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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Shame

I apologize for posting on this matter one more time. But one of the problems with these kinds of Internet teapost-tempests is that they get very ugly, everyone decides to put the matter behind them, and then everyone just repeats the same behavior the next time around. Sometimes it's both necessary and right to make a moral judgment about particular affairs before putting them behind you. So let me offer here, rather than on The Faculty Lounge, which tends to eat long comments, a response to Paul Campos, who has offered a kind of response to Dan Filler et al.'s statement from yesterday on his blog, and commendably has offered a link to it at The Faculty Lounge. I encourage those who are exhausted by this issue to skip the post. But some things demand to be judged, on the record.

Campos’s comment strikes me as totally pusillanimous. Consider everything he has been saying in the last week, and how he has said it. And note that it was all based on what he now calls “triangulation”—which is to say, inference and conjecture, which are notoriously subject to error (along with, he claims, other information that he is not revealing in order to maintain confidentiality, although as far as I can tell from today’s post he doesn’t think anyone else is entitled to be believed in such circumstances). In the course of a few days, he went from saying, “It appears the admins at The Faculty Lounge may have some explaining to do”; to saying that “the obvious suspect” for having passed along information was someone at TFL and “the obvious candidate from among the site’s bloggers is Dan Filler”; to a post on March 7 repeatedly singling out Filler as his prime suspect; to a post on March 8 saying that the conduct he was complaining of “was apparently made possible by his co-blogger Dan Filler sharing confidential email information from comments at Filler’s other blog, The Faculty Lounge”; to a statement in the same post, now fully accusatory and without qualification, saying, “let’s not forget the role of his errand boy Dan Filler in all this, who can’t even manage to get to denial, but is apparently too cowardly to confess to his role in this squalid business”; to a conclusion in the same post that Filler’s failure to issue a clear denial of responsibility removed “any” doubt for Campos that Filler was guilty. Note the hot and temperamental rhetoric; the mounting number of accusations against one person; and the increasing move from speculation to what he pronounces is utter certainty.  

Following yesterday's statement here, Campos's post today, to which he links and which you can judge for yourself, is notably lacking in that kind of rhetoric. Instead, it adopts--in what, as far as I can tell from reading Campos's blog for more than a year, is a fairly typical rhetorical move whenever he is called into question--a sober-sided, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger, let's-put-this-late-unpleasantness-behind-us tone. He describes himself as having, in his earlier posts, "determined that Leiter’s co-blogger Dan Filler was an obvious candidate for having given Leiter access to the critics’ email addresses, and in at least one case an IP address as well." Note the difference between that more circumspect description and his actual language in repeated posts, which ended in a pronouncement that he had no doubt that Filler, who was not his own man but someone's "errand boy," was the guilty party. His post today ends by suggesting that no other explanation is possible other than that someone at TFL blog acted improperly, although he has hardly demonstrated that; but he also now identifies a range of possibilities and culprits other than Professor Filler. Apparently his doubt is back. How nice to see it again. 

 Admittedly, I would never write accusatory posts like that in the first place, and certainly not a series of them, and certainly not a series that ends by announcing my utter confidence that I am right in accusing a particular individual--and all of this on the basis of "triangulation," no less. If I did, however, and the accused then issued a denial, I would consider myself honor-bound toreply in language that was just as loud and clear as my accusations. I suppose if I thought the person was lying, I might say so, and why I thought so. But if I now admitted that there were other possibilities, I would apologize straightfowardly, even if I was not sure I was wrong, both because I might be wrong and because my earlier statements had said I was certain I was right.. I wouldn’t suddenly move from repeated, hotly voiced accusations to cool, lawyerly, passive-verbed tones; that would strike me as just another way of being less than straightforward, if not outright dishonest and dishonorable. And I sure as hell wouldn’t talk soberly about wanting to put “this sad and disturbing matter” behind me until I had first done the right thing, in clear and unmistakeable language. Anything else would strike me as cheap and cowardly.

Lots of Campos’s fans like to accuse law professors of writing about subjects they know nothing about—and not without reason! In that sense, I find it telling that Campos is the author of an article titled “Shame.”   

 

Posted by Paul Horwitz on March 12, 2013 at 02:46 PM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink

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