The Counter-Enlightenment as Gotcha!

by John Holbo on June 3, 2015

It’s hard to find time to blog when one of your hobbies is reading Rod Dreher. Dude doesn’t stop!

Where to start, where to start? Dreher, like a lot of conservatives, is aghast at the Kipnis case.

Dreher finds all this ‘chilling’, stunning’ and ‘scary as hell’. I agree that it was very, very bad and not the sort of thing – at all – that Title IX ought to entail. (Congratulations to all involved for providing the anti-PC brigade with such high-quality ammo!) That the charges were dropped is a good thing, but they shouldn’t have been brought in the first place. (The only semi-defense of the logic of the Kipnis charge I have read is here and I don’t think it works, although you can yell about it in comments if that is your bliss. If it calms you down, I might go this far: the case isn’t as utterly nuts as it might look, but it’s pretty damn nuts.)

Here’s the Dreher thing. Just a week earlier, he kinda sorta said farewell to all that – the Enlightenment, that is.

One of the most difficult things for many American conservatives, especially religious conservatives, to accept is that gay marriage did not come from nowhere. It is the logical outcome of the Sexual Revolution, which in itself is the logical outworking of Enlightenment liberalism. What do I mean?

It may be helpful to draw on a recent book that is not at all about the culture wars, but that offers a perspective on them: Matthew B. Crawford’s The World Beyond Your Head. Crawford says that “autonomy is arguably the central totem of modern life. It hovers about our concepts of individuality, creativity, and any number of other terms that convey the existential heroism we’re expected to live up to on a daily basis. It is an idea that we moderns have made our dignity hinge on.” And he says it was baked in the cake from the Enlightenment:

I’ll snip the long block quote from Crawford and proceed to Dreher’s conclusion. Kindly note that Dreher does see – surely correctly – that he can’t really give up on everything associated with the Enlightenment. “All of us Americans, whether we call ourselves liberals or conservatives, are liberals in this sense. I am no different. I believe in free speech, freedom of religion, civil rights and the other hallmarks of liberalism.”

And yet he is torn:

Now that liberalism has evolved into hostility to what I believe to be true about religion, morality, and human nature, I — like all orthodox Christians — have to face the fact that liberalism, which all of us Americans took in with our mother’s milk, may ultimately be alien to our faith, because in the end, it enthrones the choosing Self over God or any conception of external, transcendent Truth.

There are problems, boy howdy. ‘Liberalism has evolved into hostility’? But let’s grant Dreher that, for argument’s sake (I feel confident in my ability to take it away from him, at any time, by judicious application of reason and evidence.) We have a dilemma. Either he’s basically on board with the Enlightenment or he isn’t. If he is, he’s on the hook for same-sex marriage, by his own lights. If he isn’t, then why the hell is he so bothered about the Kipnis case? The very worst you could say about those who brought charges against Kipnis is that they are, in effect, shit-canning the Enlightenment. (Would I say that? No. I like to maintain a sense of proportion.) Dreher himself is considering doing this anyway. So how horrifying can he seriously think it would be, in principle, to do a thing he himself was thinking about doing, on principle, last week?

If the very very worst were true about the Kipnis case – namely, enforced orthodoxy, to rule out ‘wrongthink’ – then the best would be achieved, by Dreher’s lights: orthodoxy, keeping out wrong-thinking! Am I right (or am I right or am I right?)

As I said in my previous Dreher post, we are seeing here the limits of doing political philosophy entirely by means of tu quoque: you do nothing but turn the tables, without noticing the table must have two sides. If liberals should hate themselves, by their own autonomous lights, because (academic) liberalism has devolved into groupthink, then conservative lovers of orthodoxy should love (academic) liberalism, by their lights, since it has transcended autonomy, arriving at new appreciation of the value of respecting authority.

Dreher hears the Enlightenment knocking, telling him his conservative views place him on the wrong side of the value of individual autonomy, and all he’s got is ‘I know you are but what am I!’ The first half may be a fair retort, in Kipnis cases, but he still owes a positive answer to ‘what AM I?’

Now, in a sense, Dreher’s response is simple. He will say conservative orthodox views are right, whereas liberal orthodox views are wrong. But that is rather question-begging (and you can divide through by the ‘orthodoxy’, without remainder.)

I know, I know, I’m just repeating myself. So let me try to add something useful, facts-wise. Here’s a weird fact (which might be more fun to discuss than the Kipnis case, which you can discuss any old place): way back in olden days, in 2012, there was a pretty big deal religious liberty case. At the time, it was kind of a big deal (everyone said so), but no one talks about it anymore, although everyone talks about alleged legal threats to religious liberty these days.

As I was saying: way back in olden days, in 2012, a unanimous decision gave religious organizations pretty much as much authority as you could possibly give them to manage their own ministerial affairs – hiring and firing, that is. It’s strange how far the public conversation has come. Christians now a severely persecuted minority, to hear folks tell it.

{ 557 comments }

1

Sancho 06.03.15 at 10:29 am

A little bit of Enlightenment is okay. But not when it threatens religion.

Similarly, democracy is noble and humane unless electorates choose progressive policies, in which case it’s mob rule and needs a stiff dose of authoritarianism.

And of course the free market is wisest of all, until brands decide gay dollars are still dollars, and then it’s mass extortion.

The question-begging is the fundamental belief that all this is guided by god. So if Enlightenment principles lead to liberal outcomes, it’s anti-religious by default.

2

Philippe 06.03.15 at 11:41 am

On French radio this morning Žižek declared that political correctness was a form of speech control that reminded him of Stalinism and he brought up this case :

Our Identities Matter

Columbia Multicultural Advisors: Put Trigger Warning on Ovid’s Metamorphoses

3

mdc 06.03.15 at 11:45 am

“The very worst you could say about those who brought charges against Kipnis is that they are, in effect, shit-canning the Enlightenment.”

No, according to Dreher the very worst you can say is that their substantive agenda is “anti-human.” The irony is that these anti-human principles are the hidden core of the Enlightenment itself.

Believers could accept the Enlightenment for a long time, as a modus vivendi. But now that the window-dressing about religious freedom and toleration has fallen, the game is up.

I think this is the view Dreher is working towards: the best way of life is monastic, the second best is lay, but subordinated to and in service to the monastic. Moreover, anything besides this way of life will inevitably degenerate into moral monstrosity.

It’s not exactly an incoherent view in itself, and is not merely tu quoque. But it is in tension with other commitments of Dreher’s: he has a modern tourists’ rapturous delight in cuisines from around the world; he takes a perverse delight in aggregating follies of modern thought from the internet; he finds spiritual fulfillment in a tradition not his own, but selected by him, after experimentation with others, as if from a menu.

Not every medievalism need be in tension this way: I think some of the theologians he reads are just tragic declinists who really would choose the twelfth century. But I’m waiting for him to admit that *his* more cheerful “neo-medievalism” is deeply modern, in that its essence is swimming against the stream, for which it utterly needs the stream.

4

casmilus 06.03.15 at 12:05 pm

I was wondering about Dreher’s productivity the other day, but then I realised that most of his posts are compilations of quotes from other people, so the amount of new text he contributes isn’t great.

But read the original posts.

5

kidneystones 06.03.15 at 12:11 pm

Thx for this. Your link to Dreher “kinda sorta said” leads to a blogger named Justin at the Dailynous, not Dreher. The link you’re looking for, I think, is here:
http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/the-gay-rights-revolution-in-ireland/

I recommend keep and credit the link to the Dailynous piece. Great background on the specifics of the case.

Re: conservatives are aghast. Perhaps some are. The ones I read are delighted. She is a well-known culture warrior on team blue. Now, Kipnis is being devoured by the beast (they say) she helped create. As for background, the general sense on the cynical right is that informed liberals know that feminists are overstating the threat of rape on campus in order to create a pro-Hillary frame. Kipnis is just collateral damage in this fight. On these issues I’m agnostic.

I think picking on Dreher is a bit mean-spirited, frankly. I used to read him when the National Review was part of my daily intake. I don’t recall Dreher’s writing to offer an ounce of the venom Derbyshire, Lowry and company served up on a regular basis. And I’m certainly not going to read Dreher or any other of his ilk for his intellectual heft.

From Dreher’s post on the enlightenment as part of his response to the gay marriage vote in Ireland:

“Yes. We must be realistic about where we are, and where we are likely to go. Liberalism and its institutions — including, note well, market capitalism — are not destroying Christianity and the traditional family because they are being perverted. They are destroying Christianity and the traditional family because it is in their nature to do so. This is not being forced on people — though their desires have certainly been manipulated — but it is something they have chosen, because it expresses what they believe to be the truth about being, about man, about meaning, and about liberty.”

I do think, however, that Dreher and company do have a point about the lack of political and intellectual diversity in US universities. I could be wrong, of course, but that’s certainly my impression, especially in the social sciences. As the UK election just taught us, that insularity and groupthink can have some unpleasant consequences.

6

kidneystones 06.03.15 at 12:18 pm

I eventually found your link to the dailynous buried as the ‘semi-defense.’ I’m not sure I’d call it that. Cheers.

7

John Holbo 06.03.15 at 12:23 pm

Link fixed!

8

bianca steele 06.03.15 at 12:27 pm

I’m listening to Crawford on audiobook now. The very last thing I care about is what Dreher thinks about it.

9

Rich Puchalsky 06.03.15 at 12:49 pm

Kipnis: “For the record, I strongly believe that bona fide harassers should be chemically castrated, stripped of their property, and hung up by their thumbs in the nearest public square. Let no one think I’m soft on harassment.”

But this is about the defense of Enlightenment liberalism.

I’ll just go to the end of my comments right away and save time. Your second line begins “Where to start, where to start? Dreher” and you’ve pre-framed any discussion of what’s actually going on as “you can yell about it in comments if that is your bliss.” I’d be peeved if a newspaper skipped the “alleged criminal” phrasing and just wrote that someone was guilty of a crime prior to conviction, and I’d also be peeved if a newspaper wrote that a known person who said they were raped was just trying to get the person they accused in trouble, which is what Kipnis did. Does Kipnis get to write what a newspaper doesn’t because she’s an academic? Sure, but she also gets to suffer from academic rules in that case, which happened to involve a Title IX retaliation claim that was dismissed. That’s “pretty damn nuts” etc.

“Congratulations to all involved for providing the anti-PC brigade with such high-quality ammo!” is directed towards someone who seemingly believes that she was raped, because that’s who filed the Title IX case against Kipnis. Should she have not filed a case against someone for writing that she was a liar and that she was just trying to get her accused rapist in trouble? Probably not. Do I find the phrasing above troubling because it accepts Dreher’s view of what’s going on? Yes.

I don’t trust anyone here to really understand what’s going on and react in anything but a knee-jerk way depending on whether they’ve decided that it’s clearly feminist or clearly anti-feminist to defend or attack Kipnis. I don’t think that you have any chance of starting in the way and disentangling this into anything useful to anyone.

10

bianca steele 06.03.15 at 12:57 pm

She is a well-known culture warrior on team blue.

No, she just published a book about how most feminists are dumb, women generally are dumb, and men are getting a rough shake for only doing what comes naturally. It’s probably more complicated than that but that’s what remains of the reviews after a few months have passed.

11

ZM 06.03.15 at 1:07 pm

“The very worst you could say about those who brought charges against Kipnis is that they are, in effect, shit-canning the Enlightenment.”

Sorry to be pedantic, but I don’t think this interpretation is right, as it is the opposite of what Dreher is saying . As I read the articles, he is consistent in his deploring of the late Enlightenment* in both articles.

In the article on gay marriage he deplores gay marriage as an outcome of the sexual revolution which he writes was due to the logic of the Enlightenment; in the article on Kipnis he deplores the “social justice warriors” who brought charges, seeing them not as “shit-canning” the Enlightenment but rather as the product of the sexual revolution, so therefore, or so it is implied from the logic of the other article, the people who brought charges against Kipnis are also the late product of the Enlightenment.

*Dreher is not very good with his historical periods , seeming to think The Enlightenment just goes on for centuries. No one calls the 60s The Enlightenment as it is considered the post-modern era, and it seems some historians are thinking now the post-modern era has finished as there is a visiting historian next week lecturing on how the post-modern era ended in 2001. This will be interesting because then the long modern period stretching from the early modern period to the post-modern period should be over, which might be good for nature and sustainability.

So Dreher would do better if he critiqued the modern project which does go on for centuries unlike the Enlightenment, and if he did this he would also be at the very cutting edge of the discourse on what should replace the modern project.

12

kidneystones 06.03.15 at 1:37 pm

@9 Now, now. You’re welcome to claim whatever you like about Kipnis and her book(s) (5), which you evidently have not read. However, Kipnis is, like it or not, a well-known culture warrior for team blue, as her academic position and publication record over more than two decades confirms: http://www.scholars.northwestern.edu/expertPubs.asp?n=Laura+Kipnis&u_id=1225

Kipnis is unafraid, however, to critique the left, which makes me immediately sympathetic. Here’s a passage on Kerry’s defeat by Bush a decade ago from Slate:

‘The political culture of a country doesn’t only take place in voting booths. It’s lodged in this network of intersecting social institutions and practices—education, media, religion, workplace dignity (or lack of it), even the kind of food we eat. And at every instance, Democrats have ceded the territory or never fought for it in the first place. Into this mix add the brand of superstitious and authoritarian religiosity now dominating American life. When it comes to religion, once again, the old left had a few interesting things to say. Someone, I’m a little hesitant to say who at the moment, once called religion the “opiate of the masses.” In other words, a painkiller, and an indispensable one, given the degree to which social conditions force a population to live the impoverished lives that make these kinds of substitutes for meaning and fulfillment necessary.

Then let’s add high unemployment and rampant job insecurity—useful techniques for stifling social demands and crippling whatever opposition a viable labor movement would provide. Stir in a climate of terror, which this administration has been particularly adept at milking. It’s not just that voting for social progress becomes less likely under such circumstances, it’s that even basic social demands start to seem threatening. The fact that a majority of the country has come to accept the persistence of vast social inequities in the face of unprecedented wealth doesn’t make these conditions any less reprehensible.

It’s not that Kerry didn’t have a clear message—his message was clear enough. The Democratic defeat was a direct result of the party’s ongoing unwillingness to contest the direction that national political culture has taken in an era of unregulated corporate triumphalism—and too bad for them, it’s a direction that obviously resonates far more with a Republican than a Democratic agenda.’

Kipnis confirms clearly here that she’s a bona fide right-wing nut and a card-carrying member of the poor deserved to get screwed brigade.

And with that, I’ll say good-night.

13

John Holbo 06.03.15 at 2:02 pm

‘you’ve pre-framed any discussion of what’s actually going on as “you can yell about it in comments if that is your bliss.”’

You are free to take the conversation in what I think is an unprofitable direction, Rich. But it seems odd that you think it isn’t my place, as the author of the post, to presume to frame the subject of the post in the manner I find most fitting. Do you think I should send my posts out to the frame shop to have that done by someone more professional?

14

John Holbo 06.03.15 at 2:04 pm

For the record, I think what Kipnis originally wrote was horrible. I just don’t think that all horrible things people write are, plausibly, Title IX violations. When you think of the set of things that could be Title IX violations, if this is, the set gets out of hand.

15

John Holbo 06.03.15 at 2:08 pm

“Re: conservatives are aghast. Perhaps some are. The ones I read are delighted.”

By ‘aghast’ I meant delighted. This is politics, after all.

16

bmore 06.03.15 at 2:12 pm

This is possibly off-topic, if so I apologize in advance.

According to the mandatory Title IX training session which I recently was mandated to attend, I, as a (non-tenured) faculty member, am a mandated reporter of Title IX violations (though only for those involving undergraduates and graduate students and maybe post-docs, but definitely not faculty — they weren’t very clear). In particular, if an undergraduate wished to confide in me a Title IX violation he or she was subject to (or even if news of such an incident was related to me by a third person), then I would be required to report it to the Title IX office — even if the student requested that I not do so. I wasn’t clear on what the repercussions for keeping such a students confidence would be — presumably it would be a Title IX violation on my part.

My main take away from this was that, from the point of view of Title IX (or at least my university’s interpretation of it), undergraduates are a vulnerable population — on the order of children or the mentally disabled. While I’m sure this is more intended to “protect the institution” than anything else, it seems to me that this is squarely on the road toward a return to in loco parentis. I’m not sure how in line with enlightenment values this is, though perhaps Dreher would approve.

17

Rich Puchalsky 06.03.15 at 2:17 pm

JH: “For the record, I think what Kipnis originally wrote was horrible. I just don’t think that all horrible things people write are, plausibly, Title IX violations. “

It wasn’t a Title IX violation. The claim that it was was dismissed.

Characterizing the person pursuing the Title IX claim as providing the anti-PC brigade with ammo for pursuing the claim is really agreeing with Kipnis. Title IX could be a bad law / regulation / policy without saying that it’s up to people who pursue claims to think about whether they are giving the anti-PC brigade ammo before they pursue them.

18

AcademicLurker 06.03.15 at 2:31 pm

Kipnis has given us all a master class in the fine art of public trolling.

Universities, of course, have always been terrible at handling complaints like this and have preferred star chamber type proceedings since forever. I believe that M. Berube recounts in his book an incident when he was either a grad. student or assistant professor, where he was abruptly informed out of the blue that an investigation had “cleared” him of a complaint of bias brought against him by a student. That was the first he had heard of any complaint.

I’m more inclined to blame the writers of the relevant section of title IX than the university administrators. Threatening loss of federal funding is the equivalent of threatening to drop a nuclear bomb on the campus. If what does or doesn’t count as a violation isn’t spelled out very clearly, shenanigans like this from administrators are inevitable.

19

Lynne 06.03.15 at 2:42 pm

Bianca, it is more complicated than that but only a few months after reading her latest book I can’t remember enough to tell you how. I came away wondering why she considered herself a feminist and not liking her very much. That I remember, but not much else.

20

John Holbo 06.03.15 at 2:46 pm

If you want to argue that it was a reasonable Title IX case, make your case, Rich.

21

Rich Puchalsky 06.03.15 at 2:50 pm

I think it was reasonable that the complainant brought the case, given that Title IX exists: I think it was reasonable that the case was dismissed. I think that nothing is gained except agreement with Dreher by characterizing bringing the case as providing ammo for anti-PC brigades.

22

AcademicLurker 06.03.15 at 2:52 pm

The reactions from the right wing press have been hilarious.

The only demographic they hate more than college professors is gay illegal immigrant abortion providers. Watching them all suddenly wringing their hands and shedding crocodile tears over academic freedom has been something else.

23

John Holbo 06.03.15 at 3:14 pm

“I think that nothing is gained except agreement with Dreher”

Here is where you and I disagree, Rich. I don’t regard saying that Dreher is right about something as a loss.

24

William Timberman 06.03.15 at 3:22 pm

Seems to me that, in general, opening an avenue for complaints is a good thing. Some people who feel aggrieved may not in fact have legitimate grounds for complaint, those who are unjustly complained about may be inconvenienced, embarrassed, or have their reputations damaged. The adjudicating institution, in its wisdom, may find ass-covering, or star chamber proceedings, to be more in their interest than the tedious and public working through of what’s fair and what’s not. All true, but we’ve seen the alternative, that of leaving the aggrieved with no recourse, and to me that seems far uglier.

25

Marc 06.03.15 at 3:59 pm

Opening legal discrimination challenges based on opinion pieces is not a good thing. It makes the claims about liberals from conservatives true, it’s dramatically chilling to free speech, and I doubt that the Golden Rule would hold in terms of people welcoming being the targets of lawsuits themselves.

26

Watson Ladd 06.03.15 at 4:14 pm

Is Adorno for the Enlightenment, or against? This question smacks of a sort of rhetorical McCarthyism, reducing a multifaceted and lengthy phenomenon into a single thing, to be for or against. Dreher could simply be noting the question of liberalism’s erosion of faith, without rejecting certain elements. He doesn’t have to be for or against Enlightenment.

Even if he rejects Enlightenment, he could still object to the imposition of a quasi-legal process for determining what professors can and cannot say, or even that expressing opinions about cases can be seen as retaliation. If we can’t discuss the details of cases how can we evaluate what the law is doing? There’s plenty of ground to defend certain values and practices without conceding everything to Emmanuel Kant.

27

John Holbo 06.03.15 at 4:27 pm

“There’s plenty of ground to defend certain values and practices without conceding everything to Emmanuel Kant.”

Yes, I’m not saying it’s logically impossible to find a middle ground. I’m just pointing out that Dreher’s argument seems to consist of bobbing between extremes, while trying to make it sound as though this is somehow a recipe for humanely getting the best of both.

28

bianca steele 06.03.15 at 4:40 pm

kidneystones @ 12

Patronize much?

“When it comes to religion, once again, the old left had a few interesting things to say,” is obviously a criticism of today’s left, not of the right. How you can tell from the uninterpreted blob of text you quoted, whether she’s criticizing to her right or to her left, and which she thinks she’s doing, I don’t know, but it’s an impressive feat of mindreading. The willingness of rightwing bloggers to jump into an intra-left, intra-feminism dispute and take sides is stunning.

Lynne, my guess is that she’s a second-wave feminist, like Ellen Willis or Wendy Kaminer, who identifies sexual freedom as a necessary step toward healthy (hetero)sexuality, and doesn’t like the turn feminism took after the seventies, doesn’t like the turn the mainstream or the left took after the seventies or eighties, and would prefer to be able to continue seeing herself as on the left–but doesn’t prefer it enough to consistently support the left in disputes with the right. The reviews made her book sound like a series of disputes with boyfriends, in which she has always belatedly realized that they were in the right and she was in the wrong; intermixed with profiles of famous male chauvinists, in which she realizes that they’re in the right and their feminist critics are wrong. Not very attractive. For her sake let’s hope the reviews were unfair (that sounds snarky, but I’m not going to read it and find out).

29

AcademicLurker 06.03.15 at 4:48 pm

Random off topic observation. If I google Laura Kipnis, the “People also searched for…” list includes Jane Gallop, Andrea Dworkin, Eimear McBride and….Jaime Hernandez? I’m trying to work out what the Love and Rockets connection could possibly be.

30

David 06.03.15 at 4:48 pm

Does the title of your post imply that you had Darrin Macmahon’s book on the Counter-Enlightenment in mind when you wrote it?
I ask because the opponents of the Enlightenment were not stupid, and they quickly realised that a system based on radical individualism would, over time, destroy the society they prized and wanted to save. They were of course right.
Whilst I doubt if many of us would wish to go back to the world against which the figures of the Enlightenment struggled, the problem with radical individualism is that it has no obvious “Stop” sign built into it. In that sense, homosexual marriage is indeed a natural (though perhaps not inevitable) product of the Enlightenment. A hundred years ago hardly anyone thought homosexuals should be free to live as they wanted to. Fifty years ago hardly anyone thought they should be allowed to marry. And in fifty years’ time?
The whole Enlightenment/liberal/radical individualist thing, in the end, is a package deal. You can decide which bits you like, but you can’t choose which consequences will actually come about. You can have more freedom, but you get more exploitation. You can have freedom of speech but also threats to freedom of speech. You can have greater individual autonomy, but also a degraded social framework. And so on. In theory, it would be possible to take only those consequences of the Enlightenment that we are comfortable with, but in practice it’s impossible, even if we could somehow agree what they were.

31

Omega Centauri 06.03.15 at 4:54 pm

Are people actually buying that Kipnis’s writing quoted in 12 is rightwing. Its exposing the fact that the left is losing because they aren’t even trying. Its a plea to up their gameplan.

I think an issue here, is that legislation which was written with good intentions can sometimes metastasize, as it appears that perhaps has happened to title nine. We have to be vigilant that our cures don’t end up becoming worse than the disease. And in the American hyperlegailistic system with many players desperately trying to protect their backsides, we see how something like this can morph into a witchhunt. If we want to retain any sort of credibility for future efforts to right social wrongs, we will have to deal with this issue.

32

geo 06.03.15 at 5:08 pm

OP:He will say conservative orthodox views are right, whereas liberal orthodox views are wrong. But that is rather question-begging

Or it’s an invitation to renew the (possibly interminable) discussion about whether conservative or liberal views are right. As Stanley Fish has been arguing (persuasively, I’d say) for a long time, there is no such thing as free speech — and it’s a good thing, too. That is, there’s no irrefragable foundation for liberalism, no demonstrably correct place to draw the line between permissible and harmful speech. Every society has to come to a working consensus, which won’t satisfy everybody and which is liable to be continually reargued until one or another position just goes extinct.

33

Rich Puchalsky 06.03.15 at 5:11 pm

Marc: “Opening legal discrimination challenges based on opinion pieces is not a good thing. It makes the claims about liberals from conservatives true,”

Why is it that the person who opened the challenge is best characterized as a “liberal” rather than someone who believed she was raped and that someone had just written an opinion piece saying that she’d made a false claim of rape? How does this person’s decision to open a case make any claims about liberals true?

34

geo 06.03.15 at 5:13 pm

BTW: Matthew Crawford’s The World Outside Your Head is terrific. Even if Dreher likes it, and whether or not the philosophical scaffolding is sound, it’s one of the best books of social/cultural criticism I’ve read in years.

35

geo 06.03.15 at 5:19 pm

Sorry: it’s The World BeyondYour Head

36

Lynne 06.03.15 at 5:34 pm

Bianca, I don’t know those names but I’m a second-wave feminist myself and I’m tired of women who begin talking about feminist issues with “I’m a feminist, but…” I know and know of a few who do this habitually, and what follows always makes me wonder in what way the speaker is feminist.

Quite different from one feminist disagreeing with another, these women are addressing non-feminists with the expectation of finding agreement.

37

Bloix 06.03.15 at 5:57 pm

#32 – “someone who believed she was raped and that someone had just written an opinion piece saying that she’d made a false claim of rape”

The claim did not involve rape. One of the points Kipnis makes is that the accuser never claimed she was raped:

“He sued local media outlets for using the word “rape” as a synonym for sexual assault—a complaint thrown out by a different judge who said rape was an accurate enough summary of the charges, even though the assault was confined to fondling, which the professor denies occurred… What a mess. And what a slippery slope, from alleged fondler to rapist.”
http://chronicle.com/article/Sexual-Paranoia/190351/

(Ludlow appealed the dismissal of suit against the local media, and the appellate court affirmed the dismissal on the ludicrous ground that the headline using the word “rape” might have referred to someone else, and therefore it was not defamatory. It did not reach the question of whether “rape” means fondling and vice versa.
(http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/r23_orders/AppellateCourt/2015/1stDistrict/1142370_R23.pdf)

38

Watson Ladd 06.03.15 at 6:00 pm

Today’s left is the right. Banning extreme pornography, demanding respect for religious figures, insisting upon ethnic representation rather than a politics of individuals, are all things that the right, not the left, endorses.

Rich, libel suits exist in the USA, and accusing someone of a crime is pretty much libel. However, imagine if George Zimmerman sued people who expressed the opinion that he should have been convicted, or had committed a crime in shooting Trayvon Martin. Wouldn’t you think that George Zimmerman is trying to stop people from saying things he doesn’t like, things that society should preserve the right to say? How is that different from the Kipnis case, other than you liking some speech better than other speech?

39

William Timberman 06.03.15 at 6:02 pm

The Enlightenment got one thing right: the fundamental question is whether God invented man, or man invented God. The only testimony we have to the former is, not surprisingly, taken from men. Never mind that they’re wearing red shoes, or imperial starbursts and sashes on their chests, they’re just men, who, as my staunchly Jacobin father used to say, put their pants on the same way I do, one leg at a time. As far as we ordinary mortals can discern, God himself — if he exists — is mute.

To make a long story short, Ordnung muss sein, which I understand to be the essence of Dreher’s argument, is hardly a sufficient proof of the existence of God. It is, in fact, a non-sequitur masquerading as a moral imperative. Whose order? What ends is it intended to serve?

If the absence of a universal moral authority dumping us straightaway into depravity is our real problem, then giving our superegos an emergency religious injection might very well be the appropriate solution. The evidence suggests, however that Dreher, and in fact most conservatives, have no idea what our real problem is. The rest is just the braying of asses.

40

Ralph Hitchens 06.03.15 at 6:05 pm

Let’s have a healthy dose of Occam — why elevate the triumph of open homosexuality and gay marriage to the lofty theoretical heights of an Enlightenment vs. counter-enlightenment debate? What’s wrong with basic science, not to mention the plain language of our Constitution? Acquaintance with gay people should convince anyone that homosexuality is about biology, not lifestyle choice. Sure, “choice” comes into play in certain abnormal circumstances, such as prison, or long sea voyages back in the day. But men getting out of prison and sailors home from the sea revert to the hetero norm, even if (in the case of released felons) a certain politically-minded brain surgeon thinks otherwise. Next, if we’re talking about a subset of the human condition, part of God’s Creation as perceived by people of faith (in which I count myself), do we really think it right and proper to perpetuate second-class citizenship to keep it under wraps? The plain meaning of the due process and equal protection language in our founding documents ought to be acknowledged by conservatives as well as liberals.

41

Bloix 06.03.15 at 6:12 pm

Dreher: “Now that liberalism has evolved into hostility to what I believe to be true about religion, morality, and human nature, I — like all orthodox Christians — have to face the fact that liberalism, which all of us Americans took in with our mother’s milk, may ultimately be alien to our faith, because in the end, it enthrones the choosing Self over God or any conception of external, transcendent Truth.”

What the hell does he mean by “orthodox Christian”? He evidently means something more than Trinitarian (e.g., not the Unitarian Universalists). Here is the closest he comes:

“The “new climate of prohibition concerning certain forms of thought and speech, an Orwellian revisionism directed at texts and records bearing witness to old ideas” is coming to America too. If you don’t see this, you are being willfully blind. Bishops and leaders of the orthodox, or at least officially orthodox, churches — Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox — who are not soberly but unhesitatingly preparing their people for this is a sign of their dereliction of duty.”

This is word salad.

As far as I can tell from context, an “orthodox Christian church” is one that forbids same-sex marriage. This is as fine an example of “no true Scotsman” as you are likely to find.

42

MPAVictoria 06.03.15 at 6:25 pm

Dreher is a bigot who is annoyed that the world is now calling him out on being a bigot. Why are we taking him seriously?

/The article by Kipnis is beyond dumb. Typical “kids these days” nonsense combined with rape apologia (and I actually don’t think that there is always a problem when students and professors sleep together.) . Doesn’t mean the gov’t should be getting involved in editorials though.

43

T 06.03.15 at 6:37 pm

“I think it was reasonable that the complainant brought the case, given that Title IX exists: I think it was reasonable that the case was dismissed.” — RP

The cost of bringing a complaint is very low and the actual and potential cost of defending one is very high. How low do you want to set the bar?

44

Z 06.03.15 at 6:42 pm

John

He will say conservative orthodox views are right, whereas liberal orthodox views are wrong. But that is rather question-begging (and you can divide through by the ‘orthodoxy’, without remainder.)

Not so, because you are basing your analogy on an equivocation: you understand orthodoxy in the usual sense of generally accepted opinion (a sense well-suited for liberal orthodoxy) but Dreher (I think) wants to use it in the literal, etymological sense of the (by nature question-begging) body of fixed dogma (in his case, the one of some Church). In his sense, there is no liberal orthodoxy whereas (his own peculiar branch of) conservative orthodoxy exists and is true by definition. Seen under this light, his argumentation is completely coherent and transparent (it is also completely uninteresting but, hey, who am I to judge how you spend your free-time).

The willingness of rightwing bloggers to jump into an intra-left, intra-feminism dispute and take sides is stunning.

Is this really an intra-left, intra-feminisms dispute though? Kipnis’s original piece did not strike me as particularly leftwing nor feminist (but maybe I should re-read it). It also did not strike me as particularly good (an understatement), but that’s another story.

Why is it that the person who opened the challenge is best characterized as a “liberal” rather than someone who believed she was raped and that someone had just written an opinion piece saying that she’d made a false claim of rape?

Rich, I don’t claim to know anything about the legal framework, but the piece I read (which admittedly had been altered from its original version, though I believe not in that particular respect) was a general opinion piece which did not mention anyone by name and it weighted on rape allegations only very tangentially (in a way I doubt could be perceived by anyone not familiar with the case already). That’s very far from saying someone had made a false claim of rape.

45

Philippe 06.03.15 at 6:47 pm

Dreher :

One of the most difficult things for many American conservatives, especially religious conservatives, to accept is that gay marriage did not come from nowhere. It is the logical outcome of the Sexual Revolution, which in itself is the logical outworking of Enlightenment liberalism.

Christopher Lasch , “The Culture of Narcissism” :

Sade imagined a sexual utopia in which everyone has the right to everyone else, where human beings, reduced to their sexual organs, became absolutely anonymous and interchangeable. His ideal society thus reaffirmed the capitalist principle that human beings are ultimately reducible to interchangeable objects. It also incorporated and carried to a surprising new conclusion Hobbes’s discovery that the destruction of paternalism and the subordination of all social relations to the market had stripped away the remaining restraints and the mitigating illusions from the war of all against all. In the resulting state of organized anarchy, as Sade was the first to realize, pleasure becomes life’s only business–pleasure, however, that is indistinguishable from rape, murder, unbridled aggression. In a society that has reduced reason to mere calculation, reason can impose no limits on the pursuit of pleasure–on the immediate gratification of every desire no matter how perverse, insane, criminal or merely immoral. [ …] In his misogyny, Sade perceived that bourgeois enlightenment, carried to its logical conclusions, condemned even the sentimental cult of womanhood and the family, which the bourgeois itself had carried to unprecedented extremes.

46

AcademicLurker 06.03.15 at 6:53 pm

Christopher Lasch…

I’ve never understood why so many people admire Lasch. He certainly claimed that he wasn’t advocating turning back the clock to the good old days when (white) men were men and everyone else knew their place, but that seems to be the logical conclusion of a lot of what he wrote.

47

Stephen 06.03.15 at 7:30 pm

Going back to Enlightenment values: consider Gibbon’s analysis of the polytheistic religions of the pre-Christian Roman empire (I’m quoting from memory, but I think I have the gist of it right):

“The various religions were considered by the populace as equally true, by the philosophers as equally false, and by the magistrates as equally useful.”

Guessing as to the CT commentariat’s view on that: I suspect that the true/false discriminant might lean towards Christianity/Islam/Hinduism as false, Sikhism/Buddhism as neutral, animism/paganism as false for different reasons. Am I wrong?

As for usefulness: a sensible Englishwoman once complained to me “the trouble is, I can’t see a way of getting the beneficial social effects of Christianity without intelligent persons like you and me having to pretend to believe in it”. I replied, ineffectively, that the Church of England used to be the solution to that problem. I should point out that Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, animism and paganism were at the time in England very much minority interests, as some still are.

48

Bruce Wilder 06.03.15 at 7:30 pm

David @ 30:

Whilst I doubt if many of us would wish to go back to the world against which the figures of the Enlightenment struggled, the problem with radical individualism is that it has no obvious “Stop” sign built into it. In that sense, homosexual marriage is indeed a natural (though perhaps not inevitable) product of the Enlightenment. A hundred years ago hardly anyone thought homosexuals should be free to live as they wanted to. Fifty years ago hardly anyone thought they should be allowed to marry. And in fifty years’ time?

I might quibble with the idea that the label “radical individualism” is a fair characterization of the Enlightenment’s version of secular humanism and insistence on critical method, but it is the “no obvious “Stop” sign built in” part that pisses me off, so let’s focus on that, shall we?

Was there some reason for the “Stop sign” in front of homosexual marriage? That’s the question Enlightenment Reason asks, with the expectation that Reason can decide where to put the “Stop sign” and take responsibility for that choice, with eyes open to consequences and with a willingness to make humane ethical judgements informed by an awareness of realistically assessed consequences.

I think Dreher is right, historically: instituting homosexual marriage was a logical extension of the Sexual Revolution that transformed the motive foundations for institutions, including marriage, that controlled sexual behavior and expression from an authoritarian model to an autonomy model. Marriage went from being a legally required license from Church and State, for sexual intercourse, granted for divine or propertarian purposes, to being a voluntary contract between individuals for their own personal purposes.

Are there no “obvious” places to put a Stop sign, under the new regime? Is sexual behavior to be entirely uncontrolled? It seems obstinate and churlish to overlook the fact that we’re here discussing issues tangential to controversy over the placing of Stop signs, so to speak, around sexual harassment. Enlightenment Reason (or radical individualism?) still wants to control sexual behavior and expression, but will institute that desired control on the basis of arguments concerning consequences to actual humans.

It wasn’t lost on Dreher that the institution of gay marriage in Ireland followed on overwhelming approval in a popular referendum in large part because the previous regime had been discredited. The “obvious Stop signs built in” to the ancien regime administered by the Catholic Church had consequences in horrifying abuse, which taboos, authoritarian strictures and hypocrisy prevented people from acknowledging. When the Sexual Revolution had progressed sufficiently in removing the old taboos that people began to notice the hypocrisy and corruption, the moral teaching of the old regime was discredited. This is an important part of the story.

It wasn’t that the old regime had Stop signs and the new regime does not. The new regime has placed stop signs, reinforced by renewed taboos, on the sexual abuse of children, for example, and spousal abuse and, yes, sexual harassment, where the old regime had lapsed rather badly. And, Dreher shows us a poor priest, who is inhibited by the new taboos from holding children on his lap.

David @ 30:

The whole Enlightenment/liberal/radical individualist thing, in the end, is a package deal. You can decide which bits you like, but you can’t choose which consequences will actually come about. You can have more freedom, but you get more exploitation. You can have freedom of speech but also threats to freedom of speech. You can have greater individual autonomy, but also a degraded social framework. And so on. In theory, it would be possible to take only those consequences of the Enlightenment that we are comfortable with, but in practice it’s impossible, even if we could somehow agree what they were.

So, you think gay marriage in Ireland represents “a degraded social framework” compared to the days when the Catholic Church organized the shaming of unwed mothers and the abuse of orphan boys in penal institutions? You think freedom (not authority!) leads to exploitation and censorship would eliminate threats to freedom of speech?

So, yes, Enlightenment Reason does expect us to try to agree, on the basis of reason and evidence, what the consequences of social institutions and policies may be, and to take responsibility for acting accordingly in deliberately instituting appropriate policies. That may be an optimistic expectation, given the evidence of this comment.

49

Bruce Wilder 06.03.15 at 7:48 pm

Having read so much of Rod Dreher’s verbiage, I think it is remarkable that Holbo can, with such determined faith in his ability to find one, search for an argument in each new essay.

Dreher’s conservatism consists largely of the attitude that his prejudices and preferences should not require justification by argument. He finds things liberals are arguing about, or, more disturbing to him, have argued thru to some conclusion, and he complains. Whines, really. But, the core “argument” — presumption really, because no argument is argued — of every essay is to the effect that there should not be an argument, because it is all so obvious or faithful or something. All the bobbing and weaving as he tours the landscape of argument in the course of one of his essays is driven by rules of engagement that dictate no engagement by argument. He just wants to emote in reaction to what he notices, like the narrator of a travelogue, keeping up the calm front of a detached, but superior observer, even while he expresses hysterical alarm at how wrong-headed people who argue can become. The closest he seems to me to come to an argument in the Kipnis essay is when he exclaims in horror at the lowly status of the instigator of this assault on the prerogatives of authority, “A kid!”

50

geo 06.03.15 at 7:58 pm

AL@45: that seems to be the logical conclusion of a lot of what [Lasch] wrote

You might have a look at his Women and the Common Life.

I’ve never understood why so many people admire Lasch

Even supposing Lasch wanted to turn the clock back, dismissing him out of hand this way is like saying “I’ve never understood why people admire Brecht (or Sartre or Neruda or Saramago), who was a Stalinist,” or “I’ve never understood why people admire Wagner (or Celine or T.S. Eliot), who was an anti-Semite” or “I’ve never understood why people admire Plato (or Burke or Heidegger), who was an anti-democratic swine.” There’s a great deal more to Lasch than his opinions, mistaken or not, about feminism.

51

SamChevre 06.03.15 at 8:05 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 48

So, yes, Enlightenment Reason does expect us to try to agree, on the basis of reason and evidence, what the consequences of social institutions and policies may be, and to take responsibility for acting accordingly in deliberately instituting appropriate policies.

And of course, if we get it wrong, our betters will explain that we need to shut up and do what we’re told (that’s pretty much the history of gay marriage in the US).

52

Marshall 06.03.15 at 8:13 pm

Bad postmodernism drives out good postmodernism.

53

TM 06.03.15 at 8:14 pm

Marc: “Opening legal discrimination challenges based on opinion pieces is not a good thing. It makes the claims about liberals from conservatives true”

Interesting fact: we don’t know anything about the politics of the person who filed the complaint. The whole premise of this right-wing mudfest is grotesque.

54

TM 06.03.15 at 8:21 pm

Bloix 36: you are completely missing what this was about. Kipnis did write that there was no rape allegation but that turned out to be false. There were two allegations and one was of rape. That Kipnis didn’t admit and correct the mistake is really what triggered the retaliation claim and here she is apparently on the wrong side and deserved a slap on her wrist.

55

LFC 06.03.15 at 8:23 pm

MPAV @41

The article by Kipnis is beyond dumb. Typical “kids these days” nonsense combined with rape apologia…

I don’t agree with this characterization of her piece. I read it only once, rather quickly, and a week or so ago, but it seems to me most of her criticism was directed not to students but to university administrators who are guilty, in her view, of “infantilizing” students and depriving them of autonomy. Now, one can agree or disagree with her argument and the way it is made and the evidence adduced (or not), but to suggest she was engaged in “rape apologia” I think is inaccurate.

56

MPAVictoria 06.03.15 at 8:28 pm

Read her bit on the rape allegation again LFC. Rape apologia fits IMO.

And her essay contains numerous rather disparaging mentions of students and how weak they are these days. Not like in her day when people were tough dammit!

I stand by my summary, typical “get off my lawn” complaints about “kids today”.

57

Marc 06.03.15 at 8:37 pm

@52: We do know for certain that they targeted the writer of an opinion piece with legal action. People on the left had no trouble understanding why it was a problem to sue scientists in court for studying climate change; we have no trouble understanding why corporate lawsuits against activists are a problem. It’s also a problem when speech that we don’t like gets slammed with lawsuits.

That’s a different matter from disagreeing with what someone writes: the idea, that writing an editorial that you disagree with *creates a hostile work environment* isn’t a borderline case. The fact that it’s hard for people here to see that is an indication of an actual problem.

58

TM 06.03.15 at 8:41 pm

“they targeted the writer of an opinion piece with legal action” – who? “Liberals”? You really have no clue.

59

T 06.03.15 at 8:43 pm

@53

Do you think two lawyers hired by your employer showing up at your door threatening you with the potential loss of your job is a slap on the wrist? Esp. if your told by your employer that you can’t have representation during your “interview”/deposition?

If your answer is yes, I think you should give a trigger warning before you post.

60

David 06.03.15 at 8:47 pm

@Bruce Wilder. Perhaps I wasn’t sufficiently clear. Certain ideologies (whether we share them or not) have built-in “Stop” signs because of their very nature. Others (whether we share them or not) don’t. In the latter category, I would include, for example, all fundamentalist interpretations of religion. But it’s obvious that radical individualism (and I’m open to alternative formulations) also has this characteristic . Once you start making the autonomy of the individual the centre of your ideology, it is not obvious where you stop, since, at least theoretically, you can go on and on in search of more and more perfect autonomy for everyone. In practice, societies have made pragmatic judgements over the decades about where to stop, but these are precisely pragmatic judgements that change over time, not absolute moral ones, and the tendency in recent years has been to move the boundaries more and more in favour of the autonomous individual. This isn’t, of course, an argument for or against any particular development or policy, it’s just an observation. But the Enlightenment heritage, to put it simply, has to be seen as a package, and not all of its consequences will be equally attractive to all.
I don’t know enough about the case you are discussing to comment (I don’t think it’s been covered outside the US) but in any event any consistent ideology or scheme of ethics will, over time, throw up anomalies, contradictions and difficult choices, and the Enlightenment heritage is no exception. But this seems to me an interesting question to discuss, not something to get upset about.

61

gianni 06.03.15 at 8:55 pm

I am immediately suspicious of those who readily turn to the Law/State/Administration to resolve problems that can also be handled through private or public discourse. Likewise, I am immediately sympathetic to those who are forced to confront the Law, in its various forms, in modern American society.

Rich, I am surprised to see you so quick to declare this all tidied-up, because the ultimate decision was a reasonable one. The process itself is quite trying, in many ways. ‘Kafka’, as they say.

But seriously : the conservatives were right on this one. We should be troubled by how neatly this sort of dust-up fits (along w/ others) into the narrative they have been spinning for a while now.

62

mclaren 06.03.15 at 9:03 pm

Dreher seems to get it factually wrong at a basic level. Current scientific evidence strongly suggests sexual preference is biologically determined, which means that autonomy is preicsely what is not being elevated by acceptance of gay marriage, bisexuality, etc.

Conservatives once upon a time were supposed to examine the available evidence and draw conclusions based upon it. Once upon a time, conservatives prided themselves as the hard-headed realistic folks, the people who avoided being ruled by squishy touchy-feely indefinable ideologies like the “far left.” Apparently when that hard evidence starts suggesting inconvenient facts about human sexuality, the conservatives jump ship.

FWIW, current movement conservatives have also jumped ship from the hard evidence about supply side economics (doesn’t work), evolution, global warming, and so on. In short, conservatism has morphed into the opposite of what it was supposed to be 60 years ago. Score one for Hegel’s historical dialectic.

63

Bloix 06.03.15 at 9:06 pm

Amanda Marcotte, who considers Kipnis the “enemy,” nonetheless acerbically attacks the Title IX complainants for having made her a “martyr” and doing “what a million Wall Street Journal editorials could not, which is destroy all the good work that is being done using Title IX to combat rape and sexual abuse on campus… Worse, a bunch of liberals who otherwise were fully supportive of feminist efforts to fight sexual abuse on campus now think Title IX is cover for some censorious re-education efforts.”

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/good-work-laura-kipnis-critics-you-made-your-enemy-a-martyr

Not to beat a thoroughly dead horse until it’s completely flayed, but this sounds a hell of a lot like Freddie de Boer’s “backlash” argument.

A lot of CT commenters thought that Jay Caspian Kang’s “the backlash is you” was just excellent. Well, maybe not only.

You know, some people thought it was just hilarious to read that Amanda Marcotte would NEVER FUCK BONERS!!!!

He never asked Amanda Marcotte to fuck him. He did say that it’s stupid to alienate allies. When he said it, it was because he a sexist pig phony feminist. Now that it actually matters, Marcotte is saying it. What a surprise.

64

gianni 06.03.15 at 9:10 pm

TM – you scoff, but who/what values are they appealing to in the broader discourse? Many conservatives think it is absurd on face. I think you should be more un-settled.

65

JW Mason 06.03.15 at 9:19 pm

That the charges were dropped is a good thing, but they shouldn’t have been brought in the first place

It’s probably been said by now (sorry, not reading previous comments) but this is not sustainable. Any liberal judicial system allows people to state their case, and then decides how that case should be resolved. If the charges here were dismissed, then the system functioned as it was supposed to. What you are implicitly calling for here is that the charges should have been found without merit before any formal evaluation of them took place. How is that supposed to work?

Either you want to deny students the right to any process for making complaints against professors. Or, you want to accept that some unjustified complaints will be made, which a well-designed process will reject. (As happened here.) It doesn’t make sense to ask for a process in which the only complaints that will even be heard are the ones that are already known to be justified.

If we want students to be protected from sexual harassment, we also want professors to sometimes be wrongly accused of sexual harassment. You can’t hear the legitimate complaints without also hearing the illegitimate ones.

66

Lenoxus 06.03.15 at 9:24 pm

Bruce Wilder @ 47:

It wasn’t that the old regime had Stop signs and the new regime does not. The new regime has placed stop signs, reinforced by renewed taboos, on the sexual abuse of children, for example, and spousal abuse and, yes, sexual harassment, where the old regime had lapsed rather badly.

Precisely.

It’s interesting that so many people assume that every person’s set of personal rules can be mapped onto every other such set in a pattern of strict hierarchy, like Russian nesting dolls. Suppose one restaurant says no-shirt-no-shoes-no-service, the one next door permits barefoot people but not the shirtless, and the one next to that is entirely lassez-faire about clothing. In this scenario, what is beyond comprehension is the restaurant which, for its own reasons, permits shirtlessness but demands shoes. Instead, the assumption is always that if you have no rule about shirts, then you’re “far enough along the line” that you must also have no rule about shoes. How could it be otherwise?

Thus some people, upon seeing a set of rules that permits homosexuality, fail to recognize a fundamentally different set of principles at foot. Oddly enough, they’re perfectly happy to complain about being the subject of whispers and dirty looks for their homophobia, but they always fail to see this as arising from moral convictions. Instead, they perceive it as confusing and “hypocritical” — “If you accept homosexuality, doesn’t the implied moral relativism prohibit you from judging my anti-gay attitudes?”

And to the extent that they see it can be connected to moral ideas, it still looks to them like a kind of play-acting. Hence, when someone proposes an affirmative-consent standard, it looks to conservatives like so much bluster. “You can’t really mean you want ‘yes means yes’ as a standard, or else you’d have actual moral standards, which means you’d accept basic moral principles, which include conventional gender roles whereby it is good and proper that men needle women for sex and women give in, that promiscuous women be judged worse than promiscuous men, and so forth. You know: common sense stuff.”

67

TM 06.03.15 at 9:25 pm

The posters at 58 and 60 seem to suggest that private individuals shouldn’t have the right to file legal complaints (whether through the courts or, in this case, through a university anti-discrimination office). It’s a position remarkable only for its insanity. Prof. Kipnis didn’t lose her job and I doubt she was “threatened with losing her job” (I’m not sure what kind of sanctions she would have faced if the complaint had been found justified, but job loss is reserved for the most extreme cases of misconduct). I suggest anybody drumming on about how conservatives were “proved right” about the liberal-fascist world order by the fact that a professor didn’t lose her job because of her public writing should now be compelled to write at least a 200 word essay about the Salaita case.

Interesting case: a Jesuit university is trying to fire a professor. He thinks he is being singled out for his public stance *against* gay marriage. A Jesuit university! O tempora o mores. Where does that leave Dreher? (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/inside_higher_ed/2015/02/john_mcadams_marquette_tries_to_fire_tenured_professor_over_blog_post_about.html)

68

Hogan 06.03.15 at 9:26 pm

You know, some people thought it was just hilarious to read that Amanda Marcotte would NEVER FUCK BONERS!!!!

That was Amanda Hess, not Amanda Marcotte. Which just goes to show that in addition to its many other failings, feminism has too many Amandas. How are we supposed to keep up?

69

gianni 06.03.15 at 9:33 pm

Yes, TM I wholeheartedly believe that private individuals should not have the right to file legal complaints. I appreciate your commitment to a healthy discussion.

70

Bloix 06.03.15 at 9:34 pm

#44- When Dreher says this:

“gay marriage did not come from nowhere. It is the logical outcome of the Sexual Revolution, which in itself is the logical outworking of Enlightenment liberalism”

he is being an idiot.

The Sexual Revolution in general and Gay Liberation in particular HATED marriage. The sexual revolution was anti-marriage. It was in favor of divorce, affairs, and messy break-ups. It hated the ideal of sexual exclusivity, of state-sanctioned relationships, of couples and the nuclear family. It thought Growing Old Together was for chumps. Marriage was the oppression of women and the repression of men, the point at which the personal became political.

Gay Liberation was if anything even more anti-marriage. It was the ideology of the bar and the bathhouse. Liberated sex was anonymous sex, and friendship and sex had nothing to do with each other.

Gay marriage is as thorough a repudiation of the sexual revolution as could have ever occurred.

71

AcademicLurker 06.03.15 at 9:34 pm

geo@49: I’m not impugning the character of people who admire Lasch (I’ve read your book, so I know you’re among their number), maybe I should take another look at The Culture of Narcissism. I read it years ago, and it didn’t impress me at the time. It just seemed like a lot of cranky get-off-my-lawn fist shaking.

72

Bloix 06.03.15 at 9:35 pm

#67 – oh fuck. As Emily Latella used to say, never mind.

73

bianca steele 06.03.15 at 9:54 pm

Z @ 43

Is it a debate within feminism? I guess I’m contradicting myself, but my point was that the glee rightwing commentators are expressing is that someone who “obviously” is very far on the left is being attacked for no good reason by other people who are presumably very far on the left. This proves, apparently, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS. Where if people are just disagreeing with each other, their fun is lessened, because there’s no problem with people having different opinions. And if this is a woman who’s on or moving to the right, being attacked by those she just criticized in print last month, it’s just victimology, not glee at the left’s and liberals’ supposingly going Donner Party.

74

bianca steele 06.03.15 at 10:00 pm

And there’s an argument to be made, I think, that Kipnis’s piece could have been written from a feminist perspective, though this isn’t the place to make it.

75

Watson Ladd 06.03.15 at 10:02 pm

JW Mason and TM, even if every word in those accusations was true against Kipnis, it wouldn’t amount to a can of beans. Public commentary on matters of public concern is exactly what academic freedom exists to protect. The correct response is to dismiss the complaint entirely, just as what happens when someone files a lawsuit where the facts don’t meet the law.

The whole point of these complaints was to punish her for her disagreement with a policy, by calling that disagreement retaliation. By forcing her to consult a lawyer, and go through the investigation, for a complaint that could have been dropped immediately, the intended effect was achieved. The message is clear: if you don’t have tenure, or don’t want to run the risk of a star chamber proceeding, don’t comment on political matters in a way some people don’t like.

76

LFC 06.03.15 at 10:17 pm

@TM
a Jesuit university is trying to fire a professor

You neglected to say: trying to fire him for a blog post that the university deems “irresponsible” (among other adjectives).

He thinks he is being singled out for his public stance *against* gay marriage.

No. Not at all. He thinks he is being retaliated against for his exercise of free speech. This is evident from reading the very piece that you linked.

77

Jerry Vinokurov 06.03.15 at 10:25 pm

Perhaps this is a slight derail (not that we seem to be on any sort of unified track anyway), but I’m a little confused and bothered by the retreat to biology in debates about gay rights. I know it’s not meant that way, but when you frame the argument about gay rights in terms of the biology of homosexuality, you’re implicitly conceding that if the orientation were somehow voluntary, then it might be permissible to judge it by different moral standards.

This, of course, is wrong. Whether homosexuality is “inborn” or “chosen” is irrelevant when it comes to rights. There just isn’t any basis for condemning homosexuality, period; that’s the real Enlightenment conclusion, which you get when you strip away all of the tendentious bullshit from the conservative arguments. Dreher, as I said in the last Holbo thread on this topic, sees this much more clearly than his opponents do, because it’s hard not to see the gun pointed right in your face.

78

rudabah 06.03.15 at 10:45 pm

Academia creates a gradient of power. If that gradient is genuinely equitable and conscionable then Tenure is a non-issue. Essentially, the Professor can walk away and do something else equally or even more Socially worthwhile.
If the Professor can’t walk away- i.e. doesn’t have equal or greater transfer earnings- then, clearly, the Professor receives an economic rent.
The Law and Social opprobrium have evolved to attack such unconscionable, utterly inequitable rents.

79

TM 06.03.15 at 10:46 pm

74, I said “Public stance”, which implies speech doesn’t it?

WL 73, who was trying to “punish” Kipnis? A graduate student. You’d have a case if some rich (“liberal”, “feminist”) donor had called the Chancellor and asked her to get rid of Kipnis under the pretext that her essay was insensitive or whatever to students, and the Chancellor had complied. But that of course would never happen now would it? Oh wait.

I’m gonna repeat this ceterum censeo ad nauseam: anybody continuing to insist that the fact that a university investigated, and dismissed a complaint filed by an unnamed student against a professor for an op-ed she had written is a case of liberal thought police should be compelled to write at least a 200 word essay about the Salaita case.

80

parse 06.03.15 at 11:03 pm

Sure, “choice” comes into play in certain abnormal circumstances, such as prison, or long sea voyages back in the day. But men getting out of prison and sailors home from the sea revert to the hetero norm, even if (in the case of released felons) a certain politically-minded brain surgeon thinks otherwise.

Given that the hetero norm includes plenty of male/male sexual contact, those sailors and felons don’t need to change all that much to revert to it.

81

Val 06.03.15 at 11:13 pm

Always interesting to read discussion on these issues from America. Sometimes I envy you the freedom of speech you have, sometimes I think (as in this case) that some basic principles of justice have gone missing in the veneration of ‘freedom of speech’.

I’m definitely on the Rich side on this one! (Happy because I generally am, and felt something went awry in our recent disagreement)

I once made a complaint of sexual discrimination and harrassment against some prominent individuals in the state where I live. It was in the civil courts, because the institution where I was working didn’t have any policies or procedures around this kind of thing (it was in the 90s, and the lack of internal policies was part of the problem).

I don’t know what I would have done if a prominent person from that institution had published commentary on my case suggesting it was ridiculous or unfounded while the case was ongoing. However it wouldn’t have just been up to me, as it would have been generally seen as prejudicial to my right to fair hearing and fair treatment, and I don’t think any reputable paper would have published it.

Maybe I’m wrong in the parallels I’m seeing here, but if the original
case was ongoing when Kitnis published these comments, I’m amazed that she was able to.

However I have to say that we did have a somewhat similar cause célèbre here when Helen Garner (well known writer) published a book criticising two young women for bringing a complaint against a prominent academic at Melbourne Uni, though I think – hope – it was after the complaints were settled. She’s a wonderful writer, but it was an appalling attack on young women in my view. Caused huge arguments.

82

Tom 06.03.15 at 11:33 pm

Kipnis talks about Title IX “Inquisition”. That’s the point: if you believe that what she went through resembles anything like due process, then I really don’t know what to say. It is irrelevant that the system “worked” because she was acquitted. It may not work next time. Universities should not be in charge of investigating these cases. They are not equipped for doing that and they are subject to all the wrong incentives.

Think of it:

– employers investigating one of their employees
– without any due process
– making decisions about them which would be very hard and expensive to challenge in court later on.

Any such case on CT would bring out an outpour of comments about the lack of workplace rights and the overreach of corporate power. And this would be the case even if the employee had actually done something wrong. Many here believe that there are just certain things that employers should not be allowed to do. But most of these concerns seem to go out of the window when Title IX cases are involved.

tl;dr: Violations of company policies should be prosecuted in court, universities should not mete out justice privately.

83

Hogan 06.03.15 at 11:41 pm

#70: Spoke like a gentleman, sir.

84

John Holbo 06.03.15 at 11:42 pm

“It’s probably been said by now (sorry, not reading previous comments) but this is not sustainable. Any liberal judicial system allows people to state their case, and then decides how that case should be resolved. If the charges here were dismissed, then the system functioned as it was supposed to. What you are implicitly calling for here is that the charges should have been found without merit before any formal evaluation of them took place.”

Well, it’s been said by now, but I’ll say it again. The charges should have been found without merit without such a lengthy formal evaluation. I’m not sure exactly which party should bear more responsibility for the failure – the administration or drafters of the relevant Title IX provision, or some point in between – but if this is an example of ‘the system working’, then a different working system is needed. Justin Weinberg tries to argue that what happened in this case should, prima facie, pass the threshold of being prima facie retaliation. You can read the rule book here:

http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/cor/coord/ixlegal.php#3.%C2%A0%20Retaliation

I think that reading has to be absurd, since, if it were sustained, a truly absurd number of things would be ‘retaliation’.

85

Watson Ladd 06.03.15 at 11:46 pm

Val, plenty of newspapers and radio stations expressed opinions on the guilt of OJ Simpson, and got in exactly zero trouble for it. Prosecutors would of course love it if you couldn’t stand up in public for the rights of the accused provided the victim was suitably sympathetic. The public can see exactly what happens in court, and decide for themselves if the result is just. Permitting discussion of ongoing cases helps the cause of justice.

TM, imagine if the police came to your house to ask questions about an article you wrote, said someone was filing charges about it, and months later, they were quietly dismissed, after you spent weeks worrying. Don’t you think the person who filed those charges, did so because of what you said? And wouldn’t you worry in the future about what might get you in trouble?

86

TM 06.03.15 at 11:50 pm

I want to add, I’m just fed up with the dishonesty of these kinds of debate (and as is often the case I’m disappointed in John for giving Dreher’s BS even a hearing). Demonstrable fact is that the right has been working for decades to undermine free speech in academia (remember Horowitz’s Black List). There are zero proven cases of a conservative academic losing their job or even their job being seriously threatened because of their public views. There are definitely more than zero cases of left or liberal academics so threatened and punished for their views. Everything the right-wingers say about the liberal thought police is true, as long as it’s turned into its opposite. It is they who are chilling left-wing speech and it is they who threaten religious freedom, especially the freedom of those of us who wish to be free of religion. The right wing have pulled a remarkable trick of framing public debate in Orwellian terms. They have managed to establish the “right” of a corporation to interfere in its employees’ private choices as a matter of religious freedom, through pursuing the quintessential frivolous lawsuit (a lawsuit that completely failed to demonstrate the slightest harm suffered by the plaintiff). Meanwhile they are calling sexual harassment and rape allegations frivolous and froth about how individuals can even be allowed to file complaints. Can liberals really do no better than virtually leaving the field to these sociopaths?

87

TM 06.03.15 at 11:54 pm

Watson, anybody continuing to insist that the fact that a university investigated, and dismissed a complaint filed by an unnamed student against a professor for an op-ed she had written is a case of liberal thought police should be compelled to write at least a 200 word essay about the Salaita case.

88

Rich Puchalsky 06.03.15 at 11:56 pm

People have to be able to distinguish between structures and individuals. It’s perfectly legitimate to say “Title IX is bad law” or “Liberals favor Title IX and this shows a problem with liberalism”. (Not saying that either of those are true, just saying that they are arguments.) It’s not legitimate to say “An individual brought a case under Title IX, and that decision to pursue the case provided ammo against liberalism.”

It’s the Guy With A Sign syndrome. You can not legitimately take some random individual who has come to your notice as the representative of a movement. Their decision to do whatever they did was not signed off on by “liberalism” or whatever. Even if you think that no such case should be filed, you can’t expect everyone in the world to decide as you would like, so it’s inevitable that such a case will be filed if the law allows it.

For the rest, people are distinguishing between litigiousness that is intended to enforce a power differential (i.e. SLAPP suits) and litigiousness that is intended to give an individual the chance to have their case evaluated. The person filing this wasn’t a huge corporation with disproportionate legal resources.

89

Lenoxus 06.04.15 at 12:09 am

Rich Puchalsky: The concern about “ammo” isn’t necessarily rooted in any notion that tarring groups with the brush of individuals is actually rational or sensible. The point can be “Hey, Guy With A Sign syndrome exists among the public at large. Hence, don’t be a guy with a sign if it’s not a terrific sign.”

90

TM 06.04.15 at 12:16 am

Tom 79: I agree with a lot of that, what I object to is the grotesque framing as a PC issue. There is zero evidence that the “inquisition” (Kipnis’ description, to be taken with a grain of salt) is motivated by liberal bias or anything.

91

adam.smith 06.04.15 at 12:19 am

I’m probably going to “prove conservatives right” here, but if the type of speech that Title IX “chills” is professors attacking or slandering individual, named or easily identifiable students in nationally visible media outlets (be it CHE or a widely read blog), then I’m all for chilling effects on free speech.
There’s a big difference between writing an opinion piece and using students as convenient illustration for an opinion piece. E.g. Northwestern is consistently protecting the free speech of our in-house Holocaust denier–rightly so. But I’m quite sure that if he were ever to use individual Jewish students to “illustrate” his points about mendacious Jews, he’d be in trouble–and again, rightly so.
Same with Kipnis–she has every right to write her anti-feminist claptrap, no matter how dumb&offensive it is (and it’s plenty of both). I’m not so sure her right to slander students in the national media is a type of academic freedom that needs protection.

92

Rich Puchalsky 06.04.15 at 12:23 am

It’s impossible to admonish everyone not to be the Guy With A Sign. Someone will inevitably be the person with the sign. It’s a straightforward principle of large numbers, and liberalism once understood that when you design a system (of law, in this case), you inevitably get cases that fill the space of that system. If you don’t like that, you have to change the system, not admonish every individual to make the right decision.

And we’re getting into straightforward differences between left and right thought here. Conservatives are all about this: “tort reform” needed because someone sued McDonalds over getting burned with hot coffee. Social insurance not needed because people should choose not to get sick and poor. John Holbo says that he doesn’t “regard saying that Dreher is right about something as a loss”, but I don’t think that he’s really thought about what Dreher is saying.

93

Watson Ladd 06.04.15 at 12:44 am

TM, the question isn’t about filing the complaint. It’s that the complaint is complaining about activity that isn’t retaliation. If I accused you of murdering my parents, because you ate a waffle on Monday, it would get tossed out of court. Same here: public commentary on important matters is not sexual discrimination. The eventual dismissal of this complaint comes far too late, just as eventual victory in a libel suit can bankrupt defendants. Of course this was motivated by opposition to what the piece said: that’s exactly what the complaint was about. There is zero reason to suspect an investigation would have taken place if the piece had supported the student.

Why should I have to rehash the Salaita case if I want to talk about this one? Do we also need to drag John Zenger and Galileo into this? The simple fact is that students are increasingly complaining about which ideas are presented in the curriculum, treating it as a matter of discrimination, and using administrative measures to get relief. No more Fanon! No more Ovid! No more Nabokov!

94

eddie 06.04.15 at 1:07 am

“I feel confident in my ability to take it away from him, at any time, by judicious application of reason and evidence.”

But that’s his definition of hostility :-/

95

John Holbo 06.04.15 at 1:15 am

“I want to add, I’m just fed up with the dishonesty of these kinds of debate”

Well, TM and I can agree to agree about that – albeit not about the location of the dishonesty in question.

“People have to be able to distinguish between structures and individuals. It’s perfectly legitimate to say “Title IX is bad law” or “Liberals favor Title IX and this shows a problem with liberalism”. (Not saying that either of those are true, just saying that they are arguments.) It’s not legitimate to say “An individual brought a case under Title IX, and that decision to pursue the case provided ammo against liberalism.””

It’s also important to distinguish is from ought. Just because you would like something to be the case doesn’t mean it is, Rich. (I know you know this, but its application to the present case seems to have escaped you.) “An individual brought a case under Title IX, and that decision to pursue the case provided ammo against liberalism” is true in this case. Would that it were not so. Would that Rush Limbaugh would remind his listeners to remember that one tree does not make a forest, so one shouldn’t generalize from one case. But I honestly don’t expect that to happen.

“It’s impossible to admonish everyone not to be the Guy With A Sign. Someone will inevitably be the person with the sign. It’s a straightforward principle of large numbers, and liberalism once understood that when you design a system (of law, in this case), you inevitably get cases that fill the space of that system.”

This really boils down to the following: it’s impossible to admonish everyone not to make mistakes, because people always make mistakes. You are conflating two possible implications: 1) it’s impossible to prevent all mistakes, just by admonishing people. That’s true, but irrelevant. 2) since it’s impossible to prevent all mistakes, by admonishing people, admonishing people is a mistake. That’s relevant but, I think, untrue.

96

John Holbo 06.04.15 at 1:21 am

“John Holbo says that he doesn’t “regard saying that Dreher is right about something as a loss”, but I don’t think that he’s really thought about what Dreher is saying.”

?

97

LFC 06.04.15 at 1:23 am

TM
74, I said “Public stance”, which implies speech doesn’t it?

Yes, but what I was trying to get at, and did not state clearly, is that a quick reading of that linked Inside Higher Ed piece (as re-carried at Salon) shows that the professor in question wrote a blog post that apparently criticized, by name, a grad student instructor in the way she handled a class (the gay marriage angle comes in only somewhat indirectly). Marquette is not trying to fire him b.c he wrote or said “I am against gay marriage.” Marquette’s saying he wrote a blog post that attacked a student instructor and had various bad consequences, was irresponsible, etc. The prof is saying this violates ac. freedom. There are probably arguments on both sides, but the idea that a prof can be fired for a blog post, except in the most extreme circumstances which I’m not at all sure this case rises to the level of, should ring alarm bells, istm. (It’s true that since Marquette is a private university this prob isn’t strictly speaking a First Amendment case (which requires state action) but that’s a different point.)

98

Rich Puchalsky 06.04.15 at 1:35 am

JH: “This really boils down to the following: it’s impossible to admonish everyone not to make mistakes, because people always make mistakes. You are conflating two possible implications: 1) it’s impossible to prevent all mistakes, just by admonishing people. That’s true, but irrelevant. 2) since it’s impossible to prevent all mistakes, by admonishing people, admonishing people is a mistake. That’s relevant but, I think, untrue.”

Once upon a time left-leaning people thought that it was important to admonish people *who had power* and were *identifiable political actors*. For instance, if you were a left-liberal, you might say “Clinton’s team shouldn’t get rid of welfare or they will be letting down the side.” (If you think in terms of sides instead of policy outcomes.) This is a wholly different kind of statement than “Everyone who might be considered to be a liberal had better not file a certain kind of case or they will be letting down the side.” But both are admonishments.

The decision to pursue the case didn’t provide ammo against liberalism, except in the same sense that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion provided ammo against Judaism. Sure, Dreher can mix the two of them up because he’s the one turning what ought not to be ammo into ammo: he’s turning ought not into is. By saying that the case shouldn’t have been filed you’re helping him.

99

Sebastian H 06.04.15 at 1:44 am

I’m somewhat surprised by the defenses of the administration here. The murder analogy is used by a few people above, and it is instructive when used properly in this case.

In most places murder is defined as something like “intentional unlawful killing of another human being.” There are all sorts of legal nuances about ‘intentional’, ‘unlawful’, ‘killing’ and ‘human being’ which can make edge cases difficult. If someone reports a murder, and the police have a reason to believe that the report is true, their job is to investigate. They may find in their investigation that murder has not been committed–maybe the killing was unintentional, maybe it was lawful, maybe the person died of an unrelated heart attack. But with mysterious disappearances or dead bodies, they have to look into it.

However if someone comes in and says “I want to report a murder–Amanda ate corn last night” it turns out that the police don’t actually have to open a murder investigation. They can and SHOULD say “eating corn isn’t murder, what are you talking about?”. The proper response is NOT to open a murder investigation, force Amanda to come to the station for questioning, deny her the right to have legal counsel, charge her with murder, mull it over for a few weeks, have an internal debate about further investigation and then hopefully come to the right decision about whether or not you should continue. If that is your response to even ridiculous charges, your system is set up for harassing people, not investigating murders.

The problem here isn’t stopping people from making complaints, it is dealing with bad faith complaints, or deeply confused complaints at an early juncture. Kipnis’s op-ed ought not be considered retaliation for reporting sexual assault. Given that the proper remedy for retaliation under Title IX would be firing the professor and making her unemployable as a professor at any school which takes any federal funds, the complaint should essentially be considered doxing and shows that the complainants are either raging assholes, or have something else going on. The proper response from the administration should not have been a secretive investigation, it should have been “the facts you are giving us, even if totally true, are protected by free speech, protected by tenure, and aren’t retaliation. So unless you have more facts to give us, we won’t be investigating further”.

If it turns out that Title IX is so ridiculous that these facts ‘should’ trigger an investigation, then Title IX ought to be drastically modified. I tend to think that these facts shouldn’t trigger an investigation, so the fact that they did suggests a serious problem somewhere in the process.

I’m not saying that you can always stop ridiculous complaints from being made. But when they are self-evidently ridiculous they need to be dismissed at a very early stage. The problem is either that they weren’t dismissed initially because of a flaw in the school’s process, or because of flaw in Title IX.

100

Sebastian H 06.04.15 at 1:47 am

“Once upon a time left-leaning people thought that it was important to admonish people *who had power* and were *identifiable political actors*.”

When you file a complaint which if true would naturally lead to that person getting fired and barred from all future jobs of that type, you are engaging in something that ought to be admonished if you ought not be trying to get them fired over it.

I’m not sure how that works in your rubric, but there is a misuse of power in there somewhere worth talking about.

101

LFC 06.04.15 at 1:52 am

As I said upthread, I read the Kipnis piece some while ago. I was sufficiently impressed with the writing, if not every single aspect of the argument, to e-mail it to someone. It was sharp, polemical, perhaps somewhat exaggerated in its rhetoric as a good deal of writing these days is (esp. on the Internet but not only there). That someone filed a legal complaint on the basis of this piece, especially since no proper names were mentioned in the piece at all as far as I can recall, is … I can’t think of a suitable word. I guess “absurd” will do. (And that wd be the case even if one took a much more negative view of the piece, along the lines of MPAV or, indeed, Holbo, who called it “horrible.”)

As Watson Ladd says, the Kipnis piece is public commentary on matters of interest to at least a reasonably sized readership. It did not strike me as libelous (any more than does a fairly standard op-ed column by some columnist with pronounced views and a tendency to rhetorical excess). Should people file tort claims or claims alleging some form of discrimination every time a columnist, say Krauthammer, spews his idiocies across the op-ed page? Whatever happened to the idea that the remedy for bad or even somewhat offensive speech is more and better speech? Didn’t basically everyone who went through elem or jr high school in the US have to memorize the slogan “freedom even for the thought that one hates”? Is it so supposedly old-fashioned that no one believes it any more? Is it “the elite dominate the real channels of influence so nothing else really matters”? /end of rant/

I’m sorry not to be addressing the OP on Dreher and the Enlightenment etc. but I really don’t care what Dreher says about anything. I don’t know anything about him (except that’s he’s a conservative) and I have no intention of reading anything he has written. Issues involving free speech, on the other hand, are of some interest to me and in this instance it so happens I had read the original piece that kicked off the fuss.

102

nnyhav 06.04.15 at 1:55 am

103

js. 06.04.15 at 2:16 am

my guess is that she’s a second-wave feminist, like Ellen Willis or Wendy Kaminer, who identifies sexual freedom as a necessary step toward healthy (hetero)sexuality, and doesn’t like the turn feminism took after the seventies

There’s a bit of this, but she’s also coming from an explicitly Marxist background (this is quite clear in Against Love, e.g.), and she’s really into Freud (unfortunately)—and has been from the beginning, I think. So that by itself puts her at least somewhat outside the mainstream of American feminism (including the second wave, I would think). I liked Men more than most, but (a) it’s not so far from what you’d have expected given The Female Thing, esp. the last chapter, and (b) it’s definitely problematic, and I think more so than her previous. (I do really like her writing, which is probably why I’ve read most of her books.)

Sorry this is rather OT—I really have no thoughts about (a) Dreher, and thus (b) Dreher on liberalism. But I am very much in agreement with JH @84 re the Weinberg piece.

104

js. 06.04.15 at 2:21 am

To clarify one point: I know that Kipnis is coming out of a Marxist background because I’ve seen/read interviews with her where she explicitly avows this; it’s also I think clear in some of her works.

105

Val 06.04.15 at 2:23 am

As far as I know we don’t have to ‘retaliation’ here, we only have ‘victimisation’ and the grounds for that is that someone subjected you to detriment because you made an equal opportunity complaint. In my case, I made victimisation complaints against several people, one of whom was not involved in my original complaint. All of them were found to have substance, but all were settled before hearing. They were all successful in the sense that I got a settlement that I was prepared to accept, and in fact they contributed to later improvements in policy and practice.

I’m not, as I said, familiar with the American system, but I do think I can confidently say that all this “Amanda ate corn” stuff is silly. Kipnis made derogatory published comments that reflected on students who had made complaints they were legally entitled to make. Whether or not this meets the grounds for retaliation under your laws is a different issue, but it clearly isn’t “eating corn”.

It’s get interesting to ask why some people get so hyperbolic about this stuff I think.

106

Val 06.04.15 at 2:24 am

sorry about typos (uurggh)

107

John Holbo 06.04.15 at 2:34 am

Here’s a clarification that may help. Some of this dispute may be a disagreement about the facts of the Kipnis case – so if we can at least agree that we are disagreeing about that, it may isolate some of the stubborner philosophical differences.

In the post I linked to the Weinburg piece

http://dailynous.com/2015/05/30/northwestern-and-title-ix-whats-going-on/

because it’s the most cogent argument I’ve seen that the case just goes to show that the system works, more or less.

I also said I don’t think Weinburg’s argument works but I didn’t really say why I think it doesn’t. I was sort of hoping the post wouldn’t turn into yet another discussion of Kipnis. (I wanted to talk about Dreher and the Enlightenment!) But you don’t always get what you wish for.

So here goes.

Weinburg quote a few lines from Kipnis and then glosses them:

“I strongly believe that bona fide harassers should be chemically castrated, stripped of their property, and hung up by their thumbs in the nearest public square.” (this is Kipnis from here

http://chronicle.com/article/Sexual-Paranoia-Strikes/190351/)

Here is Weinburg’s gloss:

“That last line is an implied contrast between Ludlow and “bona fide harassers.” It should be noted that the above excerpts are from the version of Kipnis’s essay that includes revisions after she was contacted by others at Northwestern about the two distinct accusations, the status of the relevant legal proceedings, and the implicature of her rhetoric.

Now put yourself in the shoes of the graduate student, for a moment. She has made a Title IX complaint against a well-known and highly established professor in her program that involves a serious accusation of rape. She is sued for defamation by the professor. The lawsuit is dismissed. But then another professor at her university, Kipnis, writes an essay in her profession’s main news outlet that echoes Ludlow’s account that they were consensually dating, implies she is lying, and suggests that her complaint of rape is an exaggeration and “melodrama.” Kipnis urges readers to see her as harming Ludlow, rather than the other way around, and implies that Ludlow is not a real harasser. Further, when Kipnis is informed about the facts, she refuses to alter the relevant language to remove the implications. What is the lesson to the student, and to others who might come forward?”

Now that seems to make sense. But it doesn’t match the piece Kipnis wrote. Let me quote you the three paragraph prior to the bit Weinburg quotes and glosses.

“Everywhere on campuses today you find scholars whose work elaborates sophisticated models of power and agency. It would be hard to overstate the influence, across disciplines, of Michel Foucault, whose signature idea was that power has no permanent address or valence. Yet our workplaces themselves are promulgating the crudest version of top-down power imaginable, recasting the professoriate as Snidely Whiplashes twirling our mustaches and students as helpless damsels tied to railroad tracks. Students lack volition and independent desires of their own; professors are would-be coercers with dastardly plans to corrupt the innocent.

Even the language these policies come packaged in seems designed for maximum stupefaction, with students eager to add their voices to the din. Shortly after the new policy went into effect on my campus, we all received a long email from the Title IX Coordinating Committee. This was in the midst of student protests about the continued employment of the accused philosophy professor: 100 or so students, mouths taped shut (by themselves), had marched on the dean’s office (a planned sit-in of the professor’s class went awry when he pre-emptively canceled it). The committee was responding to a student-government petition demanding that “survivors” be informed about the outcomes of sexual-harassment investigations. The petition also demanded that the new policies be amended to include possible termination of faculty members who violate its provisions.

There was more, but my eye was struck by the word “survivor,” which was repeated several times. Wouldn’t the proper term be “accuser”? How can someone be referred to as a survivor before a finding on the accusation—assuming we don’t want to predetermine the guilt of the accused, that is. At the risk of sounding like some bow-tied neocon columnist, this is also a horrifying perversion of the language by people who should know better. Are you seriously telling me, I wanted to ask the Title IX Committee, that the same term now encompasses both someone allegedly groped by a professor and my great-aunt, who lived through the Nazi death camps? I emailed an inquiry to this effect to the university’s general counsel, one of the email’s signatories, but got no reply.”

All this stuff is quite general. Kipnis is obviously criticizing the administration of and climate surrounding Title IX complaints, not implying that anyone in particular is guilty or innocent.

If you go further back in the article, it doesn’t get better for Weinburg’s reading. The preceding section reads as follows.

“But here’s the real problem with these charges: This is melodrama. I’m quite sure that professors can be sleazebags. I’m less sure that any professor can force an unwilling student to drink, especially to the point of passing out. With what power? What sorts of repercussions can there possibly be if the student refuses?

Indeed, these are precisely the sorts of situations already covered by existing sexual-harassment codes, so if students think that professors have such unlimited powers that they can compel someone to drink or retaliate if she doesn’t, then these students have been very badly educated about the nature and limits of institutional power.

In fact, it’s just as likely that a student can derail a professor’s career these days as the other way around, which is pretty much what happened in the case of the accused philosophy professor.

To a cultural critic, the representation of emotion in all these documents plays to the gallery. The student charges that she “suffered and will continue to suffer humiliation, mental and emotional anguish, anxiety, and distress.” As I read through the complaint, it struck me that the lawsuit and our new consensual-relations code share a common set of tropes, and a certain narrative inevitability. In both, students and professors are stock characters in a predetermined story. According to the code, students are putty in the hands of all-powerful professors. According to the lawsuit, the student was virtually a rag doll, taken advantage of by a skillful predator who scripted a drunken evening of galleries and bars, all for the opportunity of some groping.”

Now this sounds REALLY bad. Isn’t Kipnis pretty much saying the student is a melodramatic fabulator? No. Kipnis is discussing a separate case. Two cases. An undergraduate and a graduate student. Kipnis discusses the undergraduate case – which was settled – and Weinburg quotes these bits about the undergraduate case as direct commentary, by Kipnis, on the graduate student’s case.

Now I think the Kipnis piece is bad, and I don’t expect the graduate student to have been pleased to see this discussion of someone else’s case. But the fact remains: Kipnis didn’t discuss the graduate student’s case – or imply anything about it. She discussed a different case, one not ongoing, and she expressed negative opinions about the state of Title IX enforcement.

If I’m wrong about this, feel free to correct me.

Now, you could say (I think this is sort of Weinburg’s argument): but isn’t the fact that we are even discussing this proof that there is something to be debated her? Ergo, it was reasonable to investigate the case at length and reasonable to clear Kipnis at the end. But no. Step 1: did Kipnis say or imply the graduate student’s case was meritless? Step 2: No. She didn’t discuss it. We’re done. (There are actually two corrections at the end of Kipnis’ article, regarding the graduate student case. So I guess the original version of the piece was less clearly focused on the undergraduate case.)

Like I said in the post: the case is not as nuts as Rush Limbaugh would have you believe, but it’s still pretty damn nuts.

108

gianni 06.04.15 at 2:49 am

Part of the point – made by Kipnis as well as the anon. author of a similar piece on Vox today [*] – is that many of their peers are already self-censoring. According to both these authors, their peers with less job-security are expressing solidarity with them in private. This is against the sort of ‘welcome to the precariat’ response that I take to be implied in the Aaron Bady piece (link nnyhav posted at 102).

How does one properly determine when a ‘chilling effect’ has truly occurred? I would imagine people are getting “hyperbolic” in places like the Chronicle of H.Ed. because they are typical academics feeling threatened by these incidents.

http://www.vox.com/2015/6/3/8706323/college-professor-afraid

109

js. 06.04.15 at 3:07 am

Just one more thing about this quote (since we’re now talking about Kipnis anyway):

I strongly believe that bona fide harassers should be chemically castrated, stripped of their property, and hung up by their thumbs in the nearest public square.

People do realize Kipnis is joking, right? I mean, they must, but there’s never any acknowledgement, oddly. (For one thing: this is straight up lifted from one of the essays in Men. I can’t find my copy right (suggesting I’ve lost it), so I can’t look it up, but I think it may be the one where she talks about Naomi Wolf and Harold Bloom. Anyway, it’s an obvious use of irony in the original context, and it would be at a minimum bizarre if LK were using it in a completely different manner the second time around.)

To be very clear, I’m not defending Kipnis here. But I do think there’s a possible problem with people often misreading her because her writing is so polemical and, well, the opposite of earnest.

110

Peter T 06.04.15 at 3:36 am

Bruce Wilder @ 48: “Enlightenment Reason does expect us to try to agree, on the basis of reason and evidence, what the consequences of social institutions and policies may be, and to take responsibility for acting accordingly in deliberately instituting appropriate policies.”

In other contexts, Bruce rightly reminds us of the limits of reason, the uncertainties that inevitably surround our decision-making, and derides assumptions of perfect knowledge or calculability. There is not an opposition here, but there is a tension.

More broadly, any social order, if it is to be stable and large-scale, has to refer to some set(s) of principles outside itself. Power and “order” cannot be stable ends in themselves. “Argument” and “reason” are not principles. It’s not the Enlightenment’s methods Dreher objects to: he is happy to argue from and reason about religious texts. It’s the Enlightenment’s goals. And he has, in a back-handed fashion, put his finger on an important point: if you argue about everything you will be argued out of everything.

111

LFC 06.04.15 at 3:49 am

This piece (the “sexual paranoia” one in the Chronicle) was, I think, the first thing by Kipnis I’ve read. I’ve been re-reading bits of it just now and, on reflection, I can see why it aroused some strong disagreement. My main takeaway from the piece was her criticism of a prevailing “cultural climate” (I think she used that phrase), and I thought she mobilized specifics not so much to ‘call out’ particular individuals but mainly to support her general point. Even though she named no names, she probably got too specific — not nec. from a legal standpoint, but from an essayistic one. The piece might have made the same points and aroused less ire had she been a tad more measured or cautious and not referred, even without the names, to these recently closed and/or ongoing cases. Since I haven’t re-read the whole thing, I’ll leave it at that. (Btw/ftr, I would oppose, as generally a bad idea, romantic liaisons, even if ‘consensual’, between faculty and undergraduates. Not that such a thing would have even entered my somewhat cloistered mental universe as an undergrad in the late 1970s. A quite different experience from Kipnis’s own as a student, at least to judge from this piece.)

112

Colin Danby 06.04.15 at 3:58 am

The core of the initial Kipnis essay (Chronicle 2/27/15) is an argument-for-vice that goes back to ancient Greek satyr plays, using ribaldry to mock conventional morality. It’s complete with the coy self awareness “forgive my slightly mocking tone” of the genre. Is there a comic trope more ancient, or more lazy? Dreher refrains from quoting the nudge-nudge parts of Kipnis because he wants to tell a different story.

113

Rich Puchalsky 06.04.15 at 5:17 am

JH: “But the fact remains: Kipnis didn’t discuss the graduate student’s case – or imply anything about it. She discussed a different case, one not ongoing, and she expressed negative opinions about the state of Title IX enforcement. […] If I’m wrong about this, feel free to correct me.”

OK. From here:

Complainants in the case told The Huffington Post that they reached out to Kipnis about their concerns, and she did not offer to correct her piece. They then turned to the Chronicle and asked for specific corrections. One sticking point was Kipnis’ assertion that in the second case she described, the unnamed professor and the graduate student were dating. In a similar case on campus, the student in question has said she was not dating the professor. The Chronicle has since changed its wording to say that “according to his complaint,” the professor and student had previously dated.

So the sequence goes like this: grad student says that she was raped by a professor, that she had never dated the professor as the professor counterclaimed, and files a Title IX complaint. Kipnis, at the same university, then writes an article and in it the only thing she mentions about the grad student is that she was dating the professor: in other words, she impeaches the grad student’s version of events in keeping with her emphasis on false claims of rape. That’s only reason the grad student is even mentioned in the piece.

Is it common knowledge who the grad student is on campus? I’d guess so, or it’s easily discoverable since the professor sued her. Did Kipnis mention the grad student in the article as retaliation for what she considered to be the student’s groundless Title IX claim? I don’t know, but this doesn’t strike me as especially unbelievable. There’s no reason to mention the professor’s account that he was dating the grad student without also mentioning the grad student’s account that she was raped by the professor unless you want to bring up her story and indicate who you believe.

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Helen 06.04.15 at 5:23 am

My main take away from this was that, from the point of view of Title IX (or at least my university’s interpretation of it), undergraduates are a vulnerable population — on the order of children or the mentally disabled. While I’m sure this is more intended to “protect the institution” than anything else, it seems to me that this is squarely on the road toward a return to in loco parentis.

Abusers use institutional power. It’s a fact. Students need faculty for marks, accreditation and assistance. Yes, in this regard, they are “vulnerable”. Accusing the undergraduate group as being infantile because they have a process which is supposed to address this, even if it has failed here, is surely an unfair rhetorical tactic.

115

magistra 06.04.15 at 6:18 am

To get back to Dreher, one of the interesting things is how little he knows about religious history. Because one of the most radically individualistic and autonomous ideas in the early Christian centuries was celibacy. It was opting out of society in the most drastic way possible: because of high death rates, if you refused to procreate, you were contributing to the possible extinction of your society. If you were an (upper-class) woman and decided to remain a virgin, you were also thwarting the entire power structure of families in society. The early Christian texts are full of the heroes and heroines who resisted in this way, not to mention all the martyrs who obeyed their conscience rather than their families and wouldn’t recant their faith.

And even marriage wasn’t all about families and children to them. Augustine hammers away at the fact that a husband shouldn’t divorce his wife because she’s infertile: even if you get married to have a family, you need to stay married if you can’t have one.

So Dreher’s theology, such as it is, is some weird conglomeration of religion and worship of the family that probably only made sense in mid twentieth-century largely Protestant America. And to make another obvious point, getting married is about as non-individual a thing as possible that you can do. You’re explicitly proclaiming that someone else’s well-being is your concern. The individualistic thing to do sexually is never to commit to anyone, to make no sincere promises to anyone.

Same-sex marriage reveals what both religious conservatives and sexual radicals have been trying to ignore: that gay people, like straight people, have relationship preferences that range from the conventional to the unique. A lot of gay people turn out not to want to undo all conventional marriage/family structures, but just to get their share of it. To those who want to remake society and abolish the family, that’s disappointing. But it’s also disappointing to religious conservatives who have spent decades claiming that the “gay lifestyle” is intrinsically promiscuous. To Dreher, gay people are “disordered” and so they shouldn’t want the order of monogamy. To have it turn out that some of them do undermines the Catholic church’s demonization of gay people.

116

Bruce Wilder 06.04.15 at 7:46 am

Peter T @ 110:

More broadly, any social order, if it is to be stable and large-scale, has to refer to some set(s) of principles outside itself. Power and “order” cannot be stable ends in themselves. “Argument” and “reason” are not principles. It’s not the Enlightenment’s methods Dreher objects to: he is happy to argue from and reason about religious texts. It’s the Enlightenment’s goals. And he has, in a back-handed fashion, put his finger on an important point: if you argue about everything you will be argued out of everything.

Any large-scale social order needs an expeditious way of resolving the conflicts that multiply as social cooperation deepens and broadens among strangers. A system of rules, whose application to particular circumstance can be deduced from a few simple principles and precedents, might satisfy, provided it was accepted as legitimate and everyone could reason out most cases to commonly accepted conclusions, and so avoid disputes in the vast majority of conflicts.

I think power and order are ends of social cooperation. Abstractions to be sure, and so maybe not “ends in themselves”, but ends, surely. We organize in society that we may, in the order of society, realize and exercise power, individually and collectively.

If we are to use principles as axioms, then some of the axioms must be placed by common and prior agreement outside the frame of debate, in order to have a debate on commensurate terms. That can only be a fine point, not a practical norm, as it will be convenient to the strategic advocate to introduce incommensurable terms as a disruptive means to not just win a point in argument, but to change precedent, principle and practice in the arguing. It is famously not even necessary to win the point; these wars may be won in a series of losing battles. I’d be more cautious than Holbo about arguing with anyone so determined to lose the argument.

117

John Holbo 06.04.15 at 8:07 am

I just realized I’ve been misspelling Justin Weinberg’s name. For some reason I thought it was spelled Weinburg, a distinctly less common spelling. No, I don’t know where I got that wrong idea. Apologies to Prof. Weinberg.

118

magistra 06.04.15 at 9:18 am

John Holbo@95: “An individual brought a case under Title IX, and that decision to pursue the case provided ammo against liberalism” is true in this case.

Yes. And Harry Brighouse wrote a book on parenting and that decision provided ammo against liberalism. Are you saying that Harry therefore shouldn’t have written that book? “Rush Limbaugh will denounce it” isn’t a useful test for whether or not you should do something.

What’s been noticeable in the last few years is the persistent number of sex scandals that have emerged concerning “liberal”/”progressive” organisations: sexual harassment by prominent atheists/left-wingers, in the UK Liberal Party, rape in the SWP, child abuse at the BBC. And repeatedly there is the same dynamic previously seen in “right-wing” organisations (the Catholic church, American sports teams): the complainant is told “don’t make a fuss or our enemies will use it against us”. And so persistent abuse by someone gets covered up because they’re “on our side”.

Arguing against Title IX procedures because they’re an inappropriate tool is one thing; if you’re arguing against such proceedings because they’ll harm the liberal cause you need to be aware of how that kind of rhetoric has been repeatedly misused to silence victims of abuse.

119

Peter T 06.04.15 at 10:10 am

“A system of rules, whose application to particular circumstance can be deduced from a few simple principles and precedents, might satisfy, provided it was accepted as legitimate and everyone could reason out most cases to commonly accepted conclusions, and so avoid disputes in the vast majority of conflicts.”

So me and a few friends will just nut out out a few simple principles tomorrow, put them on the internet, and that’s solved. Really, don’t know what all the fuss has been about!

Dreher’s line is an old one: if you peer too hard at the veil, the mystery goes away. And if the mystery goes away, no-one has any reason to accept the social order that exists (as most people’s conception of their rightful interest is much larger than their actual interest), and THAT’S THE END OF CIVILISATION. And he’s both right and wrong. That particular mystery goes away but, since civilisation requires a validating mystery, another one replaces it.

120

John Holbo 06.04.15 at 10:37 am

“Yes. And Harry Brighouse wrote a book on parenting and that decision provided ammo against liberalism. Are you saying that Harry therefore shouldn’t have written that book?”

No, I distinguish between things that have merit but fuel right-wing outrage and things that have no merit and fuel right-wing outrage.

121

Lynne 06.04.15 at 11:47 am

js @109

This made me curious so I looked it up and you are right, that is verbatim from the book, from a note on the Gropers chapter. I think you are right, too, that she’s not serious, but maybe “joking” isn’t quite the right word? She would reluctantly concede there should be some negative consequences for harassment, sometimes. As lukewarm a concession as possible.

122

TM 06.04.15 at 12:27 pm

LFC 97, I wasn’t intending to take the side of that professor, or any side. I was just mentioning the case as interesting.

123

Rich Puchalsky 06.04.15 at 12:35 pm

Sebastian H: “When you file a complaint which if true would naturally lead to that person getting fired and barred from all future jobs of that type, you are engaging in something that ought to be admonished if you ought not be trying to get them fired over it.”

Stop Snitching!

But of course this is the conservative version in which perquisites of the wealthy and powerful are accepted without question — any major boss in the U.S. can fire employees at will and with a bad reference that effectively bars the person from future jobs of that type — but when a powerless person gets the potential for doing the same thing through a judicial procedure, it becomes terrifying. And of course the moral responsibility is put not on the law, or the people who administer the law, but on the complainant. Even when the person *isn’t fired*, the moral responsibility is put on the complainant for exciting Rush Limbaugh or Dreher or someone.

124

Anderson 06.04.15 at 12:41 pm

84 & 99 are blazingly correct: any system of investigation/prosecution has to include discretion to put silly complaints in the circular file. But some bureaucrats fear being accused of exercising independent judgment.

107: exactly, Weinberg’s quotations are misleadingly plucked out of context. I was embarrassed for him when I read it the other day & followed his links.

Kipnis has a point about the apparent perception of sex as the worst thing they could happen to an undergraduate, but she could be more alert to the power issues. She may not be a vindictive asshole herself, but surely she’s met professors who are?

125

TM 06.04.15 at 12:59 pm

JH 120, you are maneuvering yourself into an untenable position. We don’t even know whether the individuals involved (the student, the lawyer hired by the university) are liberals. How can the personal conduct of somebody who might not identify as liberal be objectively blamed on liberalism? Unless you really want to go back to the authors of the law and argue that they should have foreseen that some forty years later somebody would file a complaint under the law that might not have merit, which then would provide ammo against liberalism. Which is an interesting position and I’m sure would make for an animated discussion in your seminar.

magistra 118 is exactly right. You are a liberal and your book is used as ammo against liberalism, that’s an objective fact. That the ammo is constructed dishonestly through tendentious misinterpretation doesn’t change the fact that it was you who provided the opportunity to create that tendentious misinterpretation. Knowing how the right operates, you should have foreseen that precisely that would happen and therefore never written the book.

126

TM 06.04.15 at 1:02 pm

I’m sorry, Harry is the liberal who should be blamed for writing the book. But liberal Holbo surely has a moral responsibility to criticize liberal Harry for providing ammo against liberalism.

127

ZM 06.04.15 at 1:03 pm

Peter T,

“Dreher’s line is an old one: if you peer too hard at the veil, the mystery goes away. And if the mystery goes away, no-one has any reason to accept the social order that exists “

Dreher had an experience of praying to Mary for 30 days after his college years and she answered him, and in an article he writes about saying the rosary with someone who had a statue of Mary and he saw tears form in the statue’s eyes. Also he is critical of the social order thinking people are too materialistic and should live simply and care more for the environment.

128

reason 06.04.15 at 1:15 pm

ZM @127
So you are saying if you try hard enough to escape reality, you can manage it. But people have to want to escape reality in the first place.

129

bianca steele 06.04.15 at 1:27 pm

js.,

So (referring back mostly to your earlier comment), is it entirely the reader’s responsibility to do the work of figuring out what the writer has in mind, reading everything she’s written and said in interviews, and knowing the background of all her influences? It seems logical to conclude that expecting the writer to do the work is kind of infantilizing, right? But it’s not like she’s a powerless girl who can only make funny comments and wait for her menfolk to draw the serious conclusions, or who is capable only of echoing them. She wrote an op-ed, and that puts her in a totally different position than some random schmo off the street, of whichever gender. I’m not going to deny her agency by pretending that she wrote something different from what she did.

130

dsquared 06.04.15 at 1:30 pm

Tbh, illustrating your jokey polemic article by going “and here’s some examples from currently live and controversial cases involving my employer!” seems like a hella dumb thing to do. If the case is “providing ammunition to the right”, Kipnis shares some of the blame for being so much the author of her own misfortunes.

131

bianca steele 06.04.15 at 1:41 pm

And I agree (again to js.) that Freud and Freudians often seems to be in the vicinity of the unfortunateness–it’s what makes Lasch not just infuriating but unreadable, to take an example that’s been mentioned on this thread.

132

Z 06.04.15 at 1:49 pm

And of course the moral responsibility is put not on the law, or the people who administer the law, but on the complainant.

Rich, in the spirit of not alienating your allies by translating their contributions as BONERS and all that, can you please take into account the fact that in this discussion in general, and in Sebastian H comment in particular, very few people (I would say no one, but that would force me to re-read every single comment) blamed the complainant? Several people blamed the administration for not dismissing immediately the complaint. That’s not the same thing at all, as you surely realize (and in the particular case of Sebastian H comment, which you quoted, this is not really hard to see: it literally starts with “I’m somewhat surprised by the defenses of the administration here.”).

(I wanted to talk about Dreher and the Enlightenment!)

John, what is there to discuss, really? He’s against it, because he likes god-given orthodoxy. That doesn’t preclude him to criticize some restrictions to speech, and that doesn’t make him hypocritical when he approves of other, because he has a notion of legitimate True Speech, and that’s the one he wants to defend. He will, in complete good faith, say that banning evil False Speech is actually a defense of freedom of speech. This is a time-honored conception of freedom of speech and truth, much older than the Enlightenment one and perfectly reasonable within a theistic philosophical framework. In the natural science, it is strongly associated with thomism, but I’m not sure what Thomas of Aquinas wrote about political conceptions.

But it’s not like she’s a powerless girl who can only make funny comments and wait for her menfolk to draw the serious conclusions, or who is capable only of echoing them.

Bianca Steele, I’m reading your @129 (all of it really, but the quotation above is extreme) and I’m totally confused (though I read all of js. comments). What did you mean?

133

LFC 06.04.15 at 1:56 pm

@ bianca s.
Some of the essays Lasch wrote, for NYRB and elsewhere, in the 60s and early 70s, many of which are collected in his The World of Nations, are readable and worth reading.

134

Omega Centauri 06.04.15 at 2:07 pm

“any major boss in the U.S. can fire employees at will and with a bad reference that effectively bars the person from future jobs of that type — but when a powerless person gets the potential for doing the same thing through a judicial procedure, it becomes terrifying. “
It should be terrifying. Simply look at the numbers; the “powerless” greatly outnumber big bosses, so the odds of running afoul of some sociopathic individual go way up if you include the entire power pyramid, and not just those at the very top. And if you are harmed by someone near the top, you can sue for damages, but win a lawsuit against a powerless person and there is little blood to squeeze out of that turnip.

Of course there ought to be ways for those with less power to defend themselves, that shouldn’t be questioned. But, protection from frivolous or misconstrued actions should be built into the system. I have the impression that the incentive for college administrators to reduce risk by simply firing the alleged perp (particularly if they are only anb adjunct) is very strong.

So if we are going to talk about triggers. Being called in to some procedure like that would be a trigger for me.

135

bianca steele 06.04.15 at 2:16 pm

Z,

I know you’re French, but I’m at a loss to figure out what your specific question or objection is. Can you be more specific?

LFC,

Yes, I’ve heard that Lasch’s early writing was well though of in Left and Marxist circles when it appeared and is still interesting. It’s not exactly easy to find, though (maybe Boston Public Library employees stole the stack copies).

136

John Holbo 06.04.15 at 2:21 pm

“But liberal Holbo surely has a moral responsibility to criticize liberal Harry for providing ammo against liberalism.”

?

You seem to be taking the position that, if I am opposed to doing things that I think are, in principle, wrong, and have bad consequences (bringing frivolous Title IX Suits) I am consistency bound to be opposed to doing things that are in principle right, and have bad consequences (like saying what you think is true in a book, even if hysterical shock jocks may misrepresent it.)

It seems to me that I can avoid the problem you see for me by distinguishing between right and wrong. I choose that way out of the problem.

There’s also utilitarianism. You can do something that has bad consequences (supplying ammo to the enemy) while having more good consequences.

There’s also virtue ethics, if you want a different reason why my position might make sense. But I think that’s enough for now.

137

Anderson 06.04.15 at 2:38 pm

130: taking that “academic freedom” thing too seriously, I guess?

138

Rich Puchalsky 06.04.15 at 2:47 pm

Z: “Several people blamed the administration for not dismissing immediately the complaint. That’s not the same thing at all, as you surely realize (and in the particular case of Sebastian H comment, which you quoted, this is not really hard to see: it literally starts with “I’m somewhat surprised by the defenses of the administration here.”).”

It literally does? I know that “literally” is now most commonly used to mean “figuratively”, but come on.

Sebastian H’s comment 99 blames the law and / or the administration of the law. Sebastian H’s comment 100 quotes something that I wrote about blaming people who had power specifically in order to disagree with it, and to say that the complainant committed a misuse of power. That’s the comment that I quoted and responded to.

139

bianca steele 06.04.15 at 2:51 pm

Can someone who’s read Kipnis tell me whether there are any books by her that actually discuss film, and not just pornographic films (which seems to be her academic specialty, but which this reader has little interest in learning about)?

140

Z 06.04.15 at 2:56 pm

Can you be more specific?

Sure (and I have no objection, just incomprehension). Your comment is a series of negated sentences and rhetorical questions (which, you seem to hint, must admit negative answers). However, in natural language (if not in formal logic), a complex sentence admits many possible negations depending on whether the negation applies to one, several or all conjuncts , and it is entirely unclear to me which positive statements you had in mind. For instance, who, in your opinion, is infantilized by who when who expects the writer to do which work?

141

Z 06.04.15 at 3:00 pm

Rich, I’m sorry, you are of course right.

142

Rich Puchalsky 06.04.15 at 3:01 pm

Omega Centauri: “It should be terrifying. Simply look at the numbers; the “powerless” greatly outnumber big bosses, so the odds of running afoul of some sociopathic individual go way up if you include the entire power pyramid, and not just those at the very top.”

So this argument is going straight back to Hobbes. I really think that’s what it comes down to, when the fear of the war of all against all is triggered by a case which was dismissed. Logically it’s better to have one autocrat: the “Of course there ought to be ways for those with less power to defend themselves” is meaningless verbiage when those ways are too socially terrifying for us to permit their use.

143

bianca steele 06.04.15 at 3:08 pm

The sentence about infantilizing was meant to be ironic, a reduction ad absurdum.

Kipnis seems to expect that female students should be learning to stand up for themselves in a lawless environment, an environment conditioned only by sexual libido, and by the exercise of power. To expect the powerful to be constrained by rules, she thinks, infantilizes those who benefit from constraints on power: it implies that women are less powerful than men. Kipnis is clear that, in her opinion, no amount of honest self-reflection on women’s part can permit them to conclude that they are the powerless ones.

Should we then not, in turn, view requests that writers be more clear and frank, in the same light? Is it not “infantilizing” to insist that it’s the writer’s responsibility to make his meaning obvious, not the reader’s to “do her homework”? Surely she should take some responsibility for the outcome of the transactions! (This paragraph is ironic, and in being made explicit, pulled the discussion off-topic and put too much weight on js.’s offhand remark. Sorry for the confusion.)

144

TM 06.04.15 at 3:09 pm

134: You are making a perfectly logical argument why the powerless should have no rights – more people with rights means more opportunity to “abuse” those rights. Come to think of it that way, hasn’t that always been the argument for concentrating power in few hands and putting the rest into their places?

145

Bloix 06.04.15 at 3:16 pm

#136 – As I understand it, “Liberal Harry” said nothing that provided any ammo to anyone. Liberal Harry’s co-author, Adam Swift, said some things in an interview that were perfectly reasonable but perhaps could have used a bit more context for a lay audience. His words were then distorted out of all recognition by the Australian Broadcasting Company presenter, who argued, apparently seriously, that the implication of the Brighouse/Swift book was a straight-forward “Harrison Bergeron” public policy:

“This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion that perhaps — in the interests of levelling the playing field — bedtime stories should also be restricted.”

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/reading-to-children-at-bedtime-abc-questions-value-of-time-honoured-practice/story-fni0cx12-1227335151442

The presenter’s misrepresentation was maliciously printed in the Telegraph as the opinion of Brighouse/Swift, and that was taken up by a few of the American howler monkeys on the right, like Limbaugh (Anne Althouse defended Brighouse/Swift, but her commenters did their usual throwing shit thing).

I do think that academics like all specialists need to be aware of the level of discourse appropriate for a lay radio audience. I don’t think that either Brighouse or Swift provided anything remotely like “ammo against liberalism.”

146

geo 06.04.15 at 3:42 pm

FWIW, the case for Lasch is made in several pieces on my website: http://www.georgescialabba.net.

147

geo 06.04.15 at 3:50 pm

dsquared@130: Why “dumb”? Criticizing your employer would seem to be, ceteris paribus, an especially laudable thing to do.

148

TM 06.04.15 at 3:58 pm

As an aside to 134 and 144: You are correct that some lawsuits and complaints are frivolous and wherever there is a judicial avenue, it is possible that some sociopath makes use of it frivolously. Perhaps contrary to you, I think that due to the way the American justice system is set up (justice is expensive and judges tend to identify with their own class), the powerful are far more likely to do this than the powerless, and the courts are far more likely to dismiss without hearing the complaints of the powerless than those of the powerful. I mentioned in 86 an egregious example, the Hobby Lobby case that enabled a sociopathic plutocrat with the help of his equally sociopathic friends in the judiciary to rewrite the law of the land and take away democratically enacted protections from millions of people, by means of a frivolous complaint that should have been thrown out right away on several grounds, and almost certainly would have been thrown out had this been some ordinary schmuck.

Anybody concerned that the powerless have too many avenues to pursue frivolous actions should rest assured – judges rarely hesitate to use the most far-fetched pretext to get rid of such cases (e.g. http://openjurist.org/395/f3d/872/okruhlik-v-university-of-arkansas-o). That is not by any means saying that we should always side with the less powerful person in any such conflict, although it does make a pretty good heuristic.

149

TM 06.04.15 at 4:00 pm

Bloix 145: ” As I understand it, “Liberal Harry” said nothing that provided any ammo to anyone.” The right wingers disagree. Who am I to believe?

150

Collin Street 06.04.15 at 4:04 pm

That is not by any means saying that we should always side with the less powerful person in any such conflict, although it does make a pretty good heuristic.

In any dispute you’ve ever heard of it’s near-inescapable that “kicking the most powerless person involved until they fold” has already been tried.

151

magistra 06.04.15 at 4:08 pm

I started the discussion of what “liberals” should or shouldn’t do and I obviously didn’t make my argument clear enough, so I’ll try again. John doesn’t want “frivolous” claims to be made about sexual harassment, which is fair enough: no-one wants frivolous claims made about anything. But he then goes on to add that frivolous claims about sexual harassment specifically shouldn’t be made because they encourage the enemy/anti-liberals.

What worries me is that a lot of cover-ups of genuine sexual misconduct work by the abuser and their supporters insisting that the complaint is frivolous and that to take it seriously would mean encouraging the enemy (whether it’s anti-Catholics, anti-gays etc). I don’t think John meant it in that way, but I dislike the rhetoric of “frivolous” claims about abuse being combined with arguments about giving comfort to the enemy precisely because such a rhetorical strategy is so often misused by people who want to turn a blind eye to abuse.

152

Marc 06.04.15 at 4:30 pm

Is it just me, or do a lot of the posts in this thread serve as examples of the fallacy of the excluded middle? Why does someone thinking that the Kipnis TItle IX complaints are abusive imply that they also believe all Title IX complaints to be abusive?

153

casmilus 06.04.15 at 5:10 pm

154

Rich Puchalsky 06.04.15 at 5:17 pm

Marc: “Why does someone thinking that the Kipnis TItle IX complaints are abusive imply that they also believe all Title IX complaints to be abusive?”

Criticizing someone for bringing a complaint that got dismissed is setting a very high bar on complainants to evaluate their own cases. It labels their act of bringing the case as being “abusive” or “providing ammo” if they don’t evaluate their own case as a lawyer would. Note that in the Kipnis case, it was a Title IX complaint, not a lawsuit, so no lawyer need have been involved in filing it, and the purpose of the complaint as far as the press seems to know was to get Kipnis to correct what she was writing, not to get her fired. If the grad student who filed the complaint “should have known” that this would result in Kipnis being fired (which it actually didn’t) or that Rush Limbaugh would pick up on the case or whatever, that’s putting a whole lot on someone who believes that they were raped and has already been through a countersuit for defamation because they complained about it.

It doesn’t seem farfetched to me that blaming the grad student in this case translates into general hostility towards Title IX complaints.

155

ragweed 06.04.15 at 5:32 pm

The Kipnes comment about chemical castration et al. is just about boilerplate in conservative denial of rape. First, make a statement about the extremely stern punishment you would impose on those *few* cases where there *really* was rape or sexual harassment, so people know you take it *very seriously*. Then make largely unsubstantiated claims about victims falsifying claims, or women asking for it, ad nauseam. Or use it as a preface for why you are cutting funds for the rape crisis shelter, or the special victims unit that actually makes it more likely that these crimes will actually make it to trial. It’s the sexual harassment version of “some of my best friends are…”

The complaint and investigation in this case is confidential, right? So all we know about the complaint is what Kipnes said about it, is that correct? I ask because I think one completely plausible point is that there may have been more to the complaint than just “she wrote an article”. There may well have been other accusations in the students complaint that a reasonable investigator would consider worthy of investigating, but which can’t be revealed because of the applicable confidentiality and privacy requirements.

If the complaint was simply that the article was retaliation, then it does seem it should have been dismissed upfront. But my guess is that the reason it wasn’t dismissed was due to institutional whiplash rather than a deep flaw in the title IX process. Right now there are several major investigations into institutions for failing to investigate or belittling genuine and egregious examples of sexual assaults and sexual harassment. Whoever was in charge of the Title IX process at that school, either fearing an investigation or genuinely concerned that they had too quickly dismissed legit cases in the past, decides to investigate everything, just to be sure (or to CYA). Or they figured that because it was a high-profile situation with the accuser already involved in several complaints and possibly lawsuits that it would be better to do an official investigation so that Kipnes would be “exonerated after a full investigation”, etc. After this controversy, they will be a little more likely to dismiss.

In a bureaucracy, decisions are often made based on these sorts of local considerations. It doesn’t necessarily indicate an overarching problem, except perhaps of the nature of bureaucracy.

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CJColucci 06.04.15 at 5:57 pm

The proceeding against Kipnis appears to have been ill-advised, and ill-advised proceedings do, in fact, “provide ammunition” to people looking with sufficient bad faith for talking points. But this proceeding was dismissed, relatively quickly, without Kipnis having had to do much to get it dismissed. Is it unfortunate that she had to go through it? Of course it is. But it is impossible to create a system of complaint resolution that is fast, cost-free, friction-free, and accurate all at once. Even pretty clearly meritless cases can’t simply be flushed down the toilet without somebody having to do some work, which inevitably leaves the wrongly accused hanging for a while. In writing this, I am taking a break right now from working on getting a pretty clearly meritless lawsuit flushed. You wouldn’t want to have to pay me what it would cost you for me to do that, but what is the alternative?

157

Omega Centauri 06.04.15 at 6:05 pm

TM.
I’m not saying that because there are a lot of people in the low personal power set, that they shouldn’t be allowed to register complaints. I’m just saying that there needs to be some filter to eliminate the frivolous ones. And it isn’t our justice system involved (which already has imperfect as they may be a filtering function). The problem is we simply have administrative review, with the real potential for star chambers. Thats where some judicious filtering needs to be applied.

158

TM 06.04.15 at 6:26 pm

ragweed 155: my understanding is that the institution’s own title IX coordinator had to step back because he or she had also been subject of a complaint. And a faculty advocate who had spoken for Kipnis was also subject of a complaint and had to step back. Some will no doubt be tempted to file these complaints again under frivolous. But the advocate for example (who was Senate president) had spoken in the Senate about the case in violation of confidentiality rules, which clearly he shouldn’t have. As to the title IX coordinator: I have witnessed the handling of a gender discrimination complaint at a university and I can attest that in that case, the internal investigation was a blatant coverup (the case I linked to at 148 is not the one I am referring to; however in that case (148), the OEOC coordinator testified in court that all notes she had taken during the investigation were lost during a computer upgrade).

This of course raises the question how likely a university is to fairly investigate itself. It’s one thing to investigate allegations of individual misconduct but when the institutional culture is at issue, the ice gets thin. Maybe the complainant at NWU believes that she is up against precisely that, the whole institution as opposed to just individual faculty members. And that might explain her perhaps over-reacting to that ill-judged op-ed piece.

In any case none of this has any bearing on PC or liberalism, which is really all that needs to be said about the right-wing anti-PC talking points so gratuitously credited by our gracious Holbo.

159

Bloix 06.04.15 at 6:26 pm

#149 – link to “the right-wingers” who attack something Brighouse said or wrote, please.

Is it this?
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/reading-to-children-at-bedtime-abc-questions-value-of-time-honoured-practice/story-fni0cx12-1227335151442
No, the Telegraph quotes the ABC interview with Swift, doesn’t mention Brighouse.

Is it this?
http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2015/05/05/liberals_reading_to_your_kids_gives_them_an_unfair_advantage
No, Limbaugh attacks Swift, doesn’t mention Brighouse.

Is it this?
http://althouse.blogspot.com/2015/05/i-dont-think-parents-reading-their.html
No, Althouse praises Swift and Brighouse. Her commenters dump on what Swift said, but not anything Brighouse said or wrote.

Is it this? http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/22365/
No, he quotes Swift and says nice things about Brighouse.

Is it this?
http://www.independentsentinel.com/leftists-opine-reading-bedtime-stories-promotes-social-inequality/
No, he quotes Swift and the ABC article.

But don’t worry about the facts, believe what you want. Believe in unicorns if it makes you happy.

160

Bruce Wilder 06.04.15 at 6:44 pm

Peter T @ 119: Dreher’s line is an old one: if you peer too hard at the veil, the mystery goes away. And if the mystery goes away, no-one has any reason to accept the social order that exists (as most people’s conception of their rightful interest is much larger than their actual interest), and THAT’S THE END OF CIVILISATION.

I would connect this aspect of Dreher’s views with what Rich Puchalsky wrote @ 123:

. . . this is the conservative version in which perquisites of the wealthy and powerful are accepted without question — any major boss in the U.S. can fire employees at will and with a bad reference that effectively bars the person from future jobs of that type — but when a powerless person gets the potential for doing the same thing through a judicial procedure, it becomes terrifying. And of course the moral responsibility is put not on the law, or the people who administer the law, but on the complainant.

Dreher’s profoundly Catholic viewpoint is bound up with a defense of authority, while Rich’s is bound up with hostility to authority. That Dreher wants authority unquestioned is why Dreher insists on the ol’ mystery, I think, and I’m not sure I want to agree that “mystery” is necessary generally to society and social order, as opposed to being a special feature of Dreher’s Catholic philosophy.

You were sarcastic about my assertion that a system of rules deduced from axiomatic principles could be an efficient framework for arbitrating social conflict, so I assume you missed the point that this was exactly the innovation Enlightenment Liberalism offered to the world to displace Catholic dogma and feudal legal particularism. It didn’t propose to end authority or hierarchy in an anarchist’s embrace of radical individualism, but it did place individual autonomy into the axiomatic firmament alongside a confidence in reason as method: by appeals to logic and evidence, we can can rely on people of good will to converge upon common opinions. Stated baldly, it does make it seem they might have been a trifle overconfident (and on the historical record they were), though they were not unaware of the dark side of human motives and ambition. Nor were they unaware of the importance of irrational motives; they did try to make their axiomatic commitment to methodical reason, humane standards of morality and individual autonomy something of a sacred character. (But, not a “mystery” in the Catholic sense of a revealed truth.)

Nevertheless, they made the modern world on that basis, and here we are, arguing as if they were right and as if everyone agrees that they were right and we can argue out from first principles, how it should be, and who is right and so on. But, at the same time, there’s an undercurrent of well-grounded suspicion that everyone does not agree that they were right, and some would like to subvert liberal modernity amid the endless cacophony occasioned by current disputes, and others might subvert it unintentionally by carelessness.

Kipnis, it seems to me, is trying to make her case, within the bounds of liberal reason. Maybe she’s cheating a bit, shading her characterization of facts to do so. She’s also suggesting that some of those pursuing social justice are not staying within those bounds, and administrators are not policing the bounds properly. The conservative outrage machine is not so scrupulous. (The social justice tribes may be scrupulous, but their scruples may be hostile to the bounds, so that can also be a genuine issue, quite apart from whatever fake issue the conservatives try to fashion from it.)

The cacophony of these arguments is so confusing, because there’s both arguments going on “within the box” (admittedly, with some shading of factual characterization) and deliberately incommensurate arguments that want to subvert the box or disregard the box. As the OP’s title has it, the Counter-Enlightenment as gotcha.

161

TM 06.04.15 at 6:44 pm

Slightly off-topic but North Carolina just enacted a law that gives employers powers to specifically sue whistle-blower employees (guess how many frivolous law-suits that will spawn!).

The governor had even vetoed the bill, stating: “I believe [the bill] does not adequately protect or give clear guidance to honest employees who uncover criminal activity. I am concerned that subjecting these employees to potential civil penalties will create an environment that discourages them from reporting illegal activities.”

Conservatives are all up in arms against that massive threat to free speech. Just kidding … what really threatens free speech in this free country are student complaints.

162

SamChevre 06.04.15 at 6:54 pm

CJColucci @ 156

In writing this, I am taking a break right now from working on getting a pretty clearly meritless lawsuit flushed. You wouldn’t want to have to pay me what it would cost you for me to do that, but what is the alternative?

Go to the system every other OECD country uses, and that I think the EHCR is understood to require–that if a complaint is brought and dismissed, the complainant is liable for the costs.

163

Bruce Wilder 06.04.15 at 6:58 pm

ragweed @ 155: The Kipnes comment about chemical castration et al. is just about boilerplate in conservative denial of rape.

I think it was sarcasm. And, sarcasm aimed at people, she thinks have lost all sense of humane proportion, an Enlightenment value. She’s responding to what she sees as a demand that she engage in ritual denouncement, and one that entails in its emphatic passion, an unwarranted extremity of policy.

164

Sebastian H 06.04.15 at 7:03 pm

We may be getting bogged down in how obvious it is that this isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a Title IX violation.

There are a couple of possibilities:

A) Super-obvious to anyone who knows anything about Title IX. At this point, the people making the complaint are abusing the system.

B)Super-obvious to people who are paid to know about these things. At this point, the intake people should have told the people making the complaint that it wasn’t a Title IX issue.

B1) Obvious to people who are paid to know about these things after looking at it for a bit. At this point, it should have been reviewed internally, some follow up questions made to the people making the complaint, and then they should have been told there was no Title IX issue.

C) Not obvious because Title IX is so amorphous that practically anything counts as retaliation.

D) Not obvious because Kipnis really did retaliate under Title IX and should have been stripped of her job and any right to work for any university that takes government funds.

I hope we can discount D, and if we aren’t discounting D it is your responsibility to argue in a way that makes it clear that you think D is the right answer.

Many of the administration defenders appear to be arguing C. If it is C, we still have a serious problem, because if Title IX really is that much of a mess it needs a massive overhaul, and the conservative critics are absolutely right that it is a mess. I don’t understand the apparent position that the answer is C, so there is no big deal.

I’m arguing for B or at the very least B1. It should have been sufficiently obvious that there was no violation that the investigation never got started up. There just weren’t the kind of facts alleged to be a Title IX violation. The fact that the administration went into Star Chamber mode really is a problem that should be addressed.

A couple of people seem to be disagreeing with me as if I was arguing that it must have been A. I think the matter is almost clear enough to suspect that it was A, but since the situation is horrible enough even without bad intent from the complainants, I figure we don’t need to try to resolve if they had bad intent or not.

165

adam.smith 06.04.15 at 8:00 pm

Marc — you’ve said this twice now — I still don’t understand why you think everyone subject to a successful Title IX complaint is getting fired when that’s quite clearly factually incorrect. E.g. As a result of the internal investigation at Northwestern, Prof. Ludlow had been found in violation of university policy for sexual assault on the undergraduate student and was not, as a consequence, fired. So D1) The complaint is valid and Kipnis should have received a commensurate punishment, e.g. an official censure to be placed in her file. This was, incidentally, what happened in the case of the Marquette professor, who had been previously admonished not to attack Marquette students in his nationally ready blog. It is my understanding that the fact that he repeatedly did so after being admonished that let to his dismissal.

Also, of course, Justin Weinberg and Rich Puchalsky are arguing something closer to B2) which you conveniently leave out: The details of the case were, in fact, not sufficiently clear without some degree of investigation, after which the complaint was correctly dismissed. (Personally I think both B2 or D1 are possible. I don’t know enough).

Now, I wonder if the fact that you left out these options means that you’re
A) Incapable of basic argumentative logic or
B) Engaging in willfully dishonest arguments ;)

166

adam.smith 06.04.15 at 8:02 pm

edit: since words matter, to clarify, the university investigation found Ludlow guilty of sexual misconduct not of sexual assault, which is a criminal charge.

167

adam.smith 06.04.15 at 8:08 pm

ugh, last one — this was addressed to Sebastian H., not Marc

168

Norwegian Guy 06.04.15 at 8:14 pm

“did retaliate under Title IX and should have been stripped of her job and any right to work for any university that takes government funds.”

I don’t have an opinion about this case in itself. Still, couldn’t it be possible that she did violate a rule, but that the punishment you’re suggesting is way too harsh?

Is this ban on working for universities that takes government funds a lifetime ban, or for a set number of years?

169

SamChevre 06.04.15 at 8:22 pm

Norwegian Guy @ 167

Is this ban on working for universities that takes government funds a lifetime ban, or for a set number of years?

Well–that’s the tricky part. It’s not a technical ban–which would probably be flatly illegal. It’s more of a “we will scold you publicly, and threaten you privately, if you do XYZ”–it’s the same basic tactic as used in a lot of banking regulation. It’s not illegal to process credit cards for donations to Snowden, but it “might expose you to risks which should be thoroughly evaluated.” It’s not illegal to hire someone found to have retaliated under Title IX (and we haven’t really defined what that means) but “it will probably increase scrutiny of your eligibility for funding.”

170

adam.smith 06.04.15 at 8:30 pm

Sam — I’m curious, are you aware of a single case where tenured faculty has lost a job as the result of a Title IX complaint? (The Marquette case wasn’t, afaik, Title IX related).
Obviously the absence of such a case doesn’t mean everything is swell with Title IX implementation, but it does mean that either there are hardly any successful Title IX complaints, or people don’t lose their jobs for them. My money is on the second of these.

171

SamChevre 06.04.15 at 8:35 pm

I am not. On the other hand, 1) the new definition of Title IX compliance is only 4 years old, which isn’t long in bureaucracies and 2) I don’t think tenured faculty are the most vulnerable population.

I am aware of banks getting out of a lot of transaction processing roles with controversial clients. I am aware of people losing jobs in other sectors due to contributing to populist causes that the elites hate.

172

bmore 06.04.15 at 8:45 pm

A quick google search gives us the case of David Barnett who UC Boulder is attempting to fire for retaliation (as of Jan 2015, this appears to ongoing). Coincidentally and perhaps a little ironically given the post), Barnett is also in the Philosophy department.

173

bmore 06.04.15 at 8:50 pm

Sorry that should be CU Boulder.

174

TM 06.04.15 at 9:50 pm

SC 168: utter nonsense. Title IX is really about institutional compliance. A uni gets into trouble for non-compliance, e. g. failing to investigate valid complaints and failing to make corrections if misconduct is detected. That Title IX forces universities to fire anybody, and even worse to blacklist faculty members, is a fantasy story line you just made up. There’s enough misinformation already.

175

bianca steele 06.04.15 at 10:01 pm

Oh look, Dreher has a new post about Freud.

176

Sebastian H 06.04.15 at 10:20 pm

Part of the whole problem with Title IX is that the government is vague about what you have to do. I think we have to be careful to distinguish between the Ludlow case and retaliation cases. Ludlow was not found guilty of retaliation. He was found guilty of sexual misconduct. Title IX is too new to talk intelligently about its own precedent–it is still being worked out. But in other workplace environments sexual misconduct can be remedied (in theory) by classes and behavior changes. You can’t keep a supervisor who is found guilty of retaliation because now they are tainted every time they make a decision that would normally be protected under the business judgment rule. Another very close analogy would be government contracting. If you keep an employee who is guilty of retaliation in trying to hide federal violations you are seriously risking your access to government contracts. You can keep someone who fails a drug test (against the Drug Free Workplace clauses) but you can’t keep a manager who tries to retaliate against someone who reports a drug violation.

True retaliation attacks the process, which is why it gets very harsh punishments. You can’t talk about ‘punishment under Title IX’. You have to talk about punishment for retaliation under Title IX.

177

CJColucci 06.04.15 at 10:48 pm

In writing this, I am taking a break right now from working on getting a pretty clearly meritless lawsuit flushed. You wouldn’t want to have to pay me what it would cost you for me to do that, but what is the alternative?

Sam Chevre replies:

Go to the system every other OECD country uses, and that I think the EHCR is understood to require–that if a complaint is brought and dismissed, the complainant is liable for the costs.

That’s not how we do things around here for reasons a lot bigger than this case. But let’s look at this case. In the ordinary course, the “costs” would be minimal. Here, however, the University retained private counsel — not even using its own in-house lawyers — on its own initiative. Maybe this was a good idea, and I generally favor seeing lawyers get paid, but it surely multiplied the cost of the proceeding by orders of magnitude,. The complainant could not have anticipated such extravagant costs when she filed her complaint, so the prospect of paying normal costs in the normal course wouldn’t likely have deterred her, but having to pay the costs actually accrued would be ruinous.
Of course, for some folks, this would not be a bug, but a feature.

178

Val 06.04.15 at 10:49 pm

One of the people who made the complaint against Kipnis has written a piece at Daily Nous
http://dailynous.com/2015/06/04/one-of-the-kipnis-complainants-speaks-out/

179

Suzanne 06.04.15 at 11:41 pm

@56: There was also a definite whiff of “My dad hit me all the time and it didn’t hurt me any. These kids today need a good spanking!” (Such statements tend to be an unconscious reflection of exactly how much the speaker was hurt.) Possibly Kipnis feels the gals of today need a good groping to toughen them up some, or at least a prof or two hitting on them, to prepare them for that awful world out there.

I was also truly stunned by the reappearance of the retrograde idea that young women can “empower” themselves by exploiting their sexual appeal to men higher up on the power scale and that seeing the prof with his pants down constitutes some sort of victory over the fellow, a meaningful redressing of the power imbalance (of course, Kipnis also seems to deny that such an imbalance exists) between the man and the woman. Andrea Dworkin, mentioned dismissively by Kipnis in her piece, would have something of interest to say about that.

Nobody expects, or wants, the Spanish Inquisition. However, if I were an administrator I might well want to have a discreet chat with Kipnis about her commitment to adhering to the campus rules in these matters, not to say her attention to detail (two corrections have been appended to her original piece).

Kipnis also links to an article about the Ellie Clougherty-Joe Lonsdale case, a matter that seems more tangled then her summary would indicate. Lonsdale and Clougherty met when he was acting as a mentor to her in a program sponsored by Stanford University. While Lonsdale is not an academic, their story actually demonstrates how close encounters with undergrads can go horribly wrong. I have no idea why Kipnis thinks this story helps her case, unless Clougherty is meant to be just another example of a millenial snowflake in need of toughening up.

180

Sebastian H 06.05.15 at 1:02 am

Reading Val’s link is interesting. I didn’t realize that the title IX retaliation complaint was made by a student other than any of the ones alluded to in the Kipnis piece. Is it really true that any student could claim retaliation for the Kipnis piece? Or is it more like third party reporting? That fact makes the case sound much more like an attack on ideas. I could at least understand why the actual students alluded to in the Kipnis piece might be angry about it, but unrelated parties responding to an op-ed piece?

181

TM 06.05.15 at 1:06 am

The Boulder case (172) is bothering as the university presumes to adjudicate individuals’ private conduct outside of and unrelated to the university, just because they happen to be students. That was never the intention of title IX (remember, title IX is concerned with institutional discrimination in education) and it doesn’t make sense.

182

TM 06.05.15 at 1:10 am

SH, frankly, why don’t you shut up while you read up on the background. This has been explained several times already (see the Weinberg post and 113, among others).

183

Sebastian H 06.05.15 at 1:12 am

I also just learned that this same third party student filed another Title IX complaint against a completely different professor for talking about the Kipnis case.

At that point it strongly sounds like the student is misusing the Title IX complaint process to attempt to punish speech, which casts at least a bit of doubt about her intentions in filing the Kipnis complaint.

184

Sebastian H 06.05.15 at 1:21 am

TM, I read 113 at the time, and just now again. I took “the student in question” to be the person making the Title IX complaint against Ludlow, not some completely different third party who was neither mentioned by Kipnis nor even alluded to by Kipnis. Nearly everyone on this thread seemed to be talking about the complainant against Peter Ludlow as if she were at least one of the complainants against Kipnis. I can understand why the complainant against Ludlow might be pissed enough to overreact against Kipnis.

But to have the complainant against Kipnis be a totally different 3rd party student who then also filed a complaint against yet another professor for defending Kipnis–THAT sounds like trying to act against free speech.

185

John Holbo 06.05.15 at 1:31 am

“What worries me is that a lot of cover-ups of genuine sexual misconduct work by the abuser and their supporters insisting that the complaint is frivolous and that to take it seriously would mean encouraging the enemy (whether it’s anti-Catholics, anti-gays etc). I don’t think John meant it in that way, but I dislike the rhetoric of “frivolous” claims about abuse being combined with arguments about giving comfort to the enemy precisely because such a rhetorical strategy is so often misused by people who want to turn a blind eye to abuse.”

Well, I only meant it in the trivial way. Obviously every activist – political actor – should consider whether they are doing the right thing, and whether what they are doing will have good consequences. Mostly you should consider both factors. At a minimum, you ought to consider one or the other. You should not do something that is wrong, in itself, so as to obtain bad consequences. Preaching this, per the post, really should not lead to any dilemmas.

The cases you are worried about are more like the classic magistrate’s dilemma. Suppose an innocent man is brought before you. By convicting him and sentencing him to death, you can prevent a riot in which many people will die. What do you do?

Here you are tempted to do a bad thing to stop a bad thing. The cases you are thinking about have this form. You discourage the airing of dirty laundry, you shield the guilty or tar the innocent, to shield the institution from harm from external enemies

But the thing I’m saying isn’t like that at all. Here is my ‘dilemma’, such as it is (I won’t call it Magistra’s Dilemma, because I am sure you will not want to adopt it, upon seeing it.)

Suppose an innocent man is brought before you. By convicting him and sentencing him to death, you can case a riot in which many people will die. What do you do? (Suppose by bringing frivolous Title IX charges you can make Rush Limbaugh’s day. What do you do?)

It’s just not a dilemma. No moral tension. So I don’t think there’s anything even slightly problematic about what I am saying.

Of course, we can – and are – arguing about whether, in fact, the Kipnis cases is one in which the charges were manifestly frivolous. That’s separate.

186

dsquared 06.05.15 at 1:50 am

Why “dumb”? Criticizing your employer would seem to be, ceteris paribus, an especially laudable thing to do.

Well, it’s something that has predictable bad consequences. And in this case, it’s not really like she was criticising her employer per se was she? She was criticising unnamed other people for inconveniencing her employer. It happened to be the case that her intervention was also massively inconvenient for her employer but that was incidental. In general, sticking your oar into other people’s legal trouble is the sort of thing that always ends up badly unless it’s done very carefully, so it should be done either a) on the basis of a lot of careful research work b) in cases of obvious and massive injustice or c) not.

187

Watson Ladd 06.05.15 at 2:24 am

Dsquared, the University of California is my employer. I’m 100% sure that they can’t stop me from saying that Jerry Brown’s policies are utterly ruinous for the state, or that Pac-10 has been a terrible idea from the beginning. In fact, I’m sure that some of your co-bloggers expressed opinions on criminal cases within the past year or so, and I’m virtually certain that juries and several investigations disagreed with them.

These lawsuits and the underlying allegations have been on the front page of Chicago newspapers long before Laura Kipnis appeared on the scene.

188

geo 06.05.15 at 2:37 am

dsquared: Sorry, guess I misunderstood you.

189

jonnybutter 06.05.15 at 2:57 am

#12
Kipnis is unafraid, however, to critique the left, which makes me immediately sympathetic. Here’s a passage on Kerry’s defeat by Bush a decade ago from Slate:…

(Sorry to be late to this party). Unless I’m missing some gargantuan irony, kidneystones is so badly misreading Kipnis in that article that it’s hard to believe he could even manage to be so wrong. Obviously, she is not ‘critiquing the left’, but rather criticizing the Democratic party *from* the left. The concluding sentence about her being a ‘nutjob’ makes me wonder if I’ve missed some sign that the preceding point was satire. Or something.

my guess is that she’s a second-wave feminist, like Ellen Willis or Wendy Kaminer, who identifies sexual freedom as a necessary step toward healthy (hetero)sexuality, and doesn’t like the turn feminism took after the seventies

Is there another guess available? (By the way, that “hetero” is nasty and supercilious, entirely uncalled for). Might there be some other reason to not like the turn feminism took after the 70s?

The elephant in the room, the thing I have never heard mentioned in either current establishment feminist circles or liberal opinion in general, is the brazen partial (but pervasive) cooptation of feminism by (among other entities) the advertising industry – which includes not just actual commercials/CMs but also television shows and movies. I even read an article recently (Huffpo? Daily Beast? can’t remember where – sorry) about nostalgia for 90s era feminism as embodied by particular network television shows and movies and characters. That this approach can pass as unremarkable speaks volumes. Serious second wave feminists sneered at Madison Ave (e.g. “You’ve come a long way, baby!”). You might tell me that serious establishment feminists today do too, but that’s not what I see. I see a group (among others) so shamelessly and incessantly flattered and condescended to for so long that some kind of spiritual sickliness almost *has* to ensue.

I have more hope for the nascent or young next wave. And I of course don’t mean the rhetorical targets of Kipnis. I mean feminists and humanists who see through, and far past, our infantile – and, yes, infantilizing – identity politics, which isn’t really politics at all, but the avoidance of it.

190

John Holbo 06.05.15 at 3:08 am

“SH, frankly, why don’t you shut up while you read up on the background. This has been explained several times already (see the Weinberg post and 113, among others).”

TM, I think you may have a bit of quiet time background reading of your own to do. The Weinberg post is just plain inaccurate (see 107). I think Weinberg probably unintentionally conflated the undergraduate/graduate cases. The link at 113 – which Rich provided – is more consideration-worthy. Val also links to this current statement by the anonymous complainant.

http://dailynous.com/2015/06/04/one-of-the-kipnis-complainants-speaks-out/

I don’t think the complainant comes off well in that piece. The problem shows when she (or he) writes, “Set the question of what rises to retaliation under law aside for a moment.” Legally speaking, we can’t set that aside. Or, at least, if we set it aside, we have to return to it, if we want to conclude that the complaint is prima facie valid and non-frivolous. But there is this link to a letter to the Chron that really gets to the heart of the concern:

http://www.chroniclecareers.com/article/Parsing-Sexual-Paranoia/229009/

It basically alleges that Kipnis intentionally generated the confusion that Weinberg then suffered – namely, a conflation of two cases.

“Kipnis’s conflation of the two cases serves her agenda — to argue that professor-student relationships are relatively harmless and to insinuate, by the way, that the undergraduate at Northwestern is hysterical and entitled. But to acknowledge the actual situation — that two complaints from two different students have been lodged against the philosophy professor — seriously undermines her overall argument.

Referring to the slew of lawsuits Kipnis traces to the undergraduate’s complaint, she writes, “What a mess.” But because most of those lawsuits stem from the graduate student’s complaint, Kipnis ironically misidentifies the source of the messiness: the professor’s tendency to get into trouble and his subsequent efforts at damage control.”

http://www.chroniclecareers.com/article/Parsing-Sexual-Paranoia/229009/#sthash.CrBHLIdl.dpuf

See also this letter, linked at some point somewhere, but I’m losing track of who linked what.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathryn-pogin/melodrama-notes-from-an-ongoing_b_6805676.html

These do provide a better way to sharpen the issue. Kipnis is pretty clearly not intending to retaliate against this graduate student. You may think she’s trolling – I do – but she isn’t trolling the graduate student, whom (as the first letter writer says) she scarcely mentions in passing. She is primarily concerned to address what she sees as a general, unhealthy climate. She thinks the state of Title IX enforcement, and campus sexual politics is unhealthy and paranoid, and she says so in a generally sort of mocking, patronizing, provocative way (that’s why it’s trolling.) But trolling the Chron’s general readership about general issues of public interest is well within the bounds of free speech. But … BUT! (I hadn’t thought this through myself when I wrote the post) conflating two distinct cases, in a manner that generates a vague cloud of ridiculousness over both (if you conflate cases, they tend to sound ridiculous) is problematic behavior. Kipnis’ motive is pretty clearly not to target an individual but to lend rhetorical weight to her general allegations that stuff has gotten ridiculous and out-of-hand. This is – as dsquared says – the sort of behavior that you should expect to result in you getting in a bit of trouble with your home institution, if you are writing about the institution. The corrections the Chron made to the article are perhaps not perfectly adequate, but they do go a long way towards clearing things up. The question is really: if X writes an opinion piece that oversimplifies some things – or presents them unclearly, for rhetorical effect – and Y feels X’s presentation is likely to make people confused about Z, negatively, even though the opinion piece was really about a general situation U, is this going to be ‘retaliation’ by X against Z for Title IX purposes, if Z has an ongoing Title IX case against R, even if X did not plausibly intend retaliation against Z?

Or something like that. Weinberg’s original defense of the Kipnis case failed because it was straightforwardly inaccurate. But his general point that the case is complex and dicey, hence a better prima facie candidate for a lengthy investigation, is a bit better than I gave it initial credit for.

The question, as Sebastian says at 164, is whether there was (or should have been) some easy way to look at the terms of Title IX and cut through this complexity quickly to decide whether it’s a prima facie violation. I still think this could and should have been done.

Sebastian says the fact that the 3rd party complainant is filing multiple complaints is a sign that her motive is really stifling speech she disapproves. That’s sort of plausible, but also sort of irrelevant. If she manages to stifle speech by filing valid complaints, then – well, the validity of the complaints should suffice. If offenders have to shut-up, because they legally offended, maybe they shouldn’t have offended in an actionable way, if they didn’t want to have to shut-up.

But Sebastian seems right about this. “True retaliation attacks the process, which is why it gets very harsh punishments.” You aren’t allowed to intentionally monkeywrench the Title IX process itself, if you are institutionally involved in it. The trouble is: even the complainant doesn’t seem to think Kipnis was trying to do that, per se. She (or he) thinks Kipnis was being awful – seriously awful – in a more general sense.

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js. 06.05.15 at 4:10 am

Lynne — you’re right. “Joking” is not the right word. I think it’s sort of hard to say what she’s trying to say there, and out of a general liking of Kipnis, I want to try to put a non-offensive spin on it, but it’s not easy in this case, esp. given its reuse. (My thought when I read it in the original context was: she’s saying, yes, harassers should be punished, but she’s saying it in an unnecessarily snarky way.)

bianca steele @139: Yes, Kipnis does talk about (non-porn) film in her books. For example, one of the essays in Men is more or less an extended reading of House of Games. But I don’t know that she’s ever written a book on film specifically. Or what she’s published in academic film journals, e.g.

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Sebastian H 06.05.15 at 4:20 am

I’m not wedded to the idea that the complainant was trying to stifle free speech, but her success in getting two unnecessary and ugly investigations going seems certain to chill free speech if we don’t get Title IX under control–whatever her intentions were.

The complaint against Professor Stephen Eisenman is out of line, even more so than the Kipnis complaint. It seems to stem from him addressing the faculty senate about the Kipnis case as part of his duties as the faculty senate president, and saying that the Title IX process was out of control in the Kipnis case, and represented a threat to academic freedom and free speech.

Whatever the merits of his views, that certainly wasn’t retaliation against a student for reporting sexual misconduct.

The fact that the complainant initiated yet another complaint, and had it taken up to be investigated under those facts, is a sign that the process was out of control. The complainant should have been told that for the second time that she was making complaints that were not Title IX retaliation complaints. The fact that she had to dismiss the complaint, rather than the university dismissing it, is a problem. And it makes it seem as if some of the conservative complaints about the process–that it is not clearly defined and that it is not transparent–are correct.

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ZM 06.05.15 at 5:35 am

js

“My thought when I read it in the original context was: she’s saying, yes, harassers should be punished, but she’s saying it in an unnecessarily snarky way.”

One of the reasons why the 1990s Australian example Val mentioned proved controversial was that the second wave author of the first book about the case – The First Stone: Some Questions About Sex and Power – really was arguing that sexual harassment should not be a legal or formal disciplinary issue, and that young women should deal with it by slapping anyone that harasses them instead. Other third wave books subsequently wrote about the case – Generation F: Sex, Power & the Young Feminist by Virginia Trioli (1996) and a book of essays called bodyjamming (1997).

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Matthew Morse 06.05.15 at 5:36 am

I’m trying to catch up. The story, as I understand it:

Two students bring Title IX complaints against Northwestern University, both involving Peter Ludlow. In one case, an undergraduate accused him of sexually assaulting her. In the second case, a graduate student accused him of raping her. Both cases are dismissed. Multiple lawsuits ensue, most initiated by Ludlow against the students and other targets.

Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, writes an article (published February 27) on the subject of “sexual harassment on campus: not so bad.” She argues that Title IX is out of control, specifically referring to Ludlow, but conflating the two cases and introducing factual errors. One or more of the students involved and at least one other grad student protest the article and try to get it corrected. A correction of the state of the lawsuits is made within a few days. The article is changed from stating that the grad student was dating Ludlow to that Ludlow claimed to be dating the grad student on March 30th, over a month after initial publication. The article as corrected makes no mention that the grad student also filed a complaint.

At this stage, the Title IX process has failed from the perspective of the students. Kipnis basically states in her article that it was correct to fail, and the student (she only mentions one) has no grounds for complaint. Assuming the identities of the students are moderately public, the students may have felt that by misrepresenting them and dismissing the complaints, Kipnis was turning them into targets.

My reading of the article by the student is that one of the two students involved and another graduate student proceeded to file a Title IX complaint against Kipnis. There is at least some basis for the idea that Kipnis was acting in support of NWU’s handling of the Title IX complaint and Ludlow in particular, and that the article was directly or indirectly making the students targets.

The third student agrees that NWU’s Title IX process is deeply flawed and unfair to everyone concerned, but also states that Stephen Eisenman, who is the president of the Faculty Senate and is involved in the Title IX process, violated a confidentiality agreement regarding the process.

I am very sympathetic to the idea that even if the original Title IX action is meritless, violating the rules of the process is itself grounds for a further Title IX complaint. Regardless, according to an update on June 2 to Weinberg’s article, the student concluded that the Title IX process is so dysfunctional that she withdrew the complaint.

(There’s a possible question here of whether public statements regarding Title IX processes which are intended to or have the effect of undermining future Title IX complaints should be considered a violation of Title IX. I would hesitate to call this retaliation, but if a goal of Title IX is to prevent sexual assault, and administrators of the process make it clear that Title IX processes will not function on behalf of students with sexual assault claims, this may be itself a Title IX violation.)

Speaking of Weinberg’s article, he wrote a description of the events intended to rebut Kipnis’s essay. Unfortunately, he used her article as a primary reference on the actual events of the case. Since her article is still misleading, his analysis of the article is somewhat inaccurate. The conclusion drawn in comments here is that 1. Kipnis wrote a misleading article. 2. The students filed a Title IX action against her because the article was inaccurate. 3. Weinberg, writing in support of the Title IX action, should be dismissed because he repeats Kipnis’s inaccuracies.

Oh yeah, and there was also something written by Dreher, which seems to be in the conservative mode of wildly misleading claims in support of what looks like a liberal argument, with the intention of scoring a cheap victory and undermining the effectiveness of that argument in the future.

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magistra 06.05.15 at 7:04 am

If I’m understanding the case correctly, a lot of this seems to hinge on the difference between legal and practical meanings of “retaliation”. The Title IX regulations are presumably meant to prevent institutional retaliation: if you make a complaint about sexual harassment, the institution should not be able to punish you for making this complaint, even if it is not upheld. People are not going to be willing to come forward to make even a valid complaint if there’s a possibility that they might get a decision go against them and that they would then suffer further.

But what the Northwestern case seems to be about is private/non-organisational “retaliation”. Is someone at the university not directly accused in the case allowed to blacken your name in public fora, especially if they make misleading comments about the case or even actively lie? In the UK you would be liable to a charge of libel if you made inaccurate comments about someone identifiable, even if you didn’t name them, but I know the US libels laws are far less restrictive.

Legally such behaviour probably isn’t Title IX retaliation, but it seems to me potentially to have an equally chilling effect on complainants. If a student is aware that if they make a complaint about sexual harassment, their entire private life can be picked over by staff at the university who are hostile to them and then proclaimed to the nation in a very public forum, there’s a very big reputational risk in them coming forward. (And this is where the power differential comes in: some people do have more access to wide-circulating and prestigious media).

There’s clearly a balance to be struck between deterring frivolous complaints and not deterring non-frivolous ones and it’s difficult to see a way to solve this problem without creating other injustices. Maybe public shaming is appropriate for those who make completely unjustified complaints of sexual harassment. But if you decide that staff at a university are free to carry out public shaming of any student whose sexual harassment case fails, you’re likely to find that a lot of students with valid complaints aren’t going to report them.

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adam.smith 06.05.15 at 7:08 am

Matthew Morse —

Two students bring Title IX complaints against Northwestern University, both involving Peter Ludlow. In one case, an undergraduate accused him of sexually assaulting her. In the second case, a graduate student accused him of raping her.

it’s more complicated than that. The university’s commission that investigated the sexual misconduct (which is part of Title IX compliance) did rule in favor of the undergrad student and sanctioned Ludlow (I don’t think we know exactly how, except that he wasn’t fired). She then sued Northwestern under Title IX, and that lawsuit was thrown out.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.05.15 at 11:44 am

JH: “But his general point that the case is complex and dicey, hence a better prima facie candidate for a lengthy investigation, is a bit better than I gave it initial credit for.”

The Title IX rules come down very hard on institutional retaliation, including retaliation by faculty, and Kipnis is faculty. Imagine that Kipnis has the following conversation with an administrator in her department: she tells him that she’s writing an article about how bad sexual harassment law is, the administrator says she should put in something about that grad student because that’s a good example of a bad Title IX claim and it’s bad press for the university, Kipnis says sure, there’s not much room in the article but she could put in a sentence about how the grad student was dating the professor and how its ridiculous that it’s become a bunch of legal cases. Is that retaliation? Do you dismiss the claim without even asking whether this conversation occurred?

Or, come on. The chair of the Faculty Senate, someone with control over the process of responding to Title IX, says this according to Faculty Senate meeting notes: “Eisenman noted that more clearly defined sanctions are a likely objective for offenses falling under the Jurisdiction of Title IX, which at present is fraught with problems.” And he apparently discusses the grad student’s case and says something about the situation being like something out of Stalinist Russia. What would you think of a judge who takes about an open case this way? Is this obviously not retaliation and no one has to look into it?

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Rich Puchalsky 06.05.15 at 12:13 pm

magistra: “If I’m understanding the case correctly, a lot of this seems to hinge on the difference between legal and practical meanings of “retaliation”.”

They are not very different for Title IX, as far as I can make out. Here’s a legal definition of retaliation for this purpose.

Whose conduct counts as retaliation? Quoting from here: “Under Title IX, only the school’s conduct toward the recipient party qualifies as retaliation. This includes conduct by anyone acting on the school’s behalf, such as the administration, faculty, or other employees.”

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TM 06.05.15 at 1:04 pm

SH 190: “The Weinberg post is just plain inaccurate (see 107).”

107 doesn’t offer any evidence or even argument that the Weinberg post is inaccurate. I don’t think that you JH have ever pointed to any *factual* mistakes in Weinberg’s account. If you JH have evidence that Weinberg’s account of the facts is wrong, please explain. otherwise, your attack is remarkably dishonest and you should apologize.

Most importantly, this is totally a side issue to your claim that whatever went wrong in this case is somehow the fault of “liberalism”. See 9- and 125, to which you JH studiously have avoided responding. I will just repeat what I said at 86: you are working real hard to frame this whole debate in the Orwellian terms of the right-wingers.

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TM 06.05.15 at 1:11 pm

As an aside: 190 ““True retaliation attacks the process, which is why it gets very harsh punishments.” You aren’t allowed to intentionally monkeywrench the Title IX process itself, if you are institutionally involved in it.”

It’s totally unclear what that is supposed to mean. Retaliation is to take an adverse act against a complainant after they filed a complaint. A typical example would be that a faculty member who filed a complaint suddenly gets hit with higher teaching loads. More subtle ways of retaliation are bad-talking, shunning, attacking the victim’s reputation (which is what the Kipnis complainant alleges). These things happen outside of “the process”. I don’t think you (SH and JH) understand at all what you are talking about.

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TM 06.05.15 at 1:19 pm

RP 197: The senate chair doesn’t have any control over the title IX process. However, he happened to have been involved in the investigation as a faculty advocate for Kipnis. In that capacity he was bound by confidentiality rules.

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bianca steele 06.05.15 at 1:20 pm

js.,

Thanks, I found the House of Cards and it’s interesting enough. I think I can count on one hand, easily, the women critics I know of who take that general attitude (to film and knowledge, more or less, is what I mean). Which doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Certainly the essay was more interesting than Paglia’s criticism, whom Kipnis otherwise reminds me a lot of (obviously Kipnis is better qualified to write about film than Paglia’s ever was).

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kidneystones 06.05.15 at 1:31 pm

When you’ve lost Jonathon Chait, Kipnis, and Josh Marshall…From Chait’s piece in New York magazine: “…Many left-wing writers are torn between their discomfort with p.c. and their recognition that my piece was politically radioactive among their target audience. Freddie DeBoer handled this problem by calling me “condescending” and “an asshole” before proceeding to endorse my thesis. Vox’s author — who has to write under a pseudonym! — instead manufactures a point of disagreement. “Ideas can and should be judged both by the strength of their logic and by the cultural weight afforded to their speaker’s identity,” he writes, “Chait appears to believe only the former, and that’s kind of ridiculous.”

Now, I don’t often agree with DeBoer, but I do happen to think Chait is an asshole, no need to list the reason’s why.

From Josh Marshall: “In other words, Kipnis wrote a sharp-tongued, one-dimensional caricature of university sexual assault and trigger warning activists at Northwestern. And they turned around and proved her one-dimensional caricature 100% right… Kipnis is no conservative. She’s a feminist and though I don’t know a lot about her political views, certainly in the broad sweep of our national politics she’d be considered a liberal of some sort…* Excessive Disclosure: TPM published an excerpt from Kipnis’s new book earlier this year. But I had never had any contact with her of any sort until sending her a question on this topic by email this weekend.”

Kipnis, as I noted above, has a long and semi-illustrious career as culture warrior for team blue. She is unafraid to criticize the left and many on the left evidently believe criticism constitutes some form of apostasy. Who could have seen that coming?

What those who believe Kipnis should be ostracized/censured/punished fail to understand is that Kipnis is, in fact, trying to make the left more effective by illuminating some of the silliness of the moral minority. According to some, Kipnis is evidently the wrong kind of feminist because she thinks women and feminists are often silly. Feminists often are, especially the ones standing on self-erected pedestals. As Kipnis points out, men do not by virtue of their gender have any exclusive ability to beclown themselves. If we accept general notions of equality in intellect, then there must be just as many feminist idiots as there are in any other subset of humanity. Or perhaps, feminism of a very particular superior sort is actually a marker of superior intellect – a ‘real’ feminist can’t possibly also be a real idiot.

Self-censorship is the norm now in a number of environments. I did very well as an undergraduate, but I quickly discerned that I’d have to hide the very real questions I had regarding the intellectual credibility of deep thinkers like Stanley Fish during the pre-Sokol dark ages. Graduate school in the humanities was out in the early nineties, I turned down a teaching position and scholarship rather than undergo the political re-education of the sort one leading ‘feminist’ explicitly prescribed for me for daring to suggest equality between the sexes. Teachers I know in the US teach in a state of fear, lest their charges decide to trash them in evaluations. I grew up among the chalk-throwers and I’ve tossed more than one dozing student from my classes. We owe our students an education, and that necessarily means introducing them to materials and ideas that are going to make them uncomfortable – triggers are a feature, not a bug. Safe zones are the most dangerous places I can imagine.

As for being awful, I wouldn’t trust anyone who wasn’t being awful at least once a day. I want to be offensive, but very rarely take much. The world we live in is so much cleaner, scrubbed, and sterile than that of the past. We’ve become weak. Worse, we’ve become dull.

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John Holbo 06.05.15 at 1:34 pm

“107 doesn’t offer any evidence or even argument that the Weinberg post is inaccurate.”

Weinberg mistakes Kipnis’ rather long description of the undergrad’s case for a description of the graduate student’s case, which Kipnis only mentions in passing.

“Most importantly, this is totally a side issue to your claim that whatever went wrong in this case is somehow the fault of “liberalism”.”

Where did I claim that the case is the fault of liberalism – or even ‘liberalism’? For the record, I don’t think the case is the fault of liberalism.

“you are working real hard to frame this whole debate in the Orwellian terms of the right-wingers.”

How so, and what’s in it for me if I succeed?

“Imagine that Kipnis has the following conversation with an administrator in her department: she tells him that she’s writing an article about how bad sexual harassment law is, the administrator says she should put in something about that grad student because that’s a good example of a bad Title IX claim and it’s bad press for the university, Kipnis says sure, there’s not much room in the article but she could put in a sentence about how the grad student was dating the professor and how its ridiculous that it’s become a bunch of legal cases.”

Or suppose she had just written a scholarly article about Title IX, without saying one thing about the grad student’s case. Just pure abstract scholarship. Could that be retaliation, too, if the student regarded the scholarship as unfavorable in its conclusions?

I see your point, Rich. As I said, I concede that the case is a bit more complex than I took it to be at first. Point taken. But it’s pretty expansive to say that anyone writing anything, about anything, who works at the school, is writing on the ‘school’s behalf’. Hence, if what they say could, potentially, impact opinion about anything related to a Title IX case that could be ‘retaliation’. You want to draw the circle a bit further in than that.

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TM 06.05.15 at 1:49 pm

“Where did I claim that the case is the fault of liberalism – or even ‘liberalism’?”

You have said that the case provided legitimate (as opposed to contrived) “ammo against liberalism”. (““An individual brought a case under Title IX, and that decision to pursue the case provided ammo against liberalism” is true in this case”, 95). Now logically that implies that whatever bad happened, happened *because of liberalism*. Otherwise it couldn’t be considered ammo against liberalism. Something that happens because an individual makes a poor choice, or some institution overreacts in the way institutions often do, cannot be ammo against liberalism unless the individual’s poor choice, or the institution’s overreaction, was causally connected to liberalism. Again, the argument has been made at nauseam (90, 125) and I think you know exactly what this is about, which is precisely why you have studiously avoided responding to it, instead going distracting us with side issues.

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Mdc 06.05.15 at 1:50 pm

If Ludlow, who is still an employed faculty member, publicly repeats his claim that the relationship was consensual, might that be retaliation?

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John Holbo 06.05.15 at 3:14 pm

“Now logically that implies that whatever bad happened, happened *because of liberalism*.”

No, TM, that is not logical. I don’t think what happened happened because of liberalism. Why would I think that? I obviously think liberals should be opposed to this sort of thing since it seems to me contrary to the ideals of liberalism. (See my post.) But, of course, conservatives will blame liberalism.

“Something that happens because an individual makes a poor choice, or some institution overreacts in the way institutions often do, cannot be ammo against liberalism unless the individual’s poor choice, or the institution’s overreaction, was causally connected to liberalism.”

This seems to me incredibly naive. Propaganda can constitute very high quality ammo in politics, and lies wrapped around a kernel of truth – one misbehaving individual, say – are some of the most effective. All you need is for people to believe not for the thing to be true. If some liberal does something stupid, conservatives are going to use that as ammo against liberalism. Do you seriously disbelieve in the efficacy of propaganda and misleading rhetoric in politics?

“I think you know exactly what this is about, which is precisely why you have studiously avoided responding to it, instead going distracting us with side issues.”

Well, then tell me what exactly you think this is all about it. What is my sneaky agenda?

You seem an odd mix of mooncalf and conspiracy theorist, TM. On the one hand, you regard it as ridiculous to think misrepresentations of liberalism could be politically effective On the other hand, you evidently regard me as a dangerous liar about the stuff. Shouldn’t the first thought cancel the second? Aren’t I harmless, if I’m lying, since what I say isn’t ‘causally connected’ (as you put it) to the truth about liberalism? Or whatever?

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TM 06.05.15 at 3:28 pm

John Holbo: This contrived BS was dealt with succinctly by magistra in 118. “you regard it as ridiculous to think misrepresentations of liberalism could be politically effective” is such an obvious strawman it really just insults the intelligence of everybody who has participated in this thread.

You are not offering anything resembling an argument and I won’t respond to you any more. Have a good weekend everybody.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.05.15 at 3:52 pm

JH: “I see your point, Rich. As I said, I concede that the case is a bit more complex than I took it to be at first. Point taken. But it’s pretty expansive to say that anyone writing anything, about anything, who works at the school, is writing on the ‘school’s behalf’. Hence, if what they say could, potentially, impact opinion about anything related to a Title IX case that could be ‘retaliation’. You want to draw the circle a bit further in than that.”

Let’s draw the circle wider then. Do I think that Title IX claims of this sort are generally a good thing? People getting brought up on judicial procedures because of op-eds, third parties bringing complaints against anyone they want to have investigated, and so on. Of course I don’t. I don’t because I’m an anarchist and I think that the whole setup is fundamentally flawed.

But you’re not an anarchist, you’re a left-liberal. And there is no way that you can have the kind of system that you want to have and simultaneously blame complainants without power for doing something wrong by bringing complaints. The system simply does not work along with denying the powerless access to it based on a “your claim looks ridiculous to me after I’ve read Dreher” clause. Your denial is rhetorical, not actual, but it’s still bad rhetoric. I shouldn’t speak for TM, but the “sneaky agenda” that you have isn’t a conscious agenda: you simply identify with people like you.

Let me recall for everyone here the basics of our society. We have a President with an assassination list. Do those people get due process — do they get to confront the evidence against them? Of course not. They get a drone strike, and another one on their funeral party. We had a Vice President who said that he told people to torture and that he’d do it again, and of course justice sleeps. Do the black people shot by police get adequate justice? Or do they pretty much have judges decide that the police aren’t guilty?

This isn’t an Oppression Olympics argument, a “why do you care about academics when so much worse is going on.” It’s just bringing back to your memory that our society is in fact not based on principles of justice. The reason why people suddenly find it shocking when a case might get someone fired in academia (but the person didn’t actually get fired) is because they’re academics, or white-collar professionals, and they can imagine themselves in that situation. And it’s not supposed to happen to them.

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gianni 06.05.15 at 3:56 pm

Before you go TM, in the spirit of open conversation I would like to let you know that from where I am sitting, you have behaved quite boorishly in this thread.

Perhaps you are so under-whelmed by the responses to your posts because people got the sense that you were more interested in lobbing rhetorical bombs from your particular trench than in genuine debate. I certainly felt that way, & I would be surprised if I was the only one.

I would love to have the conversation over the degree to which ‘liberalism’ is implicated here. Unfortunately, for all of your explicit claims to the contrary, I do not get the sense that you would be willing to engage in that conversation in a way that would be productive.

If you want people to dance with you, it really helps if you at least try to be a good dancing partner.

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geo 06.05.15 at 3:58 pm

magistra@195: In the UK you would be liable to a charge of libel if you made inaccurate comments about someone identifiable, even if you didn’t name them

I knew the libel laws in the UK were disgraceful, but I didn’t know they were that bad.

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Marc 06.05.15 at 4:02 pm

No Rich, sometimes the simple answer is correct. A complaint based on an opinion piece should have been tossed at the initial stage. There are no private conversations to parse; there is no hidden information to investigate. It’s a straightforward First Amendment issue; it’s doomed to fail; and bringing it should be treated as what it is, namely an assault on free speech rights.

If the new Title IX rules do endorse this sort of ludicrously broad interpretation it’s flatly unconstitutional and needs to be struck down.

You can believe these things without endorsing anything that Kipnis wrote. And, yup, I do want to see utterly frivolous lawsuits ridiculed and minimized. There is no contradiction between this and taking serious ones seriously; the latter will not involve, say, filing suit on public opinion pieces. (It’s not a hard bright line to draw.)

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gianni 06.05.15 at 4:17 pm

Rich @209

Yes, academics who have been promised/pursuing job security their whole adult life will be upset when they see that threatened. Being on a blog frequented by academics, this viewpoint will be especially prominent. This should be obvious, especially to a CT veteran like yourself, so don’t pretend that you have uncovered any sort of deep motivation that people have been trying to hide.

As for the whole ‘the president still drones people’ routine – what>? Seriously Rich, what are you getting at here? Yes, injustice exists, but what is the relevance of that injustice to this conversation?

Frequently, you hear people interject stories of greater suffering into an existing conversation in order to diminish, by comparison, the harms experienced by those involved in the first incident. I would not think this your style, but I am drawing a blank here as to what your point is with this.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.05.15 at 4:30 pm

Marc: “There are no private conversations to parse; there is no hidden information to investigate.”

Marc knows this a priori without investigation, because Marc is God.

(The First Amendment doesn’t protect libel and a whole set of other things based on professional or organizational obligations, Marc. Try being in the IRS and publicly releasing information from someone’s tax filing in order to make a point in an op-ed, and see how far “free speech” gets you.)

gianni: “This should be obvious, especially to a CT veteran like yourself, so don’t pretend that you have uncovered any sort of deep motivation that people have been trying to hide.”

gianni strenuously agrees with me.

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Sebastian H 06.05.15 at 4:38 pm

After having slept on it, it is interesting how much of this case can be looked at through an abuse of process lens.

Ludlow is accused of sexual misconduct.

Ludlow sues for libel. Even if it is true that his characterization of the events was the correct one (i.e. even if he was falsely accused) the U.S. system of libel is so stringent that any lawyer he consulted would have immediately told him that a libel suit was frivolous. Abuse of process.

Complainant makes a Title IX complaint against Kipnis. In any normal world this should have been immediately dismissed. I’m tempted to think of this as abuse of process, but the fact that the administrators took the ridiculous case further means that was is exposed is an super-abusable process (the correct conservative critique).

Complainant (unrelated to the original complaint against Ludlow) makes a Title IX complaint against Eisenman (who contra TMs misunderstanding followed his confidentiality requirement to not identify the complainant, but had no duty to not talk about the case and its effects on the faculty). That is straight up abuse of process.

Looking at it through this lens makes me much more sympathetic to the original complainant (the libel suit against her was abuse of process). The fact that she would want to reach for an abuse-able process to lash back makes perfect sense to me. The fact that she had just been put through an unnecessary legal proceeding herself makes the reaction even more understandable.

But what she exposed was that the Title IX system is so abuse-able that it could be used to attack third parties who merely allude to the case.

The secondary, non-involved complainant against Eisenman exposed that the Title IX process is so abuse-able that it can be brought against third parties who allude to third party allusions to a complaint while talking about whether or not the system is too abuse-able.

I have lots of sympathy for the initial complainant. I have almost no sympathy for whomever was complaining against Eisenman. But in both cases they have exposed that the Title IX process is very abuse-able.

I am however curious about why Ludlow’s LIBEL suit doesn’t count as retaliation. It seems to me that it should unless I’m missing something.

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AcademicLurker 06.05.15 at 4:49 pm

Hypothetical: If the President orders a drone strike on a female graduate student at a university currently receiving federal funds, and the university fails to take reasonable measures to protect the student from said drone strike, is that a title IX violation? Discuss.

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adam.smith 06.05.15 at 4:51 pm

Marc: “There are no private conversations to parse; there is no hidden information to investigate.”

Marc knows this a priori without investigation, because Marc is God.

I don’t know Rich. I’m generally with you, but if the presence of such a conversation really is key for the prima facie validity of the claim (something I’m not convinced of), wouldn’t we want to require some initial evidence that such a conversation took place before starting a formal investigation? Using Title IX complaints as blanket fishing expeditions for any type of evidence seems problematic (just as it would for criminal trials).

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SamChevre 06.05.15 at 4:51 pm

I am however curious about why Ludlow’s LIBEL suit doesn’t count as retaliation. It seems to me that it should unless I’m missing something.

I think it does count as retaliation, but Ludlow (acting for himself) has no duty not to retaliate; it’s the university that has the duty not to retaliate, and in bringing the suit he’s not in any way acting for the university.

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geo 06.05.15 at 4:53 pm

Sebastian: FWIW, I’ve found your comments throughout this thread extremely penetrating and persuasive. Since I’ve frequently heckled you in the past, I just thought I’d mention this.

220

gianni 06.05.15 at 4:56 pm

@219
ditto

221

Rich Puchalsky 06.05.15 at 4:58 pm

adam.smith: “if the presence of such a conversation really is key for the prima facie validity of the claim (something I’m not convinced of), wouldn’t we want to require some initial evidence that such a conversation took place before starting a formal investigation? Using Title IX complaints as blanket fishing expeditions for any type of evidence seems problematic (just as it would for criminal trials).”

How is the complainant supposed to get initial evidence that such a conversation took place? The grad student knows three things: that Kipnis wrote an article in which she impeached the grad student’s version of events, that Kipnis refused to correct the article or modify it to present both versions, that the university has a motive for making the grad student look bad. What’s the grad student supposed to do, hire a detective to gain evidence before filing the complaint?

Of course blanket fishing expeditions are problematic. Everything in our society is problematic, but we do it anyways. People were trying to get to the question of whether liberalism is somehow to blame for this. Isn’t this the same legal structure that liberalism implements throughout our society? What, other than academic self-interest, makes this different from any other way in which liberalism says how things should operate?

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CJColucci 06.05.15 at 5:12 pm

For everyone who insists that a baseless complaint should be dismissed “immediately,” or at the “initial stage,” or without further investigation, rather than pretty fast and after some investigation, please operationalize what you mean. My life would be a lot easier if I could figure out a way to get that done in my line of work, and I look forward to any insight that isn’t simply a counsel of perfection.

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SamChevre 06.05.15 at 5:30 pm

please operationalize what you mean

What I would like is pretty much basic legal practice in administrative proceedings. That is, violations are sufficiently clearly defined that it’s possible to figure out the “there’s no actionable claim stated here” and dismiss the case for failure to state a claim (or “the alleged conduct isn’t illegal” in the criminal law.)

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adam.smith 06.05.15 at 5:35 pm

CJColucci — I don’t know much about the US legal system, but I’d have imagined that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reasonable_suspicion would be a decent standard.
I thought that was designed to specifically prevent fishing expeditions. I know that the corresponding concept in German jurisprudence (initial suspicion/Anfangsverdacht) is very much designed to prevent police inquiries on a pure hunch. I realize that’s not always how things work in the US, but I don’t really think anything is won by extending the treatment of black Ferguson (et al.) residents to academia. . .

Obviously that doesn’t give you a simple checklist and you’ll always have disagreement about what constitutes reasonable suspicion, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely unworkable.

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Watson Ladd 06.05.15 at 5:35 pm

Rich, these lawsuits were front page news in Chicago for months. It’s not even clear that Kipnis discussed the grad student case, merely mentioned it in passing. Liberalism is supposed to protect people’s right to speak on matters of public concern, including court cases.

Flip this around: should Bill Clinton be allowed to sue Saturday Night Live for joking about how he would have gone to prison if cellphones could take video? Should people attempting to exonerate those wrongly convicted of murder be open to suit from the victim’s families? Do they even have a moral claim against some public discussion of the matter?

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gianni 06.05.15 at 5:44 pm

CJColucci:
[recognizing that you are asking that a complete stranger on the internet give you deep insight into your (unspecified) professional field, insight which has evaded you – a specialist – for years. That is to say, recognizing that you are asking, if not the impossible, then at least placing a mighty tall order.]

At the most schematic: we can think of their being 2 parts to an investigation like this.

First part: the (would-be) investigators sit down and discuss among themselves the nature and legitimacy of the case in question. Review necessary statues. Whatever needs to be done.

Second part: you start demanding information from the subject in question, notifying them that they are under review, etc. You not only bring them into the investigation, but you make them keenly aware that they are being investigated.


The argument then would be: it is both possible and preferable that cases like this should not progress past the first stage and make it to the second.

The corollary being: frivolous complaints are a given and inevitable, so if this sort of screening out does not occur, or if there are major gaps, there is a flaw somewhere in the process.

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Sebastian H 06.05.15 at 5:50 pm

Get, Gianni: thanks. I think one of the most frustrating things about the U.S. is how we regularize abuse of process–especially in the legal system. It is pervasive and normalized, especially by lawyers.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.05.15 at 5:56 pm

Let’s say a middle manager in Acme Corp. is accused of raping an employee. The case gets into the papers. If another middle manager in Acme Corp. writes an op-ed saying that the first middle manager and the employee were just dating, that doesn’t create reasonable suspicion of retaliation? I know of exactly zero people in any large organization who would say go ahead, it’s fine to write op-eds bad-mouthing people in our organization who’ve complained about us, no one will suspect retaliation at all.

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gianni 06.05.15 at 6:06 pm

Rich, the situation is just not comparable.

Why is the middle manage of Acme Corp writing this op-ed, other than to talk about the office gossip? Status quo: expect 0 op-eds from Joey the Manager. Scandal ensues. Joey writes an op-ed.

Conclusion: it clearly looks like Joey is writing in response to the scandal. Depending on content of course, this looks like retaliation.

But with a professor you have a completely different dynamic. Your status quo is a professor publishing intermittent op-eds and articles about sexuality in popular culture.
So when that professor continues in this way, publishing an op-ed on gender relations in their professional capacity, using the gossip as an illustration, the accusation of retaliation is totally different. You have a completely different baseline.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.05.15 at 7:12 pm

gianni: “Rich, the situation is just not comparable.”

Well, a whole lot of people evidently thought that it was. Why did the professor use gossip from her own campus as an illustration of an article that pooh-poohed these cases? Couldn’t find any gossip from some other campus? As I wrote far, far above, I think it’s reasonable that people looked into the case and then dismissed it. I don’t agree that there was no reasonable suspicion that retaliation was going on.

adam.smith: “I realize that’s not always how things work in the US, but I don’t really think anything is won by extending the treatment of black Ferguson (et al.) residents to academia. . .”

No one that I know of actively wants academics to be treated as badly as black residents of Ferguson in order to even things out. But really that is how things work in the U.S. for large groups of people. For instance, there’s a common saying that a prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. In other words, the existing legal system, built by liberals, really does work to allow blanket fishing expeditions. Should we expect it to be different for favored classes like academics for any reason other than that they are privileged? I don’t want academics to be treated worse than they are, but not everyone in a system of privilege can have privileged status. Isn’t this liberalism’s problem, that it can’t provide what everyone is supposed to get?

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Bruce Wilder 06.05.15 at 7:15 pm

The thing is, I would suspect retaliation would be SOP at Acme Corp.

I would expect officially sanctioned op-eds denying retaliation had ever taken place or that retaliation was the policy of Acme, long a reputable employer and corporate citizen in the community. The accusations are unfounded, and the unfairly accused employee has had a stellar record of service, has previously undergone mandated training, and Acme does not, of course, condone the alleged behavior; nothing like this has ever taken place before, and a thorough investigation has been initiated, and although Acme will have no comment at this time (beyond denial and obfuscation, ‘natch), if the alleged violations of law have taken place, appropriate action will be taken and Acme will, of course, cooperate fully with authorities. Unfortunately, the investigation determined that surveillance footage of the property taken at the time of the incident had been inadvertently erased.

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Bruce Wilder 06.05.15 at 7:19 pm

We know how authority works in hierarchical organizations. Why do we know all about trolley problems, but we haven’t thought thru the ethical dilemmas that follow on intimidation and pressure and conformity and hypocrisy in the hierarchies we are all familiar with?

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Tom 06.05.15 at 7:20 pm

Many here think that the case should have been dismissed as frivolous. But that’s the Title IX you would like to have, not the existing one (see e.g. @222). @215 says that this is the correct conservative critique. But I think you can raise this criticism from a liberal point of view too.

The current system is very inefficient: think of all the resources spent on this frivolous case, resources which could have been directed on more important cases of sexual misconduct. The latitude in which the law is interpreted also tends to taint the true and valid complaints. You may have a very valid case and yet you risk to be seen as a frivolous complainant.

The politics around Title IX has been great as it has brought more awareness to these issues on campuses. And even if somebody ends up being falsely accused, that’s unavoidable in any justice system. But, still, the source of the problems is the way the system is set up. If a student gets raped, she should go to the police right away, not to the university, which has none of the expertise and all the wrong incentives – e.g. if football players are involved or if it is in the public eye and so it needs to appear “tough”.

As a final note, many here complain about the increasing tuition and fees of higher education. But lawyers are not cheap. If you want to assign more responsibilities to campuses, there will have to be resources devoted to it (just to be clear, I am not saying that all the increase in fees is due to this: just that the cost of running a university would be lower without having to be involved directly in these issues).

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Teachable Mo' 06.05.15 at 7:36 pm

“the existing legal system, built by liberals … “

I didn’t know that.

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CJColucci 06.05.15 at 7:40 pm

As I suspected would be the case, I received a number of suggestions that pretty much mirror what is actually done in a variety of dispute resolution systems such as criminal proceedings, civil lawsuits, administrative procedures, and even academic complaint procedures. Where those systems and standards are in place, it still takes a lot of time and work to weed out insubstantial cases. Not as much as cases with some potential merit to them, but still far more than I like doing or my clients like having to deal with or pay for.

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bianca steele 06.05.15 at 7:40 pm

Question for Sebastian or another lawyer: libel was brought up, but are there other standards that would be different? I admit I knew nothing about Title IX and assumed the idea was something like tainting a jury pool.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.05.15 at 7:43 pm

“I didn’t know that.”

Both Dreher and Holbo are talking about Enlightenment liberalism, so, yes.

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Bruce Wilder 06.05.15 at 8:16 pm

Tom @ 233, Teachable Mo’ @ 234

I mentioned the role of Enlightenment liberalism in designing the morality of law, as a deductive system derived from axiomatic principles (“all men are created equal”, etc.) in a highly abstract comment way earlier (as is my wont), and tried to get at how it actually tries to economize in the resolution of disputes, by making it possible for everyone in the culture to kind of figure out what’s “right” in disputes among strangers. It is a system for a society with a high degree of social cooperation on a large-scale.

In some ways, it could be said to work well, at least in comparison to the feudal particularism and Catholic hypocrisy that went before. Marxism, with its emphasis on class, tends to obscure this, but the French Revolution was brought about by lawyers. Ancien regime France was awash with lawyers, and the society was very litigious, even though the legal system was decrepit and hopelessly unfair. In fact, “fair” really wasn’t a concept, nor was it anything like “rational”. And, though the Revolution’s results were somewhat mixed in many realms, it did markedly reduce the number of lawyers. Legal and judicial reform, though it waited for Napoleon, was thorough and admirable. (And, yes, though they didn’t institute gay marriage, they did throw out sodomy without a second thought, so take that Dreher.)

That said, I think liberalism is somewhat responsible for the mess, and for the abuse of process. Liberal idealism can be deeply unrealistic in its insistence on affective abstractions. And, that irresponsibility opens the door to authoritarianism of the worst kind as a response to otherwise uncontrolled “gaming” of the system.

If the idealized rules make the system impossible to administer or too costly to use, then people will invent work-arounds. Or, abandon responsibility for making the system work as “intended”. Or, both.

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T 06.05.15 at 9:59 pm

There is typically a lot of discretion in deciding whether to pursue a complaint. The prosecutor weighs the costs against the potential result given their limited resources. A lot of complaints are dismissed and a lot of charges are never brought. In the Title IX context, the university administrator has every incentive to pass the complaint to outside counsel. What would you do? Appear to dismiss the student’s complaint or send it along to outside counsel at no cost to you? If you inappropriately dismiss one case that gets into the press, you’re pilloried. If you send on 10 crappy complaints that get dismissed later, no sweat — you took everything seriously and justice was done. The costs are borne by the accused.

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Bruce Wilder 06.05.15 at 11:16 pm

T @ 239: The costs are borne by the accused.

Not all the costs, surely. Which costs?

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bob mcmanus 06.06.15 at 12:16 am

Marxism, with its emphasis on class, tends to obscure this, but the French Revolution was brought about by lawyers.

Not at all.

Review of Neil Davidson

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T 06.06.15 at 12:20 am

I’m speaking of litigation costs and legal fees. The prosecution/investigation is conducted by the University at no cost to the administrator recommending the investigation go forward. The accused should hire counsel asap. The longer the investigation runs, the greater the out of pocket costs.

There are also the psychic costs of being accused in what appears to be a star chamber process. The university administrator just hands the case to outside counsel. In fact, the psychic costs for the administrator are raised by not handing it off. If they don’t hand it off to outside counsel and things go south, then they would be responsible. So the incentives are to move forward even in very marginal or potentially frivolous complaints. Anyway, that’s how I see it between the accused and the university administration.

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Teachable Mo' 06.06.15 at 12:44 am

“Both Dreher and Holbo are talking about Enlightenment liberalism, so, yes.”

Considering the sources of common law, it’s a surprising suggestion. The Law is an ass, but an old one.

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John Holbo 06.06.15 at 1:47 am

“Both Dreher and Holbo are talking about Enlightenment liberalism, so, yes.”

I never thought I’d see the day when Rich would try to make a Holbo thread be more about Rod Dreher and the Enlightenment than it plausibly was.

But I can address this, nonetheless:

“In other words, the existing legal system, built by liberals, really does work to allow blanket fishing expeditions. Should we expect it to be different for favored classes like academics for any reason other than that they are privileged? I don’t want academics to be treated worse than they are, but not everyone in a system of privilege can have privileged status. Isn’t this liberalism’s problem, that it can’t provide what everyone is supposed to get?”

In effect, Rich’s argument is that the system is unjust, built on injustice, shot through with injustice. And we are bothering our little heads about one tiny injustice. It’s standing in a garbage dump, complaining someone littered. But this isn’t really an argument that those who think differently from Rich are thinking wrongly about the case. It’s an argument that everyone who is thinking anything about the case – including Rich – is wrong to do so. It doesn’t rate. Which is sort of true. We really ought to be talking about any of a thousand more important issues. We are amusing ourselves thinking about a minor issue because it interests us, not forcing ourselves to think about what matters most. Fair enough.

But let’s finish what we started. I think I agree with Sebastian’s legal analysis. But there is one point on the other side worth thinking about. On the one hand, we think that academics are, ideally, free to engage in intellectual inquiry, discussion, and free to publish all that openly. The idea that an op-ed in the Chron of Higher Ed about a general issue of public interest is verboten seems jarring and outrageous. But, as Rich and others rightly point out, Kipnis works for the university and is a colleague of Ludlow, even if she’s never met him. As institutional actors, professors are obviously going to be constrained in a lot of ways, potentially. It would be useful to discuss the issue in those terms. To what degree is academic freedom contrained by one’s duties and obligations as member of the university community? Our kneejerk ‘it’s outrageous that a prof can’t write a Chron op-ed!’ reaction should be tempered by the fact that we would understand the constraint perfectly if Kipnis were, say, Ludlow’s spouse, or department head. Or if she were herself the Title IX investigator for the school, or any number of other things. The reason she should be free to write it is not that she is in principle free to say anything but that she doesn’t know Ludlow, apparently, and only refers to the grad student in the most passing fashion. It’s not such bright line of academic freedom, in short. This doesn’t at all contradict what Sebastian says. It still should have been a bright enough legal line for Title IX purposes. But we shouldn’t pretend that ‘free speech!’ is, by itself, shining sufficient light to answer all questions in this area.

On the third hand, I still have no idea what TM was talking about, which he accused me of trying to conceal or ignore. But I can live with that.

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Bruce Wilder 06.06.15 at 1:57 am

Teachable Mo’ @ 243: Considering the sources of common law, it’s a surprising suggestion. The Law is an ass, but an old one.

Remaking the rotted potage of the actual common law into an apparently coherent product of deliberative reason accessible by non-lawyers by sheer dint of persuasive story-telling was one of the triumphs of the Enlightenment, Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England being among the most important and influential works of the period. The man gave Britain a constitution and a virtual code of law, where before it had only a history of one damn thing after another.

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Bruce Wilder 06.06.15 at 2:00 am

John Holbo: . . . everyone who is thinking anything about the case – including Rich – is wrong to do so.

If you aren’t more careful, you are going to become Dreher.

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Bruce Wilder 06.06.15 at 2:02 am

Said with humor.

And love.

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LFC 06.06.15 at 2:14 am

B Wilder 238
the French Revolution was brought about by lawyers

Lawyers played an important role in the Revolution, but it was not brought about by lawyers, not if Skocpol’s analysis in States and Social Revolutions is even, say 25 percent correct. (It’s an “old” book by now, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely worthless.)

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LFC 06.06.15 at 2:25 am

Holbo:
On the one hand, we think that academics are, ideally, free to engage in intellectual inquiry, discussion, and free to publish all that openly. The idea that an op-ed in the Chron of Higher Ed about a general issue of public interest is verboten seems jarring and outrageous. But, as Rich and others rightly point out, Kipnis works for the university and is a colleague of Ludlow, even if she’s never met him. As institutional actors, professors are obviously going to be constrained in a lot of ways, potentially. …Our kneejerk ‘it’s outrageous that a prof can’t write a Chron op-ed!’ reaction should be tempered by the fact that we would understand the constraint perfectly if Kipnis were, say, Ludlow’s spouse….

My apologies to Holbo for doing the “kneejerk” “it’s outrageous” thing. Of course there are limits and the mere invocation of ‘free speech’ does not settle all the issues. The point was simply that she did choose to write about an issue of at least some ‘general’ interest and (to use the language of the old and mostly not-too-lamented FCC Fairness Doctrine) “public concern,” as opposed to, say, writing a witty, brief analysis of the camera techniques in a silent movie from 1913 of which five people in the world are aware and only three of those give a sh*t about it. (Sorry, bad syntax. Whatever.) It doesn’t settle the issues, yes, that’s right. It does perhaps suggest why knees jerked, however. But since this is a measured, quasi-academic blog in which issues are dissected with minute care etc etc, we should not have kneejerk reactions here. Mea culpa.

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ZM 06.06.15 at 2:45 am

Bruce Wilder,

“Remaking the rotted potage of the actual common law into an apparently coherent product of deliberative reason accessible by non-lawyers by sheer dint of persuasive story-telling was one of the triumphs of the Enlightenment”

I do not think they managed to triumph. At the talk by His Hon. Chief Justice Robert French I went to, this was said in the promotional material and in the lecture:

” The interaction of statute law and equitable doctrine as in many areas of interaction between statute law and the unwritten law raises questions about ‘coherence’ which direct attention to Atiyah’s question:

“All lawyers of course know that large areas of both the common law and the statute law are a shambles but is it one shambles or are there two?””

251

Bruce Wilder 06.06.15 at 3:15 am

bob mcmanus @ 241

I was thinking very particularly of Georges Lefebvre’s small classic, 89, best known in its English translation by R.R. Palmer, The Coming of the French Revolution. Lefebvre used a loose Marxist framework to great narrative effect, packing a great deal of information into a small book, but he trampled his own detailed knowledge of the National Assembly’s composition.

I presume you were endorsing Davidson and not that Oxford twit of a reviewer at the link, who seems like an idiot.

T @ 242

Thanks for the clarification.

LFC @ 248

10 years of upheaval, preceded by 30 years of decline and stalemate, followed by 15 years of autocracy and war, in a country of 25 million? — might be complex, I will grant you.

From the failure of enlightened despotism in the collapse of Maupeou’s judicial reforms thru the lawyers’ convention that was the National Assembly down to Napoleon’s eponymous Code, there’s a definite theme there, though maybe one among several.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.06.15 at 3:18 am

JH: “In effect, Rich’s argument is that the system is unjust, built on injustice, shot through with injustice. And we are bothering our little heads about one tiny injustice.”

As I wrote when I made the argument, I really wasn’t trying to make an Oppression Olympics argument — an argument that says “Why should anyone care about injustice towards academics when there is so much worse going on.” The problem with that argument is that if you’re standing in a garbage dump complaining that someone littered, it’s conceivable that picking up the litter is the first step towards cleaning up the dump.

It’s more of a macrocosm-and-microcosm argument. If the problematic justice of Title IX is the same kind of problematic justice that we see everywhere, then what’s unusual about it? Don’t we then have to accept that our system, whatever its ideals are, in actuality produces this kind of “justice” everywhere? People seem to be claiming that there is some kind of unusual Star Chamber quality to Title IX within a nation in which — and yes, I have to repeat it — the chief executive has the legal right to assassinate with drones at will. That it allows for legal hunting expeditions in a land in which prosecutors can indict anyone. That its use of third party complainants is troubling within a society in which people are routinely encouraged to turn each other in for all sorts of crimes real or imaginary. That people can be fired and banned from an occupation for life without real cause in a country in which most people can be fired and banned from an occupation for life without real cause.

If someone wants to say “Title IX is wrong in the same way that our whole system is wrong, and therefore I reject our whole system”, then fine. If someone wants to say “Our whole system is wrong in this way, but let’s ignore that, and focus on the most powerless people we can find who might use this system”, then no. That’s not fine.

253

gianni 06.06.15 at 4:11 am

Rich, your point is far more clear now.

254

js. 06.06.15 at 4:56 am

Paglia…, whom Kipnis otherwise reminds me a lot of

Wow! I have never had that thought. Maybe it’s a style thing—I find one of them impossible to read and the other lots of fun to read. But I genuinely think it’s deeper than that. (Anyway, for what it’s worth, I didn’t much care for the House of Games essay.)

255

js. 06.06.15 at 5:00 am

To follow up, person whose name I have a hard time spelling reminds me quite of a Kipnis. The Paglia comparison I still can’t get my head around.

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L.D. Burnett 06.06.15 at 5:06 am

Sorry if this comes across as thread-jacky — I’ve been following the discussion all along, honest, and have been a happy spectator. But I’m guessing that many readers/commenters on this thread would be interested in Ben Alpers’s essay, just posted tonight, on the importance of “content-neutral standards of academic freedom for extramural speech.”

http://s-usih.org/2015/06/academic-freedom-is-important-and-its-not-about-your-political-struggle-at-least-not-directly.html

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John Holbo 06.06.15 at 5:08 am

“House of Games” is great. Although it has some of the stiffest camera work in the history of cinema. I think Mamet attached a ship’s anchor to the camera, dropped it, and pressed record. But it’s still a fun film for the characters and dialogue.

“If the problematic justice of Title IX is the same kind of problematic justice that we see everywhere, then what’s unusual about it?”

I sort of see your point, Rich. Partly the problem is that various justice issues are getting crossed, still. 1) should Kipnis have been investigated? 2) should investigations have this secret, star chamber ‘you do not have the right to know what you are accused of until you have given your answers’ sinister quality? I think we can all answer ‘no’ to 2, while perhaps disagreeing about 1). Also, there is a sense that the university is different, or is supposed to be. It should be an environment in which speech and inquiry is especially free, not elaboratedly hemmed round with restrictions and administrative protocols of silence and conformity. You make the analogy with an ordinary corporations, where you wouldn’t expect to be able to mouth off about the corporation every minute of every day. But everyone expects corporations to be vaguely oppressive hierarchies. You don’t take a job with GloboCorp to live the free life of the mind. But you might take a job with a university in the hopes of doing that. People feel especially disappointed if universities, of all places, are not especially free and open.

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ZM 06.06.15 at 6:47 am

” Also, there is a sense that the university is different, or is supposed to be. It should be an environment in which speech and inquiry is especially free, not elaboratedly hemmed round with restrictions and administrative protocols of silence and conformity.”

I would quibble somewhat with this assertion.

Academic discourse became quite a specific sort of language in the later half of the 20thC, which has specific limits and specific performative language norms (I find older academic writing more accessible and normal in English language usage). You are expected to learn these unwritten discursive norms in your studies and be able to replicate them to some degree. Also, for students speech and inquiry are not free but a matter of disciplining your language and thoughts to engage with and replicate current academic language and research norms, and students’ work is marked on how well they achieve this.

So in the university setting professors who in their work set the academic norms and mark students’ work might experience the university as a place of especially free speech and inquiry – but I think this is not the case for students as the university is a place of becoming disciplined and becoming ready to enter one of the professions, so this is not really essentially a place where speech and inquiry is especially free.

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Val 06.06.15 at 7:19 am

The other point about academic ‘freedom of speech’ is that there is an expectation that academics will write thoughtfully about issues.

I don’t think the Kipnis piece was thoughtful, I think it was glib. I say that from the perspective of someone who has used anti-discrimination and anti-harrassment processes. It can be a pretty gruelling experience, and it is concerned with issues that are important. An academic who wants to criticise these processes should do so thoughtfully and not in a way that makes cheap points at the expense of identifiable students.

In general, whatever you think of these processes, they are an attempt to deal with serious problems. I think on CT there is also some tendency to glibness when talking about these issues – people seem prepared to make judgements about complex processes without fully understanding them – and I suspect that is because they are processes that are predominantly used by women, against men. Call me unfair if you like, but that’s my suspicion.

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Beryl 06.06.15 at 11:17 am

ZM @258,

Needed saying.

261

Rich Puchalsky 06.06.15 at 11:44 am

JH: “Also, there is a sense that the university is different, or is supposed to be.”

Well… “difference”, when it involves more rights than most people get, is usually called something like “privilege”. Of course I think that everyone should be treated more as if they were a tenured professor, and I don’t think that tenured professors should have to give up their privilege by being treated as corporate employees. In the same way, I’d want everyone to be treated as well as white people generally are, rather than “eliminate privilege” by treating everyone as badly as black people are treated in the U.S.

But once you put it that way, you start to see that it’s impossible for our society to treat everyone as if they have the privileges of tenured professors. Or if not impossible in theory, it’s just not going to happen. So the “professors pursued a life of the mind and should get privileges for that” thing is a pretty straightforward meritocratic privilege argument, and straightforwardly leads to a kind of “Twilight of the Elites” analysis. It becomes very problematic when it’s combined with blaming lower-level strivers for making waves for people higher up.

JH: “Partly the problem is that various justice issues are getting crossed, still. 1) should Kipnis have been investigated? 2) should investigations have this secret, star chamber ‘you do not have the right to know what you are accused of until you have given your answers’ sinister quality?”

I’ve focussed on 1) because I really don’t understand how “should Kipnis have been investigated” is a scandal within the precepts of left-liberalism. I’m not a left-liberal, but I was one for most of my adult life, and I don’t think that people who say that the case should have been dismissed uninvestigated are holding up either the principles or the pragmatics of left-liberalism, which depends on offering at least the possibility that some time a less powerful person may be able to use the justice system.

I really think that Omega Centauri @ #134 has a key to a lot of this. “It should be terrifying. Simply look at the numbers; the “powerless” greatly outnumber big bosses, so the odds of running afoul of some sociopathic individual go way up if you include the entire power pyramid, and not just those at the very top. And if you are harmed by someone near the top, you can sue for damages, but win a lawsuit against a powerless person and there is little blood to squeeze out of that turnip.” Call this _Fatal Attraction_ liberalism. What’s really scary? Not the big bosses, what’s really scary is that you may have sex with some woman who turns out to be a “sociopath” and then your life is ruined.

Leaving out the aspect of sexual, sexist terror for now, this is straightforward Hobbes. If you have to consider that you might be (legally) attacked by anyone, then you have to live in fear of everyone, so it’s better to concentrate power and then you have only a few, distant people to keep an eye on and they keep everyone else from hurting you. Is that what contemporary left-liberalism is turning to?

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Lynne 06.06.15 at 1:01 pm

Val @ 259

Kipnis was glib. It seems to be what she does. As for glibness here, well, we’re in a Holbo thread. It’s kind of what he does, too.

I’ve been reading along, and at the beginning I did read various links but now I’ve lost or forgotten the plot: didn’t these students charge the professor through the police/courts, not the university? And the professor was found guilty of sexual assault, at least of one student, right? To me that’s kind of the main point.

Here in Ontario there has just been a court case where a young man was convicted of raping a young woman in the university residence where they both lived. He went into her room when she was sleeping and raped her in January of 2013. Canadian justice being as slow as it is, the case has just come to trial, and he was in fact convicted and sentenced to 18 months in jail. Meanwhile, for the past 2 + years the woman has run into her rapist on campus where they were both still students. Honestly, it is no wonder so few women press charges when they are raped.

That is only tandentially related, but it’s just happened so this post reminded me of it.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.06.15 at 1:02 pm

JH: “2) should investigations have this secret, star chamber ‘you do not have the right to know what you are accused of until you have given your answers’ sinister quality?”

Even for this, look — here’s an article about how this works in another context. People in our society are routinely targeted for drawing the attention of the authorities, who then find a crime to fit. As explained in that article, you can be interviewed by Federal agents and if you say as little as “No, I didn’t” to anything that could be considered to be a crime, you’ve just committed a new crime. In the initial interview the agents don’t explain what they’re going to charge you with, they just see whether you’re going to commit more crimes trying to justify yourself.

In a society in which this happens, “that grad student provided ammo against liberalism” is just … well, it’s not delusional precisely, because anything can be ammo, just as anything can be a crime. But it’s a profound agreement with Dreher even if you don’t think that you’re ceding anything but acknowledgement of what is. You may be acknowledging what is, but you’re hiding from all sorts of other things that also exist.

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Val 06.06.15 at 2:38 pm

Lynne @ 262
Yes the whole episode was very confusing, with so many charges and counter-charges. So one would expect an academic to go through it very carefully and sort out what happened before commenting – rather the opposite of what Kipnis did. For example this:

“Of course, the codes themselves also shape the narratives and emotional climate of professor-student interactions. An undergraduate sued my own university, alleging that a philosophy professor had engaged in “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances” and that the university punished him insufficiently for it. The details that emerged in news reports and legal papers were murky and contested, and the suit was eventually thrown out of court.”

As I understand it, the quoted allegations about the professor had been made previously in a separate case and he had already been penalised. The student’s case against the university was that the case had been poorly handled and the penalties were insufficient. This was the unsuccessful case. It’s not very hard to explain that, but it is certainly is not clear in what Kipnis said. So did Kipnis not bother to understand it, or was she deliberately confusing the issue?

One of the things I find most frustrating in her article is that Kipnis blames students for problems in the laws. In my experience, legal practice requires you to say that you have been hurt, injured etc – you are required to present yourself as a victim. It can be very disempowering, when actually you are just someone seeking justice. However that is not the fault of those who try to use the laws, it is a problem in law and legal convention. That’s where this kind of shallow thinking and readiness to condemn does harm.

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John Holbo 06.06.15 at 3:00 pm

“people seem prepared to make judgements about complex processes without fully understanding them”

“As for glibness here, well, we’re in a Holbo thread. It’s kind of what he does, too.”

The problem with the first statement is that you’ll have a hell of a time getting anyone to deny it. Thus, the problem with the second: everyone agrees that the other side is glib. There’s nothing for it. If you believe someone is wrong, and they are using rhetoric, they probably seem glib.

“JH: “Also, there is a sense that the university is different, or is supposed to be.”

Well… “difference”, when it involves more rights than most people get, is usually called something like “privilege”.”

Perhaps I was unclear. I was just trying to diagnose why people are surprised when this sort of thing happens at a university, but not at a big corporation. As to all the stuff about how it’s silly to worry about profs. as a persecuted class, I quite agree, of course. (I’ve said so before, but if it needs saying again – well, now I’ve said it.)

“In a society in which this happens, “that grad student provided ammo against liberalism” is just … well, it’s not delusional precisely, because anything can be ammo.”

Indeed, since anything can be ammo – especially this sort of thing – I would go even further than saying it’s not delusional precisely. I would say it is, precisely, not delusional.

That’s probably it for for me for the weekend. Play nice!

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Rich Puchalsky 06.06.15 at 3:15 pm

JH: “As to all the stuff about how it’s silly to worry about profs. as a persecuted class, I quite agree, of course. “

But that’s not what I was saying. As far as I can tell, it’s not what anyone was saying.

Here’s the basic problem with liberalism: the people in this thread are supposed to be “the best and the brightest”, according to a phrase memorably used in connection with Vietnam. Yet I wouldn’t trust them as a jury of my peers, if I was ever charged with a crime and my defense was the least bit difficult to explain. I’d have to assume that they would judge according to the usual kind of preconceptions and inability to understand that I see here. Maybe this whole liberal rationality thing just doesn’t work, and the solution is going to have to come via not putting people into hierarchies in which a powerful, centralized state is ready to make life or death decisions based on this kind of BS.

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engels 06.06.15 at 3:20 pm

legal practice requires you to say that you have been hurt, injured etc – you are required to present yourself as a victim. It can be very disempowering, when actually you are just someone seeking justice

Well there is a phrase ‘no harm done’. A legal system in which private parties could take to the civil courts to redress ‘wrongs’ acknowledged not to have injured them or anyone else sounds a bit nightmarish to me. Ymmv.

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AcademicLurker 06.06.15 at 4:24 pm

I don’t think it is very useful to focus on the “glibness” or “unthoughtfulness” or whatnot of Kipnis piece. I read the graduate student’s response over at Daily Nous, and she makes it very clear that she does not think that it would be appropriate to invoke Title IX because a piece was glib or dismissive or expressed loathsome views. In fact she strenuously objects to the fact that the complaint has been publicly characterized that way. The complaint was strictly about some specific misstatements of fact. Whether those misstatements are enough for a Title IX complaint can be argued, but at least the question itself isn’t obviously crazy.

It was a triumph of Kipnis second piece in CHE that it left everyone under the impression that she had been investigated for her trolling rather than for specific false statements.

Rich: if large numbers of people think that invoking federal laws to potentially end someone’s career because you dislike what they wrote* is bad and worth getting outraged about, isn’t that a good thing? I would think that it makes more sense to encourage that sentiment and try to build on it, rather than just tell people that they’re being naive.

*even though that’s not what happened, that’s what many people believe is what happened.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.06.15 at 4:32 pm

AcademicLurker: “if large numbers of people think that invoking federal laws to potentially end someone’s career because you dislike what they wrote* is bad and worth getting outraged about, isn’t that a good thing?”

They’re unable to generalize from particular cases to an overall principle, or otherwise really follow through on a logical chain of thought, and they don’t evaluate evidence. So sure maybe they’re outraged by “invoking federal laws to potentially end someone’s career because you dislike what they wrote”, or maybe they’re outraged by the thought of a lowly grad student challenging their power after they made it to the top of the heap. Who knows? Since they don’t know what happened and are unwilling or unable to figure it out, the fact that they’re outraged about a fiction that tangentially overlaps with some things that I think people should be outraged about is not reassuring.

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bianca steele 06.06.15 at 4:43 pm

Presumably no one’s following the discussion between LFC, Bruce, and others, but my recollection of Skocpol is that you don’t get the big R Revolution until there’s been a complete system collapse, as happened in France, Russia, and China. Put that way, it sounds a bit question-begging, but still helpful. I finally read Hobsbawm not long ago, and of course his explanation is entirely different, and Harrington, if I have the name right, isn’t interested in revolution per se at all. But arguably the growth of royal bureaucracy until it became nearly dysfunctional had something to do it, at least in France.

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geo 06.06.15 at 5:25 pm

Rich, despite considerable sympathy for your overall view, I can’t help feeling that your polemical approach is self-defeating. Why assume that Holbo and everyone who agrees with him don’t feel just as strongly as you do about the evils of the “macrocosm”? That they (we) are just as eager to clean up the whole “garbage dump” as you are?

You might have said something like: “OK, we can all agree that there are some objectionable features of the situation, but by the same reasoning, there are far graver and more extensive injustices happening all around us, which demand our attention even more urgently. Here are some of them; and here’s what I think we should begin to do about them; what do you all think?” Instead you inform us that we’re “unable to generalize from particular cases to an overall principle, or otherwise really follow through on a logical chain of thought” and that we’re only “tangentially” concerned about the “things that I think people should be outraged about.” How exactly do you know this?

In other words, why scold people for not seeing the whole picture, or seeing it and not being angry enough about it, rather than gently reminding them that there is a bigger picture with many of the same features they’re objecting to in this discussion, and maybe even suggesting some possible remedies for it that you’d like their help with? For someone committed to fundamental social change, it seems like an opportunity lost.

I suppose I know why, from my own experience — the urge to correct people is irresistible. So I’m not criticizing you. Just trying to maximize your influence on the world, which would be, from my point of view, an excellent thing.

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geo 06.06.15 at 5:36 pm

@271: In the third sentence, “are just” should be “aren’t just.”

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Rich Puchalsky 06.06.15 at 5:55 pm

geo: “Why assume that Holbo and everyone who agrees with him don’t feel just as strongly as you do about the evils of the “macrocosm”? “

I don’t class everyone together. I wouldn’t say that Holbo is “outraged” by this case, since he doesn’t really perform outrage at this kind of thing. He just is not really figuring out what’s going on. The people who really are outraged by it don’t have as many points of contact between my views and theirs as you might think. It’s kind of like saying that I should try to find common cause with white supremacists because white supremacists are often angry with the police, or for a more historical analogy that the rest of the left were natural allies of the Bolsheviks because they all opposed the old regime.

It’s really not a “there are other injustices that demand our attention more urgently” concern. There’s enough injustice everywhere so that if someone wants to focus just on injustices within academia, they’ve got a life’s work cut out for them and they don’t need to prove sincerity by taking on everything. But are they focussing on actual injustices? If they are, what’s the basic kind of solution they have in mind?

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LFC 06.06.15 at 6:29 pm

bianca s. @270
my recollection of Skocpol is that you don’t get the big R Revolution until there’s been a complete system collapse, as happened in France, Russia, and China. Put that way, it sounds a bit question-begging

It sounds tautological b.c you have (improperly) phrased S’s argument as, pretty much, a tautology, which it is not. Her argument is about the elements that cause “system collapse,” esp. in those particular cases. But this is not a thread about that, so I’m sorry I raised it and we shd discuss this elsewhere. (Or perhaps re-pick up the bk and refresh yr memory of the argument. Which btw I don’t nec. completely endorse.)

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geo 06.06.15 at 6:36 pm

@273: It’s kind of like saying that I should try to find common cause with white supremacists because white supremacists are often angry with the police

But I do think that. I think one should say something like: “Yes, you’re right about the way the police treat you, arrogantly and roughly. I’ll sign your petition/come to your demonstration about that. But look, you don’t seem to care that they treat black people the same way, even worse. Why not? Black people bleed, just like you do.” And hope to go on (admittedly a long way) from there.

I’m not saying you should go out of your way to proselytize them, but if you encounter white supremacists seeking your support against police brutality, you can turn your back on them or shout at them or try to find some feeling or value or principle you share with them and persuade them that if they really mean it, then how can they do some of those other things they do, like …

Similarly, you can tell evangelicals that they’re as benighted as sun worshipers or you can ask them what the person who said all that stuff in Matthew 25 would think about Newt Gingrich or Paul Ryan.

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LFC 06.06.15 at 6:38 pm

bianca:
I finally read Hobsbawm not long ago, and of course his explanation is entirely different

It wd be (I assume you mean ‘The Age of Revolution’) b/c, among other things, they have somewhat different ‘priors’ and are doing different things.

and Harrington, if I have the name right, isn’t interested in revolution per se at all

No idea who or which Harrington you mean here.

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a philosopher 06.06.15 at 7:11 pm

Out of curiosity, JH, has Dreher ever responded to any of your posts on him? I can’t find any evidence that you are even on his radar, which is unfortunate, if that is so.

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Val 06.06.15 at 7:16 pm

@ 267
If you read someone’s argument, and it doesn’t seem to you to make sense, a respectful way of dealing with that is to ask for clarification, don’t you think? Taking the silliest interpretation you can think of, and arguing with that, seems to me point scoring rather than discussion.

Anti discrimination laws exist because of notions of justice, obviously. I live in a society where it is accepted – in theory – that I should not be discriminated against in my career because I am female (or on other prohibited grounds). However, sometimes the law operates as if all I can gain is, say, payment for pain and suffering for a particular injury, rather than fair treatment. (This is sometimes referred to as ‘shut up and go away money’.)

It is a problem with liberal individualism, which inappropriately applies notions of injury between two (theoretically equal) individuals to issues of systemic injustice. I think it likely that the students involved in the case we’re discussing, who are seen by some here as illegitimately trying to suppress ‘free speech’, are actually trying to use the law to fight a system that they see as being against them. Whether that can ever be effective – especially in a country like America, which is strongly based on ideas of liberal individualism – is questionable, but if you understand that’s what they’re trying to do, at least the discussion (on a supposedly left wing site) might be a little less reactionary.

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Bruce Wilder 06.06.15 at 7:21 pm

Rich Puchalsky: They’re unable to generalize from particular cases to an overall principle, or otherwise really follow through on a logical chain of thought, and they don’t evaluate evidence.

Sounds like human beings. You’ve been discussing things with human beings again. Haven’t you been warned about that?

I thought you were great in this discussion, as were Sebastian and several others. Not as many as I would like were willing to fly away to the 18th century, but I don’t take it personally.

Rich Puchalsky: Since they don’t know what happened and are unwilling or unable to figure it out, the fact that they’re outraged about a fiction that tangentially overlaps with some things that I think people should be outraged about is not reassuring.

Speaking of the 18th century, popular opinion about various sensational scandals was common political and cultural fodder. No one knows what “really” happened in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace in some abstract sense of dispositive justice; the confusion of contradictory claims and drama is what made it possible to both focus popular attention and project collective thought. A process was set in motion — better known to anthropologists than to lawyers — that changed the consensus of political culture with profound consequences.

Of course, almost no one remembers the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, so my allusion is useless. But, people know the process well enough, from the Lewinsky Affair, or maybe what’s going on currently with Hastert. In some political subcultures, the Benghazi business has traction. I’m not coming up with great examples (and the Affair of the Diamond Necklace is such a great example — really it is!)

Anyway, my point is that the fiction is what counts here. Culture and meaning are what is in play. Supposedly relating the straight facts is just the trance induction: it’s the fictionalizing, the assigning of meaning and emotional associations (note: attach outrage, here and here) in the suggestions to the unconscious in the stories that follow the trance induction — that’s what counts.

I think you can be very, very good at shouting, “wake up, people!” interrupting the trance to point out creeping authoritarianism in the narrative, isolating and highlighting the little “errors” and omissions that creep in.

There’s great value in that skill that requires talent and purpose. Pay no attention to geo (or pay attention because he’s frequently brilliant); you are never going to be as good at being nice as you are at being an anti-authoritarian polemicist. geo is good at being nice; let him do it. Your talents lie elsewhere.

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bianca steele 06.06.15 at 7:23 pm

LFC,

Harrington, after consultation with my bookshelves, should be Barrington Moore.

I don’t see that they are doing something different. They’re both looking for a sufficient condition for “revolution.” Or rather explaining the one they think they’ve found.

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Bruce Wilder 06.06.15 at 7:52 pm

Val @ 277: It is a problem with liberal individualism, which inappropriately applies notions of injury between two (theoretically equal) individuals to issues of systemic injustice.

Hierarchy, and accountability in hierarchy, is a problem. And, it’s a problem with liberal individualism that the ideology frequently operates without a practical account or acknowledgement of hierarchy, even though facilitating and legitimating functional hierarchy is its main job.

Liberalism says two individuals are morally equal. But, their economic and political relationship is profoundly unequal, for practical reasons. A student is subordinate to the professor; the professor is authorized to teach. They are cooperating in a hierarchical relationship, in which both have power but not symmetric power, a relationship in which they have inherently conflicting interests as well as a stake in benefits each receives from the relationship.

Issues of system injustice have to be pursued in that context of a working hierarchy, and it can be genuinely problematic to empower the subordinate against the superior without upending the hierarchy, just as it is problematic to find ways to hold leaders and superiors accountable.

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bob mcmanus 06.06.15 at 8:54 pm

No idea who or which Harrington you mean here.

Has Michael Harrington been forgotten? Sad.

251: Since the thread is winding down and/or going abstract, I linked to that review cause:

1) It came up early when googling “bourgeois revolutions”
2) It was about the Davidson, which is a prize-winning book I have read
3) !! The reviewer, for whatever he is worth, refers to many other writers (Kautsky, Trotsky) discussed in the Davidson who have nuanced views of the French Revolution.
The question was whether Marxists have simplistic and mistaken views of the FR, cause class analysis. Answer: Umm, not since Marx.
4) I liked this part toward the end, cause it points to my own views:

Mulholland: When revolutionaries talked of ‘religious or constitutional liberties’ this was only a kind of ‘false consciousness’ (pp. 565, 619). In 1640s England, 1790s France, 1860s United States, etc., ‘leaders, consciously or unconsciously, had to mobilize the masses under ultimately deceptive slogans of universal right’ because otherwise workers, peasants etc. would fail to stir themselves simply to swap old feudal oppression for new capitalist exploitation (p. 145):

Davidson: ” In no bourgeois revolution did the revolutionaries ever seek to rally popular forces by proclaiming their intention to establish a new form of exploitative society … but did so by variously raising demands for religious freedom, representative democracy, national independence, and, ultimately, socialist reconstruction …(p. 510)”

5) So, with apologies to Davidson for m failure as reader, and for a very rough crude first pass, the French Revolution and other “bourgeois revolutions” (very arguable) even each instance should be analyzed separately might follow a pattern of
a) energized at the bottom; populism; cannon fodder in bourgeois revs
b) co-opted by the managerial class, the petty b, lawyers, teachers, etc by means of identity politics and universalisms
c) exploited by the property owning class, because political revolutions, to which the liberals will always devolve social and economic revolutions, can do nothing else. They will not let you vote away their wealth.

6) So this goes a little way toward explaining my anti-identity politics, which in the Manifesto includes marriage and family. Certainly nationalism. The question can be about “false consciousness,” which Foucault dealt with, but I am becoming convinced that the so- called social liberals are pretty damn conscious of just wanting to replace current exploiters and oppressors with themselves.

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LFC 06.06.15 at 10:09 pm

mcmanus
Has Michael Harrington been forgotten? Sad.

That’s funny, bob. As if you ever cared a whit about Michael Harrington. It was pretty obvious from the context that bianca meant someone else, as she has now confirmed.

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LFC 06.06.15 at 10:21 pm

Viz., she meant Moore’s Social Origins (see her 279).

We’re getting all mixed up here. Moore was Skocpol’s teacher. Moore was a sociologist, Skocpol is one (and a pol. scientist). Their books, the two referenced here I mean, are different, but in the same rough general universe of discourse (or so it cd be plausibly argued). Hobsbawm (Age of Revolution), on the other hand, I think is doing something different, i.e., basically Marxist-tinged narrative history, not social science. I’ve read the three bks we’re batting about here (even wrote a post about Moore a while ago), but in some cases it’s been a long time (in some cases a very long time), so not in gear for a big discussion. Plus it’s the weekend.

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Val 06.06.15 at 10:42 pm

@281
Hands up all the feminists who are trying to oppress bob by identity politics ✋

286

Val 06.06.15 at 11:09 pm

@ 282
I didn’t really mean that as a ‘talk to the hand’ … although I knew it might look a little that way … but why don’t you sometime try to explain what you mean by your use of the term ‘identity politics’ instead of using it as a general catch-all for people you don’t approve of?

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Val 06.06.15 at 11:11 pm

Sorry last was meant for bob @281 again, not 282.

Anyway since it’s ending – why do I get the feeling everyone who commented on this thread has been trolled by John Holbo?

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john c. halasz 06.06.15 at 11:30 pm

@286:

Er, because that’s what he does. Have you noticed that he’s the “comment count” champion here on CT? It’s a combination of his choice of targets, what I’ve called “actual straw men arguments”, since why would anyone want to read them or take them “seriously”, and his own obtuseness.

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LFC 06.06.15 at 11:32 pm

Half-read half-skimmed the Mulholland review of that Davidson book linked by mcmanus. Mulholland rhapsodizes about how well-read Davidson is, how erudite, etc. Then toward the end there is this:

Davidson – not very convincingly – sees all communist seizures of power (except Russia 1917) as instances of bourgeois revolution. The last bourgeois revolutions, therefore, were in 1973–5: the Communist ‘Derg’ coup in Ethiopia, US defeat in Indochina, and decolonisation of the Portuguese Empire (p. 621).

This surely stretches the concept of bourgeois revolution far beyond breaking point. Such ideologically disparate movements cannot be grouped in this way.

Um, yes.

(p.s. The reason Skocpol is worth reading, IMHO, however much it’s been criticized for excessive ‘structuralism’ and various other perceived flaws, is that combines an attention to the role of classes (incl the peasantry and the dominant classes) with a focus on the state (and its apparatus and officials) as a partly autonomous actor, caught between domestic pressures of various kinds and outside pressures generated by geopolitical competition. [McManus might actually like (?), for a change, reading something not wrapped in the theoretical clothes of Trotsky, Kautsky, Lenin, plus Losurdo or whatever other post-something Marxists he is currently favoring.])

290

bianca steele 06.07.15 at 12:56 am

LFC,

Not sure you’re serious. Hobsbawm rather frequently makes theoretical assertions to the effect that this event or that helped or hindered the chances for revolution.

291

John Holbo 06.07.15 at 1:35 am

“Why assume that Holbo and everyone who agrees with him don’t feel just as strongly as you do about the evils of the “macrocosm”?”

I don’t have time to contribute today, but I must confess a more than passing curiosity on this point myself.

292

LFC 06.07.15 at 2:07 am

bianca @290
well, sounds like you have read H. much more recently than I have. For now I’ll leave it at that. There are a lot of interesting issues lurking here, but I don’t think we’ll get a CT post on them b.c they don’t really fall squarely into the bailiwicks of the front-page posters. However, who knows…

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Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 2:40 am

JH: “I don’t have time to contribute today, but I must confess a more than passing curiosity on this point myself.”

Look, with all due respect to geo and everyone — Bruce Wilder’s “you’ve been discussing things with human beings again. Haven’t you been warned about that?” cheered me up slightly — this is a misreading of what I wrote. I didn’t write that other people don’t feel strongly about injustice. I most especially didn’t write that academic injustice isn’t important because of greater injustice elsewhere, especially since I specifically wrote that I didn’t mean that in my initial comment about it and in every one after that. In fairness to geo, he did write “why scold people for not seeing the whole picture” which comes much closer.

What did I ask people to accept because of this argument? I wrote this: “If the problematic justice of Title IX is the same kind of problematic justice that we see everywhere, then what’s unusual about it? Don’t we then have to accept that our system, whatever its ideals are, in actuality produces this kind of “justice” everywhere?”

I also wrote this: “But it’s a profound agreement with Dreher [treating filing the complaint as ammo against liberalism] even if you don’t think that you’re ceding anything but acknowledgement of what is. You may be acknowledging what is, but you’re hiding from all sorts of other things that also exist.”

That’s saying that the injustices within Title IX are a *typical* result of our system. The reason why I brought up the drone assassinations and the black people shot by police and all the rest wasn’t to derail concern from supposedly less important to more important things, it was to say that obvious infringements of what we think of as basic justice happen systematically in every area from the top to the bottom.

Now, once again, I’m not saying that there’s necessarily anything wrong with being concerned about academia. But when the same kinds of injustices are happening everywhere, and when you go out of our way to find the one that’s caused by the least powerful person capable of them, that’s a conservative mode of thought. Not liberal. When you say “You stole the bread!” that’s a true statement if you point at someone who just stole some bread, as Holbo has written over and over now. If they stole the bread because their family had been systematically starved and there was nothing else they could do, and you don’t want to look at that, then that truth becomes something very like falsehood.

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John Holbo 06.07.15 at 2:48 am

“The reason why I brought up the drone assassinations and the black people shot by police and all the rest wasn’t to derail concern from supposedly less important to more important things, it was to say that obvious infringements of what we think of as basic justice happen systematically in every area from the top to the bottom.”

And the reason why I asked you why you thought I was ignorant of all this obvious stuff was that I was curious why you thought I was ignorant of all this obvious stuff.

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John Holbo 06.07.15 at 3:02 am

OK, I swear I’m going away this time. Other things to do. But, Rich, I think you are conflating two things: statements of all the things you think I am appallingly ignorant of; statements of why you think I am appallingly ignorant of those things. You are light in the latter department, to my eyes.

I give you the last word on the subject. And anyone else who wants one.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 4:18 am

“And the reason why I asked you why you thought I was ignorant of all this obvious stuff was that I was curious why you thought I was ignorant of all this obvious stuff.”

The phrase I used was “hiding from”, I believe — you know of all of this stuff, but you are careful not to draw any conclusions from it. I assume that you don’t want to face up to what’s going on because you don’t want to admit to yourself that your favored politics are a failure. Because really if a grad student filing a complaint that has no lasting result provides ammo against liberalism, but the drone program and our police practices don’t provide ammo against liberalism, then all you’re doing is letting Dreher define what words mean.

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John Holbo 06.07.15 at 4:45 am

“but the drone program and our police practices don’t provide ammo against liberalism”

Oh, I think they do. Obviously. So maybe we can agree to agree, after all.

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Watson Ladd 06.07.15 at 5:14 am

But the question really has to be what is liberalism? And if you take John Stuart Mill and Benjamin Constant to be the inheritors of liberalism, then the graduate student filing the complaint based on what people say isn’t part of liberalism, but a crisis in liberalism. Drone strikes are likewise the failure of liberalism in the Arab world to deal death to the Taliban. And Laura Kipnis, by insisting that women can participate in sexual relations in the same way men can, is perhaps more liberal than most of her detractors. Likewise, police brutality is clearly illiberal.

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John Holbo 06.07.15 at 5:56 am

“But the question really has to be what is liberalism?”

Yes. But I accept that anything illiberal done in the name of ‘liberalism’ will tend to drag the name of ‘liberalism’ into disrepute. You are right that very different sorts of liberalism are in question, but the point stands for all of them. Betraying your principles is bad for your principles.

I’m not doing a very good job of stepping away from this thread.

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ZM 06.07.15 at 6:14 am

“Yes. But I accept that anything illiberal done in the name of ‘liberalism’ will tend to drag the name of ‘liberalism’ into disrepute. “

This is because you are American and Americans somehow managed to develop an odd notion of liberalism being to the left on the political spectrum due to you not getting a Labour Party for some reason. For us poor Australians this has meant we have two opposing notions of liberalism which we colloquially differentiate between in sole have by saying big L liberalism and small l liberalism.

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ZM 06.07.15 at 6:18 am

differentiate between in spoken language by saying big L liberalism and small l liberalism.

One day I will learn to proofread.

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Sebastian H 06.07.15 at 10:09 am

I’m not sure I remember where I first heard the term, but some of the Title IX fiasco seems related to what I’ve seen called ‘weaponized’ law. It is what happens when you take a law or body of law and remove context and all the regular informal checks so that it can be used to further aims that there is no way you could have ever gotten through a majoritarian legislature if you had identified them. The other side of a weaponized law tends to first see the weaponization as an abuse of power, and then later picks up the weapon to use for its own purposes.

One of the key ways weaponized law plays out is through an amping up of what we might normally think of as trivial injuries. So in this example you take a legal concept like ‘retaliation’ which in the normal employment law definition means a concrete harm directed against a particular person to get back at them for some particular action. (E.g. firing someone, demoting them, assaulting them). The Title IX weaponized version expands that to third parties who were not any part of the underlying sexual misconduct, and the injury to anyone who might be subjectively psychically bothered to any small degree by an allusion to the misconduct.

If you tried to write a law that specifically authorized that, it wouldn’t pass. But with very expansive definitions of ‘retaliation’, you can get there.

Interestingly, this may be a much better way of looking at the problems of liberalism than anything Dreher talked about. The law is always an area of serious contention. How do you keep various sides from weaponizing the law? How do you reverse the weaponization of the law? Do you have to abandon a law once it gets weaponized?

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Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 10:53 am

The “weaponized law” concept is a lot like the “militarized police” concept: they both describe real things, and they both seem to me to be substitute topics that are adopted as concerns largely because the underlying problems are even more intractable. For militarized police, it’s scary for the middle class to imagine cops with military weapons, but none of the recent numerous incidents of black people killed by police with impunity had anything to do with it. Instead they have to do with American society being based around being able to kill black people with impunity. With weaponized law, it’s scary for the middle class to imagine new categories of law that empower the _Fatal Attraction_ stalker that lives in their heads, but the old laws that were not voted in by any living legislature work in the same way,, and pretty much always have. The only difference is that there were “regular informal checks” that protected white male people, and now those are in question.

I also question whether these acts can be defined as “illiberal”. They are against liberal ideals, certainly, but the point I was making above is that they are universal in liberal practice.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 11:41 am

JH: “Oh, I think they do. Obviously. So maybe we can agree to agree, after all.”

If you think that they do, then you really are doing what I said you were doing. I never said that academia wasn’t important because it was small, or that injustices within it weren’t important because academics are in some ways a privileged class, or that people always must concern themselves with the worst injustices going on at any one time. I said that if you know and accept that injustices of the same kind are going on everywhere, and you seek out those that are being committed by the people with the least power and criticize those preferentially, you have adopted important elements of a conservative worldview. You are “agreeing with Dreher” not about trivial matters of fact, such as the matter of fact that anything that a conservative treats as ammo in some sense becomes ammo, but about the basic way in which you look at society.

If people still can’t understand what I plainly wrote above, it’s your problem not mine.

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magistra 06.07.15 at 11:48 am

Rich@303 I also question whether these acts can be defined as “illiberal”. They are against liberal ideals, certainly, but the point I was making above is that they are universal in liberal practice.

Do you mean universal in liberal practice in the US or in the world? Militarized police are substntially less of a problem in the UK (although there is movement along the same path towards some militarization). “Weaponized law” is a technique that has always existed in Britain (such as the charge of behaviour liable to commit a breach of the peace) or the use of ASBOs; British liberals have generally opposed such measures.

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kidneystones 06.07.15 at 12:49 pm

@ 304
“If people still can’t understand what I plainly wrote above, it’s your problem not mine.”
How is it JH’s problem if people still can’t understand what you plainly wrote?

@303 Your assertion that American society is based around being able to kill black people with impunity is easily the most offensive distortion I’ve read in a while. You can argue that white cops kill a far greater number of black males than white males and that a percantate of these killings are unjustified. but to suggest that Americans as a society believe that killing anybody with impunity is the norm is so grotesque a distortion to render your initial observation re: cops virtually meaningless. Reynolds and the libertarian right spend a great deal of energy arguing for cameras on all cops and for far greater supervision and punishments for cops. And that’s just those on the right. Racism is an ugly fact of life in all societies. But to suggest that Americans as a whole believe black people can/should be killed with impunity is indefensible.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 1:56 pm

kidneystones: “to suggest that Americans as a society believe that killing anybody with impunity is the norm is so grotesque a distortion to render your initial observation re: cops virtually meaningless”

Textbook case of aggressive inability to read.

The other one could be a problem with pronoun mismatch, though. I’ll rewrite it:

“If someone still can’t understand what I plainly wrote above, it’s that person’s problem not mine.”

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bianca steele 06.07.15 at 2:05 pm

I also appreciate Sebastian’s contributions re. the definitions promoted by the Title IX statute. In the context of the discussion of liberalism, though, I think possibly, especially for people my age or older, and not inculcated with the idea of discipline-specific discourses as ZM’s generation has been, many people (not lawyers, obviously, or most conventionally educated engineers) will just see the need for special definitions as itself he problem. They know what “retaliation” means, and if the law says otherwise, that only proves the need for drastic reform.

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bianca steele 06.07.15 at 2:06 pm

s.b. “itself the problem” though some feminist philosophy might have something to say about it too, I suppose

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AcademicLurker 06.07.15 at 2:35 pm

Rich@304: I’m not sure that “who’s more powerful” is enough all by itself.

If the graduate student had responded to the first CHE piece by firebombing Kipnis’ house, it would still be the case that the graduate student holds less institutional power than a tenured professor, it would also be the case that more powerful actors elsewhere are also doing bad things, but I don’t think we would therefore conclude that we shouldn’t condemn the student’s action.

Whether a Title IX complaint was a proportionate response to the perceived injury is part of what is at issue (after learning more about what actually went down, I’m personally inclined the think that the complaint was a mistake, but not as disproportionate a response as the initial spate of outraged news articles made it out to be).

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Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 3:06 pm

AcademicLurker: “If the graduate student had responded to the first CHE piece by firebombing Kipnis’ house, it would still be the case that the graduate student holds less institutional power than a tenured professor, it would also be the case that more powerful actors elsewhere are also doing bad things, but I don’t think we would therefore conclude that we shouldn’t condemn the student’s action.”

If all the post was about was whether to condemn the individual student’s action or not, then sure, all we’d have to do is consider that action. Then it would be a matter of acknowledging that the student was trying to get the op-ed to include her side of the story, not trying to get someone fired, and considering whether this was a good thing to do.

But the post isn’t just about that. It’s also about Enlightenment liberalism and about what counts as ammo against liberalism. In that case, it’s really very relevant to point that police are firebombing people’s houses all the time (if they are). If the police firebombed 1000 houses and some student firebombed one, that doesn’t make an individual firebombing a good thing, but it does mean that if you’re looking for general social causes of problems, you are purposefully looking to blame them on less powerful people rather than more powerful people, even when the evidence indicates otherwise.

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John Holbo 06.07.15 at 3:20 pm

“I said that if you know and accept that injustices of the same kind are going on everywhere, and you seek out those that are being committed by the people with the least power and criticize those preferentially, you have adopted important elements of a conservative worldview.”

Well, I think I’m in the clear then.

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AcademicLurker 06.07.15 at 3:21 pm

311: Fair enough. I confess I skipped the Enlightenment Liberalism part of the thread and just skimmed over the excerpts from Dreher, because I generally don’t think that that sort of “Gosh, isn’t it a shame that modernity happened?” wankery deserves the time of day.*

If we step down from those lofty philosophical heights, it is unquestionably the case that “The left will ride roughshod over due process to suppress speech they don’t like” has been one of the right’s most durable talking points. It’s in a much more robust state of health than other old standbys like “We really hate gay people and so should you”, which isn’t doing too well these days. To the extent that this whole thing may lead otherwise reasonable people to think that the right’s talking point has a basis in reality, that’s bad. I think the blame falls on the media framing (and, of course, the calvinball manner in which universities conduct these kind of investigations) rather than on the student.

*I’m not complaining that Holbo chooses to argue against it, it’s just not my thing.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 3:33 pm

JH: “Well, I think I’m in the clear then.”

I don’t think so. Your posts about politics are about right wing concerns. But wait — I assume that you’ll object — you want to criticize Dreher, so you naturally have to talk about what he talks about. So you have start with the scandal of the student filing a retaliation claim that got dismissed. But there’s no reason why you can’t say the same thing about Dreher’s focus that I said about yours. You could write something like “In a country in which [drone strikes / I’d tell them to torture again / “I can’t breathe” / indict the ham sandwich ] , picking out this incident as ammo against liberalism is a ridiculous misdirection, intended to put blame on the least powerful.” Instead you wrote “Congratulations to all involved for providing the anti-PC brigade with such high-quality ammo!” You’ve looked too long into Dreher, and now Dreher is looking out of you.

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John Holbo 06.07.15 at 3:37 pm

Rich, why do you think I said in the post that I didn’t want to talk about the Kipnis case?

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Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 3:56 pm

Why did you say that you didn’t want to talk about it, when the word “Kipnis” is mentioned in 6 out of 12 paragraphs (not counting quotes) in your post?

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John Holbo 06.07.15 at 4:01 pm

Yes.

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John Holbo 06.07.15 at 4:03 pm

Let me rephrase that: why do you think I thought it would be sufficient to say something relatively obvious about the Kipnis case – namely, the right-wing would make hay out of it – and leave it at that?

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Vasilis Vassalos 06.07.15 at 4:05 pm

“An individual brought a case under Title IX, and that decision to pursue the case provided ammo against liberalism” is true in this case.”

Admonishing people may not be wrong, but choosing to admonish them, choosing to pick on the weak as the ones that should change their behavior, says something about your point of view, your priorities and eventually your “side”.

Rich is right.

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John Holbo 06.07.15 at 4:34 pm

Well, let the record show: Rich was the one who wanted to talk about the case and I was the one who suggested it was better to state the obvious and move on. My reason: I don’t think it’s particularly helpful to fuel an erroneous sense that the powerful are extra persecuted.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 4:57 pm

I wanted to talk about the case because I thought that you were not representing the facts of the case adequately. Since you’d brought it up, I thought it was worthwhile to get those facts correct.

But the difference between my dismissal of the overall importance of the case and yours in the reason why your argument doesn’t work. You wrote this in the OP: “If the very very worst were true about the Kipnis case – namely, enforced orthodoxy, to rule out ‘wrongthink’ – then the best would be achieved, by Dreher’s lights: orthodoxy, keeping out wrong-thinking!” Then you say that Dreher would presumably explain that the difference is that his orthodoxy is right and liberal orthodoxy is wrong. Then there’s some confused rhetoric about why that isn’t a perfectly good answer, from his point of view — at least, I don’t see any reason why it isn’t a perfectly good answer. It’s not like there’s only one orthodoxy in the world and if you support one you’ve got to support them all.

So you are hinging your argument around the Kipnis case. But if you read his original post about it, it’s not about orthodoxy. It’s about power reversal:

Better not to teach it at all than to risk blowing up your career by offending a kid. A kid!

Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… a horrible overturning of the natural order. Parents tell kids what to do so of course this grad student should just shut up. There’s a reason why I’ve gone on and on about picking the least powerful person to blame for a problem.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.07.15 at 5:57 pm

Oops. Should be: “But the difference between my dismissal of the overall importance of the case and yours *is* the reason why your argument doesn’t work.”

Anyone who can’t understand what I write because I type quickly and don’t proofread has my sympathy and can consider themselves exempt from any criticism on those grounds.

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geo 06.07.15 at 7:29 pm

ZM@300: big L liberalism and small l liberalism

Do you sneaky Australians also try to distinguish between big C Communism and small c communism? You do? Well then, you’re apologists for mass murder!

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engels 06.07.15 at 8:53 pm

Je dis bien communiste et pas socialiste, car tout le monde peut être socialiste, Bill Gates peut être socialiste. Socialiste, ça veut dire oui, mon Dieu, il y a des gens qui souffrent, il faut les aider, il faut être solidaire, il faut de l’humanitaire, blablabla… Mais ce n’est pas le problème. Le problème est celui de la résistance contre le capitalisme global. Ce qui spécifie le communisme, c’est l’universalité.

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Bruce Wilder 06.07.15 at 9:26 pm

Sebastian H @ 302

Excellent comment and excellent questions.

Liberalism has been remarkably successful in selling ideals as standards, by wrapping up seemingly simple principles in shiny bon mots, but once the bow is untied and the wrapping paper comes off, what’s in the box can be like the toy that breaks on Xmas morning the first time your kid plays with it. And, no one seems to be willing to honor a warranty on boxing day.

In real life, institutions of control and arbitration have to be able to hold up, at least for a good while, under the wear and tear of being used strategically in the contest of opposed interests. Criminals will conceal their crimes, and will do so with a mastery of the same technologies available to law enforcement. It’s not ultimately satisfactory, if the only criminals you can catch and punish are the poor and stupid ones, though that does tend to be the bias. Any rights you accord to the target of investigation or prosecution become barriers to expedience, and the temptation will be to introduce new expedience. In principle, equitable arbitration must be a public good, but public goods cost real resources and must be financed even if they are offered without price; disputes can easily be contrived to continue and expand without limit, particularly with the connivance of paid advocates. Even if the ideal system doesn’t break down by boxing day, it will wear down, as the contestants adapt and innovate, and make no mistake, all the contestants will be inventive, the police and prosecutors, and very often they will carry the judges and legislators with them.

Rich has been making the point that the great array of liberal ideals strewn about the landscape of American law are mostly worn and broken, and “believing in” liberal ideals serves mostly the cause of hiding from one’s self the knowledge of actual practice, of not hearing while we listen involuntarily to the dull roar of routine cruelty and injustice.

In my view, modern liberalism is very weak, because it lacks the resources to do the job of intelligent criticism and practical innovation, to enable periodic reform and renovation of a powerful state. Deeply troubling to me is how little consciousness there is that this is a problem.

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engels 06.07.15 at 9:27 pm

(Zizek comments in reference to C/communism, admittedly not really relevant to the main discussion- sorry)

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Val 06.07.15 at 10:21 pm

@ 318
You didn’t just say the right wing would make hay of it. You said this as well
“Dreher finds all this ‘chilling’, stunning’ and ‘scary as hell’. I agree that it was very, very bad…”

Young women make complaint about op-ed! The world (as Rich says) is falling to pieces. Middle aged professors can’t sleep in their beds at night for fear.

328

geo 06.07.15 at 10:25 pm

Moi, je suis blablablaiste.

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Val 06.07.15 at 10:29 pm

@318
Also I’d like to support and extend what ZM said above. Students are expected to write to certain standards and if they don’t, professors can fail them. But these students couldn’t even get Kipnis to write accurately about an issue that concerned one of them directly, and yet a journal published her work. Don’t you think there’s a power imbalance there?

WHY do think these students got frustrated? Do you think that in the great order of things, young women should know their place, but these young women were unnatural? Or might it be that they get sick of people with more power, like Kipnis and your very self, sounding off publicly about how terrible they are without even knowing the facts of the case?

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engels 06.07.15 at 11:04 pm

So what does identity politics have to do with the Left? Let me state firmly what should not need restating. The political project of the Left is universalist: it is for all human beings. However we interpret the words, it isn’t liberty for shareholders or blacks, but for everybody. It isn’t equality for all members of the Garrick Club or the handicapped, but for everybody. It is not fraternity only for old Etonians or gays, but for everybody. And identity politics is essentially not for everybody but for the members of a specific group only. This is perfectly evident in the case of ethnic or nationalist movements. Zionist Jewish nationalism, whether we sympathize with it or not, is exclusively about Jews, and hang — or rather bomb — the rest. All nationalisms are. The nationalist claim that they are for everyone’s right to self-determination is bogus.

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Val 06.07.15 at 11:15 pm

Engels @330
I don’t – obviously – understand exactly what people here, like bob McManus, are talking about when they use the term “identity politics”, however I don’t think the term refers, or was originally meant to refer, to nationalism, does it? I thought it was a new term for what used to be called liberation politics – ie liberation of oppressed groups like women, people of colour and colonised peoples.

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John Holbo 06.07.15 at 11:25 pm

“I wanted to talk about the case because I thought that you were not representing the facts of the case adequately. Since you’d brought it up, I thought it was worthwhile to get those facts correct.”

Don’t change the subject, Rich. I know why YOU want to talk about the case: namely, you are confused by and about it (in my opinion.) That’s fine. I believe you came by this confusion honestly, albeit unfortunately, so I’m not accusing you of being a conservative, just because you want to discuss the case. I was merely pointing out that since your charge against me hinges on the fact that I was eager to discuss the case, the case collapses, due to me not being eager to discuss the case.

I’ll quote you again:

“I said that if you know and accept that injustices of the same kind are going on everywhere, and you seek out those that are being committed by the people with the least power and criticize those preferentially, you have adopted important elements of a conservative worldview.”

As I said, I’m in the clear, at least concerning the present case. As to the Dreher stuff.

“But if you read his original post about it, it’s not about orthodoxy. It’s about power reversal:”

Oh, yes, most definitely.

333

John Holbo 06.07.15 at 11:36 pm

Val: “You didn’t just say the right wing would make hay of it. You said … it was very, very bad…”

Yes. First, because the right-wing will use it as high-quality ammo. Title IX isn’t some eternal, unchangeable thing. If it loses public support, Republicans could kill it, claiming it leads to all this stuff that sounds bad. That would be bad. Second, I don’t think the complaint had prima facie merit (see above), and – even the complainant herself agrees with this – the investigation of Kipnis had an unfortunate, star-chamber quality.

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Val 06.07.15 at 11:45 pm

And following my last comment, your example of Zionism and Israel does illustrate that people who are oppressed because of their cultural-religious identity can also become oppressors. But my argument is that that demonstrates the persistence of patriarchal structures rather than something wrong with the ideals of liberation and equality.

I just gave my definition of patriarchy on the other thread, so I will cut and paste here, because I think it is more specific than most people’s would be:

patriarchy – in my definition, historical persistence, predating modern capitalism, of hierarchical male dominated systems of institutionalised inequality and exploitation of subordinate groups, ie corporations today, kingdoms in the past.

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Val 06.08.15 at 12:11 am

Sorry my last comment was following up my reply to engels – cross posted with JH.

JH @ 333 – my point was that you quoted the ridiculously over-hyped comments from Dreher and then said “I agree it was very, very bad”. So maybe you are suggesting ‘well it’s maybe not “scary as hell” but it is very, very bad’. That’s reading you charitably. It’s an endorsement, whatever way you look at it.

And as the later more careful discussion has shown, this is an argument about complex issues of injury, power and redress. It is not simply about a “very, very bad” act by young female students, or even by university administrators. Why you – apparently – would think it is ok for university professors to write inaccurate articles slagging off identifiable students escapes me.

i do get the feeling you say those things partly to provoke a reaction, but you could be encouraging the right wing feeding frenzy yourself, don’t you think? I enjoy these discussions but I do wonder if they serve any purpose sometimes :)

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bob mcmanus 06.08.15 at 12:54 am

engels at 221 does good, but maybe let me try again, at some kind of level of praxis

“Problem is patriarchy.” Does that mean the solution is putting women in charge?

I am kinda ok with that, really I am, but I have an important caveat. Does that mean putting Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi (you’re Aussie, she is a multi-millionaire pushing TPP right now), the Walton (Walmart) heiresses at the top? Will that increase equality and end patriarchal exploitation, in itself? Honest question.

Here is where intersectionality bites both ways, and why I don’t trust you.

You wouldn’t trust me if I have racists, sexists, homphobes at the top of my Marxian classist movement and rightly so. You would expect me to critique and criticize and ostracize such revanchist elements in my Marxist movement. To attack forcefully within my own movement. And rightly so.

But you expect me to trust you, the feminist movement, when you claim it is for all women, including women CEO’s, millionaire actresses, women generals, drone operators, old money, women torturers, and you explicitly and openly refuse to attack rich and powerful women, solely on the ground that they are women. In the name of solidarity. Leaving aside the practical that if you let Clinton, Pelosi, and the Waltons into the movement, the meeting room, they will soon buy and own it.

I may have assholes in the Marxian/socialist movement, but we work hard to make sure that al least they aren’t rich and powerful assholes.

The only conclusion I can come to is that you are ok fine with inequality and exploitation, you just want to change the gender of the exploiters. Old politics.

Or else you subscribe to an indefensible essentialism.

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John Holbo 06.08.15 at 1:28 am

“my point was that you quoted the ridiculously over-hyped comments from Dreher and then said “I agree it was very, very bad”.

That’s because I think it was, indeed, very, very bad. I’ve made my case. You can accept it or not. But my reason for stating the badness, as I see it, is that I think I see the badness, as I state it.

“Why you – apparently – would think it is ok for university professors to write inaccurate articles slagging off identifiable students escapes me. “

I don’t think it’s ‘ok’, in the sense of ‘good’. It’s just not a prima facie Title IX violation.

“And as the later more careful discussion has shown, this is an argument about complex issues of injury, power and redress.”

I don’t deny that the discussion has been interesting, even though I didn’t want to start it, since I think fussing over these things fuels the right-wing outrage engine and I don’t want to do that. I would have preferred to pull the band-aid off quickly, as it were. Rich wanted to do it one hair at a time, however, so here we still are.

Then again, pulling/splitting hairs is not a wholly unrewarding activity.

I’ve learned from it. I hope you have, too. In some ways, I’ve changed my mind. I still think this sort of case shouldn’t pass the prima facie test but, per #244, I came to realize I was jerking my ‘academic freedom’ knee somewhat. Rich is saying a lot of silly things, I think, but I try to learn from him when he takes a break from that and makes intermittent sense. I’ve honestly tried to correct for my errors as I go.

In some ways, the case is worse than it at first appeared, I think. You yourself linked that piece by the complainant, in which she/he effectively expresses indifference to the question of whether his/her case had legal (as opposed to moral) merit to begin with. That’s bad. As Sebastian says, if Title IX becomes a weapon by which people try to silence anyone they think is saying something immoral, that’s bad in itself, and bad in its likely knock-on effects. It puts the legitimate, core functions of Title IX at risk.

“i do get the feeling you say those things partly to provoke a reaction, but you could be encouraging the right wing feeding frenzy yourself, don’t you think?”

The thread did not go the way I intended. If anyone thinks I planned for a long Kipnis discussion, to warm the cockles of Rod Dreher’s heart, I did not.

As to my motive in mentioning the case at all: well, I’m a feminist. This is not to say that you are not. Or that Rich is not. It’s just that Rich’s assessment of my motives is, in my opinion, undermotivated. He thinks I am in secret alliance with Dreher, otherwise I wouldn’t agree with him about anything. What can I say? Read this Amanda Marcotte piece at TPM.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/good-work-laura-kipnis-critics-you-made-your-enemy-a-martyr

You may disagree with Marcotte’s reasoning but I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that she is only writing this because she wants to make feminism look bad in general. She isn’t some sleeper agent of the WSJ editorial page, activated last week to undermine the movement from within when she writes “it’s becoming clear that a handful of overwrought feminists may do what a million Wall Street Journal editorials could not, which is destroy all the good work that is being done using Title IX to combat rape and sexual abuse on campus.”

Either she’s right or she’s wrong. (Her piece is a bit polemical, yes.) But the way to argue it is not to question her feminist motives. She is saying it this a mistake because she thinks it was a mistake. She is motivated by a concern for feminism.

Now there is something rather ironic here, insofar as Kipnis says the same. She is only concerned about feminism! And Amanda Marcotte laughs at her. Well, what can I say? Sometimes people make phoney ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ criticisms of what feminists do, and sometimes real ones. If you simply must believe than I am one of the phoney ones, fine – it’s your mind. You can do with it what you like with it. But do be aware than Marcotte is saying the same thing I am. Marcotte doesn’t seem like a total Rod Dreher tool to me. So you might as well treat my criticisms as serious, even if you don’t think I’m serious in the least.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.08.15 at 1:38 am

JH: “He thinks I am in secret alliance with Dreher, otherwise I wouldn’t agree with him about anything”

I thought that you’d recognize the Nietzsche quote, given that you’ve studied him. (“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.”) When I wrote “You’ve looked too long into Dreher, and now Dreher is looking out of you”, I didn’t mean that you’re in a secret alliance with Dreher. I meant that in the process of reading him and trying to make sense out of his nonsense you’ve internalized some of his worldview.

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John Holbo 06.08.15 at 1:39 am

Oh, I recognized the Nietzsche quote, since I’ve studied him.

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John Holbo 06.08.15 at 1:43 am

I just think it’s a mistake to think that agreement with Dreher about this means I’ve internalized his worldview, to a toxic degree.

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Val 06.08.15 at 1:48 am

Bob @ 336
I think if you had read my definition of patriarchy, you would have realised that”s not what I’m saying. I would like to see much more egalitarian societies and my study is intended to contribute to that. However in existing structures, I would like to see more women in positions of power. There is research showing that societies with more women in public positions have made more progress on environmental issues, for example. You don’t have to essentialist to believe women will make a difference, you can do it on empirical grounds (as above) or on historical grounds – patriarchy relegated caring work to a subordinate sphere, to be done by women and subordinate/slave peoples, but it actually that caring work which provides the basis for more egalitarian and sustainable societies.

I seriously suggest do some reading of contemporary ecofeminist theory – the discussion has moved on beyond those ‘feminism vs marxism’ or ‘essentialism vs social theory’ debates, which are pretty simplistic really.

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Val 06.08.15 at 2:02 am

JH @ 337
I think I have learnt some things from the discussion, but I don’t think my position has changed. That’s not because I’m inflexible but because I already knew something about this, from reading Feminist Philosophers and Daily Nous. I prefer their position and I would recommend it to you. I don’t think the complainants made the complaint in the frivolous way you suggest either. Maybe you should put yourself in their position – what would you do? I suggest your chances of getting an apology or other redress from Kipnis or the journal by other than legal means is zero, frankly.

I accept that you genuinely see yourself as a feminist, but I’m sure that you’ve never actually tried to use the system to get redress for discrimination or harrassment. It’s not fun for anybody, and it certainly isn’t fun for complainants. I spent two years of my life going through an anti-discrimination process as a complainant, and it was really hellish. The number of times you get lawyers accusing you of being frivolous, deceitful, etc etc in the process is really very hard to take. To go through that and then have some so-called feminist professor making ill-informed attacks on you in a journal would be pretty hard to take.

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LFC 06.08.15 at 2:27 am

That Zizek quote at 324 is … pretty bad, imo. (Ok, carry on.)

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ZM 06.08.15 at 2:42 am

geo,

“Do you sneaky Australians also try to distinguish between big C Communism and small c communism? You do? Well then, you’re apologists for mass murder”

No we do not need to as communism is not such a controversial thing here as we had lots of Australuan communists so we understand there is a variety of communists some awful some pleasant contained in communist.

Communism is just part of public discourse without the fear as in the U.S.. I think our Labor Party had various people who were communists, and thus is why some Cathoilics spilt off to form the Democratic Labour Party due to anti-religious elements of communism in Marx and the USSR and China. There is just one person in parliament from the DLP now, but I think more in the past before identity politics allowed for multi-faith leftism.

In terms of communism in public discourse, when I was growing up one of the funnier TV shows was DAAS Kapital (Doug Anthony All Stars – Doug Anthony was a Country Party member so it was cheeky to associate him with Communism); or there is a series of novels and a tv show about a female detective Phryne Fisher in the earlier 20th C and Bert the cab driver who is an important good character is a communist.

Further our final year secondary school curruculum in Victoria covers the revolutions in China and Russia with the revolutions in France and America (although schools choose 2 of these) in a general History of Revolutiobs subject – so we look at these developments in terms of revolutions not communism per se – and you can see plenty of death and change in all 4

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Watson Ladd 06.08.15 at 4:52 am

Val, plenty of people feel wronged seeing the Nazis march through Skokie, or a crucifix inverted in a jar of urine. But the price of living in a free society is hearing things that might upset you. (Apparently once upon a time this was a leftist position) And that’s why this case, and the Brandon Eich case before it, and the controversy over Ovid at Columbia, and the complaints at my alma mater over inviting a surviving member of the Charlie Hebdo massacre to speak are so worrying. They point to a new order of society in which comfort is valued above all, as Laura Kipnis was complaining about.

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magistra 06.08.15 at 5:59 am

Watson Ladd@345

There are different leftist positions: should the anti-fascists who took part in the Battle of Cable Street have decided that the Blackshirts marching through the heart of a Jewish area was just fine and dandy free speech?

This is the issue about power and free speech: if you have unlimited free speech about an unpopular group who can’t get their opinion heard in the same way, it sets the scene for violence against them. This is what happened time and time again in medieval Europe. Church leaders preach about the evilness of the Jews (but not encouraging attacking them, since they were supposed to be an eternal symbol of earthly wickedness), then there’s a massacre of them and it’s supposedly nothing to do with the preachers. If you believe in minimal restrictions on free speech, you have to work out how your system deals with cases like that, just as if (like me) you believe in restrictions on hate speech, you have to decide where the limits are.

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Collin Street 06.08.15 at 7:01 am

> But the price of living in a free society is hearing things that might upset you.

But not all things that upset you are necessary for a free society, unless you’re going to question-beg. Since noone’s interested in banning everything your existence proof for “things that shouldn’t be banned” is kind of irrelevant.

What you actually need here is a non-existence proof for “things it’s OK to ban”. You don’t have that.

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ZM 06.08.15 at 7:58 am

Rich Puchalsky: “But if you read his original post about it, it’s not about orthodoxy. It’s about power reversal:”

John Holbo: Oh, yes, most definitely.

It is a shame Dreher is not here to explain himself, as he seems rather confused in his logic. As I wrote he blames and deplores both gay marriage and the student’s complaint on the sexual revolution as the outcome of Enlightenment thought. But from what people have written about Kipnis she seems as a second wave feminist rather a proponent of the very sexual revolution that Dreher deplores in his two articles, and she also does not seem at all like a wholefoods conservative, which Dreher identifies as his group. So his reasons for siding with Kipnis seem confused at best.

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ZM 06.08.15 at 8:42 am

John Holbo

“Now there is something rather ironic here, insofar as Kipnis says the same. She is only concerned about feminism! And Amanda Marcotte laughs at her. Well, what can I say? Sometimes people make phoney ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ criticisms of what feminists do, and sometimes real ones. If you simply must believe than I am one of the phoney ones, fine “

But as bob mcmanus points out, there are different feminisms.

Like I mentioned about Helen Garner who wrote The First Stone about a sexual harassment case at the residential colleges of The University of Melbourne in the 1990s her feminist view in that book is that young women should slap men who harass them not take disciplinary or legal action, so like Kipnis she attacked the young women complaining of harassment. According to Wikipedia she also courted controversy by giving an impromptu sex ed class to her class of 13 year olds in 1972 which as it happened resulted in disciplinary action against herself which resulted in the Victorian department of education sacking her. However, other, notably third wave, feminists wrote in support of the young women taking formal action against harassment.

Different feminisms.

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engels 06.08.15 at 9:32 am

the price of living in a free society is hearing things that might upset you.

Hmmm is that price the same for everybody, or do some people get a discount? What have you paid of the course of your life, Watson?

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engels 06.08.15 at 9:32 am

‘over the course’

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kidneystones 06.08.15 at 10:46 am

Wiki is not a source. On Cable Street, this is much better: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NE_xclpTAew

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Val 06.08.15 at 11:08 am

Watson @ 345
I think there is a problem here in that you (and maybe others) are conflating two different things under the name of freedom of speech. One is the right to express unpopular ideas and opinions. That is legitimate as freedom of speech, even though, as magistra has explained, there need to be some limits on this, for example if it’s hate speech.

The other thing is the supposed right to say distorted or untrue things about other identifiable individuals with the intention of discrediting them or making them look bad. That isn’t freedom of speech and nor is it a right.

The question is, which did Kipnis do? She expressed ideas that are unpopular in some circles, although popular in others – and arguably they are popular in more powerful circles. So it wasn’t a particularly brave thing to do anyway. But she also presented distorted information with the apparent intent of making identifiable individuals – less powerful individuals in this context – look bad. Whether or not that falls within Title IX provisions, it isn’t really a freedom of speech issue in the way you’re suggesting.

Put it this way: if I disagree with your opinions, I should have a ‘freedom of speech’ type right to say so – I think we would both agree on that. But do I therefore also have a right to publish distorted and misleading information about you in tomorrow’s newspaper? I don’t think so.

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kidneystones 06.08.15 at 11:17 am

David Frost interviews Mosley. Yikes! This seems absolutely necessary viewing.

File under learn from the past, or repeat it.

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kidneystones 06.08.15 at 11:18 am

Oops. Had no idea the video would turn up, rather than just the link. Apologies.

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kidneystones 06.08.15 at 11:34 am

If you can stomach 355, the mask comes off at the 25 minute mark.

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engels 06.08.15 at 12:25 pm

Engels @330 I don’t – obviously – understand exactly what people here, like bob McManus, are talking about when they use the term “identity politics”, however I don’t think the term refers, or was originally meant to refer, to nationalism, does it?

I don’t use it this way either. It seems that Hobsbawm does. I don’t think this affects his point, which is that a socialist should be critical of identity politics for the same reason she is critical of nationalism.

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Lynne 06.08.15 at 12:27 pm

John Holbo, I believe you see yourself as a feminist but I haven’t seen your feminism here or in the consent thread or in that long-ago G.R.R. Martin thread. In all three you participated to the end but in the other two threads you seemed oblivious to the fact that some women participating were referring to having lived the reality of sexual assault, while you were still playing with the idea. That seems to be what you do, play with ideas, no matter who you are talking to or what they are saying. That isn’t a feminist thing to do, so you shouldn’t be surprised when your commitment to feminism doesn’t come through.

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gianni 06.08.15 at 1:42 pm

Kipnis was on NPR the other day. She now has a national platform to argue her side of the story as well as her broader argument.

Regardless of what you think of the motives and/or merit to the complaint, we can at least all agree that this is a complete failure from a tactics/strategy standpoint, right?

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gianni 06.08.15 at 1:50 pm

Val we have libel and slander laws to take care of those situations. Why appeal to the Title 9 process when one’s argument is clearly operating on the terrain of libel?

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Rich Puchalsky 06.08.15 at 2:01 pm

gianni: “Regardless of what you think of the motives and/or merit to the complaint, we can at least all agree that this is a complete failure from a tactics/strategy standpoint, right?”

I don’t expect John Holbo to understand this stuff — he pretty much substitutes the “silly things” part of “Rich is saying a lot of silly things, I think, but I try to learn from him when he takes a break from that and makes intermittent sense” for anything I write that he doesn’t understand — but really, is it too much to ask that people get the basic narrative correct?

The complainant was not a liberal activist trying to carry out strategy or tactics. Or maybe she is in other contexts, who knows, but not really in this one. She believes she was raped: she was trying to get on op-ed corrected that would present the alleged rapist’s version of events and leave out hers, in the context of mocking these kinds of claims of rape. Is that a great time to consider strategy and tactics? Maybe so, if you have very little power and are rightly considering whether you’re going to be facing a system that puts any powerful person who you disagree with on NPR.

But it shouldn’t *have to be* a time when you consider strategy and tactics. When you go to the police and report a rape, should you have to game that out beforehand? “Hmm, I got raped by a powerful person, maybe I shouldn’t report it because if I do he’ll deny it and then his defenders will get a slot on NPR to bad-mouth me.” Sure, practicality makes people go through this calculation quite often. But that isn’t activist “strategy” or “tactics”, it’s just survival.

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AcademicLurker 06.08.15 at 2:07 pm

Rich@361: Small correction: I believe the student who brought the complaint against Kipnis isn’t one of the parties involved in the original case involving Ludlow, but a third party who was acting on their behalf.

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Watson Ladd 06.08.15 at 2:08 pm

magistera, the Battle Of Cable Street was not the state repressing the Nazis, but actors in civil society counterorganizing. As for medival Europe, there is no civil society or ability to organize in defense of communities targeted by the mob. Were Jewish communities equal citizens of a state, endowed with the right to bear arms, and able to organize politically against opponents, the story looks different.

Val, Kipnis’s errors didn’t harm anyone’s repution. They are so minor (miscounting four days, referring to a lawsuit by the accusations contained) that the reputation of the student would be unchanged if corrected. But what does this have to do with sexual harssment, which Title IX is intended to fight?

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bob mcmanus 06.08.15 at 2:12 pm

357: I certainly use “identity politics” to refer to nationalism (and pretty much every ascription, self or otherwise), and like Hobsbawm, compare our current era to the age of nationalisms and the collapse of the Second International at Zimmerwald. And I think the consequences (and probably causes) of current identitarianism go well beyond an “ineffective” Left to some kind of apocalypse, just like last time.

Maybe pretty soon, looking at Ukraine and the Levant.

365

Hector_St_Clare 06.08.15 at 2:15 pm

John Holbo,

Why do you allow these savages to comment on your blog when they personally insult you?

If I were you, I’d temporarily ban Val, Lynne and whoever the imbecile is who’s complaining about medieval Europe. Quid licet Jovi, non licet bovi.

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Hector_St_Clare 06.08.15 at 2:16 pm

Bob McManus: I think the world would be a lot better off if we abolished the Ukraine as a country. They haven’t shown a great ability to run a functioning civilized society.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.08.15 at 2:17 pm

gianni: “Val we have libel and slander laws to take care of those situations. Why appeal to the Title 9 process when one’s argument is clearly operating on the terrain of libel?”

For a libel case, you need to hire a lawyer: for a Title IX complaint, you don’t. Also, a libel suit wouldn’t do what you seem to think it does. The remedies that the grad student was pursuing are, as far as I know, basically not available through a libel suit. (I am not a lawyer.)

AcademicLurker: “Small correction: I believe the student who brought the complaint against Kipnis isn’t one of the parties involved in the original case involving Ludlow, but a third party who was acting on their behalf.”

Your belief is not true. Two people filed the complaint. One was the grad student, and one was a third party showing support. Since as far as I know they were essentially the same complaint, the third party seems rather immaterial in this case.

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gianni 06.08.15 at 2:19 pm

Rich, I *really* do not want to get into this with you, but you are – again – conflating different situations in a way that makes your argument appear far more reasonable than it actually is. When Kipnis goes on NPR, she gets to play the victim in a way that Joe-‘So you were recently accused of rape/sexual assault against one of your students’-Professor never will be able to (outside of select circles).

Not to mention the unaddressed fact of the 3rd party complainant. It does not fit neatly into your story so you leave it out, but this is for some the point of most interest. The relevant link is in this thread somewhere.

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Val 06.08.15 at 2:24 pm

I’m a bit over this. Have it your own way guys (not including Rich obviously). It’s obviously terribly important that you should be right, and Kipnis should be right (except for some very minor errors which don’t count and only silly hysterical melodramatic young women would be upset about them – and yes, Kipnis did use the word ‘melodrama’ though I added the silly hysterical part) and even though I have actually been through an anti-discrimination case (admittedly in another country, but I think I’m the only one on this thread who has) my opinions obviously don’t count for anything, because you’re the ones who really know and What Matters is They Gamed the System and Their Motives were Bad and You Know That For a Fact and you cannot possibly try to understand that there might be other, human, fallible, confused reasons for all this, because It’s Very Very Bad and The End of Free Speech as We Know It. So obviously no point discussing it further, and it’s past my bedtime anyway.

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Z 06.08.15 at 2:36 pm

I suggest your chances of getting an apology or other redress from Kipnis or the journal by other than legal means is zero, frankly.

In the case under discussion, the journal did correct the story after having been forcefully petitioned for by some persistent grad student, so that I (for instance) read the corrected story and the addendum at the end explaining what the change was (for someone unfamiliar with the situation, the correction was rather mysterious, but of course it all made sense to the people involved). This seemed to me to be efficient: for almost every reader, Kipnis’s paragraph was inconsequential; for some, it was legitimately important that a sentence was corrected. Thanks to the persistence of some readers, it was.

That seems to be what you do, play with ideas, no matter who you are talking to or what they are saying. That isn’t a feminist thing to do, so you shouldn’t be surprised when your commitment to feminism doesn’t come through.

Lynne, I value your contribution here, I really do (and let us hope for a quick enforcement of the ban on the commenter I won’t name). But is playing with ideas (even offensive ones, even in front of an offended audience) on your own blog really “not a feminist thing to do”? And is it really fair to judge the commitment of someone to feminism on blog comments, rather than, say, on that person’s actual doings in the real world?

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AcademicLurker 06.08.15 at 2:40 pm

Rich@367: Ah, OK. One student was a third party.

I agree that “How will this play when it becomes a culture wars football?” strategizing is not something anyone should be expected to do when dealing with sexual assault or harassment. I guess the only qualifying factor here is that it was already a culture wars football before the complaint was filed, thanks to Kipnis making it one.

Anyway, it’s pretty clear that the only bonafide losers here are the students. In terms of bad effects from the whole episode re: people’s thinking about Title IX, “Students who brought a Title IX complaint in the context of a sexual harassment case were very publicly stomped on for it” is by far the bigger evil compared to “People will think that Title IX overreached and it’s another case of PC gone mad”. Especially since, for a certain segment of the population, PC has always already gone mad.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.08.15 at 2:54 pm

AcademicLurker: “Ah, OK. One student was a third party.”

I’ll correct my correction: at least one student was a third party. The other one may or may not have another third party, or may have been the grad student who says she was raped. Since the complainants are all anonymous, it’s difficult to say.

We can recast the whole hypothetical as if only third parties are involved, if you’d rather. OK, a friend of yours says she was raped, and she’s already been through reporting it, having a countersuit for defamation filed, defeating that, and so on. Now she finds out that an op-ed is being written saying that she was dating her rapist. She says that she wishes the op-ed would be corrected but she doesn’t have the strength to pursue this any further. Do you pick up the phone and make that Title IX complaint? If you do, are you gaming out strategy and tactics, or are you basically outraged about what happened to your friend?

Keep in mind that third party complaints are legal under Title IX pretty much exactly for this kind of reason — so that things will be reported even when the person they happened to is too tired or frightened or whatever to complain. Is that a bad part of the law? I’m basically not arguing with people who say that it’s a bad law. But the whole “you didn’t think about the right strategy and tactics when you filed a complaint” part of this does not seem right.

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Asteele 06.08.15 at 3:03 pm

It is interesting that this got so much more attention, then Ludlow’s defamation suit against one of his students, which was clearly an abuse of the legal process to get her to shut-up about the fact he sexually assaulted her.

I’m not a huge fan of liberals adopting the conservative tendency to find the least powerful person in the room, and concentrate on how they must be up to no good.

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Lynne 06.08.15 at 3:30 pm

Z @ 370. Let me clarify: Of course there is nothing unfeminist about playing with ideas on your own blog. What seems an unfeminist thing to me is to keep playing with an idea such as rape when some of the people you are talking to may well have been raped, when there is reason to think some of them are thinking of that very thing when they comment. To utterly ignore that is an unfeminist way to engage with other commenters. (That hasn’t happened here, I’m talking about the consent thread, 700 comments long. Though Val seems to feel her experience has been similarly ignored in this thread.) And I don’t judge JH’s feminism. I don’t know him. Given that he’s married to a feminist and has two daughters I hope and trust that in his life he is as feminist as he says he is. I’m quite willing to believe that. But I don’t see it expressed here, as I said. I don’t think he shows it here.

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Lynne 06.08.15 at 3:48 pm

@Z Before I go, thanks for the compliment.

I’m aware of my guest status here and having spoken as bluntly as I have feels too close to rudeness for comfort, so this will be my last contribution to this thread. If JH responds, he can have the last word.

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Bloix 06.08.15 at 7:38 pm

#373 – “which was clearly an abuse of the legal process to get her to shut-up about the fact he sexually assaulted her.”

Or, it was clearly an effort to discredit an accusation that threatened to end his career.

“The fact that he sexually assaulted her” (i.e. the grad student) may or may not be a fact. Anyone is free to believe it or disbelieve it. It will never be tested in a court of law and if it were, no one would be required to believe the result.

The statements by the complainant herself- that is, without looking at Ludlow’s defense at all – are far from unambiguous and would likely be insufficient to prove rape in a court of law (that is, they would likely not be sufficient to prove that Ludlow committed a crime beyond a reasonable doubt). You can read them at p. 25 of the federal court opinion dismissing the defamation claim:

http://dailynous.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/ludlow-decision-to-dismiss-redacted.pdf

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Asteele 06.08.15 at 8:03 pm

You’re right, Bloix, you can believe any stupid thing you want.

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Bloix 06.08.15 at 8:16 pm

Asteele, you affixed the word “fact” to something that you have no personal knowledge of. Usually, unless we’re talking about “Paris the capital of France’ level facts, that kind of assertion requires a citation to evidence. You didn’t cite any.

I don’t think what you’re accusing me of is stupidity. I think it’s a want of solidarity. That’s a fair accusation. I wasn’t trying to do solidarity. I was trying to do facts.

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Asteele 06.08.15 at 9:23 pm

You’re right stupidity is not what you’re accused of.

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Sebastian H 06.08.15 at 9:36 pm

“Now she finds out that an op-ed is being written saying that she was dating her rapist. She says that she wishes the op-ed would be corrected but she doesn’t have the strength to pursue this any further. Do you pick up the phone and make that Title IX complaint?”

You write to ask for a correction. (Which they did). And when that doesn’t happen you ought not make a Title IX complaint, because Title IX complaints are for retaliation, which this isn’t or for sexual harassment which this also isn’t. Title IX isn’t an appropriate procedure for that kind of wrong. I understand why the complainant feels her friend was wronged. That isn’t the same as understanding why anyone thinks that Title IX is an appropriate way to address the wrong.

You wouldn’t ask for a murder investigation because Kipnis won’t make a retraction. Right?

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Val 06.09.15 at 12:47 am

Maybe too late, but after a good nights sleep and feeling a bit less embattled:

What these students (and/or those acting on their behalf) did was try to use Title IX provisions to get redress for an injury that they felt Kipnis had done to them. Now whatever the legal technicalities, trying to get redress for a personal injury is not, and never should have been treated as, an attempt to end Freedom of Speech.

If John Holbo had simply dismissed that argument as reactionary nonsense, it’s likely that none of this long distraction from what he sees as the main point of his post would have happened. JH, if you’re still reading, I really wish that you had done that, and will do that in future if a similar situation occurs.

I will make a separate comment about my own experience that hopefully will illustrate the point I am making (although I still think that some here will never get it, because basically they are anti-feminist).

Lynne by the way I don’t think you were rude. I think you were very direct, and that your later qualifications about seriousness and feminism were relevant, but I don’t think you were rude and I also hope (and think likely) that JH doesn’t either.

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Watson Ladd 06.09.15 at 1:24 am

Val, it’s extremely frequent to see slander and libel lawsuits used to shut up opponents of projects, so much so that many states have enacted anti-SLAPP statutes to deal with these suits. There is a free speech concern in slander and libel, which is why the US is much more restrictive on these suits, and has doctrines like the public party rule to restrict some kinds of suit that could be very problematic like politicians suing mudslinging opponents. So no, we do treat redress of “personal injury” as potentially harmful to speech. This is not some reactionary nonsense: SLAPP lawsuits were a tool used against environmental activists in England not too long ago.

But your entire post supposes an injury: that is some harm to the graduate student,or the undergraduate, caused by Kipnis summarizing the fact she got sued in a way that repeated the accusations in the lawsuit. In slander and libel law that harm is reputational: if I say you kick puppies off of roofs, that’s a real harm when your neighbors stop inviting you to puppy showers, or stop letting your kids play with theirs. But I don’t see how getting the date wrong on the article has the same effect, or listing a lawsuit as dismissed which wasn’t, or even repeating the claims of a lawsuit that were widely reported on at the time.

Is your contention that that third bit was actually doing real harm to the unnamed grad student, and that this was sufficiently a result of the grad student’s original Title IX complaint to justify the new complaint?

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Val 06.09.15 at 1:59 am

My case study: at an early point my discrimination claim was declined, but later a higher Tribunal found it to have substance.

(Cautionary note: if anyone looks this case up on AustLi, I think they will find wording to the effect that the case was ‘dismissed by consent’. That does not mean the case was heard and found against my claim. It means that it was settled before hearing by consent and therefore did not go to hearing.)

So the counterfactual is if I had given up at the point where the discrimination complaint was declined, and a female colleague of the respondents to my claim had somehow found out about this, and written an article in a prominent publication suggesting that I was being “melodramatic” and that my case was an abuse of process. Hopefully the problems with this are made clearer in this example by the fact that my case was in ‘real life’ later found to have substance.

It’s not exactly equivalent of course, but the point is that all this stuff is contingent. It depends on the way the law is written and interpreted. It’s like the discussion in other threads at present about how scandal depends on social perceptions rather than ‘facts’. If your retaliation law had been written differently, the students’ (or their supporters’) case might have had merit under it. But either way, what they were trying to do was get redress for injury* rather than suppress freedom of speech.

*Possibly they may also have been in part responding to Kipnis’ attacks on Title IX and anti-discrimination provisions in general, because she did also make those. But that doesn’t change what I’m saying.

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Val 06.09.15 at 2:19 am

Watson our posts crossed but I am aware of SLAPP suits. They are the opposite of what I am talking about here, because they are about corporations with a lot of power and influence trying to use the legal process to silence people with less power and influence, whereas what we are talking about here is people with less power and influence (students) or their supporters, trying to use the legal system to get redress against people with more power and influence.

Maybe a resolution to this might have been if the Journal had offered the student/s or their supporters equal space to reply to Kipnis? But I don’t think that would have worked because the students would have been exhausted. Anti-discrimination law was introduced because there were (and are) systemic problems, but it usually recognised that it places a huge burden on complainants because it is really very hard to fight the system.

The ‘system’ in this case is the system that Kipnis apparently thinks was not so bad, where professors fairly freely had sexual relations with students. So to a degree these students are caught between two worlds, one where having sexual relationships with a professor is normal and ok and exciting, and another where the professor is abusing his power in having sex with you in the first place, especially if there were issues of direct coercion. It’s a very difficult situation to be in, and I think that people here should be able to recognise this. Certainly ascribing blame to students for moral failures of character, as Kipnis does (melodrama etc) is a harmful response to this situation, I would say.

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Watson Ladd 06.09.15 at 3:24 am

Val, disagreeing with the merits of claims isn’t an injury. You can keep insisting it is, but it isn’t. If antidiscrimination law insists it is, antidiscrimination law needs to be changed.

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Val 06.09.15 at 5:03 am

Watson @ 385
I have never said, let alone insisted, that disagreeing with the merits of a claim is injury. You want to be a bush lawyer, go ahead.

Accusing people of deliberately abusing process, publicly misrepresenting (whether deliberately or carelessly) the facts of a person’s case, using pejorative terms like “melodrama” – those are the kinds of things I consider injury.

If you actually have a disagreement with any of that Watson, argue it. Otherwise I will just conclude that you are one of those people with whom it is useless to argue on anti-discrimination matters.

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Watson Ladd 06.09.15 at 6:11 am

Val, of course Laura Kipnis is going to use pejorative terms! She disagrees with the merits of the Title IX actions brought. Why shouldn’t she be allowed to use words to convey her feelings about the matter, even emotionally charged ones? Maybe you can provide for us a list of words she can use safely without injuring the student.

Mayors accused of corruption are slimy. The pompous, grandiose politician is a gasbag, the expensive project a boondoggle and a sight of featherbedding. Pork barrels, smoke-filled rooms, tired and emotional: these all dot the pages of the paper. Evocative language is how we talk about issues all the time.

Misrepresenting? We all make mistakes: some big, some small. De minimis non curat lex. I don’t see any way in which a reader reading the corrected article will think differently about some of the cases than others, even if they now know the grad student contests the claim.

And the accusation of abusing due process? Well, of course disagreeing with the Title IX claim and saying it’s not the sort of thing we should force schools to adjudicate, but can instead deal with by slapping the brazen would be Don Juan amounts isn’t accusing someone of abusing due process. But is it now Professor Kipnis’s public defense and denunciation of the which hunt from her previous article to which you object? Having been subject to a Star Chamber worthy process because of words she said, should she now be forbidden from telling us that this happened?

But now let’s consider the real pain felt by a devote Muslim on seeing Charlie Hebdo.Should that translate into some social recognition that this is a harm that must be addressed? Of course not!

What I find interesting is how you refuse to distinguish the case of hostile environment or quid pro quo sexual harassment, or retaliation where tangible things like work assignments or grades are manipulated from public commentary on a major news item. It’s not an unworkable distinction. Nor is the notion of harm in Mill that foreign to our shores.

The price of agreeing with you is that anyone criticising Title IX by looking at a particular case must look of their shoulder, fearful that some phrase might be too evocative, or some fact misstated, in a way that will bring down the weight of antidiscrimination law upon them. And why? Because they disagreed with what was popular. Do you think for a moment that if Kipnis had supported the student’s claim, and made similar misstatements, she would be facing this sort of reaction?

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Val 06.09.15 at 7:01 am

Watson I think even your own comment demonstrates that you do know the difference between reasoned analysis and pejorative comments, so if you ever decide to go public with your thoughts on a case under Title IX, I’d urge you to go with the former. It is not simply for legal reasons, it’s just a better thing to do.

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John Holbo 06.09.15 at 11:19 am

“[Falsely] Accusing people of deliberately abusing process, publicly misrepresenting (whether deliberately or carelessly) the facts of a person’s case, using pejorative terms like “melodrama” – those are the kinds of things I consider injury.”

Val, are you providing these examples of ‘injury’ with the intent of indicating the proper bounds of publicly permissible speech, quite generally? That is, do you think that, in an ideal system, anyone who considers themselves wrongfully injured in such ways – and other similar ways – should have some formal right of redress, legally or institutionally or bureaucratically or what have you?

Or are you only talking about Title IX? Or how Title IX ought to be? Or something else narrowly tied to antidiscrimination law? (And if so, tied how?)

I’m back, everyone! Did anyone miss me?

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AcademicLurker 06.09.15 at 1:54 pm

Just to keep a nearly dead thread clinging to life, I think bringing up what pejorative terms Kipnis may have used muddies the waters somewhat. The graduate student’s statement emphasizes that they brought the Title IX complaint on very narrow grounds of specific false statements in Kipnis’ article, and not on general grounds of her piece being dismissive or critical of them in general. It turns out that Title IX was the wrong remedy for what they were trying to fix, but that’s a fairly technical issue of little general interest.

The story had “legs” because a false and misleading account of what the complaint was actually about (that it was an attempt to use Title IX to stifle the publication of opinions they didn’t like) got established early on.

It seems like the best way to a) minimize the risk that this whole thing will be used to erode support for Title IX, as Holbo fears, and b) not throw the students under a bus, is to point out that the false and misleading account of the complaint is, in fact, false and misleading.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.09.15 at 2:47 pm

The thread has been full of argument via “I don’t understand this, so how could it be true?” (I forget what the formal fallacy name is for that.) But the specific speech that the complainants were concerned about was was saying that someone who’d claimed she’d been raped hadn’t really been raped (that’s what “she’d been dating her accuser” really comes down to in this context). The specific speech act was made by what the law considers to be a representative of the organization for whom the complainant works — at least, that’s how Title IX treats faculty: they can act as agents of the university in terms of retaliation.

So people can burble on about free speech, but they’re clueless. I can easily understand a principled free speech defender defending this as a free speech act, but those people understand what they’re doing first. If an IRS agent wanted to reveal the income of a politician in order to make that politician look bad, I might tell them to go ahead, “free speech”, but I would be very conscious that in fact what they were doing was illegal or at least not protected and that I was supporting it anyways. Faculty writing that a student at their school is making a fake rape claim in an active case falls into that inherently problematic category whether you like it or not.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.09.15 at 5:53 pm

And perhaps lastly, people didn’t like my Acme Corp example because universities are different. So here’s another one. Imagine that a high-level administrator at the university called a press conference and said “There’s a grad student here who has been making our great school look bad by saying she was raped and that we haven’t done anything about it. Well if she keeps going we’ll make sure that everyone knows what a lying gold-digger she is. Good luck for her getting an academic job after that: who’s going to hire someone who makes fake rape claims?”

Now that’s purely a speech act, right? But I completely fail to understand anyone who says that isn’t retaliation.

But the administrator can’t hold a press conference like that, because *it obviously would be retaliation*. Everyone would think it was. So instead the administrator calls up a professor: “Hey, could you put something about this in your article?” And that’s what would make Kipnis’ article arguably Title IX retaliation — the university would have to know about it beforehand.

So how does the complainant know this hasn’t happened? There is no way for them to know. That was the point of the investigators asking Kipnis about whether she’d talked to anyone about it.

And this not very complex possibility is what is dismissed above as “you wouldn’t charge Kipnis with murder because she did this.”

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Val 06.09.15 at 8:23 pm

@ 389
I’m not talking about “proper bounds”. My comments are mainly in the context of anti- discrimination law, but I have noticed that some commenters here do talk as if “freedom of speech” means ‘Person A can say whatever s/he likes about Person B, in any forum, and Person B just has to put up with it’. Clearly, that’s about privilege rather than freedom of speech.

Person B has a right to say ‘that’s not true and is injurious to me and I want you to correct it’ and to seek legal remedy if necessary. The fact that the kind of speech they wanted changed was held not to fall under Title IX retaliation provisions doesn’t change that. That is not an attempt to limit “freedom of speech” and by agreeing with Dreher et al that it is, I think you were making a mistake.

A’s right to freedom of speech does not have priority over B’s right not to have false and derogatory statements made about her in public.

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Val 06.09.15 at 8:30 pm

@ 389

Also on a slightly different angle, I really want to support the point Rich made earlier. When there is a complex social problem, blaming it on the least powerful person involved is about maintaining hierarchy and privilege, rather than trying to resolve the problem.

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Sebastian H 06.09.15 at 9:03 pm

Rich, you write: “Imagine that a high-level administrator at the university called a press conference and said “There’s a grad student here who has been making our great school look bad by saying she was raped and that we haven’t done anything about it. Well if she keeps going we’ll make sure that everyone knows what a lying gold-digger she is. Good luck for her getting an academic job after that: who’s going to hire someone who makes fake rape claims?””

What would make this retaliation is that it references a specific person and is clearly trying to get her to shut up (and threatening further retaliation). The statement is clearly *about* her.

You then write: “So instead the administrator calls up a professor: “Hey, could you put something about this in your article?””

The problem is that you have accidentally sidestepped into something else, or you’re not talking about anything close to the Kipnis case. “Something” about the case isn’t retaliation. Threats and specificity are what made your example retaliation. If the administrator asked for a statement like your example, we would want to investigate how that statement got there. Kipnis wrote nothing like that though. And her article clearly isn’t an attempt to intimidate or retaliate against the Ludlow complainant. Right or wrong (mostly wrong I’d think) she is attacking something else entirely–something like a culture where women stand up for themselves at the wrong times (or something, frankly it is rather confusing). But whatever muddle it was, it didn’t look like a retaliatory attack or an attempt to silence the Ludlow complainant.

The complaint against Eisenman (which seems to get swept under the rug in this discussion) looks even less like retaliation and even more like an attempt to discuss how the Title IX process is going to impact faculty.

In both cases, the authors allude to the Ludlow complainant anonymously and as part of their attempt to illustrate something else. If no one has any reason to believe that there was an administrative call to set up the Ludlow complainant with retaliation in either of those cases, there shouldn’t be a nasty Title IX investigation. The alternative you propose is unworkable because it is *always true* that in theory someone in the administration could have tried to set up *any* discussion. Since you also back the ‘any witness’ reporting concept, your standard means that any time any school member alludes to any sexual harassment claim, anyone who reads it can start a Title IX investigation. I know that is a lot of *any*, but that is what we are talking about.

Val. You write “When there is a complex social problem, blaming it on the least powerful person involved is about maintaining hierarchy and privilege, rather than trying to resolve the problem.”

This isn’t what I’m doing. I have a lot of sympathy for the Ludlow complainant. She was put through a wringer that she didn’t want, and picked up a nearby legal weapon to fight back. It is perfectly understandable that people who get bruised in the legal system want to do that. People who get sued for reasons they think are unjust almost always ask “can we sue them for unfairly dragging us through this?” and it is the lawyer’s job to say “Usually, no.” (In fact Ludlow’s lawyers should have said this, and I’ve suggested that under the facts as I know them, HIS libel lawsuit looks like retaliation under Title IX.) I’m saying that Title IX either is not the weapon that the administrators think it is (i.e. “retaliation” isn’t as free form as the investigators seem to think) or that if it is such a weapon, we darn well better fix it.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.09.15 at 9:38 pm

“What would make this retaliation is that it references a specific person and is clearly trying to get her to shut up (and threatening further retaliation). The statement is clearly *about* her.”

Yes, Kipnis’ article references a specific grad student that Ludlow was “dating”. Without the reference to that student, there would be no basis for a retaliation claim.

The complainants asked Kipnis to remove or correct that one line — the one that said that Ludlow had been dating the grad student who said she was raped — and Kipnis refused to do so. The correction seems to have been put in by the editor.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.09.15 at 9:49 pm

Sebastian H: “If no one has any reason to believe that there was an administrative call to set up the Ludlow complainant with retaliation in either of those cases, there shouldn’t be a nasty Title IX investigation.”

This is the one that keeps getting me. Here we have motive, means, and opportunity for retaliation. But it isn’t retaliation unless we know about the phone call between the administrator and the professor. How are we supposed to know about this phone call? Would the administrator announce “By the way, I just made a sinister phone call”?

“your standard means that any time any school member alludes to any sexual harassment claim, anyone who reads it can start a Title IX investigation. “

Maybe, just maybe, faculty should not opine about the guilt or otherwise of people concerned in active sexual harassment cases at their school. If that’s where you want to defend free speech, go ahead. But no newspaper would get away with saying “Joe Blow isn’t an alleged criminal, we think he really did it” prior to Joe Blow being convicted. What makes faculty free speech extra-special-super-duper free in a way that newspapers don’t get? This isn’t academic research: some kind of sociological study about rates of false claims. It’s gossip about a particular case, and for some purposes like this one faculty are considered to be acting for the university.

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Sebastian H 06.09.15 at 10:05 pm

““Joe Blow isn’t an alleged criminal, we think he really did it” prior to Joe Blow being convicted. What makes faculty free speech extra-special-super-duper free in a way that newspapers don’t get?”

Newspapers can say that they think Joe Blow really did it with or without a conviction (there is a whole section of libel law called “opinion”). They usually don’t as part of their impartiality pose, but that has nothing to do with the first amendment. So faculty don’t need anything special to do what newspapers can do.

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John Holbo 06.09.15 at 11:31 pm

Val: “A’s right to freedom of speech does not have priority over B’s right not to have false and derogatory statements made about her in public.”

So that’s a ‘yes’ to my question of whether you intended your original statement as expressing a general, public norm? Ideally, it ought to be illegal to ‘injure’, in your sense? I’ll quote again.

“[Falsely] Accusing people of deliberately abusing process, publicly misrepresenting (whether deliberately or carelessly) the facts of a person’s case, using pejorative terms like “melodrama” – those are the kinds of things I consider injury.”

You say, “I’m not talking about “proper bounds” but it sounds like that is exactly what you are doing. Free speech should stop where injury starts. Do you have any problem with that formulation?

Rich, Sebastian writes: “any time any school member alludes to any sexual harassment claim, anyone who reads it can start a Title IX investigation.” Does that seem to you a healthy norm? Never mind the facts of the Kipnis case. Never mind what Title IX actually says. If it were up to you, would you want this to be true? As a general rule?

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John Holbo 06.09.15 at 11:36 pm

Probably ‘allude’ should be qualified to ‘alludes in a way that could be construed as negative’.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.09.15 at 11:58 pm

Yes, “alludes” is nicely sanitized. And we’re not even talking about alluding in a way that is construed as negative. If an administrator made a retaliatory speech act like the imaginary one I outlined in #392, then yes I think that they did something wrong. If they concealed that threat from the public (but not from the person threatened) by passing it off to a third party, they still did something wrong.

But what about all the people who weren’t passing on retaliatory threats, but who were just innocently claiming that someone was lying about being raped? What about those poor people? In my ideal society those wouldn’t be investigated, but we’re not living in my ideal society. We’re living in a society in which those people took positions of relative power and, I’d think, should have learned about the limits and responsibilities of that power.

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ZM 06.10.15 at 12:04 am

John Holbo: “You say, “I’m not talking about “proper bounds” but it sounds like that is exactly what you are doing. Free speech should stop where injury starts. Do you have any problem with that formulation?”

Val specifically objected to “false and defamatory statements” being protected under freedom of speech. This is correct in the existing legal system, as people can seek legal redress for false and defamatory statements, and if they suffered personal injuries they can also seek legal redress. If you have a problem with that you seem to have a problem with the currently existing law.

“Rich, Sebastian writes: “any time any school member alludes to any sexual harassment claim, anyone who reads it can start a Title IX investigation.” Does that seem to you a healthy norm? Never mind the facts of the Kipnis case. Never mind what Title IX actually says. If it were up to you, would you want this to be true? As a general rule?”

We don’t have Title IX here, but I would think a university would have protocols for academics writing publicly about identifiable students, and in relation to writing about internal disputes. As a general legal standard it is advisable to seek consent before writing about someone if they are identifiable in what you have written. I would think if it happened here a student might contact the relevant office for human ethics and research integrity, as writing by professorial staff would need to be written in accordance with the university ethics and integrity standards.

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John Holbo 06.10.15 at 1:04 am

Rich: “Yes, “alludes” is nicely sanitized.”

Is that a ‘yes you agree’ yes? That is, you agree the norm would be good? Or is that a ‘yes, you’d like me to say ‘yes’ so you can trap me, you bastard!’ yes. That is, you don’t agree the norm would be good?

ZM: “If you have a problem with that you seem to have a problem with the currently existing law.”

You misunderstand me. (There is an age-old norm of internet discourse that I may seem to be transgressing in this case: never attribute a belief to your interlocutor unless it is absurd and contemptible and, so of course, you don’t really believe they believe it. It’s an ethos, I concede. But it’s not mine.)

I’m not trying to pin anything to anyone, against their will. I’m merely asking what people are quite happy to pin on themselves.

The reason is this. We have a disagreement, apparently. Some people say the Kipnis case shows something has gone wrong. Some people say the Kipnis case shows the system works, more or less.

There are three possibilities as to the source of the disagreement.

1) We disagree about the facts of the case.
2) We disagree about what would be good, i.e. what counts as proper function, as opposed to dysfunction, relative to an ideal norm about how these things should go.
3) We disagree about both.

I am reasonably sure it is 3). But there is a point to trying to isolate 2). Indeed, since the Kipnis case is just one case – however prominent this week – 2) is the big ticket item here. So I am asking – not telling! – Val and Rich what they believe would be an ideal norm, which could then be written into procedure and law.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.10.15 at 1:30 am

JH: “Is that a ‘yes you agree’ yes?”

What I meant by that is referring to the example speech that I imagined in #392 as “the administrator alluded to the case” would be ridiculous. It would be ridiculous because the imaginary administrator didn’t merely allude to the case: he or she threatened to destroy the graduate student’s career over the case. That is what is at stake here, after all, not a mere allusion.

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ZM 06.10.15 at 2:09 am

I will choose 4) : I am rather confused about 1) the facts of the case as I have only read about it on this thread. With regards to 2) we don’t have TitleIX here so I am a bit confused about that as well.

I do not think it has been established Kipnis’ article was in fact written in retaliation, however I do think the student was right to complain about it being inaccurate and biased and improper for Kipnis to have written; that is why I suggested if it was published by an academic in regards to an internal university dispute here the student union would probably advise the student to contact the office of ethics and research integrity to discuss the grievance.* But I am not familiar at all with Kipnis’ university and how it is structured or the internal university statutes and protocols and ethics standards, yet I would expect there to be something similar.

*I only know this as I was disappointed some subject material wasn’t sustainable enough and addressing climate change adequately, I was then advised to contact the Dean first, but I didn’t get around to it and now I don’t think I need to as academics worked on a charter of sustainability and climate which the university council met to discuss adopting yesterday and then there will be a consultation process that students can be involved in.

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John Holbo 06.10.15 at 2:46 am

“What I meant by that is referring to the example speech that I imagined in #392 as “the administrator alluded to the case” would be ridiculous.”

And what I meant by ‘Never mind the facts of the Kipnis case,’ was never mind the facts of the Kipnis case.

Either you find the proposed norm acceptable or you don’t. If you do, say so. If you don’t, say how and why not. If ‘allude’ is an objectionable sticking point, fine fine, pick a different less objectionable word, by all means. But tell me what you think.

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Val 06.10.15 at 3:43 am

I’d be interested I replying to all this, but it looks like it requires a bit of thought, and I really have other things I have to do. However it does seem a bit as if both Rich and I, because we expressed opinions, now are asked to devise rules for an ideal society or something, which doesn’t seem a completely reasonable request.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.10.15 at 4:46 am

JH: “And what I meant by ‘Never mind the facts of the Kipnis case,’ was never mind the facts of the Kipnis case.”

My imaginary story was just that: an imaginary story. It wasn’t about the facts of the Kipnis case, since I’m not asserting that Kipnis was retaliating. I’m saying that from the point of view of the complainant in this kind of case, it’s impossible to distinguish retaliation from something that only looks like retaliation without an investigation.

But #401 answers your question. If only it was in readable English! The norm is — and it is not merely my norm — that when you become a professor, you not only get the benefits of being one, you get the responsibilities of being one. So if you sound like you’re retaliating against a particular student for making a sexual assault claim, and there’s a rule that says don’t do that, you should expect to be investigated.

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John Holbo 06.10.15 at 5:19 am

“because we expressed opinions, now are asked to devise rules for an ideal society or something, which doesn’t seem a completely reasonable request.”

Val, I am wholly in sympathy with all who have something to do! I encourage the cultivation of the hobby of NOT commenting on Crooked Timber. (Everyone should have a hobby!)

Nevertheless – and with all due respect – I think you intellectually (not personally! Life awaits!) owe either an answer or a bit more agnostic allowance for the potential reasonableness of alternative opinions, when it comes to the expression of your own.

Here is what you wrote to Watson, upthread:

“If you actually have a disagreement with any of that [the bit I keep quoting], argue it. Otherwise I will just conclude that you are one of those people with whom it is useless to argue on anti-discrimination matters.”

Thus, I am asking, Val. (This is not a trap, although it is a challenge.) Do YOU have any disagreement with any of that? Do you think the thing you challenged Watson to argue against is indeed just fine, as it stands? Because, as it stands, it appear to express a general norm. Is that what you meant? Is the norm supposed to apply only in certain cases? Antidiscrimination cases? If so, how so? If you aren’t sure what you said is exactly right, how you can sure Watson – and Sebastian and I – are exactly wrong?

Do feel free to amend what you wrote after giving it sufficient consideration. It is not my intention to pin anyone with some off-the-cuff formulation they banged out, which on second-thought is no fit final thought.

As to Rich’s obligation to blueprint utopia – he, too, has none, in a personal sense. I wish him all happy returns of an offline life well lived. Yet he has set the bar rather high, in laying the other side low. “They’re unable to generalize from particular cases to an overall principle, or otherwise really follow through on a logical chain of thought, and they don’t evaluate evidence.” To one so free as he of such deplorable infirmities, the formulation of a correct, abstract norm should be but a bagatelle.

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John Holbo 06.10.15 at 5:24 am

Sorry, Rich’s and my comments crossed.

“But #401 answers your question. If only it was in readable English!”

Well, it’s readable, I’ll give it that. But I don’t really know how to institutionally operationalize “if you sound like you’re retaliating against a particular student …” The issue is really whether just ‘alluding’ sounds like retaliating. But you don’t like ‘alludes’.

Also, this:

“But what about all the people who weren’t passing on retaliatory threats, but who were just innocently claiming that someone was lying about being raped? What about those poor people?”

What would be the best way to frame and implement the norm so it affects only the people you mean to hit? Professors but not students? People can write some things but not other things? I don’t really see what you have in mind, for achieving that.

I am not asking you to come up with an easy, entirely satisfactory answer. Obviously there will be none that doesn’t have its potentially downside. But I’m genuinely curious what you think would be best. It would help to crystallize the source of the disagreement.

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ZM 06.10.15 at 6:55 am

“But I don’t really know how to institutionally operationalize “if you sound like you’re retaliating against a particular student …” “

That would come under other more general internal regulations

Eg:

“2.1 Like all rights, the right to academic freedom of expression carries responsibilities. Scholars may hold their own views and speak freely on all topics, even outside their expertise, and even identifying themselves as members of the University. However, if they speak in public on topics outside their expertise, they should consider whether it is reasonable in the circumstances to link their comments to their association with the University.

2 .2 Academic freedom of expression is subject to the following principles:

All discourse must be undertaken reasonably and in good faith.

All discourse should accord with principles of academic and research ethics, where applicable. For example, reasons should be given for an argument so that those who wish to respond have a basis to do so and speakers may need to state affiliations (including speciality), sources, funding and potential conflicts of interest. The University recognises that these principles may vary according to the context in which the discourse occurs.”

“Research workers should, in all aspects of their research –
demonstrate integrity and professionalism;
observe fairness and equity;
demonstrate intellectual honesty;
effectively and transparently manage conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest; and ensure the safety and well being of those associated with the research”

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magistra 06.10.15 at 8:07 am

One more general way to consider all these issues about regulations is as a trade-off between Type I and Type II errors. Is it more important that innocent people are not wrongly accused/convicted or that guilty people do not get away with their crimes? Obviously, in an ideal world the regulations would affect and convict only the guilty, but in practice if you make it easier to bring charges or to get a guilty verdict you move the system in one direction (towards more innocent people suffering from the legal procedure), and if you make it harder to bring charges or to get a guilty verdict, you move it in another (towards more guilty people getting away with things, and thus more innocent people suffering from their actions).

Anyone’s view on the balance between these is going to reflect their view on the relative proportions of wrongly accused/convicted versus wrongly not accused/convicted. It’s also inevitably going to be influenced at some level by whether you think you’re going to suffer one of these errors and which one you’re more likely to suffer. Thus a criminal justice system that is excessively biased towards getting convictions and with few worries about wrongly convicting the innocent is a problem for many people only if they think they might be falsely accused of a crime: which is much less likely if you are white and middle-class. On the other hand, it’s quite easy for a professor to imagine that they may be falsely accused of harassment and so they are likely to prefer university systems which have the utmost safeguards in those cases.

The problem is that you can’t say: “I’d rather have a few innocent people made to suffer than that large scale harassment is allowed to continue” or “it’s more important that no-one is ever falsely accused than that harassment is curtailed”, because we have to try and maintain the fantasy that a perfect system is possible. It’s only if we’re prepared to admit that there are trade-offs that we can argue sensibly which ones we want to make and why these are justified.

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Watson Ladd 06.10.15 at 8:26 am

Val, plenty of commentators on this website went ahead and claimed that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in cold blood, and should have been convicted. Of course, a jury disagreed. Bernie Goetz was widely reported to have said “you don’t look too bad, have another” while on the subway, a lie which made him seem far more bloodthirsty than he actually was. One of the unfortunate facts of modern society is that even after winning a libel case, there is no office to get your reputation back. I have a great deal of sympathy for those whose reputations are unjustly tarnished, but very little for those who attempt to silence those they disagree with ruinous lawsuits.

But the harm in libel is to your reputation, not your feelings. Lawsuits are public, and the fact of these lawsuits, and the accusations in them, were widely reported in Chicago. I’m not seeing how Laura Kipnis’s summary of the situation makes us think worse of the graduate student vs the correction: rape within intimate relationships does not befall only the unworthy. I’m just not seeing the harm that has to be part of any retaliation claim. That’s on top of it only being mentioned in passing. And indeed, from the Daily Nous article above, neither does the complainant: they don’t talk about how the reputation of the student involved was harmed, merely the inaccuracies involved.

Sebastian, Kipnis is attacking a culture which presumes that women aren’t capable of pushing back against advances they find unwelcome. Think back to those black and white comedies where the response to a would be Lothario is a slap in the face. The basic idea is that women and students, far from being powerless and in need of protection, are capable of protecting themselves and interacting with men on the same terms as men.

ZM, writing an op-ed isn’t academic. The fact is there is something outside of work, where you can express yourself freely, called civil society. And the loss of that ideal is a real problem. McCarthyism used to be a horror, not a model.

magistra, there’s no requirement that we all agree with a sentence. I can say right now that Charles Manson is innocent and should be released, or that George Zimmerman should have been thrown in prison because of what he did, and neither of those statements has anything to do with whether they actually were held guilty or not.

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Val 06.10.15 at 11:36 am

JH @ 409
You say it’s not a trap, but I still feel that you are trying to pin me down to some general statement of what people should or should not be allowed to say publicly – after which you will pounce on me and say ‘see you are trying to determine what people should or should not be allowed to say!’

But that is seriously not what I’m on about. One thing I’m beginning to think is that this may be a cultural thing. Probably like ZM, I feel it’s very unlikely that an Australian professor would say the kinds of things Kipnis did in public about an identifiable student, or even about the equal opportunity system (some might in private, I’ll grant you). Maybe from your perspective everyone here is just cowed by political correctness, but I actually think it also has something to do with respect and privacy.

The other thing I think is simply that if you’re going to publish inaccurate and unpleasant things about someone, they are likely to complain, and may even try to take legal action against you. It’s just not surprising. You can have the freedom to say what you think, but other people also have the freedom to respond.

Basically I think my views can pretty much be summed up in the immortal words of our former, and in many circles sadly missed, female Prime Minister. If you (not you personally, but eg Kipnis in this instance) don’t want people to complain about what you wrote:

“Don’t write crap. Can’t be that hard.”

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Rich Puchalsky 06.10.15 at 12:28 pm

JH: “What would be the best way to frame and implement the norm so it affects only the people you mean to hit? Professors but not students? People can write some things but not other things? I don’t really see what you have in mind, for achieving that.”

By saying that you want me to ignore the facts of this case, and ignore how the law is currently set up, you’re asking me to re-specifiy all a whole lot of stuff, which makes for a long comment. And keep in mind that I’m not setting out my ideal — my ideal would be that the whole system of power relationships is remade, etc.

But what are some of the characteristics involved that “frame and implement” this norm?
1. Professors, not students. In the real world Title IX, students can’t retaliate for the university. Only professors or university employees can.
2. Causal link.

the prohibition against retaliation begins (1) upon the school’s receipt of a formal or informal complaint of a potential civil rights violation, or (2) when an individual participates in an OCR investigation or proceeding. Under the law, retaliation includes any form of intimidation, threat, coercion or any other type of discrimination because of the individual’s complaint or participation.

3. Seriousness. This isn’t a formal part of Title IX — maybe it is, but I’m not a lawyer — but the norm for speech should involve something more than mere allusion. In this case, an op-ed that would be widely read and for which the author apparently did something that could be interpreted as “So you’d like me to not write that you were dating the guy who you say raped you, huh, since it’s his word against yours? Ha ha I’m not going to.”

So if a professor writes something serious about a particular sexual harassment or sexual assault case at their university that has a causal link to a complaint and that appears that it may involve retaliation, they should expect that if the person complains, they are going to be investigated to see whether this was university-sponsored retaliation. This seems to me that it is not an unworkable norm.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.10.15 at 12:49 pm

“they should expect that if the person complains”

To forestall the incoming comment about third party Title IX complaints, I should modify this to “they should expect that if someone complains.” But really, if we’re talking about a norm rather than existing law, we can take out the whole phrase about someone complaining in order to trigger this kind of thing. I imagine that there is someone at the university who at least wished that he or she could send an Email that said something like “Why did you have to choose an anecdote from our university when you decided to question someone’s rape claim in an op-ed? You know that I’m going to have to start an investigation now. Look, you’re a professor and this policy isn’t difficult to understand.”

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Z 06.10.15 at 1:31 pm

she is attacking something else entirely–something like a culture where women stand up for themselves at the wrong times (or something, frankly it is rather confusing).

I suggest that the core thesis of her essay is “God, I was hot 30 years ago.” The male version is common, but the female version turned out just about equally interesting.

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engels 06.10.15 at 2:08 pm

‘If you … don’t want people to complain about what you wrote: “Don’t write crap. Can’t be that hard.”’

If you don’t wish to take on the immense violent and bureaucratic apparatus of Australian State by attempting to win an argument about mechanics of said apparatus with said State’s most highly paid sophists at great financial and emotional cost to yourself, don’t write anything which a wealthy person might be motivated to label ‘crap’.

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engels 06.10.15 at 2:14 pm

(Fwiw that isn’t a defence of Kipnis, whom I haven’t read, and apologies if it seems snarky or OT but some of the opinions about libel law and litigation in general on this thread seem incredibly naive.)

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gianni 06.10.15 at 3:25 pm

Z: “I suggest that the core thesis of her essay is ‘God, I was hot 30 years ago.’ “

I suggest that you stick to math.

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bianca steele 06.10.15 at 3:41 pm

I wonder why nobody on the thread is discussing Dreher. Or Crawford. I just got up to the point where he laments the demise of the hair band. Good stuff! It’s all Harry Shearer’s fault, of course, or we’d still have earnest young men wanting to give their whole souls for real rock and roll. Seriously, it raises the question whether DFW’s lament that his generation of dudes could never write a “Rabbit, Run” was equally silly. (No offense, John, but I think Crawford is better on Wallace than Dreyfus is.)

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mdc 06.10.15 at 3:43 pm

Ok, I’ll mention that Crawford’s stuff on Kant is terrible.

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AcademicLurker 06.10.15 at 3:47 pm

The administration just sent out an email explaining that Title IX training is now required annually, as opposed to just doing it once when you first arrive on campus. We’ve got 30 days to go through the little online training course.

From hell’s heart I stab at thee, Kipnis!

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bianca steele 06.10.15 at 3:56 pm

mdc,

Oh, anyone can see its superficial. He doesn’t make it totally clear, obviously, what he means by “autonomy.” From what I can tell, his discussion of cognitive science is superficial, too, though better than you’d expect from an outsider. But I’ve never seen (on audiobook, you don’t get footnotes, so maybe it’s there and he references it) any attempt to link phenomenology with theories of action with theories of thick description of action with theories of working on the world with MacIntyre’s teleology of work, which you would have thought would be obvious, but which apparently isn’t the purpose any of those things were meant to be applied to.

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Z 06.10.15 at 4:12 pm

Good advice, gianni, but come on, have you read her essay?

“For myself, I don’t much want to date students these days, but it’s not like I don’t understand the appeal. […] [A much younger man and myself] had been at some sort of event and sat next to each other. He said he thought we’d been flirting. In fact, he was sure we’d been flirting.”

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mdc 06.10.15 at 4:38 pm

Bianca,

I agree that the “positive” side is more interesting. The anti-Enlightenment polemics are lame.

427

gianni 06.10.15 at 4:44 pm

Z:
Some may think it is problematic, your snarky dismissal of her argument as nothing more than an older woman musing about how hot she is/was. They might contend that the punchy humor you are aiming for relies on a certain stereotype where women are obsessively concerned with their appearance, to the point where they don’t really care about/are not fully equipped for proper intellectual activity.

“have you read her essay”
Yes, I have, and my opinion is that – if you are serious – you are being willfully stupid in interpreting her argument in the way you do.

More broadly though, I am not about to argue the merits (or coherence) of the essay’s broader argument. This is because I believe this question to be 1) wholly irrelevant to the question addressed here; and 2) actively inviting a conflation between one’s opinion of the Kipnis case as regards the complaints & proceedings, with one’s opinion of her general argument about ‘sexual panic’ or whatsohaveyou. Because there are some who see this sort of conflation present in the grad student’s piece from Nous explaining (one of) the complaint(s), it is worth going a bit out of our way to maintain the distinction between the two questions.

I understand that some people will want to clearly announce that they are ‘against’ her essay (I’m not sure if there are any explicit ‘for the Kipnis essay’ positions in this thread). There are probably better ways to signal this position other than attacking her in the manner you chose.

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gianni 06.10.15 at 4:48 pm

Actually upon reflection there have definitely been ‘for’ positions taken, it is just that the expressions of agreement are with pieces and ideas, not wholesale, whereas there has been plenty of wholesale denouncements, leading me to improperly asses the balance.

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bianca steele 06.10.15 at 4:59 pm

I don’t see the “I was hot” thing, myself. I mean, it’s a fair snark. But there’s an old idea out there among many women that presenting an attractive appearance, and engaging men as men, in the sexual sense, is an obligation, not a privilege. A norm, where the others are slobs or at best prudes. I’ve known quite conservative Jews and Christians both who take this attitude, which the superficially observing male might be surprised, from his evaluation of their appearance.

430

gianni 06.10.15 at 5:00 pm

Kipnis’ book was characterized in this thread as little more than a “series of disputes with (past) boyfriends… intermixed with profiles of famous male chauvinists, in which she realizes that they’re in the right.” In conclusion, her book is deemed “Not very attractive.”

Maybe this is all clearly true. I haven’t read the book. But then, neither has the quoted. I don’t know – maybe I am totally off base here, or maybe there is something a little problematic with these rhetorical moves.

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bianca steele 06.10.15 at 5:06 pm

So, gianni (I believe those were my words you quoted), read the book and let us know. Or look up Dissent and Bookforum for the reviews I’m summarizing.

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gianni 06.10.15 at 5:26 pm

They were your words bianca.

I am not about to read the book because the subject does not interest me. I am also not that invested in this that I would pause my personal reading to prove the first supporting example I found in-thread.

I was hesitant to criticize Z’s comment, and I chose to snark back instead. But he seemed to double down, so I thought the he might not understand where I was coming from and that I might be a bit more direct.

(Regardless of what the book reviews say or do not say,) I think that dismissing a female professor’s work as ‘largely about past boyfriends’, and concluding with a judgement based on the metric of ‘attractive-ness’, is problematic.

Maybe I am wrong. Honestly, I hesitated to make the point because I am already in clear agreement with the OP, the same OP who has been deemed ‘unfeminist’ (in behavior, not essence, but still). So I don’t expect people to take my contention as seriously as they would had I not expressed an opinion on the procedural point.

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bianca steele 06.10.15 at 5:30 pm

“Attractive” refers to behavior. This is why the Internet sucks. Now I’m apparently reduced to vocabsplaining English idiom to someone who probably knows perfectly well already, and looking like a pedant.

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phenomenal cat 06.10.15 at 5:32 pm

‘If you … don’t want people to complain about what you wrote: “Don’t write crap. Can’t be that hard.”’

If you don’t wish to take on the immense violent and bureaucratic apparatus of Australian State by attempting to win an argument about mechanics of said apparatus with said State’s most highly paid sophists at great financial and emotional cost to yourself, don’t write anything which a wealthy person might be motivated to label ‘crap’.

(Fwiw that isn’t a defence of Kipnis, whom I haven’t read, and apologies if it seems snarky or OT but some of the opinions about libel law and litigation in general on this thread seem incredibly naive.)

Vigorous golf clap for Engels @ 418&419.

435

gianni 06.10.15 at 5:46 pm

bianca I am not arguing that you called her ugly. I am arguing that there may be a connection between the manner of criticism you were willing to relay about her book and your use (calling-to-mind really) of that specific adjective, with its multiple meanings. You could have called it ‘insubstantial’, or ‘not a serious intellectual work’. These would have been consonant with the view that her book was nothing more than personal anecdotes, without the more problematic trappings.

I know, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Especially when you are the one smoking it.

436

Z 06.10.15 at 5:48 pm

Gianni, because you have taken the time to compose a thoughtful and well-argued response to what my pure content-free snark, I feel I owe you at least a semblance of the same.

There is a definite thesis in Kipnis’s essay, and even at times not uninteresting (though, in my mind, still wrong) ideas (about desire being conceptualized as mono-directional, for instance). However, according to the piece there was a time where sex was better, parties wilder, sexual advances unburdened with codes of conducts (and never obviously unwanted before they were made), students more empowered, women more resilient and less infantile, men able to distinguish when a female student was fishing for compliments on her appearance and feminism more intellectually respectable (all this is explicitly in it, as you know).

I don’t think that the coincidence of this idyllic past with the sexually adventurous youth of the author, several episodes of which are rather pruriently hinted at, is purely random and, as I wrote, for a man (especially a professor) to write this way is common to the point of being a trope (the Fond memories of vagina style of Garland Grey, which fits Kipnis’s essay perfectly). It was the first time I read it in the female version, and it wasn’t any better. Admittedly, there is a subversive reading in which the whole essay is a parody of this style actually arguing for the opposite thesis. That would at least explain the spectacularly self-defeating arguments offered.

But you are completely right that the merits (or lack thereof) of the essay are irrelevant to the legal and moral issues which have most been discussed in the thread (much to the chagrin of John).

437

bianca steele 06.10.15 at 5:58 pm

gianni,

I get it. You’re saying that “attractive” is unfeminist because lookism, I think, though “infantile” is okay despite the history of viewing women as inherently childish. Or else you’re just grasping for anything that will make you one-up in the discussion.

438

Rich Puchalsky 06.10.15 at 6:01 pm

The arguments that I’ve been making really don’t depend on labeling either Kipnis or her accuser(s) either feminist or anti-feminist. They are arguments about what left-liberal proceduralism entails, and therefore are in some sense about whether we have liberalism to blame for this. I fully agree with Bruce Wilder’s “In my view, modern liberalism is very weak, because it lacks the resources to do the job of intelligent criticism and practical innovation, to enable periodic reform and renovation of a powerful state. Deeply troubling to me is how little consciousness there is that this is a problem.” In this case, people who identify as “liberals” seem to have no idea what they are doing when they casually say that a relatively powerless person filing a complaint is providing ammo against liberalism, or that relatively straightforward procedural safeguards intended to work for institutional fairness are a threat to “free speech”.

439

geo 06.10.15 at 6:11 pm

mdc@422: Crawford’s stuff on Kant is terrible

Bianca@424: Oh anyone can see it’s superficial

I can’t, though perhaps that’s because I don’t know Kant very well. What Crawford needs to develop his own notion of the situated self is a contrast with Kant’s notion of the transcendental self, “abstracted from all objects” and “independent of all properties of the objects of volition” (which seems to bear a significant resemblance to the individual laborer/consumer of rational choice theory). Crawford argues that, on the contrary, our choices are path-dependent and our cognitions embedded in a point of view that we cannot completely transcend.

This is how Kant figures in Crawford’s overall argument:

The creeping substitution of virtual reality for reality is a prominent feature of contemporary life, but it also has deep antecedents in Western thought. It is a cultural project that is unfolding along lines that Immanuel Kant sketched for us: trying to establish the autonomy of the will by filtering material reality through abstractions.

I found his exposition persuasive, even masterly. What’s wrong with it?

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gianni 06.10.15 at 6:25 pm

bianca
There was a reason I didn’t name you initially – I am not trying to land punches on you, I was just substantiating something that I encountered this morning with the first example I found in the thread. Maybe I am trying to ‘one-up’ everyone here, and win those sweet, sweet internet points. But I think that you might be a bit defensive here, and that my argument stands regardless of my motives.

It is also worth noting that Kipnis is speaking about students generally being infantilized, not just women. And that her argument is that we should stop infantilizing them in our educational institutions, not that they *are* infantile, like in essence. She is objecting to what she sees as the infantilizing treatment of women on campus. So I don’t know what you are getting at. This is all very clear in the essay.

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gianni 06.10.15 at 6:27 pm

I should say that I, myself, found it clear. I recognize that opinions on the clarity and cohesion of the Kipnis essay do widely differ.

442

mdc 06.10.15 at 9:12 pm

Some of the phrases you quote don’t quite make sense to me (eg, “filtering material reality through abstractions”), but given other passages I think I see what he’s getting at.

Let’s take it that the will and its objects are at least distinguishable in thought. Kant’s question is whether, in reality, the will is ruled by given objects all the way down. His thesis about autonomy is that it is not (he has arguments). His view is not that the individual will is completely independent of given material objects- that can never be the case for human beings. Rather, the idea is that the will’s *highest principle*- according to which it does not necessarily act- does not depend on given material external to the will.

This highest principle, according to Kant, is not a psychological event, and so is not “in our heads.” It is the law for a universal community of rational agents, to which we belong together.

Similarly, according to Kant, nature is a shared world of experience, not a virtual reality of our own imagining.

Neither is Kantian politics radically individualist. Given our embodiment, the principle of autonomy dictates that we build certain sorts of concrete communities, including both a cosmopolitan union of sovereign republics and a “rational church” or ethical commonwealth of fallen agents committed to virtue.

There’s a lot to disagree with in all this, for sure. But Crawford seems to be fighting with a bit of a caricature.

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engels 06.10.15 at 9:22 pm

Vigorous golf clap for Engels @ 418&419.

I think that means you didn’t agree? Useful.to know….

444

Val 06.10.15 at 9:32 pm

I feel I should – rather belatedly I know! – butt out of this discussion. It seems a particularly American problem, and I dont really understand all the cultural nuances.

On the other hand, as an observer and outsider, I feel as if I’m obliged to tell you that this looks like a moral panic to me, and to say folks, it just really isn’t that important. Some young women made a complaint about a rather foolish article. No biggie.

On the third hand though (channelling Kali, the goddess of change and destruction) equal opportunity legislation is intended to change the (social) world. So maybe all this angst is inevitable.

445

Val 06.10.15 at 9:34 pm

446

Val 06.10.15 at 10:03 pm

Wow that image is so violent. Maybe I should have said. Mallory Ortberg did a series on these kinds of pictures (in western art history) – will have to find the link for that too sometime maybe

447

phenomenal cat 06.10.15 at 10:09 pm

” Vigorous golf clap for Engels @ 418&419.

I think that means you didn’t agree? Useful.to know….” –engles @443

No, actually it meant I politely, if still somewhat forcefully, agreed with your points. No sarcasm; a genuine golf clap.

Fucking internet is useless for communication…

448

engels 06.10.15 at 10:34 pm

Ah – thanks…

449

John Holbo 06.11.15 at 2:32 am

Rich: “Deeply troubling to me is how little consciousness there is that this is a problem. In this case, people who identify as “liberals” seem to have no idea what they are doing when they casually say that a relatively powerless person filing a complaint is providing ammo against liberalism, or that relatively straightforward procedural safeguards intended to work for institutional fairness are a threat to “free speech”.”

And earlier: “They’re unable to generalize from particular cases to an overall principle, or otherwise really follow through on a logical chain of thought, and they don’t evaluate evidence.”

We’ve been over the Kipnis stuff before. I won’t go over it again. I’ve made my case. You don’t buy it. We don’t agree whether there was a prima facie Title IX case. That is the stubborn nub of the dispute.

But since such a fine legal point – debated by non-lawyers – is not a likely occasion for expressions of such extreme and generalized indignance I presume to infer the root of the disagreement has to do with another set of considerations. You are ultimately resting your case – rather heavily – on an argument with a rather circular form: “I am right and you are wrong because I am so smart and you are so dumb.” You wouldn’t put it so indelicately, I’m sure. But, unvarnished, it comes to that. This isn’t actually an illogical statement. It could be true, in a causal sense. But I don’t think it’s healthy to try to adduce it as evidence, as I take you to be doing. Basically, I think the problem arises because you take a certain circumstance – you feel almost boundless intellectual contempt for your interlocutors – as more evidentially noteworthy than you think. It’s just not that unusual to feel those you disagree with are complete idiots.

This is not to say you are wrong! If it’s true you are so vastly and effortlessly intellectually superior as all that, I probably wouldn’t – couldn’t – know it. If I can’t reason or assess evidence or be self-critical, in the most elementary ways, then, by extension of the hypothesis, I can’t notice my inadequacies in these regards. All this is true, in the abstract, and I freely grant it all. So you could be right. So I’m not telling you not to say it if you feel it’s true. But – even so – on the off-chance that you are letting garden variety feelings of contempt for others overrun your own critical faculties, I would prescribe checking yourself, before you wreck yourself. In the words of Chuang Tzu.

And I’m sincerely sorry to have to say something so unpleasant.

On a more pleasant, therefore welcome note:

Your proposal for a model Title IX code/reform doesn’t seem hopeless. I could live with something like that, but I could also dispute it. (But that is always going to be the case.)

My main concern is that (perhaps with Kipnis in mind) you have limited the scope of application to profs., not students. I don’t see the consistent moral motivation for that. Either the scope of ‘recipient’ should be narrow, as I take it actually to be under existing law; or it should be extremely broad, for consistency. If Kipnis is not allowed to write such an opinion piece for the CHE, then I think a student at the school shouldn’t be allowed to write it for the school paper. (I’m not saying this is what Title IX does say. I think Title IX, as written, clearly allows both. I’m saying that the justice argument against allowing this thing is basically the same in both cases. Ergo, we should forbid both or neither.) Thinking through your proposal (I know you think I am by nature incapable, but I keep trying anyway, I can’t help myself!) it looks to me like you are actually tipping away from ‘retaliation’ as a standard, towards a mandate against creating a ‘prejudicial climate’. Something like that. You and Sebastian had a go-round above concerning the norm that newspapers shall always refer to the accused in ways that don’t presuppose guilt. He pointed out that newspapers are not legally bound to do this. They just think it’s a good idea. It looks to me like you are basically in favor of a strong mandate, along those lines. But if that’s what you are after, it should in fact apply to profs. and students alike. Students are just as capable as profs. of generating a climate of opinion that is prejudicial concerning a pending case, after all. So my concern is, basically, that it’s hard to lower such a general cone of silence in such a way that you don’t generate problems, i.e. rule out stuff you would want to permit.

Please correct me if I am wrong about you sort of shifting away from retaliation as a standard. My reason for thinking so is basically this: no one seriously suspects Kipnis of retaliating, i.e. no one thinks this was all an elaborate inside job to get that darn graduate student. What they sincerely object to is that Kipnis may have created a prejudicial climate in which people have doubts about such cases, and – by extension – the grad student’s case. The retaliation charge is, in effect, a pretext (legally valid or not) for what is felt to be a morally valid complaint that isn’t really about retaliation. Since we are thinking about this in a more ideal spirit, I think it’s fair to say: IF that is what really bothers you about Kipnis – namely, the generation of a prejudicial climate concerning a pending case – then he should directly address the thing that actually worries you. General cone of silence concerning pending cases, to avoid prejudicing opinion? Good idea, or not? That’s the real issue?

Again, I’m honestly asking, not trying to pin some unwelcome idea on you, Rich. If you don’t like, explain how I have misunderstood the spirit of your proposal.

450

John Holbo 06.11.15 at 2:36 am

Correction: if Kipnis is mandatorily investigated for writing such a thing for the CHE, a student writing it for the school newspaper should, likewise, be mandatorily investigated.

Also (this is obvious but it is worth mentioning) IF we are moving away from no retaliation, as a standard, more in favor of mandating no prejudicial climate concerning cases, the investigation will be of something else.

Also, we can still have a no-retaliation rule, but I think it should probably stay narrow, as I take current Title IX retaliation to be.

451

Val 06.11.15 at 3:05 am

Not trying to stay in the argument, but wanted to say, for the sake of both Rich and John Holbo, I don’t read Rich the way JH does. I did have a disagreement with Rich in a recent thread where I might have leaned a little more that way, but as a general rule, I really don’t see Rich as over-weaningly arrogant in the way JH seems to be suggesting.

I find that both Rich and Plume, who also comments here sometimes, seem to be treated as arrogant by some people on CT. I wonder if that’s because they have strong moral convictions about social justice? I think it’s a shame they are treated that way.

452

Collin Street 06.11.15 at 3:44 am

My main concern is that (perhaps with Kipnis in mind) you have limited the scope of application to profs., not students.

It’s certainly a surprising decision, limiting the scope of laws designed to check abuse of authority to those with authority. We should devote significant fractions of our effort to the task of rooting out people who abuse authority they don’t have instead of focussing on the abuses of authority by those actually in authority, that would be just and fair and equitable.

453

John Holbo 06.11.15 at 4:01 am

“limiting the scope of laws designed to check abuse of authority to those with authority.”

Well, my point is that Rich seems to be shifting the purpose of the (ideally posited) law so it isn’t really designed to check abuse of authority, per se, anymore. I would be in favor of keeping it purely as a check on abuse of authority, personally, in which case obviously students wouldn’t be covered. But I think Rich is moving away from that. As I said, I think he is getting at the idea that the point of this sort of rule should be to ensure that there is no prejudicial climate about a pending case. (He will correct me if I’m wrong.)

Or put it this way: suppose the idea is that someone in authority put Kipnis up to this CHE thing. Her piece was a plant, in effect – a poison pill to discredit the grad student. Retaliation, in short. If that is the suspicion, then a student op-ed would be just as suspect. Students could easily be put up to that sort of thing. If, ideally, Kipnis should be investigated, to see if she was part of some retaliatory plot; then, ideally, a student who write the same thing in an op-ed should be investigated as well. (Obviously this is not the law as it stands. We are only considering what would be optimal, in light of what we want.)

I really am trying to focus on what people who think what Kipnis did deserved investigation are thinking is the truly objectionable feature: are we presently (in this case) worried about intentional retaliation by those in authority? Or are we worried about a prejudicial climate of opinion on campus, surrounding a pending case? Or both? Or what?

And, for the record, Rich is only arrogant if he is wrong. I don’t mind that he thinks I’m an idiot about these things. That’s fine. I try to be self-critical about how I think about such things, so I’m glad to have a guy like Rich around. But it’s a bit wearisome, sometimes. So sometimes I wish he’d dial it back just a bit.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.11.15 at 5:14 am

JH: “My main concern is that (perhaps with Kipnis in mind) you have limited the scope of application to profs., not students. I don’t see the consistent moral motivation for that. “

It’s about abuse of authority. Professors are the people who control whether that grad student ever gets an academic job. It’s really easy for them to just tell other professors privately that the student is “difficult” or something. If the imaginary administrator got a student newspaper to write about it, so what: students don’t have the credibility that professors do, and having a student pass on the message doesn’t indicate that there is professorial buy-in that would really empower the retaliation.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.11.15 at 5:39 am

Although actually, let me step back for a moment. Some people were writing that they didn’t even understand how this could legitimately appear to be a case of Title IX retaliation (before the investigation) and so I was providing a narrative that showed how it could. But maybe we should discuss what liberal proceduralism is really about.

A lot of it is just about appearing to be fair. Giving people a legal avenue of redress that can in theory work to let less powerful people prevail against more powerful people even though in practice it rarely does. It’s a social control method. Does having a jury trial (to take a random example) really make much difference if the lawyers on one side are wealthy and know the judge and the one on the other side is penniless and doesn’t have those contacts? No, it really doesn’t. But people piously say that it does and that certain basic rights are being respected. Like the right to complain to the legal system when you think someone has done something wrong and get an investigation, even though the “investigation” in this case consists of asking the professor “Did someone representing the university discuses this with you beforehand? No? OK I guess we’ll take your word for it, there can’t be retaliation under the Title IX definition then.”

The point is that when left-liberals start chipping away even at this BS level of public protection against abuse of authority, how are they really different from conservatives? Conservatives and left-liberals are all Enlightenment liberals, in some sense. Conservatives just don’t want the fig leaf that, in a longer term view, inconveniences the people in power sometimes but lets the system go on. When you start agreeing with the conservatives that this was bad strategy for the powerless person to file a doomed complaint or whatever, there’s no particular reason for anyone to value left-liberalism. It’s like the social democrats who wonder why they lose to conservatives when the social democrats were careful to claim that we need austerity so that they wouldn’t scare anyone off by being too left economically.

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John Holbo 06.11.15 at 5:46 am

“having a student pass on the message doesn’t indicate that there is professorial buy-in that would really empower the retaliation.”

So you are modeling the Kipnis piece-as-retaliation in a horse-head-in-the-bed sort of Mafia message way? Namely, the grad student would read the CHE, reasonably infer the administration (or someone besides Kipnis) had planted that allusion to her case as a ‘we’re going to whack you if you don’t back off!’ warning, courtesy of Kipnis? I don’t think this is prima facie plausible. That is, if prima facie Title IX retaliation plausibility requires this to be plausible, then it isn’t.

I was going for the ‘prejudicial climate’ reading because it’s highly plausible that the Kipnis piece creates one. Honestly, I think this is what people find objectionable about piece – those who do. Not that they seriously think Kipnis was – or seems likely to have – intentionally conspiring behind the scenes to whack the grad student, on behalf of Lulow, or the Northwestern Administration, or anything like that.

The question then is: should potentially generating a prejudicial climate be forbidden?

But OK, you are not going for that. Now I know.

I’m behind on my work for the day. Back again later, or not at all, maybe.

Play nice, as always.

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John Holbo 06.11.15 at 5:46 am

Rich’s second comment and mine crossed. But I’m still outa here. Gotta run.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.11.15 at 11:14 am

JH: “I don’t think this is prima facie plausible. That is, if prima facie Title IX retaliation plausibility requires this to be plausible, then it isn’t.”

I know that we’re supposed to treat the complaint and the investigation as caught in a reinforcing loop of incredulity. That is: the complaint is supposed to be ridiculous because the investigation was ridiculous, and the investigation was supposed to be ridiculous because the complaint was ridiculous. But in reality, the people who did the investigation seemed to think that there was prima facie plausibility. They had access to more information than you do. Are you sure that your plausibility argument works?

Consider this:
* for retaliation to be based on speech, it has to be based on destroying the person’s reputation;
* the line in the essay can easily be read as a signal that “we’re going to do an attack on your reputation if you don’t back off”;
* one of the reasons it can be read this way is the exact one-sentence-in-an-essay quality you’ve already pointed out. It doesn’t need to be there;
* another reason is the refusal to correct the sentence, which reinforces the communication that the complainant has no control over what the message-senders are going to publicly say;
* another reason is that it sounds innocuous to people who opine about the case without bothering to understand it, but it contradicts something evidently important to the person who was allegedly raped (i.e. that she wasn’t really dating Ludlow);
* another reason is that the message is highly public rather than private, in order to demonstrate the complainant’s vulnerability;
* therefore the message is public, widely read, painful to the recipient, and deniable.

I don’t think that this really was a “horse’s head in the bed” message. But if someone had wanted to send one, it would sound a lot like this.

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AcademicLurker 06.11.15 at 1:21 pm

I’m going to sound like a broken record with this, but yesterday I was reading a hobby related site that has nothing at all to do with academia, and the Kipnis story was being discussed (not sure how that started). There was no doubt in anyone’s mind over there that the Title IX investigation had been initiated because the students objected to the general “What’s the matter with the kids these days? They’re so oversensitive!” drift of Kipnis’ piece, and that this was an outrageous example of misusing Title IX to punish the expression of an opinion someone didn’t like.

In other words, as Rich said upthread, they were outraged about a fiction.

I guess I’m harping on this because I think the “But is it bad for liberalism?” aspect of this thread may be missing the point by focusing on what actually happened (the students complained because the piece made specific false claims about them with respect to the Ludlow case) and whether it was a justifiable Title IX complaint.

To the extent that anything resulting from this case is bad for liberalism, it’s because people are responding to an imaginary version of what happened. And that has less to do with counter-enlightenment gotchas and more to do with mundane media politics. Conservatives were, as they often are, better at controlling the narrative. So much so that even the liberal New York Times Amanda Marcotte was eventually denouncing the students for their imagined sins.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.11.15 at 1:35 pm

AcademicLurker: “There was no doubt in anyone’s mind over there that the Title IX investigation had been initiated because the students objected to the general “What’s the matter with the kids these days? They’re so oversensitive!” drift of Kipnis’ piece, and that this was an outrageous example of misusing Title IX to punish the expression of an opinion someone didn’t like.”

I’ll add to this: for all we know, maybe the complainant(s) really were outraged over the drift of Kipnis’ piece, and that’s why they filed the complaint. The complainants don’t have to have had something like the theory of the case that I’m outlining above.

However, for it to get to the investigation stage as Title IX retaliation, something like the theory of the case that I’m outlining above has to have been possible. In other words, there has to be a reference by a professor to a particular student at the same university, that student has to have filed a Title IX complaint, and the reference to the student plausibly could be retaliation for that complaint (i.e. it tells the alleged rapist’s version of the story as fact and doesn’t tell the student’s version of the story).

JH above tells me to back off, but … why? I’m not a super genius, but I am more determined to dig into things like this once they’ve caught my attention than most people are. And once I dug into this, the more it appeared to me that the people going on about how the complainants really were concerned that Kipnis dissed them were writing something beside the point, if they want to treat the investigation itself as a miscarriage of justice. (The investigation was bad for other reasons: didn’t tell Kipnis what she was charged with, didn’t allow counsel, didn’t allow recording etc. But no one seems to be disputing that.)

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Z 06.11.15 at 2:11 pm

Rich,
For the little that it’s worth, your persistence has changed my mind quite a bit since I first read the two pieces by Kipnis. Especially, I know essentially agree with your 21.

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Collin Street 06.11.15 at 2:39 pm

> But I think Rich is moving away from that.
> I don’t think this is prima facie plausible.
> Honestly, I think this is what people find objectionable about piece

You think a lot of things, don’t you.

“Dreher’s conservatism consists largely of the attitude that his prejudices and preferences should not require justification by argument.”

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John Holbo 06.11.15 at 3:01 pm

“You think a lot of things, don’t you.”

I do!

OK, Rich.

“JH above tells me to back off”

No no. I don’t want you to back off. I just want you to dial down the ad hominem insults just a notch. Just for the sake of the conversation. They don’t add substance.

Now, to the substance.

“But in reality, the people who did the investigation seemed to think that there was prima facie plausibility. They had access to more information than you do. Are you sure that your plausibility argument works?”

Well, if the best you’ve got is ‘maybe there’s something we don’t know,’ then obviously I can’t refute that. But it doesn’t look so strong to me. With regard to your horse-head-in-the-bed reading, I think it says something that it doesn’t seem to have occurred to anyone else, so maybe it isn’t so plausible? Everyone else has been upset about whether Kipnis’ piece needed fact-checking, whether she was upholding academic standards. But if you think the problem is it this has the hallmarks of an out-and-out personal threat, all that falls away. You can’t fix a threat by fact-checking it. The fact that people were asking for fact-checking shows they didn’t see the problem as a threat, but as the creation of a prejudicial climate of opinion concerning a pending case.

Hence my suggestions about the problem being, maybe, not retaliation, but the likelihood of generating a prejudicial climate of opinion concerning a pending case.

I think I’m done. G’night, all.

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AcademicLurker 06.11.15 at 3:06 pm

This whole story would have been approximately 1000x more interesting is Kipnis had, in fact, put a severed horse head in the bed of one of the students.

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John Holbo 06.11.15 at 3:07 pm

Maybe that explains why Rich finds it so interesting.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.11.15 at 4:15 pm

JH: “The fact that people were asking for fact-checking shows they didn’t see the problem as a threat, but as the creation of a prejudicial climate of opinion concerning a pending case.”

Sorry, but that just doesn’t work. “Everyone else had been upset about” a series of fictions, or if you’re talking about what the original complainants were upset about, we don’t have access to their complaints. At least one of the original complainants mentioned fact checking about exactly this point: whether the op-ed was telling the student’s side of the story or accepting the alleged rapist’s side of the story as fact. But if you were concerned about retaliation, that’s what you would be concerned about: Kipnis “got the facts wrong” not about which city the student lived in, but about whether it was contested that the student and professor were dating. The complainant can’t say that Kipnis purposefully “got the facts wrong” because the complainant doesn’t know and has no way to prove, without investigation, whether it was a careless mistake or a purposeful, retaliatory one.

So go back to the law and the facts so far as we know them (i.e. the text of Kipnis’ op-ed). With that law and those facts, there is a plausible theory (at least, I think it’s plausible, and I’ve defended that with references to law and facts) about why this could be Title IX retaliation. And that’s what the complaint was about: Title IX retaliation. It’s really pretty simple: student files Title IX complaint, professor writes op-ed questioning student’s story, professor can under law be considered to be acting as a retaliator for the university if the university knew that the op-ed reference was going to happen. It’s not like charging Kipnis with murder: there is a reasonable theory under which when a professor writes something public and nasty and untrue (or at least contested) about a particular student at their university, they are retaliating.

So my exasperation is communicative. It says that people are doing a really bad job of understanding something that’s not that complicated. As such, it’s a meta-argument. Enlightenment liberal justice depends on people being able to figure out complex cases. Here we have an audience of pretty much what you’d think would be the best possible non-lawyers available at doing this — philosophy professors, academics, knowledge workers etc. And from what I can see, collectively you’re really not that good at it. Doesn’t that call this whole process into question? It means that the power relationships really are more problematic than you’d think: that this is one small additional indication that hoping that power will be well-guided by rationality is futile.

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Sebastian H 06.11.15 at 4:20 pm

Rich, the problem with your proposed mechanism is that in the hands of anyone with the slightest shred of vindictiveness it becomes wholly weaponized. You seem to want anything that could possibly construed as negative against a complainant to be investigated because in theory there might have been administration meddling. I’m sure you expect the bounds to be rational, but they won’t be. And remember you are allowing third parties to trigger these investigations. So the actually operating standard will be: any statement which any university third party might choose to construe as insufficiently supportive of Title IX or any complainant.

This isn’t theoretical. It has already happened. Eisenman, was brought up on a Title IX complaint which you havent talked about. Upthread, there is talk of his statement being a breach of confidentiality, but in reality we are just back to an allusion to the case which could be dechiphered by people who already know (a standard you believe is sufficient). He talked in an academic senate setting about his belief that the Title IX investigation process as shown against Kipnis was a threat to academic freedom. He didn’t mention Ludlow’s complainant by name, and at the time no outsider knew for sure that she was involved in the Kipnis complaint. (Remember third parties). He talked about the threshold of investigation for Kipnis-like complaints as being to low. (I.e. The discussion Holbo is having.). So, unlike Kipnis, he wasn’t attacking the Title IX sexual misconduct requirements, but was rather raising issues about the threshold for retaliation investigations.

The reason he was talking about it was because the Kipnis case got huge amounts of press, but as far as construably negative allusions attempting to retaliate against sexual misconduct complainanst the link is rather tenuous.

Nevertheless, a third party (now known to NOT be the underlying Ludlow complainant) successfully started a Title IX investigation of retaliation against Eisenman which was only dropped because she withdrew it (citing lack of trust in the system, rather than citing ridiculousness of the complaint).

Is being able to force Eisenman-like investigations a good outcome? A necessary one?

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Sebastian H 06.11.15 at 4:24 pm

Note, as to eisenman, there is no allegation of untruth in his statements.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.11.15 at 4:37 pm

So as soon as I point out that the original retaliation claim against Kipnis plausibly merited an investigation, you ask me to look up a related but different one. Nope, at comment #468 I’m not going to develop a whole new argument around facts. I’ll just say what should be obvious: Eisenman was Kipnis’ support person during the Title IX investigation, and maybe being the support person during the investigation made it a bad idea to go in front of a public meeting of the faculty and tell them that this was like something out of Stalin’s Russia. That sort of looks like … retaliation, doesn’t it? People who have official roles in court cases have rules about how they can and can’t speak out to the public that override their normal free speech rights.

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Sebastian H 06.11.15 at 6:16 pm

So that is a yes?

471

Sebastian H 06.11.15 at 6:18 pm

Wait. In your opinion what does “support person” mean?

472

TM 06.11.15 at 6:23 pm

It is hardly surprising given CT standards that the debate has dragged on for another fruitless 200 comments without anybody saying anything new. It is a sight to behold how Rich’s very clear statements (especially the clarification at 252) are getting distorted in ways that are hard to credited as good faith misreadings. geo at 259, have you really not noticed that Rich specifically distanced himself from the view you impute to him?

Re Eisenmann, this is crystal clear. Eisenman was involved in the complaint process and he had an obligation – he certainly knew he had that obligation – to keep it confidential. It certainly wasn’t proper for him to talk about it in a public meeting, in ways disparaging the other party, and it is completely irrelevant whether or not he named names – he spoke about a recognizable case that he was bound to keep confidential and he disparaged a party in the case.

The most curious comment came from gianni at 210, directed at me: “I would love to have the conversation over the degree to which ‘liberalism’ is implicated here. Unfortunately, for all of your explicit claims to the contrary, I do not get the sense that you would be willing to engage in that conversation in a way that would be productive.”

This is puzzling because if you gianni are interested in a conversation about “the degree to which ‘liberalism’ is implicated”, why, just do it, provide an argument, make a case. Nobody in this thread after 468 comments has even attempted an answer to the question I posed early on: how is whatever happened in this case related to liberalism? How did anything wrong for reasons related to liberal bias or whatever? Nobody has provided even a shadow of an argument, including you gianni. So I am the bad guy for saying that there is no case. Great. If you think there is case to be made, make it. If you can’t or won’t, don’t criticize me for saying there is no case.

The best illustration of what I’m talking about is now JH’s trolling at 299: “But I accept that anything illiberal done in the name of ‘liberalism’ will tend to drag the name of ‘liberalism’ into disrepute.” Nobody would disagree with that (another strawm na) – except that nothing done in the Kipnis case was “done in the name of ‘liberalism’”. Which is what I’ve been saying (and Rich and AcademicLurker and so on) from the beginning. JH and his followers are engaging in very straightforward right-wing propaganda parroting and they are oh so shocked that anybody might find fault with that.

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TM 06.11.15 at 6:25 pm

“How did anything wrong for reasons related to liberal bias” should read “Who did anything wrong…”

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Bruce Wilder 06.11.15 at 6:30 pm

Law is a weapon. The only political questions are whose weapon and for what purposes?

The economic question is, how much disputation can we afford? And, the answer is, not much.

It is the combination in political economy, that gives us the law as we imagine it to be in some ideal sense, a remote arbiter that we can avoid and should avoid during good behavior — that is, within the ambit of our “freedom” — encountering the law directly only in dramatic moments when we “cheat” and get caught, perhaps because there are undeniable consequences — someone dies, say, or the world economy crashes. (OK, not that last one.)

Ordinarily, we imagine that the law mandates “good behavior” and when we remain within the ambit of “good behavior”, observing the conventions and norms of everyday life, “freely” living our lives, pursuing our private ends, never “intending” harm, we imagine ourselves safely within the good fence that is the law, constraining us, but also protecting us. We don’t imagine ourselves as unruly cattle, always tending to “bad behavior”, tending to overgraze, to knock down the fences and wander the landscape not as the well-behaved herd, but as an anarchy of individuals governed only by our own wills.

Law is a weapon, and it properly maintains the boundaries. In the ordinary routine of life, “good behavior” is bounded, not by the operation of law, but by the operation of norms and conventions, the latter being much more efficient in every sense than the former. The law assumes a meta-relationship to norms and conventions, keeping the norms and conventions from morphing into something pathological, or more likely, breaking the norms and conventions after it is clear that the norms and conventions have evolved into something protective of pathology. This is the significance of the parallel threads on “scandals”: the moment when the law, as weapon, wades into the mess of denial and irresponsibility created by the broken norms and conventions of “everybody does it”.

Title IX, as policy, was intended to provide legal weapons to break systems of norms and conventions regarded as undesirable, where established norms and conventions were supportive of a continued pattern of sex discrimination. My understanding is that it was quite successful in breaking sex discrimination in sports and athletic funding. Now, it is being used to tackle the problems of sexual culture, the norms and conventions that support college cultures of sexual harassment and tolerance of rape. (I hope that phrasing is sufficiently accurate and neutral.)

I’ve never been an academic, but I have had the occasional experience of lecturing to college students as a guest and I have helped to conduct the capstone strategy course at business schools a couple of times. I perfectly understand when academics say they are afraid of their students. The students are coming at the professor all the time — with demands of all kinds. The authority, and discretion, of the teacher is used constantly to shut down and contain these demands: maybe to embarrass the student who arrives late or unprepared, or to refuse extending the deadline on a paper, or to reschedule an exam, and so on and on and on. If someone came to me as teacher, with a demand that I alter the curriculum to accommodate her concerns about “triggers”, I would hope I would have have sufficient empathy and discernment to separate a legitimate concern from b.s.

I’ve also been a student, and I have had the experience of a “bad” professor, the professor whose course preparation or attention was wholly inadequate. When I was in college, in the paleolithic era, a student in my program could go to the head of program, with a complaint or particular need, and the head took care of it. We, students, kind of marvelled at the head’s ability to bend the nominal rules, and not incidentally eat associate professors for lunch. But, he was absolutely dedicated to the students. I actually had a problem with a professor, who for whatever reasons was unaccountably hostile to the class. It was a small class, and nothing personal or sexual, since he seemed to treat everyone badly, but I found it extremely stressful; I went to the head and I think I burst into tears, frankly. He took care of it: got counseling for the professor, set someone to govern the final grading of the course so there could be no “retaliation” which we students were all afraid of, at the point. I tell this story as an example of how I think it should work: the administration responding to a problem and taking care of the student.

I do not imagine that this is, as a rule, how it in fact works most of the time in most institutions. It’s just as easy for norms and conventions to evolve that entail administrative indifference to the needs of students or a self-protective guild mentality among the faculty.

At another institution, where I taught, in the mesolithic, there was an associate professor who was clearly dissatisfied with his lot, which seemed to entail a subtle disrespect from his fellows and unaccountable preclusion from further promotion. He’d written a well-received book in his field and was bright and garrulous and an enthusiastic teacher and still active as a researcher. Eventually, I heard the story: he was suspected of having extorted sexual favors from a student, a suspicion supported by supposedly having been discovered in flagrante in his office by a staff member. All this happened before my time, and I have no personal knowledge — for me it was just a story. Still, it kind of fits my idea of a potentially deteriorated state of norms and conventions, unconditioned by law. People don’t lose all sense of right and wrong, but they compromise willy nilly. Extorting the student would not have been impossible in the first place, if she had had access to a powerful advocate for her rights. The professor would have faced penalties a bit more severe than semi-shunning and loss of promotion opportunities (which might well be evaded, if he had been able to conjure a job offer from another school).

The OP did seem to step in it a bit at the point where the liberal idea of freedom from control by authority intersects with the conservative norm of immunity for the powerful. This is a point of contact that we ought to want to be clear on, because it is the point of contact, where conservative politics has historically attempted to subvert liberal politics, often quite successfully. From a liberal standpoint, I think there’s a legitimate controversy about what we should want the norms and conventions of sexual behavior to be, post-Sexual-Revolution (meaning now that the authority of church and state no longer license sexual relationships and taboos no longer limit our awareness of abuse).

To me, the discovery that law is a crude weapon of oppression seems almost like a side-issue. The pretence that we can rely on the spontaneous emergence of norms and conventions — the self-regulating market in another guise — seems like the central illusion. But, the two are tied together in our mythology and it is a mythology whose deceptions serve conservative and arguably socially pathological purposes, when the norms and conventions dominate the law, instead of the other way around (as they clearly do, in the case of routine, unjustifiable police violence, where the police can never be penalized properly for unlawful conduct).

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TM 06.11.15 at 6:34 pm

The best illustration of what I’m talking about is now JH’s trolling at 299: “But I accept that anything illiberal done in the name of ‘liberalism’ will tend to drag the name of ‘liberalism’ into disrepute.” Nobody would disagree with that (another strawman) – except that nothing done in the Kipnis case was “done in the name of ‘liberalism’”. Which is what I’ve been saying (and Rich and AcademicLurker 459 and others) from the beginning. JH and his followers are engaging in very straightforward right-wing propaganda parroting and they are oh so shocked that anybody might find fault with that.

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Sebastian H 06.11.15 at 6:45 pm

TM, you are wrong about the confidentiality requirement. Eisenman was required not to identify the complainant in the complaint against Kipnis, which he did not. There was no confidentiality requirement about the existence of the investigation itself or about the charges, or about the validity of the charges. And again remember this is the retaliation investigation, not the sexual misconduct investigation. There isn’t a blanket confidentiality requirement about everything to do with Title IX complaints. There is a confidentiality as to the particular identity of the complainants.

Rich, you are the one who wanted to delve deeply into the case. You spent all sorts of comments harassing John for failing to do so. I don’t understand your sudden reluctance. The complaint against Eisenman is about how your standard fails to work in practice. Unless you think that it is an illustration of how it OUGHT to work, which I suspect in practice would lead to the complete dismantling of Title IX at the hands of conservatives who will be able to rightly suggest that very few people agree with you.

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geo 06.11.15 at 6:59 pm

TM@472: geo at 259, have you really not noticed that Rich specifically distanced himself from the view you impute to him?

Do you mean @271? In any case, if I imputed a view to Rich, then no, I guess I hadn’t noticed that he’d specifically distanced himself from it.

In general, TM, “very clear statements” rarely get misread so persistently, by so many intelligent commenters, as you allege here. Maybe they weren’t very clear. And since you’ve expended far less breath in this “fruitless” thread than Rich, you might have troubled to restate his very clear position rather than simply deploring everyone else’s failures of reading comprehension.

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TM 06.11.15 at 7:09 pm

SH, I’m tired of this. Here’s Justin: “The faculty-support person Kipnis chose happens to be the president of the Faculty Senate, Stephen Eisenman. As president, he took to the faculty senate floor to speak about the matter and while what counts as “general terms” is subject to interpretation, I am informed that Eisenman provided details of the charges against Kipnis, along with details about how the investigation was proceeding. He questioned the reasonability of the investigation, defended Kipnis, and discussed the possibility of bringing charges against the complaining students for creating a hostile environment. All this, while the confidential investigation into the retaliation charges against Kipnis was ongoing.”

You are asserting that Eisenman didn’t violate confidentiality. Others disagree with that assertion and I don’t see you providing any better evidence for your claim. And again, what is at issue is the private decision of an individual to pursue a complaint. Whatever your belief about the merit of that complaint is really irrelevant and a distraction as far as the “liberalism” debate is concerned (and I won’t go into this any further).

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TM 06.11.15 at 7:12 pm

geo, you are right, it’s 271. And here’s from your statement (imputing Rich’s position): ““OK, we can all agree that there are some objectionable features of the situation, but by the same reasoning, there are far graver and more extensive injustices happening all around us, which demand our attention even more urgently.”

And here’s Rich at 252, which is what you were directly responding to:
“I really wasn’t trying to make an Oppression Olympics argument — an argument that says “Why should anyone care about injustice towards academics when there is so much worse going on.”

Do I have to spell it out: Rich states the position that he does NOT wish to take, and you respond by imputing almost verbatim the position he just said he does NOT take.

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TM 06.11.15 at 7:19 pm

I have to take this partially back. It’s not clear whether you intend to impute the statement I quoted to Rich. Actually on rereading, I’m not sure what your position is geo. So disregard the above.

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Sebastian H 06.11.15 at 7:31 pm

TM, you may be tired but you aren’t very accurate. You pointedly didn’t mention the only thing that he was required to be confidential about–the identity of the complainant. Which of course you couldn’t mention because he didn’t violate it.

This is similar to newspaper reporting in states with certain types of shield laws. They aren’t banned from talking about rape allegations, identifying the accused party, the details of the allegations, or their judgment about the likelihood of the charges being poorly grounded. They are banned from giving the name of the complainant (and address, and certain other identifying information). You are trying to create some sort of blanket rule against talking about charges AT ALL, which just doesn’t exist. The investigation was confidential as to the identity of the complainant. Not generally confidential.

He was the president of the faculty senate, talking TO the faculty senate about business clearly pertinent to the faculty senate.

‘Support person’ just means “witness because the administration refused to allow an attorney for Kipnis to be present”. It isn’t nefarious.

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TM 06.11.15 at 7:37 pm

SH, you make many unsupported claims, either provide evidence or leave it. Repeating the same claim for the tenth time doesn’t make it more convincing.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.11.15 at 7:43 pm

Sebastian H is providing more argument from personal incredulity. Here’s what’s supposed to be the text of a joint statement from Northwestern’s Department of Philosophy (it’s from here, in case anyone wants to challenge my source):

We (the faculty members of Northwestern’s Philosophy Department) call upon Baron Reed, the Philosophy Department’s representative to the Faculty Senate, to join together with other Faculty Senators to inquire into whether Stephen Eisenman, in his role as President of the Northwestern Faculty Senate, violated his obligations by discussing details of an ongoing confidential university investigation on the senate floor, and so therefore should step down from office. Our students deserve to be treated in full accordance with the university’s rules.

Now, is that the irresponsible complaint of a nameless third party who just doesn’t know university rules? Or is that the entire department that the grad student is in publicly saying that Eisenman potentially did something very wrong and should be investigated?

I don’t think that academic departments are in the habit of issuing statements like this about the presidents of their senates merely because they didn’t know that only the identity of the complainant was confidential.

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William Berry 06.11.15 at 7:53 pm

Awesome thread.

I am pretty sure that you fellows (mostly) have settled this issue definitively for all time!

Congratulations.

[fwimomnbw, I agree with RP, as per usual.]

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geo 06.11.15 at 9:03 pm

According to the Title IX Legal Manual, section on “Retaliation”:

“Four elements must be established to make out a prima facie case of retaliation:

1. The complainant engaged in activities or asserted rights protected under Title IX;

2. The recipient knew of the protected activity;

3. The recipient thereafter subjected the person to adverse action, treatment or conditions; and

4. There is a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse action, treatment or conditions.”

These are prima facie conditions, not matters to be investigated. This would seem to tell against Rich’s contention that the mere possibility of #4 is grounds for investigation.

“Adverse action” in #3 is defined elsewhere in the section: “[n]o recipient or other person shall intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by [Title VI], or because he has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under this subpart.” Which of these — “intimidate, threaten, coerce, or discriminate against” — is Kipnis’s essay alleged to have done.

Finally, just noticed this by Kipnis in the comments section (#123) of the DailyNous post Rich cites (which has a link to the Title IX Legal Manual):

Some of the commentators are going to enormous lengths to contest my arguments, lengths that put them on intellectually ludicrous ground. As to the validity of my using the word “dating” in my Chronicle essay regarding the relationship between Ludlow and a graduate student: to be even clearer than I was previously, Ludlow’s suit quotes the graduate student’s prior complaint as having acknowledged a consensual romantic relationship and consensual sex between the two of them. (This obviously has nothing to do with whether or not there was also non-consensual sex at some point.) So are commentators asserting that Ludlow lied in his court filings about easily disprovable matters, that is, the graduate student’s statements in her earlier complaint? Are commentators asserting there wasn’t a prior consensual relationship? I don’t think anyone has said that; nevertheless my “journalistic” credentials are under attack for supposedly mistaking assertions in a court filing for facts. The dispute is whether this is a distinction that makes a difference in this case. (And additionally, whether using the word “dating” as a synonym for “consensual romantic relationship” is actionable under Title IX.) Though I see Justin has posted a proviso disallowing posts that address whether relevant events took place, or speculation about the veracity of the parties involved, as some commentators have pointed out, the underlying facts are indeed what’s being argued about. And so is my veracity. Regarding which, I’m going to once again say that a 72-day Title IX investigation established that the use of the term “dating” in the essay was perfectly legitimate, and so was relying on the court documents for the underlying facts of the case.

If Kipnis indeed was relying on a court document (ie, the student’s statement acknowledging previous consensual sex), as she alleges, would this absolve her of the repeated (in this thread) claim that she was “lying”?

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Collin Street 06.11.15 at 9:04 pm

> Sebastian H is providing more argument from personal incredulity.

The thing about being in error is that you will believe things that make perfect sense to you, that seem inescapable, and they will not be true.

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Sebastian H 06.11.15 at 9:07 pm

“SH, you make many unsupported claims, either provide evidence or leave it. Repeating the same claim for the tenth time doesn’t make it more convincing.”

TM, that is what the cited report says. That is also what Title IX says. If you don’t want to believe it that is your own blindness. You repeating your interpretation doesn’t make it any more correct.

Rich, the complaint against Eisenman was withdrawn so we won’t be getting any more clarity on the issue. If the student thought it had more merit than the claim against Kipnis (which was found to not to meet even preponderance of the evidence standard) she certainly could have continued it.

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William Berry 06.11.15 at 9:53 pm

I plan on making a long, substantive comment, a la JCH or Bruce the Dour, on a difficult topic of great importance one of these days, but it will have to wait.

Right now it is just too damn’ hot.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.11.15 at 10:30 pm

“Rich, the complaint against Eisenman was withdrawn so we won’t be getting any more clarity on the issue. If the student thought it had more merit than the claim against Kipnis (which was found to not to meet even preponderance of the evidence standard) she certainly could have continued it.”

Have the faculty withdrawn their joint statement? That is what I quoted, after all.

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afeman 06.11.15 at 10:35 pm

I couldn’t find where Kipnis commented in a Daily Nous post that Rich cited, but there was this:

http://dailynous.com/2015/06/07/a-response-to-daily-nous-guest-post-by-laura-kipnis/

491

TM 06.11.15 at 11:18 pm

geo 485: You are really surprising me. The causal connection is always in such cases a matter of dispute because nobody who engages in retaliation will admit to doing so (also see 200). So naturally in every such investigation, whether there is a causal connection or not is precisely what the investigation will have to investigate. It seems to me that you misunderstand the meaning of prima facie. A complainant must provide a plausible prima facie case to be taken seriously. That is not the same as a water tight proof.

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TM 06.11.15 at 11:21 pm

And this: “my “journalistic” credentials are under attack for supposedly mistaking assertions in a court filing for facts.”

This is absurd. You never cite one side’s court claims as fact without clarifying that this is one side’s version. Is it possible that he lied in his court filing? Well actually yes it’s possible. Welcome to reality.

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John Holbo 06.11.15 at 11:37 pm

Collin Street: “The thing about being in error is that you will believe things that make perfect sense to you, that seem inescapable, and they will not be true.”

It’s the little ironies that still make it worthwhile, as we trudge towards 500. Maybe. Speaking of which: welcome back, TM!

I’m still off today. In fact, I’m probably done with this thread. I’ve said my piece, made my argument. The rest of you are welcome to continue without me.

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engels 06.12.15 at 12:44 am

Is it just me or are the comments threads here streadily longer and longer? 500 comments on a rather technical issue that afaict noone really cares (or with exception of Sebastian, I guess, knows) that much about seems quite surprising.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.12.15 at 12:47 am

geo @ 485: Actually Kipnis’ comment is on the article that afeman linked to, here. In the body of that post, she write “The only account I had access to was the professor’s. ” So she didn’t rely on “court documents” except insofar as Ludlow’s version of events was presented as a court document. There is an ensuing argument about how Ludlow’s court filing characterizes the student’s court filing, which Kipnis says she hasn’t read. So she relied on Ludlow’s version of events.

I view her comment as upholding my point. Remember, I didn’t write that Kipnis was retaliating and should have been found guilty. I wrote what I wrote all the way up at #21. And what does Kipnis write? “Regarding which, I’m going to once again say that a 72-day Title IX investigation established that the use of the term “dating” in the essay was perfectly legitimate, and so was relying on the court documents for the underlying facts of the case.” For the sake of argument, let’s take her at her word about what the investigation established. So, taking her at her word, it was highly relevant to the investigation whether that word “dating” was legitimate. Why? Because that’s what the claim of retaliation hinges on. If it wasn’t credible that mischaracterizing the relationship could have been retaliation, then it wouldn’t have been important to figure out whether this characterization turned out to be legitimate or not.

As for the rest, I’ll just repeat what I wrote earlier — “adverse action” can be a threat to someone’s reputation, since a reputation as someone who makes false rape claims would be the end of an academic career. “Causal connection”: without the scandal of back-and-forth Title IX complaints, Kipnis would never have written about the grad student.

JH: “Maybe that explains why Rich finds it so interesting.”

I’ve often observed that once I’ve written the huge number of words that it takes to finally begin to convince people to change their minds about a case like this, people start to write about how uninteresting it all is and why do I bother.

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Collin Street 06.12.15 at 1:01 am

I’ve often observed that once I’ve written the huge number of words that it takes to finally begin to convince people to change their minds about a case like this, people start to write about how uninteresting it all is and why do I bother.

Do you want to make the world a better place, or do you want the credit for making the world a better place?

[if I’d actually read — if I could actually spell — neitsche — there’d probably be a quote here, but I’ve got this impression that the less people know about what neitshce actually wrote the more useful they tend to find it.]

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geo 06.12.15 at 2:19 am

Rich@495: The passage I quoted was from the comments section, #123. She claims Ludlow quoted the student’s previous complaint, acknowledging that they dated. She then asks: “Was it reasonable to suppose that he (and his lawyer) lied in a court document about something so easily checked, i.e., the contents of another court document?” The answer seems obvious to me: no. What would you say?

RP: “If it wasn’t credible that mischaracterizing the relationship could have been retaliation, then it wouldn’t have been important to figure out whether this characterization turned out to be legitimate or not.”

That it wasn’t credible that mischaracterizing the relationship could have been retaliation, and that the complaint should therefore never have been pursued, was Holbo’s point in the OP. Here you’re simply saying that because that’s what was investigated, it must be that it was right to investigate it.

TM@491: It seems to me that you misunderstand the meaning of prima facie. A complainant must provide a plausible prima facie case to be taken seriously.

According to my dictionary, “prima facie” means “evidence that if uncontested would establish a fact or the presumption of a fact.” Evidence, not supposition or hypothesis. Neither you nor Rich has mentioned any evidence of retaliation cited by the complainant, only a supposition.

TM: “You never cite one side’s court claims as fact without clarifying that this is one side’s version.”

You don’t in a reported piece. This was an opinion piece. The difference is fundamental to judging a piece’s use of evidence.

TM@

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geo 06.12.15 at 2:37 am

@497: In paragraph 1, the sentence after “She then asks:…” is my paraphrase, not a direct quotation.

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John Holbo 06.12.15 at 2:44 am

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPw-3e_pzqU

Rich: “I’ve often observed that once I’ve written the huge number of words that it takes to finally begin to convince people to change their minds about a case like this, people start to write about how uninteresting it all is and why do I bother.”

Let me state for the record: I was on Team Uninteresting, Why Bother? from the start, comment #13 and clearly in the post itself. (I’m an early adopter.)

Also, regarding Rich’s repeatedly expressed frustration at the fact that the other side is obviously an idiot. I just don’t think it’s as noteworthy as he thinks, because everyone on the other side is experiencing the same thing.

The substantive dispute really is rather narrow at this point, hence it is inappropriately swathed in such indignation, to my eyes. The substantive dispute concerns the rather lawyerly question of: how to understand Title IX. How to reform it, potentially – ideally. But obviously, though the topic really ought to be social justice, the true occasion has wound up being an eye for an eye, a comment for a comment.

Thus, in the hopes that we can rise up and end on a less undignified note, I propose that everyone who gives a damn sign off by stating their own view of the case, and the issues it raises, in a positive way.

‘Positive’ in the sense of: don’t say your view is that Holbo (or Rich) is an idiot. Thinking someone in a CT thread is an idiot is well and good. But it’s not a consequential public policy position. Insofar as you have some interest in the actual issues, above and beyond some personal revenge motive, evolved in the course of the thread, you ought to be able to articulate them.

‘Sign off’ in the sense of: speak your piece and be done, for the sanity of all.

Basically there are two sides.

Team The System Didn’t Work

The system didn’t work in the Kipnis case. There should have been a mechanism for quickly dismissing such a complaint. This isn’t even the sort of thing we want complaints about, ideally. So the fact that it wasn’t readily dismissable is bad for those involved and bad for everyone elses in the following sense. It provides ammunition to Title IX’s enemies. It puts the core values of Title IX at risk of being rolled back.

Team The System Worked

The system basically worked. It was only media hysteria that suggested otherwise. Those faux-progressives who put on their ‘more in sorrow than anger’ masks and say the system didn’t work are useful idiots providing ammunition to Title IX’s enemies. They are the ones putting the core values of Title IX at risk by recycling right-wing propaganda. (Fair enough, as a gloss, Team The System Worked? If not, amend to your liking.)

So, pick sides and say what YOU think the true issue is, and why your side is right. (Kindly refrain from trolling the other side unduly, as an emotionally satisfying substitute.)

Let me start by praising the other side, best I can.

The best argument for The System Worked is that tie goes to the defender, when it comes to squabbling about what is/should be prima facie retaliation or not. If we are even arguing about what is plausible, then we are not arguing over something outrageously implausible, ergo then there’s no cause for outrage. If there’s no cause for outrage, there is no cause for ‘more in sorrow than anger’ weeping about ammo for the enemy and all that jazz. If Kipnis was even in a gray area, the system worked. Fair summary? (If you don’t like, amend.)

I disagree with this for sort of complicated and somewhat fine-sliced reasons (which might just put us back into the tie-goes-to-the-defender rule, but we’ll see.) To get prima facie plausibility of retaliation you need Rich’s horse-head-in-the-bed model on which this was could have been a clear (but deniable) personal threat, intended to be recognized as such by the recipient. I don’t think this is anywhere near plausible. The proof is that this possibility seems to have occurred to literally no one but Rich, and even to him only rather late in this thread. Everyone else seems have been bothered by Kipnis’ factual errors and alleged lack of academic professionalism. Being bothered by that is actually inconsistent with thinking this thing might just be a plain old threat. (No one thinks you need to fact-check threats.) So, in brief, there is no prima facie plausibility of retaliation, but there is prima facie plausibility of more generalizable harm, due to the intellectually irresponsible generation of a prejudicial climate. But the latter shouldn’t be actionable under Title IX. So, even briefer, we have implausible Title IX harms, and plausible non-Title IX harms.

The reason this is of general interest is, per some or other comment of mine upthread, I think people are teetering a bit between two norms: no retaliation; no generating a prejudicial climate about a pending case. Some people are attracted to the latter, as a norm. But then they conflate that with the former, backing into the position that anything that violates the latter norm counts, by definition, as a violation of the former, ergo ought to be excluded by Title IX. I call that confused.

But if it’s all so fine sliced as that, at least you can refrain from tut-tutting those who allegedly get it wrong, Holbo-who-is-so-wise?

This brings me to a final factor, which hasn’t been much discussed because it’s sort of agreed both sides, yet it factors in. No one likes the Kafkaesque quality of the process Kipnis was put through. So everyone presupposes that bit of the system is bad, in taking their respective positions. But this actually produces dueling presuppositions.

Team The System Didn’t Work is saying: given the untransparent, rather grotesque character of the investigation process, we should be extra careful about who we put through this mangle. The optics of such cases are so terrible they put Title IX itself at not inconsiderable risk. Don’t cast the ‘retaliation’ net wide, if that net must be Kafka’s The Trial and The Castle, rolled into one.

Team The System Worked is saying: obviously we would want to fix THAT stuff. Duh. But, given that we’ve managed to fix it somehow, wouldn’t you want to be able to cast the net wide, at least into the gray area? Basically: wouldn’t you be ok with Kipnis being investigated, in some clean quick fair way?

These positions actually aren’t so far apart. I would indeed be ok with Kipnis being investigated in some clean, quick, fair way, if the charge were then dismissed. I would class that as the sort of mistake you can live with. I think Rich would be ok with trying to restrict the scope of ‘retaliation’, if there was simply no way under heaven to make the investigation of Title IX retaliation charges anything but a Kafkaesque nightmare. Everyone is sane enough to settle for second-best, if they must, I should hope.

But, at the same time, the fact that the Kipnis case indeed had such grotesque features also explains why people like me said: we really need to try to stop this sort of thing happening. It makes Title IX look terrible. Pointing out that Kipnis was prima facie a prima facie case, or whatever, does nothing to alleviate the terrible optics. It’s actually beside the point, even though – ideally – it ought to be very much to the point.

Now, looking back at my post, it may indeed seem I was blaming the victim – the little guy or gal – for bringing a complaint that turns out to be deemed meritless. If the problem is that the system is Kafkaesque, I should indict the system and ONLY the system. That’s fair as a critique of my wording but not of my intention. In being a bit approximate about who to blame I was running two points together that I might have done better to parse: 1) the complaint did seem to me not to meet the prima facie standard. 2) The system is Kafkaesque. So, for the record, I hereby parse my original point with extra care: it would be very wrong to tell people not to bring complaints they believe have merit, just because the system is Kakfaesque. It’s not their job to fix that, just in order to bring their complaint.

And now I truly am done. I can’t possibly say anything more on the subject. If you wish to follow suit, summarizing your view about what the real issue is, and what we should think about it, feel free.

500

John Holbo 06.12.15 at 2:44 am

500!

501

Rich Puchalsky 06.12.15 at 3:11 am

geo; “Here you’re simply saying that because that’s what was investigated, it must be that it was right to investigate it.”

And we’ve back to the loop of incredulity: the investigation must have been ridiculous because the complaint was ridiculous, and the complaint must have been ridiculous because the investigation was ridiculous. It was investigated because that was a key element of what could have made this retaliation. JH thinks that I’m the only one who has thought of this theory, but that’s because he seems to prefer to think that this was an investigation into something other than a Title IX retaliation complaint.

geo: ““Was it reasonable to suppose that he (and his lawyer) lied in a court document about something so easily checked, i.e., the contents of another court document?” The answer seems obvious to me: no.”

Did you read those documents? No. Did Kipnis? No. Is Kipnis notably very careful about details, such as the details of what implies what in a case that involves reading one person’s court filing to figure out from it what an opposing filing must have said? No. If you read the following discussion you’ll see that the claim that Ludlow quoted the grad student’s court filing has already been backed off from: it was some kind of more indirect reference.

502

js. 06.12.15 at 3:13 am

JH,

Have I ever told you my theory about why you always get the most epic threads? I mean, I’m sure you hardly care, but I’m going to tell you anyway!

Back when I used to throw a lot of parties (and I did throw a lot), I became convinced (based on experience!), that to get a really rollicking party going, my responsibility as a host was to get drunker, and drunker faster, than any of the guests. And it worked! I think there’s an analogy here, though it’s hard to state exactly. (I’m not making the obvious, crude point that you’re trolling harder than everyone else. Because I don’t think that’s true. Truly! But you do know how to throw a rollicking thread, so to speak.)

503

Rich Puchalsky 06.12.15 at 3:23 am

I don’t really have any idea why anyone would think that I’m on either Team The System Worked or Team The System Didn’t Work.

I’m on Team This Is Symptomatic of Liberalism. This system works as it works everywhere in our society. That is not an endorsement of it. Part of that system is that people bitterly complain on the rare occasions when the system inconveniences a more powerful rather than a less powerful person. That is not an endorsement of blaming the less powerful person.

504

js. 06.12.15 at 3:39 am

PS. One quick almost substantive comment:

I think the “prejudicial climate” standard is a total disaster (cf. Steven Salaita; no, seriously), and I think Team System Worked or whatever can come up with a plausible narrower principle that would cover things beyond retaliation in the strict sense. But I am on Team What A Fucking Mess and I don’t know what exactly the System Worked Team would want to go for.

505

Val 06.12.15 at 3:41 am

Ok I’ll state my case. I won’t say ‘the system worked’ because that’s not the point.

The system is difficult and often does not work well for either side. It is about major social change and legislation is a blunt instrument for that.

Creating a prejudicial atmosphere is not greatly different from the more direct actions which JH and others seem to accept as retaliation. Consider this (the details are sketchy because I don’t have time to look them up, but the gist is right):) a very bright female med student makes some complaint about behaviour from a senior specialist during her training. She has since completed but now apparently can’t get a job in a major hospital. A senior female specialist in exasperation says in a public forum that young women in that position would be better off giving the guy a blow job and keeping quiet about it, because otherwise their career will not recover. Queue howls of outrage from all and sundry.

If you even just make a complaint – regardless of how strong it is – it is likely that your career will never fully recover. It is likely – not just in medicine – that you will be labelled as a trouble maker and some people will always see you that way.

I speak as one who has used the system. Deal with JH and all who sail with you.

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Val 06.12.15 at 3:58 am

I worked in a political position before my case. Since those days I have watched as pretty well every single female politician in Australia who achieves prominence gets subjected to sexist shit. This is the latest
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/ray-hadley-and-peter-dutton-accused-of-sexism-over-sarah-hansonyoung-song-20150611-ghlpvu.html

This is the woman who just successfully sued Zoo magazine
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/sarah-hansonyoung-wins-apology-from-zoo-weekly-after-bikini-photo-defamation-case-20150607-ghieu7.html

Sexism never fucking lets up. Really, it just goes on and on. And please don’t tell me that people making complaints – even if they don’t meet the required standard – or administrators accepting them, is the problem, because it’s not.

507

Val 06.12.15 at 4:07 am

I need to clarify “deal with” in my comment at 505, I guess ( apart from having left out the “that” in my indignation). I don’t mean to be hostile – because of course women being angry or hostile is a terrible thing anyway (that’s sarcasm) – but I do get fed up with all this apparent nit-picking. Sexism and patriarchy really are problems you know. It would be great if CT could focus a bit more on that.

508

Watson Ladd 06.12.15 at 5:00 am

Val, there are plenty of libel cases in the city of Singapore that are legitimate. Why should we worry about the few used by the ruling party against their political opponents? Of course you can have whatever opinion you want about what she said: cue howls of outrage about what Kipnis said. But what you cannot do is demand that she be fired, in some imitation of McCarthyism. The illiberalism of society, from the Brandon Eich firing, to the periodic disputes over inviting controversial speakers at college campuses, grows and grows. Already it is commonplace to hear invocations of “discrimination” when a speaker says something that others don’t want to hear.

In a liberal society, the state doesn’t govern all our social relations.

And who would the victims of this have been, 100 years ago? Well, they would have been suffragists. 150 years ago, abolitionists, 200 years ago democrats. The demand for free speech is rooted in epistemic humility: we may be wrong.

Of course sexism is a problem. But when every single politician will happily condemn it, where’s the need for us to lend our voices? Instead it is precisely the unpopular causes that demand our attention: it is not the popular opinion that people will demand silenced.

509

Collin Street 06.12.15 at 5:55 am

> Sexism never fucking lets up.

Sexists care more about sexism than you do.

[like I keep saying, I really think we’ll have better luck treating this as a medical, a public-health problem rather than a political one. Sort of like the campaigns against TB and spitting: “Don’t ask your intern for a blowjob, it spread dismemes!”. End abstinence-only sexism education, or something, shift towards a “Don’t have unprotected sexism, or if you do only in stable relationships and use protection”, or something]

510

Val 06.12.15 at 7:22 am

Thanks, I will reply to those comments when I have a bit more time. However I do think I should apologise for being adversarial in that comment before, because JH had asked us not to, and because I wasn’t being completely. Part of my frustration was about a case I just read about against my university, in which the complainant ended up losing and having massive costs awarded against her.

Without going in to all the details, it comes to this – our liberal individualistic legal system says ok women you can use this system if you want, but if you mistake, we will ry screw you.

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Val 06.12.15 at 7:23 am

‘Wasn’t being completely honest’ I mean. On the mobile, rushing etc

512

Val 06.12.15 at 7:25 am

‘If you make a mistake, we will really screw you’ – oh lord I give up :)

513

Rich Puchalsky 06.12.15 at 12:31 pm

BW: “Law is a weapon, and it properly maintains the boundaries. In the ordinary routine of life, “good behavior” is bounded, not by the operation of law, but by the operation of norms and conventions, the latter being much more efficient in every sense than the former.”

Not much has been said about the antecedents to this, and the real norm and convention that Kipnis broke, which really has nothing that I can see to do with sexuality. The relevant norm is one that I thought was pretty firmly established in every large American organization by now, and has to do with not writing about personnel decisions publicly.

If you read into Title IX guidance at all, you’ll quickly see that the Title IX rules are based on Title VI, and what is Title VI? It’s Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So, like everything else in the U.S., our political conflicts are still about the fossilized and forever existing structures of racism and response to racism. Title IX is itself from 1972, but seems to have been implemented in this way far more recently, and when it was implemented that was done based on a long-existing legal framework. As far as I can tell, any new implementation has to be done this way because we’re no longer really capable of passing major laws. (Somewhere in some CT thread I made a list of U.S. environmental laws and when they were passed: I should bookmark it.)

At any rate, it was a regular feature of institutional life that some manager would inadvertently write the truth about firing someone because the manager was appallingly racist or sexist, and then the gaffe would have to be buried under a pile of lawyers. As far as I know the “Human Resources Department” pretty much existed in order to monitor the arcane processes that produced the pile of lawyers on command. Kipnis’ essay looks very much like the classic “Hey, what’s so bad about me sleeping with the shop girls? Have you seen ’em he ha they look great!” that would have to be turned into some kind of principled statement of something or other or just paid off.

So the norm pretty quickly was created that, look, you just don’t write about this stuff, because that entangles you in a mass of legal depositions. dsquared @ #130 mentions this early on.

514

bianca steele 06.12.15 at 1:31 pm

My two cents:

People on this thread have been making a great case that feminists should be anarchists or libertarians, because laws (at least post facto laws) only hurt the person making the complaint at least as much as the person complained against. :) I don’t know if that’s the intention.

Universities have a rape and sexual assault problem. It’s not going to be solved by changing women’s behavior, making sure they stay in a gaggle of friends at frat parties, or making them teetotalers, or don’t wear short-shorts–or by complaining that they’re spoiled brats who want trigger warnings on their assigned viewings of, I don’t know, “Deep Throat” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” or by hauling out 1980s-era right-wing feminist punching bags like Naomi Wolf again and again and again. In my opinion, it’s not going to be solved by consciousness-raising about patriarchy (the opposite of which is what?), or criticizing a fuzzy-edged “rape culture.” Universities–and the federal government–have decided something has to be done, and some process (that I wasn’t aware of) settled on Title IX. Those two groups made a big announcement that Title IX would be used to affect the rape and sexual assault problem on campuses. There was grumbling, apparently (and reflected at third or fourth hand in CT comments at the time), that this was a really, really bad idea, but not much argument that I saw, except that it would put innocent accused people into the terrible justice system as it exists.

Professors are responsible members of the university and even when they’re not speaking for the universities are assumed to have a responsibility to uphold its values. I guess that sucks some of the time, but if you’re forty or fifty and you haven’t learned about tradeoffs yet, I don’t know what to think. Kipnis clearly did not do that in this case. I’m not saying she should lose tenure, or be disciplined. I’m not saying Title IX is a good law for this kind of thing. I am saying that if she and her allies are going around saying that people who are trying to use the system (which she implicitly endorses by being an officer in the organization that implemented it) to help themselves, are Stalinists, that people who disagree with her attempts to clarify the law on evidence are stupid, and so on, they are wrong.

And people who are encouraging them to see those as the only two possibilities are wrong.

515

geo 06.12.15 at 2:13 pm

Rich @501: And we’re back to the loop of incredulity: the investigation must have been ridiculous because the complaint was ridiculous, and the complaint must have been ridiculous because the investigation was ridiculous. It was investigated because that was a key element of what could have made this retaliation.

As far as I can tell (the syntax is a bit obscure here), what this says is that an investigation of the complaint had to be opened in order to determine whether it was worth opening an investigation of the complaint. On the contrary, it has to be determined (according to the four prima facie conditions that I quoted earlier) that a complaint is worth investigating before an investigation is opened.

Since Master Holbo has decreed (wisely) that it’s time for summing up, I’ll first enter a demurrer to the consensus view that we’ve expended an appalling amount of time and verbiage to little purpose. These things have to be argued out, for as long as it takes. That’s democracy, God love it.

My overall take: it was a highly debatable but not by no means worthless opinion piece with a small factual error, neither negligent nor malicious nor substantially harmful. It should have been vigorously debated on its own merits and should never have gotten within a country mile of triggering government intervention.

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bianca steele 06.12.15 at 2:21 pm

And trying to see it from the Holbo/Marcotte “ammunition” POV: the only sense I can make of it is if they think the system was working very well and Title IX was going to solve the problem, until those students made Kipnis and the profs feel persecuted and raised fears of Stalinism.

As for Crawford (and I feel really bad for doing my part to pull the thread away from the philosophical topics Prof. Holbo probably wanted us to discuss), I have this fear–especially since I read the review by Rebecca Goldstein (Pinker)–that I’m going to get to the end and it’ll turn out to be just Crawford taking sides in the decades-old cog sci debate over whether AI implementations should have “representations” in them. Though I’ll be interested to see his arguments, if so.

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bianca steele 06.12.15 at 2:22 pm

“the problem” being “the rape and sexual assault problem”

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Watson Ladd 06.12.15 at 2:59 pm

Bianca, whose values?

The fact is professors can study the impact of affirmative action, the impact of anti-discrimination law on employment etc, and publish their results, and shouldn’t fear they will be fired if they get the wrong ones. Plenty of colleges teach Plato: he’s not upholding the values of a democratic society, is he?

No one is suggesting expelling the Columbia students who called for no longer teaching Ovid, nor would they suggest terminating the professors who support them. But teaching Ovid is a core value of Columbia! Perhaps, of course, it’s the wrong core values that Kipnis criticizes.

The problem here isn’t having processes for dealing with rapists and harassers. It’s trying to dictate what people can think and what they can say.

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bianca steele 06.12.15 at 4:17 pm

Watson,

Do you really think I’m going to answer a “question” without a verb from someone who hasn’t ever argued in good faith in the past?

As for the Ovid guy at Columbia, which I’ll take advantage of your mentioning (it wasn’t on the required list when I was there, but they change those up every so often), maybe he should put a video of his lecture online so we can see what he was doing. Because Ovid is pretty darn dry and I can’t imagine someone being offended just by the text or by an academic discussion of it, unless it was way out of the ordinary. Maybe you can’t imagine an out-of-the ordinary discussion of Ovid that might possibly be excessive.

Or maybe you can, and you’re just arguing in bad faith as usual, pretending to support liberal neutrality toward opinion while actually spraying nuisance arguments in the direction of people whose opinions you don’t like, or who complain about illiberalism in defense of opinions you do like.

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bob mcmanus 06.12.15 at 4:38 pm

514: In my opinion, it’s not going to be solved by consciousness-raising about patriarchy (the opposite of which is what?)

Communism

I’m sure you’ll ignore me, and that’s ok, but my own intersectionality involves relating feminism to Marxism.

Late or post-Marxism, say after Negri, Foucault, and the Italian autonomists, has taken the stance that it is labor and workers who create, maintain, and sustain Capital and Capitalism through force of numbers and the General Intellect. C & C are first and foremost social relations, and lately, society is not an authoritarian hierarchy. So the “ruling ideas of the ruling class” largely belong to the 99%, who rule without realizing it, because they are conditioned and comfortable with being powerless.

And lots more.

And Patriarchy is the same damn thing. This will be called “blaming the victim” but I don’t see any damn victims. I see strong independent agents self-embedded in ancient roles of passivity, impotence, and innocence.

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geo 06.12.15 at 4:42 pm

If we can rise to the challenge of #520, we will surely reach 1000 comments!

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bianca steele 06.12.15 at 4:49 pm

bob m:

Okey-dokey. We will divide the world up into “patriarchy” or “capitalism,” depending on which word we like (can we have others?), on one side, and “commmunism” on the other. And then we have basically ultra-liberal, ultra-independent agents who tragically haven’t liberated themselves, or can’t liberate themselves except by revealing the nature of the system, . . . or something? And that does . . . something?

The idea of counter-hegemonies that arise through material circumstances and differential relationships to material and social reality is definitely one of the most interesting ideas suggested by Marxism, and it’s too bad that the intuitively attractive version where the workers, being close to the processes of capitalism’s working, have the most awareness of what it does, and therefore can be expected to have the closest relationship to truth, didn’t pan out in a political sense. Or give much scope to basically bourgeois reader types.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.12.15 at 4:50 pm

bob mcmanus: “So the “ruling ideas of the ruling class” largely belong to the 99%, who rule without realizing it, because they are conditioned and comfortable with being powerless.”

I’ll nitpick that “conditioned” usually implies a conditioner. The ruling ideas of the ruling class prevail because they are functional for large parts of the non-ruling class, who don’t really need to be conditioned into them. For instance, this thread has seen a lot of defense of professorial rights as opposed to non-professorial rights. Were people conditioned into that, or is it just unadmitted self-interest?

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bianca steele 06.12.15 at 4:56 pm

A lot of feminist Marxism, fwiw, has been about introducing the idea of “reproduction” alongside “production,” which imho has the disadvantages of (1) reinforcing traditional gender roles, (2) obscuring or feminizing other forms of reproduction such as teaching, and (3) creating a misleading appearance that it’s about the culture industry. If anyone cares.

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Watson Ladd 06.12.15 at 5:26 pm

Liberal neutrality does not mean all ideas are equal. Naturally some idea are correct and others are not. Rather it means that everyone has equal right to express them, and decide between them. The idea I don’t like is that some ideas shouldn’t be tolerated. You’re saying that universities have certain core values which people should be forced to sign onto. And I don’t think that’s right, or if it’s right, it actually runs counter to your sympathy for those complaining against the article, because the core values of any university are freedom to talk about ideas others might disagree with.

Calls to censor research or sanction researchers who reach the wrong conclusion are not exceptional. Calls to exclude speakers who protestors disagree with are not exceptional. It’s not me who’s arguing in bad faith: it’s hard to have a debate with those who will, if it runs against them, disrupt the forum or demand the cancellation of opportunities to speak.

As for Ovid, you can read the complaint right here. Is it about one professor? No, it’s about Ovid.

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bob mcmanus 06.12.15 at 5:48 pm

can we have others?

Lots! I would certainly add post-colonialism, with the caveat that colonial sites need to b viewed both locally and globally. I would not add racism or LGBTQ, because actual small minorities can be oppressed with little help from themselves. Unless we are talking about some kind of transcendent freedom, like the free happy man Primo Levi knew in Aushwitz. And there are blacks and LGBTQs (awkward, can I say queers?) who would posit a greater degree of autonomy than I feel comfortable with.

The politics of post-Fordism post-Marxism, neo-liberalism has proven challenging. tiqqun’s “desertion-in-place,” ( Braidotti’s nomadism?) a kind of sabotage looks attractive. Long story. Which leads to

3) 524: “reproduction” (Silvia Federici)

Yeah, a key tenet of post-Marxism (Regulation Theory) is that most of us most of the time are not “producing” but reproducing, that even the commodity production labor does is largely about reproducing the role and social position of labor.

Yeah, I buy completely that girl/women’s underpaid labor is the primitive accumulation that creates the majority of starting capital. As a communist, what I don’t buy is that we need to pay them better. We need them to stop working for others.

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bianca steele 06.12.15 at 6:10 pm

Yes, Watson, I read that too.

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bianca steele 06.12.15 at 6:17 pm

Oh, yes, and (4) risking confusion between reproduction of workers’ physical bodies, which presumably will still exist after the revolution and need to be fed and bathed and so on, and reproduction of the ruling class superstructure in their minds (along with risking confusion between oppression by owner-employers and oppression by mothers and wives). Thanks for reminding me, bob.

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John Holbo 06.12.15 at 11:38 pm

Thanks for the kind words, js. and geo and others. I always have mixed feelings about these threads, for rather obvious reasons.

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Val 06.13.15 at 1:12 am

John Holbo @ 529
Just to repeat, apologies for my ‘deal with’ remark above – it was meant as exaggerated and jokey, but in that particular context, on the Internet, no funny voice, etc it obviously didn’t work that way, as I could see when I read it later.

I have really strong feelings about these issues, and I don’t agree with some of the things you’ve said – I’m glad you reconsidered about the implied criticism of the student complainants for example – but like Lynne, I recognise you’re the host, I’m the guest, and I don’t intend to be rude. I appreciate what you do.

Bianca @ 514
Good point about feminists (myself included I’m guessing) making it sound like the law is useless, and made me realise that I’d overstated my case. I don’t think the law is necessarily useless, it’s just difficult, and that is to do with the inherent contradiction between a liberal individual adversarial legal system, and laws that are trying to contribute to social change.

I read a good paper that pointed out most complaints are settled in conciliation, and (even though there are real problems around confidentiality), complaints settled in conciliation appear more likely to lead to system change rather than individual compensation alone. That was the case with my complaints – even though they got listed for hearing, they were settled before hearing, and the settlements contributed to system change.

The article is Allen,D 2014, In defence of settlement: resolving discrimination complaints by agreement, International journal of discrimination and the law, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 199-220. Worth reading for anyone interested in this issue.

I do think however from my own experience, discussion with others and observation, that if you are known to have made a complaint, it is very likely that some people will see you as a trouble maker from there on. It is a heavy burden to put on an individual. Articles like Kipnis’ undoubtedly contribute to this, and I would say this is another issue for John Holbo to consider. Regardless of whom Kipnis is ‘blaming’ for making students infantile and childish, the implication still clearly is that in making complaints students are being infantile and childish. And that, of course, was before they complained about her article, so whether their complaint about the article has merit or not is irrelevant to that point.

An article such as Kipnis wrote contributes to the stigma affecting complainants, regardless of the merits of their cases. I don’t see how that’s justifiable.

Watson, I am not really responding to you for the same reasons Bianca mentioned, but just in case anyone gets confused by your comments, I have never suggested Kipnis should be sacked, so please stop trying to intimate that I have or would. Because of my lack of cultural familiarity with American universities, I won’t even comment on what would be an appropriate response to her, but I certainly think she has behaved unethically in publishing an article stigmatising students like that.

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Watson Ladd 06.13.15 at 1:54 am

Val, I think it’s clear you think something should be done to her. But what ideally would be done? Forget your unfamiliarity: it clearly hasn’t stopped you from defending this attempt to shut someone up because what they say is unwelcome. (Kipnis after all never named either student: hard to see how this contributes to the reputation as a troublemaker either of them could have) Is all criticism of Title IX, or claims which are ridiculous and out of line, now verboten, on the grounds that it contributes to a climate that makes people fearful to use it?

The whole point is that what we think of the content Kipnis’s article shouldn’t be confused with her right to write it. I support the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to say “God Hates Fags” along with the right of the counterpotestors to say “God Hates Bigots”.

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Val 06.13.15 at 2:29 am

Seriously Watson I think you should give more thought to what you mean by rights. ‘I have a right to do something’ doesn’t mean ‘and nobody is allowed to object’.

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ZM 06.13.15 at 3:17 am

I agree with Val that it would be very unusual for an Australian professor to write an article like the Kipnis article, especially about a harassment case at their own university. I would expect they could face disciplinary action if they did, or at the very least a reminder of the university’s academic conduct rules or similar things.

I also find the jokes and belittling of triggers in the article and the thread unfunny. They show a lack of understanding and also a refusal to try to understand.

If people suffer a traumatic event it is quite common for them to be vulnerable to triggers that cause them to relive the event in their minds. Their are various psychological strategies for this such as reminding yourself of your surroundings by paying active attention to physical things around you rather than to your thoughts. I was unable to finish my BA honours year and eventually moved into a different discipline.

Watson Ladd,

“As for Ovid, you can read the complaint right here. Is it about one professor? No, it’s about Ovid.”

I am entirely unsurprised by you misrepresenting the article you link to. The complaint is about how Ovid was being taught — with a focus on the aesthetics rather than the content of the text which dealt with rape:

“During the week spent on Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” the class was instructed to read the myths of Persephone and Daphne, both of which include vivid depictions of rape and sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, the student described being triggered while reading such detailed accounts of rape throughout the work. However, the student said her professor focused on the beauty of the language and the splendor of the imagery when lecturing on the text. As a result, the student completely disengaged from the class discussion as a means of self-preservation. She did not feel safe in the class. When she approached her professor after class, the student said she was essentially dismissed, and her concerns were ignored.”

This is due entirely to faulty teaching of Ovid. I studied Ovid too for a class on Myth, Epic, and Romance. I did not pass because I failed to finish an assignment. However I have already pointed out on another thread that in Hesiod’s Greek mythology Epic heroes are born through the rape of women by Gods, in Ovid women are raped and metamorphise into plants, men, birds, etc. You can quite easily analyse Ovid in terms of Ovid’s representation of gender etc and any decent professor would be capable of either addressing these matters in class or in a student consultation. My reading of Ovid is that he does not glamourise rape but portrays takes a critical approach.

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Watson Ladd 06.13.15 at 3:54 am

Val, I don’t think that supporting some sort of sanction in the workplace for Kipnis is quite the same as objecting to her ideas, while defending the right to have those ideas. Universities are supposed to protect unpopular ideas, and Northwestern has protected the career of a Holocaust denier in the engineering department on the grounds that it has nothing to do with what he says in the classroom. That’s the background against which the Kipnis case has to be viewed.

Remember, McCarthyism never involved governmental sanctions, but always private ones inspired by the state, because people held ideas shared with a government responsible for millions of deaths. Yet it’s widely recognized as a mistake, not to be repeated, because it involved firing people for what they thought.

ZM, if the complaint was about teaching Ovid but not through the lense of gender, that’s clearly an attempt to decide what professors can and cannot teach. But students don’t know what they should be taught, or they wouldn’t need to be educated. A student who can’t read Ovid needs psychological care, not trigger warnings. Furthermore, an op-ed isn’t academic work: one shouldn’t confuse public life with academia.

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ZM 06.13.15 at 11:02 am

Watson Ladd,

You appear to be confused about what you think universities are for:

A: Universities are supposed to protect unpopular ideas
“Universities are supposed to protect unpopular ideas” and you give the example of holocaust denial — I must say I quibble with your choice of phrasing here as I do not think holocaust denial should be called an “unpopular idea” nor should universities protect assertions of holocaust denial by professorial staff. I doubt this would happen in Australia — when a holocaust denier wanted to visit from overseas he was denied a visa.

B: Universities are supposed to educate students
“if the complaint was about teaching Ovid but not through the lense of gender, that’s clearly an attempt to decide what professors can and cannot teach. But students don’t know what they should be taught, or they wouldn’t need to be educated.” Well most students know enough to know they should not be being taught holocaust denial as in your first example of protected ideas. Universities in Australia happen to take feedback from students about classes — this would include feedback on Ovid being taught poorly due the professor only taking an aesthetic approach and not critically evaluating the content of Ovid’s work which some might say is crucial to an understanding of the text. You are quite correct that students are not responsible for what the university professors teach — because as everybody who watches The Gilmore Girls would know the Provost is the university officer responsible for what the professors teach.

Finally by writing “A student who can’t read Ovid needs psychological care, not trigger warnings” you seem to be suggesting that students needing psychological help be excluded from universities. It is quite likely the student may be seeing a psychologist but that they also might wish to study at university before the psychological issue is resolved. In that case the student may request equitable adjustments such as not having to study particular texts like Ovid that trigger memories of the trauma, or to be able to speak with professors about concerns with these texts and thus work on how to engage with the texts from their own perspective. When I tried to return to my Honours year I wrote an essay on the Nouveau Roman and Nathalie Sarraute’s The Golden Fruits, then there was another final essay and I wasn’t stable enough to complete it after the previous essay. The professor sent me a card saying I could do it — but with my health I was not able to do it. As I said, I ended up changing disciplines, and what I am studying now is very interesting and important, but I have found changing disciplines at the graduate level challenging as I lack some foundational knowledge always having been interested in art and literature and history before, rather than geography and economics and science and architecture etc.

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NickM 06.13.15 at 11:42 am

I just want to second geo’s and js’s comments. Aren’t JH’s “mixed feelings” part and parcel of why this and other threads of his generate so much energy? Something similar could be said about DD’s threads. It isn’t only or even mainly the quantity of their BTL participation, but the feeling of personal involvement that comes through. Whether it’s JH’s responses to his critics (heroic and largely successful efforts to stay droll and kindly), or DD’s (like Pope’s, caustic and swift to chide, but funny and essentially decent), the result — in a good way, I think — is drama.

Of course it’s easy for me to say this when (I think) I share a “framework proposition” with both writers, and many but by not necessarily all of their commenters. Which is that an absence of both good humour and proactive humour is as bad for serious conversation as an absence of both salt and sugar is for eating.

Then again, maybe the ongoing fundamental disagreement about the nature of conversation so evident here is in itself a big part of the drama!

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bianca steele 06.13.15 at 12:12 pm

Academic freedom of the instructor wasn’t an issue in the case, because the syllabus is decided by an administrative committee and most of the material is outside of the instructors’ expertise. Since my time they’ve removed Rabelais and Apuleius, and they can remove Ovid, who likely was there on the theory that undergraduates like to talk about sex. Watson is actually trying to tell the department how they should run the course, hardly supportive of academic freedom.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.13.15 at 12:59 pm

NickM: “Of course it’s easy for me to say this when (I think) I share a “framework proposition” with both writers, and many but by not necessarily all of their commenters.”

Good Humor is a brand of ice cream in the U.S. It’s possible to like sugar in things but still find it cloying when it’s the essential ingredient.

JH had a simple position on the Kipnis case in this post: he didn’t want to talk about it. He wanted to take its effects on Dreher as read, and go immediately on to a criticism of Dreher’s position. But in order to do that, you have to bake into the ice cream (is ice cream baked?) a number of disagreeable ingredients that are straight from Dreher, such as the “ammo against liberalism” bit and the “some grad student’s decision to complain is the action we should be morally concerned about” bit and even Dreher’s presumption that this process was new and unusual and not like what’s been happening everywhere outside academia for decades.

To have any serious disagreement with that, exasperation is what you get along with it. At least, it’s what you get from me. “But that’s not the disagreement I wanted”: OK. It’s still what you got. I think I’ve made a serious case that all of these elements from Dreher are wrong and that this really invalidates anything that they are baked into. (Churned into? Pasteurized and homogenized?) But exasperation shouldn’t have been part of the mix — says the people who without someone motivated to look up and post many links and block quotes and make a coherent argument around them would all naturally agree.

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NickM 06.13.15 at 4:15 pm

Rich Puchalsky:

I shouldn’t have implied that I find your contributions indigestible. Or even unenjoyable! (Though enjoyability may well be the least of your concerns.) I agree with Bruce Wilder far upthread: it takes all sorts, Parnassus has many mansions, etc. Certainly I can only admire your diligence and stamina.

But do you really mean to say that cloying sweetness is “the essential ingredient” of JH’s posts? There is such a thing as a happy medium between a diet of brown rice and lentils and one of Pringles and Baked Alaska.

Of course you are perfectly within your rights to do your utmost to obtain complete agreement with you in every particular about complaints procedures in relation to Title IX — because you believe that otherwise any discussion of the wider philosophical questions about Dreher’s position(s) will start off on the wrong footing. But after well over 500 comments, and with what feels like a general air of lassitude having set in by now (unsurprisingly), that discussion looks unlikely to start off on any footing.

And I wonder if you don’t mind too much if it doesn’t, because (going by what you’ve said about Dreher in other threads) you don’t believe such discussions can ever be worthwhile.

Here again there is perhaps a fundamental disagreement about the nature of discussion or conversation. If Dreher is just-obviously stupid or disingenuous or blatantly arguing in bad faith, why waste any time on him?

I have to admit to being too stupid to see — unerringly, every time, immediately — everything he says as just-obviously stupid. And I also have to admit that this isn’t straightforward modesty on my part. Because I think there’s a deep interconnectedness between your willingness (if you have any) to admit to being swayed (even a little, at least when you’re off your guard) by the arguments of somebody you know you just-obviously shouldn’t respect — and your curiosity (if you have any) about why he or she thinks the way he or she does.

It’s possible to argue “eristically” (in R.G. Collingwood’s sense) that scientism, reductionism and materialism are just-obviously-wrong, in a rapidly turned-out blog post. (Dreher himself does this sort of thing insouciantly all the time, of course.) Or it’s possible to spend 25 or so years thinking “dialectically” (also in RGC’s sense) about how it came to be that we are so susceptible to these, yes, mistakes, as Wittgenstein did. I know which of those two approaches I find more illuminating. But I also wonder (admittedly in a Chou-En-Lai vis a vis the French Revolution kind of way!) if the latter may not turn out to be the more practically effective one in the end, as well.

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Watson Ladd 06.13.15 at 4:36 pm

bianca, academic freedom can apply to collections, just as the New York Times possess freedom of speech (despite the popular effort to end that state of affairs via overturning Citizen’s United) I’m not saying they should have Ovid, even though I think Ovid is worth reading. But what they absolutely shouldn’t do is remove it, because students don’t want it. And that’s a different kind of claim, about who is able to educate who. Education depends on students being told what is important, and what to read, and how to read it, and how to think.

ZM, universities have lots of functions. They provide labor market credentials. They house unruly young adults. They support employment in depressed areas (particularly outlying state universities: see SUNY for an example of a system that is a jobs program). But the core functions are education and scholarship. It’s of course possible to achieve these without permitting political views to be held by professors, but in the US historically there has been a much more expansive view of what academic freedom entails that includes political activity.

While we’ve been having this debate, Corey Robin has posted about how employers mobilize employees. The obvious response is that it’s none of their business. So why not apply that intuition to professors: that what they do away from the workplace in their thinking and speaking is of no concern to the institution?

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Abbe Faria 06.13.15 at 6:43 pm

“We have a dilemma. Either he’s basically on board with the Enlightenment or he isn’t. If he is, he’s on the hook for same-sex marriage, by his own lights. If he isn’t, then why the hell is he so bothered about the Kipnis case?”

I’m puzzled that Dreher’s being pegged as the Counter-Enlightenment vs assorted Enlightened social justicars.

There was nothing remotely resembling a gay rights movement during the Enlightenment. Freedom of speech and religion are right there in The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen; which in my opinion gives a very strong steer on the Enlightenment position on op-eds, gay cakes, etc. On the other side, the most you can say is there were some philosophes who didn’t think sodomites should be punished.

As to the rest of it, homosexual identity didn’t exist until the late c19th. Anti-discrimination law is a c20th invention. The ‘right to marry’ is too, civil marriage as an institution was only introduced in France the year before the Declaration. The entire concepts people are arguing with were alien to the Enlightenment. The most pro-sodomy voice at the time was De Sade, whose main pre-occupation was trolling Enlightenment thought.

Due to his religion Dreher obviously has mild Counter-Enlightenment sympathies, but he’s batting for the Enlightenment on this one. The Anti-Enlightenment team here are the motley crew of critical theorists, poststructuralists and feminists outraged over a professor sharing her opinion with people. That’s the ideological dividing line.

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hix 06.13.15 at 7:12 pm

The – at least formal (whatever the reality is)- protection of students with mental health issues in the Anglo Sphere is a great thing. It certainly is not ridiculous and i find the “just take a year off/or dont study at all if you cant handle doing things exactly how we want to do them*” absolutly abhorent. And ive encountered it permantently. I even tend to think id have better grades and less problems if i hadnt told any Prof at my faculty, if they had thaught im just in some undefinable way odd. But why should i take time off when im worse off doing nothing and can handle a full workload with decent grades**?

*usually things that are bad for all students that just affect me worse.
**sometimes the reverse argument is applied by the same people that told me to just take a year off or not study at all: Now be happy about that, you handled it quite well without adjustments. No why should i be if i could do a lot better with some adjustments and more important, not go through a little hell during (mandatory attendance) classes.

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Bruce Wilder 06.13.15 at 10:12 pm

Abbe Faria @ 541: I’m puzzled that Dreher’s being pegged as the Counter-Enlightenment vs assorted Enlightened social justicars.

As you say, “Dreher obviously has mild Counter-Enlightenment sympathies”, so I’m not sure why you are puzzled. Clearly, you understand as well that the the so-called Social Justice Warriors, with their focus on identity and the “rights” of the subjective experience of the Self are definitely post-Enlightenment and possibly anti-Enlightenment. Dreher sees an opportunity to troll the Enlightenment liberals (case-in-point being our host), by casting his own patriarchal authoritarianism (“a kid!”) as aligned with liberal principle in the privilege of academic freedom. Holbo took Dreher’s bait and Rich pointed that out. Repeatedly. Whether Holbo, in taking Dreher’s bait, gained an ally for freedom or kicked egalitarianism in the gut is a judgment call.

Abbe Faria @ 541: There was nothing remotely resembling a gay rights movement during the Enlightenment.

No “movement” certainly, but one can certainly trace some elements of philosophic respect for human nature and personal autonomy as well as skepticism about religious claims that homosexuality should be considered immoral to the Enlightenment.

The Enlightenment view, to the extent there was (or is) one, would have been hostile to religious justifications for regulating sexual behavior, opposed to savage punishments generally (and any sanction on consensual adult behavior for purely religious reasons) and inclined to base its own judgments on investigation of “human nature” by means of what we might call biology or anthropology. An Enlightened view would not have been pro-sodomy; it might have been, “tastes vary”. The Napoleonic Code dropped sodomy altogether in a nod to the liberal consensus on what constitutes rational law, and Bentham used homosexual relations as a prime example of rational philosophy of utilitarianism. So, there’s that pretty strong evidence from the lee side of the Enlightenment about how their worldview applied.

As anyone who calls himself Abbé ought to know, during the actual historical period of the Enlightenment in the late 17th and the 18th century up to the French Revolution, the philosophes who advocated the Enlightened world view were heavily outnumbered, and heavily out-published in France by Catholic teachers and writers. Peter Gay, the eminent historian of the Enlightenment, put the ratio at ranging up to close to 10 to 1 in favor of the traditionalist Catholic establishment. (In England and even more so in Scotland, the Enlightenment had a better establishment foothold, due in part to a weaker established Church and a religious settlement that offered a measured tolerance to Dissenters; they were still a minority relative to the Tory consensus in favor of conventionalism.)

History did not end with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen in 1789. If the liberal and scientific worldview gained a certain pre-eminence and intellectual hegemony, it certainly didn’t achieve a permanent triumph. Our present sense of what it means to be liberal or conservative is colored by subsequent struggles and developments. For Anglo-American ideas of what it means to be small-l liberal in political philosophy, the long struggle for civil rights and electoral democracy began in the 1820s, when Enlightenment ideas were recast as a reform program encompassing legal prohibitions on slavery, voting rights, women’s rights and so on.

So, there’s been a dialectic thru the more than 225 years since the historical Enlightenment ended with the French Revolution, between the heirs of the Enlightenment advocating for liberal and gradual social democratic reforms on the one hand and reactionary conservative interests, advocating for authoritarianism or traditionalism or simply vested economic interests. In the political back-and-forth, subversion of Enlightenment thinking by conservatives inventing ideologies that bastardize Enlightenment ideals in the service of reactionary social prejudices and reprehensible economic interests has been a perennially successful strategy. Dreher has many predecessors as conman, Holbo as mark.

In European politics, frustration with the iron-grip of reactionaries on hereditary claims to political power bred radical and militant movements in response. There’s a conservative tradition of libeling the Enlightenment as grandparent of totalitarianism; people have two sets of grandparents, and reactionary authoritarianism placed its seed in that monstrosity as well, in my view. But, I digress.

Regarding the politics of personal identity and social justice, I will admit to mixed feelings. This may be because I am an old guy, inclined to shout, “get off my lawn” to rude and uncouth youth. I have no problem supporting Rich’s position though, in favor of keeping open procedural opportunities for the less powerful to protest and contest the justice of privileged behavior. That’s seems Enlightened enough.

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john c. halasz 06.13.15 at 10:30 pm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abb%C3%A9_Faria

Thought by some here to be an avatar of a somewhat trollish commenter here of yore.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.13.15 at 11:24 pm

NickM: “If Dreher is just-obviously stupid or disingenuous or blatantly arguing in bad faith, why waste any time on him?”

I’m not arguing with Dreher. I’m arguing with Holbo. I think that Holbo can do better: otherwise I wouldn’t bother arguing with him.

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Val 06.14.15 at 12:29 am

Abbe Faria @ 541:

“Due to his religion Dreher obviously has mild Counter-Enlightenment sympathies, but he’s batting for the Enlightenment on this one. The Anti-Enlightenment team here are the motley crew of critical theorists, poststructuralists and feminists outraged over a professor sharing her opinion with people. That’s the ideological dividing line.”

Bruce Wilder @ 543:

” ‘Abbe Faria @ 541: I’m puzzled that Dreher’s being pegged as the Counter-Enlightenment vs assorted Enlightened social justicars.’

As you say, “Dreher obviously has mild Counter-Enlightenment sympathies”, so I’m not sure why you are puzzled. Clearly, you understand as well that the the so-called Social Justice Warriors, with their focus on identity and the “rights” of the subjective experience of the Self are definitely post-Enlightenment and possibly anti-Enlightenment. Dreher sees an opportunity to troll the Enlightenment liberals (case-in-point being our host), by casting his own patriarchal authoritarianism (“a kid!”) as aligned with liberal principle in the privilege of academic freedom. Holbo took Dreher’s bait and Rich pointed that out. Repeatedly. Whether Holbo, in taking Dreher’s bait, gained an ally for freedom or kicked egalitarianism in the gut is a judgment call.”

Tell me, am I being paranoid, or is there a real problem of objectification going on here? I really feel in this, and quite often in other CT threads, as if I am being othered, and made into an object of discussion, even when I am actively participating (or trying to participate) in the discussion. Certainly in this example it seems as if Rich is cast, by name, as the rational man putting the arguments that you engage with – whether you agree or disagree – while I am cast, anonymously, as the feminist, social justice warrior, exemplar of ‘identity politics’ – one of the others you are talking about.

It does seem to me that there is some assumption of normal identity going on here – the rational man who talks about ‘others’, but doesn’t himself have an identity, or a “subjective experience of the Self”. Thus he is able to talk ‘objectively’ about issues in a way that the others, the feminists, social justice warriors, people like me, aren’t able to do.

Apart from all the questions of epistemology or politics, it just seems rather rude. But, conscious of the possibility of paranoia, maybe there’s something I’m not getting here?

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geo 06.14.15 at 1:03 am

BW@543: I have no problem supporting Rich’s position though, in favor of keeping open procedural opportunities for the less powerful to protest and contest the justice of privileged behavior.

So Holbo, Sebastian, et al are not “in favor of keeping open procedural opportunities for the less powerful to protest and contest the justice of privileged behavior.” This will be news to them, I suspect.

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Bruce Wilder 06.14.15 at 1:39 am

Val @ 546

It has been one of the oddities of the OP and subsequent thread that most of us commenters did not engage the merits of the norms, methods or goals of the college identity politick / social justice movements, even though the issue came up in the context of a campus kulturkampf.

I’m not in that environment and do not have any personal familiarity with the tactics or rhetoric, so I could not address the merits from any sense of personal experience or commitment. It’s not that I choose to refrain, it is that it is just not an option for me.

I do think that it is a matter of political culture, so literally “being in” that environment is a bit of a pre-requisite, and mere reporting or testimony leaves a lot to be lost in translation.

To answer your answer your question directly: “Tell me, am I being paranoid, or is there a real problem of objectification going on here?”

Yes, you are being paranoid. (But, as they say at the Psychoanalytic Institute, just because you are are paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not out to get you.)

Yes, objectification is going on here. The part of Social Justice Warrior is being put in a box with a label on it, closed up and not examined. (The paranoid part is that I doubt many are specifically casting commenter, Val (however imagined) specifically as Social Justice Warrior before inserting SJW in said box.

As I understand the social justice identity politick, taking politics personally and relating everything to personal experience is a core essential tenet. So, you would not be practicing your politick if you didn’t personify the arguments — in that sense, it is not “paranoia” (that would be the rude, medicalized label of my liberal politick that prescribes disassociation from a particular self and prescribes the abstract “normal” of methodological individualism), but simply the expected practice of your SJW politick.

I’m not sure what to make of social justice identity politick, and its attempts to transform individual psychology and social norms. I’m withholding my judgment.

I do think that social justice identity politick has sufficiently alien (to me) frames and terms of reference that “incommensurability” might be a problem.

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Val 06.14.15 at 1:50 am

Just trying to work out how to use html for quotes because my quoting of AF and BW was so clumsy. Please ignore.

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Val 06.14.15 at 5:00 am

Thank you Bruce that was very elegantly expressed. But I still think it doesn’t engage with the basic question, which is: is the Enlightenment individual a man? More specifically is he a white, ruling class, able bodied adult male? Because I think he is, and I think the issues are not so much about incommensuability as about power and politics.

I don’t think this just because I am an SJW, or a feminist, or one who practices identity politics, or any other label. I think it on the basis of some serious reading and research. And my sense is that many commenters and authors on CT are aware of this theoretically but they don’t think critically about whether and how this plays out in everyday life including CT threads.

Others on CT threads are just basically anti- feminist and will argue against anything I say that has a feminist analysis, often by distorting what I said. (actually this is quite comment and has been done by some esteemed persons here, but I won’t get in to old fights here). However when I suggested this about Watson above, John Holbo implied I was breaching the rules of enlightenment discourse or something.

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Val 06.14.15 at 5:03 am

‘this is quite common …’ (On the phone screen again)

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Watson Ladd 06.14.15 at 5:21 am

Val, in de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, British utilitarians are credited with having conceptually solved the problem of female equality. The fact that the Enlightenment began in Western Europe is a historical accident: CLR James, Lee Kuan Yew, Vladimir Lenin, could all be associated with the Enlightenment, despite not being Western members of the ruling class.

Of course, the price of the Enlightenment is the abandonment of superstition. Franz Fanon famously said the future of the black man is white, pointing to exactly this abandonment of race as a characterization on the part of the colonized. Ultimately Fanon would change his tune, and the black power turn in the US would replace black Trotskyism. Separatist and anti-Enlightenment feminism seems to me be an imitation of this turn, with its essentialization of sex as perpetual, all-coloring difference.

There really is no trap in the Enlightenment: everyone is equally entitled to certain rights by virtue of being a human. The problem is rather the way in which social transformations have made this once clear principal obscure, in what Frankfurt school people would call regression.

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Val 06.14.15 at 7:02 am

Ok Watson, I take that as a comment made in good faith and engaging with what I said (genuinely, I’m not being snarky) but I’m talking about something a bit different and in a way much more basic and everyday. I’ve said this before on CT I think but the area I looked at in particular in historical research was the construction of the first national Australian census, and it really was quite evident that the normative person of the census was the adult white male, head of the household (it’s what Pateman I think called fraternal patriarchy – all men are equal as heads of households). Everyone else was defined by their relationship to this normative person.

Obviously this has since been modified, but it’s very difficult to remove all such cultural assumptions.

This is what people talk about when they talk about social constructionism of course – the recognition that facts are made (if like me you studied Latin once you will know that fact comes from the Latin word to make). But it’s not a particularly obscure or fanciful analysis really, as some people seem to think.

Of course the ideal of the Enlightenment is that we are all equal as humans (although that ideal wasn’t exclusive to the enlightenment or modernity) and in a sense of course it’s right. But knowledge reflects power and assumptions based on lived experience are embedded in everyone’s ideology and world view. So if you never been in one of the oppressed or subordinate groups, it takes critical self-reflection and actual imaginative work to understand their perspectives. That was very clearly lacking in a lot of the comments made about the students in this thread. Moreover, on that case, your view, or John Holbo’s view, or anyone’s view, is not the view of a some ‘normal’ human being who is not involved in these relationships of power. It is the view of a man who is on the privileged side. You may like Kipnis’ view because it accords with your view, but that in itself does not make it right, or objective.

This is also what I am getting at by saying that everyone has an identity – it’s just that some of us explicitly acknowledge it, and some don’t.

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John Holbo 06.14.15 at 7:36 am

Rich: “But exasperation shouldn’t have been part of the mix — says the people who without someone motivated to look up and post many links and block quotes and make a coherent argument around them would all naturally agree.”

I have a suggestion, Rich. To save time in future, preface each comment in response to one of my posts with “Ow, a bee stung me!”

http://crookedtimber.org/2015/04/05/ow-a-bee-stung-me/

After clearing that up, you can make whatever argument you like.

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Rich Puchalsky 06.14.15 at 2:08 pm

JH: “To save time in future, preface each comment in response to one of my posts with “Ow, a bee stung me!””

As the post says, that’s for when you “just utterly failed to foresee a wildly foreseeable but minor injury.” If it’s wildly foreseeable that you’re going to think like Dreher, there’s no reason to comment on your posts — see my response to NickM above. You basically have the choice of having me expect you to do better, in which case I’m going to be exasperated when you don’t, or of having me accept that you’re going to be writing Dreher Lite, in which case why should I bother. If I wanted to argue with Dreher’s basic assumptions I could simply go to his site and cut out the middleman.

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John Holbo 06.15.15 at 2:55 am

Rich: “If it’s wildly foreseeable that you’re going to think like Dreher, there’s no reason to comment on your posts”

Now we’re getting somewhere!

If, in this post, I think like Dreher, then it IS wildly foreseeable that I am going to think like Dreher. Because the thing that demonstrates that I’m thinking like Dreher is, apparently, that I’m sounding an awful lot like Holbo, which obviously I tend to do.

So if there IS a reason for commenting on my posts … hint, hint? (Modus tolens is your friend, kids! Use it!)

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ZM 06.15.15 at 4:05 am

“The – at least formal (whatever the reality is)- protection of students with mental health issues in the Anglo Sphere is a great thing”

I agree. When the president of the Royal Institute of Surveyors spoke at uni a few weeks about diversity and inclusion she said it was important to recognise the contributions by people who are diverse in relation to gender, race, dis/ability, or who think differently. One thing I have found in my present course is that in group projects – which there are a lot of which I found quite daunting at first – having people with different interests and backgrounds and strengths improves the project as it becomes more holistic as everyone contributes different things. Best of luck with your studies!

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