Too Subtle By Half

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While working on Cathy Young's fascinating story on Jonathan Bean, I came across this letter to the editor of the Southern Illinoisan, and was initially thinking about linking it as an example of the kind of madcap attacks Bean is getting. I don't know whether this speaks more to the insanity of campus sensitivity or to my own presumption of that insanity, but it wasn't until I read the letter a second time that I realized the writer was goofing. And I suspect the editors at the Southern Illinoisan didn't realize it at all, because they gave the letter the simple headline, "Bean has to go." See if it reads that way to you:

To the Editor:

My eyes were edged with tears as I read Caleb Hale's article in the Southern which exposed Southern Illinois University at Carbondale history ("His-Story") Professor Jonathan Bean as a racist hate-mongering phallocrat.

Your readers know that while Professor Jonathan Bean (allegedly) uses the teaching of Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he also used an optional handout which discussed in incident that "recounted a series of 71 murders perpetrated by a group of black men against white civilians in San Francisco between 1972." The uses of these kinds of facts have no place in academia. I was horrified to see the Southern was in on his deliberately misspelling "Malcom X" (sic) as yet another means of covert oppression. Caleb Hale—Matthew Hale. Coincidence? I doubt it.

As a former student, I was aghast to learn that my alma mater has evidently become a haven for dogmatic hate preachers who us their "teaching" positions to indoctrinate unsuspecting students with the politics of racism, using taxpayer dollars.

Evidently, this "David Duke with a PhD." Will suffer no professional discipline either! He will no doubt cry first amendment violation and academic freedom, but sometimes the feelings of one or two must trump the education of many.

Clearly, he must go. It is incumbent on the university end their relationship with this suit-and-tied Klansman. I would also like to see local, state and federal law enforcement intercede and determine if he could be brought up on charges and incarcerated for such reckless insensitivity.

C.L. Stratton, Springfield

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  1. If the writer isn’t goofing he’s a loon. My vote is for goofing.

  2. The way it’s written, it’s tough that tell the if the writer is kidding or crazy. I do like the use of the Phallocrat.

  3. Tough call, and believable either way. I’ve seen uber-sensitive talking heads say (with perfectly straight faces) that certain points of view should be squelched and banned if they hurt anyone’s feelings.

    How does one register as a Phallocrat?

  4. I don’t know, I doubt a true looney would be able to walk the crazy line so closely. I vote for totally goofing. And, man, the use of Phallocrat was downright LOL if not ROFL and LMAO.

  5. There is no question that he is goofing. Of course, I could be goofing too.

  6. “He will no doubt cry first amendment violation and academic freedom, but sometimes the feelings of one or two must trump the education of many.

    Why is this up for discussion? It’s a joke, clearly, unequivocally. Some parts of it were a little gray, but that sentence above seals the deal. Even if he was a crrrrazy liberal who actually believed that the feelings of a few should trump the education of many, he wouldn’t phrase it in such a manner. Everyone knows that if crazy liberals are good at anything, it’s crafting their loony arguments in a more palatable, populist fashion.

  7. Good goof – almost too good, since a lot of people are finding it hard to tell whether or not the author is serious. The term “phallocrat” is a clue (along with being pretty damn funny), but the second paragraph is the real giveaway with its claim that “the use of these kinds of facts has no place in academia” and the sarcastic denunciation of the mispelling of Malcolm X’s name – only a smartass college student would come up with those!

  8. “only a smartass college student would come up with those!”

    Then why did the letter writer identify himself as “a former student”?

    I smell conspiracy!

  9. A great goof. Swift would be proud. I agree with Evan’s take on the quote he cites–that’s the dead giveaway.

  10. I have a phallocrat in my boxers making all sorts of bad decisions.

    I wonder what the female version is?
    Vagicrat? Vulvacrat? Clitorist?

  11. “Vote Phallocrat – Because You’re Going to Elect a Penis Anyway!”

  12. I believe Johnson was a Phallocrat…

  13. “Only dicks have dicks.”

  14. Jennifer, don’t forget shemales!

  15. I once wrote a tic letter to the editor regarding an op-ed piece hailing the teaching of christian creationism, err, intelligent design in schools, indicating what an great opportunity it would be to teach Islamic and Hindu creationism in schools once intelligent design made its way into the classroom.

    Unfortunately, humorless nitwits take/took such articles way too seriously.

  16. Happy Jack-
    Shemales are even more dickish that he-males, combining as they do the male arrogance of a guy with a penis and the female arrogance of a woman with perky boobs.

    (I’m just making this up; I don’t think I’ve ever met one in my life.)

  17. Jennifer,

    Unless he/she took it out, how would you know?

  18. David-
    Because hundred-percent-genuine women are never as good-looking as the fake ones; since I’ve never had a female friend perfect enough to pose for “Playboy” without airbrushing, I can safely assume they’re all female.

    And if y’all don’t mind a threadjack, congratulations are in order for me, as I’ve just been offered a SUPER-cool job at a salary nearly twice what I make now! Life is wonderful. And does anything feel better than giving your two week’s notice at a job you despise? No. Not even sex (no offense to my boyfriend, who I know is reading this thread).

  19. Yes, giving no notice to a job you despise.

  20. Hehe most surely a goof.

    My guess is that it was written by an author or commentator from the BlameBush! blog.

  21. Rise up, rise up, ye Phallocrats!

    I wonder what the female version is?

    A Clitorista.

  22. David-
    I was tempted, but as much as I despise the company I like my immediate colleagues, and if I just cut and left they would have been in SERIOUS hurt until they could find my replacement.

  23. Congrats, Jennifer. And no, nothing feels better, you’re right! I’ve had the best job ever for the last two years, homeschooling my son, so it’s always nice to hear when someone deserving gets a job that’s SUPER-cool.

    Oh, ahem, and uh, yeah, that asshole who took a leap. Sorry for his family, but I don’t know if I would have tried to talk him out of it.

  24. Thanks, Les. But I think you’re in the wrong thread–the Scumbag Suicide is up a few topics.

  25. Oh. Different thread. Sorry. Anyway, yeah, looks like a joke and Cathy does a good job of showing how hypocritical the lefties on the campus are being. Cathy often rocks.

  26. Congratulations, Jennifer.

    Jennifer: And does anything feel better than giving your two week’s notice at a job you despise? No. Not even sex (no offense to my boyfriend, who I know is reading this thread).

    David: Yes, giving no notice to a job you despise.

    How about having after-hours sex on the desk of a boss at a job you despise?

    Not recommending anything, but I know someone who did something similar.

  27. Congratulations, Jennifer.

    Hilarious spoof from the Illinoisian! A friend of mine once sent a letter to the editor ranting about something or other, identifying himself as president of a group called Citizens United for the National Treasury. It got published, acronym and all.

    (Of course, when there are campus groups with names like Feminists United for Community Knowledge — yes, the actual name of an actual feminist group at some college — it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish reality from parody…)

    Anyway. Any chance of an actual discussion of the actual column? 🙂

  28. Whoops, my bad. The column? Well, the column was wonderful, insightful and perfect–almost as much as I had to be when applying for my new job.

    Oops. Sorry. I’ve never posted in a good mood before, and I have no idea how it’s done.

  29. Jennifer-

    What’s the new job?

  30. Thoreau-
    Well, y’know, I tried to do the Good and Noble thing by being a schoolteacher and using my abilities to Mold Young Minds and Help Shape the Future and so forth, but since my attempts to help society went for naught I have, in true misanthropic fashion, decided “To hell with society” and took a high-paying job working for the Evil Empire–I’ll be on the creative staff of a very small and extremely snarky advertising agency, and get paid good money to make stuff up. (Granted, I had to make stuff up as a teacher, too, saying things like “Oh yes, Mrs. So-and-So, your son is a nice boy with a wonderful future ahead of him,” but at least now I can be HONEST about making stuff up, rather than pretend it’s the truth.)

    And the column really was good, and I think the guy WAS being sarcastic, though with PC folk these days sometimes it’s hard to tell.

  31. Oh, Cathy asked what we think of the column: Well, I’m jealous of the 2 teaching assistants who got a free pass to quit in the middle of the semester but presumably keep their stipends.

    I also think that what the professor did was academically dubious. I’m not defending witch hunts, but taking out important context is a bad idea. If he can’t fit it to a double-sided page with that one paragraph then he should have copied and pasted and played with fonts and margins.

    That doesn’t justify the magnitude of the response, but I don’t have a lot of sympathy for an idiot who gets sloppy with his academic practices when he’s trying to present material of a sensitive nature.

    Plus, if he had included the crucial paragraph and given the students more context, it might have actually toned down the response. Right now it looks like he’s trying to white-wash (pardon the expression) the article. If he didn’t do anything like that, his presentation of the article would appear more neutral.

    Finally, leaving that paragraph in would have done more than just innoculate him and give context. It would also provide an excellent opportunity for academic discussion. He could ask his students the hard question: How much should a writer’s background and beliefs matter? Is it reasonable to evaluate the essay at hand without looking at the fact that he is a fan of a racist website? Can we find other sources who espouse similar positions on the matter at hand (a series of murders in the 1970’s) but don’t have the other baggage? Does that baggage matter?

    So, basically, I have little sympathy for an idiot who was sloppy while playing with fire. Conservatives need better poster children if they want to attack academic leftism.

  32. Thoreau,

    I think the whole argument depends on why the students and other faculty have taken action against Prof. Bean.

    Is it because he’s a conservative and the were waiting for the first “slip up”?

    If that’s the case, they’re in the wrong.

    Is it because the article in question was written by someone with racist/anti-semitic connections.

    This is where Prof. Bean is careless, because it allows the argument that Prof. Bean was introducing racist propaganda as course materials. If it were proven to be a deliberate omission, I feel Prof. Bean is wrong, but still not deserving of such ado.

    Is it because of the content of the article?

    If the article is historically accurate, the students and faculty are wrong, and like many textbooks, seeking to perpetuate a myth. If historically inaccurate, Prof. Bean deserves what he gets for presenting it as factual.

  33. David-

    I have no doubt that some of the professor’s critics are only interested in racial politics rather than standards of scholarship.

    The thing is, standards of scholarship exist precisely for situations like this: When passions are inflamed, the best antidote is careful, sober, reasoned analysis.

    Besides, I think that if he had included that context he could have saved himself a lot of headaches. Not that they would have all gone “Oh, he’s a careful scholar, I’ll leave him alone.” But if he had encouraged students to take a controversial article (on racially motivated crimes against whites) and look at the context and debate the significance of it, I don’t think as many people would have rushed to judgements against him.

    Those judgements may be wholly undeserved, but the fact remains that he knew he was broaching a delicate subject and he didn’t do his homework. Twenty year-olds aren’t the most reasoned bunch out there, and the job of a professor is supposed to be to teach them about reason and careful inquiry. When a professor fails in that task, well, I’m not terribly surprised.

    To put it in perspective, some day I would like to be a physics professor. I am a fan of a non-traditional interpretation of quantum mechanics (the de Broglie-Bohm theory, AKA Bohmian mechanics). If I taught a class on quantum mechanics and I included some Bohmian stuff, I have a responsibility to present it carefully. If I should assign a class to read an article by a crackpot, and I don’t include that crucial piece of context, then I will deserve whatever happens next. OTOH, if I assign them to read a recent article from Physical Review Letters written by a reputable source, I’m safe. And if I assign them to read both articles and include the context and ask them to compare and contrast to learn the difference between reasonable critiques of established theories vs. nonsense, well, then I probably deserve some good course evaluations.

    This professor screwed up, and while the campus is probably over-reacting, I really can’t muster that much sympathy for him.

  34. CORRECTION:

    When a professor fails in that task, well, I’m not terribly surprised by what happens next.

  35. Poor bastard poured a bucket of water over his head and grabbed the third rail of American culture with both hands. Sigh. When the story broke down here in Southern Illinois, I felt so sorry for Bean.

    Only an academic (and a deluded one at that) could be so naive as to think that a conservative could discuss race like it were any other topic. Having tenure does not mean you are safe when you are a conservative. It should not be that way, but it was. I wish he had been more careful in broaching such a topic.

    I get the sense that his colleauges really, really dislike him. I hope that it is not just politics, but given the way some academics behave, it probably is. (He’s also popular with students. They might be jealous too.) They have been so vindictive and vehement. They are using every media outlet they can to malign him. The last couple of days they have been alleging he tried to “intimidate” his research assistants, which, I guess is the sort of thing one would expect of a phallocrat. (I bet he failed to use gender neutral language when talking to them, or something equally frightening.)

    His group of enemies also had their lawyer (they hired a lawyer!) go on our community radio station to bash Bean. Among other things, the lawyer said that Bean took the article from Front Page Magazine, a “right wing magazine with anti-semitic ties.” Front Page is David Horowitz’s magazine. Horowitz may be obnoxious, but calling him anti-semitic is a real howler. Guess they aren’t too worried about accuracy either.

    The irony is that Front Page and Horowitz are beating the drum for academic freedom. Will he ride in on a white horse to Bean’s rescue? Probably the last thing Bean needs right now.

  36. Congrats Jennifer.

    Good article Cathy and you do address thoreau’s point, which is that a CPUSA or a violent pro-Palestinian group would create a lot of outrage on the left. Unfortunately, thoreau is right, if you address any controversial issue, you’d better watch out. If a professor was trying to make a comparison between the WoD and Prohibition and used studies funded by NORML, you’d better believe that professor had better have a rock solid case because drug warriors will be on him like stink on shit. This isn’t a left/right issue, but a politically correct vs. controversial issue. As you often show, both sides are usually equally guilty.

  37. Unfortunately, thoreau is right, if you address any controversial issue, you’d better watch out.

    There’s nothing unfortunate about it. The whole point of academic inquiry is that careful, reasoned inquiry is the only proper antidote to inflamed passions. If this guy didn’t do present his case carefully when broaching an inflammatory issue then he did a piss poor job of adhering to concepts that academics are supposed to take seriously.

    It may be unfair that this professor is taking more heat than a lefty would take for using, say, commie literature as a reading assignment, but that doesn’t make me any more sympathetic to him. Show me a case where the political labels are reversed and I’ll lambast the lefty professor.

    If, some day, I decide to present some Bohmian material in a class on quantum mechanics, you damn well better believe I’ll give a balanced presentation with all the necessary caveats and context and whatnot. If I don’t, I’ll deserve whatever happens next.

    Again, this guy’s critics may very well be over-reacting, even grossly over-reacting, but I still don’t have much sympathy. The context wasn’t just a matter of ass-covering. It also could have led to productive discussions about the credibility of sources and evaluating arguments on their internal consistency despite the radical opinions of the author. It could have been a very educational experience, and if he had taken flack after presenting that context and addressing it I would have defended him.

    So, in summary, he didn’t just fail to cover his ass. He also left out material that would have made for a very constructive lesson.

  38. Something I don’t understand from reading the column–did he introduce the propaganda AS propaganda, or as fact? Also, how is it that *deleting* the paragraph with the link to a racist Website is what added to the charges that Bean is a racist? I’ll admit my mind is elsewhere today, so maybe I’m missing the obvious, but after reading the column twice I still can’t quite see what all the fuss is about.

  39. Okay, after reading it a third time I see why deleting the paragraph caused problems, but I still can’t see what the big deal is, especially considering that the assignment in question was optional.

  40. You do have to read the article at least twice to get the joke…

    well-titled post.

  41. Back on topic, I for one think our colleges are doing a fine job in preparing youth for the real world.

    Getting spoofed means the editors of the Illinoisan will slip rather comfortably into the shoes of the MSM (or Drudge, for that matter).

  42. If “promoting hatred” is grounds for firing a prof, let’s bring charges against Catherine MacKinnon and her ilk, pronto.

    I only hope the government does not get involved in this feud. It has no place there, but groups like F.I.R.E. sure do.

  43. completely and totally off thread….but not knowing where else to ask….

    Looking through MSNBC I came across this from Eric Alterman…..

    “I don?t know if what Henry Kissinger would term a ?decent interval? has passed, but now might be a good time for the paper to consider getting its house in order by firing its op-ed editors, Renee Loth and Nick King, both of whom severely embarrassed the newspaper with their combination of incompetence and refusal to shoulder responsibility for that incompetence in their treatment of Cathy Young?s slanderous lies printed about me a few months ago, and replacing them with Ms. Chinlund and her choice of deputies. (It goes without saying that Ms. Young would be pounding the pavement within minutes of losing her protectors.) Though Chinlund was clearly irked by the difficult position into which she was placed by the editorial page?s lax standards, she handled herself with professionalism in the service of the highest ideals of journalism.”

    source

    To what “slanderous lies” is he referring?

  44. Jeez Louise, Alterman is still hot about this? What kind of vindictive bastard would be calling for people to be fired over a blog pissing competition?

    You can catch up on the whole dismal dustup here, here, and here.

  45. Brief comment: they didn’t ‘hire’ a lawyer–the lawyer is the husband of one of the anti-Bean ringleaders. (Or former husband–I had heard they had broken up).

    (Former Saluki and colleague and friend of everyone involved on both sides.)
    Geoff

  46. A: To what “slanderous lies” is he referring?

    Alterman said something moronic about how Muslims were perfectly justified in boycotting Holocaust memorial ceremonies because after all, the people being commemorated are the same people oppressing Palestinians.

    Cathy pointed out how stupid this was, and Alterman claimed that he was unfairly being called an anti-semite.

  47. As a libertarian, the discipline of a single at a single university does not trouble me. I would just choose no to go there. Why would one go to Illinois anyway? This scares me.

    http://www.kersplebedeb.com/mystuff/s11/churchill_loyaltyoath.html

  48. again….off thread regarding Alterman….

    I’m guessing that Alterman’s affinity for Ms. Chinlund derives from this:

    “Young’s column, as written, was not up to op-ed page standards. Suggesting that Alterman is a “self-hating” Jew was ad hominem and inappropriate.”

    My opinion, FWIW, is that I find Alterman to be egotistical and snide in his blog. It would seem that the assessment of “egotistical” is accurate, given his approval of those that share his pov (Chinlund), and, as Tim pointed out, the vindictiveness against those who don’t.

    It does however seem kind of odd to me to still be carrying on months later about something that should not have been that big a deal to begin with. While I am not Jewish, you could call me a self-hating Scot, and, as I am not, the statement would have no value or meaning and be given the consideration it deserves. Perhaps there is something to the suggestion Cathy offered of Alterman….

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