This is rather funny. In my "Academic Ethics" column last week for CHE, I wrote:
The Daily Caller, The Washington Times, Campus Watch, The College Fix, Breitbart, and College Insurrection, among others, devote themselves with some regularity to policing faculty speech, and then presenting it — sometimes accurately, mostly inaccurately — in order to inflame public outrage and incite harassment of academics who expressed verboten views. Because American law gives very wide latitude to malicious speech for partisan political ends, there is little legal recourse for faculty members subjected to such harassment.
Only "Campus Watch" felt the need to call attention to itself and respond, in a letter CHE published (I don't fault CHE for posting their self-serving and fact-free nonsense, about which I'll say more in a moment). Now Wikipedia reports rather candidly, with sources, on "Campus Watch" and its reputation as smear merchants who incite harassment, so none of this is even remotely controversial, but the goal of smear merchants is always to distract attention with sanctimonious posturing. The letter itself, written by one Winfield Myers, is comedy gold, looked at the right way. We begin, as required by every known law of psychoanalysis, with projection:
Brian Leiter, in “Academic Ethics: Defending Faculty Speech” (The Chronicle, March 22), smears Campus Watch and mischaracterizes its mission.
Of course, it is Campus Watch that smears faculty who depart from its far right line on permissible views about Israel and the Middle East, but the first rule of being a smear merchant is to pose as a victim.
Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, critiques Middle East studies by holding professors accountable for their work.
The "Middle East Forum" is the vehicle of Daniel Pipes, who has been aptly described as a "misinformation expert." So "Campus Watch" is really just the creation of Daniel Pipes, but the first rule of being a front organization for a political polemicist is to pretend to be an organization (a "forum," no less, suggesting reasoned dialogue and debate) rather than a front for an individual's ideological jihad.
It does not “police faculty speech”; how could it when it lacks any and all police power?
You know you've fallen down the rabbit hole of slimy dishonesty when simple metaphors, familiar to any competent speaker of the language, are dismissed with the help of literalism ill-befitting a middle school English student. The response might have been relevant had I written that Campus Watch "exercises its powers as deputized officers to regulate faculty speech," but I didn't write that of course. Every competent speaker of the language knows that "to police" is a synonym for, e.g., to "watch over," to "protect," to "patrol," to "control" and so on, depending on context of usage. So Mr. Myers's flat-footed rhetorical flourish about lacking "any and all police power" is obviously irrelevant and non-responsive.
It does not “inflame public opinion and incite harassment” of academics but engages in careful, multiple fact-checked analyses.
This is a non-sequitur, even if it were true that they really did "engage in careful, multiple fact-checked analyses." Factually true statements, circulated in particular ways and to particular audiences can, of course "inflame public opinion and incite harassment." The problem gets worse, when as Campus Watch does, the "facts" are typically selectively presented, often without relevant context, precisely with an eye to inflaming public opinion and inciting harassment.
Nor need it hide behind the law’s “wide latitude to malicious speech,” because it offers facts.
Another non-sequitur: the presentation of facts can often be legally actionable in many jurisdictions, just not usually in the U.S., which accords "wide latitude to malicious speech," as I said.
Finally, it does not partake in “orchestrated” onslaughts against professors but engages in its own research according to its unique priorities.
This may be the one line that is actually true, I'm not sure. But of course I was describing several different organizations, so perhaps this one attribute really doesn't apply to Campus Watch, though I'm skeptical given the circles in which Mr. Pipes travels.
Academics demand a unique immunity from criticism, one that politicians, actors, and athletes could only dream of. Sorry, but we have our First Amendment rights and will responsibly exercise them until Middle East studies repair and revive from their current state of embarrassment.
Nowhere in the column was there any demand for immunity from criticism; the subject was how universities should respond when faculty are criticized.
As as an amusing denouement to this little episode, the following occurred on twitter (I am too inept to take screen shots and then post them here, though I tried). Campus Watch tweeted out its fact-free non-response to my column, the one I've dissected, above. I repled in Twitter:
You smear merchants really are shameless!
Since Campus Watch is just a front organization for a notorious individual, Mr. Pipes himself entered with the following devastasting rebuttal:
Daniel Pipes Retweeted Brian Leiter
@BrianLeiter: Pretend you are a real professor & answer the substance of the @CampusWatchMEF letter - instead of name calling & calumnies.https://twitter.com/BrianLeiter/status/846717271825399812 …
Why is it these people do not know that names have semantic and referential content: e.g., a "smear merchant" is someone who traffics in smears of other individuals. Just like a "real professor" is someone who has relevant credentials, publishes scholarship and professes--like me, for instance. Of course, the real problem was that the letter had no substance, being just an extended profession of innocence. In any case, I replied: