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KC and me, round two

Well, dear readers, I have been rebuffed.  Despite going to all the trouble of making up ready-made replies for Professor KC Johnson, so that he could simply check a box in order to explain why he claimed that I wrote an essay “advising professors to treat conservative students as they would students with learning disabilities or who exhibited aberrant behavior,” I have instead been met with a reply whose evasiveness beggars description.  No one told me that hosting The Bérubé Factor was going to be such hard work!  It’s hard, hard work!

Professor Johnson spends most of his reply quoting a hostile review of one of my books, which seems appropriate enough, I suppose.  Then, in his final paragraph, he gets around to establishing himself as more judicious than I am:

In his blog piece, Bérubé argues that this passage did not represent a comparison of conservatives to students with disabilities. Hmm. I’m not sure that, even off the top of my head, much less in a piece published for the Chronicle, I would compare how I respond to students whose political viewpoints differ from mine to students who “genuinely have had some degree of Asperger’s syndrome, with various autistic or antisocial symptoms.”

But hmm right back atcha, KC.  You know, I’m not sure that, even off the top of my head, much less in a piece published for Midstream and reproduced with my consent by Campus Watch, I would so thoroughly mischaracterize someone else’s written work.

After all, two (or more!) can play that game.  So let’s say I go ahead from here and publish something in which I claim that . . . hmm . . . KC Johnson has written that faculty members who applaud E. L. Doctorow “require constant, vigorous oversight.” (And let’s note, for the record, that my mischaracterization of Johnson’s paragraph comes a good deal closer to the spirit of his essay than does his mischaracterization of my paragraph about disruptive students.) And then let’s say that KC Johnson himself complains about my misquotation.  Would I then reply that KC is excessively self-absorbed, as he charges in his reply, by way of citing a disparaging review of one of his books?  (As to whether KC actually is self-absorbed, that’s for others to say.) No, I wouldn’t do that, my friends.  This humble blog may be humble, but it does have some pride.  We don’t play that little wingnut game in which we put words in people’s mouths and then chastise them for taking exception to it!

Nor would I close my reply with anything like KC’s textbook non-apology apology:

I apologize if I misinterpreted Bérubé’s intent in making the comparison, and I express the best wishes to the conservative students who can be “gently but not patronizingly” treated in his courses.

Hmm again.  This sounds to me a little like “I said you’re an unethical teacher, and I apologize-- I’m sorry you’re an unethical teacher.” Remember, folks, KC wasn’t just misquoting me-- he was adducing my Chronicle essay as an instance of academe’s “almost comical hostility to perceived conservatives.” Well, I owe KC an apology in return, then.  I’m sorry I called him “thoughtful.” [OK, that’s a bit much.  See the update, below.] [Actually, as of the morning of March 15, it turns out that my revised assessment of KC was too generous.  Unstrike those stricken words, and see the second update.]

As for Mark Bauerlein’s boundary 2 review of The Employment of Englishboundary 2 graciously allowed me some space to reply to that review, though KC doesn’t say so.  My reply to Bauerlein opened by admitting that “Although Professor Bauerlein’s review stings in places, it seems to me to have identified the flaws in The Employment of English all too accurately.” But it also pointed out that Bauerlein’s criticisms were themselves not beyond criticism:

Bauerlein writes: “When [Bérubé] questions the theoretical status of cultural studies (86–87), he does so to ask how it should be taught to graduate students so as to make them better interviewees at the Modern Language Association (MLA) Annual Convention” (202). This is poor textual conduct, I think, for someone so invested in reliable standards of evidence. Here’s what I actually said on the pages Bauerlein cites:

If we conceive of cultural studies— and theory more generally— as something that is potentially as relevant to freshman writing as it is to graduate seminars, then, perhaps, we can begin to make productive use of the multiple theoretical paradigms currently operating in the profession without overspecializing or underpreparing those graduate students who do choose to seek the Ph.D. We can, in other words, escape the illogic of the current system that asks job candidates to be brilliant, original researchers up until they receive an MLA interview, and then to be all-purpose generalists who can teach writing, Shakespeare, and the History of the English Language once they arrive on campus. (Employment of English, 87)

This is not a point about how to make students better interviewees and marketing strategists, as Bauerlein implies; it is, rather, a point about providing Ph.D. candidates with ways of thinking about theory and cultural studies that will reduce the growing tension between the research and teaching missions of the profession— a tension that is particularly acute during job searches.

Then there follows a passage that seems kind of relevant to this very exchange right here:

Ah, but it is true that I quote myself too much, especially when I am convinced that I have been misquoted (how else to set the record straight?), just as it is true that I refer to myself too much, as in sentences like this. On this count, I’m afraid I have to agree with Bauerlein entirely. The Employment of English contains far too many references to its author— as many as Bauerlein enumerates and still more. Here too I was at first tempted to defend myself, particularly with regard to my habit of addressing my most trenchant critics directly. For when Bauerlein complains that “even when parleying political and intellectual positions on English, Bérubé selects his antagonists using a personal criterion” (205), I have to admit I have no idea what he means. I do not select my antagonists, they select themselves; and when they publish critiques of my positions, I sometimes publish responses to those critiques, whereas Bauerlein would simply dismiss them as “ridiculous” and “bizarre” (206). Now, one of the critiques to which I responded came from a long review essay on [my second book] Public Access— and not “a review of a volume coedited by Bérubé” (206), as Bauerlein writes. Replying to arguments mounted in review essays, I think, is one of the ordinary forms of intellectual and professional exchange, and it is vexing to be chastised in a review essay for having written a response to another review essay. Bauerlein’s characterization of my exchanges with my critics thus confronts me with a conundrum: By engaging with the ridiculous arguments of, inter alios, Joseph Aimone, Stanley Fish, Jim Neilson, and Gregory Meyerson, I am not defending my “logically justified beliefs” (200) but “using a personal criterion” (205) for debate. There is, it would seem, a strategic elision here between defending one’s beliefs and simply being too self-absorbed, just as there is a nasty performative contradiction entailed in trying to defend oneself from the charge of being too self-absorbed when part of the evidence for the charge is that one defends oneself too often.

Well, I could post the whole dang exchange in boundary 2 if anyone’s interested, but I can’t imagine anyone being that interested.  I think if I were a more economical writer I’d have simply said something like what Amardeep Singh said in his reply to KC’s Cliopatria post.

But hey, KC, old boy, one final thing before The Bérubé Factor sends you back to the green room.  I’m really sorry that I wrote in The Employment of English, with regard to my visit to the CUNY Faculty Senate in 1997 (they offered me $100 to speak, and I told them I’d do it gratis), that I wanted to meet people like Sandi Cooper.  (Bauerlein didn’t like my mentioning this visit either, for some reason.) But had I known then that six years later, Cooper would offend you (as you point out in today’s post, “Cooper, a professor at the College of Staten Island who at the time had never even met me, uttered the single best line of my tenure case, when she informed the faculty senate forum that my receiving tenure constituted the Chancellor of CUNY’s ‘slapping’ her in the ‘face’"), I would not have wanted to meet her.  And I’m glad to see you don’t take these things personally!

UPDATE:  I do have a somewhat nicer reply here, in the form of a comment indirectly mediated by the remarks of the always-thoughtful Timothy Burke, to which KC responded rather more generously.  OK, ça suffit.  Tomorrow on the Factor:  David Bowie and Elton John.  You have been warned.

UPPING THE UPDATE:  Nope, ça ne suffit pas.  KC has upped the ante, and I’ve called.  (KC has since shut off comments over there, but we’ll keep them open here at the Renard News Channel.)

Posted by on 03/14 at 04:15 PM
  1. Coupez son microphone!

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/14  at  06:49 PM
  2. As regards your comments concerning the possibly excessive use of your own quotations to support your own arguments and critiques, i have noticed a dramatic increase in that behavior in the field of the study of consciousness.  Partially this is explained by the proliferation of first person versus third person theories, and possibly from the adoption of Phenomenology as an underlying philosophical thread for deeper research, particularly in the science of consciousness.  I am always more trusting of authors who clearly express themselves from their own point of view by their own quotations.  It reminds me of something suggested to me during my undergrad days in the 60’s; all critics in all forms of media should be forced to disclose their personal religious beliefs before we empower them with any degree of certitude regarding their criticisms.

    Posted by  on  03/14  at  06:56 PM
  3. Okay, wait—you defend yourself when people criticize you or mischaracterize your views?  I recant everything I’ve ever said in defense of you: such behavior is simply inexcusable.  You’re lucky you’re not in prison right now, frankly.

    Posted by Adam Kotsko  on  03/14  at  07:03 PM
  4. Adam, please see my forthcoming essay, “Adam’s comment on 3/14 at 6:03 on my blog is unconscionable and unfair,” boundary 2, spring 2006.

    Posted by Michael  on  03/14  at  07:18 PM
  5. From Bauerlein’s review:

    But there is another issue worth considering in this book, a theme that emerges in every chapter and vies for prominence with the argument for economic reform—that is, Bérubé himself. For this analysis of English employment contains not only ruminations on student exploitation and neoconservative assaults but also abundant material on Bérubé’s own career: his experiences at conferences and in the hallways of the University of Illinois; his encounters with students, editors, and writers; opinions on his status in the profession; and scholarly attacks whose target is Michael Bérubé. Bérubé bolsters a point or initiates a discussion by citing something that happened to him or something that someone said about him

    Sounds kind of like blogging, doesn’t it?

    Posted by eb  on  03/14  at  07:38 PM
  6. It pains me to say so, but I just gave the essay in question a careful reading, and found the account of your relationship with your conservative student, John, to be filled with highly negative terminology. To give just one example, I counted twenty instances of the word “not” alone, and I noticed quite a few occurrences of “no” and “nothing” along the way. Although the fact that you treated John fairly and respectfully at all times might fool some of your less judicious readers, the use of such negative language clearly reveals your rabid hostility to all things conservative.

    Posted by  on  03/14  at  07:41 PM
  7. I should add, to my comment above: Unlike Bauerlein, I don’t find that to be a bad thing (blog-like or not).

    Posted by eb  on  03/14  at  08:57 PM
  8. Michael: are you beating on the smaller kids again? You hockey players are such thugs! I told you a zillion times, you should only beat on people your size!

    In all seriousness, Michael, it’s not worth it. Can you measure how many readers you’ve sent to that most unhappy gentleman? That’s what they want. I mean, really: they haven’t read your Chronicle piece in good faith, they’re perorating about *The Employment of English* without having read it, what’s there to debate? If you’re going debate with people who argue in bad faith, then it should be a big dog, a real big one, not someone who writes for Campus Watch.

    So, my suggestion is that we constitute a “buffer-zone” committee to evaluate, on a case by case basis, whether or not a fight is worth being featured on the Bérubé Factor. If it’s not, your commenters can take of it. Accusations that you’re advancing a radical feminist agenda could be directed to Roxanne. Accusations that you’re subverting science can be channeled to PZ. Accusations that you want to replace Shakespeare with Ramones records could go to Chris Clarke. Accusations that you have a “pro-Palestinian” bias can be sent to me, and I’ll show them bias.

    And so on and so forth (we can play with the actual composition of the committee). That way you’ll have some peace to finish your book and, who knows, perhaps even to blog on pleasant subjects once in a while!

    Posted by Idelber  on  03/14  at  09:04 PM
  9. Idelber, I like the idea. But I think that in the interest of shatnering stereotypes (I like that typo so I’m going to let it live), we should send the Shakespeare-Ramones stuff to Roxanne and the radical feminism to PZ. Alex and I can split the science: I’ll lend my superficial knowledge of the subject to the endeavor, and Alex can rewrite it so it’s funny.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/14  at  09:13 PM
  10. Sounds great, Chris, it’s deal. In fact the blah-blah-blah taking place on the other side is so pedestrian that anyone on this team of commenters could take them all at once on any subject. So by all means let us divide up tasks any way you see fit. Oh, and while we’re at it we should invite that guy Catarpa to deal with accusations that Michael misquotes people.

    PS: Michael, my apologies for shamelessly signing these comments with an amazon.com link to my latest book. I noticed that some of you were clicking occasionally on the previous signature, and probably ending up a little disappointed to land in a Portuguese-language blog. So I’ve been signing otherwise. Not that I want people to buy the book or anything.

    Posted by Idelber  on  03/14  at  09:58 PM
  11. I respectfully disagree with Idelbar’s recommendation that you stop picking on the smaller kids. On the contrary, Michael, you need to keep pounding on that twirp Horowitz until you get on his damn list. Three weeks ago, I gave you a month to get your name up there, and I still don’t see any results. And don’t come whining to me that February only has 28 days. That’s your problem. Well, that and your egregious self-obsession, your utter contempt for snorting conservative students, &c &c.

    Posted by  on  03/14  at  10:25 PM
  12. Er, make that Idelber. Sorry bro. - g

    Posted by  on  03/14  at  10:27 PM
  13. I’m glad you’re linking to The Letter of Violence, Idelber, because . . . well, I wasn’t going to tell you for another two weeks or so, but . . . I’m giving away a copy of your book to this blog’s one millionth visitor.  (At our current rate we should hit that milestone in the second week of April.) So thanks for doing advance publicity!  Seriously, your new signature makes perfect sense.  No need to apologize for self-referencing on this endlessly self-referencing blog.

    Stephen, you could not possibly have given my essay a careful reading.  There are no negative words in it whatsoever, and I’m not taking the bait by going back and counting-- there’s nothing to be gained by doing so, and nothing you say can convince me otherwise.  In fact, I believe there is not one “no” or “nothing” in the entire essay.

    eb, about blogging, Employment of English, and self-referencing:  funny, but Amardeep Singh had some interesting (and sometimes gently critical) things to say on the subject last summer.  Just fyi.

    And yo, GForce, read it and weep.  If you can read, that is.  As Chrissie Hynde once said, you better stop snorting, uh-hunh.

    Posted by Michael  on  03/14  at  11:06 PM
  14. Posted by  on  03/14  at  11:36 PM
  15. where he claims that he changed the format of the Hit List in response to “more thoughtful people than Michael Berube.”

    I’m pretty sure that was corndog he was talking about.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/14  at  11:42 PM
  16. In any case, Chris, I read it here first. But then again, I don’t get out much.

    Posted by  on  03/14  at  11:49 PM
  17. ps - the issue of whether Corndog is more thoughtful than Berube we can save for another occasion. i’ve got a lecture to write, and it’s getting late.

    Posted by  on  03/14  at  11:51 PM
  18. No swipe intended, GF.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/14  at  11:53 PM
  19. wink

    Posted by  on  03/14  at  11:59 PM
  20. Tomorrow on the Factor:  David Bowie and Elton John.

    And me? 

    Posted by Roxanne  on  03/15  at  12:12 AM
  21. And me?

    No, No. Me! Me!

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  12:18 AM
  22. So your critics are right - you do pay attention to everything ever written about you!

    Thanks for the link; I’ve only recently begun reading Amardeep’s blog.

    Posted by eb  on  03/15  at  01:34 AM
  23. You’ve got it, Delayed Reaction!

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  01:37 AM
  24. So your critics are right - you do pay attention to everything ever written about you!

    Only since 1969.  Before that I just can’t be bothered.

    Posted by Michael  on  03/15  at  01:51 AM
  25. So you’re still counting on a free pass for that “Bobby Seale says ‘Gag This, Motherfucker!’: Julius Hoffman and the Genocidal Legal System” thing you tried to hand in to Ms. Wilkins in third grade?

    I don’t think so.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/15  at  01:56 AM
  26. Hey, what’s Berube doing on here? Whose space does he think this is?

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  01:58 AM
  27. The commenters are revolting!
    The commenters are revolting!

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/15  at  02:16 AM
  28. The commenters are revolting!
    The commenters are revolting!

    And yet none of us can even touch David Horowitz, who has been revolting for more than half a century.

    Gosh, I hope he doesn’t take that the wrong way.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  02:49 AM
  29. Okay, I just don’t read this blog regularly enough, and so I’m late to the party, but here goes…

    First(ly), The Renard Network should really be The Renardine Network. I’d invest then, just for the reference to old folk songs if nothing else (The same reason I like Ashbery’s “Hotel Lautremont").

    Second(ly), Well, I’ve had to catch up on this whole K.C. thing, and well, it’s pretty damn funny. Ad Hominem attacks are just so damn funny. God forbid a critic should engage with the arguments put forth in a writen text when over interpretation and author biography is there to be misconstrued in order to just allow one to write in your blog, “NYAH, NYAH, NYAH.”

    Third(ly), I’ve known more than my fair share of Stalinists. The Brown Shirts only have them beat by their ability to gain power through the use of “victim rhetoric” (sorry Stalinists, hoist on your own petard, and the rest of us are arguing on a blog how best to clean up the mess you all have left us).

    Fourth(ly), now I have to read a book of your’s I haven’t read yet (Employment of English). I am a 43 year old returnee to college, majoring in english, and one of my (very wonderful) professors is about to publish a book about Victorian Literature and the rise of the discourse of professionalism, and in her interview dealt with exactly the issue you seem to be writing about in your book (at least from the excerpts I’ve read). And as someone intent on getting his PhD and demanding his endowed chair, I have just a bit of self-interest. ( A shout out to Prof. Jennifer Ruth for her letting me read her book before sending it to the publisher. Title in debate, but look for it. It’s good.)

    Fifth(ly), Oh, shit, I’m near the same age as MIchael. (No last name, don’t want to do the HTML coding.)

    Sixth(ly), I’m listening to late 20th century electro-acoustic music. Does that count against me?

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  03:08 AM
  30. Okay, corrections for my uninteresting typos;

    Obviously (I hope) written, not writen.

    It isn’t in Prof. Ruth’s interview, but her Introduction.

    And as to why I deserve an endowed chair, CV and references available, on request.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  03:12 AM
  31. where he claims that he changed the format of the Hit List in response to “more thoughtful people than Michael Berube.”

    I’m pretty sure that was corndog he was talking about.

    ps - the issue of whether Corndog is more thoughtful than Berube we can save for another occasion. i’ve got a lecture to write, and it’s getting late.

    Gosh, I go away for a few hours to rehearse the Trio du Bérubé Factor and people are talking behind my back.  First of all, I’m not to blame for the Network revision.  I don’t think a dead end post-doc with an unhealthy obsession with fried cuisine like myself is on Horowitz’s radar screen.  Secondly, saying that I’m more thoughtful than Bérubé is like saying that aerosol cheezy by-product is better than cave-aged Emmenthaler.  This is the guy who, after I childishly insulted him on his own blog, came by my blog and left a thoughtful comment.

    Posted by corndog  on  03/15  at  08:05 AM
  32. So KC’s recent reply is more generous?

    “… the comparisons [Bérubé] used, I’ll assume, had some meaning.”

    God’s wounds, but that is not exactly the stuff of hatchet-burying.  KC, I’ll assume, is as thoughtful as ever.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  10:15 AM
  33. >>I’m pretty sure that was Cordog he was talking about.>>

    ...Or Susan Sarandon’s legal counsel?

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  10:20 AM
  34. I’m not sure I’d describe the posting above as an “analysis,” but I responded to it at Cliopatria:

    Based on the exchanges with Erin O’Connor from which I quote, I see that harsh personal attacks are the common response to all those who criticized the Chronicle article, so I accept them in stride.

    Posted by KC Johnson  on  03/15  at  10:47 AM
  35. Ah, yes, the beloved snark wanders the hallowed groves of academe.  I cannot better the august description of snarks as belabored by Lewis Carroll

    “Come, listen, my men, while I tell you again
    The five unmistakable marks
    By which you may know, wheresoever you go,
    The warranted genuine Snarks.

    “Let us take them in order. The first is the taste,
    Which is meager and hollow, but crisp:
    Like a coat that is rather too tight in the waist,
    With a flavor of Will-o-the-wisp.

    “Its habit of getting up late you’ll agree
    That it carries too far, when I say
    That it frequently breakfasts at five-o’clock tea,
    And dines on the following day.

    “The third is its slowness in taking a jest.
    Should you happen to venture on one,
    It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
    And it always looks grave at a pun.

    “The fourth is its fondness for bathing-machines,
    Which it constantly carries about,
    And believes that they add to the beauty of scenes --
    A sentiment open to doubt.

    “The fifth is ambition. It next will be right
    To describe each particular batch:
    Distinguishing those that have feathers, and bite,
    And those that have whiskers, and scratch.

    “For, although common Snarks do no manner of harm,
    Yet, I feel it my duty to say,
    Some are Boojums—“ The Bellman broke off in alarm,
    For the Baker had fainted away.

    Posted by Carol  on  03/15  at  11:09 AM
  36. I guess Professor Berube will have to take in stride the way that you keep muddling this exchange with extraneous exchanges from the past, even exchanges in which Professor Berube has either apologized (as in the O’Connor case) or replied graciously (as in the Bauerlein case).

    If you were focusing on this particular exchange, you’d be able to see that Professor Berube has edited his own original remarks about you here, updated his post with a very gracious reply at Cliopatria, and declared your own reply generous.  That leaves the harsh personal attacks on only one side of this debate.

    Posted by Caleb  on  03/15  at  11:13 AM
  37. Professor Johnson, I’ll admit to being confused.

    It seemed transparently the case to me that the “comparison” you so decry between the conservative blurter and a hypothetical Asperger’s Syndrome “sufferer” was not in fact such a comparison at all, but was rather a discussion of the behavior “John” indulged in, with some attempt made to separate behavior from the individual for purposes of the discussion.

    Syntactically, it seemed to me the passage was identical to the following reductio ad absurdum argument:

    1) Student John insists on eating limburger cheese sandwiches in class;
    2) Odor disrupts class;
    3) Bérubé, in discussing his decision whether to open a window, recalls a former episode in which a toilet backed up into the adjacent hallway.

    (and, of course,

    4) critics accuse Bérubé of comparing conservative students to backed-up toilets.)

    It might be useful to remember that our host here has spoken and written rather strongly - if by implication - against using descriptions of neurological disability as insults. I find it unbelievable that he would have intended to do so in the piece being discussed.

    Of course, I am not an academic, but rather a mere editor of material for the lay reader, so it is entirely possible that some subtext apparent only to the fully educated has escaped my notice. If that is in fact the case, I would appreciate some elucidation.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/15  at  11:39 AM
  38. Dear Tenured Professor KC Johnson—

    Being ridiculed is not a harsh personal attack.

    A harsh personal attack is accompanied, minimally, by the emphasizing application of hawthorne or ash along with the received wisdoms introduced by one’s interlocutor.

    Your huffy humorlessness makes me believe that you are what we among the plain people call “a real pill,” harsh as that may seem to you.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  11:48 AM
  39. Professor Johnson,

    I’m not anxious to create the impression of a pile on here, but your reading of the piece in question amounts to a personal attack on Prof. Berube. He should not take it in stride. If we in academia are even remotely interested in truth, then the way to achieve or at least approximate it is through argument that does not sacrifice scholarly fairness to achieve some sad little ideological result. I feel for your students. They are a captive audience to your misreadings and rants. How galling it must be for you to find, when you step out of the safety of your classroom, that your opinions are not applauded but shown to be mean-spirited exercises in authoritarian intolerance and myopia.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  12:09 PM
  40. Anybody else looking at the calendar and noticing that it’s the Ides of March?

    Perhaps Professor Johnson is attempting a clever public oration about his being an honorable man over the dead body of his own failed argument and reading.

    To paraphrase Johnson’s own final sentence from his reply linked above: One thing this exchange has taught me is that I applaud professors such as Michael Bérubé who, finding themselves in the midst of debates bereft of intellectual integrity, insist on reason, engagement, and civil discourse. Would that all students could benefit from such classrooms, inside or out of the academy.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  12:26 PM
  41. He’s a coward for turning off those comments.  Nothing short of it.

    I don’t know where the line between civil and uncivil is in cases like this, so I hope I haven’t crossed it, but this just pisses me off.  He’s supposed to be better than this.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  01:41 PM
  42. Dear Prof. Johnson:

    Please take it from someone who has seen a few heated exchanges over the years: you are making a fool of yourself. You have attacked Prof. Bérubé’s Chronicle piece pretending that you don’t know - or revealing that you don’t know - the difference between an enumeration and a comparison, between a juxtaposition and a metaphor. These are quite basic concepts; a tenured historian should be able to handle them. Then you have unearthed an apology issued by Prof. Bérubé to a third person, as if apologizing for an excess committed made a human being less, rather than more, noble. On your own blog (is that a blog, anyway?), readers are piling up arguments and demonstrations of how poorly have fared here. Do you remember Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Prof. Johnson? Sure? Check again. My suggestion is that next time you want to go around accusing “liberals” of suggesting that conservatism is a “medical problem” you should pick someone your size. We have a couple of graduate students here at Tulane who have done interesting work on the medicalization of political attacks amongst right-wing groups. They should be able to handle you, and refer you to some interesting bibliography.

    As for Prof. Bérubé, let me tell a thing or two about him. This is a man whom I have attacked harshly and unambiguously in print. Over what? Political differences that people with your reading habits would not be able to understand. If and when Prof. Bérubé and I decide to publish that exchange you may, who knows, learn some lessons therefrom regarding the ethics of debating. I can attest what tens of thousads of other readers in half a dozen disciplines can attest: Prof. Bérubé is one of the most meticulous, rigorous, and honest interlocutors one can hope for, even if - and especially if - there is a strong disagreement involved. Although I have never used harsh words against Prof. Bérubé on email for reasons others than political disagreements, I will do so today, as a friend, for personal reasons, if he wastes another minute of his time with you. For the time being, let us make this clear: on the one hand we have someone who redefined Cultural Studies in America, has a blog reaching its 1 millionth visitor, and tons of credibility. On the other, some historian making a fool of himself.

    Can we move on to Bowie and Elton John now?

    Posted by Idelber  on  03/15  at  01:57 PM
  43. He’s a coward for turning off those comments.  Nothing short of it.

    Why should we be surprised?  Typical conservative strategy.  Eliminate the dialogue.  Pretend it never existed.  KC Johnson, your actions are disgusting. 

    I’m so tired of those who can dish it out but can’t take it.  Thanks so much, Michael, for being insistent. 

    (To think I just turned down a one year appointment at Penn State in Art History!  Extenuating family circumstances prevented it.)

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  02:02 PM
  44. Nicely written, Idelber.

    Now warm those harsh words up - don’t you know this is the age of pre-emption? Bérubé needs a taste of what’s to come if he doesn’t wheel out his Bowie/Elton John discourse in its’ full glory!

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  02:06 PM
  45. Yeah, enough of this already. We want Bowie and John. And me.

    Posted by Roxanne  on  03/15  at  02:10 PM
  46. Damn. I knew I was forgetting one. I do apologize.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  02:23 PM
  47. Here’s my theory.  David Jones (Bowie) and Reginald Dwight (Elton John) are actually parthenogenic clones of Oscar Wilde, generated in a freakish accident involving absinthe, Roentgen’s Crookes tubes, and a crude, homemade autoerotic asphyxiation device.  While most people believe that Wilde died of a combination of meningitis and syphilis, he actually died of acute kidney failure, since that is where the nascent pods of the future androgynous pop singers were growing.  Upon his death ("Either these kidneys go, or I do” - often misquoted), the offending organs were harvested by Aleister Crowley and buried at Stonehenge in a moonlit winter solstice rite.  The story of their hatching, their adoptive families, the Eurovision song contest and their mysterious connection with Roxanne Cooper I will leave for future comments.

    Posted by corndog  on  03/15  at  02:26 PM
  48. The hell with those faded, irrelevant rockers: I want the full Bérubé take on R. Cooper.

    Given a choice between “glam” and glamour, etc.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/15  at  02:26 PM
  49. Yes. I do need a need a quote for the sidebar.

    Posted by Roxanne  on  03/15  at  02:35 PM
  50. "In dealing with the ‘author’ as a function of discourse, we must consider the characteristics of a discourse that support this use and determine its differences from other discourses. If we limit our remarks only to those texts with authors, I gotta say Rox Populi rocks this papa.”

    - Michel Foucault

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/15  at  03:03 PM
  51. Is that directly from the original French, Chris?

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  03:34 PM
  52. Je ne sais pas. Je ne parle pas français.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/15  at  03:36 PM
  53. Michael, I have long admired your writing, your politics and your critical acuity--which is why I have a hard time believing you didn’t recognize when you wrote the Chronicle essay the provocativeness of that final paragraph. You’re quite right that Johnson has willfully misread the passage. But you also play the innocent when you write that “my essay’s only reference to ‘disability’ comes in the final paragraph.” Isn’t that where the problem (if a problem it is) really lies? The essay is clearly about your pedagogical approach to conservative students, with historical interludes about Horowitz and campus conservatism’s evolution and the wake of 9/11. But then that final paragraph comes along and suddenly you’re invoking disability law just before you exit? Was it Barthes who said “the truth is what comes last”?

    I don’t agree for a second with Johnson’s interpretation, but I also think you shouldn’t act surprised when you catch a few fish after you’ve baited your hook so well.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  03:48 PM
  54. Kevin:

    I really think it is unfair for people to accuse Michael of using the topic of learning disabilities in an insulting way.  If anything, Michael has every reason not to think of learning disabilities as a reason to insult anyone, and his earnest preoccupation with the subject informs the way in which he thinks about the world, as attested by his many writings on the subject.  (As a mathematician, I often draw on mathematical concepts to articulate opinions on social issues, something that is often unfortunate, inappropriate, and plainly bizarre to people who do not have access to my thoughts, or to my relationship to the subject.) I’d like to suggest to you that it is quite natural for Michael to draw on ideas about learning disabilities, and that he is personally invested in combatting the stigma that learning disabilities have.  To mention them by way of insult would be entirely out of character for him, and only a very uncharitable reading of him would suggest that that’s what he was up to in the essay in question.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  04:26 PM
  55. Kevin, I really didn’t mean to catch me any fish with that last paragraph.  It occurred to me after the final edit that someone might, just might, come up with the claim that I’d equated conservatism with disability in some way, so I printed off another copy of the essay, ran it through the Augustine-Aquinas Reasonably Charitable Interpretation Generator, and the good saints told me, “no way, dude, that’s completely unreasonable.  No one would ever say that-- trust us.”

    There are, however, some other problems with that essay, and I’ve ‘fessed up to two or three of ‘em over at Cliopatria for the benefit of the people who are discussing the article seriously.

    Posted by Michael  on  03/15  at  04:38 PM
  56. Pedro, of course I am not accusing Michael of any such thing, and I’m well aware of his personal and professional interest in disability. Clearly you did not get the gist of my post, which was about the placement of such comments. I’m glad to hear that Michael had a moment’s qualm about that last paragraph--or more specifically the possible unreasonable misinterpretations thereof. Perhaps Michael’s AARCIG (see above) needs its levels checked.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  05:19 PM
  57. Give KC the back of your hand.

    Listen to these swine long enough and they’ll put vinegar in your veins and turn you into a sourpuss.

    Crazy Dave, KC, et. al. let them go--get on to better things. Today’s the ides--off course be careful--don’t get married on this day as I did--soon spring comes and with it the new spring offensive--Crush Bush and all of his imperialist lackeys. As the heroic Milton said: “Tomorrow to pastures new (watch out for the horseshit, though) and fields of green.”

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  06:16 PM
  58. This has now become, officially, my least favorite blogspat of all time. I’m tempted to go back to the Happy Tutor at Wealth Bondage and ask whether he thinks satire is still so blazingly effective, on one hand. On the other, and I’ve said it over at Cliopatria, I think KC Johnson’s replies have been frustratingly tendentious. All over a pretty simple core issue, once you discard the ornamentation that has encrusted it, like whether Hofstra faculty indeed broke into spontaneous orgasms at EL Doctorow’s speech while students simmered in impotent fury.

    Michael’s original essay at the heart of all this frames his conservative student as a kind of “Other”, an observation that I think probably could lead to other kinds of more confessional reflections on pedagogy and academic culture than the mostly managerial voice that Michael adopts. His final paragraph aggravates that framing in some ways that did seem and still do seem to me needlessly provocative.

    Erin O’Connor and KC’s reactions at the least display an overly thin skin of a kind that I think almost exactly mimics, even accidentally parodies, political correctness. Both of them have reasons, some of them well-founded, to have their professional spidey-sense on such matters tuned to extreme sensitivity. Both of them also at times have seemed to me to be reading other academics in an aggressively tendentious spirit in order to focus legitimate general complaints about the culture and politics of academic life on highly individualzed targets where those complaints need to become gentler, more collegial, and more nuanced.

    There’s a conversation to be had in there somewhere, but it sure ain’t happening right now. Michael’s done as much as he can to clarify his original intent and underscore places where he regrets the manner of framing his original essay. That’s an opening to some other possible discussion, but that opportunity was not taken by KC. However, I am finding it hard not to put on my Grandma Grundy cap and say to Michael, “Now, have we learned a lesson about being snarky to people, eh?”

    Posted by Timothy Burke  on  03/15  at  06:20 PM
  59. Michael’s original essay at the heart of all this frames his conservative student as a kind of “Other”,

    Actually - as you allude to above, Timothy - all the students in the essay came off that way. (Didn’t notice at first: I live with a grade school teacher, and that kinda stuff is just water to a fish these days.)

    But are you really enjoying this less than the Luskin-Krugman spat? No one’s even trotted out that Henry Kissinger quote yet.

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/15  at  06:30 PM
  60. Yes, Timothy, I have learned my lesson.  From now on I will only be snarky on Thursdays and Fridays.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  06:33 PM
  61. How about in months with no “R”?

    Posted by Timothy Burke  on  03/15  at  06:49 PM
  62. But today is 24 Ventôse CCXIII.

    Posted by eb  on  03/15  at  07:55 PM
  63. Damn, and here I thought it was the eighteenth Brumaire.  OK, Timothy, I’ll consider your suggestion, though you realize that your proposal would leave me with plenty of snark for the academic calendar, followed by a completely snark-free summer.  And, of course, I’d have to load up on the snark between now and May Day.  I’m not sure that’s in the best interests of academe, frankly.

    Posted by Michael  on  03/15  at  08:31 PM
  64. A real french person blogged about you.

    Posted by  on  03/15  at  10:26 PM
  65. Never mind the French!  (Though it’s always nice to read a language in which my name does not look strange.) I’m still mulling over Timothy’s second paragraph in comment 58 (and when will someone finally devise some orthographic way of referring to these things, like P2.##58?):

    Michael’s original essay at the heart of all this frames his conservative student as a kind of “Other”, an observation that I think probably could lead to other kinds of more confessional reflections on pedagogy and academic culture than the mostly managerial voice that Michael adopts. His final paragraph aggravates that framing in some ways that did seem and still do seem to me needlessly provocative.

    Now, this seems to me a good opening for another kind of discussion-- in the sense that it suggests lines of argument that I might simultaneously disagree with and learn from.  How do you mean “mostly managerial voice,” Timothy?  I think I have some idea, but I’d be happy to be surprised.  And I think I also have some idea about why the final paragraph aggravates that framing:  do you mean that it suggests that such students have to be dealt with in some kind of administrative or managerial fashion, analogous to that of the “reasonable accommodation” standard of the ADA?  As for whether it’s needlessly provocative, well, I demur.  But then, my “needlessly provocative” standards and yours have never been explicitly negotiated.  Not that they need to be negotiated here. . . .

    Posted by Michael  on  03/15  at  11:03 PM
  66. Ouch. I just had a 5100 character reply lost to the cyberspatial winds due to a 5000 limit.

    Shorter, reconstructed version. I feel that the essay basically puts you in too comfortable a position, that you are challenged by John but that he doesn’t really challenge you, except in that managerial sense. “What is to be done about John?” is your main question.

    Which is fine: we all have these kinds of ordinary professional concerns about classroom management, and you’re right that while they encompass questions of ideological or political difference, they melt into other issues. What’s the difference between someone disruptive and someone passionate? Is someone who is quiet alienated by the class or just someone who is quiet constitutionally? And I completely agree with your frustration with Horowitz and his allies in this regard: they make judging these kinds of questions much more difficult. They force us to walk on eggshells.

    All the more so because almost everyone encourages us to see teaching as a transformative art, but it’s very hard to talk about that without triggering the Horowitz assault. He talks about a classroom free of “politics”, but if I were to say that I think teaching the art of critical thinking in my classroom makes my students into better citizens in a democratic society, isn’t that a kind of politics? How can I teach about African history in the 20th Century without bringing not just the politics of that subject but the politics of knowledge itself into view--the potent question of “What should we know, and why should we know it?” Am I supposed to just assume that question is already answered for my students?

    But I think if you were to work through the problem of John in a way that wasn’t so managerial, that didn’t place you so confidentally at the moral center of the class, you might ask other questions besides, “What should be done about John?”. Say an ethnographic question at the individual level, “Who is John? What does he want to get out of my class?”. Or an ethnographic question at the larger level: “Are there lots more Johns out there in the university? If so, why don’t I see more of them?”. Or “What if John is the only student incautious enough to say what he really thinks? What if some of them are just trying to say what they think I would like them to say?”. I might wonder, “What if John had views I found more palatable? Would I still find him obstreperous, or would he instead morph into a figure of heroic passion that I admired?” I might wonder if there was a problem with my syllabus: was there a smart, challenging book out there I could find that would be more in line with John’s view of the world, that would put the other students (and myself!) in the position of having to play defense rather than always be on offense?

    It just seems to me that the most powerful teaching moments are ones that unsettle us as teachers as well as challenge us to figure out how to manage our classrooms. When I read the essay, I thought back some to a case when I first started teaching my course on the history of consumerism, where I had a very bold, interesting (and not like John, quite careful and diligent) student who took some hesitant stabs at saying what she really thought, until we got to a week on the history of product design and branding. Here she finally took a big leap and made a long, articulate comment about how she thought product design was a more profound, more creative form of artistic effort than painting, sculpture, etc., and far more egalitarian and socially constructive in its impact. And the rest of the students laughed--I mean, laughed. It mortified me, not just because of the meanness and smugness of it and because the comment was just so interesting and useful. It mortified me because I worried about whether I had been setting up that smugness with my selection of materials or my pedagogy. I wondered how much of that was me and how much was them.

    That’s the problem with the transformative aspect of teaching: it often comes back to you as well as out to the students. I feel like your experience with John had that potential, but you put yourself in the driver’s seat too much. Perhaps that’s part of the point you’re making about Horowitz: that his campaign is one of the things making it difficult to be vulnerable, difficult to make our classrooms unsafe spaces, to invert the common diversity-driven phrase.

    Posted by Timothy Burke  on  03/16  at  12:29 AM
  67. Ralph Luker is concerned about civility, yet he calls most of these comments “crap.” Mmm-kay. I’m sure fellow blogger Caleb (#36) appreciates the slight. 

    Ralph Luker remains one of my favorite bloggers, but he’s really lost it on this topic.  I still don’t see where—as Luker wrote—that Berube attacked Cliopatria somehow.  And it was a terrible low blow for Luker to compare Berube to Horowitz. Whatever, Ralph.

    Posted by  on  03/17  at  10:40 AM
  68. Sorry I’m late to the party.  Did I miss anything snarky?

    Don’t miss this link to FIRE via Erin Oconnor exposing the treatment some candy-ass administrators gave a graduate student advocating an often overlooked classroom management technique--at least at the university level:


    Perhaps you need to impose more “strict discipline” in your classes, Michael.

    Would it be beyond snarky to ask the room to grade Professor O’Connor on her precis of that controversy? 


    Posted by  on  03/17  at  11:35 AM
  69. To Jim L.: I do not speak for Cliopatria. Its group members speak for themselves. My reference was to the fact that some of us were taking attacks from Berube on the Left while others of us were taking attacks from Horowitz on the Right. How hard would that be for you to understand? I am sure that my colleague, Caleb McDaniel, understands my intention was to suggest that readers should scroll past the personal invective of earlier exchanges to read Tim Burke’s engagement with Michael’s article. There really is no need over here to try to inflame differences among those of us who post at Cliopatria. We are rather self-consciously a diverse group of historians and that is a source of strength, as far as I am concerned. It will mean that some readers will be prefer to read posts by one or another of us; and some readers will attack posts by one or another of us. Being willing to learn only from those who share one’s ideological predispositions seems to be a part of the intellectual handicaps of the culture wars. I hope that one day we will get over it.

    Posted by Ralph Luker  on  03/17  at  03:29 PM
  70. Oh, and Jim, context, context. The theme of the posting was profanity. “crap” was the particular profanity I chose to use in re what everyone recognizes as a flame war, a blogspat, whatever. I was hoping to get readers past it to Tim Burke’s characteristically sane attempt to engage Michael’s article.

    Posted by Ralph Luker  on  03/17  at  04:26 PM
  71. Actually, I’m a classical liberal in that I believe one is absolutely obliged to learn from people who don’t share one’s ideological presuppositions.  And I agree with Timothy-- as I agreed with one aspect of Erin O’Connor’s reading of my essay-- that there are features of that essay that are problematic.  (Its middle paragraphs on conservative activists, its potential conflation of “John’s” obstreperousness with his conservatism, and the “managerial voice” Timothy detected, with all it implies.  Thanks, everyone-- I’ll be sure to acknowledge all this in the book, the “John” section of which I happen to be rewriting this week.) But I don’t regard all criticisms, or all argumentative strategies, as equally valid, and so I learned nothing worth learning from the claim that I had advised faculty members to treat conservatives as they would disabled students.  Again, my thanks to everyone who’s offered less tendentious (but careful and critical) readings of that piece.

    Posted by  on  03/17  at  04:27 PM
  72. I just wasted an hour on this.  Lord I’m ashamed of myself.  Sort of interesting, in the way we all rubberneck at the scene of a car wreck.  I don’t understand how someone could make the mistake KC Johnson made in good faith.  Theories occur to me, but they are all uncharitable.

    You know, if I wanted to do a hatchet job on Michael’s Chronicle essay I’d focus on “John” and ask if it is fair to talk about him for much of the essay and then talk about having many conservative students.  John isn’t just a conservative--he defends the Japanese internment camps.  Of course, maybe that’s the popular conservative position these days.  If not, you’d think KC Johnson would be criticising Berube for associating the name of conservative with this crackpot student and his borderline racist beliefs.

    I also think Timothy Burke is leaning over backwards and engaged in gymnastic exercises with respect to “John” a few posts above this one.  It would be fascinating as a sociological and/or psychological phenomenon to know why John believes what he does and why he acts as he did.  But his beliefs are despicable and his behavior in class seems to be closely linked to his belief system.  There is a moral difference between being passionate and being obstreperous--it’s the difference between Martin Luther King and George Wallace on the steps of that school.  (Of course, neither MLK nor George Wallace should be allowed to monopolize classroom discussion time.) On the question of the morality of the Japanese internment camps, Michael is closer to the moral center (whatever that means) than John and while one should encourage students to think their way through this issue, it also happens to be one with a right answer.  You want students to understand why people with good intentions might have thought differently at that time and in that respect it might have been good for Michael to assign a book or novel which presents John’s viewpoint.  However, if Michael ever teaches a class where the students come in thinking that the Japanese internment camps were a bad idea and then change their minds, I’m not sure he should be congratulated for successfully imparting critical thinking skills.  I would like students to be unsettled about whether they themselves would have supported the internment camps during WWII--I would not want them unsettled about whether it was the right thing to do.

    Posted by  on  03/17  at  05:02 PM
  73. Many thanks for wasting that hour, Donald-- I have long regarded you (like Idelber, like Nathan Newman) as one of those people a bit to my left whose disagreements with me usually teach me something about my own blind spots.  Anyway, to the point: yes, the AJA argument was truly the thing that sent the class over the cliff, and it represented a moment at which I could not regard John’s contribution as a form of “reasonable” disagreement.  You’ll note, though, that at the time, I chose to pursue the argument by means of, how shall I say, an immanent critique-- by asking John how he could reconcile his pro-internment position with remarks he’d made earlier in the semester.

    I do hope I made it clear that I do not believe that conservatives generally favor John’s position, though the recent example of Michelle Malkin-- and the failure of most conservatives to distance themselves from her book-- has shaken this belief a bit.  Still, Malkin had not yet published In Defense of Internment in 2001, so I did in fact regard John’s comment as off the chart of contemporary conservativism.  My apologies if I did not make this clear.

    Your suggestion that we should “want students to understand why people with good intentions might have thought differently at that time” seems to me exactly right, and it certainly makes sense in the context of teaching Richard Powers’s Prisoner’s Dilemma, which raises precisely that question (and thus incorporates, though it certainly does not espouse, John’s viewpoint).  And with that, I recommend the novel to all of you. 

    Posted by Michael  on  03/17  at  06:25 PM
  74. Ralph,

    Thanks for the replies.  I’m a regular reader of Clioptria, having followed you over from your stand-alone blog, so there’s no reason to explain your group blog (or be defensive about it’s diversity, which I agree is a strength of it). I’ve been a regular reader—and fan—of it since you joined it.

    I still am disappointed that you—one who is genuinely committed to civility—would compare Berube to Horowitz.  And while I appreciate your clarification of how you claim to be angered at Berube for inciting disagreement over at Cliopatria (as if that were either his intent or his fault), I was surprised at your subsequent rhetorical question, which asked: “How hard would that be for you to understand?” What can I say—I sincerely didn’t understand, which is why I requested clarification.  I’m reminded of a wise man who recently wrote: “It is the writer’s responsibility to make sure that his or her meaning is clear. It isn’t primarily the readers’ responsibility to figure out what the author means.”

    Posted by  on  03/18  at  10:47 AM
  75. I do hope I made it clear that I do not believe that conservatives generally favor John’s position, though the recent example of Michelle Malkin-- and the failure of most conservatives to distance themselves from her book-- has shaken this belief a bit. 

    This is a crucial point.

    If we’re talking moral centers here, I have to ask where are the outspoken conservative rebuttals of Malkin. (Michael said “most,” so I assume there are some of which I’m unaware - unless he was simply being cautious.)
    Where are the principled conservative rejections of Al “Quaint and Obsolete” Gonzales’ legal opinions on torture? Of the increasing consolidation of power within the Federal government? (I know I’ve seen one or two of that last… but there ought to be more considering the nature of the conservative project.)

    It’s easy to find conservative denunciations of the left - as if the organized left were anything but a minor component of American society. The people ascendant over American political life, however, are advancing ideas that are profoundly un-conservative in nature and scope.

    Where is the outrage?

    Posted by Chris Clarke  on  03/18  at  11:09 AM
  76. Jim, If you’ll look at the most recent comments at Cliopatria, you’ll see that I’ve explained til there’s just nothing more to say: is Michael of the Left; is Horowitz of the Right? Were some of us taking hits from both of them? Did David Horowitz call me an “insufferable snot”? I resent his singling me out because several of my colleagues are, at their huffiest, every bit as insufferable as I am. Did Berube single out KC for particular attack? Yes. Were those of us who agreed with KC given similar treatment? Not quite so vicious. So, did I say that Horowitz and Berube were of equal intellectual significance? No. What _is_ the problem? Is it that both Berube and Horowitz have peculiarly hot tempers and reputations for venomous attack? You tell me.

    Posted by Ralph Luker  on  03/18  at  01:37 PM
  77. Ralph, after all this, you’re still not backing away from the histrionic and counterfactual claim that I “single[d] out KC for particular attack” . . . a “venomous attack.” I’m telling you sincerely, it does you no credit.  No credit at all.

    Had KC responded to me, when I first asked him (cheekily, I admit) to account for his egregious claim that my Chronicle essay “advis[ed] professors to treat conservative students as they would students with learning disabilities or who exhibited aberrant behavior,” with a shred of decency or honesty, he would have been far better off.  Instead, he chose to reach for the heavy ad hominem artillery.  And your decision to defend him so vehemently, while making numerous hysterical accusations against me (here, at Cliopatria, and on the Weblog), is not worthy of a serious scholar such as yourself.

    Posted by Michael  on  03/18  at  02:24 PM
  78. It’s dismaying to see two of my favorite academic bloggers butting heads, especially since I left a comment early on in this controversy confidently predicting Ralph would slap KC’s wrist over his misinterpretation of Berube’s paragraph.  Boy was I wrong!

    To Ralph:
    In defense of Horowitz (and I can’t believe I just typed that) he “singled” you out because you write about him frequently, unlike several of your colleagues. Berube “singled” KC out because KC wrote about him.

    It is for that reason that I don’t understand your complaint that Berube “has done enormous damage to us at Cliopatria.” I don’t get it.  Berube wasn’t the first one to link Cliopatria – KC did that in a snarky comment he left at Berube’s blog.  (When Berube initially addressed you, Ralph, it was to invite you to defend a sentence written by O’Connor, but you ignored that and instead used it as an excuse to launch into a defense of KC’s tenure case.) In a dispute between KC and Berube, I fail to see the “enormous damage” done to Cliopatria.  In fact, I don’t see *any* damage.

    And to answer your question: no, Berube does not, at least as far as I am personally aware, have a Horowitz-like reputation for having a hot temper and employing venomous attack.  I’m hard pressed to name a single well-known person aside from Ann Coulter who does.  While you clearly aren’t a fan of Berube’s humor/satire, that hardly makes him the lefty equivalent of Horowitz. Comparing someone negatively to Horowitz is about as nasty as you can get. Perhaps we all have our own definition of “venomous attack.”

    Posted by  on  03/18  at  03:12 PM
  79. Well, Jim and Michael, I leave it to you to go back to Michael’s first post in re KC. Michael calls it “cheeky”; I’d call it “snarky,” at a minimum. If it didn’t single out KC for particular attack, I don’t know what would. It isn’t a first statement in response to which one could be very gracious.
    I know KC Johnson and Michael Berube to be honorable human beings. I don’t know that of David Horowitz. I share Tim Burke’s sense that the exchanges between KC and Michael have been among those that made me most uncomfortable that I’ve read on the net. My support of KC, frankly, is partly a function of the fact that he is my valued colleague at Cliopatria and too many people—unwilling to just let KC and Michael duke it out mano a mano—were ganging up on him. That’s happened to him before; and it happened to me—twice in negative tenure decisions. Like him, I found that people I’d worked with for years were willing to say _anything_ about me, my scholarship, my family, my sexuality, my teaching, my _being_, in order to do me permanent damage. Pardon me if I sense mob actions when they are happening. I’ve been there. And, frankly, KC is one of my heroes because he just beat the shit out of the mobsters in his department.
    Even _if_ KC _was_ wrong about his interpretation of Michael’s article, it is a very small part of Michael’s body of work and, unlike Michael, I believe that there has to be some toleration for other people to _be_ wrong. The heat that went into those exchanges was _far_ out of proportion to importance of the issues being discussed.
    When my book, _The Social Gospel in Black and White_, was published, it won two prizes and had glowing reviews—except for one really ugly one. Ten years later, the historian who wrote that really nasty review introduced herself to me at a convention. I laughed and she blurted out an apology. She’d introduced herself specifically to make it. It’s an apology for which I was deeply grateful. And I’m glad that I’d never lashed out at her for the ugly review. It just felt so much better to give her a big hug at the convention and thank her for the apology.

    Posted by Ralph Luker  on  03/18  at  04:00 PM
  80. As I mentioned over at Cliopatria, my understanding of KC’s tenure case is that our sympathies should be entirely with him on that one.  Mine certainly are.  I don’t think there should be any question of his merits, or his productivity, as a scholar.  And as I explained over on the Weblog, the reason for my initial snark (I’ll accept that term, Ralph) was that I found myself badly misrepresented on a site run by Daniel Pipes and the Middle East ForumCampus Watch, no less.  We’re not just talking about a bad review in an obscure quarterly journal (I’ve gotten my share of those) or a casual misreading here.  These are very nasty times, Ralph, and I felt as if I were being reported to the Authorities.  While I joke about being on Horowitz’s radar, I believe this latest right-wing fatwa against liberal academics (and I know you’re as opposed to Horowitz as I am) can really be quite dangerous, and I have no intention of letting the phrase “Michael Bérubé advises his colleagues to treat conservative students like disabled students” run around uncontested on the right side of the Internets twice while I’m putting on my shoes.

    It has finally dawned on me, however-- because I am exceptionally thick sometimes-- that all three people who’ve read my essay this way have been outspoken political mavericks who had extremely unpleasant (and, so far as I know, unjustifiably unpleasant) experiences with their departments.  I think I’m beginning to understand why you’d be so alert to any suggestion, in my essay, that I was conflating John’s disruptiveness with his politics.  And I understand the politics of piling on, as well as your impulse to come to KC’s aid.  I merely insist to you that I asked no one to write anything on my behalf at any point in this exchange, and to ask you to stop suggesting otherwise.  It would also behoove all parties to leave my son out of this.  As for your sense that I “attacked” KC by calling him to account for that article, I will be happy to leave this as an area for reasonable disagreement.

    Posted by Michael  on  03/18  at  04:56 PM
  81. Right. I’m not sure KC had any responsibility for Campus Watch picking up the article that first appeared elsewhere. FIRE picked up one that KC and I did without asking anybody’s permission.

    The department chairman who first did me in was having an extra-marital affair with an undergraduate woman, but without having committed any comparable offense I was the person who had to be driven out of the department. If that’s the norm, I embrace mavericity. I don’t mind being called a maverick if the term identifies me with KC, but you’ll have to find a different explanation for Mark Bauerlein’s reading of your work.

    You didn’t mind summoning up the ghosts of KC’s terrifying experience. One doesn’t go through what KC and I both went through without having them. My experience suggests that experienced academic politicos will stoop to almost any bottom in order to prevail. The little “blogsplat” tended to confirm that belief.

    I didn’t _make_ your son an issue. Your reference to disability law in the article needed to be understood in light of your personal experience. I merely pointed out that it was an experience that you and I share. If you’d like to make Anne an issue, do as you will. I’ve known academic people to stoop much lower than that.

    Posted by Ralph Luker  on  03/18  at  05:52 PM
  82. Actually, KC says he gave Campus Watch permission to reprint.  And Mark Bauerlein has never, to my knowledge, said that my essay equates conservatives with disabled students.  He did write to me at the time the essay came out, by the way, but chiefly to complain that I made it sound as if all conservatives would support the internment camps.  We exchanged two rounds of entirely cordial e-mails, and I continue to think of him as an exacting interlocutor.  I agreed with a good deal of his recent Chronicle essay, “Liberal Groupthink is Anti-Intellectual,” as well.

    As for those ghosts:  Jaysus’ mother, Ralph, I know you and KC have been through hell, but I didn’t know any of the details, and I’m sorry you’re reliving any of them here.  I mentioned KC’s unhappy experience in the past only-- and I have a hard time understanding why you’re not getting this-- because he had done so twice to me, each time with deliberate malice.  So as he kept upping the stakes, first with a hostile review from 2000 and then a heated exchange from 2003, I finally said look, you wouldn’t like this kind of thing if it were done to you.  But I don’t believe it’s a legitimate way to argue, so I didn’t do it.  I remain mystified as to why KC chose that path in the first place, going strictly ad hominem by way of the past accounts of other parties.  It’s something I’ve never done, and never would do-- not even in this case.

    So, then, likening me to your “experience academic politico” colleagues who “stoop to almost any bottom” is, once again, unjust.

    Finally, as to whether you made my son an issue.  When you posted to The Weblog the comment, “Look, _I_ have a handicapped child. I don’t make an issue of it. Nor do I go all ballistic about it when people don’t bow low enough in my august presence because of it,” you made my son an issue, quite inappropriately.  I had not brought him up anywhere in this exchange.  Apart from that specific comment, I find it utterly bizarre that anyone would say that my reference to disability law has to be understood in the light of my personal experience.  (Hey, I thought Bauerlein said that I was the one who always personalized things!) This sounds to me as if every time I mention “reasonable accommodation” I am allowing people to remark on my son’s condition.  What, I wonder, would this look like as a general principle?  You know, I once sold bootleg T-shirts outside rock concerts.  I hope people don’t bring that up in the future every time I speak about intellectual property law.

    Once again, best wishes to Anne.

    Posted by Michael  on  03/18  at  09:16 PM
  83. Michael, I followed the discussion quite closely and do not recall KC having said he gave Campus Watch permission to reproduce the article. Perhaps he did, but I certainly have no recollection of it. I do recall having seen some article by him reproduced at Front Page Rag and I gagged about that on the blog.

    It’s of course easy to see “deliberate malice” in the actions of others and to ignore it within the self. I’m not surprised to see you acting out that truism. I suspect that you simply have not had any comparable experience to what KC and I have known. Really, a military combat veteran would, I’m sure. Most academics, probably not.

    I can’t see that KC engaged in ad hominem argument any more than you did. I can see that he withdrew from the discussion when you chose to go that route heavy duty. My experience is more remote than his. I conjure with the ghosts by being quite open about them. They’re a legacy of enormous malice—malice far deeper than anything displayed by either you or KC in the late donnybrook.

    I deal with my ghosts openly because they destroyed my career. At 54, with four earned degrees, six books, many dozens of articles, and several prizes, I took a newspaper route and ran a cash register to help put our other daughter through college. I lay them out openly because there’s no further damage that might be done by them. I cite them as experience and I see nothing particularly wrong with that. I paid very heavily for them.

    In point of fact, the matter of your being the father of a handicapped child _had_ come up much earlier in the discussions—probably at Cliopatria—because I recall KC saying specifically that he hadn’t known that you were. If you think about it, the personal experience is very likely to influence a reader’s understanding of your reference to it. Your reference to selling t-shirts is only intended to trivialize the point. I can’t imagine my ever writing about disability law or disabled students without Anne’s experience and ours with her being right there in my mind. Our children are our “angels unawares,” a very special gifted and giving trust.
    Best wishes always, Ralph

    Posted by Ralph Luker  on  03/18  at  10:20 PM
  84. KC said he gave Campus Watch permission to reprint in the first paragraph of his first post.  I know, it seems like years ago.

    I had heard, in a very general way (that is, no details whatsoever), that you had been hard done by and had responded with integrity and remarkable courage.  And I reflexively rally to anyone who has dealt with-- and been ganged up on by-- unscrupulous and unethical peers.  I have seen a couple of tenure cases gone bad, and they have never failed to outrage me.  So I’m sorry I brought back any of that for you; nothing could have been further from my mind.  For my part, I truly regret losing my temper fifteen months ago with Ms. O’Connor, and I do not appreciate KC going to that well, even though no tenure decision was involved in that exchange.  But at this point we really are just circling the same old ground, so let me close by saying again that I have enjoyed disagreeing with you amicably in the past, and that I wish you all the best in the present and future.

    Posted by  on  03/18  at  11:10 PM
  85. Thanks, Michael, for the good wishes and for the pointer. I had failed to make note of it. It’s one of those things that I wish KC had not done.

    Posted by Ralph Luker  on  03/18  at  11:33 PM
  86. For fuck’s sake - even tho I *know* litcrit is the world’s most bankrupt topic, I can’t help but love the shit you write.

    Reminds me of a long time ago when I saw a Sokal vs Abramowitz battle (while at Pitt). Before the Main Event, there was the Not The Main Event, involving one of my compatriots from the Pitt philosophy department, and someone from a litcritty something-or-other.

    While I wanted desperately to be on, well, my side, I just couldn’t. Our representative was sooooo crappy (boring, blabbering aimlessly and endlessly, etc.), and the litcritty rep was sooooooo awesome (I vaguely recall her telling a genius of a joke about Fay Ray/King Kong) that I was embarrassed to be on my own goddamn team.

    Bottom line is that your blog makes me feel similarly, and perhaps even on a larger scale. I firmly believe that the same historico-conceptual forces that allow litcritty fields to exist (and suck) are *exactly* the same forces that gave evil neo-cons (and just cons generally) their great kick-start (the whole hippy crap involving true-for-me-true-for-you and crap like that). And therefore I *must* hate you - my master (truth, actuality, that sort of thing) demands it. OTOH, I find it essentially impossible to do as my master requires, cuz you’re just so damn good.


    Sigh - so hard to know who to hate these days.... Sometimes at least…

    I don’t even know who this Prof. Johnson character is - mebbe he was a Pitt philosopher too…

    Posted by  on  03/21  at  06:55 PM
  87. This is sort of pitiful, isn’t it Chris?

    Posted by Ralph Luker  on  03/22  at  12:36 AM
  88. Ralph:

    In the immortal (well, not so much apparently) words of Bill:

    Baby, you ain’t kiddin!


    Posted by  on  03/22  at  04:50 AM
  89. I am very interested in the article published

    Posted by jamilah  on  11/07  at  07:40 AM





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