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Brian Leiter’s slow-motion car crash accelerates


Updated below

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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