I am trying to take this advice, offered by a regular reader, to heart (emphasis mine):

“Professor Jacobson,

A long time ago my grandfather gave me some very good advice I often follow, but not all the time, due to my competitiveness. I am sure you have heard it before and think it bears repeating based on some of the back and forth I have read with regard to the ‘charges’ against Haley Barbour. I have to admit I have never heard anyone question Mr. Barbour’s views towards non-white people before.

‘Be careful with who you argue – especially idiots – you run the risk of onlookers mistaking one of ‘them’ as the reasonable one’.

My work is done here. Carry on.”

I understand the point, and it applies with extra force on the internet.  When you put your views out there day in and day out, there will be the inevitable nasty e-mails, sniping by other bloggers, and PhotoShopping.  I agree it is best to ignore all this stuff whenever possible and just move on to the next blog post.

I also have no problem whatsoever when my colleagues respond to my blog posts with reasoned arguments, even if I disagree with those arguments.

But what to do with this comment left at a Matthew Yglesias blog post at Think Progress by newly-minted Assistant Professor Beth Livingston, a specialist in gender and diversity studies, who teaches “Staffing” at the Cornell School of Labor and Industrial Relations, referring to me:

“On behalf of Cornell professors throughout Ithaca, I am ashamed. I promise that we’re not all that devoid of logic.”
An almost identical comment was made by Prof. Livingston about me over at The Atlantic.

On the one hand, while Prof. Livingston is “ashamed” of me, I am embarrassed for Prof. Livingston that she feels the need to troll blog posts taking hit-and-run potshots at other Cornell faculty.  I also find it humorous that Prof. Livingston has appointed herself the spokeswoman for the Cornell University faculty.

On the other hand, the advice above is sound.  If I engage Prof. Livingston in kind, I might end up looking like the unreasonable person.
So I have a true dilemma here.  I value my readers’ advice (even as to that entity whose name cannot be mentioned anymore).

I’m inclined just to ignore it.  Am I right?


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