Thursday, December 20, 2007

We're Having More Fun Than A Barrel of Crackers; or, What We Do When We Blog

You may not understand this post if you don't read the comments to the previous one. I'm just warning you.

But if you don't have the patience for that, dear reader, I can give you the short version. I am responding here to several important questions raised in the recent (or ongoing, depending on when you tuned in) controversy at Tenured Radical. The questions are: what is a blog supposed to do, and what makes it credible? And should the Radical have revealed her associations with certain reviled faculty at Duke at an earlier stage so that readers might evaluate the objectivity of the blogger and -- it is implied -- her capacity to tell the truth? "Are you or have you ever been?" shouted the committee chair, pounding his fist on the lectern and glowering at the witness and her attorneys.

Well, here is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: I have friends at a lot of colleges and universities, which is the kind of thing that happens if you are professionally active and interested in others. I can't always be telling you who they are, in part because you would think I was a swell-headed name-dropper for having so many of them, and in part because people might start writing me and saying, "Hey, you know that friendship thing? Well I hate to break it to you, but, ahem; uh -- well, when you didn't return that phone call...." And I think it is an open question whether warm, or even merely respectful, feelings toward a group of people undermines one's "objectivity" about them more than, say, hostile feelings and bad experiences with other academics might. And friendship is no more undermining to your objectivity than getting a big book contract or a movie deal: if you don't believe me, ask Simon Schama or Stephen Ambrose, why don't you? And even if it does cause people to worry about my capacity to tell the truth, I'll still take the big advance on the next book, thank you very much. Ka-ching!

For the non-historians who are readers here, I would also like to note that, among the Sisters and Brothers of the Past, objectivity is no simple thing and it is not a word we normally use as a curse, or to define political battles. It is, in fact, a major source of disagreement between some conservative historians and -- let's just say "others," to avoid polarizing - whether it is either possible or desirable to present only "the facts" and let the reader decide "truth" for him or herself. Facts without narrative are either dull and unreadable or unintelligible; and narrative, as Hayden White and others have argued, is inevitable drawn from a set of readily interpretable story lines: comedy, tragedy, romance and heroism.

These thoughts on objectivity draw on a useful and vibrant discussion among historians over a decade ago, and in my own department, triggered by the publication of Peter Novick's very intelligent and controversial book, That Noble Dream. Novick, who could generously be described as a centrist (and who I perceive as more conservative in his views than not, particularly in his views of social history and cultural history) came to the conclusion that objectivity wasn't something one could "have," but only something one could aspire to. In the ensuing discussion, in hallways and in journals, it became clear to me that there is no dominant consensus in the profession at all as to whether objectivity is either possible or desirable, since one always has to place evidence in a narrative, temporal or theoretical context. Historians were never objective, and looking back fondly to an imagined past before feminism, race, sexuality or post-colonial theory made their impact on the discipline is only nostalgic (for some people, at least), not a reflection of our actual history as scholars of the past. Arguments -- and in order to write history or any scholarship you must have an argument -- always rely on a theory, no matter how subtly drawn upon.

To relate this subject to blogging, I understand that KC Johnson tells the "truth" as he understands it. But even setting aside the abysmal quality of many of his readers' comments, Durham in Wonderland was never objective and it made a powerful argument. It was, drawing on White's thinking on the subject, a heroic narrative about a set of complex events that were difficult for outsiders to understand without that argument because those events took place in an elite, closed world that was more or less alien to them, a fact that Johnson reassured them they could be proud -- not ashamed --of. It relied on a set of recognizable characters for its appeal, its intensity and its credibility: it was a story with villains, self-serving bosses, fools, Keystone Kops, man-hating feminists, white-hating black and brown people, arrogant college professors, a Jezebel and "innocent" white men victimized by chance and circumstance (I once compared the intensity of feeling about the lacrosse players among DIW readers to the cult of the Confederate dead, and if you are a southern historian, you will see the similarities.) KC crafted a tense, readable narrative, one that also made his readers into "heroes" as they were inducted into the role of detective and led through the labyrinth of fact and law by their leader and teacher. And I can't tell you how many people have written to me privately to say that KC Johnson, whatever else he may be to you or me or his fans, is a great teacher. Go back and read some blog entries with that in mind and it will jump out at you. Do a little research on Google and you will understand that he also brought a great deal to this role as teacher to the masses. But I want to emphasize my point here, even as I bring this professional accomplishment to your attention: being a great history teacher is not necessarily about being objective -- it is about creating a powerful, implicit and explicit argument as you convey facts about the past. It is about being credible and compelling, it is about possessing an intuition about who the audience is and how to get to them. It is about crafting a classroom persona that is sufficiently heroic to compel attention and cause learning to occur.

How do I know this (I can hear the howls already)? I know this because I am also a great teacher, and I recognize another great teacher when I see one, even though I intensely dislike what is being taught and think it is ethically, if perhaps not always factually, wrong. And as for attacks on my own credibility by the DIW crowd: people who don't like my work, and don't think it teaches them anything, don't have to read it. It's really easy. Get rid of the bookmark on your browser, Dawg.

And the heroic narrative has obscured one thing that deserves to be highlighted, as we write the history of this thing. As I noted earlier, part of the pleasure of DIW for its participants has been in "playing detective" -- being part of an imagined community (as Benedict Anderson would say) that now sees itself as a "winning team" and a necessary adjunct to the "winning" Duke lacrosse team. The job of continuing to batter new "enemies" is the only way to sustain that euphoria for DIW's readers, and they will do it here and anywhere else for as long as they can. But the heavy lifting on the lacrosse legal case was not done at Durham in Wonderland, regardless of claims among readers that the blog author played a decisive role in the case. Corruption was defeated -- as it usually is, not by "the people" but by well-paid, experienced attorneys and their staffs, and by the fact that the defendants had access to such people in the first place, not underfunded public defenders who had no money or time to challenge the system. That is the world most people -- poor, of color, immigrant -- in America live in, and the Duke lacrosse case has not changed the system one iota.

But to return to the question of my credibility, KC's view of what a blog, and a teacher, should do to retain and maintain credibility is something I would describe as highly corporate, the theory being that readers can stop worrying about whether the story is true, in whole or in part, once they come to trust the hero-narrator. For example, to shift away from academia for a parallel argument: we should read some blogs for the same reason we buy Nabisco products -- because Nabisco has accumulated, over time, a reputation for making delicious, healthy food. And yet, this too is a highly constructed narrative that is only partly true and has shifted over time. Historians may recall that Nabisco, in eliminating the "cracker barrel" at the turn of the 20th century and wrapping its products individually, did so to create an illusion -- by assertion -- that their food was safe. No one actually went to the factory and looked: rather, the gaze of the consumer was re-directed to the shop owner and the shelf. And of course now we know that Nabisco products are full of crap ingredients that many of us are quite certain are no good for us. Food can simultaneously be "healthy," "safe" and "delicious," but one category does not guarantee the others. Some of us believe that preservatives, transfats, refined flour and sugar are more or less safe, others of us don't: but they are all legal. And large numbers of people are completely unaware that what tastes so delicious -- an Oreo, say -- is lacking in any food value whatsoever. Others know this and don't care, while some of us would prefer to drink raw corn oil than eat an Oreo.

Now I am not saying that KC is an Oreo maker (given my experience, it is wise to be clear about such things.) But some people believe Durham in Wonderland is credible and some don't: some people believe KC's facts are complete and convincing, and others are quite clear that is not so. DIW readers would say the blog is credible because the facts satisfy them of what they already "know" but didn't have the evidence for -- for example, that some hard-working people live in the world and others are just over-educated, overpaid academic liberal do-nothings -- but that is a far too simple read of what goes on there, of course. DIW is a highly ideological location, deliberately so, where people who thrive on what it offers go to read things that give them deep pleasure in the telling and re-telling of a story they already know.

But the difference between my blog and DIW is not between who is ideological and who isn't. Everyone has an ideology here. The DIW ethos is to create a dense terrain of facts that inevitably make a highly ideological argument about "liberal rot" in the academy that is familiar to all of us, regardless of political affiliation. And it is why all of us respond so strongly to it. It isn't really about those lacrosse players at all, even though they are the "heroes" of the story that give it so much pizzazz. And sadly, it isn't really about the Group of 88 either, although it has caused them a world of pain. Taken as a whole, in the end, DIW is about why some people get to go to places like Duke and other people don't -- it is about class rage, it is about the collapse of opportunity for middle-class people who actually had wonderful college educations in their grasp a generation ago, and have now been shut out of them. It's about how some of us made it in, and slammed the door behind us.

So in conclusion, it is not KC's actual views about me or anybody else that should be of real interest here, or mine about him. The impact of the Sunshine Band (so glad you like the name, guys!) is minimal regardless of how they clutter my in box. KC is also absolutely entitled to be a cultural crusader if he likes, and wear his marginality to the larger academic culture like a medal, although I would argue that there are boundaries of civility -- like accusing people of lying, something that should be rare in my view -- that need to be respected if people are to have conversations rather than shouting matches, be colleagues rather than soldiers in a culture war.

Some people will believe Tenured Radical is credible and some will not, in large part because of what they bring to it, not because they are in search of objectivity or because I want to please all of the people all of the time. I accept that. But I would say that -- even in the absence of printing lists of my friends, as KC thinks would be the ethical thing to do, the actual title of the blog should create an interpretive field for the reader that is worth attending to in thinking critically about what is posted here. My readers come here because it gives them pleasure, just as his readers come to him for pleasure. If, on top of that, people learn things here that enrich their lives and make them want to talk to me and to each other, then that is a real bonus.

Comment moderation has now been turned off and we'll see how it goes.

67 comments:

shorty said...

Thank you, TR, for another thoughtful post on these matters. You dance lightly across several minefields here. It would be lovely if your good deed manages to go unpunished. I really hope so.

But I doubt it because whatever else KC Johnson and DIW (and their fans on and in other sites) are, together they constitute a demon-producing machine. Having made demons out of the signatories of the ad, that machine now directs its energy to the additional industry of policing anyone who admits to knowing, being friends with, having worked with, conferenced with, published with, or even differently interpreting the ad and the motives of the demon-signers. (Are you now, or have you ever been . . .)

Such industry produces multiple effects:

1. It keeps discussion alive about the demons it has already made, including the work of spreading fear of demon spore everywhere the machine can go.

2. It keeps fear alive among those who haven’t (yet) been targeted by the machine.

3. Because being pissed off at the university unites people *across* class lines, it keeps anger alive among those who, whether or not excluded by class restrictions closing off the university to them, have opinions about the critical role of the university and the relation of critical scholarship and teaching to dissent there or anywhere else.

4. It keeps alive the most consistent feature of the machine’s work: an understanding of KC Johnson as the heroic producer of allegations of academic malfeasance, allegations that keep up the pressure for scholarship cleansing and policing especially among ethnic, feminist, and area studies faculty. He may yet prove to be a much bigger David Horowitz or Dinesh D’Souza especially given his ability to transform allegations into the whine of blog-proclaimed “facts.”

Timothy Burke said...

I don't mind KC operating with what seems to me to be a very old paradigm of "objectivity", which I sometimes describe to students as "discover bias, subtract bias, the truth remains".

What I do mind, and what seems markedly unscholarly, is that KC seems to apply this historiographical and intellectual standard with virtually no self-awareness that it is in any respect debatable, and in fact, has been debated. KC speaks as if Novick and all the debates he capably reviewed never existed, as if he has been on a scholarly island. Scholarship is about interrelationships, about historiography, about recognizing what other people are doing and have done, taking note of it, appreciating it and critiquing it.

I object also on the standard of consistency. Blogging is a synchronous art: I don't expect people to go back and correct older entries. I do expect people to move with the conversation, to acknowledge mistakes or misunderstandings, to try and evolve. KC is establishing a standard for error-correction that I don't think he himself can or ought to want to live up to.

The same for "disclosure". Should KC give us a list of all his important collegial, personal and institutional connections and friendships prior to saying anything? No. Because our arguments should be persuasive in other terms and against other standards. I don't think we should attempt to "subtract bias" from what we write in order to judge its worth, particularly not if that means "subtract humanity" or "subtract professional respect for colleagues in the same profession".

Ultimately one of the things I find most emotionally distressing about KC's work on Duke, and that I think contributes most to the mood in his comments, is that lack of generous connection to a professional world of which he is a part. Yes, I understand that he feels with justification that world treated him unkindly. But as I keep observing in my own critique of academia, that's a distributed issue--the small cruelties that are made possible in some academic institutions. The answer to that is not retributive cruelty. If KC thinks it is, I'd rather he just come out and say that and defend it as a moral or professional proposition: that we should not do unto others as we wish they would do unto us, but that we should do to others what has been done to us. I don't believe in that either as a root, felt morality or as a more intellectual philosophy of history. KC can believe in that if he likes, but he ought to be honest about it.

If he doesn't believe in it--if he wants to make a better professional and personal world in the academy at large and in historical work in specific--then the journey of a thousand miles begins with a few steps of generosity, subtlety and professionalism. If I'm dealing with a colleague that behaves unprofessionally, I believe that both practically and ethically, that makes it especially important for me to be far more professional to the limit of my abilities as a person. I think I need to be precise about what is and is not good practice for other academics, and not foul my criticism with side issues. E.g., there's a difference between saying that the Group of 88 was wrong in their actions on the lacrosse case and saying that there is an issue with their work as scholars.

The latter criticism is hard to isolate to just them, and it requires a completely different standard of argument and of care in reading their work and work like it, of not conflating something they say in a rally or in a letter or in an op-ed with something they write as scholars. I don't judge KC's scholarship by my distaste for the way he's gone about his jeremiad, and I think he ought to stick to the same standard.

If I'm setting out to critique a specific work of scholarship, I think I shoulder a heavy burden especially when it is not written in a field or a tradition proximate to my areas of greatest expertise. I think that's what I owe other scholars, I think that's part of my professional and personal responsiblity. I might toss off some light-hearted dismissals of some disciplines or perspectives, but if someone misperceives those as serious objections, I would be quick to qualify or apologize my remarks.

In the end, this comes down to whether we want to make the academy better or whether we want to destroy it. I'm actually prepared to hear sympathetically from people who for principled reasons think the academy as it stands is so flawed that it needs comprehensive replacement. But I need to hear that said explicitly, I need to see it defended against all the good things about contemporary American universities, and I need to hear what the alternatives are. Since KC's scholarship is in fact very conventional historical work, I can't see that he is in his work as a professional scholar trying to imagine a comprehensive alternative to scholarship as it has been practiced. Someone who wants to pull down the entire system is more convincing when they offer a completely alternative intellectual (or anti-intellectual) praxis. If KC basically thinks history as it has been known and taught in the university has value, then that points in the direction of some kind of better, wiser university. If that's what he (or anyone else) wants, then I want to see him try to embody that in his own critique.

lynp said...

Your blog traffic must be really low to bring up KC again. Cheesey

Timothy Burke said...

Let me add one small side note. KC says in the previous thread that it is his habit to enter these kinds of discussions to correct misstatements of fact, but not to engage in substantive discussion of criticisms directed at his work.

This would be another place where his philosophy of scholarship and of blogging really differ from mine. I can't be aware of all the places where there might be debate about things I've written. And yes, some debates are so "fixed" from the beginning that showing up in them is just agreeing to become the victim in a Shirley-Jackson like ritual stoning. We're not required as bloggers or scholars to submit to abuse. Or even to participate in a conversation that we're finding emotionally stressful. There are times where I find I really just can't face a particular discussion again, or where a particular person is so getting under my skin that I'm thinking about it to the point of distraction. There's nothing wrong with just avoiding those moments.

But if you're handing out the harsh sentences and making the strong demands that KC is making, it's a bit much to say that you do not as a matter of practice ever engage in substantive debates about the nature of your writing or argument. The blogosphere is already much degraded by the lack of discussions where writers agree to be responsible for what they've written and meet respectful disagreement with respectful disagreement.

Writing persuasively means being open to persuasion. It means not just acknowledging when someone's made a valid point as a way of getting them to shut up and go away, but taking on board the criticisms of others when they materially affect our own claims. I think we're obligated to evolve, to adapt, to rethink. Which meansit's not good enough to just say, "I'm only participate in discussions to correct a few factual errors".

hman said...

One can criticize K.C. for many things, I suppose, but he has been right about a core issue here from the start. That issue is that it was transparently obvious to anyone paying attenion to the case that Nifong was behaving outrageously and that Mangums accusation could not have been true - and the leadership of the kids own University actively helped Nifong, EVEN AFTER THEY KNEW THE ACCUSATIONS WERE FALSE.
INHO, that deserves some attention if you are interesterd in the future of academia.

hman said...

The more appropriate form is "knew or should have known" that the 3 accused could not have been guilty of the crime of which they were indicted but the main question remains:
Why were so many at Duke, from the top down, actively cheering-on (or in some cases aiding and abetting) a blatantly false accusation and a corrupt DA? What were their motives and mindset? How widespread are these sorts of motives and mindsets?
These questions are for sure going to be asked by many outside of academia because the lawsuits and books are just getting started.

Sisyphus said...

I think this is a well-thought-out response that really tries to explain some of the frameworks of history, of academia, of academic blogging, to people who are not familiar with them (or have been misled or confused in the course of prior conversations).

I'm doubtful that this type of quiet and reasoned argument will do much to convince any KC fans, though ---- this is not a natural or self-evident form of talking or arguing but one that is carefully taught, and taught in academic circles. (I teach freshman comp; I could tell you about how non-intuitive it is and how much resistance one could have to it.)

But if you're still interested in trying to teach people, I think you could make these assumptions even _more_ clear and spelled out: what's wrong with heroic narratives? Or heroes? Aren't I the hero of my own story? What other ways could we tell the Duke story without making it sound like a heroic story, or a particularly heroic episode of CSI: Durham?

(and I don't buy that this is coming out of a class resentment thing; the commenters at KC's blog have access to the internet and time to comment extensively. I would say it's more of a cultural-capital resentment thing but I'd have to think about this more to explain it.)

Timothy Burke said...

I don't even think I want to say that such heroic narratives are wrong, precisely. I just want people (including KC) to think about the baggage being hauled behind that train. And some of that does not involve the non-intuitive kinds of critical thought used in academic (Sisyphus is right that it doesn't come easily: that's of course why we have to teach it). There are counter-narratives to the heroic story.

For example, stories about the emotional and professional damage done when people very casually join in a mob or group censure of an individual about whom they know little. That should be especially obvious to people concerned about the Duke case since that's the behavior they're supposed to be angry about. We've all seen something like this in our lives--a case where a person does something wrong or odd and then everyone treats them like a pariah in a way that is massively disproportionate to the mistake.

About the importance of being a skeptical 'rugged individual', of being wary of anyone who might manipulate you and therefore treating everything that everyone says with a certain amount of doubt. Isn't that the basic narrative of the criminal justice system (and again, something that the people most concerned about Duke are supposed to be most concerned about?)

About forgiveness and an understanding that sin is universal. I mean, what's a deeper or more established motif in Christian culture than that?

pink 2 said...

Excellent post, TR. But, I don't think you owe KC Johnson any more explanations. You do things differently than he does. There is room in the blogosphere for a variety of approaches. KC Johnson has not been named Blogmeister and he shouldn't be Blog-bully, either.

He demands standards of you that I don't believe he himself meets. Johnson has a habit of going after those with whom he disagrees in a manner I find not only uncollegial, but thoroughly reprehensible.

Can you imagine how brave a recent PhD would have to be to accept a position in his department? I'd think any untenured colleague would have to live in fear of crossing KC Johnson. And, I think that's unfortunate.

pink 2 said...

BTW, Great illustrations! They'd make wonderful t-shirt graphics.

legal reasoning said...

Some have asked for an explanation of legal reasons for not posting email addresses. Without prejudice, one way or the other, these reasons are valid.
The current state of internet law considers email, like other correspondence, the property of the sender. Posting without permission to do so violates that right.

Steven Horwitz said...

I was, for a fair amount of time, a frequent commenter at DiW. I thought that I could, as a professor and administrator at a good liberal arts college, help shed light on the complexities of the reality of academia. One of the arguments I raised over and over, to little effect, was that that KC and others were engaging in the same sort of groupthink about the 88 Duke faculty, and the academy as a whole, as they were complaining about with respect to the apparent presumption of guilt of the lacrosse players. I was not successful in getting folks to see this point, suffice it to say.

KC's "profiles" of the faculty also reflect a similar kind of projection of group think, as they were remarkably absent of any generosity of interpretation. He had to work way too hard to make the supposed link between scholarship and behavior in the case, which in turn created the image of a kind of conspiracy among the faculty. Those of us who work at colleges know that getting 3 faculty to agree on anything, much less 88, and then to actually carry it out as planned, is next to impossible.

The question that no one seemed to want to ask in a serious way was whether the reasons faculty treat their students one way or another might be much more complex than the faculty's research or political agendas.

As Prof. Zimmerman's post on KC nicely argues, KC was much more prosecutor than historian or analyst on this case. And in that role, he was heroic in many ways. Yes, the players' lawyers did most of the work, but even they and their clients have explicitly acknowledged their indebtedness to KC's work. Whatever his flaws, you cannot take that away from him. Three falsely accused men avoided jail to some degree because he brought some of the skills of the historian to the role of public prosecutor and rallied public awareness of the injustice involved.

Seeing DiW not as a work of history but as an extended and very powerful (and correct from the start) real-time, real-life CSI episode gets at what made it so attractive and effective.

I also have no doubt that some of the things that a few Duke faculty said and did in this incident were reprehensible and are evidence of a disrespect for their own students that has no place in the academy. Having spent 20 years teaching college students, I've seen the same sorts of behavior in colleagues from across the political, methodological, and pedagogical spectrums. Blaming the scholarly interests of leftist faculty for how some treated students is not only factually wrong and way oversimplified, it also serves as raw meat for too many people with much cruder axes to grind, as some of the commentary on the case at DiW and elsewhere and the racist etc emails demonstrate. The view of academia that emerged among the DiW commentariat, with few public attempts by KC to correct it, was one unrecognizable to those of us who live it every day. But it sure was a convenient narrative for those with the axes to grind.

I think the Duke case should prompt a long overdue but different kind of discussion about the very real problem of why some faculty seem to have disdain for their students, and often especially those they perceive rightly or wrongly to be "of privilege." But having that discussion in a meaningful and productive way will require something more than the prosecutorial mindset that KC brought to DiW.

hman said...

I want to thank Prof Horowitz for his reasoned post.
I got very involved in this case from an early date at an emotional level partly because of an incident in my own past and partly because of the way that some of the enablers of this hoax were openly refusing to look at information proffered by the defense (or in the public domain). That seemed so evil to me. And no other word fits, imho.
For guys like me, this all felt like a rescue mission - like Baby Jessica down the well. I am not positioned to have ever done more than cheer and comment, but I felt like going after the "Bad Guys" without mercy or restraint with means at hand. And the bad guys, in my estimation, were any well informed actors not firmly on the boys side past the end of June 06. Fairly or not, many of us had lost all sense of common humanity with the folks who continued to enable this hoax past then. And I still think there is no innocent excuse worth listening to for doing that.
But I will grant that linking that issue to the field of study of the bad guys career can easily be overdone and Horowitz is right to point that out.
I do not know KC but I will hazard a guess that his own experience of being the target of a PC injustice left permanent scars and a lively sense of combativeness when certain issues come along. It sure did for me.

Joey7777 said...

I looked over this little controversy on both blogs and: all it comes down to is the elementary rule that you can't make false accusations against people who did nothing to you. I understand Potter is at some school where the idea is to toss little ideas back and forth, but when you put things on the internet it's been made public (not merely in academic-land anymore, but put in the non-ghettoized world) and...we were dealing with cold hard reality in this case. The falsely accused were in danger of prison. Potter should have just apologized for her public statements and the whole thing would have been over. Let's get back to basics: would Potter like to be falsely accused of a crime and then have her defenders criticized because Potter's ilk MIGHT have done such things anyway? It's nothing more than that.

AMac said...

I commented with some regularity at DiW and occasionally at TR, on the occasion of some of Prof. Potter's more inflammatory posts on the Hoax/Frame (always under the pseudonym used here).

In my case, Prof. Potter is batting about 0.000 as she divines the motivations, feelings, and beliefs of the commenters at Prof. Johnson's blog. (Presumably there a few sentences in her post that I could agree with--but the point remains.)

Like Steven Horwitz, supra, I've been troubled by Johnson's "free-speech" comments policy--contrary to Profs. Horwitz, TR, and Tim Burke, I'd label that the single glaring weakness of DiW. (I didn't burst out with, "The work of the scholars Johnson profiled has been proven defective! All Duke's left-leaning faculty formed a Borg-like 88!" So I don't assume most of Johnson's other readers were thusly brainwashed, either.)

DiW's free-for-all comments policy was, IMO, an experiment--a mostly failed experiment. But the problem with blog comments is that there is no protocol for high-traffic sites that avoids the problems exhibited at DiW while retaining the advantages. One of those was the nearly unrestricted opportunity for those critical of Johnson to present their points of view--I'm not aware of any complaints of such remarks being suppressed.

This blog serves as an example of one drawback of a closely-supervised comments section. Given TR's willingness to delete critical comments that are well-argued and civil, I have no assurance that this contribution will stay up. Of course, such choices are the blogmaster's prerogative; her printing press. This allows those who remain to bask in the delightful sunshine of a free-ranging discussion, while being sheltered from the unwelcome intrusions of unregulated ideas.

To some, that may be a feature. To others, a bug.

Michael in NH said...

Steve Horowitz wrote:

[The question that no one seemed to want to ask in a serious way was whether the reasons faculty treat their students one way or another might be much more complex than the faculty's research or political agendas.]

I've been reading the Rate Your Students blog for several weeks and I'm struck by how hard professors can be on their students. But I'm also amazed at student behaviour today - at least behaviour as reported by the posters there.

It appears to me that there is a lot of resentment on the part of professors due to the demands placed on them by students today clueless about how colleges work. I don't know if that has really changed that much since I went to college as I was likewise clueless but what even I'm surprised at today is the demands and expectations of colleges as a service where parents pay for a degree for their children.

This may be one aspect of disdain. But it doesn't explain well the situation at Duke.

Michael in NH said...

TR wrote:

[Taken as a whole, in the end, DIW is about why some people get to go to places like Duke and other people don't -- it is about class rage, it is about the collapse of opportunity for middle-class people who actually had wonderful college educations in their grasp a generation ago, and have now been shut out of them. It's about how some of us made it in, and slammed the door behind us.]

I am somewhat unclear as to what you meant by this statement.

DIW has had over 3 million unique visitors and I would guess that these visitors would be hard to pigeonhole.

I've noticed that many frequent posters are highly accomplished in their fields and that many are also fairly well off - or at least well off enough to drop a quarter million per child on college expenses with a draft from the checkbook.

Are you referring to KC at Brooklyn? From what I've read, he lives the life of a monk in spartan conditions sending leftover cash towards the care of a relative with limited mobility.

Is there a lack of opportunity for the middle-class? I don't know. I personally see a huge amount of opportunity out there for those willing to work hard and better themselves.

One thing that I do see at LS and DIW is the rage against due process. And I think that more careful consideration of that due process benefits those of us that don't want to be falsely accused or convicted.

hman said...

I too was often made uncomfortable by some of the comments KC left up. On the other hand, I think that many of us devotees fairly quickly caught onto the deliberate theatricality of KCs style of blogging - the postings at 12:01 every night, the sharply drawn liners between good and evil, the obvious passion in his language - and so I came to see the nasty scrum of a comment section as just another aspect of the drama being offered to readers.
As far as I was concerned, there was a war on and if a little low rent show business tricks got a higher amount of traffic noticeing the cause of righteousness then I accepted it all. We should not forget that KC made his living as a horse-race announcer for a time.
Were too many illiberal elements encouraged and empowered by this policy? I doubt it. They are always out there and besides, this time they were not entirely mistaken.
After all, it is not paranoia if someone really is out to get you.

pink 2 said...

hman at 9:56 EST

Johnson may have been attempting to create a morality play with sharply drawn lines between what he considered good and evil, but I think he did evil in villifying some of the people he attacked. When he attacked Duke faculty, he didn't go after big guns as was pointed out. He often went after people who were untenured. That's really nasty. That behavior, together with the nasty, racist, xenophobic comments pushed me straight onto the other side in a war I didn't even know was going on.

Once the LAX people got off/declared innocent, I had nothing in common with many who posted at DiW. I found their comments--so full of bile--abhorrent. I was, however, fascinated by an incredible inability of many of them to tolerate views that differed from their own. When some posters accused those with whom they disagreed of "Stalinist tactics," I figured it was a case of the pot and the kettle. What is it they fear?

Anonymous said...

"Johnson may have been attempting to create a morality play with sharply drawn lines between what he considered good and evil, but I think he did evil in villifying some of the people he attacked. When he attacked Duke faculty, he didn't go after big guns as was pointed out. He often went after people who were untenured."

Problem: I don't quite understand what the untenured status of some of the faculty prominently involved has to do with it.

Tim Lacy said...

TR: When are you going to post again here on things you ~really~ want to talk about? You're tired of this, and there's nothing worse than feeling you must respond to someone else's agenda. I look forward to ~your~ upcoming posts! - TL

John said...

I bet TR's friends among the Duke faculty who authored or signed the listening statement are no more or no less prone to hubris, emotional reaction, self-blindness, and denial than anyone else.

That includes you and me TR ...

If I could be persuaded by recent deconstructions of the listening statement that in fact it was not based on or meant to convey a presumption of guilt, I would be the first to say that Dr. Johnson has gone too far.

But didn't the author's original e-mail inviting her colleagues to participate explicitly state the statement was a reaction to the case?

Didn't one signatory pen an e-mail to the mother of a player stating that she had raised a farm animal?

Didn't the statement say "thanks" for making your views known at a time when the most obvious object of possible gratitude was the pot-banging protest featuring "castration" signs and the like?

It just doesn't read as a mere protest against racism on campus. I wish it did. I suppose if you make a lot of assumptions, torture the language a bit, and ignore the context, a case could be made. But applying Occam's razor leads to a different result.

I have friends too TR, and I stick up for them. And when friends screw up, you should stand by them, as you are, but I don't think that means pretending something that clearly happened, didn't.

This Duke matter was a case with perfect facts (and well-funded defendants) to uncover and expose a miasma of corruption and misconduct that disproportionately impacts (yes, I verbalize a noun) the poor and people of color every day.(See Profiles section on the Innocence Project website.)

To me, the saddest thing about it is that the Duke professors (and others, like the NC NAACP) fell upon a perfect cause to champion to make their point about racism and discrimination in society. Sort of a "now you know what it's like, and we're with you" kind of thing.

What did they do? They chose to throw the wholly innocent players under the bus.

Stand by your friends, TR, it's the right thing to do, but don't pretend that "down" is "up" and that "wrong" is "right."

Leonard B. F. Skinner said...

"Johnson may have been attempting to create a morality play with sharply drawn lines between what he considered good and evil, but I think he did evil in villifying [sic] some of the people he attacked. When he attacked Duke faculty, he didn't go after big guns as was pointed out. He often went after people who were untenured."
------------------------------------
Another problem: Johnson wrote about Chafe, Holloway, Baker, Wood, Starn, McClain, Rosenberg, cooke ...
Can you name any of the 88 who count as "big guns" and whom Johnson didn't "go after"?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I've known the parents of one of the accused at Duke for a long time. I can assure you that the blog made a great deal of difference to their morale. Although you may think them unimportant as individuals because they are not disadvantaged in the ways that you champion, the suffering of a mother over her son's potential or actual incarceration is not measured by race or level of income. Scoff as you might, that blog seemed important to them in keeping the state at bay in its attempts to railroad their kids. You know, sending three innocent kids to prison doesn't increase the measure of justice in the world.Also, have you ever thought of spending some serious time overseas? Your level of American sexual puritanism does affect your analysis at times I think. Just a thought.....

Anonymous said...

Since TR has already named one, I'll name her: Claudia Koonz. She's smart, well-published, well-respected... There are others. You could check their CVs on line, but they were mentioned on DiW.

Big guns? You bet.

Anonymous said...

Dear 2:41, I've spent much of my adult life in Europe & I agree with virtually all of TR's analysis. So much for your puritainsm analysis.

steve from DC said...

Several observations on this latest attack on DIW and its readers.

1. I have been following this miscarriage of justice from virtually the beginning
2. I have always been a liberal democrat and still am. Although Hillary is a bit conservative for my tastes I have maxed out on her primary
3. I have been shocked by academia's lack of public revulsion at the treatment of the three Duke lacrosse kids by, inter alia, the group of 88 plus or minor other Duke officials
4. This blog, Zimmerman's comments, Tim Burke and others' attacks on KC Johnson for a lack of collegiality seem very similar to the "closing of the ranks" of those in the Bush administration to cover up waterboarding, lack of WMD in Iraq, etc. or, indeed, any other group or guild protecting its own. The police rejecting all calls for civilian review boards, lawyers struggling against non lawyers on disciplinary boards all come to mind when I read the postings of those who condemn KC for his "lack of generous connection" to the world of academia.
4. I do not agree with everything KC had written. The series dealing with the group's lack of academic rigor comes to mind. Having said that, some of these people clearly should be teaching under tents rather than at an allegedly prestigious university.
5. I agree even less with many of the commentators to his blog, some of which are clearly racist or right wing nutjobs or worse. But to blame KC Johnson for that is patently absurd.
6. Notwithstanding my disagreements with KC and his band, not to recognize the greatness of what he has accomplished is, in my opinion, myopic. KC is the spirtual descendant of Emile Zola. Zola's J'accuse was a major (but certainly not the only) reason Dreyfus was eventually freed. KC has accomplished a similar, if less heroic, feat and should be honored for his role in righting this injustice.
7. One final note: I find those who condemn onjectivity (or attempted objectivity) in writing appalling. For a historian to do so is, in my opinion, a great reason for him or her to find another job.

andrea said...

Among KCs more egregious, and arguably actionable errors was in enabling comment moderation and then posting slanderous attacks from respondents. In current legal cases, that makes him responsible for those comments. But forget the legal, KC lost his academic credibility with the kind of venom that he both encouraged and posted. There were obviously comments of a kind that even his supporters writing in here on TR made feel uncomfortable. Why he did this is a puzzle, given there were obviously some other comments he removed. One sad but pitifully obvious reason was that these hate filled comments were not much different from his own. If they had been, he could easily have judged them inappropriate and moderated them. He didn't, so he will be professionally held responsible for these.

Anonymous said...

Andrea is right. See this note regarding blogs:
"If you decide which ones get published and which don’t, like a letters-to-the-editor column, then you own them all -- not in the copyright sense, of course, but in the sense of legal responsibility for publication if they violate copyright, are libelous, etc. If you don’t, then you are just a common carrier of information..."

steve from DC said...

sorry andrea, your attempt to paint kc with the same brush you use to condemn his commenters doesn't work. Every reasonable position has supporters among the crazies. If KC did not use comment moderation you no doubt would have criticized that decision as well. So your criticism is reduced to something like "you would have further moderated the comments". I am not sure you really believe that drawing the line in a different place merits your rather venomous comments. Your statement that "One sad but pitifully obvious reason was that these hate filled comments were not much different from his own" is not at all obvious. If he was only allowing comments "not much different than his own" he would not have allowed endless comments criticizing his positions, demeaning his academic record, referring to his tenure battles, etc. How different from blogs that delete all opinions critical of the blogger --such as this one -- although TR's experiment in allowing opinions at variance to her own is to be praised. I do not know your academic discipline but it is clearly not the law - as your learned opinion that KC is liable for allegedly libelous comments(not slanderous as even a first year law student would know a written untruth might be) of the commenters at DIW is legally incorrect.

steve from DC said...

anonymous at 8:44 quotes without citation the following:

See this note regarding blogs:
"If you decide which ones get published and which don’t, like a letters-to-the-editor column, then you own them all -- not in the copyright sense, of course, but in the sense of legal responsibility for publication if they violate copyright, are libelous, etc. If you don’t, then you are just a common carrier of information..."

The citation is actually from a Wikipedia blog discussion. There are no case citations just citations to other bloggers. In addition, it apparently deals with blogs that afffirmatively state they take responsibility for the statements of their commenters. To my knowledge, this has no relevance to DIW.

More important, if someone wants to sue KC for libel because of statements in his blog either by himself or those who comment on his blog well we are still waiting for that first lawsuit. Of course, anyone can sue -- that might be why our court system is so overcrowded - the real question is whether KC would lose. That we have to leave for the future. It is telling, however that not one of the 88 plus Duke "educators" have taken the plunge despite some pretty strong condemnations of both their actions in the Lacrosse Hoax or their academic qualifications.

Debrah said...

".....and then posting slanderous attacks from respondents."

It still amazes me just how ignorant some of these people are.

Very troubling that they might be teaching young students.

Can anyone say "libelous"?.....as in the written word. Not "slanderous".

Wow.

By the way, Steve. You have contributed much-needed illumination.

steve from DC said...

One final comment for tonight: I do not believe the 88 plus are "demons" as Shorty apparently believes all fans of DIW do. I understand that many of the 88 do not kick their dogs, have friendships and loves. Rather, I think most of them are victims of political correctness or have merely been taken advantage of by agenda driven colleagues. Nevertheless, I am extremely disappointed that while everyone who has fairly looked at the case now are certain that no rape occurred there have been few if any apologies from any of those who signed the ad or the listening statement. We all make mistakes but when faced with clear and convincing evidence that we were wrong -- men (and women) of good will apologize. The virtual universal lack of expressed contrition merely feeds those who are prone to see conspiracy theories at work here. It is not surprising that as the 88 move in tandem they are judged by others to be a group, a gang, a klan or any other perjorative term for an evil combination. Nor can their conduct be excused because they are afraid of retaliation or are "circling the wagons" or some such nonsense. It may be true but it does not excuse them. I, for one, would think more, much more, of any of these individuals who did make a heartfelt apology. And this cloud over Duke would go away -- not immediately -- but eventually. On the other hand, irrational, silly, or misleading blogs, articles, etc written by apolgists for the 88 do not permit those who know the facts to forget or, at least, forgive the institution or its faculty. Of course, maybe those writings are merely aimed at only those who are unaware of the facts. Then, I do indeed dispair for the school that I used to revere.

Anonymous said...

OK. So overseas, not necessarily Europe, doesn't always work. A small teaser... That doesn't totally
dismiss the fact that there are many negative attitudes towards drinking "to excess" in itself and erotic female sexuality engaged with male sexuality in TR's blogs as they address Duke.She has every right to her attitudes, of course. But I have every right to critique these attitudes as gathered in a particular period of time and place
and then adhered to as a religion-
a religion with Puritan tendencies
which can and are found in other places and times but are known in America as Puritan.
I suggest-as an outsider -that she look to current events to explain
the situation on college campuses.
The treatment of students as indentured servants by a master class, the pressure to succeed to survive, the loneliness at suddenly being away from home in an intense bubble,the huge wealth of the University that makes students irrelevant on an individual basis as they are replaceable quite quickly, the separation of the parent from the experience by the laws ofprivacy etc etc. The need for escapism from such large, pressurized, uncaring, impersonal,
environments has a great deal to do with the drugs drinking hooking up
culture.
These problems are caused by population growth, economic issues
and the attitudes of professors towards students.Baby Boomers have always used their power and not always in the best ways. My rant is finished.

pink 2 said...

2:11 AM EST

I think that insofaras contemporary American jock/fraternity university culture sometimes includes much too much to drink and an objectification of women that can/has sometimes had bad results, TR's comments do not reflect puritanical attitudes, but rather concerns based on reality. I don't know how old you are, but the sense of social entitlement among some scholarship athletes isn't new; it was certainly around when I was an undergraduate, lo, these many years ago!!

As for your assumption that students are treated as indentured servants, I'm wondering which campus you're familiar with? At least some of the students on my campus--and their parents--treat a university as a commodity. And, they assume the faculty is--and should be--at their beck and call 24/7 (part of this has to do with e-mail).

Moreover, some of students appear to plan their classes around their long week-ends of drinking. If students were indentured servants, presumably the faculty "masters" might prevail upon them to drink (or dope)less and come to class more. Or spend more time studying. Or in the gym. Or doing extracurricular activities.

IMHO, the most important thing about university is the time for learning, broadly conceived. I wish all students took advantage of all the possibilities they're offered. Students should go out and read the book TR recommended above. I know I'm planning to!

Anonymous said...

A degree is a commodity today-and a very costly one.Young people need them in order to get good jobs.A better logo offers greater opportunity to advance in the world-without it life can be very difficult.
Who guards the door to these opportunities? Who measures the young and places a grade? These are just facts. Additionally, unlike in many educational environments, teacher and grader are the same person, which complicates matters all around.
Did you know that at "fraternity" parties the custom for many girls is not to tell a guy her name until after she has made out with him and
then she decides if he's worth it?
Did you know that many girls require sourcing of drugs or alcohol as a prerequisite to talking to such "fraternity" guys?
Girls dump nice boys by text. Such fraternity guys then comfort themselves with their friends with beer and ice cream.Real monsters.
Oh hell, I give up. It's hopeless.
Think whatever you want.

The Random Rambler said...

Some on her act as if being full of one's self, drinking, and hiring strippers are confined to
athletes. Why?

In the Coleman report, Coleman stated there is not that much of a difference from the
lacrosse team's actions and the student population at a Duke.

Get off your anti-athletic pedestal. I knew plenty of non-athletes who acted the same
way. The music majors at my undegrad, boy, did a lot of them act like their
you-know-what did not stink. And I constantly saw non-athletes get completely wasted.

The Random Rambler said...

and before you ask me how I could be sure if they were or were not athletes, I worked in sports information. I was pretty up on who was an athlete.

Anonymous said...

I want to also thank Prof. Horowitz for his contribution here. As an attorney, I stumbled upon DIW while researching the criminal case and the flagrant constitutional abuses by the State of North Carolina in the criminal prosecution. I had no interest, and still do not, in the dispute among the academics involved. I did comment at DIW, as a non-academic, regarding the worth of Prof. Johnson's discussions of the Duke professors scholarship. I still am unable to understand the relevance of his posts regarding the professors who spoke out about the accused and their chosen fields of study. What I am troubled by though is what appears to be a lack of understanding or appreciation of the presumption of innocence and due process requirements by the Duke professors. I don't doubt that they each studied, to some extent, the US constitution and have a basic understanding of due process requirements, but somehow failed to apply that learning to the language of the listening statement. I suspect because I am an attorney is the reason why I was instantly offended by the guilt presuming language in the listening statement. (The professors have asserted that they did not presume guilt and I take them at their word, but their language, perhaps because it was not reviewed by someone with legal training, did imply a presumption of guilt.) I can also understand the disappointment of the accused's attorneys that the Duke professors - especially the professors at the law school - did not more actively speak out against the prosecutor's abuses . I attended a Catholic law school located in an urban area. The law school has an extremely active social justice outreach program in which its professors are very actively involved. I recall my constitutional law professor spent the second semester of my first year defending a local juvenile charged as an adult for assault upon a police officer. According to the law school magazine, he is now working on behalf of a Gitmo detainee. In other words, he is defending the constitution in deed as well as word. I don't doubt that if he had taught at Duke Law, he would have immediately blasted the prosecutor's office for its failure to follow procedure. That the professors at the law school and the college did not is very disheartening.

Maryann

dorothy said...

Some of the questions asked upstream are addressed in a post today at truthaboutkcjohnson.wordpress.com

It written by Lubiano and is about the Taylor and Johnson book.

Debrah said...

TO Dorothy--

It seems that Lubiano might need to put her efforts into finally getting a book published before another decade of "forthcomings" passes.

Most observers cannot comprehend such a lack of scholarship.

Illuminating this woman only draws more attention to her and her Duke colleagues' lack of substance.

Sad, that.

Anonymous said...

MYTH: "Taken as a whole, in the end, DIW is about why some people get to go to places like Duke and other people don't -- it is about class rage, it is about the collapse of opportunity for middle-class people who actually had wonderful college educations in their grasp a generation ago, and have now been shut out of them. It's about how some of us made it in, and slammed the door behind us."

Are you serious? This is what you think D-i-W was about? Does it always have to be about you? There are financial aid and loan packages at ALMOST EVERY American university which will ensure any qualified student can attend. I absolutely cannot believe that someone who works at a university can have this fact so upside-down. And, it is apparently the central thesis of your post. Bewildering.
_________________

You also wrote, in discussing the "profession" of History:

“[T]here is no dominant consensus in the profession at all as to whether objectivity is either possible or desirable....”

The politicization of academics, even History, but especially the sciences, will lead to the loss of credibility to the public. Why would a student in your class believe you are teaching actual History, or at least a good-faith attempt at actual History, rather than your particular "spin"?

It was not K.C. Johnson's fault that Mike Nifong unlawfully hid exculpatory evidence. It was not his fault that Crystal Mangum came forward with lies about a gang rape. Professor Johnson did not force the 88 Duke professors to sign the "Listening ad" and then refuse to acknowledge their participation in the parade of hatred. Actual "History" will show that Professor Johnson documented those actual actions with actual facts (and actual links).

These are my opinions. MOO! Gregory

Michael in NH said...

re: Dorothy

The biggest problem with that hit piece that even Zimmerman will agree with is that KC Johnson was right and contributed to the teardown of the framing of innocents.

One could pick apart the rest of that piece but it makes assertions as fact that aren't in the public record and it isn't sourced.

Anonymous said...

I like to write my comments before reading the other commentators. Now that I have written my primary comment, I have taken the time to read the other commentators. This is a response to what I have read.

"hman" wrote basically what I would have written. Very nice job!

There are people jumping out of manholes yelling that Professor Johnson's theory is wrong, or that he went about it all wrong.

Yet, none of these detractors has come up with a theory about why 88 university professors would jump on days-old gossip to castigate their own students, then why 87 of them would fail to apologize for it.

Professor Burke wrote, "KC seems to apply this historigraphical and intellectual standard with virtually no self-awareness that it is in any respect debateable ...."

Well, debate him then.

Explain why the 88 did what they did, and why only 1 apologized for it.

I'm waiting.

Professor Horwitz was honest enough to admit that the subject should be discussed.

MOO! Gregory

Michael in NH said...

re: Gregory

[I absolutely cannot believe that someone who works at a university can have this fact so upside-down. And, it is apparently the central thesis of your post]

The part about slamming the door behind is odd and I hope that it is clarified. The whole paragraph seems unclear to me. But the last sentence implies that they have something desirable that others don't.

One of the big offenses in this case is that it involved a false accusation. For those of us with daughters, a false accusation undermines their inherent protection. And of course we would want to ensure that our own daughters would never do such a thing. And for those of us with sons, it's an outrage. And these aspects probably contributed to the success of the 60 Minutes piece.

I've been struck by the number of doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals that have posted at DIW and many of these folks seem well-established. It appears to me that these folks took another door when the only door was supposedly slammed shut.

We've hired academics disillusioned with acadamia that have done quite well. These folks have a pretty realistic shot at becoming wealthy before getting too old.

Debrah said...

"The part about slamming the door behind is odd and I hope that it is clarified. The whole paragraph seems unclear to me. But the last sentence implies that they have something desirable that others don't."

It's quite clear what this lazy--not to mention humorously uninformed--comment was trying to convey.

An attempt to put academics on a higher level....which is ludicrous.

There are many in the academy who come from very humble backgrounds. The fact that they finally achieved PhD status and tenure is like gold to them.

In some cases, it's a financial windfall they have never known.

Therefore, even those who are not very bright--like some members of the Gang of 88--begin to feel affluent.....on a level above others.

LOL!!!

As I have said before, that comment was so ridiculous. An attempt to try to taint DIW.

Little do these insular people know. Many participants on DIW have traveled the globe and could buy and sell these pseudo "intellectuals" a thousand times over.

This kind of insularity only serves to illuminate just how out of touch some of KC's detractors are.

PhD's where I live are a dime a dozen....and if your field is among those which house Lubiano and company, it's more like having an expertise in basket weaving.

The writer Jill Lepore who is featured is a talented writer; however, even she makes outlandish errors.

She was discussing the barbarism among people from several centuries past by giving an example of how chickens were killed.

Their necks were twisted.

Little does Lepore know that this practice was still taking place in rural areas in the 1960's.

Anyone who knows history can tell you that.

Small details like this often trip up those who profess ad nauseum.

Anonymous said...

To Michael in nh,

Well, the post is certainly sourced now. She must be reading here.

I noticed that the book doesn't source most of what it says about her. I know the blog talks about sources but not the book. No footnotes or citations there.

So now a battle of the sources, yes?

Anonymous said...

I wonder what Professors Burke and Horwitz think about a website set up with the sole purpose of ridiculing a single academic?

Why no "collegiality" problems with that? How is that not "prosecutorial"?

What if that single-purpose website did not allow for comments - a free flow of information?

Does it depend on the ideology of the website or blog?

MOO! Gregory

Debrah said...

Gregory at 10:13 PM has hit on the very heart of the matter.

If they couldn't mine the world of KC, these people would be like lions looking for a Christian.

LIS!!!

Don't expect Horwitz to be of any help.

After participating on KC's blog for a very long time, he's found academic religion again.
'
Yikes! All of a sudden KC is the "prosecutor".

Oh, the humanity.

Steven Horwitz said...

Actually, Gregory, I think the idea of a blog dedicated to a *reasonable* critique of DiW would be a good thing. That THIS blog has named itself with reference to KC specifically, rather than the blog or the book, suggests the attack will be more personal, which the overview post certainly is. THAT is not a good thing. So yeah, it's not "collegial" at all. Not sure I'd call it prosecutorial either. It's not that good, at least the overview post. (Of course, it's also not clear it's written by a faculty member at Duke or anywhere else, so I'm not willing to pass judgment on what it says about the "collegiality" of faculty specifically.)

However...

I did leave a comment (still "in moderation") that asked the blog owner to correct an important factual error in the overview (Stuart Taylor was listed as writing for "the right-wing National Review" rather than National Journal.) That correction has since been made. I appreciate the blog owner doing so and I think it's worth noting publicly that the change was made.

And Professor Lubiano's lengthy reply to the book is written civilly and respectfully, it offers factual information to support her perspective and addresses the questions of her sources and KC's. Yes, she is critical of KC and Stuart, but she is not nasty in personal ways. All in all, a good example of a reasoned response to the book's claims about her. I wish that she had done this earlier in the process (based on items at DiW rather than the book) as it might have made subsequent discussion more fact-based than speculative. And that includes the book. It might have also made subsequent discussion about Professor Lubiano less personal and nasty at DiW.

Then again, maybe not.

Steven Horwitz said...

One more thing Gregory:

I do not believe blog owners have ANY obligation to allow any comments, or to not moderate ones they allow. It's strictly the owner's right to determine what kind of blog he or she wants. It's not a violation of "free speech" to restrict comments at a blog any more than it is such a violation for me to say, for example, that you can't use racist language or call me nasty names in my home. It's my property, I decide.

I do not find blog owners some how blameworthy or necessarily revealing themselves to be afraid of criticism if they don't allow comments or edit ones they get. The blog is THEIR property and its THEIR right to decide. They are not restricting anyone's "free speech." Last I checked, the First Amendment says "Congress shall make no law..." not "Individuals shall make no rules...".

Frankly, given the tone of comments on quite a number of blogs I'm involved with, including two of my own, I can completely understand why blog owners would not want to open their comments section to all comers. No blogger has an obligation to post any or every comment he or she receives.

Michael in NH said...

re: 9:53

[As much as one should sympathize with the players subjected to false accusations, no one went to jail, and the three men have each now received handsome multimillion dollar settlements.]

This wasn't sourced. And I know of no websites with any kind of official documentation on the amount. I have seen speculation on the amount from various places but there is usually wiggle-room in the language indicating that there is no definitive source of the amount.

That said, how do you quantify "handsome" when you don't know the amount? Especially when your out-of-pocket costs exceeded a million.

"As much as one should sympathize with the players subjected to false accusations, no one went to jail,"

Only because they could post bail. And posting bail was no piece of cake. But someone did go to jail.

"It’s simply absurd to imagine that this ranks with the worst episodes of official misconduct in “modern American history,” as a recent player lawsuit has it."

And yet the legal community considers it so. The problem here is that you had a DA, police department, university (see latest lawsuit claims), state bar, attorney generals office, US Attorney Generals office, state elected officials and a standing president that knew that this was a bogus case. Some of the actors (university according to the latest lawsuit, police, DA) were actively involved in the frame while others (state bar, AG, Governor, etc.) stood by passively. It wasn't until December when it was clear that NC was a laughingstock that the State Bar and State Prosecutors took action. The attorney general only took action when Nifong requested it.

For some reason, this reminds me of The Visit (I took German Literature many, many years ago).

"Johnson has taken his crusade all the way to bank. His book Until Proven Innocent with Stuart Taylor, a reporter with the National Journal, reportedly received a large advance. Johnson and Taylor sold the movie rights to HBO."

I noticed that the large advance wasn't sourced. It's also a bit odd too considering that the first printing was only 13,000 copies. Why would a publisher hand out a large advance on a book with only 13K on the first printing?

I haven't read all of Lubiano's post but I see several obvious problems with what she has posted. I'm glad she makes corrections but she'd be more credible if she did more homework first and passed out her critique for Johnson to review. I'm guessing that that's common in the academic world.

becket03 said...

An absolute mess of a post. Short on facts, long on unsupported accusations and condescension. Potter is a example of what Alasdair MacIntyre warned us of in After Virtue, i.e., a so called scholar who thrives on wishy-washy, airy-fairy emotivism, and (quite ironically, given her decision to attempt, unsuccessfully, a definition of argument in the post) is incapable of marshaling a defensible, logical, premise-to-proof, argument.

And, jeez, the smug moral preening...yuck! Such foolishness. I hope those who call this type of thinking merely a passing fashion, which will die out when the boomers retire, are proven correct someday. Otherwise the academy -- on the humanities side anyway -- is done for.

beckett

Anonymous said...

I would like to know why so many posters, including pink 2, Sisyphus (love the name), Andrea, Tim Burke and Tim Lacey, gave TR a pass on her main thesis, which was:

"Taken as a whole, in the end, DIW is about why some people get to go to places like Duke and other people don't -- it is about class rage, it is about the collapse of opportunity for middle-class people who actually had wonderful college educations in their grasp a generation ago, and have now been shut out of them. It's about how some of us made it in, and slammed the door behind us."

Can anyone justify:

1. That D-i-W was about middle class people not getting into college; or

2. That middle class people cannot now get into colleges?

Anyone?

If K.C. Johnson EVER made an argument like that on D-i-W, I would have stopped reading his blog. Immediately.

A kind of velvet genderism allows certain protected individuals, and not others, to get away with gaffes, violations of law and logic and outright mean-spiritedness, apparently without fear of correction.
____________

Professor Horwitz: I am much too tired to argue with you tonight! It would not be a fair fight. :) So, you win this round! I would note that if K.C. had not allowed free-flowing comments to his posts, it would have been seen by certain individuals as fascism, Horowitzianism, and so on. Again, the velvet racism/genderism.
____________

Diva & Michael in NH: I think you give the blog author too much credit. Read the argument more carefully: D-i-W was about middle-class people not being able to get into college. It is so silly, I think you missed it! There can be no doubt this was Prof. Potter's final thesis, because she redundantly proclaimed it as such herself: "Taken as a whole, in the end, DIW is about ...."

These are my opinions. MOO! Gregory

Michael in NH said...

re: Gregory

"Taken as a whole, in the end, DIW is about why some people get to go to places like Duke and other people don't -- it is about class rage, it is about the collapse of opportunity for middle-class people who actually had wonderful college educations in their grasp a generation ago, and have now been shut out of them. It's about how some of us made it in, and slammed the door behind us."

It could be:

1) Older people that didn't get degrees when they were younger. Polanski might fall into this category. Though I don't think that Potter read enough to know about Polanski.

2) A dig at KC as he isn't teaching at an Ivy or near Ivy.

3) An [I'm better than you comment] as she has something that we apparently don't have.

4) Something deliberate on the part of elite academics to exclude others from joining them.

It seems to be an attempt at elitism that went a little haywire. I think it best that the author explain as I think it far from clear.

A little anecdote:

During one of our trips to Singapore, my wife took us to various hawker stands. These are food vendors arranged in a way similar to food courts in malls in the US. Education is highly valued in Singapore as the path to a better life financially. She pointed out a few places where the owners of hawker stalls were far better off than those that went to college and got their professional degrees. At least financially.

In the book, The Millionaire Next Door (I read it in the 1990s), it talked about most millionaires as ordinary people with a lot of them owning very boring small businesses. Far from the glitz and glamor that the media portrays the rich. A comment on the housing bubble blog many months ago sums it up well: we have a ton of poor people trying to look like they're wealthy and a bunch of wealthy people trying to look like they're poor.

pink 2 said...

I don't think that Tim Burke or Zimmerman have posted any personal attacks on KC Johnson that come close to the nastiness of KC Johnson's attacks on other academics, many of whom were untenured. Indeed, Burke has been a model of reasoned response, IMHO. He, like the TR, seem to be people who take the term, "colleague," seriously. Zimmerman has also been very moderate in his comments, although that didn't keep the sunshine band from roosting on his blog.

I am not convinced that KC Johnson is as competent a data collector as many think. KC Johnson was hoaxed last summer, apparently by someone who had posted regularly on DiH. Johnson never explained why he didn't authenticate an e-mail before posting an attack on the female academic who allegedly sent it. (At least one of Johnson's readers noticed--and commented--that the e-mail might be a fabrication by someone other than the academic named as its author.) When Johnson's actions were brought to the attention of the victim of his vitriol, she had to ask him to remove something she did not write. He never explained this little "slip up."

While I might not think it's the best idea in the world to dedicate a blog to KC Johnson (because I don't think he's worth the attention), I can well imagine that his on-going attacks on a variety of people might have led some people to respond in this manner.

Finally, the "Listening Statement" can easily be both a response to the LAX accusations and NOT an assumption of guilt. How is this so difficult to comprehend?

whatever said...

Michael in nh,

Lubiano's post is a post not an academic review. And generally only academic review essays (not reviews generally speaking) go out for review and then only sometimes. Did KC's posts go out for review before he posted them? Do other bloggers? Or people who respond to blogger posts? Her response is long, but it directs itself in pinpoint fashion to what the authors actually write about her.

And what she says is in response to a non-academic attack on her, an attack that itself did not go out for academic review. Why would you hold her response to some pretty personal attacks on her to a standard to which you don't hold the book?

The book has no footnotes, no citations, and no named sources about her, her work, and her public (newspaper, blog, etc.) statements. She supplies her sources.

The book imagines some things about her and attributes other things about her without sources. Maybe you should read the whole post. She did the homework on herself that the book didn't do and posted her sources as well as pointing out straightforwardly where some things come down to the book's account versus her account.

The book didn't do that. It simply wrote what it thought about her, her work, and her public statements. Plus, the book abundantly assigns motives and thoughts to her.

Lastly, just how credible is it for you, as you say in your post, to see several obvious problems with what she has posted, but you don't point to anything specific and what you criticize in her you don't critize in the book?

Michael in NH said...

re: 6:37

[Finally, the "Listening Statement" can easily be both a response to the LAX accusations and NOT an assumption of guilt. How is this so difficult to comprehend?]

Those that use Zimmerman to defend the listening ad and to attack Johnson never bother to post his comments on the listening ad. At least that I'm aware. Neither am I aware of references to his post on "The Trouble With Potbanging".

Anonymous said...

michael,

I don't understand why you think I'm using Zimmerman to defend the listening ad and to attack Johnson. I'm not. It's my own opinion of the ad.

6:37

Anonymous said...

TO 6:37, WHO WROTE:

"Finally, the "Listening Statement" can easily be both a response to the LAX accusations and NOT an assumption of guilt. How is this so difficult to comprehend?"

It is difficult to comprehend your position because we have actually read the "Listening ad," and we understand English.

THE "LISTENING AD" READS:

1. “These students are shouting and whispering about WHAT HAPPENED to this young woman and to themselves.” (emphasis added).


That is a prejudgment. The words used were “WHAT HAPPENED to this young woman ....” The author could have used words such as “what was alleged to have happened.” Note that this is NOT a student quote; rather, it is Lubiano's handiwork.


2. “... I am only comfortable talking about THIS EVENT in my room with close friends. I am actually afraid to even bring it up in public. But worse, I wonder now about everything ... If SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENS TO ME....” (emphasis added).


What do you think “this event” means? The Duke hoax, of course. No other specific event is alluded to in the “Listening ad.” Also, consider what the quotation implies: The speaker has nothing to fear if there is just an investigation of students who are presumed innocent, but she does have something to fear “if something like this happens” to her. Something like what? A rape, of course, a prejudged, juried and executed rape.


3. “I can’t help but think about the different attention given to WHAT HAS HAPPENED from what it would have been if the guys had been not just black but participating in a different sport, like football, something that’s not SO UPSCALE.” (emphasis added).


“What has happened” refers to the Duke lacrosse hoax, and the author appears to be saying that he or she wants arrests now! The "different attention" is asking for the lock-up of the offenders. Finally, the use of the “so upscale” language prejudices the boys in a classist way. Of course, “what has HAPPENED” is a prejudgment that a rape occurred, and not just a prejudgment, but also a demand that arrests be affected immediately.


4. “And this is what I’m thinking right now - Duke isn’t really responding to THIS. Not really. And THIS, what HAS HAPPENED, IS A DISASTER. THIS IS A SOCIAL DISASTER.” (emphasis mine except last sentence).


Use of the word “this,” of course, refers to the Duke rape hoax. So do the words “what has happened.” Even a feeble-minded person would conclude that an investigation is not a disaster, but a rape would be. “This” rape “happened.” That is a prejudgment. Also, use of the word “happened” obviously refers to the alleged rape, not some nebulous racism on campus; otherwise, it would have been “is happening” or “is a daily occurrence.” This was a prejudgment about what “happened.”

It is interesting how people will make wild speculations about Professor Johnson, but ignore the plain meaning of the words written by Professor Lubiano.

Also, 6:37, would you concede that Professor Lubiano is smart enough to include two separate ideas in an approximate 600-word advertisement, if she so desired?

Listed above are four direct prejudgments lifted as quotes from the “Listening ad.” The fact that there are 15-16 other references to the Duke rape allegations in the advertisement is further proof that these were prejudgments of rape, not some supposed on-campus racism. Why would Lubiano use the word "terror"? Do you really think that word related to anything but the gang rape?

Then, again, there are Lubiano’s own words about the “Listening ad” in her e-mail sending it to colleagues for approval. She said it was “about” the rape allegations.

These are my opinions. Tortmaster

P.S. I am desperate to find one tenured academic other than Professor Johnson who will read those words truthfully.

student said...

TR, a commenter in this thread pointed out this link...

http://durhamwonderland.blogspot.com/2007/11/airbrushing.html

I was surprised and disappointed to read it. Is it just a matter of being fed up with the poster's perspective?

noa said...

Oppositionality has a way of nestling deep...

In my experience, it's easy to get caught up in endless reactive debates that can be satisfying in a gritty sort of way, but in the end don't really produce anything worthwhile, or help anyone learn anything. Especially online. Online, there will ALWAYS be someone next door with unsound (from my perspective) rhetoric that is easy to tear apart, but just coherent enough that it feels great to smash.

I'm not saying that these debates are worthless, or even that masturbation is worthless. I am saying that there may be more productive uses of our time and energy. Feeding this opposition is the natural, reflexive thing to do - someone attacks, we respond. Sometimes if I let that impulse pass, though, it's easy to see that there are far more productive things I could do with the next two hours of my life.

Regarding the Duke case, for example, I can think of at least one more productive exploration:

It sounds like you may have been one of the many people who got caught up in falsely believing that three boys were guilty of a crime they did not commit (if you weren't, then you can at least understand and sympathize with some who were). Would an hour of sincere reflection on the process behind those mistakes, for example, be more valuable than an hour of argument that isn't changing anyone's mind? I think so. The former is a blog post that I would love to read and could learn a lot from.

By having the courage to examine the problematic processes in our own home (not because anyone else is demanding it, but because it's so worthwhile) and simply dropping the oppositionality, we can give others permission to do the same.

I think you're awesome, by the way. From a distance, at least. I'm excited to take a class with you when I get the chance.

-Noa ('10)

P.S. This was a general response to the recent debates here. As I scan your recent entries to decide where to post this comment, I see that it may be more a response to the debate that has unfolded in the comments than in your front-page posts. Because all of your main posts do, in fact, say something useful.

Anonymous said...

"About forgiveness and an understanding that sin is universal. I mean, what's a deeper or more established motif in Christian culture than that?"

2:19 PM EST

Timothy,

I agree, appearantly those in the "humanities" would rather take a maoist approach. How ironic.

Ave

Michael in NH said...

re: 9:50 AM

[I don't understand why you think I'm using Zimmerman to defend the listening ad and to attack Johnson. I'm not. It's my own opinion of the ad.]

I was responding to another poster. I put the time down as 6:37 not 1:35.

Michael in NH said...

re: whatever at 8:23 AM

[Lubiano's post is a post not an academic review. And generally only academic review essays (not reviews generally speaking) go out for review and then only sometimes. Did KC's posts go out for review before he posted them? Do other bloggers? Or people who respond to blogger posts? Her response is long, but it directs itself in pinpoint fashion to what the authors actually write about her.]

My understanding is that KC tries to contact people that he's quoting or writing about and he and Zimmerman emailed back and forth before writing about the other. They seem to now be communicating within blogs. KC usually provides the opportunity for rebuttal to those that he writes about.

[And what she says is in response to a non-academic attack on her, an attack that itself did not go out for academic review. Why would you hold her response to some pretty personal attacks on her to a standard to which you don't hold the book?]

KC has posted on this on his blog already. He was in contact with her for information but she requested that he not email her anymore.

[The book imagines some things about her and attributes other things about her without sources. Maybe you should read the whole post. She did the homework on herself that the book didn't do and posted her sources as well as pointing out straightforwardly where some things come down to the book's account versus her account.

The book didn't do that. It simply wrote what it thought about her, her work, and her public statements. Plus, the book abundantly assigns motives and thoughts to her.]

KC apparently is making some changes somewhere. Perhaps to his errata web page on the book. I think that it would have helped Lubiano if she had answered his queries.

[Lastly, just how credible is it for you, as you say in your post, to see several obvious problems with what she has posted, but you don't point to anything specific and what you criticize in her you don't critize in the book?]

One shouldn't need to point out where 1 + 1 = 3. And it's a useful rhetorical device.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how all these thousands of words change Professor Johnson's point one bit. Professor Potter said that the alleged victim was assaulted at the party, and she wasn't. End of story.

All this relativistic nonsense about "well some people think I'm credible and some people think KC is credible" does not change that simple fact.

Why is this so complicated? Professor Potter made a rush to judgment about a subject she hadn't investigated closely, a judgment that aligned with her personal preconceptions about the world. That was a bad judgment, especially because it claimed certainty about a highly publicized legal proceeding.

Conversations about Truth and Objectivity and poor defendants in the same position (a topic KC himself has touched on several times) do not change that fact either. Neither does saying that the incorrect judgment had no impact on how the case came out, or that the comment was made thoughtlessly. It was still a mistake and it shouldn't be that big of a deal to admit that.

It's amazing how long some people can drag this out trying to change the subject. Some things really are that simple.

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