Friday, October 1, 2010

Dr. Fred Gottheil and Discrimination in the Middle East against Women, Gays, and Lesbians: A Statement of Concern

This stands a good chance of being my last post about Dr. Fred Gottheil and his role in fighting discrimination against women, gays and lesbians in the Middle East, or his role in attacking academics (by which I think he means liberals) for not replying to an e-mail he sent them, and thus standing up against said discrimination. That's not to say I won't respond to other posts on the subject, or that I'll stop trying to collect signatures on Dr. Gottheil's Statement of Concern, posted and hosted at the following link: Support Regarding Discrimination in the Middle East against Women, Gays, and Lesbians Petition (If you're reading this post--and we both know you are--and haven't yet read/signed the Statement of Concern at the PetitionOnline site, I respectfully request that you pause at the end of this paragraph and go take care of that now. The remainder of this post will still be here when you get back. OK, go. Thanks.)

For those who aren't familiar with the story: Dr Gottheil, an economics professor at the University of Illinois, stumbled across a petition written by Dr. David Lloyd back in January, 2009, which was critical of certain policies of the Israeli government, and was signed by about 900 academics, including many from the US, and even a few who taught at Dr Gottheil's university. (900 US, other Academics: "divestment and pressure" against Israeli "apartheid" - Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid). Displeased, he got to wondering whether these same academics who were so willing to criticize Israel would also be willing to criticize countries in the muslim Middle East for their violations of human rights. So, he wrote up his Statement of Concern, a four page document criticizing various human rights abuses perpetrated against women, gays and lesbians in the Middle East, and e-mailed it to 675 American academics culled from the 900 who had signed the "Israeli Apartheid" petition, asking them to reply back to him with the word "YES," indicating that they supported his Statement. The results were disappointing. 27 professors sent back a "yes," 3 or 4 more sent back "no"s (as well as nasty words about Dr Gottheil, he says), and the rest failed to reply at all. Dr Gottheil attributes the lack of response he received to anti-semitism and "sanctimonious bigotry."

From the outset I found aspects of his story questionable. First off, the initial stories were posted on far right fringe sites like FrontPage Magazine, that I've never found particularly credible. These are people who see Islamofascists and communists throughout much of our population, including in our government. They obviously don't live in the same America I do. I take everything they say with big grains of salt and a whole lotta skepticism.

And then there was the story, itself...
Why didn't the first stories about what happened include links to either petition, rather than thumbnail descriptions of each by Dr. Gottheil?
Why is it that he never released the names of the 27 academics who did sign his statement?
What about the list of people he was accusing? Rather than this vague slander of academics (which I'm pretty sure, is being used here as a code-word for "liberals")? Before jumping to any conclusions, shouldn't we try to get their side of the story, allowing them to explain why they didn't sign the statement? (Still curious about that, I intend to start writing these folks, to see if anyone on Dr Gottheil's likely list wants to speak for themselves.)
What about his methods, and how they may've affected the return rate? How did Dr Gottheil contact these 675 academics? How does he know they received and read what he sent? Did he follow up with them, and if so, how?
Since he was comparing his return rate to that of Dr Lloyd and his "Israel divestment" petition, why isn't there any discussion how either man gathered their signatures, or how long and hard each man worked on the gathering process? Did either of them enlist any help? (Fellow professors, a human rights or sociopolitical education organization, or even a public website)? What about each man's history of working on these issues? Had either of them gathered signatures, written anything, or otherwise been involved with divestment in Israel/human rights in the Middle East before? What is the history of the issues, themselves? How much infrastructure is already out there (knowledge about the issue, campaigns already in place, ???)?

In short, I thought that Dr. Gottheil's/FrontPage Magazine's/the rightwing blogosphere's explanation of "sanctimonious bigotry" and a double standard, as well as any suggestion that there could be no other explanation, was short-sighted and foolish, and displayed a willingness to accept that correlation proves causation (cum hoc ergo propter hoc), no matter what.

The questions above--many of which have not been answered, to this day--show that there are many possible reasons why these academics might not've returned Dr Gottheil's e-mail, and that there is insufficient evidence (at the very least) to show that the circumstances surrounding the gathering of signatures on each petition were sufficiently similar to make a valid comparison between the two. Signing one petition but not the other is NOT evidence that one cares about one issue more than the other. There are many reasons why one might've done that that have nothing to do with anti-Semitism, anti-imperialism, or support for Muslim dictatorships (e-mail ended up in spam folder, unread, e-mail thrown away unread by recipient, because they didn't recognize sender address, e-mail thrown away by sender after reading as hoax, or spam, or right-wing trick, or belief that private e-mail campaigns with no public website are ineffective, or... well, the possibilities are endless...) And, there are many explanations for why one petition might've received more support than the other that involve the way the signatures were solicited, rather than any animosity toward Jews, or love of third world citizens. (by a friend vs by a stranger, via e-mail vs in person or via a website, backed by a human rights organization and/or political educator group vs backed by no one, gathered by several people vs gathered by one person, petitioners asked to sign repeatedly (if necessary) vs only being asked once, with no follow-up, ... the list goes on and on...)

Unless Dr Gottheil or any of the right wingers propagating this meme can eliminate or at least account for all of the other variables, or can at least compare two sufficiently similar petitions and circumstances, they cannot claim that anyone has shown any double standard in this story.

Just the same, I also conducted an experiment. In the last week, I contacted just about every blog I could find that covered this story, and tried to post a comment at the post discussing it, asking that the bloggers and their readers sign onto Dr Gottheil's Statement of Concern, which I had posted on PetitionsOnline.com. These were bloggers who obviously cared about this issue, because they had posted about it. And because the comment would be posted on their blogs--and in a good number of cases, had to be approved by them, as blog moderator, BEFORE it would appear), it was highly likely that they would see the comment inviting them to sign.

This is the comment I posted (It did vary occasionally, based on the content of the post or other comment(s), but this is the text I used as my template):
Dr. Gottheil's Statement of Concern is now posted at PetitionsOnline.com, and is accepting signatures from anyone willing to speak out against human rights abuses in the Middle East. As you're obviously interested in the story, I urge you to step up and sign it: Support Regarding Discrimination in the Middle East against Women, Gays, and Lesbians Petition

Of course, we'll be counting on everyone here to reply to this request.
Here's how I did:

Blogs that posted my comment (alphabetical order by blog name):

01) Media Backspin: An Experiment Exposes Academia's Double Standards Against Israel (Moderated)

02) BarkGrowlBite: LEFTIST DOUBLE STANDARDS (Moderated)

03) Look No Further - Big Citizen (Moderated)

04) Leftist Professors and Double Standards - THE BLACK KETTLE

05) Love of the Land: What Kind of Academic Signs These Anti-Israel Petitions? (Moderated)

06) SEE MUSLIMS..MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE CATCHING ON TO YOU…. - Canadian Kuffars (Moderated)

07) carnage and culture: Australian Muslim cleric calls for a beheading. Who cares?

08) An empirical test for academic hypocrisy

09) American Thinker: What Kind of Academic Signs These Anti-Israel Petitions? - Comments (Moderated)

10) What bias? Contrary

11) An experiment in Academia | Wolfville watch (Moderated)

12) Elder of Ziyon: A unique experiment on anti-Israel academics

13) Shameless hypocrisy watch: “What kind of academic signs anti-Israel petitions?" - Los Angeles Middle Eastern Policy - Examiner.com

14) Leftist Professors and Double Standards - First Thoughts | A First Things Blog (Moderated)

15) Leftist Professors and Double Standards - FrontPage Magazine

16) Leftist Professors and Double Standards Part II | FrontPage Magazine

17) fousesquawk: An Academic Petition You May Never Have Heard Of (Moderated)

18) GeeeeeZ!: Larry Elder REALLY tells it like it is.........

19) An Empirical Test for Academic Hypocrisy - Grendel Report (Moderated)

20) Hummers & Cigarettes: Academia: Sanctimonious Leftist Professors (Moderated)

21) I Beg to Disagree: Academic Criticisms of Israel: 96% Hypocritical (Moderated)

22) The Day In Israel: Mon Sept 20th, 2010 : Israellycool

23) Academic Bigotry: Israel and the Social Justice Farce - The Lesbian Conservative (Moderated)

24) Leslie S. Lebl: Disrobing the Left (Moderated)

25) Lumpy, Grumpy and Frumpy: "They are sanctimonious bigots at heart" (Moderated)

26) True Catholic : Re: AUSTRALIAN MUSLIM CALLS FOR BEHEADING - WHO CARES?? SUCH A DOUBLE STANDARD!

27) The Fall of Human Rights | No Left Turns

28) Reverend Rubicon: Leftist Professors and Double Standards

29) XDA: Thoughts of the Day

30) “Fellow academics” call prof “master of the obvious.” | Right Wing News

31) Prof calls fellow academics ‘sanctimonious bigots’ | San Francisco Examiner (Moderated)

32) What's the difference between a highly educated bigot and a lowly uneducated bigot?

33) Stones Cry Out - If they keep silent… Social Justice Advocates vs. Israel (Moderated)

34) Our Man in Palestine - The Daily Beast

35) Considerettes - Conservative commentary served up in bite-sized bits - Social Justice Advocates vs. Israel (Moderated)

36) Leftist Professors and Double Standards Part II - THERESE ZRIHEN-DVIR, Regard d'un Ecrivain sur le Monde

37) Australian Muslim Cleric Calls for Beheading -- Who Cares? - Larry Elder - Townhall Conservative

38) Trees For Lunch: A Form of Bigotry You Seldom Hear of

39) Villainous Company: Quantifying the Hypocrisy of Lefty Academicians

40) Prof calls fellow academics ‘sanctimonious bigots’ | Washington Examiner (Moderated)

41) Yaacov Lozowick's Ruminations: Not Everyone Likes the Jews
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Blogs that failed to post my comment, or actually deleted it from their blog:

1) American Power: 'Sanctimonious Bigots' – Leftist Professors and Double Standards - 9/25 - *** Dr. Douglas has added several posts to his blog since I submitted my comment, so I reluctantly have to assume that he has rejected my comment asking he and his readers to step up and sign Dr. Gottheil's Statement of Concern. As he is both a conservative and an academic in the field of political science, I'm most disappointed in his obvious lack of concern for the human rights of women, gays, and lesbians in the Middle East. Given the chance to reply (figuratively, anyway) to Dr Gottheil's e-mail plea--a plea we can be almost certain Dr Douglas received and read--he chose not to step up, just like those "leftist" (and likely "nihilist" or "demonic," too) professors that he posted about failed to do. Double standard? You decide. ***

2) The Baltimore Reporter: Sally Quinn: Obama Went to Church Because Americans Are Bigots - 9/27 - *** - The Baltimore Reporter (blog) fails to approve my comment. Apparently, standing up for human rights in the Middle East is more of a rhetorical bit of self-indulgent pleasuring themselves than an actual, y'know, ideal that they strive to live up to. Meaninglessly denouncing the "evils of liberalism" for being hypocrites on this issue, while similarly being hypocrites themselves is just so much easier. And, in refusing to post my comment, they not only do nothing about the issue of human rights abuses in the Middle East themselves, they don't allow their readers to make the choice to do anything, either. Nice going, wingnuts. ***

3) DUFF & NONSENSE!: Humbug and humbuggers! *** Disappointingly, as of 9:20 AM on 9/25/10 (less than 12 hours later), this blogger seems to've deleted my comment, as well as the Blogger backlink to this post. How should we judge that, when evaluating this conservative's commitment to human rights? Duff sure seemed to care when it was liberal academics who weren't stepping up, but when it's his turn to speak out, he chooses not to do so himself, or to allow any of his readers the opportunity to do so, either. Hypocrisy? You decide. ***

4) It’s all about the hypocrisy Full Metal Cynic - 9/28 - *** - Given that there is a new post at this site, and my comment is still being held for moderation, it's lookin' like the chances of it's getting posted are pretty slim. It is indeed, all about the hypocrisy, I guess... ***

5) American academia: Condemn Israel, love Muslims | Liberty Pundits Blog *** 9/26 *** - It seems that Liberty Pundits here flagged my previously posted comment for review. Y'all see what I posted at all these sites... Is a comment asking folks to sign s Statement of Concern about human rights in the Middle East, at a post about that very same Statement, critical of the fact that a whole lotta previous folks didn't sign onto it, somehow off topic or offensive? Or is it that Liberty Pundits hates liberals (and/or muslims) more than they love supporting God given natural rights for all mankind? Hypocrisy? You decide. ***

6) Prof calls fellow academics ‘sanctimonious bigots’ - 9/25 - *** Rachel at 'Thoughts From A Conservative Mom' here, obviously doesn't really care much about the rights of muslim women or gay folks, because she chose not to allow my comment about signing Dr Gottheil's Statement of Concern to appear. Not only didn't she reply to Dr Gottheil's plea (very much like those "sanctimonious, bigoted" academics failed to do), she doesn't want her readers to reply, either. Let human rights be someone else's problem, I guess... Sanctimony and hypocrisy walk hand in hand, sometimes... ***

7) education teacher : As if we needed more proof that liberal academics are usually hypocites and bigots

While I did do pretty well on the comment end of things -- Of 48 conservative blogs/bloggers total, 41 posted vs 7 who refused -- I didn't do so well on gathering signatures from these conservatives (or their readers, even)... As of this post, I have a total of nine signatures. And one of those nine belongs to me. Very disappointing.

Now by the same logic that says folks who sign a statement critical of Israel but do not sign a statement critical of muslim countries are hypocrites and are showing a double standard, what are we to make of right wing bloggers who publish posts critical of leftwing folks who don't sign a petition, when they themselves also fail to sign the very same petition? Are they hypocrites? Are they showing their own double standards? Is this proof that right wing bloggers don't care about the human rights of women and gay folks in the Middle East?

No, of course not. Just as with the academics, there are all kinds of possible reasons these right wing bloggers failed to sign, that have nothing to do with bigotry, or not caring, or double standards of any kind.

And that's the point.

Guess who else failed to sign the statement online? Dr Fred Gottheil. That's right, the man who wrote and e-mailed the statement to these (liberal) academics--but none of his friends, co-workers, or fellow conservatives--refused to sign his own statement here online, where everyone could see it. He also refused to distribute the statement to anyone else, or do anything further in support of the issue he claimed to care so much about in his statement. What are we to make of that, I wonder? What was his motivation for writing the statement in the first place, and how do you think his motives might've affected how he conducted his experiment--methods that I've already called into question above (research bias), and how he interpreted the results he received (Was there confirmation bias)?

Had Dr Gottheil really wanted to gather signatures opposing human rights abuses in the Middle East--rather than "proving" the rhetorical point he came in with--he could've and would've done a far better job trying to get those signatures than to send out a single "cold call" e-mail to a bunch of strangers and not even do any follow-up to make sure they received and read what he sent them. It seems to me that he wanted these academics to fail his little test, and wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, they did. The only surprising thing about it is that anyone is trying to attribute these facts to causes other than Dr Gottheil's methods and motivations, and that they're presumably trying to do so with straight faces.
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My previous posts on the subject:
9/21/2010 - Wingnuts & Moonbats: Dr. Gottheil, Where's Your Petition? - My initial questions on first reading Dr Gottheil's story.

9/21/2010 - What'd I Say?: An Open Letter to Dr. Fred Gottheil, regarding his "Statement of Concern" - More questions for Dr Gottheil.

9/22/2010 - What'd I Say?: More questions for Fred Gottheil, regarding his Statement of Concern - After the release of the Statement of Concern at FrontPage Mag, repeating the questions Dr. Gottheil failed to answer.

9/23/2010 - What'd I Say?: "If Fred Gottheil doesn't reply to my unsolicited e-mails, it's proof that he doesn't care about this issue." - My initial theories, and the transcript of a three part e-mail exchange I had with Dr. Gottheil, based on my e-mailing him the previous two posts.

9/23/2010 - Wingnuts & Moonbats: A Statement of Concern Calling for Support Regarding Discrimination in the Middle East against Women, Gays, and Lesbians - Dr. Fred Gottheil - My first attempt to get people to sign onto Dr Gottheil's Statement of Concern, posted on my blog. Many visits, but no comments, either in support or opposed.

9/23/2010 - What'd I Say?: Dr. Fred Gottheil and the "sanctimonious bigots" commenting at the Washington Examiner - More theory, and my first realization that all these rightwing folks complaining about the "academics" haven't actually done anything about this issue themselves, except bitch about folks not like them, and claim to be superior.

9/23/2010 - What'd I Say?: Attn Conservatives: You've (figuratively) "received the e-mail" from Fred Gottheil... How have YOU replied? Kinda the same post as above, better written, and submitted to a different blog.

9/24/2010 - What'd I Say?: In Reply: Why Dr Fred Gottheil's "experiment in Academia" didn't yield valid results - My first thoughts about comparing the number of signatures on the two petitions, and theories/facts regarding why one got more replies than the other.

9/24/2010 - What'd I Say?: Was I really unfair to Dr Gottheil? - My response to the suggestion that I'm being unfair to Dr Gottheil. No one has as yet tried to explain how... (including the blogger who accused me) ...but you're welcome to give it a shot, if you'd like.

9/24/2010 - What'd I Say?: Dr. Gottheil's "Statement of Concern" is now posted at PetitionsOnline.com... - The announcement of the PetitionOnline.com posting of Dr Gottheil's Statement of Concern Calling for Support Regarding Discrimination in the Middle East against Women, Gays, and Lesbians, and where I kept track of it all.

9/26/2010 - What'd I Say?: Still talking about Dr. Gottheil, at GeeeeeZ! (blog), this time

9/28/2010 - What'd I Say?: In Reply: Did Dr Gottheil's motivations taint his methodology? - Experimenter bias, confirmation bias, correlation/causation fallacy

10/1/2010 - This post, which will hopefully be the final one. I'll keep trying to collect signatures on the online petition, but I feel confident that I've pretty much buried any notion that Dr Gottheil actually proved anything about the Left, or the Right. (If ya ask me, all he proved is that he's either not particularly good at the scientific method, or he's a propagandist. I leave that for each reader to decide for themselves...)

Those who still wish to buy into his "results" anyway, ignoring all the facts to the contrary, are welcome to do so. There will always be some with perfectly good eyes who nevertheless refuse to see... They are likely beyond my helping...
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Miscellaneous Links:
900 US, other Academics: "divestment and pressure" against Israeli "apartheid" - Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid

Democratic Underground - Here is the text of the Statement of the Concern - Democratic Underground

FrontPage Magazine
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To peruse all my other commentary on this subject, previous and since, click here.

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