Academic and Workplace Freedom – Open Thread

by Henry on December 20, 2012

Since we are not allowing regular comments on the letter below, I thought it would be only fair to open up a different thread for people who want to comment more broadly on matters related to this case, or the general issues it raises. No trolling, but feel free to comment as per on a regular post.

{ 231 comments }

1

Ben Alpers 12.20.12 at 1:52 am

When considering the nature of the coordinated rightwing attack on Loomis, don’t miss this fabulous bit of Ol’ Perfessorial hypocrisy [h/t Paul Campos @ LGM].

2

Ben Alpers 12.20.12 at 1:53 am

Whoops….that was supposed to link to this: http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/159920/

3

Rich Puchalsky 12.20.12 at 2:06 am

“No trolling” is a really bad way to start this thread. What “trolling” is defined as, here as everywhere, is sufficiently serious disagreement with the posters.

I supported the statement, for what little that is worth, but SEK is wrong to say that the audience for the rhetoric has as great an effect on the interpretation of the rhetoric as he says that it does. When Reynolds launched his jibe about “eliminationist rhetoric”, he was mocking something that left-wingers have often brought up about the right. Certainly if a right-winger in the NRA had said that he wanted some specific person’s head on a stick, I wouldn’t have thought it was fine.

The difference comes in what happens after that. The left doesn’t launch campaigns to have relatively powerless people on the other side fired. That’s what’s worth opposing in what’s happened to Loomis. But if people really take all of what they’re writing about harmless forms of speech seriously, they should think about a lot of the outrage of the week about some right-wing blogger that is still featured on a good number of left-wing blogs. (Not here, and not LGM, in general.)

4

Freddie deBoer 12.20.12 at 2:13 am

You know, the only reason I ever started writing online– the only reason– was because I realized how many otherwise decent and intelligent people failed to see that there is no divide between an idea and its expression, and that as long as someone else’s definition of what is or is not legitimate discourse holds sway, freedom of expression has no meaning. So it bums me right the fuck out to see you follow a post calling for academic freedom with one saying “no trolling.” There’s no difference between saying “no trolling” and saying “no saying things I don’t like.” None at all.

5

Henry 12.20.12 at 2:15 am

bq. There’s no difference between saying “no trolling” and saying “no saying things I don’t like.” None at all.

If you don’t see any difference, that’s your problem, not mine, and good luck to you.

6

Jeff 12.20.12 at 2:29 am

Well, I guess as my previous post was deleted, I’ll re-post:

http://twitchy.com/2012/12/18/university-of-rhode-island-professors-retweet-murder-anyone-who-thinks-teachers-should-be-armed/

Someone purposely (?) left out his more offensive comments. Intellectual honesty please.

7

P O'Neill 12.20.12 at 2:42 am

The Ole Perfesser:

JUST WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW: North Korea fires artillery barrage on South. If they start anything, I say nuke ‘em. And not with just a few bombs. They’ve caused enough trouble — and it would be a useful lesson for Iran, too. We can’t afford another Korean war, but hey, we’re already dismantling warheads. . . .

Eliminationist, Heh Indeedy.

8

Marc 12.20.12 at 2:47 am

Jeff: do the same standards apply to, say, Reynolds? Just curious – because the literal minded could come up with a mountain of quotes from him that would be more offensive.

9

Vance Maverick 12.20.12 at 2:47 am

Jeff @6, would you quote one of the ones you’re offended by, and explain why in some detail? And ideally argue for the consequences that should follow?

10

ecurb 12.20.12 at 2:48 am

” The left doesn’t launch campaigns to have relatively powerless people on the other side fired”

No, they just call swat teams on right wing bloggers.

I accidentally posted this in the other thread, having opened it before the update:
Reporting Loomis to the FBI was wrong and possibly even illegal, but he should not be defended against the social consequences of his twitter posts.
He chose to write a profanity-laden rant that got downright creepy (beating people to death, really?), and he chose to publish it under his own name. That means his reputation rightly suffers for it.
If he wasn’t comfortable with that he could have used a throwaway account for angry outbursts, like sensible internet users do.

11

Malaclypse 12.20.12 at 2:53 am

He chose to write a profanity-laden rant that got downright creepy (beating people to death, really?), and he chose to publish it under his own name.

Except that was the Rude Pundit (protip: not actually a real name), not Loomis.

12

ecurb 12.20.12 at 3:01 am

He retweeted it as part of his screed, which by my understanding of twitter is “saying the same thing somebody else just said”.

13

T. Paine 12.20.12 at 3:08 am

but he should not be defended against the social consequences of his twitter posts.

But trying to get him fired isn’t a “social” consequence. And having a brigade of nutjobs flood the university where he works with hypocritical and moronic complaints is also not a “social” consequence – it’s the result of bad faith incitement by people who have not been subject to what should be the normal response of every person to their craziness. Malkin, Reynolds, et. al. should be ignored, mocked, and otherwise denied any meaningful platform/power, but they have inexplicably cultivated a following who take their orders.

I think that Driftglass and Corey Robin have commented on this before, but maybe I’m just misremembering significant parts of what they write…

14

Vance Maverick 12.20.12 at 3:10 am

ecurb, that’s not my understanding of retweeting, or of quotation in general. We quote people to associate ourselves with their utterance, but not to identify ourselves with it.

15

Coulter 12.20.12 at 3:15 am

I disagree with the university’s response, but have no doubt that any untenured professor who made a comment that teachers need to be armed would not get tenure. In that sense Loomis’ undeleted tweets are a perfect model of what I see passing as political discourse in universities. Do you think a student in his class would feel comfortable raising any of these issues?

I certainly would question the professors’ ability to treat a biathlon competitor/student fairly if he found out that they did a shooting sport .. or found out that the NRA sponsors the USA shooting teams.

Why can Loomis accuse “the right” of murder and not expect to silence the speech of his students? Of course, he probably never gets to meet members of the NRA in the faculty lounge. Probably why he has such extreme views.

16

Vance Maverick 12.20.12 at 3:18 am

Coulter @15 — you’re having a conversation entirely inside your own head. You believe that an untenured professor who did X would not get tenure — and that confirms your opinion about political discourse. More firmly grounded generalities, please.

17

Rich Puchalsky 12.20.12 at 3:19 am

“He retweeted it as part of his screed” equals “He chose to write a profanity-laden rant”? Really? That’s just factually wrong. You might as well say that someone who writes “I support this post” chose to write the post.

This is the story of American contemporary politics in miniature. There were plenty of real reasons to oppose Obama, for instance, but what did the right go with? Racism.

18

JW Mason 12.20.12 at 3:22 am

Henry @5 is absolutely right. There is a difference between speech and things that look like speech but aren’t, though the “looks like” thing makes that difference hard to pin down in many particular cases.

You think X, I think not-X, so I say not-X: not trolling. You think X, and I want to provoke and annoy you, so I say not-X: trolling. One is a speech act, one is the online equivalent of pushing someone, or spitting in their face. Though, again, they can be hard to distinguish in particular cases.

Not getting the concept of trolling is a lot like not getting why white people can’t use the n-word. Speech isn’t always speech.

19

JW Mason 12.20.12 at 3:25 am

I meant to add, I think CT does a very good job sorting trolling from real speech. I know it’s a lot of work for the proprietors and they get lots of crap for it and very little credit, since it’s one of those jobs where if it you do it well, it’s invisible. So, thanks.

20

Ben Alpers 12.20.12 at 3:26 am

Coulter @ 15:

Do you have any basis whatsoever for your claim that an untenured professor who said teachers should be armed would be denied tenure? Who do you imagine standing in his or her way (assuming that is that s/he met the actual tenure requirements of his or her department)? I think you’d find that the vast majority of academics believe that professors should never be punished professionally for expressing political opinions, however idiotic.

21

shah8 12.20.12 at 3:31 am

JW Mason…

Oooohhh, this is a perpetual struggle to get people to recognize that free speech should be socially constructed, and not built along absolutist and autistic legal mechanations such that hate speech and incitement speech can’t be dealt with, except with “more speech” or some other atomistic construction of citizenry.

22

Coulter 12.20.12 at 3:37 am

“I think you’d find that the vast majority of academics believe that professors should never be punished professionally for expressing political opinions, however idiotic.”

I think you are correct – which is why the vast majority of academics believe conservatives means they don’t meet actual tenure requirements. Just like country clubs that excluded blacks didn’t exclude them because they were black, but merely because “they didn’t meet the admission requirements”. If you think anyone who believes in certain “idiotic” beliefs is an idiot, what follows …

Basis for my claims? Too much time in academia and too many off the cuff comments like Loomis’ directed towards: christians in general, catholics specifically, republicans, but never till this debate started, NRA members, but I can add it to the list.

23

Ani 12.20.12 at 3:41 am

I think Loomis’ comments were unsound and intemperate, but I am appalled by the right’s reaction to them — as though he posed any kind of threat to the well-being of gun owners or any NRA official — and disheartened by the university’s failure to add to its pedestrian distinction between its views and his by at least a token nod toward freedom of speech.

Having said that, this is one of those occasions on which I really struggle with baseline assumptions. Loomis isn’t writing as a scholar; he just happens to have a university post, and it just happens to be a public institution. I understand the contractual and constitutional rights this situation affords him. I wonder, though, whether we should treat him any differently than at at-will employee at a tire dealership who made the same remarks, and whose employer made the same statement.

I know we expect greater appreciation by universities for free speech, and more generous pronouncements, but it still seems a bit odd to me that our expectations are so much higher when the issue concerns speech by a university employee . . . a fact that in this case is basically happenstance, and where no employment action seems to have been threatened anyway.

24

kent 12.20.12 at 3:41 am

The fooferaw over Erik Loomis reminded me of the key moment in the novel “The Human Stain” — anyone else?

25

Both Sides Do It 12.20.12 at 3:42 am

ecurb,

1) That is yet another of the thousand benign and innocuous hyperbolic expressions that are used in causal conversation every day in every situation that in no way indicate a desire for or incitement of violence. As Malaclypse points out, it was a re-tweet of an account that regularly makes hyperbolic statements. And, as Jeff’s link so helpfully documents, Loomis had used the expression recently in saying that if his friends or loved ones thought about climbing Everest he would beat them to death. It is a deliberate and willful misreading to attribute any sort of violent intent or desire or incitement to that or any of these tweets at issue.

2) Loomis is not facing social consequences, he is facing political consequences. As has been amply demonstrated in the last two posts and whose full documentation would take weeks, the exact same people driving the outrage at Loomis by characterizing and promoting his tweets as calling for murder and assassination have all made statements in support of violence against political opponents that are far less innocuous than those made by Loomis. He is not facing the consequences of saying things that polite society finds beyond the pale. He is facing the consequences of having pissed off a political messaging machine that can direct real-world harassment towards people it doesn’t like.

This is all besides the fact that everyone fucking knows what’s going on, here. The FBI was notified and state police dispatched. There were death threats. These are not the hallmarks of someone facing social consequences following intemperate rhetoric. Especially when the only people who saw the remarks in question besides Loomis’ twitter followers were a small group of people following hyperpartisan conservative blogs.

No, I’m afraid this is a fairly bright-line situation. You can think Loomis is intemperate, wrong, bull-headed; that his writing is shoddy and analysis ignorant; or that his political goals would make the country a much worse place to live. But if you find what people are doing to him acceptable, you’re a hypocrite if you also believe in free speech, democracy, pluralism, or America.

26

Ben Alpers 12.20.12 at 3:55 am

Coulter @21:

I think you are correct – which is why the vast majority of academics believe conservatives means they don’t meet actual tenure requirements. Just like country clubs that excluded blacks didn’t exclude them because they were black, but merely because “they didn’t meet the admission requirements”.

Again: care to offer even a single, actual example of this phenomenon, i.e. someone being denied tenure because s/he expressed a conservative view? Or evidence that most academics believe that conservatives “don’t meet tenure requirements” (which incidentally have to do with scholarship and teaching, not one’s political views)?

(Excellent working in of the “liberals-are-the-real-racists” / “we are the Jews of liberal fascism” meme, btw!)

27

Henry 12.20.12 at 4:01 am

Having said that, this is one of those occasions on which I really struggle with baseline assumptions. Loomis isn’t writing as a scholar; he just happens to have a university post, and it just happens to be a public institution. I understand the contractual and constitutional rights this situation affords him. I wonder, though, whether we should treat him any differently than at at-will employee at a tire dealership who made the same remarks, and whose employer made the same statement.

This is why we noted in the post that this wasn’t just about academic freedom, but a much wider set of issues involving people’s freedom to say unpopular things in their personal capacity without getting fired. We’ve blogged on this a lot over the years. Brian Barry’s book, _Speechless_ is an excellent resource on this broader set of topics which I’ve referenced before.

28

purple 12.20.12 at 4:06 am

I tire of the reactionaries’ feigned outrage. The stuff they routinely spout , and now their sensitive souls have been troubled ? Stop.

29

JW Mason 12.20.12 at 4:07 am

he just happens to have a university post, and it just happens to be a public institution. I understand the contractual and constitutional rights this situation affords him. I wonder, though, whether we should treat him any differently than at at-will employee at a tire dealership who made the same remarks

You’re the guy who, stung by the line “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges,” thinks the problem is that we’re not being strict enough insisting that everyone has to sleep out in the rain.

30

Corey Robin 12.20.12 at 4:10 am

JW Mason #29: I’m going to steal this from you in the future. Perfect.

31

Sebastian H 12.20.12 at 4:13 am

I’m not a big fan of Loomis. His writing has seemed intemperate before and was in this case (though you could argue that it wasn’t a time for temperance). However the attacks on him are totally out of proportion. First, to construe his comments as an actual threat is ridiculous. It was classic hyperbole perfectly understandable as such by any normal reader. Second, this is not the kind of thing you should try to get someone fired over (even in a non academic position). He was venting as a private citizen over a really horrible occurrence. Being thin skinned and whiney about that is just obnoxious. Trying to get him fired over it is….. I’m not even sure what the appropriate negative word would be.

32

Ani 12.20.12 at 4:15 am

Henry, will try to look at that. I guess what I am trying to do is to challenge the hierarchy of argument here. This post does mention “academic and workplace freedom,” which is why I thought I was writing responsively, and the prior post soliciting signatures situates this in the broader context of rights to speak publicly. But it also fairly unambiguously emphasizes the need to “stand[] behind a member of their faculty” and “the importance of academic freedom and of scholars’ freedom independently to express views (even intemperate ones) on topics of public importance.” I view the speech as so tangentially related to his scholarly functions as to flip the order of emphasis, recognizing that this does require some ability to distinguish reprisals based on scholarship and reprisals based on “ordinary speech” — but tending to feel that a scholar’s protections in that latter regard should be little if any greater than anyone else’s.

33

Silly Wabbit 12.20.12 at 4:19 am

I can’t say that I know much about this. It sounds like a professor made some dumb comments over twitter.

I guess I don’t really get the scary leftist professor meme of the last few years. Glenn Beck had a sizable portion of the nation’s well-armed badass tough guy conservatives riled up over a sociology professor in her 70s. Earlier this year someone completed fabricated a statement by a professor and put it out there in the conservative mediascape and some truly awful stuff was said about her. I have colleagues who have received death threats. To put in in context, I do environmental social scientific work.

I wish I could sit down with some of the people driving these anti-academic campaigns and figure out whats really on their minds. I refuse to believe that any of these tough-guy conservatives, who are apparently well-armed, are really afraid of academic faculty. But I don’t really understand what “the right” (I dislike such generalities….) hopes to win by costing Mr. Loomis his job. Seriously, he will just replaced by another professor, who will probably have left-wing politics but not have a twitter account.

Someone help me out here…..

34

Ani 12.20.12 at 4:23 am

#29:

“You’re the guy who, stung by the line “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges,” thinks the problem is that we’re not being strict enough insisting that everyone has to sleep out in the rain.”

That *is* a really good line, and I guess that alone justifies it. Still, I think you’re mistakenly assuming that I think the hypothetical tire dealer should be fired, and I’m not sure why. If you care, my view is actually that neither should suffer any job-related reprisals, nor should anyone think they can make headway by bellyaching at the employers. I also think that academics tend to lose their commitment to the rights of others by associating ancillary rights with the privileges of the academy, and I also think that same mentality tends to attract criticism from those who resent that artificial privileging and rightly detect it has less of a differentiable functional case than is pretended. But don’t let that deter you.

35

ecurb 12.20.12 at 4:27 am

-Rich Puchalsky
“profanity laden screed” was my description of his series of tweets, which were indeed both ranting and full of ALL CAPS SWEARING. To the best of my knowledge, that was the only retweet among them. (Please read them to confirm that, because I’m obviously no twitter expert. If I’m wrong, please say so.)

-Both Sides Do It
If you read my post I believe you’ll find the line “Reporting Loomis to the FBI was wrong and possibly even illegal”. I only said “possibly” because IANAL. I didn’t think I even needed to say “and the death threats were bad too”, because… duh?
There are a lot of pissed off political messaging machines on the internet now, working for every side imaginable (or just for the lulz). Running into them is a workplace hazard for non-anon bloggers. I’ll mention yet again that nobody doxxed, sued, or SWATted him, so he’s hardly a martyr.
Honestly, I don’t like what they’re doing, and I would never do it myself. But if I started tweeting about a Homosexual Conspiracy to Corrupt Our Youth, I would not be surprised if a lot of gay people took offense and decided to mess with me.
When you say something on the internet, you say it to everyone, right to their faces. That’s why being anonymous is so important if you’re going to start insulting people.

36

john b 12.20.12 at 4:31 am

“It sounds like a professor made some dumb comments over twitter.”

Dumb in the sense of “provoking the wrath of far-right bullies in a way that might have been foreseen”, yes. Dumb in the absolute sense, no.

I thoroughly endorse his comments, all of which *were* a reasonable reaction to the events of last Friday, which *was* made possible by the evil bastards at the NRA, and *could not* have happened in any of the dozens of developed countries with sane firearms policies.

37

themgt 12.20.12 at 4:32 am

I wholly agree with the point about academic freedom. OTOH I think stuff like this, taken in it’s entirety, is simply … unhelpful, to the cause of making the world a better place

One tweet, whatever. The sheer volume is just like … Erik, maybe spend your time trying to take constructive action in the world?

38

john b 12.20.12 at 4:34 am

if I started tweeting about a Homosexual Conspiracy to Corrupt Our Youth, I would not be surprised if a lot of gay people took offense and decided to mess with me.

And if there was conclusive evidence accepted by every reasonable scholar on the topic who wasn’t part of the Gay Conspiracy that such a conspiracy existed, then you would nonetheless be right to publicise and tweet about it.

As CS Lewis noted, if witchcraft were real, then the mediaeval reaction to witchcraft would not have been at all unreasonable. The NRA really is a conspiracy that systematically corrupts the government and whose efforts lead to thousands of unnecessary deaths every year.

39

Henry 12.20.12 at 4:34 am

Ani, you should read the post that we linked to, very deliberately, in order to provide the broader context of workplace rights that you think is missing.

40

ecurb 12.20.12 at 4:37 am

^ I can see we’re not going to make any progress here. People like you can’t be reasoned with, so I guess Congressional Subcommittee Hearings at dawn are the only way to settle it.

41

Jonathan H. Adler 12.20.12 at 4:40 am

It’s a bit mealy-mouthed to defend someone’s free speech rights without acknowledging all that they said. In this case, Loomis said gun rights advocates should be put in jail and “beaten to death.” The former point — that people should be put in jail for exercising their first Amendment rights to engage in political advocacy — is one he repeated.

There’s no question whatsoever that Loomis was engaged in protected speech. The comment about Wayne LaPierre wasn’t a threat and the full list of tweets did not constitute something for which he should be sanctioned by his employer, let alone investigated by the police. That said, his tweets went far beyond what was acknowledged in the post and are the sort of comments that merit condemnation (indeed, they go well beyond the sorts of comments that have been condemned on this blog in the past).

As far as I’m concerned, Ken’s take at Popehat is far more principled and on target.
http://www.popehat.com/2012/12/19/professor-loomis-and-the-nra-a-story-in-which-everyone-annoys-me/

42

PJW 12.20.12 at 4:46 am

I wonder if a chilling effect will be a consequence of this series of events centered on Professor Loomis.

43

ecurb 12.20.12 at 4:47 am

Thank you, JHA.

I have to confess that I would be wary of hiring somebody who said things like that using their real identity. Because what if he got drunk and upset with some important clients? Would I end up having to explain to them why one of my employees had posted crude insults about them?
It’s not the subject matter that would worry me. He could have made a case for the NRA being terrorists in a blog post. But he chose to rant on twitter with no self-restraint or composure, and ended up sounding like an angry 12 year old on X-box live.

44

Ani 12.20.12 at 4:48 am

Henry, I did read the post (your original link worked better, but no need to correct). I don’t understand the “very deliberately” snark. I actually had acknowledged, equally deliberately, that your prior post situates this complaint in that broader context, so I wasn’t exactly suggesting that it was missing (see #32). I was explicitly querying the hierarchy of claims, which strike me as eliciting academic support for a (relative) academic privilege, and then explained why I thought that was bad. I don’t expect you to lavish any particular attention on that query, but it’d be nice not to be read so dismissively. Thanks, though, for the earlier book suggestion, and for responding.

45

john b 12.20.12 at 4:48 am

The former point — that people should be put in jail for exercising their first Amendment rights to engage in political advocacy — is one he repeated.

Hmm. Funny the way the First Amendment is seen to protect some forms of political advocacy, while merrily leaving others to be jailed for life for being pro-terrorist, innit? There is little objective difference between Ahmad’s actions and LaPierre’s.

46

ecurb 12.20.12 at 4:52 am

Go away and stop trolling, john b. We know that case is seriously wrong, and it has nothing to do with what we’re talking about. You’ve just run out of cheap jabs.

47

Henry 12.20.12 at 4:55 am

Ani – you’re reading snark into my comment that wasn’t there. “Very deliberately” explains that it wasn’t an accident but a conscious choice that we framed this in terms of a broader set of problems of rights in the workplace – I simply don’t get why you view this as in some way attacking you. Obviously, when you write a letter which is aimed explicitly at academic administrators, you express the problem in language that academic administrators understand. But you should, as we did, also make it clear that this is a special case of a much more general and widespread problem.

48

Main Street Muse 12.20.12 at 4:59 am

I am new to academia; as one who has worked in the private sector for much of my career, I view social media as professional tools. I do not think it is appropriate to use a public forum like twitter to “call for the head” of anyone, nor do I think it appropriate to use the “f” bomb on social media (as it appears Erik Loomis has done) – it’s simply not professional language to use in any way, shape or form. It most certainly does not elevate the level of discourse.

When one uses public forums to say unpopular things in a “personal capacity,” there is a risk that employers may not like it – this is found in the private sector as well (http://huff.to/T8MhmT), and not isolated to the issue of academic freedom. I warn my students that they need to be very, very careful with what they post on social media. It seems from that twitchy site noted above that Erik has been intemperate (to put it mildly) on occasion in his tweets. He has posted tweets that are not at all professional in their tone or language. He’s not just saying “unpopular things” – he’s saying them in a rather ugly and angry manner. Does he talk like that in his class? Is this what academic freedom is for? I don’t know his situation at all, so cannot comment on that.

That said, I am extremely concerned about the violent rhetoric raging at a continual boil within the conservative faction of our most conservative party. When Obama won, Mary Matalin defined our president as a “political narcissistic sociopath [who] leveraged fear and ignorance with a campaign marked by mendacity and malice rather than a mandate for resurgence and reform.” (http://bit.ly/YneF9z) It is astonishing to me that a high-profile conservative would label our president a “narcissistic sociopath.” And for that, I’m sure she’s been applauded by her audience for such phrasing.

That Erik’s tweet has been elevated to a threat on someone’s life – reported to the FBI – the focus of enormous attention for now (until the beast gets bored, as it always does) – seems an extreme reaction to his tweet. But we live in a society where, to protect the right of gun owners, we have people recommending that teachers get a gun to go with their gradebook and attendance sheets. And where a slew of conservatives seem to think the nation is being run by a “sociopath.” And where a major corporation like HSBC can pay a hefty fine for money laundering, and yet no one person is charged with the actual crime of money laundering. And yet Erik’s tweet has been reported to the FBI.

It is alarming, actually. And it isn’t just academic freedom that is at stake.

49

Ani 12.20.12 at 5:04 am

Henry, sorry; I understood “very deliberately” as meaning “so it could not possibly have been missed by anyone,” particularly since you attributed to me (for some reason) the claim that the context *had* been missing . . . when I was explicitly acknowledging that the context had been given, and saying something rather different (shorter version: academics ain’t so special, and feed the anti-speech trolls when they say they are).

I am sure my reading was influenced by a certain, err, tone hereabouts, but in this case at least that inference was wrong.

50

Scott Lemieux 12.20.12 at 5:08 am

In this case, Loomis said gun rights advocates should be put in jail

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of “hyperbole,” I suppose.

Loomis said gun rights advocates should be…“beaten to death.”

He did not.

51

ecurb 12.20.12 at 5:13 am

MSM, I think “narcissistic sociopath” was the nicest thing my friends and I ever called GW. You should have seen us after the ’04 election.

What we do have is a lot of cunning propagandists spinning everything their opponents say as hard as they can, and yelling it into the vast echo chambers of political media.
I suspect FBI reports are going to be the least of our problems soon, if this keeps up.

52

Jonathan H. Adler 12.20.12 at 5:18 am

@Scott –

Sorry, he “retweeted” a tweet that said “First fucker to say the solution is for elementary school teachers to carry guns needs to get beaten to death.”

As for the jail part, he posted multiple comments urging the imprisonment of gun rights advocates, treating such advocacy as tantamount to terrorism, and repeated such things even several days later, e.g. “Dear rightwingers, to be clear, I don’t want to see Wayne LaPierre dead. I want to see him in prison for the rest of his life. #nraterrorism”

If it was just hyperbole, why continue to repeat it even after being called on it. Again, his speech should be protected and he doesn’t deserve all the consequences his comments unleashed, but his comments are still worthy of condemnation.

53

Main Street Muse 12.20.12 at 5:20 am

To ECurb – did you publish such comments in the New Republic? I know people expressed rather extreme thoughts about Bush/Cheney et al, but I do not remember that level of public attack. Nor do I remember a liberal version of the conservative pile-up we see with Erik Loomis. Why do they care so intensely?

54

mud man 12.20.12 at 5:24 am

I’m not sure this hyperbolically violent speech is as harmless as people seem willing to assume. Sure it’s cartoon stuff, not reality, but in times of stress, or in overstressed people, I don’t believe the human brain is nice about the distinction. A matter of mental hygiene. At best it’s a nasty speech habit, like coprolalia, and should be similarly offensive. Ie, not in itself a disqualification from academia.

55

ecurb 12.20.12 at 5:33 am

MSM, I think a lot of it right now is frustration at being locked out of the public debate, and finding a really appalling person they can bully to make up for that.
A lot of elements on the right seem to be feeling that way these days. It doesn’t excuse their awful behavior, of course, but it explains it a little better than “hurrr ReTHUGliCons is evil” (or whatever they’re calling us these days).

56

nick s 12.20.12 at 5:39 am

The left doesn’t launch campaigns to have relatively powerless people on the other side fired.

I find it interesting that the ruggedly self-reliant (with the help of $150k from Tennessee taxpayers) Glenn Reynolds reacted in the manner one associates with a four-year-old running to his mummy.

If it was just hyperbole, why continue to repeat it even after being called on it.

Perhaps it’s akin to continuing one’s role as Eugene Volokh’s water-carrier when he spouts something typically sociopathic? Note that nobody in that thread suggested that he be subject to academic sanction.

57

js. 12.20.12 at 6:03 am

When one uses public forums to say unpopular things in a “personal capacity,” there is a risk that employers may not like it

Yeah, and this is what’s called a problem. Because the employer can say any “unpopular things” he wants (or “she wants” I guess, but given power/gender dynamics, we can stick to “he”). So rather than teaching future employees to be meek little lambs, we should be ensuring that incurring the Seignuer’s displeasure does not result in loss of employment.

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js. 12.20.12 at 6:18 am

This is seriously fucking ridiculous. Just for example, has Adler even attempted to account for all the times a conservative writers have used wording that, were it taken literally, would obviously be calling for murder? Has he, or anyone else, tried to account for the fact that they have done this over and over again. (And no, you fucking google it.)

It’s also remarkably frustrating to see other well-minded people getting all, “oh that was in bad taste”, etc. Seriously, you’re trying to be nice to people who wouldn’t know a good-faith argument if it shot them in the fucking head.

N.B.: Yes, I am recommending kinky sex acts with google, and that arguments should have 2nd amendment rights. (Also, I did sign the statement; under my real name.)

59

Dave 12.20.12 at 6:57 am

I may or may not have been trolling in the last post, but whether Loomis’s “head on a stick” comment was literal or metaphorical really should not matter, and citing urban dictionary as exculpatory evidence is both weasally and unpersuasive. If Loomis wants Watne LaPierre dead, so be it.

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Michael Drew 12.20.12 at 7:28 am

Dave –

It certainly matters if Loomis wanted him dead and wrote to that effect; that’s potentially an incitement or threat (it isn’t necessarily one those, but it potentially could be). Except in an already-charged environment in which a metaphorical statement could be taken as an incitement such as an angry crowd (which did not exist regardless of fevered onlookers’ desire to turn the metaphorical one his their head into a literal one), a recognizably metaphorical statement couldn’t be one of those things. So it matters. And disregard Urban Dictionary: just consult your own familiarity with the English language. If that doesn’t extend to recognizing that statement as metaphorical, then it’s you who don’t matter, not the question. The question matters. And the question’s answer to “If Loomis wants Watne LaPierre dead” is: no, he doesn’t.

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Chris Bertram 12.20.12 at 7:57 am

People making the point about the special protections that academics enjoy as academics have a point. But the right response to this is to notice that many many people live a large part of their lives within stifling and authoritarian institutions and that this inevitably has a bad effect on the public sphere anyway, because of the conformist habit of mind it instils. When you add to that a real risk that people expressing opinions outside their workplace will be sanctioned for that within the workplace (and may lose their jobs), you have a disastrous chilling of public speech. This is one reason why the piece that I wrote with Corey Robin and Alex Gourevitch earlier in the year on workplace coercion was important: private tyranny is the death of citizenship, so there is a public interest in protecting people from this kind of retaliation that is undermined by the “at will” employment contract.

62

Harold 12.20.12 at 10:00 am

63

Martin 12.20.12 at 10:34 am

@ Chris Bertram

Well, while I fully supported the statement as well as your remark, I’d really feel more comfortable if there’d been any outcry here or elsewhere when Delong called for firing Niall Fergusson. Or when Krugman called for unspecified ‘consequences’ for Mankiw and Taylor for the Romney White Paper that really wasn’t to be mistaken for an academic contribution, either. This really is an important issue, and we cannot allow ourselves to weaken our stance by venting our frustrations in the most egregious way whenever something runs counter our proclivites – or simply ignore such statements by ‘peers’ – and then cry foul as the other side happens to touch off a more or less successful character assassination campaign.

64

Both Sides Do It 12.20.12 at 10:37 am

So Jonathan Adler wants to claim that Loomis’ statements show he’s in favor of jailing his political opponents for petitioning the government in favor of policies Loomis doesn’t like.

‘Sfunny, because I thought Loomis’ statements show he’s in favor of things like returning the ability for people to sue guns manufacturers by holding them liable for negligence when their products are used in crimes. Which was taken away in a 2005 law. Or allowing RICO prosecutions for violations of federal firearms laws, which has been kicking around Washington since at least 1968. Y’know, measures “that would mean real accountability for causing immeasurable harm,” in Loomis’ words, for both gun manufacturers and the NRA. Measures that have been bog-standard policy components of gun control debates. That’s what I thought Loomis was talking about. And not jailing people for disagreeing with him. ‘Sfunny.

Maybe it’s not so funny. Because this is the second time in two goddamn days that Adler’s unfamiliarity with liberal/left/Democratic proposals to reduce gun violence has lead him to claim that members of the left are being irresponsible and more concerned with scorched-earth partisanship than being serious.

Whether done consciously or unconsciously, it’s a great rhetorical tactic. It demonizes people to the left of him while allowing him to claim the moral high ground, and re-orients discussion around people to his left proving to his satisfaction they can be taken seriously and away from the atrocious behavior of his political allies.

It’s also good ol’ bullshit in the Frankfurt sense, and perhaps he should stop commenting on this issue until he can figure out how to stop doing it (if it’s unconscious) or that it’s wrong to do (if it’s conscious).

65

Tim Worstall 12.20.12 at 10:44 am

Free speech rather means that while you are indeed allowed to call for someone’s head on a stick (as overblown hyperbole, but not as an actual incitement to someone to get out the machete) free speech also means that everyone else gets to proffer their opinion about who said and what they said. Without that it’s just not free speech, is it?

And just as I’m allowed to call for the head of the Home Secretary (or for a Tory MP to be fired, or that we hang them all, things I do on a regular basis with plenty of swearing added) so too are others allowed to call for my head, or even my job. Whether I get to keep it will depend upon what my employer thinks about what I’ve said and where I’ve said it. At least one person has written to Steve Forbes directly asking that I be fired for my views on something or other.

Shrug. Just goes with the territory of expressing a view.

And I’m afraid I really don’t see why an untenured academic should have greater job protections over such things than a freelance hack* should.

As for the tu quoque, Brad Delong seems to spend vast amounts of time demanding that this or that journo not be employed any more. Does this desired special protection for academics mean that no one should be allowed to call for Delong’s ouster in return?

*This is hack in the English, not American, sense. At least I think so, even if there are those that differ.

66

Manta 12.20.12 at 10:51 am

First, I apologize for adding an inappropriate comment to petition: I think you added the update before I refreshed the page.

Second, I fully agree with the content of that petition.
However, I have a quibble about it.
It seems to me you make 3 arguments in favor of Erik
1) His comments were grossly misinterpreted
2) A university has a duty to protect academic freedom and foster debate
3) “It also speaks to a broader set of rights to speak freely without the fear of being fired for controversial views that many of us have been flagging for years.” and ” the protections of the First Amendment require our collective enforcement, and that all employers—particularly, in this kind of case, university employers—have a special obligation to see that freedom of speech become a reality of everyday life.”

Now, I agree with all 3 points: but I don’t think bloggers at CR and LGM have much standing claiming 3) after the John Derbyshire affaire.
I find it difficult to claim “rights to speak freely without the fear of being fired for controversial views” after pushing for the firing of Derby and cheering after it.
The time to show support for such rights is when someone is fired for expressing views we don’t like and we find abhorrent.

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Martin 12.20.12 at 10:52 am

Tim Worstall,

you ignore the fact that this is just a specific case exemplifying a broader issue. While here, indeeed, it is about an untenured professor, greater protection for academics (that is, compared to everybody else) is exactly not what is called for. Perhaps you should read Henry’s or Christ Bertram’s comments in this very comment section.

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rf 12.20.12 at 10:59 am

It must be disconcerting to find yourself hassled by the police, and harassed by overindulged, mean spirited halfwits, so best of luck to Loomis. No one (ideally) should have to live with these sorts of random threats to their financial, and physical, security.

But it would be something if Loomis took this time to reflect on his ‘civil liberties for certain types of people at certain times’ stance. I guess he’s lucky there’s not a Presidential election coming up. (fwiw, I really dont think the left are better on this than the (not insane) right. Loomis’ tweets alone show a (pretty common) indifference towards protecting speech he disagrees with)

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Walt 12.20.12 at 11:28 am

Does anyone think that John Derbyshire should be fired from absolutely any job he holds, and be unemployable forever? Derbyshire was a paid political pundit. How else do you evaluate a paid political pundit, other than the quality of their opinions? Or should it be a hereditary title, that once given to you by your betters, you keep it forever by the grace of God?

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Walt 12.20.12 at 11:34 am

Tim, you have a main job as a commodities trader, right? You should not be at risk for being fired from that job for your political opinions, even though I would say your political are about 95.2% completely wrong. Maybe someone can concoct some extreme scenario where you managed to drive all of your clients away, but short of that on your own time you should get to be Wrongstall to your heart’s content.

Brad is criticizing journalists for failing to do their jobs. They have a job, and they should do it. If they decline to do it, they should be fired, like anyone else. Walmart greeters who don’t like saying hello to strangers should be fired, and journalists who don’t like uncovering the truth because it means they get worse party invitations should be as well.

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Main Street Muse 12.20.12 at 11:41 am

To JS @57

What bothers me about the Loomis issue is that our attention is diverted from the very real, very pressing debate over whether or not assault weapons should be banned – and whether or not kindergarten teachers should include a gun alongside the brightly colored construction paper they stash in their desk. We’re now debating on whether or not Erik Loomis gets to freely say “There are words. Fuck the National Rifle Association…” and the like. Once again, because we are not talking about what really matters, the haters win. And quite frankly, Eric opened the door for that victory. And that pisses me off.

No Erik Loomis should not be harassed by the police. And it is alarming to me that he is dealing with this. Has his dean sanctioned him? Or just met with him? It seems an odd thing to expect anyone’s employer to post a notice that says: “We support our professor’s (employee’s) freedom to litter Twitter with F-bombs and metaphorically call for the head of the NRA leader.” Employers are just not going to do that. I would expect a professor of labor history to perhaps understand that – and to provide sharper arguments on a matter of such significance and importance. We simply cannot let this issue get sidetracked into a debate about the freedom to use murderous “metaphors” in tweets.

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Martin 12.20.12 at 11:42 am

Walt,

I am not sure, if Derbyshire is a good example here – but then I am not sure if he’s a bad one, either. After all, talking about workplace freedom cannot mean that you are free to do a bad job without any consequences. But as for an opinion writer, I am not sure what doing a “bad job” is. One must not forget in Derbyshire’s case – as Ta-Nehisi Coates duly noted – that his racism was overt and obvious for years before that column that led to his firing from NRO. The right question here is to ask why he was hired in the first place. The case tells more about NRO than about Derbysihre whose blatant racism has been known before. So while I cannot bring myself to feel sorry for him (especially as he does have a job, now) I think targeting Derbyshire as the one who did the “bad job” is the wrong thing to do.

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Manta 12.20.12 at 11:47 am

Walt: why do we think that academics should have extra protections for expressing their opinions (academic freedom)? Why do you think those reasons do not apply to journalists?
When I read a scholar’s article I expect to read his views, not the ones of his employer; when I read Krugman’s columns I expect to read Krugman’s opinions, not the ones of his employer.

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christian_h 12.20.12 at 11:51 am

Is it really possible that someone cannot see the difference between calling for firing a political commentator for his political comments made as art of his job as political commentator, and firing a history professor for his political comments made outside his job? Or between suggesting a journalist who misrepresents facts in her writing be Fred, and suggesting a history professor displaying bad manners on twitter be fired?

Seriously, I don’t think we would complain if some academic was let go who spent his lectures on medieval farming practices cursing out the NRA – because that would be not doing their job. But this is not what happened.

In general I really want to support what shah posted way up the thread, regarding the social construction of free speech vs. an absolutist take. And I want to add that this suggests to me defending our freedom from employer harassment through union organization rather than academy specific legal protections would ultimately be preferable.

75

Manta 12.20.12 at 11:57 am

Christian,
1) Derby was fired by NRO for an article written outside NRO: the political comments for which he was fired were not part of his job.
2) But even discounting 1), the right analogy would have been if the academic in question was spending his lecture on anthropology espousing racist theories: would you say that he should be fired?

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christian_h 12.20.12 at 12:02 pm

Yes of course the racist anthropologist shoud go. Racist theories are simply wrong. Espousing them in anthropology is like teaching creationism in the biology department.

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Manta 12.20.12 at 12:04 pm

And I could not agree less with shah’s opinion: protection for speech should be indifferent to its content, otherwise is the opposite of free speech.
Since it’s the unpopular and despised opinions that need protections (the popular ones don’t need it) , the “absolutist and autistic legal machinations”(?) are precisely the best mechanism to implement such protection.

78

Jonathan H. Adler 12.20.12 at 12:04 pm

@64 – My point is that if you’re going to defend someone’s speech, you should acknowledge the whole of what they said that others find objectionable. As for what Loomis said, if someone says people should be jailed for advocating their political beliefs, and then repeats that express position — and even reiterates that position when trying to explain away the use ofviolent rhetoric — I take them at their word.

79

Manta 12.20.12 at 12:07 pm

Thanks for your answer, christian: at least now I see our disagreement is not something superficial, but quite fundamental; I wonder if the bloggers at CT and LGM share your view.

80

Manta 12.20.12 at 12:07 pm

Thanks for your answer, christian: at least now I see our disagreement is not something superficial, but quite fundamental; I wonder if the bloggers at CT and LGM share your view.

81

Alex 12.20.12 at 12:12 pm

78: As for what Loomis said, if someone says people should be jailed for advocating their political beliefs..

But this is not a strange or extreme view in itself. I imagine you’d have some trouble in the US if you went about advocating the political beliefs of Osama bin Laden, say. And very few people would disagree for a moment. Certainly, if you advocated jailing supporters of al-Qa’ida you wouldn’t expect to be sacked or bothered by the FBI.

I haven’t checked, but I think the august Volokh may even have done so in the past. Perhaps I should report you to the police.

82

Alex 12.20.12 at 12:18 pm

Further, it is only completely outrageous to suggest that some political beliefs are intolerable if you are an unusually doctrinaire libertarian. It is not, actually, incumbent on all US citizens to agree with Jonathan Adler.

Also, I fail to see how it is both utterly unacceptable for Erik Loomis to say that Wayne LaPierre’s political beliefs are unacceptable, and also acceptable to use the forces of the state (the FBI) and the private forces of capital (Erik Loomis’s boss) to force him to shut up.

I am in full solidarity, as they say, with Daniel Davies’s call for you to wind your neck in.

83

Rich Puchalsky 12.20.12 at 12:51 pm

The ridiculous comparisons are coming in, as if “no getting relatively powerless people fired” applies to a national-level pundit whose editors buy ink by the barrel.

Someone above wrote: “It’s also remarkably frustrating to see other well-minded people getting all, “oh that was in bad taste”, etc. ” This has nothing to do with bad taste. The right-wingers complaining that Loomis wrote “fuck” in his tweets are ludicrous. The problem is that the left, or some part of it, takes the concept of eliminationist language seriously, which I think is a good thing. (See Dave Niewert.) What Loomis wrote is not really eliminationist: if it were, he would have been talking about how the NRA are vermin and how NRA member should be wiped out, just as right-wingers always do about the people they hate. But it’s entirely too cute to say that when they write about wanting someone eliminated it’s a threat and when someone on the left does it it’s a figure of speech. Political speech isn’t walled off like that. The more people who do it, the more acceptable it becomes for everyone.

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rea 12.20.12 at 12:51 pm

I have tried to endorse the statement, only to have my comment get sent to moderation, andc then not get posted. I suspect that this is because my comment looks like that of an imposter–because I tried to use my real name (and my usual e-mail address) rather than my usual pseudonym. A couple of other people told me in comments at LGM that something similar happened to them. Given what happened to Prof. Loomis, I’m not quite prepared to abandon my pseudonym completely. Whether or not this is fixable, I want to express my appreciation for CT taking the considerable time and effort to post this statement and allow others to sign on.

85

Tim Worstall 12.20.12 at 1:01 pm

@70

“Tim, you have a main job as a commodities trader, right?”

Not quite. I own and run a small business that wholesales a particular commodity. It’s not braying in a commodities pit, rather sourcing, purifying and delivering a material. Not a huge difference, just a clarification.

The distinctions you offer, I do understand them, just disagree with them.

86

Nick 12.20.12 at 1:06 pm

The attacks on Loomis are disgusting and hypocritical. The only “threats” that should ever be subject to the criminal law are those that are genuinely credible and intended.

I also see a more general development that I think tracks technological development more than anything else, which has allowed for much more mediated speech. We have always had quite authoritarian civic polities but before everything was recorded and easily copied and kept, there wasn’t THAT much content to parse to use in partisan attacks. Now there is loads, intemperate language coming from any direction has become a battleground. I hope that this might lead everyone to chill out a little bit more over mere words, but I don’t see that happening yet.

In the UK, we have loads of stupid twitter cases with people ending up in prison for what, in the US, would probably be protected speech.

I don’t think you can make general rules about freedom of speech and the workplace. If part of your job, for example, is being the public face of a company, then you might be doing a bad job if you are willing to express (subjectively) offensive personal opinions in public. The same goes more generally for expressing offensive opinions to co-workers.

I think that if your personal views don’t have any bearing on your employers, then there should be a presumption that you should not be disciplined or fired for holding those views. I think academics also require a greater presumption of liberty because, as researchers, they are always testing the limits of whats true and false. Potentially true, but previously unconsidered ideas, are often perceived as offensive when first heard. But thats not so much a priviledge that academics deserve, its just good practice for universities that want to produce interesting research.

87

Trader Joe 12.20.12 at 1:17 pm

The right to free speech does not extend to having a right to have no consequences from the speech. Indeed any speech worthy of being protected should have some consequences.

I appreciate defending colleagues and I think the point of defending a brother who is under fire and lacks tenure is a good one. My experience has been, however, that if Mr. Loomis is working at a place that won’t defend him (which they haven’t), in the long-run he’s better off somehwere that will. I wouldn’t prefer to see him fired, but my bet is if he’s pushed he’ll be the better for it in time.

I’d aslo note that if someone was applying for a job to work for me and I googled them and found comments such as these I’d be disinclined to hire such a person. Its not the politics, its the imprudence of the expression.

Dropping f-bombs, calling for heads…that’s great on a street corner, in an Occupy rally or in a bar – if you hold yourself out as an academic and want to use your credentials as an authority to comment – there’s a responsibility to do it in a professional and constructive manner. A 140 character twitter feed is not the venue for thoughtful discourse.

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Steve LaBonne 12.20.12 at 1:23 pm

A hearty “fuck you, asshole” to Trader Joe. and his clutched pearls.

89

Ani 12.20.12 at 1:28 pm

I haven’t seen a reassuring answer to my concern that emphasizing the academic freedom element here backfires, in that it tends to breed resentment of the speaker and the academy (in the service, I acknowledge, of appealing a bit more to Loomis’s administration, and perhaps in preserving a speech outpost).

The discussion of whether Loomis’s speech is rhetorically sound reinforces my point. Put aside the stupid construction that he was really threatening violence or death; focus on the tone, the confusion (perhaps just for those defending him) between civil liability for manufacturers and RICO crimes for traffickers and his suggestion of jail time for NRA supporters, or the casual allegations of terrorism; take the basic defense that he’s just engaged in hyperbole of a kind that everyone in the blogosphere uses when it suits them.

I don’t support any kind of sanction against him. I don’t even applaud criticizing the substance or style of his views, perhaps by I am biased by an almost equally negative view of the NRA. But I also think he should be left alone in his job — and not pursued by angry parents worried about these views creeping into the classroom, or angry taxpayers thinking their RI taxes are going to some hothead — because I don’t see his speech as having anything to do with his job. I worry that once we start wrapping angry citizen tweets in the mantle of academic freedom, we undermine public support for treating research and writing on global warming, say, as sacrosanct no matter what some administration or legislator thinks of it.

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Ani 12.20.12 at 1:35 pm

Ooh, let me just say, having now seen the Trader Joe comment, that I’m really not with the just deserts crowd. My view is that that Loomis should be left alone for the very same reason that a tire dealer’s employee should be. We don’t need here to confront the question whether the tire dealer could fire that employee for vitriolic tweets against its customers, particular manufacturers, or even car culture in general.

91

Mitchell Freedman 12.20.12 at 1:48 pm

I stand with Loomis, but I read his other Tweets this morning and those other tweets were certainly intemperate for a guy who is a professor of history at a respectable university.

Poor judgment, and more something that makes me question Tweets. I curse a storm in my oral conversations, and can be pretty tough sometimes. But I try to show some decorum with the electronic word most times…I hope Professor Loomis can learn that patience before Tweeting may be the best policy.

92

rea 12.20.12 at 2:06 pm

Context and audience make differences. If we had a recent context of angry lefty mobs beating rightwing politicians to death, and/or parading their heads on sticks, then comments like those made or attributed to Prof. Loomis would indeed be troubling–but we don’t. Compare, for example, posting pictures and home addresses of abortion providers online, with crosshairs superimposed over the pictures of those still alive.

And, if you are a US rightwing politician or political commentor, you know from recent history that you audience contains some violent extremists, and you should exercise some care not to incite them. Since the late 60s–early 70s, that’s not so much true on the left.

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Henry 12.20.12 at 2:16 pm

rea – we are having difficulty keeping up with the comments. I have been batch approving them as best as I can (and a couple of my co-moderators have presumably been doing the same thing), but obviously needed to sleep for a few hours. If it is not up now, let me know by email.

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Martin 12.20.12 at 2:28 pm

I do not get the “It’s just some tweets” as compared to allegedly more serious forms of expressing one’s opinion. Dan Davies hade a discussion with Nassim Taleb via twitter. Following a negative response by Acemoglu/Robinson to his equally negative review of their book, Jeff Sachs had a discussion with various people on the topic via twitter. Maybe some years ago “It’s just tweets” was an excuse. But it is a platform for serious, yet pointed remarks for some time now.

And true, I am with several commenters here that his other tweets considered, the post in support of Loomis gave a very one-sided impression of the issue. I doubt that a lot of right-wingers would get the benefit of the doubt to this extent. Rather the attempt to justify an expression via the urban dictionary and the non-excuse excuse (the “sorry if you felt offended”) would have been ridiculed. At least from my part.

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Rich Puchalsky 12.20.12 at 2:31 pm

rea, it’s an impossible task to tell people that when a right-winger superimposes cross-hairs on someone’s picture, that’s bad, but when a left-winger says they want a head on a stick, it’s OK. You can try to thread that needle if you want to. But for someone who doesn’t follow politics as much, you just look like a hypocrite. And it’s inherently a bad argument, because it’s predicated on weakness. It’s saying that no one listens to people on the left, so what does it matter what they say. Or if people do listen, then this particular person wasn’t saying what they really want to have happen, so people are listening to him say nonsense.

Loomis, in the original comments, was acting as Some Guy With A Sign. It’s impossible to keep everyone from being some guy with a sign; there will always be someone who does it. The right response isn’t to denounce them or to defend their sign, it’s just “They aren’t a spokesperson for anyone, or a pundit who commands public attention. Sounds like they had a bad day. “

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Niall McAuley 12.20.12 at 2:50 pm

But Martin, no-one is saying “sorry if” NRA types are offended, Loomis is saying he’s sorry they aren’t in jail.

The defence is not that he’s sorry he said offensive stuff, it’s that he’s allowed to say offensive stuff and not get fired.

97

Mark Rupert 12.20.12 at 3:07 pm

I agree with Rich Puchalsky’s first comment that there is a false equivalence between one individual’s angry intemperate outburst (e.g., the re-tweet) and a political culture of “eliminationism” in which overt calls for the suppression or elimination of entire groups of political opponents are common currency and totally normalized (as Neiwert and others have documented). Explaining that difference in an easily digestible soundbite may be a tall order, but it’s a critical distinction so we need to try to explain why.

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Martin 12.20.12 at 3:09 pm

Niall McAuley,

I was referring to Loomis defence on LGM. He uses the same excuse for the head on a stick quote that is mentioned here, but he does not talk about all the other tweets and retweets.

Of course, I stand by my support for the statement in support, this is not a question of my feelings with regard to the appropriateness of his tweets. But readers here or at LGM have not been provided with the full picture that constitutes a backdrop against which you can interpret his comments much more negatively than just as “He didn’t mean it, really”, and reasonably so. This, IMHO, weakens the actual case here in a perverse sense in that it kind of gives the impression that really, this was just one slip, the outcry therefore an inapproproate attack of crazy right-wingers, and consequently he must be defended against their distortions of his comments.

99

Anarcissie 12.20.12 at 3:30 pm

One of the most popular methods of playing a power game in a public arena is to portray oneself, or someone one claims to sympathize with, as a victim, and those one opposes as a perpetrator of crimes against the victims. If there are real, physical victims, so much the better, but if not, victims can be supplied. The Left has often practiced this game well, but the Right has now learned to do it, too. In the present case, the NRA and its gun-fan friends were at a disadvantage because of the recent mass murders (a victim supply for the gun-control-fan side), so when Loomis weakly offered perpetration via Twitter they fell upon the opportunity to win back a few points. By giving this opening to the enemy, Loomis has let his side down. If his job is political, and teaching in a bourgeois academic institution seems fairly political, then I suppose he has failed to perform his job well. Indeed, participating in Twitter at all seems infra dignitatem for a serious academic, but we live in decadent times. Should Loomis be fired, or even admonished? That depends, I suppose, on what business he and his employers are in. I myself would keep him on at my used-car lot, but that may explain why I’m not a leader among used-car dealers.

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Chris Bertram 12.20.12 at 3:44 pm

Martin @63 “the other side …” You seem to be under the impression that there are two (permanently entrenched) sides here and that I’m on the same “side” as Brad DeLong. That would come as news to both of us.

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Cian 12.20.12 at 3:45 pm

I think if the right really want to go down the route of being whiny, thin skinned, cry babies then we should let them. Just make them pay for it.

People on the right like to think of themselves as hard, rugged, masculine, individuals. Pushing back and describing them as what they are will not just hurt them, but also to some degree affect their base. Put the fuckers on the defensive.

So, refer to Glenn Reynolds as ‘the notoriously thin skinned, and whiny, professor of law’. Or crybaby Glenn. Whiny toddler. Whatever. Find a phrase that accurately, but insultingly, describes what this is. And make them own it.

102

LFC 12.20.12 at 3:54 pm

The president of the University of Rhode Island could have issued a statement dissociating the university from Loomis’s remarks while at the same time reaffirming a commitment to free speech and making absolutely clear that no professor at the university would face adverse consequences as a result of exercising his or her right to free expression.

That is not what URI did. Instead, the president issued a statement that distanced the university from Loomis’s remarks and from Loomis himself, implicitly treated a figure of speech as a literal threat, and concluded with banal, boilerplate, platitudinous stuff about creating a climate of positive, constructive change and so forth.

No one doubts that the president of URI is committed to a positive, equitable climate of reasoned discourse etc etc. To issue this kind of routine bureaucratic boilerplate instead of a thoughtful statement, and to fail to support your staff’s right to free expression, is offensive and casts a very bad light on the URI administrators. A university president should do more than parrot platitudes in this kind of situation.

I have not read Loomis’s full twitter remarks. If he called for, or even suggested that he might be in favor of, jailing so-called ‘gun-rights advocates’, I think that was, at a minimum, very ill-considered. But the focus on his “head on a stick” remark is clearly just hypocritical posturing by the right wing.

In sum, a main reason I signed the CT statement (and under my full name) is that I was offended by the URI president’s letter and what I would characterize as its cowardice, banality, and stupidity.

103

scott 12.20.12 at 4:07 pm

Loomis deserves to be defended because this really is about invoking the power of the state to silence a guy they don’t like. The schadenfreude part of me does wonder, however, whether the famously tribal LGM would have gone to bat for people they disagree with, from right-wingers taking calls from the Secret Service about their posts or if some CT poster they despise (weird navy fetish, ‘member?) suffered something similar. Your defense reflects very creditably on you, especially given the strange little ideological pogrom they waged against you a couple of months back. My point is that you had their backs, despite your disagreements with them, but I doubt very much that they’d have done the same for you.

104

Martin 12.20.12 at 4:08 pm

@ Chris Bertram

True, I did not account for your not-so-pleasant experiences with Delong. But reading this comment thread, I think the two-sides issue is indeed there, if permanently entrenched or not. And as far as there is a principled concern here to argue for (and I think there is), the impression that in fact we have a case of revealed groupthink hidden behind this expressed concern is not helpful.

105

William Timberman 12.20.12 at 4:19 pm

If you listen to an ideological calliope like Rush Limbaugh, the transitions between bully and victim metaphors are so rapid that they’re actually hard to follow. This isn’t peculiar to the right, but the right at the moment seems not only to be better at it, but also has much larger armies of the disgruntled at its disposal who, for reasons of their own, are inclined to take the metaphors literally. So when Bill O’Reilly calls for Dr. George Tiller to be killed, in due course someone kills him. On the other hand, when Erik Loomis calls for Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick, it’s highly unlikely that in the next year we’ll see LaPierre’s head anywhere but on his shoulders.

Although I’m not fond of LaPierre’s gun fetish, or his attempts to foist it off on the rest of us, I don’t think that it’s a bad thing that he remains alive and kicking. The benefits of civilized society have always come at a price. I’ll happily pay that price, too, although I admit that like Erik, I do sometimes chafe at the notion that we on the left have to take such threats seriously, and our adversaries on the right do not, especially when the right gets to sneering at us for sipping lattes instead of ordering a Glock and a sniper rifle.

Still, even though, thanks to having a career army officer for a father, I’m as handy with a gun as any right-wing fantasist, I prefer civilization whatever its discontents over the warlordism of morons and sociopaths. So does Erik Loomis, I have no doubt. About Bill O’Reilly, I’m not so sure.

106

MPAVictoria 12.20.12 at 4:23 pm

Just like to remind everyone here that Tim Worstall has written for the National Review and cannot be considered to be anything like an “honest broker”.

107

coulter 12.20.12 at 4:28 pm

“do sometimes chafe at the notion that we on the left have to take such threats seriously, and our adversaries on the right do not, especially when the right gets to sneering at us for sipping lattes instead of ordering a Glock and a sniper rifle.”

Just keep that glock close to your latte next time you run into a harvard educated, liberal obama lovin’, tenture track professor on a shooting rampage … Like Amy Bishop in Alabama…

The price of civilization is getting along with folks you don’t like subject to the rules of society.

108

Cian 12.20.12 at 4:39 pm

Coulter, I actually quite like a good troll. Someone who can recognize prejudices of a particular group, and push the right buttons. There’s a skill to that.

You’re not good. You’re piss poor in fact. Find another hobby. Macrame, knitting gun targets. Something that doesn’t involve the use of words.

109

William Timberman 12.20.12 at 4:46 pm

No, you don’t have to get along with them, but you do have to refrain from getting together with your buddies and smacking them around, or dragging them behind your pickup, or shooting them. As for Amy Bishop, there’s no doubt that crazy people come from all sorts of backgrounds. It’s also pretty clear, though, that people like Limbaugh or O’Reilly, who get their kicks trying to manufacture crazy people to order, are scum. LaPierre is, in my opinion, just a cranky old coot by comparison.

110

Cian 12.20.12 at 5:12 pm

#109 – As its written, I think she’s saying that the price of civilization is that you have to accept that a disagreement at work may cost you your life. At least in the US.

I guess the price of civilization in the UK is that psychotics have to put up with the fact that they can’t just shoot annoying faculty members. Which just sounds awful.

111

GiT 12.20.12 at 5:17 pm

LaPierre does plenty to foment insanity.

“[The Obama campaign] will say gun owners — they’ll say they left them alone,” LaPierre told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday. “In public, he’ll remind us that he’s put off calls from his party to renew the Clinton [assault weapons] ban, he hasn’t pushed for new gun control laws… The president will offer the Second Amendment lip service and hit the campaign trail saying he’s actually been good for the Second Amendment.”

“But it’s a big fat stinking lie!” the NRA leader exclaimed. “It’s all part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and destroy the Second Amendment in our country.”

“Obama himself is no fool. So when he got elected, they concocted a scheme to stay away from the gun issue, lull gun owners to sleep and play us for fools in 2012. Well, gun owners are not fools and we are not fooled,” La Pierre declared.

“Sotomayor, Kagan, Fast & Furious, the United Nations, executive orders. Those are the facts we face today… President Obama and his cohorts, yeah, they’re going to deny their conspiracy to fool gun owners. Some in the liberal media, they are already probably blogging about it. But we don’t care because the lying, conniving Obama crowd can kiss our Constitution!”

112

rf 12.20.12 at 5:44 pm

“I imagine you’d have some trouble in the US if you went about advocating the political beliefs of Osama bin Laden, say. And very few people would disagree for a moment.”

But people should be allowed to advocate waging holy war against the West without being prosecuted for it, imho

113

jonnybutter 12.20.12 at 5:58 pm

@Rich P #95: rea, it’s an impossible task to tell people that when a right-winger superimposes cross-hairs on someone’s picture, that’s bad, but when a left-winger says they want a head on a stick, it’s OK.

To accede to that kind of blurring is to forfeit the whole game. The only people who don’t tell the difference between those two types of things are the people who deliberately blurred the distinction in the first place – the partisans pushing the false equivalence. “People” (‘ordinary people’?) are perfectly capable of telling the difference between some archaic metaphor – heads will roll, head on a stick – with a photo of a person’s face on a gun target.

This is pure intimidation, and it’s not aimed at just academic types – although intimidating academics is obviously an important part of the agenda.

114

Bruce Wilder 12.20.12 at 6:06 pm

Was there some evidence that Amy Bishop is or was a political liberal or Democrat?

115

Sebastian H 12.20.12 at 6:12 pm

“But people should be allowed to advocate waging holy war against the West without being prosecuted for it, imho”

And in fact they are allowed to advocate holy war against the West without being prosecuted for it. What they aren’t allowed to do is raise money for organizations that actually wage holy war against the US.

Which is a distinction that Loomis apparently doesn’t get, as someone advocating (even after pulling back the hyperbole) jail time for the leader of a political speech organization. So we are forced into the awkward position of defending the free speech of someone who doesn’t understand or advocate free speech. As it happens, free speech is important enough that we need to defend it even for people like Loomis who don’t want to protect the underlying value itself. But there is definitely irony here.

In general, people shouldn’t be fired or harassed at work over their outside political expressions. That is a social norm I’m willing to get behind. People shouldn’t be put in jail for political advocacy if that advocacy involves peacefully try to get more votes to go their way. That is a social norm I’m willing to continue to support.

People shouldn’t be idiots who help their political adversaries provide distractions from the real issues either. There can’t really be a law about that though b

116

jonnybutter 12.20.12 at 6:15 pm

Steve LaBonne @ #88:
A hearty “fuck you, asshole” to Trader Joe. and his clutched pearls.

NOW we see the hypocrisy of the Left! Steve LaBonne is telling Trader Joe to…have anal sex with himself…I think….and to clutch pearls! What does it mean that Steve asserts that the presumably male T. Joe has pearls? He is also saying T. Joe is an anus rather than a human being. Violent, demeaning speech. Fo shame.

117

Harold 12.20.12 at 6:16 pm

Putting people’s heads on pikes is not equivalent to murder. It’s equivalent to capital punishment, the kind of thing gun-nuts usually approve of, along with torture, slave labor, corporal punishment, and other traditional historical trappings of inhumanity.

A better result of a holy war against the gun nusts would be to take away their money — all of it.

118

Harold 12.20.12 at 6:24 pm

What I don’t understand is why the nation’s religious leader aren’t waging a holy war against La Pierre and company? Where are they?

119

GiT 12.20.12 at 6:27 pm

Out hunting.

120

rea 12.20.12 at 6:34 pm

it’s an impossible task to tell people that when a right-winger superimposes cross-hairs on someone’s picture, that’s bad, but when a left-winger says they want a head on a stick, it’s OK.

It’s quite easy. Rightwingers are actually shooting people. Leftwingers are not actually decapitating people and parading their heads on sticks. Most people can grasp that–I’m not sure why you have difficulty with it.

121

Timothy Burke 12.20.12 at 7:03 pm

For those who would like to help clarify the distinction between colorful rhetoric and speech that intends to incite specific acts of violence, Chris Patten said yesterday of the BBC and the Savile scandal, ” “The management problems,” he said, “have to be addressed. But I don’t think you necessarily address them by just putting heads on spikes.” Hands up if you think Patten means that the choice is between having BBC executives murdered and their heads put up at the Tower of London and not having them murdered. If you raised your hand, go take some remedial courses in reading comprehension. For that matter, google “head on a pike”, “heads on a pike”, “head on a stick”, “heads on a stick” and tell me how many of your hits are incitements to murder.

122

James 12.20.12 at 7:16 pm

This is a link to a non-profit that focuses on defending students first amendment rights at University. According to them over 3/5ths of colleges unconstitutionally limit their students free speech on campus. http://thefire.org/article/15257.html

The issue with Loomis under sanction for saying something unpopular is hardly new, and hardly limited to Loomis’ viewpoints.

123

Anderson 12.20.12 at 7:19 pm

George W. Bush reportedly wanted Osama’s “head on a stick,” which was hyperbole; he wanted Osama dead, but not necessarily with his head displayed in that manner.

Loomis wasn’t using hyperbole, which would imply he wanted LaPierre to suffer some lesser degree of violence; near as I can tell, he was using a metaphor.

Keep your tropes straight, people.

124

rf 12.20.12 at 7:54 pm

“And in fact they are allowed to advocate holy war against the West without being prosecuted for it.”

Depends how adamant you are

125

Tim Worstall 12.20.12 at 8:27 pm

@102

“That is not what URI did. Instead, the president issued a statement that distanced the university from Loomis’s remarks and from Loomis himself, implicitly treated a figure of speech as a literal threat, and concluded with banal, boilerplate, platitudinous stuff about creating a climate of positive, constructive change and so forth.”

When bureaucrats run the world why be surprised when everyone acts like bureaucrats?

126

dictateursanguinaire 12.20.12 at 8:28 pm

TW @ 65 –

you’re missing a couple points, there.

BDL/the whole left-liberal blogosphere version of calling for people to be fired usually focuses on people a) being simply misinformed or dishonest (thus are not doing their job as journalists) or b) being racist/sexist/etc — views which advocate for the systematic mistreatment of other human beings. people are calling for Loomis to be fired for an entirely different reason, viz. that what he said constitutes an incitement to violence, not on the actual political content of what he said.

this distinction is important because what Loomis said is neither spreading disinformation nor (realistically) advocating for systematic mistreatment of people based on their identity. those are reasonable causes for people in journalistic or academic roles to be fired. in fact, the people calling for his firing implicitly acknowledge that by construing the problem as one of public order (or at least that’s the only reason they could give for calling the FBI) because of its effects, not its actual content, which is obviously specious. or in other words, even the right is implicitly acknowledging the distinction between hate speech and hypberbole because if Loomis’ speech because of its political content were a reason for his being fired, they’d make that point. his speech’s narrowly political content simply calls for strong gun regulation in a hyperbolic tone. that’s not comparable to speech (which BDL and others call out — how about that CHE thing recently??) whose political content states or implies that we should systematically mistreat people based on racial, sexual, ethnic, etc. identity.

127

ecurb 12.20.12 at 8:28 pm

Just finished reading the entire thread.
It’s pathetic.
I know it’s difficult to actually read the comments that are already there before posting, but treating a thread as a target for drive-by blithering idiocy kills discussion.
Harold, Cian, john b, and coulter, seriously?

In the early part of the thread we had some fact-sharing, made some important distinctions, and people brought up some really important points about academic freedom, private coercion, and professionalism.
Then overnight it all got buried under a tidal wave of bitterness and trolling.
So what’s the point?

128

Tim Worstall 12.20.12 at 8:42 pm

“Just like to remind everyone here that Tim Worstall has written for the National Review and cannot be considered to be anything like an “honest broker”.”

Who in hell ever thought I was, is, or could be? I’m just me I’m afraid.

““But people should be allowed to advocate waging holy war against the West without being prosecuted for it, imho”

And in fact they are allowed to advocate holy war against the West without being prosecuted for it. “

I agree with the first statement. The second, coming from the UK as I do, I have certain problems with. For there have most certainly been lynch mobs insisting (Abu Hookhand, Belmarsh prisoners etc) some should have been jailed on the basis that they’ve not actually done anything illegal, but should be jailed just because. You know, their views, speech etc.

Those lynch mobs at times seemingly including the government and the junior judiciary. In the Belmarsh cases almost as bad as the Birmingham and Guildford cases. Being guilty of being Irish in the vicinity of an IRA atrocity.

I may or may not be an “honest broker” but I am, as the mere individual I am, an absolutist on matters like free speech and fair trials. Which means that not only does everyone deserve that fiar trial, everyone exercising their free speech gets to hear (umm, sorry, cannot prevent) everyone else exercising that same right.

129

Bruce Wilder 12.20.12 at 9:19 pm

I’m not sure you wouldn’t get prosecuted in the U.S. as well. And, if you weren’t in the U.S., there’s always a chance Mr. Lesser Evil will come after you with a drone.

Political speech is always being shaped by political threats and promises, and the anticipation of political threats and promises. Which threats and promises are legitimate becomes a political issue in itself. The decline of liberal institutions, able to employ and protect advocates of liberal politics, is an important part of the story of the way politics has developed in the U.S. over the last forty years.

We do not do much for the cause of “free speech”, when we write as if communication is ever “free” in the sense of without resource cost, or without consequence. Nor is it particularly intelligent to pretend that standards of regulation and discrimination do not, or, somehow, should not, exist.

130

Pierre Gervais 12.20.12 at 9:44 pm

From abroad (yeah, I know, France -that sure won’t help. Actually, a French academic. So sue me), a few quick remarks

a) I have read with neither surprise nor shock the entire series of posts by Loomis. I would not have tweeted them, not because I necessarily disagree with his feelings or analysis, but because I never write something which could be used against me if I can avoid it, being solidly paranoid (and also because I don’t have either a Tweeter or a Facebook account). But Loomis’ oral violence is absolutely not worse than your average set of, say, anti-Obama tweets on the evening of the last election -and I have a few spectacular ones at the disposal of anybody interested. And of course calling for jailing political opponents because they threaten the Republic is about as standard today on the right as the Pledge of Allegiance, in fact crazy Republican politician Bill Chumley is trying to turn it into law in South Carolina, so no outrage whatsoever there.

b) While undoubtedly both sides “do it”, i.e. use extremely violent language on tweets or the internet, NOT both sides change the meaning of a sentence to turn it into a spurious motive for police intervention, and above all NOT both sides write headlines such as:
“University of Rhode Island professor’s retweet: Murder anyone who thinks teachers should be armed”
This is pure witch-hunting at two levels
– First because the name AND JOB POSITION of the opponent is given prominently, which is tantamount to a demand that that person be fired (in fact in my book this should be grounds for a lawsuit for intimidation). And don’t give me parallels with Derbyshire and the like: Loomis’ tweeted rant was not a course he gave to students on University time. I am not a First Amendment absolutist myself, being French, but no firing by an employer for opinions expressed is acceptable if it’s not related to a problem observed on the job, and the case has to be made pretty strongly. Here we are very, very far from that, so it’s not even an issue of academic freedom, in my view.
– Second, because the really retweeted sentence “First fucker to say the solution is for elementary school teachers to carry guns needs to get beaten to death” is NOT the same thing as the purportedly retweeted sentence “Murder anyone who thinks teachers should be armed”. The second statement is an unequivocal call for assassination, in the imperative mood, the first is not, and what seems to be a tiny difference is actually a big one. “Needs to”, “should be”, “deserves”, the passive voice, and the like, are qualifiers. With such qualifiers one is being outrageous, without them one is being murderous. Modifying Loomis’ quote so that he will look murderous rather than outrageous can only be read as a dishonest ploy to get him fired (and I am not even considering the less serious difference between “First fucker to say” and “anyone”).

c) I totally disagree with people arguing this is a sideshow. Part of the success of the U.S. left in pushing back against Fox News and the Tea Party is based on the new social media. It is absolutely no coincidence that in the wake of their lack of success in November, they start attacking internet opponents. If they succeed in enforcing a gag rule against over-the-top commentary on the left, they will be able to keep a corner on righteous outrage, an important tool in delegitimizing any pushback against them. While I think the low-road righteous outrage is less efficient than the high-road one, there is no reason to entirely leave the former to the other side, since they use it with such abandon.

d) most importantly: the University of Rhode Island reaction is worse than disgraceful. I agree with #102 LFC that this is where there are serious grounds for protest, and am circulating a protest mail to European colleagues. Employers aligning with extreme-right-wing bullies is bad enough, and remember that during the end of 1940s witch-hunt, employer retaliation was the main tool used against “radicals”. A University doing so is downright frightening: academics are supposed to be protected against this kind of pressure, so if they are not safe, nobody is.

Incidentally, University employers do face special freedom of speech requirements, not because academics are nicer, or more fragile, or more deserving, or whatever, but because the possibility for an academic to say stuff which sounds asinine must be highly protected in order to ensure free, fruitful research. The problem is that really asinine stuff and really new stuff tend to sound equally asinine to aging bosses and cranky trustees, or even the general public, which is a very good reason to severely limit the ability of said bosses and trustees to negatively react when contents they don’t like is offered, or to blindly follow the whims of the general public. Unfortunately, there is much more really asinine stuff than really new stuff produced on any given day. So the price to pay for having really new stuff once in a while is wave after wave of, well, the rest, year in and year out. Yes, being an academic is nice, but there are downsides.

PG, Paris, France

131

SEK 12.20.12 at 10:48 pm

The schadenfreude part of me does wonder, however, whether the famously tribal LGM would have gone to bat for people they disagree with, from right-wingers taking calls from the Secret Service about their posts or if some CT poster they despise (weird navy fetish, ‘member?) suffered something similar.

I can only speak for myself here, but when conservative bloggers were being terrorized by SWAT teams in the middle of the night, I wrote a very long post defending the right of said bloggers to criticize the leftists responsible and to get a good night sleep. In other words, your hypothetical isn’t a hypothetical.

132

Chris Bray 12.20.12 at 10:49 pm

I’d like to propose the rule of the blogger’s two bodies. The stranger to you who argues as a public figure in public forums can be engaged, attacked, demeaned, shat upon*, and generally heaped with scorn in public forums, as a public figure. You can call for a blogger’s head on a stake*, write on your blog that that horrible bastard Niall Ferguson/Juan Cole/Daniel Drezner/Erik Loomis should be fired, and whatever other degree of name-calling and hair-pulling* expressions of rage you feel like indulging. Stop with the public person. Don’t call, write, visit, stalk, call the employer of, call the police on, or otherwise fuck with the human being behind the public figure, who you don’t know and have no business with.

Regarding the above discussion, I would expect that this rule would apply to a tire shop employee to precisely the same degree as a professor. I would not try to get the cashier at my supermarket or a Starbucks employee or whoever fired because he or she tweeted bad stuff about Wayne LaPierre or Tim Geithner or Blake Lively from home the night before.

(* Metaphorically!)

133

Bruce Wilder 12.20.12 at 11:14 pm

“You can . . . blog that that horrible bastard [fill in the blank] should be fired . . .

“Don’t . . . call the employer of . . .”

You don’t see the beginnings of a contradiction, here?

134

Chris Bray 12.20.12 at 11:22 pm

Writing on a blog that you by god wish Harvard would fire that one total jerkface guy is a different act than calling Harvard, asking for someone who can fire him, and presenting them with an argument that he should be fired.

URI’s stupid response came not as a result of blog posts, but as a result of phone calls to the URI administration.

I think brad DeLong was seriously in the wrong w/r/t Ferguson, but I think the example is distinguishable.

135

Chris Bray 12.20.12 at 11:28 pm

The rule presumes that university administrators are capable of not imploding over public controversy, which may be its weak point.

136

rf 12.20.12 at 11:34 pm

“I think brad DeLong was seriously in the wrong w/r/t Ferguson”

Don’t tell me you didn’t have a chuckle at Brad DeLongs ‘fire his ass now’ campaign? Great bit of banter.

137

Rich Puchalsky 12.20.12 at 11:44 pm

“Second, because the really retweeted sentence “First fucker to say the solution is for elementary school teachers to carry guns needs to get beaten to death” is NOT the same thing as the purportedly retweeted sentence “Murder anyone who thinks teachers should be armed””

The first sentence was from the Rude Pundit, and one un-discussed-so-far aspect of this is that his style is a schtick. It’s sort of like Lewis Black (an American comedian) tweeting a bit from one of his angry, profanity-laced rants — let’s say “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our two-party system is a bowl of shit looking at itself in the mirror.” Someone else retweets it, and then a bunch of right-wingers pretend that they don’t know what’s going on and summarize the retweet as “That person wrote that they want to destroy our two-party political system.” That’s why none of the people on the right can seem to understand what a retweet is, or what quotation is, and why none of them have bothered themselves about the mysterious source of what they hold out as the threatening tweet.

138

Chris Bray 12.20.12 at 11:50 pm

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our two-party system is a bowl of shit looking at itself in the mirror.”

Well that’s mere description, for crying out loud.

139

LFC 12.21.12 at 12:18 am

@ Pierre Gervais 130:

Très bien dit.
Good that this is getting some attention outside the U.S. (and btw I wish I wrote French with half the facility with which you write English).

140

Bruce Wilder 12.21.12 at 12:18 am

Chris Bray: “Writing on a blog that you by god wish Harvard would fire that one total jerkface guy is a different act than calling Harvard, asking for someone who can fire him, and presenting them with an argument that he should be fired.”

The only distinction I can see is something like, blogposts should be regarded as non-operative hot air, but phone calls should be regarded as real. I completely understood the distinction previously offered, concerning figures of speech, such as metaphors, not being confused with operative literalisms, and that seems tenable enough. But, you, apparently think a fence should be erected around blogging (and tweeting, I presume) with a sign, saying, nothing serious said here, nothing written anyone need pay any attention to.

Maybe the problem is that I think Brad DeLong was completely right about Niall Ferguson. (And, John Yoo, too. Why is that guy a law professor at a state school?) Our discourse, especially about economics, is complete crap, because corrupt hacks, with the prestige of expertise and employment with supposedly discriminating institutions (Harvard! Oxford!), pollute it, constantly. Harvard should fire people, who abuse their brand. And, if you don’t think people are hired and promoted for their conservative bona fides, you haven’t hung around ruling class schools much. Ditto, for the prestige outlets for journalism. It is perfectly sensible to criticize who peoples the opinion pages of the New York Times or the Washington Post, and to advocate (for real) firing, say, Tom Friedman for being an untalented, uninsightful, hack.

141

Main Street Muse 12.21.12 at 12:24 am

To Pierre Gervais @130 – please show me the analysis in Loomis’ tweets. I see invective worthy of that anti-Obama set, but I do not see “analysis.”

It is interesting that people feel Loomis has the “academic freedom” to lob f-bombs and “metaphors” as they diss his employer for not supporting the “really new stuff” that actually sounds quite asinine. Like this from Erik Loomis: “You are goddamn right we should politicize this tragedy. Fuck the NRA. Wayne LaPierre should be in prison.”

HARDLY the “analysis” one expects from a gifted academic. Thank you Erik for giving the rabid right wing set more “really new stuff” to chew up and spit out. Glad we’ve diverted from the real issue of protecting American children (and movie goers and mosque attenders, etc.) from the wide-spread marketing – and use – of military-grade semi-automatic weapons so that we can defend Erik Loomis’ right to tweet “really new stuff” and not get sanctioned by his employer.

142

Harold 12.21.12 at 12:28 am

When I took our son to visit prospective colleges in the Northeast nearly every one had a huge student union prominently sponsored by the Olin Corporation, a major manufacturer of bullets and ammunition (now located in Missouri but which got its start as Winchester Ammunition in Connecticut). So perhaps Mr. LaPierre really does have some clout when it comes to the hiring and firing of New England college professors.

143

Chris Bray 12.21.12 at 12:31 am

Bruce Wilder @140, you’re 1.) all for academic freedom, and 2.) Niall Ferguson and John Yoo should be fired as professors because of what they say and write?

I ask this as someone who thought Yoo belonged in prison as a collaborator in war crimes. His politics don’t merit the destruction of a career in an institution that protects and fosters a free exchange of (even controversial or wrongheaded) ideas. If your version of academic freedom doesn’t protect people you don’t like, it’s not academic freedom.

144

Chris Bray 12.21.12 at 12:43 am

And again, “Harvard should fire people, who abuse their brand.”

Should the University of Rhode Island?

145

Anderson 12.21.12 at 12:46 am

Yoo merits being fired not for his beliefs, but for his ACTS as a govt lawyer advocating the violation of international law and human rights. A legal opinion is not an “opinion” in the sense that everyone’s got one.

146

rf 12.21.12 at 12:56 am

Harvard shouldn’t fire Ferguson if they were foolish enough to give him tenure (I assume) But Delong should be celebrated for putting it on record how incompetent the man is.
Who amongst us hasn’t been told they’re grossly incompetent at one stage in their career? And who amongst us hasn’t grown from the experience?

147

Chris Bray 12.21.12 at 1:02 am

Our “academic and workplace freedom open thread” has turned into a listing of conservative professors who should be fired, not that this is ironic.

148

ecurb 12.21.12 at 1:11 am

SEK, thank you for standing up to say that. I wish more people were willing to defend the people they oppose from harassment and stalking.

I apologize to the authors of the blog for questioning their motivations for not posting or linking to the rest of Loomis’s tweets. The fact that he’s a jerk shouldn’t factor in to our decision to support his right to be one. And how we or “the other side” handled any other case shouldn’t come into it either.
All that’s important is doing the right thing.

Although you must admit that a lot of people you see posting on the internet make it very tempting not to defend them…

149

rf 12.21.12 at 1:11 am

Thats one odd way of reading

“Yoo merits being fired not for his beliefs, but for his ACTS as a govt lawyer”

“Harvard shouldn’t fire Ferguson”

150

John Quiggin 12.21.12 at 1:12 am

Let’s not get carried away with demands for civility. LaPierre and the NRA have been described, accurately, by Dem Congressman Nadler, as enablers of mass murder (interesting that no one on the right has taken Nadler on, AFAIK). That doesn’t justify a literal call for his death, and it doesn’t mean that he has committed a crime for which he can legally be convicted and imprisoned. But the view that, as regards moral deserts, he deserves to be locked up (along with many of his supporters in the enabling of mass murder) is perfectly reasonable.

151

Chris Bray 12.21.12 at 1:23 am

rf@149,

“Harvard shouldn’t fire Ferguson if they were foolish enough to give him tenure….”

If you think his university shouldn’t have tenured Ferguson, you think he should’ve been fired. They shouldn’t fire him now that he’s tenured, but they shouldn’t have tenured him and professors who don’t get tenure have to leave. You can’t argue against tenuring a professor and then say that ah, but I don’t want him to get fired.

Yoo should be in prison — I’m not on his side. But he’s not, and his work as a government lawyer fell outside his role as a professor. It’s not relevant to his academic employment, just as Erik Loomis’ politics are not the business of the University of Rhode Island. Doug Feith is working as a professor too, and I shudder, but I would defend him against an effort to get Georgetown (IIRC) to fire him.

152

Anarcissie 12.21.12 at 1:25 am

144: That’s a good question; but, what is URI’s brand? What are they selling?

153

ecurb 12.21.12 at 1:26 am

Case in point. Quiggin is the kind of person that makes you realize how pointless civility really is. You can write off foamy-mouthed rants, but this kind of post just goes to show how impossible it is to have a decent conversation with some groups of people.

154

LFC 12.21.12 at 1:26 am

Main Street Muse @141

Loomis has a post at LGM where he says he regrets having been the cause of diverting attention from the central issues. He admits he used intemperate language and thus helped, in effect, create an opening for Malkin et al. to attack him and change the conversation from where it should have been.

I see this as being more a question of free speech in general rather than ‘academic freedom’ — clearly Erik Loomis’s tweets were not scholarly analysis or anything close to it, and he would be the first to concede that I’m sure. But the point is that he had every right to say intemperate, even somewhat silly things in the heat of the moment on Twitter, however unwise (especially in retrospect) that decision was, and his employer should not have issued a craven statement when hypocritical ideologues tried to twist his statements into something worse than they were.

URI could have said: “What Prof. Loomis writes on Twitter or in the blogosphere, or anywhere else, represents his own views and not those of the university. We do not agree with or endorse the statements he made on Twitter or the language he used but we recognize he has the right to make those statements, which properly interpreted did not incite violence or other illegal activity. We will not tolerate attempts to intimidate members of our faculty who are exercising their right to speak freely on matters of public concern.” And that pretty much would have been that. This all happened, afaics, because URI did not do what it should have done, or at least what I think it should have done.

155

LFC 12.21.12 at 1:41 am

Re Ferguson:
Worth remembering that DeLong’s call for Ferguson to be fired was occasioned by Ferguson’s deliberate lies (and it was hard to see them as anything but that) about Obamacare in a Newsweek column. (Unfortunately I can’t really remember the details: a combination of age and cognitive overload, probably.)

And Chris Bray: “You can’t argue against tenuring a professor and then say that ah, but I don’t want him to get fired.” No, this is v. wrong, esp in the case of a ‘star’ like Ferguson, who can teach anywhere he wants and holds multiple positions at the same time. He wasn’t some junior prof coming up through the ranks at Harvard. He was a v. well-known historian and prolific writer when Summers appointed him (with the support and approval of whatever relevant committees) to a tenured joint position at the Business School and in the History Dept. Now Harvard is stuck with him, for as long as he wants to stay there. (Who knows? He might even be a good teacher — I have no idea. He has no scruples or ethics in political debate however, if that Newsweek column was any indication, and I think it was.)

156

Chris Bray 12.21.12 at 1:42 am

Related, academia will host the return of a bunch of former Obama administration officials — e.g. Harold Koh — who have written the legal justifications for kill lists, drone assassinations, and an undeclared war in (at the very least) Libya. They should be despised and argued against, but I don’t see a way to fire them from their jobs as professors without entering dangerous territory.

157

rf 12.21.12 at 1:46 am

Chris Bray

Ah look now, I’m no historian and, with my limited knowledge, I liked The House of Rothschild and Cash Nexus, and a number of people more knowledgeable than me say Fergusons scholarly work in that specific area has been top notch.. but.. Colossus .. Empire .. and everything since .. weakly argued and lazy in my un-expert opinion .. I’m not so much opposed to his (neo) conservatism than the fact he was predicting a land war with Iran in 2006 .. which is silly to say the least .. like Bernard Lewis on crack ..I don’t think he’s good enough for the job, but I guess the decision was taken by people (Larry Summers) more knowledgeable than me .. so more power to him .. no skin of my nose really.. (also think his grad students in the UK should get a mention)

“You can’t argue against tenuring a professor and then say that ah, but I don’t want him to get fired.”

Course you can.. “I don’t agree with your promotion, but now that your contract says you cant get fired, knock yourself out..”

158

John Quiggin 12.21.12 at 1:49 am

@ecurb Absolutely. I have no desire for “a decent conversation” with LaPierre and his supporters. Should I?

159

rf 12.21.12 at 2:03 am

Just to clarify, this:

“he was predicting a land war with Iran in 2006 .. which is silly to say the least”

doesn’t sound as ridiculous without reading the article: (can’t find the original so..)

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/good-grief-niall-ferguson-is-at-it-again/

“So history repeated itself. As in the 1930s, an anti-Semitic demagogue broke his country’s treaty obligations and armed for war. Having first tried appeasement, offering the Iranians economic incentives to desist, the West appealed to international agencies – the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council. Thanks to China’s veto, however, the UN produced nothing but empty resolutions and ineffectual sanctions, like the exclusion of Iran from the 2006 World Cup finals….
As in the 1930s, too, the West fell back on wishful thinking. Perhaps, some said, Ahmadinejad was only sabre-rattling because his domestic position was so weak. “

And as always, if I could have put it like LFC did, I would have

160

William Timberman 12.21.12 at 2:20 am

I think that one can legitimately argue that enough direct evidence exists to indict John Yoo for some of the same crimes for which members of the Nazi Volksgericht were tried and convicted in 1947. Whether any academic institution should have taken that into account when hiring him, or granting him tenure, is moot at this point, but I think it’s fair to say that ignoring it hasn’t reflected great credit on the institution which did.

That Yoo’s academic reputation survives more or less intact despite what everyone by now should know about him, the moral insensitivity reflected in the pursuit of Erik Loomis for what amounts at worst to incivility should be evident to all. What, if anything, does good moral character mean to university administrators? The answer to that question is unlikely to be anything but shameful to anyone still capable of feeling shame.

161

Main Street Muse 12.21.12 at 2:26 am

To LFC @154

Yes, Erik has, on his blog, admitted to using intemperate language. In fact, in his twitter rant (i.e. the subject of this post), he employs “arguments” as useless and as violent as those on the far right. He’s not expressing himself at the URI holiday party. He is using a public forum to vent. And he gifted the right wing with a perfect opportunity to divert attention onto him, and away from the issue of gun control.

His intemperate twitter spew is not an “argument,” nor is it something his university should condone or defend in any way. This is an important issue that some on this thread seem not to understand. He is clearly free to lob f-bombs on twitter. Why so many feel his employer should defend or celebrate or uphold his ability to lob those bombs is a puzzle.

That the right wing has used this opportunity to mobilize and call out the police/FBI on him is a matter of true concern. We live in strange times, where that same right wing extremist group has seized hold of one of our two major parties, where, moments after 20 first graders were slaughtered by a young man with a military-grade weapon, people are in all seriousness saying that we need to arm our teachers in order to protect the right of Americans to bear arms. Strange times indeed.

In that Loomis is a professor, an academic, a man of thought, he really should be using his abilities as a “gifted scholar” to focus the debate on the true issues. I cannot believe we are using freedom of speech arguments to defend a professor’s unquestioned right to stoop to the stupidity of his enemies.

Has he been fired? Has he been halted from his work at URI? If not, then his university has not used this opportunity to silence his freedom to speak. It is up to Loomis to use his freedom wisely. His recent post on LGM makes me think he will use his freedoms in a manner more befitting to his stature. At least we can hope.

162

Ani 12.21.12 at 2:38 am

I don’t care to unpack why we are back to Yoo and what bearing it has on the subject of the post. But this — “Yoo’s academic reputation survives more or less intact despite what everyone by now should know about him” — ain’t right. I doubt that Loomis has done his own academic reputation any good in this episode, but its impact will be trivial by comparison. Which is as it should be.

163

Thers 12.21.12 at 2:40 am

HARDLY the “analysis” one expects from a gifted academic.

To be sure, “utter pomposity” is a far more productive rhetorical strategy.

164

Rich Puchalsky 12.21.12 at 2:56 am

“And he gifted the right wing with a perfect opportunity to divert attention onto him, and away from the issue of gun control.”

This sentiment is misguided. People being intemperate on the Internet is a matter of large numbers. No individual tweeter “gifted” the right wing with anything. If it hadn’t been them who the right wing seized on, it would have been someone else with just as good a rant. If some small percentage of a population is going to send angry tweets around any particular issue, there’s always going to be someone around for the right wing to seize on, because the Internet lets you see everyone. The point is not that the individual is to blame for the overall situation, the point is that we have to change the overall situation. Finding a different way to react to these predictable and repeated incidents is better than telling someone that they gave the right wing a gift.

165

William Timberman 12.21.12 at 3:06 am

Ani, I think you do know why. All this talk of inappropriate behavior on Loomis’ part is, as Thers says above, pomposity — pomposity masquerading as moral judgment. By contrast with the treatment of Yoo, the treatment of Loomis, or of Juan Cole, makes clear what the motivations of our self-appointed arbiters of academic elegance really are. Preservation of the status quo, and their positions within it, comes first. And second, and third, etc. As a realist, I don’t really expect any more from them, but neither do I feel obliged to listen to to their self-serving justifications.

166

Ani 12.21.12 at 3:35 am

William, you’ve got me — upon reflection, I *can* speculate about why Yoo re-enters this and many related discussions, but when I ask why, I really mean to be seeking a compelling reason. I also meant to say that you are wrong that Yoo’s academic reputation hadn’t suffered; talk to anyone in his field, and the only dissent you might hear is that his reputation couldn’t really drop below its prior level.

There’s so much of “which side are you on” flavor to this discourse. Personally, I think Yoo’s analysis was shoddy, that prosecution or disbarment were reasonably considered, but I was persuaded by Leiter that he should not lose his tenure; I think Cole was abused; I think Loomis’s rants were just that, and that he did no credit to his reputation, but I also think they had nothing to do with his day job and that he shouldn’t be fired or otherwise threatened or for that matter, subject to more criticism than anyone else blathering and swearing on Twitter. Does that soupcon of judgment, though, put me among the “self-appointed arbiters of academic elegance” just dishing out “self-serving justifications”? Dunno, but at least I can take comfort that your labels aren’t merely pomposity masquerading as moral judgment.

167

js. 12.21.12 at 3:40 am

I totally disagree with people arguing this is a sideshow.

Pierre Gervais’ 130 is indispensable reading first word to last, but I would particularly like to endorse this, and the paragraph following.

168

Colin Danby 12.21.12 at 3:55 am

On behalf of academics everywhere, Main Street Muse, I apologize that one of us was so upset by the murder of 26 people that he wrote several cuss words on twitter.

169

Ani 12.21.12 at 3:58 am

I too enjoyed Pierre Gervais’ 130, which I thought was astute, and certainly was worth rereading.

1. As to the sideshow aspect, I think he had a point about unduly ceding the low road to the right wing. The tension I see is one implicit in his comment, though: it’s also the case that the higher road is more “efficient” and avoids stupid, well, sideshows. So I’d like to think one can prefer that speech be forceful but not inane or abusive, while defending the right to engage in it; I’d also like to think that one can voice a view of the former kind without being branded an apologist lackey or being told to whisper such things only behind closed doors.

2. He commented that “Here we are very, very far from that, so it’s not even an issue of academic freedom, in my view” while at the same time regarding this as something that required special protection in a university environment because of the thin line between the really asinine and the really new (in the befogged view of administrators). I sense the appeal of this, but it’s really such a luxury to assert a privilege of this scope, and I wonder if it’s wiser to stick with the simpler position that speech of this kind has nothing to do with the day job and is none of the university’s concern.

170

William Timberman 12.21.12 at 4:30 am

Ani @ 167

Are you a university administrator? If not, my characterizations didn’t refer to you. I wasn’t persuaded by Leiter as you were, true, and Loomis’ twitter comments persuaded me only that he was a flesh and blood human being, which I don’t think should have done his reputation any harm whatsoever except among those who rate civility above outrage on the moral scale. As for Yoo’s reputation amongst law professors, are we allowed to ask we ask Marty Lederman, Richard Posner John Bolton or Orin Kerr what they think?

171

Ani 12.21.12 at 4:39 am

#171

“except among those who rate civility above outrage on the moral scale” — Fair enough. I tend to think one can express outrage in a more persuasive way, so there isn’t a direct tradeoff, but still.

Not sure what you meant by the last sentence. I think only one of them would be well informed about the question, and would have a negative view, but there might be less well informed dissents from one or maybe two of the others.

172

Thers 12.21.12 at 4:41 am

“Bob is at it again. Doesn’t he realize that when he criticizes ‘The One’ he makes himself out to be ‘Demon Spawn From Hell’ and stupid to boot?”

Dear Horowitz Forum,

I am an academic from a small Midwestern academic department….

173

js. 12.21.12 at 4:54 am

Re: Main Street Muse (and others):

1. Can we just stop it with the “f-bombs”? The word is fuck. f-u-c-k. Fuck! This isn’t grade school, and neither is twitter. (I’m not on twitter, but I assume the last is true.)

2. What the right wing assholes are doing to Loomis is entirely not besides the point. They are trying to silence dissent and debate (dissent from their viewpoint, of course). The very last thing we need right now, the very last fucking single thing is to start policing our own speech, and getting all, “oh, let’s just all be polite and nice now!”. Because those fuckers are not going to be nice and polite for one goddamn second.

3. Once again: if you think this is a sideshow, or if you think this is somehow taking us away from the “real issues”, then you don’t understand the right wing in the US as currently constituted. You really think if some left of center academic had not said “fuck” a bunch of times, if we’d all taken the “high road”, we’d be having an honest, good-faith conversation about violent crime and gun control with those currently asking Loomis’ head?* Seriously? Almost certainly they would have simply found some other way to demonize some other liberal figure or proposal, and that is what we’d be talking about now.

4. To put the point another way. It wasn’t Loomis’ tweets that changed the focus of the conservation—it was a vile campaign of deliberate misreading and concerted intimidation that did that.

*Metaphor alert!

174

University Administration 12.21.12 at 5:07 am

We have become aware of a statement by js: “The word is fuck. f-u-c-k. Fuck!”

We deplore this statement, and we wish to distance the university from it, from him, from the words, and from the letters k, u, f, and c, in any order.

175

js. 12.21.12 at 5:09 am

Rereading my last comment, it’s way more aggressive than I’d meant it to be. So, sincere apologies. It’s just frustrating (and a little bizarre) to me that people really think that this (for mostly any value of “this”) is a result of a liberal academic failing to be high-minded, or to “take the high road”, etc.

176

ecurb 12.21.12 at 5:14 am

John Quiggin, you may have wanted one with people like me. But alienating everyone who isn’t on your side already seems to be working fine for you, so keep going.

177

brandon 12.21.12 at 6:46 am

What makes you interesting?

178

Pierre Gervais 12.21.12 at 7:19 am

@ecurb, main street muse

I believe you are not addressing properly the idea that what is worth protesting is URI’s statement. It was a direct, nominal attack on one of their own employees, on behalf of an extreme-right-wing campaign which had no merit, was significantly dishonest, and was not even bearing on a job-related incident. Both part of this sentence are important, by the way: nobody asked URI to condone Loomis’ rant (which does not count as « really new stuff » — was that a joke?), but they sure as heck had an obligation to protest strongly against the campaign aimed at Loomis, rather than adding to it. Once they had clearly done that, they could distance themselves all they wanted. LFC #154 wrote a statement which was perfect — I wish he was URI President… URI’s attack, which is an attack, and which is an attempt at intimidating Loomis, is the issue, not tweeter rants.

As for civility on this forum, try posting as a liberal on a Tea Party blog, and see what you get (I post too long, so I won’t get into that, but the same argument could be made for trying to be a liberal academic at Liberty University, and there is no Karl Marx college in the U.S. that I know of). Again, both sides do not do it, and I believe even implying it is just wrong.

PG

PS @main street muse: there is implicit analysis underpinning every rant, IMHO. Actually looking for that is part of my job, which is maybe why the packaging does not bother me all that much -and I do work on Tea Party ideology, among other topics. I can assure you there is an analysis of how the world works even in mere tweeter calls for Obama’s assassination. Free tip: hashtags are often very enlightening.

179

ecurb 12.21.12 at 9:00 am

#154’s statement was excellent, I agree.

I do post as a non-confrontational liberal on conservative blogs. The response I get correlates with the quality of the the readership.
Are you suggesting this blog is simply the political opposite of a tea-party blog? I thought we tried to maintain a higher standard.

180

Tim Worstall 12.21.12 at 9:07 am

@126

Yes, I get the distinction between hyperbole and actual advocacy of violence. I even mention it. But this bit:

“TW @ 65 –

you’re missing a couple points, there.

BDL/the whole left-liberal blogosphere version of calling for people to be fired usually focuses on people a) being simply misinformed or dishonest (thus are not doing their job as journalists) or b) being racist/sexist/etc — views which advocate for the systematic mistreatment of other human beings.”

It’s that second I worry about. To flip this over into something absurd for a moment. Imagine someone calling for the immediate imposition of communism. That would rather worry me: as a bourgeois I might well be one of the first up against the wall. Rhetoric and historical experience seem to indicate that I would be certainly.

That would certainly, at least in my opinion, qualify as the systematic mistreatment of other human beings (namely me).

So would I be justified in calling for the firing of someone who advocated the immediate transition to communism?

No, I don’t think I would be. On the same grounds that I don’t think you get to call for someone to be fired for racism/sexism whatever.

For if we are to have free speech then we cannot be distinguishing whether you get to enjoy it or not on the content of your speech. It’s not free if we do that.

Inceitement to violence, yes (and Loomis didn’t do this). So “Kill Tim Worstall so that we can have communism” is verboeten. Calling for communism is just fine: it’s political speech. As, indeed, is calling for racism, sexism and all the rest. for if only certain views are allowed as speech then it’s not free speech, is it?

181

ecurb 12.21.12 at 9:10 am

“if only certain views are allowed as speech then it’s not free speech, is it?”

A lot of people would probably agree with you, and then begin to explain why free speech is overrated, impossible, and not socially desirable. We had some of that starting up-thread, actually.

182

Thers 12.21.12 at 9:54 am

I thought we tried to maintain a higher standard.

We do! Liberals win the Civilympics! Yay! We refrained wonderfully from saying “fuck” on Twitter and now suddenly everyone agreed that insanely deadly rifles should not be as easily obtained as Snickers bars.

Huzzah!

183

Thers 12.21.12 at 10:02 am

As, indeed, is calling for racism, sexism and all the rest. for if only certain views are allowed as speech then it’s not free speech, is it?

Reductio ad asshole.

184

ecurb 12.21.12 at 10:38 am

I’ve seen your blog. Reductio ad asshole should be the title.

185

roger gathman 12.21.12 at 12:04 pm

I think – being a twentieth century man, rather than a 21st century hip dude – that tweeting is … well, dumb. It is a genre in which the form dummifies the function. There will never be an Oscar Wilde of the tweet. At most, it can be used to send a link. But as a form in which to express opinion, it completely and utterly sucks. A blog – now a blog is a glorious thing, the ripe fruit of two hundred years of the combination essay and newspaper story. I give the blog hugs, kisses, chocolates and flowers. But the tweet is so completely avoidable, so completely infra-dig, as one might say, that it shouldn’t be done. Loomis is, I think, wrong to blame the head of NRA for the numerous automatic weapons massacres, but if that is his take, so be it. But if he had to say more about why his head should be on a stick, it would have made his own life easier. In conclusion, the tweet is to discourse what the prank call is to the fine art o’ conversation: not man’s finest hour.

186

Harold 12.21.12 at 12:14 pm

It seems to me that Loomis could have been a target for a takedown as much for his tweet as for his position as professor of labor relations. No matter how obscure, those connected with unionized labor are fair game to the right and to institutional administrators.

187

Cian 12.21.12 at 1:09 pm

I’m going to batter with a fucking haddock the next fucker to use the term ‘f-bomb’ on this fucking thread.*

* Exceptions will be made for maiden aunts who are delicate creatures.

188

Cian 12.21.12 at 1:09 pm

#161 “And he gifted the right wing with a perfect opportunity to divert attention onto him, and away from the issue of gun control.”

Just as the victims of rape were asking for it with their short skirts. Always with blaming the victim.

189

Cian 12.21.12 at 1:10 pm

#181 “being racist/sexist/etc — views which advocate for the systematic mistreatment of other human beings”

It’s about power Tim. If I use the bully pulpit and my position as person of privilege to pour hatred/scorn on minorities who already suffer those things and in my own small way make them more likely, that’s a problem. Random left-winger – not so much. I appreciate that as a person of privilege yourself it might be difficult for you to get the difference.

190

DrDick 12.21.12 at 2:36 pm

I would like to make a short response to those calling for greater civility. Civilty is well, good, proper, and desirable in faculty meetings, scholarly discourse, at dinner and cocktail parties, and even, occasionally, in politics. This, however, is not the place for it. The Merchants of Death, their lackeys, and allies are not bounded by civility, nor even decency, as witnessed by the unfounded and unprovoked vicious attack on Dr. Loomis. Make no mistake, the interests that the NRA and Wayne LaPierre serve are not those of the membership, but of their corporate sponsors, the arms merchants. They are moral monsters who put corporate profits above the lives of innocent children. This is a situation which calls for powerful, compelling, and sometimes violent imagery to oppose these forces and the very real violence they inflict on the American people.

We should not resort to violence nor should we speak in ways likely to incite it and Loomis did not do so. It is very important to recognize a profound and important political asymmetry between the right and left in this country. Despite weak parallels to the incident regarding Ferguson, Limbaugh, or others on the right, you simply do not see the same kinds of massive, coordinated personal attacks like that directed at Dr. Loomis, with death threats, calls to the police, and emails to his employer, waged by the left. They are routine for the right, however. Likewise there has been no significant history of leftwing violence in the US for the past 35-40 years. By contrast violence by rightwing extremists has been increasing over that period and continues to do so. The result of this is that there have been more terrorist attacks in the US by rightwing groups in the past 305 years than by everyone else combined in the past 50 years. This matters when we talk about political rhetoric and its consequences.

As Gramsci, Foucault, and Bourdieu have all observed, civility is a tool by which the hegemons seek to mute dissent and effectively silence their critics. Politics is not a drawing room discussion. It is a bare knuckle fight for power with life and death consequences for many people. Do not enter the fray unless you are willing to get bloody and dirty. This is not a time nor a context for civility. We must not silence ourselves, but rather speak out forcefully and loudly about the issues facing our country today.

191

DrDick 12.21.12 at 2:38 pm

Oops. Need an editor and an edit button. At the end of the second paragraph, that should read: “by rightwing groups in the past 35 years”

192

ecurb 12.21.12 at 2:51 pm

Since we’re abandoning civility, I could mention that you also need a “does this sound hilarious and silly” button.

193

rf 12.21.12 at 3:09 pm

“It’s about power Tim. If I use the bully pulpit and my position as person of privilege to pour hatred/scorn on minorities who already suffer..”

Sure, and that’s a great reason for you and Tim not to engage in racist or misogynistic language; which I’m sure neither of you do. And it should be an encouragement for you to personally police other peoples rhetoric in your own time. But I’m sorry Cian, why should we trust you or Erik Loomis, or the MET or anyone else to draw up laws limiting speech?
What you said to Tim ‘as a person of privilege yourself it might be difficult for you to get the difference’ applies equally to you

194

ecurb 12.21.12 at 3:16 pm

Sorry, that was flippant.
What I mean to say is that you’ve managed to convince yourself that I am a monster worthy of the thrashing you’ve worked up your rabid anger enough to brag about handing out.
It’s just… kind of sad to see, really. Abandoning civility doesn’t free you to confront us inhuman savages on our own level. It blinds you to the thoughts and positions of everyone around you, makes people hesitant to discuss anything with you for fear of invoking your wrath, and gradually loses you political allies as they take your impoliteness as a sign of instability and unreliability.
The only time you can get away with it is when you’ve got a great big mob on your side, and only for very simple and destructive purposes that won’t require discussion or negotiation before, during, or after you unleash your rage.

195

Cian 12.21.12 at 3:38 pm

#195 What I mean to say is that you’ve managed to convince yourself that I am a monster worthy of the thrashing

I don’t think you’re a monster, I just find you rather silly. I mean “f-bomb”, really? Worrying about civility when the NRA is deliberately facilitating murder.

I’ll say this for the right – they’re not scared of a fight. Whereas liberals seem to delight in tying their own hands behind their back. To date it has not been a winning strategy.

196

P O'Neill 12.21.12 at 4:24 pm

Anyone concerned that Wayne LaPierre’s feelings were hurt by a mean tweet might want to take a look at this train wreck of a NRA news conference ….

197

Cian 12.21.12 at 4:42 pm

But I’m sorry Cian, why should we trust you or Erik Loomis, or the MET or anyone else to draw up laws limiting speech?

1) While it wasn’t as clear as I would like, I was drawing to Tim’s attention that the distinction is one of power. Laws limiting speech – not sure where you got that from.

2) People deserve to be fired if their job assumes competence/honesty – and they abuse either of those things. An economist who produces a white paper for a politicians filled either with howlers, or lies, deserves to lose their academic position. A journalist who makes up facts – ditto. If you want to interpret that as a call for more laws – well that’s your thing, not mine.

198

Ani 12.21.12 at 5:18 pm

There’s a great bit of performative speech going on in this thread. Shorter version: “Think the right’s attack on Loomis is a sideshow? No, this here’s a sideshow.”

Maybe the right’s master plan is this:
1. Attack potentially vulnerable lefty critics.
2. Withdraw.
3. Observe defensive maneuvers, overreactions, squabbling, paroxysms, dissension and friendly fire among left, while sacking Washington.
4. Repeat.

I am glad Loomis is peeking his head above the (metaphorical) bunker again. Credit is due the original post here. Now maybe everybody should try to actually engage on the substance of gun control legislation or its advocacy?

199

stacks of books 12.21.12 at 5:57 pm

@ P O’Neill

yes! after watching WLP i’m beginning to think EL was was more than justified in his tweet…

200

Bruce Wilder 12.21.12 at 6:22 pm

Of course, the right’s attack on Loomis is a sideshow — or rather, a skirmish in a one of a succession of battles, in a much wider war. So, yes, the deliberate “misunderstanding” in literal terms, of Loomis’ metaphor is a familiar tactic. Yes, a new battle over the long-running contest over gun control has erupted. And, yes LaPierre’s NRA is a major force, not just on this issue, but, generally, in partisan politics, where those corralled by the Right are fed all kinds of non-factual, nonsensical propaganda (in the NRA’s alternative reality, Obama has been extremely hostile to gun rights, when just the opposite has been factually true), moving the Overton window to the point where arming kidnergarten teachers with semi-automatics makes sense to law professors at prestigious universities.

And, yes, the Right has been engaged in a thirty-year offensive against public education as an investment in a necessary public good and as an institution supportive of liberal standards and ideas.

I see a number of people on this thread, who, apparently have been dead asleep for the last thirty or forty years. Or, who think “free speech” means without cost or consequence. Or, simply think that the tribal politics, which has taken over American discourse, is just the way things should be, and the task before us is simply to rally the Tribe for melee.

Ani’s master plan might not be that far from the strategic truth. Tribal politics has been bought and paid-for by the plutocracy, and noisy eruptions of melee are predictably lame and impotent.

I like Loomis. Of the denizens of LGM, his posts are my favorites, his sensibility the least offensive. I wish him well. That doesn’t mean that I will be stampeded by tribal loyalties into trying to defend his Twitter feed, which was nothing, but a public temper tantrum. (Absolutely understandable, as others have said, as a human, all-too-human reaction, and deserving of a sympathetic response.)

And, I certainly do not think any sensible doctrine of “academic freedom” should be construed to “protect” such a display. The Right wants “academic freedom” to be defined down into terms, which erase any consideration of quality. The problem that the Right has always had with the “liberal media” or the “liberal academy” has never been that the media or the academy, on the whole, has been “liberal” (which was only briefly true during the Liberal Consensus of the 1950s and 1960s), but that the rank order hierarchy of quality has put liberalism on top, and rightly so. They want a doctrine of “academic freedom” which puts creationists in biology classrooms, climate-change denialists into the most important discussion we are having, and the worst sort of liars and hacks into control of economic policy.

And, no Leiter did not convince me that Yoo deserves protection. Leiter is a damn fool. Leiter’s argument that Yoo’s scholarship qualifies him sets no bottom bar whatsoever on the content of Yoo’s doctrines, and there has to be a bottom bar. Yoo’s doctrine of law and the constitutional power of the Presidency is an assault on the rule of law, itself. If we were to accept his standard of scholarship, we would be saying that there is no point, whatsoever, in even having a law school, let alone a law school as a public institution. And, Yoo’s service in government is absolutely fair game for evaluation. Academic institutions exist to support scholars and make them, and their scholarship, available for public service as public goods. When someone does as much damage as Yoo has done to his country and to the law and the Constitution, (which Yoo is required to swear an oath to protect), institutional professional integrity requires public sanction. Its absence is symptomatic of a serious failing, of the far advance that the Right has made on this front as on so many others, in building the fascist state.

I brought up Yoo, because there’s a context and a history of many battles, in what is now a decades-long fight, and there are still too many well-intentioned liberals, whose views on tenure and academic freedom, generally, are prefaced by, “I don’t recall . . . ” When administrators really want to dump someone (or a group), tenure doesn’t get in the way, and it probably shouldn’t. The problem is that administrators don’t want to get rid of even the extreme right-wing hacks, in the present political context, and, sometimes, they do want to get right of some non-hacks because of right-wing hostility.

It seems to me that Pierre Gervais understands the nature of the issue, which ought to be our central concern. URI has not behaved well. I am not surprised, of course. But, their behavior ought to alert us to the urgent need to get real about the great deficit in liberal institutions in the United States, and not inspire an ill-considered debasement of standards or a silly tribal melee. I hope CT’s effort does encourage URI’s leadership to act more responsibly and deliberately.

201

Suzanne 12.21.12 at 7:32 pm

“I’m going to batter with a fucking haddock the next fucker to use the term ‘f-bomb’ on this fucking thread.*

* Exceptions will be made for maiden aunts who are delicate creatures.”

“F-bomb” is a way of avoiding unnecessary repetition of a particularly harsh obscenity. Foul language has its place and uses but there are still those who prefer, as a rule, not to throw around four-letter words. Plainly you are untroubled by such niceties.

202

DrDick 12.21.12 at 7:32 pm

I do not know if anyone saw LaPierre’s speech today (I read the prepared text, as I cannot afford a new TV), but I defy anyone to tell me how we are supposed to constructively engage that in a civil manner.

203

Cian 12.21.12 at 7:48 pm

#202 – Particularly harsh if you’re a maiden art. Exception duly granted.

204

Cian 12.21.12 at 7:51 pm

#203 – You can’t. The only response is ridicule. Monomania has driven him and his like insane – unfortunately it looks like they’ll take the rest of us with them.

205

rf 12.21.12 at 7:52 pm

“So “Kill Tim Worstall…. is verboeten”

The line has been drawn, MPA

206

js. 12.21.12 at 7:54 pm

“F*ck”, “f**k”, etc., are all options. Or you can work around it with a paraphrase (“Loomis’ use of expletives,” etc.) “F-bombs” just sounds ridiculous, at least to my ears.

207

rf 12.21.12 at 7:54 pm

208

ecurb 12.21.12 at 8:08 pm

Cian, please actually read my posts. I have never used the term “F-bomb”. I think it sounds stupid.
Perhaps you’re just lumping together everyone you disagree with?

209

DrDick 12.21.12 at 9:24 pm

rf at 208

Of course it is, but you don’t think they really believe the horse manure they are spreading, do you?

210

MPAVictoria 12.21.12 at 10:30 pm

“The line has been drawn, MPA”

Ha!

So I can say Tim Worstall is a dishonest pratt who cheerfully associates with racists, sexists and homophobes and that I wish him nothing but misfortune and despair in the new year?

211

Salient 12.21.12 at 10:30 pm

Is it really possible that someone cannot see the difference between calling for firing a political commentator for his political comments made as art of his job as political commentator, and firing a history professor for his political comments made outside his job? Or between suggesting a journalist who misrepresents facts in her writing be Fred, and suggesting a history professor displaying bad manners on twitter be fired?

I honestly hope that we refuse to see the difference, because I think it’s a spurious, dangerous, and unnecessary distinction. There’s nothing wrong with arguing for either of the firing scenarios you describe, and there’s nothing wrong with suggesting a person should be fired, regardless of whether or not the speech is related to their job.

When a person says something objectionable, and you’re responding to it, when/where you say something matters a lot more than what you say or why you’re motivated to say it.

To avoid an overlong post, I’ll stick to bullet points to illustrate:

Things I am (usually) ok with

* Demanding that the person apologize (for whatever) on your own blog, on that person’s blog, or on an uninvolved blog discussing the topic

* Declaring the person should be fired, shunned, deemed an asshole, etc. on your own blog, on that person’s public blog, or on an uninvolved public blog discussing the topic

* Declaring the person should be subjected to other fanciful punishments, on your own blog, on that person’s blog, or on an uninvolved blog discussing the topic (the more fanciful, the better / the less believable or practical, the better)

* Complaining directly to the person using information that they have posted as acceptable contact information (and encouraging others to do so)

* If you’re reporting an interaction between you and an employee [acting in their capacity as employee], voicing your complaint directly to their employer

* If you witnessed an interaction between someone and an employee [], voicing your complaint directly to their employer

* If you’ve been made aware of an interaction between somebody and an employee [], and you consider that somebody a victim of malfeasance who deserves your support and solidarity, voicing your complaint directly to their employer

Things I am (usually) NOT ok with

* Contacting the person’s employers and voicing your complaints directly to them

* Organizing or encouraging a massive number of messages to the person’s employers that push for adverse consequences

* Filing a police report accusing the person of threatening you

* Threatening the person, or encouraging others to do so, such that the threat is credible and in earnest

* Organizing plans to systematically threaten or attack the person, or encouraging others to do so, such that the threat is credible and in earnest

* Looking up or uncovering private contact information, and disseminating it or using it to make personal contact (although finding and sharing someone’s publicly posted internet contact information in order to write them an email is probably ok)

(These ok? Objections? Missed something?)

212

Salient 12.21.12 at 10:32 pm

Gah “when a person says something objectionable” should be “when a person says something that you find objectionable”

213

Ktotwf 12.21.12 at 10:46 pm

“Or, simply think that the tribal politics, which has taken over American discourse, is just the way things should be, and the task before us is simply to rally the Tribe for melee. “

When “the Left” acts civilly towards the Conservative public, it creates the impression that the American Right is a legitimate voice to be considered in these sorts of debates,
whereas the Limbaugh-style Right simply characterizes the Democrats as Far Left Marxist radicals, denying any such public legitimacy.

Their vitriol may have cost the Republicans temporarily in the federal elections, but it has won them the war by completely delegitimizing any politics that is even nominally to the Left, let alone substantively. (Would Barack Obama be caught dead referring to himself as a liberal?)

Sometimes I think it is more important to Liberals to feel like “good people” than it is for them to actually win any measure of political influence.

214

Cian 12.21.12 at 10:55 pm

#209 – you’re right. It was others. I remembered ““profanity laden screed” and lumped you in with the others. You’re a bit more highbrow than them.

And its not so much disagreement as bemusement quite honestly.

215

Bruce Wilder 12.21.12 at 11:31 pm

“Things I am (usually) NOT ok with”

The phrase above seems to be doing a lot of work to make a distinction do what a requirement of proportionality would ordinarily suffice to do.

216

Bruce Wilder 12.21.12 at 11:36 pm

Sometimes I think it is more important to Liberals to feel like “good people” than it is for them to actually win any measure of political influence.

Indeed, that’s been duly noted on the Right, as both a criticism & a rhetorical point of vulnerability.

217

Salient 12.22.12 at 12:09 am

The phrase above seems to be doing a lot of work to make a distinction do what a requirement of proportionality would ordinarily suffice to do.

I’m not sure that arguing on proportionality grounds ordinarily suffices. It’s not rhetorically effective, it doesn’t win neutral parties’ sympathies, etc. Better that we [attempt to] make a bright-line distinction–decrying on your own blog / the person’s blog / a blog that welcomes your company, OK. Getting the person’s employer or police involved, not OK.

Condensing the paragraphs down to bullet points did kind of obliterate the bright line though. (Too many if-thens trying to dance around anticipated “but what if your cashier at Sears swears at you, couldn’t you complain to their employer then?” objections.)

218

Suzanne 12.22.12 at 12:46 am

“Particularly harsh if you’re a maiden art. Exception duly granted.”

Yes, “fuck” has traditionally been regarded as a very harsh word, hence the old designation of “F-word.” But as previously noted, you are plainly oblivious to such distinctions (and, judging by your posts, most others).

219

rf 12.22.12 at 2:20 am

“Of course it is, but you don’t think they really believe the horse manure they are spreading, do you?”

Na, but I’m a bit of a novice to the ways of the NRA Dr Dick, so it’s all new and fun at the moment.

“While it wasn’t as clear as I would like, I was drawing to Tim’s attention that the distinction is one of power.”

Well yes, but as with Shah above

“Oooohhh, this is a perpetual struggle to get people to recognize that free speech should be socially constructed….”

I’d like to point to Leedsman

http://crookedtimber.org/2012/12/21/the-christmas-sermon-2012-on-not-believing-in-canada/comment-page-1/#comment-440483

220

P O'Neill 12.22.12 at 2:49 am

Since this whole discussion was precipitated by Glenn Reynolds acting as a speech referee, it may be worth noting one of his recent publications

It Takes a Militia: A Communitarian Case for Compulsory Arms Bearing

221

ezra abrams 12.22.12 at 3:05 am

re trolling
1) as i think we all know , the dic definition is a deliberate attempt to start an argument by saying something provocative or insulting

2) I’m always amazed at how little liberals seems to understand how much the technical mechanics of the webpage define the discourse; easy spell check say, or more to the point, take http://www.slashdot.org, wher they have a rating system, which works surprisingly well (althou possibly not enough people here for that)

222

University Administration 12.22.12 at 3:34 am

P O’Neill #221,

That “recent” publication is from 1996, and the fact that you don’t know that means that you also didn’t read it and don’t know the basis of the argument it makes.

223

LFC 12.22.12 at 4:07 am

As several people have remarked already, W. LaPierre’s ‘press conference’ was … well, I can’t find exactly the right word here. Suffice it to say that he made no mention of *any* changes in gun laws that the NRA might be prepared to accept.

224

Thers 12.22.12 at 8:32 am

185 I’m sorry you don’t like my blog. Though I understand! Nobody likes poor Thersites.

225

Thers 12.22.12 at 8:51 am

ecurb,

I am being rather snide here; I’ll back off from that a bit. You seem a good, principled fellow — and no snark there. I admire that.

To be blunt, though. When has calm, reasoned discourse ever… worked? Milton was pretty confident that truth would win in any free and open encounter, but that didn’t work out so well for him personally.

Conceiving of the Internet as a place where The Best Arguments Win is a mug’s game.

226

Tim Worstall 12.22.12 at 10:19 am

“I appreciate that as a person of privilege yourself it might be difficult for you to get the difference.”

So our definition of what is “allowable free speech” now moves to who is doing the saying, not what is being said then? Or even who is being talked about?

“So I can say Tim Worstall is a dishonest pratt who cheerfully associates with racists, sexists and homophobes and that I wish him nothing but misfortune and despair in the new year?”

Yes, apparently you can MPA. For I am a person of privilege. But if I were not a person of privilege (you know, female, racial minority, working class, the majority of the species in fact) you couldn’t.

So we seem to be being told.

Have to admit it doesn’t meet my definition of free speech, which is that freedom for thee is freedom for me too.

227

Thers 12.22.12 at 10:38 am

Have to admit it doesn’t meet my definition of free speech, which is that freedom for thee is freedom for me too.

But this is obviously not what obtains in reality. Big Box Store Manager of the Future is monitoring your Facebook account, all you teenagers, don’t you know.

Social networking -= Glorious Freedom.

228

Bruce Gold 12.22.12 at 11:40 am

Hey now. I think we should be reasonable about this, the way Erik has always been reasonable about the use of military force in the service of corporatism. Really mull over both sides of the issue, fairly and carefully, before coming to any conclusions. I mean who’s to say both sides don’t really have some salient arguments that might resonate if we would just be reasonable. I mean look, I’m on Erik’s side, I think we all are, but let’s not rush into anything as rash or impudent as going out of our way to support him. The important thing is we continue a reasonable and informed dialogue and understand that justice sometimes moves slowly and in mysterious ways.

229

Barry 12.22.12 at 12:03 pm

Chris Bray 12.21.12 at 12:43 am

” And again, “Harvard should fire people, who abuse their brand.”

Should the University of Rhode Island?”

They have one?

BTW, the difference is obvious; Loomis was expressing an opinion; Ferguson et al are malpracticing their profession.

Sort of like a doctor who publicly says ‘that guy should be hanged!’ and a doctor who states that cigarettes don’t cause cancer.

230

purple 12.23.12 at 5:41 am

To be fair, administrators have to spend a lot of time kissing the ass of rich and powerful people these days, with the collapse of public funding. Being a weasel sort of comes with the job.

231

The Probe 12.23.12 at 7:44 am

ELOOMIS should “clarify” he only meant W. LAPIERRE merits the O CROMWELL TREATMENT:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oliver_Cromwell%27s_head

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