I get asked periodically about how it could be that a major British newspaper purportedly recommended (several years ago) as "one of the best 100 blogs" a rather bad philosophy-related blog by a former academic with a PhD in philosophy and a truckload of ressentiment against liberals, competent philosophers, leftists, atheists, successful scholars, and basically everything he is not. (I will refrain from mentioning the philosopher or the blog, though I do hope this post will forestall further e-mail inquiries on the subject from readers familiar with the blog in question.)
The blog in question prominently advertises this 'distinction'--about the only distinction on offer, it appears--even though, as correspondents point out, the ratio of mistakes about philosophical matters to passable content is not very favorable on this site. The explanation is simple, and would not surprise Karl Kraus: an obscure (and right-wing) British journalist with no knowledge of philosophy was asked to recommend 100 blogs in different areas, two of which he identified as philosophy blogs. The other "philosophy" blog the journalist picked out was by an English professor, who probably was even less philosophically adept than our fellow with the PhD. The journalist published his silly list in the London publication. So it goes. In any case, that's the story.
UPDATE: A reader has alerted me to some interesting circumstances surrounding our noxious mediocrity's departure from the University of Dayton as an "associate professor" after 13 years. More on all that later.
JUNE 2 UPDATE: The sick viciousness of Vallicella's "reply" is par for the course--he is not satisfied with calling me an idiot and a philosophical incompetent, instead, he has to fish unrelated libel out of the bowels of cyberspace and mock my appearance! It's hard to believe this pathetic person is 64 years old. (Once, ten years ago, I commented on one of his right-wing stupidities, without even naming him; since then, over the last decade, he has posted dozens of times to insult, mock, and abuse me by name. Nothing like a sense of proportion.)
ANOTHER (JUNE 5): I've gotten a number of interesting and amusing e-mails about our noxious mediocrity du jour, but this one is especially funny and worth sharing:
I don’t know if you’ve been following the Maverick Man’s meltdown in the wake of your 100-word post on May 30. By my estimate, he’s now written a half-dozen different posts and a couple thousand words all in response to a post that didn’t even mention him by name! It’s quite a display. You would think someone (maybe his wife?) would let him in on the secret that such an excessive response, as well as the middle school insults about unflattering photos of you, do not make him look mentally stable (and they also make it obvious how vulnerable and wounded he is). One can imagine the reaction at the dinner party with his wife’s colleagues at ASU when he boasts: “Oh, yes, I trashed some philosopher at the University of Chicago by posting rude photos of him and making fun of his weight”! And what is it with his obsession that you’re a “careerist”? As you remarked, he’s not a very good philosopher, but surely he is not a complete idiot and can see perfectly well that attacking philosophers like Nagel, as well as producing the PGR, has done no good for your career at all, as I think even you've acknowledged. As with his fixation on Alinsky, it all seems to be a delusional mix of resentment and projection. My guess is if you were to write an actual post with his name in it, he'd spend the rest of his life ranting and raving in reply!
MORE AMUSING CORRESPONDENCE from another reader:
[A] friend would occasionally link to [Maverick Man's] blog in our online discussions, and so I became a casual reader of his. I chose to dismiss Vallicella's unhinged politics as the ramblings of an eccentric shut-in. I know that people of his extreme mindset have usually been hurt or disappointed in life; hence the resentment. They perceive themselves as having been overlooked by humanity.
My sympathy ran dry, however, when Vallicella exposed himself as an unbridled racist. You may remember when John Derbyshire was fired from the National Review some months back for pulling off the remarkable feat of publishing, in a separate online forum, something that was too racist even for the National Review. (I don't care to search for it, but basically it was a sort of open letter to his children informing them that black people are violent and intellectually inferior and warning them to avoid groups of African Americans at all costs.) Well, when this happened Vallicella wrote up an indignant defense of Derbyshire, basically admitting that Derbyshire's racist worldview was his own....
[H]appily I hadn't thought about him until you posted about him last week. Well, I went back to his website, and guess what. Right at the top of the page was another defense of racism! Go figure...
By the way, I'm sure others have informed you of this, but your mention of Vallicella has awakened an obsession in him. He has devoted no less than eight posts to you in the past week, and now he promises at least a week's more. This is perhaps not surprising, as angry shut-ins have a tendency to develop weird and unhealthy preoccupations. I wouldn't be surprised if he were fashioning busts of you out of mashed potatoes.
I have to confess I haven't looked since June 2, but I have no reason to doubt my correspondents. I know from past experience with right-wing crazies who don't have real lives that they can go on and on and on and on...they usually stop when their readers say "enough already." By the way, several readers asked about the circumstances surrounding his departure from his only academic job, mentioned above. The original report did not pan out. What appears to have happened is this: after teaching at the University of Dayton from 1978-1991, he took a leave of absence because his wife, who teaches art education, got a job at Arizona State University. Unsurprisingly, he could not get another job, and so he simply left academia to follow his wife. The only amusing irony here is that our raving right-wing, racist lunatic appears to be basically a "house husband"!
AND FINALLY: One final note, from yet another reader:
Just a heads up that Vallicella is now soliciting anonymous attacks on you. (In keeping with the middle school level of all this, he also called you a “pussy”!) This is all starting to remind me of another one of your insane cyber-stalkers from the past (I think they are cyber-pals actually). Their motto isn’t an “eye for an eye” it’s “two eyes (and a tongue and a nose and all major bodily organs and all four limbs) for an eye.”
That motto is amusingly apt, but if he is really soliciting libel, then he apparently doesn't realize that this will waive his CDA 230 immunity. In any case, I’ve referred this nonsense to my lawyer, who will decide whether it’s worth doing anything about this latest orgy of defamation and cyber-harassment.