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PORTSIDE  December 2012, Week 3

PORTSIDE December 2012, Week 3

Subject:

Professor Faces Punishment for Dissing NRA Head

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Wed, 19 Dec 2012 22:11:19 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (207 lines)

Professor Faces Punishment for Dissing NRA Head

Statement on Erik Loomis
Crooked Timber
December 19, 2012
http://crookedtimber.org/2012/12/19/statement-on-erik-loomis/ 

Erik Loomis is no stranger to this blog. A gifted young
scholar of US labor and environmental history, Loomis
is also a blogger at Lawyers, Guns and Money. Many of
us have tussled and tangled with him, most recently
over whether leftists should vote for Obama. We have
often disagreed with Loomis, not always pleasantly or
politely, and he has certainly given as good as he has
got.

But now we must stand by Loomis’s side and speak up and
out on his behalf, for he has become the target of a
witch hunt, and as an untenured professor at the
University of Rhode Island, he is vulnerable. Loomis
needs our solidarity and support, and we must give it
to him.

This past Friday, in the wake of the tremendous grief
and outrage millions of people felt over the Newtown
mass shooting, Loomis tweeted the following:

    I was heartbroken in the first 20 mass murders. Now
    I want Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick.

Wayne LaPierre is the head of the National Rifle
Association.

It seems obvious to us that when Loomis called for
LaPierre’s head on a stick, he had in mind something
like this from the Urban Dictionary:

    A metaphor describing retaliation or punishment for
    another’s wrongdoing, or public outrage against an
    individual or group for the same reason.

    After the BP Oil Spill; many Americans would like
    to see Tony Hayward’s head on a stick, myself
    included.

Ever since putting someone’s head on a stick ceased to
be a routine form of public punishment—indeed, the last
instance of it we can think of is fictional (Dickens’ A
Tale of Two Cities, though it references an actual
event from the French Revolution)—calling for someone’s
head has been a fairly conventional way to express
one’s outrage or criticism. Two months ago, for
example, right-wing blogger Glenn Reynolds voiced his
anger over the State Department’s lax provision of
security in Benghazi by demanding, “Can we see some
heads roll?”

Yet that very same Glenn Reynolds is now accusing
Loomis of using “eliminationist rhetoric.”

Other conservative voices have joined in. The Daily
Caller says Loomis “unleashed a flurry of profanity-
ridden tweets demanding death for National Rifle
Association executive Wayne LaPierre.” Townhall put
Loomis’s tweets in the context of NRA members and
leaders getting death threats. And just this morning,
Michelle Malkin wrote at National Review Online:

    What’s most disturbing is that the incitements are
    coming from purportedly respectable, prominent, and
    influential public figures.

    Consider the rhetoric of University of Rhode Island
    professor Erik Loomis….

    Unfortunately, Loomis is not alone….

    So, it’s come to this: Advocating beheadings,
    beatings, and the mass murder of peaceful Americans
    to pay for the sins of a soulless madman. But
    because the advocates of violence fashion
    themselves champions of nonviolence and because
    they inhabit the hallowed worlds of Hollywood,
    academia, and the Democratic party, it’s
    acceptable?

    Blood-lusting hate speech must not get a pass just
    because it comes out of the mouths of the protected
    anti-gun class.

This campaign has now brought Loomis into the
crosshairs of the state and his employer.

Loomis has already been questioned by the Rhode Island
State Police, who told him that someone had informed
the FBI that Loomis had threatened LaPierre’s life.
Loomis also has been hauled into a meeting with his
dean.  And now the president of the University of Rhode
Island, where Loomis teaches, has issued the following
statement:

    The University of Rhode Island does not condone
    acts or threats of violence. These remarks do not
    reflect the views of the institution and Erik
    Loomis does not speak on behalf of the University.
    The University is committed to fostering a safe,
    inclusive and equitable culture that aspires to
    promote positive change.

We do not expect any better of the orchestrators of
this campaign—this is what they have done for many
years, and doubtless will be doing for years to come.
We do expect better of university administrators.
Rather than standing behind a member of their faculty,
the administration has sought to distance the
university from Loomis.

Even to suggest that Loomis’s tweet constitutes a
“threat of violence” is an offense against the English
language. We are dismayed that the university president
completely fails to acknowledge the importance of
academic freedom and of scholars’ freedom independently
to express views (even intemperate ones) on topics of
public importance.  This statement—unless it is swiftly
corrected— should give alarm to scholars at the
University of Rhode Island, to scholars who might one
day consider associating themselves with this
institution, and to academic and professional
associations that value academic freedom.

However, this is not merely a question of academic
freedom. It also speaks to a broader set of rights to
speak freely without the fear of being fired for
controversial views that many of us have been flagging
for years. Everyone should be clear what is going on.
As a blogger at Atrios has pointed out, what the witch
hunters want is for Loomis to be fired. Indeed, the
calls have already begun (see comment thread here).
Though Loomis has a union, his lack of tenure makes him
vulnerable.

We insist that the University of Rhode Island take a
strong stand for the values of academic freedom and
freedom of speech, that it not be intimidated by an
artificially whipped-up media frenzy, that it affirm
that the protections of the First Amendment require our
collective enforcement, and that all
employers—particularly, in this kind of case,
university employers—have a special obligation to see
that freedom of speech become a reality of everyday
life.

We urge all of you to contact the following three
administrators at the University of Rhode Island:

    Dean Winnie Brownell: [log in to unmask] Provost
    Donald DeHays: [log in to unmask] President David
    Dooley: [log in to unmask]

Be polite, be civil, be firm.

We also call upon all academic and other bloggers to
stand in support of Loomis. We invite others who wish
to associate themselves with this statement to say so
in the comments section to this post, and to republish
this statement elsewhere.

Chris Bertram, University of Bristol

Harry Brighouse, University of Wisconsin – Madison

Michael Bérubé, The Pennsylvania State University

Daniel Davies, non-academic

Henry Farrell, George Washington University

Kieran Healy, Duke University

Jon Mandle, SUNY Albany

John Quiggin, University of Queensland

Eric Rauchway, University of California Davis

Corey Robin, Brooklyn College

Brian Weatherson, University of Michigan

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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