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It is often instructive to look at just how things are defended by the Right. All of us know that there is a double standard for their partisans, the famous Its Okay If You Are a I understand how arrogant it sounds for me to put myself in the company of the last two, but if I won’t who will? ).

It is still worth doing because this tactic is one of the primary ways that conservatives have worked the ref in American politics, this pretension that they are victims of liberal bias has allowed them to construct there counter-factual, alternate reality edifice that much of their base and far too many others buy into.

The instance that has caught my attention recently is the kerfuffle over the “Brainstorm” blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle basically choose a diverse group of folks with opinions about Higher Ed and let them do blog posts to any which way they like with no real oversight.

This lead to one conservative writer, Naomi Schaefer Riley, an affiliate of the Conservative Institute for American Values, writing a post titled The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations.”

As you might guess from the title it is a screed against the kind of ideas and dissertations that Ms. Schaefer Riley found objectionable. Here is how the post started:

If ever there were a case for eliminating the discipline, the sidebar explaining some of the dissertations being offered by the best and the brightest of black-studies graduate students has made it. What a collection of left-wing victimization claptrap. The best that can be said of these topics is that they’re so irrelevant no one will ever look at them.

She doesn’t like the fact that there are opinions Black Studies students who feel like there is still rampant racism in the United States (she cites the fact we have a black president as an indicator that everything is perfectly equitable between races) or that someone chose to fill out the history of mid-wifery by adding the perspective of women of color, or how black conservatives seem to have internalized the Republican message of “I’ve got mine so screw everyone else” and argue against the continuation of affirmative action programs.

As you might expect this set off a pretty big fire storm at a moderately sleepy blog. It led, after a couple of days, to the publisher apologizing for not exercising more over-sight of the posts and dismissing Ms. Schaefer Riley as a contributor.

Queue the Conservative outrage.

Folks form all over the conservative side of the blogosphere have been lining up to blast the actions of Chronicle of Higher Ed. They are calling it censorious, they are calling it liberal kow-towing, they are calling it everything but a child of god.

But what is interesting to me is the post from the blog over at Reason. Nick Gillespiesteps up to bat to try to defend her actions but winds up basically saying he completely disagrees with her. From his post:

I disagree with her implication that some of the topics mentioned in her posts are useless because they speak to small audiences, that universities are fundamentally about the education of undergraduates, or even that a highly politicized professoriate is necessarily a problem. And I'm wary of any approach that replaces serious consideration of a subject based on cursory glances at paper or dissertation topics (to get a sense of why, check out my coverage of the 2005 Modern Language Association convention for the late, lamented Tech Central Station). I should add that I have effectively no knowledge of black studies departments and can't offer an opinion as to whether or not they are any more or less legitimate (however defined) than, say, American Studies departments or often intellectually-vapid vocational programs such as engineering and architecture.
He goes after the process exclusively, and the fact that when it became clear that Ms Schaefer Riley was belligerent and just looking to have some liberal hides to nail to her door is when the Chronicle took action.  

This defense of process over any kind of property is one that often hammers blogs. Surely everyone is entitled to speak their mind, but a blog is not the public square and it is up to the folks running the blog to decide what is in bounds and what is out.

A small focused minority can turn a blog into a sewer if they are not kept in line. This has happened over at MyFDL where there is no longer any pretense of keeping advocates of political violence off the blog (that is kind of a thorn in my paw in particular as I spent 18 months building up the writing and content quality at that blog, but that is my issue).

To insist that just because an author has contributed a lot in the past means that they can stay no matter what kind of inflammatory and counter productive crap they post is to give up any pretense of editorial control.

It is not like Brainstrom is purging their token conservative, far from it. But they are pulling in the reins of someone who thought that they were entitled to say any liberal bashing thing she liked, as long as it was cloaked in the guise of being about education.

In the end it is pretty clear that none of the folks rushing to defend the erstwhile Schaefer Riley really care about getting her back on the blog, they are just taking another chance to complain loudly about how their point of view is being suppressed when it comes to the higher education.

They benefit in the larger game of convincing the general public that their alternate reality is the true one. What most folks will take away from this (especially the ones that read the right side of the blogosphere) is that some mean folks at the Chronicle of Higher Ed silenced a conservative voice on their blog, rather than someone went a bridge too far with their rhetoric and got called for it, as they should, liberal, conservative or otherwise.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips? Flames? (10+ / 0-)

    Something more fun than having to continually have to point out how conservatives work the refs to set the narrative in this nation?

  •  Regarding violent comments... (0+ / 0-)

    When you light people up with constant outrage, you shouldn't be surprised when some of them come to the point of being so angry they will resort to violence.

    With your implicit permission to do so. It's exactly what liberals accused the right of doing in the wake of the Giffords shooting, when liberals accused Palin and Hannity of doing it.

    Start a fire and you likely won't be able to control it.

    Go ahead and flame me. You'll just be proving my point...

    •  You missed the point, I didn't say they were (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maf1029, sockpuppet

      acting violent but advocating it in blog posts. Two separate and different things. But one tends to lead to the other which is why I have a zero tolerance policy about advocating political violence even tacitly.

      •  "advocating it in blog posts"... (0+ / 0-)

        isn't all that much removed from advocating it anywhere else.

        I read conservative site where violence is also "advocated in blog posts."

        This country is going to wind up in a conservative vs. liberal shooting war before we're all done. And it begins with "advocating it in blog posts" by conservatives and liberals.

        I've read such things here.

        And there's a difference between advocacy and incitement.

  •  Political Violence eh? (0+ / 0-)

    That's what it was?


  •  The original piece was racist. (8+ / 0-)

    It singled out Black Studies for something that all "X Studies" departments do, and it didn't do so as part of a general agenda against those departments but because of a specific animus towards Black Studies.  Usually I'm in the 10%-least-likely at Daily Kos to skip to racism as an explanation for some stupid opinion (and, perhaps not unrelatedly, I'm in the 10%-most-likely to be suspected of racism!), but in this case it takes only elementary logic rather than any moral or ideological grounding to skip to the bottom line.  

    Personally I see the production of liberal arts knowledge through a grim political-economy lens and I think it's subject to the same overproduction and proletarianization/immiseration issues as the widget industry.  So it's not like Black Studies is any more heroic or worthy to me than other fields and subfields.  But it takes  in-your-face racism to pick it out of the lineup ("it must be the black guy!") and complain about it.

    Romney '12: The Power of Crass Commands You!

    by Rich in PA on Wed May 09, 2012 at 05:56:58 AM PDT

  •  I read the original blogpost (7+ / 0-)

    When somebody decides to trash a discipline and in her response to the firestorm she created says stuff like

    My qualifications to post on this blog consist of the fact that I have been a journalist writing about higher education for close to 15 years now. My work has been published in every major newspaper in the country and I have written two books on the subject as well. The editors at those papers and those publishers and at The Chronicle have all been aware that I hold no advanced degree.
    Finally, since this is a blog about academia and not journalism, I’ll forgive the commenters for not understanding that it is not my job to read entire dissertations before I write a 500-word piece about them. I read some academic publications (as they relate to other research I do), but there are not enough hours in the day or money in the world to get me to read a dissertation on historical black midwifery.
    she deserves to be removed from her position.  

    For background, Hafez of Shiraz wrote an excellent diary on this last Friday.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Wed May 09, 2012 at 06:00:54 AM PDT

  •  Wait...the dissertations are "in progress"?! (6+ / 0-)

    I knew she eventually admitted that she hadn't read the dissertations she trashed, but I didn't know that they hadn't even been completed.

    Schaefer Riley's post failed on so many basic levels, even aside from the racism. But there's something especially troubling about attacking an in progress dissertation. A dissertation isn't easy to write - more often that not the only thing that keeps you going is force of will. Now granted, in this case the community came out strongly in defence of these students, but imagine if this was back in the old days, before blog comments and Twitter. That sort of an attack would probably go largely unanswered - and would have been devastating.

    Aside from everything else, that makes Schaefer Riley's actions despicable. You don't score political points by sabotaging students. Makes you wonder whether Schaefer Riley learned journalism at the Rush Limbaugh school.

  •  I've always advised prospective students in (0+ / 0-)

    my own family and circle of friends to avoid X Studies programs in general. Is this problematic behavior?  Would anyone here encourage their own children to choose such a program?  Why or why not?

    Of course there are other departments at various schools that are unintentional parodies of a liberal education.  One could select thesis work for ridicule from almost any field.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Wed May 09, 2012 at 07:25:58 AM PDT

    •  Missing the point (3+ / 0-)

      I think you're missing the point here. To begin with, it wasn't "thesis work" she attacked, it was thesis titles. She never read the theses. She never asked the students for drafts or anything else. And then she defended her right to write a fact-free rant because she's a journalist.

      Secondly, I'm not sure you're doing your family and friends much of a favour by steering them away from interdisciplinary programs. It all depends on the level, of course, and it depends on the goal of the person. I would never recommend a degree in English or History to someone who's main goal is simply to get a job, any job, upon completing their undergrad, but there are people who know where they want to go. Quite frankly, a good "X Studies" program might produce far more employable graduates than a single-discipline major - well-structured interdisciplinary degree programs teach critical thinking, which is a far more useful skill to the average new graduate than is disciplinary knowledge.

      Graduate-level programs are more complicated, but once again, for people entering grad school with an actual goal in mind, it's a matter of finding a program that fits their specific goals. And finally, when it comes to people who want a career in academia, the quality of your work, your academic pedigree and your skill at networking and self-promotion will get you a job in even the most over-crowded field, while failure to do those things will hurt you even in a relatively open field.

  •  What is lost is that this is the best thing (4+ / 0-)

    to ever happen to the career of Naomi Schaefer Riley, and she knows it. She's not upset today, she's probably been fielding offers since she hit her bottom-feeders grandslam.

    What's scary is that the editors of the Chronicle don't seem to realize that they have been played for suckers for a long time as this person went fishing for that magical moment where she would finally find the nerve that led directly to her own firing.
    Read some of her past shit in the archives of the Chron.

    She's been trying to find just the right post to get herself martyred for wingnuttery.

    How did this obvious Coulter wanna-be end up getting to be commentating on the seriousness of others scholarship and overall academic worth? She reads like a newbie New York Post columnist on racial issues. She's so fucking obvious that she might as well have a Hannity bumpersticker slathered across her forehead.

    She's been writing rightwing talking point fueled pap for a while now, obviously hoping and praying to hit the right nerve enough to get a controversy started. Her getting fired was probably a longterm strategic goal. Look at her archive from the Chron, she's been tossing sneering wingnut anti-diversity spaghetti at the wall just itching to get some shit started.

    She was essentially a nobody in conservative punditry, and now she's going to be the wingnut welfare somebody flavor of the month.

    People who should know better in 2012 are still assuming reasonableness and good faith on the part of Movement Conservatives who are clearly acting in bad faith and tossing around shitballs looking for drama that gets them a bigger paycheck.

    It's frankly embarassing that she was able to play this game like it's the mid-1990's and the depths of how much bad faith governs Movement Conservatism can still be claimed to be unknown by some who should be keeping their eye out for it.


    I am from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party

    by LeftHandedMan on Wed May 09, 2012 at 07:38:01 AM PDT

    •  The African-American academics deserved better (2+ / 0-)

      and this racist piece of shit deserved to be fired, but it's scary when you read her past work how transparently obvious her gambit and game has been, and how clueless her overseers have been to her.

      Crap that worked in the mid 1990's to get wingnut welfare gigs shouldn't still be viable career stunts in 2012. She never should have been a trusted member of the blog in the first place because she wasn't there to do anything but be a contrarian shit-stirrer to rightwing hack.

      I am from the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party

      by LeftHandedMan on Wed May 09, 2012 at 07:41:26 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'd delete the FDL stuff 'cause honestly (3+ / 0-)

    the only people who care at all about FDL are the one's who will ignore the thrust of your diary and harp on that one comment.

    on topic:  last summer I listened to Black Arts Movement pioneer and family friend Askia Toure recount how hard it was to even get "Black Studies" on the radar all those decades ago in California.  I've heard [same introductory description as Baba Askia] Sonia Sanchez recount the same stories, and I've heard oblique versions from both my parents, who were envolved in the Black Arts Movement seperately.  actually she's (Professor Sanchez is) the one who invited Mr. Toure to SF State to take part in their brand spanking new .  google "black arts movement", "BARTS", "SNCC", "umbra workshop", "black scholar magazine", "RAM".

    the Black Arts Movement lead directly to the formation of "Black Studies," is my point.  a lesser point is that Black Studies programs have been under seige since before day one.

    This comment is dedicated to my mellow Adept2U and his Uncle Marcus

    by mallyroyal on Wed May 09, 2012 at 10:04:59 AM PDT

  •  Schaefer Riley (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Something the Dog Said

    is a narcissistic know-nothing who's really not worth our time...

    ... and yet I haven't been able to stop watching the train wreck.  Thanks for the update!

    If religion means a way of life, and life's necessities are food, clothing, and shelter, then we should not separate religion from economics. - Malcolm X

    by dirkster42 on Wed May 09, 2012 at 12:58:59 PM PDT

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