Another Urban Legend? Have you heard the story of the college professor who asked his class to write a mid-term essay on "Why George Bush is a war criminal," and then gave an "F" to a student who had been offended by the assignment and had instead turned in an essay on "Why Saddam Hussein is a war criminal"? In an op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Mano Singham, a researcher at Case-Western, tries to confirm his existence, or that the event actually took place, but is unable to do so. The newspaper column is here (via Cliopatria via Instapundit).
No Urban Legend After All: This link from a VC reader shows why it is very hard to prove a negative. It turns out that there IS a student at Foothill College in California named Ahmad al-Qloushi who claims this happened to him, though Media Matters--"a Web-based, not-for-profit progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media"--reports that the professor denies it. So perhaps the incident did not occur as Horowitz contends. Nevertheless, a factual dispute between two parties to an event is not an "urban legend" as claimed by Mano Singham.

What I now find truly shocking about Singham's op-ed is where he writes:
The story, even if true, also lacked the kinds of details that are required to sustain the allegation that this was indeed an abuse of power. After all, it is not uncommon for students to be assigned to take positions that they don't agree with. Being a devil's advocate is a perfectly legitimate method of sharpening one's understanding of an issue. Socrates liked it.

So I decided to track down the professor to ask what the full story was. And this is where things started to get interesting, because the professor seems to be more elusive than the Scarlet Pimpernel.

My first clue was when Horowitz was quoted as saying that the professor was from the University of Northern Colorado. The Utah Statesman newspaper wrote an article with this information on March 26, 2004, and it was reproduced on the Web site of Horowitz's organization, Front Page, which implies that he acknowledged its veracity.
Not only does the professor exist--as he is quoted by the Media Matters denying al-Qloushi's version of the events--but also on the Front Page website is a first person report of the incident by al-Qloushi (dated January 6th) that Singham somehow missed.

Don't write to point out alleged holes in al-Qloushi's story. That is not the issue. The issue is the claim made in the pages of the Cleveland Plain Dealer by Mano Singham that David Horowitz fabricated or perpetuated an urban myth. The Plain Dealer's headline for Singham's column is "That liberal fiend can't be found." Unless, that is, you look on the internet at both conservative and progressive websites.

UPDATE: I previously neglected to include the link to al-Qloushi's story on the Front Page. Here it is.

Further Update: The situation is still worse--or better. The University of Northern Colorado story is a different incident, the details of which have been substantiated here:

Our organization has been attacked in recent days by members of the media and others who questioned the validity of the story of a University of Northern Colorado student who was required to write an essay on her criminology exam explaining "why President Bush is a war criminal." When the student wrote instead about why Saddam Hussein is a war criminal, she was given a failing grade. These attacks were initiated by Prof. Mano Singham in a March 3 column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and were quickly picked up by and other internet news sources. The following report clarifies the details of the story. . . .

The student was a sophomore at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, enrolled in a three-credit Criminology course in the Sociology Department during the spring semester of 2003. The course was required for the "Criminal Justice Emphasis" for the Sociology B.A. degree. The course was taught by Assistant Professor Robert Dunkley, who is still with UNC as an Assistant Professor in the newly-formed Criminal Justice Department. The course is now offered through the Criminal Justice Department, as opposed to Sociology, which may explain why some members of the media failed to find it listed among the current course offerings in the Sociology Department at UNC. [much more detail follows]

Horowitz's Alleged "Urban Myth" Story Substantiated: In case you missed the update to my previous post, click here. It turns out that there is not one story, but two.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Horowitz's Alleged "Urban Myth" Story Substantiated:
  2. No Urban Legend After All:
  3. Another Urban Legend?