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Illogical ISA Proposal Defended Illogically

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Rob mentioned the ISA’s proposal that anyone associated with administering an ISA journal be prohibited from blogging. The president has sent an email defending it, and as you would expect, it doesn’t make any sense:

“Often the sort of ‘professional environment’ we expect our members to promote is challenged by the nature of the presentations and exchanges that often occur on blogs,” Starr wrote. “The proposed policy is one response, not to blogs per se, but to issues that can arise with people confusing the personal blogs of the editors of ISA journals with the editorial policies for their journals. This proposal is trying to address that possible confusion.”

First of all, in a narrow sense, this policy would seem to be a response to a wholly invented problem. Is there any case ever of someone associating remarks on a personal blog with a professional organization because the blogger is on the board of a journal? But clearly it’s connected to a broader point about “blogs” and the bizarre assumption that unlike other means of communication medium they might result in people saying things they regret. (I’m particularly puzzled that there would be a focus on blogs rather than Twitter, which seems much more likely to lead to regrettable comments and offers much less potential to make scholarly work available to a general audience, but clearly this hasn’t been thought through, and the whole idea of banning the use particular forms of media is silly.)

This all reminds me if of the “Ivan Tribble” incident from many moons ago. The first remarkable thing about it was that someone described a completely broken hiring process in which committees made crucial hiring decisions based on arbitrary personal trivia, only this was not done as critical exposure but expressed with apparent pride. But the more relevant dumb argument was that someone took to the Chronicle of Higher Ed to anonymously reveal the content of a hiring committees’ deliberations, and reached the conclusion that no blogger could be trusted because they might reveal secret information even if they had no history of doing so. Such self-refuting arguments setting blogs apart from other forms of writing were strange in 2005; in 2014, it’s beyond strange.

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