Leading Jewish historian Norman Finkelstein on academic scholarship, telling the truth about the Middle East, Alan Dershowitz and Christopher Hitchens:
There’s no “intellectual” battle with Dershowitz. On his part there’s no summoning of facts or elegant use of logic. It’s just bar mitzvah speeches. He doesn’t know anything, I doubt if he’s read more than a half-dozen books on the topic. I don’t entirely fault him. You can’t defend high profile spousal murderers like O.J. Simpson, high profile sexual predators like Jeffrey Epstein, and high profile mass murderers like Radovan Karadzic, yet still have time left over to do serious scholarship. What he does is entertainment; it’s a circus. He’s like Hitchens. No one really cares about the facts Hitchens brings to bear. He could be making one case today and the opposite case tomorrow. Would anybody notice? They’re just interested in the rococo tapestry he weaves around the facts. You don’t walk away saying, “I’ve learned X, Y or Z from Hitchens,” you walk away saying, “Wasn’t that a witty line? Wasn’t that a clever repartee?”
It’s the same thing with Dershowitz — of course, Dershowitz is not witty or clever. You don’t learn anything and you don’t expect to. I live near Coney Island. It’s like the popular sideshow “Shoot the Freak.” I haven’t read a journal of intellectual opinion in years. Gandhi’s collected works come to 90 volumes. Most of it consists of letters, quite a few on diet. There’s more moral seriousness in one Gandhi letter to an anonymous correspondent on treating constipation than nearly the whole of our intellectual life.