To the Editor:
In his past two Yale Daily News columns (April 14 and 23) Jim Sleeper has called us both “neo-Stalinist” and “Stalinist” as the result of an article we wrote criticizing the remarks of two professors at an April 9 antiwar teach-in. Sleeper claims that our article is representative of a “neo-Stalinism wafting up — from YCL of the 1930s — the Young Communist League and its right-wing counterparts.”
There is nothing “neo-Stalinist” about criticizing the views of a professor who openly claims that the war in Iraq is a product of Jews whose goal it is to aid the “expansion of Israel over the local population.” This is the contemporary variant of the classic anti-Semitic imputation of dual-loyalty that used to have its home on the far right of the American political spectrum.
In his most recent column, “The preaching of hate to the already converted,” one of Sleeper’s complaints is that our article employed ad hominem arguments. This claim flies in the face of his response to a critical reader who asked him, “Doesn’t the irony of your own words in this column strike a chord with your (supposed) sensitivity to and for civility?” Sleeper wrote to the reader, “I’m sorry to tell you that you are writing in utter ignorance–It was not the [Johnson and Kirckick] article which I accused of being ad hominem. You should have read more carefully.”
This type of dishonest argumentation has been characteristic of Sleeper since the day his initial piece was published. He both attributes statements to us that we never made and denies making statements that are the centerpieces of his columns. He has littered his columns with offensive personal remarks, resering the right to revoke them as he sees fit while accosting his readers (and us) for their ignorance.
The comments made at the teach-in should not go without a forceful response from students. Sleeper’s imputation of neo-Stalinism and Stalinism to me while seeking to instruct me in civility and the avoidance of ad hominem argument is ironic. Our denunciation of the statements we heard at the teach-in had nothing to do with Stalinism, neo- or otherwise. It had to do with dispelling lies and giving them the forceful condemnation they warrant, a task a former journalist like Sleeper should understand.
Eliana Johnson ’06
James Kirchick ’06
April 23, 2003