The Corner

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In my account today of the controversial speeches on jihad and dhimmitude given last week at Georgetown, I note that some of the students found historians Bat Ye’or and David Littman “rude” in their treatment of questioners. This brought an illuminating response from Jim Jatras, a Washington attorney who until recently worked in the Senate on issues related to religious freedom and terrorism. Jatras was at the Ye’or-Littman event, and his description of events gives credence to the view that the Jewish and Christian students were intimidated by Islamic students’ pique: “From what I saw, many of the student critics prefaced their ‘questions’ (rhetorical in nature) with hostile observations (A parapharase: ‘I will not address your misrepresentation of the facts now, but I would like to ask you . . . ‘) at which point Littman (I did not hear any particularly sharp exchanges involving Bat Ye’or, but maybe they happened earlier) would cut them off and demand: ‘Hold on now, where have I distorted the facts? Give me one fact I have misrepresented.’ At which point the ‘questioner’ would say Littman was being rude, and Littman would insist (correctly in my view) to be told on what basis the ‘questioner’ was impugning his honesty. Now, I understand there is a matter of style involved here. Some speakers in Littman’s position, would allow the skewed ‘question’ to be asked without interruption and then addressed as a whole. Littman chose not to do that, but instead to stop the ‘questioner’ as soon as he heard himself in effect being called a liar and demand at that point that the ‘questioner’ support his charge. I think he was entirely entitled to do so. While a speaker MAY choose to let the accusation go while his critic poses his ‘question,’ he is not OBLIGATED to allow himself to be called a liar. Perhaps the university culture is so intimidated by youthful ‘wisdom’ nowadays, that it is considered bad form to nip such rudeness in the bud — and it is now considered ‘rude’ to do so. Note too that the one supportive letter in The Hoya said it was the students who were rude, not the speakers.”