Friday, December 17, 2004

Juan Cole, "Iraq the Model," & Jeff Jarvis

Dear Juan Cole:

Regarding your recent post on Iraqi bloggers: I'm sorry, but with all due respect, you're wrong on this one. It was a lapse of judgment.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Manipulation of the Blogging World on Iraq?

Joseph Mailander of the Martini Republic weblog has an extremely important posting on Sunday about the dangers of "blog trolling." To "troll" in the world of the internet is to lurk on a discussion board and make deliberately false and inflammatory comments, to which all the other posters feel they must reply, so that it roils the list. There is also a connotation of dishonesty about the troll's real identity. [....]
The MR posting brings up questions about the Iraqi brothers who run the IraqTheModel site. It points out that the views of the brothers are celebrated in the right-leaning weblogging world of the US, even though opinion polling shows that their views are far out of the mainstream of Iraqi opinion. It notes that their choice of internet service provider, in Abilene, Texas, is rather suspicious, and wonders whether they are getting some extra support from certain quarters.

Contrast all this to the young woman computer systems analyst in Baghdad, Riverbend, who is in her views closer to the Iraqi opinion polls, especially with regard to Sunni Arabs, but who is not being feted in Washington, DC. [....]


I assume you have seen Jeff Jarvis's response to your post (and your follow-up). (http://www.buzzmachine.com/) Jarvis, by the way, is not a right-wing blogger. He is a technophile who is liberal on a lot of issues (and voted for Kerry), a genuine pro-democracy enthusiast, and a supporter of the Iraq war. Starting back in 2002, he has been doing a lot to encourage and showcase Iraqi bloggers, including Salam Pax and Riverbend. What he says in this passage accurately conveys what he's been up to:

When I wished for blogs to start in Iraq -- and Zeyad answered my wish by blogging and getting these men and many others to blog -- I said that what we needed is "a thousand Salam Paxes," many voices and viewpoints. And that is what we have. I am delighted -- as the Iraqi bloggers have been -- that we have Riverbend next to Iraq the Model next to Healing Iraq and that is growing ... and will grow more now that we have an Arabic-language blogging too.

Jarvis's response to you was an angry one, and he said some foolish or exaggerated things.. I don't agree with his tone, and of course I think that his comments about your general perspective on Iraq are way off-base.

HOWEVER, with regard to the main content of his response, I'm afraid I have to say that in this particular case he's basically right. Why on earth should we assume that Iraqi bloggers whose views on the Iraq war and the American role in Iraq are more positive than Riverbend's are necessarily American agents? (Was Salam Pax on the CIA payroll, too? His views on all these matters are closer to those of Iraq the Model than to Riverbend's.) If you or anyone else had any evidence that these insinuations were correct, that would be a different matter. But as far as I can tell, you were simply passing along a reckless & ill-informed smear by the Martini Republic blogger.

=> In a later post, you said:

My allegation that the IraqTheModel website is far outside the norm of Iraqi public opinion as measured by polling has caused a stir in the weblogging world among, apparently, dittoheads who can't read polls.

I'm sorry, but I know you are far too intelligent to believe that THIS was all your "allegation" amounted to. Sure, there's a good deal of evidence that many of the views expressed by "IraqTheModel" are minority views in Iraq right now. But so what? That's NOT the same thing as insinuating that they must be foreign propaganda tools.

=> I suspect you will agree, on reflection, that what you did was a mistake. (Unless you actually know something about IraqTheModel that your're not saying, which strikes me as unlikely.) I don't think of you as the kind of person to slander people in this way (or to suggest that any Iraqi who isn't emphatically anti-American must be a fake), so I was surprised and disappointed by your post. Since I think your website is extremely valuable and illuminating (even when I don't entirely agree), I think it is also unfortunate for you to do things that undermine your credibility this way.

Cheers,
Jeff Weintraub

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http://www.buzzmachine.com/
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Jeff Jarvis (BuzzMachine)

Juan Cole is pond scum

Prof. Juan Cole libels my freedom-loving friends from Iraq.

The man is pond scum. I know no other way to say it. This guy Cole (supported by your tax dollars in Michigan) decides that if he disagrees with someone, he should imply that that someone must be backed by the CIA or other nefarious forces. Prof. Cole is too deaf, dumb, and blind to see the liberal irony in that; back in the day, when people disagreed with those on his side of the political spectrum, people on the other side implied that they must be backed by the Soviet Union, by Commies. It's an old trick, Prof. I'm ashamed of you for using it.

Ever since America engaged in Iraq, Cole has spent every day on his blog doing nothing but collecting bad news -- never good news. And people looking for bad news -- chicken liberals -- celebrate him for that. I'm a liberal but I don't celebrate Cole. I haven't bothered reading him for months, because he never had anything new to say.

But I had to read him today as he libeled my friends Omar and Mohammed from IraqTheModel. Cole says, quoting another blog:

The MR posting brings up questions about the Iraqi brothers who run the IraqTheModel site. It points out that the views of the brothers are celebrated in the right-leaning weblogging world of the US, even though opinion polling shows that their views are far out of the mainstream of Iraqi opinion. It notes that their choice of internet service provider, in Abilene, Texas, is rather suspicious, and wonders whether they are getting some extra support from certain quarters.
Look at the domain for the brothers' site: iraqthemodel.blogspot.com. That's Blogspot, owned by Google, you fool. Yes, Google, a well-known front for the capitalist conspircy that is America.

I celebrate the brothers' opinions, too -- because I am an American and because I believe in the cause of freedom and because I support the efforts of people to live in democracy and because I have met them and admire their courage and not because I am "right-leaning" (hell, I appeared on Air America this morning, Prof.).

Cole continues his spiteful idiocy:

Contrast all this to the young woman computer systems analyst in Baghdad, Riverbend, who is in her views closer to the Iraqi opinion polls, especially with regard to Sunni Arabs, but who is not being feted in Washington, DC.
OK, Juan, then let's see you invite her to Michigan. Fete her... if you can find her. She doesn't have the guts to identify herself. And he continues:
The phenomenon of blog trolling, and frankly of blog agents provocateurs secretly working for a particular group or goal and deliberately attempting to spread disinformation, is likely to grow in importance. It is a technique made for the well-funded Neoconservatives, for instance, and I have my suspicions about one or two sites out there already.
And what is your proof, Cole? You are downright libeling these people. What is your case? What is your proof? What is your accusation? Out with it!

I know exactly how these men started blogging. I answered an email from their close friend Zeyad and sent him to Blogspot -- that notorious CIA front -- and he got his good friend and fellow dental student, Omar, to get blogging with the rest of his family and they got other people blogging. And thanks to them all, we have more perspectives and information from Iraq, we have the antidote to your hate and pessimism and conspiracy theories and crap, Cole. But you continue:

So far, if you look at the top hundred sites at technorati.com with regard to incoming links, what is striking is how above-board they are.
Well thanks, Cole. I'm one of them.
Is the collective wisdom of the blogging world such as to reduce the dangers here? Is the blogging world actually less open to manipulation than corporate media? Stay tuned.
Make up your mind, Cole: Who's the enemy? Free-thinking Iraqi bloggers? Or the CIA? Or Blogger? Or liberal media? Or free-thinking Iraqi bloggers who happen to disagree with you? Or everyone?

The twit to whom Cole links -- I won't dignify his paranoid crap with a link -- goes on about how the brothers have been interviewed only by right-wing media like The Wall Street Journal. Just one problem with that, fool: They went onto NPR (liberal) radio on Brian Lehrer's WNYC show -- and held their own. And they met with Howard Kurtz of the notoriously liberal Washington Post and they went to Harvard and met with lotsa notorious liberals there and were scheduled to meet with the notoriously liberal LA Times.

: But I don't need to defend these fine men. Their own brother Ali does a very good job of telling Cole and his confederates to go F themselves today.

There were many comments on the blogosphere about this trip, most were applauding and few harshly criticizing and I know that each one has his motivation. In Iraq now there are those who are with the change and those who are against it. Each camp claims to be the majority, but even the polls that many people rely on say that the majority of Iraqis want the elections....

So, back to topic, while the majority of Iraq is facing the little minority's hatred and terrorism on a daily basis and which is reflected in Iraqi blogs by pro and anti-American Iraqi blogs respectively, it was natural (but sad) for some powers inside each one of the two major political societies in America while they are divided as they have never been before, to adopt the perspective of one of the two and try to use their writings as propaganda tools in their struggle for power inside America. I keep telling myself that if we are ever going to lose this struggle for democracy in Iraq it would be the result of partisan conflicts either in Iraq or America.

However, if this means that we are definitely hired by such power on the right then it should mean that anti-American Iraqi bloggers would be very likely hired by some powers on the left. Can anyone agree on this?! I simply refuse both silly assumptions....

Anyway, if you look at the Iraqi blogs you'll find the majority supporting the new Iraq even if complaining about the difficult situation now and then. Only 4 or so are purely anti-American, anti-democracy although they don't admit the later, and such statistics can't be just a coincidence. You can see a detailed list that contains most if not all Iraqi blogs on Iraqi Blog Count and you can do the math if you have the time and judge by yourself....

I've exposed you once Dr. Cole and so I did to you precious Riverbend, but I, and my brothers have great expectations for our country and we spend most of our time trying to make them come true....

: UPDATE: Commenter db adds, quite helpfully, this explanation of the redirected "iraqthemodel.com" domain:
That second, alias domain was registered as a favor to brothers Mohammed, Omar, and Ali by Jeff Reed, who runs a Texas hosting company called CIATech Solutions. The letters "CIA" were cause for suspicion to Joseph of Martini Republic, the author of the post from which Prof Cole spins his insinuations. All this and more is explained in two notes from Jeff Reed that were posted in the comments to the original Martini Republic post at http://martinirepublic.com/item/979 . It turns out the "CIA" in this case stands for Complex Internet Applications.

The irony is that the domain of Riverbend (riverbendblog.com) -- the bitterly anti-American blog by a 20-something Iraqi woman and the blog hailed by Prof Cole as more aligned with prevailing public opinion in Iraq -- was also registered by CIATech.

Juan Cole could have saved himself this bit of baseless paranoia with a simple Whois lookup, and by reading the comments at Martini Republic.

Such is Prof. Cole's intellectual rigor. Remember that as you read his exercises in extreme schadenfreude. LINK |
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The Adventures of Prof. Pondscum: The sequel

: Juan Cole, hate blogger, continues to dig himself deeper after attacking Omar and Mohammed of Iraq the Model. He says:

My allegation that the IraqTheModel website is far outside the norm of Iraqi public opinion as measured by polling has caused a stir in the weblogging world among, apparently, dittoheads who can't read polls.
Well, no, you elipseshead, Cole, that's not what caused the decent and civilized bloggers to call you indecent and uncivilized. It was that you implicated with absolutely no evidence or knowledge whatsoever that these good and honorable men might be propped up by nefarious forces. And since you, Cole, know just how dangerous a place Iraq is -- since that's all you write about, day in and day out -- then you should know that such an implication could be deadly. That, Professor, is what caused a shitstir hereabouts. You have the bad sense to continue:
I drew attention to Martini Republic's questions about the independence of IraqTheModel without actually expressing any opinion myself one way or another, except to say that they are out of the Iraqi mainstream. The dittoheads who read them and can look at the above polling figures and come to a different conclusion are just innumerate (if only they were also so illiterate as to be unable to figure out my email address).
What a crock of Cole crap that is: If I point to a report that Jews were responsible for 9/11 and say nothing to correct or disagree with it, then I'd say I'd be guilty of anti-Semitism and blood libel. That is the ethic of the link.

You can't back away that easily, Cole. You made an unsubstantiated and libelous accusation against these good men and until you apologize, you're not off the hook -- in terms of your responsibility, your credibility, and your morality.

As for the point on polls: I never assumed to speak for all of the people of Iraq (as you apparently do, Cole). First, no one knows enough about what the people say (you think exit polls here are unreliable!). Second, what difference does it make? I want to hear many voices from Iraq. When I wished for blogs to start in Iraq -- and Zeyad answered my wish by blogging and getting these men and many others to blog -- I said that what we needed is "a thousand Salam Paxes," many voices and viewpoints. And that is what we have. I am delighted -- as the Iraqi bloggers have been -- that we have Riverbend next to Iraq the Model next to Healing Iraq and that is growing ... and will grow more now that we have an Arabic-language blogging too.

But, "Professor," look at yourself: You are supported by institutions of the nefarious United States government, aren't you? And you certainly do not represent the American mainstream -- witness the results of the election, just past. So by your own standards, I guess you should be shutting down the blog and refusing all those invitations to be on TV as if you are a spokesman for anything other than your own bile and blather.

I'm not alone dismissing Prof. Pondscum. Judith Weiss does a great job of compiling the return fire. Here's Cathy Siepp. Here's James Taranto pointing out the same tasty irony. The Acerbic Alchemist argues that such a personal attack on another blogger is over the edge. Here's Michael J. Totten. Scroll down for Kaus' comments. Just go read all of Judith's links.

My favorite irony of all this is that no matter how stupid you think the CIA is, even the dumbest spook alive would not take agents to meet the friggin' President of the United States! But such is Cole's conspiracy theorizing.

I repeat: These are good and honorable men who believe in freedom and have the courage to say it. That deserves our support and admiration. Cole deserves every blogbat he can get.

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