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Brian Leiter’s slow-motion car crash accelerates

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Most LGM readers are familiar with Leiter’s history of cyber-harassment and sock puppetry, so it should come as no surprise that lots of people in the world of academic philosophy are fed up* with his increasingly bizarre bullying.

*The statement of support for Carrie Jenkins (which has now been signed by 149 colleagues and counting) has been temporarily moved to another site, because someone (“no one knows who” — Hyman Roth) lodged a complaint with Google, claiming that the original site violated Google’s terms of service (which apparently include an agreement not to criticize Brian Leiter). Edit: The complaint against the original site has failed. It is now up again.

I’ll just add a few notes to a record that pretty much speaks for itself:

(1) A remarkable number of the targets of Leiter’s cyber-bulling in the world of academic philosophy are women, especially considering the extent to which the field continues to be dominated by men. These two facts are probably connected in some mysterious way, which perhaps the tools made available to us by analytical philosophy could help unpack.

(2) Leiter apparently loves to try to silence critics in the philosophy world with threats of defamation suits. Amusingly, this illustrates the extent to which he longs to play pretend lawyer, although it would be irresponsible not to speculate regarding whether he could even file a motion without professional assistance. He also seems remarkably sensitive (this is a rhetorical phrase; there’s nothing remarkable about it) to claims that he’s not really a philosopher, since he doesn’t have a joint appointment in a philosophy department. All this reminds me of somebody or the other’s remark to the effect that while formerly there were philosophers, today we must make do with professors of philosophy.

(3) Leiter’s current professional aspiration appears to be to end up as crazy as Nietzsche became, without the intermediate period of being an interesting thinker.

. . . if you have a strong stomach, check out the craven message Leiter sent to Carrie Jenkins, when he began to suspect that his latest vendetta wasn’t going to turn out well for him.

Update: The comment thread has dozens of excellent remarks; I wanted to highlight this one from Aimai, regarding why Leiter’s cyber-stalking of Carrie Jenkins is so invidious:

Her original post, which essentially celebrated her happy ascension to being a professor in a treasured field, was instantly stalked and trolled and attacked by a prominent professional in her field who put her on notice that nothing she wrote or published would happen without his eye falling on it, that whatever she wrote could be construed as legally actionable, that he would be watching her to make sure that she steered clear of the sin of ever impinging on his gaping wound of an ego. In other words: she’s minding her own business and an important, touchy, asshole turns out to be stalking her and turning her private and professional life into a legal cause of action.

In an instant she went from being a person celebrating and engaging with her field and her colleagues into, apparently, the enemy of a person with zero sense of proportionality and restraint–a person so narcissistic that they go out of their way to threaten legal action against a perfect stranger for a perfectly innocuous post that doesn’t reference Leiter at all.

Like all women she is instantly advised not to engage with her attacker/bully but to “ignore” him and to take actions (like filtering her emails) which might cause her to re-engage with him or provoke him. In other words she is to change her behavior in order to stop drawing his attention and if she finds that difficult to do–like “remembering to forget about the camel’s left knee” well, she’s no different than any other person who is told to continually steer around an obstacle while pretending the obstacle doesn’t exist.

And the proof that she needs to do that is in the second interaction when her innocuous tweet to a third party creates an opening that Leiter exploits to draw her back into an interaction and to imply that all her thoughts and writings and interactions exist only in reference to Leiter.

The guy is absolutely like a stalker and an ex–someone who forces an interaction onto you and then monitors you and your social media to make sure that he still matters to you.

. . . and a very nice summary from Nobdy:

Leiter appears to have lucked into power and influence just by doing something crass and simplistic that nobody thought to do before BECAUSE it was crass and simplistic but that gained an audience because even philosophers are apparently prone to wanting easy well-defined answers even if they are wrong.

At first blush he appears to be quite arrogant about this tiny accomplishment of being willing to oversimplify, but in reality it appears that he is aware of having accomplished nothing and is wracked by insecurity. His constant fretting about and threats re: his reputation reveal that he is terrified of being seen as the fraud he really is, and believes he must do everything in his power to control his image. It’s pathetic but one can’t be sympathetic because in his desperate increasingly unhinged scramble to hide the truth he does real damage to innocent parties.

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  • postmodulator

    Leiter’s current professional aspiration appears to end up as crazy as Nietzsche became, without the intermediate period of being an interesting thinker.

    I like people to achieve their dreams. Do you want me to give him syphilis?

    • Mrs__B gave me SARS for a birthday when we were dating. She said that she didn’t feel it was yet the right time to give me syphilis.

      • postmodulator

        I think the tenth anniversary is the syphilis one.

        (LGM comment section. Sometimes intimidatingly highbrow. Sometimes…not.)

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        nice-

        misread one as “dental plague” which i found almost as frightening as the rest combined… zombie dentists searching the land for patients, with drills but no novocaine

        • Lee Rudolph

          My dentist until I left home to go to college never used any anesthetic (at least not on me; I have no information about his personal life, or even his other patients). Sometime in the last few of my years with him, he did acquire one of those new-fangled highspeed drills.

          • jim, some guy in iowa

            you went to that dentist more than once?

            • Lee Rudolph

              Children have choices?

              I actually don’t remember the pain as being intolerable (but of course pain is notoriously hard to remember as such with any accuracy—what people remember, if anything, is their contemporaneous assessment of the pain). However, I’m not interested in searching for a steampunk DDS to help me relive the experience, either.

              • Children have choices?

                Sure. They can go kicking or they can go screaming or they can go kicking and screaming!

              • guthrie

                Given how many fillings my 9 year old nephew has already, and the difficulties in actually making him really clean his teeth with a toothbrush instead of wiping it around his mouth once, I am wondering if anaesthetic free dental operations would be a good idea.

            • DrS

              If I learned anything from the Tai Chi documentary Roadhouse it’s that “Pain don’t hurt”

              • Hogan

                Pain is a sign of weakness leaving the body.

                • Barry_D

                  “Pain is a sign of weakness leaving the body.”

                  There’s a Despair.com poster showing a cat torturing a mouse with that saying, and the addition:

                  ‘sometimes the spirit tags along’

          • It’s the professionalism I respect.

          • twbb
        • zombie dentists searching the land for patients, with drills but no novocaine

          I am pretty certain I saw that movie….

    • brad

      Is it pathological that I am compelled to mention that there’s good modern scholarship that argues Nietzsche actually couldn’t have had syphilis and in fact most likely had a slow growing congenital eye tumor?

      • postmodulator

        It brings us back into the realm of the highbrow that I mentioned upthread. So I’d go with your compulsion.

        • advocatethis

          It’s almost too convenient that brad’s comment showed up to underscore your earlier point. Are you taking lessons from Leiter?

    • MAJeff

      Do you want me to give him syphilis?

      You can get it treated, you know.

    • Origami Isopod

      Do you want me to give him syphilis?

      That’s… dedication to your ideals, I must say.

  • Most LGM readers are familiar

    I’m only slightly familiar, and for a moment I was wondering what a retired Rangers defenseman had to do with the topic at hand.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      me too as far as being ‘slightly familiar’ but i followed Paul’s second link- and chrrriiist what an asshole that Brian guy is. he is apparently working toward “ne plus ultra asshole” status, in fact. maybe that translates into big $ someday?

  • brad

    Leiter defending analytic philosophy’s attempt to claim Nietzsche as their own is the philosophical equivalent of Rush Limbaugh claiming conservatives are the true feminists.

    And no, I don’t feel bad for the hyperbole, Brian, you do that much violence to the crazy dead bastard’s words.

    • djw

      I actually think that the Leiter-esque “what if we imagine Nietzsche was a actually a late 20th C. Analytic philosopher” is actually kind of an interesting project, with clear limitations. But the notion that it is the (not a but the) only approach to Nietzsche’s thought that has any historical and intellectual legitimacy is just completely bizarre.

      • brad

        Interesting, sure, but it does such violence to his actual produced work that it has little more going for it than the periodic attempts to argue Nietzsche was actually the ultimate true believer and just wanted to salvage faith.
        Analytic philosophy speaks a different philosophical language than Nietzsche. It wants for certainties he denied were possible. There’s obvious overlap of concerns, and no reason for analytic types to ignore him. But to claim him as one of their own is simply empirically wrong to the same degree as if I were to claim my love of Kierkegaard’s talent means he must have been a secret atheist.
        Nietzsche’s strength and weakness is the ability of his work to encourage the reader to see themselves in it. But that doesn’t mean all claims of kinship are valid.

        • djw

          Right. Whatever value might be extracted from reading Nietzsche as if he were a contemporary analytic philosopher, it makes no discernable contribution to intellectual history, which makes their claim that it’s the only approach to Nietzsche scholarship worth bothering with all the more remarkable.

          • brad

            Remember this is the field from which xPhi emerged. In a way it’s only natural that analytic types would try to distort Nietzsche into one of their own, if they can’t directly answer his challenge to certainty they have to sidestep it. Bernard Williams, for example, half feels like he’s become continental, the landscape has shifted so much around him.

    • brad

      And what the fucking fuck.
      He calls himself a philosopher and threatened to sue someone who said otherwise for defamation?

      Different departments with different standards and all, but at the New School, where people like, say, Derrida and Butler have been on the staff, we tended to reserve that title for those who actually have, y’know, produced philosophy.

      Everyone who’s been in that field for more than 5 minutes knows Leiter can be a genuine problem for it, but wow. He really is just Eric Cartman with a Chair.

    • In fairness, there’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya ‘Bout the raising of the wrist.

  • Lee Rudolph

    The blogger at Leiterevents calls Leiter “one of the most influential people in the field”. Can this really be true?

    • Paul Campos

      He’s influential because of his ridiculous rankings, so he’s influential in the field in exactly the same way that the electronic rump of a defunct news magazine is influential in the field of higher education.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Ah. Then I would say, rather, that he’s influential on the field. It’s clearer in the case of the Electronic Rump, which cannot in any sense be said to be, itself, “in the field of higher education.”

        Apparently the Human Rump does do some philosophy (?), and if his philosophical works have influenced other philosophers, then he does have (exactly that much) influence in the field: but his philosophizing and its influcence are—or should be—entirely separate from his rankings and their influence (on deans, prospective students, and other similar non- or proto- philosophers).

        • brad

          He has no influence as a scholar, purely as an academic functionary. And he has no philosophy such that he deserves to be called a philosopher. He has no expanded reading of Nietzsche, no positive, or negative, theory of his own, no philosophy as such to argue for. He’s an academic who attaches himself to interpretations and readings produced by others. Producing footnotes is not the work of a philosopher.

          • His Google Scholar citations suggest that he’s not completely uninfluential as a scholar. I’m not sure how to judge those citation level, but they aren’t wildly lower than, say, Velleman who is generally acknowledged as a big deal.

            (Pace, it’s not apples to apples given Leiter’s law profile.)

            • brad

              Fair point, and I should acknowledge my own biases. But, legal stuff aside, his philosophical output seems reserved for those on the reservation with him. There’s a lot of Oxford, Yale, and Ethics in there. Which are nice names to be able to check, but, and while this is of course incredibly debatable, none of which is going to be remembered in Nietzschean scholarship any more than any of Kaufmann’s confused and awful writings are. Nehamas, Schact, and their students and descendants, those who are engaging Nietzsche as Nietzsche and doing genuinely interesting, engaging, expansive work which Leiter is forced to nod to and attempt to pretend agrees with his tribal views, do not find anything in his output to be of particular value.
              He won’t be remembered, not as a scholar.

              • Obviously, GS citations is a fairly weak signal.

                I’m in no way a Nietzsche scholar. Is Kaufmann so disregarded? I found this article which is arguing that he needs to be moved beyond, but not quite disregarded.

                I really can’t say anything else about Leiter’s Nietzsche project.

                • brad

                  Kaufmann’s translations remain the standard, tho there are recent works which are beginning to replace them. But his writings themselves are, at least in my experience, so poorly regarded that in most cases students are told to avoid them so as not to confuse themselves. It’s in the class of Heidegger’s Nietzsche lectures. The name alone will guarantee survival, at least for some time to come, but there’s fairly literally no one using these works to teach or as a basis for scholarly expansion.

                • Oh, but that just means that Kaufmann isn’t (as) influential now (but still pretty much as active efforts are underway to combat his influence).

                  Similarly, Leiter could be very influential in Anglo-American Nietzsche studies, but for the bad. If it’s bad enough, it *might* not have legs, but who knows :)

                  Just the fact that he’s so uber analytic and yet primarily a Nietzsche scholar could have some mixed influence (beneficial because it makes Nietzsche studies more respectable in certain arenas; maleficent in that he might promulgate bad scholarship).

              • The Dark Avenger

                FWIW, the professor I took my intro Philosophy course from went to a conference that Kaufmann was scheduled to be at before he passed away.

                He told me that he looked forward to ‘picking Kaufmanns’ brain’, which would’ve been in German, his native language.

                He was an Orthodox rabbi whose academic concentration was on the works of Kant. He also shared the incorrect opinion that Nietzsche was an anti-Semite.

              • Leiter’s book on Nietzsche & Morality is really pretty good … I won’t say original, but given how many people manage to write books on N. & never get what N is up to, at least Leiter managed that.

                • brad

                  Fair enough. He never came up during the course of my own studies in the field in the prior decade, and my own quick perusal of what little I could find online a few months back left me with a mixed opinion. He clearly cares about the material and tries to keep conversant, but also seems to believe in the will to power as an actively proposed doctrine and crucial plank to Nietzsche’s thought. Which is of course genuinely debatable, but to my mind horribly wrong, on par with reading eternal recurrence as the founding point of a metaphysics.

                • I think will to power is important, but in the sense of will to interpretation. Some of the flaws in the idea are just flaws in Nietzsche – the whole active/passive thing comes to mind, tho I’m sure he knew better some days.

          • djw

            And he has no philosophy such that he deserves to be called a philosopher.

            I can’t really go along with this standard, as it would render the vast majority of people employed as professors of philosophy not philosophers. I recognize the usage you’re employing, but I think “person who teaches and writes about philosophy for a living” is probably a more appropriate definition all things considered.

            • brad

              Purely a semantic point, I absolutely agree. And back when I was in that world I never challenged anyone on that, except maybe the occasional overly arrogant undergrad.
              At the same time, tho, a scholar is not a philosopher. I am a Nietzschean, of a particular school of reading, of course, so I don’t view philosophy as a purely academic interest. But of course only an academic could really say that, so…
              Yet philosophy should be, not is, should be, concerned with life as such, it should be a way of life, a perspective argued for, imo. To reduce it to competing scholarly interpretations of minor passages and so on is to strip it of value and applicability.

      • Morse Code for J

        Which is unfortunate, because we’ve seen how resilient USN&WR is to questions about its methods and influence. Hopefully Leiter is less of an institution.

    • brad

      Sadly, yes. He started his rankings early, and has used his circle jerk network of authoritah fellating fellow pieces of shit in that world to protect his fiefdom.

      The stuff listed in the NYU hosted link, for example, might seem like small potatoes to someone not of academia or that little corner of it, but he really could destroy a career with barely any effort. There’s a number of places where he has no influence and is only viewed with derision, and these tend to be the best schools for (non analytic) philosophy in the country, but analytic is by far the dominant mode in the US and UK.

      • Nobdy

        Philosophy departments like to claim that people think they do nothing of value because they don’t understand the value their extremely sealed-off esoteric brand of philosophy offers.

        If they’re all listening to this bozo it’s a real bad sign that the emperor may not, in fact, have any clothes after all.

        • medrawt

          That strikes me as a remarkably bad defense of academic philosophy, although I’m not surprised that some academic philosophers might have such a terrible way of putting it.

          • Jordan

            Nobody says what Nobdy said.

            Philosophers will say that people don’t understand the value of their discipline. But everyone who has ever lived says that, for appropriate substitution of “discipline”.

  • Warren Terra

    Leiter has an incredibly cheerful Wikipedia page, all things considered. I’m not saying there should be anything bad about him, per se, certainly not anything actionable – but it’s deeply weird hat someone can be such a figure of controversy and debate with no reflection on their Wikipedia page.

    Also, from said page: is Campos a philosopher, or a journalist? He’s listed as being one or the other …

    • MacK

      You are of course ware that various parties did some forensics and discovered that Leiter’s Wikipedia page had been heavily edited by someone with a University of Texas IP address to be quite laudatory of Leiter – ummmmm – when Leiter was in fact at the University of Texas. It was one of the more devastating items about the twerp that he has largely written his Wikipedia page and policies it pretty religiously to ensure that none of the controversies he has been involved in are ever mentioned.

      The need to create his own legend is – well – characteristic of someone who deep down knows he is a nobody.

      • Gwen

        Wait is this twit employed by my alma mater?

        See this is why I need to get rich. If I had money, the Board of Regents will f*ing listen to me.

        • Gwen

          In the distant future when I am a billionaire, the University of Texas will be my benevolent queendom.

          “Hello? Yes? This is Gwen. Please get Charlie Strong on the line. I’m ’bout to pull a Jerry Jones here. Yes Charlie. Time for the bootleg. I SAID BOOTLEG DAMMIT, I DONT CARE IF WE DON’T HAVE POSSESSION OF THE BALL.”

          • postmodulator

            “I don’t mean to question you, Gwen, your Majesty, but we’ve usually had better luck with the bootleg during actual games and not on Tuesdays.”

        • Not any more. He moved to Chicago years ago.

          No doubt anticipating your accession!

          • Gwen

            I would fear me, you know, if I wasn’t me!

            Glad to hear.

          • MacK

            Though since moving to Chicago someone with a UofChi Ip address started editing the Wikipedia entry

            There is current somewhat of an edit war occuring on Brian Leiter as a result of some referenced, but not academic, material being added that criticises the subject of the article. I have done a little Googling and there seems to be a fair body of people critical of Brian Leiter. Can someone more familiar with philosophy review the available material and if appropriate post a suitably referenced and WP:NPOV criticism section?

            The following may help: (Redacted) Lineslarge (talk) 21:32, 20 February 2014 (UTC)

            The edit war appears to be created mostly from Chicago IPs, including one registered to the University of Chicago, and a single-purpose account that bears an extraordinary similarity in name to one of Leiter’s colleagues. This pattern (as I learned following an IPs recommendation to look into the archives) has been going on for a while. It is my suspicion, as well as the suspicion of past editors, that the article’s subject himself, and his colleagues, are participating in the maintenance of the content to suit a specific POV, which would be a clear conflict of interest as well as intellectual dishonesty. I’ll post at some relevant WikiProjects to see if extra eyes can’t be brought over. Regards, Cyphoidbomb (talk) 21:43, 20 February 2014 (UTC)

    • Gwen

      “Don’t you know who I am? I’m the Journalosopher, b*tch!”

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        I thought Days of Future Past was supposed to have erased that atrocity?

  • Karate Bearfighter

    That Carrie Jenkins thing is just bizarre; I’ve read her original blog post, and its just a high minded statement of principle that in no way targets, mentions, or even alludes to Brian Leiter.

    When you reach the point where you are characterizing someone’s statement that they are going to uphold professional standards as “issu[ing] … threats aimed at me on your blog”, it’s time to take a step back from the keyboard.

    • Alas, he’s not the only one who sees things that way (as can be seen even in this FeministPhilosophers thread).

      I’ll note that on a Leiter post I made the following comment:

      I find the comment from the U.S. philosopher at a ranked PGR program (USPRPP) odd. There are two distinct possible problems mentioned about the poll recently:

      1) The poll could be stuffed or otherwise manipulated (hence the move to the somewhat more resilient provider). (That is, the poll doesn’t capture the opinion of those voting accurately).

      2) The poll is not representative of professional philosophers. And more specifically, it over-represents opponents of the PGR and even more specifically, it over-represents various sorts of “bad” people who oppose the PGR for bad reasons. (This is USPRPP’s comment.)

      Toward 1, my quick calculation shows that the resilient (but by no means undefeatable) poll is running about 44% pro PGR which is about the same as the MicroPoll (with similar numbers of voters overall i.e., about 2500). I take this at somewhat weak evidence that the poll isn’t being strongly manipulated and that they reflect the sentiments of those voting.

      Toward 2, well, obviously it’s not going to be representative as it involves a great deal of self- and convenience- selection based on weak advertising (i.e., it’s nowhere close to a uniform sampling technique; it’s nigh impossible to determine a response rate, etc.). Which I would hope no one would expect otherwise when setting up such polls!

      But that doesn’t tell us a lot about what a representative sample would show. The theory that the selection bias overturns the real result is as unfounded (probably somewhat more unfounded) than the idea that this poll reflects overall opinion. I.e., what is the precise ground for claiming that ” the mediocre, the incompetent, the internet ax grinders, and the angry will likely be MUCH more likely to vote than the functional rank and file of the profession, a high percentage of whom use the PGR in advising students.” I mean, was there a proper survey to determine that a “high” percentage of “functional rank and file” use the PGR in advising students? Maybe! But a pointer would help. (Note that the framing of incompetent vs. functional doesn’t help the case. There’s a lot of potential bias in that framing from what we know of that individual i.e., that they are at a ranked PGR program. Even putting aside the unsubstantiated but loaded descriptions, it might be that their program gets a large percentage of students who have been advised in light of the PGR rankings, but that that’s unusual overall across programs. I really have no idea, but I suspect neither does that person. Evidence otherwise would be terrific but it’s quite hard and expensive to get.)

      (All this is distinct from whether and how the PGR should continue. I don’t really have anything to add with respect to that, sorry.)

      But it’s still in moderation (though many other, anonymous, comments have been posted). I don’t know if it’s just stuck or if it’s been deemed objectionable. He would have had the chance to see my remarks on the FP thread, though again, are they really so objectionable?

      • Karate Bearfighter

        To build on your comments to that FP thread: if Carrie Jenkins’ blog post was an unacceptable “attack” on Leiter because it criticized behaviors Leiter has exhibited, then Leiter effectively immunizes behaviors from any criticism or discussion just by exhibiting them. Which, in terms of public displays of narcissism and thin skin, is just one small step up from that kid on the Twilight Zone who wishes people into the cornfield.

        • Nobdy

          Also if Leiter believes that he can be identified as the target of the post just by the list of behaviors, it’s going to be very tough to prove defamation.

          It’s possible there’s some other reason that he thinks he will be perceived as the target (Maybe they have some kind of feud that’s well known in the community?)

          • I don’t know if it was *well* known, but Jenkins had an extended hostile interaction with Leiter (see this FeministPhilosophers post…you can trace out the rest given that).

            But I don’t think that context means Jenkins was attacking Leiter with that pledge.

      • Welp, I think that settles it:

        Brian said…
        I’m going to close this thread, since I won’t be able to moderate for the remainder of the day due to existing obligations. My thanks to those who commented for their perspectives and observations.

        I suppose he could have still just “missed” it but given that he’s posted at least 12 comments, some with added commentary from him, since I posted mine, it seems pretty unlikely. It’s hard to see that my comment was fundamentally hostile or irrelevant. I posted under my name, with email address and webpage. My comment seems extremely pertinent to his lead in of the post. Oh well.

        • Jordan

          Yeah, that is really poor form on his part.

          • ChrisTS

            But bog standard for him.

            • Unemployed_Northeastern

              He’s a bit of a berk, isn’t he?

              /British talk

              • ChrisTS

                ‘Berk’? Really? I’m stealing it.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  Cockney rhyming slang: “Berk” from “Berkshire Hunt”.

                • Hogan

                  I did not know that. My go-to has been “pillock,” but that’s about to change.

                • Unemployed_Northeastern

                  The show runs into controversy every now and again (mostly because of one person), but the British version of Top Gear 1) throws off wonderful slang unknown to us Yanks and 2) has quite a way with words in general. I’d never have heard things like “He’s an apocalyptic dingleberry” had I not started watching it. And, I mean, they built a space shuttle out of a car once. How can you not like that?

        • twbb

          Nothing about this issue now appears on Leiter Reports; does he think it’s going to blow over? Apparently, the philosophy field is just done with him.

          • Aimai

            I just hopped over there to read around–the guy is one craven, whining, post away from writing one of those “Goodbye Cruel World” posts that get you bounced from DailyKos. His self regarding posts about how his PGR is “all for the students” and “such a headache” for him are truly pathetic–also lines like “I’m a New Yorker…who doesn’t suffer fools gladly.” I”m hard put to describe the level of teenage angst, self regard, drama seeking and general boo-hooy’ness of some of those posts (which rocket from please for support to magestic condescension to the little ankle biters within mere paragraphs) without resorting to sexist or ageist or homophobic tropes.

            • Lee Rudolph

              “I’m a New Yorker…who doesn’t suffer fools gladly.”

              Self-refuting, given that he lives in…Chicago. I mean, really.

    • Hogan

      The guilty flee where none pursueth.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Indeed, some of the guilty flee whilst all the rest are fleeing in the opposite direction.

    • Manju

      I haven’t been this upset since Carly Simon wrote that song about me.

    • Yeah, to me it seems about as controversial as “I will not condone baby-eating and dog-kicking.”

      What’s really illuminating is that Leiter didn’t seem to reason it as “Jenkins doesn’t respect me; Jenkins says she doesn’t respect people who do these terrible things; thus, she’s accusing me of these terrible things; that’s a personal attack” but “Jenkins says she doesn’t respect people who do these terrible things; thus, she’s saying she doesn’t respect me; that’s a personal attack”.

      Personally, if I felt like I was being indirectly targeted by a blog post like that, I’d be much more offended by the suggestion that I was a backstabbing shitlord than that people might decide to dismiss me professionally due to my backstabbing shitlordry.

      • Richard Gadsden

        You seem to be missing the point.

        Brian Leiter’s problem is that there’s nothing wrong with being a backstabbing shitlord, and people are attacking backstabbing shitlordery not because they dislike it – who could possibly dislike backstabbing shitlordery – but because they dislike him, for reasons that clearly have nothing to do with backstabbing shitlordery.

  • Nobdy

    Leiter appears to have lucked into power and influence just by doing something crass and simplistic that nobody thought to do before BECAUSE it was crass and simplistic but that gained an audience because even philosophers are apparently prone to wanting easy well-defined answers even if they are wrong.

    At first blush he appears to be quite arrogant about this tiny accomplishment of being willing to oversimplify, but in reality it appears that he is aware of having accomplished nothing and is wracked by insecurity. His constant fretting about and threats re: his reputation reveal that he is terrified of being seen as the fraud he really is, and believes he must do everything in his power to control his image. It’s pathetic but one can’t be sympathetic because in his desperate increasingly unhinged scramble to hide the truth he does real damage to innocent parties.

    • brad

      He gained an audience in part because admin people are trained to care about rankings, it’s worth mentioning. His rise is as much about academia’s flaws as philosophy in particular, not to deny philosophy’s particulars. But administrative people are that much less likely to care about the nuances of and problems with Leiter and his rankings than the seeming prestige or loss thereof they can provide.

    • djw

      Leiter appears to have lucked into power and influence just by doing something crass and simplistic that nobody thought to do before BECAUSE it was crass and simplistic but that gained an audience because even philosophers are apparently prone to wanting easy well-defined answers even if they are wrong.

      This is a far better one sentence summary of that particular part of the BL story than I would have thought possible.

    • I am led to wonder who invented the Citation Index, and where is that person now?

  • medrawt

    A decade ago I found the Philosophical Gourmet very informative and helpful when I was considering grad school (I wound up not going); certainly I didn’t find a more credible rankings at the time, and my own college professors never gave me advice that meaningfully deviated from the lesson it seemed to teach (these are, more or less, the premiere programs, and getting a tenure track job without a degree from one of them is vanishingly unlikely). Also at that time I found his book on The Genealogy of Morals very interesting; don’t know how I’d feel now.

    But in reading his blog back then, it was obvious that he had pretty clear tendencies towards authoritarian bullying and a penchant for rapidly deciding that someone was his intellectual inferior and thereby open for belittling. In that sense I’m surprised it’s taken this long for any sort of backlash to cohere (although, privately, I knew at least one very kind professor who missed being Leiter’s colleague by a couple of years say something mildly disparaging about his personality, which I took to be his way of saying: “monumental douche”).

    • Jordan

      Yeah, the report is useful for undergrads who don’t have super awesome professors (and so who are willing to provide extensive, quality advice) who are also very knowledgeable about the state of things.

      I would never have thought that Rutgers, say, was in many ways a superior place to Harvard if it wasn’t for the his rankings.

      • medrawt

        Yeah, it’s the one thing that I feel the need to push back on in the anti-Leiter stuff. My professors gave me some general thoughts on what good programs were, including some of the less-obvious ones, but they were far less explicit about job prospects than the PGR was, and ultimately I think most of them were happy to just benignly give pretty pie-in-the-sky advice that reflected their own success rather than anything that prepared me to do a real assessment of what made sense for me and what risks were worth taking. (In fairness, I didn’t have a close relationship with any of them, which is number one on the short list of Things I Should’ve Done Differently If I Wanted to Go to Grad School.) Leiter himself has obviously revealed himself as someone with his head obstreperously in the sand re: law school problems, and perhaps he’s the same way about grad school. But I still found his data valuable because, in 2005, it was the only thing like it that I could find which wasn’t ENTIRELY reliant on accumulated anecdotes.

        So Leiter is a jerk, and a bully, and appears to be very wrong about important issues pertaining to his profession, and the PGR might have a very flawed methodology, and he may wield it like a club. But I wince at the idea that the very concept of the PGR is just doing something “crass” because it puts me back in the position where I felt like I was at the mercy of how straightforward my professors would or wouldn’t be, and the attendant notion that a true [whatever, but philosopher in this case] would somehow magically know better and not need to consult something so fallen as “rankings” to make their determinations.

        • PGR wasn’t around when I was applying to grad school.

          My impression is that it’s somewhat better than many rankings. The methodology is at least transparent, though, as will all such rankings, there’s much to complain about.

          Like with many metrics, the fact that we shape our behaviour around them is typically the real problem. By this, I don’t just mean students using them to get more information, but the fact that departments start making all sorts of decisions based on improving their rank. This is typically counterproductive and increasingly counterproductive to the degree you tune to (any) metric (since they are all indirect measures).

  • M.ark

    Too many comments, but did anyone note the ancient familiar ring to all of this?

    “I say this with reference to the present case, for in this instance one might say that he is unable in words to contend against you at each question, but that when it comes to facts he sees that of those who turn to philosophy, not merely touching upon it to complete their education and dropping it while still young, but lingering too long in the study of it, the majority become cranks, not to say rascals, and those accounted the finest spirits among them are still rendered useless to society by the pursuit which you commend.” (Republic 487d)

    Just saying.
    M

  • Froley

    I don’t think he’s a philosopher, he doesn’t have an “s” in his name.

  • brugroffil

    I don’t understand how Leiter’s July email or September post would cause someone so much anxiety. Can anyone explain that to me?

    • Warren Terra

      A famously obstreporous person who happens to be a lawyer sends you a letter containing the following phrases (from the July letter you find so calming):

      calling me “unprofessional” is probably defamatory per se in Canada
      ….
      So what should I expect going forward? I’m trying to plan out my litigation strategy for the next year!

      This is transparently a threat to sue this (Canadian-based) lawyer for defamation. If taken seriously, this suit would probably end the recipient’s academic career; leaving aside the controversy and the attendant displeasure of their department, as a brand-new faculty member they don’t have time to defend a lawsuit.

      ETA it’s always possible the post has been edited, but I can’t detect anything in it that is even confrontational or controversial, and nothing that is directed against Leiter. I note that his letter taking objection quotes nothing that refers to him and quotes three bullet points that are completely unremarkable. Obviously, the two may have a personal history – but he is literally threatening to sue for defamation because she has posted an intention to be generous to colleagues and to be disrespectful of those who do not choose to be similarly generous to colleagues.

      • MND

        A frivolous lawsuit like that would end an academic’s career? I must say, as big a jerk as Leiter seems to be, I had the same reaction as brugroffil. It reads like a totally empty threat.

        • Warren Terra

          Hell, MND, a frivolous lawsuit aggressively pursued would threaten to end practically anyone’s budding career, not just a newly minted professor’s, so long as it’s got just enough basis in law to hang on in court. The time, the expense, the discovery process, the stress – you’re going to handle all that while proving yourself to your colleagues and demonstrating you can carve out for yourself a place in your academic field / workplace?

          • MND

            I would think that she would get overwhelming support from her colleagues if sued in these circumstances, for the reasons you outlined in your comment (the idea that her post defamed someone she never mentioned even by implication is ridiculous on its face). But fair enough that someone could be stressed by the threat I guess.

            • Warren Terra

              Yeah, why don’t you bet your career on your expectation of overwhelming support.

              Back in the real world, people get irritated if they have to deal with the consequences of other people’s unnecessary drama.

              • Aimai

                This.

              • Indeed.

                And, in the end, it distracts and tarnishes. You have to recover from it. That’s not necessarily easy.

                I’ve been working with a couple of people facing analogous circumstances. The knock on effects are severe and it takes a lot of work to keep them in check.

            • Ahuitzotl

              overwhelming support, from fellow academics?

        • Hogan

          “You’re not crazy enough to pull the trigger” must be on someone’s list of famous last words.

        • So, a few things:

          1) Philosophy is fairly hierarchical and network based (kinda like law) and certainly perceives itself that way. PGR paradoxically both reinforces that and was an attempt to make the status perceptions more…objective? Something!

          2) Rankings are incredibly useful for advancement of a person or a department. Rankings compiled by someone else even more so. There are not only direct effects (Hey Dean! Guess what? All that money you gave us for prestige hires raised our prestige? We’re number 1!!!!) but indirect effects (e.g., you attract better grad students esp. if they use PGR to guide choice of school).

          3) Philosophy depts depend a lot on admin good will as it’s not like they bring in big bucks. Inside phil departments you also depend on the good will of senior folks.

          So, Leiter can make an anxiety producing threat via

          1) He is connected and projects connectedness. A lot of his “Senior person tells me X” helps build up a view that he knows lots of people everywhere.

          2) I don’t think he dorks the ratings in any way, but there’s some perception that it’s not good to have him pissed at you because, y’know, rankings.

          3) I was once told, “Don’t piss of the chair. Esp. don’t piss off the chair by pissing off the dean”. If Leiter did make a stink, this could cause lots of career shaping issues even for a tenured person. The threat of that, however rationally unrealistic, seems pretty bad.

          Plus, there’s just the harassment factor. I have a pretty thick skin, but I certainly don’t *enjoy* being personally attacked (well, mostly; sometimes I guess I find it pretty amusing). In comment sections, it’s pretty meh, but if I got email, it could get under my skin. Or if I’m having a tough day otherwise.

          • Nobdy

            This is the sort of thing that happens in fields where there’s no ‘there’ there. Internal politics swallows everything else. I’m not saying that’s the case for philosophy…but I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

            • It certainly is an interesting question.

              I think if we look at the output of US academic philosophy over the past 100 years, the field has had a pretty good run with significant external contributions to computer science, mathematics, oppression and political theory, cognitive science (and related fields such as AI), linguistics, bioethics in the field, and others. In addition, the internal progress in a lot of areas is also quite good with a lot of big advances in historical studies as well as topic related stuff.

              The politics are pretty crap though, afaict.

            • Jordan

              Nah. This is the sort of things that happens everywhere with everything.

          • Ok, I went back and reread the email. One thing to note about it is how stalker/abuseresque it is.

            It combines threats and “jokes” all at various levels of seriousness. (He’s going to consult his lawyer? Really? He *has* a lawyer to consult on such things? And he’s going to burn money on this? Really?) This is *designed* to cause anxiety while preserving a “You’re crazy; I was joking; don’t get your panties in a twist” deniability.

            Add in that he link that message to her in an unrelated tweet.

            Add in that his “apology” was really anything but! “Har had, I was a bit mean but in the tweet I thought we were getting along you old sanctimonious asshole!”

            (Brrr. I remember analogous crap from my beloved’s stalker and my father. The “Oh, those horrible things I said to/about you didn’t *really* affect you at all. You didn’t bow to my will, after all!” line is so infuriating.)

            So, I think even without all the implied power routes, there’s enough that many people might feel rather anxious about it.

            Note we also don’t have all the interactions before us.

      • brugroffil

        I might get a little anxious if I were sent a letter like that, but I’d be contacting my own lawyer to see “wtf?”

        I don’t think I would be suffering from so much anxiety that I’d need to keep myself away from seeing, hearing or reading anything by the man.

        • Well, lots of people don’t have lawyers on tap and aren’t really sure how you get one for this sort of thing.

          When my beloved was being stalked, it was only because I happened to see a legal aid office near the computer science building in Manchester that I formulated a concrete plan to get a cease and desist letter. It was a very confusing time and that process was a bit scary. Of course, we were only 2 years in the UK and no one I asked had a lawyer either.

          On the one hand, it wasn’t that hard. On the other, it was very difficult.

          • brugroffil

            I don’t have a lawyer on tap, but I’m reasonably sure I could locate one if I were experiencing anxiety over a legal threat.

            • Aimai

              Right but a lawyer can only tell you, hypothetically, that you are at relatively little risk or high risk. And even then they do so at a financial cost. Consulting a lawyer doesn’t alter the fact that person X is threatening to sue you and may sue you. I’m not sure why you think that consulting a lawyer is some kind of talisman capable of warding off harm. Its really not. Also: note that Leiter’s threat is that he and his wife and his friend are the lawyers who will sue her. That is as much as to say “money is no object to me” because he is clearly asserting that it will cost him nothing to file the suit. Whereas the person he is threatening has to hire her defense.

            • I think you underestimate how many people feel about that and the anxiety it provokes. Did you just ignore the details of my experience I gave above? I mean, really.

              • Origami Isopod

                Bijan, I truly have to commend you on your patience in this thread.

            • Snarki, child of Loki

              Wait, you can get lawyers ON TAP?

              I thought they only came in bottles or cans.

              Any recommendations for local microbrew lawyers?

              • Hogan

                How hoppy do you like your lawyer?

    • Not really up on the politics of the whole thing, but if he’s running the site that basically ranks every philosophy prof in the country, and is accepted by so many as something that actually has value, then refusing to list you is basically shooting your career out from under you.

      • MND

        If he’s that powerful and important, then fair enough, but otherwise these stories all seem to amount to “jerk insults people” and I’m kind of surprised at the level of angst that seems to be generating.

      • brugroffil

        I really fail to understand why anyone would care so damn much about this week’s Philosophy Power Rankings.

        • brad

          As I said upthread, remember the role administration plays in all this. They are the bosses, they have all sorts of pressures they can apply, and they are more likely to care about rankings without concern for context. Leiter absolutely is capable of slighting a department so as to settle a score, lawsuit threats which, to my knowledge, have never been followed through on show what a blowhard thin skinned dick he is.

          • brugroffil

            Understood, reworded for clarity, what I don’t understand is why the bosses care so much, not the professors. Why she cares is self-evident.

        • Hogan

          Therefore it can’t be important.

          • brugroffil

            Yes, clearly, that is what I said. This thread is full of good-faith readings.

            I recognize that people do care about Philo Power Rankings, and that they can have very real long-term effects on one’s career and that it’s completely rational to care about those effects.

            That doesn’t mean it isn’t still pretty absurd that one man making a list can have so much power. Maybe this is a better way of putting it: I don’t understand why people in positions of power make these rankings matter so much.

            • Karate Bearfighter

              That doesn’t mean it isn’t still pretty absurd that one man making a list can have so much power.

              I think this is the disconnect. PGR isn’t one guy making a list; it’s a detailed biennial survey of hundreds of philosophy professors worldwide who are asked to rate dozens of departments based on lists of their faculty. To be able to pull something like that off for a decade or more is an impressive demonstration of connections, power, and access.

              • Excellent point!

                This is why the statement of refusal to participate is so powerful.

            • That’s a really interesting question.

              I think part of it lies in bureaucratic/managerial structures and tendencies. There are a *lot* of forces that shape people in those roles.

              A big one is how to explain complex and subtle effects to remote (and potentially hostile) decision makers. Control fallacies dominate. Being able to say, “We have a PGR top 5 philosophy program that just graduated 5 PhDs who have good jobs and services most of the undergrad dept with their core classes” that’s a pretty straightforward sell and makes it easy to compare very heterogenous departments. It feels objective enough and provides some CYA fodder.

              Furthermore, you can understand how to affect them. So, how do you rise up the PGR? Make the right hires. How do you know whom to hire? Consult the PGR! The taming of the complexity of managing a department (and a set of departments) is just a big deal and hard to resist esp. if everyone else has sighed in relief (or resignation) and gotten on board.

              This isn’t a good thing…just a thing.

            • Hogan

              Yes, clearly, that is what I said.

              No, it isn’t, but you did come across as ignoring the explanations that were being offered about why it’s important. I’m sorry if I took all this the wrong way.

        • Barry_D

          “I really fail to understand why anyone would care so damn much about this week’s Philosophy Power Rankings.”

          That’s not the point here – the point is that he does have enough influence to really f__k over a new professor.

    • Vance Maverick

      I think you lack human sympathy. But consider how little curiosity on this score is manifest in Leiter’s apology….

      • brugroffil

        I thought my post might have come off that way, but I wasn’t sure how else I could word it. I don’t doubt her sincerity here, I’m just trying to understand for my own sake how something like this could cause anxiety like that.

        • Vance Maverick

          Not sure what to tell you, given the other information around us here (like brad’s comment below). Maybe try reading some novels, or put yourself in a position where your self-assurance isn’t impregnable.

          • brugroffil

            Thanks for the condescension!

            • Jordan

              I don’t understand how Vance Maverick’s post could have created this level of hostility for you. Perhaps someone can explain?

              • Manju

                heh

              • brugroffil

                *rimshot*

    • brad

      Just read the feminist philosophers link. She was advised (told) to avoid engaging him any further, did so, and he replied to her writing something that neither named nor (in)directly implied reference to him, at least specifically, with threats and bluster. As the link above says

      Carrie finds it very unsettling – scary, even – that Leiter assumed she was talking about him both times. It has made her afraid to post public content to the internet in future, for fear of similar interpretation, leading to similar results.

      Whether he consciously intends to silence her or is just swinging his dick around without heed of the real results, he’s making her fear that he’s monitoring her output for perceived slights and will use his power to make her pay for them.

    • Nobdy

      Is it possible that this is a pre-litigation strategy? That she’s not actually deeply traumatized but wants to exagerate it in case he actually does sue? I obviously have no evidence to back this up, but it does seem like an overreaction, then again his claim that everything anyone says about him (or not even about him) is actionable defamation i certainly overblown.

      • I would be completely surprised. I think that’s rather unfair to her.

        • Nobdy

          It’s just speculation based on nothing, and stated as such. Her reaction seems very strong to me, and alleging actionable harm is not the worst strategy when faced with a threat of a frivolous lawsuit.

          • Sure and I think the speculation is wrong (not based on any special knowledge) and while strategically sensible it seems to me, as a layperson, to paint her in a bad light. Hence my “unfair”.

            I think such speculation potentially opens her up to more harassment and disparagement though, I will say, it’s unlikely to start from these comments. Just bugs me a bit.

            • Nobdy

              The speculation may indeed be wrong. It probably is.

              I will say, however, that anyone who would harass or disparage her based on anonymous speculation on an Internet forum by someone who clearly states they have no actual knowledge, well, that person was likely going to harass or disparage anyway.

              I don’t think that my statement will cause any harm to her because I can’t imagine someone being inspired by it to do something bad they weren’t already dead set on doing.

              • Well, I also don’t think it will trigger any harm because there’s unlikely o be bridging between this forum and most philosophy fora.

                But c’mon, you have to see why #justaskingquestions provokes a reaction. Indeed, you responded to my perfectly civil reply to you with a moderately defensive tone. I mean, you asked a question and I answered and you went on about how your question was merely speculative. Yes. I know. And my answer is the same. What about my answer should change given that your question was merely speculative?

                Note that in other fora, people have raise related speculation in a disparaging way (as well as the “oh you’re overreacting” line).

                (Obviously, in a context where a women is being harassed by a man, the complaint that she is overreacting just isn’t neutral. It’s charged, regardless of your intention.)

                • Nobdy

                  You didn’t just answer the question (though you also have no information) you accused me of being unfair. That’s naturally going to provoke a response.

                  I don’t think it’s ‘unfair’ to speculate when you’re clear you don’t know anything, especially in such a way that doesn’t particularly disparage someone’s character (her being strategic doesn’t reflect poorly on her.)

                  Sure there’s something charged about saying a woman harassed by a man appears to be overreacting, but that doesn’t disallow the statement. Sometimes people do overreact. Sometimes women harassed by men overreact.

                  There’s a difference between actually just asking questions or idly musing and “just asking questions.”

                  Because some people use the latter to make veiled accusations doesn’t mean that actually asking idle questions should be disallowed or is problematic.

                • You didn’t just answer the question (though you also have no information)

                  I don’t understand…I’m not allowed to answer a speculation based on no information with an answer based on no information? Why are your baseless speculations privileged?

                  I don’t think I have no information per se. I don’t have information about Jenkins specifically, but I have some experience of analogous situations. Plus, normal charity would entail taking her at face value. Plus, the fraughtness of essentially accusing her of exaggeration or deception in such matters. Plus, the fact that if any of that came to light, her reputation would be utterly destroyed.

                  you accused me of being unfair. That’s naturally going to provoke a response.

                  Sure, but isn’t the real question whether I’m accurate?

                  It still seems unfair.

                  I don’t think it’s ‘unfair’ to speculate when you’re clear you don’t know anything, especially in such a way that doesn’t particularly disparage someone’s character (her being strategic doesn’t reflect poorly on her.)

                  Perhaps that’s where we differ? It does seem to disparage her. It also seems that several other people have had similar reactions.

                  Sure there’s something charged about saying a woman harassed by a man appears to be overreacting, but that doesn’t disallow the statement. Sometimes people do overreact. Sometimes women harassed by men overreact.

                  Sure, and sometimes anonymous commentors are sock puppets. I trust you agree that my speculating on whether you’re actually Brien Lieter would be extremely hostile. (I, in no way, think that, nor am I speculating it. It really is just an example.)

                  So we agree that sometimes it could be ok and sometimes it’s not. So…why do you think it’s ok here instead of fraught?

                  There’s a difference between actually just asking questions or idly musing and “just asking questions.”

                  Sure, but the closeness means that certain musings are harder to get across as genuine.

                  (BTW, one thing that inflects my interpretation is the idea that her reaction is so outlandish that other explanations must come to the fore, however outré. Neither you nor brugroffil present your puzzlement as personal (hey, I wouldn’t react that way) but as more normative (that’s an overreaction). It doesn’t seem to be *essentially* an overreaction, though it *could* be, in some circumstances, one.)

                  I don’t see that I’m generalising but rather responding to the specific discussion. I don’t think this unfairness would make you, y’know, a generally horrible person or anything. Your general commentary seems fine to me. My hypothesis would be that you got into a bit of blind spot in this speculation.

                • Nobdy

                  A) You are allowed to have any answer you like, though it’s not particularly informative since neither of us have any information. It’s just like, your opinion, man (though I would say that what I speculated is not my actual opinion).

                  B) Here I’m just explaining why your statement would cause someone to be defensive. Nothing more.

                  C) And I think those reactions are oversensitive on her behalf. How is she disparaged exactly? There’s not even a hint of assertion that what I peculate about is happening, and if it were happening it wouldn’t reflect poorly on her.

                  D) Eh. Honestly it wouldn’t bother me, but I’m thicked skinned. I think the reason that it’s not fraught here is because it’s layered with enough disclaimers to make it clear that it is in fact idle speculation and not veiled suggestion.

                  E) Okay on the musings, but I can’t really do anything about that except express myself as clearly as possible.

                • Nobdy

                  P.S. “It does seem like an overreaction” does not read to me as claiming that her reaction was so outlandish or extreme that the only explanation is that she’s lying. In fact it’s clear in that statement that it ‘seems’ like an overreaction to the author, not that the author is definitively stating it to be one. I think the ‘seems’ makes it clearly both subjective and not stated as fact.

                • djw

                  especially in such a way that doesn’t particularly disparage someone’s character

                  Wait–you think accusing someone of lying in order to increase the chances of being awarded greater damages in some future hypothetical lawsuit doesn’t disparage their character? I’ll buy that you, personally, think lying in this particular case wouldn’t reflect poorly on her character, because the target richly deserves to lose, but I don’t see how you can deny that that particular kind of accusation tend to defame characters in the world in which we actually live. That this is generally seen as a pretty shady thing to do can’t seriously be contested.

                • Nobdy

                  I wouldn’t call it ‘lying’ and the goal wouldn’t be to increase damages. I would say that exagerating harm in order to prepare for litigation/scare off someone who is threatening you with a frivolous lawsuit wouldn’t be seen as particularly bad.

                  If you got in a verbal fight with someone and they threatened to sue you for innocent statements you made, and you responded by saying “Well YOU said XYZ and that caused me extreme emotional distress” in order to signal that you have counterclaims and defenses, well, I wouldn’t judge someone for that. Leiter is always threatening defamation lawsuits. Responding by making it clear that you have grounds for harassment/IIED wouldn’t seem to reflect poorly on someone’s character to me. It would be one of the few relatively cheap/simple moves you’d have to push him off filing (though it should be noted that Leiter loves to threaten and never actually seems to sue anyone. All hat, no cattle.)

                • B) Here I’m just explaining why your statement would cause someone to be defensive. Nothing more.

                  So you aren’t defensive? Or you are? Or what? I feel like you want to have it all ways: You’re just speculating/musing but other people opinions provoke defensiveness except maybe not in you.

                  C) And I think those reactions are oversensitive on her behalf. How is she disparaged exactly? There’s not even a hint of assertion that what I peculate about is happening, and if it were happening it wouldn’t reflect poorly on her.

                  1) Oversensitivity is a common demeaning accusation against women.

                  2) The part I was reacting most to was the speculation that she was deceiving people. I mean, did you read the FeministPhilosophers post? If she’s exaggerating to all these people including friends, then yes, I think she’s doing something wrong and I think most people would think so too.

                • Nobdy

                  1) You said I was being unfair. I was a little defensive in response. I never claimed otherwise. I don’t see how this conflicts with anything else I’ve said.

                  2) The FeministPhilosophers post was filtered through someone else, purporting to speak to her. Who knows what she actually told her friend. I don’t want to get your dander up by speculating again, but it’s possible (not even likely but POSSIBLE) that she told her friend to emphasize her distress because she was advised to do so, or that the friend decided to emphasize her distress because either A) She was very offended by Leiter or B) She believed it would have strategic value.

                  Nobody doubts that she was distressed by the interactions, but for them to be something she had to “recover” from…well I don’t want to s-word

                • 1) Fine. I don’t see how it’s a defense against unfairness to say that you are merely speculating. Mere speculation can be unfair. I don’t think and didn’t mean it to be anything deep about you. If it’s mere speculation tossed out for musing with no weight then I don’t see why my evaluation of it as unfair would provoke defensiveness (I said *it* was unfair). But fair enough.

                  2) Well, Jenkins came on in the comments to endorse it.

                  And yes, those things are possible, but it seems most straightforward that it’s a reasonable description or, at best, slightly heightened due to being in the middle of things. As I said, my experience doesn’t put her reaction as I infer it from these claims that outside a reasonable range of reactions.

          • Origami Isopod

            It’s just speculation based on nothing, and stated as such.

            “I’m just sayin’!”

            • Barry_D

              One guy who plays that game stops commenting, and ‘another’ name pops up doing the same thing.

      • Aimai

        Its not an overreaction. If someone sues you–and anyone can sue you–it costs you money, energy, and time. The threat of litigation held over your head is itself draining and highly problematic. In the real world most people don’t “have lawyers” (this is in reference to a few posters upthread who said they would “consult their lawyer” before getting upset) to consult and doing so costs them money. In addition the guy controls a resource–however absurd and parochial and manipulated any ranking system is a resource in today’s mba driven university world. Everyone is vulnerable–and their students are vulnerable–if they get into a pissing match with a vindictive person who has any kind of megaphone or amplifier for their personal grudge match.

        • brugroffil

          I don’t “have a lawyer,” but I’d contact some sort of lawyer if I got a letter threatening legal action.

          I get why Leiter’s actions would cause some anxiety, and certainly a lot of pain in the ass. A pissing match with a petty tyrant who actually does have some power is a bad idea. W

          hat I’m struggling to understand is why it’d cause the level of anxiety that it seemed to (her counselor advising her to avoid reading anything he’s written). I read it as almost PTSD-like levels of anxiety, similar to a rape victim having a breakdown if they are exposed to their trigger.

          • Aimai

            OK, you seem to be a person who lacks imagination so let me spell it out for you. Her original post, which essentially celebrated her happy ascension to being a professor in a treasured field, was instantly stalked and trolled and attacked by a prominent professional in her field who put her on notice that nothing she wrote or published would happen without his eye falling on it, that whatever she wrote could be construed as legally actionable, that he would be watching her to make sure that she steered clear of the sin of ever impinging on his gaping wound of an ego. In other words: she’s minding her own business and an important, touchy, asshole turns out to be stalking her and turning her private and professional life into a legal cause of action.

            In an instant she went from being a person celebrating and engaging with her field and her colleagues into, apparently, the enemy of a person with zero sense of proportionality and restraint–a person so narcissistic that they go out of their way to threaten legal action against a perfect stranger for a perfectly innocuous post that doesn’t reference Leiter at all.

            Like all women she is instantly advised not to engage with her attacker/bully but to “ignore” him and to take actions (like filtering her emails) which might cause her to re-engage with him or provoke him. In other words she is to change her behavior in order to stop drawing his attention and if she finds that difficult to do–like “remembering to forget about the camel’s left knee” well, she’s no different than any other person who is told to continually steer around an obstacle while pretending the obstacle doesn’t exist.

            And the proof that she needs to do that is in the second interaction when her innocuous tweet to a third party creates an opening that Leiter exploits to draw her back into an interaction and to imply that all her thoughts and writings and interactions exist only in reference to Leiter.

            The guy is absolutely like a stalker and an ex–someone who forces an interaction onto you and then monitors you and your social media to make sure that he still matters to you.

            • brad

              One clarification, he wasn’t a perfect stranger, they had interacted in a mutually critical way once or twice prior. Which doesn’t change the core of your response.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              the only thing i might change here is leiter isn’t “like” a stalker, he *is* one

              • Nobdy

                There’s no evidence I’ve seen that he’s physically followed her, so I’d argue that Cyberstalker is a clearer term. You might argue that in the information age the physical aspect isn’t very important, but I think it still is, since there’s a difference between physical intimidation and that done via communication technology.

                • Er..isn’t a common modality of stalking persistent phone calls? (It was for us.) He talks about seeing her at the APA.

                  This study suggest that while there are differences they might be surprising:

                  The study showed victims of cyberstalking do not feel as much fear as traditional stalking victims. “It’s physical proximity that elevates alarm,” Reyns said. “There’s a big difference from knowing someone is standing outside your window as opposed to having them pursue you online.”

                  Despite having a lower level of fear, victims of cyberstalking are the recipients of more threats and attacks than traditional stalking victims….

                  The study also showed victims of cyberstalking spent more than twice the amount of money in self-protection measures, such as changing jobs, buying guns, taking time off work and even altering their appearance.

                • jim, some guy in iowa

                  there’s truth to that, yet i wonder if someone being cyberstalked wouldn’t pretty much tell us to fuck off for thinking that way. this cyber stuff, because it has become such a part of our minute-to-minute lives, can feel very close to home at times

                • Aimai

                  Cyberstalking is a branch of stalking, not a separate thing. Women get stalked in a number of media and if anything cyberstalking can be seen as a prelude to real, physical, harm. In fact there’s a famous case of a female law student who was both cyberstalked and physically followed by a crowd sourced attack that included people physically close to her (in her classes) and people far away from her. Nobdy’s determination to hair split every aspect of this woman’s experience to explain it away, diminish it, or cast doubt on her response is really making me want to retch.

                • The paper is quite good.

                  There is actually some controversy in the literature overall, but I think the argument in their paper is compelling as it is straightforward. (And certain is intuitive to me.)

                  The differences between the only physically stalk and the also cyberstalker are quite interesting and a bit hard to interpret: They report less fear at onset or over time (but not a huge amount less), but they spend about 3x as much on countermeasures and engage in a lot more countermeasures. Countermeasures seem, intuitively, to be a fear driven response, so what the heck is going on?

                  Cyberstalked are whiter and maler and richer than the generally stalked population, but there weren’t any correlations between that and the countermeasure behaviours.

                  And yeah, #justmakingdistinctions (somewhat wrongly).

                • Hogan

                  Bijan: The weather is making me lazy (well, OK, lazier), so let me ask: do the responses of the victims vary by the amount of time they spend online, or was that not part of the data collected? I’m wondering if an academic, much of whose professional life happens in cyberspace, would react more strongly than, say, a lawyer or a cabinetmaker.

                • Your laziness is my chance to go read more!

                  I didn’t see anything specific to that, but the demographic variables are suggestive:

                  Our bivariate results indicated that cyberstalking victims reported significantly higher household income and education levels compared to stalk- ing victims, although neither of these variables was significantly related to self-protective behaviors in the multivariate models. Age was also significantly different in bivariate as well as multivariate tests. These demographic differences suggest support for the so-called “digital divide,” a term used to characterize social inequality in access to technologies, including the Internet. Specifically, it suggests that younger, more educated, and more affluent individuals have greater access to various technologies for personal communication and information sharing. The digital divide in the USA has been attributed to differential access to technology infrastructure (e.g. broadband Internet access) as well as lacking educational opportunities for some groups, resulting in stratification in technology adoption. However, in this case greater access to technology may also increase risk for cyberstalking victimisation.

                  and

                  The current study also determined that cyberstalking victims engaged in more self-protective behaviors compared to stalking victims. Although the data do not permit a thorough investigation of the reason behind this finding, we offer a plausible explanation couched in the dynamics of online interaction. Compared to stalking, it is possible that the nature of cyberstalking elicits a very personal violation for victims, which may elicit more diverse and more frequent protec- tive actions. At first glance, this may seem counterintuitive given that stalking often involves more immediate physical exposure to offenders and, hence, to potential danger (e.g. being followed). Considering the ubiquity of technology, however, as well as the amount of exposure people now have to its different forms, it is plausible that contact through this medium is just as personal as, or more personal than, face-to-face contact. Today, many people spend more time communicating electronically than they do in person, resulting in what Hallowell (1998, p. 60) describes as a “tide of electronic hyperconnection.” Internet use generally and use of social media specifically are trends that affect human inter- action on a massive scale. Recent estimates suggest that 93% of Americans ages 12-17 and 18-29 go online, and the sizable majority (73% and 72%, respectively) of each group reports using social networking sites (Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, & Zickuhr, 2010). In fact, Lenhart and colleagues (2010, p. 5) remark that “the Internet is a central and indispensable element in the lives of American teens and young adults.” Another way to state this is that the rise of personal technolo- gies is changing human socialization, and a cyberstalking experience is increas- ingly likely to be perceived as an intimate violation rather than an annoyance insulated by technology.

                  However, technology might still structure the experience and reactions differently:

                  Technology also changes risk/exposure profiles for victims and facilitates information discovery in more pervasive ways. This potentially makes stalking easier and self-protection more difficult (Newman & Clarke, 2003), perhaps because “sensitive” personal information on the Internet is harder to shield from a motivated assailant. Alternatively, the nature of cyberstalking via social networking sites may be influential in differentiating victim behavior because it is semipublic. For instance, in a stalking case, the contact between perpe- trator and victim may be largely restricted to one-on-one encounters (e.g. phone calls, following and spying) that are dismissed or endured by the victim, who may second guess the instinct to take more serious protective action. In a cyberstalking case, especially one involving social media as an instrument of communication, the presence of inappropriate or embarrassing content cannot be as easily overlooked because it is instantly visible to others close to the vic- tim, including peers and family. The use of technology in the cyberstalking case, therefore, may be simultaneously more harmful to the victim’s psycho- logical well-being and reputation, thus more decisive in spurring quicker self- protective action. Certainly, examining these consequences of victimization may be of particular interest for researchers who want to further compare and contrast stalking and cyberstalking victimization.

                  Furthermore, the findings indicated that while experiencing a physical attack was signifi- cantly associated with increased self-protective behaviors for cyberstalking vic- tims, it was not significant for stalking victims. These findings may appear to be counterintuitive, given the distal nature of cyberstalking compared to stalk- ing. One explanation is that face-to-face offenders appear more credible, thus victims react with self-protective behaviors at the threat stage rather than reacting once an attack begins or after an attack has occurred, to prevent sub- sequent victimization. However, it is also possible that the cyberstalking cases available from the SVS simply reflected the most severe characteristics of all the stalking cases (in which physical violence co-occurred with cyberstalking). Alternatively, there may be a threshold effect for cyberstalking, in which mildly objectionable behaviors in cyberspace tend not to be taken seriously until they escalate in seriousness, duration, or other modalities. Thus, many stalking victims may immediately take protective action while cyberstalking victims delay until after a physical attack occurs.

                • Hogan

                  Thanks, Bijan.

            • brugroffil

              Thank you for explaining it. This is basically what I was asking for, minus the opening line.

              • postmodulator

                You don’t want to hear this, but frankly, you were asking for that too.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  If you’re going to hang out in a hive of scum and villainy like this, filled with objectively despicable commenters, then you’re asking for whatever you get—and you deserve to get it good and hard. BLOG POLICY.

                • Origami Isopod

                  +1

                  His comments throughout have smacked of, “Well, I wouldn’t get all anxious over that, so why should anyone else?”

                • brugroffil

                  Origami,

                  Sure, if you ignore where I said the opposite of that,you could jump to that conclusion. “Can someone explain why this because I don’t understand” isn’t necessarily the same thing as “I don’t understand, must be bullshit.”

                  I was looking for pretty much exactly what aimai said, and I understand the issue much better now. I genuinely appreciate her post.

                • brugroffil

                  late edit: as well as Bijan’s

                • brugroffil, you’re welcome. Glad to help.

          • brad

            I think she was advised not to read anything by him as part of the “don’t make trouble” ‘advice’ that in this context can be just as possibly understood as ‘command’ from a higher ranking colleague. I could be wrong about that, but it’s very possible from the way its presented.
            The anxiety is, I’d wager, that she’s being told to shut up like a good little girl if she wants to keep being allowed in the boy’s club. And if not she’ll be stripped of her voice, job, and, if legal proceedings were to happen, any money she might have managed to cobble together in a life of academia.

            • brugroffil

              That makes more sense than my original reading of it.

            • Warren Terra

              Yeah, I read it as advice (iirc the word “counsel” or “counseling” was used, making it vague as to whether it was professional/career advice or mental health/wellbeing advice) that she shouldn’t get drawn into pissing contests with this asshole, that no good and much bad could come from that and at the very least it would be a distraction from her life and career goals, and that the best way to avoid all that was to ignore Leiter as completely as possible.

              • Lee Rudolph

                she shouldn’t get drawn into pissing contests with this asshole

                Don’t bring an asshole to a pissing contest!

          • rea

            I don’t “have a lawyer,” but I’d contact some sort of lawyer if I got a letter threatening legal action.

            Good idea! That will be $500, please.

        • Nobdy

          Sure, being sued sucks. And yes the threat of litigation sucks. And obviously a threat by a powerful colleague sucks.

          But these are things people face and have to deal with. Maybe they shouldn’t, but life will bring you into contact with jerks, even powerful jerks who wish you harm. To have such a strong psychological reaction seems extreme to me. On the other hand from a practical perspective not having further contact with Leiter seems like a good idea.

          • Aimai

            Could you please stop randomly asserting that this woman is some kind of weak willed hysteric? You have zero idea how many “powerful jerks” she has already come into contact with, how powerful this particular jerk seems to her and her department to be, and what the consquences of his jerkiness are to her. You have no idea whether this is the first straw, or the last straw, in a life filled with abuse and lawsuits from assholes or what advice she received. But whatever the issue for this woman what some random blog commenter thinks about the appropriate way for her to feel about itis the farthest thing from meaningful that you can get.

            • Nobdy

              I didn’t call her a weak willed hysteric or make any judgment about her character at all (obviously I don’t know her). I just said that in this circumstance, as laid out in the links presented, it seems like an overreaction TO me. I also speculated idly (and disclaimed that it was idle speculation based on nothing) that it wasn’t a bad litigation tactic to allege harm.

              You are taking what was clearly stated as idle speculation based on extremely limited evidence and making a big deal about it. You are also positing all kinds of hypotheticals that might change my opinion but also have no evidence to them.

              You’re right that what I’m saying isn’t particularly meaningful, and it isn’t intended to be particularly meaningful. That’s sort of the point of idle speculation. You throw an idea out there, mull it over, see if it has any traction.

              • CD

                “mull it over”

                You might try a little mulling *before* hitting Submit.

              • Origami Isopod

                That’s sort of the point of idle speculation. You throw an idea out there, mull it over, see if it has any traction.

                Other people’s problems are intellectual parlor games, I guess.

            • djw

              You have zero idea how many “powerful jerks” she has already come into contact with, how powerful this particular jerk seems to her and her department to be, and what the consquences of his jerkiness are to her.

              She’s a full Professor of Philosophy at a research univeristy. The odds that she hasn’t had some considerable experience with powerful jerks of the male gender is vanishingly low.

              • Warren Terra

                I thought she was just stating her faculty position, making her assistant or associate professor (I always get those muddled) not Full Professor?

                Not that your point is significantly less true if she’s slightly more junior than you seem to assert.

                • From the original statement:

                  Yesterday was my first day as Full Professor at UBC, so it seemed like as good a time as any to reflect on a few points about how I want to conduct my professional life.

                  All the other sources (e.g., a dept web page) say associate.

          • brad

            Two key points;
            1. women in philosophy are constantly being minimized and effectively, if not directly, being told to shut up. He came at her, and the ‘advice’ she got from on high in response was to leave him alone. Even if it means being silent. She’s almost certainly had to fight hard against this attitude to get where she is, and now she’s being told her achievements and indeed stability in life depend in part on the perceptions and whims of someone else who she barely knows and has a history of frankly evil shit. That’d be unnerving for anyone.
            2. She’s a scholar. In a very real sense her voice is all she has, it’s who she is. To check, limit, qualify that is to take away a piece of her self.

          • Scott Lemieux

            But these are things people face and have to deal with.

            This is certainly the attitude bullies count on enough people having. Boys will be boys, and if they wanted to threaten much less powerful people with lawsuits to protect their puerile obsession with rankings and superficial status, just suck it up amirite?

            • Nobdy

              That’s not at all my position. Read my responses in this thread, I think Brian Leiter is a complete jerk, should be called out all over the place and punished.

              I also acknowledge that it’s not his victim’s job to do any of these things.

              Neither of those positions prevents me from saying that resiliance is a good trait that people should aspire to, or from saying that I think someone’s reaction to a negative stimulus was stronger than I’d expect.

              Brian Leiter can be an evil bully who should be punished AND his victim can overreact.

              I also think your selective quoting here is unfair. I never minimized Leiter’s wrongdoing or said anything close to “boys will be boys” with regards to his bad behavior.

              • Ronan

                My instinct would be to agree on the ‘over-reaction’ part (going on the little bits we know) and with the rest of your comment.
                Though people react in different ways, i dont know if theres neccesarily anything right/wrong or good/bad about it.

                • Origami Isopod

                  Though people react in different ways, i dont know if theres neccesarily anything right/wrong or good/bad about it.

                  Exactly. It depends a great deal on uncontrollable factors, including but not limited to psychiatric conditions. People who claim that “resilience” is a moral virtue are no different to me than “get the fuck over it and stop being a victim” bullies.

              • Origami Isopod

                Neither of those positions prevents me from saying that resiliance is a good trait that people should aspire to,

                So is knowing when to put the shovel down, for Christ’s sake.

                • Aimai

                  I guess the only remaining thing to be said is that “resilience” though a very nice trait and all that has absolutely nothing to do with the case at hand. Nothing the Professor has done indicates she “lacks resilience” or needs to be counseled or lectured about the appropriate way to handle a legal and personal assault on her academic credentials and her writing by Nobdy and Ronan and any other random dudes on the internet.

                • Ronan

                  Weird that you’d see my one (4 line) comment in this thread, which more or less says how she reacts is neither here nor there, as a lecture.

                • Aimai

                  The phrase “over-reaction” is itself a judgment as to the normalcy or abnormalcy of her reaction.IT is an assertion that her reaction was wrong, over the top, not justified by his attack on her. Just because you added the second, “neither here nor there” doesn’t take away from that.

                • Ronan

                  I offered a limited personal opinion(what my instinctive reaction was) and admitted it wasnt overly relevant, more a normative preference. I certainly havent engaged in ‘lecturing’, whether on a par with Nbdy or (Id say) by any reasonable definition of the word ‘lecture.’

                • Aimai

                  I think you are overreacting.

                • Ronan

                  Of course. And Ive no problem with you thinking such a thing. We all have such preferences and opinions, I dont see the problem.

                • Aimai

                  I think you misunderstand what is going on in this conversation. You and Nobdy both asserted that your opinions of this professor’s behavior were reasonable and normative. Your vantage point, you are both asserting, is the correct one. Meanwhile hers was incorrect: She “over-reacted” but a normal person would have simply “reacted” i.e. acted correctly. Nobdy even advanced the novel idea that she did so to affect her position legally, that she was behaving strategically and manipulatively rather than honestly. So not only was she “overreacting” she was doing so duplicitously and strategically and therefore people who defended her as the victim of an attack are being fooled/manipulated/used in her eventual legal strategy.

                  Can you really not see how problematic this is–how very close to victim blaming this is? How you’ve taken a discussion of Leiter’s agressive behavior and turned it into a discussion (at least as much as we’d let you) into a discussion of the victim’s errors and even one might say evils of response?

                  ETA: no doubt you are going to add that your original “I think she overreacted” was nothing but a personal opinion relative to your own probable actions if you were in her situation. I’m sure you sincerely think that but if you have never been in her position you have no reason to know what you would do. Apologies for speaking a hard truth to you but many people are completely unaware of their real personality type, their real propensity for action or emotion, or the reality of what an ugly situation actually will do to them. People who tell other people to “suck it up” and “tough it out” are the first to run shrieking for help when their own toes get stepped on or they find out what real abuse is like–or they curl up in a ball and start whimpering. Not only did this professor not “overreact” to the situation that presented itself to her but you have no basis to assert that you or other “normal” people would have reacted any differently.

                • Ronan

                  Well, I’d delete ‘normative preference’ in this subthread. I dont really know what my ‘preference’is, as a generality. As per your ETA – I don’t think that. Ive reacted(and will react again) to situations that, retrospectively, I thought was over the top(or disproportionate to what had happened).. and at other times, to situations that were genuinely awful, surprisingly well. People react how they react, I agree.
                  I didnt mean to support (implicitly) Nobdys arguments on the importance of ‘resilience’ (whatever that means), this is explictly stated in the second part of the comment:

                  “Though people react in different ways, i dont know if theres neccesarily anything right/wrong or good/bad about it.”

                  (I also wouldnt have used the word ‘over-reaction’ myself – which is why I put it in scare quotes)

                  Perhaps for clarity I should have left out what my reaction *WAS* , that I thought the response seemed disproportiante to the situation, from what we knew. The comment was more meant as, ‘I sympathise with what you’re saying, this was my reaction as well. However I dont think it’s really relevant or important.’ The comment was obviously ambiguous and poorly phrased, i didnt mean to imply she was ‘wrong.’

                  However,the idea that I tried to turn it ‘into a discussion of the victim’s errors’ or that I lectured her is wrong. I said nothing bar that one comment.

                  Anyway I’ll leave it there. There are more interesting things to do than engage in a close reading of my four line comment.

              • Scott Lemieux

                Brian Leiter can be an evil bully who should be punished AND his victim can overreact.

                Well, yes, but when the latter point is made in part with implausible, unfounded and insulting speculation about how the “overreaction” was possibly bad faith and strategic, it really tends to undermine point #1.

                • ChrisTS

                  “Her rapist could be a violent scumbag and she could have been asking for it!”

          • Jordan

            Cool story, bro.

            • Aimai

              Jordan your sardonic commentary is too far down the thread to have any real effect–but I am enjoying it nonetheless. Please convey my respect and sympathy to the Professor.

              • Jordan

                Yeah, the one time LGM makes a post I have personal knowledge about, I don’t even see it until too late. Meh.

      • Jordan

        Its not. I do have some personal knowledge here.

        • Thanks for that. I’m sorry, in a way, to hear that. If you’re in a position to do, please convey my (qua random internet person) best wishes.

          • Jordan

            I’m not sure how to say this, exactly. I don’t know Carrie, although I kinda know her husband (also: anyone I’ve ever talked to, basically, in philosophy would care more about what she says than Leiter, about the actual philosophical content).

            But either way, yeah, its not a “pre-litigation strategy”.

  • So you’re saying Leiter is the John Kwok of academia?

  • Pingback: party line continentalists | NSSR Philosophy()

    • Gwen

      I found this to be an interesting link.

      Specifically, it is interesting to me as a J.D., that a philosophy-of-law guy would get all bent-out-of-shape over something like this.

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        If you have a JD, surely you have met several law professors, and would therefore realize that most of them are hardwired to go off the deep end if their magnificence is perceived to be sullied in any real or imaginary way. I could picture almost every law professor I ever had to engage in variations upon this general theme.

  • Joe_JP

    A highlight of his assholery was in defense of enabling torturers (on free speech grounds) but this call out by a mild mannered sort is telling:

    http://balkin.blogspot.com/2013/07/leiters-contradictory-conclusion.html

  • Gwen

    I’m pretty sure that as soon as you threaten to sue people because of their ideas, you cease to be a “lover of knowledge.” So why do we keep referring to Brian Leiter as a philosopher?

    • Because it would defamation per se in Canada if we didn’t! And we want to visit Canada some day!?

      • Gwen

        Yes we might have to if a real progressive like Rand Paul is elected president.

  • Thers

    This is kind of a side point, but Leiter apparently write this sentence:

    “I told him he was only a charlatan when it came to wine expertise in a separate tweet.”

    This is a person who should not be allowed on the Internet.

    • Scott Lemieux

      I have always thought your claim to be an expert in Irish stouts was wholly fraudulent.

      • Irish Stout: Beamish > Guinness

        • MacK

          What about Murphy’s

          • Scott Lemieux

            Both now brewed at the same place, since the Beamish plant in Cork got shut down.

            • MacK

              I stopped drinking stout a few years ago and don’t get to Southern Munster that much – so I don’t get a chance to compare the three.

  • One question that comes to my mind is whether Leiter is violating UoC policies. It’s not clear:

    The ideas of different members of the University community will frequently conflict, and we do not attempt to shield people from ideas that they may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even offensive. Nor, as a general rule, does the University intervene to enforce social standards of civility. There are, however, some circumstances in which behavior so violates our community’s standards that formal University intervention may be appropriate. Acts of violence, explicit threats of violence directed at a particular individual that compromise that individual’s safety or ability to function within the University setting, or other criminal acts are direct affronts to the University’s values and warrant intervention by University officials. Abusive conduct directed at a particular individual that compromises that individual’s ability to function within the University setting and/or that persists after the individual has asked that it stop may also warrant such intervention. Even if formal intervention is not appropriate in a particular situation, abusive or offensive behavior can nonetheless be inconsistent with the aspirations of the University community, and various forms of informal assistance and counseling are available.

    (It’s not clear how these apply outside the university.)

    There are some policies on use of social media that could be applicable if the target can be a non-univeristy member.

    I suspect that a whole lot of the time people are in technical violation.

    Unfortunately, the discussion on misconduct in the faculty handbook is super terse:

    Discipline is handled initially at the unit level. In the case of faculty or academic personnel misconduct, the member’s chair or director may investigate the matter and respond appropriately. If the matter is of a more serious nature, it normally will be investigated by the appropriate dean. Should the matter persist or be of a still more serious nature, the provost may be consulted. The chair, director, dean, or provost may opt to refer the matter to a faculty committee for investigation and consultation. Issues of unlawful harassment, academic fraud, or conflict of interest will be investigated by the respective standing panel or committee in accordance with those specific policies.

    Hmm. There has to be more, somewhere.

    • MacK

      Bijan:

      The policy you listed on its face applies within the U of Chicago – at least as far as:

      Abusive conduct directed at a particular individual that compromises that individual’s ability to function within the University setting and/or that persists after the individual has asked that it stop may also warrant such intervention. Even if formal intervention is not appropriate in a particular situation, abusive or offensive behavior can nonetheless be inconsistent with the aspirations of the University community, and various forms of informal assistance and counseling are available.

      “the University” stated with caps is a defined term, and would seem to indicate that what is meant is the University of Chicago. However, this does seem to be a policy primarily directed at students rather than faculty, since it comes from the Student Handbook. That is perhaps bad from the perspective of Brian Leiter since he cannot actually rely on the “function within the University,” language.

      What this leaves is an open-ended question of what constitutes “misconduct” by a faculty member that means that they may face discipline. The quoted section (along with “Termination & Removal for Cause”), along with the rest of the faculty handbook would appear to specify certain behaviors as misconduct (explaining who would address such behaviors):

      • unlawful harassment;
      • academic fraud;
      • conflict of interest;
      • sexual harassment.

      However, these categories seem open ended and include the generality of academic and faculty misconduct. Faculty misconduct in particular would seem to be the broadest and most general of possible charges – the question becomes, what transforms public behavior into “faculty” misconduct.

      On could perhaps seem faculty misconduct as requiring somehow the UC to be implicated in the conduct – some level of contact with UC. This could in effect be a little like “mail fraud” or “wire fraud.” To explain:

      18 U.S.C. §1341 (Part I Chapter 63) which, because it was enacted when the power of the Federal Government was more limited, was confined to acts that in some way used the U.S. Mail (a Federal agency.) A huge number of actions may provide a basis for mail fraud, if a single letter or package has been sent via U.S. Mail to an address in the United States

      In effect a single letter (or a single phone-call or e-mail in the case of wire-fraud) in the course of the conspiracy establishes jurisdiction.

      In such a theory any use by Leiter of UC facilities to conduct the “misconduct” he is accused of, for example his office, his university provided computer, his university e-mail would put the misconduct arguably within the “faculty misconduct” category.

      So this raises the second question, has Leiter engaged in misconduct. Well he certainly has behaved badly (he is objectively a “shit”) – but does this rise to the level of misconduct? It is also often academics have an obligation to the institutions that they work at not to bring them into disrepute – it is certainly arguable that Leiter is bringing UC into disrepute. By the way, Leiter has often leveled this accusation against Campos with the insinuation that Colorado should discipline or fire Campos, so he can hardly suggest that apply the same standard to his behavior would be wrong (but Leiter is quite the hypocrite.) There are plenty of juicy quotes from Leiter to be found were he to argue that discipline on the basis of his recent behaviour is inappropriate. He also supported Nancy Leong’s case against Dybbuk based similarly on what he though was excessively sulphurous attacks on Leong.

      So hmmmm. Maybe the best thing would be to have a disciplinary hearing – in public.

      • Yeah, sorry for the pastiche. I looked at the Student, Employee, and Faculty handbooks (the faculty was the less informative) as well as some IT pages. In some institutions there is a “campus code” that both students and faculty are required to adhere to.

        There’s obviously an interaction with academic freedom, though I think specific actions and communications which 1) caused severe distress (regardless of the “overness” of that reaction), 2) were unwelcome and avoided by the target, and 3) were not required by any normal university function would be at most weakly protected and subject to disciplinary action.

        (For example, if Salaita used the language of his tweets in class directed at a Jewish student persistently even after the student requested he stop and evidenced distress, then he would be very appropriately subject to discipline.)

        Or so my parochial, Persiasto-Philadelphic perspective suggests ;)

        • MacK

          It is an interesting question of what amounts to faculty misconduct.

          Typically – there has to be some engagement of the University as such. That is why the student handbook makes the impact on someone in the University an issue.

          But it would seem that Leiter is not engaging in this activity from Persia or Philadephia – but rather from Chicago and – if the wikipedia entry is to be believed, from his Chicago issued computer and using a UChi IP address. He also tends to use his title as the Karl Llewelyn Professor at Chicago (by the way, Karl Llewelyn had a personally rather bizarre history in WW I, which was not mentioned much afterwards.) So given his tendency to use UChi facilities and to do things ex Cathedra as “Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence” and also as a Professor of Philosophy at UChi – there would seem to be strong arguments that UChi has disciplinary authority over his activities.

          So – assuming the “faculty” part is out of the way, does this amount to “misconduct.” I’ll admit I am not sure. But it is interesting that the student handbook you cited listed:

          Abusive conduct directed at a particular individual that compromises that individual’s ability to function within the University setting and/or that persists after the individual has asked that it stop may also warrant such intervention

          Were one to rewrite this as:

          Abusive conduct directed at a particular individual that compromises that individual’s ability to function within the University setting[that uses university facilities or a faculty member’s title in the University] and/or that persists after the individual has asked that it stop may also warrant such intervention

          Then arguably Leiter has stepped over the line.

          One could also read the item with the and/or as meaning

          Abusive conduct directed at a particular individual that compromises that individual’s ability to function within the University setting and/or that persists after the individual has asked that it stop may also warrant such intervention

          This is a possible logical reading of what the and/or means, i.e., it makes persistent harassment a violation even out of the University setting.

          • rea

            Karl Llewelyn had a personally rather bizarre history in WW I, which was not mentioned much afterwards

            Not many American citizens won the Iron Cross in that war . .

            • MacK

              And then in 1917 tried to volunteer for the US army to be rejected as having questionable loyalty (Yale was somewhat evasive as to why he could not get into the US army.)

          • Yeah, that was pretty much my take. I could also easily read “University setting” as including members of other universities. I mean, if Leiter were to kick over a table at the eastern APA smoker and scream epithets in someone’s face, it seems hard to believe that wouldn’t count as part of the university setting (conceived as activities pertaining to the university mission, not just physical proximity).

            Also, he really isn’t a professor of philosophy at Chicago, but is listed as a “resource faculty“. That is, he is definitely not cross appointed.

            I don’t know that it matters all that much.

      • yupyup

        I would be extraordinarily interested in hearing Nancy Leong’s take on all this, seeing as how she’s been a victim of cyber-harassment and seems to be an avowed feminist. (by cyber-harassment, I’m referring not to ‘dybbuk’s interaction with her, but the responses she received from others after wrongfully accusing him of harassment (with a lot of assistance from one Brian Leiter)).

  • Texas Law Grad 1979

    For me, the real question here is whether Brian Leiter is a lawyer. He goes around claiming he is, and unlike being a philosopher, this is a claim that is actually falsifiable. Based on searches on state bar websites, I found that he is not licensed to practice law in the following states:

    1. New Jersey (where he went to Princeton)
    2. Michigan (where he went to law school)
    3. Texas (where he taught for 13 years)
    4. Illinois (where he has taught for the past 6 years)
    5. California
    6. New York
    7. The District of Columbia.

    Since these are several of the largest bars, I think it is very likely that Brian Leiter is not licensed to practice law anywhere and he is in fact not a lawyer, though he claims to be one. I would like to note that this is not splitting hairs and the fact that he has a JD is not important. You are either licensed, or you’re not a lawyer.

    • Well, his CV says:

      Other Professional Experience:
      Litigation Associate, Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler, New York, NY, 1987-88 (admitted to the New York Bar, 1988 [now inactive]).

      Which seems pretty definitive.

      • Texas Law Grad 1979

        Looked at his CV and didn’t catch it. So, he’s not actually a lawyer.

        • Eh. I think he bills himself as a legal scholar. If he refers to himself as a lawyer I think he only means that he has a JD etc. ie not a practicing lawyer.

          I am surprised that more law profs don’t maintain their status in the bar. Aside from practicing, aren’t there key things you can only do as a member (eg influence bar policy?)

          • dr. fancypants

            I am surprised that more law profs don’t maintain their status in the bar.

            (a) It costs a not-insignificant amount of money. (b) They’d have to satisfy the bar’s continuing legal education requirements, which cost both time and money.

            Aside from practicing, aren’t there key things you can only do as a member (eg influence bar policy?)

            For most of us, I think the only thing key about bar membership is that it allows us to practice.

            • Lee Rudolph

              (b) They’d have to satisfy the bar’s continuing legal education requirements, which cost both time and money.

              If ever there were a legitimate place of “professional courtesy”, you’d think it would be in obviating at least the money part of continuing legal education requirements for legal educators.

              • You can earn CLE credit hours in NY by doing Law Professorish stuff:

                Speaking and Teaching—Credit may be earned for speaking and teaching at a program accredited by the CLE Board, including accredited programs presented to summer associates or to nonattorney judges or justices. Three (3) CLE credit hours are awarded for each 50 minutes of presentation.

                Law Competitions—Credit may be earned for preparing students for and judging law competitions, mock trials and moot court arguments, including those at the high school or college level. Ethics and professionalism credit hours are not available for participation in this type of CLE activity.

                Teaching Law Courses—Credit may be earned for teaching law courses at an ABA-accredited law school. One (1) CLE credit hour is awarded for each 50 minutes of instruction. No additional credit may be earned for preparation time. The ABA-accredited law school is responsible for issuing appropriate certification to the instructor documenting the name of attorney, name, date and location of course, breakdown of categories of credit and the number of New York CLE credit hours earned.

                Publications—Credit may be earned for legal research-based writing that (i) has been published or accepted for publication, in print or electronically, in the form of an article, chapter, book, revision or update, (ii) was written in whole or in substantial part by the applicant, and (iii) contributes substantially to the continuing legal education of the applicant and other attorneys. “Legal research- based writing,” under this subsection, is defined as writing that has as its primary purpose to increase the professional legal competency of attorneys in ethics and professionalism, skills, law practice management and/or areas of professional practice.

    • ichininosan

      He is a lawyer, admitted to practice in New York. Look it up: http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/attorney/AttorneySearch

      • Ok! Yes, so “inactive” doesn’t mean “Lapsed”, here.

        • Hogan

          But!

          New York does not have an “inactive” status. All duly-admitted New York attorneys are required to file the biennial registration form, either with payment of the $375.00 fee, or with a certification of retirement.

          Questions remain!

          • The only thing that makes sense is that he maintains his registration but doesn’t practice.

            This page says he’s due to reregister in 2016.

            • Hogan

              His CV specifically says “inactive.” I think he should sue himself for defamation. Or maybe he should sue the New York State Bar Association. Somebody needs to sue somebody, is what I’m saying.

              • ichininosan

                self-defamation per se

  • MacK

    Inter alia, I have always found Leiter (the Blighter)’s threats to bring defamation actions in jurisdictions more friendly to such cases such as Canada and/or England & Wales a trifle hilarious. Let me explain the ways in which they reveal Leiter to be a legal ignoramus:

    1. Bringing suit in a jurisdiction means, and there is plenty of precedent to support this, submitting to that jurisdiction. What does that mean in practice – Leiter could then promptly be sued for defamation in Canada/England & Wales – not just as a counterclaim (and anyone he sued would have one in all likelihood, because Leiter spews defamation as part of his usual whine) but by others who would be able to use Leiter’s own allegations of jurisdiction. Of course maybe Leiter is too dim to recognise how many things he has said that are per se defamatory in English law.

    2. “Costs follow the events,” “the loser pays” or the “English rule” has a series of interesting effects. First, defamation cases are very often lost by the plaintiff, second they are very often quite expensive, and third there is no proper contingency fee system (and no-one would insure this case.) In practice this means that Leiter would have to pay his solicitor and barrister up front.

    3. But even worse, because Leiter is not a resident of Canada or England & Wales and has no significant assets there, he would almost inevitably be required to put up security for costs – i.e., he would have to pay hundreds of thousands into court to cover the defendant’s legal costs should Leiter lose.

    So Leiter is threatening to do something that: (a) could result in his facing devastating counter-claims and counter-suits in unfriendly jurisdictions; (b) would require him to pay very expensive solicitors and barristers; and (c) take our a second mortgage in order to make a security for costs deposit that he very likely would lose.

    • Aimai

      I hope Jordan forwards this to the Professor in question.

    • Hogan

      Inter alia, I have always found Leiter (the Blighter)’s threats to bring defamation actions in jurisdictions more friendly to such cases such as Canada and/or England & Wales a trifle hilarious.

      Does he pull that stuff on law professors, or only on philosophers?

      • Aimai

        Sorry: this should go here, under Hogan’s comment:

        I used to be in a hybrid-ish field and when I was a member of Law and Society I found that people who straddled both sides of the legal AND field–law and sociology, law and philosophy, law and economics were sometimes worse than practitioners in any single field. Its like their law degrees enabled them to despise someone who only had a Ph.D. in one field as not smart enough, or agressive enough, or real world enough for the JD and the Ph.D (if they had one, but if not their position teaching sometimes in the other discipline) enabled them to mouth off against their law colleagues as not smart enough or not specialized enough. You found them bragging to their law colleagues about their publications on anthropology/econ/sociology and to their antrho/econ/sociology colleagues about their publications in law but they were often very careful to keep the two personas separate for fear that their law colleagues would criticize their legal scholarship and their discipline colleagues would criticize their discipline scholarship.

        • rea

          Yeah: it’s classic.

          The lawyers all think he’s sketchy on the law, but really knows his stuff when it comes to philosophy.

          The philosophers all think he’s dubious on philosophy, but really knows his stuff when it comes to the law.

          • Aimai

            Its like that chacter from The Phantom Tolbooth who lives in a house with four doors: one labeled “the tallest midget,” one labled “the shortest giant,” one labled “the fattest thin man” and the other labled “the thinnest fat man.” (IIRC)

            • Turkle

              Or Marx and Engels’ classic:

              “M. Proudhon has the misfortune of being peculiarly misunderstood in Europe. In France, he has the right to be a bad economist, because he is reputed to be a good German philosopher. In Germany, he has the right to be a bad philosopher, because he is reputed to be one of the ablest French economists. Being both German and economist at the same time, we desire to protest against this double error.”

            • Unemployed_Northeastern

              My sides are many,
              My angles are not few,
              I am the dodecahedron,
              Who, may I ask, are you?

              I love that book.

        • MacK

          Actually, come to think of it calling someone “unprofessional” especially in a “profession” like philosophy is not that likely to be defamatory per se in Canada or elsewhere. Per se means that proof that the statement was damaging to someone’s reputation is not requires and it is fairly limited in application to accusing someone of a crime, especially one involving moral turpitude, alleging someone has a loathsome (and usually communicable disease) and calling someone mentally ill.

          Leiter is inclined to opine publicly that his opponents are mentally ill and involved in a conspiracy against him, are liars, etc. He has accused several of what appears to be academic dishonesty – so as it happens on the defamation/libel per se issue, well it is not something Leiter should discuss.

          Worse for Leiter is that truth is always a defence to defamation/libel. There is a definite possibility that much of Leiter’s behaviour could be found by a court to be unprofessional – which would make his bringing a case even more unwise – it could result in a formal finding that….

          • Unemployed_Northeastern

            “Leiter is inclined to opine publicly that his opponents are mentally ill and involved in a conspiracy against him”

            I meant to tell you – Campos changed the address of the kegger this weekend from the abandoned submarine base to the hollowed out volcano. Pass it along, huh?

            • The Dark Avenger

              It’s obvious now why the initials of this website is LGM. Are the Greys invited too?

        • BoredJD

          I’m not familiar with Leiter or whether his cross-disciplinary work is considered valid by pure academic philosophers- he does have a PhD in philosophy after all. His publication record in philosophy journals also seems pretty extensive.

          I’ve dealt with other law professors who try to cross-disciplines though. I get the sense that they think because they are generally very smart people, who jumped through the requisite hoops in the elite levels of a profession which is full of smart people, they are qualified to opine on subjects in which they have no formal academic training but that they have read a lot of stuff about almost as a hobby (perhaps the pay differential between law and humanities professors contributes to this). This gets reinforced by their brief stints in the profession as big firm associates or law clerks, where they are expected to quickly gain a working knowledge of various areas (as demonstrated by a lot of Supreme Court opinions with extensive citations to academic work in other fields). And the law review publication process does very little to ensure that intradisciplinary work is vetted. Hell, the third-year law students reading the damn things usually don’t have a specific background even in the “law” part of a “law and” article, but they can sure look up the CV of the professor.

          Now I’m sure a lot of law professors submit drafts to pure academics in those fields to make sure that their work makes sense. But I’ve seen what happens when a law review article with a heavy intradisciplinary bent is submitted to a peer reviewed publication in that field. It is not pretty.

      • MacK

        No – on lawyers and law professors my impression is that he tries to badmouth them to their dean and get one of his creatures (.e., Diamond) to do the same.

        Threatening defamation to a lawyer/law professor would result in a blow-it-out your ass response.

  • liberal

    Yawn…I’d be much more interested in hearing what people think of Leiter’s attack on Dworkin’s philosophy.

  • NW

    I am an academic spouse whose partner was Leitered many years ago and so I know from experience that he never quits. While the event that sparked his bullying campaign may be long gone, he will persist for years, even decades, in fact, seemingly just for the malicious fun of it. He’s already persisted in targeting Carrie from July to September, and no doubt that would just have been the start (and may still just be the start) had he not been publicly called out by the ongoing collective attempt to try to stop him, once and for all.

    Threats of legal action and public humiliation — followed by “but it’s just a joke!” or “but you misunderstood” non-apologies utterly lacking in consideration for his targets, because that’s how narcissists react — are a tiny tip of the Leiter iceberg once you become one of his targets.

    Years after the fact of the initial events, my partner is still periodically targeted publicly, and what goes on outside of the eye of the public is even more egregious. And I know for a fact that Carrie was well aware of all of that when she became his target. Her reaction was entirely justified, considering his history and what is known about how he operates, and because of his nontrivial power within philosophy.

    Argue all you want about whether that power is justified — it exists, which is really all that matters. Argue all you want about any of the publicly known details about what has transpired in this latest round of Leiterism — I’ve seen what he does, I know first hand the effects it has and that, really, anyone targeted by him should just be prepared for the fact that he will never quit. He really is just that nasty and malignant.

    • I’m very sorry for your experience. I hope the recent reaction will result in him stopping his behaviour toward your spouse.

    • Aimai

      Wow. I”m very sorry to hear this about your partner’s experience. I have been out of academia for a long time but I can remember just how claustrophobic and small-village it is and how, like my village when I was doing anthropology, you can feel very trapped by the actions and whispers of other people. From outside any one incident can seem like nothing, but from inside, with the history of interactions, you can feel like you are in a hitchcock movie with no room to maneuver.

    • MacK

      You have my sympathies – Leiter stalked me a little and sent me a few vaguely threatening e-mails – it was initially unnerving but I’m personally not a good target for that stuff believing in the principle “don’t get mad, get even…” and anyway I’m a litigator – if needs be I can out-asshole Leiter 5 days a week and twice on Mondays. He did set one of his creatures to making some very personal attacks on my then very recently deceased father (including suggesting that he had been a supporter of terrorism) which angered me deeply – but that puts the level that is “even” somewhere higher than it would have been.

      The good news it would seem is that Leiter has Leitered so many people at this point that their numbers seem legion – the speed at which the statement of support has been gathering signatures from prominent philosophers is quite remarkable and an indication of the level of detestation and loathing that Leiter’s behaviour has attracted. In that respect your spouse may want to take the view that being attacked by Leiter is now more of a badge of honour, while the creeps who facilitate his activities seem to be falling away, worried by association.

      • Dude! That’s horrible! I’m very sorry.

        • MacK

          I’m over it, Brian and his minion aren’t….

      • NW

        Thanks for the kind words — they are much appreciated. It feels important for those of us who have first-hand (or close to first-hand) experience with him to speak up about what it’s like. There are particular dynamics in play that may not be so evident. Turns out there are way more of us out here than we might have imagined, which is really saying something.

        And MacK, as a long-time journalist with a few connections of my own, I take much the same view as you do with regard to how to out-asshole an asshole, particularly when the said asshole thinks they’re a lot smarter and craftier than they actually are. (And, geez, really, that’s not about anyone in particular at all.)

        • Aimai

          I was just reading a thread over at Making Light about people’s experiences of family and domestic abuse. They put these threads up and people share their experiences and also serve as “witnesses” to each other, silently or symbolically standing as sharers and witnesses of the experience even when they have nothign concrete to add. I feel like you and MacK are witnessing to and for each other, and Jordan for Professor Jenkins, about what its like to be attacked by Leiter. Its very important. It looks like people have been isolated and toughed it out alone for too long.

          • MacK

            Aimai:

            As it happens, when Leiter pulled his stunt on me, he did several others at the same time – sharing information caused a lot of Leiter’s activities and a few of his minions to come to light. So I did not feel that alone – and with help it did Leiter quite a lot of damage.

            And by the way, since Brian is no doubt reading this – yes – it was me who posted the Leiter -> Pablo Neruda = Peter Aduren guess – I did not hack his e-mail – but still, I derived considerable satisfaction from the outcome.

            • NW

              The situation for my partner was long ago, and although there was some show of support, it wasn’t much in any public way at least, and it wasn’t sustained. People were too concerned and afraid about the damage that could be done to their reputations and about the smear campaign that would (and did) undoubtedly ensue. Incredibly, that whole incident was brought back up again recently, apparently on a slow day of new bullying.

              Some tipping point got reached with what happened with Carrie, coupled with the other most recent instances, that just pushed things enough for a lot of people to decide to speak up in various ways. I think it was the notion that a pledge for civility would be reacted to in such a hostile and aggressive way. A pledge for civility! Seriously!

              • Yes! This is extremely weird! Esp. if you think there’s any kind of prudential model at work.

                But there probably isn’t. Leiter seems fairly reactive rather than self-consciously calculated. The “jokiness” which might seem designed also might spring from a kind of ambivalence (or instinctiveness). Abusive people often use this sort of mix which (intentionally* or not) creates the high level of confusion and anxiety in their targets.

                * From my experience, many abusive types delude themselves. They are oblivious to the various effects of their actions or language even when it produces highly tuned effects.

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  • ChrisTS

    Before I read all the comments, I want to note the ‘irony’ that, at dinner with Loomis last night, I told him about BL’s mini-stalking of me a few years back.

    Short version: he read a comment of mine on a blog to the effect that he can be a jerk. He then emailed me in high dudgeon. After some exchange, he settled down and praise me for using my real, full name on the comment. I HAD NOT. He somehow searched me out.

    • Aimai

      Woah. Creepy.

    • Hogan

      Maybe that’s what he means by “using your real full name”–leaving enough breadcrumbs for him to figure out who and where you are.

    • ChrisTS

      @aimai and hogan:

      I may not hide well. However, my experience with him is that he is indefatigable in searching out any mention of himself online, checking to see if he likes it, and then working until he can find out who dared to say anything less than adoring and sycophantic.

      I am/was a tenured full prof in a department and college that do not give a flying f**k about BL. And, yet, I was rather alarmed by it. Probably just ‘overreacting.’

      • Hogan

        It would be possible to put together a profile of me from my comments here that would lead you to all kinds o’ stuff. And if some stranger (or even a familiar name I’d never met in person) emailed me to announce that he was annoyed by something I’d said and had gone to the trouble of finding me, my next click would be the Glock website.

        • ChrisTS

          :-) Heh. Sadly, anyone who tracked me around the blogosphere would know I would never by a gun.

          • That’s what you *want* them to think!

            Or is it that you just make all your guns yourself? Hardcore!

          • ChrisTS

            Or, ‘buy.’

        • rea

          My identity has been pierced twice online–both times rather innocently by people who meant me no harm and I rather liked. It nevertheless shocked me deeply both times. I can just imagine (or maybe I can’t) how bad it would be to have it done by a hostile person.

      • It is that time of the academic year.

        (Sorry for your stalking! Sucks!)

        • Aimai

          Sorry for your stalking! The new greeting, I suppose. I’m waiting for the line of Hallmark Cards.

          Sorry for your Stalking
          I thought I was just Talking
          But now that we’re Through
          I’ll be following You
          So watch what you say
          and watch what you do…

          • Hogan

            Or one of those musical cards with Every Breath You Take.

          • Sadly, this does seem to be a thing, though not in the way I meant it.

            • ChrisTS

              Holy Moley.

            • Hogan

              “If you love something, set it free. If it doesn’t come back, hunt it down and kill it.”

        • ChrisTS

          Mine was very, very mild by Leiter standards.

  • ChrisTS
  • Ok, this is sort of a weird question: Is there an effective rehabilitation strategy for Leiter (assuming he would be actually sincere in trying to change and make amends)? The thing is, as is too often the case with awful people out of their depth, he clearly has some virtues (e.g., speaking out on Salaita, some good posts on sexual harassment in philosophy, he has very good teaching scores). Is there anything that would make things basically right and provide a path forward? (Without, of course, short changing those he’s abused!)

    I ask this also mindful about the effect on other bad actors in that community. I *like* Jenkins’ vision. I’m not sure how to get there from here.

    • ChrisTS

      First, I think he would need to get some therapy (not being snarky, here). Then he might be able to post a genuinely reflective apology to all whom he has stalked/bullied/tried to destroy. After that, I would think he might need to be quiet for awhile and show people that his behavior really had changed.

      I’m not seeing it as likely. He is a narcissist and paranoid. I think he is really compelled to root out any voice that might criticize him (or appear to via his cracked perspective).

      About the only likely and good thing to come out of this is that he is dis-empowered.

      • Well, I’m trying to imagine being his line manager or chair trying to craft a path forward after a disciplinary hearing.

        The public facts don’t seem to directly warrant a firing (i.e., he gets a chance to reform his behaviour). I don’t think I could, in such a position, mandate therapy. That might even be illegal. I could, I think, mandate sensitivity training and we could discuss some strict rules for online behaviour. But there are some tricky issues about academic freedom.

        Leiter has posted about this and against (online, in many contexts) civility.

        I’ve never fully waded through his thinking on this.

        I will say that I have had a lot of socialisation in giving people the rough side of my tongue and have indulged that probably more than I should. So, I have an impetus to want to justify such behaviour at least some of the time. That makes me perhaps more sympathetic to such arguments than I should be.

        OTOH, I really think there are lines and modes. If you are going to walk on the mean side, you have to at least acknowledge the possible negative outcomes and have some sort of reasonable plan.

        • The Dark Avenger

          Therapy doesn’t do well with personality disorders or whatever is at the bottom of his problems dealing with others.

          • I do wonder if he’s crafted a structure which maximizies his own online disinhibition effect. There’s some prima facie evidence that he can be ok in interpersonal interactions in some contexts (e.g., teaching), but when he’s excused himself from the requirements of civility it all goes escalatingly bad. If you combine a permissive context with a target legitimisation strategy (i.e., targeting fools, etc.), then the behaviour is going to be extreme in that area.

            • Aimai

              I think you are missing a key aspect to all the interactions described–he does ok where he can be the hero (e.g. Salaita) or where he can pose as a patron (e.g. teaching, with his own students, with students who read the Philosophy Rankings) but he does not do well when his primacy and control of a topic or a situation are challenged by equals or superiors. So “ok in interpersonal interactions in some contexts” turns out to be a very narrow subset of interactions that a grown person teaching at a major university is going to have.

              I’m so not surprised by the list of “good things” he can do undercut by the obvious list of crazy, mean, bullying things he does because they really go hand in hand for a certain kind of person. You meet them all the time in politics or in academia: very talented, agressive, people with drive to organize (little bureaus, organizations, newsletters, meetings, protests) who simply can’t brook what they see as insult or contradiction from others. There’s no cure for it–its a deep seated personality trait. Sometimes they are valuable to the organization as a whole and they can’t be unseated. Sometimes they are just crazy people with a tiny talent in a small fiefdom or room in the basement and when they lash out at the wrong person they eventually get bounced.

              • I wouldn’t be surprised if your portrait was correct. I add two things: 1) he’s clearly super combative, and that can look good in the service of right and 2) I don’t thing peer or superiors are the trigger per se but the unworthy. Part of what is making the current round of push back work is the presence of undoubted luminaries. He can’t dismiss them as mediocre because his own framework defines then as not.

                • Aimai

                  People this agressive don’t really think that the people they are attacking are “unworthy” its just something they say when they are in a passion and they are perfectly capable of attacking peers (equals) and even superiors and accusing them of insanity or unprofessionalism or anything else. In fact, again, I’d be surprised at anything different.

                  The hierarchy doesn’t exist in a fixed state: they experience themselves as competitors with peers, or in alliances which are fragile and temporary and based on self interest. Even technical superiors are divided into mentors/friends or enemies. There may be a category for neutrals but that is itself a resource that is fought over and fought for.

                  Leiter is clearly on a hair trigger when it comes to what he perceives as insult but which others might consider mere contradiction or discussion. He’s like a southern aristocrat with a manly honor code in which some people (yankees, blacks, women, children) are not permitted to engage–they don’t rank and therefore their attempts at interaction are seen as a kind of les majeste.

                • matt w

                  I’m not sure, aimai; Leiter’s whole personality seems to be based on an extremely rigid sense of how worthy people are. This is the guy who’s best known for an elaborate ranking of philosophy departments (which I’m told he started doing, entirely on his own, while he was in grad school) and who always includes the departmental affiliation of anyone he quotes on his blog. This is a guy who made a point of saying that Illinois judges don’t go to the best law schools. One of his triggers is definitely any challenge to the supremacy of the Leiter Report, but he really has a pretty consistent pattern of punching down, where “down” can be defined by the rankings he himself maintains.

          • ChrisTS

            @The Dark Avenger:

            I admit to being confused by the threading, at this point.

            So, are you saying that there is no therapy that could help Leiter? That’s pretty depressing.

            • The Dark Avenger

              There is a possible treatment that just came out known as schema treatment, which involves limited reparenting on the part of the therapist.

              I don’t think hubris and arrogance are treatable conditions. It’s like I told someone about my father: I tried looking up his condition in the DSM-IV, but there’s no entry listing for asshole.

        • Hogan

          Stanley Woodward, once an editor at the old New York Herald-Tribune, was described as “often contemptuous of superiors, barely tolerant of equals, and unfailingly kind and considerate to subordinates.” That’s not a bad rule of thumb. If you’re not willing to kick up, you have no business kicking down. (And if you’re willing to kick up, it will probably never occur to you to kick down.)

          Of course that just defaults to the problem of telling up from down.

        • Richard Heck (who’s a mench) is having a current experience and has a very nice bit:

          Brian, I am sure it won’t help, but if you are reading this: Stop digging, dude. The hole is deep enough. Step down from PGR, issue a genuine apology to the people you have hurt (whether you meant to do so or not, it really doesn’t matter), ask for forgiveness, remove the offensive material from your blog, and start treating us like human beings with feelings. You do that, and I will be the first to declare bygones bygone. You see, I’m a Christian, and I believe in the power of forgiveness.

          I think it’s tricky, still. Part of what’s tricky is that there’s clearly a fairly large cohort of people who are sympathetic to the Leiterian world view (whether because they are in it as deep as he is, or they don’t have a full picture, or whatever). So the immediate problem is Leiter, but there is still the larger problem.

          Apparently, Leiter posted then removed a bit that hit at Paul as well.

          • matt w

            I think this is what Leiter would need to do at a minimum. First, of course, apologize. And then give up the PGR, give up the attempt to be the All-Seeing Eye of philosophy, just give up all commentary completely for a long time. Immerse himself in his scholarship. His public persona is completely fouled by his conduct (has been ever since he started blogging really), and there’s nothing he can do to get it back, for a long time, if ever.

            [Grumble: Heck’s statement that he can forgive because he’s a Christian, addressed to a Jew (not to mention an atheist), rubs me the wrong way. Jews and atheists and members of other religions are also capable of forgiveness!]

            To Bijan’s comment that started this thread: Leiter’s posts on sexual harassment have on balance been pretty shitty, IMO. Yes, he acknowledges that sexual harassment has been bad, but he went out of his way to complain about the Colorado reports recommendation that philosophers not slag off feminist philosophy as a discipline in front of their colleagues, and he’s given a lot of airtime to obnoxious brolosophers like the Philosophers Anonymous guy and the execrable “J.W. Showalter,” in particular allowing the latter to post pseudonymously on threads Leiter himself declared to be real-name only. And the threads on those posts seem to devolve into various kinds of derailment, again often promoted by Leiter, as when he front-paged a post by someone concerned that it was too harsh to refuse to hire Colin McGinn (who has continued to defend his sexual harassment of one of his grad students).

            Leiter has been good on Salaita, though of course he’s also a political ally of Salaita in general (NTTAWWT).

            • To Bijan’s comment that started this thread: Leiter’s posts on sexual harassment have on balance been pretty shitty, IMO.

              You’re right. I was sorta grading on a philosophy curve there, sad to say.

              I’m not super comfortable with the Christian shout out, but it is something people say. I think the sentiment of “stop being a jerk and we can move on” is potentially helpful.

              • ChrisTS

                I was sorta grading on a philosophy curve there, sad to say.

                Oh, dear. Sad to say, indeed.

          • ChrisTS

            Apparently, Leiter posted then removed a bit that hit at Paul as well.

            Of course. The man has no ability to not rant/expose himself; so, the best he can do is to try to erase it afterwards. That is not what ‘self-control’ means.

          • ChrisTS

            Part of what’s tricky is that there’s clearly a fairly large cohort of people who are sympathetic to the Leiterian world view (whether because they are in it as deep as he is, or they don’t have a full picture, or whatever). So the immediate problem is Leiter, but there is still the larger problem.

            The larger problem is largely attributable to several factors:

            1) The desperate hiring problem facing new Ph.Ds in PHL.
            2) The desperate desire to believe that one is, oneself, among the Elect.
            3) Leiter’s resurrecting of the Analytic/Everyone else divide.
            4) Leiter’s (admittedly strange) accrual of power and his horrid stalking of anyone who dares to speak against him, such that many people -even established philosophers – have been afraid to counter him.
            5) His successful patronage of some junior scholars and his harming of the careers of some who dare to dispute him – which reinforces the fear noted in (4).

            I was either a tenured or nearly-tenured philosopher when Leiter became a ‘thing.’ I have never understood it in terms of merit. I do understand in terms of the culture of fear.

            You know, I [unlike Leiter] do not to see anyone’s career destroyed. But, he has done not only damage to individuals and programs, but also to my discipline. And, of course, his career will not be destroyed; at most, his pernicious influence will be diminished or eliminated.

            I cannot feel badly about this, even though I feel badly about piling on someone who is not a healthy person.

            • Well, there is some progress (PGR advisory board members suggesting he step down). He is said to have received it with good grace.

              NewAPPS has a bit more discussion including a letter from a grad student that presents a positive view of his on campus behavior.

              Perhaps this is a model for him moving forward.

          • rea

            You know, the funny thing is, accusing someone of attempted blackmail (as Leiter does Paul) really is defamation per se, even in the US

        • ChrisTS

          Oh, I was not thinking that his university would mandate therapy. I was just thinking about he might move forward.

          • Right. Sorry, I was thinking in terms of how he might be handled from a management perspective. One of the things I’m interested in the limits of academic freedom (I’m working on some followups to this post). Leiter has self consciously performed disciplining actions and is now being informally disciplined. He, like Jenkins, has formulated a theoretical justification for his behavior as part of professional and even scholarly activity.

            Now, obviously, I think Leiter’s enactment (at the very least) of his theories is fucked up. But is that protected? How protected? That’s the reason I looked at UoC’s policies.

            In many ways, it’s very analogous to Salaita’s case. Leiter clearly claims this:

            Let’s be clear: there are lots of compelling reasons for civility in the context of collegial, social, and pedagogical interactions (indeed, in the latter context, it is absolutely obligatory). None of that is at issue here. There’s even a reasonable case for civility in genuine intellectual disputes among intellectuals and scholars. That’s not at issue here either. What’s at issue is the demand for civility in two contexts: (1) political disputes, and (2) disputes in the blogosphere. Both kinds of disputes have something important in common, namely, they are often devoid of intellectual content, pretense notwithstanding.

            Now perhaps he’s violated his own standards here. But suppose he hasn’t. It still seems to me that he’s edged pretty close to behavior meriting discipline. Now, it’s probably the case that considering the whole record, he hasn’t sufficiently harmed UoC on balance to merit anything very severe. But what would you aim for?

            Part of the problem is the “I’ve earned the right to be an asshole” variant of the whole record test. I don’t like that, but I’m unclear how to block it. Contrariwise, I’m no sure that unearned “assholery” shouldn’t be protected.

  • Unemployed_Northeastern

    Remarkably, with nearly 300 comments on one of his primary nemeses’ websites, our subject is nowhere to be seen, even by proxy. Perhaps Chicago has placed a muzzle on him for the moment?

    • ChrisTS

      Possibly, or his friends have done an intervention. Or, he realizes that, finally, more people are disgusted by him than afraid of him.

    • brad

      He has no authority here, no ability to threaten. Campos has been unaffected by whatever he’s tried, and those who he could potentially come after in comments have almost all already been targeted and survived, as they say. Me, I’m out of academia, there’s nothing he could do, and he probably dismisses that kind of critic out of hand anyhow.

      • Hogan

        “You have no power here! Begone! Before somebody drops a house on you!”

        • ChrisTS

          Isn’t that, “Get behind me, Satan!”

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        Yeah, but he usually shows up here under pseudonyms and troll whenever Campos discusses him or law schools. See MacK’s post about “Peter Aduren” elsewhere in this thread.

        • MacK

          There are no posts that exhibit Leiter’s usual compulsive identifying pathological tropes:

          1. A self-reference which is at a minimum approving, if not self-aggrandising;
          2. Ad hominem attacks;
          3. Freudian projection (whatever he accuses people of, he is doing, right now!);
          4. Attacks on the mental health of some opponent;
          5. Accusing law school critics them of hypocrisy for still being tenured professors;
          6. Citing spurious unnamed sources, uncorroborated accounts and hearsay supportive of Leiter;
          7. Efforts to get behind anonymity or to suggest that it is unreliable (the Dan Filler will leak your name hint).

          One additional clue is that when a comment system is being used the identity has only just been established – has made maybe 3 posts, all attacking the same person and exhibiting 1-7.

          So either Leiter is being restrained by some authority or someone is rewriting his posts.

          By the way on his blog he is pre-preparing for the vote for Philosophical Gourmet rankings to go against him by publishing (many anonymous) suggestions that people are deliberately cheating to increase the anti-Leiter vote.

          As they say in the UK “ah diddums….

          • Aimai

            Yeah, thanks to this thread I’ve been reading around and finally reading Leiter’s blog–it reeks of Captain Queeg like suspicion and also is quite a bit like Rush Limbaugh’s most recent counter-attack against the “Flush Rush” movement which he is now accusing of being entirely astroturf extortion rather than a grassroots movement to rebuke and defund him.

            • ChrisTS

              it reeks of Captain Queeg like suspicion

              Thank you, aimai: you nailed it. I know I should be more .. forgiving .. towards a person who clearly has some deep psychological problems. But,he has hurt so many vulnerable people and damaged – if not destroyed – a few careers, and that makes it very difficult to be the person I know I should be.

              • The Dark Avenger

                Save your worry for his victims and the damage he’s done to his chosen field of study.

                This may seem cynical, but outside of control of TPG, I don’t even see a reprimand to him coming from his institution or any other impairment of his professional career. He’s not exactly going to be homeless on the street, offering lectures on Nietzsche in a public park for 1$/head.

          • brad

            It occurs to me this is the first post-registration Leiter post.

            Might just be relevant.

            • Unemployed_Northeastern

              Wouldn’t that only work if the site has IP-blocked in the past and he’s too stubborn to try to log on from another computer/tablet/etc? I don’t see why he couldn’t log on from the Chicago Library as Octavio Zap or something.

              • I think the suggestion is that it might have scared him off a little or just gotten in his way.

                • ChrisTS

                  Interesting. I suspect that family/friends are trying to get him to hold back.

              • yupyup

                You do need to provide an email address to register. Not that he couldn’t register with the aduren address if he doesn’t want everyone to know it’s… oh wait.

                • Unemployed_Northeastern

                  Yes, because providing an email address is so onerous. Make one up or simply create a throwaway email just to register.

                  [email protected] google mail

                  – ImnotBLIswearyouguys @ Hotmail

                  Or something like that.

          • And, as you can see above, he surpressed my comment critiquing one of those comments. Quite silly.

            • ChrisTS

              Christ, what an asshole.

              :-)

          • Unemployed_Northeastern

            Quite right; his conspicuous absence is conspicuous.

  • Unemployed_Northeastern

    Looks like the Chronicle of Higher Education has picked up the thread: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Man-Who-Ranks-Philosophy/149007/

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  • yupyup

    Looks as though Brian Leiter isn’t going to learn from this either, as he is continuing to comment pseudonymously, even after all this.

  • Eli Rabett
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