The day after my column Feeding the Dragon (see previous post) was published in the Daily Gleaner the indefatigable Jacqueline Bishop tried once again to draw me into a Facebook spat by tagging me in her snarky response to my piece (see above). On a previous occasion when Bishop did this (that time it was an article by Seph Rodney in the online art forum, Hyperallergic) I politely declined to engage saying that although she was clearly spoiling for a fight, she wouldn’t get any satisfaction from me. I had responded to the article in question on Hyperallergic’s website and saw no reason, I said, to explain myself to Bishop on Facebook. Bishop then proceeded to troll Seph Rodney, the author of the article, and myself, both on Facebook and in the comments section of the Hyperallergic article. Her seemingly proprietary interest in the matter has never been made clear.
This time around I decided to do what they advise you not to do, which is feed the trolls. Feeding them only emboldens trolls and gives them an opportunity to amplify their attacks. But since I was curious about the nature of these attacks by Bishop and how low she would stoop this time, I decided to respond, albeit tongue in cheek.
In the sorry exchange that follows (excerpts from which can be found at the end of this post) Bishop calls me a dunce and a simpleton who needs to take basic lessons at “the institution where I work” (the University of the West Indies), as well as an ‘elite’ benefitting from the colonization of the Caribbean. The vehemence and the venom with which she excoriates me might lead one to think that I had advocated something similar to Bruce Gilley’s infamous Third World Quarterly article called “The Case for Colonialism” which is exciting much comment and vituperation right now on social media and elsewhere.
Yet all I had done was mildly suggest, based on interviews with scholars such as Richard Bernal (Pro Vice-Chancellor, Global Affairs, University of the West Indies) and artist Bryan McFarlane who has had a studio in Beijing for a decade now, that perhaps the accusation of ‘colonialism’ to describe the relationship between China and the Caribbean might be overstated.
Bishop takes exception to my quoting McFarlane saying that the Chinese are new at ‘colonizing’ in the classical sense of the word, having had little or no history of European-style colonizing of the planet. This leaves Bishop incredulous and she lists Japan, Thailand, Korea and Tibet as counter-examples. But, as an eminent writer said, after reading her comments, she seems not to know the difference between ‘colonization’ and ‘invasion’, a rather crucial distinction in this instance.
My article is a far cry from Gilley’s which asserts that colonialism is a force for good in the world, anti-colonial sentiment is ‘preposterous’ and a new program of colonization is needed, “with Western powers taking over the governing functions of less developed countries.” As outrageous as his article is, Gilley hasn’t attracted the kind of ad hominem attacks I have from Bishop. Whereas it has been widely ridiculed, the standard of put-down has been considerably superior to the abuse that was lobbed at me, with the following example being a stand-out in my opinion:
Crispin Bates: Next week’s special issue could be about why we need to bring back castrati in order to restore the quality of Italian opera. This author and Shashi Tharoor seem almost perfect mirrors of one another. Are they related by any chance?
Dilip Menon: There would be high-pitched objections to that surely.
But at the end of the day, the wittiest take-down isn’t enough to discredit an article appearing in a respected academic journal even if many consider it self-evidently absurd. Hooting and cackling on Facebook isn’t going to do it, you actually have to engage with it, demolishing it by systematically countering its arguments with historical facts and evidence. This is what Nathan Robinson does in the latest issue of Current Affairs saying that it’s worth responding to the case Gilley makes because he appears to be sincere and the article appeared in a mainstream journal, and the sentiments it expresses are somewhat common:
I go into this level of detail because I think it’s crucial to show that Gilley’s article is not a serious work of scholarship. I think the gut reaction of many people will be that Gilley’s arguments are “self-evidently” absurd. But apparently this is not the case, because the Third World Quarterly chose to publish them.
Unfortunately, neither I nor the Daily Gleaner was afforded this courtesy by Bishop who chose instead to insinuate that the Gleaner’s fact-checkers had fallen asleep. The abusive tone of her responses on Facebook hardly shows either Bishop or New York University where she is a clinical associate professor, in a good light. It’s important to note, especially for those not familiar with the American academy that a clinical professor is not the same as a specialized, tenure-track research professor or what in our system is called a lecturer. You would hardly see such professors/lecturers resorting to the kind of cyber-bullying that Bishop seems to revel in.
Bishop is a highly regarded writer and art impresario who occasionally writes for The Huffington Post and I have given her no cause, personally, to nourish a grudge against me. The raging desire to belittle and discredit me displayed in the screenshots of our Facebook exchange below requires some other explanation. Perhaps she is acting on someone else’s behalf?
Whatever her motives are I would urge Bishop the next time she decides to publicly berate me, to not tag me in her posts. Despite her repeated claims that “no malice is intended” she might find herself running afoul of the Jamaican Cybercrimes Act. “Use of a computer for malicious communication,” is actually a thing here.
Below are snippets of the Facebook exchange that followed Bishop’s opening salvo, quoted at the top of this post.