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.
The floor is yours.