(ORIGINALLY POSTED October 14, 2005)
As usual, Keith Burgess-Jackson (hereafter "KBJ"), the oddest man with a PhD in philosophy and a blog is being sliced and diced for one of his recent irrational postings.
I am often asked, "Who is KBJ?" I'll tell you what I know.
KBJ teaches philosophy at the University of Texas at Arlington (Arlington is near Dallas, and UTA is one of the dozen or so branches of the UT system, mostly focused on undergraduate education) and he has a far right blog called "Anal Philosopher" (which, he admits, gets a substantial portion of its visits from people googling for anal sex sites!). I know of him mainly because every week or two, he goes beserk at my expense: he defames and insults me, makes scurrilous allegations (usually involving fictional misdeeds and incidents), and so on. Invariably, someone sends me a link asking, "What's wrong with this guy? Do you know him?" (Actually, most of the queries are far ruder about KBJ than this, but you get the idea.) I don't know him, except via some e-mail, though I finally stopped corresponding with him, since it's clear he does not occupy the space of reasons (I even added him finally to my list of blocked senders--he is, in many ways, worse than spam). Here's what I do know about him:
*KBJ is, by his own admission, desperate for attention. Early on, KBJ had nothing but nice words for my blog. My greatest sin, apparently, was never to have linked to him in the first year or so after he started his blog. The reasons I didn't link to him are aptly described by Brian Weatherson (Philosophy, Cornell), who did note the arrival of KBJ's blog two years ago with the following understated assessment: "I should warn that a large chunk of it doesn't seem to be that good...." Indeed. The folks at Crooked Timber have had fun in the past with what passes for "argument" at KBJ's site, for example, here and here. And as another blogger noted, KBJ has a certain tendency towards "unembarrassed display[s] of irrationality." It's hard, in short, to find stuff on his blog that one would want to call to the attention of philosophers and scholars, let alone rational, humane and cosmopolitan readers.
*In any case, KBJ didn't cope too well with Professor Weatherson's understated assessment, and replied (in classic KBJ fashion) as follows:
Some idiot named Brian Weatherson commented early on...that there wasn’t much philosophy (or good philosophy) on my site. He must not know how to read.
This is par for the course for KBJ: he dismisses, with contempt, individuals who are, in every tangible and intangible respect, his betters, intellectually and otherwise. (See, too, his treatment of R.A. Duff, a first-rate philosopher of criminal law whom KBJ dismisses as "obtuse" and "intellectually dishonest" [because he didn't give a favorable review to some of KBJ's work]. By contrast, he merely dismisses me as a "disgrace," a "buffoon," a "nut" and the like. [He's not much nicer to Paul Krugman: e.g., here or here or here or here and on and on.] Someone prone to armchair psychology--not me, of course!--might surmise that the defense mechanism called "projection" explains a good many of these outbursts. On the other hand, if, as KBJ informs us, "The degree to which [one is] attacked is the degree to which [one is] respected (or feared)," then KBJ must either worship me or be utterly terrified! [I'm joking, of course: KBJ is the most psychologically transparent blogger I've ever seen.])
*Since I failed to link to his blog, and since he can't stand my politics, he one day posted a link to an article about vandalism and criminal threats directed at someone on the left in a small Texas town, suggesting that I should take note of what happens to folks like me in Texas (I won't link to this, needless to say). Charming guy, eh? The Dean of my law school filed a formal complaint about this incitement to violence against me and my family with the General Counsel of the University of Texas System. This actually quieted the stupid man down for awhile.
*He wrote David Chalmers demanding to be put on the list of philosophy bloggers, rather than the list of philosophers with non-philosophy blogs. Chalmers removed him altogether, having noticed, presumably, that KBJ is a bit unhinged.
*He started a blog called "The Conservative Philosopher," recruited a dozen contributors, and then drove almost all of them away with his weird behavior. There is an amusing account of this saga here and here. (And it turns out, he's done this before!)
Despite nearly two years of bizarre and juvenile behavior by KBJ, I've ignored him in the past, and even linked to him favorably once or twice (he does, occasionally, post items with merit). According to his Web Stat counter, his site only gets about 250 hits a day from regular, repeat visitors (as distinct from all those searching for anal sex sites!), so his scurrilous and delusional outbursts reach only a small audience. But they do, occasionally, reach normal philosophers. And since I am invariably asked by these folks what KBJ's problem is, I felt the amusing exchange between him and the philosopher of biology provided an apt occasion to report what I do know.
One cost of having political views so far out of the mainstream in the reactionary United States, and expressing those views in the blogosphere, is that one becomes the target of unbelievable and personal abuse from various freaks and oddballs with Internet access. I respond to almost none of these attacks (though, bizarrely, when I do respond, I am denounced for being "vindictive"!). Being smeared by noxious mediocrities is, as I've noted before, one of the really odd aspects of having a blog. Of course, taking political stands outside the mainstream sometimes brings me nice messages, like this one from a talented young philosopher at a major PhD-granting department:
There are not many dissenting voices out there, and the ones attempting to articulate options to the various forms of authoritarianism with which we are constantly bombarded, do not have the virtue of being sufficiently persisting and firm. So, thanks again for your courage and determination.
Attracting right-wing creeps like KBJ is, alas, part of the cost of integrity and forthrightness in America today. Since KBJ will no doubt continue to smear and lie about me (according to Google, he has posted more than 100 times about me to date!), and since he is apparently uneducable (witness, again, the exchange with the philosophers of biology), perhaps at least it will help if everyone else knows the "story" behind this unpleasant man's blog site and his obsession with me.
ANOTHER: Since I exposed KBJ's bizarre behavior to a large philosophical audience some two weeks ago, he has been spinning out of control, with a whole series of amusingly delusional attacks posted on me and his other "enemies," including such gems as calling Dadahead "Cacahead"! He has announced that he is still waiting for the philosophers of biology--who shredded him weeks ago--to reply to his arguments, not realizing that they did, that his arguments are bad, and that they have wisely decided to not waste more time on him. He now explains that I'm almost as intellectualy dishonest as Paul Krugman (!!!) because I alluded to Dadahead's account of how KBJ's oddball behavior scared off other conservative philosophers from a blog he started. (KBJ has had trouble playing with others before, it turns out.) Naturally, in the course of a post accusing me of dishonesty, it is KBJ who is dishonest about what actually happened (see here, or here, or here for accounts of KBJ's misconduct) and, on top of that, he manages to smear two different students (Max Goss and Matthew Mullins, both of conservative disposition and both of whom behaved honorably in the face of KBJ's attacks). This is consistent with my hypothesis that almost every delusional outburst by KBJ is a case of "projection": he accuses others of what he himself actually does.
KBJ thinks I want to "harm" his "career," which is of a piece with his general delusion that I am Zeus, striking down mortals lefts and right. All the harm that could possibly be done to KBJ's career has been done by his bizarre behavior on his blog (he ought to talk to some other legal philosophers, or even his former teachers, to find out what they think of his conduct). I really wish he would focus on his career and stop ranting and raving about me! Note KBJ's concluding threat:
He [Leiter] thinks that if he abuses me before the philosophical community, most of whose members share his leftist views, I will stop writing about him. That shows how little he knows about me. When he chose to abuse [sic] me, he made a terrible mistake. Please visit this blog on a regular basis—and do what you can to circulate this post throughout the blogosphere. I have much more to say about Leiter. By the time I’m done with him, his viciousness will be a matter of permanent public record—so that his children and grandchildren can see what a thug and an imbecile their father and grandfather was.
"Abuse." "Vicousness." "Thug." "Imbecile." As I noted above, psychological projection is the fundamental event on KBJ's blog: all his failings are ascribed to others, and the man seems to be not even remotely aware that he is the one who is abusive, vicious, thuggish, and so on. (I am indeed a merciless critic of others on the merits, but for actual, insane viciousness, who could hold a candle to this sick man's stated intent to humiliate his opponent in front of his children?!?!)
I have recorded my view, above, that KBJ is "uneducable": I do not think he can be silenced, and so, after nearly two years of my own silence in the face of KBJ's wild attacks, I would just like everyone else to have the relevant context for KBJ's obessive and irrational hatred, and to realize that this is a man who will say almost anything, without regard for truth or decency.
A REVEALING BIT OF CORRESPONDENCE from one of KBJ's former students, who cc'd me. This student wrote to KBJ (using his real name, so KBJ knows who it is): "If anyone is an academic thug, it would be you Keith. I've seen you bully enough students in class including myself. It shows on your blog except your bullying doesn't get any attention at all, which is kind of sad if you think about it....Instead of attacking everything (screaming for attention) Keith, why don't you try defending your beliefs and be compassionate about it. You don't need to alienate half of the UTA philosophy department because you think you only have the right world view and everyone else is wrong. I have never seen students get so angry at the professor in class as I have seen students in your class get." As noted above, "projection" is KBJ's primary defense mechanism.
KBJ NINE MONTHS LATER: Although I have not written about KBJ in over nine months, this hasn't stopped him from writing several hundred (!) blog entries harassing, threatening, defaming, and/or insulting me (and my wife, my parents, my children, and my co-bloggers!!!). Sane and happy person that he is, he spent last Christmas Day starting an attack blog for this purpose, announcing that he would devote the rest of his life to it. (At least he's got a life's project now.)
This past April, a prospective PhD student tipped me off to the fact that some anonymous philosophers had set up a parody site which documents Burgess-Jackson's total indifference to epistemic and moral norms. Given Burgess-Jackson's sui generis combination of psychopathology and pitiful stupidity (at least for an academic with a blog), this is a case where people have good reason to want to remain anonymous--especially given their deadly accurate eye for the man's limitless hypocrisy, intellectual clumsiness, bigotry (esp. again women and gays),and general creepiness. "A liar, an ignoramus, a sexist and an an idiot" is fairly typical of how philosophical blog readers who come across him view Keith Burgess-Jackson. The site devoted to him certainly explains why.
Among the weirder aspects of KBJ's obsession is that he claims to believe that critiques of anyone--polemical or otherwise--for saying something false, stupid, or pernicious are forbidden, and constitute "abuse" (!) and impermissible "harm" of someone's career. Anyone familiar with his many weird blogs can understand, of course, why he would prefer that criticizing stupidity, ignorance, and venality were off-limits (and also why he never responds on the merits to any of the arguments). A more alarming interpretation (suggested by a commenter here) is that his particular psychological ailment leads him to systematically misinterpret what others say and do: so, e.g., criticizing someone's bad arguments is "really" an effort to destroy their career, and so on.*
When Burgess-Jackson isn't just making things up (whether events, correspondence**, or vast conspiracies by "sychophants") and actually provides a link to something I've written, do follow the link. As a consequence of stupidity or malice (probably both), he almost never represents the content of what I have written correctly (even when it has to do with philosophy!). A telling, and quite typical, example is discussed in the comments here and another in the first comment here. This philosophy student discusses a more interesting case here. (It's quite amazing that a putatively "professional philosopher" can be so confused about such simple philosophical matters like the difference between truth and warrant.)
A couple of readers have wondered why I have not taken any legal action against Professor Burgess-Jackson (university and legal officials in Austin and Arlington, needless to say, know all about him and his campaign of personal harassment and threats, including such gems as "By the time we get done with this sorry excuse for a human being, he'll be crying"). It is true that he makes frequent false claims that are defamatory in intent, but actual damage makes for a more worthwhile claim of defamation, and all the damage, as usual, appears to be accruing to him. Based on the traffic I get from his web site (it has averaged less than ten hits per day the last few months--he is obviously desperate for more), and given that, at least in the past, he posted nearly daily, I would guess he has a few dozen regular visitors--some are clearly the juvenile high school and college students who post on this notorious website, but the majority, judging from the correspondence I receive, are no doubt reading for the same reason as this anonymous philosophy student who blogs (and who, I might add, has occasionally critiqued me):
I have to admit that it's kind of intriguing to watch KBJ foam at the mouth. You don't get to see this level of insanity laid out before you on a daily basis very often. I wonder if he has any family or friends, and if so, why they haven't intervened yet.
It does seem odd that no one has stepped in to offer the obvious advice--though it may be he simply ignores it. I do know that various faculty---from Jules Coleman to Michael Froomkin--have tried to correct his misrepresentations, but to no avail. [As an amusing sidenote, KBJ did succeed in convincing Coleman that KBJ is nuts.] I am grateful for the efforts, but don't recommend wasting the time: the man is "uneducable," as I noted last fall.
In a posting on June 11, 2006, KBJ wrote that, "Leiter abused me horribly in his blog"--referring to the original blog item, above--and explained that his hundreds of posts harassing and defaming me (and members of my family, and my co-bloggers, and anyone he associates with me, and anyone who shares my political views etc. etc.) were simply "retaliation" (he apparently erased from his memory the 100-or-so unhinged attacks he had posted about me prior to October 14). This is consistent with what he also told a former teacher about why he started his hate blog. Given the self-serving purpose of his hate blog, it is ironic how he has "moralized" the dispute by imagining himself as defender of the vulnerable, and me as the purveyor of "wicked deeds." In fact, it is all just self-serving and delusional revenge because I had the audacity to respond to his repeated attacks. This, alas, is consistent with the hypothesis about his psychological disturbance noted earlier.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out he's engaged in this kind of harassing behavior before. As a former friend of Burgess-Jackson's who is now a professional philosopher wrote to me after learning about his hate blog: "Keith has imaginary grudges against many many people, myself included," adding that Burgess-Jackson "scoured the web in search of information he thought he could use to embarrass me, threatened to blacken my name forever, wrote at least one horrible letter to another philosopher denouncing me as a bad and stupid person and even said horribly unkind things about my children, whom he has never met and about whom he knows nothing. Does it sound familiar?" Alas, it does. "I really am convinced that he is mentally ill," this philosopher concluded, "but I don't see anything to be done about it."
And as another well-known senior moral philosopher wrote: "I have heard through the grapevine that you are Keith Burgess-Jackson's latest target...This has been his defining characteristic for at least the last 20 years [ed.-I get conflicting reports on how long he has been harassing people, but it may well be this long]. You are just the latest of his victims....He will, for a time, decide that some philosopher is a god, and then suddenly decide that they are the prince of darkness. I know slews of people, both in this country and in the UK, who have, at one time or another, been subject to his attacks. Some of these victims are among the gentlest, most decent people I know. He did the same with fellow students from grad school. He clearly needs help....Join the legions who have felt the sting of his vicious attacks more than once.”
I sincerely hope he gets the professional help he needs.
*KBJ's paranoid obsession with the idea that I am trying to "harm" people's careers is one of the more striking cases of projection in KBJ's repetoire, it turns out. Despite the repeated incantation of this libel, Burgess-Jackson has not been able to adduce any actual instance of anyone's career being harmed or even any attempt to harm someone's career! In Burgess-Jackson's strange, hyper-sensitive world, it appears that criticizing someone for shilling for Intelligent Design or making bad arguments for war is really an effort to "harm" their career. I puzzled initially about this bizarre misinterpretation of any and all criticism, though the most plausible psychological diagnosis made some sense of it:
The rigidity of beliefs found in individuals with PPD isolates them from corrective environmental feedback; they are vulnerable to increasing distortion of reality, hypersensitivity to misinterpreted events, and an inflated view of self that results in tumultuous struggles with others who are bewildered by the entire situation….
Individuals with paranoid personality disorder assume others will exploit, harm, or deceive them....They may feel they have been deeply and irreversibly injured by others even when there is little objective evidence that this is the case (DSM-IV™, 1994, p. 634). People are seen as devious, treacherous, and manipulative; care must be taken to not be demeaned, controlled, or discriminated against (Beck, 1990, pp. 48-49)…. They are inordinately quick to take offense, slow to forgive, and ever willing to counterattack (Fenigstein, 1996, pp. 245-246). They want to get even (Kantor, 1992, p. 118). Individuals with PPD struggle with anger, resentment, vindictiveness, and hostility. They live in fear of harm and malevolence from others and maintain extraordinary vigilance.
Burgess-Jackson's declaration that he will devote the rest of his life to "haunting" me because I responded to a hundred different attacks he had posted about me also seems consistent with the clinical observation that,
These individuals view themselves as righteous and mistreated (Beck, 1990, p. 48) and will attempt to enhance their self-esteem through exerting power over others. They fight "on the side of the angels." Other people are wrong; they are pure. They are vengeful and pursue conflict with great tenacity, never seeming to tire in their quest for self-vindication; they acquire an inordinate fondness for righteous causes (Kantor, 1992, pp. 113-119). People with PPD often feel that their own hurt feelings provide sufficient cause for justifying almost any retaliation (Richards, 1993, p. 284)….
But the real giveaway was the observation that,
These individuals actively disown undesirable personal traits and motives by projecting them onto or attributing them to others.
Burgess-Jackson's obsession with the idea that I was the one trying to harm people's careers finally made sense when an ex-friend of his (hereafter "L") sent me copies of letters Burgess-Jackson had written (after their falling out) to L's employer accusing L of having broken various Texas laws, offering to testify under oath as to L's violations of the law, and also relaying every bad thing about the employer that L had ever said. Here at last was a real example of trying to harm someone's career! When conjoined with Burgess-Jackson's repeatedly expressed wish that I and my co-bloggers and the purveyors of the now-defunct parody blog suffer professional harm, it became all-too-evident where the obsession with the canard that I was the one who wanted to "harm" someone's career had actually come from.
KBJ's consistent projection of all his own misconduct and traits onto me (and others) has its amusing side, though. To be accused of "narcissism," for example, by a person who blogs weekly excerpts from 20-year-old diary entries, and regales his readers with the details of his exercise regimen, weight and physical condition is presumably a case study that clinical researchers studying personality disorders probably dream about discovering. But at least it's funny!
**KBJ doesn't make up all the putative "correspondence" he posts, to be sure: Stuart Buck--yes, that Stuart Buck--has supplied a number of the genuine "mailbag" items. While there was an organized campaign early on to get various far right freaks and oddballs with blogs to link to Burgess-Jackson's hate blog, Mr. Buck has the dubious distinction of being the only putatively professional person to have done so. Pretty pathetic how low some folks will stoop.
MARCH 2008 UPDATE: So some time in the last couple of months, our friend in Arlington apparently realized that his several hundred postings defaming, insulting, threatening, and harassing me and my family and anyone who reminded him of me made him look pretty obviously mentally ill, and so he simply deleted it all: two years of insanity gone!
Or maybe he realized that in a state university system with post-tenure review, it wasn't obvious that the University of Texas at Arlington actually had to keep on the payroll someone so transparently disturbed? (His insane behavior is apparently well-known to his Administration.)
Whatever the explanation, all that is left from KBJ's "life project" of harassing me is a list of those he says I have "viciously attacked" (read: criticized). Par for the course, KBJ fails to link to anything I actually wrote, though I am delighted to acknowledge excorciating fascists, crypto-fascists, and right-wing liars like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Reynolds. But since poor Keith could not be bothered, let me supply some links to some of the others on whose behalf the madman in Arlington has taken offense: e.g., Albert Alschuler; John Roberts; Anthony Ciolli; Norman Geras. What a delicate flower KBJ must be to think these are "vicious attacks." Some of the other people he lists I've never even written about, but, alas, that's also par for the course given KBJ's tenuous grasp reality. And at least one, Jeremy Waldron, wrote to thank me for my complimentary posting. "Vicious attack," indeed.
No bit of KBJ weirdness is complete without projection, the only defense mechanism, it seems, in his over-burdened psychic armory. He now introduces his hate blog with a long quote from Mill, who gives, as it happens, an apt characterization of KBJ's own mental disturbances:
Cruelty of disposition; malice and ill-nature; that most antisocial and odious of all passions, envy; dissimulation and insincerity, irascibility on insufficient cause, and resentment disproportioned to the provocation; the love of domineering over others; the desire to engross more than one's share of advantages . . . , the pride which derives gratification from the abasement of others; the egotism which thinks self and its concerns more important than everything else, and decides all doubtful questions in its own favour—these are moral vices and constitute a bad and odious moral character . . . (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty , chap. 4).
Bearing in mind Mill's portrait, let me close with KBJ's own words, a few choice tidbits that he has now removed from his hate blog, but which we saved back when my university was retaining a psychiatrist to evaluate his rantings. A few glossary items, for the uninitiated: in KBJ's language, "abuse" means criticizing someone's ideas or arguments, or commenting on their malfeasance, especially if they are on the political right; a "thug" is someone who commits "abuse"; a "sycophant" is anyone who criticizes KBJ or comments on his apparent mental instability--especially, but not only, those who created the parody blog. Herewith, KBJ on Leiter:
By the time we get done with this sorry excuse for a human being, he'll be crying. (December 29, 2005)
When Leiter chose to abuse me [meaning the post, above] , he made a terrible mistake, one that will haunt him for the rest of his life. At 48 years of age and in great health, I expect to be around for another 25 to 30 years. (March 30, 2006)
Brian Leiter is proud to have recruited co-bloggers who are as cognitively twisted, affectively disordered, and morally retarded as he is. (April 1, 2006)
When I get done with him, he will be crying. (June 1, 2006)
Justice consists in giving each person his or her due. Brian Leiter and his sycophants deserve to suffer for their scurrilous attacks on people they dislike (or with whom they disagree on moral or political matters). One way for them to suffer, perhaps the most fitting way, is to be denied admission, hiring, or promotion....Time will tell whether justice is done to these creeps. I believe it will be. (June 18, 2006)
I'm flattered that Brian Leiter's sycophants read my blogs every day. Writers need readers, especially readers who don't already agree with them. I suspect that's what fascinates the sycophants about me. I--a highly educated professional whose attainments they envy and hope to emulate--don't share their leftist values...So, please, by all means, read my blogs. It flatters me. Make fun of me if you like. Call me names. Jefferson was reviled. Lincoln was mocked. Reagan was ridiculed. Do you think they cared? Does anyone remember their abusers? (July 4, 2006)
Leiter is doomed to spend the rest of his career (such as it is) at The University of Texas at Austin. Who would hire him, given the thuggishness he displays on an almost daily basis in his blog? Who would want to have such a cretin as a colleague? (August 3, 2006)
According to Brian Leiter, I'm nothing [ed.--I never said this, as usual KBJ just projects his anxieties on to me]. I teach at a third-rate university; I teach only undergraduates (horrors!); I have an undistinguished publication record; I'm not even a full professor (much less the holder of an endowed chair). Leiter, by contrast, is a Big Important Man. Do you see the irony? I'm nothing, but I'm worth the time, energy, and attention not only of Leiter, but of his legion of sycophants. Something's not right with this picture. Either Leiter and his sycophants are irrational (by devoting so much attention to a mere nothing) or, perish the thought, I'm not nothing. (August 4, 2006)
I shouldn't admit this, but I enjoy watching people fall apart mentally. It's why I read Brian Leiter's blog. He is going the way of his idol, Frierich Nietzsche, who lapsted into insanity in 1889, at the tender age of 45. Leiter is 43. (August 8, 2006)
I fully expect Leiter to go insane, like his idol Friedrich Nietzsche. He shows many of the symptoms of insanity already, such as paranoia, dissociation, hysteria, and narcissism. If he doesn't go insane, it's going to be a great run. Let's see. I'm 49. Leiter is 43. I expect to be around for at least 25 more years. That's a quarter century in which to bring Leiter's thuggishness to the attention of the world. Stay tuned. You're going to enjoy the show. When I get done with Leiter, he'll be crying like a baby. (August 8, 2006)
I have Brian Leiter by the proverbial balls, and he knows it. Usually, when he abuses people, they put their tails between their legs and run off, whimpering...[But] then one day, he abused me. Bad move, Brian. It may be the stupidest thing you you've ever done, and you've done many stupid things....You thought I'd whimper and run away when you abused me on your blog. Ha! You obviously don't know me. My mother...taught me to stand up for myself, to fight bullies, to be a man. (August 10, 2006)
Thank goodness [Leiter] has no power. His children will thank their lucky stars that President Bush protected them, for their father certainly wouldn't have. (August 24, 2006)
Brian Leiter and his effeminate friends and sycophants would do well to read this [an article from the National Review about manly Greek warriors]. Does Leiter [linking to a photo of me] look as though he has a spine? He looks like the Michelin man or the Pillsbury doughboy. But seriously, do you think Leiter would fight even if his own life and the lives of his children depended on it? Would you want to count on Leiter? He is as soft morally and intellectually as he is physically. (October 5, 2006)
I'm sorry that I spent any time at all reading Leiter's blog. The man is a pathetic specimen of humanity. He is intellectually dishonest, personally offensive, thuggish, and stupid. (November 1, 2006)
I'll miss you too, Keith.
But, seriously, I hope his colleagues and Deans at UT Arlington will be more proactive. They know that I am not the only person he has harassed, and they must surely realize that unless he receives psychiatric intervention, others are likely to be victims in the future.