Professor Loomis and the NRA: A Story In Which EVERYONE Annoys Me

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303 Responses

  1. Scott Jacobs says:

    I'll say it again – Loomis is getting exactly what he called for himself almost 2 years ago.

    If he dislikes that, tough shit.

  2. TJIC says:

    Great post.

    The guy's a jerk who wants to curtail freedom, but I don't want him to lose his job for it.

    Re this tweet:

    > Dear rightwingers, to be clear, I don't want to see Wayne LaPierre
    > dead. I want to see him in prison for the rest of his life. #nraterrorism

    I responded :

    "I like this idea of ex-post-facto criminal prosecution you've invented. Question: do you ever wonder what WE will prosecute YOU for?"

    No response.

    I like free speech for a variety of reasons, but one among then is that I personally prefer that I have that freedom.

    I like the Constitution's prohibition on ex post facto laws for the same reason.

    I'm always darkly amused by others who think that they can cut down all the trees in England and never run into problems themselves.

  3. Lizard says:

    a)I pretty much agree with you on all points. I just wish I had the energy to still be outraged.

    b)I am going to save this for the next time someone claims that "violent right wing rhetoric" leads to real-world violence and that liberals never engage in such bluster. Then I can enjoy watching the knee-jerk "False equivalency (sp?)!" response, without anyone actually bothering to explain WHY it's false, it just IS, dammit!

    c)I think it's an interesting effect of the bubble that too many people of all political persuasions inhabit that whenever something that seems perfectly reasonable to those within the bubble reaches outside, provoking a reaction, they paint themselves as victims of "conspiracies" and "campaigns", because it seems to be genuinely inconceivable[1] to them that there could just be lots and lots of people who disagree with them. It MUST be an organized effort by a tiny minority; the majority of their friends agree with them, so, that means the majority of the WORLD does, right?

    [1]Obligatory Princess Bride reference here.

  4. ShelbyC says:

    Nothing like being in favor of ex-post facto laws punishing past speech.

  5. Randydeluxe says:

    I find it easier to forgive and understand a hyperbolic response to a horrifying tragedy than to forgive and understand what Loomis' enemies proceeded to do to him.

    The kneejerk reaction among liberals is to blame systems and tools and laws and processes that stand in the way of progress, even with an abundance of hyperbole and ill-advised splash damage … while the kneejerk reaction among conservatives is to blame liberals, full stop. A pox on both their houses, but the conservative house is in *much* greater need of cleaning.

  6. eigenperson says:

    Of all the ways one might try to address the problems caused by guns in this country, throwing people in jail for their political positions seems like the single worst way.

    In other words, Erik Loomis has managed to advocate for the single worst way to solve the gun problem. Even the NRA, an organization that has taken laughably stupid positions on gun laws, has not managed to do that.

    That said, Erik Loomis has the right to advocate for the single worst way to solve the gun problem. And he should not lose his job for it. But I wish he would stop.

  7. repsac3 says:

    Anger and partisanship often makes folks lose touch with the legal and moral values and standards we live by. Here's hoping that with time and reflection, some of those folks find their way back.

    I got minor quibbles here and there, but a highly worthy, informed, and passionate post. I expected nothing less.

    @Scott – We disagree…but given where you're at, there's really no point arguing about it. I'm sorry I engaged.

  8. Scott Jacobs says:

    A pox on both their houses, but the conservative house is in *much* greater need of cleaning.Dunno, not seen too many conservatives calling for the deaths of NAACP members or the like…

    Death of NRA members? Oh, more than a couple.

  9. Scott Jacobs says:

    God damn blockquote tags…

  10. Scott Jacobs says:

    Also, I'm wondering if eigenperson could list some of these " laughably stupid positions" the NRA has taken in regards to gun laws…

  11. ecurb says:

    You know what? I don't care any more. We deserve the civility we show to others, and he's shown none.
    If I was this man's employer I would find an excuse to fire him, with the self-justification that use of that kind of language speaks volumes about his lack of character.
    So it's a good thing I don't work in government, I guess….

  12. ShelbyC says:

    @Randydeluxe, A couple years ago, it seemed like the kneejerk reaction among some liberals (perhaps including Loomis, if some less-than reliable sources are to be believed) was to blame Sarah Palin, no?

  13. Scott Jacobs says:

    @ShelbyC

    Bush was pretty popular too…

  14. Randydeluxe says:

    I'm just saying that "calling for" something bad to happen to you on Twitter is very different than contacting your employer and trying to convince them to fire you. I don't like equating the two.

  15. Scott Jacobs says:

    Normally I would agree (though I would also support the school if they terminated his employment on their own without outside pressure).

    But Loomis has long held that far less direct and explicit rhetoric was directly responsible for bad acts. Why should he not now "enjoy" being hoisted by his own petard?

  16. aczarnowski says:

    You imply the NRA is also a bad guy in this story with the post title but I didn't see citations that link them as an entity to improper actions. Did I miss something in a link? What has the NRA done to warrant inclusion here?

  17. Joe Pullen says:

    Excerpt from a post from another lawyers blog (I’m not citing the poster directly if you want to find it you’ll have to dig for yourself).

    Just remember, guys and girls, you are responsible for every single death by gunfire in your own country. Not your government. Not the NRA. Not the gun lobby. Not someone else. You. Personally.

    Aside from the above comment sounding extremely similar to the rhetoric coming from the Westboro Baptist Church, I can’t say I’m entirely surprised by it or by Professor Loomis’s comments, or by the actions of others in response to Loomis’s comments, or by Loomis’s equally off putting attempt to censor his critics.

    I’m not surprised at all. What a shame.

  18. Chris says:

    If people in RI, who I would assume pay taxes that pay for his salary want him fired. I'm not sure I have a real problem with that….

  19. Scott Jacobs says:

    Or students at the institution where he is employed…

    But let's be honest, this is RI – those claiming possible links that would give them "grounds" and who were offended is likely a short list.

  20. S. Weasel says:

    You know, all the years I was a corporate dog's body, it was a given that anything I said or did — even in my own time, on my own behalf — would be a termination offense if it reflected poorly on the company. It's one of the reasons I'm a strong proponent of anonymity on the internet.

    It always amazes me to learn there are jobs where it is otherwise.

  21. eigenperson says:

    Scott Jacobs: I don't really want to start a debate on gun control, since I think this thread is really about free speech. But since you asked, some of the positions I consider to be laughably stupid are:

    * Support for "shall-issue" laws
    * Opposition to regulation of ammunition sales
    * Support for "right-to-carry reciprocity"
    * Opposition to closing the "gun-show loophole" (I know the NRA thinks this term is misleading, which is why it's in quotes)
    * Opposition to gun bans in particular places (e.g. national parks)
    * Opposition to bans of specific kinds of guns

    Note that these are positions that I am sure the NRA has held in the recent past because they are advocated on their websites. There are other positions that I consider to be even dumber, but I am not 100% sure that the NRA holds them because I couldn't find any documents on their website advocating them, so I haven't listed them.

    In addition, I understand that a lot of people here (including you) might agree with some or all of those positions. Even so, I still think they are laughably stupid.

    And yes, I have heard the arguments in favor. In fact, in order to confirm that the NRA indeed supported these positions, I read their arguments for them just a few minutes ago.

  22. ShelbyC says:

    @Chris, the people of Rhode Island don't get to allocate their tax dollars based on the receipient's speech.

  23. eigenperson says:

    S. Weasel: I suspect Prof. Loomis will shortly learn that his job is also one of those jobs where you can be fired for anything that reflects poorly on the "company".

    (It may not be entirely legal for them to fire him for that reason, but I am no lawyer, so I don't know. What I do know is that even if it is illegal, that rarely stops companies from firing their employees.)

  24. naught_for_naught says:

    Without taking a side in the spat, I have to say I love this rhetorical maneuver by repsac2,

    @Scott – We disagree…but given where you're at, there's really no point arguing about it. I'm sorry I engaged.

    It's a world-class example of a passive-agressive, Orwellian Doublespeak. Here's what's actually being said, "I think I smarter than you, and I'd like to get the last word while seeming to bow out gracefully."

    Nicely done!

  25. Chris says:

    @ShelbyC,
    I'm not sure why it shouldn't.

  26. ecurb says:

    eigenperson, please remember that anywhere from 40 to 70% of Americans support those policies. Calling them "laughably stupid" is calling a huge number of us laughably stupid, and that's how you start arguments. Please try to hold yourself to a higher standard.

    On topic: wow, Loomis has a real pity-party going on over there. Good thing he only upset right-wingers, because they don't call SWAT on people like his type do.

  27. Chris says:

    @eigenperson,
    Can't just say you disagree, huh? If you disagree the opposition is "laughably stupid"

    Class.

  28. Matthew Cline says:

    But Loomis has long held that far less direct and explicit rhetoric was directly responsible for bad acts. Why should he not now "enjoy" being hoisted by his own petard?

    Let me try to guess Loomis' response: the audiences of those he criticized would fail to understand the speech he criticized was rhetoric/hyperbole and take it literally, while his audience knows full well that his speech is rhetoric/hyperbole.

  29. ShelbyC says:

    @eigenperson was asked, in fairness to him.

  30. Scott Jacobs says:

    Support for "shall-issue" laws

    Every state that has instituted such a law has seen violent crime drop by a greater percentage than the national average

    Opposition to regulation of ammunition sales

    Because being able to buy bullets in bulk harms people how, exactly?

    Support for "right-to-carry reciprocity"

    Yes, because making it so it ISN'T a felony when you cross state lines without stopping before crossing and locking your gun in the trunk is horrible

    Opposition to closing the "gun-show loophole" (I know the NRA thinks this term is misleading, which is why it's in quotes)

    It IS misleading, so I'm confused as to why you think this is foolish.

    Opposition to gun bans in particular places (e.g. national parks)
    Because – and this is something you folks don't seem to grasp – the only people who will obey such laws are people who are not going to go shooting people at random. People intent on murder don't care if they aren't allowed to have the gun they are using to murder people. The School in CT was a gun-free zone – how well did that work?
    Opposition to bans of specific kinds of guns

    I suspect you are talking about "assault weapon" bans, which has two issues: 1) is that such bans only target cosmetics – a barrel shroud, pistol grip, or collapsing stock does nothing to change how deadly a weapon is 2) CT had exactly that kind off a law in effect – what precisely did it do in this case?

    Gun laws only influence one group – the people who obey the law.

    If I'm going to go murder people, I probably don't care if I could get 10 or 15 years for having the guns.

    By enacting strict gun control, all you do is make sure the eventual shooting is incredibly one-sided for about 15 or 20 minutes until the cops show up and start doing something.

  31. Joe Pullen says:

    @ eigenperson

    I wonder if gun control might in fact be a tangential issue to First Amendment rights. It would seem that a government that fears its citizenry would be less likely to attempt to strip away their rights. In any event, it’s clear after Obama’s speech today that gun control is going to be a topic of interest for a while.

  32. Scott Jacobs says:

    GOD DAMN BLOCKQUOTE TAGS!!!

  33. Nicholas Weaver says:

    Overall, the whole gun control issue is a pox on both their houses in my book.

    The NRA types refuse to allow things that would make a difference, e.g. requiring ALL transfers to go through a dealer. No, it doesn't stop guns from going into the hands of criminals, but it makes it much easier to prosecute straw buyers.

    Its like the whole ban on felons owning guns thing: it doesn't stop felons from getting guns, but it makes it a whole lot easier to throw the book at them when you catch them.

    In the mean-time, the gun control crowd is fixated on cosmetics (suddenly a pistol grip makes a rifle an "Assault Weapon") and feel-good but pointless bans such as magazine size limits [1].

    And now in California, you have the good senator Leland Yee, who is now trying to ban the "Bullet Button", which actually makes the scary-black-rifles LESS threatening than a non "Assault weapon" [2], and now adding further stupid proposals like background checks (with, natch, an associated fee) on ammo purchases.

    And, of course, neither side will really work to spend money to expand mental health services…

    Fah…

    [1] how many shootings have a gun fire more than 10 rounds? I'd bet that the number killed by round #11+ out of the magazine per year is far less than the number killed by deer.

    [2] The CA "Assault Weapons" ban lists a bunch of what can only be described as 'evil looking features', and bans a rifle with any of them. But if you change the magazine release so that it has to be articulated with a tool, and only put in a 10 round magazine, you can have all the mall ninja tacticool shit you want.

    The good senator views this as a "loophole" created by the pro-gun crowd, when in reality it makes the CA legal "Assault Weapons" less usable by those evil spree killers than a Ruger Mini-14 from Big 5, as its now significantly slower to reload. Pay no attention that deer are a greater threat to the average American than spree killers.

    What I find remarkable is that the good Senator and his ilk haven't instead embraced this, going, "Hey, the gun owners have shown that removable magazines aren't necessary. Lets make all semi-automatics this way".

    Except that would require them actually knowing something about what they are trying to ban…

  34. Chris says:

    * Support for "shall-issue" laws

    The fact that anyone who wishes to do no harm to anyone should even have to apply for ANY kind of permit to protect themselves when violent criminals do what they wish is damn near immoral

    * Opposition to regulation of ammunition sales
    Because we recognize the purpose to eventually make it so no ammo is ever purchased.

    * Support for "right-to-carry reciprocity"
    See first argument.

    * Opposition to closing the "gun-show loophole" (I know the NRA thinks this term is misleading, which is why it's in quotes)
    You mean revoking the "first sale" doctrine.

    * Opposition to gun bans in particular places (e.g. national parks)
    Cause violent people will also leave their guns behind when entering the forest.
    * Opposition to bans of specific kinds of guns
    Same as ammo. This gun is too big and powerful, that gun is too small and concealable. Your side has an argument against every type.

  35. Scott Jacobs says:

    The NRA types refuse to allow things that would make a difference, e.g. requiring ALL transfers to go through a dealer. No, it doesn't stop guns from going into the hands of criminals, but it makes it much easier to prosecute straw buyers.Personally, I favor making it possible to check mental health records when you do the background check (so does the NRA), but patient-right's activists have been blocking that for ages.

  36. repsac3 says:

    "Without taking a side in the spat, I have to say I love this rhetorical maneuver by repsac2" +1

    And now I'm not gonna argue with you, either… 8>)

    (Honestly, I saw it could be taken that way, too…but only after I posted the comment and read it in the thread. While you may well be right about my subconscious purpose, I consciously thought I was just explaining why I didn't intend to continue the back and forth after several exchanges at the previous thread. Though it'd seem odd if I just went silent on all he was saying.)

  37. Scott Jacobs says:

    That's it. I'm never quoting anyone ever again.

  38. Matthew Cline says:

    At least we can all agree on how annoying it is to have no comment preview, right?

  39. Scott Jacobs says:

    It's like something Hitler would do.*

    *Because it isn't a gun-control argument until we've gone Godwin.

  40. Chris says:

    @scott jacobs re: Godwin

    the 68 Gun Control Act quite literally lifts some of its terminology from the NAZI gun control acts from pre WW2. Including the concept of "sporting purpose".

  41. Kevin says:

    Regrettably, some people think "more speech" means "try to get him fired and arrested."

    Devil's Advocate: What exactly is the problem, free-speech-wise, with trying to get him fired? I mean, obviously it depends on the specifics of HOW you're trying to get him fired, but if you're just expressing the opinion "I think he should be fired", or even organizing others to make similar statements, that does seem to me like "more speech". I'm not saying I think his employer should cave to such pressure, but I'm not sure how simply advocating for his firing wouldn't qualify as "more speech".

  42. lelnet says:

    Here's the thing, though. We need to draw a clear line between "speech" and "action".

    If we were talking about conservative activists phoning in fake police reports to get paramilitary SWAT teams sent to his house in response to his speech, then I'd say you have more of a point. You call the police and say some dude's holding a dozen hostages at gunpoint on top of his meth lab, you have a very realistic expectation that a lot of state violence is about to be sent in his general direction, and thus bear some personal responsibility for the consequences thereof.

    But a campaign of protest against his employer is _speech_. There is no threat of imminent violence against him. In the extremely unlikely event that he actually loses his job over this, that would simply be another case of the consequences of extreme intemperence on the internet.

    Being a dick in public has a price. Unless one's dickishness takes the form of force or fraud against innocent third parties, the price ought not to include interaction with the criminal justice system, but social sanction is a whole other ball game. And losing one's job is a form of social sanction, even when one's job title is "professor".

  43. Polyester says:

    It might be my natural distaste of crowds, but rarely do I see spirited, community-wide reactions good in any moral or justice context, even if I may agree with the advocacy being done by said mob.

    Found it funny that right before I read this, I came across this article that has much the same message, albeit with less legal analysis.

    http://www.theawl.com/2012/12/the-internets-vigilante-shame-army

  44. Ken says:

    @lelnet:

    And losing one's job is a form of social sanction, even when one's job title is "professor".

    That is not a correct statement of the law with respect to public employees. While their rights are not completely co-extensive with the First Amendment, you can't fire them out of distaste for their speech.

  45. Damian P. says:

    A strong argument in favor of gun control: without it, people like Loomis can easily get their hands on deadly weaponry.

  46. ecurb says:

    That devil's advocate makes some really appealing points… But that's probably just because of how much I hate the guy.
    But Kevin, even excluding that, sicking the police on him wouldn't count as "speech". It's not as bad as SWATting, but still morally unacceptable and borderline illegal.

  47. Kevin says:

    @Ken

    That is not a correct statement of the law with respect to public employees. While their rights are not completely co-extensive with the First Amendment, you can't fire them out of distaste for their speech.

    I understand, and agree. I'm just saying that advocating for his firing seems perfectly kosher (if distasteful) to me.

  48. Kevin says:

    But Kevin, even excluding that, sicking the police on him wouldn't count as "speech". It's not as bad as SWATting, but still morally unacceptable and borderline illegal.

    Oh, I agree completely. It was only the "fired" part of "try to get him fired and arrested" that I was challenging.

  49. Ken says:

    @Kevin

    I understand, and agree. I'm just saying that advocating for his firing seems perfectly kosher (if distasteful) to me.

    I'm not sure what you mean. I'm not suggesting that it's illegal to advocate for his firing, any more than it's illegal to advocate for his arrest, or for yours for your comment, or for mine for this post.

    But it's stupid, contemptible, and a betrayal of core American values.

  50. Dan Weber says:

    Man, we get caught in a huge web of meta-meta- when we start debating free speech.

    I think I understand the devil's advocate position: it is not a violation of free speech principles to say "that person should be fired for their speech" since what I did was just speech.

    I'm having a tough time figuring out if I agree with it, particularly because of the meta-meta- involved. I almost need to sit down and write out some Venn diagrams. I don't think "it's just speech" is really a great defense, since lots of time speech is action, like when you are saying "fire Joe" to Joe's employer with a megaphone.

  51. Chris says:

    Ken,
    I understand the legal aspect of it. I don't understand the moral aspect of it.
    In real life (not government employees) what you or I say can affect us tremendously with regard to our future earning potential in terms of lost business.
    That is the right and responsibility of free association.

    Why when our money is (implicitly) taken from us via force; meaning taxes, should we loose the right to direct to who receives it?

  52. Chris says:

    My boss employs me as long as my ideas don't reflect badly on him or the business. It's his right to fire me if I cross the line.

    We taxpayers are the "bosses" here in this scenario are we not?

  53. Kevin says:

    But it's stupid, contemptible, and a betrayal of core American values.

    Stupid? Yes. Contemptible? Yes. A betrayal of core American values? Well, only to the extent that he's a public employee. But if commenters calling for his firing were unaware of his status as a public employee (or sincerely confused about the distinction) then no. I mean, hell, if his employer were a private entity, then I'd be calling for his firing…. and if you hadn't pointed out in your post that he was a public employee, I might very well have failed to pick up on that, and taken up the "fire him" chant. I would have been misguided to do so, but not, I think, un-American.

  54. Ken says:

    @Chris:

    So — legalism aside — you wouldn't have a moral problem with a system in which taxpayers could demand that a professor be fired for criticizing the NRA, or not criticizing the NRA, etc.?

    Believe me, if I had moral qualms about what's being done with my money, whether a state college professor is an asswipe is way down on my list. I'm more concerned about drug wars and drone strikes and stuff.

    But, no, I don't feel it would be moral to use my tax dollars to dictate what public employees say. Similarly, though I have a legal right to fire employees for, say, being pro-choice or pro-life or pro-gay-marriage or anti-gay-marriage, I would never do so, because I would find that to be profoundly immoral.

  55. S. Weasel says:

    I don't know. On the one hand, there are the ideas he was advocating, and on the other, there's the foamy, intemperate, hyperbolic way he said them. Also, he didn't seem to grasp that Twitter is very much a public place.

    Surely, it's not unAmerican to advocate firing somebody for having lousy judgment and being a bit dim.

  56. Andrew Roth says:

    Loomis' meltdown is sad. I've read a lot of his essays on Lawyers, Guns and Money, and I've generally found them measured and nuanced. They're a lot less snarky and somewhat better-written than his colleague Scott Lemieux's, for example; this, on a blog that maintains much higher standards of intelligence and decency than some of its competitors. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that it's tragic for someone of his skill as a historian, writer and thinker to descend into madness and start foaming at the mouth about the great righteousness of imprisoning and killing his opponents over policy differences.

    When everyone's yelling at everyone else and no signal can be heard over the noise, it's a good time for a little bit of shut up around here. Mind you, that feeling is nothing new to me. I've felt that way about the abortion, gun control and gay marriage debates for years.

  57. Kevin says:

    @Ken

    Similarly, though I have a legal right to fire employees for, say, being pro-choice or pro-life or pro-gay-marriage or anti-gay-marriage, I would never do so, because I would find that to be profoundly immoral.

    I would never fire an employee for any of those example positions you cited, because I don't think any of them are necessarily indicative of a moral failing. But if an employee of mine (private entity) were to advocate for, say, Nazism, or slavery, then I would have no moral qualms whatsoever about firing him.

    Of course this is a moral, not a legal point, so it's possible we're just working from different sets of terminal values. I'm curious, though, how far you would be willing to take things.

  58. repsac3 says:

    When it's ok for you to advocate that someone else be fired for the expression of ideas that you find contemptible, your tacitly giving others permission to try to get you fired for ideas that you express that they find contemptible.

    (Besides, who really wants to live in a world where everyone's running to each other's employers to tattle.)

    If you have a problem with the ideas or ideals someone expresses, show why their ideas fail, and / or why yours are superior. Getting a person fired or disciplined (or even temporarily silencing him on twitter, even) doesn't show that his ideas are wrong or that yours are in any way superior. It's petty and vengeful and small-minded.

  59. Chris says:

    @ken 3:19PM

    "So — legalism aside — you wouldn't have a moral problem with a system in which taxpayers could demand that a professor be fired for criticizing the NRA, or not criticizing the NRA, etc.?"

    I think we live in a Representative state and that expecting our employees to represent us as we see fit is very American. We decide every November on some level, who best says what we want to hear, no?

    "Believe me, if I had moral qualms about what's being done with my money, whether a state college professor is an asswipe is way down on my list. I'm more concerned about drug wars and drone strikes and stuff."

    I agree this is very petty.

    "But, no, I don't feel it would be moral to use my tax dollars to dictate what public employees say. Similarly, though I have a legal right to fire employees for, say, being pro-choice or pro-life or pro-gay-marriage or anti-gay-marriage, I would never do so, because I would find that to be profoundly immoral."

    I find this stance very odd coming from you. You profess more speech and the marketplace of ideas in virtually every post. How do we eliminate bad ideas from the marketplace if not by making having those bad ideas cost people in a very real sense?

  60. lelnet says:

    "So — legalism aside — you wouldn't have a moral problem with a system in which taxpayers could demand that a professor be fired for criticizing the NRA, or not criticizing the NRA, etc.?"

    I'm not Chris. Chris can speak for himself. But I'll say, speaking for myself, that this would be a preferable condition to the one which prevails now, under which WE can be fired for any reason or no stated reason, but THEY cannot be fired for anything at all.

    If you _don't_ work for the government, you have to either refrain from speaking your mind in public, or else adopt a pseudonymous identity when you do so, or else you'll eventually attract the attention of a pressure group big or powerful enough to get you fired. This is part of living in civil society.

    Working for the government should not be an exemption from the rules of civil society.

  61. lelnet says:

    "Besides, who really wants to live in a world where everyone's running to each other's employers to tattle."

    Unfortunately, that world is called "Earth", and what world we _want_ to live in has very little bearing on what world we _do_ live in.

  62. Andrew Roth says:

    "Believe me, if I had moral qualms about what's being done with my money, whether a state college professor is an asswipe is way down on my list. I'm more concerned about drug wars and drone strikes and stuff."

    Spot on. These tempests-in-teapots over professors making unpopular or provocative statements (and usually obscure professors at that) are very effective diversions from much more consequential matters that go unmentioned. They work because the audience is extremely ignorant and gullible.

    The really sick thing is that the audience is us. America. An uncharitable but frighteningly reasonable way to rephrase this is that we're incapable of self-government. God, would I love to be proven wrong, but that's a hope, not an expectation.

    Idiotic, rabid debates like this Loomis/NRA spat are just another thing that make me consider the righteousness of a pox on our nation. I feel shitty for having such thoughts, but it's a rare defense of American exceptionalism that doesn't fall back on belligerent tautologies, and by many objective measures this nation is begging to be smitten for its wickedness.

    I wax florid, I suppose, but honey badger loses confidence in the judgment and character of his countrymen when presented with cases like this.

  63. S. Weasel says:

    It's not the ideas, it's the delivery. I'd fire someone in a heartbeat if his every conversation devolved into a spittle-flecked screaming match, whether I agreed with him or not.

  64. Chris R says:

    I'm sorry, what Loomis said was offensive to the point that he should be fired. Quibbling over whether it was an actionable death threat on his part is something which should only interest law enforcement. In the court of public opinion he should be fired, shunned and quieted.

  65. Shane says:

    @Ken … What if those same employees said that they wouldn't uphold the 1st amendment (or the 2nd or any other for that matter)?

  66. ecurb says:

    "on the other, there's the foamy, intemperate, hyperbolic way he said them."

    Now that's something I'm curious about. I'm assuming that even a tenured professor can't get away with showing up drunk to a benefactor reception and calling all the biggest donors "filthy capitalist pigs".
    At what point can a public institution fire an employee for "conduct unbecoming"? Do they simply have to prove their reasons for firing him were content-neutral? Or that the speech was unprotected (yelling fighting words on the quad, for example)?

  67. Chris R says:

    I find it easier to forgive and understand a hyperbolic response to a horrifying tragedy than to forgive and understand what Loomis' enemies proceeded to do to him.

    Loomis has a past track record of incendiary comments aimed at conservatives, especially on Twitter. There is no defense for what he said and what was done to him was paltry in response. The man still has a job. He should consider himself fortunate.

  68. Chris says:

    @repsac3 3:33PM
    "…doesn't show that his ideas are wrong or that yours are in any way superior. It's petty and vengeful and small-minded."

    I've learned the only time people really change their minds in later life is when something really bites them in the ass. Be that inter-personally or financially.

    I think he clearly hasn't learned anything on the interpersonal level and isn't likely to do anything other than double down. How do we show him his ideas are reprehensible?

  69. Ken says:

    I'm sorry, what Loomis said was offensive to the point that he should be fired. Quibbling over whether it was an actionable death threat on his part is something which should only interest law enforcement.

    And people who care about the rule of law over the rule of the mob.

    In the court of public opinion he should be fired, shunned and quieted.

    Shunned I'm fine with. "Fired," not, at least not from a public employer, which is bound by relevant First Amendment precedent. "Quieted" — that's . . . revealing.

  70. Kevin says:

    I find this stance very odd coming from you. You profess more speech and the marketplace of ideas in virtually every post. How do we eliminate bad ideas from the marketplace if not by making having those bad ideas cost people in a very real sense?

    I concur. It seems expressly at odds with Ken's stated position on similar issues in the past… i.e. the doxxing of creepy people on the internet. Ken has repeatedly argued (and I have repeatedly agreed with his argument) that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from social consequences for being an asshat.

    @Ken, it may be my imagination, but I get the sense that you think I'm just trolling you with the line of questioning… I'm not sure how to convince you of this, but I'm really just sincerely curious about what you view as the relevant distinction between these two kinds of situations.

  71. Ken says:

    I think he clearly hasn't learned anything on the interpersonal level and isn't likely to do anything other than double down. How do we show him his ideas are reprehensible?

    You have a right to make your argument. You don't have a right to make the other person be convinced.

  72. Lizard says:

    Protection for the first amendment rights of government employees is important precisely because they ARE government employees, and the government should not be able to fire anyone who says something the government doesn't like. Otherwise, every single government job, from toll booth attendant to janitor at city hall to traffic cop would be held only by those who toe the ideological line in all activities — a line that can change with each election. It makes it difficult or impossible for any employee of the government — and check out how many Americans that includes — to *criticize* the government, for fear of their job. Even campaigning for the guy running against your current boss, even if you're just the guy who takes inventory of sticky notes or helps people fill our wedding licenses, could get you fired.

    The government has to obey STRICTER rules than private individuals; that's why it's legal for a private employer to fire you if you mouth off in public in a way that's embarrassing, and not for the government to do so, and that's GOOD. (An obvious and reasonable exception is actively serving military personnel, who voluntarily give up a number of their rights while serving. So long as military service remains voluntary, I'm fine with that.)

  73. repsac3 says:

    @lelnet

    It ain't happening (much–and in the few cases where it does happen, the people doing the tattling are roundly criticized by pretty much everyone who supports speech and the exchange of ideas–i.e. pretty much everyone) here in my neck of Earth. Suggest you move, or fight toward making where you live less petty and vengeful by non accepting that status quo.

  74. Scott Jacobs says:

    "When it's ok for you to advocate that someone else be fired for the expression of ideas that you find contemptible, your tacitly giving others permission to try to get you fired for ideas that you express that they find contemptible."

    So the Left gave permission for this since 2008. Awesome.

    What's the problem, then?

  75. Ken says:

    @Chris and @Kevin:

    My feeling on the firing of public employees is based on well-established First Amendment law, which I think is right.

    My feeling about the firing of private employees is different. I think you're conflating a few different concepts. First, I feel strongly that people should be free — and feel free — to criticize bad behavior, even if a social consequence of bringing it to light could be losing a private job. Second of all, I think that private employers do have rights, and should have associational rights, to fire on any basis not prohibited by law. But third, the observation of the social consequences of speech is descriptive, not necessarily approving. The fact that you have a right to call for a private employee to be fired for speech, and that a private employer has a right to heed your call, isn't a statement of moral approval if you do so — any more than I morally approve if you exercise your right not to associate socially with minorities, or if you indulge your right to engage in what's often called "hate speech," or so on. I think that calls for people to be fired from private jobs are often hot-headed and disproportionate, morally, to the perceived sin.

  76. repsac3 says:

    @Chris • Dec 19, 2012 @3:47 pm:

    "How do we show him his ideas are reprehensible?"

    Why is it about showing him, at all. Assholes are wrong all the time. (Obviously, who those assholes are is dependent on who you are.) While I don't think anyone should be written off entirely, some assholes are going to be assholes no matter what you do, and all you can do is let 'em.

    But if your ideas are superior, more folks will see it and join you in advocating for what you believe in the community and at the ballot box. (…including a few folks who used to be assholes, occasionally.)

  77. repsac3 says:

    Scott Jacobs • Dec 19, 2012 @3:54 pm:

    "So the Left gave permission for this since 2008. Awesome.

    What's the problem, then?"

    I don't know who this guy "the Left" is, but when individual partisans on that side do it, they're advocating it. When YOU do it, YOU'RE advocating it.

    If you believe adopting the the standards of those you disagree with–standards that you've actively argued against, in the past–isn't a problem, then so be it.

    I can only say I disagree.

  78. Chris says:

    Ken,
    I think your idea makes two classes of people, those who work for the government and can say anything and be completely insulated and everyone else who has to tread lightly for fear of being fired. Add to that we are literally FORCED to pay them too. I find that pretty reprehensible.

  79. Chris says:

    @repsac3 • Dec 19, 2012 @4:04 pm
    agreed. Not some much showing him as showing others that those ideas are not acceptable.

  80. Joe Pullen says:

    @Chris

    "But, no, I don't feel it would be moral to use my tax dollars to dictate what public employees say. Similarly, though I have a legal right to fire employees for, say, being pro-choice or pro-life or pro-gay-marriage or anti-gay-marriage, I would never do so, because I would find that to be profoundly immoral."

    I find this stance very odd coming from you. You profess more speech and the marketplace of ideas in virtually every post. How do we eliminate bad ideas from the marketplace if not by making having those bad ideas cost people in a very real sense?

    You might be confusing the legal right to do something with a moral necessity to do something.

    I understand the legal aspect of it. I don't understand the moral aspect of it.

    Sometimes the moral aspect is just not “costing” the other guy something even though legally you can.

  81. Chris says:

    Lizard • Dec 19, 2012 @3:52 pm

    So we create a government where no one wants to work because you have to be a brain dead stiff? Don't we already have that?

    I'm sorry, I'm not capable of feeling anything for any government employee.

    They took the Kings Shilling, they deserve all the derision that comes their way.

  82. JR says:

    I agree with Nicholas Weaver and Scott Jacobs regarding their statements on gun control. People should be able to defend themselves with the same weapons used to attack them. The cold war was not won by reducing our defense options and their effectiveness.
    However, I would emphasize the need for better mental health care funding, awareness, and treatment availability. Many people with mental health problems are not diagnosed, much less receive prompt and effective treatment.
    After a car accident shattered my family, I spent the next decade or so associating with people, and doing things, that were self-destructive. A week of this was spent in a crisis treatment center which I had to enroll myself into, and from which I was told to leave because none of the negative symptoms were triggered in the comfortable, safe, and friendly environment. The staff and my fellow crisis sufferers were very cordial and supportive, but not very effective.
    To this day, I have not received any professional care that I did not seek out for myself. (This is not to belittle the love and emotional support received from my extended family) I consider myself to be very fortunate in my ability to overcome as much as I have, yet still lie awake for hours every night overcome by an irrational fear and paranoia.
    A large part of that fear is about what could have been. It took me over a decade to learn that I needed help and still I had to supply my own solution. I can only imagine how impossible it would be for someone so far gone as to shoot children, or anybody for that matter, to know that they were in need of help, much less want or receive it.

  83. Ken says:

    @Chris:

    Ken,
    I think your idea makes two classes of people, those who work for the government and can say anything and be completely insulated and everyone else who has to tread lightly for fear of being fired. Add to that we are literally FORCED to pay them too. I find that pretty reprehensible.

    Chris: the classes are different because of the identity of the employer, not the employee. The Constitution limits government action, not private action.

    Do you find it reprehensible that you can throw me out of your living room for, say, advocating for the NRA, but the government can't throw me out of the public square for advocating for the NRA?

  84. Chris says:

    Ken • Dec 19, 2012 @4:23 pm
    "Chris: the classes are different because of the identity of the employer, not the employee. The Constitution limits government action, not private action. "

    Yes I know. I don't think there is any confusion here.

    "Do you find it reprehensible that you can throw me out of your living room for, say, advocating for the NRA, but the government can't throw me out of the public square for advocating for the NRA?"

    No not at all. But I don't find these circumstances even close.

  85. Lyanna says:

    Sorry, but you're spectacularly missing the point. Loomis isn't calling for the NRA or Wayne LaPierre to be rounded up and put in jail. He's not calling for it to be a criminal offense to advocate against gun control. He's morally disgusted by it and wants the people who do it to be held accountable in some unspecified way. That's what "head on a stick" means. Pretending that rhetoric is "violent" in any meaningful sense is dishonest, and it's also dishonest to pretend that Loomis is advocating legal punishments for anti-gun control people. He thinks they're morally akin to terrorists. Agree or disagree, it's a far cry from calling for criminal punishments for challenging a law.

  86. Chris says:

    I don't think it's right for someone who relies up me to pay for their f'ing food and shelter via an implicit gun pointed at my head should insult me and wish people who think like me dead, and then demand via that same implicit gun that I continue to pay for the privilege.

  87. S. Weasel says:

    So a civil servant can tell her boss to go poop in a hat and pull it down over his ears, with impunity? I'm having a hard time comprehending that the government's constrained relationship toward a citizen must be the same as toward an employee. I would think an office run on that basis would be lawless.

    I mean, I get that political speech must be protected, or we'd risk a breaking in a new civil service every four to eight years. But is there no…decorum, at least?

  88. Ken says:

    @Lyanna:

    What, then, does he mean by this?

    Do I want to see Wayne LaPierre punished in the way many of us wanted to see Tony Hayward punished during the BP oil spill or the way many of us wanted to see Dick Cheney punished during the Iraq War. Of course. That would mean real accountability for causing immeasurable harm to families, nations, and/or nature.

    What punishment is he talking about? What accountability is he talking about?

    Also: what are we to take from the way he said it after he talked about how his earlier rhetoric was hyperbole?

    Dear rightwingers, to be clear, I don't want to see Wayne LaPierre dead. I want to see him in prison for the rest of his life.

    So what, exactly, does he want for people who have advocated positions with which he disagrees? Not death, I'll buy that. Maybe not even literally prison. Ruinous lawsuits against advocacy groups that lobby for laws?

  89. Ken says:

    @Chris:

    I don't think it's right for someone who relies up me to pay for their f'ing food and shelter via an implicit gun pointed at my head should insult me and wish people who think like me dead, and then demand via that same implicit gun that I continue to pay for the privilege.

    Pick any political/social/advocacy group that you don't like.

    Some of them pay taxes.

    Should a professor at a state school criticize them in strong language?

    Should a state professor be able to say that liberals (or conservatives) are disloyal and bad for the nation?

  90. Bruce says:

    Substitute Barack Obama for everyone he directs his comments about. Is he in trouble with the Secret Service or do they ignore it ?

  91. Chris says:

    "Dear rightwingers, to be clear, I don't want to see Wayne LaPierre dead. I want to see him in prison for the rest of his life."

    What would he be in prison for exactly? Advocacy?

    Understand I think LaPierre is a pantywaist cheese eating surrender monkey. What does that make me in Loomis' eyes? What is the proper punishment for me? And I still am FORCED to pay for him to insult me to my face. I'm sorry that ain't right.

  92. wfgodbold says:

    Lyanna, you're right about what "head on a stick" means.

    But Loomis also said, "Wayne LaPierre is a criminal and should be in prison for complicity with murder. 27 counts."

  93. Lizard says:

    He's also being paid by people who agree with him and DON'T want him fired. Who wins? Should it be by taxes paid? The more money you pay in taxes, the more your voice counts when it comes to demanding government employees be fired?

    For every offended person, there is an equal and opposite equally offended person.

    If you can show that wossname's speech makes him unqualified to do his job, then, that's perfectly valid grounds for firing. However, his job is "college professor", and being a spittle-flecked, hate-filled, radical leftist who couldn't hold down any job from which he COULD be fired means he's probably OVERqualified for the position he holds. We may need to give him a raise, to be fair.

  94. Ken says:

    @S. Weasel:

    So a civil servant can tell her boss to go poop in a hat and pull it down over his ears, with impunity? I'm having a hard time comprehending that the government's constrained relationship toward a citizen must be the same as toward an employee. I would think an office run on that basis would be lawless.

    I mean, I get that political speech must be protected, or we'd risk a breaking in a new civil service every four to eight years. But is there no…decorum, at least?

    The government as employer has more power to fire over speech than the government as state has to punish speech through criminal charges or enforcement of speech codes. The relevant factors are (1) whether the speech was directed at someone the employee works with (insubordination, like you describe, is much less protected), (2) whether the speech is directed at a matter of public interest (telling someone to shit in their hat usually isn't), (3) whether the speech interfered with the employee's duties, and (4) whether the speech interfered with the operation of the institution.

    This is sometimes expressed as a two part test of (1) whether the speech is on a subject of public interest, and (2) whether the free speech rights of the employee outweigh any danger to operation of the institution. The later factor often includes considerations of whether the speech disrupts workplace relationships or efficient operation of the workplace.

    So — if Loomis was required as a duty to work closely with gun control opponents, and used such speech, and the employer had evidence that it actually disrupted workplace relationships and efficiency, the University might have a better argument to fire him.

    And, in your example, if he told the dean to shit in his hat, that would likely not be protected.

  95. repsac3 says:

    wfgodbold • Dec 19, 2012 @4:50 pm:
    "But Loomis also said, "Wayne LaPierre is a criminal and should be in prison for complicity with murder. 27 counts."

    Dead wrong on Loomis' part (figuratively dead, not a death threat). But not a firing offense, and certainly nothing to be arrested for saying (as ironic as that would be).

  96. Ken says:

    @Bruce:

    Substitute Barack Obama for everyone he directs his comments about. Is he in trouble with the Secret Service or do they ignore it ?

    1. Note that my post discussing the true threats doctrine in the context of comments about the President is linked in the post.

    2. "In trouble with" is vague. The Secret Service can investigate him, and ask to interview him, and interview coworkers to see if he's a dangerous nut, without implicating his rights, so long as they don't conduct searches or seizures or interrogations implicating the Constitution. They often do that, erring on the side of extreme caution even in the face of clear hyperbole like this. If you're asking if the same words are sufficient to establish a true threat on the President, I'd still say no, it's clear hyperbole.

  97. Hughhh says:

    Sidenote: As "Loomis" is a singular noun, the possessive form should be "Loomis's."

    http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/possessives.htm

  98. Chris says:

    @Ken • Dec 19, 2012 @4:46 pm

    "Pick any political/social/advocacy group that you don't like.

    Some of them pay taxes.

    Should a professor at a state school criticize them in strong language?

    Should a state professor be able to say that liberals (or conservatives) are disloyal and bad for the nation?"

    I don't think its right for there to be two classes of people with two different rights sets and/or if that is the world in which we exist I don't think it's right for the parasites to be the group with the better rights set.

  99. S. Weasel says:

    Thank you, Ken. That makes sense.

    Still, I think Loomis would be a better person — or at least a more persuasive maker-of-arguments — if he spent a few years under the microscope of a private employer.

  100. repsac3 says:

    From Hughhh's link:

    "Some writers will say that the -s after Charles' is not necessary and that adding only the apostrophe (Charles' car) will suffice to show possession. Consistency is the key here: if you choose not to add the -s after a noun that already ends in s, do so consistently throughout your text."

    My first name is James, and I always hated seeing "James's ___." T'was a godsend when I learned it was acceptable not to use it…and I consistently never, ever EVER do, just like the rule says.

  101. JorgXMcKie says:

    The very best reason for real Freedom of Speech is that it lets the asshats, Left, Right, whatever, self-identify. Loomis is a great example.

  102. Chris says:

    repsac3 • Dec 19, 2012 @5:06 pm

    From Hughhh's link:

    "Some writers will say that the -s after Charles' is not necessary and that adding only the apostrophe (Charles' car) will suffice to show possession. Consistency is the key here: if you choose not to add the -s after a noun that already ends in s, do so consistently throughout your text."

    My first name is James, and I always hated seeing "James's ___." T'was a godsend when I learned it was acceptable not to use it…and I consistently never, ever EVER do, just like the rule says.

    My first name is Charles my middle is Christopher. I've always hated Chris's or Charles's. I consistently use no S.

  103. Ken says:

    That's what this thread needed – a grammar fight.

    DEATH TO THE OPPRESSORS OF THE OXFORD COMMA, MAY THEIR HEADS BE ON STICKS OR STICK-LIKE IMPLEMENTS OF SOME KIND

  104. repsac3 says:

    Chris • Dec 19, 2012 @5:09 pm

    Bipartisan consensus!! Feelin' the love… (How long till some excess "s" loving asshat–whose name prolly ends in some other consonant–comes along to destroy it?)

  105. Waldo says:

    Devil's Advocate: What exactly is the problem, free-speech-wise, with trying to get him fired? I mean, obviously it depends on the specifics of HOW you're trying to get him fired, but if you're just expressing the opinion "I think he should be fired", or even organizing others to make similar statements, that does seem to me like "more speech". I'm not saying I think his employer should cave to such pressure, but I'm not sure how simply advocating for his firing wouldn't qualify as "more speech".

    While you're certainly not breaking any law and are exercising your free speech rights, what you're advocating for is a restriction of free speech rights/punishment for exercising free speech rights. If you believe and support the First Amendment, then it seems entirely appropriate to me to condemn speech that would curtail the right.

  106. peter38a says:

    Ken, nice post. I was wagging my tail the whole time. I will come back to this site often. Thank you.

  107. Shane says:

    @Ken … less lawyer, more layman. I am having a hard time understanding your argument.

  108. Waldo says:

    @ Lizard,

    Very well said!

  109. Jim Treacher says:

    What's the big deal? It's not like Loomis put crosshairs symbols on a map.

  110. Ken says:

    @Ken … less lawyer, more layman. I am having a hard time understanding your argument.

    I'm doomed to be me. But what part in particular?

  111. Scott Jacobs says:

    "DEATH TO THE OPPRESSORS OF THE OXFORD COMMA, MAY THEIR HEADS BE ON STICKS OR STICK-LIKE IMPLEMENTS OF SOME KIND"

    I'd call you're employer to get you fired, but I'm pretty sure that would actually be YOU…

  112. Fritz says:

    The constitutional and legal arguments to one side, could everyone just sit down and read Chapter 2 of Mill's On Liberty? It seems like justification enough for me, whether we had a First Amendment or not.

  113. Thucydides says:

    IF he is working to deny your rights and freedoms, then why let him remain in a position that allows him to work against all of our rights? If the situation was reversed he would stop at nothing to work your ruin, both professionally, legally and financially, so let him know what it is like to live in the world he wants to create.

  114. Chris says:

    F' Mill. That guy is a jackass.

    Utilitarianism is just shades to the right of socialism and communism.

  115. ShelbyC says:

    "I don't think its right for there to be two classes of people with two different rights sets…"

    Right. So we don't want to be divided into people who agree with the government and get paid, and people who disagree with it and don't.

  116. Waldo says:

    I don't think its right for there to be two classes of people with two different rights sets and/or if that is the world in which we exist I don't think it's right for the parasites to be the group with the better rights set.

    You seem like the type of guy who doesn't particularly trust the government. I respect that. I'm a big believer that power corrupts. That's why I think you might want to consider the consequences if the government had the same power over its employees as a private employer. Imagine how much more powerful the federal and state governments would be if they could fire any and all employees for advocating a position contrary to the official position. As someone who doesn't trust the government, that's a scary thought to me.

  117. Ken says:

    IF he is working to deny your rights and freedoms, then why let him remain in a position that allows him to work against all of our rights? If the situation was reversed he would stop at nothing to work your ruin, both professionally, legally and financially, so let him know what it is like to live in the world he wants to create.

    I like my chances against an associate professor of history from the University of Rhode Island.

    Plus, we protect the freedoms every day of people who would deny them to us. Would the Nazis at Skokie give freedom of dissidents to march if they ran the country? Would the Westboro Baptist Church permit picketing against their religion in a country they ran? No. But we protect freedom of expression for all, because doing so protects us all against each other and ourselves. That's how we roll.

  118. Chris says:

    ShelbyC • Dec 19, 2012 @5:48 pm

    "Right. So we don't want to be divided into people who agree with the government and get paid, and people who disagree with it and don't."

    More like people who are a Mandarin class who live off of my productivity and wish me dead at the same time and people who don't wish to be ruled by a mandarin class or any one else for that matter.

  119. Chris says:

    @ Waldo • Dec 19, 2012 @5:49 pm

    This is the best argument to this moment. Thank you.

  120. Kevin says:

    @Chris

    This is the best argument to this moment. Thank you.

    Well if you want to get technical, that's pretty much the same argument we've all been making all along, Waldo apparently just managed to phrase it in a way that you managed to grok.

  121. Kevin says:

    Sorry, unnecessary snark… would delete if I could…

  122. The parallels with Dr. Deborah Frisch and the Protein Wisdom affair are remarkable.

  123. Kudos Ken. I think you hit the correct balance with this point. I highly disagree with many folks in the blogosphere but I will defend their right to free speech, no matter how odious. As someone whose free speech was threaten earlier this year, I know only too well how easy it is to start down the slippery slope of misinterpreting one's speech and reacting in a censorious manner.
    Again, many thanks for your help earlier this year and for your continued defense of our 1st amendment rights. Holiday wishes to you and your family.

  124. naught_for_naught says:

    This is the best argument to this moment. Thank you.

    Try this one: it's disproportionate to take away a person's livelihood just because he holds different opinions than you do. This approach rewards cronyism, and quite frankly it's cowardly.

    It was cowardly that firedoglake petitioned to get Sen Joe Lieberman's wife, Hadassah, removed from the board of Susan G. Komen, when Joe broke ranks with the Dems.

    It's cowardly that you would call for this professor's firing for having opinion's that give rise to polemics. Is the guy a putz? YES. Is the guy a hothouse utopian? probably. He has the right to act like a jackass and not be made a pauper just like the rest of us.

    As far as your, "I'm a taxpayer, yada, yada, yada…," get over it. There are just as many taxpayers who think this guy is just swell.

  125. Scott Jacobs says:

    The difference to me, Naught, is that Joe didn't call for action that would require someone's death.

    I don't give a fuck what Loomis claims, I don't think it WAS a metaphor. I think he's saying that now as a back-peddle.

    I absolutely think he was saying he wanted Wayne LaPierre dead.

  126. Ernie Menard says:

    Thank you very much for your recent 'true threat doctrine' post. If it ever again becomes necessary for me to explain to an ignoramus what a threat actually is I'll be able to do so. I recall when Ashton O'Dwyer was locked up people totally missed the point that his 'threats' were totally conditional.

    This Professor didn't make any threats and dimwits still report his speech to the police. If I did not personally know people like this I'd find it almost unbelieveable. They're the same type of people that believe the Patriot Act, the TSA, etc.. makes us safer.

  127. naught_for_naught says:

    Lemme, baby, you should hear what they're saying about you over at RightPlanet.

    http://www.therightplanet.com/2012/06/sticky-guest-post-ann-barnhardt-stop-drinking-the-lemmenade/

    Say it ain't so, Bubula.

  128. repsac3 says:

    @ Scott Jacobs • Dec 19, 2012 @6:36 pm:

    "I absolutely think he was saying he wanted Wayne LaPierre dead."

    But even expressing the opinion that someone should die (or be killed)–whether it's a guy who repeatedly raped his 4 year old daughter and got her addicted to crack, occasionally trading her to his dealer in exchange for a fix–a guy who even I think would deserve killing–or Wayne LaP, where opinions differ–saying so isn't a firing /arresting offense.

  129. Hughhh says:

    Ken • Dec 19, 2012 @5:14 pm
    That's what this thread needed – a grammar fight.

    Your welcome!

  130. John David Galt says:

    I'm with Ken 90%, but I'm not all that convinced that Loomis ought to be given a free pass. Perhaps his words don't meet the lawyers' definition of a "true threat", but in my view the definition ought to be based on the actual chance that they will inspire someone to commit such a crime, which is low but significant here.

    But even if the police shouldn't be called on him, if I were his boss I'd probably fire him, lest he "go postal" at work and I get held responsible because I didn't.

    I don't consider that political advocacy of anything is a human right: I take a (not "the only" but "a") libertarian position that says trying to get the government to use force is always exactly morally equivalent to pulling out a weapon and doing it yourself. And I don't think that restricting guns as Loomis advocates would be a justified use of force, no matter who does it.

  131. C. S. P. Schofield says:

    If a professor could be fired for being an unhinged nutter on one or more subjects, the groves of academe would be virtually empty wilderness. There is something about obtaining a PhD that causes people to opine, and opine wildly. It's kind of the nature of the beast.

    Now if, like a certain Pseudo-Native-American (initials Ward Churchill) the professor turns out to be a practitioner of research fraud, plagiarism, and so forth, and the publicity attendant on his pontificating makes this public, then by all means let him be fired as an obvious dimwit.

  132. @naught_for_naught;
    They are welcome to their opinion as well as their outright misrepresentations and lies. Their speech is their speech and those who actually read my blog and know me realize the low value of their opinion.

  133. Moneyrunner says:

    After reading Popehat’s essay I’m coming to the conclusion that he’s trying to restrict the reaction to Professor Gay Lumberjack’s comments. As a matter of free speech that’s his right, but seems to be antithetical to a full throated defense of free speech, in you catch my drift. In the comments there seems to be a belief on the part of some commenters that employees of the state are, and should be, more insulated from the effects of making inflammatory statement than people in other occupations, making them a privileged class. Some people are beginning to use the term the Ruling Class when it comes to public employees. I wonder why?

    Last, the professor, by reason of his job is in the position to influence students who look to him as an authority figure. Should that be taken into consideration? Let’s say he gave lectures on the benefits of National Socialism and the pernicious effects of subhuman Jews on the arts, finance and culture and advocated some kind of solution, purely metaphorically understand. Would we continue to hear him defended? Now keep in mind that the professor in question has written sympathetically about the Marxists who ambushed and killed some veterans following WW1. Is there really no limit to the call for free expression? Absolutely none? As Wm. Buckley once asked, is the Constitution a suicide pact?

  134. Mark5 says:

    Sometimes "you" have to do unto "others" as "they" do to "you." Don't "they" always try to get "us" fired? Or lose "our" job opportunities? Or customers? Or advertisers? Or grants? Or business relationships? Or deal with boycotts? Or IRS audits? Or bogus ethics complaints? Don't "they" affect bogus outrage all the while? So haven't "they" reduced ethics and morality with regard to freedom of expression down to a tit for tat game of retaliation? Isn't that tit for tat the golden rule at its lowest, crudest and most degraded level, being the level "they" reduced "our" interaction with "them" to? Haven't "we" actually reached the level with "them" where the only moral thing that can be done by "us" anymore is to give it back in kind? To do everything "we" can to attack "their" employment, livelihood, grants, reputation and community standing, just as "they" without qualm have done to "us" and will do again tomorrow if "you" don't hit "them" back with the same stuff "they" hurl viciously at "you." "They" can't be reasoned with so "they" have to learn the hard way.

  135. naught_for_naught says:

    @Lemmen

    Don't get me wrong, I could be your biggest fan, seriously. I have had the honor to meet and revere a few notable, reformed ne'er-do-wells in my day.

    Barry Minkow actually cleaned the carpets in my parents home, back when he was actually cleaning carpets, before he was a full-time embezzler. As fate would have it, we crossed paths again when he was looking for someone to blurb his book, and I was working as a project manager for the large non-profit consumer advocacy organization.

    He went off to be quite the spiritual/consumer advocate — spreading the word of the Lord, while forming the Fraud Discovery Institute. He was like a god damn super hero…until his parishioners accused him of swindling them, and the FBI revealed that church money was being funneled into his Fraud Institute.

    Then there was Jeff Levy. Back in the early 80's I retained him to represent me on a simple matter in court. Only he didn't show because the cops had nabbed him with a trunk full of cocaine. I never got my retainer back from that cocksucker either. To his credit, Jeff has stayed on the straight and narrow. Last time I heard him he was doing his radio show on all matters digital. I always liked him, and I'm glad he came around.

  136. Lizard says:

    Given how hard left most colleges are, if publicly funded institutions were free to fire someone for opinions expressed, the handful of non-leftists remaining would be gone.

    I personally think people should be free to call for anyone to be fired, just like they're free to demand that politicans resign or be impeached, or that people boycott stores (even if this means the loss of jobs for people not involved in the issue being boycotted), etc. The right to call for an action, though, does not imply that the people being called on should be allowed to TAKE that action. The number of times people demand politicians "do something" that they are rightfully not empowered to do is immeasurable.

    I am also having trouble figuring out how a government free to fire any malcontent, whistleblower, dissident, or gadfly would somehow become LESS autocratic, LESS tyrannical, and LESS oppressive. Under such a regime, a cop who speaks out against the prevailing drug laws could be canned, for example, without even the bother of concocting an excuse other than his speech.

    Public employees are not a protected class. The *government* is a restricted entity, denied the control over its own employees that a private organization possesses. REMOVING those restrictions creates a stronger, more totalitarian, state.

    Sure, a world with all services privately provided would be nice. It's also not happening any time soon. Given that, we have to consider the effects of policies on the world as it IS, not the world as we would wish it to be. The more power you give the government…the more power you give the government. That's not good.

    I have yet to hear a good argument for how demands from competing groups of taxpayers for the head of a government employee ought to be handled — whose opinion should carry more weight? And what if a private donor said, "Fine, I'll pay the guy's salary, in full, so no tax dollars support him." Then what?

    On the topic of "But what if he was an anti-Semite?", well, last I checked, Leonard Jeffries is still employed. Yup, he is. They tried to fire him — they failed. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Jeffries)

    Relevant note from that article: "One interpretation of the Jeffries case is that while a university cannot fire a professor for opinions and speech, they have more flexibility with a position like department chair. Another is that it allows public institutions to discipline employees in general for disruptive speech.[2]"

    (Of course, the real problem is government funded education, but, as noted above, it's not going anywhere anytime soon.)

  137. @naught_for_naught;
    Redemption isn't easy and the doubters are many. One just has to persevere and prove them wrong. This is the reason I refuse to monetize my blog (the ads in the right column are free ads and the proceeds from my autobiography go to the federal court) or to accept donations.

  138. Warren Bonesteel says:

    I said something in an email to several congresscriters in 201o, involving the phrase 'shock and awe, in reference to the political battle at the time. iow, a metaphor.

    A week later a couple of nice, strapping young men (who appeared to be exact twins), in casual clothing, wearing combat 'harnesses' and badges showed up on my doorstep. The refused my hospitaltiy, but did ask me a few questions…repestedly and insintently. They left with the impression that I'm a harmless old crank… "Have a good day, boys!" …smile and wave… while muttering, 'What comes around goes around, kids. Have fun with it when it does…'

    In short, political use of LEO's for political intimidation.

    If Mr. Loomis misses the pleasure of hosting such young men, for saying much, much worse than I ever did, something's gone wrong in America.

    The same justice for all, or no justice for anyone.

  139. LogicalSC says:

    Professor Loomis was just one example from the horrid happenings from over the weekend which showed that the LEFT is infected with any number of Lanza's who seem more than willing to explode on any number of people whom may disagree with their ideas.

    At the very least his obvious irrationality should warrant monitoring from the University as well as notifications to local conservative\Republican groups or any other groups which might show up in his crosshairs.

    Mr. Loomis appears to need a little cold water into his face to make him understand "tolerance" is only received when given out.

  140. Joe Pullen says:

    Public employees are not a protected class. The *government* is a restricted entity, denied the control over its own employees that a private organization possesses. REMOVING those restrictions creates a stronger, more totalitarian, state.

    Exactly. I always like to see someone peel the layers back logically.

  141. naught_for_naught says:

    @Lemmen

    True enough. Everyone knows you can't hand a swing on a tree the day you plant it.

  142. Lago says:

    @Ken: I find your contempt for me contempting your contempt for people doing contemptible things contemptible.

  143. Scotts_Cove says:

    This business of Self Important non tenured Professors Leftists Tweeting hyperbolic Filth is … so 90's man.

    Meh.

    But put it into a context of "Fighting Words" and he is liable for inciting Assault and lawsuit against him for such if you can find a judge and court venue that wouldn't laugh it out of court.

    Better to meet on the Cocktail Holiday circuit, call him out after his third or fourth drink, pinky extended Chardonnay in the kitchen, and take him out to the alley for a simple Mano a mano, Sans witnesses.

  144. Bruce says:

    2. "In trouble with" is vague. The Secret Service can investigate him, and ask to interview him, and interview coworkers to see if he's a dangerous nut, without implicating his rights, so long as they don't conduct searches or seizures or interrogations implicating the Constitution. They often do that, erring on the side of extreme caution even in the face of clear hyperbole like this. If you're asking if the same words are sufficient to establish a true threat on the President, I'd still say no, it's clear hyperbole.

    So, the Secret Service going to your workplace and asking if you're a nutjob is an acceptable reaction by the government to a clearly protected application of 1st amendment rights ?

  145. Chris R. says:

    I don't think professors should be fired for their words under most circumstances, as speaking their mind is an actual part of their profession. It would be like firing an art professor for disagreeing with his/her interpretation of the human form. However I could see a university not renewing a contract if the professor wasn't under tenure. Once tenured though, he/she are very tricky to fire. Now academics is all about publishing and reputation, if he wants to continue ruining his own reputation, let him.

  146. Adam S says:

    @Moneyrunner

    If you mean class lectures, that wouldn't be First Amendment protected because it is pursuant to his official duties. If the lectures were on his own time, the school should need to show some effect that such private activity had on performance of his public duties.

    Other than that, +1 to much of Lizard's response above. I do think that its probably a more tyrannical, invasive government we get if the gov't is allowed the power to fire based on employees' private and protected activities.

    One reason I say "probably" there is that there is a flip side of the coin. Gov't employees, clear constitutionally bound actors in their own right, can be emboldened to spout views that they can't leave behind when they go back to work in the morning and have to treat individuals equally under the 14th Amendment. And that is one thing that I think bears emphasis here: Loomis' awful disregard for the fact that he is a government employee, a constitutional actor himself in his day job. He needs to take that more seriously when he goes home after work, regardless of whether such action at that time is formally "under the color of state law" or not.

  147. First fucker to say the solution is for elementary school teachers to carry guns needs to get beaten to death.- Erik Loomis

    It would be one thing if he explained why such a policy would be a bad idea.

    It would be another thing if he simply said it's fucking stupid.

    It would yet be another thing if he said that it makes no sense to trust guns to teachers who have a reputation of sexually abusing kids and enforcing zero-tolerance policies in nonsensical ways.

    But calling for death to people merely because of an opinion crosses the line.

  148. Matthew Cline says:

    @Ken:

    Professor Loomis' vivid tweets are not actionable threats. That is to say, they aren't "true threats" outside the protection of the First Amendment.

    I've seen some people suggest that his tweets demonstrate that's he's mentally unstable, and hence a threat. Assuming, for the sake of the argument, that they're correct: as a legal matter, is "this person speech clearly demonstrates they're mentally ill and need to be dealt with" something that's already covered by the "true threat" tests, or is it covered by something else?

  149. oldnumberseven says:

    "I'm disappointed, and more than a little disgusted, that partisanship is more important than principle." -Ken

    Maybe I am cynical but I assume everybody is a hypocrite until they prove otherwise to me.

  150. KR says:

    I have nothing to contribute to the Loomis discussion, but for the more important matter: my son's name is "Marcus", and I have always written "Marcus's".

  151. Moneyrunner says:

    @Lizard. “Given how hard left most colleges are, if publicly funded institutions were free to fire someone for opinions expressed, the handful of non-leftists remaining would be gone.”

    I believe that you are mischaracterizing my position. First, as a matter of fact, Conservatives have been denied jobs in academia simply for being Conservative or forced out of jobs because they expressed Conservative opinions of a non-violent type. Second, Loomis was not merely expressing himself forcefully on the subject of guns, he was advocating violence. Others here have suggested that the willingness to advocate violence, rather than mere disapproval, may be a sign of mental problems. How often do we hear of people who have used social media to make overt or implied threats actually going out and shooting someone? The reaction is always “why didn’t someone intervene?” Would you be surprised if the Newtown shooter left a few comments that threatened death to people he didn’t like?

    I’m not familiar with Jeffries rants so I don’t know whether they include eliminationist rhetoric or death threats. He seems to be quite popular with parts of the Obama coalition. I see that he applauded the Challenger disaster “as it would stop white people from "spreading their filth through the universe." That’s reprehensible but a little different from advocating that astronauts should be beaten to death.

    Regarding public employees, I have known quite a few in my life. I happen to sleep with one. I’m not persuaded that they are so irrational or biased that they would become tyrannical if they were subject to the same standards of conduct as employees in private business. Even private employees have legal recourse is they are fired for certain reasons. Keep in mind that it’s hard to get good help these days.

    Cheers.

  152. Moneyrunner says:

    @Michael Ejercito. Since Virginia’s Governor Bob McDonald has mused publicly about this I’m assuming that Loomis is advocating the death of Virginia’s governor.

  153. "…his _state_ employer [is] bound by the First Amendment."

    I'm not familiar with the intricacies of how the First Amendment interacts with state employment decisions, so if you have a moment, can you elaborate on this?

    The state-owned university can't sanction him for the act of engaging in protected speech, but can the state-owned university conclude that the content of his speech has revealed he isn't suitable for the job they're paying him to do?

    It does not seem to me that a man who's publicly acknowledged he "equates petitioning the government for the redress of grievances with murder and terrorism," and is mentally sloppy enough to repeatedly substitute calls to murder for coherent argument is an appropriate choice to teach five courses on American history.

  154. Lizard says:

    "It does not seem to me that a man who’s publicly acknowledged he “equates petitioning the government for the redress of grievances with murder and terrorism,” and is mentally sloppy enough to repeatedly substitute calls to murder for coherent argument is an appropriate choice to teach five courses on American history."

    To quote Blackadder:
    E: Well, you could appoint him a High Court judge…
    G: Is he qualified?
    E: He's a violent, bigoted, mindless old fool.
    G: Sounds a bit *over*qualified…

  155. Proving the dictum that there is no matter which can't be illuminated through carefully chosen Blackadder quotes. ;)

  156. repsac3 says:

    @ Michael Ejercito • Dec 20, 2012 @1:31 am

    I don't know whether it'll make any difference, but for accuracy, that "First fucker…" line was a retweet of a guy calling himself "Rude Pundit." Loomis wrote several over the top and controversial tweets (and wasn't arguably being over the top controversial on purpose, like RP), but that wasn't one of 'em.

  157. lelnet says:

    "He has the right to act like a jackass and not be made a pauper just like the rest of us."

    I'd be with you, if the rest of us HAD that right. We don't. It only applies to government employees.

    The history of court rulings says what it says. But I find it difficult to believe that creating a privileged tier of citizens who have special rights denied the rest of us because they work for the government was what Madison et al had in mind.

  158. Claude Hopper says:

    For what it's worth, Texas has bigger road islands than Loomis' state.

  159. Lizard says:

    Government employees do not have special rights.
    Government, AS AN EMPLOYER, *LACKS* rights.

    This really isn't hard to understand. What IS hard to understand is why anyone thinks giving the government MORE power will somehow make the government LESS powerful. A mandate that any government employee, and we're including any university that gets government funding now, which means, pretty much all of them that teach the Earth is more 6,000 years old, pass a constant string of purity test and mouth the party line, or be fired, is pretty much a recipe for pure totalitarianism. Every road worker, postman, cop, county clerk, and so on will be silent and submissive, lest they lose their job, and every little pissant petty bureaucrat will be empowered to troll his employee's communications, looking for signs of dissent in the ranks. This does not disempower the state; it creates a more monolithic and uniform state, more capable of enacting its will because no one in the hierarchy, from the top down, will disagree with any directive. Gridlock is not a bug, it's a feature — remove that by enforcing ideological conformity at every level, and government can enact its inefficient and wasteful plans with more efficiency and less waste. (The plans are just as bad as always, they're just put in place more smoothly, so the inefficiency and waste can reach new highs.)

    A private employer is, after all, under no obligation to fire an employee who says something you, personally, find offensive. As others have noted, government employees can and are fired for speech that is directly job related, such as police officers who make bigoted comments which cast reasonable doubt on their ability to perform their jobs, or for generally disruptive speech, like calling their supervisor a moron (even if truth is an absolute defense!). (It is often harder to fire a government employee for *any* offense than it is a private one, but that has more to do with unions than with any Constitutional issue, and is just as much a problem in the private sector where unions are involved. Different topic, entirely.)

    Having bizarre or moronic opinions is not grounds for firing a college professor, though, if it were, we'd probably have a lot more job openings for the hordes of people with majors in the Useless Arts. (Me, I majored in Misanthropology with a minor in Antisocial Science.)

    The argument that wossname is actually a threat or likely to commit violent acts, based on his speech, has been well and truly deflated by the man whose blog this is, and he does tend to know his stuff in that area.

  160. Scott Jacobs says:

    Look, if Loomis gets fired, I have no sympathy. I suppose I don't want him FIRED, but if it happens, so be it.

    He doesn't get to seek to chill LaPierre's speech though calls for violence and imprisonment and then bitch about his speech being chilled because people called his employer.

  161. Lizard says:

    I think that demonstrating a teacher, professor, etc, would be likely to grade or evaluate students in a discriminatory fashion based on their gender, religion, ethnicity, etc, would be valid grounds for firing them without impinging on first amendment rights, because the issue is not their opinions per se, but their ability to do their job.

    Unfortunately, I think the Jeffries case pretty much makes that unlikely under current law, though I'm willing to accept the possibility that no matter what he may believe, he has never been proven to be discriminatory in his actual grading practices within the context of his courses. I haven't studied the cases enough to know, and since reading anything he's written raises my already dangerous blood pressure, I'm not going to.

  162. David W says:

    Suppose we compromise? Continue to forbid the government to consider speech in most hiring/firing decisions…but lay off 95% of government employees anyway in the process of reducing it back to enumerated powers?

  163. Lizard says:

    As soon as you can get 51% of Americans to agree on exactly what 5% of the government should stay, sure.

  164. repsac3 says:

    @ Scott Jacobs • Dec 20, 2012 @7:59 am:

    "He doesn't get to seek to chill LaPierre's speech though calls for violence and imprisonment and then bitch about his speech being chilled because people called his employer."

    You keep saying his standards are asshat-level wrong…and then basing your standards on his, rather on the impulse that tells you his standards are asshat-level wrong.

  165. "Trying to get a professor fired for clearly protected speech promotes and contributes to the culture of censorship in higher education that [is awful in myriad ways."

    Incorrect … trying to get a professor fired for clearly protected speech is the **result of an already extant and fully entrenched** culture in the American academy and, more generally, the knowledge class. It is, in fact, the normal way of doing business now in such environments. We may lament it, but that is the status quo, there's no conservative who doesn't know it, no conservative who doesn't adjust to some degree or other, and no conservative who should be blamed for deciding to play a game according to existing rules to the best of our advantage.

  166. Scott Jacobs says:

    I'm terribly sorry you're too fucking stupid to grasp the concept of "hoisting by his own petard".

    Not surprised, mind you, just sorry.

  167. Ken says:

    I don't know whether it'll make any difference, but for accuracy, that "First fucker…" line was a retweet of a guy calling himself "Rude Pundit."

    If you look at my lead-in to that list, you'll see I said he tweeted or retweeted the things on it.

  168. repsac3 says:

    I get it… I love some good schadenfreude at least as much as the next guy, and I can't say as I disagree with you in that regard as concerns this situation, either.

    I just don't think one's own standards should be based on it.

  169. Patrick says:

    All: Please keep this discussion somewhat civil, lest I feel forced to do something I won't regret.

  170. repsac3 says:

    @ Ken • Dec 20, 2012 @8:27 am:

    You were clear, Ken… but Michael's comment above came pretty close to attributing it directly to Loomis:

    First fucker to say the solution is for elementary school teachers to carry guns needs to get beaten to death.- Erik Loomis

    (Hopefully what's above is a blockquote cite… If so, it'll be my first successful one on a wordpress blog. On this, I'm with Scott… Damned blockquote tags.)

    I also though that the additional information about exactly who Loomis retweeted (the name, and the schtick he does on twitter) was relevant to evaluating that particular tweet.

  171. Scott Jacobs says:

    I just don't think one's own standards should be based on it.

    It isn't my standard, and I have in no way based my standard upon it.

    It is HIS standard, and I merely seek to see that he enjoys the benefits of it.

  172. lelnet says:

    "Government employees do not have special rights. Government, AS AN EMPLOYER, *LACKS* rights."

    No matter how you structure the argument, you're still arguing for setting up government employees as essentially a legal aristocracy, exempt from the consequences which would befall a mere commoner who acted in the same manner.

    In the present environment, it makes little difference. The odds of a public university firing one of its employees for hatred toward conservatives under any pressure less intense than a literal armed siege are so miniscule as to be unworthy of measurement, which means that whatever argument we might have about rights in theory, and whatever communications people send to the university calling upon it to fire him, Mr. Loomis' career is in no danger whatsoever.

    Hence the point is ultimately moot. I would love to be able to send them a message: don't start a battle you're not willing to fight. But the fact is that, for all the handwringing here about whether using their own tactics against them is right or wrong in some absolute sense, those tactics already only work for them. There is no point in our using them. He will not be fired, whether we write letters or not. He will, instead, only become _more_ popular with everyone who has any prospect of authority over him, the more he stands in his well-guarded perch and screams for us to be imprisoned and killed for our beliefs.

    As we sit here and debate whether it would be just, not to imprison or kill him, as he has admitted desiring to do to us…no, that would definitely be wrong. No, rather we debate whether it is just to approach on our knees in supplication, asking our masters if they might possibly consider taking him out of that guarded perch, all the while knowing that they never will.

    Yeah, this is what we've been reduced to.

  173. repsac3 says:

    @ Scott Jacobs • Dec 20, 2012 @9:12 am:

    "It isn't my standard, and I have in no way based my standard upon it."

    My reading of your comments says different, but my opinion (like many folks' opinions voiced online, I've found) is worth every cent you paid for it, and not a penny more.

    Milage do vary, and will.

  174. Grifter says:

    @lelnet:

    I don't understand why this argument is difficult for you. The idea that the government is not allowed to have positions on subjects that it can hold its employees to is not really rocket surgery. Lizard has tried quite admirably, but I'll take a crack:

    This douche canoe would, if he were working at a company that shared his views, not be fired.

    Another douche canoe, who argues for the murder of anyone who opposes gun rights, would be fired by that company.

    Vice/versa-wise, at a company that like DC 2, DC 1 would be fired and DC 2 would not be.

    You don't like this guy's speech. What if this guy were being termed for talking about the recent San Antonio shooting, where an armed person prevented loss of life from a batshit crazy guy? And what if there were calls for firing that guy?

    The problem here is the "who gets to make the decision" one. In the case of private business, it is the private owner who gets to make the decision. And that is right and just.

    In the case of this guy, who gets to make the decision to fire him? There is no private entity above him who "owns" the place where he works. It's owned by him, and by you, and by everyone else who pays taxes. Someone else noted that people have free speech rights on public property, too, even though public property is also supported through maintenance etc. via taxes; the Westboro monsters have a right to hold their signs in the parks of this country and spew their idiocy. And this guy has a right to say shit that doesn't impact his job performance (it's not like he's the "gun rights officer" or anything).

  175. Lizard says:

    I" try this once more, then I'll go argue with my cats, which is about as useful but much more fun to watch.

    Public employees are in no way protected from the social consequences of their speech, nor are they an "elite class". You are not going to be fined, jailed, or shot for criticizing Loomis. You are free to petition any number of organizations to disassociate themselves from him, from professional groups to anyone who might want to pay him a fat fee to be a speaker to news programs that might want him as a guest. You can call on all number of private actors to excise him, you can call on bookstores to not carry his books (if he has any), publishers to not publish them (if they wanted to), etc. You can also, of course, petition his employers to fire him. They, however, are constrained in what they can do, no matter how loud the mob yells, because the government is rightfully enjoined from punishing ANYONE for political speech — even if that someone is an employee of the government. Loomis and you are equals: Neither of you can be punished, by the government, for speaking your mind, however distasteful your speech may be to others.

    If you think Loomis' speech rises to the level of a true threat, you're certainly free to make that case to the police, the FBI, or whoever else might be interested. I suspect that Ken's legal assessment is correct, however.

    As for "They'd do it to us, so, we should do it to them!"… by that logic, we should censor anyone advocating censorship, since, by definition, they'd ban speech opposing censorship if they came to power.

    I strive to be BETTER than my enemies. I don't always succeed, but I try. The fact I do try is part of what DOES make me better than them. I will give to my enemies the freedoms they would deny me, if they could, and that shows the strength of my views: They fear me more than I fear them.

  176. lelnet says:

    " What if this guy were being termed for talking about the recent San Antonio shooting, where an armed person prevented loss of life from a batshit crazy guy? And what if there were calls for firing that guy?"

    There will be calls for firing that guy. Unless he works for an employer that enthusiastically supports him, he _will_ be fired. Indeed, it seems likely that so great a cloud of fear will surround him that in order to ever work again, he'll have to change his name and move away from anyone who knew him before…essentially start his life over, and hope he isn't found out.

    This is what happens to ordinary people. This is the world we live in.

    It is not, however, the world that our masters in government employment work in. Because the law affords them protections which it does not afford us.

    Should he be fired? That's up to the administration of the university. Or ought to be, anyway. It annoys me that the administration of the university, law or no, will never fire him no matter what. It annoys me that this particular sort of speech will only make him more popular. But never would I say that changing the law is a good solution to those annoyances. What is far more than annoying, what I assert is fundamentally unjust, is that HE, by virtue of his status as a government employee, is UTTERLY EXEMPT from the sort of risk to which ordinary citizens are subjected in the modern world as a result of the same sorts of actions.

    It is merely ironic that his side of the fight are the ones responsible for _putting_ ordinary citizens in that danger.

  177. Garet Garrett says:

    The First Amendment does not, and should not, inoculate people from the consequences of their statements. The professor's intemperate remarks are more than mere "free speech," they are indicative of his unhinged views, including a remarkably intolerant and contemptuous attitude towards fellow Americans and even the Constitution. If he's to be fired, it wouldn't be in retribution for his statements, but in recognition that our young people should not be instructed by people who very publicly reveal that they are, putting it charitably, fools or idiots.

  178. Grifter says:

    @lelnet:

    The hypothetical college professor of a public university I constructed who supports the defensive shooting would be fired? Nope. It would just be the other side of the coin we're talking about. Are you misunderstanding what I wrote?
    (and btw., the defensive shooter was a cop, and there have been absolutely no calls to fire her, so I don't know exactly what your point is…)

    The point here is that you are advocating for the government to make arbitrary, partisan decisions. That is, in my opinion, almost as awful and shortsighted as believing only the government should have guns.

    I understand you don't like his speech; my point was, what if it was speech you do like, would you want the guy fired by the government then? Would it be creating "masters" in government then? Again, the question is not "why are government employees granted such latitude!" (private sector employees have that much latitude as well…if their employer allows it) but rather "If we are to crack down, who gets to decide what we crack down on?".

    Rather than trying to make "special class" arguments, can you address that question?

    Should Obama be able to fire anyone if they say "I voted for Romney"?

    Should Romney (had he won) have been able to fire anyone who said "I don't think food stamps are a bad thing"? (I'm not trying to be political here, though that is a jab at the Rom-meister).

  179. lelnet says:

    Just for the record, I do not advocate, and never have advocated, that Mr. Loomis be in any danger whatever of losing his life or liberty as a result of his speech. Most of the time, we ordinary citizens are free of such hazards, and thus he should be also. If we lose that assumption, then all we have left for settling disputes is gunfire in the streets. Even though he has made it quite clear that he does not concur about that whole dissenters-having-life-and-liberty thing, I was not being sarcastic when I said that to put him at the kind of risk he wishes to put us would be genuinely unjust.

    What I do dispute is the morality of a law which guarantees not his life or liberty, but his livelihood — which as anyone who's ever lost a job will tell you, is not a Right recognized by the government, except for its own employees. And I dispute the assertion made by Ken in the actual post to which this thread is all commentary, that efforts to get him fired are "contemptible". (Futile and probably pointless? Yes. The law is what it is regardless of our preferences, and university administrators likewise are what they are. But "contemptible"? No.)

  180. Andrew Roth says:

    @Lizard 3:52 pm:

    Excellent point. The politically motivated dystopia you describe more or less existed in the 19th century US in the form of the spoils system. Civil service examinations and protections were introduced in the late 19th and early 20th centuries precisely in order to limit political favoritism in hiring and shield public employees from politically motivated termination. At the time, civil service reforms were widely considered a major advance against corruption and incompetence in government. The public had had too much recent experience with rottenly corrupt machines, such as Tammany Hall, to have widespread confidence in the use of political tests to accomplish any public good, because these tests were part of a system that had notoriously perverted public services to serve corrupt private interests.

    The opposite view has lately taken hold on the American right wing. That assumes that the right ever fully repudiated such thinking in the first place; there has always been a nasty reactionary faction in American politics, more so than in some countries, that has virulently opposed reforms in the public interest, although usually it has been coy for fear of horrifying its opposition into action. (Exceptions that prove the rule might include Scott Walker and, in the "family values" movement, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.) This insistence that political tests for employment are a boon to freedom and good governance is enabled by economic and historical ignorance, as well as by cynical, deliberate revisionism. It's basically the depraved preying upon the gullible.

    Ivory tower leftists coming unhinged are a perfect pretext for reactionary, authoritarian asshats with no regard for the commonweal to peddle proposals to reintroduce political tests. They're extreme, and hence much less sympathetic than many of the public employees who would be fired for political purposes under such a regime. They're great for deceiving the public into believing that "normal" people won't be targeted.

    Now would be a great time for the left to fully and forcefully repudiate the de facto political tests that it uses in academia and government, as a matter of principle and as a way to deprive the right of cover to appropriate these tests for its own purposes. But as Ken often reminds us, few of these political screechers have consistent principles.

  181. Kevin says:

    @Mark5

    Sometimes "you" have to do unto "others" as "they" do to "you."

    Now I'm not a Christian, but I'm fairly sure that that's not what Jesus was trying to say.

  182. Andrew Roth says:

    @ecurb 3:43 pm:

    "I'm assuming that even a tenured professor can't get away with showing up drunk to a benefactor reception and calling all the biggest donors 'filthy capitalist pigs'."

    That's the difference between nibbling at the hand that feeds you and biting it off Mike Tyson-style. The unspoken truth is that, with rare exceptions, even the most strident academic iconoclasts are too politically savvy, or maybe too craven, to really cross the line. Admitting as much would be bad PR, so they pretend to be angry revolutionaries while drawing paychecks from their tenured positions at, say, Harvard, on the mindboggling basis that Harvard is not "the Man."

    A few "star faculty," like Cornel West, get away with throwing hideous tantrums because they have leverage over academia. When the demand for what they're offering outstrips its perceived supply, the tables turn on the universities, and being a petulant toddler is financially and professionally advantageous to the professor. Of course, by that point we aren't dealing with anything that can properly be called "scholarship," so there's less to lose by losing one's dignity. By any objective measure, Erik Loomis has much, much more to offer the academy than Cornel West, who is frankly an angry black guy who has used leftist shtick to build a personality cult. The fact that Princeton and Harvard were willing to debase themselves by fighting over that clown speaks volumes about their institutional character and the state of American politics.

    I'd be surprised if even Loomis is foolish or brazen enough to pick cocktail party fights with URI's benefactors. For one thing, serious academics usually leave the dirty fundraising work to lesser minds. In my experience, engagement of the wealthy in party chatter is inversely correlated with intellectual interests, intellectual honesty and scruples. It's rare for someone of Loomis' scholarly heft to be much of a bag man.

  183. Chris says:

    @lelnet • Dec 20, 2012 @10:03 am

    "What I do dispute is the morality of a law which guarantees not his life or liberty, but his livelihood — which as anyone who's ever lost a job will tell you, is not a Right recognized by the government, except for its own employees. And I dispute the assertion made by Ken in the actual post to which this thread is all commentary, that efforts to get him fired are "contemptible". (Futile and probably pointless? Yes. The law is what it is regardless of our preferences, and university administrators likewise are what they are. But "contemptible"? No.)"

    This is the point I was trying to make as well but you did it much better than I.

    Thank you very much.

  184. lelnet says:

    OK. I'm not in San Antonio. I don't know the circumstances. The defensive shooter was a cop? OK…didn't know that. Is the defensive shooting politically unpopular? I don't know…like I said…I'm not in San Antonio, and while it may be the talk of Texas, it's not something I felt the need to research the facts on before engaging with an analogy that's completely hypothetical anyway. And obviously a hypothetical defender of an unpopular shooting wouldn't be fired from a public university. Like I said, the law is what it is, whatever either of us might wish it were.

    Whether I agree with Mr. Loomis isn't the point.

    We as a society have decided, rightly or wrongly, that it is right and just for people who speak publicly on controversial issues to fear for their jobs as a result of their opinions, if not their lives or liberty, _unless those people are government employees_. That last clause is, in my opinion, immoral. It would remain immoral even in some bizarro fantasy world where government routinely hired people whose beliefs were anything other than completely and utterly antithetical to mine.

    It seems, according to Ken, that were you to discover the identity of my employer and then use that information to start a campaign to cost me my job — all because you disagree with some of my opinions, that'd be just fine, just as long as you stopped short of threatening to have me killed, imprisoned, or sued. But if those who disagree with Mr. Loomis (who has never made an effort to distance his own beliefs from his employer, as those of us who work in the private sector must) do the same, it is "contemptible", because he works for the government.

    If what is A-OK to do to a private citizen is "contemptible" when done to an employee of the government, I cannot see how that is anything other than a unjust double-standard.

    I disagree with that double-standard. And I've said so, and explained why I disagree. Repeatedly. So repeatedly, in fact, that I fear I may be on the verge of making a nuisance of myself on somebody else's property. And so I will stop, here.

  185. Lizard says:

    I was under the impression that Ken's main objection was calling for Loomis to be fired because he "made violent threats", not because of his opinions per se, and he (Ken) objects to this because treating self-evident hyperbole and bluster as actual, legally actionable, threats is a significant threat to free speech and puts everyone who has ever uttered an intemperate or emotional remark at risk of being treated no differently than someone provably intending to act on their words, ushering in the kind of police state I assume most of us wish to avoid.

    So, my takeaway is that calling for Loomis to be fired because you think he's a loudmouth leftist suckling at the public teat is not contemptible. Calling for Loomis to be fired because you claim to believe his speech is a genuine threat, in the legal sense, IS contemptible, because his speech does not meet that standard, and pretty much any sane person knows it. I expect that kind of disingenuous sophistry from the left ("Look! Those evil ReTHUGlicans say they're TARGETING Democratic congressmen! They want to KILL US ALL!!!!"), but I'd like to think the libertarian/conservative crowd that hangs out here is of a superior sort.

    Loomis is as much of an actual threat as someone praying that God strikes Obama with lightning.

  186. Grifter says:

    @lelnet:

    "If what is A-OK to do to a private citizen is "contemptible" when done to an employee of the government, I cannot see how that is anything other than a unjust double-standard."

    It isn't a double standard.

    The objection here is to advocating for a wrong. In the case of advocating a private employer to exercise its rights as a private employer, that is not a wrong, therefore: kosher. Advocating the government to do something it has no business doing (taking a position on a subject in such a way as to make anyone who disagrees with that position fired despite it having no impact on their job): Treif (had to look it up; apparenetly that's the word for "unkosher").

    Again: Who, in your view, decides what opinions that college professors get to have and speak about?

  187. SIV says:

    I certainly hope the URI fires this douchebag Loomis. If I contact them and express my opinion it in no way "contributes to a culture of censorship" anymore than if I write to a TV network to ask that a show be canceled.

  188. Monster says:

    this was a good read but at what point do we hold up public employees as professionals? that seems to me to be a big issue, we should never hear about a transit employee burning koran, or a middle school teacher hassling a student because she wants Romney to win, because its unprofessional and public employees do have a responsibility to all citizens and when things like this happen it makes you wonder are those public employees going to give me a fair chance.

  189. BHirsh says:

    While I fully understand what you're saying, and I agree in principle, there is also THIS: The liberal left engages in this shit de rigeur. The right usually does not. The liberals browbeat the right (because they're bullies) and the right cowers (because they're "decent"), and normally in the media circus it's a win for the liberals.

    I have no sympathy for this turd. None. I celebrate his beat-down.

    Just because he NEEDS to be beaten down.

    It is about time we realize that respecting the rules of boxing when confronted by a dirty street-fighter doesn't win. It LOSES.

    So, will we ever figure out that a "respectable" loser is still a LOSER?

  190. Xenocles says:

    " While their rights are not completely co-extensive with the First Amendment, you can't fire them out of distaste for their speech."

    But you can – I would not only lose my job, I could go to jail for "contempt to an official."

  191. Xenocles says:

    I also disagree that the law requires retention of an employee regardless of his speech. Sexual harassment law alone ought to put that idea to bed. I don't think it's chilling at all for a government agency to have standards of conduct that are 1) applicable only to its employees, and 2) limited in their application to employment discipline only (that is, the worst you can do is be fired).

  192. AlphaCentauri says:

    You have to differentiate whether the state employee doing it on his own time or as an official representative of the university. The government doesn't own its employees, and they are free to have private lives. Private employers often act as if they do own their employees, and their employees let them get away with it if the economy is bad enough or the pay is good enough. But unless you're being paid to be on duty 24 hours a day, your job is your job and your own time is your own time.

    "First fucker to say the solution is for elementary school teachers to carry guns needs to get beaten to death."

    This is not a credible threat. Are people here seriously saying they believe it could be taken that way? If so, it really points out the polarization in this country. The NRA doesn't even know how its statements sound to everyone else.

    The left bullies the right/the right bullies the left? No, people bully. There is no monolithic "right" or "left," not unless the folks here in favor of second amendment rights want to be lumped into the same bucked with homophobes and creationists. What Loomis does is his own choice. He didn't clear it with all the other liberals first, any more than the Westboro Baptist Church polled conservatives to see how many really oppose homosexuality.

    That tweet was not a credible threat because it would obviously be impossible to determine who would be the first person to make such a statement. He was predicting (accurately), that once again, there is no event so shocking that there won't be a veritable deluge of people saying exactly that.

    His statement is black humor. It's how people deal with horrible events and how they deal with their inability to understand how people can be so insensitive in the wake of such a tragedy as to make statements advocating wild-west gunfights in kindergarten classes as a solution. (A deterrent to shooters? I doubt it. We already have "suicide by cop." Crazy people seem to find that an attractive way to die.)

    Of course, black humor, which is offensive by its nature, belongs in private, not on Twitter.

  193. Xenocles says:

    The government can and does regulate the conduct of its employees when off-duty. See, for example, the Hatch Act.

  194. Moneyrunner says:

    Can we have a how of hands: how many on this thread are public employees? Not that there's anything wrong with that.

  195. srp says:

    Richard Epstein has argued that once you allow the government to run universities and other service-providing entities, you are trapped in a second-best world where the public/private distinction is very messy. He tends to think that public organizations that provide goods and services ought to have the same rights of management that private entities do. On the whole, I don't agree with him here, because if nothing else these limitations deter the growth of the public sector on the margin.

    As for the circular argument above in this thread: Those who see harm in creating a different standard for protected free expression for government employees than for private employees have a different opinion about what is "the government." Those who defend Loomis's right to his job regardless of public pressure think that his superiors or perhaps elected or appointed officials are "the government" and he is just an individual employee. Those who want his employment status to be subject to public pressure see Loomis himself as "the government," that is, a paid agent of the state just as much as any supervisor, politician, etc.. As such, they see his statements as disqualifying him from his job for a lack of necessary impartiality. To understand where they are coming from, suppose a professor stated that he believed a particular ethnic minority was mentally inferior. Many would consider that that statement would make it impossible for members of that minority (and possibly others) to trust in his impartiality. Similarly for a history professor who seems emotionally prejudiced against defenders of gun rights. What would happen, hypothetically, if the public and students decided that Loomis was just too crazy to take classes from? Could he be fired because no one would take his courses? Would an organized boycott of his classes to force such a result be equally contemptible?

    Despite those complexities, the "protected class" argument misses the mark because we already have too many types of forced "decorum" and "sensitivity" imposed on the academic community. I would rather that Loomis's and other similar leftish comments be figuratively bronzed and held in reserve for deployment the next time someone gets in trouble for expressing a politically incorrect view. My new metaphor is that I would prefer to fight fire with water, as back fires are risky and prone to…backfiring.

  196. repsac3 says:

    @ srp • Dec 20, 2012 @7:51 pm:

    I recently watched a FIRE video about "all comers" rules for on campus clubs at Vanderbilt University–basically, that all clubs must allow anyone who wishes to attend and/or run to be an officer of the club to do so. While it sounds reasonable at first blush, in practice it means that members of the christian group–and perhaps even it's president–needn't be a christian, and that the college Democrats could theoretically join the college Republicans en mass, elect themselves as it's officers, and then, well, not be Republicans. FIRE came out against "all comers" rules, saying clubs ought to be allowed to set their own rules for membership, even if those rules call for belief-based discrimination.

    Anyway, in that video, someone differentiated between discrimination based on status and discrimination based on belief, saying there's a difference between excluding someone for their ethnicity or height, and excluding someone for their religious or political beliefs. It's the same with your teacher who says he believes a particular ethnic minority is mentally inferior vs one who says he is predjudiced against those who believe in gun rights… I see the point, but I really hesitate to endorse it, even though in the case of the clubs anyway, I do think groups based on belief ought to be able to restrict membership to those who actually hold the belief(s) in question…

    The same piece of your comment reminded me of a substitute middle school / hs teacher named Patricia Mcallister, who was fired from a Los Angeles school district in October, 2011, after making some really bigoted comments about the "zionist jew bankers who ran the federal reserve" and jews in general on video, and was fired within days of it going viral.

    It left me with more legal / ethical questions than answers at the time, and I haven't yet resolved them all.

    (Just so no one accuses me of trying to hide the fact, Mcallister made her anti-semitic comments at an Occupy protest, which makes me as a liberal somehow responsible for them in some folks' eyes…seeing as how we're all some hivemind borg called "the Left," y'understand…)

  197. James Pollock says:

    "FIRE came out against "all comers" rules, saying clubs ought to be allowed to set their own rules for membership, even if those rules call for belief-based discrimination."
    And, any club is welcome to do exactly that, if it chooses an off-campus meeting place. The Christian Club might, for example, meet in one or more buildings dedicated specifically for the purposes of worship. They could have meetings, say, once per week, on a day when few, if any, classes are scheduled. When the club wants to use the University's resources (buildings), it has to follow the University's rules; to be free of the rules they need only go off-campus.

  198. James Pollock says:

    "The liberal left engages in this shit de rigeur. The right usually does not."
    This is either selective observation or selective memory. I'm not sure which.

    There are very, VERY few cases where "THEY do that, but WE don't" (or the converse) is true when roughly half the population is THEY, and half the population is WE. My advice: View with extreme suspicion the related views of anyone who spouts claims like these.

  199. Scott Jacobs says:

    which makes me as a liberal somehow responsible for them in some folks' eyes

    Look bubba, if I have to fucking deal with what Akin said, you get to mea culpa for that bitch.

  200. James Pollock says:

    There IS a reason why having an unpopular opinion is protected more by academics than the "real world", and it's even a good one. Academics are supposed to pursue truth, and truth is not always popular. Ask, for example, a certain Mr. Galilei of Italy.

    Do people hide behind this? Sure. That's why we make people wait until their adults before we send them off to the University.

  201. Moneyrunner says:

    The debate on this issue has an eerie ring to it and I was trying to figure out what it reminded me of. Overnight it hit me. It was the last Bush-Dukakis debate which started off with a question by Bernard Shaw where he asked Dukakis a hypothetical: "Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" Dukakis calmly replied "No, I don't, Bernard."

    This debate is really about that: standing on principle. Loomis’ defenders, or should I say about his absolute right to make statements so outrageous that he takes down his own twitter account, say it’s really a free speech argument. And it’s especially important that educators have superior free speech protections because of … Galileo. As a side note, most scientists, not just theologians, of Galileo’s time believed that the earth was the center of the universe. Galileo merely advanced the incorrect assertion that the sun was the fixed center of the universe.

    To those who wish to defend the principle that Loomis is the victim of an unfair attack, keep in mind that Dukakis is now a footnote in history. And so are many who do not – out of principle – decide that they are too good to engage in the kind of tactics that their opponents use. The pages of history are littered with bones of peaceful people raped, pillaged and plundered by those who did not share their values. Judge Robert Bork died recently, a very principled man, whose reputation was destroyed by an unprincipled scoundrel. Clarence Thomas sits on the Supreme Court because when they tried to “Bork” him he fought back using the famous, and effective, phrase “high tech lynching.”

    Should academics be given special protection that we groundlings don’t have? If that’s your principal, stick to it. As for me, I am willing to re-examine my beliefs in light of current conditions. I do not find academia today to have been well served by the shibboleths of the past.

  202. Moneyrunner says:

    Sorry: If that’s your principal principle …

  203. Xenocles says:

    There is a difference between having an unpopular opinion and expressing it in the manner of a huge douchebag. To wit:

    "The weapons policy that the NRA supports contributes to the problem of gun violence in our country."

    or

    "Fuck you, NRA. You murder children and I hope you all die."

    A university ought to protect the former but should be under no obligation to have itself associated with the latter.

    The problem with social media in general is that it puts on display parts of us that we all have but that we don't necessarily want everyone to see. My parents have sex just like I do, but it's not something I want in the front of my mind. My professor might fantasize about punching people sometimes, but even though we all do it I don't want to see it. Something about seeing a teacher behave like a lunatic brings a certain amount of discredit to his professional role, even if the episode is only tangentially connected to his work.

  204. Moneyrunner says:

    @ Xenocles, you make an excellent point. To put it another way, Loomis’ defenders are not defending the right to dissent, they are defending the right of academics to be outrageous assholes without consequences.

  205. repsac3 says:

    [sigh]
    Lizard and Grifter and a few others could not've been more clear in explaining why limiting what the government could do to control the speech of their employees was a good thing.

    It's not extra special rights for the employee, it's limited rights for the employer.

    Now me, I prefer that private employers were a little more limited as to what they can do about things employee say and do when they're off the clock and away from company property as well, but maybe that's just me. But I surely don't want the government punishing speech, even if it is really ugly speech. (That's what the internet is for, after all…)

  206. Moneyrunner says:

    @ repsac3. [sigh] They may have explained their position but they were not persuasive. Here’s something that may shed some light on the issue. The “government” is not some entity that’s disassociated from people. I’m not the first one to point out that Loomis is part of the vast number of people that make up public sector, the thing that’s usually referred to as “the government.” So just who is this government that is going to discipline part of itself who reveals himself as a flaming asshole? As far as I can tell the argument is that it should not because then it becomes oppressive … of itself … or of others? And in the absence of this self-discipline we, the ones outside of government, are more free? Is that your case?

  207. atheist says:

    Congratulations, Ken. You've used this situation to make yourself feel more pious. And that's what's really important, right? To be correct, and to lecture people who get involved.

    Because that's what law is really about — a beautiful set of rules that should never be sullied by the dirty circumstances we all live in. Naturally, if someone calls out a group of violently bad actors, the important thing is to criticize the person who did that, for being too angry. Because we all know violently bad actors really appreciate rules.

    If you can ignore what's going on in front of your face, it helps you concentrate on rules a little better. I believe history had an example of this, a very respectable group called the "Phillistines". They did some great work standing up for the letter of the law against disrespectful types. The story, anyway, is that they got rid of a really disrespectful guy named Jesus at one point. Such a beautiful story, if it's true.

  208. Patrick says:

    atheist, your Bible story would be more persuasive if you hadn't confused "Phillistines" [sic] with "Pharisees." And Romans for that matter.

    But given your choice of name, I suppose that would be asking a lot.

  209. atheist says:

    @Patrick, like I said, the important thing is being more correct than everyone else.

  210. Patrick says:

    No atheist, the important thing is to lecture others about what you BELIEVE IN YOUR HEART to be true, without the slightest attention to fact, because what you BELIEVE IN YOUR HEART is so self-evidently true that others will disregard niggling details like whether you actually know what you're talking about.

  211. Ken says:

    It's fascinating how much the people who are angry at me for criticizing Loomis sound like the people who are angry at me for defending his right to free speech.

    Like I said — a pox on all your houses.

  212. atheist says:

    @Patrick, but if you have a set of rules, who needs a heart? Or a pair of eyes, for that matter? Who needs to see what's going on in front of their face when they've memorized some of the most pious sermonizing ever created?

    Who needs to deal with a real problem? Why not just be disappointed in people for acting like people? After all this plan can never fail. You could even compare them to some imaginary people you've invented, and talk about how they don't measure up. In this way you could enhance the status of law. I don't see how this plan could fail.

  213. Patrick says:

    THIS MAKES MY BRAIN HURT!

  214. Ken says:

    Congratulations, Ken. You've used this situation to make yourself feel more pious. And that's what's really important, right? To be correct, and to lecture people who get involved.

    Because that's what law is really about — a beautiful set of rules that should never be sullied by the dirty circumstances we all live in. Naturally, if someone calls out a group of violently bad actors, the important thing is to criticize the person who did that, for being too angry. Because we all know violently bad actors really appreciate rules.

    If you can ignore what's going on in front of your face, it helps you concentrate on rules a little better. I believe history had an example of this, a very respectable group called the "Phillistines". They did some great work standing up for the letter of the law against disrespectful types. The story, anyway, is that they got rid of a really disrespectful guy named Jesus at one point. Such a beautiful story, if it's true.

    What's hilarious about this, atheist, other than you getting the Biblical group wrong in the course of a feeble attempt at an insult, is that you don't notice that people are making the same argument in service of saying that I'm wrong and that the University should be able to fire Professor Loomis for his speech.

    But you don't care, because you're an unprincipled, unserious twatwaffle.

  215. Grifter says:

    @Moneyrunner:

    I'll direct the question I asked lelnet to you, since you find the argument so unpersuasive:

    Who gets to decide what speech or opinions are approved for government employees?

    In a private business the metaphorical buck stops with the owner: everything done is done in their name, and they have the right to bow to public pressure or not as they see fit. The government, however, does not have that owner. Loomis' boss does not own the University, the people do. So who gets to decide what speech or opinions government employees are allowed to have? And do you want to pay the costs of hiring all new employees every election cycle?

  216. Joe Pullen says:

    @atheist – the content Ken and the authors post is often, I suspect, geared towards motivating people think through important issues that affect the law and subsequently downstream issues. I’m sorry you’re not able to keep up. Maybe Debbie Schlussel’s blog is more your style.

  217. rageahol says:

    I'm surprised that I haven't seen the name Graeme Frost mentioned yet.

  218. Joe Pullen says:

    @Patrick – interesting. I zipped over to that link saw a few posts replying to atheist – likley not the way atheist hoped – and those posts are now gone/deleted (sorry I didn’t screen scrape them). I find it infinitely amusing and ironic that someone who purports to support free speech and the right to say “fuck” repeatedly, would be so cowardly as to remove such comments purely because they do not agree with their position.

  219. Diamondback says:

    [what part of please keep it civil was unclear?–Ken]

  220. Jess says:

    @Joe – they're still there – the original link in Patrick's post takes you only to the specific comment. Try this one http://whiskeyfire.typepad.com/whiskey_fire/2012/12/hatred-into-sport.html#comments

  221. atheist says:

    @Ken

    What's hilarious about this, atheist, other than you getting the Biblical group wrong in the course of a feeble attempt at an insult, is that you don't notice that people are making the same argument in service of saying that I'm wrong and that the University should be able to fire Professor Loomis for his speech.

    See? It's ideal because you get to feel more pious than *two* groups of people now. In addition, you get to tell yourself that you're protected from the truly violent group because you've made the right legal motions. Pretense is a wonderful thing.

    I have no pretenses. The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of my mind to correlate all its contents. I live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that I should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed me little; but some day my piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of my frightful position therein, that I shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

    Science itself will teach me that I really have neither free will nor caprice and never did, and that I myself am nothing more than a kind of piano key or organ peg. Everything I do, I do not at all according to my wanting, but according to the laws of Nature. Consequently, I only have to discover these laws of Nature and then I will not answer for my acts. All of my actions, of course, will then be calculated by these laws, mathematically, like a table of logarithms.

  222. Jess says:

    @atheist – so are brains – too bad you don't have any.

  223. Jess says:

    Sorry Ken – will try to remain civil – but darn it's hard when guys like that post their drivel here.

  224. Grifter says:

    @atheist:

    I don't think you know what "pretense" is. Perhaps, as with "Philisitines" vs. "Pharisees", you are confusing your P words again? Ken has a very specific philosophy, and applies it consistently. That would be "Principle", as in "Principle is a wonderful thing". As opposed to the place you came from, where reason and principles seem to be subordinate to agenda.

  225. Joe Pullen says:

    @Jess – sheepish facepalm.

    Not sure I would get too wound up about Atheist. He/she/it is likely just a “negative externality”.

  226. Ken says:

    Wow, this is an epically awful and unprincipled NRA press conference on nearly every level.

  227. perlhaqr says:

    I dunno man. It's really hard, sometimes.

    First fucker to say the solution is for elementary school teachers to carry guns needs to get beaten to death.

    As someone who has made precisely that suggestion, it's kinda hard not to take that personally.

    Would the Secret Service ignore a tweet along the lines of "First Congressman to propose legislation banning guns needs to get beaten to death." ? It seems… improbable that they would. But perhaps I am mistaken. At any rate, it's not the sort of thing I'd say. I prefer to remain unnoticed by such agencies. :)

  228. repsac3 says:

    perlhaqr • Dec 21, 2012 @10:41 am

    I hear ya…and yet, the police spokesman who discussed the LEO's meeting with Dr. Loomis pretty much said that they were more concerned about the comments he was receiving than the comments he made (or in the case of the one you cited, retweeted a guy calling himself "Rude Pundit"–and doing all he can to live up to the name–making.)

  229. perlhaqr says:

    repsac3: I'm certainly not advocating threatening him back, I'm just saying, well, it's hard to defend the right of someone to say things (or repeat things in a seemingly approving fashion, in this particular case) that sound rather like calls for one's own death.

    "I do not agree with your statement that I and my fellow Jews should be driven into the sea, Mr. PLO Man, but I will defend your right to say it."

    It's just an emotionally difficult thing to remain zen about. But I suppose I've done it in nauseated defence of the Westboro Baptists before, so I nauseatedly signed my name to the Crooked Timber statement as well.

  230. Scott Jacobs says:

    Jesus fuck, atheist is making me think Loomis should get a fucking medal and a bonus check.

    How the fuck did that happen??

  231. srp says:

    The hazard of making more than one point in a comment obviously has sabotaged me above. I'll try again:

    All of those who think they've "patiently explained" why "the government" should not be able to fire Loomis for his speech need to understand that to his critics, Loomis IS the government. To his critics, calling for his firing is like calling for the impeachment or resignation of Susan Rice over her statements about Benghazi or calling for the firing or resignation of a police chief who has demonstrated prejudice against a segment of the community. From their perspective, it has nothing to do with increasing government power–Loomis already has the power of his tenured position and classroom podium and he is supposed to be a public servant. (The plausibility of this view is a strong argument for the separation of education and state.)

    In the second-best world where we live, however, I think that the Loomis-is-the-government perspective is misguided. He is functionally equivalent to academics employed at private universities and, most importantly, possesses no regulatory powers over those who do not engage with him voluntarily. So he is not like a government official who can employ various forms of legal force to coerce private citizens. He's just a jerk on a public salary instead of a jerk on a private salary.

  232. James Pollock says:

    "Would the Secret Service ignore a tweet along the lines of "First Congressman to propose legislation banning guns needs to get beaten to death." ? It seems… improbable that they would."

    It only seems improbable if you meant the Capitol Police rather than the Secret Service. The Secret Service protects the President, and fights counterfeiting. They aren't in the business of preventing Congressional beatings, and would refer a tip on the subject to the appropriate police agency.

  233. James Pollock says:

    "Loomis already has the power of his tenured position"
    Loomis doesn't have tenure. If he did, this entire discussion would have revolved around contract law, not Constitutional law.

  234. srp says:

    That's a good nit to pick, but it doesn't change the point I made at all.

  235. Grifter says:

    @srp:

    Neither Susan Rice nor your hypothetical police chief are in analogous positions at all, for a host of reasons, including:

    Susan Rice (even ignoring the fact that the tempest over her is for the Bengazi thing was ridiculous) is a political appointee. She could expect to be fired if the administration changes. It's a totally different job than academics. And your hypothetical police chief has a bias which affects his job.

  236. PrometheeFeu says:

    If I was a student at that university and openly stated the policy proposal that teachers should be armed, I think I would quite reasonably fear that Loomis might not treat me fairly. That seems to me that it would justify some sort of disciplinary action.

  237. repsac3 says:

    @ PrometheeFeu • Dec 21, 2012 @10:07 pm:

    I agree that it's a potential problem, and one every student should be on guard against, but how is what you describe different from any other professor with obviously partisan views (there are many college professors who blog about politics, and many who express partisan viewpoints is powerful or even vitriolic terms.) Don't all of their students who have opposing beliefs have a potential problem?

    You seem to be saying that professors (or perhaps the colleges they work for) have an obligation to avoid even the appearance of partiality for or partisanship against a political view, apart from whether there's ever any evidence of bias in the professor's grading or treatment of his/her students.

    I just don't think it is or should be legal or ethical to punish a professor for an appearance or his ideas, in essence criminalizing what he's thinking or might potentially do, maybe.. I think there has to be evidence of actual bad or biased behavior.

  238. Julie says:

    I didn't quite make it to the end of the comments, so if someone has already, sorry.

    I understand your point that he can't and shouldn't be fired for his speech. But I do think that I might not want to renew the contract of a college professor who is so clearly contemptuous of the right to free speech when it is people he disagrees with doing the speaking. My problem isn't that I consider these real actionable threats or that I don't understand that his reactions were hyperbolic in the wake of an appalling tragedy. My problem is that even after reflection, as you rightly pointed out, he continues to believe that the rights of people he disagrees are not just unimportant but that acting within their rights is actually criminal. That, to me, is pretty disturbing for a college professor, and I would not like to see his contract renewed given those apparent facts. This isn't a partisan issue for me, and I don't care strongly about the fate of Prof. Loomis, certainly not enough to be fussed to make phone calls or anything. There are bigger issues in the world, although, come to think of it, fighting back against people who want to silence the speech of the other side is a big issue. And if Loomis doesn't face any real consequences, I don't have any reason to believe that he will suddenly become more tolerant of the Constitutional rights of others.

  239. Grifter says:

    I do think it can be job dependent, though. For example, if he were the "gun rights advocacy and acceptance" officer at the university, these posts would seem to disqualify him from that. Or if, as you say, repsac3, there are actual complaints of bias (which would then take his opinion out of where it would in principle sit, the realm of "not part of his job", and into "part of his job").

  240. Moneyrunner says:

    @grifter. The reason we seem to have a disagreement is because many of Loomis’ defenders are speaking in abstractions. If he had said that he disagreed vigorously with the NRA, there would not be an issue. In fact, his statement would be expected, given the fact that he’s an American academic. Here’s what he did say (via Twitchy):

    @rmccrory I was heartbroken in the first 20 mass murders. Now I want Wayne LaPierre's head on a stick.—

    Looks like the National Rifle Association has murdered some more children.—

    @fmanjoo There are words. Fuck the National Rifle Association and its policies to put crazy guns in everyone's hands.—

    You are goddamn right we should politicize this tragedy. Fuck the NRA. Wayne LaPierre should be in prison.—

    Wayne LaPierre is a criminal and should be in prison for complicity with murder. 27 counts.—

    Dear Republicans, Do you know the definition of family values? It's not having our kids FUCKING SHOT AT SCHOOL!! Fuck the NRA.—

    It's harder to buy Sudafed in a pharmacy that high-caliber rifle bullets. Fuck the NRA.—

    Can we define NRA membership dues as contributing to a terrorist organization?—

    bet terrorist NRA head Wayne LaPierre will sleep well tonight.—

    Larry Pratt and the group Gun Owners of America are terrorists and should be dealt with as such. thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/1…—

    Idiot of the day: Eugene Volokh, for arguing we should arm school teachers. volokh.com/2012/12/14/a-t…—

    The NRA pushes for policies that make it complicit in mass murders in the US and Mexico. Repeal the 2nd Amendment.—

    Another day, another NRA facilitated terrorist attack. This morning at an Alabama hospital. abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/p…—

    Your daily NRA-facilitated terrorism. San Antonio this time. thedailybeast.com/cheats/2012/12…—

    And of course he re-tweeted that Rude Pundit tweet about those who advocate having teachers carry guns should be beaten to death.

    This is not some out-of-work loner living in his parents’ basement drinking cheap booze. This man teaches history to young people at the university level. He does not show the temperament that would make me want to have him teach my children.

    Unless his defenders believe that he’s suffering from some Tweet induced version of Tourette’s Syndrome, they have to obscure his actual comments, making it sound as if he were engaged in a rational debate for which he’s being punished.

    Remember that guy, Adam Smith was his name, who decided to videotape himself giving a ration of shit to the server at a Chick-fil-A drive through window? He was fired as soon as the video was put up on the Internet. He had a responsible position. He wasn’t fired for disliking Chick-fil-A’s politics, he was fired for the way he expressed himself, on his own time, and being stupid enough to make his actions public.

    Loomis and Adam Smith have a lot in common. There is this difference, Loomis is a lot more vulgar than Smith and Loomis gets protection from his fellow ideological supporters in academia and from the legal profession. I maintain that society would be a great deal healthier if Smith and Loomis could be treated equally.

    Cheers.

  241. Moneyrunner says:

    I read the speech by NRA’s Wayne LaPierre. His proposal is the only one that I am aware of that can stop the next gun shooting without infringing on anyone’s constitutional right including the ones defended by the ACLU. Hire one armed guard per school. No involuntary lock-up of the mentally ill, no ban on violence in movies and video games and no 20,001st ineffective gun law. And the cost is miniscule compared to all the other money being spent on education.

    Can I make a suggestion as to why this easy to implement and reasonable proposal is being met with derision by the media and the rest of the Left? Because to that part of the political spectrum, it’s not about protecting children as much as it is getting rid of guns. The focus is on guns. The answer is always to ban guns. The reason is always a gun. Can’t institutionalize crazies. Can’t ban violent games or movies. Banning the sale of banana clips is the answer!

    I’ll believe that they mean what they say when Bloomberg gets rid of the armed guards surrounding him.

  242. Moneyrunner says:

    If you think that Loomis’ Twitter explosion against the NRA and Republicans is an insulated event, think again. There are lots of things that set him off: asking him to close his laptop in a bar, sex books, corporations.

    Dear The Avery in Providence. Fucking forgive me for working on my book while drinking a beer in your empty bar. Laptops banned!!!!!

    I was just ordered by ownership to close my laptop in an almost totally empty bar. If you ever wanted to see me in full anger, see me now.—

    Nothing makes me more angry than being ordered what to do. Usuallly good at checking emotions, am now in towering rage at laptop-banning bar—

    @drfarls You have no idea how much I wanted to break my glass over that guy's head.—

    I love teaching books on the history of sexuality. I talked about dildos in a completely appropriate way in class today.—

    This I Believe: Corporations are run by greedy, rapacious assholes who deserve long prison sentences.

    lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2012/11/this-i…—

    Dear subtitle people, white subtitles on a white background means I CAN'T FUCKING READ THE SUBTITLES. Seriously, have you heard of yellow?—

    @speechboy71 I would personally like to punch Matt Stafford for single handedly destroying my fantasy team this year.—

    Dear right-wing morons, saying you "want someone's head on a stick" is a metaphor. I know metaphor is hard for you to understand.—

    Sides' Erotic City is extremely accessible for any interested reader. Fucking brilliant book. Also a brilliant book about fucking (or not).—

    @pareene If only Latinos would become white supremacists, Republicans would be golden.—

    CNN pundits beating around the bush on the lesson for Republicans: Quit being a bunch of racist sexist fuckheads.

    Look at his picture. This man is a tubby nerd on the outside and seething mass of rage on the inside which we are allowed to see via Twitter. He's a hand gernade and something or someone will pull the pin.

  243. PrometheeFeu says:

    @repsac3:

    I think this is a difficult line drawing exercise. One obviously cannot prohibit professors from expressing even virulent opinions with regard to political issues. I think that is an important component of academic freedom. But I believe the point of academic freedom is to create the best possible environment for the exchange of ideas between professors, but also between students. When your professor says you should be beaten to death for expressing a particular idea, that could quite reasonably chill your speech. I think I would be quite comfortable with a policy that says that if you advocate violence against proponents of a particular ideology and there are complaints (even anonymous complaints) from members of the student body, you should have to take some action (most likely issue an apology and a clarification) to restore the appearance that you can be counted upon to treat your students fairly. If you refuse to do so, you should be fired. That would allow the professor to say whatever they want as long as they are not chilling student speech. That said, maybe I'm overly worried, I've had professors who were quite happy to mark "conservative" answers wrong and yet, my speech was not chilled. But then again, I never heard him say that I should be murdered for supporting what I support.

  244. Ken says:

    I really don't get why some people conflate Professor Loomis' hyperbole with his comments about sex and teaching sex-related topics — unless the point is not a critique of unbalanced rhetoric, but a banal "look at the decadent academy" thing. One is free to complain about classes at universities on sexual topics, but they have little if anything to do with violent rhetoric or with intolerance for dissenting views.

  245. repsac3 says:

    I also think that…

    …if you go in looking for a particular thing in what someone says, you're probably going to find it, even if it takes a little willful misunderstanding of hyperbole, metaphor, and common American idioms to do so.

    …if one extracts a bunch of sentences where a speaker expresses anger from the totality of everything they say, and makes a list containing only those expressions of anger, the speaker in question is quite likely to appear a whole lot more angry than they actually are.

  246. repsac3 says:

    @ PrometheeFeu • Dec 22, 2012 @8:57 am

    I'd go so far as to say that everyone involved ought to pay attention to the things a professor says–I've long advocated that whenever possible, students ought to google up and read whatever they find about a possible professor, paying extra attention to any material put out by the professor, him or herself, and I think department heads and college presidents ought to read (or at least skim through) the blogs and other social media of the professors in their employ, too–but I wouldn't make "public apology or firing" a blanket rule. Just off the top of my head, what constitutes "advocacy of violence" is obviously dependent on who one is (and perhaps on whose ox is being gored, as well.)

  247. TMLutas says:

    For those of us who are serious in their belief that the legal concept of the unorganized militia is history's first and longest running BYOD arrangement and that gun control interfering with the arming of the citizenry makes us less safe, Prof Loomis and his ilk are doing two objectionable things. First they are trying to make us less safe. Second they are insufferably smug while they look down their noses at us. That's normally one of those things about which you grimace and move on with your life. Right after a tragedy where the consequences of their preferred policies are measured in caskets, it just adds to the outrage.

  248. repsac3 says:

    Lest I be thought of as a Loomis sycophant though, I do find the following troubling (though unlike Julie, still not a firing-offense):

    "My problem is that even after reflection, as you rightly pointed out, he continues to believe that the rights of people he disagrees are not just unimportant but that acting within their rights is actually criminal. That, to me, is pretty disturbing for a college professor…"

    To fire him for that isn't like putting LaPierre in jail, but isn't it similarly motivated, in that both are ways of punishing a speaker for his spoken political beliefs?

  249. Grifter says:

    @Moneyrunner:

    So, is it your position that no colege professor can ever say "fuck" without losing their job?

    Or rather, is it that you happen to dislike this particular usage of the language.

    Because I return to the question: who decides what Loomis is allowed to say? The Chick-Fil-A guy was fired by his employer, and that is not an abstraction. People with the right to make the decision of who they associate themselves with, made the decision they do not want to associate with him. Loomis works for the government, and the government doesn't get to say "we don't like that opinion". Therefore, his opinion (to reiterate: It's a stupid opinion) is protected only because the government doesn't get to take a position on it.

    As regards to "He does not show the temperament that would make me want to have him teach my children." Did he do any of this in class? No? Well, then his anger outside of class (misplaced though it be) does not seem to impact his performance in class. I can assure you, I curse far more at home than I do at work, I am capable of separating the two.

  250. Grifter says:

    Now, for the record, if he stood up in class and said "Anyone who like LaPierre is getting an F!", I would say that was a one-way ticket to Fired-Town.

  251. Scott Jacobs says:

    if you go in looking for a particular thing in what someone says, you're probably going to find it, even if it takes a little willful misunderstanding of hyperbole, metaphor, and common American idioms to do so.

    Lord, the NYT and MSNBC have been doing that for like 5 years now…

  252. AlphaCentauri says:

    If you want a university where the faculty get fired if they don't have approved opinions, there are private universities that don't guarantee academic freedom. However, they aren't going to be accredited. Once upon a time people saw a university, with an emphasis on learning to explore and question, as something different than a trade school or a ministry program. It seems few people attend for any reason other than to "get a better job" now, so the distinction is blurred.

    In this case, since he isn't tenured, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. His tendency to blunt speech probably hasn't endeared him to his older colleagues, who have to vote for his tenure. One wonders if his publishing, teaching, and university service are not as strong as he'd like and he would like to have the back up plan of claiming he was denied tenure due to his political positions.

  253. repsac3 says:

    "Lord, the NYT and MSNBC have been doing that for like 5 years now…"

    And it's wrong no matter who does it, right?

    One set of standards for friend and foe, alike.

    (I'm not much for generalities, but if you want to provide a specific circumstance of an MSNBC host "willfully misunderstanding hyperbole, metaphor, and common American idioms,"–and I've no doubt there are some–I'll be all too happy to denounce the behavior in general–just like I have here–and the behavior of that specific person in that specific circumstance for ya…)

    In the meantime, the people doing so in the specific circumstance we're talking about here are still behaving badly.

  254. srp says:

    @grifter: Amazingly still not getting my point, which I though was pretty simple. Don't know if it's willful or me not being clear.

    1) I don't favor firing Loomis. I don't think that public university professors play a functional role any different from private university professors and as a matter of policy the vast majority of private universities have decided that the academic enterprise will not work if professor's off-campus speech is stifled. It's pretty reasonable to say that public universities are trying to accomplish the same things as private universities and so should follow similar policies.

    2) The above argument, however, is distinct from your completely incorrect argument that Loomis should be protected because he is employed by the government. You keep saying "the government shouldn't be allowed to have an opinion" on these issues. But Loomis IS part of the government and he is expressing an opinion. He is therefore defying your own stricture and by your logic should be fired for cause.

    3) The reason we are able to distinguish between the off-duty expressions of a government-employed police chief (or even police officer) and government-employed Loomis is two-fold: a) The former is empowered to coerce the general citizenry and the latter is not (except by having his salary paid through taxation, which is a different matter). b) As noted in point 1 above, professors at public universities probably need the same freedom of thought and expression as do those at private universities in order for the institution to function.

    Please get off your untenable position which is only confusing the discussion.

  255. Grifter says:

    @srp:

    Just saying "that argument is wrong" does not make it so. The natural extension of your argument is the public officials cannot ever have an opinion in their personal time of any kind, and I would argue that is ridiculous.

  256. Grifter says:

    @srp:

    To clarify, sinc eI'm not furiously typing on my phone now:

    The idea that Loomis is, when on his personal time, still acting as an "agent" of the government is ridiculous. No one is acting as an agent of the government 24/7, and this was clearly him acting not in the capacity of "university teacher", but rather "private citizen".

    Sometimes one's offshift behavior can legitimately impact one's work…in those cases, the problem is the impact, not the positions. In the case of Loomis, no one has found a fault with his work, but rather they've said he said things, while not acting as an agent of the government, that they don't like. To try to say that the government should be determining what its agents say while off shift, even if it has no impact whatsoever on their job, is to say that the government should reach into the homes and mind of its workers on the whims of whatever bureaucrat has the power to enforce his ideology. You still haven't said who gets to be the arbiter of what opinions are allowed. He is held to the minimum standards of any other place; it is simply a fact of life that the private universities ALSO have the right to restrict off-clock behavior, and may opt to do so. Of course, they will do that in line with their own choice of ideology. A private university that hated guns would love Loomis; a private university that loved guns would can him. Whose opinion should the government force its employees to have? That is a laughable proposition to me, but you're welcome to attempt to defend it.

  257. Ken says:

    srp:

    2) The above argument, however, is distinct from your completely incorrect argument that Loomis should be protected because he is employed by the government. You keep saying "the government shouldn't be allowed to have an opinion" on these issues. But Loomis IS part of the government and he is expressing an opinion. He is therefore defying your own stricture and by your logic should be fired for cause.

    If I read you right, you're making an argument about what the law should be, as opposed to what the law is. If I'm wrong, I'd be interested in knowing what authority you're relying on. (As would FIRE, for instance.)

  258. Ken says:

    I had missed that Loomis was the one who wrote this. What a thoroughly repulsive person.

  259. Moneyrunner says:

    @Grifter – in response to your question, I am not aware of his conduct in class. Are you? Neither am I saying that a college professor can’t say “fuck”. I have it on good authority that they do more than SAY fuck, quite often engaging in this activity with their students, so fuck off. See, that’s the sort of argument that’s so frustrating. You take what this asshat is saying and assume that I object to a single word. You are using a sleazy argument because I’m fairly sure that you have enough brains to know that’s not the issue.

  260. Ken says:

    Let's all be civil towards each other here, please.

  261. Grifter says:

    @Moneyrunner:

    So I take it, then, that your answer is that you just happen to object to this usage, because you don't like it. And I will repeat: Who gets to be the arbiter of approved speech?

    I will concede that my comment was flippant, however, it was flippant because you are still objecting to his type and manner of speech (flippantly simplified to "saying fuck"); your objections still say nothing about his job performance, nor is that what this debate about, and I was clarifying that this is not what this is about.

    This debate is about whether his speech, done in his off time and in no way ex cathedra, should get him fired when taken in the absence of any evidence of it affecting his job, nor any reasonable belief that it would affect his job. I did not say he was a great teacher, because he probably sucks. And that's a reason to fire him. But his off-clock opinions, that in no way effect his job, aren't a reason for the government to fire him, since it would require the government as an entity to take an official position on his speech. In fact, you would do well to look up "ex cathedra"; contrary to popular belief, not everything the Pope says (unless it's Ken) is infallible, but only the things he does officially. Similarly, not everything an employee of the government does is done in the government's name. When a government employee gets married, that's not the state itself getting married. Similarly, when a government employee makes a statement when not working in official capacity, it is not the state issuing a proclamation. He never said he was representing the college or the state.

    Even if he presents them in a way that happens to offend you; others might not be offended, and the question then becomes, once again, "who decides what's okay to say"? I repeat that, while it is true that some places might have fired him for his speech, other places might not; normally, the person who makes the decision is the person who "owns" the company, or the person ultimately authorized by the person who "owns" the company to make that decision. So who makes the decision here?

  262. srp says:

    @Ken: I'm NOT making an argument about current legal precedent. I'm trying to explain that those who think that that precedent is obviously the one true classical-liberal view are wrong. I'm defending the intuitions of the people on this thread who think it's wrong to have a protected class of government employees, while explaining why we as citizens should, as a matter of policy, want our public universities to respect professors' freedom of speech.

    Insistence that the dissenting plurality of taxpayers just has to take it in the shorts due to the 1st Amendment, ha ha ha, is more likely to lead to the demise of public universities as we know them than to further respect for professors' freedom of speech. Most people think that civil servants should have fewer, not more, rights to show political partiality (hence the Hatch Act, for example) because they see these civil servants not as individual citizens but as agents of the state. How this is not blindingly obvious is not clear to me, but the above thread demonstrates that it isn't.

    @Grifter: I don't know the legal precedents, but I wouldn't be shocked if the government really could fire a police officer who joined a Klan group or the like, even if all his activities with said group were on his own time. And as I was at pains to say, I do NOT think that that argument can legitimately be applied to someone like Loomis, whom I do NOT want to see fired. If we were to deviate from this preferred policy (and current legal precedent), however, the "who decides" question would not at all be a showstopper–the responsible public authority, ultimately responsible to the people, would have to decide, just as in the police example.

    If you retort that universities aren't very well set up to be managed that way, I would emphatically agree and say that that's because both private and public universities have evolved governance to fit their research and teaching mission. But the institutional awkwardness of such enforcement is an effect, not a cause, of the ban on restricting academics' speech.

  263. Joe says:

    what I find the most repulsive about Erik Loomis is that he equates petitioning the government for the redress of grievances with murder and terrorism

    So not very different from Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, which is law of the land.

  264. repsac3 says:

    Ken: Are you sure you posted a link to the "why loomis is worthy of contempt" article? I found what you said in the original post about his disrespect for the speech rights of NRA officials and supporters to be clear and kinda persuasive, but that post reads to me like partisan claptrap that also misstates (or at least blurs) a few of the facts. (Just one: what makes Loomis' speech different in kind from Dooley's is that one of them was speaking in an official capacity on behalf of URI. Had Dooley made a statement critical of Loomis or of his tweets as an individual, the Crooked Timber statement would likely have fewer signatures.)

    I'm considering a response over there, but to my mind, almost all of the folks speaking for or against right here are making far more well thought out arguments than that guy. I'm not seeing what you are, for sure…

  265. repsac3 says:

    That's supposed to be "…to the RIGHT why Loomis is worthy of contempt article…" There in the first sentence.

  266. Grifter says:

    @srp:

    As of 93, it's my understanding that the Hatch Act only prevents "on duty" actions for the most part.

    As regards to the theoretical Ku Klux Cop, if an officer is a member of the Klan, it can be reasonably inferred that there is a significant chance he will not uphold the rights of the people that the Klan dislikes. It is his job to do so. Further, if the information is public, the public who must rely on him to protect their rights knows that he may ignore them, which will inhibit his ability to perform his job appropriately. And race is a protected class as opposed to a cop who hated, say, potheads. To use a quote from a KKK case: "According to Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, "The case law is very strong on this," he said. "There is an obvious conflict of interest. . . . The public has a perfectly reasonable suspicion that a police officer who is a member of the Klan will not treat certain people well."" And it is a fact that the police handle life-and-limb questions in urgent circumstances, as opposed to college professors who have the luxury of time.

    Yes, the first amendment rights of state employees can sometimes be restricted if there is a compelling interest. But no one has put one forth yet. Nobody has claimed that they don't feel he can grade accurately, and since that's his only job, conveying information and grading appropriately, that's the only question that should matter, no? The plurality you speak of can, as you say "take it in the shorts" because they don't own the country.

  267. Grifter says:

    I should rephrase the last sentence there: "…because they aren't the sole owners of the country".

  268. Scott Jacobs says:

    Here's a question…

    Would a reasonable person think Loomis could judge fairly someone who supports the NRA that is in his class?

  269. Anonymous says:

    Would a reasonable person think Loomis could judge fairly someone who supports the NRA that is in his class?

    TO The degree that "fairly" has any meaning in the heuristics and biases that makes up a human mind, the answer to your question is "yes."

  270. Grifter says:

    @Scott Jacobs:

    I think that's a fair question. But it's not the argument presented for his termination, at least as far as I've noticed. And I wager the answer is likely yes. Something tells me he's likely an unbiased but poor teacher.

  271. Xenocles says:

    Ken-

    Are you familiar with the draconian restrictions on speech for government employees subject to the UCMJ? What's your opinion on those, and if they are acceptable why is it not acceptable to apply them to all government employees? Of particular interest to you might be the fact that these provisions apply not only off-duty but even after a servicemember retires.

  272. Xenocles says:

    @Grifter-

    It's fair to say that the Hath Act applies to on-duty actions "for the most part," but certain activities are universally proscribed (for a subset of employees). These include making campaign speeches, managing or organizing rallies, distributing campaign material, holding office in political clubs, circulating petitions, and registering voters for a single party.

  273. repsac3 says:

    @ Scott Jacobs • Dec 22, 2012 @9:35 pm

    Like I said in my Dec 21, 2012 @11:48 pm comment, I think that's something to watch out for and deal with if it actually does come to pass, but not something to assume WILL happen or to punish before it ever does, "Minority Report" style. (And yes, I realize you're not actually suggesting that, either…though of course, you MAY be, and I think folks oughta watch to make sure you never actually do.)

    And like I also said, I fail to see why NRA supporting students in his class have any more or less to fear than students in the classes of any other professors who spend their off time as over-the-top partisan bloggers of one "brand" or another who express the opposing view.

    (I vetoed the idea of naming names, but I'm sure that pretty much everyone here can name at least one liberal and conservative blogger whose vitriol and bile for the folks not on the their side of the political spectrum calls their ability to treat all students fairly into question…potentially, anyway.)

  274. Scott Jacobs says:

    Personally, I think the Professor probably has a number of complaints filed against him about how he's treated a student that didn't agree with him…

    If that is the case, if he DID have such complaints, what would then become of THIS issue? Would it have more or less weight, and would it be a factor in deciding whether to let him go?

  275. repsac3 says:

    Prior valid complaints would likely make this–and especially, the possibility of his showing bias against a student again based on it–more of an issue for the people in charge at URI.

    But I would also expect (or at least, hope) that any discipline or dismissal would be based on an actual new infraction, rather than ones from the past (for which, one assumes, he would've already been disciplined) and the possibility that it might happen again, maybe.

  276. I don't care if Loomis wants to use "violent" language. Free speech does not mean speech without consequence. Losing his job as an educator for such a public display of stupudity is not an unreasonable consequence.

  277. Semper Why says:

    I'm afraid that I don't have the intellectual chops to contribute to this discussion in any significant way. But I do wish to say that having followed most of the links in the comments and read the discussions on those sites…by far, the most mature and reasoned discussion is happening here.

    So thank you all for creating at least one place on the internet that hasn't devolved into spittle-flecked ranting.

  278. AlphaCentauri says:

    I went to a school where many of my professors were quite conservative and who were teaching from that point of view. If a student disagreed with what was taught, his answer could well be marked wrong on an exam. I dealt with it. And if I had to write an essay/term paper, I was forced to consider another point of view than my own and think of arguments to back up why I disagreed.

    I didn't attend college to have my head filled with facts; I had books, videos, and parents for that. I probably learned more from the teachers with whom I disagreed because they forced me to reexamine my own beliefs.

  279. PrometheeFeu says:

    @repsac3:

    The issue isn't that he will discriminate against future students. The issue is that his actions may have so thoroughly discredited his ability to treat his students fairly that 1) his student's speech may be chilled and 2) it may interfere with his ability to fulfill his educational role. (students may self-select from taking his classes in order to avoid discrimination) Whether this is something that will materialize or not, I do not know. But I think it is a valid concern.

    PS: And I agree that many people calling for him to be fired probably have less reasonable reasons.

  280. repsac3 says:

    @ PrometheeFeu • Dec 23, 2012 @12:42 pm:

    As to the first point, I don't know whether fear is/should be seen as an offense. Folks can argue whether or not it's a good teaching method, but having a cocksure vocally arrogant professor–whether or not he uses vulgar language when expressing his opinions, off campus–that makes his students afraid to voice their own opinions, fearing that because they will conflict with the professor's, they will affect what he thinks of them or how he grades them, isn't yet a punishable offense. (For those old enough, I'm thinking John Houseman in "The Paper Chase," for instance. It's not that I don't have any examples from my own educational history…it's just unlikely that any of you will know any of the teachers / professors I studied under…)

    As to the second, that I understand. I have advocated that exact thing–having prospective students be aware of who the professors are and what they're about prior to registering for classes, whenever possible–but I suspect that 1) some students will seek him out, agreeing with his opinion (and his moment of fame won't hurt, either) and 2) even if you're right, and every student tries to avoid him like the plague, once the other classes fill, some folk'll just be stuck with him, at least for any required courses he teaches, the same way most of us grumble as we buy the crappy brand of ______ (pick grocery item here) that we need, when the "good" brand is sold out. Supply and demand.

    Should either ever really become an issue for the university though, I'm willing to bet there is a way to deal with it, somehow. (Whether it's a way to get rid of him or some other solution, I cannot say.)

  281. Ken in Camarillo says:

    A flaw in comparing this bozo with Paterico or Aaron Walker: this bozo is a history professor, and if he has such extreme beliefs about gun control as to talk about opponents being put in jail for decades, maybe he ought to be held accountable for knowing some history on the subject. When you make ridiculous statements that are close to your field of employment, pretty soon the employer has to question your capability in that field, and at some point may say you aren't cutting it.

    Patterico does not comment directly on cases or issues related to his employment (maybe comes close, but usually explicitly recuses himself). Thus his comments are on other issues, such that the comments could not legitimately impact on the question of whether he can do his job properly. I believe the same is true for Aaron Walker, but I'm not sure.

    The years before tenure are exactly the time for an education entity to decide whether they want to keep such a person. After tenure, it's an act of congress to release them.

  282. repsac3 says:

    I know how some of the folks here on the right feel.

    I wrote a few posts and many comments in support of Aaron Walker (more because of his experiences in court than his being fired from his job–which I always found more questionable–but still), but seeing that he and so many of his supporters are openly advocating for Loomis' firing has me thinkin' that, free speech notwithstanding, my time would be better spent doing, well, almost anything else, should Aaron need support again. (I try to stand on principle, but… No, the sad fact is, I'll probably do the same again next time, too…but I'll really really REALLY hate it every step of the way.)

  283. TheCiscoKid says:

    This post was truly the stupidest thing I have read in months. The comment thread is likewise idiotic.

    One guy using a violent metaphor on a blog is enough to send you hanky-clutchers into tizzies? Jesus. Good thing there aren't any real issues for you to deal with.

  284. Xenocles says:

    Can you recommend any brands of paste, CiscoKid? I have some last-minute people to buy for, real connoisseurs. Thanks in advance.

  285. Joe Pullen says:

    @Xenocles – thanks for the Xmas laugh :-)

  286. Xenocles says:

    Merry Christmas, Joe and all the rest of the mitred.

  287. Jess says:

    @TheCiscoKid

    If you've spent any time around here, you'd know we're a bit short on fainting couches and embroidered hankies in this salon.

  288. Scott Jacobs says:

    Good thing there aren't any real issues for you to deal with.

    Don't worry, Princess… We'll get to covering your dead possum fetish, don't you worry your pretty little head.

  289. AlphaCentauri says:

    Whoa, Scott, recycling roadkill is very ecologically friendly ;)

  290. Joe Pullen says:

    @AC – not only that but down South here that might be considered "good eatin". You hit it we spit it or put another way, you kill it we grill it.

    Used to be a sign on Hwy 80 headed East as you went through Forney TX for a place called The Road Kill Grill. If I'm lyin I'm dyin.

  291. Patrick says:

    I've eaten opossum, rural and urban. The rural opossum tasted like wild boar, which is to say like pork, but with more flavor.

    Never, ever, eat an urban opossum. It was like spoiled pork, not because the meat wasn't fresh (it was), but because the opossum eats everything it can find, which in a city means it eats some horrible things which affect the flavor.

  292. Scott Jacobs says:

    Sure, you folks eat it, but I suspect you don't "love" it.

    Repeatedly.

    tasted like wild boar, which is to say like pork, but with more flavor.

    Which is to say, it had flavor…

  293. Dale_Saran says:

    A very interesting discussion. Can I assume it includes lots of fellow "chowds" who remember when Rocky Point was open and you could get the best clamcakes on Earth? (!!)

    Regardless, as a lawyer, and a military member, I find the intersection of all of this interesting. I hate that it comes on the heels of a tragedy because now we spend time listening to dipshits like Loomis instead of figuring out ways to help the families of the victims AND actually think and do something constructively to prevent these kinds of things from happening. (And I won't go down the road of why yet even MORE gun laws will not change anything – because they've worked so wonderfully since Brady got shot, right? Okay, sorry, I said I wouldn't…)

    Loomis is using this event to get his 15 minutes. I hate that he's getting it. You all appear to be very intelligent people and I like the mental exercise of discussing the First Amendment aspects of this – but I can't stand that Loomis is getting even more pub. He's a second-rate hack and I'm tempted to point this out to prominent alumni and donors that this idiot is teaching the students of my home state anything at all. I wouldn't let him teach my kids how to tie their shoes.

    The distinction between advocating for his firing and him actually being fired is important. People should be free to shout equally stupid things in response to his his obnoxious and stupid things. (I've heard it's better to let things out, rather than bottle them up.) I agree (begrudgingly) with some of the cogent analysis on government not being allowed to can him for his beliefs, HOWEVER, my first thought was that a good deal of his writings make me think he's unqualified to be a professor at Bo Diddly Tech: seriously? This guy is a professor? I don't care about his use of four-letter words (I've got 20 years in the Marine Corps and I've heard cursing rants that would boggle your mind), I care about the vituperative public rants. This is where I disagree with the point someone keeps making about the "private time" of public employees – at least in this case. I agree with the general premise, if he gets married in his own time, true, it isn't the "state" getting married, but that's not what he did. Someone keeps saying he "didn't do it in the classroom" but, geez, are you ignoring the reality of social media and the interwebz. This guys didn't do this "privately" at all. He might as well have said this stupid shit in front of the class – for all intents and purposes, he DID! He can't claim to be so stupid that he didn't know that his blogging, his tweeting, and other very public pronouncements were somehow "on his own time." At least, I think it is an awfully hard case to make if/when he gets canned. You're free to think what you want, you're even free to express those private opinions PRIVATELY, but you do the equivalent as a public employee of taking out a full page ad saying what he said the way that he said it and I think there's a very GOOD case for him to be fired for cause.

    One man's opinion and, given that it comes on the net, you get what you pay for.

    Best wishes to all. Damn good discussion.

  294. username says:

    I think you're being too hard on anyone calling on Loomis to be fired, and am reminded of the P.J. O'Rourke quip you quoted here: http://www.popehat.com/2011/09/08/next-up-for-bob-oschack-and-the-college-experience-team-an-entire-two-hour-special-of-watermellon-and-fried-chicken-jokes/
    The issue is not the content of his speech so much as the quality of thought it evidences. Maybe Loomis doesn't deserve his position because any person so puerile and choleric has no business being a professor of anything. Obviously his statements weren't actionable as "true threats," but free speech and academic prerogatives don't require that every self-important windbag have a guaranteed spot on a university's faculty.

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  3. December 20, 2012

    […] on a stick" is a metaphor, and that is how Crooked Timber defended Loomis. But see here for some of his truly vile comments. Crooked Timber quoted none of […]

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