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.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Blog-Fest-West is Tonight!

In case readers hadn't yet noted the Blog-Fest-West button at the top of this blog or read the many reminders I've been sending around, let me just say, one last time, that Blog-Fest-West is tonight!

Co-planned by Pajamas Media folks Nina Yablok, Ed Driscoll, and myself (I'll be joining the PJM blogger network shortly), BFW will be held in San Francisco at the beautiful Fort Mason. All the relevant information is available at the Blog-Fest-West website, including info about a Sunday brunch we've planned for those who can't make it tonight or just want a second round.

We've got a ton of West Coast right-leaning bloggers, writers, editors, and friends thereof (many members of my group, the 9/11Neocons will be joining in) attending, so it should be a lot fun. If anyone hasn't RSVP'd and is planning on attending, please let me know by writing to cinnamon@cinnamonstillwell.com.

See you there!

Update: If anyone want to mark the occasion with Blog-Fest-West gear, click here.

Appeasement Finds a Home in the Academy

I have a new Campus Watch column up at The American Thinker on the support for appeasement-based foreign policy among Middle East studies academics. Three in particular exemplify this trend. Read on:
Instead of providing moral clarity in a time of war, too many academics busy themselves inventing strategies to get along peaceably with genocidal terrorist groups and the governments that aid and abet them. Among the appeasers, three professors of Middle East studies stand out: the University of Minnesota's William O. Beeman; Boston University's Augustus Richard Norton; and Harvard University's Sara Roy.
Continue reading "Appeasement Finds a Home in the Academy."

Update: Readers may recall that I had a lively exchange with Prof. Beeman both here and at the Campus Watch blog regarding an earlier piece of mine on the same subject. For the moment, it appears he and I will have to agree to disagree.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Of High School Reunions and Political Persuasion

Since I already revealed my age in a recent column, I may as well admit that I attended my 20-year high school reunion last weekend. I went to high school in Marin County and, as I've written on many occasions, I was a product of its liberal, hippy-dippy environs. That is, up until 9/11, when I experienced a political epiphany of sorts and began to make the shift from left to right.

As can well be imagined, this hasn't always gone over well with my old liberal high school buddies, several of whom I'm still friends with. They have largely accepted my new political leanings, even if it means agreeing to disagree on occasion. But for those who I haven't encountered either since high school or the ten-year reunion in 1997, my political transformation is uncharted territory. So it was with some trepidation that I attended my 20-year high school reunion, knowing that the ubiquitous question, "What do you do?," in my case, was likely to open up a can of worms.

It's not that I'm ashamed of my professional accomplishments. Indeed, whether or not one feels relatively satisfied with where they are in life seems to be a marker of whether or not one will attend high school reunions. But, like other minority conservatives living in a majority-liberal environment such as the Bay Area, there are those inevitably uncomfortable moments when one would rather avoid the topic of politics. Being that my work revolves around politics, this isn't an easy task, for it automatically injects that sticky subject into the realm of small talk.

I'm certainly not a closet conservative (a term the right has come to borrow, somewhat ironically, from the gay community) and anyone who types my name into Google is going to come across a fair amount of evidence, so to speak. But it's amazing how many people don't pursue this avenue and, upon being told that one is a writer, don't feel the need to press for further details. So it's happened on more than one occasion that I've simply decided not to elaborate.

This was my strategy for the reunion and it was one that worked to a large extent. But I decided a while back not to conceal the facts should my political persuasion come to light and so it was that I got into a revealing conversation or two over the course of the evening.

One classmate, after I told him I was an Internet journalist, assumed that I must be one of those "lefty bloggers." "No, I'm really more of a rightwing blogger," I told him, to which he laughed in surprise. "What are you, another Melanie Morgan?" he joked, referencing the KSFO morning talk show host and conservative activist. "No, but I've been on her show," I answered, in all seriousness. Soon after, we both changed the subject.

Another classmate I had actually run into a few months before and also told that I was an Internet journalist, came up to me at the reunion and, with a look of disgust on her face, said that she had read some of my articles. They didn't sound like the "Cinnamon she knows," she informed me.

Here again, another staple of minority conservatism came to light. Same person, two personas. The conservative politico meets the laid back California girl and, inevitably, confusion ensues. I can hardly blame them for sometimes it feels a little schizophrenic myself.

A classmate with whom I had also attended a private, Jewish elementary school for several years, seemed to understand where I was coming from a little better. When I referenced the rise of anti-Semitism after 9/11, he said, "You mean, the way anti-war rallies sometimes become anti-Israel rallies?" "Exactly," I answered.

But it was at the very end of the evening that I had an entirely unexpected encounter. A classmate who I didn't know in high school came up to me and, after establishing that I was "Cinnamon Stillwell," (my last name has changed since high school) said with enthusiasm, "I really like your columns!" He made my night.

Maybe there's hope for that 30-year reunion after all.

Update: Blogger buddy and fellow former lefty "Bookworm" has kindly blogged this post at Bookworm Room. She and I have discussed the subject of political transformation and whether or not to "come out" as a conservative (she remains closeted for now and I respect her decision) on many occasions and it was, in fact, one of these conversations that inspired me to write this post. Likewise, Bookworm referenced my left-to-right story in a classic 2005 piece at The American Thinker called "Confessions of a Crypto-Conservative Woman." Check it out.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Campus Watch Continues "Shedding Light on the Professoriate," And the Professoriate Doesn't Like It

My colleague, Campus Watch Director Winfield Myers, has a new column today in the Washington Examiner on the realization among Middle East studies professors that their all too often shoddy and, in some cases, damaging work will no longer be held unaccountable. It seems that organizations such as Campus Watch, which lends constructive criticism to the field of Middle East studies, has these academics running scared. Read on:
Lisa Anderson, the former dean of Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs best remembered for her failed attempt to bring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to campus, had a complaint yesterday for the Web publication Inside Higher Ed.

"Young scholars of Middle Eastern literature or history are finding themselves ‘grilled' about their political views in job interviews, and in some cases losing job offers as a result of their answers," Anderson said. She carefully stressed that she wasn't talking about those who study policy or the current political climate.

This situation has arisen, Anderson said, because "outside groups that are critical of those in Middle Eastern studies ... are shifting the way scholarship is evaluated."

Anderson's lamentations are part of a rising chorus from professors who consider themselves besieged by external organizations whose mission is to critique the performance of scholars. These include the one I head, Campus Watch, to which Anderson clearly alluded in her remarks.

Academic radicals have for years controlled campus debate by blackballing internal opponents, intimidating students and crying censorship whenever their views or actions were challenged.

They got away with such behavior for two principal reasons: A sympathetic media assured the nation that universities were in the front lines of the fight for liberty and justice, and there were few external organizations or individuals offering sustained critiques of politicized scholarship and teaching. These helped ensure that the public's reservoir of good will toward universities remained full.

But times are changing.

Scholars no longer operate in an information vacuum. Their words carry great weight not only with their students, who pay for and deserve far better than they receive, but with the media, which funnel their often politicized, tendentious views to a broader public. Given such influence, it should shock no one that the professoriate is scrutinized and, when found wanting, challenged.
Continue reading "Shedding Light on the Professoriate."