I once confronted the writer Joshua Micah Marshall over a smear he had written of a group of historians -- Ron Radosh, John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr -- and myself among them for The American Prospect. (The piece was then cited approvingly and the smear repeated by Jacob Weisberg in The New York Times. The Marshall article used the favored techniques of Joseph McCarthy -- misrepresentation, loose playing with the facts and guilt by association -- to acccuse us of ....neo-McCarthyism! The piece was characterized by willful ignorance of our writings in which all of us had roundly attacked McCarthy, and distortion -- indeed gross distortion -- both of what we had written and the context in which we had written it. (My answer to Marshall, "Ordeal By Slander," is available in The Art of Political War & Other Radical Pursuits and here.)
Shortly after this article was published Marshall appeared at an event I had organized and I had the occasion to confront him. Instead of acknowledging his ignorance and apologizing for the smear he steadfastly defended the falsehoods he had written and repeated the smear. I did the only thing it seemed appropriate to do. I called him a liar to his face.
Now he has paid me back with a new smear, this time on his website. Happily, he has also done me the favor of providing a perfect example of his lack of integrity and scruple. Thus the smear is a gratuitous accusation that this site, frontpagemag.com is "misleading, hysterical and tendentious" without a shred of evidence provided to establish such a blanket indictment. Better (and more outrageous) yet, Marshall delivers the smear in the course of an apology for having talked off the top of his head and drawn a false conclusion about the Palestinian Prime Minister-select. Marshall's error was corrected by his readers who referred him to a frontpagemag.com article which got the information correct. In short, Marshall has used his column to punish us (and smear us as "misleading") for being right! Now that's a trifecta of bad journalistic instincts.
Here is Marshall's post:
A number of readers have written in questioning or criticizing my decision to call soon-to-be Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen "unquestionably one of the good guys" in this earlier post. The criticism stems from this article which says he published a book in 1983 -- based on a dissertation written years earlier -- in which he denied or questioned key points about the Holocaust, particularly how many people died.
Now, a few points. The article appears in Frontpage Magazine, David Horowitz's online blunderbuss, which routinely publishes misleading, hysterical and tendentious writing. Normally, I wouldn't credit anything that appears there. However, in this case, the author of the piece does seem to be quoting reliable sources. So I assume that Abu Mazen, whose real name is Mahmoud Abbas, did write these things.
Note: One reader of the blog took me to task for not pointing out that Marshall maintained that the Holocaust book was so far in the past that it did not actually disqualify the prime ministerial candidate. So here is my acknowledgment. I don't see that it changes anything, except to put Marshall in an even less favorable light.