Somebody Get Jeffrey Goldberg A Tissue

To follow up on yesterday’s post about Lee Smith and frivolous charges of anti-Semitism, it appears that Jeffrey Goldberg — while conceding that Smith’s article, for which he served as the sole source, was completely lacking in substance or evidence — is continuing his rather creepy and pathetic vendetta against Steve Walt. Really, Jeffrey, give it a rest. You claim that Walt is obsessed with Jews, but I can assure you that he doesn’t spend a tenth of the time thinking about you that you spend obsessing over him. The fact that so many of Walt and Mearsheimer’s enemies have descended into this sort of hysteria (such as Goldberg’s review of their book) has arguably been more helpful to their case than any number of endorsements of their position would have been.

In any case, Goldberg resorts to one of his frequent tricks, which is quoting from the over-the-top anti-Israel email he receives to try to prove that his adversaries are all anti-Semites. (His other trick is to quote from the over-the-top Likudnik email he receives to try to prove that he’s really a peace-loving liberal by comparison.) Now, some of the email that he holds up as evidence of anti-Semitism is perfectly unobjectionable, if a bit crude for my taste. For instance: “We’re tired of your warmongering ideology. Go apologize to the people of Iraq and Palestine.” I would only add that perhaps Goldberg should preemptively apologize to the people of Iran as well, since word on the street is that he will call for a U.S. war with Iran in the next issue of the Atlantic. Still, some of it goes past anti-Zionism to verge on anti-Semitism, and some is clearly anti-Semitic outright.

But so what? I can guarantee that anyone who writes about the Middle East online for any extended period of time receives plenty of deranged emails and comments from all sides of the political spectrum. Sometimes it is anti-Semitic email ranting about the Zionist Occupied Government of the U.S., and sometimes it is anti-Arab email ranting that there is no such thing as the “Palestinian people,” or that there can be no peace with Muslims because Islam is inherently a religion of war, or that the Palestinians should be ethnically cleansed from the West Bank and driven into Jordan. (Well, actually that last argument was from Mike Huckabee.) This means that if one wants to make the case that the “other side” is a bunch of crazed bigots, it’s quite easy to gather evidence by cherry-picking from the appropriate body of crazy emails. If I had Jeffrey Goldberg’s apparently immense capacity for whining and self-pity, and wanted to portray myself as the persecuted victim of intolerant and bloodthirsty right-wing Zionists, it would not be terribly difficult. I tend to think that this would be a waste of everyone’s time, so I haven’t done so.

Here at Lobelog, we make an effort to weed out both kinds of comments, whether it’s pro-Israel types calling for Arab blood or anti-Israel types calling for Jewish blood. Occasionally one slips through the cracks, as with the two comments that Smith cited in his piece. But it’s hard to think of any particular conclusion to draw from this barrage of loony emails and comments, except that these issues tend to draw out crazies from both sides. Certainly blogging has not done wonders for my faith in the reasonableness of the population at large.

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Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. I do not think that you should be censoring comments.
    I certainly don’t think Prof. Walt should be either – because for him to do that would mean having to read the obscene, disgusting abuse posted as “comment”. Why do you accept responsibility for comments? You are just being intimidated – and I can understand that, it takes courage to speak objectively in the USA but let the mainstream continue censorship, the web should be different.

  2. Patrick, I know I’ve been censored on here–that’s turned into a fun exchange with the authors on topics more relevant to them, or some personal anecdote. I’ve thrown some (hopefully) humorous comments that I was certain would be banned–I gave Ali Gharib a note about the Jewish majority on this blog leaving it to the Arab to write the story “Greenwald V. Goldberg”

    Jim prefers to keep religion and the religious angle out of the blog, and that has caught some of my comments, these don’t bother me much as they do lead to a big tangential leap off the focus of this blog. Otherwise, short of outright offensive epithet laden, ad honimem attacks it seems they let it go.

    I know they’ve published some comments I thought they might not. This is one of those enduring questions that should be covered in Jour. 101.

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