Pilloried by Link

One of my favorites of the techniques for lying by the right is the Internet link that “proves” what one has just written. It doesn’t matter that the link itself may be based on bad information. It doesn’t even matter even if the link is to something the author has previously written (something David Horowitz likes to do). That it exists is sufficient.

Today, at Front Page Magazine (where you can also find an utterly bizarre attempt by Horowitz to link George Soros to the Mark Foley scandal), an article by Eugene Girin, a junior at Baruch College (another of the colleges in the system where I teach) rehashes and expands upon an earlier piece by Joshua David Rubin that had appeared three weeks ago in the Queens College (yet another school in the system) student paper, Knight News.

The subject of both articles is John Gerassi, a Political Science professor at Queens College.

If you read the Girin piece and link back to the Rubin one, you might shake your head about this crazy professor. “This Gerassi,” you could think to yourself, “how can he even be allowed in a classroom?” Even worse, or so you are led to believe, he’s a nut who makes a six-figure salary.

But (taking the last first) Girin, in a pattern of poor research, gives Gerassi a salary much higher than the reality, mistaking the money that a “distinguished professor” can make for that of the “full professor” Gerassi actually is.

Beyond that bit of sloppiness, what Girin doesn’t do is what I make every student of mine do: he never goes back to the source to verify the “information” he has amassed.

I did.

I emailed Gerassi—and received a quick response.

One of the claims that Rubin makes and that Girin parrots is that Gerassi, on the first day of class this fall, called “Palestinian suicide bombers” “freedom fighters.” As the old saw goes, one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter—imagine how George Washington was seen by the British. As a teacher wanting to get students to be able to see issues from varying perspectives, I see nothing wrong with Gerassi saying using that fact to get students thinking. Still, I wondered if Gerassi had actually said it. He wrote back:

The only accurate statement [in the article] is that the whole world, and I, except the US, consider suicide bombers to be freedom fighters.

“Everything else,” he continues, “is a lie.”

Yet, from today on, Girin’s piece will be linked to by another rightwing writer, and then by another. Eventually, they will have convinced themselves that everything Rubin wrote in that first article—and much more—is true. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be “everywhere.”

Girin repeats Rubin’s claim that Gerassi said that Israel should be eliminated and that Jews control the media. Gerassi responds:

I never advocated the end of Israel but a two-state solution. I said and repeated various times that if the US wanted peace in the Middle East it could be done in one hour by telling Israel to go back to the pre-67 frontiers and internationalize Jerusalem, or else face total US sanctions.[…] And I never said the Jews control the media, but bigtime capitalists do.

That, of course, is a far cry from how his words were “reported.”

There are other problems with the Girin piece, including a claim that Gerassi spent time at Berkeley (he did not).

Like so many other attempts to smear people on the left, particularly those inside academia, this article is not only meant to deceive, but (as I say above) to compound the deception by acting as a link, as proof, that others can use.

One of the reasons I have become rather sharp in responding to rightwingers recently is that they are not willing to look beyond this sort of misinformation. They want it to be true, so they won’t question it.

Even were Gerassi lying to me about what he said in that class (and I am sure he is not—the position that he lays out in his email is consistent, but it is also one easily twisted into the statements attributed to him by Rubin and Girin), the other errors in Girin’s piece show a disregard for the truth in favor of political points and an inability to perform basic research.

When a professor like Gerassi, in trying to do his job, is turned into a target for rightwing propagandists, the freedoms of all of us are imperiled—and not just the “academic freedoms” of college professors. It doesn’t matter that this attack comes from inexperienced undergraduates. If this sort of misinformed “reporting” is tolerated, anyone speaking against the conventional view stands the chance of being pilloried through lies and distortions.

It is time it stops.

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