The NY Times has a lengthy thumbsucker from Robert Draper, repackaging claims by Nick Gillespie of Reason that the “libertarian moment” has finally arrived. Jonathan Chait takes out the garbage on the dodgy opinion poll that is the primary factual basis for the story. Taking the implicit definition of libertarians as voters who take a hard-right line on economic issues (and are therefore Republicans or Republican-voting independents), but are liberal on drugs and sexual freedom issues, it seems to me that if anything, the chance of a libertarian moment is over. That’s because:
(i) the equal marriage fight has pretty much been won by Democrats, with libertarians mostly on the sidelines or, to the extent that they have been part of the Republican coalition, on the wrong side 1
(ii) the same will probably be true for marijuana legalisation, and broader drug law reform before long. The recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington follows a steady expansion of legal access under “medical marijuana” laws. Again, this has been done almost entirely by Democrats. Libertarians were more vocal on this issue than on equal marriage, but they stayed within the Republican coalition, and did nothing much to shift the position of that coalition.
Once the issues of drug law reform and equal marriage are off the table, there’s no obvious distinction between “libertarians” like Nick Gillespie and Republicans in general2. The possibility of a libertarian moment, if it ever existed, has passed.
Update Some libertarian commenters are upset that I didn’t give their side enough credit on drug law reform (no, AFAICT, has made such claims on equal marriage). But bragging rights aren’t really relevant. When equal marriage and legalisation are faits accomplis the fact that some Republicans supported them all along won’t be an important point of difference with those who are still unhappy about it.
Further update A reader on my Facebook post points to this technolibertarian event, in which Nick Gillespie, billed as a “conservatarian”, features, along with Rand Paul and racist homophobe Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Relevantly for this post, the article mentions the tactic of emphasising libertarian support for drug law reform and hiding links to the Republicans. As I’ve argued, this is a tactic which will become obsolete once drug law reform becomes a reality .
The latest controversy about Rick Perlstein’s new book is an opportunity to post a couple of thoughts I’ve had for a long while.
First, the outsize Republican idolatry of Reagan is explained in part by the fact that there’s no one else in their history of whom they can really approve. The Bushes are a bad memory for most, Ford was a non-entity and Nixon was Nixon. Eisenhower looks pretty good on most historical rankings, but he’s anathema to movement conservatives: Eisenhower Republicans were what are now called RINOs. Going back a century, and skipping some failures/nonentities, Theodore Roosevelt is problematic for related but different reasons. Going right back to the beginning,and skipping more nonentities and disappointments, some Repubs still try to claim the mantle of the “party of Lincoln” but that doesn’t pass the laugh test. As many others have observed, the “party of Jefferson Davis” is closer to the mark. So, they have little choice but to present Reagan as the savior of the nation.
Something of the opposite problem is found on the left. I haven’t read Perlstein yet, but a lot of the discussion is based on an implicit or explicit assumption that the shift to the right in the US since the 1970s can be explained by the successful organizing efforts of movement conservatism, culminating in Reagan’s 1980 election victory. That’s an explanation with a lot of contingency attached. Suppose, for example, that the attempted rescue of the Iranian embassy hostages in April 1980 had been a success. That, along with some fortuitous good economic news, might have been enough to propel Carter to victory. By 1984, Reagan would have been too old to run as a challenger, and Bush senior would probably have been nominated.
I don’t think, however, that this would have had a huge effect on economic-political developments in the US. Other English-speaking countries, with very different political histories followed much the same route, ending up, by the late 1990s, with a hard-line rightwing conservative party driving policy debate and a “Third Way” centre-left alternative trying to smooth off some of the rough edges. The election of Carter, a conservative by the standards of the times, was a step towards that outcome.
I don’t want to overstate the determinism here. Individuals matter, and national circumstances differ. Still, I think we are talking about variations on a common theme, driven by global economic events, rather than a US-specific story beginning with Reagan’s 1964 address in support of Goldwater.
1. Yesterday, University of Nevada professor Gautam Premnath called the University of Illinois to protest the hirefire of Steven Salaita. A giggly employee in the Chancellor’s office told Premnath that Salaita was “dehired.”
2.Within 24 hours, nearly 8000 people have signed a petition calling on the University of Illinois to reinstate Salata. You should too. While you’re at it, please make sure to email the chancellor, Phyllis Wise, at at email@example.com. Please cc Robert Warrior of the American Indian Studies department (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the department itself: email@example.com.
3. Personally, I disagree with the notion that anti-Semitism can be explained, justified, or understood in light of Israel’s actions. But if you think an academic should be hiredfired for saying something like that, you would have had to have been prepared, back in 2002, to fire Nathan Glazer for saying just that at a conference at NYU:
Nathan Glazer, the well-known Harvard University sociologist sometimes associated with neoconservatism, suggested that whereas historically antisemitism was rooted in “illusionary” beliefs about Jews, today’s antisemitism is often a reaction to Israeli actions. And he said that such “hostility can be reduced and moderated by [Israel’s] policies.”
Glazer, as I recall, said considerably more than that. Among other things he said that since Israel claims to speak in the name of all Jews across the globe, its defenders should not be surprised when its enemies apply that claim to all Jews and begin opposing them as Jews.
4. This morning, the Chronicle of Higher Ed has a fuller report on the Salaita affair. Among the new facts revealed: First, it was a tenured position that Salaita was offered. Second, the offer was made last October by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Third, the national AAUP has distanced itself from Cary Nelson, saying he “does not speak for the association.” (In this statement, the AAUP distances itself even further.) And, last, in the faculty’s deliberations on hiring Salaita, his tweets did not come “up as a topic of concern or conversation” on the reasonable ground that they did not deem “social media as being somehow scholarly content.”
5. On December 27, 2013, Chancellor Wise had this to say about academic freedom:
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign opposes the boycott of Israeli academic institutions and endorses the statement made by the AAU. At Illinois, we value academic freedom as one of our core principles and cherish the critical importance of the ability of faculty to pursue learning, discovery and engagement without regard to political considerations.
And just in case anyone was confused about how important the principle was to her, she had this to say on January 30, 2014:
Of all places, a university should be home to diverse ideas and differing perspectives, where robust – and even intense – debate and disagreement are welcomed. How do we foster such an atmosphere? Only through an unwavering and unrelenting commitment to building truly diverse communities of students and scholars.
6. The Illinois AAUP Committee A has a very strong statement on the affair:
The AAUP 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure states in reference to extramural utterances: “When they speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline.” It affirms that “The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition.” While Professor’s Salaita’s tweets are construed as controversial, the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure affirms the virtue of controversial speech.
Professor Salaita’s words while strident and vulgar were an impassioned plea to end the violence currently taking place in the Middle East. Issues of life and death during bombardment educes significant emotions and expressions of concern that reflect the tragedy that armed conflict confers on its victims. Speech that is deemed controversial should be challenged with further speech that may abhor and challenge a statement. Yet the University of Illinois cannot cancel an appointment based upon Twitter statements that are protected speech in the United States of America.
Furthermore, there is nothing in the Salaita statements about Israel or Zionism that would raise questions about his fitness to teach. These statements were not made in front of students, are not related to a course that is being taught, and do not reflect in any manner his quality of teaching. What one says out of class rarely, in the absence of peer review of teaching, confirms how one teaches. Passion about a topic even if emotionally expressed through social network does not allow one to draw inferences about teaching that could possibly rise to the voiding or reversal of a job appointment.
One must not conjecture about a link between extramural statements and the quality of classroom teaching, absent an unmistakable link that would raise issues of competence. None exist here. Indeed, we affirm that fitness to teach can be enhanced with conviction, commitment and an engagement with the outside world.
7. Our very own Michael Bérubé also has a strong statement:
While I do not share Professor Salaita’s sentiments with regard to content, and find them to be often intemperate expressions of opinion on the Israel-Palestine conflict, I urge you to reconsider your decision. Indeed, I urge you to reconsider precisely because I do not share Professor Salaita’s sentiments. It is a truism that academic freedom is meaningless unless it covers unpopular (and even intemperate) speech; and that, finally, is what is at stake here– the question of whether academic freedom at the University of Illinois will be meaningless.
8. It occurs to me that if tweets are now going to be taken into consideration in academic hires, I want my entire social media presence included in all future considerations of my career. I want the number of tweets and FB posts I do per year to be included in my publication count. I want the number of retweets and “likes” that I get to be included in my citation count. And I want my friend Doug Henwood to be considered for an academic appointment. As he says, “With my Klout score, I’m on my way to an endowed chair.”
9. Glenn Greenwald tweets that there’s “lots more coming on this.” If I were Chancellor Wise, I’d be nervous. Very nervous. If Glenn’s on the story, I have little doubt what the ultimate outcome will be.
10. And last, this report, from today’s Guardian, on the most moral army in the world:
When Ahmed Owedat returned to his home 18 days after Israeli soldiers took it over in the middle of the night, he was greeted with an overpowering stench.
He picked through the wreckage of his possessions thrown from upstairs windows to find that the departing troops had left a number of messages. One came from piles of faeces on his tiled floors and in wastepaper baskets, and a plastic water bottle filled with urine.
If that was not clear enough, the words “Fuck Hamas” had been carved into a concrete wall in the staircase. “Burn Gaza down” and “Good Arab = dead Arab” were engraved on a coffee table. The star of David was drawn in blue in a bedroom.
It’s a strange universe we live in, where high-minded professors fret more about the “foul-mouthed” tweets of a scholar than the shit and curses soldiers leave in the destroyed homes of civilians.
Update (3:30 pm)
Just received a copy of a very strongly worded letter from the Center for Constitutional Rights. In addition to making all the right arguments re academic freedom and the First Amendment, it contains three factual statements, which I had not read anywhere else
As you well know, in October 2013, the University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences made an offer to Professor Salaita for an appointment, with tenure, in the College’s American Indian Studies program; he soon after accepted your offer (which the University confirmed in writing) and resigned from his tenured position in the English Department at Virginia Tech University. Your offer letter expressly stressed the University’s adherence to the American Association of University Professors’ Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure….His views (which he has long aired passionately and openly in many forums, including social media) are no doubt considered highly controversial by many in this country, but Professor Salaita could rest assured that his tenured position and the foundational principles of academic freedom and expression would permit him to share his views without fear of censure or reprisal.
That express affirmation in the offer letter of the AAUP principles seems like it could pose a potential problem for the University.
Nevertheless, despite Professor Salaita’s obvious reliance on the terms of the University’s appointment – by resigning from his tenured position at Virginia Tech, renting his Virginia home and preparing his entire family to move – you summarily terminated his appointment to a tenured position, without notice or any opportunity to be heard or to object. Your August 1, 2014 letter references your Office’s failure to seek or obtain final authorization from the Board of Trustees as the reason for the termination of Professor Salaita; yet, leaving aside the procedural irregularities in your rationale,³…
And then, in the footnote, comes this:
Although Professor Salaita’s appointment was effective August 16th, your termination letter stated that his appointment would not be recommended for submission to the Board in September, after his start date.
In other words, even under the best of circumstances, Salaita’s appointment was scheduled to be effective before the Board was scheduled to vote to approve it.
Last, the CCR letter references a letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, expressly requesting that the University of Illinois rescind its offer. I wasn’t aware of this letter, but it’s discussed here. The letter states:
We strongly believe that a person… with such aberrational views cannot be trusted to confine his discussions to his area of study. We urge you to reconsider his appointment and look forward to immediately discussing this serious matter with you.
Aberrational views. They used to be the pride and joy of the Jewish people, from Abraham to Kafka and Freud. Now we fire people for having them.
So I’ve been in the West of Ireland without proper Internet access for several days, and am catching up with umpteen posts in my RSS reader. I was going to write a post about plagiarism anyway, focusing on this weird Gawker story accusing True Detective of plagiarizing Thomas Ligotti. If unacknowledged quotes or references, intended as Easter eggs for people who spot the reference constitute plagiarism, then there are a lot of plagiarizers out there, me included (e.g. I ostentatiously plagiarize Matthew Arnold in this piece, with no acknowledgment whatsoever). But then, a little further down the feed, because a few hours farther back in the past, I saw this New York Times piece doing a class of a ‘he says, she says’ on whether Rick Perlstein’s new book is rife with plagiarism (I should say before writing that Rick is a friend, and that I read an early version of the last book and provided not especially useful comments on it; I didn’t do so for the new one, and indeed don’t yet have a copy (see above under location: West of Ireland and Internet: dearth of access to)).
Dave Weigel has copies of the letters back and forth between Perlstein and the conservative author and “political strategist” who is accusing Perlstein of plagiarizing. Not surprisingly, there doesn’t look to be anything worth talking about in the actual accusation (the bit where the lawyer representing the accuser claims that Perlstein’s willingness to talk with the author about sources is evidence against him, because it resembles how a “hit-and-run driver might return to the scene of his crime or lurk in his victim’s hospital lobby,” is especially remarkable). But the claims provide an interesting example of how the term plagiarism, as it has spread beyond its academic context has become a kind of catch-all accusation for a variety of phenomena (much of the accuser’s ire appears to have been motivated by Perlstein’s decision – which not only seems to me to be defensible, but in accordance with emerging academic practice – to put his footnotes and information about primary sources online rather than including them in the book itself).
The second interesting, but in-retrospect-not-very-surprising aspect of this imbroglio is the sharp rise in the level of conservative hysteria surrounding Perlstein’s books. Perlstein’s first book, Before the Storm received some very favorable reviews from conservatives. Perlstein was writing about a group of conservative activists who had received very little attention, rescuing them from the enormous condescension of posterity. It probably helped that Perlstein was then less well known, and the book looked unlikely to get a lot of popular attention. Nixonland was larger in impact (it sold a lot better, and Obama reportedly read it), and correspondingly received much more hostile attention from conservative reviewers. I expect that the new book, which takes on Reagan, who is obviously far more central to the internal mythology of American conservatism, will provoke reactions verging on gibbering lunacy. The Times article reports that conservative intellectual Sam Tanenhaus (who, as editor of the New York Times Book Review assigned the review of Nixonland to George Will, with entirely predictable results) has a forthcoming attack piece for the Atlantic. As Weigel says “there is great interest in stopping Perlstein’s history from becoming the official look at Reagan’s rise.” Very possibly, some of the negative reviews will score useful points. But given how profoundly conservatives are invested in the mythology of Reagan’s saintliness and wisdom, any good points will likely be embedded in a matrix of deep crazy. These are topics that many conservatives simply can’t think straight about. How they’re going to react to book number four when it comes out … I don’t even want to think about it.
This afternoon I ended up reading this Vox story about an effort to rank US Universities and Colleges carried out in 1911 by a man named Kendric Charles Babcock. On Twitter, Robert Kelchen remarks that the report was “squashed by Taft” (an unpleasant fate), and he links to the report itself, which is terrific. Babcock divided schools into four Classes, beginning with Class I:
And descending all the way to Class IV:
Babcock’s discussion of his methods is admirably brief (the snippet above hints at the one sampling problem that possibly troubled him), so I recommend you read the report yourself.
University reputations are extremely sticky, the conventional wisdom goes. I was interested to see whether Babcock’s report bore that out. I grabbed the US News and World Report National University Rankings and National Liberal Arts College Rankings and made a quick pass through them, coding their 1911 Babcock Class. The question is whether Mr Babcock, should he return to us from the grave, would be satisfied with how his rankings had held up—more than a century of massive educational expansion and alleged disruption notwithstanding.
It turns out that he would be quite pleased with himself.
Here is a dotplot of the 2014 USNWR National University Ranking, where the dots are color-coded for Babcock Class. There are two panels, one on the left for Private Universities, and one on the right for Public Universities. USNWR’s highest-ranked school at the moment is Princeton, and it is at the top of the dotplot. You read down the ranking from there.
As you can see, for private universities, especially, the 1911 Babcock Classification tracks prestige in 2014 very well indeed. The top fifteen or so USNWR Universities that were around in 1911 were regarded as Class 1 by Babcock. Class 2 Privates and a few Class 1 stragglers make up the next chunk of the list. The only serious outliers are the Stevens Institute of Technology and the Catholic University of America.
The situation for public universities is also interesting. The Babcock Class 1 Public Schools have not done as well as their private peers. Berkeley (or “The University of California” as was) is the highest-ranked Class I public in 2014, with UVa and Michigan close behind. Babcock sniffily rated UNC a Class II school. I have no comment about that, other than to say he was obviously right. Other great state flagships like Madison, Urbana, Washington, Ohio State, Austin, Minnesota, Purdue, Indiana, Kansas, and Iowa are much lower-ranked today than their Class I designation by Babcock in 1911 would have led you to believe. Conversely, one or two Class 4 publics—notably Georgia Tech—are much higher ranked today than Babcock would have guessed. So rankings are sticky, but only as long as you’re not public.
I also did the same figure for Liberal Arts Colleges, almost all of which are private, so this time there’s just the one panel:
Again, there is a substantial degree of stability over the course of the century. Here we see a bit more evidence of some movement up by colleges that Babcock put in Class II—Swarthmore, for example, as well as Middlebury and Pomona. The Class I schools that seem to have fallen from favor most are Knox, Lake Forest, and Goucher colleges.
Now, some caveats. First, because I was more or less coding this stuff while eating my lunch, I have not attempted to connect schools which Babcock did rate with their current institutional descendants. So, for example, some technical, liberal arts, or agricultural schools that he classified grew into or were absorbed by major state universities in the 20th century. These are not on the charts above. We are only looking at schools that existed under their current name (more or less—there are one or two exceptions) in 1911 and now. Second, higher Education in the U.S. really has changed a lot since 1911. In particular the postwar expansion of public education introduced many new and excellent public universities, and over the course of the twentieth century even some decent private ones emerged and came to prominence (such as my own, which competes with a nearby Class II school). This biases things in favor of the seeming stability of the rankings, because in his own data Babcock had the luxury of not having to classify schools that did not yet exist.
We can add these in a final, rather large, chart for the National University data.
Now the coding includes the pink “None” category, which adds universities that appear in the USNWR rankings but which are not in Babcock, either because they did not exist at all in 1911, or had not yet taken their present names. In fairness to him, the new additions still leave Babcock’s classification looking pretty good. On the private side, Duke, Caltech, and Rice are added to the upper end of the list, and a number of new private schools further down.
Meanwhile on the public side you can see the appearance of the 20th century schools, most notably the whole California system. The UC System is an astonishing achievement, when you look at it, as it propelled five of its campuses into the upper third of the table to join Berkeley. But the status ordering that was—take your pick; these data can’t settle the question—observed, intuited, or invented by Babcock a century ago remains remarkably resilient. The old regime persists.
Note: Updated August 8th to correct some coding errors.
Until two weeks ago, Steven Salaita was heading to a job at the University of Illinois as a professor of American Indian Studies. He had already resigned from his position at Virginia Tech; everything seemed sewn up. Now the chancellor of the University of Illinois has overturned Salaita’s appointment and rescinded the offer. Because of Israel.
The sources familiar with the university’s decision say that concern grew over the tone of his comments on Twitter about Israel’s policies in Gaza….
For instance, there is this tweet: “At this point, if Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised? #Gaza.” Or this one: “By eagerly conflating Jewishness and Israel, Zionists are partly responsible when people say antisemitic shit in response to Israeli terror.” Or this one: “Zionists, take responsibility: if your dream of an ethnocratic Israel is worth the murder of children, just fucking own it already.”
In recent weeks, bloggers and others have started to draw attention to Salaita’s comments on Twitter. But as recently as July 22 (before the job offer was revoked), a university spokeswoman defended Salaita’s comments on Twitter and elsewhere. A spokeswoman told The News-Gazette for an article about Salaita that “faculty have a wide range of scholarly and political views, and we recognize the freedom-of-speech rights of all of our employees.”
I’ve written about a number of these types of cases over the past few years, but few have touched me the way this one has. For three reasons.
First, Steven is a friend on Facebook, and we follow each other on Twitter. I don’t know him personally but I’ve valued his unapologetic defense of the rights of Palestinians. Often he posts articles and information from which I’ve learned quite a bit.
Second, I have no doubt that an easily rattled administrator would find some of my public writings on Israel and Palestine to have crossed a line. If you’re in favor of Salaita being punished, you should be in favor of me being punished. And not just me. On Twitter, many of us—not just on this issue but a variety of issues, and not just on the left, but also on the right—speak in a way that can jar or shock a tender sensibility. We swear, we accuse, we say no, in thunder. That’s the medium. Though I’ve never really thought twice about it, it’s fairly chilling to think that a university official might now be combing through my tweets to see if I had said anything that would warrant me being deemed ineligible for a job. Or worse, since I have tenure, that an administrator might be doing that to any and every potential job candidate.
Third, Cary Nelson, who was once the president of the American Association of University Professors, has weighed in in defense of this decision by the University of Illinois Chancellor.
“I think the chancellor made the right decision,” he said via email. “I know of no other senior faculty member tweeting such venomous statements—and certainly not in such an obsessively driven way. There are scores of over-the-top Salaita tweets. I also do not know of another search committee that had to confront a case where the subject matter of academic publications overlaps with a loathsome and foul-mouthed presence in social media. I doubt if the search committee felt equipped to deal with the implications for the campus and its students. I’m glad the chancellor did what had to be done.”
Asked if he feared that the withdrawal of the job offer could represent a scholar being punished for his unpopular political views, Nelson said he did not think that was the case. “If Salaita had limited himself to expressing his hostility to Israel in academic publications subjected to peer review, I believe the appointment would have gone through without difficulty,” he said. Nelson added that harsh criticism of Israel is widespread among faculty members. “Salaita’s extremist and uncivil views stand alone. There is nothing ‘unpopular’ on this campus about hostility to Israel.”
Once upon a time I wrote an essay for an anthology Nelson edited on unions in academia. When I was the leader of the grad union drive at Yale, he came to campus and spoke out on our behalf. I thought of him as not only a champion of academic freedom but as an especially acerbic—some might even say uncivil—commentator willing to throw a few elbows at his fellow academics. One time, he even compared a fellow English professor to a vampire bat, and proceeded to make fun of his bodily movements and facial gestures. In an academic publication subject to peer review.
But in recent years Nelson has become an outspoken defender of the State of Israel and a critic of the BDS movement. A man who once called for the boycott of a university now thinks boycotts of universities are a grave threat to academic freedom. A man who serially violates the norms of academic civility—urging fellow academics to “give key administrators no peace. Place chanting pickets outside their homes. Disrupt every meeting they attend with sardonic or inspiring public theater”—now invokes those same norms against a critic of Israel. A man who once wrote that “claims about collegiality are being used to stifle campus debate, to punish faculty, and to silence the free exchange of opinion by the imposition of corporate-style conformity,” now complains about an anti-Zionist professor’s “foul-mouthed presence in social media.” A man who once called the movement against hostile environments and in favor of sensitive speech on campus “Orwellian,” now frets over a student of Salaita’s fearing she “would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Israeli views in class.”
I bring this up not to pick on Nelson, but to ask him, and all of you, a simple question: Should Nelson be deemed ineligible for another job at a university simply because of these statements he has written? Should l be deemed ineligible for another job at a university simply because of some “foul-mouthed,” perhaps even intemperate, tweets that I’m sure I have written?
But I bring up Nelson’s case for another reason. And that is that his hypocrisy is not merely his own. It is a symptom of the effects of Zionism on academic freedom, how pro-Israel forces have consistently attempted to shut down debate on this issue, how they “distort all that is right.” Nelson’s U-Turn demonstrates that we’re heading down a very dangerous road. I strongly urge all of you to put on the brakes.
In the meantime, do something for Steven Salaita. Write a note to University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise (best to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com), urging her to rescind her rescission. Also, when you write your email, please cc Robert Warrior of the American Indian Studies department at the University of Illinois. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Also cc the department: email@example.com. As always, be polite, but be firm. Don’t assume this is a done deal; in my experience, it often is not. We’ve managed through our efforts, on multiple occasions, to get nervous administrators to walk away from the ledge.
Update (12:30 pm)
In response to the article that first reported this story, Cary Nelson defended the University of Illinois decision thus:
When Salaita tweets “If you’re defending Israel right now you’re an awful human being” he issues a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Israeli views in class. When he gives us this definition–“Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948″ he crosses a line into hate speech. When he retweets a suggestion that a well-known American reporter should be met with “the point of a shiv” he crosses a line into inciting violence.
In accordance with Nelson’s dicta, I presume the following individuals would be not hireable at the University of Illinois.
1. Denis Diderot: “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” (Professor Diderot has crossed a line into inciting violence.)
2. Friedrich von Schlegel: “Religion and morals are symmetrically opposed, just like poetry and philosophy.” (Professor Schlegel has issued a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-religion views in class.)
3. George Orwell: “As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.” (Professor Orwell has issued a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-socialist or pro-Christian views in class.)
4. Mary McCarthy: “The average Catholic perceives no connection between religion and morality, unless it is a question of someone else’s morality.” (Professor McCarthy has issued a judgment about her future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Catholic views in class.)
5. Samuel Butler: “The seven deadly sins: Want of money, bad health, bad temper, chastity, family ties, knowing that you know things, and believing in the Christian religion.” (See #3)
6. The Prophet Micah:
Hear this, you leaders of Jacob,
(See #1. Also, maybe, hate speech.)
"The resistance of the wood varies depending on the place where we drive in the nail: wood is not isotropic. Nor am I; I have my 'exquisite points.' The map of these points is known to me alone, and it is according to them that I make my way, avoiding or seeking this or that, depending on externally enigmatic counsel; I should like this map of moral acupuncture to be distributed preventively to my new acquaintances (who, moreover, could also utilize it to make me suffer more)." --Roland Barthes, "A Lover's Discourse"
For Immediate Release
In Media Res – HIV/AIDS and Television
This week’s In Media Res theme focus is HIV/AIDS and Television (August 4 - August 8, 2014).
Here's the line-up:
Monday, August 4, 2014 - Melanie E.S. Kohnen (New York University) presents: Gay Sexuality and AIDS in An Early Frost
Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - Andre J. Owens (Northwestern University) presents: The Blood is the Life/Death: Queer Contagion and Viral Vampirism in the Age of HIV/AIDS
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - Jeffrey A. Bennett (University of Iowa) presents: AIDS Narratives and Televisual Prophecy
So I’m reading this post on The Guardians of the Galaxy (which I shouldn’t be doing, since I haven’t seen it, but I’ll bet the raccoon lives.)
And I misread this sentence:
In fact, these space misfits offer something rarely seen in superhero films: the Guardians show emotional, neurological, developmental and communication deficits that 1) are not expected to be resolved or cured at the end of the film and 2) do not make them ineffective as heroes.
Because surely we need to lose that last ‘not’. DO make then ineffective as heroes. That better be it, otherwise obviously this film is just like all the other stories about heroes who are kind of damaged but awesomely effective.
Obviously (I can tell this without seeing it), Guardians IS like all the rest, not different as this author so wrongly suggests. (But I’m sure it’s going to be awesome.)
Let’s back up so I can explain. A couple weeks ago I was reading horror-stories in the New York Times (can’t find the link) about malfeasance in forensic labs stretching back decades. Not important to find that article. Anything about prosecutors refusing to cooperate with the Innocence Project will do as well. Same tune. I thought: someone should really make a gritty, thrilling cop show about cops who probably think about themselves as being good cops but are basically, unknowingly, incompetent and corrupt. They don’t always get the wrong guy. But they often frame the wrong guy, just because they need to goose their numbers. But they always tell themselves a story about how they are good cops. CSI! The ‘I’ stands for ‘incompetent’! But the characters really think it stands for ‘investigation’.
I’m not talking about comedy. This isn’t Parks and Recreation. I’m talking about The Wire, minus the competence. Instead of the characters being high-functioning alcoholics, or guys with hair-trigger tempers that really only result in them beating up assholes, have a low-functioning alcoholic, partnered with a guy who just has anger-management problems that, as you might expect, keep him from getting the job done. Another example, True Detective. Rust is a hallucinating, trauma-repressing alcoholic. Marty is an immature womanizer. But they are both supremely functional when they are actually on the case. I just think it would be interesting to play it differently, just for once. Have the detectives/forensic lab boys be psychological damaged goods, and have that cause them to be regularly incompetent. Tell exciting stories about absent-mindedly framing some poor black kid, because the interesting detective characters screw up, and don’t even really realize it themselves. And sometimes they get it right. And we get to know them, so we get that they aren’t positively evil. This isn’t Bad Lieutenant, just the banality of semi-competence careerists. The whole system is just a giant moral hazard waiting to happen in every average officer’s life. It would be a great way to tell a story, if you could get it right, so the viewers wouldn’t just find it frustrating to watch a procedural about people who can’t follow procedure, or work out good procedures to follow.
Meanwhile, I look forward to watching The Guardians of the Galaxy be absurdly competent, despite all their psychological damage. Hilariously, all their crazinesses will be complementary! I’m sure it’s great.
This is a picture I took in 2007 of the Arlington West memorial at Santa Monica beach, California. The crosses represent American dead (with red crosses representing 10 dead). A placard near the crosses reads “”At 3000 crosses, the Arlington West Memorial is 141 feet wide and 310 feet long. A memorial for the Iraqi dead would be 141 feet wide and 12.8 miles long.”
From the material in my photo collection, it seems the right thing to post in this week leading up to the outbreak of war in 1914, but also because of the daily tolls in Syria, Gaza and elsewhere.
Wayne C. Booth was a prominent literary critic, and one of our favorite authors. All his adult life he was also a cellist. Our free e-book for August, For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals is the story of one intimate struggle between a man and his cello, as well as a journey through the larger struggle between a society obsessed with success and individuals who choose challenging hobbies that yield no payoff beyond the love of it.
I’ve mentioned Greg Grandin’s book Empire of Necessity on this blog before. It’s basically the true story—and more!—behind Melville’s Benito Cereno, which if you haven’t read, you should read right away. And then read Greg’s book. In any event, Alex Gourevitch has a wonderful interview with Greg up today at Jacobin. It’s got all sorts of gems in it, but I thought readers here would be especially interested in this:
Scholars have long examined the ways in which slavery underwrites capitalism. I thought this story, though, allowed attention to slavery’s role in shaping not so much the social or financial dimensions of capitalism but its psychic and imaginative ones.
Capitalism is, among other things, a massive process of ego formation, the creation of modern selves, the illusion of individual autonomy, the cultivation of distinction and preference, the idea that individuals had their own moral conscience, based on individual reason and virtue. The wealth created by slavery generalized these ideals, allowing more and more people, mostly men, to imagine themselves as autonomous and integral beings, with inherent rights and self-interests not subject to the jurisdiction of others. Slavery was central to this process not just for the wealth the system created but because slaves were physical and emotional examples of what free men were not.
But there is more. That process of individuation creates a schism between inner and outer, in which self-interest, self-cultivation, and personal moral authority drive a wedge between seeming and being. Hence you have the emergence of metaphysicians like Melville, Emerson, and of course Marx, along with others, trying to figure out the relationship between depth and surface.
What I try to do in the book is demonstrate the centrality of slavery to this process, the way “free trade in blacks” takes slavery’s foundational deception, its original deceit as captured in the con the West Africans were able to play on Amasa Delano, and acts as a force multiplier. Capitalism disperses that deception into every aspect of modern life.
There’s many ways this happens. Deceit, through contraband, is absolutely key to the expansion of slavery in South America. When historians talk about the Atlantic market revolution, they are talking about capitalism. And when they are talking about capitalism, they are talking about slavery. And when they are talking about slavery, they are talking about corruption and crime. Not in a moral sense, in that the slave system was a crime against humanity. That it was. But it was also a crime in a technical sense: probably as many enslaved Africans came into South America as contraband, to avoid taxes and other lingering restrictions, as legally.
Sometimes slaves were the contraband. At other times, they were cover for the real contraband, luxury items being smuggled in from France or Great Britain, which helped cultivate the personal taste of South America’s expanding gentry class. And since one of the things capitalism is at its essence is an ongoing process to define the arbitrary line that separates “self-interest” from “corruption,” slavery was essential in creating the normative categories associated with modern society.
I got lots of very helpful responses to my recent post on the search theory of unemployment, here and at Crooked Timber. But it has occurred to me that I haven’t seen any answer to one crucial question: How many offers do unemployed workers receive and decline before taking a new job, or leaving the labour market? This is crucial, both in simple versions of search theory and in more sophisticated directed search and matching models. If workers don’t get any offers, it doesn’t matter what their reservation wage is, or what their judgement of the state of the market. Casual observation and my very limited experience, combined with my understanding of the unemployment benefit rules, is that very few unemployed workers receive and decline job offers, except perhaps for temporary work where the loss of benefits outweighs potential earnings. Presumably someone must have studied this, but my Google skills aren’t up to finding anything useful.
And, on a morbidly humorous note, it’s a sad day for conservative politicians when efforts to bash the unemployed actually cost them support. But that seems to be the case for the LNP government in Australia with their latest plans, both expanded work for the dole and the requirement for 40 job applications a month. I’ll leave it to Andrew Leigh to take out the trash on work for the dole (BTW, his new book, The Economics of Almost Everything is out now).
The 40 applications requirement has already been the subject of some amusing calculations. I want to take a slightly different tack. Suppose (to make the math simple) that the average job vacancy lasts a month. There are roughly five unemployed workers for every vacancy, so meeting the target will require an average of 200 applications per vacancy. The government will be checking for spam, so lets suppose that all (or a substantial proportion) of the applicants take some time to talk about how they would be a good fit with the employer and so on. Dealing with all these applications would be a mammoth task. One option would be to pick a short list at random. But, there’s a simpler option. In addition to the 200 required applications from unemployed people, most job vacancies will attract applications from people in jobs. A few of them may be looking for an outside offer to improve their bargaining position with their current employer (this is a big deal for academics), but most can be assumed to be serious about taking the job and in the judgement that they have a reasonable chance of getting it. So, the obvious strategy is to discard all the applications except for those from people who already have jobs. What if there aren’t any of these? Given that formal applications are going to be uninformative, employers may pick interviewees at random or may resort to the informal networks through which many jobs are filled already.
Trying to relate this back to theory, the effect of a requirement like this is to negate the benefits of improved matching that ought to arise from Internet search. By providing strong incentives to provide a convincing appearance of looking for jobs for which workers are actually poorly suited, the policy harms both employers and unemployed workers who would be well suited to a given job.
Update I found the following quote widely reproduced on the web On average, 1,000 individuals will see a job post, 200 will begin the application process, 100 will complete the application,
75 of those 100 resumes will be screened out by the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) software the company uses,
25 resumes will be seen by the hiring manager, 4 to 6 will be invited for an interview, 1 to 3 of them will be invited back for final interview, 1 will be offered that job and 80 percent of those receiving an offer will accept it.
Data courtesy of Talent Function Group LLC Visiting the TFG website, I couldn’t find any obvious source. The numbers sound plausible to me, and obviously to those who have cited them. But, if the final number (80 per cent acceptance) is correct, then it seems as if the search theory of unemployment is utterly baseless. Assuming independence, the proportion of searchers who reject even three offers must be minuscule (less than 1 per cent).
Centrum: working papers of the Minnesota Center for Advanced Studies in Language, Style, and Literary Theory. Volume 3, Number 2, Fall 1975
...with a historically significant Forum on Speech Acts:
Speech acts and literature (Forum):
Chris Brooke reminds us that today is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Jean Jaurès.
Cognitive Rhetoric Workshop Online: http://new.livestream.com/cigionline/events/3169959
Everyone’s complaining about the dumbness of the use-100%-of-your-brain premise for Lucy. (Which I expect is a bad movie.) I have an idea for a superhero that I think fixes this problem. Coaches are always yelling at players that they need to ‘give 110 percent!’ out on the field. So: what if someone actually figured out a way for you to do that? (Makes you think, eh!) You could have these amazing scenes where, after the super-sciencey treatment, the hero is being tested. Running on the treadmill, solving math problems, stacking raisins. In each case the guys in labcoats, gathered around the readouts are smiling, amazed. ‘Sir, we’ve done it! He’s using 110% of capacity!’
The point being: this guy (or gal!) is going to be able to beat Lucy, whoever she is. End of story. Mischief managed.