Edward W. Said: "Someone Named Daniel Pipes"
by Daniel Pipes
Translations of this item:
Edward W. Said of Columbia University has obsessed over me for nearly two decades. Admittedly, I did very negatively review his Orientalism in January 1979, soon after its publication ("His flawed, shoddy, and deceptive project is a disgrace and deserves to be ignored"), but he has not let go.
His revenge began in 1985, when he devoted nearly a thousand words to my book, In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power (New York: Basic, 1983) in a screed titled "Orientalism Reconsidered." Here are some of the learned professor's choice insults:
Comments: (1) I never served at the National Security Council; Said confuses me with my father, Richard Pipes, who did work at the NSC in 1981-83.
(2) Said argues in Orientalism that European specialists on the Middle East de facto served their governments, that their studies were therefore tainted by imperialism. How amusing, then, to see this grand thesis applied in miniature against me: because I worked at the State Department in early 1983 when In the Path of God appeared, therefore I must have offered the U.S. government point of view. Or, in his colorful words, I was "wholly at the service … of an aggressive and interventionary State."
Two little problems with this thesis, however: I was a Council on Foreign Relations fellow at the Department of State for a single year, not a State employee, in 1982-83, as part of a program for academics to get a feel for government; and that was my only stint in government other than teaching at a military institution and taking on some small assignments (such as serving as a delegate at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights). My career in the academy and in think tanks abundantly shows that I say and write what I think, regardless of official U.S. policy.
Indeed, even while serving in the State Department, my views so clashed with those of my superiors that I on several occasions (notably, with regard to policy vis-à-vis Lebanon) went public with my analyses after they failed to win support within the building.
In "Orientalism Revisited" (similar title but different content), Middle East Research and Information Project, July 1987, Said reprised his name-calling but this time with a back-handed compliment. Asked about the receptivity of Middle East specialists to his arguments, he replied:
In "The Middle East 'Peace Process': Misleading Images and Brutal Actualities," The Nation, October 16, 1995, Said included me in a list of people he disliked:
In "A Devil Theory of Islam," The Nation, August 12, 1996, Said listed me as one of those "experts" (he used quotes) whose goal is to make sure that the Islamic
Now, in a collection of interviews with Said called Culture and Resistance, he refers to Campus Watch on p. 177 as follows:
Which rate scholar I am is a matter of opinion, but my being unemployed or employed is a matter of fact. As it is, I happen to be gainfully employed, with a 10th-floor office and a W-2 form to prove it. Thus, the University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University has gotten the facts wrong – hardly surprising, as biographical accuracy, even about his own life, has hardly been Edward Said's strong suit.
More to the point: think tanks (like the Middle East Forum) have emerged in the last couple of decades as leading actors in the making of public policy, much to the frustration of the academic thought police. University employees moan about our being "grossly misinformed" and call us unflattering names like "policy entrepreneurs," or even deny that we are employed. But we think tankers provide timely analysis and often sensible advice, so we are listened to.
Also, of course, Campus Watch is not about reporting "academics who criticize Israel or who seem to be proponents of the Palestinians." But asking Said to get this right would be too much to ask for. (June 20, 2003)
June 23, 2003 update: Writing today at "Dignity, Solidarity and the Penal Colony," Counterpunch (an excerpt from The Politics of Anti-Semitism, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair) Said discusses
This phrase "Neanderthal publicists and Orientalists like Bernard Lewis and Daniel Pipes" elicits several responses:
Oct. 2, 2003 update: For a frighteningly awful eulogy of Said, see that by his much-titled colleague, Hamid Dabashi, which I excerpt today.
Mar. 1, 2007 update: Martin Kramer writes (in a review in Commentary of Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and its Discontents by Robert Irwin) that "there are no self-declared Orientalists today." I guess he missed this weblog entry.
Dec. 21, 2008 update: I was hardly alone in being insulted by Said. Efraim Karsh and Rory Miller provide a helpful listing:
Reader comments (2) on this item
Comment on this item
Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes