People claiming to be Barnard-Columbia alumni have sunk to a new low in their campaign to deny Nadia Abu El Haj tenure. Last month, they created a website attacking Abu El Haj and urging people to sign Paula Stern’s scurrilous petition. Nothing new in people creating websites attacking others. But what is especially pernicious about this website (whose existence was reported to me by an indignant reader) is that its URL essentially appropriates Abu El Haj’s own name: nadiaabuelhaj.com. I find this shocking and my reader had this to say:
How ethical is it to take someone’s actual name and use it as the domain for a website attacking them? This strikes me as disgusting, verging on personal violation.
I think this site is a disgraceful, shabby exercise in cowardly intellectual terrorism.
“Intellectual terrorism.” I like the phrase. Sorry I didn’t think of it myself.
But stealing Abu El Haj’s name is par for the course for the campaigners against her. They have fabricated quotations from her work, mischaracterized her arguments and lied about her through their teeth. What would stop them from stealing their enemy’s own name to do a hatchet job on her? They probably think it’s a terribly clever thing to do.
The second most sleazy thing about this site is its complete anonymity. Again hear my reader:
Who is behind it? No names, affiliations or backgrounds are given. How can they be contacted? There is no e-mail or other address for this ‘campaign’.
Here is what the site owners say about themselves:
We are a committee of Barnard and Columbia graduates who have never stopped caring about our alma mater.
But don’t ask how to contact them because you can’t as my reader wrote. So why the secretiveness? What are these people afraid of? If they are a committee why can’t they name themselves? If there’s is a public campaign why are they incommunicado?
The third most sleazy thing they do is feature at their site in their entirety copyrighted articles written by authors from whom they have largely not received permission to reproduce their content. I could find only one article which specifically states they have the author’s permission to republish. I have written to several of the other authors making them aware that their material is featured at this site and asking whether they approved publication at a site which advocates denying Abu El Haj tenure. Have these people agreed, in effect, to lend their names to this campaign? Are these authors aware of the unsavory tactics of both this site and the entire anti-tenure campaign?
For example, does Sondra Rubenstein know that this site has appropriated her work and featured it under the banner “Deny Nadia Abu El Haj Tenure?” Does Ralph Harrington know they have done the same to him? I find it laughable that the website has a copyright notice when they so flagrantly flaunt copyright in appropriating the material of others. Do all the scholars quoted know they their words have been used to serve the machinations of an anonymous committee in its holy war against Abu El Haj?
No doubt, owners of the anti-Abu El Haj site may read this and alter their site accordingly. Personally, I hope they don’t. But I want others to see the site as it is now to confirm what I write here.
If this is all that the anti-Abu El Haj forces can muster then they are indeed a morally and intellectually discredited lot. They only make it that much easier for Columbia to finally approve Abu El Haj’s tenure application by their antics.