If you want to understand how low academic standards have fallen, I can give you a fine case in point. A few weeks ago, I was slandered by a professor from Brown University by the name of William Beeman. He’s an anthropology professor, and the head of the Middle East studies program at Brown, and in addition to his scholarly work he churns out polemics for the Pacific News Service and such out-of-the-way publications as the Beirut Daily Star.
In his PNS slander (“The Unknown Hawk,” May 8), Beeman claimed that I had advocated the military invasion of Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, that I was the dominant force behind Operation Iraqi Freedom, and that I advocated “total war.” He then presented a quotation that he said had come from me:
Total war not only destroys the enemy’s military forces, but also brings the enemy society to an extremely personal point of decision, so that they are willing to accept a reversal of the cultural trends,? Ledeen writes. “The sparing of civilian lives cannot be the total war’s first priority … The purpose of total war is to permanently force your will onto another people.”
Unlucky. I never said it. Of course, I never said most of the other things he slimed me for, either: never called for military attack against Iran, Lebanon, or Syria — indeed I have said over and over again that I’m against it. So I posted a reply on the PNS website, pointing out that he had it all wrong, to which he “replied” with three long fulminations, basically confessing malice — he announced that he had hated me for years, because of an imagined slight during a terrorist “game” videotaped in 1980 — but never bothering to address his lies about my work.
Unlucky again. One of the other bloggers tracked down the quotation to another NRO author. So when, a couple of days later, the San Francisco Chronicle published his slander as an op-ed, I wrote to the editor to say that Beeman had falsified my ideas, and had, in fact, known he had done it before the op-ed was published, since this misquote had been documented on a website discussion of that very article.
Within hours of my letter to the Chronicle, Beeman sent me, the Chronicle, and PNS an apology for the misquote (not for the other slanders, however), and both published it promptly. PNS even invited me to contribute an article of my own to their site, which I intend to do. And you might have thought that would be the end of it.
You’d have been wrong. A couple of days ago he went back on the attack, this time in the Beirut Star, of all places. This time he was out to make me into a monarchist, a supporter of Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late shah of Iran. It’s a tough case to make because there’s no evidence for it. No problem for Beeman; he just invents it:
He says that I spoke in Los Angeles at a “rally for monarchists.” Wrong. It was a meeting of the Iranian-American community of southern California, including all the political tendencies of the community;
He says that I am “frequently photographed with Reza Pahlavi.” Wrong again. It may have happened, but I can’t remember a single occasion;
And when his imagination runs dry, he says that although my intention is “clearly to restore the Pahlavi dynasty,” I’m “exceptionally careful about making this pronunciation openly or in print.” He reads my mind!
He invents other things, too. He says I was a founder of the Coalition for Democracy in Iran. Wrong again. I was asked to participate in its activities well after its creation.
And so forth. He’s an inventive slanderer who nonetheless holds an important tenured position at one of most prestigious universities. To his credit, he doesn’t just invent things about other people; he even gets his own academic record wrong. If you go to his vita on the Brown University website, you’ll find that he takes credit for organizing something — and being paid for it — under the auspices of the “Office of Net Analysis” at the Department of Defense.
Unlucky yet again. There is no such place. He meant to say “Net Assessments,” the Pentagon’s think tank, often branded as a hawkish outpost from which the likes of Paul Wolfowitz draw inspiration.
Just for extras, back in March he wrote that Bill Kristol was the editor of something called the National Standard.
Maybe this sort of thing is stylish in today’s postmodern academic universe, where feelings trump facts and accuracy is all relative. Maybe I’m wrong to think that university professors ought to check a fact or two before sliming someone with whom they disagree. Beeman certainly had my e-mail address after his first fiasco, and could — should, in my view — have asked if I were a closet monarchist. But no, he liked the way it sounded, and so he said it.
It may well be that Beeman’s academic work is better than his political sorties. Let’s hope so, because if his peers were to judge his scholarship based on his journalistic forays, they’d regret their tenure decision. But this is unlikely to happen, since he’s part of a network that holds the same view of accuracy as he does.
I knew that Beeman’s slander was on the way at least a week before it arrived, because there was a little announcement on Gary Sick’s web page — which goes out to Middle East hands that share Beeman’s and Sick’s fondness for the tyrannical regime in Tehran — saying that Beeman was looking for dirt on me, and anyone in possession of damaging material on any aspect of my life should send it on to Beeman. Gary Sick was the creator of one of the most monstrous hoaxes in recent American political history, the myth of the “October Surprise,” according to which the Reagan electoral team used secret back channels to the Iranian regime to prevent the release of the American hostages in order to win the 1980 election against Jimmy Carter. After an exhaustive investigation, the whole thing was found baseless. Today, Sick — remarkably enough, a professor at Columbia University — does all he can to help Iran’s leaders gain friends in the United States.
One final note. Last Friday I got an e-mail from a reporter at the Beirut Daily Star, saying he was coming to Washington, and asking for an interview. I suggested that he send me the questions by e-mail and I would respond in writing. When he arrived in Washington on Monday, he tried again to get me to do it on the phone, and I again said it would be better to do it in writing. I haven’t seen any questions from him, although he said he’d get them to me very quickly.
I don’t expect to see them. After all, the Star publishes William Beeman.
Isn’t that where all top Ivy League professors like to see their essays published?
— Michael Ledeen, an NRO contributing editor, is most recently the author of The War Against the Terror Masters. Ledeen, Resident Scholar in the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, can be reached through Benador Associates.