I've previously defended KC Johnson
, the Cliopatria
blogger who's been the most persistent online critic (at Durham-in-Wonderland
) of the Duke University faculty's role in the lacrosse rape case. That's an uncomfortable position for me to be in, because I consider myself far more moderate on academic issues than Johnson is, and because while I haven't yet read his new book
on the case, I expect to disagree rather markedly with its conclusions.
Nevertheless, I find myself once again coming to Johnson's defense in the face of this execrable article
by Duke professor Charles Piot. Johnson writes his own considerably more cogent response here
. (Hat tip, once again, to Ralph Luker
for both pieces.) There are many things that could be said about Piot's piece, but since I'm still not terribly familiar with the content of either Johnson's blog or his new book, I'll confine my comments to one aspect of Piot's article: his choice of venue in which to publish it.
Imagine for a moment that you're an anthropologist -- an urbane, sophisticated professional and a member of the Association of Black Anthropologists. You come home from a busy day of teaching and writing to discover an issue of your favorite journal, the ABA's Transforming Anthropology, waiting for you in your mailbox. What fun! you think, as you put on your slippers, take a seat in your easy chair next to a roaring fire, put on your reading glasses, and open the journal. (Hey, a little romanticizing of the academic life never hurt anything, right?) Suddenly, you adjust your glasses in shock: leaping from the pages of your favorite academic journal is not an anthropological study, but a political rant against some blogger you've never heard of who writes about the Duke lacrosse case -- none of which has anything whatsoever to do with anthropology.
Sadly, that's what readers of Transforming Anthropology were treated to when they opened the most recent issue of that journal. There are plenty of appropriate places where Piot could have published his attack on Johnson -- the front page of HNN, his own faculty page, even a more "newsy" academic publication similar to AHA Perspectives. Instead, he decided to claim the academic high ground by taking the extraordinary step of condemning a blog from the pages of a scholarly journal -- and made a complete fool of himself in the process.
Frankly, I'm not certain what exactly Piot was trying to accomplish with his piece, which reads like a moderately-well written blog post. He claims that blogs like Johnson's are "little more than soapboxes where demagogues offer partisan commentary and preach to an already converted choir," then proceeds, incredibly, to turn a prestigious academic journal into just such a soapbox. Piot's piece is absolutely inappropriate for a scholarly publication, and clearly has no place in Transforming Anthropology, whose "contributions deal with conceptual and methodological frameworks to advance the understanding of human diversity and commonality." In just what sense is Piot's piece relevant to that mission?
Had he wanted to, Piot could easily have made his article into an anthropological study of the LAX-spawned blogosphere (though such a focus would likely be inconsistent with his stated research interests in rural West Africa); instead, it shapes up as a purely political knifelike attack on Johnson's blog alone. Incredibly, the editors of Transforming Anthropology do not seem to understand the distinction between a blogosphere dispute and anthropological scholarship. The entire situation is the ridiculous equivalent of my striding into the Waldorf-Astoria, hopping on a table in the Palm Room, and declaiming loudly to the shocked patrons about the uncouthness of the bums outside the front door -- and the maitre 'd applauding wildly and inviting me back for a repeat performance.
Charles Piot needs to think long and hard about why, in his quest to prove that KC Johnson is debasing the blogosphere, he himself chose to demean the far more rarefied space of a major anthropological journal by using it as a forum for political argument. Even more significantly, the editors of Transforming Anthropology should be called to answer for why they decided to turn over their publication to the author of an irrelevant political screed. I'm sure there are plenty of things to criticize KC Johnson for -- in fact, Manan Ahmed begins a very trenchant critique here -- but, like all other types of discussion, such criticisms should follow certain basic rules of venue, decorum, and disclosure (Piot apparently argues in the article on behalf of his partner without mentioning their relatioship, something that would be a scandal even in a blog post). By committing in his own piece every error Johnson has committed and some that he hasn't, Piot displays a cockiness and overconfidence that is truly breathtaking. While he certainly has a right to defend himself from Johnson's drumbeat of criticism, his reckless actions simply prove Johnson's point about the excesses of radical leftists in academia.
Oh, and a final note on Piot's piece: where does he get off blaming KC Johnson for Bill White's racist comments to a Duke professor? That's like if I blamed Hitler's genocide on, I don't know, H. L. Mencken. Not an invocation of Godwin's Law, either, since White is a notorious neo-Nazi and member of the National Socialist Workers' Party. Bill White says whatever the heck Bill White wants to say, and his foul, terrifying rants are nobody's fault but his own. Unless KC Johnson gave White a call and asked him to spew racist epithets at a Duke professor, he has no complicity in White's actions, and shame on Piot for insinuating otherwise.
Labels: Jeremy Young
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Ahistoricality on 10/22/2007 9:33 PM:
I have to take issue with your characterization of Piot's article as "knife-like" because it implies a sharp, focused attack; Piot's actual attacks bear a much stronger resemblance to a wooden spoon or plastic spatula: blunt, soft, easily produced and discarded....
I had a similar reaction, really: I was actually looking forward to a serious anthropological deconstruction of Johnson's blog leadership and commentariat, and instead I get an attack even lamer than my own online critiques -- mostly in comments at Acephalous -- of Johnson's project.
Jeremy Young on 10/22/2007 10:12 PM:
I was imagining a knife-in-the-back sort of thing, but your point is well taken.
Now you, or someone who agrees with you, needs to take up this challenge where Piot so haphazardly dropped it -- and give us an intelligent, well-thought-out, and comprehensive critique of Johnson's book. I'm certain it can be done, and astonished that Piot didn't even come close.
on 10/24/2007 6:30 PM:
Piot has the mindless audacity to list this article among his "representative publications" in his CV! That's what passes for scholarship???
Now you know why Duke alums can't "put this behind"... and why so many read KC's blog.
The rot has to go, starting with Brodhead.
Embarrassed Duke alum 1980
Jeremy Young on 10/24/2007 7:24 PM:
Well, to be fair, KC also does list the book and several papers on the case on his CV. I find that a bit questionable since none of it is "history," which is what he's trained to be scholarly in.
My problem is more with the venue in which Piot chose to present his paper than with listing it on his CV.
Ahistoricality on 10/24/2007 9:16 PM:
Now you, or someone who agrees with you, needs to take up this challenge...
Scott Kaufmann and Tim Burke have covered the ground pretty well, frankly: KC's errors are largely in the generality of his conclusions, given his very narrow evidentiary basis. And when his overreaching is pointed out, he refuses to acknowledge the logical problem and the political/theoretical realm into which it takes him.
It would be interesting to see anthropologists address online communities in a systematic fashion, whether it's D-i-W or PH or Unfogged or the Valve or whatever. Most of the semi-serious pseudoscholarship I've seen is computational: link patterns and word frequencies. Nothing solid yet.
AMac on 10/24/2007 10:21 PM:
> Scott Kaufmann and Tim Burke have covered the ground pretty well, frankly
Well, perhaps not so much, Ahistoricality. It depends on what you mean by "covered" and how you define "the ground."
Interested readers should certainly head over to Acephalous' four posts on the subject and judge for themselves. There is some good anti-Johnson wheat in the posts and comments, matched with pro-Johnson ripostes, and accompanied by a tremendous volume of chaff.
In my opinion, the challenge of a cogent essay rebutting some (or, heck, all) of Johnson's major points remains unmet. If you do write one, please make a note of that in D-i-W's comments: many readers of that forum would be very interested.
Debrah on 10/25/2007 11:03 AM:
Jeremy (7:24 PM)--
KC makes a distinction. He does not attempt to align Until Proven Innocent with his stellar scholarship.
I enjoyed your dissection of Chucky Piot...tremendously.
However, you must remember......compared to most run-of-the-mill members of the academy, KC Johnson is a god!
gg on 10/25/2007 12:13 PM:
"In fact, Manan Ahmed begins a very trenchant critique here."
I'm not sure that's a beginning of a trenchant critique. What Johnson does with his blog comments almost certainly has nothing to do with his arguments. He might value a free flow of information even if he agrees most of the comments are trash (and he has reviewed and deleted dozens if not hundreds of comments).
I think Johnson has been careful to confine his criticism to Duke and the 88 professors. I don't see how that's overreaching. Part of his point, as he recently explained in his comment section, is to spur an academic movement toward responsibility against those outlying professors who do obviously exist and do harm.
He doesn't want all of academia tainted because administrators won't do anything about the noisy few, and he doesn't try to pretend the problem out of existence.
Jeremy Young on 10/25/2007 12:55 PM:
Thomas, our definition of a Progressive Historian is a politically liberal one. You may also want to examine the actual definition here.
Debrah, you're incorrect -- look at the syllabus again. Nowhere does it have a separate category for Until Proven Innocent from KC's scholarly papers -- they're listed in the same list. That said, it doesn't bother me that much that KC's book is listed with his scholarly output, just like it bothers me more that Piot wrote that article in the first place than that he lists it as a "representative publication."
gg, I don't believe KC has crossed the line just because of his blog comments, but he has an obligation as a blog proprietor to wade into the comment section and set a certain tone there, just as I am doing here. In my admittedly limited observation, he has not done that. I understand that he didn't have as much experience with a large and raucus comment section as I do (I blogged at Daily Kos for three and a half years before starting this place, so I know how to handle disruptive commenters), but he might have asked for help or advice if he wasn't sure how to handle the situation.
Search for Meaning on 10/25/2007 1:09 PM:
Most of KC’s readers do not think of him as perfect. However he does understand logic and he writes with a transparency that is not evident in most of his critics.
What I find most interesting is that most of his critics lack logical thought and the ability to draw inferences based on creditable evidence. I would love to see a criticism of KC’s work that is well presented by someone who is intellectually honest and understands logic. With the lack of intellectually honest criticism one has to assume that those who are KC’s targets have no defense against his commentary.
Search for Meaning on 10/25/2007 1:22 PM:
"Well, to be fair, KC also does list the book and several papers on the case on his CV. I find that a bit questionable since none of it is "history," which is what he's trained to be scholarly in."
This maybe a simplistic question, and if so I apologize, but is there a universally accepted definition as to what history is?
AMac on 10/25/2007 1:26 PM:
Jeremy Young wrote (12:55pm) --
> I understand that he didn't have as much experience with a large and raucus comment section as I do..., but he might have asked for help or advice if he wasn't sure how to handle the situation.
That's a very fair criticism, Jeremy. Interesting that you bring up Daily Kos; I've been at times appalled by the tone of some comment threads there, and on the Right as well (e.g at Free Republic). And it's the flagrantly out-of-line comments that stick in the readers' memory.
Pick a hot-button topic at a high-traffic site, and lots of people (lots of angry people) will want to weigh in. Some of those will share their inner idiot.
There's no perfect balance; it's a matter of tradeoffs. D-i-W started obscure and ballooned; I don't think KC made that transition very well.
Debrah on 10/25/2007 1:36 PM:
Jeremy (12:55 PM)--
Whether inside or outside the academy, most people would consider KC's DIW a magnum opus worthy of yet another book.
He has meticulously researched and analyzed the Lacrosse Hoax--(btw, I see that some of you guys have a difficult time labeling it for what it was..."lacrosse rape case", I believe you called it)--with such precision that it most certainly could be placed inside the realm of "scholarship".
I also take exception to your blanket indictment of the commenters on the blog. You are perhaps less experienced and adept in the marketplace of free flowing ideas than are others.
Why should KC bastardize his work by inhibiting free speech?
Surely after thrashing about inside the flaccid logorrhea of poor Chucky Piot, you, of all people, should know that stupidity and low-rent commentary are not confined to those who do not share your particular ideology.
You see Jeremy, your admission of participation on Daily Kos for such an extended period of time engenders inside me the same kind of visceral reaction you seem to have toward some commenters on DIW.
And KC has never needed outside advice on how to handle his own blog......or any other situation.
on 10/25/2007 2:41 PM:
I suspect most people here would have no problem agreeing that Piot's "KCs World" piece is not representative of the field of anthropology, even though he listed it as such on his web page.
However, this notion contradicts what KC has said and (as such) what many DIW readers now believe to be the case.
Now that KC has linked to this post, the wingnuts will surely follow. You can't argue with these folks in any sort of productive way. It's useless, and they are willing to expend far more energy on this topic than most of us would ever believe.
Debrah on 10/25/2007 2:54 PM:
Professor D (2:41 PM)--
"You can't argue with these folks in any sort of productive way. It's useless, and they are willing to expend far more energy on this topic than most of us would ever believe."
I couldn't agree more.
As one who is still a registered Dem, who is rabidly pro-choice, and who couldn't care less how various gendered or transgendered humanoids live out their lives or with whom.....I consider myself socially progressive 'til the end--(I know you must like that word).....
It seems to me that self-actualization is a most positive endeavor.
Thanks for sharing!
Steven Horwitz on 10/25/2007 2:56 PM:
For the record: I'm a freqent DIW commenter and an academic (an economist). I don't believe I'm a wingnut, but wingnuttery is in the eye of the beholder. I also think:
1. Piot's piece was a terrible article, full of all kinds of factual and interpretive errors, as well as some unnecessary and inappropriate ad-hominems against KC.
2. Transforming Anthropology should not have published it and Piot should not have published it there.
3. The article is NOT, of course, representative of work in Cultural Anthropology as a field. I, and some others, have tried to make that case to DIW readers/commenters, to minimal success.
4. That Piot calls it a "representative publication" says nothing about it being "representative" of CA, although I think it does say something not so good about Piot that he wishes to feature as "representative" of his work something that weak.
on 10/25/2007 3:26 PM:
"I suspect most people here would have no problem agreeing that Piot's "KCs World" piece is not representative of the field of anthropology, even though he listed it as such on his web page.
However, this notion contradicts what KC has said and (as such) what many DIW readers now believe to be the case."
"4. That Piot calls it a 'representative publication' says nothing about it being 'representative' of CA, although I think it does say something not so good about Piot that he wishes to feature as 'representative' of his work something that weak."
"This article represents what passes for a scholarly publication in Piot’s field. Indeed, it is listed as a 'representative publication' on Professor Piot’s CV."
It is funny how people will castigate K.C. Johnson for his tongue-in-cheek barbs, when the real blame belongs to the "barbies." Professor Johnson was just pointing out that Charles Piot, himself, represented that the article was "representative." Of course, the fact that a scholarly journal in the field published the article implies that it is representative. Also, the fact that the Duke Culutural Anthropology Department features Piot's article on its "Hall of Fame" list of publications also implies that it is "representative."
The real question is why would a CA Professor, a CA Department and a CA Journal even IMPLY that Piot's article was "representative"? As ProfH notes above, this is the interesting question.
This appears to me to be more of the same firing the whistle-blower as the nuclear plant melts down. My opinions only, Gregory.
on 10/25/2007 3:51 PM:
"Of course, the fact that a scholarly journal in the field published the article implies that it is representative."-Gregory
Ahem, no, it does not. Read Jeremy's post again. The point, quite clearly, is that the piece has absolutely no business being a publication in this field. All that implies is that the editors at Transforming Anthropology exercised bad judgment.
Steven Horwitz on 10/25/2007 3:53 PM:
Of course, the fact that a scholarly journal in the field published the article implies that it is representative.
Flawed premise number one. Your "of course" is bearing too much argumentative weight here. As all agree, TA accepts non-peer reviewed pieces all the time. The better CA journals don't generally. Arguably, it's not even really a work in anthropology.
All of this points to TA making a really bad editorial judgment, but that's completely separate from the question of it being representative of work in CA.
Generalizing from one article in one non-prominent journal doesn't even pass the smell test for good arguments.
Also, the fact that the Duke Culutural Anthropology Department features Piot's article on its "Hall of Fame" list of publications also implies that it is "representative."
Flawed premise number two. The article is being portrayed as representative of the work of faculty in the CA department, but not necessarily of CA.
Suppose I wrote a book on pedagogy, and my department put it on its web site as a "representative faculty publication." I would think that no one would be confused enough to think it was a work in economics (as opposed to the theory of pedagogy). Or suppose I wrote a book of rock music criticism and my department listed it as a "representative faculty publication." It would only show that the faculty write a variety of interesting things, but it would say nothing about economics, or my more narrow sub-disciplines.
The fault indeed lies with Piot and the journal in question, but there is nothing in this whole kerfuffle in a kettle that calls into question the whole field of CA.
You're smarter than this Gregory.
AMac on 10/25/2007 4:44 PM:
ProfD (2:41pm), Steven Horwitz, and Gregory, on "representative" --
I returned to the D-i-W post and searched for the string "represent". Four occurrences.
First use, three-quarters down. Johnson offers a point-by-point rebuttal of ten of Piot's criticisms of him and D-i-W. Point #5 reads:
--- begin excerpt ---
* Piot offered the following item—as another footnoted source: “As a colleague in the English Department commented: ‘If his reading of the ad is representative of his reading practices generally, KC Johnson would have failed Intro to Reading.’” What does it say about the values of Transforming Anthropology that it allows an author to offer anonymous ad hominem attacks as scholarly evidence?
--- end excerpt ---
I'll skip the second use (it isn't relevant).
Third and fourth uses are in the concluding paragraph of the post:
--- begin excerpt ---
2.) This article represents what passes for a scholarly publication in Piot’s field. Indeed, it is listed as a “representative publication” on Professor Piot’s CV.
--- end excerpt ---
Is Johnson slamming the entire field of cultural anthropology (or anthropology) in the immediately prior excerpt? Well, perhaps. But there is a more obvious explanation.
Taken in context with Piot's earlier-quoted passage ("If his reading of the ad is representative of his reading practices generally, KC Johnson would have failed Intro to Reading."), it seems more likely that Johnson is simply returning Piot's compliment, with a measure of his own sarcasm added to Piot's own.
My two cents.
on 10/25/2007 4:57 PM:
I think you're being a little generous, but it's plausible. It's also worth noting that he still has it wrong at the top of that post, stating that the editors admitted the paper wasn't peer reviewed. It was only a single editor, and they didn't "admit" anything.
Of course, the irony in all of this is that KC considers DIW a form of scholarship.
Debrah on 10/25/2007 5:30 PM:
"Of course, the irony in all of this is that KC considers DIW a form of scholarship."
Oh, the humanity.
Of course, the real depth of irony is how transparently green-with-envy some other members of the academy are of KC.
They spend an inordinate amount of time navel-gazing in hopes of finding that "the deeper meaning" of KC's dissection of Chucky Piot....might be less stellar....might have flaws.....might be unfair (whimper, whimper).
If even ONE editor of the publication relayed to KC that the Piot article wasn't peer reviewed, this is sufficient.
Are we now to believe that the publication employs a few incompetent illiterates who are incapable of answering questions from someone like KC?
What kind of detour is this argument taking?
KC Johnson orgasmically dissected the stiff Piot argument, confining it to a state of advanced detumescence.
That's really all that needs to be said.
Ralph Luker on 10/25/2007 5:49 PM:
I searched the web pages of faculty members, adjuncts, and emeriti in Cultural Anthropology at Duke. 13 list "Recent Publications"; 7 list "Representative Publications". They are alternative and mutually exclusive terms. It's also clear that "representative" means "representative of the author's own work" -- *not* "representative of the field of Cultural Anthropology". What Gregory insists on calling a "Hall of Fame" list of publications is *no more than a list of recent publications* by members of Duke's Cultural Anthropology faculty members.
Debrah on 10/25/2007 6:05 PM:
Oh Ralph, I do hope you found the ever-intriguing work of Orin Starn.
Tell me, do all those little diatribes he sends to local newspapers libeling and tearing down a certain segment of the student body at Duke count as "representative"?
I mean, Orin's work is so reminiscent of Chucky Piot's.......
The public might be interested.
on 10/25/2007 6:21 PM:
Debrah's web page is called The Diva World or something like that. Weird stuff there. That's a few minutes of my life I'll never get back.
on 10/25/2007 6:30 PM:
Thanks, Debrah. You are right, there is nothing else that needs be said. (Then, I post another 200 words!).
AMac, your post will require additional reading (as usual, rolls eyes). O.K., I took the time to read and think about your idea. It sounds like something I would do. (But, I'm not very subtle).
ProfH, I have had a great deal of fun chasing down this rabbit hole. I will leave this issue with one last thought (which occurred to me the instant I read K.C.'s original post):
Did K.C. Johnson WANT to claim that "K.C.'s World" was "representative"? The article is a wholesale attack on him. Does he really want to claim that a representative article, in a representative journal, listed on the "Hall of Fame" publications list of a representative Cultural Anthropology Department, supposedly using "representative" methodologies and procedures (or at least methodologies that would not prevent publication or linking) had so many bad things to say about him?
Of course, not. (oops, there is the "of course" habit that I have). It would serve his self-interest to claim that the article was trash and TA is a garbage collector.
I would like to think that K.C. wanted us to ask the question we have been carefully bumping into all week: Why was this article published and displayed in this fashion?
My answer: Academic integrity took a back seat to politics. My opinions only! Gregory
Jeremy Young on 10/25/2007 6:45 PM:
Debrah, I find the general thrust of your commentary rather offensive. I can easily see why Piot would be reluctant to post his piece online and see his work termed "flaccid logorrhea" by nattering pseudonymous commenters. For goodness sake, the man has a right to defend himself in print -- it's just the way he went about it that I disagree with.
Also, it's not KC's job to maintain a "marketplace of ideas" in a webspace that he himself owns, though I do not advocate widespread censorship -- I simply suggest that he might have done more to set the tone of that webspace, as, indeed, I am attempting to do here. While you're certainly entitled to your opinions, I ask that you take your witch-hunting of individual Duke professors elsewhere.
SfM, there is no "universally accepted definition of what history is," but KC is not a historian of the 1990's and early 2000's. If you ask him, I'm sure he'll admit as much.
Also, I do not conclude, as you do, that just because no good comprehensive takedown of KC has yet been written (and I disagree with Ahistoricality here; Scott Kaufman's article was not comprehensive and Tim Burke's was essentially tangential to the Duke issue) that none is possible. I wouldn't expect Group of 88 members to write one, but I'm certain it can be done.
Debrah, again, I am exceedingly uncomfortable with many things that go on at Daily Kos and, in fact, no longer participate there. I brought it up only because the experience taught me how to deal with a raucous commentariat -- experience KC himself would have benefitted from.
Ralph and AMac, thanks for injecting some sense into this "discussion" through your much-needed comments. Having thus experienced the general thrust of KC's commentariat, even on a post (mine) that's generally supportive of KC, I have to agree that the criticisms I've read of them are entirely accurate.
Debrah on 10/25/2007 7:08 PM:
When I first read your critique of KC's dissection of the embarrassing Piot article, I gave you high praise.
Let it be understood that you effectively and most offensively slammed the DIW blog with your patronizing comments.
I answered you directly and unambiguously.
You are in no position to question how KC runs his affairs. How odd that someone might be "offended" when challenged on such condescension.
Let me say this clearly: It is disingenuous to assume a perch of being offended by much of anything after a stint in a place like Daily Kos.
I would think you would have developed a stronger stomach for such repartee.
An insult is an insult. Pedantic embroidery does not mitigate the effect.
on 10/25/2007 7:44 PM:
Also, it's not KC's job to maintain a "marketplace of ideas" in a webspace that he himself owns, though I do not advocate widespread censorship -- I simply suggest that he might have done more to set the tone of that webspace, as, indeed, I am attempting to do here. While you're certainly entitled to your opinions, I ask that you take your witch-hunting of individual Duke professors elsewhere.
Exactly how is KC supposed to do this when he doesn't own the domain? Blogspot is owned by Google and only they have access to information like I.P. addresses that can be used to moderate the more "raccous" commenter/commentary.
Also, I took a look at KC's C.V. and no where does it claim that Until Proven Innocent is representative of his scholarly output. UPI is simply listed as one of the books he authored.
Jeremy Young on 10/25/2007 9:06 PM:
Debrah, if KC has a problem with the comments I've made, he's welcome to tell me so. As far as I know, he and I are on good terms at the moment. It's not your job to be outraged by my comments toward him if he himself is not so outraged. I'm allowed to slam Piot for his commentary without agreeing with everything KC does, or liking the tone emating from his commenters on my blog.
Fedka, KC doesn't need to have IP addresses unless he wants to ban people. Note that I'm not suggesting he should have banned anyone -- simply that he should have waded into the comments more often and set a general tone there.
KC's CV, unlike Piot's, contains the entirety of his output, scholarly or no. Some scholars do this on their CV's, others (like Piot) do not. My guess is that Piot calls those listed on his CV "representative publications" because he doesn't want to list everything he published when he was younger (such a list can be tedious; also, writings from forty years earlier may not be representative of Piot's thought in the present). So he's likely putting everything new he writes on the CV, and leaving off old stuff, and your objection to his calling it "representative publications" then becomes merely semantic.
Again, I'm not here to defend Piot; I thought his Transforming Anthropology piece was egregious, and said so in the original post. I simply think that we should be more careful and judicious with our criticism, even against those who have made grave missteps. It's that care and caution that's missing from Piot's piece; I have no desire to replicate the same errors here.
Ahistoricality on 10/26/2007 3:18 AM:
I do not conclude, as you do, that just because no good comprehensive takedown of KC has yet been written that none is possible.
I'm sure there's a technical name for the fallacy "search for meaning" was promulgating, but there's no question that it's a fallacy.
(and I disagree with Ahistoricality here; Scott Kaufman's article was not comprehensive and Tim Burke's was essentially tangential to the Duke issue)
Tim Burke's most recent post, perhaps. But Burke's been taking huge bites out of KC's logic and method ever since he picked up the case as a cause, before D-i-W existed and KC's main blogging outlet was Cliopatria. (e.g. and other posts from April 2006)
Search for Meaning on 10/26/2007 5:39 AM:
My point was not that KC Johnston could not be criticized but that his targets lack the analytical ability to do so. It is possible that this could all change tomorrow but given that KC is in the epilogue stages of his blog the probability is decreasing daily.
There are basically there types of errors I have seen on KC’s blog:
The first is what I will call harmless error. That is misspellings, taking information from creditable sources that turnout to be in error, grammar errors, ect. KC corrects these errors on a timely basis. In his defense given the quantity of writing these types of errors would be almost impossible to eliminate. These types of errors do not change the central point that KC is making.
The second error is additional mitigating facts. KC usually lists facts to help support his conclusions. However he gets to pick which facts are included and excluded in order to support his points. There maybe other mitigating factors that would in essence cause the facts that KC has selected to be viewed in a different light. However I have not seen KC called on this one so perhaps he has it covered.
The final error I have seen is the overreaching conclusion. KC’s conclusions are not always fully supported by his facts. However because he writes with such transparency the reader is free to make their own conclusions if they do not agree with his.
Is KC Johnston beyond criticism? No. I would welcome a thoughtful criticism of his blog, as it would give his readers something interesting to debate.
As to the wingnut comment, I have never considered myself to be a wingnut but as Steven Horwitz said perhaps it is an eye of the beholder type of thing.
AMac on 10/26/2007 7:55 AM:
Ahistoricality (the 3:18am night owl) --
> Tim Burke's most recent post, perhaps [is an example of a good comprehensive takedown of KC Johnson's writings about the Duke Lacrosse Rape Hoax].
Ahistoricality, can you provide a link? Here is a search of Burke's blog "Easily Distracted" for "KC Johnson". But I think you have one or more of Burke's comments at Acephalous in mind. Good points raised, yes; reasoned objections, yes; but accessible and comprehensive takedown? In my opinion, no.
Related to Johnson's criticisms of some Duke faculty members: If we can uncover a couple of each of 'Search for Meaning's'' three classes of errors, we're justified in dismissing everything Johnson has written on the subject as invalid or unworthy of attention. Phrased that way, this point seems kind of silly--unless (as with Piot) the noise-to-signal ratio climbs fairly high. But sometimes it seems to me that that is the stance that many of Johnson's opponents are implicitly taking.
Ralph Luker on 10/26/2007 3:47 PM:
Tim Burke and KC Johnson have had an on-going discussion -- extending back two or three years at Cliopatria -- about KC's general critique of higher education. Tim's recent comments at Acephalous were directed at Durham-in-Wonderland and the kind and quality of the discussion that it fostered. Tim was also very clear in those remarks that he was not commenting on KC's book, Until Proven Innocent, because he hadn't read it. Perhaps you can, as Ahistoricality does, extrapolate from earlier discussions between KC and Tim what Tim would be likely to think about whatever KC says about higher education in UPI, but it is only just that: an informed guess. Perhaps wisely in retrospect, between April and July 2006, Tim refrained from commenting on KC's posts about the Duke case at Cliopatria.
on 10/26/2007 9:09 PM:
As a regular reader and commenter at DIW, I am quite interested in what you have to say about it. I would suggest strongly, however, that you read the whole thing before offering your thoughts.
Also, UPI is a must read, especially for historians. KC Johnson's work on this subject may not satisfy your definition of "historical scholarship," but his work currently IS essentially the historical record of the case. The vast majority of the DIW posts are now well established fact. The only things really left to argue about are whether the Group of 88 professors were as badly behaved, their scholarship as shallow, and their continuing conduct (sans apology) as contemptible as KC Johnson asserts and most commenters at DIW believe. And I suppose we could spend some time discussing the significance of this case in the historical landscape of American (or world) jurisprudence.
The current case against Durham will be extremely interesting to follow, and you may want to weigh in on the possibility/importance of criminal charges against the primary architects of the hoax.
Regarding your criticism of the DIW Comment Section, I must point out that many commenters tried to set a good tone in the Comment Section, and Professor Johnson monitored and some days deleted a lot of comments. I believe if you read DIW in its entirety, though, you will be astonished by what KC Johnson accomplished there and more forgiving of the free-wheeling discussion many readers valued, even as they regretted its uglier moments.
PS For some reason my comment is still here in the box. I will try again to publish. If it turns up twice...sorry about that, and please delete one of them.
Ahistoricality on 10/27/2007 12:56 AM:
The only things really left to argue about are whether the Group of 88 professors were as badly behaved, their scholarship as shallow, and their continuing conduct (sans apology) as contemptible as KC Johnson asserts
Lo, and behold: that's exactly what we are arguing about! If you ignore the DiW imports here and read what Mr. Young and myself have written....
Well, that and whether KC's feeding the trolls of anti-academic, anti-intellectual conservativism -- there's your DiW comment crew -- is accidental or with malice aforethought.
Jeremy Young on 10/27/2007 1:49 AM:
Observer, I likely won't be commenting on anything to do with KC again until I've read his book. I seem to have exhausted everything I can talk about without doing that (I thought I had done so before, but Charles Piot gave me something else to comment on).
AMac on 10/27/2007 3:36 AM:
Ahistoricality 12:56am --
> Well, [we're arguing about] that and whether KC's feeding the trolls of anti-academic, anti-intellectual conservativism -- there's your DiW comment crew -- is accidental or with malice aforethought.
Well, as you know, Steven Horwitz, anon/Gregory, Observer, and I have commented with some frequency at D-i-W. 'Search For Meaning' and Ralph Luker have been seen in its threads, too.
I've also corresponded with you, Ahistoricality, about the grossly inaccurate summary of the Duke Lacrosse Rape Hoax with which you started a post in September. (I can't point to the partly-corrected text's final version, because the progressivehistorians.com archive at Badongo.com is inaccessible to me. Two comments at Acephalous tell most of the story.)
Rather than striving for a droll riposte, I'll note my disappointment with this sneer in the general direction of the "DiW comment crew."
By the way, I don't equate commenting here or at D-i-W with taking either King's shilling. I exchange ideas, but the communities of people I care about are mostly offline.
Debrah on 10/27/2007 10:36 AM:
".....whether KC's feeding the trolls of anti-academic, anti-intellectual conservativism -- there's your DiW comment crew -- is accidental or with malice aforethought."
I have to say that this is some of the most insular and hermetically-sealed ignorance I have read on any blog in quite some time.
This is what KC has to fight in order to illuminate the truth about a group of overpaid, under-educated, and rabid agenda-filled people who have dug into the very fabric of academia and brought the quality of a university education in this country into unimaginable squalor.
I'm very glad to be reading this....and by extension, a few other blogs in the last few days.
It's almost like being inside a time capsule that was sealed about mid-20th century.
Please, for the sake of this country and for your own mental well-being......come on up!
It's now 2007.
KC Johnson has ignited a revolution.
A revolution that is going to bring the academy back to actually educating its students.
Not harming them with personal pathologies and agendas.
Jeremy Young on 10/27/2007 11:26 AM:
AMac, you corresponded with me, not with Ahistoricality. And I corrected that post to your specifications, because, as I freely admitted then, I know next to nothing about the actual case itself.
Ralph Luker on 10/27/2007 11:45 AM:
Debrah, To put a fine point on it, you are a part of the problem, not a part of the solution. KC is my colleague at Cliopatria, one for whom I have great respect. You blow what he has accomplished way out of proportion. Your comments like "KC is a god" or "KC Johnson has ignited a revolution" are really quite foolish. They directly feed the perception that you and some of the others who comment at D-i-W exhibit the behavior of a cult. You are a bubblehead. Get over it.
Debrah on 10/27/2007 12:01 PM:
TO Ralph Luker--
What a desperate, archaic man you are.
Here's your main problem, Ralph. Read it and weep...as you do, no doubt, on a daily basis:
" KC is my colleague....."
And he has far exceeded you....for I have never heard of you until your misogynistic attack.
Think what you will....or what makes you feel better about the flavor of diatribes people like AH provide for these fora.....and what they say about your ilk.
My opinions of KC are both personal and professional. He has shown himself to be a brilliant scholar......and also a magnificent human being.
Try to live with that. I, like many, adore him.
Ralph Luker on 10/27/2007 12:23 PM:
Look, Deb. I supported KC's bid for tenure at Brooklyn College and invited him to join us at Cliopatria -- long before you ever heard of him. (So, whether *you've* heard of someone is no crucial measure of their merit. Could be your provinciality.) And KC exceeded me well before the Duke lacrosse case. If you weren't too lazy to find out, you'd know that I've long been one of his academic defenders.
Being a woman is no excuse for idiocy. If you want to be taken seriously, keep your personal passion for KC *out* of the public arena.
AMac on 10/27/2007 12:37 PM:
Thanks for the correction (and also for changing the wording of that post). Ahistoricality was cc'd on that correspondence, so a portion of my point remains.
I have not always seen eye-to-eye with Ralph Luker, but have grown to respect his acumen, because of his posts at Cliopatria and his comments elsewhere.
Desperate, archaic, misogynistic? None of those shoes fit.
Debrah on 10/27/2007 12:43 PM:
TO the constant Ralph--
As you might have gleaned, I do not spend my time prancing around the internet on numerous blogs....and I'm proud of that fact.
Some of us do have real lives.
So, no.....I would not have known about your history with KC; however, none of that matters here.
Just as you aren't interested in my ancillary opinions, I am even less interested in your ancillary experiences with someone.
The diatribes posted from people like the above AH on various blogs are the issue.....and how they insidiously attempt to chip away at KC's work and what he has illuminated for all to see.
That might produce apprehension in some who had rather wallow inside the status quo....giving only occasional lip service to change as it relates to members of the academy like the Duke Gang of 88.
Lastly, you have no idea about my background. In the final analysis, I'm not capsulized on any side of town......quite comfortable rubbing elbows with real scholars as well as anyone else on the "profession plate".
It's a new day, Ralph.
Enough people who make the wheels turn in this country--who actually pick up the tariff--are becoming sufficiently repulsed with regard to many aspects of academia.
Try to keep up.
Or.......you can continue insulting me if it gives you a fleeting rush.
Debrah on 10/27/2007 12:48 PM:
"Desperate, archaic, misogynistic? None of those shoes fit."
Well, then "AMac".....may we just call you "bubblehead" then?
I haven't heard anyone call a woman that since my grandfather said that about someone when I was a preschooler.
If the shoe fits....
Debrah on 10/27/2007 3:39 PM:
You're so petty. It seems that some of you guys are in a world so insular that you really don't see how you are viewed by most people in the outside panoramic world.
".....you'd probably still be a bubblehead."
Yes Ralph, and someone might show up at your funeral in a red dress.
It probably........it could........it might happen.
Jeremy Young on 10/27/2007 3:58 PM:
Debrah and Ralph, I'm choosing at the moment to leave these comments where they are, despite the fact that I feel some lines have been crossed on both sides. But Debrah, you need to understand that you're conversing with 1) the well-respected editor of the Martin Luther King Papers, whose scholarship is eminent in his field, 2) a good friend of KC's.
I'll say it again: when you attack Ralph or me, you are attacking people whom your hero likes and respects and, in Ralph's case, actively befriends. Please consider that before lashing out in defense of your idol.
Jeremy Young on 10/27/2007 5:22 PM:
Since this thread has devolved into hopeless insults, I'm now closing it to comments. You're no longer talking about the post at all, but are calling each other names and baselessly insulting each other's scholarship. Kindly take your argument elsewhere.
Jeremy Young on 10/27/2007 9:27 PM:
Final note: I've elected, upon reflection, to remove the two final posts in Debrah's and Ralph's exchange; the first was in my judgment libelous and the other needlessly offensive.