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Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist

  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Electronic Klansmen trying to make me famous

Posted by James McPherson on December 7, 2009

As any regular here knows, I read a lot of stuff from throughout the political spectrum. I think all Americans should do so, for reasons I’ve expressed previously. As I’ve also mentioned before, I also occasionally try to point out an error and/or to engage in dialogue with a blogger with whom I disagree, even though most blogs are largely meaningless expressions of ego.

I always try to remain civil in those cases, and I’ve made some new electronic “friends” as a result. Some conservative bloggers now link to this site, and I link to theirs. Even in cases where I didn’t win over the blog host, I’ve had good “conversations” via comments sections, and have drawn some readers over here.

Of course I hear in various forms from an assortment of crazies; it goes with the territory. But one particularly vile and cowardly crew has apparently decided to try to make me famous, devoting at entire posts to me, with my name and title in the headline. With an apparent regular readership of about half a dozen mother’s-basement-bound Orly Taitz wannabes, the blog  is unlikely to make me as recognizable as this James McPherson or this one or this one (the first two are Pulitzer Prize-winning writers, the third a Civil War general), but its anonymous (naturally) author is doing his/her best. The site is one of those racist paranoid New World Order sites, and had posted a warning about a Muslim stamp issued for the holidays under the “Muslim Obama administration.” One respondent cried, “The government is slowly becoming muslim-based,” while another suggested that Barack Obama was involved with a plot to kill off black people with vaccinations (no, I don’t get the Muslim stamp connection either).

I should have known better than to respond, since this site is one of those that proudly portrays the racist depiction of Michelle Obama that I mentioned in a recent post. But I felt obligated to note, “The stamp was first issued during the George W. Bush administration, in August 2001–about a month before 9/11, and then reissued in September 2007 ,” and that “there are lots of available Christmas stamps, along with stamps commemorating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Valentine’s Day, Black history, the Lunar New Year, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and the Simpsons,” and that a 10-second web search would do much to boost the credibility of ther arguments.

That prompted a serious of nutty personal attacks from other respondents. These folks are toxic fungus common to many blogs, using the pseudonym as a modern version of a Ku Klux Klansman’s outfit to hide their identity. Fortunately they spend most of their time hidden away from most of civilized society, trying try to abuse and intimidate others from the shadows. They generally lack either the intelligence or the guts to be willing to open up their ideas to public scrutiny (one even complained after my comment that I was on “a private blog,” whatever that is), and because they’re afraid to remove the electronic pointy hoods, their only real threat is that they might induce other morons to commit violence.

By the way, I don’t response to those sites to try to start arguments–life is too short for that. I do so because I know that too few readers seek out a variety of sources, and I feel that it’s part of my obligation as an academic to contribute when I can to general knowledge, and to the democratic process. Based on what happened this time, though, I think from now on I’ll limit my responses to sites with named contributors.

Of course, I wasn’t terribly surprised at the venomous responses I received in return after posting my comment. What did surprise me was that the site host approved my comments–and then changed one of them to make it look as if I’d said something that I hadn’t (something very profane, at that). It was the first time I’ve ever had to point out the key elements of libel law (probably something every blogger should be familiar with) to force someone to delete something from a blog.

In addition, the host then featured me in an entirely new post, calling me “another idiot liberal professor that wants to poison student minds.” No surprise there, either, but in this case the post included a couple of photos of me, a partial bio, contact information for a couple of school administrators, and a suggestion that readers call to complain about what I was doing on “company time.” It also included my office phone number and email, though so far no one has used them. For reasons I cannot fathom, the post also listed all of the editors (and their contact info) for the award-winning student newspaper that I happen to advise (students, of course, do all of the writing and editing).

I never know whether to be more impressed with the power that some people think college professors have, or more depressed by those same people’s lack of respect for the intelligence and integrity of young adults. I certainly can’t imagine my employers caring much what anonymous hatemongers might have to say about me. Besides, one of the things I love about working in academia is the respect that most people in it have for a diversity of opinions. And aside from the fact that I was writing on a Saturday morning after a 60-hour week, part of my job as a teacher is to share my knowledge beyond the confines of the classroom. That’s why academics from all disciplines write books, journal articles, guest opinions in newspapers, and, increasingly, blogs.

Since that Sunday post, the host of the site has also featured me in three other headlines, and parts of a couple of other articles. Among the things I’ve been called by various writers on the blog in the past couple of days: “a feminist sympathizer” (I’m actually a feminist), “a radical leftist” (no doubt, compared to these folks), “a spineless whimpy little coward” (despite usually being the only writer there using his real name), a “funny looking little nerdy chap” (hey, I’m no lumberjack, but still…), “a disgrace to America and to college professors everywhere,” “the poster boy for NAMBLA,” “a mother——– feminist,” and “a c——-ing squirrely nut holding gnarly Gilligan elitist liberal” (I edited out the profanity with two of those comments).

Unfortunately, one of my conservative and highly ethical students (the other person on the thread using a real name, and someone who–like most of my students–disagrees with me on most things political) came to my defense on the site (oddly, these people apparently believe in Jewish New World Order black spy helicopters, but seem clueless about Google alerts). That college student has been equally disparaged on the site since then. Brave and classy folks indeed.

11 Responses to “Electronic Klansmen trying to make me famous”

  1. Darla said

    LOL! Their “insults” had me laughing out loud! What small minded idiots. I am more than proud that my undergrad adviser is a feminist sympathizer, a funny looking nerdy chap and a gnarly Gilligan elitist liberal.

    I USED to disagree with your political views, but now I’m in the same boat with you Gilligan, maybe your little fan group will write a post about how you’ve brainwashed me.

  2. Darla said

    also: They must all be a b**** to live with.

  3. Morgan Feddes said

    Heh–I like that I’m “conservative but highly ethical.” Trying to make a subtle stab at conservatives there, Jim? 😉

    Seriously, though, this whole situation is laughable. Too bad it didn’t happen last week–you could have used it as an example of libel in the JMC 125 lecture.

  4. James McPherson said

    Darla: Thanks for the kind words, and yes, they’ve already begun slamming you; in yet another post honoring me you’re referred to as a “dumb sh– chick” in the comments. They won’t comment here, of course, even though the stats show they keep checking in, because in their words, “He wants your information.” I don’t know what they think I’ll do with their info; after all, I’m sure my good buddy Barack has already tapped their phones and programmed their home addresses into the GPS devices of the black helicopters.

    This latest post also states: “Its up to you. That right there, is the reason WHY you should never send your kids to a Liberal college.” I’ll bet you didn’t know you’d graduated from a liberal school–though I’m glad you’ve seen the error of some of your conservative ways since you escaped my sphere of evil influence. 🙂

    This whole think hasn’t been at all bad, actually, since apparently I’ve also picked up a nifty new nickname. Several of my current students were laughing about the [deleted] posts today (even though most of them are conservatives, too–I must be doing a terrible job of indoctrination), and one of them also called me Gilligan. I liked that show.

    The ongoing tribute may end, soon, though. One respondent says: “JM is not worth the trouble. He will figure it out, when he is pushed out of his job and it given to a more acceptable candidate (qualified or not).” I assume that comes from someone who blames affirmative action for his inability to find or keep a job.

    Another, perhaps demonstrating what these folks are most about, writes, “He’s old news, time to bring out another idiot victim so we can ridicule him/her or whatever the f—.” Another club member adds, “its shi— like jamie who are the real problem with the world today … probably doesnt even know what shoveling dirt in a ditch or farm work is like.”

    As you know, besides having a good-sized garden now, I’ve worked on several farms, in sawmills, and in factories. But in addition, you and I even know how to use apostrophes, capitalization and punctuation, and to write in complete sentences without profanity. We are truly blessed, and probably should pray for those less-fortunate souls.

  5. James McPherson said

    Hey, Morgan, I’m nothing if not subtle–and as you can see from Darla’s note, you are capable of change. 🙂 Actually I should have said “AND highly ethical” … in fact, I’ll go in and change it now. I was thinking of the “but” in opposition to the [deleted] crew, not conservatives in general.

    You’re right, the timing was just slightly off for class this semester; perhaps I can use it for future versions. Thanks for the note.

  6. zelda said

    That would be… infamous” don’t you think?

  7. […] and Michael Webster, and have previously talked about the sign-carrying racists and blogging “electronic Klansmen” cowards who make up some (not all) of their […]

  8. […] though we all know that the blogosphere has become a nutty and nasty place, it was surprising that a negative review of the latest Batman movie would inspire […]

  9. […] conspiracy theorists. Admittedly, in the past I’ve made fun of birthers, truthers, gun nuts, Islamophobes, homophobes, Rush Limbaugh, the Texas Board of Education, PUMAs, lying Catholics, David Horowitz, […]

  10. […] the commenters are not. That undoubtedly reduces some of the vitriol so often found among bloggers and among those who can comment anonymously on blogs — people who obviously should have no […]

  11. […] Naturally some folks pointed out that many women also oppose what they understand to be feminism (and many oppose abortion, as well), while also arguing that men are also threatened. (Hey, I get that.) […]

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