When Great In­sti­tu­tions Lie – Part I

So long as in­sti­tu­tions pay no price for the ex­ploita­tion of their name by agenda-driven mem­bers, they will not rein in their mem­bers

The Jewish Voice - - OP-ED - By: Caro­line Glick

Over the past week, two ma­jor US in­sti­tu­tions have pro­duced stud­ies that dis­credit their names and rep­u­ta­tions as cred­i­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions. Their ac­tions are im­por­tant in and of them­selves. But they also point to a dis­turb­ing trend in the US in which the cred­i­bil­ity of im­por­tant Amer­i­can in­sti­tu­tions is be­ing un­der­mined from within by their mem­bers who pur­sue nar­row par­ti­san or ide­o­log­i­cal agen­das in the name of their in­sti­tu­tions.

The po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions of this larger trend were clearly in ev­i­dence in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. From a larger, longterm so­ci­o­log­i­cal per­spec­tive, if the cur­rent trend is not re­versed the im­pli­ca­tions for Amer­i­can so­ci­ety will likely be long last­ing and deeply de­struc­tive.

The first study was pro­duced by the US Holo­caust Memo­rial Mu­seum. It dealt with the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion's poli­cies re­gard­ing the war in Syria and specif­i­cally the acts of mass mur­der un­der­taken by the As­sad regime. Authored by Cameron Hud­son, a for­mer Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion na­tional se­cu­rity of­fi­cial who now serves as the di­rec­tor of the mu­seum's Si­mon-Skjodt Cen­ter for the Preven­tion of Geno­cide, the re­port ab­solved the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of all re­spon­si­bil­ity of the blood­bath in Syria.

As re­ported by Tablet mag­a­zine, the pa­per ar­gued that “a va­ri­ety of fac­tors, which were more or less fixed, made it very dif­fi­cult from the be­gin­ning for the US gov­ern­ment to take ef­fec­tive ac­tion to pre­vent atroc­i­ties in Syria.”

The pa­per's claim was based on “com­pu­ta­tional mod­el­ing and game the­ory meth­ods, as well as in­ter­views with ex­perts and pol­icy-mak­ers.” It ar­gued that had then-pres­i­dent Barack Obama not ig­nored his own red­line and ac­tu­ally re­sponded with force to the regime's 2013 chem­i­cal weapons at­tack at Ghouta, it wouldn't have made a dif­fer­ence.

In the last months of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, Obama ap­pointed sev­eral of his loy­al­ists, in­clud­ing his deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Ben Rhodes, to po­si­tions on the board of the Holo­caust Memo­rial Mu­seum. Rhodes was one of the ar­chi­tects of Obama's Syria pol­icy.

Af­ter sec­tions of the re­port were re­leased to Tablet and the re­port was posted on the mu­seum's web­site, its find­ings were an­grily re­jected by prom­i­nent Jewish com­mu­nal lead­ers and hu­man rights ac­tivists.

For in­stance, lit­er­ary critic Leon Wieseltier told Tablet, “The first thing I have to say is: Shame on the Holo­caust Mu­seum.”

He added, “If I had the time I would gin up a par­ody ver­sion of this that will give us the com­pu­ta­tionalmod­el­ing al­go­rith­mic coun­ter­fac­tual anal­y­sis of [thenUS as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of war] John J. McCloy's de­ci­sion not to bomb the Auschwitz ovens in 1944. I'm sure we could con­coct the f***ing al­go­rithm for that, too.”

Wieseltier was ex­actly right. A math­e­mat­i­cal model is based on in­puts and out­puts. If you in­put spe­cific data, you will get spe­cific con­se­quences. From an aca­demic per­spec­tive, the study's find­ings are worth­less.

In the wake of the firestorm the re­port pro­voked, the mu­seum pulled the study from its web­site and can­celed its sched­uled for­mal pre­sen­ta­tion on Septem­ber 11.

But the dam­age that the Holo­caust Memo­rial Mu­seum did to its rep­u­ta­tion by pro­duc­ing and pub­lish­ing a trans­par­ently false, po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated re­port is not some­thing that can be mit­i­gated by pulling it from its web­site.

As some of the Jewish com­mu­nal lead­ers who spoke to Tablet sug­gested, the Holo­caust Memo­rial Mu­seum di­min­ished its moral author­ity as an in­sti­tu­tion by pub­lish­ing a re­port clearly pro­duced to re­write re­cent his­tory in a man­ner that ab­solved the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of all re­spon­si­bil­ity for the mass mur­der in Syria.

While dis­tress­ing, the im­pact of the Holo­caust Memo­rial Mu­seum's ac­tion is lim­ited to a his­tor­i­cal false­hood. The goal of the sec­ond study pub­lished this week by an es­teemed in­sti­tu­tion is to dis­tort and in­deed block dis­cus­sion about a prob­lem that is on­go­ing.

This week, Stan­ford Univer­sity's Re­search Group in Ed­u­ca­tion and Jewish Stud­ies pub­lished a re­port which pur­ports to show that there is no sig­nif­i­cant an­ti­semitism on US col­lege cam­puses and that Jewish stu­dents do not feel threat­ened by an­ti­semitism.

The Stan­ford's con­clu­sions fly in the face of a mas­sive body of data, col­lected by re­searchers over the past decade, which all show the op­po­site to be the case. If the Stan­ford study is be­lieved, it will dis­credit the work of hun­dreds of pro­fes­sional re­searchers and aca­demics, jour­nal­ists and Jewish and aca­demic lead­ers through­out the US.

But that's the thing of it. The Stan­ford study is ut­ter non­sense.

As the re­searchers, led by As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor of Ed­u­ca­tion of Jewish Stud­ies Ari Kel­man, made clear in their re­port, their study is the prod­uct of in­ter­views with a de­lib­er­ately cho­sen, non-rep­re­sen­ta­tive group of 66 Jewish stu­dents from five Cal­i­for­nia cam­puses who are not in­volved in Jewish life.

The re­searchers said that they de­lib­er­ately chose only Jews who aren't in­volved in Jewish life on cam­pus, since they make up the ma­jor­ity of Jewish stu­dents on cam­puses. The re­searchers claimed that re­ports on cam­pus anti-Semitism are gen­er­ally dis­torted, be­cause they gen­er­ally high­light the views of the mi­nor­ity of stu­dents who deeply in­volved in Jewish life at their uni­ver­si­ties. Their views, the re­searchers said, are dif­fer­ent from the views of Jews who aren't in­volved.

There is cer­tainly a valid ar­gu­ment to be made for re­search­ing the views of un­in­volved Jewish stu­dents about anti-Semitism on cam­pus. But the re­searchers didn't do that. They didn't sur­vey a ran­dom, and there­fore sta­tis­ti­cally mean­ing­ful sam­ple of un­in­volved Jews.

They went to great length to en­sure that the “un­in­volved” Jewish stu­dents were their sort of “un­in­volved” Jewish stu­dents. As they wrote, “We screened stu­dents with re­spect to their ac­tiv­i­ties in or­der to de­ter­mine whether or not they fit our gen­eral cri­te­ria so as to min­i­mize those with vastly dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tions of ‘in­volve­ment' than ours.”

Armed with their painstak­ingly se­lected, non­rep­re­sen­ta­tive 66 Jewish stu­dents, Kel­man and his team con­cluded that all the re­searchers who have con­duct-

ed sta­tis­ti­cally rel­e­vant stud­ies of Jewish stu­dents on US univer­sity cam­puses are wrong. There isn't a prob­lem with an­ti­semitism on cam­pus. All the Jewish stu­dents the re­searchers spoke with felt per­fectly safe on their cam­puses as Jews.

Caro­line Glick is the Di­rec­tor of the David Horowitz Free­dom Cen­ter's Is­rael Se­cu­rity Project and the Se­nior Con­tribut­ing Ed­i­tor of The Jerusalem Post. For more in­for­ma­tion on Ms. Glick's work, visit car­o­lineglick. com.

Caro­line Glick writes: “But the dam­age that the Holo­caust Memo­rial Mu­seum (pic­tured above) did to its rep­u­ta­tion by pro­duc­ing and pub­lish­ing a trans­par­ently false, po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated re­port is not some­thing that can be mit­i­gated by pulling it from its web­site”

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