Does Richard Falk actually exist?

Or is he a piece of Breitbart fakery?

Or is he just a sick figment of Glenn Beck’s twisted imagination, in which “leftists” hate America and root for the people who kill Americans?

As faithful readers will know, I demonstrated years ago that there is no such person as “Governor Sarah Palin”; she’s just a Tina Fey character. Surely the same must be true of “Professor Richard Falk.”

Not only would an actual Princeton IR professor who had peddled the Ayatollah Khomeini to the American people as a freedom-loving friend of “moderates and progressives” have certainly shriveled up and died of shame when the truth came out, rather than writing incomprehensible tracts in self-justification, but even someone stupid enough to confuse Khomeini with George Washington couldn’t possibly have written this drivel, which mostly amounts to saying “Since I lack the guts to murder my fellow citizens, all I can do is cheer for those who have the guts, while celebrating the imaginary ‘decline’ of the country I so despise.”

Seriously. “Those to whom evil is done/Do evil in return”? What “evil” was done to the Brothers Tsarnaev by anyone in the United States? When their family was driven from Russia as part of the Chechen wars, the U.S. gave them asylum. They then turned around and murdered three people and wounded hundreds, none of whom they had ever met. Neither Israeli policy toward the Palestinians – of which I heartily disapprove – nor Falk’s loathing of Israel has anything to do with their actions. There’s simply not a word of logic in the entire piece; it’s just the script for a two minutes’ hate directed at America and Israel.

Since no one as loathsomely foolish as Falk could possibly exist, let alone get tenure at Princeton, I conclude that Falk does not, in fact, exist, and that someone at Breitbart simply invented the “Richard Falk” persona and website.

As I tried to explain to Tina Fey, you need to keep your satire within the bounds of plausibility, or it stops being funny.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

32 thoughts on “Does Richard Falk actually exist?”

  1. Yes, yes, Mark. We have finally discovered how to reap a harvest without having sown. Magic!

    1. Right. And I suppose the Jews of Germany must have been doing something truly evil.

      1. To suggest an equivalence between the position of the already marginalized Jews of Germany in the 1930s and that of the U.S. throwing its maldistributed weight about in the post-War world requires a finely tuned debating-society turn of mind that I’m afraid I am unable to admire.

  2. even someone stupid enough to confuse Khomeini with George Washington couldn’t possibly have written this drivel, which mostly amounts to saying “Since I lack the guts to murder my fellow citizens, all I can do is cheer for those who have the guts, while celebrating the imaginary ‘decline’ of the country I so despise.”

    I’m confused. Did we read the same essay? Falk’s comments are pretty much just the garden variety “blowback” argument, that the US shouldn’t be surprised to face terrorism attacks from self-identified fanatics because god knows we’ve done some evil stuff in the Middle East in the past couple of years – with the whole “anti-colonialism” element sprinkled on top. I think it’s simplistic and loaded with the misplaced sympathy that Falk has for anyone opposing the US, but it is worth considering the fact that the same type of stuff comes up over and over again with these people,particularly the assumption that the US is waging a war on Islam and muslim societies.

    In any case, I do agree that it’s particularly repugnant in the case of these two. They weren’t like the guys who screwed around in the US while plotting an attack in the case of 9/11 – they spent more than a decade here. In the case of the younger brother, he actually went to the gym and feigned sorrow to an acquaintance about it, which strikes me as particularly vile – it makes me wonder if he was or is an honest to god sociopath.

    1. There’s no policy against vilifying the vile. Do you complain when I say rude things about Dick Cheney?

      1. No, I complain because your post vilifying this guy follows the deletion of a comment I made comparing your approach to locking people up for pot to someone who might have said that we can’t just rush into slavery abolition, we should experiment with it in one or two states for a few years. Keith (iirc) deleted it and said that we must not vilify people.

  3. I think you’re mostly over-reading it. I didn’t care for a bunch of the essay, but to a significant degree it struck me as fairly typical of the chickens-coming-home-to-roost narrative: lots of long tl;dr paragraph about how we are doing bad things abroad with our nasty friends and so making enemies, and a brief mention in passing that if we do bad things we can expect to inspire others to do bad things to us.

    He is crass and insensitive in the way he expresses disdain for the suffering of those affected by the attacks in Boston, he desperately needs an editor, and the essay is structured terribly, but an argument that the US has by its actions abroad in many ways made a rod for its own back is practically anodyne. It would be worse were he to apparently celebrate the attack as being some sort of blow for retributive justice, or were he to venerate those enemies our misdeeds have made for us – but if he was doing any such, I really didn’t see it. I will admit though that I admit I didn’t read all 1500 words carefully.

    1. Or, to put it differently, how is the STRUCTURE of the argument any different from Ulysses S Grant’s claim that the Civil War was God’s retribution for the Mexican-American War?
      “The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times.”

      1. Because Grant was arguably right about causality, while Falk is laughably wrong. And because Grant wasn’t taking the side of the rebels, while Falk is taking the side of the murderers.

  4. Factual correction: the Tsarnaev boys apparently killed four people: three by bomb and the cop by gun. And Tamerlan may have killed three others by knife.

    1. To which I’ll add: what Warren Terra says. And I’ll also add: this kind of thinking is pretty common around the globe. Hegemons are never loved, and hegemons are hated when they blandly expect to be loved. The schadenfreude-y tones of Falk’s screed are shared around the globe. Which doesn’t make Falk morally right. We can ignore the thoughts of a silly Princeton professor, but we cannot ignore the thoughts of several billion people.

      1. The thinking may be common, but that doesn’t make it less obnoxious. The Tsarnaevs didn’t murder a hegemon; they murdered four innocent people. And the hegemon hadn’t done anything to them but provide them refuge. Falk is justifying murder. Falk him, and the horse he rode in on.

    2. Nels says that Ebenezer Scrooge, besides being a reprehensible character, may not have been able to tell his anal aperture from a hole in the ground.

  5. My problem with Richard Falk isn’t so much his long-standing disdain for the United States. Fine, he has a problem with our foreign policy; I haven’t always supported it myself. It’s that Falk always seems to conflate events that have no logical correlation, and then uses them to explain his blowback theories.

    He claims that the Tsarnaevs were motivated to bomb the marathon because of US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan (and despite, as Mark points out, the US’s utter generosity toward the brothers and their family.) The US was neutral in the case of Chechnya–if anything, popular American sentiment was with the Chechens, at least until they started bombing innocents.

    A more plausible explanation is that the two brothers were disaffected and without friends and drifted into an amorphous hatred. They’re more similar to the perpetrators of Columbine than they are to Bin Laden, though Islamofascism becomes a convenient mechanism through which to justify their anger. But Richard Falk, as always, sees strong geopolitical motivations in everything. A disaffected youth will find music, videogames, politics, ex-girlfriends, anything to justify their anger.

  6. Knowing what we now know, any direct linkage of the Marathon Bombing to American foreign policy seems tenuous. Probably the Tsarnaevs were just murderous little creeps who wanted to raise their sense of their own significance — and they hit on a numbskull jihadist conceit to rationalize and satisfy that want. Still, sad to say, this is not really very different from the real motives of most foot soldiers, many (most?)of whom are drawn from the ranks of the maginalized and disaffected. We manage to (kind of) convince our soldiers they’re making the world safe for democracy, and under that fig-leaf flag they slaughter efficiently. Ours do it mostly in the time-honored uniformed/saluting/invading way; theirs do it in more free-lance asymmetrical way. Murderous young men go with the outlets they’ve got. I imagine the psychology of the self-styled jihadist and the marine volunteer is more similar than we’d like to think — and neither is a model of just or ethical thinking.

    I don’t really understand what Mark finds so outrageous Falk’s piece. Maybe it’s a last-straw thing, the cumulative affect of Falk’s “loathing” critique of Israel (I have no idea if that’s an accurate characterization), but Falk’s piece has plenty of sound logic in it, and in no way resembles Mark’s paraphrase and description of it. Very odd.

    1. over the years as i’ve read this blog i’ve noticed that there exists a small number of writers, harshly critical of u.s. foreign policy, about whom mr. kleiman has never been able to read objectively. this piece reminds me of his most recent rant about noam chomsky. i’m not sure what it is exactly that makes mr. kleiman get so incoherently angry when he discusses chomsky or falk but the obvious anger does not improve his arguments.

      1. I’ve been noticing that pattern too. In those two cases particularly, and based on the proportion of ad hominem content, my guess is that it has something to do with internecine arguing in the anti-Vietnam War movement. I give Mark credit for putting it out there. I’m not sure it adds to the sense of reasoned discourse that generally makes this site attractive, but this _is_ a mostly personal blog, after all, and everybody’s got their own little mishegases. May as well enjoy Mark’s.

    2. See above. I find the justification of random murder outrageous, whether it’s by Richard Falk or Noam Chomsky. And I find it more outrageous when it’s by someone of certified intellectual eminence. And I find it most outrageous when it helps the right-wing narrative that progressives hate America. The fact that Falk and Chomsky are fringe figures politically while similar nutcases on the right are in the GOP mainstream is what I like about the Blue team, and I want to keep it that way.

      1. I think most or all of the commenters disagreeing with you here – certainly all of the regular commenters disagreeing with you – would share your judgment that the justification of random murder would be outrageous. The question is whether Falk’s piece really crosses that bridge: whether it attempts to justify the Tsarnaevs’ actions, or to explainthem, to claim to know why the Tsarnaevs might have felt motivated to do what they did, without excusing their actions. I wasn’t impressed by Falk’s essay, and thought he was disdainful of the victims and couldn’t be bothered to seem particularly upset about the Tsarnaevs’ actions, but I didn’t see him going over that line; at most, he seemed smugly satisfied that his criticisms of American Foreign Policy were being echoed and reinforced by what he sees as the ability of American Foreign Policy to inspire murderous levels of rage and resentment.

  7. I read Doyle McManus’ column this morning in the LAT and came across Falk’s name for the first time (maybe that’s why you’re bringing him up). What I found annoying was that McManus, the quintessential “both sides do it” columnist, at least here in LA, balances John Yoo’s views that we must expand the security state with Richard Falk’s view on “resistance” to the “American global domination project.” Never mind that Yoo was a key member of the Bush administration and Falk is some fringe guy at Princeton, both sides do it, can’t we just come down in the reasonable center?

  8. Just for the record, wikipedia says Falk retired from Princeton about a dozen years ago and has been affiliated with a research center at UCSB. A current controversy revolves around his role as a UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian human rights question since 2008. It appears he’s in his early 80s.

  9. When Rick Santorum was running in the primaries last year, he took time off to be with his little girl who has trisomy 18. Anyone with a heart understood that a sick child takes priority over everything else. (Aside: when he signed little Bella up for a lifetime membership in the NRA, all need for empathy toward him ceased.) The problem with him was that he did not understand that there are middle class families with similarly sick children just as precious to them as his daughter is to him, but who need assistance in affording health care for them, and for whom the market fails to deliver this care. He did not get it.

    Similarly, at some point we need to get it that “collateral damage” is happening in remote parts of the world when bombs are dropped in our name, killing 8 year old boys and girls who are just as loved by their parents as our 8 year olds are beloved by us. We may officially “regret” these killings, but do we actually grasp the degree to which the families of the dead are bereaved by the manner in which we wage our overseas wars for dubious reasons?

    We need to have a way of empathizing as deeply with the families of innocent victims of drone attacks as we do with the families of the victims in Boston. We need to have a way of saying, “My God, what have we done?” This is not hatred of America; it is the minimal level of consciousness required to claim the status of a moral nation. The more we lack the reasoned public voices which bring us to this level of self-awareness, the more we will hear from other voices whose logic may be more jarring to our ears.

    1. “New CIA chief John Brennan in February acknowledged that the drone strikes sometimes miss the mark and kill innocent civilians, but he defended the program saying the U.S. paid the families of people it accidentally killed. He commented, “Where possible, we also work with local governments to gather facts, and, if appropriate, provide condolence payments to families of those killed.”

      Condolence payments range from $1,000 to $7,500 according to various reports [1][2][3], depending on the circumstances.”

  10. Falk’s commentary is perhaps relevant to some terrorists, but not at all to the Tsarnaevs, who were disaffected little failures, the product of a failed family and a failed culture, who chose in accordance with their disaffection to act out in a particularly young-arrogant-male-sociopathic-tending way.

    The political aspect of their back-story is a mere substrate on which they chose to apply their vicious lashing out at innocent others: a tiny child, a Chinese graduate student, a young woman cheering a friend on, a valiant and community-minded law enforcement officer.

    These vicious little pricks didn’t hate America; to the contrary, they relished and enjoyed it — they loved the freedom to move about and make plans, the lack of “show us your papers” thugocracy whence they originated, the comparatively exuberant economy in which a woman (of all creatures!) could work to support one of them and his child, the scholarship kindly given the other by the very town in which he lived, the lively universities where they could improve their minds, the night life, the clubs, the schools, the gyms, the public benefits, very roads and streets supplied free of charge to them by the people which they attacked …

    They definitely preferred this kind, active, and open society to any of the three lawless, ill-begotten, benighted, and impoverished Central Eurasian “republics” to which they could lawfully have returned at any time if their hate for America and Americans had had any rational basis whatsoever.

    That’s pretty much the whole story. It was irrational, arrogant, violence-loving egotism, coupled with an ego-justifying fundamentalist-religious hallucination, that drove these to to mass murder and mass mayhem.

    Sorry, Falk, but global imperialist hegemony had nothing to do with it.

  11. Nobody drove the Tsarnaevs from Russia. The fact that their parents are living in Russia, and that older son travel there proves that they go to the Western countries, hoping to live on the dole. When THAT doesn’t happen, they turn around and bite the hand that feeds them. It has happened in Poland, in Austria, Norway and other countries that took them in, naively believing your propaganda that they are in danger in Russia, It is THEY who endanger everybody around them. I lived in Kazakhstan when Stalin seb-=nt them there for killing Soviet troops and collaborating with German army. They were feared universally, because they do, believe it or not, cut the sheep heads right on the streets, and with the same ease cut heads of the “infidels”. I, an old lady, was attacked on the streets of St.Petersburg simply because I, a woman, did not move out of the barbarian’s way quickly enough! I was recovering after the breast cancer operation. The barbarian simply pushed me out of jis way, and I fell. He kept going and pushing everybody with his shoulders. When I loudly complained, he turned around and told me that if I don’t shot up, he will come back and cut me up. I was so enraged that I got up and told him to come back and fight a 65-year old. He left… My American-born granddaughters came to Russia for a visit… On the train to Moscow we had the fourth passenger on the overnight ride – the Chechen. I told girls that if he tries to molest them at night they should not hesitate ti yell. The Politically correct university students not only laughed at me – they berated me for stereotyping the Muslims.. Guess what?! In the middle of the night the one that slept across from me squeezed my hand – the animal was worming his hand under the sleeping girl’s blanket! When I complained to the car attendant, he told the barbarians that one more attempt, and he personally would throw him off the train while train is moving full speed.
    The statistics in Russian newspapers are horrible. The migrants -Muslims rape children, knife men, rob banks, steal cars, murder and maim. Keep them here, and I assure you, Boston and Twin Towers would not be the last! Don’t you understand the plain truth – we are Kafirs, Infidels, we do not follow the glorious teachings of Quaran, therefore our lives are forfeited.

  12. Take-home lesson: we simply must not allow ourselves to rely on a bunch of dorks and losers to call upon us to attend to the better angels of our nature.

    1. Or to put it a different way, “We simply must not take moral advice from murderers and their admirers.”

  13. I haven’t followed Dr. Falk’s career over the years, but I first heard of him when I was in high school, and, as a rule of thumb, anyone who was anyone when I was in high school (leaving aside some athletes and then-young entertainers) is, on the odds, dead.

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