Cinnamon Stillwell

I’m the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum that focuses on Middle East studies. I was a political columnist for SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle online) from 2004-2008. I've written for the American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, Family Security Matters, Accuracy In Media, Newsbusters, Israel National News, The Jewish Policy Center, J-The Jewish News Weekly of N. CA, Intellectual Conservative and many others. More info at CinnamonStillwell.com.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

University of Minnesota's William Beeman Praises Iranian Regime, Ignores Detainees

My latest post at the Campus Watch blog examines an article (scroll down) in which University of Minnesota professor William Beeman somehow manages to both sugercoat Iran's oppressive and belligerent regime and ignore the group of foreign academic and activist detainees in its hold:
William O. Beeman, formerly of Brown University and now professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, as well as president of the Middle East section of the American Anthropological Association, has some strange ideas about the theocratic regime in Iran.

He seems to think that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recurring threats to annihilate Israel and the regime's forging ahead with a nuclear program against the wishes of the international community, holding Holocaust denial conferences, taking British soldiers hostage, detaining a number of foreign and domestic pro-democracy intellectuals and activists, all the while repressing its own population and actively aiding the murderous insurgency in Iraq, constitutes the "exquisite art" of "politeness."
Continue reading "University of Minnesota's William Beeman Praises Iranian Regime, Ignores Detainees"

Update (7/27): As can be noted in the comments section of this post, Prof. Beeman has responded and objected to my characterization of his article. He also sent a letter to Campus Watch along similar lines, which is posted, followed by my response, at the CW blog. I am also reposting it below:

The following is Professor Beeman's response:
Dear Campus Watch,

Cinnamon Stillwell badly mischaracterizes my article published through New America Media ("University of Minnesota's William Beeman Praises Iranian Regime, Ignores Detainees" July 26, 2007).

I do not "praise Iran" in the article, which Ms. Stillwell has not read carefully. The article explains Iranian communication dynamics, and offers advice for those who would enter into negotiations with Iranians. I explain that elaborate courtesy for both parties is a normal feature of Iranian public communication, and does not imply any actual approval or positive evaluation of the other party--as Ms. Stillwell would have her readers believe. This and other structures of Iranian communication is analyzed in my Language, Status and Power in Iran.

Dealing with the detainees was an issue that was irrelevant to the article, but for the record, I have condemned the holding of Iranian-American detainees Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh in public forums, in print and directly to the Iranians themselves on their own broadcast media. In fact, I am to my knowledge the only person anywhere who has condemned these detentions on Iranian television or radio.

Best regards,

William O. Beeman
Cinnamon Stillwell responds:

It was certainly not my intention to mischaracterize Professor Beeman's New American Media article, but, rather, to read it as would a lay person. That is, with common sense. And in this light, the article still comes across to me as an apologia for the belligerance of the Iranian regime. Certainly, communication styles vary among different cultures, but this does not mean that there aren't certain underlying truths that cross all cultural boundaries. In its dealings with the Iran, therefore, I do not share Prof. Beeman's contention that it is the United States government that needs to alter its mannerisms in order to appease a regime that has done nothing but express hostility and outright aggression towards America and its allies, but rather the other way around.

Furthermore, I highly doubt that adjusting our "structures of communication" will in fact succeed where all other approaches have thus far failed. When one side of a dispute is bent on the outright destruction of the other, there is little one can do, short of rising to the challenge at hand, to convince them otherwise.

Prof. Beeman's approach asks that the United States alter itself accordingly, but not that the Iranian regime reciprocate. This is where my impression that he is not placing both on an equal footing, but, rather, implying the superiority of one over another comes in. His reference to the "exquisite art" of "politeness" allegedly practiced by Iranian officials, coupled with condescending advice to the United States to be "polite and humble" only strengthens this impression. However, I will concede that this may not have been his intention.

As for Prof. Beeman's lack of reference to the foreign academic and activist detainees currently being held by the Iranian regime, I was specifically pointing to the New American Media article at hand. It just seemed odd that in a piece that took such pains to advise the United States to kowtow to Iranian mores, he would leave out the fact that the regime in question happens to be holding U.S. citizens, among others, hostage. This hardly strikes me as "irrelevant" to the article at hand.

But I appreciate the fact that he has otherwise condemned the inhumane actions of the Iranian regime in this regard, including appearing on Iranian television and radio (which, it should be noted, are entirely state-run). I would only hope that Prof. Beeman uses these spheres of influence to impart a clear and unequivocal condemnation.

Pete Wilson, R.I.P.

I was greatly saddened to hear this week of the passing of ABC-7 television anchor and KGO talk radio host Pete Wilson. Wilson died at 62 of a heart attack during hip replacement surgery and his loss was both sudden and unexpected.

I was a regular listener of his radio show, tuning in to KGO almost everyday at 2pm to listen in on his monologues and interviews with interesting guests. As a talk show host, Wilson provided one of the few moderate voices in the Bay Area and he did so in a milieu all his own. He wasn't left or right, but remained stubbornly in between. While his propensity for the middle ground sometimes frustrated me and I didn't always agree with his political take, nine times out of ten, he made sense.

Most importantly, he covered the sort of Bay Area lunacy (whether of the government, activist or anything along the way variety) rarely examined in detail, let alone touched at all, by the mainstream media. For this, he received a lot of flack from the local leftist establishment, a reaction I commiserated with (as a fellow political outcast of sorts) and on one occasion, wrote about at my blog.

Several months ago, he invited me on his show to discuss my SFGate column on the introduction of a propagandistic "anti-war" textbook to San Francisco's public schools, a matter about which we were both outraged. It was an in-studio interview and Pete was pleasure to work with---extremely professional and a real gentleman. I would definitely classify the interview as what I call "friendly radio" (as opposed to "hostile radio," which can be found in abundance in the Bay Area), for which I was grateful.

Our conversation off the air was as stimulating as that broadcast to the public. At one point I queried him on his political persuasion, trying, as is my wont, to pin him down. In answer, he described himself as a "Wisconsin Democrat" (his state of origin) and I understood perfectly. He was the sort of Democrat that those of us no longer on the left side of the political fence have largely given up on--a member of the once mighty loyal opposition.

Afterwards, I shook his hand and thanked him for his work, telling him that what he was doing was very important to the Bay Area. He seemed a bit surprised by my enthusiasm, perhaps wondering why someone with my politics was so supportive. But I think he understood that his steadfastly sensible presence in a place not exactly known for being fair and balanced was appreciated.

He will be sorely missed.

Update: A blog has been set up for people to express their condolences and leave comments. Go to Pete Wilson Listener Comments to take part.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rethinking the Summer of Love

My latest SFGate column reexamines the social and political legacy of the "Summer of Love" and delves into my own connection to the flower power generation (here's a hint: it's all in the name):
This summer marks the 40th anniversary of the so-called Summer of Love, that mythical three months in 1967 in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood when visions of peace, love and harmony -- aided by bountiful quantities of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll -- reigned supreme.

The Summer of Love has since become legend-- an expression of countercultural revolution, particularly in the minds of those recollecting the glory days of their youth. However inaccurately, this three-month period encompassing a tiny fraction of the population and an eight-block stretch has become a symbol for the entire decade.

Among '60s disciples, it's an article of faith that everything that came out of that summer was a boon to American society. This has certainly been the impression conveyed through popular culture. Rarely are the more pernicious
offshoots
of the social and political experiment known as the Summer of Love referenced in the glowing and groovy portrayals seen on PBS and the History Channel.

But in its haste to dispense with all tradition that came before, the Summer of Love generation threw out much of the good along with the bad. The attempt to live in a manner that is essentially unsustainable led to a proliferation of divorce, drug use, promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, and all the perils and problems associated therewith. Too many people left their families, became addicts, and in some cases, lost their lives.

When all social boundaries are tossed aside and self-fulfillment becomes one's raison d'etre, society breaks down and, with it, all sense of morality. Seen in this light, the Summer of Love starts to seem more like the Summer of Folly.
Continue reading "Rethinking the Summer of Love"

Update: Quite a few readers have pointed out a Ted Nugent article at OpinionJournal.com on what he terms "The Summer of Drugs." While I take a more libertarian approach to illegal drug use, like other vices, I'm loathe to see it elevated to the mainstream. Or, as in the case of "Summer of Love" nostalgia, romanticized needlessly. It is what it is.

Monday, July 23, 2007

"Muslims Speak Out" Gives Voice to All the Wrong People

As I indicated at the Campus Watch blog last Friday, the Washington Post/Newsweek blog On Faith is currently hosting an "online dialogue" in conjunction with Georgetown University titled "Muslims Speak Out." And Georgetown religion, international affairs, and Islamic studies professor John Esposito will be one of the panelists.

Esposito, as my colleague, Campus Watch director Winfield Myers, elaborated on in a subsequent blog post, is one of many apologists for radical Islam in the field of Middle East studies. That he has been asked to take part in a discussion on "religion, terrorism and human rights" in the Muslim world - surely a topic of great importance in this day and age - hardly inspires confidence in the proceedings.

Making matters worse, the overall list of panelists in "Muslims Speak Out" reads like a who's-who of anti-American, anti-Israel, pro-Islamist (in some cases) ideologues. In other words, it's guaranteed not to accomplish anything of substance, except to continue whitewashing the true problem at hand.

In addition to former president Jimmy Carter, who hardly represents an unbiased voice on the Middle East, and Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison, recently noted for his conspiratorial comments on the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the panel will include Oxford University Islamic studies professor Tariq Ramadan, who, as Paul Berman’s recent article in The New Republic makes clear, is hardly the "moderate" he’s made out to be.

Taking things a step further, On Faith organizers seem to have gone out of their way to include participants with blatantly Islamist sympathies. Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, a top Shiite cleric and the former "spiritual adviser" to the terrorist group Hezbollah, appears to be one of them.

Then there’s Sheikh Rashid Rashid al-Ghannoushi, who, as the announcement for "Muslims Speak Out" proudly puts it, is the "exiled leader of Tunisia's Islamist opposition movement…[and is] widely considered an Islamic radical in his native country." Perhaps that’s because, as noted in a MEMRI.org translation, Al-Ghannoushi issued a fatwa in 2004 "permitting the killing of Muslim intellectuals as being apostates" as well as "all civilians in Israel."

Dr. Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, is another problematic participant. Journalist and author Stephen Schwartz has documented his movement towards Wahhabism in recent years.

There’s little doubt as to what kind of views on "dialogue," either within the Muslim world or between Muslims and the West, will be exhibited by such participants. It's just unfortunate that among the Muslim clerics and thinkers that On Faith organizers sought to include, they couldn't find time for people like M. Zuhdi Jasser of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism (as noted above), Irshad Manji, or one of many other brave souls out there bucking conformity. Not to mention experts in the field who don't just provide a sounding board for the usual platitudes, but actually seek to address the root causes (in the true sense of the term) of terrorism and its ideological component, Islamism. But alas, it seems the blinders are to remain firmly and willingly in place.

In the press release for "Muslims Speak Out, Washington Post reporter and On Faith moderator Sally Quinn said that it "marks the first time a major American news outlet has brought together so many Muslim leaders to ask their views on hot-button topics." It’s just too bad they’re asking all the wrong people.

Update: Rep. Keith Ellison was listed in the initial announcement for "Muslims Speak Out," but does not appear at the On Faith page devoted to the event. Could it be that his inflammatory comments about 9/11 caused organizers to drop him?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Campus Watch and California's Middle East Academic Radicals

As the Northern California Reprentative for Campus Watch, it is my goal to focus on Middle East studies academia here on the West Coast. My latest Campus Watch article, which is posted at the American Thinker, looks at our efforts in California, as well as setting the record straight on what our work is all about:
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, it became painfully clear that if America was to become more engaged in the Middle East, it would need to develop a greater understanding of the area. Scholars of Middle East studies at our nation's universities were called upon to explain the religious, cultural and political dynamics of the region to students, journalists, and politicians

Unfortunately, many of the leading academic lights in the field proved to be woefully unprepared for the conflict at hand and-much worse, were actively hostile to the interests of the United States and its allies.

It was for this reason that in Sept. 2002, Middle East Forum director and Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes started Campus Watch (campus-watch.org), a project intended, as stated at its website, to "review and critique Middle East studies in North America, with an aim to improving them."

Campus Watch has since focused its efforts on the West Coast, where no shortage exists of Middle East studies academics with problematic perspectives.
Continue reading "Campus Watch and California's Middle East Academic Radicals"