After posting my last discussion of a book review I found myself reading a completely different topic on Aljazeera’s English site: an article about the hostile reception of a book myth-busting the Bangladesh war of 1971. The author, Sarmila Bose, asks and answers the question why some reviewers published outright lies about what was written in the book even though the lies will be easily found out as soon as people start reading for themselves. She writes (my emphasis):
Second, detractors of the book claim that it exonerates the military from atrocities committed in East Pakistan in 1971. In reality the book details over several chapters many cases of atrocities committed by the regime’s forces, so anyone who says it excuses the military’s brutalities is clearly lying. The question is – why are they lying about something that will easily be found out as soon as people start reading the book? The answer to this question is more complex than it might seem. Of course the detractors hope that by making such claims they will stop people from reading the book.
I am reminded — again of a completely unrelated topic — of Niels Peter Lemche’s discussion of the tactics scholars use to divert others from reading the works of “minimalists” such as Davies, Thompson and Lemche. Denounce them as incompetent, never engage in a serious discussion with them, denounce their lack of expertise (e.g. they are not archaeologists), and, of course, outright name-calling. The actual words of Lemche are worth reading, and I have quoted him at length in The Tactics of Conservative Scholarship, which is also linked to the original article. But I quote one section here which has a disturbing connection with the reception of the work of Sarmila Bose:
Critical scholars should be critical enough to realize the tactics of the conservative scholars: never engage in a serious discussion with the minimalists. Don’t read Davies, Thompson, and Lemche; read books about them!
These tactics are a more socially acceptable form of book-burning.
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