Musings from a Prospective Miscreant (Updated)

Brian Leiter has posted my name on a list of people he claims tried to “destroy” Hypatia. I write here under a pseudonym but I am Amy Olberding. I’ve outed myself before, also under provocation from Leiter, and I now do so again for two reasons.

First, I protest Leiter’s characterization of me and want to provide people an opportunity to judge for themselves. Because I do blog under a pseudonym, I have no idea if Leiter’s accusations about my role in Hypatia using my name will associate for many with who I am on this blog – i.e., “Prof Manners.” So, for the record, all of my public comments on the Hypatia situation are here, here, and here. In them, my consistent plea was for greater calm and kindness to all involved. Moreover, for clarity, I made no social media posts or otherwise communicated about the issue other than what you see in these public statements – i.e., my private conduct is reflected in the public statements.

Second and far more importantly, I do not wish to talk here about Hypatia. I want to talk about Brian Leiter. Upon my posting the “Have Mercy” entry (second link above), he sent me an email with the subject heading “your latest dishonesty.” Since I was unaware of having any earlier “dishonesty” to which he could refer, this came as some shock, as did his remarks about my “general rudeness.” I did not reply. However, now I find that he has included me by name on a list of bad actors he says tried to “destroy” Hypatia and I am not content to forego reply.

One of the posts I wrote in light of the Hypatia affair was about fear in the discipline, about how many, simply and reasonably, cannot tolerate the high tax of participating in our public discussions. I write this in part to register my own fears with respect to Leiter’s actions so far. So, here are my fears.

-My temperament is such that I dislike being held up to public scorn. I find it unpleasant and do not wish to countenance more of it.

-There may now be a brutal postmortem on the Hypatia affair and because Leiter has publicly named me, I will be held accountable for things that have little to do with me or with anything I have said. He may go on naming me in this context until I become associated with the issue in ways that distort both my views and my own actions.

-I have seen enough of Leiter’s blogging practices to worry about what his escalation from emailing me to naming me on his blog portends. I am concerned that my name will now casually feature alongside juvenile, sneering characterizations such as “miscreant,” “unhinged,” or as one of his “usual suspects.” I also worry that I will receive additional unpleasant email from him. Until yesterday, I was unaware that there are other bloggers at FP who have needed to resort to blocking technology in order not to receive his hostile emails. Now that I know, my concerns about this are only amplified.

-In my judgment (but certainly, judge for yourself), everything I have said about the Hypatia affair was incredibly benign. If this is all it takes to be included as one who ought to be disesteemed within the profession, then I think I am incapable of any comment that will not earn me that treatment. Hence, I anticipate that any and every new blog post I make will require calculating my tolerance for renewals of his unpleasant attentions.

-I am presently working on a project with others to provide all sorts of teaching materials for people interested in diversity. We hoped to bring it out publicly this month but I now worry that having my name associated with it will draw negative attention to the project via Leiter. The project is beautiful, I think, but it also involves people whose positions in the profession are not secure. So I am faced with the worry that my presence on the project may invite uncharitable or even hostile response that will serve to demoralize and undermine others, sullying what I think is wonderful work they have undertaken in optimism and hope.

-Finally, I worry that this dynamic will simply go on as it has apparently long gone on. Individuals in the profession may need blocking technology on their email accounts, they may wince and be privately pained by public insult, but on the whole, the profession will continue to collectively behave as if this is both normal and acceptable, all the while some percentage of its youngest members take this model onboard as the way to interact with professional colleagues.

To be very clear, from everything that I understand and have seen, Professor Leiter’s treatment of me is neither unusual nor his worst. Others have had it far worse than mention of me in a single blog post and I do not need email blocking.

I say all of this publicly, with my own name attached, because the only other alternatives are even less appealing. I can go quietly, stop blogging, and let this render me timid so as to avoid unpleasant experiences. I can continue as always and pretend that it does not bother me despite the fears I outline above. Or I can do this, publicly pull back the curtain and own the fact that I intensely dislike this experience and its attendant worries. I choose public response because I decline to treat managing this as my own private problem. I did not make this dynamic, but I will not suffer it alone in silence and thereby behave as if doing so is a reasonable expectation of being in this profession.

Professor Leiter, just to be clear: If you email me again, I will post it publicly.

[I include the below from the comments to clarify what I see at issue here.]

Since some commenters are either consoling me or correcting me about my reading of what Leiter said, let me address the bigger picture. Now that I have complained publicly about Leiter’s posting my name on his blog, there’s a pretty predictable pattern I expect. It’s the way the profession tends to deal with insult and demeaning interactions. Some will now carefully parse Leiter’s post and suggest readings that minimize its effect. To engage with this adequately on my part thus requires that I act as if blog posts are textual artifacts to be carefully parsed for precise meaning. So, in this instance, we can say, as Leiter himself suggests, that *only* the parts about “rationalization, obfuscation, and a false moral equivalency” apply to me personally. All the rest, the comments about journal-wreckers and the extended quote about schoolyard bullies, well, those apply to the others on the list or to some subset of them – who knows? If any of them object as well, then we can commence seeing what pieces of the litany of complaints apply to them, evaluating the claims Leiter actually makes about what we ourselves know about the named individuals’ conduct.

Part of what I want to insist is that this dynamic is ridiculous. Sure, we can all put our hermeneutical thinking caps on and carefully parse Leiter’s insults to see which bits of them actually stick or have some kind of traction in reality as we recognize it. And there will likely often be readings that aren’t as insulting as the surface seems. But all that *care* in the parsing of insult in search of precision obscures the want of precision on the front end – in the insult itself. But so long as we’re game to do this – to give precise, careful reading to imprecise, sloppy insult – we just contribute to a demeaning dynamic. Leiter can just go on, making sloppy insults and then, when challenged, fall back upon the hermeneutical efforts of others to sort out *some* kind of justice in some scrap of all he said. And of course most of the people he insults, after seeing this dynamic often enough, won’t bother objecting to what he says. Objecting just gets you condescendingly schooled on how it’s not as bad as you think, if only you were a more careful reader of blog insults directed at yourself.

The broader reason I raise all of this is that it all strikes me as an abuse of philosophical reasoning. We are creatures trained in precision but sometimes precision-seeking is precision-mongering, and I think this is one of those cases. It is also a perverse employment of the principle of charity, as if sloppy insult were again a text that obligates us to seek the most reality-tracking reading. To imagine that a stream of insult operates – that it does what it is *meant* to do – via careful attachment of just the defensible bits to the appropriate targets seems very naïve. That readers of my blog post are now returning to what Leiter wrote to bring it a hermeneutical care is the product of my objecting to what he wrote, not a natural approach to reading insults. Such is to say that even if carefully hermeneutically parsing this insult makes it somehow less objectionable, this declines to acknowledge that the vast majority of his insults pass without such scrutiny. They just get whatever uptake they get in the sloppy, imprecise way he actually makes them. And of course, it’s the sloppy, imprecise stuff on the front end that matters to the one insulted. Nor is it any consolation that with some hermeneutical heavy lifting, it can all be rendered less objectionable.

 

39 thoughts on “Musings from a Prospective Miscreant (Updated)

  1. Prof. Olberding: As someone professing an interest in manners, I am surprised you repeatedly violate one of the basic norms of web etiquette, namely, to link to those whose remarks you are purporting to characterize. I trust you will permit the link here: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2017/05/editor-of-hypatia-rebukes-associate-editors-and-stands-behind-publicatoin-of-the-tuvel-article.html

    As readers can see, the contrast is between the moral and professional clarity of the Hypatia editor Prof. Scholz about the rights and wrongs here and the response of you and others which involved rationalization, obfuscation and a false moral equivalency between the wrongdoers and the innocent. You don’t seem to me a miscreant; you are a hypocrite, though, as the rest of the post makes clear. Your reference to the e-mail I sent you is silent on the fact that I have e-mailed you in the past–perfectly polite e-mails, asking that, in keeping with your professed interest in manners, you not permit certain kinds of comments on your posts–and you simply ignored them, never bothering to reply. This was not courteous, and it was obviously to this that I alluded in my most recent e-mail to you, which I’m happy to post here in its entirety:

    =====

    The irony of your chosen title “Prof. Manners” becomes clearer every time you post. Why don’t you actually link to what I wrote? Or at least quote it, if linking to my blog is too scary:

    “So I ask them [the signatories]: can you please explain why you signed this letter? You may also indicate if you now regret having signed, in light of the many criticisms that have been made. Only signatories to the letter may post here (including signatories not mentioned above, whom I missed). I will not permit responses to the explanations offered, this comment thread is strictly for those who signed the letter. Given how outrageous this entire episode seems to so many, I think, in the Millian spirit, we need to hear from those involved as to how they are thinking about this episode.”

    I hope some signatories will take me up on the offer to explain how they are thinking about this.

    I hope you will honor the FP’s blog stated rules about comments on this thread, and not permit this turn into a defamation zone of its own.

    In keeping with your general rudeness, I suspect you won’t reply.

    =====end of e-mail====

    But instead of reporting any of the actual facts about what transpired, you now engage in bizarre innuendo about non-existent hordes who have to block my e-mails. This is nonsense, as you must actually know. I know by now most of those who will act professionally and respond constructively to correspondence, and those who won’t. In that regard, your concluding threat is unnecessary: you’ve made it clear that you don’t respond to e-mails, even polite ones. But I’m happy to track down and post my earlier e-mails to you as well.

    I was planning already on criticizing your hypocrisy in more detail, but I do not consider you a miscreant. When I do so, I will post a link to the post of yours I am taking issue with.

  2. Brian,

    For the record, I long since blocked your emails, to which I have never, and will never, reply. I strongly suspect the same is true of many others.

  3. Thanks for this post, Amy. I fully support your efforts to address Brian Leiter’s mischaracterization of you and and your views. Please keep blogging. In solidarity, Peggy DesAutels

  4. Professor Leiter has submitted an additional comment but I cannot post it. It refers to an email he sent me some months ago, in which he objected to my approving a comment on FP by someone else, a person he described as “disturbed.” For reasons I hope are obvious, I will not post a comment that reproduces this claim against someone else here.

  5. I think you should either post the comment I sent or remove the one you have just posted, since it is misleading without context. Thank you.

  6. Prof. Leiter, your comments – both the original and the edited just sent – contain an email you sent me in which you malign a third party. I will not approve any comment maligning other people in the profession. If your aim in reproducing this email in comments here is to demonstrate that you emailed me before and I failed to reply, then I freely grant that this is the case. If this is meant to prove that I am “rude” or a “hypocrite,” then so be it. I own up: I don’t respond to unsolicited email maligning other people. Others can make of that what they will, but I won’t have the third party you named in that email exchange brought into this. Any comments you submit that name that party (or others) will not be approved.

  7. Thank you, Prof. Manners. I appreciated your posts on the matters and I was, in fact, very surprised to see your name in Leiter’s tiresome post on the matter.

  8. Dear Prof. Manners, I, for one, am quite interested in your teaching material. As for certain lists, I learned to consider them almost badges of honor.

  9. Brian refers above to a post in which he names and invites philosophers who signed the open letter to explain in comments their reasoning. He includes a statement, which as of yet is still there, that comments will only be open to signatories to the letter and that he will not permit responses to the offered explanations. However, there are comments on the post written by presumable non-signatories criticizing one of the signatories’ explanations which she offered elsewhere. I’m not sure what explanation could be offered for this.

  10. thank you for writing this. among other things, it’s so beautiful, it’s a delight to read (it is also, obvi, very painful). i’m not a philosopher but i aware of BL’s shenanigans. dear brian leiter, stop thinking you have the right to ruin other people’s careers.

  11. I also want to thank you, Prof. Olberding. I’ve shared this and I encourage others to do the same.

  12. Prof Manners,

    Here’s what I took away from Leiter’s said post: in the context of the events, your (and others’) posts had amounted to “the obfuscation, rationalization and dodging of the issues.” That’s why at that time they had been contributing to the destruction of Hypatia’s reputation, until the editor intervened.

    I believe he’s right on both counts.

  13. fwiw, I don’t think that you are mentioned in his post in a way that implies that you are trying to destroy HYPATIA, or on the signatory list; the sentence scans to me as one accusing you of something like refusing to take sides. I’m not sure whether this is a fair or unfair characterization; you might well agree and say that it’s hardly a bad thing to do!

  14. Does this mean that there will be fewer Department of Deviance posts? That would make me sad.

  15. Ash, I appreciate that and, yeah, for good or ill, I never was trying to deliver a verdict of my own on all of the issues.

  16. Since some commenters are either consoling me or correcting me about my reading of what Leiter said, let me address the bigger picture. Now that I have complained publicly about Leiter’s posting my name on his blog, there’s a pretty predictable pattern I expect. It’s the way the profession tends to deal with insult and demeaning interactions. Some will now carefully parse Leiter’s post and suggest readings that minimize its effect. To engage with this adequately on my part thus requires that I act as if blog posts are textual artifacts to be carefully parsed for precise meaning. So, in this instance, we can say, as Leiter himself suggests, that *only* the parts about “rationalization, obfuscation, and a false moral equivalency” apply to me personally. All the rest, the comments about journal-wreckers and the extended quote about schoolyard bullies, well, those apply to the others on the list or to some subset of them – who knows? If any of them object as well, then we can commence seeing what pieces of the litany of complaints apply to them, evaluating the claims Leiter actually makes about what we ourselves know about the named individuals’ conduct.

    Part of what I want to insist is that this dynamic is ridiculous. Sure, we can all put our hermeneutical thinking caps on and carefully parse Leiter’s insults to see which bits of them actually stick or have some kind of traction in reality as we recognize it. And there will likely often be readings that aren’t as insulting as the surface seems. But all that *care* in the parsing of insult in search of precision obscures the want of precision on the front end – in the insult itself. But so long as we’re game to do this – to give precise, careful reading to imprecise, sloppy insult – we just contribute to a demeaning dynamic. Leiter can just go on, making sloppy insults and then, when challenged, fall back upon the hermeneutical efforts of others to sort out *some* kind of justice in some scrap of all he said. And of course most of the people he insults, after seeing this dynamic often enough, won’t bother objecting to what he says. Objecting just gets you condescendingly schooled on how it’s not as bad as you think, if only you were a more careful reader of blog insults directed at yourself.

    The broader reason I raise all of this is that it all strikes me as an abuse of philosophical reasoning. We are creatures trained in precision but sometimes precision-seeking is precision-mongering, and I think this is one of those cases. It is also a perverse employment of the principle of charity, as if sloppy insult were again a text that obligates us to seek the most reality-tracking reading. To imagine that a stream of insult operates – that it does what it is *meant* to do – via careful attachment of just the defensible bits to the appropriate targets seems very naïve. That readers of my blog post are now returning to what Leiter wrote to bring it a hermeneutical care is the product of my objecting to what he wrote, not a natural approach to reading insults. Such is to say that even if carefully hermeneutically parsing this insult makes it somehow less objectionable, this declines to acknowledge that the vast majority of his insults pass without such scrutiny. They just get whatever uptake they get in the sloppy, imprecise way he actually makes them. And of course, it’s the sloppy, imprecise stuff on the front end that matters to the one insulted. Nor is it any consolation that with some hermeneutical heavy lifting, it can all be rendered less objectionable.

  17. Noah, I think the lesson here might be I should retreat entirely to my home department and stay out of philosophy! : )

  18. Professor Olberding –

    You have made public statements but do not want to be held to acccount for them? This is exactly what Professor Leiter did. If you don’t want your public statements to be criticized on public platforms, don’t make them.

  19. Nick, I object to equating sloppy insult with “holding to account.” Likewise, I object to treating Brian Leiter’s representation of my actions as that for which I should be held to account. And, finally, my objections here are precisely a way to hold Professor Leiter to account for his own statements.

  20. Prof. Olberding: You have on several occasions over the last year or two criticized (or, in your lingo, “maligned”) me both on this blog or on other blogs. You have, including in this post, maligned, insulted, derided and misrepresented me—sometimes directly, sometimes by innuendo. You have approved both here and previously comments that do the same. (When I once sent you a polite e-mail about the latter in 2016, you simply ignored it.) On just one occasion, on May 7, 2017, I mentioned your name on my blog, as follows: Prof. Scholz’s “singular clarity about her obligations as editor and the rights & wrongs of this matter make a stunning contrast with the obfuscation, rationalization and dodging of the issues we have seen from so many: the Associate Editors, the philosophers who signed the ‘Open Letter,’ Lisa Guenther, Sally Haslanger, Mark Lance, Amy Olberding, and so many others. Kudos to Professor Scholz, who may have singlehandedly salvaged the journal’s reputation and integrity from the efforts of so many to destroy it.”

    That passing mention has now triggered this extended set of reflections on *possible* criticisms you *might* receive, on your “fears,” on the “dynamic” of these “interactions,” on the norms governing interactions with “professional colleagues” and on and on. All because I mentioned your name critically, once, in response to several public blog postings by you on this highly-trafficked blog!

    All the times you have maligned me on this blog (including now), it never occurred to me that any of this would merit a response like yours. People criticize the actions and words of others. When you post on a highly visible blog, as we both do, this is bound to happen. People have a legal right to criticize us, short of defamation. There is nothing wrong with it, it is perfectly normal, and it does not raise any deep questions about the “dynamics of interactions.” When those responding to your maligning of me point out that you are misrepresenting what I wrote, they do not deserve to be derided for falling into “hermeneutical” traps. If I do not deem your intervention in the Tuvel matter “benign,” you can simply defend yourself against that charge without this extended melodrama.

  21. From my email inbox, from Professor Leiter:

    I have submitted this comment. “Sloppy insult”!
    +Insert copy of the entire comment above after it was submitted via our usual commenting function.

  22. You forgot the subject line: “fyi.” I’m glad to know this is the easy way to get published here!

  23. Professor Leiter, Could you please explain the discrepancies in the post I mention above with regard to your promises about how comments will proceed and how they actually proceeded? Is this your latest dishonesty, or am I missing something here? It seems to me that the above mentioned post is an example of a disingenuous invitation to dialogue, which if characteristic of the ways you are typically “engaging” people, it seems utterly unsurprising to me that Prof Manners or others would decline to respond to your emails no matter how politely any individual email may be posed, if true. These emails nonetheless exist in a context of the unnecessarily aggressive and uncharitable ways in which we have all seen you engage on your blog and elsewhere.

  24. What Prof. Manners is doing here is classic deflection. She would prefer that the profession at large stop harping on the vicious witch-hunt against Tuvel, because it embarrasses her and many of her fellow travelers, and so she casts herself as a victim of the big bad Grinch. It’s laughable and, yes, melodramatic. But it cleverly serves the purpose Prof. Leiter indicated in his post: “obfuscation, rationalization and dodging of the issues.” No one will forget what was done to Prof. Tuvel–it was just too ugly and public. But maybe Prof. Manners can distract a few people from scrutinizing her own role in creating an environment where this kind of savage mobbing and self-serving virtual signaling can happen. Here, let’s talk about how mean and evil Brian Leiter is. Look over there! Squirrel!

  25. This is in reply to “confused” at 8:56 pm: I am running a number of open threads on my blog, that have attracted many comments. I failed to realize that some comments were, in fact, submitted on the thread that was only for signatories, rather than the other threads. I’ve now removed them. But instead of charitably assuming an innocent error on my part, which I would correct, you opted for the uncharitable approach of which, ironically, you accuse me. But let me be clear: you’re entitled to your idiosyncratic standards of what counts as “unnecessarily aggressive” engagement, but this is a matter of taste, and your taste is not of any interest to me. But I do appreciate your catching this mistake.

  26. Anonymous,
    I really don’t know what to do with your comment. You have me simultaneously cast as one of some unspecified group of “fellow travelers” viciously fomenting savagery and as a whiny victim quivering in fear of a Seuss creature and as a cartoon dog easily distracted…? I know this is going to sound snarky, but a little narrative consistency in how you depict my character would really help me formulate some kind of coherent response. Still, here’s the best I can do.

    Not all feminists think alike and they certainly have not judged this situation alike, so you can’t just conflate me with whoever else it is you have in mind. If you want a useful response rather than just to lob anonymous potshots, you need to speak to me and specifically to what I have actually written.

    What I get from your complaint that does attach to me is that you think I tried to change the subject by writing this post about Leiter. Well, I did that now because now is when he emailed me and then put my name on his blog. My name was not inserted into this until he did that. I did of course make blog posts, but I did so under a pseudonym so for a lot of people his accusations against Amy Olberding were never going to track back here. They’d attach to me under my actual name but not to what I actually said. So if I didn’t want his accusations against me by name to just be out there in public, I had to link them back here and out myself. Because of that and because I dispute his claims, here we are, now. If you don’t like the timing, take it up with him.

  27. I’m not going to defend or attack Brian Leiter here. However, I will say that one outcome of this Hypatia mess is that it has rehabilitated Leiter’s reputation to some degree; he has, since this story broke, been one of the few philosophers to publicly come out clearly and definitively for free inquiry. I’ll leave it to others to mull over whether the reformation of Leiter’s reputation is a good or bad development for philosophy.

    Even though I’m a feminist and I do feminist philosophy, I almost never visit this blog. Your highly restrictive comment policy drives me up the wall, and I regularly get the impression that the comment sections are shaped to reflect The Official Party Line. Occasionally, despite all the overregulation, an interesting debate will emerge, but then one of the editors will immediately rush in to close comments. Obviously, you get to run your blog as you see fit, but you might want to think about how that is working when even Hypatia-publishing feminist philosophers like myself decide that this is not a space that is open to a range of diverse positions in feminist philosophy.

    Finally, your pseudonym and the “be nice” comment policy: I’ll just say that I often find this incredibly annoying and passive aggressive. When you or the other editors allow underhandedly hostile comments through all the while preaching this doctrine of “niceness” and “good manners”, well, I can imagine that being pretty infuriating to those who are the targets of the hostility. Again, your blog, your rules, your name, but if you don’t want this to be an echo chamber where you perform to an audience of like minded persons and speak with one voice, you may want to rethink some of these policies.

  28. this was trenchant–

    “all that *care* in the parsing of insult in search of precision obscures the want of precision on the front end – in the insult itself”

    (Although fwiw I didn’t read the line in Leiter very carefully to begin with! I was just giving you my quick scan! But maybe it’s even worse that I gave it only a quick read!)

    I think there are instances in which we demand too much circumspection on the speaker’s end, and we often demand too little charity on the listener’s. But obviously when someone is publicly criticizing others by name–the onus of precision and clarity falls entirely on them.

  29. Prof Plum, fair enough. Since there are multiple bloggers here, I can’t speak to how each moderates comments – I only moderate comments on my own posts. For what it’s worth, I rarely decline to approve comments. Honestly, I feel like hitting the mean – not letting nasty stuff through but also not “tone-policing” – is almost impossible. I can’t even manage the things I say myself in that way well, so I’m sure it does look all messed up.

    The “be nice” policy pre-dates my joining the blog, but maybe it reduces some participation – even with it we still get comments with pseudonyms like “hypatia can lick my taint” so if it discourages a little of that, I’m sort of glad.

    My pseudonym bugs me too, for what that’s worth. It started because I was going to take reader inquiries and was a play on Miss Manners. I am very committed to the worth and importance of manners, but the name is aspirational rather than anything tracking my self-estimation. I can’t change it now without creating confusion or making it look like I’m dodging my past posts with a new identity.

    Finally, I agree with you that it’s better to have a range of views in feminist philosophy and better to have them intermingling and mixing rather than in separate silos. I don’t think I restrict the things I post to delimit the possible participants in advance, but maybe that I mostly post about stuff related to my own area in civility/manners/etc. sets a limit of sorts? Lots of people may not care about that or not find value in it. Anyway, feel free to let me know if you’re reading my posts and think I’m cutting conversations short and truncating what *kind* of feminist can participate. One of the things I disliked a great deal about the Hypatia situation was dialogue that seemed to wrangle over who counted as properly feminist, what a feminist *had* to think about things, who counted as failing at feminism, etc.

  30. To respond to your 1:03 post above, the problem with your reaction to the Tuvel fiasco is precisely what Leiter identifies: prevarication and massive double standards. You are, of course, kind of in a bind. A huge number of your friends are presumably frothing at the mouth about Tuvel’s horrific violence against trans people and people of color, and signed or basically agree with the open letter to Hypatia. At the same time, you are too smart not to see that, even independently of rights and wrongs, throwing in your lot with these friends would be a losing proposition: their cause is becoming more toxic by the day, both in philosophy and in what passes for the wider intellectual culture.

    Hence your sudden enthusiasm for bipartisan ‘peacemaking’, for not seeing ‘systemic’ problems in terms of an individual case (‘Please stop symbolically conscripting Rebecca Tuvel into the role of personifying all of these systemic issues that attach to the profession at large’), for one way or another just calling a halt to the whole discussion of Tuvel (‘I would like to enjoin the profession as a whole to cease with these degrading displays’), for rejecting ‘us vs them’ thinking (‘surely there can be more than the comically simplistic presentation of two sides here’), for compassion, for healing, and a group hug (‘It is possible to feel great concern and humanity for all who have been affected by this’). Thus you hope to avoid the embarrassment of publicly joining in the fanatically ideological persecution of a young untenured female feminist philosopher, without alienating your many friends among the fanatically ideological persecutors. And you get to look compassionate into the bargain!

    Needless to say, this is indeed sudden. Your bloggers are constantly seeing ‘systemic’ problems in terms of individual cases: the high-profile sexual harassment scandals are only one obvious set of examples of that. As for ‘us vs them’ thinking — was there ever a more Manichean blog than FP? Throwing these extraordinarily well-established FP tendencies into instantaneous reverse is just too transparent. Who are you trying to kid? (Trick question. I’ve just explained which two groups of people you’re trying to kid.)

    I can’t speak for the ideological loonies, but I doubt it will work on many of the majority who are horrified by what’s been done to Tuvel. It’s just not a fence-sitting kind of scenario. If you take the only clear-eyed line here — that what was done was, quite simply, vicious, narcissistic, politically regressive bullying — it doesn’t make sense to call for compassion toward the perpetrators, or to imply that the issue is in any way hard to adjudicate (‘There are a host of thorny and complex issues attached to the debates raging on social media and blogs elsewhere’ — yeah, no — ‘It is possible to see all of the issues raised here as incredibly vexed and radically difficult to address’ — possible, maybe, but also self-deceiving and evasive).

    I think Leiter has your number., in other words.

  31. What kind of person spends their time writing letters that end with the sentence “I think Leiter has your number., in other words.”

    Where is all this hate coming from?

  32. Brian Leiter wrote:

    “I failed to realize that some comments were, in fact, submitted on the thread that was only for signatories, rather than the other threads. I’ve now removed them.”

    This appears to be false. Currently there are three comments on the thread in question, none of them by signatories, and one of which links to a twitter account that retweets some notorious misogynists.

  33. My goodness. Everyone on this thread needs to (1) get some fresh air, (2) enjoy a bottle of wine with some friends and, (3) finish their grading! Things are horrible right now but we’re going to be okay. We’ll get there. Unless there’s a nuclear war — which does not look beyond the bounds of possibility right now. Warm wishes to you all.

  34. Anon, I found that a bit odd too. Based on a quick google search of some phrasing, the person who has “my number” posts at a metablog. The post is verbatim from there and the part of the thread I read around it appears to involve a debate, based on Leiter’s remarks, about what degree of horrible I am. Apparently, they interpreted Leiter calling me a hypocrite to mean I signed the open letter asking Hypatia to retract. I’m not going to link to it here since it looks like open season over there on many people Leiter picked out in the post that also mentioned me. Here’s the part debating what I did or did not do. They’re all anonymous, of course.

    -It’s a problem that AO was simultaneously attacking RT by signing the petition and discouraging people from defending her by arguing (as prof manners) that the real issues were systemic and impersonal. Lehrer is right that she’s been hypocritical.

    -Are you sure Olberding signed that Open Letter?

    -I don’t think Olberding signed the Open Letter. But she also did not condemn the Associate Editors or the authors of the Open Letter. She acted as though there were bad guys on both sides, when in fact Tuvel did nothing wrong.

    -Did she not sign the letter? If so, what’s Leiter’s beef?

    -I’m pretty sure she didn’t, but I didn’t save a copy when it was up and now there doesn’t seem to be a signed version online. Or maybe there is — does anyone know of one?

    -Here’s the Open Letter: [link] Olberding is not among the signatories.

    -Aha, I think I misunderstood a line from Leiter. He listed her as one of the obfuscaters, but not as one of the signatories.

    Apparently, the sloppy insults confused the metabloggers for a bit. The efforts of my got-your-number friend are aimed at getting them happily back to what’s really wrong with me rather than just running with Leiter’s obsfuscating insults. (Oh, and meta-folk, if you’re reading, I saw that you’re also asking why I didn’t join in by defending the substance of Tuvel’s article. Answer: I haven’t read her. I didn’t think I needed to do so to say she was being wronged. Now, back to shredding me merrily – maybe my not reading Tuvel exposes a new level of awful you can run with?)

  35. Prof Manners, I would not spend any more of your valuable time parsing the contents of your accusers’ communications. Whatever wrongs were committed originally, this has degenerated into a pretty disgusting ad hominem discourse.

    Hello everybody: can you take your blinkers off please? There is a big, bad world out there. Lots of bad things are going on. Do you really want to spend your time pursuing this particular issue, in this particular way? Is this really the best way you can think of, of improving the life of your community?

  36. Point taken, anon. I’m wildly demoralized and it’s showing. Thanks for the humane reminder.

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