Recently, one blogger has taken to policing my tweets and comments on blogs, in order to find material she can take out of context to try to embarrass me. (I had previously worked closely with this philosopher in assisting a victim of sexual harassment in transferring to a more civilized program, but apparently trying to help victims of actual misconduct is now less important than finding ways to humiliate someone who had the audacity to express concerns about due process in the Ludlow case, to host a discussion of the Colorado Site Visit report (after the Feminist Philosophers blog shut down all discussion of it), and to disagree on various occasions with FP philosophers on various issues). This is juvenile, but par for the course in cyberspace.
Now two other philosophers (one of whom is closely allied with the first, and both of whom are opposed to the PGR, about which more in a moment) have posted portions of e-mails I sent to two faculty who had attacked me, but again stripped of all context. They even claim, falsely,that I made a "threat that 'things will get around'". (In fact, it was the person I wrote to who made that threat, not me, but concern for facts and context do not loom large in this pathetic affair.) They did not even have the courtesy to ask about any pertinent context before posting the e-mails.
I will supply the context here.
During the summer, after I criticized some misleading job placement ranking data, Carrie Jenkins (British Columbia) took to the web to make clear that in her view such criticism was not permissible in our profession and that, therefore, she viewed my blog post as "unprofessional and unethical," and that, in consequence, she was no longer going to treat me as a "normal or representative member of" the profession. (I learned about Jenkins's post attacking me from Catarina Dutilh Novaes.) On social media, Jenkins had long impressed me as a bit of a "sanctimonious ass" (as I said in the e-mail), and this was certainly par for that course. I sent her a sharp and derisive e-mail about her blogged threats, to which she never replied. But I did wonder, as one might imagine, in what ways she was not going to "treat me as a normal" member of the profession. But apparently our profession is so degraded that if one philosopher declares in public that she will not treat Brian Leiter "as a normal member of the profession," that's OK, and I'm supposed to say nothing.
Noelle McAfee took her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, and was on the job market when I was placement director there. Unlike some of those on the current crusade, I am not going to disclose more details, but suffice it to say there is a lot of missing context. I will discuss here only what is already in the public record. Since getting her PhD, McAfee, who teaches now at Emory, has been a member of SPEP, including its "Advocacy Committee" (a Committee created to counteract the PGR), and has for many years made false and misleading claims about me and the PGR. I have corresponded with her off and on for years, asking her to cut it out. The straw that broke the camel's back, however, came earlier this year, when yet again she took to the Internet to lie about me and the PGR; the lies or (more charitably) misrepresentations included claiming that (1) there was a 39% drop in the number of programs that participated in the 2011 PGR compared to 2009 (McAfee can't count); (2) the 2011 PGR failed to disclose the departments that participated in the survey (McAfee apparently could not find her way around the PGR site either in order to locate the lists); (3) Emory and other departments are "refusing" to participate in the PGR (some departments request to be included, but others, including Emory, have been included at various intervals--and Emory did, in fact, once request inclusion, contrary to McAfee's false assertion); (4) the PGR reflects a sexist bias against departments with lots of women (a claim not supported by any careful analysis of the data); and (5) various false statements of fact about my professional situation. Then it turned out that, under a pseudonym, McAfee was vandalizing my Wikipedia page. As I said to her, "I am a philosopher, but I’m also a lawyer, and I’ve grown tired of malevolent misrepresentations about me and the PGR like yours. You are on notice and I hope you get the message." In fact, she got the message, since she revised many of the false statements of fact.
This is how the law works: if you say false things intended to damage someone's reputation, you have acted illegally. U.S. law gives more cover for defamers than elsewhere, but even here there are limits. In the future, I can have my lawyer send these e-mails, but I frankly thought it more gentle to write myself.
Those who posted the e-mails, without any of the preceding context, raise this as an objection to me as the "editor of the PGR." Well, I am the editor of the PGR; I am also one of the leading Nietzsche scholars in the world, a law professor, a New Yorker with limited toleration for the fools our profession breeds, a leading figure in legal philosophy, a leading philosophy blogger, a devoted teacher and mentor (defamation of me has grown so common on this score that I've taken to putting my evaluations on-line), a husband, a son, a father of three, a longstanding opponent of cyber-harassment based on gender and race, and a defender of academic freedom and the rights of everyone from Steven Salaita to John Yoo to speak freely about matters of public concern without state sanction. But those out to attack me now, both those who published the e-mails (without context) and Catarina Novaes, have made clear that this is primarily about the PGR.
So let me be clear: the PGR is a service to students, not to me. For me, it's now nothing more than a headache--both because of all the time it takes, but because it opens me up to slimy attacks by unethical and unprofessional people. It would be in my self-interest to stop publishing the PGR, but it would not be in the interests of students or the profession (well, it would be in the interest of the Emorys and other weak departments for me to stop publishing it). But since those who want to attack me are primarily motivated by the PGR, let me put it to a poll. The next two months of my life would be much more peaceful if I do not do the next PGR. What do readers think? (Sorry, had to repost this due to a technical problem--it was about 50-50 last time--here it is again.)