I laughed today when I read a few articles on Harvard professor Niall Ferguson’s cover story in Newsweek attacking President Obama for his Middle East policy and his handling of the situation in Egypt (a “debacle”!). This, of course, was a bit of a contrast to the verdicts of Professor Marc Lynch (here), Fareed Zakaria (here) and Peter Beinart (here), amongst others.
Hardly anywhere did the people commenting on the piece give any background on Ferguson – which, when you have a look at it, is just a little bit relevant: to put it, em, politely, he’s a loathsome, stomach-churning, narcissistic piece of right wing manure who wouldn’t give credit to President Obama even if he single-handedly saved planet earth from destruction. And Newsweek have hired this creature as a columnist and made his rant their cover story?! Wow!
So, a little background on the guy: click here for Ferguson’s 2008 speech to the right wing Hoover Institution – entitled ‘Why America Needs McCain’ – during which he repeated all the usual right wing abuse of President Obama, eg that he’s a cult leader, bla bla bla. Snore.
This is the guy who thought he was being highly witty when he wrote: “President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat … Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky.” (He wasn’t being racist, he reassured us – after all, we were told, he’d left his wife of 16 years for a black woman).
This is the guy who said the US should “occupy Iraq for 40 years“. Seriously. This is the guy who is on the board of the right-wing British think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies. This is the guy whose political hero was Margaret Thatcher – he “adored” her. (Bucket, please).
This is the guy who “told the world to wise up and start being grateful for everything that the British Empire had done for it”. Honest, I didn’t make that up. This is the guy who was a columnist for the right wing British rag the Daily Mail (but wasn’t brave enough to use his real name when he spouted his right wing bile).
This is the guy who argued that “the First World War had not been worth Britain fighting – Germany should have been allowed a mainland European empire”. Yep, that would have worked well for Europe’s Jews, Niall.
I’m not always on Paul Krugman’s ‘side’, but I was this time: “Ferguson is a poseur who…. relies on snide comments and surface cleverness to convey the impression of wisdom. It’s all style, no comprehension of substance.”
I could go on and on ….. but I won’t. It just would be kind of nice if we were told about the ideological background and prejudices of opinion piece writers when their work is being commented upon, or when they are being introduced as authorities on a subject on TV. Ferguson’s agenda means he will always attack President Obama, regardless. And Newsweek gave that agenda pride of place on their cover? Two words: ‘good’ and ‘grief’.
Salon (2010): “Ferguson is a belligerent nut. The last time American policymakers listened to him, the United States invaded Iraq….”.
Some of the comments posted under Ferguson’s article on The Daily Beast (which, of course, has merged with Newsweek):
“Look at this piece for what it really is…another reich wing talking head trying to push his way through the crowd by throwing a pie at President Obama.”
“Newsweek needs to find some Brits who have views a little more advanced than George III.”
“He seems determined to become another extremist provocateur a la Coulter. Say outrageous things to sell books and get face time on cable. Too bad that most people who even know who he is are familiar with his claptrap and too smart to fall for his self-promotional rhetoric … The bigger disappointment is that Newsweek would put such a loaded article as its cover. Further into irrelevance it goes.”
“Professor Ferguson’s transformation from lettered, Harvard academic to conservative political hack is complete. He is the thinking man’s Glenn Beck … as his debates with Professor Krugman and his meetings with the Republican leadership pre-midterm elections have demonstrated, he has cast his lot in with the Tea Partiers and their politicians…. Don’t be fooled. Ferguson is just Glenn Beck in an academic’s cap and gown.”
“Articles like this make me so happy my Newsweek subscription is ending.”
Read Jeffrey Goldberg’s response in The Atlantic here