The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

The MO of speech-chilling: a little demonstration

Erin O'Connor highlights the case of Francisco Gil-White of the University of Pennsylvania, who is having with his tenure application.

He is, it seems, not the easiest character in the world to manage. He's alleged to have used his classroom as a political platform. The whole thing went public, and thence got ugly.

O'Connor points out his present predicament:
Gil-White is going public in a way that promises to draw some awfully unpleasant media scrutiny. One can't really blame him--that's the only way he stands a chance of exposing what he believes is happening to him. But one notes, too, that the publicity is something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If his colleagues did not hate him before, they will certainly hate him now. And if they had mixed feelings about retaining him before, now they will become passionate about wanting to be rid of him.

What a superb racket! The guys who go along get tenure in a billiard-room hush. Except for the absence of the sound of the clicking of the balls: for obvious reasons.

Whereas the guys who make trouble bring unwelcome attention to their colleagues as well as themselves, create waves, cause grief. These are guys a well-ordered community can well do without.

Self-regulating, self-preserving, stable and effective. Tenure ensures that the right sort replace themselves as the power in the faculty.

Is this news? Wasn't tenure always a matter of not overstepping one's bounds, of fitting in - not to mention competitive anilingualism?

Not completely off-topic is a 1995 lecture by Herbert Shapiro of Cincinnati University called "Political Correctness" and the American Historical Profession.

First incident covered: the 1890s economist Richard T. Ely was charged by a regent of the University of Wisconsin with writing "utopian, impractical and pernicious books", consorting with union organizers and supporting strikes. Ely retained his position only by charging that the allegations were false.

Plenty more where that came from over the subsequent century!

So long as one understands that the product of these outfits is not intellectual manna from heaven, but, to an extent unknowable by its readers, carefully crafted to fulfil the eminently political purpose of securing advancement up the academic greasy pole. Mixed in with some of half a hundred other possible ulterior motives.

And avoids the objective journalism fallacy dressed up in gown and mortar-board.

  1. Referred to in a March 12 2003 piece on Rep James Moran.

    Now taken from the bowels of the indispensable Wayback Machine. Which everyone knows about. Surely.


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