied about what he thinks. According to Johnson: “My posts, which Wilson presumably read, never claimed that 'there was no surveillance of Arab Americans in the 1990s.'" But Johnson did reject Bayoumi's claim that there was substantial surveillance of Arabs in 1990s (“no” surveillance is obviously an exaggeration), and my point was that Johnson's argument was incredibly stupid: “In the 2000 election, a plurality of Arab-Americans voted for George W. Bush; in the 1990s, more Arab-Americans registered Republican than Democratic. Those are hardly the political preferences of an ethic [sic] group alienated by a pervasive sense of victimization flowing from past treatment by the government.” Johnson's denial of surveillance against Arabs during a Democratic administration was based on their support for a Republican, which makes no sense. Bayoumi might be wrong, but Johnson's argument is nonsensical and offers no evidence to refute it.

Johnson also claims I'm lying because “The posts never linked Bayoumi's anti-Israel his statements about Palestinian self-determination.” Really? Here's what Johnson wrote: “Regarding U.S. involvement in the affairs of the Middle East, 'the core issue remains the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination.' For an anti-Israel extremist like Bayoumi, such a statement comes as little surprise.” I can't see how that's anything but a link of Bayoumi's anti-Israel extremism to his statements on Palestine.

As for the censorship charge, there is certainly a right-wing censorship campaign to ban Bayoumi's book from the common reading program at Brooklyn College. The only question is whether Johnson supports it, or opposes it. The fact that he refuses to criticize the crusade to ban Bayoumi's book from the program, despite numerous posts on the topic exclusively attacking Bayoumi, certainly indicates his embrace of censorship. If it is an unfair charge, then Johnson can finally say that he doesn't like Bayoumi's views, but he doesn't think it (or any other book) should be banned from common reading programs for being controversial.

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