Several months ago, I learned, via the Chair of the Philosophy Department at British Columbia, that my old pal Carrie Jenkins had received an "offensive" package, and that the return address consisted in a mangled version of my Law School's address and a pseudonym attributed to me by a law blogger who had championed the idea that "law school is a scam" and whom I had mercilessly criticized for years (a short and sweet explanation of the whole background is here). That was weird, but I didn't think much of it, and no information about the "offensive" content was shared.
Then, in late August, David Velleman wrote to me as follows:
> From: David Velleman [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Saturday, August 27, 2016 3:17 PM
> To: Leiter, Brian <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Subject: An imposter
> Dear Brian,
> A few people have received packages of excrement from someone using your law-school address and a name widely [sic] believed to be your pseudonym. I assume it can't be you -- which means that someone is trying to embarrass you. I don't know if there's anything you can do about it, but I thought you would want to know. Some of the recipients have reported the packages to the police.
I gave David my best hypothesis about the source, and that was it until recently. I've now heard that others have received such packages--I am assuming that like Jenkins and Velleman, the recipients were involved in the 2014 smear campaign against me and the PGR, but I don't know for a fact that that has been the unifying thread among the targets. Since the only people invested in the pseudonym are part of the "law school is a scam" crowd--and since some members of that crowd have an obsession, shall we say, with excrerment, as well as with me--the best hypothesis is one or more of them is behind this vile stunt (one of this crowd we know is even a lawyer in Chicago). I urge any recipients of such packages to turn them over to the police, since sending such a package is a crime (and, needless to say, the police have not contacted me, but maybe through postmarks or fingerprints they can track down the culprit). (The pseudonym used by the mailer is "Aduren" and the Law School's address is 1111 E. 60th Street, Chicago 60637, though it was slightly altered in the UBC case.)
I was not going to write about this misconduct at all, since publicity tends to encourage lunatics. But since it continues, it's worth flagging it as a warning to potential victims. It also turns out one recipient told a reporter that receiving the package was a case of being "threatened for speaking out about what [she] perceives as abuses of power within the discipline." I confess I laughed when I heard that, since it attributes far too sophisticated motives to the malevolent actor(s). Alas, what this is really about is what happens when one vile cyber-cesspool--the "law school is a scam" crowd--hears about another cyber-controversy (the one about the PGR) involving their nemesis, namely, me. As Velleman aptly said at the end of our exchange in August, "It's a strange world (and getting stranger)."
UPDATE: The Buzzfeed reporter misled me in our correspondence (probably unintentionally) into thinking that these malicious incidents were ongoing--in fact, they happened months ago! One puzzle is why, if these packages were sent in June andJuly of this year, Haslanger and Jenkins waited until October to try to get a malleable reporter to pick up the story? Both Jenkins and Haslanger have received correspondence from my lawyers in the past regarding their involvement in the 2014 mischief, and they may (mistakenly) believe that the statute of limitations on a lawsuit regarding all the tortious wrongdoing ran out at the end of last month, which would explain why they waited until now to spring this "story." That may turn out to be a miscalculation on their part.
More interesting is that the photo (produced by Buzzfeed) of the alleged malicious envelope doesTha include a "tracking number" which reveals that the package to Jenkins was mailed from Chicago on the afternoon of June 23 of this year (when I was, ironically, in Germany--though this may help narrow the suspects down to two, both in Chicago, one part of the "law school is a scam" crowd, the other a law-connected person who has been obessively cyber-stalking me for at least six years now). All the other malicious packages allegedly had no identifying information. In an update, Buzzfeed also reports that there was a fourth victim, Carolyn Jennings, a philosophy professor at UC Merced. It was my criticism of her sloppy data collection and presentation back in June 2014 that, as longtime readers will recall, prompted Jenkins's attack on me back in July 2014. What this suggests is that anyone I've criticized or who has criticized me may be at risk of being similarly victimized, even if not directly connected to the 2014 mischief.
UPDATE: David Wallace, the philosopher of physics formerly at Oxford and now at the University of Southern California, is, as usual, the most intelligent commenter on philosophy blogs. He writes in response to the usual reckless anonymous accusations:
Are people seriously supposing either that,
a) Leiter himself is sending offensive and illegal packages to his adversaries and including his own return address; or that
b) overly radical allies of Leiter, inspired by and in agreement with his views but thinking that he’s being too moderate in his actions, decide to act on his behalf *and to frame him for the action*?
I don’t really see any plausible way of interpreting this as anything other than third-party malice....
That is, of course, rather obviously what it is, as Professor Velleman surmised back in August. And the culprit(s) I'm rather sure have nothing to do with philosophy, for the reasons already noted.
OCTOBER 7 5 PM CST: I'm pleased to report that the University of Chicago Police (who have the full investigatory powers of Illinois police) have agreed to investigate these events (it is a shame other police did not). I will have more to say when the investigation is complete.
UPDATE: It's been a month now since the "poop in the mail" story was largely misreported in the media (the best account was here, since it actually reported all sides of the story, and did not assume that this mischief had anything at all to do with "threatening" those who "speak out" as opposed to stalking me). University of Chicago Police were, as always, very helpful, though since no crime appears to have been committed against me, they could not conduct a criminal investigation, though they did help collect information and reach out to the Postal Police and other police agencies investigating this. As a result of their efforts, I learned the following:
(1) somewhat unbelievably, it is actually not necessarily illegal to send people poop in the mail (doing so could violate state anti-harassment statutes, but that depends on the motive for sending it);
(2) there are even on-line services that will send poop in the mail to those their clients designate;
(3) there are also on-line services that will remail a package from a destination of your choice (making postmarks, alas, useless); and
(4) the Postal Police, based on the tracking number of the package sent to Professor Jenkins in Canada, could only report that the package was "tracked" in a post office near Chicago O'Hare airport that tracks mail sent from anywhere in about a third of the Chicagoland area (though, given #3, this may not even be meaningful information).
(5) the first package was reported by Prof. Jennings to the UC Merced Police on June 20 of this year, meaning she was, surprisingly, the first recipient (despite claiming on social media that she thought all the packages were mailed from Chicago around June 23!).
Thanks to UCPD and my lawyer, and tips from many readers, there are four main suspects, two connected to philosophy (one of whom has admitted to sending poop in the mail previously!), and two connected to law (one a longtime cyber-stalker, the other a well-known "law school is a scam" nut). If and when we have more evidence, I will name some names. Alas, I fear this will happen again, given the careless reporting about it.