Professor Edward Said, one of the most honored and influential academics of his generation, died today of leukemia.
Said was a bad man. His book Orientalism influenced an entire generation of scholars for the worse. He was both the leading Western advocate for the Palestinian cause, and himself a purported Palestinian refugee. He criticized Yasser Arafat for not being aggressive enough toward the Israelis. He was not just an apologist for terrorism, but was himself a rock-throwing rioter. He was an inveterate liar, who falsified his own biography, transforming himself from the son of a wealthy Cairo businessman into a Palestinian refugee, ostensibly driven from Jerusalem by the Jews, to solidify his position as a Palestinian spokesman.
None of this lessened his political influence or impaired his standing as an academic. He belonged to a generation of university professors for whom being a leftist sufficiently validated all that he wrote, no matter how hateful or demonstrably false. Today he was eulogized at great length by the New York Times as “an exemplar of American multiculturalism.” The Times repeats, in summary, Said’s false autobiography, as though it were factual. The article notes later that his claim to have been a Palestinian refugee has been refuted, and concludes the subject by quoting Said, speaking of the fiction which he elaborated in a series of books and articles spanning a lifetime: “I don’t think it’s that important in any case.”
Said’s demise reminds me that according to traditional Christian theology, men are judged not when they die, but only at the Last Judgment at the end of time. Why? It is premature to judge a man when he dies; the good and evil that he does live on after him and time must go by before the consequences of his acts fully emerge. I fear that the consequences of Said’s malign influence will be with us for a long time to come.
UPDATE: The Trunk pointed out these observations on Said and his career by three University of Washington professors as a counterpoint to the eulogies you’ll probably see in the mainstream press. He was truly a repellent character, as his own words make clear.
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