Friday Ephemera

Fish, Fried

Professor Stanley Fish is often to be found on the wrong side of an argument. Formerly an avowed postmodernist and now just a professional tenured contrarian, Fish once told his students that theorising and deconstruction “relieves me of the obligation to be right… and demands only that I be interesting” – an endeavour in which he, like many of his peers, has all too often failed. As, for instance, when Fish rushed to defend Social Text from the ridicule of Alan Sokal. More recently, Professor Fish excused the ongoing creep of campus speech codes with the most glib and dismissive of arguments, airily untroubled by the practicalities of what he was defending.

Fish’s latest campaign targets Salman Rushdie and his criticism of the withdrawal by Random House of Sherry Jones’ novel about Muhammad’s child bride, Aisha.

Over at B&W, Ophelia Benson is none too pleased:

Stanley Fish is a smug bastard. This is not news, but he’s smugger than usual in his New York Times blog post on Rushdie and Spellberg and Jones. The first sentence is a staggerer.

Salman Rushdie, self-appointed poster boy for the First Amendment, is at it again.

That just irritates the bejesus out of me. Self-appointed? Poster boy? At it again? Excuse me? He could hardly have been less self-appointed - it was the Ayatollah and his murderous illegal bloodthirsty ‘fatwa’ that appointed Rushdie a supporter of free speech, not Rushdie. And Rushdie defends free speech in general, not the First Amendment in particular; how parochial of smug sneery Fish to conflate the two. And ‘poster boy’; that's just stupid as well as insultingly patronizing: Rushdie doesn’t swan around with a crutch, he makes arguments in support of free speech. And ‘at’ what again? ‘At’ saying that publishers shouldn’t give in to threats either from Islamists or from academics speaking for notional Islamists or ‘offended’ Muslims who in some distant subjunctive world might be ‘offended’ by a novel about Muhammad’s child ‘bride’? Now that’s ‘self-appointed’…

It gets better.

An example of Salman Rushdie “at it” can be found here.