Is there a more officious jackass on Earth?… We return our attention to the simultaneously revered and pitied Bat Juano Cole, the greatest authority of his own authority, who has recently managed to set a new standard in academic twerpsmanship -- difficult as that is to imagine given his awesome achievements in that area.
What happened is that Christopher Hitchens, who does not regard the dear Professor Cole with the fawning idolatry he craves, was sent some doltish ravings Cole had submitted to a mailing list, in which he commits several howlers regarding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rants about Israel. There was rather embarrassing stuff in the excerpts Hitchens drew attention to, but no more so than is the norm for Bat Juano Cole, the most preposterous professor of Middle Eastern studies the world has ever seen (more of Cole's dementedly stupid error can be found at Martin Kramer's weblog).
The long and short of it (which you will see for yourself as you follow the links) is that Cole is a rather minor academic figure of quite unreliable knowledge about contemporary Middle Eastern affairs, but who poses as something more thanks to a smattering of languages and an academic ego. He is, as such, a perfect tool for the anti-war Left: he is the ideal expert witness, too stupid to consider anything but his own prejudices, which is exactly what those who call on him want to hear. This guarantees ecstatic pleasure from Cole's fans, who judging by their substance-free praise read him solely to be reassured of their own fantasies. Cole will never let them down.
That Hitchens embarrassed Cole there is no doubt, for ever since then Cole has been incapable of avoiding the subject -- he has devoted several tedious entries to the exchange, links to anyone and everyone who has a bad thing to say about Hitchens,* and approves comment after comment from impotently fuming leftists (they all agree Hitchens is the poopiest writer ever).**
As Cole could manage no better defense than that he was quoted out of context (he wasn't), he quickly changed the subject to Hitchens' perfidy in acquiring his emails from the mailing list. Despite his profound ignorance of such matters, Cole declared confidently that Hitchens must have hacked into the email list (the man is simply a fount of buffoonery) or done something equally sinister. Bat Juano Cole has apparently never encountered the forward button in an email program. Perhaps hoping that his loud ranting would drown out the accusations of incompetence echoing in his own crippled psyche, Cole ended his tirade with some incoherent ramblings about corporations and war with Iran.
This is all, predictably, leading up to the email exchange between Bat Juano Cole and Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate (which published Hitchens' assault on Cole's gargantuan ego). Weisberg, if anything, is a match for Cole in the officiousness department, but he is also sane, which grants him a huge advantage. The most surprising thing about the exchange is that Cole actually reprinted it on his weblog, indicating that his magical thought process led him to believe it somehow burnished his reputation.
Weisberg appears to have been amused, if somewhat taken aback, by the quality of Cole's empty ranting. For whatever reason (perhaps he ate it), Cole leaves out the first email he sent to Weisberg, and prints Weisberg's initial response:
Well, Bat Juano Cole, as it happens many things in the world are quite sad, you among them.
Cole then appends some lawyerly bluffing ("Clearly, Hitchens intended to pre-empt you and supersede your eventual publication") that you'd have to be quite callow to lose sleep over -- Weisberg has been in the opinion magazine trade for many years, so I assume he just smiled and tossed it in the trash, but not before having an intern or some other functionary send a curt reply over his signature:
[WEISBERG:] I have read your message and also your blog post today. In my judgment, there is no ethical issue here. Commentators are under no obligation to call people they write about. And Hitchens correctly described the email he quoted from as being from your Gulf discussion group. Your substantive disagreement about the translation and the issues around it are a fit matter for public debate, which appears to be taking place.
Cole apparently ran out of childish bluffs and turned his energies to approving all the comments posted by his fans telling him how poopy Weisberg, Hitchens, and Slate were, of which this is a (sadly) typical specimen:
Oh, yes, Weisberg must live in terror that his sides will split fatally open as he is wracked with laughter at the thought of Bat Juano Cole going up against Washington Post's attorneys over this matter. Not since the trial of Colin Ferguson would the world have witnessed such a titanic legal clash.
* This entry, in which Cole actually quotes approvingly the description of Hitchens as a big poopy-man, is by far the funniest. In yet another, Cole quotes a woman who repeatedly professes her longstanding acquaintance with Hitchens and knowledge of his pronounced alcoholism; however she makes the mistake of repeatedly referring to a "Chris Hitchens" -- Hitchens in fact only answers to "Christopher" -- and even dead drunk Hitchens must function on a higher plane of thought than this desperate, gossipy cunt.
** One of the most telling things about Bat Juano Cole's weblog is that he assiduously screens nearly all criticism of himself, so that the comments are almost all inanely worshipful. But by now you should already have a picture of Cole's damaged, attention-craving psyche that is comically pathetic. In all seriousness the man is just sad. As Martin Kramer has noted, he is also fond of quietly changing entries after their points have been quoted and criticized elsewhere.
*** Another comment, posted by net kook David Ehrenstein (this dysfunctional victim pops up all over the place), went:
I swear, it is like passing through the looking glass with these people. You honestly can't tell whether the next thing you read will be the craziest thing you've ever read.
Postscript: Robert Wright attempts to salvage the interpretation of Cole's that started the fracas, and is almost but not quite convincing on the point. Wright's argument is very strained and depends on far too much argument by assertion (a typical problem with Wright), particularly the assertion that Ahmadinejad meant something benign by the expression "remove Israel from the pages of history" (personally this sounds somewhat ominous). Wright's argument boils down to the assertion that calling for Israel to go the way of the Soviet Union merely means trimming back its borders slightly.
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