September 25, 2003

Edward Said Is Dead

Edward Said, Palestinian English professor and leftist historian at Columbia University died today of leukemia. He was 67.

If you want a well-balanced appraisal of his life and his work, this piece by Christopher Hitchens in last month's Atlantic Monthly is excellent.

If you can't say anything nice about the dead, be a human being and keep your mouth shut.

For those who need a lesson in manners and decency, this is how it's done. UPDATE: Oh, and this too.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 25, 2003 02:37 PM

I am no fan of Said, but the display at nicedoggie (link via "keep your mouth shut" above--I find it is truly tasteless. Mind your manners young man (maybe it is not a young man I am just guessing).

Posted by: Anne Bennett at September 25, 2003 05:54 PM

I, too, am no fan of Said and will not mourn his death. But I will not celebrate it either. Mr. Said will be mourned by his loved ones, and we should respect their right to grieve.

I am deeply disturbed by the coursening of debate in this country. It seems as though people are no longer willing to disagree with each other politely. Instead of simply saying, "I am right, and you are wrong because. . .," political debate has descended to "I am right, and you are evil." I was always interested in politics and public policy (I consider myself an idealistic conservative), but I am becomming more and more disenchanted (and disinterested) by the sheer nastiness.

Will it ever end? OR -- am I just another one of those people who thinks everything was better last year than it is now?

P.S. Kudos for a great blog Michael. Your entries are intelligent and tasteful, though sometimes wrong. :) I enjoy reading commentary such as this, even when I disagree with it. Keep it up!

Posted by: Ben at September 25, 2003 06:20 PM

Your final link, an example of manners and decency, according to you, contained the comment that Mr. Said was "borderline anti-semite"
Speaking falsely of the dead is unmannered and indecent, I think. Edward Said, whatever you think of him, wrote at length of the relation between Zionism and the history of the Jewish people, and he wrote on this subject with sensitivity and honor. Unlike the vast majority of other Palestinians, I think he was sincere in his wish that a binational Palestine be a place where Jews could call home. If the Palestinians as a whole were all like Edward Said, then maybe the binational idea might be a more realistic, even attractive option.

Posted by: Markus Rose at September 25, 2003 06:21 PM

I took a number of classes from said as an undergraduate at Columbia. In fact he and I entered Columbia at the very same time. He was an excellent and memorable teacher.

I think of him as an adversary;. He grated; I believe he had a chip on his shoulder and I think his (political) writings will ultimately be seen as shallow.

But I do not believe that he was an anti-Semite in any reasonable sense of the word.

Posted by: David Sucher at September 25, 2003 06:57 PM

Thanks for keeping this dignified, Michael.

Posted by: Yehudit at September 25, 2003 08:37 PM

Misha's self-appointed status of "anti-idiotarian" is far too hypocritical for his limited intelligence to grasp. This is the same right-wing terror apologist whose gleeful appreciation of the truck bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad ignited a blogstorm (one consequence of which appears to have been Trent Telenko's unexplained absence from Winds of Change after Katzman took him down about twenty pegs for agreeing with Misha). Even the comments section at LGF has (for the most part) expressed greater decorum and respect.

That last sentence was really difficult to write.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 25, 2003 10:10 PM

I'm not necessarily dancing on Said's grave, but this sudden demand that we treat him with kid gloves is the equivalent of the nausea-inducing hagiographyfest that came out shortly after Nixon died. To say Said is not an anti-semite seems to be a bit of wishful thinking considering some of his more recent writings. Maybe he didn't HATE Jews specifically, but his unbridled hatred for Israel and his increasingly tenuous grasp on reality speak for themselves. I'm sure you've all seen this quote floating around yesterday from his May counterpunch "essay":

"Wherever you look in the Congress there are the tell-tale signs either of the Zionist lobby, the right-wing Christians, or the military-industrial complex, three inordinately influential minority groups who share hostility to the Arab world, unbridled support for extremist Zionism, and an insensate conviction that they are on the side of the angels."

You live by the paranoid smear, you die by the paranoid smear. Death does not miraculously render a man innocent.

Posted by: ken at September 26, 2003 03:17 PM

I agree with you. Your comments I find acceptable, but the visual display at nicedoggie, not to mention the comments of this readers, are really over the top (check it out!).

Posted by: Anne Bennett at September 26, 2003 04:51 PM

I fear that we may be learning the wrong things from our enemies.

Posted by: David Sucher at September 26, 2003 05:47 PM

I hadn't even read the comments there. Judging by the visual, though, I'll let my imagination fill in the blanks rather than getting my blood pressure up.
Thanks for pointing it out, though

Posted by: ken at September 26, 2003 06:08 PM
Mr. Said will be mourned by his loved ones, and we should respect their right to grieve.
Yeah, maybe they'll find a few seconds in their snot fest to grieve the murdered Israeli toddlers that the demon that spawned them didn't give a shit about too.

And maybe pigs will fly.

Rot in Hell, Eddy, even though Hell's too good for you.

But hey, what kind of an animal am I? I even found joy in the lamentably belated deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein.

I suppose I should've found something nice to say about them instead.

Well... Er... They never kicked their mother?

Posted by: Emperor Misha I at September 26, 2003 08:05 PM

I don't mourn my enemies, nor will I extend them respect they have not earned. Said was an anti-Semite, and I have absolutely no use for such, except as a target.

Here's an excerpt from, by Adil Farooq.

As Martin Kramer has pointed out, Said admitted in the afterword of the 1994 edition of Orientalism that "I have no interest in, much less capacity for, showing what the true Orient and Islam really are." In other words, Said was not interested in advancing scholarship, but only anti-Western polemical screeds, being mostly content with hurling vitriolic and malicious invective against past and present Orientalists, such as Silvestre de Sacy and Bernard Lewis.

Posted by: Eichra Oren at September 26, 2003 08:22 PM

Why do people pay attention to what Misha says? Sure, he's rabid and controversial, but he writes like a child, with a child's grasp of the complexeties and gradiations of the world.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 26, 2003 11:21 PM

Posted by ken at September 26, 2003 03:17 PM

> You live by the paranoid smear, you die by the
> paranoid smear. Death does not miraculously
> render a man innocent.

I hear you. I'd just not say anything on someone's death day (with the exception of murders) if I couldn't think of anything positive. After that I'd keep my comments civil, like you did....

Posted by: Thomas at September 26, 2003 11:32 PM

Nobody is commenting on Said's main role. English professor and head of the Modern Language Association(MLA). The damage done by the MLA to academics cannot be underestimated. The MLA is a proponent of post-modern school of thought that rejects objective thinking. It is in essence anti-rational thinking. All knowledge is essentially a social construct.
To be a good post-modernist thinker/writer you need a very large vocabulary of rarely used words. Those words are strung together in very long sentences that seem brilliant but actually have no meaning. How could they have meaning when there is no objectivity? The meaning is what you feel. Critical thinking is not allowed by the MLA and post-modern thought.

Posted by: Reid at September 27, 2003 06:03 AM

Said was a nigger lover!

Posted by: Nazi at September 27, 2003 06:30 AM

I wonder if you Said supporters would have been so respectful at the mention of the death of Stalin, Hitler, or any other murderously anti-Semitic idealogue of the 20th Century. I'll bet half of you laughed your collective asses off when Strom Thurmond died, just because he was a Republican.

Slamming Misha does not bring Said any credibility. In fact, it DOES put proof to the common liberal practice of slandering your enemies rather than reply to their factual points.

Edward Said was a dirtbag - and Reid is exactly right; proponents of the MLA are modern day Socialists in disguise who would do more damage to our collegiate institutions and our representative republic form of government than is realized by the general public.

For his beliefs and actions Said should be reviled by any common-sensical individual. His anti-Semitism simply makes it easier to despise him and his legacy of hate and disinformation.

Posted by: Roy AlderseBaes at September 27, 2003 06:57 AM

Eichra Oren,

You are entirely correct. Said was an intellectual terrorist, rightly described by Makiya as the intellectual equivalent of a suicide bomber. That, combined with his support of the Nazi-derived Arab "nationalism" that loves and supports child murder, render him beyond the pale.*

Actually, Misha has engaged in a vile libel by comparing the Hussein boys to Said. As children trapped in the web of a homicidal madman, they really never had the chance to grow up in a normal environment. Said, by contrast, had incredible advantages over them, but threw it all away to deliberately embrace and apologize for genocidal evil from the comfort and protection of a Western liberal country he professed to despise. Every decent human being should celebrate the death of this would-be Alfred Rosenberg of the "Palestinian" cause.

"To whom much is given, much is expected."

*yes, the pun is deliberate

Posted by: Ernest Brown at September 27, 2003 06:58 AM

Ken, Roy, Misha, Eichra --

I do not propose to absolve Mr. Said of anyting, nor do I intend to mourn his passing or extend him respect he has not earned. I am simply advocating a return of the lost art of civility to political dialogue. Let us engage Mr. Said's serious arguments, point out his invective and that we refuse to acknowledge its validity, and attempt to elevate the debate.

It is quite possible to mourn the deaths of innocents while offering a "no comment" (or at least a statement RESPECTFUL of the seriousness of the occasion) regarding the passing of the likes of those who appear not to have shown the same concern. David and Thomas are right -- if anyone is to be classless, let it be our enemies.

Misha, I do not mourn the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein, but I do not celebrate them either. Apprehending and/or killing them was simply something that had to be done -- they certainly deserved what happened to them. But do you really find joy in their deaths?

Reid, David and Eichra are right: Much of Said's work was more advocacy than scholarship. Why not simply point that out, and let the writings and the criticims of them speak for themselves.

Ken, David -- Whether Said was an anti-Semite is between him and his conscience. Arguments should stand or fall on their merits, not on a dismissive ad hominem comment about their author. (Please keep that in mind, Christopher). Hurling epithets closes off, rather than advances, debate. If our enemies engage in this tactic, we should shine a bright light on their actions and thereby discredit them.

Consistent with my prior post, I echo Yehudit's comment: "Thanks for keeping it dignified, Michael." Let us do the same.

Posted by: Ben at September 27, 2003 10:04 AM

Yes, Ben, I did find great pleasure in seeing the serial rapists, torturers and genocidal mass murderers Uday and Qusay shot full of holes, I make no apologies for that. I also cheered when they sent Timothy McVeigh off to Hell, even though they should've stuck him in an empty building and blown it up around him, in my opinion.

Death does not absolve you of the evil you've done and I owe no respect to monsters, simply because they've done us the one little favor of dying.

No, I'm not forgiving or compassionate towards my enemies, nor will I ever be. You have to earn that, it's not something you automatically get by croaking.


Fine, I don't have a problem with that. I wouldn't want any part of the kind of "class" that forgives monsters like Edward Said.

I want the enemies of mankind dead, and then, if G-d will grant me the pleasure, I will take a dump on their graves, raze down all memory of them and plough the ground upon which they lived with salt.

Posted by: Emperor Misha I at September 27, 2003 10:25 AM


Ding dong the witch is dead,
the mean old witch,
Ding dong mean old witch is dead.

Rather glad to see him shed this moral coil. Maybe in the after life he will be exposed to the truth and understand he lived a lie.


Posted by: Kirk at September 27, 2003 11:20 AM

Misha, you miss the point. Please see the first sentence of my previous post and keep that in mind while evaluating the rest of it.

Posted by: Ben at September 27, 2003 11:30 AM

P.S. In lieu of hitting you over the head with a 2×4, I will state my point explicitly: Don't compromise, but be nice when you can.

Posted by: Ben at September 27, 2003 11:38 AM


I understand your point completely, and I sympathize. But the incivility you decry arises mostly from the arrogance and self righteousness of the left.

They are so sure that their positions are unassailably self evident (emotion based) that anyone who has the temerity and audacity to disagree with them is, de facto, an idiot, a racist or a nazi. They are the ones who have precipitated the hooting and name calling, and who, now that they have been put on the defensive by events and the resurgence of right thinking, can do little to justify their failed policies and beliefs but resort to emotion, ridicule, ad hominem and assertion. Those of us on the Right have finally realized the futility of attempting honest debate with them and have, in disgust, taken off the gloves. They have owned the pulpit for too long and they're squealing like spoiled pigs now that their monopoly is broken.

Countless times have I seen real efforts at reasoned, fact based debate destroyed by the willfull ignorance and refusal of fairness by the left. "Feelings" are more important than reality to these people. The younger and the more infected by post modern moral vacuity they are, the worse this behavior is.

It seems quite plain to me that the left in general is the enemy of Liberty and mankind, and that, for them, the ends clearly justify the means. Fairness and reason, whether in debate or otherwise, simply does not matter to them. Witness the constant leftist spin in our so-called "news" media, and the mind numbing grip of postmodernism and 'political correctness' on our college campuses. Witness the complete moral and patriotic bankruptcy of the Democrats, who will do or say anything to hurt Bush and to regain power, even if it means hurting the Nation (and it does mean exactly that.)

Posted by: Jon at September 27, 2003 02:52 PM

As for Said, I'm glad that lying propagandist and terror supporter is dead. And I couldn't agree more with the poster above who pointed out the extreme and subtle damage done to rational thought, language and education done by Said and the "Modern Language ASSociation." What utter, jargon filled rubbish!

As the old saying goes, if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle 'em with bullshit!

Posted by: Jon at September 27, 2003 02:58 PM

Ben, I got your point.

But "niceness" and "civility" towards your enemies isn't "class", it's weakness.

We've got a job that needs to be done and you don't "compromise" with swine, you slaughter them, without remorse.

Once the job is done, you can go back to agonizing endlessly over the horrible things that had to be done while the rest of us drink ourselves senseless in celebration over the fact that another plague has been eradicated from the face of the Earth.

Compromise is weakness.

"Class" is the sad excuse for it.

You don't win wars that way.

Posted by: Emperor Misha I at September 27, 2003 05:07 PM


As a conservative, I appreciate your frustration. It galls me to no end that the Left seems to think that we are all either stupid or evil or both. In my opinion, there is absolutely no question that the arrogance and self righteousness (and defensiveness) of the Left has been the major cause of the incivility we see in politics today. Where we part company is in the nature of the appropriate response.

Civility is not weakness, Misha. Actually, I think it takes a great deal more strength to maintain composure in the face of vicious, unwarrented and uncivil attacks than to succumb to the temptation to strike back. I sometimes struggle mightily to refrain from lashing back, and I sometimes lose that struggle.

The Left is lashing out because it is losing and knows it. If Leftists continue to act like petulant children, I believe that the Democrats are in for a rough year in 2004. Focusing on President Bush and hurling every epithet in the book at him will only turn off the swing voters who determine the outcome of elections.

I do not in any way advocate compromise or weakness. I will stand up for my beliefs regardless of the insults hurled at me. In my view, engaging your opposition on the merits is not only good manners, it is also the most effective tactic.

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Posted by: mNeuron at September 28, 2003 10:55 AM

Well, Ben, you are, of course, completely entitled to your way of dealing with things.

It's not mine, however.

I don't accommodate, I don't exercise restraint. I shoot to kill, I aim to destroy. And socialism needs to be destroyed, not dealt with.

You don't negotiate with scum like terrorists and socialists. Mass graves of millions of innocents attest to what happens when you do.

You wipe them out, then piss on their ashes.

Posted by: Emperor Misha I at September 28, 2003 05:21 PM

Posted by Ben at September 27, 2003 10:04 AM

> ....the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein...
> they certainly deserved what happened to them.
> But do you really find joy in their deaths?

Thank you for your earlier kind mention but I did exempt murders. Not only did I take joy in the death of those two, I would have loved to have had a hand in it... Their passing should be a cause of celebration and their dishonor and crimes should be remembered (just like other tyrants). Sorry we disagree on this point...

Said was not a murder, only an apologist. As such he deserves a higher level of respect shown to his memory. But again, his ideas are fair game for reasonable criticism…

Posted by: Thomas at September 28, 2003 09:38 PM

Nobody has given any evidence so far that Edward Said is an antisemite.

Posted by: Markus Rose at September 29, 2003 06:23 AM

I just found Hitchens informative article on Said's death at It's good reading, and also informative about Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi and his Palestinian National Initiative.

Posted by: Markus Rose at September 29, 2003 06:44 AM

Said was an antisemite because he excluded the Jews from his demand that all peoples be granted their rights of independence and self-determination. This is an obviously racist distinction and, in my view, renders his entire ideology hypocrisy. He refused to acknowledge the basic humanity of the people on the other side of the conflict of which he was a partisan. I am a Zionist, but I am not a racist, I believe the Palestinians should not be ruled by Israel indefinately and that they deserve their own state. Said never deigned to grant the likes of me the same courtesy. He denied my humanity, and the humanity of every Jew who believes in the right of the Jewish people to live free in our own nation. Our right to claim for us the very right claimed by all other peoples on earth, including his own. I wont deny the humanity of anyone, but I will not stand to have my own denied. Said was a monster, a minor one perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, but a monster none the less, and I weep no tears for his passing.

Posted by: ben at September 29, 2003 08:07 AM

Ben -- You equate antisemitism with anti-Zionism. By your logic, anyone who is opposed to an independent Kurdistan, an independent Tibet, an independent Sikh state, is guity of a "racist distinction" as well. And I suppose that the members of NETUREI KARTA are also antisemites!

The Palestinian/Israeli dispute is not about who has the greater moral claim to the land; it is about contested land -- who has the power to claim all of it (nobody, I argue), and who has the wisdom and humanity to embrace the necessary compromise that can avert continued bloodshed.

from David Ben-Gurion, quoted in "The Jewish Paradox" by Nathan Goldman, former president of the World Jewish Congress:

"Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs, We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that?"

Posted by: Markus Rose at September 29, 2003 09:59 AM

You are correct, I do equate anti-semitism with anti-Zionism. As for your question regarding Tibet, Kurdistan, or Sikhs, the answer is yes, I do consider it racist to deny them sovreignty if they so desire it and if they mount a political movement to attain it. As for naturei karta, they are a psychotic religious cult whose ideology is wholly theological in nature and cannot be discussed in logical terms.

I agree completely with your second paragraph, as I should think was clear from my first post. I would venture the opinion however, that neither Edward Said nor current Palestinian public opinion would concur.

As for Mr. Ben-Gurion's quote, I am well aware that he understood the Arab point of view quite well, as do I. But as in my case, this did not negate the morality of the Zionist claim on the Land of Israel in his eyes. Ben-Gurion understood the Arab claim, but he did not concur with it. He saw Jewish nationhood as an issue for which the world was responsible, not just the anti-semites. The Arabs had to contend with the Jewish plight as well, even if they had not engineered it. I for one agree with the great Israeli novelist Amos Oz, who stated that a drowning man has the right to push someone over in the lifeboat so that he might survive, but he does not have the right to push him into the sea. I think Ben-Gurion would have agreed with that statement.

Posted by: ben at September 29, 2003 10:23 AM

Said wished that the Jews would accept as their lot an "enlightened" dhimmitude in an Arab Palestine. That is anti-Semitism by definition.

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