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Joan Mellen's correct defense of the McAdams firing
  • Listen to Joan Mellen on Black Op #718.   She really convinced me of the need to defend McAdams' firing from Marquette -- NOT becuase anyone in our community supports McAdams but because we support due process and First Amendment rights.   If they come after McAdams, they can come after us, too.   Mellen makes a very strong, convincing argument for adhering to principles and not looking at the specifics of McAdams' case alone.   
  • heinrichheinrich
    Posts: 208
    I didn't listen to any of the three shows where this was discussed lately. Because I don't think anybody is capable of offering useful opinions on it. DiEugenio, who hates McAdams, wants to dance on his grave; Mellen, who loves tenure, says we all should defend tenure. It goes to show just how poorly the JFK people do thinking about anything other than JFK.

    Anyone with a shred of intelligence can look at the situation and see what's obvious: undergrads going into US universities from Day One are introduced into a kind of command-and-control system. Making the wrong jokes can get them kicked out of class or school. There are very clear, if implicit ideological lines on what is politically correct and what is not at the university.

    So here's what happened in this case. Some kid raised on FOX news goes into a class where the young, female grad student teacher is clearly going to be on one ideological side (today you can look at a person and tell 95% of the time), especially after she awkwardly/semi-aggressively tried to shift discussion off of gay marriage - since she, too, can see that the student(s) pressing the point are probably righty-tighty FOX news types.

    Student who fashions himself a provocateur in the fake culture wars goes up to the teacher and records the conversation, looking for juicy dirt he can start a major campus controversy with. And how does he know he can do this? Because like any student in any school anywhere, he knows by instinct what will get the Powers That Be up in arms. He knows that being anti-gay marriage is a no-no, and he knows that the teacher will respond to him negatively from her own political point of view. So he tries to be Mr. Clever and record her and score points for his 'side'.

    He takes the recording to another self-styled provocateur, John McAdams. McAdams rightly points out that the instructor *effectively* equates anti-gay marriage stances with homophobia (which is a sort of sacrilege or high crime at the university) with her after-class comment. McAdams, of course, uses this to score points for his own 'team' in the fabricated and phony bullshit culture wars, which he believes in just as he does the lone nut theory.

    And the rest follows from there. As I said at the very beginning, all that would happen is that Abbate and McAdams would both parley the fiasco into better positions. Abbate has already done so. McAdams will get hired at some cultural conservative think-tank or at a right-wing university.

    That is, *after* he wins the lawsuit against Marquette. You see, just reading the Dean's letter to McAdams, you can see that Marquette is not ready for prime-time. The letter's got typos in it, it's full of personal invective. It is absolutely not the cold, brutal, chillingly business-like letter you'd get from Harvard or even a sufficiently large state school. It's a joke letter. Read it, and you look everywhere in vain for some strong basis for McAdams' termination. You can't find one.

    The best case that Marquette's case - that McAdams' blog post amount to intimidation and harassment of Abbate - is a weak one. It won't pass the legal smell test. Abbate got a bunch of nasty, juvenile letters after McAdams' post. No court will hold McAdams responsible for that. When you strip all the blather away, what you find - and what the courts will probably find - is that McAdams' dismissal is politically-motivated. McAdams is a right-wing boor and a crank, and ganging up on a poor, young female TA was finally the 'final straw', meaning *from a public relations point of view* McAdams had finally done something nobody would stand behind. Calling JFK researchers drug addicts and pedophiles doesn't matter. But beating up on a poor defenseless girl! It's the kind of simple storyline that works on everybody. McAdams can only appear as a lout and a boor.

    So that's that. University politics have absolutely no consequence for anyone. What you see here is one group-think attacking another: the left-wing identity-politics University group-think trying to expel the right-wing cultural conservative authoritarian-loving group-think. 
  • Heinrich:

    Baloney, pure and simple. The kid was failing the course and was looking for a way to get a transfer without having to drop the class.

    It was John McAdams who turned this into a political affair, not the poor teacher and not the idiot student. And for that he deserves to be fired. As for your invention of some kind of legal "smell test," I realize you are trying to sound all literary and such, but really. It adds nothing to the conversation.
  • heinrichheinrich
    Posts: 208
    Pfft. If you think 'smell test' is a literary phrase, you might want to crack open a book or two. As for your conspiracy theory that the kid concocted the ingenious plan to record the 'poor teacher' after class to avoid failing, that sounds to me like "baloney, pure and simple".

    I realize you are trying to sound all curmudgeon and such, but really. It adds nothing to the conversation.
  • LordBaltoLordBalto
    Posts: 219
    heinrich said:

    "Pfft. If you think 'smell test' is a literary phrase, you might want to crack open a book or two. As for your conspiracy theory that the kid concocted the ingenious plan to record the 'poor teacher' after class to avoid failing, that sounds to me like "baloney, pure and simple".

    I realize you are trying to sound all curmudgeon and such, but really. It adds nothing to the conversation."

    I am not trying to sound anything. And this has nothing to do with political correctness. Nor does it have anything to do with freedom of speech. It has to do with a stupid professor putting someone's health and safety in danger, and that is a violation of everything this pathetic little professor is required to do as part of his position as a representative of the university, and that university has all the right in the world to can his pathetic little ass.

    And as for you, I am tired of your condescending attitude and your rightwing politics.

  • heinrichheinrich
    Posts: 208
    Har. I'm condescending only on those special occasions when people spout bullshit. For example, when you call 'smell test' a literary phrase, or when you claim my interpretation of the McAdams incident is 'baloney' because it isn't as simple-minded as yours.

    More proof that you haven't any idea what you are talking about is the idea that I have right-wing politics. Unlike what you and others like Jim DiEugenio think, you can be against political correctness without being a right-winger. I don't actually play in the politico-tribal sandbox, but if anything I'm a leftist. I consider the U.S. a great historical force for evil and wouldn't mind if it disappeared tomorrow.

    The reason perhaps is that I'm against orthodoxy and authoritarianism, plain and simple. If you think that political correctness is just a harmless effort to be polite, you haven't spent any time in the university in the last thirty years. McAdams *is* right on that one count: political correctness is used in the university as cover for all sorts of wrongs including getting colleagues fired, running students off of campus, and so on. This, to my mind, is as bad as its opposite: being bigoted, racist, sexist, and so on. The question is whether it's all about preventing injustice or whether it's about a lot of 'Gotcha!'s that we can use to insist on group-think.

    If you read some of Cheryl Abbate's blogs, for example, the recent one in which she says men can't be victims of sexism, you might re-evaluate the simple-minded approach you've been taking. I don't, for instance, believe that vulgar abuse by email necessarily meant she was in imminent physical danger. Even if she were, it's hard to say that McAdams is guilty of that. McAdams never held a gun to anyone's head and told them to write emails. 

    Here are two points that hold my view, at any rate, that nobody wants to admit: a) the McAdams firing is really about politics: if he weren't a right-winger his position would be safe, as proven by the thousands of left-wing university assholes who pull the same tricks routinely and are in no danger; b) the *real* reason why McAdams should be fired is not this 'harassment' pretext, but the fact that he has done nothing but shoddy, dishonest work on the JFK killing for decades now and has no academic integrity. Academics who engage in Holocaust denial are drummed out all the time; what about Kennedy denial?

    In any event, as I've said from the beginning, McAdams will come out smelling like a rose and get a better position - just as Abbate has done. The university will never be able to demonstrate in court - despite the nasty emails from *other* people - that McAdams was guilty of harassment on his blog. They won't be able to demonstrate that this latest offense was worth revoking tenure. So he'll probably get damages and/or other nice benefits. Anybody who reads the Marquette dean's letter with its typos and emotionality can see these guys aren't ready for prime-time. They won't be able to win a lawsuit either.
  • LordBaltoLordBalto
    Posts: 219
    Herr Heinrich:

    You make it sound like Marquette is a bastion of liberal academia. The truth is that Marquette was dragged kicking and screaming into their final action, when Adams's actions had become completely intolerable, even for a Midwestern Catholic Jesuit university, endangering the health and safety of a graduate student. This is most assuredly not about political correctness. A Catholic Jesuit university worried about political correctness? Are you serious? What would Adams have had to do to be fired, in your estimation? Organize a physical lynch mob and not just an internet one? Or would that have violated his "freedom of speech" too? And please, stop perpetuating this nonsense that the 1st Amendment applies to anything other than government actions. As originally written, it only applied to the federal government. It was only extended to the states by the supreme court. You most assuredly do not have anything resembling "freedom of speech" in an employer-employee relationship. You call your boss an a-hole, he's going to fire you, and you can't complain based on "freedom of speech." Endangering someone's health and safety has nothing to do with freedom of speech or political correctness, no more than the folks who ran the witch trials could hide behind freedom of speech. It was those burned at the stake who had their human rights violated.