Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Maps, literal and metaphorical

We noted a couple of posts ago that Andrew Sullivan had regaled Christopher Hitchens with tales of "chavs" in London on the same day that Hitch had launched a broadside against Juan Cole -- the latter responding with one of his own a few hours later. Sullivan offers a detailed analysis today, and it turns out that their lunch date does indeed figure in part of his defence of Hitch:

Cole, however, trashes whatever high ground he might have sought by accusing Hitch of writing the piece drunk, or, worse, having it ghost-written. By pure coincidence, I was at Hitch's yesterday as he filed the piece. He was stone-cold sober.

The "high ground" to which Sully refers is Cole's opening accusation -- that Hitch had gained access to Cole's e-mail messages to a private listserv devoted to Middle Eastern issues. Sully is troubled:

I was not aware - and maybe Hitch wasn't either (I haven't consulted him today) - that the email quoted was for a strictly private list. I didn't quote it myself, but I linked. I'm a strong believer in the principle of online privacy, if at all possible, and regret unknowingly violating that rule, and apologize for that inadvertence.

Not bad by Sully's standards, but we really need Sullywatch to come out from hiatus to dwell on the difference between posting stuff online that anyone can find, versus cherry-picking from an in-progress academic discussion that was explicitly intended to be private.

There's a longer-standing issue that we keep meaning to get around to, which is that on the specific point in question -- attitudes to the existence of Israel -- Hitch has some issues. We've read many, many, Hitch articles that do a delicate dance around the question of Israel's legitimacy without him explicitly stating a view, but (thanks to a commenter in Slate's The Fray), we were pointed to this one in Front Page from a couple of years ago. It's a bit convoluted (part of the idea, we suspect), but as Hitch meanders through a Pseuds' Corner-worthy monologue about Israel, the essence is this: he thinks that Zionism was a mistake, that it's not a legimitate expression of a nation or a religion, but that since Israel is, regrettably, there now it should stay within its 1948 borders notwithstanding the taint of acquisition by seizure that hang over those lands as well. Hitch does all this ruminating without once mentioning the Holocaust -- something that his Front Page interviewer surely should have pursued.

So our point, to the extent we have one -- Cole worked his way onto Hitch's radar screen mostly likely because he's on the radar screen of the right in general with the rumoured job offer at Yale. But we think Hitch picked the specific fight over the meaning of "wiping Israel of the map" because Hitch wants to reserve that term for his own (political, not hateful) anti-Israel views.

UPDATE: There's some question now as to whether Sully's description of Hitch as "stone cold sober" is strictly correct -- from Hitch himself:

Well, good for Andrew. How nice of him. Yes, he was here yesterday at lunch, to have lunch, and I said can you hang us just a second while I finish this piece? Because I...and I added that I think you'll like it, because it finally shows what an idiot Juan Cole is. And well, I mean, I don't know about stone cold sober. I'm sure with Andrew, I must have had a drink to celebrate the piece. So he may be exaggerating that. And I can take a drink if I have to, but for some reason, my opponents think it's incredibly important to represent me as a falling down alcoholic.

UPDATE: Sullywatch supplies one specific example of Sully's past conduct regarding online privacy.

[also posted for reference: Cole's dispute with Jonah Goldberg]

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