The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story on this week’s events involving Brian Leiter, which includes an interview conducted with him on Thursday. Some excerpts:
Despite those steps, Mr. Leiter remained dismissive of the recent wave of criticism of him, which he attributed partly to feminist philosophers irritated by his defense of the due-process rights of scholars accused of sexual harassment, and partly to philosophers who periodically rebel against The Philosophical Gourmet because their own departments rank poorly.
. . .
Mr. Leiter attributed some of the criticism of him to a “cultural gap” that he said had developed in his argumentative field as younger philosophers had become heavily involved in social media and engaged in what he called “tone policing,” denouncing online comments they see as offensive or uncivil.
Mr. Leiter said that he had not made a decision about his continued involvement with the rankings report and that he had yet to hear a compelling argument for his stepping down. “What I am not going to do,” he said, “is capitulate to a cyber mob that is exercised about issues that are irrelevant.”
Just to be clear, this feminist is not ‘irritated’ with Brian Leiter because of anything about due process. This feminist finds bullying unacceptable, and is concerned about ways in which Brian Leiter’s role in the PGR has the potential to make his repeated acts of what I take to be bullying particularly harmful.
That’s not tone policing. I don’t object to Leiter’s tone per se. I object to the way he repeatedly says personally insulting and even threatening (in the sense of threatening legal action) things to people who are much less professionally established than he is. So yes, that amounts to ‘denouncing online [or in some cases, emailed] comments [I] see as offensive’. But that doesn’t mean it’s tone policing. That just means that I speak up when I find something offensive or unacceptable.
I can’t speak for others, and I don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but I’m willing to bet that this characterization of those who are critical of Leiter is in general as inaccurate as it is in particular inaccurate of me.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go grab my torch and pitchfork. . .