The bizarre "response" of Anthony Ciolli and Mr. Cohen to my original posting is, from its title onwards, a series of false statements of fact and misleading innuendo intended to defame me and portray me in a false light.
Here are the facts:
My original posting followed “less than 24 hours” after Messrs. Ciolli’s and Cohen’s public admission on the Volokh Conspiracy site that they run the “xoxohth” discussion board; it had nothing to do with Mr. Ciolli's first-year law school project (a study of law school job placement), which I only learned about after the fact.
Ciolli & Cohen, themselves, document the fact that I was examining their board for weeks before Mr. Ciolli posted his study of job placement by law firms, so they themselves know it is false that Mr. Ciolli's study motivated my comments on the rampant racism, sexism and anti-semitism on their site. Indeed, I only first examined his study after a student called it and Ciolli & Cohen's delusional response to the original posting to my attention.
And delusion, I'm afraid, is the only word for it. Although my vita has been on-line for ages (not to mention my faculty homepage) these two juvenile individuals--one a 21-year-old kid from Queens who just finished his first year at Penn's law school, the other a college dropout and insurance salesman--don't realize that I specialize in law and philosophy, and don't have any idea what my actual professional work is about. Delusion of grandeur is the only explanation for how Mr. Ciolli could think his first-year project in law school would motivate anyone to do anything.
In an effort to further defame me and portray me in a false light, Messrs. Ciolli and Cohen claim that someone purportedly from my web address clicked on links to "hotornot” and “Paris Hilton.” That may well be--if so, they were no doubt among the more mild pornographic and sexist links I found supplied on the website of Messrs. Ciolli and Cohen. In the end, I decided not to document all the pornographic links in my final posting since there was no simple way to aggregate them (unlike the racist and anti-semitic postings I did reference). In addition to being a massive forum for racism, sexism, homophobia, and anti-semitism, Ciolli and Cohen also provide a forum for access to all varieties of pornography. Their commitment to public service apparently knows few limits. (Mr. Cohen's comments here [end of the article] may explain things.)
The threat to pursue legal action for the per se libel on the board had the desired effect with both the ISP and several posters, who "outed" some of the worst offenders. In the interim, I've heard from a number of female students who have been targetted by name in vicious campaigns of sexual harassment, with threats of rape and sexual assault by anonymous posters on the Ciolli/Cohen board. Ciolli & Cohen, true to form, have not responded to e-mailed requests from these victims to remove this material. At least one of them tells me she will take legal action. The fact of Mr. Ciolli's intransigence will no doubt make its way to the Character & Fitness Committee of the New York Bar.
The Penn Administration has also been tracking the Ciolli/Cohen cesspool; indeed, they did not realize a Penn student ran it until he outed himself on the Volokh site. Deans and faculty have subsequently offered Mr. Ciolli prudent advice on this matter. (One Penn faculty member, so appalled by the site, said to me, "I'd never permit Mr. Ciolli in one of my classes.") Meannwhile, other students continue to mock his discussion board (also here), but Mr. Ciolli still apparently doesn't realize what he is doing to his professional reputation. If you run a web site that features rampant racism, anti-semitism, homophobia, and sexism; that includes numerous tortious (often per se libelous) attacks on female professors at Penn (including Professor Finkelstein, with whom Mr. Ciolli has worked); on students at Penn, Stanford, Berkeley, Pomona, and elsewhere; on various Deans at Penn; and on law professors elsewhere; and if you do nothing about any of this (even when asked), then you are inviting serious trouble and professional ruin.
(An ironic sidenote: I was actually sent the Ciolli study of job placement by a peer-review journal that wanted it refereed. When I realized I knew who the author was, I, of course, had to decline to referee it. But I did for the first time actually look at the study a bit more carefully. While it is a bit awkwardly written, it clearly reflects an extraordinary amount of effort, and includes some interesting data. I'm a little worried, though, that Mr. Ciolli's aggressive statistical massaging of the raw data may account for some of the bizarre results on regional placement. In any case, it's now some other referee's problem.)
UPDATE: One of Mr. Ciolli's classmates writes: "As I am certain that you have heard from others, the majority of students at Penn Law find the trash on that site offensive beyond belief and an
embarrassment to Penn. I hope that the isolated actions of one student have not sullied your views of other Penn students." It has not, and I'm aware that many at Penn, and not only faculty and administrators, are concerned about this site being in any way associated with a great law school.
AND ANOTHER: Turns out Mr. Ciolli's delusions extend to the realm of politics. As a Penn law student pointed out to me, Mr. Ciolli is also "very dissappointed with Bush" since "he is FAR too left wing for my tastes." Wow! This may also explain why Mr. Ciolli thinks hosting a forum for racism, anti-semitism, and threats of rape and sexual assault is in good taste.
[Originally posted July 1, 2005; updated March 1, 2006]