Archive | December 2007

Meanwhile, back at the war . . .

Iraqis blame U.S. for discord. Shocker.
The Dems keep giving Bush $. Promises, promises.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/18/AR2007121802262.html

All Iraqi Groups Blame U.S. Invasion for Discord, Study Shows

Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S.
military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences
among them, and see the departure of “occupying forces” as the key to
national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the
U.S. military last month.

That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results.
At the very least, analysts optimistically concluded, the findings
indicate that Iraqis hold some “shared beliefs” that may eventually
allow them to surmount the divisions that have led to a civil war.
(!!)

…The results are analyzed and presented to Petraeus as part of the
daily Battle Update Assessment or BUA (pronounced boo-ah).

- – -

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-budget-battle,1,5411202.story

Senate OKs $70B for Iraq, Afghanistan

The Senate gave President Bush a big win on Iraq Tuesday night as it
passed a massive $555 billion spending bill combining funding for 14
Cabinet departments with $70 billion for U.S. military operations
there and in Afghanistan.

…In rapid succession, the Senate cast two votes to approve the
hybrid spending bill.  By a 70-25 vote, the Senate approved the Iraq
and Afghanistan war funds — without restrictions that Democrats had
insisted on for weeks.

The Productive Perils of Publicity

I would like to discuss the issue of publicity and email. It makes me wonder when people are willing to say things in private that they wouldn’t in public, and then cry foul when the things they say reach the people about whom they are said. The publicist is not responsible for escalation in this instance; the original remarks did that work. I generally try, when composing email, to not say anything I wouldn’t want others to hear. I try, actually, not to say anything (about professional or public matters) in private that I wouldn’t be willing to say in public. There is something important about willing to be accountable for one’s views and actions. That’s why I published some of the discussion of the deliberations over Horowitz coming to NCA and why I routinely publish my hate mail.

Here I respond to some arguments that have been circulating about the Horowitz decision. I am not including the emails of those making the charges to which I am responding. So here goes:

First, it is important to acknowledge the good intentions of all of my colleagues, none of whom, to my knowledge, supports Horowitz’s agenda.  I know with certainty that the Forum folks are doing their best to represent the profession and spark controversy and excitement. In that spirit, I do not think that a vigorous debate over this prospect is the same thing as “suicidal infighting.”

It is not clear to me whom is hurt by this kind of honest and public discussion.

Some specific points:

1. On the question of posting emails to blogs, I do not understand the objection to accountability and transparency, if indeed this is a professional and not personal discussion. One need not get permission to reproduce professional emails in a public forum. On the matter of the phone number on my blog, Cindy and I did correspond; I had not noticed her phone number in one of the emails and I promptly apologized and removed it. I don’t think that she was “outraged.”  (Cindy, please tell me if I am wrong.)

2. I never claimed anywhere that NCA-F had decided to pay Horowitz $3000 to come to NCA, only that the group was actually, seriously considering doing such a thing, which I find outrageous. I am not perpetuating any misrepresentation of the process. Of course, I cannot portray it accurately when I am not involved in the process, which exclusion I find fairly insulting given my experience with Horowitz and the very real and serious attacks his work provokes. But it seems to me that the time to get public input on a decision is before it happens. My efforts are motivated by this fundamentally democratic impulse.

3. I have not threatened to attack the Forum. What a hyperbolic claim! What I did suggest to Herb was that I and others may not want NCA funds, to which we contribute in the form of membership dues and conference registration, going to a demagogue like Horowitz. Furthermore, to say that there might be a protest is not an “attack” on the forum; it may well be a model instance of social movement organizing and an exercise of exactly the kind of controversial engagement that the Forum is designed to provoke. Let’s get real-world about this. We who teach the history and rhetoric of social movements must recognize the utility of breaches in decorum. No one is threatening NCA members; my aim certainly has nothing to do with intimidation, but with the exercise of public controversy. No fisticuffs. Maybe a few placards. I would hope that the NCA-Forum folks would see what is wrong with bringing Horowitz in principle. Demonstrations call attention to principles. They are not senseless threats. To cry victim fails to recognize that there is history, context, and reason to my arguments.

4. The obsession over minutiae and the victim posturing of some members of the NCA-F committee distracts us from some of the core issues at hand, namely: What is Horowitz about; what are his goals? What purposes of the NCA (intellectual or publicity-garnering) would be served by Horowitz’s participation? What unintended consequences and harms could or would follow? If it is not a publicity stunt, then what is the goal?

5. Of course I know that the NCA- Forum members do not wish to perpetuate Horowitz’s agenda. That is not the point. The point is that he is perpetuating his own agenda, discovering one or two or ten people in the room whose suspicions might be roused by his charges. I have no doubt that Berube could dismantle Horowitz in an argument—but Horowitz does not make arguments and therefore never faces an obligation to defend his claims.

6. I am the only NCA member personally targeted by Horowitz, and if any other person on the NCA-F had received the kinds of Horowitz-inspired threats (real physical threats of assault and sexual assault, not threats of protests or boycotts), sexualized messages of hate, threats to have my daughter removed from my custody, and active attempts to have me removed from my job, I don’t think the group would be so “enthusiastic” about the prospect of inviting him to NCA. Is it ugly for me to assert this experience? Is it boorish to seek transparency in the decision-making process over something so contentious? Is it self-destructive for me to oppose with all of my breath the implicit sanction in giving Horowitz a platform?

7. As I have argued repeatedly and in many venues, Horowitz knows that he is lying; he actively and self-consciously pursues the culture-war strategy that he laid out in the 1980s—and which was taken up by many powerful conservatives including Karl Rove. He receives hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from ultra-right (not Republican, but nearly fascist) foundations. He is an operative. His goal is to motivate conservatives to stir a false panic over indoctrination in the classroom so that those of us whose politics and activism are visible as such (whereas the politics in the advertising dept. go unnoticed) are at risk. I have dozens of friends and colleagues on Horowitz’s hit list who have felt the heat more directly than I. I cannot express any more strongly how deeply offensive bringing Horowitz to NCA would be to me, and to others who understand more clearly the kind of political struggle—not the struggle over ideas or arguments—but hard-knock struggles for cultural hegemony in support of economic and political elites—that Horowitz has undertaken, and quite successfully. Horowitz is a well-funded and well-connected bully doing the wet work for the powers that be.

We don’t invite demagogues, bullies, and proponents of what Horowitz admits (in places) is nothing short of a new McCarthyism to a polite dialogue. Or at least I hope we won’t. It would be childish to pursue such an ill-advised (pragmatically speaking and in principle) course just because someone like me would raise a (nonviolent and principled)ruckus.

National Communication Association to Horowitz: Come on Down?

Folks,

Just FYI–
The leadership of the NCA Forum (see list below) are considering paying
David Horowitz up to $3000 to head up the Forum at NCA 2008. Somehow I was
let in on the conversation last week and I and several others posted some
commentary arguing against inviting him–and certainly against paying him.
(As I put it, if he wants to engage in witch-hunting, he can do it on his
own dime.)

My initial post was spurred by Robert Hariman’s post in which he claimed that protests at an appearance by Horowitz would be “incredibly stupid” and that he would find such behavior “disgusting.”
See what you make of the arguments. If you are so inclined, you could
communicate with members of the NCAF committee regarding your thoughts,
whatever they may be. Herb Simons basically told me (see below) not to go to
CRTNET with it until they are farther along in the deliberations–but I wonder, at
that point, what would be the point? A decision will have been made without
the membership being involved.

I have indicated to Herb that I would likely spearhead a registration boycott for NCA 2008 should Horowitz be invited, and that I would protest at any appearance by Horowitz.

It might be productive to discuss this issue informally with others, blog about it, and spread the word as you see fit.

Meanwhile, I hope you are having or will soon begin a terrific holiday break.

Warmly,

Dana

Dana L. Cloud
Associate Professor
Department of Communication Studies
University of Texas
CMA 7.114
1 Longhorn Station A1105
Austin, TX 78712

(512) 471-1947
dcloud@mail.utexas.edu

—— Forwarded Message
From: “Herbert W. Simons” <hsimons@temple.edu>
Date: Sat, 15 Dec 2007 15:49:07 -0500
To: Dana <dcloud@mail.utexas.edu>
Cc: Lisa Belicka Keranen <Lisa.Keranen@Colorado.EDU>, Stephen Hartnett
<hartnett@uiuc.edu>, Art Bochner <abochner@cas.usf.edu>, Dawn O Braithwaite
<dbraithwaite1@unlnotes.unl.edu>, “Carcasson,Martin”
<Martin.Carcasson@ColoState.EDU>, ‘Betsy Bach’ <betsy.bach@umontana.edu>,
Michael Hogan <jmh32@psu.edu>, Cindy Spurlock <cspurlock@nc.rr.com>, Tracey
Weiss <traceyw@temple.edu>, “Herbert W. Simons” <hsimons@temple.edu>, Robert
Hariman <r-hariman2@northwestern.edu>
Subject: Moving Forward

Herb Simons wrote:

Hi Dana,

Thanks for your posts. I agree: the issues are of considerable
importance. Your perspective has been helpful.

NCA-F Advisory Board will go to work on the issues in-house, over the
vacation period. I’m hoping we can arrive at our decision by early January,
at which point we’ll share the news.

If you wish to launch a CRTNET discussion, feel free. Any NCA member may
do so. It could prove helpful, although I’d rather postpone any public
discussion until the NCA-F AB has deliberated on ithe issues more fully
as a group.

Happy holidays.


Herbert W. Simons, Ph.D.
Professor of Communication
Director of NCA Forum
Dep’t of Strategic and Organizational Comm.(STOC)
Office 218 Weiss Hall 13th St and Moore Ave
Temple University, Philadelphia PA 19122
215 204 1880 (O); 215 204 8543 (F)

http://astro.temple.edu/~hsimons

—— End of Forwarded Message
Here is some of the prior discussion:

My original reaction:
All,

Thanks for this productive discussion. I believe that perhaps it should
reach more NCA members, perhaps on CRTNET? This decision is very serious.

I am entirely against giving Horowitz any money whatsoever, knowing that if
we did so, it would support his efforts to witch-hunt progressive faculty.
He wants me (not just me, of course, but my point is he’d like to see at
least one NCA member fired) to lose my job. He sets minions after me on
email and students to spy and report back on my classes. He is the author of
the culture war bible “The Art of Political War,” which was adopted by Karl
Rove as good strategy (

Students in his spinoff organization Students for Academic Freedom keep a
watch list, encouraging other students to “report” professors who exhibit
bias (which could mean anything from telling a Bush joke to encouraging
students to think critically about gender; but NEVER means talking about
capitalism in the business school or celebrating corporate culture in the
advertising department).

He has a staff of 15 and makes $300,000 a year. According to the AAUP, his
various operations have taken in millions from an interconnected network of
far-right foundations, including the Olin (a principle funder of the
neocons’ Project for a New American Century), Bradley (whose founder was an
early supporter of the John Birch Society), Castle Rock (previously the
Adolph Coors Foundation) and Scaife Foundations. In addition, he has tens of
thousands of small donors solicited via e-mail.

Horowitz is a demagogue organic to the ruling class. He is part of a national conservative movement to purge liberal/leftists from one of the few remaining agonistic, deliberative spaces we have remaining to us–the university. I have written extensively on this subject and refer you to one of the
longer pieces at http://www.counterpunch.org/cloud03082007.html .

On the question of confronting him, I respectfully suggest that his sort of
cynical, opportunistic claiming of the “academic freedom” mantle does not
deserve a decorous reception. I would prefer to challenge him as a
participant on the dais, but also see reason in actually standing up to him
in the form of a protest. I don’t think that doing so is “incredibly
stupid,” since such challenges, successfully undertaken here at U.T., are
what have kept him away from Texas in his latest round of campus events
against what he calls (cynically protesting Women’s and Gender Studies in
the name of liberating women) “Islamofascism.” What would be “incredibly
stupid” would be to pretend that he is about anything resembling “academic
freedom.”

Along with many others among the “dangerous 101″ professors he identified in
a book three years ago, I have been researching and documenting his
resources and activities. I have felt the consequences of his activities
personally in the form of nasty hate mail, physical threats, and constant
letters to my Chair, Dean, and Regents calling for my head. If NCA pays this
operative a penny to have a platform at our convention, you bet there will
be a protest even if I alone constitute it. I shall embrace the risk of
causing Professor Hariman personal disgust, and invite others to disgust him
as well.

As the abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, “Those who profess to favor
freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, want crops without plowing the
ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean
without the awful roar of its many waters.”

What Horowitz is about is nothing short of a new McCarthyism (including the
list-waving). Please read the article at the link above if you think this
claim is hyperbolic.

When Herb first floated this idea, I could see the merit in a debate/forum
that allowed for controversy and contestation. But as far as I am concerned
giving this influential bully money to talk trash about every endeavor we
hold dear (and some that some of you hold less dear)–teaching critical
thinking, discovering and employing the resources of publics and
counterpublics, recognizing both the theoretical and practical meanings of
the word “rhetoric”, and (not least) standing in solidarity with colleagues
inside and outside of the field who know the “culture war” has an ugly
material edge–that would be incredibly stupid.

dc

One more thought:
The appeal to decorum is actually part of Horowitz’s and the right’s
deliberate strategy to get us not to fight back for fear of seeming rude,
immature, childish, or undemocratic. It is amazing to me how they get away
with it, even among my liberal friends, when it is plain to see that his
organizations meet mere noise with the coercive power of the police.
Engaging in unruly protest does not play into their hands. By caving into
the right’s alleged logic of non-confrontation, we actually give ground to
their actually censorious motives and to a limited definition of protest
that has, frankly, been an impediment to the rebuilding of a powerful and
vocal left.

On 12/13/07 5:30 PM, “Cindy Spurlock” <cspurlock@sixthgear.homeip.net>
wrote:

All,

As the least senior member of the group, I’ve stayed clear of this
discussion
because there are simply too many land mines to negotiate here. However, I
believe that Dana’s points are too important and too valid not to take
seriously. As others have echoed here and there, giving Horowitz a platform
at
NCA may likely hijack and do irreparable damage to both the organization’s
professional reputation, as well as to the at-best tenuous harmony that
exists
betwixt and between the diverse subdisciplines that rub elbows at the
convention. Horowitz is a polarizing, divisive figure for good reason.

Regardless of where you stand politically, I think one can make a pretty
solid
(perhaps even non-partisan) case that Horowitz’s agenda is fundamentally at
odds with so many of the principles and practices that we (if, indeed, there
is a cohesive “we” that could be generalized from the NCA membership) hold
dear. I’ll put one on the line that’s important to me: social justice. While
I
cannot speak for “all” of NCA, I can attest to the fact that Horowitz’s
publicly-declared positions could not be more anathema to the work that so
many of us do as engaged scholars, researchers, teachers, “citizens”, etc.

Regardless of intent, the act of bringing him to NCA sends an ambiguously
unwelcoming message to many of us — especially younger scholars — that
even
the most polished of PR campaigns may never completely massage away.

Of course, this would make an interesting case study for “free” speech, but
I’ll save that for another debate as I’m not entirely convinced that
Horowitz’s “motives” align as neatly with those ideals as he and others have
claimed — in his defense — in the past. To be sure, I have no problem with
controversy. However, I can’t think of a single good reason to bring
Horowitz
to NCA.

There are simply too many unintended consequences of such a tragic choice.
If
the NCA-F is after controversy and spectacle, in addition to provocative
discussion that “moves the social” at the same time, then we need to have a
serious discussion about what’s at stake in the power dynamics of
controlling
where (and upon whom) that spotlight shines. Although I did not experience
them personally, I wonder if we really want to rehash the so-called culture
wars of the 1980s.

Although there are obviously no guarantees of knowing what the outcome of
bringing Horowitz to NCA might be — in the short and long term — with any
degree of certainty, I strongly believe that it will do more harm than good.

Cindy

Cindy M. Spurlock
Department of Communication Studies
University of North Carolina
303 Bingham Hall, CB # 3285
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3285
spurlock@unc.edu or cspurlock@nc.rr.com

http://environmentalblogging.org

—– Original Message —–
From: “Robert Hariman” <rhariman@gmail.com>
To: “Dana Cloud” <dcloud@mail.utexas.edu>, “Herbert W. Simons”
<hsimons@temple.edu>
Cc: “Lisa Belicka Keranen” <Lisa.Keranen@colorado.edu>, “Stephen Hartnett”
<hartnett@uiuc.edu>, “Art Bochner” <abochner@cas.usf.edu>, “Dawn O
Braithwaite” <dbraithwaite1@unlnotes.unl.edu>, “Martin Carcasson”
<Martin.Carcasson@colostate.edu>, “Betsy Bach” <betsy.bach@umontana.edu>,
“Michael Hogan” <jmh32@psu.edu>, “Cindy Spurlock” <cspurlock@nc.rr.com>,
“Tracey Weiss” <traceyw@temple.edu>, “Robert Hariman”
<r-hariman2@northwestern.edu>, “Jim Aune” <jaune@tamu.edu>, “Adria
Battaglia”
<adriabattaglia@gmail.com>, “bryan mccann” <bmccann@mail.utexas.edu>, “Katie
Feyh” <kfeyh@mail.utexas.edu>, “josh gunn” <slewfoot@mail.utexas.edu>
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2007 5:55:45 PM (GMT-0500) America/New_York
Subject: Re: Pay Horowitz $3000 to speak at NCA?

Dana: I’m not going back and forth on this, but I must make one point clear:
I don’t think all protests are stupid or all decorousness appropriate; far
from it. I do think that if a hunter lays a trap, it is not smart to put
your hand in it. There is nothing that would please Horowitz and his gang
more than a protest at an academic convention. By contrast, there might be
public value in seeing him dismantled by someone who had the rare
opportunity to have five uninterrupted minutes to expose him for what he is.

Support the Hollywood Writers’ Strike!

Stopping exploitation is more important than new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Just saying.

http://socialistworker.org/2007-2/656/656_15_Writers.shtml

Writers dig in for a long battle

December 14, 2007 | Page 15

CINDY KAFFEN reports on the ongoing writers’ strike after produers walked out of negotiations.

LOSING THE battle of public opinion and faced with a near complete shutdown of television production and an unexpected display of solidarity by writers, negotiators for television and film production companies walked out of talks with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) December 8.

The media moguls went on the offensive after eight days of meetings in which their organization, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), rejected the WGA’s proposals on Internet streaming, refusing to increase the rate for downloads or to cover original material converted to new media.

Instead, AMPTP walked out with an ultimatum to the union–drop six of your demands, or we won’t return to discuss anything.

Among the points the employers found so offensive were WGA demands that would strengthen the union movement in Hollywood. One was to include reality television writers and animation writers (two areas where television production is booming) into the WGA’s jurisdiction.

Another was the union’s insistence on not having a no-strike clause in the new contract–which would allow the writers to act in solidarity when other unions find themselves having to strike for fair deals, as is widely expected of the Screen Actors Guild when its contract runs out at the end of June.

In a press statement conveniently released moments after walking out of the negotiating room–leading many to suspect that the walkout had been planned in advance–the AMPTP declared, “The WGA’s organizers are determined to advance their own political ideologies and personal agendas at the expense of working writers and every other working person who depends on our industry for their livelihoods.”

As if Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, who made over $28 million last year and is now laying off television production staff and crew members right before Christmas, is the one that really cares about working people!

Having announced the hiring of the high-priced crisis management firm Fabiani and Lehane (known in Washington, D.C., political circles as “the masters of disaster”), the industry bosses clearly hope to break the solidarity of the writers and their supporters among the other entertainment industry unions by attacking the competence and motivation of the Guild’s leadership.

Fabiani and Lehane are closely connected with the Democratic Party and worked for Bill Clinton’s administration. Other past clients include Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, Michael Moore for Fahrenheit 9/11 and Sicko, and even the Screen Actors Guild in 2002. Apparently union-busting is now part of the firm’s expertise as well.

“It’s classic strike-breaking tactics,” striking writer Pat Mulvihill said. “They try to build up our hopes, and then walk out. They’re trying to force cracks in the union, and we fully expect them to do it again. Just like with the AMPTP statements that the union leadership is being unreasonable, and that the ‘below-the-line’ workers are getting shafted by us striking. It’s all about divide and conquer. But it’s not working.”

How the mighty are fallen. . .

Judge Sharon “Killer” Keller is feeling the heat after she refused to accept an appeal after the 5 p.m. closing time of the TX Court of Criminal Appeals. Michael Richard was executed as a result. The court would surely have stayed the execution pending a Supreme Court decision about cases challenging the method of lethal injection. Here is the latest:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/metro/5374395.html

Dec. 13, 2007, 9:03AM

Judge in death case violated policies

Keller, who shut out appeal, says new written rules reflect unwritten
ones on that day

By R.G. RATCLIFFE
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

AUSTIN – Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon
Keller apparently violated court policies for handling death penalty
cases when she closed the court clerk’s doors on Michael Richard’s
efforts to file a last-minute appeal before his execution.

In response to a national outcry against Keller’s actions, the court
adopted written policies last month to make certain a death row
inmate’s appeals always go first to an assigned judge.

In response to a public information request from the Houston
Chronicle, Keller said in a letter that no written court procedures
existed Sept. 25, the day of Richard’s execution. However, she said
the new written rules reflected the court’s unwritten policies on
that day.

Keller was not the judge assigned to handle Richard’s appeal when she
decided to close the clerk’s office so that Richard’s lawyers could
not file a late appeal.

Judge Cheryl Johnson was in charge of Richard’s case on the day of
his execution, but did not learn of his lawyers’ attempts to file for
a stay of execution until the day after his death.

A lawyer who has been representing other attorneys in filing
complaints against Keller for her handling of the Richard case said
Keller’s response to the Chronicle’s information request clearly
shows Keller violated the court’s unwritten policies in cutting off
Richard’s appeal.

“To me, it’s a pretty stunning admission that she operated totally
outside of their procedures,” said Jim Harrington, who has
coordinated attorney complaints filed against Keller with the Texas
Commission on Judicial Conduct. “She doesn’t have respect for the
processes of the court, which are designed to protect due process.”

Keller did not respond to a request for an interview, and her office
referred calls to appeals court Judge Tom Price, who also did not
respond.

On the day of Richard’s execution, the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed
to consider whether the chemicals used for lethal injection in the
United States amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Richard’s lawyers attempted to get a stay of execution for him while
that case was under review. But they had computer problems and asked
the state appeals court clerk’s office to remain open late to accept
the appeal. Keller ordered the clerk to close at the usual time: 5
p.m. Richard was executed three hours later for a 1986 rape and
murder.

The Supreme Court three days later halted another Texas execution
based on the lethal injection appeal. The court with its action
created a de facto national moratorium on executions.

In its public information request, the Chronicle asked for the state
appeals court procedures for handling death penalty cases on the day
of Richard’s execution.
“No written policies regarding those matters existed on that date
(Sept. 25),” Keller wrote. “Subsequent to that date, the court
reduced to writing the unwritten policies that did exist on that
date.”

The written policy the court later adopted said the judge assigned to
the case should stay on duty on the day of an execution until the
execution occurs. The policy also said “all communications regarding
the scheduled execution shall first be referred to the assigned
judge.”

Johnson did not respond to a request for an interview.

Two of the court’s other judges, Paul Womack and Cathy Cochran, also
were available to handle the appeal. They also never heard about
Richard’s attempt to appeal until after his execution.

Since Richard’s execution, lawyers from around Texas have filed
complaints against Keller with the State Commission on Judicial
Conduct.

Taking an attacker to school . . .

Yesterday a fellow by the name of Travis (notsufferingfoolsgladly@gmail.com) sent a nasty note to my colleagues, Dean, Chair, and U.T. regents calling on them to fire me. My colleague Josh Gunn responded most eloquently, suggesting to Mr. Travis that he needs some education in how to make a decent argument:

Dear Mr. Travis,

Thank you for taking the time to express your views.  Clearly you are
upset about the educational enterprise today; you find Dr. Cloud
particularly emblematic of an “extreme left-wing bias” among the
professoriate, and worry academics like Cloud are “brainwashing”
young people. You seem to suggest that educators have the power to:
(a) convince young people the United States is a bad place to live;
(b) force young people to accept feminist philosophies; (c) and
encourage young people to accept or become gay or lesbian, which
tempts violence.

Unfortunately, your claims are not convincing.  It would certainly be
interesting if professors had the power to mold students, however,
students are independent, freethinking human beings with brains and,
in my experience, the intelligence to distinguish between learning
and brainwashing.  I’m always disappointed to learn that
non-academics think so poorly of our students.  As a teacher, I can
assure you, Mr. Travis, our students are a bright bunch.
Nevertheless, one of the subjects that many of us in the Department
of Communication Studies teach is argumentation.  Let me illustrate
what you might learn if you took classes from myself or Dr. Cloud.

First, we need some basics: most arguments are characterized with
three elements.  There is the claim, which is either a statement of
fact, of value, or of policy.  Claims are supported by data, usually
in the form of evidence, of which there are many types (for example,
one can appeal to a scientific study, or an eyewitness, and so on).
Finally, and this is probably the most important part, there is the
logic connecting up the “data” to the claim, the reasoning.  We tend
to refer to this area as “the warrant.”  Whenever there is an
logically improper connecting of the claim to the data, we usually
call this a fallacy.  Now, in general, everyday arguments–especially
persuasive ones–are fallacious.  We’re only human, which means
logical short-cuts are our habit.  In fact, there is some brain
research to suggest fallacious thinking helps us get along in the
world better.  Nevertheless, in Communication Studies what we train
students to do is spot the fallacies in their own arguments, and
those of others with whom they converse, because it helps clear up
misunderstanding, eases the communication process, and encourages
students to be civically engaged.  Heck, it also helps us get things
accomplished: arguments change minds, policies, and the course of
history.

Ok, so you advance three claims:

>1.  America is the bastion of freedom and liberty and justice, with
>its western institutions
>and capitalist practices that have elevated billions worldwide.  To
>the extent this claim is
>inaccurate, Dana Cloud and her “life partner” are invited to cite
>the countries, particularly
>Marxist countries, which they find superior, and then move there immediately.
>May I suggest North Korea.

First, you need to define your terms.  What is “freedom,” “liberty,”
and “justice.”  By freedom do you mean that you are free to bash pets
with baseball bats?  Probably not.  Some sense of the kind of freedom
you are referencing would be helpful.  What about liberty?  Do you
mean positive or negative liberty?  And justice?  What qualifies as
justice?  Lex Talonis? Distributive?  Reparative?  Alastair
MacIntyre, a political and social philosopher, has famously written
that justice always serves those in power.  Is that the kind of
justice you refer to, “might makes right,” or something else?

Nevertheless, bracketing for the moment these glittering yet “empty”
terms, your claim is, basically, that the United States is “good.”
Fine.  This is a claim of value.  Now, what evidence do you have to
suggest that Cloud does not also similarly belive the United States
is “good.”  She certainly values its many laws, like that of the
freedom of speech.  And do we mean the United States as a people, a
public, or a government?  As a sovereign nation, or as a community?
Furthermore, what evidence do you have to support the claim that the
United States is good?  I see none.  You follow this claim with the
suggestion Dr. Cloud and her partner might move to North Korea, a
claim of policy.  Why would she want to do that?  North Korea is not
necessarily a socialist state (in fact, many Marxists would agree it
is a dictatorship).

So we have a claim, but no evidence, and thus no real logic to
examine other than what is obviously hasty induction.  By definition,
what you offer with your first claim is not an argument.

You then state:

>  2.  When “feminists” like Dana Cloud aren’t whining about how
>mistreated and underpriveleged
>women are in America, they’re insisting that women are, in Al Gore’s
>famous words, “just as equal
>as men, if not more so.” How, one might argue, can women be so
>victimized while being so utterly equal? Well, the “feminists” like
>Dana Cloud will certainly have excuses for that ploy.

Again, your terms go undefined.  What do you mean by “feminists,” and
why the scare quotations?  Do you mean first, second, or third wave
feminism?  How do you know what kind of feminism Dr. Cloud espouses?
Is she as pro- or anti- pleasure feminist?  Perhaps she is a
postfeminist feminist? What evidence do you have to support Cloud is
a feminist at all? (You and I know very well she claims feminist
principles, but which ones?)  You seem to suggest that feminism
concerns speaking out against the mistreatment of women.  I think
most feminists, including myself, would agree with that. But I’m a
little fuzzy on what you understand feminism to be.

Now, bracketing the fact we are uncertain about your terms, you offer
a claim here: feminism contradicts itself.  On the one hand, you
assert, feminism concerns speaking out against women.  On the other
hand, however, feminism demands equality for women.  First, there is
no one feminism, but many feminisms; saying that feminism contradicts
itself is akin to saying Christianity contradicts itself: which one?
Protestant? Catholic?  There is no monolithic feminism, just as much
as there is no one kind of conservative or liberal.

Further, you offer no evidence to support the claim that feminism
contradicts itself, other than a general statement about feminism
that I think is true of most feminisms (speaking out against
mistreatment) and a statement from Al Gore.  I’m unsure why Gore
would be a spokesperson for any feminism (ecofeminism, perhaps?).
The bottom line here is that you have no credible evidence to back up
your claim, and so there is not an argument.

Now, if we look at the warrant or logic connecting up your claim with
the “evidence,” you appeal to a principle: ending the mistreatment of
women contradicts demands for equality.  This simply doesn’t make
sense, and there is no fallacy to label such a logic.  You are trying
to create what we call a “false dichotomy,” but there is not an
apparent dichotomy.  This is not an argument.

Third, you say:

>3.  Homosexuals are far more violent than heterosexuals.  What would
>account for their brutality
>against one another and their increased incidence of murdering one
>another?   To name but a few
>homosexual mass murderers, there were Randy Kraft, Juan Corona, John
>Wayne Gacy,
>Donald Harvey, and Jeffrey Dahmer.
>

Lets take this series of claims step-by-step.  Your major claim (a)
is that “homosexuals are more violent than heterosexuals.”  Your
evidence, and you offer some this time, is a subclaim (b), supported
by evidence.  That subclaim is that, “there is an increase of murder
among the homosexual community.” You offer evidence in support of
this subclaim: five mass murderers were homosexual.

First, let’s take the subclaim and its evidence.  (b) asserts an
increase in murder rates.  Now, we must ask “from when to when?”
Presumably the end of the measure is “now.”  So you mean an increase
from what point?  From last year? From 1988?  The period of measure
is unclear.  Second, a claim such as this requires evidence from a
longitudinal study (e.g., morbidity reports from the CDC) to support
an increase in homicide among what is called (unfortunately) a
“suspect population.”  In short, you have no data to suggest an
increase of homicides among gay men or lesbians.

Although it appears to be offered in support of (b), the evidence you
offer in support of this claim is actually, then, in support of your
first claim: “homosexuals are far more violent because five mass
murderers were homosexuals.”  This commits the “questionable cause”
fallacy.  The reasoning or warrant, in other words, is bad: The
reasoning is that X (gayness) and Y (violence) are regularly
associated, and therefore X is the cause of Y.  For you to even get
to this level of fallacious reasoning, you first have to prove that 5
individuals are enough to represent a class of people, a “false” or
“perverted sample” to be sure.  Every cheerleader I have met in my
life is blonde, therefore all cheerleaders are blonde?  Your
reasoning here is so convoluted a chalkboard would be helpful to
diagram it.  Suffice it to say you commit a hasty generalization
based on unwarranted inferences, and then use this hasty
generalization to support the fallacy of questionable cause.

You continue making a number of unsupported claims. You then state:

>Dana Cloud is indecent.  She is an embarrassment not just to UT, but
>to higher education in
>America.  The tragedy is how many like her, and Ward Churchill, there are.
>
>Each of you reading this shares the blame for that.

Each of the people addressed in your message, you argue, are
responsible for “that.”  “That,” here, is an unclear referent–not a
problem of argument, but a problem of basic grammar.  Are we
responsible for “the tragedy?” (The character of this “tragedy” is
unclear.)  Are we responsible for Dr. Cloud’s “indecency?” (You imply
indecency is evil, which I would not agree to.)  Are we responsible
for “embarrassment?”  If you wish for us to “share the blame,” we
need to know what the blame is for and what we need to take
responsibility for.

Insofar as your email makes no solid arguments, only a series of
claims, and insofar as it is woefully unclear, and finally, insofar
as your final statement is one of shaming, it does not appear that
you mean to send my colleagues and me a message, nor does it seem you
have a desire for an exchange.  The fallacy of the final claim is
what one calls, simply, “guilt by association.”  I am not responsible
for hiring Dr. Cloud, nor am I responsible for any thing she says or
chooses to do.  Nevertheless, I am proud to be associated with Dr.
Cloud and support her freedom of speech.

I stand in solidarity with Dr. Cloud as a colleague, as an
intellectual, as a friend, and most importantly, as a teacher of
argumentation and someone who helps young people find and use their
voices, “liberal” and “conservative” alike.  For your cause, I think
you could learn a lot from her example.  Indeed, you could learn a
lot from professors in our department. Writing an argument is an art,
and apparently one that you have not taken the time to learn.

Sincerely,

Josh Gunn

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,215 other followers