There’s a plague sweeping academia and the culture, where subjective feelings and sensitivities are weaponized. Harvard Law School Law Professor Adrian Vermeule is the latest in a long line of targets.
On December 6, 2020, we covered yet another pathetic self-absorbed cancel-culture pity-party attack in academia, this time against esteemed Harvard Law School Law Professor Adrian Vermeule, because his tweets were too snarky and made fun of leftists and hurt their precious feelings.
You can read the details and see some of the tweets in Student Cancel Mob Comes For Harvard Law Prof. Adrian Vermeule Over Tweets Mocking Leftists:
This story of cancel culture would be laughable were it not for the fact that it is so serious. It involves an attempt by four Harvard Law School student groups to interfere in the employment of, and damage the career of, Professor Adrian Vermeule.
This reflects an ongoing attempt by leftwing students to purge academia of viewpoints that do not perfectly align with the social justice and Black Lives Matter orthodoxy. Much like during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, students lead the way in belittling and trying to damage dissident professors, with public shaming and institutional ritualized denunciations preferred methods of intimidation….
That faux outrage, inability to detect sarcasm, and ability to turn standard Twitter fare into outrage !!! has led to a much more serious attack on Prof. Vermeule in a letter sent to HLS admnistrators demanding punitive actions ….
I’ve debated whether to post the entire letter, but since it doesn’t appear to be in the public domain yet, I’ll only excerpt it. It contains many absurd, disingenuous, contrived, false, and abusive accusations based on out-of-context reading of tweets and other writings, and an inability to detect sarcasm. This is a common tactic when non-liberal professors are targeted for cancelation, stuff the complaint letter and petitions with so much nonsense that it creates a swarm of accusations that, like other swarms, makes it difficult to respond.
I didn’t post the letter, but did address some of the accusations, and found them to be absurd, humorless, and disingenuous:
The letter starts with the now-standard (and false) claim that words are violence (emphasis in original):
We are writing to you because HLS Professor Adrian Vermeule has, for over a year, been making highly offensive, discriminatory, and violent statements in online posts and in the press. It has also come to our attention that Prof. Vermeule has recently been using his personal twitter account to spread election disinformation. While we understand that Prof. Vermeule speaks only for himself, and not for the law school, the administration should not ignore the harm his words cause. You will find examples of the statements at issue in the Appendix. We urge you to take action to address this issue with Prof. Vermeule directly and to mitigate the harm his interaction with students may cause through the measures detailed below.
Here’s the explanation for Prof. Vermeule supposedly spreading election disinformation, it’s laughable these people can’t detect sarcasm and obviously have a dull sense of humor (emphasis mine):
First, Prof. Vermeule’s tweets are exacerbating the harmful spread of election disinformation. While every election will highlight substantial disagreements on a wide range of issues, Prof. Vermeule’s statements cross the line of ordinary political disagreement and veer into baseless conspiracy theories which undermine the electoral process itself.
For example, as unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud spread following the election, Prof. Vermeule tweeted “ Lol the election isn’t over until Team Joe fixes up your ballot for you ” and “Kids, not sure if you knew this, but missing ballots have magical properties that make them visible only between midnight and 6am .” His post-election retweets included statements such as “ Even a Saddam Hussein had to make some pretence of not getting 100% of the vote in an Iraqi election … ‘Baghdad on the Delaware .’” And these examples only scratch the surface. Prof. Vermeule may try to play off his statements as a joke, but they amount to a pattern of promoting demonstrably false conspiracy theories. His statements are harmful to democracy and unbelievably divisive. To work at Harvard Law School is to be granted a platform and a level of legitimacy. Prof. Vermeule is abusing this platform in order to undermine democracy and delegitimize the results of the election.
Are you kidding me? This stuff is funny, and even if it’s not funny to some Harvard Law students.
They then devote half a page to the “camps” tweet discussed above, and another tweet in which Prof. Vermeule clearly joked about forced labor in facist Spain being “ The Good Society ?” (note the emojii). From this they conclude (emphasis added):
This language is not normal and it cannot be normalized. It is a language that promotes violence on the basis of political opinion and it cannot be tolerated. Prof. Vermeule demonstrates a disdain for opposing viewpoints, such as those of communists and socialists, who are equal members of our society.
Oh, the poor suffering “communists and socialists” should not be mocked, apparently.
I thought perhaps the effort to deplatform Prof. Vermeule had passed. But no, the effort has expanded. The four groups behind the effort now are 11:
The Harvard Parity Project (HPP)
The Equal Democracy Project (EDP)
Black Law Students Association (BLSA)
Harvard Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA)
Alliance for Reproductive Justice (ARJ)
Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA)
Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA)
HLS Immigration Project (HIP)
Harvard African Law Association (HALA)
Harvard Law School Lambda
The Harvard Crimson student newspaper is reporting on it, Harvard Law School Organizations Petition to Denounce Professor Adrian Vermeule’s ‘Highly Offensive’ Online Rhetoric:
Eleven Harvard Law School student organizations have signed a statement calling for administrators to denounce what they characterize as “highly offensive, discriminatory, and violent statements in online posts” by Law School professor Adrian C. Vermeule ’90.
Addressed to five Law School deans, the statement — signed by organizations including the Harvard Parity Project, the Equal Democracy Project, and the Black Law Students Association, among others — describes Vermeule’s digital rhetoric as “harmful to democracy” and “unbelievably divisive,” with a particular emphasis on his recent allegations of election fraud….
In response to the petition, Vermeule wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson that, though he supports the right to free speech, this freedom “does not include the right to falsely accuse people of illegal activity like discrimination and violence.”
“I take this attack on my character very seriously,” he wrote. “But I am quite confident that Harvard will uphold its longstanding moral and contractual commitments as an institution to protecting academic freedom and free speech.”
There doesn’t appear to be much, if anything, new in the latest statement compared to what we examined before.
As before, they don’t call for Prof. Vermeule to be fired, they want him publicly shamed by the law school and humiliated by stripping him of key teaching assignments:
- Release a statement condemning Prof. Vermeule’s spread of inaccurate conspiracy theories about the election, violent rhetoric, and intolerant statements. (Stanford University recently came out against a professor in a similar fashion, so it would not be unprecedented for HLS to do the same.)
- Conduct an investigation into whether Prof. Vermeule is spreading misinformation or discriminatory content in his classes and/or discriminating against students on the basis of characteristics protected by HLS’s Policy Against Discrimination, and take appropriate action until the investigation is completed.
- Create at least two sections of Administrative Law per semester, so that no student is forced to take a class with Prof. Vermeule.
- Commit that going forward, 1Ls will not be required to take a class with Prof. Vermeule.
It’s important to understand the pathology behind these attacks, and the Crimson quotes the drafters as to their motivations (emphasis added):
Nicole M. Rubin, who co-wrote the statement, said she felt motivated to take action after realizing several students felt uncomfortable with what Vermeule posted online. She said many students documented Vermeule’s rhetoric by taking screenshots of his tweets.
“Clearly, people felt that this was problematic enough that they took a screenshot, they saved it, and they knew where in their phone it was,” she said. “That’s how we got access to some of the tweets, actually, which made me feel even more inclined to write this letter.”
The Equal Democracy Project wrote in an emailed statement to The Crimson that it decided to sign the letter following a majority vote of members because Vermeule, “bolstered by his HLS pedigree,” was “contributing to the deterioration of our democracy.”
“While we recognize that Harvard affiliates speak on myriad matters, and that expressing differing opinions is crucial to both academic and democratic discourse, Professor Vermeule’s baseless suggestions of election fraud go beyond the pale of opining and merit condemnation,” the Equal Democracy Project statement reads.
Emma R. Leibowitz, a Law School student who helped write the statement, said though it is important for administrators to consider how online rhetoric influences national politics, they should be equally concerned with how it impacts students within the classroom.
“Your voice as a legal professor matters when you are saying election results were false,” Leibowitz said. “But your voice also matters when you’re a teacher in a classroom and need to ensure that there’s a safe learning environment for students. I think that this is the dual prong of our point.”
Rubin highlighted that, rather than punish or censor Vermeule, the statement aims to hold faculty such as Vermeule accountable for their digital actions and ensure students can navigate a safe learning environment at the Law School.
“What we mainly want to stress is that this is about the harmful effects that this may have on students,” she said. “It is not about censorship, and it is not about punishment — none of the things that we asked for are punitive. We asked for the University to denounce what he’s been saying.”
“We’ve played a really foundational role in shaping the leadership of this country,” Rubin added. “Therefore, I think that it is the responsibility of the University, and specifically the Law School, to set forth what the expectations are and what the Law School stands for.”
Got it? Their feelings are what matters most, and if your career needs be sacrificed to make them feel better, that is what they will demand. It would be easy to write this off as the equivalent of toddlers throwing a tantrum because they don’t get their way, a problem they will grow out of. But that’s a mistake.
We have seen this so many times before, it’s a plague sweeping academia and the culture, where subjective feelings and sensitivities are weaponized. Here are some of the cases we have covered: Cornell Chemistry Prof. David Collum, UCF Psychology Prof. Charles Negy, U. Chicago Geophysicist Prof. Dorian Abbot, McGill Univ. Anthropology Emeritus Prof. Philip Carl Salzman, U. Miami Law Prof. Dan Ravicher, USC Business Prof. Greg Patton, Princeton Classics Prof. Joshua Katz, several Skidmore College professors, University of North Texas Music Theory Prof. Timothy Jackson, Michigan State Physics Prof. Stephen Hsu, and of course, me.
This will not go away and they will not grow out of it. Ignoring the problem will not make things better. Instead, they will go on to work for major big tech companies, and into government, where they again will weaponzie their feelings to censor others.DONATE
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