The rational high ground

“What I am not going to do is capitulate to a cyber mob that is exercised about issues that are irrelevant.” – Brian Leiter [my emphasis]

Brian Leiter has a tendency to describe his critics in the language of irrationality. He suggests that this current fracas is a ‘smear campaign’ put together by a ‘cyber mob’, for example. Mobs don’t think very carefully or very critically. Mobs have worked themselves up into a frenzy of groupthink and are not easily influenced by reason. (Though in this instance, the ‘mob’ of people signing on to a boycott of a Leiter-run PGR includes, inter alia, Elizabeth Anderson, Crispin Wright, Van McGee, Charles Mills, Ruth Chang, Bill Brewer, Beatrice Longuenesse and Gil Harman. That’s a fairly philosophically diverse – and a damn philosophically impressive – mob, as mobs go.)

Leiter often paints his own conduct as rational discourse beset on all sides by mob mentality and ‘tone policing’. (What’s a tough-talking New Yorker to do in these woefully PC times?) It must be difficult when so many of the people you have to work with are so irrational:

Screenshot 2014-09-28 18.40.10

But, of course, it isn’t that simple.

To begin with, it’s not that Leiter has a problem with internet campaigns – even those run by philosophers! – in general. He didn’t seem to think there was any mob mentality in the recent proposed boycott of the University of Illinois, nor did he attribute the petitions and boycotts related to the Synthese special issue to this kind of irrational groupthink, nor did he think it was a cyber mob mentality that warranted a poll to gauge whether Linda Alcoff should resign as president of the Eastern APA. So it can’t be that he simply thinks internet-based campaigns are, as a rule, a bad idea. Nor can it be that he always thinks any kind of corrective comment about ‘tone’ is inappropriate:

Screenshot 2014-09-28 18.44.31

Screenshot 2014-09-29 07.47.29

Perhaps, in this instance, it is the nature of the perceived insults in question. Leiter has suggested that philosophers are overreacting to the messages he sent to Carrie Jenkins and Noelle McAfee. These emails were, if perhaps intemperate, prompted by attacks from these individuals that could not be ignored. Jenkins, Leiter claims, said on her blog that he was ‘unprofessional’, which he says in his email to her may count as defamation per se; McAfee said on her blog that he was not a philosopher. Let’s leave aside the issue of what Jenkins said, and consider the cases as Leiter presents them. One thing that’s striking here is that Leiter himself calls people unprofessional. And he also seems to insinuate that other academics with PhDs in Philosophy are not in fact philosophers. Given that, it doesn’t seem plausible that Leiter can perceive the insults (he thinks were) leveled at him to be so beyond the pale that the philosophical community is simply being irrational in its unwillingness to see that his response is merited.

So what’s going on? Why is it that this particular group of people boycotting the PGR – a group which is striking in its philosophical diversity – constitute a ‘cyber mob’ engaged in a ‘smear campaign’? I don’t know. I don’t know the reasons for Leiter’s attributions of mob mentality, and I don’t want to speculate. I’ll just register it’s very unclear to me why this particular boycott – which is very elegantly and not particularly mobbishly defended in this post at Daily Nous – is apparently so infused with irrationality.

79 thoughts on “The rational high ground

  1. “I’ll just register it’s very unclear to me why this particular boycott – which is very elegantly and not particularly mobbishly defended in this post at Daily Nous – is apparently so infused with irrationality.”

    Since you seem to ask: There might appear to be some degree of such infusion due to the appearance that the critical impetus for this boycott was concern for a particular individual — who is professionally privileged, hardly vulnerable professionally, and had been subjected to online BL experiences less severe in content and tone than various other cases over the years. Continued, shifting, intensified explanations for this orientation probably haven’t helped.

    In short, the appearance of highly-selective sympathy and mobilization might be considered to some degree irrational — and that could be a relatively charitable judgment. When this dynamic was roughly pointed out fairly early on, the reaction in this space seemed to range from dismissive to vaguely accusatory. That probably didn’t help, either.

  2. It’s a narrow point, but I’m not sure I understand the relevance of Leiter’s post on Judith Butler. I have a PhD in physics, but I teach in a philosophy department; in the (alas unlikely) event that I were to be elected to the American Physical society, describing me that way would seem perfectly in order.

  3. David, the conjunction of that description with the previous sentence though implies Butler is not a philosopher. And that does not seem perfectly in order, certainly given the comparison in the post above.

  4. anon, there may be a sense in which what happened to Carrie Jenkins was the straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were – since the email to her was incredibly harsh and prompted by something she did that one has to read incredibly, almost willfully uncharitably to view as ‘an attack’. Her colleagues rallied around her when they saw the harm done to her and produced the September Statement. But most of the philosophers signing on to the statement have signed on to the addendum, which is worded very carefully as follows:

    “On September 24, the people listed above, motivated to decline to volunteer services to the PGR by these specific incidents impacting Carrie, signed this statement.

    Others may also be similarly moved by these incidents, or may know of other relevantly similar incidents, and thus may not wish to participate in the PGR while it is under the control of Brian Leiter.”

    So it’s not that people are only reacting to what happened to Carrie – far from it. Most of the people I know who signed the statement signed because they are concerned about a longstanding pattern of behavior, of which the treatment of Carrie is only one instance.

  5. yes, i want to second that this latest bit of leiter bad behavior is for many the last straw.

    frankly, I have not frequented his blog regularly for years; i have been for so long turned off by its bullying tone, self-aggrandizement, and silencing of others.

    I recall a post in which sally haslanger posted on leiter’s blog something to the effect that his forum was not the friendliest or safest place for discussion — I do not recall the exact point — but that was the gist. And leiter responded, referring to sally in the *third-person* that that was ‘nonsense.’ a third-personally communicated dismissal!!! And he didn’t see that that response itself *confirmed* the very point sally was expressing. I believe that was for me, the very last straw. it was a small thing, but it spoke volumes.

    in case leiter reads this (i would guess he is the ‘anon’ above): I think it’s worth disclosing: I’m at a PGR top-15 department, and my training and work are very much in the analytic vein. (this is to counter leiter’s persistent and false assumption that those who criticize his behavior are systematically opposed to analytic philosophy or else are bitter about their department’s low standing on PGR)

  6. Kathryn: I had in mind that my hypothetical would indeed imply that I was not, or was not straightforwardly, a physicist, and that this would be fine. (I’m not, or not straightforwardly, PhD or not.)

  7. The lawsuits threats are straightforward silencing tactics. That much is obvious. BL knows perfectly well that his chances of prevailing over e.g., Jenkins, in a lawsuit are nil. He could certainly cause her and others a lot of stress via threats and/or dragging them through the courts, but he’d almost certainly lose.

    I have no idea what’s going on with the “mob mentality” claims, either. Here’s what I do know: winter is coming up, and I’ll soon have a great occasion for putting on that hat again!

  8. David, right–but I am trying to draw the comparison back to Leiter. He is not in a philosophy department. That does not mean he is not a philosopher. Much like Judith Butler’s not being in a philosophy department does not mean she is not a philosopher. From a distance, your situation seems quite different.

  9. Kathryn: ok, I think I get what you’re saying. My initial post was on the basis that it does seem reasonable (case study: me) to state (let alone insinuate) that someone with a PhD in subject X is not an X-er. As I said, it was a fairly narrow point.

  10. Hi David,

    Thanks for your comment. I should’ve been clearer in the post that I was focused on the particular case of Butler, rather than the case of anyone with a philosophy PhD employed in some non-philosophy department. Brian Leiter and Judith Butler are both academics with philosophy PhDs not employed in philosophy departments whose work is taken seriously by philosophers, who themselves engage in the work of philosophers, who attend philosophy conferences, etc. So it seems equally (un)reasonable to say or imply of each of them that they are not philosophers. I very much agree with you on the more general point – it can be perfectly reasonable to say that an academic with a PhD in x is not an x-er.

  11. John, if you get insulted on the metablog that’s a sure sign you’re doing okay in the world.

  12. As an attorney, the only really good potential defamation lawsuit I ever saw in all of these online fights was his attack on Rachel McKinnon.

  13. I made the mistake of going to the metablog once. Once was plenty.

    Dammit, though. Now we’ve mentioned the metablog three times. I forget, what the incantation to keep them from turning up in the comments thread? Is it turn three times and *then* spit over your shoulder?

  14. S7: I’m guessing your claim is that McKinnon would have the legitimate claim in filing a suit against Leiter, right?

  15. One element in all this appears to be a tendency to implicitly use the designation “philosopher” as an earned honorific. Thus some can fail to “earn” it no matter what their training or professional affiliation, while presumably BL thinks he has earned it and is thus offended to have it denied based on his not having an appointment in a philosophy department. I think that does make sense of some of the apparent double-mindedness, though I think treating “philosopher” as an honorific is terribly problematic. I’ve heard others use the designation in similar fashion and what it takes to earn it has always been quite mysterious to me – not only does it not rely on training or departmental placement, but being cited and discussed by philosophers is apparently not enough either.

  16. “Most of the people…who signed the statement signed because they are concerned about a longstanding pattern of behavior, of which the treatment of Carrie is only one instance.”

    I’ve understood that — which is not incompatible with the sensibility expressed @1. I also understand people have very different sensibilities about selective sympathy and mobilization — aka, in this case, “the straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were.”

    I don’t understand BL’s reduction of his “September Statement” critics “to a cyber mob…exercised about issues that are irrelevant.” This response doesn’t seem to make sense on the merits.

  17. Rachel: Yes, or at least a fairly strong case, if I am not misremembering what happened. Actually Leiter may have left himself open to successful lawsuits on a couple of occasions because of a particularly cheap tactic he uniquely likes to use which I will try to explain below.

    One of the main determinants of whether something is actionably defamatory is whether a reasonable listener would interpret it as a factual statement, as opposed to mere opinion. That’s the main reason his threat against Carrie Jenkins was so ludicrous; there’s nothing there to sue over, even if she had specifically called him “unprofessional.” I don’t know if he’s just that bad at legal reasoning, or just bluffing to scare his critics. I suspect it might be the latter since Paul Campos, a law professor, has on several occasions thoroughly mocked Leiter on his blog far worse than that, is as yet he unsued (presumably Leiter realizes that his usual threats of lawsuits will be laughed at by someone like Campos who is actually knowledgeable about the law).

    So If I were to say “Based on his blog posts, X is crazy,” that probably wouldn’t be actionable. Just saying “X is crazy” in the context of an argument probably wouldn’t be either. A reasonable listener would not think I was speaking in clinical, factual terms.

    However, if I said “I’ve been told X has a history of mental problems,” that probably would be actionable — it implies I am making a factual statement of X’s actual mental health, based on information I have but am not disclosing. It’s no longer a protected opinion.

    So Leiter’s accusation of McKinnon as “unhinged” by itself probably would be considered opinion and protected as such. However, Leiter being Leiter, he likes to resort to the cheap debate tactic of appealing to anonymous authorities who have contacted him. If I am remembering correctly, after the “unhinged” comment he then wrote a post (I forget where) claiming that he had been contacted by several of McKinnon’s former colleagues who agreed with his assessment. The combination of the two posts suddenly makes it look like he is asserting a fact, a fact based on undisclosed information that he is saying he has. It’s probably no longer a protected opinion. Since he likes to do that appeal-to-anonymous-authority, I would not be surprised if he was liable for similar things before.

    So if he made those two statements (again, I might be misremembering), and was lying about or exaggerating the anonymous support he offered (and I suspect strongly he was doing one or the other), he could be successfully sued. Of course, I would recommend anyone contemplating such consult a non-anonymous lawyer who specializes in the matter.

  18. I’m not a philosopher, but I’ve observed this mess for a while.

    Leiter reminds me of the late Christopher Hitchens. Like Hitchens, he’s a contrarian with a sharp tongue, who fires at “sacred cows” and often hits targets which a wiser person would have spared or even protected.

    I can understand how those who have been Leiter’s targets feel hurt and dislike him.

    On the other hand, the reaction to Leiter’s sniping seems totally out of proportion to me. I cannot understand how hundreds of educated people have taken Leiter’s sharp tongue and nastiness to be a political cause or an ethical crusade. I can see why they might insult him back, but treat him as a political enemy or object of mass ethical condemnation?

    I also want to point out that while the Leiter’s and Hitchen’s may hit the wrong target at times, they are valuable members of any culture or intellectual community. We need contrarians who fire at random, because while their criticism may at times hit the wrong target, more often it hits the right one, when wiser and more prudent souls would hold their fire, waiting for the right moment which never comes.

    I can see why people are concerned about Leiter directing the PGR’s even though until now he apparently has not abused that position, since that seems to be a position for someone with a more prudent character.

    However, all in all, I think that Leiter, as a contrarian intellectual sniper, far from deserving general condenation, contributes to our understanding of the world and
    “gets us thinking”, which, in my amateur opinion, is what philosophy is about.

  19. Mentioning all the bright lights included in the ‘mob’ seems to be missing the point. It’s not as if the problem of mob mentality disappears when the members of the mob are very intelligent and ordinarily deliberate and careful people. Rather the point is that mobs act in ways that their individual members never would.
    (I know this is obvious, it’s just that that particular piece of the OP seems to fly in its face.)

  20. Otheranon, the point isn’t just that they’re smart – of course smart people can sometimes engage in mob behavior. The point is also that, as a group, they’re pretty philosophically diverse, and not a group that can readily be accused of echo-chambering or groupthink. So the point is just that if you’re going to accuse *that* group of people – people who are both really smart and don’t seem to have that much in common with each other, apart from being philosophers – of mob mentality, you had better have a good justification for that charge, and a good explanation of what that mob mentality consists in.

  21. I preface this by stressing that I am absolutely not a defender of Brian Leiter. I have winced for many years at the tone of his blog, and find it hard to believe that it’s taken so long for something of this character to blow up. At the same time, I think I, like, I sense, quite a few others, am becoming a little distressed at the relentless, ongoing nature of the campaign against him. Such feelings are limited but nonetheless real – on the one hand, you live by the sword, you die by the sword, of course, but that doesn’t stop the spectacle from being painful and unpleasant. I suppose my assumption here is that we’re now into the endgame, and the nature of the ultimatum that has been made and reaffirmed by the PGR Advisory Board ultimately means he will have to step down from a leadership role within the PGR, so that it’s now really just a question of watching the inevitable unfold – whether he realises this or not. But it must be horrible to be in his position right now – really, really horrible. Of course, others have clearly been deeply hurt as this sorry saga has unfolded, and of course, and understandably, the focus of contributors here has been sticking up for their friends who have absolutely been treated badly. But I wonder whether the ongoing debates and the constant re-playing of points, the back and forth over who attacked first, over who is being uncharitable in their interpretation of whom, and so on and so on is really helping anyone at this stage. Even well-intentioned recent comments which, for example, try to draw attention to good part of Leiter’s professional life or which distinguish between character and conduct only really have the effect of fanning the flames when they give rise to long threads of critical comments.

    Perhaps some people think this post is disingenuous – an attempt to get things to calm down so as to relieve the pressure and rob the anti-Leiter campaign of momentum. it’s not, but I can see why someone might think that. Or perhaps I’m just too delicate for Philosophy blogs! (I don’t normally comment on blogs, and have never commented here before. That’s suspicious too, I know. But I don’t know how to prove my good faith without signing in with my real name, and apart from anything else, I think the last thing the discipline needs at the moment is another philosopher publicly entering the fray.) But I liked the “be nice” thing. We could all do with a bit more niceness at the moment.

  22. I didn’t realize that mobbing was restricted to groups who antecedently shared an ideology or whatever. I don’t know much about it; I was thinking of this kind of thing. Not that I have any real idea what Leiter meant.

  23. Blissenbiarella, you say ” I think I, like, I sense, quite a few others, am becoming a little distressed at the relentless, ongoing nature of the campaign against him.”

    Hasn’t it only been 5 days since the September Statement was publicized? That feels a little early to be calling something like this ‘relentless’. Also, I object to the characterization that there is a campaign *against Brian Leiter*. There is a campaign *in favor of a boycott of a Leiter-run PGR*. But that’s not the same as campaigning against a particular individual – no one needs, as pointed out in a previous post, to have any personal ill will towards Brian Leiter or to call for judgements of his character or anything like that.

    You also say, “I suppose my assumption here is that we’re now into the endgame, and the nature of the ultimatum that has been made and reaffirmed by the PGR Advisory Board ultimately means he will have to step down from a leadership role within the PGR, so that it’s now really just a question of watching the inevitable unfold.”

    My understanding is that this is very much *not* ‘the inevitable’. The Advisory Board has no power to force Brian Leiter to resign. Whether he does so is entirely his call.

    And it’s with that view of things that I – and others – continue to blog about this. Not because we want to gang up on Brian Leiter, and not because we have any sort of personal vendetta against him. Rather, we want to urge people to join the current PGR boycott which is underway, as we feel this is a good way of attempting to effect change and that the more people who join the better. Perhaps this is ‘fanning the flames’. But if so, my own view is that they are flames that continue, at this stage, to need fanning.

  24. Anon 1 – Perhaps I don’t have the chronology in order (it’s hard to keep everything straight), but my impression is that this current internet campaign was a response to Leiter’s treatment of Jennings and Jenkins in particular, in the context of a larger pattern of belligerent behaviour. I don’t see how Jenkins, or Jennings, McKinnon, Current Grad Student, or any of the other people he has attacked are privileged or invulnerable. All are women in a profession in which women face a great deal of harassment and marginalization. Some are not professors, and some are not tenured professors. Indeed, one of the very problems with Leiter’s behaviour is that he has so much power relative to the people he attacks (though acting the way he does would still be wrong even if he wasn’t the prominent editor of a respected philosophy ranking scheme).

    That he has said worse things to others in the past hardly makes the present reaction irrational. If anything, it shows that philosophers should have called him out for his behaviour a lot sooner. I don’t see the sympathy as highly selective – it’s not that people have sympathy for Jenkins, but not for all Leiter’s other victims. Rather, I think people have just reached the point when they’ve had enough (and reached it far too late, in my view).

  25. Opps, I wrote this comment while having the window open from this morning. Many comments were unseen! I might have just repeated points that were already made. Apologies.

  26. Just some points of fact and questions for your consideration:

    (1) S7: Yes, that is the way the McKinnon thing went down.
    (2) magical: the people critiquing Leiter have a helluva lot in common — class, education, discipline, shared ethical values. Am I missing something? Certainly enough for mob mentality, esp. considering the apparent diversity of opinions in the profession itself about the matter.
    (3) Why wasn’t the McKinnon comment enough to ignite this kind of action? That happened months ago, if my memory serves me correctly. IMO it’s far worse to be called “singularly unhinged” in public, in front of the entire profession, than to get an email threatening litigation. I’ll go all Mill here and say I know this because I’ve had both happen to me. The former caused me some pretty severe distress.
    (3a) [Mod: edited to remove speculation about motives, in accord with our policies]
    (4) Aren’t there much much worse things going on our worlds than this that we could spend our time on? I agree with Blissenobiarella: we need to move on. This is just spectacle at this point, something I had hoped fp was above. And I am human, so of course I have difficulty averting my eyes :(

  27. A quick note: The September Statement was written by Jenkins’s colleagues in support of her, which is why it focussed on her. But the additional signatories were signing to something much broader. This is just as much about the other cases as about Jenkins. As to why now? Collective action is funny like that. Each individual spends a long time thinking it won’t make any difference to speak up, but once a group effort like September Statement emerges, it galvanises others.

    And yes, we could spend time on other issues, and we do. But it is also important to improve the climate in our own field.

    Finally– the diversity point. Yup there are ways the group is not diverse. However, the list Magical gives is it seems to me enough to undermine the “feminist witch hunt” claim going round.

  28. Ah. I didn’t think it was a particularly feminist witch hunt. Also, there are plenty of other people to focus on, and there’s nothing preventing you from focusing on them right? Again, also, there are plenty of statements to galvanize us. For those of us who have different political views than most of the people involved in this improve-the-profession campaign, all of this appears very foreign. It is extremely important to do a class check on our moral sentiments and I think pay extra attention to those who were actually smeared publicly, who have a legal case for defamation. And, again, I don’t believe our diverse philosophical commitments are enough to prevent group think, but this is an empirical claim, and it depends on how finely-grained we decide to sample the demographics. But, speaking as an academic class outsider, some of this reeks of being informed by class biases, something that I don’t think gets enough attention these days. I too am committed to making the profession a better place for everyone, as other comments I’ve posted illustrate. I do, however, have very different humanist/feminist political commitments from most of the people that post here, which also makes me feel like an outsider. At any rate, I don’t want to personalize this too much.

  29. Is this the rational high ground or respectful tone towards others in the profession ?

    followed by

  30. So, here are two characterizations of ‘mobbing’ from the link given at 25.

    ‘….an emotional assault. It begins when an individual becomes the target of disrespectful and harmful behavior. Through innuendo, rumors, and public discrediting, a hostile environment is created in which one individual gathers others to willingly, or unwillingly, participate in continuous malevolent actions to force a person out of the workplace’

    ‘Workplace mobbing can be considered as a “virus” or a “cancer” that spreads throughout the workplace via gossip, rumour and unfounded accusations. It is a deliberate attempt to force a person out of their workplace by humiliation, general harassment, emotional abuse and/or terror. Mobbing can be described as being “ganged up on.” Mobbing is executed by a leader (who can be a manager, a co-worker, or a subordinate). The leader then rallies others into a systematic and frequent “mob-like” behaviour toward the victim.’

    Here are some common themes in these charcaterizations.

    1.)’ Innunendo and rumours’

    As far as I can see the complaints against Leiter have been explicit and well-documented. That is, in particular, true of the threats of legal action.
    (It’s my understanding that Leiter would prefer them to be less well-documented, since he has complained about emails being made public.)

    For what it’s worth, I suspect that it’s the fact that Leiter’s propensity to threaten his critics with legal action is now a well-documented and a matter of common knowledge, rather than merely a matter of gossip and rumour that answers the ‘why now’ question. Other people may see things differently, but this does strike me as a different order of behaviour than the insults. (Which, to be clear, I don’t think are ok)

    2.) ‘Disrespectful and harmful behaviour’:

    Well, any behaviour which has negative consequences for Leiter will, I suppose be harmful. But ‘disrespectful’? I’ve been struck by the extent to which, in may of the fora in which these issues have been discussed people who are critical of Leiter’s behaviour have gone out of their way to talk about what a great thing the Leiter report is, how much we are in his debt, how supportive Leiter is of graduate students and so on. (Consider Catarina Dutilh Novaes’ post on Leiter’s support of graduate students, at NewApps)

    3.) ‘Humiliation, general harassment, emotional abuse and terror’

    I guess people will differ as to what kinds of actions will constitute ‘humiliation’, ‘harrassment’, ’emotional abuse’ and ‘terror’. But, as far as I can see, on any standard by which Leiter himself hasn’t engaged in such actions, no-one else has either. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, it’s not clear to me why one would think that the criticisms of Leiter involve humiliation, emotional abuse or terror (or which ones involve this.)

    4.) ‘Continuous malevolent actions’/’Systematic and frequent mob-like behaviour’

    Leiter has come in for quite a lot of criticism in the last week? Has it been ‘systematic’ and ‘continuous’? I suspect that paradigmatic instances of mobbing involve rather more sustained patterns if behaviour than this. (I’m obviously no expert)

    5.) ‘An attempt to force a person out of the workplace.’ As far as I can see, no-one is attempting to force Leiter out of his work-place at the University of Chicago. They are asking him to stop editing the Leiter report – I would hope that this represents a relatively small part of his professional activity.

    6.) ‘Executed by a leader’, who rallies others into systematic mobbing behaviour. If there isn’t any systematic mobbing behaviour (see 4), then presumably people aren’t being rallied into it.

    Leaving that aside – suppose you can rally people to do X, without people doing X – If there is a leader, who is that supposed to be? Caroline Ichikawa jenkins? Jennifer Saul? David Velleman? Sally Haslanger? David Chalmers?

    Perhaps someone has been co-ordinating all of them behind the scenes, but I’m not sure why I should believe this in the absence of independent evidence. None of these people strike me as particularly biddable, or as unlikely to act on their own initiative.

    With that in mind, I can’t, see that what’s happened so far fits the
    characterization of mobbing given at this link. And I hope that remains true going forward.

  31. Bill, thanks for your helpful comment.

    otheranon, just for further clarification, I take it that ‘mobbing’ and ‘mob mentality’ are two distinct things ( I was talking about the latter, but I agree very much with Bill that the former isn’t going on here either – and I hope that continues to remain the case!

  32. savageheidi: I think it’s false that the signatories on that statement share any substantive swath of values beyond those which are utterly non-controversial (e.g., don’t eat people)– they especially do not share political values (which I mention because you brought it up in your most recent comment). Just to take one example: there are on the one hand any number of outspoken politically progressive folks on the list, and on the other hand, several who were also signatories on the anti-gay petitions that floated around during the time of discussion about the APA’s non-discrimination policy. These are not people likely to be found sharing political blankets with one another.

  33. What seems to be the “unrelenting” aspect mentioned by Blissenbiarella owes to how long it has taken for attention to be paid to the PGR-related aspects of Leiter’s conduct, as well as to the fact that there are a lot of people in both philosophy and law who have been targets of his for many years now — at least 15. That’s a long time. And however much an overreaction it may seem to some, if you’ve been on the interior of being targeted by him, or close to someone who has been, you are likely to believe that there has been a serious underreaction for way too long. There’s a lot of pent-up emotions that are finally being released. Not that emotions should prevail in such situations, but they are certainly a factor in the reactions that are playing out.

  34. Re: S Wallerstein and Professor McAfee,

    The Hitchens-Leiter comparison seems interesting to me. I’m ambivalent about this whole ordeal. I find Leiter’s attacks on fellow philosophers mostly distasteful. I empathize for the (philosopher) targets of his attacks, at least in the cases that have been highlighted in recent days. [As a grad student, I was subjected to all kinds of shit from administrators and one philosopher who shall remain unnamed for my role in student unionization efforts. I also have some reason to suspect that said philosopher followed through on at least one of his/her threats, and exercised negative influence on my job market prospects.] At the same time, I don’t find myself on board yet with the campaign to sanction Leiter, especially as it is waged here. There’s a certain self-evidentness and self-righteousness to this campaign, which rubs me the wrong way. Admittedly, my impression is probably unduly shaped by anonymous blog posts, but these blogs have become the de facto public fora for the discipline-wide debate (which is why I’m also concerned about some of the comment moderation — I know, I know: your blog, your rules).

    I’m open to the idea that this campaign may ultimately be righteous, but its righteousness is certainly not self-evident. What needs to be established has been taken for granted and inscribed on the banners. This is especially curious to me since the campaign is an exercise of power against an individual, and given the motivating grievance, you’d think there’d be more critical self-reflection on whether such an exercise of power was ultimately legitimate.

    That said, I’m genuinely open to the idea that Leiter’s behavior merit this kind of sanction. The above are some complaints about procedure and some initial impressions, which I’m happy to override once persuaded. I find myself sympathetic to something like the following objection: The actions in question are largely rude or uncivil, or downright mean. Whether one personally likes or dislikes this kind of discourse, in itself it does not warrant this coordinated response. Kindness may be a virtue, but nastiness is not violation of one’s professional obligations as a philosopher. So basically: Leiter was nasty, but nastiness in itself is not a wrong that merits such sanction (if it is wrong at all).

    I agree with Professor McAfee about the brilliance, charm, and irreverence of Hitchens-not so sure about the class-and I’ll keep to myself how I think Leiter compares on these dimensions. But I think S Wallerstein’s comparison is apt. Hitchens’ nastiness is well-known. He could be vindictive and cruel; he was often uncharitable; and he certainly didn’t just attack arguments-he attacked the character of the those who uttered them. The list could go on. [As a side note, his regular sexist commentary if uttered by Leiter, would surely have resulted in incurring serious sanctions.] What makes Hitchens’ nastiness ok if Leiter’s is not?

    My considered view is that nastiness does not merit such sanction, and others may disagree. But what I’m much less sure about is whether Leiter’s actions are merely nasty or whether some of them at least are significantly more objectionable in a way that would be proportionate to the sanctions. The crucial factors, it seems to me, are 1) the power differential between Leiter and some of his targets and 2) the parts of his emails/posts that could be construed as threats. I’ve seen some discussion on these things, but so far they haven’t been satisfying, so I invite others to weigh in and help clarify the case against Leiter. My invitation isn’t rhetorical, by the way, I actually find it very difficult to think clearly about these issues. It’s clearly not objectionable for senior members of the profession to criticize junior members, so what are the wrong-making features in Leiter’s case? Should seniors limit their criticisms to the scholarship of juniors or maintain a certain tone when doing so? Is the problem the airing of criticisms in pubic (but then what about the emails?)? Etc. Likewise, are patently absurd legal threats (which is not the same as the threat to use one’s occupational power) serious enough to merit serious sanction? Or what if one genuinely believes that one has been harmed in a way that may have legal recourse, is threatening legal action objectionable?

  35. Edit- Last sentence of first para should read: “unduly shaped by anonymous blog comments” not “blog posts” as it is written– just wanted to clarify since people blog pseudonymously here, and it was not my intention to refer to the blog posts themselves.

  36. anon123,

    I agree with much that you say. By the way, I took Leiter’s legal threats as a parody of legal threats, maybe a lawyer’s in-joke. In any case, not entirely serious, although people who don’t know Leiter (and I don’t know him) might mistake them as serious.

    For example, if you insult me on-line and if I threaten to send a hit-man to deal with you, you may justly feel threatened because you don’t know me and don’t know that I’m an entirely non-violent person. I should realize that before I threaten you, but maybe I don’t realize that because I’m used to making ridiculous threats to people who know me well and who realize that they are jokes of sorts.

    I think that Leiter does not understand that it is not always easy to understand his sense of humor and then to make matters worse, wrongly labels those who do not understand his sense of humor as “stupid”.

    Finally, I think that Leiter’s attempts at apologizing should be taken more seriously since demanding public expressions of perfect contrition, Chinese cultural revolution style, is humiliating.

  37. “I think that Leiter does not understand that it is not always easy to understand his sense of humor and then to make matters worse, wrongly labels those who do not understand his sense of humor as “stupid”.”

    Wow. I am in awe of the lengths human beings will go to avoid seeing a perpetrator as a perpetrator.

  38. Bill @ #35, thank you for the detailed response.
    I certainly don’t think the response to Leiter has been a paradigm of mobbing, in that it fits every criterion exactly, but it’s pretty clear that it fits some. Here are some points on which I just disagree with you.

    First, there is a great deal of rumor and innuendo included in the materials linked under “other resources” at the “Recent Events Involving Brian Leiter” site, which appears to be a kind of clearing house for the campaign against him. For example, Paul Campos says,

    “In another odd coincidence, an anonymous commenter on ITLSS with a literary style strikingly similar to Leiter’s (what might be called “narcissistic snark”) posted hundreds of comments on the blog during this time.”

    I think this is pretty obviously innuendo. I assume you didn’t notice this or the other similar material at the clearing house, but it’s there.

    2. Similarly a great deal of this material is highly ‘disrespectful’. (Of course Catarina Dutilh Novaes’ post is not in the slightest disrespectful.) A couple of examples:

    “Really, Brian Leiter is kind of jerk.”
    “This unleashed The Great Man’s wrath, in a blog post that reads like a parody of an arrogant, sublimely clueless law professor attempting to put the peasantry in their place.”

    3. On humiliation and emotional abuse, Bill, you write: “But, as far as I can see, on any standard by which Leiter himself hasn’t engaged in such actions, no-one else has either.” That may be right, but why is it relevant? What is relevant is the reasonable, correct standard, and I thought it was common ground that by such standards Leiter *has* engaged in such actions.

    4. I think the criticism has been pretty systematic; I don’t know how to judge whether it is ‘continuous’.

    5. It is not an attempt to force Leiter out of his job, but it is an attempt to force him to give up his position as editor of the PGR.

    6. I don’t know if there’s a leader. There is a small group of people who sort of kicked things off, and there is a small group in charge of the web site, but I doubt there is one person ‘orchestrating’.

  39. anon123, thank you for your thoughtful, well-considered comment. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone participating in the boycott, but I can give some further insight into my own view. (Also, fwiw, I think Christopher Hitchens was kind of a dick. So there’s that.)

    First of all, I don’t see the current campaign as a campaign to sanction Leiter. I see it as a campaign to attempt to prevent – and refuse to facilitate – bullying. The thought, I take it, that motivates many is something like this. Leiter has engaged in an ongoing pattern of bullying. This bullying has the potential to be so harmful because of his uniquely powerful position in the profession. And that position is largely due to the fact that he runs the PGR. So to co-operate with a Leiter-run PGR is to facilitate (the particularly harmful or pernicious effects of) this pattern of bullying. Hence, a boycott. (With the hope that Leiter will step down, of course – but that’s sort of a side issue.)

    So, of course, your question about whether Leiter’s behavior really constitutes more than ‘nastiness’ is apt at this point. If by ‘nastiness’ you mean something to do with unfriendly, unkind tone or opinions, then I think Leiter’s behavior is definitely something more than this. Speaking personally, as much as I often find Leiter’s tone and bluster objectionable or obnoxious, I definitely wouldn’t want to boycott the PGR just based on that. There’s no one thing I can specify that makes the difference here – I don’t have a reductive theory of bullying to offer. But I can give some examples which, I think, when put together form a composite picture of behavior that goes beyond merely rude or unpleasant.

    Leiter has publicly suggested on several occasions that individuals (women, as it happened) should leave the profession. He has publicly called an untenured woman ‘singularly unhinged’, and suggested that ‘other people’ think so as well. He has publicly suggested that yet another untenured woman is thoughtless and unintelligent, and even acting out of bad intentions. In addition to these public displays of vitriol towards his critics, he has also privately (as the recently publicized correspondence shows) made legal threats – and with all do respect to s.wallerstein I see absolutely no reason to interpret these as jokes – to other perceived critics (in these two instances, also women.) Here’s the picture this presents. These incidents all appear to have been related to what Leiter felt was criticism (of him personally or of the PGR). When faced with what he perceives to be criticism – even when it is not actually criticism – he publicly embarrasses people, he suggests they leave the discipline, he suggests both that their intelligence and their *intentions* are wanting, and he threatens legal action. And he does all this to women in surprisingly high percentages, given that we are in a discipline with a severe gender problem. This, to my mind, creates a composite picture of someone who is using his professional status in ways that are harmful. And I think these harms extend far beyond a bit of rude language here and there. (On this daily nous thread there’s a nice discussion of these issues –

    All that being said, many of us participating in the boycott feel that we will can no longer assist with that. We can no longer co-operate with the mechanism that allows the actions described above to be particularly painful and harmful. Hence, as I say, the boycott.

  40. P @ #42, I think that is a pretty uncharitable reading of s. wallerstein. Perhaps Mr. Wallerstein views Leiter’s persona through rose-colored glasses, but it really doesn’t seem fair to accuse him of “going to lengths” to avoid seeing in any particular way.
    I also smiled at Mr. Wallerstein’s socratic “I am not a philosopher”. (Some of us know better.)

  41. otheranon, I really don’t think it’s fair to group Paul Campos together with the people signing on to the September Statement. The latter are philosophers concerned about the climate in our discipline. The former is a law professor who seems to have been having some sort of weird feud with Leiter – that I don’t even pretend to understand – for *years*.

    I can’t speak for Campos – and I don’t read his blog – but I certainly hope that no one involved in the September Statement boycott has been intentionally trying to embarrass or emotionally abuse Brian Leiter. Most of the discourse I’ve seen elsewhere has been reasonably measured, and we’ve sure been trying to keep the tone very civil on this blog.

    As for a leader. . .Of course there’s a leader. It’s me. I’m the leader. I’M THE LEADER. IT’S BEEN MY MAD FEMINIST CONSPIRACY ALL ALONG!!!!! [laughs manically]

  42. magicalersatz:

    As a fan of Paul Campos’ blog, I’d like to defend him a bit here. Leiter’s tactics are not used solely against those in the philosophy field; please don’t assume based on a few cherry-picked quotes by one of Leiter’s inevitably anonymous defenders that Campos has just utterly base motivations. While the full story would make this post too long, some salient points in the form of a (very) brief chronology:

    1. Paul Campos starts blogging anonymously as “Lawprof” on a blog criticizing the legal academy for being profoundly unfair to its students by saddling most of them with immense debt but few career prospects. He argued that law professors as a whole were acting in bad faith by ignoring their students’ problems. He did not target any specific person; it was all institutional criticism.

    2. Leiter became utterly enraged by this. Again, no explicit or even implicit criticism of Leiter himself was made; I don’t even know if Campos knew who Leiter was at the time; certainly if he did, was focusing his criticism on schools other than places like U of C which had good placement.

    3. Leiter goes on a drawn-out, public mission to find out who “Lawprof” is, figures it out, publicly threatens to out Lawprof if he keeps writing, privately threaten to out Lawprof, insults Lawprof’s competence, publicly calls him a “failed academic,” a “hack,” “[c]razy.” etc.

    4. Campos mocks Leiter’s attack in response, which as I’m sure you all might expect, Leiter was not expecting and has trouble handling. Campos’ later criticisms, including the one quoted above, are overwhelmingly in response to Leiter’s attacks on others, not himself. He mocks Leiter for trying to out anonymous critics, and get both anonymous and non-anonymous critics fired or (in the case of lawyers) disciplined by the bar for their criticism. Frankly, I agree with the criticisms. It might not be polite as the philosophy blogosphere, but that politeness is part of the reason Leiter has gotten away with his behavior for 15 years.

  43. Hi S7,

    Thanks for this info. It’s really helpful to hear your perspective.

    Just to be clear, I didn’t mean to take a view about Campos and his blog – and I certainly didn’t mean to imply that Campos is in fact engaged in anything like mobbing. I don’t know nearly enough about the topic to take a view on it, really. I just wanted to emphasize that I didn’t think it was fair to group together Campos and the September Statement campaign, since they seem like very different things, and I was worried that ‘otheranon’ was running them together.

  44. magicalersatz: You actually were pretty clear, I think I may have just been a little uncharitable in my reading of what you wrote. Campos’ criticism is certainly a different phenomenam than the September Statement, though I think they’re motivated by the same behavior, generally.

  45. By the way, I’m not as familiar with Leiter’s work as the rest of you I’m guessing, knowing him mainly from his depredations in the legal blogosphere, but the more I see of his work because of this whole imbroglio the more frustrated I get. He’s obviously no coward; he’s willing to publicly go after powerful people who deserve it, like Phyllis Wise or Alan Dershowitz. I WANT to like him, but the way he goes after vulnerable people simply for disagreeing with him, actually trying to hurt them, makes that impossible.

  46. S Wallerstein and magicalersatz (a satisfying name to type)– thanks for the replies. I’m definitely still trying to figure out what I think about this, and I’ll say a bit more once my thoughts are bit more clear.

    in the meanwhile, since I also made a comment or two about the fora in which this campaign/debate is taking place, I thought I’d note a valuable resource I came across today that is aggregating posts on L’Affaire Leiter:

    “I’ve listed below (in roughly chronological order) what has shown up so far, so you should be able to easily familiarize yourself with the basic contours of this issue by working your way down this list. Consider it a public service. I’ll add new entries as they appear, but it’s likely that I will miss some things, so please feel free to leave a link in the comments if you see something that ought be included. ”

    On a cursory look at the links, there doesn’t appear to be any kind of motivated selective inclusion/ommission, but I could be wrong about that.

  47. Edit- I should have explicitly credited Professor Leigh M. Johnson who is maintaing the collection!

  48. magicalersatz:

    I think discounting Campos’ criticism and indeed much of the commentary on Inside the Law School Scam and/or lawyersgunsandmoney is a pretty basic mistake. For a start, on those websites was revealed a lot of Leiter’s more outrageous activity – stuff that is pretty consistent with the complaints heard here, for example threats to quite junior and precariously employed lawyers to write to their managing partners and senior managers (in effect a threat to get those people fired) for “insolence” in disagreeing with Leiter, long before philosophers finally started to object. It is also [edit: this commenter speculates] an open secret that Leiter has made efforts to damage at least Paul Campos and Brian Tamahama’s status as professors at their respective law schools because of Leiter’s objections to their open questioning of the law school status quo.

    Similarly an event known in the legal reform community as the “Aduren” episode is also of considerable interest. To summarise, it has long been [edit: this commenter speculates] apparent that Brian Leiter lurks under various pseudonyms on websites – it has become in fact somewhat of an in-joke (“hi Brian!”) However someone guessed that Peter Aduren was somewhat of an anagram for Pablo Neruda, Leiter’s favourite subject at that time – and another anonymous party hacked a free e-mail account (G-mail or Yahoo) for Aduren with the simple password, and provided [edit: what this commenter takes to be] damning evidence that Aduren was Leiter – worse this hacker periodically pops up claiming to have a copy of the mailbox contents, to Leiter’s consternation.

    One other issue that was particularly “hot” was Leiter’s access to e-mail identities and IP addresses for anonymous commentators on the legal academia site thefacultylounge, something Campos unveiled. Leiter [edit: is alleged to have] used this information to send threats to various lawyers and junior faculty, stating that he would unveil their identity as the authors of posts he disagreed with if they did not cease posting, in at least a few instances suggesting baldly that this would be damaging to careers or employment. Since the faculty lounge was a discussion board for many very junior legal academics, particularly VAPs, this had a very chilling effect. Not only did Leiter not show any shame about this episode, he openly boasted of his access to this class of information and to the various “friends” who gave it to him.

    In short, Leiter [edit: it alleged to have] has also engaged in many of the activities that now has the philosophical community up in arms with your legal counterparts. The sole difference is that Leiter has not made many legal threats, since to any practicing lawyers those threats are a source of hilarity, because they reveal the depth of Leiter’s legal ignorance (and also lately invoke his unfortunate spouse’s status as a lawyer.) Indeed, at least a few lawyers have explained at lawyersgunsandmoney why the threats are nonsensical and infeasible.

    There are a lot of parallels between the issues being discussed on this forum and on legal fora. I would not discount those discussions so casually, or Campos so readily. By all accounts Campos showed considerable courage in speaking up and has paid a heavy professional price, much of which has been exacted [edited for comments policy] by Brian Leiter (and in doing so alone, was considerably more courageous than the philosophers who sought safety in numbers in the September statement.) It would also be useful to recognise that earlier this year Leiter was hinting at some role on Campos’ blog in the recent murder of a law professor, Dan Markel “that comment comes, of course, from the blog of Crazy Campos.” Under the circumstances Campos has been very fair to Leiter.

  49. Once again, I didn’t discount it! I didn’t anything it. I just want to separate it from the efforts of the September Statement, which is a group of philosophers boycotting a Leiter-run PGR.

  50. magicalersatz:

    That you did not discount may now be the interpretation you are putting on your comment, but what you said was:

    “First, there is a great deal of rumor and innuendo included in the materials linked under “other resources” at the “Recent Events Involving Brian Leiter” site, which appears to be a kind of clearing house for the campaign against him. For example, Paul Campos says,”

    In essence you called the information coming from the legal side rumor and innuendo – which is pretty well discounting in any normal reader’s interpretation. Perhaps you might choose to do penance by summarizing the information you “did not discount” and then explaining its relevance to the current imbroglio?

    The stuff about Leiter’s determined sock puppetry coupled with his loud denunciations of pseudonymous posting is perhaps a good place to start, or the mysterious edits from U-Texas IP addresses of Leiter’s wikipedia entry when he was on faculty there, followed by editing from U-Chi when he moved is also fertile territory. Or how about his use of pseudonyms where he poses as a philosophy graduate student to praise and defend Leiter? This is all pretty relevant.

    Or are you engaging in philosophical snobbery (a Leiter habit) as in “this legal stuff is beneath me A PHILOSOPHER?” I mean, Leiter has been playing the “I’m a lawyer/law professor” card on you guys for so long, don’t you think justice demands that you expose what has been happening in that part of his world?

  51. Sorry – the substantive difference between:

    ” The former is a law professor who seems to have been having some sort of weird feud with Leiter – that I don’t even pretend to understand – for *years*.”


    ““First, there is a great deal of rumor and innuendo included in the materials linked under “other resources” at the “Recent Events Involving Brian Leiter” site, which appears to be a kind of clearing house for the campaign against him. For example, Paul Campos says,”

    Is not readily apparent to me. Indeed perhaps the philosophy snobbery wafts more notably from the former comment.

    Could you explain what the substantive difference is – or do the suggested penance?

  52. Anonymous Coward,

    Is it really necessary to ask someone to do penance?

    You may be facetious, but as Leiter (and others) should have learned by now, facetiousness and irony are not communicated well in blogs, without those annoying “smiles”, which are not available, thanks to Aphrodite, in this blog.

  53. s wallerstein:

    I’m just trying to “guilt” someone into doing something I’m too lazy to do, i.e., “summarizing the information you ‘did not discount’ and then explaining its relevance to the current imbroglio” – plus the “weird feud” was aimed at Campos not letter, and god knows, he has earned a lot more respect from the philosophy community who hatched Leiter than magicalersatz displayed. And anyway, as a mere lawyer there are demands on my time [edited to comply with our comments policy]. You do justice to him.

    Collectively, as philosophers you need to start looking at what has been happening in the legal side – not just characterizing it as a “weird feud” or “rumor and innuendo.” Leiter’s behaviour there has been pretty egregious for a long time, and observing the parallels would be a good idea. [edited to comply with our comments policy]

  54. By the way – like anyone from the legal side familiar with Leiter, I am using a false e-mail and a proxy server. Too many blogs have turned out to have blog administrators willing to share information with Leiter – something he has in fact boasted about to those he has threatened on the legal side.

  55. Anonymous Coward,

    First of all, I’m not a philosopher, just a curious bystander and observer.

    Second, this is not a judgment of all Leiter’s sins, but a campaign concerned with his nastiness towards certain philosophers and whether that affects his competence to manage the PGR. What you say about his behavior in law blogs is interesting, but I’m not sure if it’s entirely relevant to the issue we are talking about here any more than are relevant testimonies from ex-students of his that he is a wonderful professor or a sworn statement from his best pals that he is a great friend in need or a certificate from his first grade teacher swearing that he never cheats on tests.

    I have no association with this blog, but rest assured that the administrators will not share your data with Leiter.

  56. I said it was a weird feud because from the outside it does look pretty weird – lots of complicated stuff involving pseudonyms and sock puppets. It’s just massively difficult to get traction on from the outside. I said I don’t pretend to understand it because, well, I don’t.

    I offer no penance for any of that. Sorry. That’s the last I’m going to say on this.

  57. @anonymous: I think you’re being unfair; I come from the law side, too, and the philosophy field has plenty to work on without dragging in the Campos-Leiter feud. And I say that as a fan of Campos. And the chances of this website giving information willingly is approximately 0%.

  58. To clarify: I do not think that Leiter did not do harm to people in the profession, and I don’t believe that something should be done about it. That is unquestionable, in my opinion. My problem is making the moral condemnation part of the discussion about all of it (this is probably because I grew up in very small town in which I experiences this a lot). The kind of thing I would be on board with is simply a description of the facts (and let others draw their own moral conclusions) together with a call for philosophers to boycott the PGR until some agreeable solution to address the problem has been found. I would like also to apologize to Carrie personally here. I did not intend to denigrate her pain, and what do I know what she’s been through. I was not objecting to her, but the tone of the discussion being carried out, and having others use the term “tramautized’ without seemingly much thought put into it. Jenny, I also apologize for questioning the motives of the blog. I have had my own issues recently as you know with certain feminists both here at SUNY and elsewhere, and it has made me angry and frustrated, and feeling abandoned by the very people who are supposed to stand beside me. After this, I will be imposing a moratorium on my posting anything more on blogs until I can work through my anger about the way I’ve been treated by some feminists about being a sexual assault victim. I do have one more disagreement with magical: I still maintain that we have more in common than less, and what is going on these days is far more subtle than the uncontroversial claim that we ought not to eat dogs. Final opinion. Kirk out.

  59. Okay, I’ve just deleted a comment for speculating about Brian Leiter’s intentions and what he’s probably up to right now. Any further such comments will likewise be deleted, as they violated our comments policy.

  60. Me too Heidi! You rock savagely! But I don’t know, I think it might be a lot easier to become traumatized than we might think. Not to take away from the extent of trauma that comes with its more extreme causes, but I’ve observed some instances of genuine PTSD-like behavior rooted in some pretty mundane-seeming causes.

    I think this is extremely interesting. But now I’m without a doubt going off-topic so I’ll stop…

    …but I wouldn’t mind focusing on trauma in another thread at some point.

  61. Heidi – I am so sorry to see what you are dealing with. Your experience is not uncommon, I’m afraid.

    S. Wallerstein, I am glad to see you’ve returned to share your wisdom.

  62. As someone with a foot in both the legal and philosophical world (and who reads the blogs of both pretty regularly), I have a different perspective than S7 and #53 about the merits of any contribution from Paul Campos here.

    A few years ago, Campos himself wrote an article,, in which he admitted he was a “fraud” as a law professor and legal scholar. My impression is that nearly all legal scholars would agree with that; Leiter certainly does and has for a long time. (The history of the two goes back before that, to when Leiter criticized Campos for going on the Bill O’Reily show to argue that it would be just fine to fire Ward Churchill for his political views [not academic misconduct, which only came out later.] To my mind, that episode tells us pretty much everything we need to know about Campos.) Despite what’s suggested by S7, when Campos started his “Inside the Law School Scam” blog and it was featured in Inside Higher Education, quite a few law professors suspected who it was right away (including some people on the “Prawsblog”) and Leiter posted both that he knew without trouble who the author was and that he was not going to “out” him: see, Campos outed himself shortly after that time.

    Leiter made fun of Campos’s “scam” blog fairly regularly after that, In 2013, Campos finally went after Leiter, charging him with using pseudonyms, outing anonymous commenters etc., but with, to my mind, pretty inconclusive and circumstantial evidence and innuendo. (The true-believers find it rock-solid, of course, but that’s no evidence on its own.) Leiter called Campos a “pathological liar,” but did admit that he and some other law professors had been pursuing one Campos follower (“dybbuk”, a rather notorious troll particularly fond of posting nasty things about female lawyers and law professors) who had defamed one of Leiter’s students: see, Campos’s main evidence for his own accusations consists, as #53 notes, of nothing more than the claims of an alleged hacker. Of course, nothing has been independently substantiated.

    It’s also worth noting, I’d think, that in one well-documented case, Leiter did assist Prof. Nancy Leong at Denver, who was harassed and ridiculed in sexist and racist terms for over a year by this “dybbuk” person. Campos’s response was to ridicule Leong. (I recommend looking at the post where Campos does it. It should put an end to any ideas that he’s someone you should want to associate with, if the O’Reily/Churchill thing wasn’t enough.) All the relevant links can be found here:

    People can have different opinions on Leiter’s internet behavior. I certainly don’t approve of all of it. But I’m quite sure that Campos isn’t someone that should be trusted, taken as an authority on anything, or given support to.

  63. Thank you, Matt, that is very helpful.

    Can I ask that we now bring discussion of the ins and outs of Campos v. Leiter to a close? Neither side is, quite obviously, going to settle that issue here, and there are plenty of other places on the internet to fight about it!

    I stand by my original claim that this issue are separable – and indeed fairly orthogonal – to the boycott of the PGR by philosophers.

  64. Okay, I’m tired of deleting things so I’m closing comments on this thread. Just for the record, the fact that you, internet commenters, cannot see the identity of a person who posted a comment does not mean that I, person with moderator access to this blog, cannot see the identity of who is commenting. Now thanks very much random internet commenters, you’ve killed a thread where philosophers were trying to have a worthwhile conversation. Goodnight.

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