Sunday, March 19, 2017

Self-Absorption and Symbolic Pork-Barreling


On 6 March 2017 the Faculty Senate reveled in and revealed its self-absorption.

              

The Faculty Senate has been crafting language -- at this point savvy readers know that this sentence cannot end well -- to state goals of the university or its faculty or whatever/whomever.  My warnings against loosing wordsmiths on copy crafted by a committee were disregarded as senators dove into troughs of symbols and shibboleths and other slop.  Generally harmless and feckless self-seekers transmogrified themselves quickly into symbol-seeking, shibboleth-wielding, and slop-speaking identity hustlers.


  • One senator instructed all present why this or that argot was familiar to her because she routinely regaled post-literate captives with the Newspeak she now favored for a statement of faculty goals.                                             
  • Another senator recalled hermeneutic jargon -- predictably impenetrable and, at least by this fellow, inexplicable -- by which some literary or linguistic savants had endorsed Doublethink utterly unhelpful for a statement of general designs for a school or its instructors.                         
  • Yet another senator proposed infelicitous, non-idiomatic phrasing lest the phrase "his or her" exclude the identities of some of that senator's students.

          
These senators [self-]righteously quacked duckspeak suited to the 21st century. In his novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) Orwell conjured a form of disability, duckspeak, that so impaired English that it stunted thought and stultified speech.  All three senators favored highly individualized "feelspeak" to insinuate their own individuated, even idiosyncratic valuations and agendas into what was supposed to be a collective, consensual statement of goals of the faculty or institution.
               
At this point I blame no reader for asking why I bring up posturing, posing, and other self-aggrandizement in any academic congregation.  I raise the misbehavior to note again that the University of Puget Clowns [© Susan Resneck Pierce 1996] has become even more expressive than when I arrived in 1986 but, alas, expressive of individualism without individuality, self-regard without self-awareness, and egoism without the Ego to pull off the hustles of senators slopping at symbolic troughs.
          
Thus, I concede that the university at which I arrived boasted and toasted self-aggrandizing frauds and fakers but urge colleagues to attend to how collegial and collective the rhetoric of such frauds and fakers tended to be.  


  • One professor repeatedly recalled the initial demise of a majority of his large "tenure class" to justify his lack of sympathy for women denied tenure in the 1990s.  He failed to mention that he received tenure and defended his dissertation in the same year, a feat explicitly discouraged by The Faculty Code after his probationary period and before the tenure decisions of colleagues for whom he had no sympathy or pity.  That said, he defended the institution's decisions and decision-making as necessary and proper under the mission of the university and the aims of academia.
               
  • Another professor chronically delighted herself [and no one else -- ever!] with tales of her rigor in the classroom and her designs for generating similar rigor among her colleagues who too often were "holding hands" when they should be challenging their students.  She imagined, I imagine, that no one knew that she was a notorious hand-holder of students. Be that as it may have been, her deception of herself and attempted deception of her colleagues served, indeed serviced, putative goals of education and of inculcating responsibility.
              
  • Yet another professor posed as a leading intellectual on campus and gave a Register Lecture despite his having published little.  Colleagues in his department defended him by noting that he knew the first sentence of everything ever published in his fields.  This fellow preened and pretended but strived to live up to ideals of the Enlightenment.
          
        
The faker, the hypocrite, and the fraud, respectively, barely stood out for their self-serving, self-seeking performances.  They were probably favorably representative of colleagues who confabulated various collective pretenses of a so-called university shifting from the party school that hired them to the liberal arts college to which they [and administrators and trustees and alums] aspired. I can understand and forgive the individual pretending because the collective pretense may have made the institution better.
         
      
I find current colleagues more candid but note that they appear to feel no imperative even to pretend to collective pretense.  Instead, their performances are candidly self-seeking and self-serving when not flat-out confessional. [See "When did plenary meetings of the Puget Sound faculty become 'Queen for a Day?' " 10 February 2017 in this blog to see what I mean.]  These performers ham it up at faculty meetings lest colleagues fail to apprehend how burdened and beset these colleagues are in their personal, professional, and pedagogical lives.  These individuals uniquely suffer for their artifice.  They cannot return books to the library because they have so many responsibilities to university, profession, family, and personal activities.  Such individualistic, indeed atomistic [It's all about me and mine!] striving or stridency is not merely embarrassing but centrifugal, for if taken seriously it misdirects faculty decision-makers from common, conjoint endeavors and goals to personal wants [which, predictably, will be called "needs"].  This opens the trough to faculty who shoulder the collective aside in favor of slopping themselves, which in turn leads to far more pork-barreling.  Faculty witness not even pretense of common policy for common ends or goals.  Instead, faculty hear and bear egoists profess their own entitlement to and expectation of personal payoffs.  "Ask not what we can do for our students or the university;  ask what you all can do for me."
         
Self-absorption pays.  Symbolic pork-barreling works.  So expect payoffs and graft and special pleading [Indeed, the pleading is so special as to extend barely beyond the pleader lest the pleader give up some spoils to colleagues!] to dominate discourse and to corrupt faculty governance.        
                        
---------------------------------------
               

"Kanth realized that people are not at all like Adam Smith’s homo economicus, a narrowly self-interested agent trucking and bartering through life. Smith had turned the human race — a species capable of wondrous caring, creativity, and conviviality — into a nasty horde of instinctive materialists: a society of hustlers."  



http://www.rawstory.com/2017/03/have-we-been-denying-our-human-nature-for-four-hundred-years/    concerning Farewell to Modernism: On Human Devolution in the Twenty-First Century
     

                


excerpt from 1984, Appendix, The Principles of Newspeak, page 241-251:

          

 "...What was required, above all for political purposes, was short clipped words of unmistakable meaning which could be uttered rapidly and which roused the minimum of echoes in the speaker’s mind. The words of the B vocabulary even gained in force from the fact that nearly all of them were very much alike. Almost invariably these words — goodthink, Minipax, prolefeed, sexcrime, joycamp, Ingsoc, bellyfeel, thinkpol, and countless others — were words of two or three syllables, with the stress distributed equally between the first syllable and the last. The use of them encouraged a gabbling style of speech, at once staccato and monotonous. And this was exactly what was aimed at. The intention was to make speech, and especially speech on any subject not ideologically neutral, as nearly as possible independent of consciousness. For the purposes of everyday life it was no doubt necessary, or sometimes necessary, to reflect before speaking, but a Party member called upon to make a political or ethical judgement should be able to spray forth the correct opinions as automatically as a machine gun spraying forth bullets. His training fitted him to do this, the language gave him an almost foolproof instrument, and the texture of the words, with their harsh sound and a certain wilful ugliness which was in accord with the spirit of Ingsoc, assisted the process still further.

So did the fact of having very few words to choose from. Relative to our own, the Newspeak vocabulary was tiny, and new ways of reducing it were constantly being devised. Newspeak, indeed, differed from most all other languages in that its vocabulary grew smaller instead of larger every year. Each reduction was a gain, since the smaller the area of choice, the smaller the temptation to take thought. Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centres at all. This aim was frankly admitted in the Newspeak word duckspeak, meaning "to quack like a duck". Like various other words in the B vocabulary, duckspeak was ambivalent in meaning. Provided that the opinions which were quacked out were orthodox ones, it implied nothing but praise, and when the Times referred to one of the orators of the Party as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker it was paying a warm and valued compliment." 

http://www.orwelltoday.com/duckspeak.shtml

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Nescio

Do not fret what you do not know.  What you do know suffices to establish that some complaints from minorities at the University of Puget Clowns have been validated by conduct proceedings in and of the Division of Student Affairs.
            


Is the University of Puget Clowns [© Susan Resneck Pierce 1996] genuinely searching for a “Director of Student Conduct” for its reeling Division of Student Affairs, or is an inside candidate awaiting elevation?
       
I do not know.
               
Since the most recent "Director of Student Conduct" portrayed himself as more about restorative resolutions than about punitive policing of students, is it likely that his successor will be more about public relations gestures and draconian vengeance than about educational measures and restoring community?
     
I do not know.
     
Is the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students retiring or resigning after having stayed in his post longer than he might have wanted to? Is he being pushed out the door or pushing himself out the door because his division exposed itself as, under the best interpretation, incompetent to handle the flier incident?
     
I do not know.
     
Does the interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students signal a lack of trust in apparatchiks in the Division of Student Affairs to handle their reeling division over summer months?
     
I do not know.
     
Whatever became of the UPS3, a moniker for students prosecuted for posting fliers entitled "Bigots of Puget Sound" [and UPS3 offends one or more of my colleagues waging proxy wars against the forces of diversity]?  [Need some details?  ]
             
I do not know.
            
Was the drumhead prosecution of the aforementioned three students—hereafter to be designated The Charlie Foxtrot!as much a disaster for due process as it was a debacle for public relations?
        
I do not know.
         
Were more provisions of the vaunted "Student Integrity Code" followed than were eluded or finessed or violated or contradicted amid The Charlie Foxtrot! proceedings?
          
I do not know.
         
Did communications from faculty influence apparatchiks or administrators or both to turn from educative or restorative responses to punitive or public relations responses amid The Charlie Foxtrot! proceedings?
            
I do not know.
           
Did the apparatchik(s) conducting The Charlie Foxtrot! proceedings interview some or most of the targets of the "Bigots of Puget Sound" flier to see what they thought penalties should be?
      
I do not know.
              
Did The Charlie Foxtrot! transmogrify from primarily a process for restoring and reconciling offenders to the community and educating deviants to conformity to primarily a process of reconciling the targets to their privilege in the community and restoring those with hurt feelings to the serene comforts of security and safety from challenge?
         
I do not know.
          
Does the solicitude for the targets of the "Bigots of Puget Sound" flier contrast starkly with the stern, lofty lack of concern for the grievances of the UPS3  during the Charlie Foxtrot! proceedings?*
             
I do not know.
             
Did administrators or apparatchiks or both seek or obtain counsel from lawyers or from public relations specialists [a.k.a., flacks]?
              
I do not know.
              
Did apparatchiks or administrators or lawyers or PR flacks come up with "harassment" as a special term in the "Student Integrity Code" [because victims of harassment are entitled to learn of the disposition of complaints about harassment]?
           
I do not know.
           
Were the fliers deemed "harassment," contrary to ordinary usage, because illicit posting in the SUB or disrespect were or would be insufficient to rationalize draconian sanctions?
             
I do not know.
           
Did one or more of the targets of the flier complain to precipitate The Charlie Foxtrot! proceedings, or did apparatchiks or administrators commandeer the process and, selectively, the "Student Integrity Code" to prosecute the agenda or agendas of apparatchiks, administrators, lawyers [to fend off suits for defamation], and/or PR specialists?**
       
I do not know.
              
Does all the foregoing tend to reinforce the complaints of the UPS3 and their allies about the differential treatment of racial and ethnic minorities and of their complaints at the University of Puget Clowns?
                
That I do know.  And so do you.
            
Does much of the foregoing tend to reinforce decades of experience of the "Student Integrity Code" as both a license for arbitrariness, moralizing, and vendetta by those in positions to wield the "Student Integrity Code" and as a sword overhanging any student insufficiently obsequious to authorities.
            
That I already knew.  And now, so should you.
               
Will the campus community be able to answer any of the questions above by reading through the file that the "Student Integrity Code" requires for conduct proceedings?
         
I do not know.  Did those who were allegedly following the "Student Integrity Code" to sanction the UPS3 fulfill their own obligations under the selfsame "Student Integrity Code," or did they only follow the "Student Integrity Code" when it suited them in fending off pressure from administrators or faculty or parents or media or PR flacks or others who mattered [unlike students of color, who did not and do not matter]?
            
             
             
*I warn moronic moralistsespecially proxy warriorsthat I know how they will want to emote and to moralize in response to this question.  Bring it on! Make my day!  Elicit my next entry in this blog.
         
**Why might this matter?  If the UPS3 and those who agree with them were protesting that administrators and apparatchiks [among others] do not listen, then the procurator(s) and the adjudicator(s) [assuming that the adjudicator(s) and procurator(s) were not the same person(s)] would manifest a conflict of interest.
            

Friday, February 10, 2017

When did plenary meetings of the Puget Sound faculty become "Queen for a Day?"

Question:  Why must faculty abase themselves for profit and pity?

Answer:  Because faculty are not able to embarrass themselves.


Last Tuesday [7 February 2017] about 50 faculty gathered in Thompson 193 to discuss, among other matters, an idea adduced by the Faculty Salary Committee [FSC] to raise the salary scale for assistant and associate professors to bring those ranks closer to the median salaries for faculty at institutions that some faculty and administrators compare with the University of Puget Sound. Because the FSC and especially Professor Hanson were clear and logical, they disarmed some faculty who had regaled the Faculty Governance List-Serve [hereinafter, The Wah-Wah Bar, after George Harrison's "Wah -Wah"* on "All Things Must Pass"] with personal details and special pleading.  The FSC and Professor Hanson could not, however, overcome the devolution of both The Wah-Wah Bar and faculty meetings into revivals of "Queen for a Day."
           
Especially young faculty, please see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_for_a_Day
               
"Queen for a Day" was a pity party on radio, then television.  Multiple women would come on the show and, after preliminary pleasantries, reveal some burdens under which they claimed they labored.  Audience members would express sympathy for and with each abject contestant, then applaud for the woman most deserving of pity.  That woman would be named "Queen for a Day" and would get some prizes.  One or more prizes would be targeted to the woes that the contestant had rendered most melodramatically.  The sobbing winner would then be worshipped until the closing credits and commercials.
     
For the last decade or longer, faculty meetings have all too often resembled "Queen for a Day." Special pleaders compete for special consideration.  "What about me?" is masked a little by "What about me and mine?" or "What about me and faculty like me?"  Once the whimpering and snivelling signal the start of the competition to be most pitiable, experienced faculty await the deployment of "fairness" or "fair."  The pretenders to the throne of melodrama queen for the day regale the assembled with reports, reminiscences, and other folderol that seem or sound designed to wring expressions of concern from faculty.  Those expressions of concern are then taken by unwary or inexperienced faculty to be tantamount to establishing unfairness despite any competitor's seldom defining "fair" or "unfair" beyond the competitor's interests.  The institutional or collective decision is unfair, that is, if the decision threatens to deprive an individual or class of some benefit they desire. To outstrip colleagues and to construct the unfairness, contestants indulge in melodramatic excess and lawyer's history.  They relate however tenuously the personal to the policies or proposals in question. They construct opportunity costs like President Trump.  They redirect the faculty from collective interests and concerns to the interests of individuals or ilks.  Many of the presentations, of course, are wholly or mostly fanciful. Whether the special pleading is true seems irrelevant;  the playing of the victim is the thing.
   
I confess this much:  Nobody knows the troubles these special pleaders claim to have seen or endured.  I suspect that no one knows such troubles because the alleged difficulties exist only in the overheated blather of the contestants.  For example:  Even if a colleague really took a hit in the pension in 2008-2009, he or she also acquired stocks or bonds when the Dow was below 7000 and, if she or he behaved sensibly, now owns shares that have nearly tripled in value.  I provide but one example but generalize that few if any claims to individual victimization by general policies will withstand scrutiny.
     
Nonetheless, as part of conjuring opportunity costs and imagining injuries on their way to bleating "Unfair!" contestants must micro-manage perceptions.  That is, they must induce faculty to turn from shared, longer-run concerns to idiosyncratic, immediate concerns.  The colleagues cannot serve the contestants unless audience members for "Drama Queen of the Day" are moved to accommodate the proclaimed long-suffering colleague with applause recognizing just how put-upon the contestant "truly" is.  If the attention of colleagues can be misdirected and "micro-focused," the utter speciousness or absurdity of claims will slip the minds of the least savvy, most collegial minds -- especially if those unwary minds espy a way to share in swag to which drama queens are laying claim.
     
How can the drama queens embarrass themselves for whatever small change they can thereby secure? The drama queens cannot embarrass themselves.  They cannot be embarrassed.  They are unembarrassable.  How could they be drama queens if they could be embarrassed?  How can we suppose that drama queens even see what spectacles they make of themselves for such paltry prizes?
       
I suppose, rather, that the prizes that contestants secure even if they do not win the sash and scepter of "Queen for a Day" drive contestants to abase [but not to embarrass] themselves.  Like President Trump, they get to imagine that any fable is justified if it draws the attention and sympathy.  More, contestants get to hold the floor before a captive audience to tell stories about their maladies and misfortunes.  [Remember Zeena Frome?]  Such maladies and misfortunes are currency that excuses shortcomings past, present, and future.  Excuses that yield sympathy, no matter how bogus its generation, are resources for securing promotion [including, of course, self-promotion].
     
So pity colleagues who abase themselves for symbolic or other payoffs.  To steal from Janis Ian, remember that those who win "Queen for a Day" lose the respect they hoped to gain "in debentures of quality and dubious integrity."  Better for themselves if they could be embarrassed, for then they would not embarrass themselves.  They cannot be embarrassed.  Hence, they embarrass themselves without seeing what they demean and devalue in pursuit of one pittance or another.  Steel yourself if you read The Wah-Wah Bar or listen at faculty meetings [a. k. a., The Buffalo Chip Throw] for weepy warbling of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."  But do not steal from the institution or the faculty resources to assuage troubles nobody knows because those troubles exist only in the minds of self-serving snivellers.
     
Since so many of the contenders for the title "Queen for a Day" have offices in Wyatt Hall, do not wonder that I have called Wyatt Hall "The Whinery" for some time.


* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wah-Wah_(song)
   
Cf. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVKHc9eRv3w

Friday, August 28, 2015

History Lessons for Martinis

            
In the last years I have avoided not troubled myself to meet most junior faculty.  I can no longer share the enthusiasms and hopes of naïfs even if I once could and I never did.  Too many arrivistes do not share the solidarity and delusion of the liberal arts mission, so their opportunism and indifference to students atomistic egotism is are too much with even a chat at the Faculty Club.  Recruitment tides have washed in flotsam and jetsam a roster of poseurs and frauds serious, indeed grievous, intellectuals and scholars to replace retirees, like shingles,  who will not go away.  The apostles Proponents of "rigor" [in this blog I call them the Wigger Patwol] we shall always have with us so long as we employ faculty more conscious of how the workload they impose makes them great than of whether "our children is learning" [G. W. Bush].
            
However, I am the only candid a source of the oral history of this institution who does not suffer amnesia actual or feigned, so I should be available to provide newer faculty accounts that they will never believe when I deliver them but will soon come to see understate the banality, ineptitude, savagery, incompetence, perfidy, cowardice, mendacity, and malfeasance that have characterized some vicissitudes of the University of Puget Clowns  [© Susan Resneck Pierce 1996] over the last few decades.
         

To see if you might stand this ancient mariner to a martini in return for being wised up, please find my entries in this blog for 6 February and 5 February 2011, 9 February 2010, or 11 February 2009 to catch up on some missteps of miscreant colleagues.   The "St. Valentine's Day Massacre" of 2007, on which day at least five erstwhile members of the Starr Chamber  soiled utterly debased disgraced themselves, is especially depressing rewarding to read.  [See rumpparliament.blogspot.com/2009_02_01_archive.html]  New or old readers should pay close attention to those old entries, for only three of the eight malefactors fools have left the University of Puget Clowns. That leaves five fuck-ups colleagues who should not be trusted to make sensible or fair decisions but may be trusted to harm vulnerable colleagues and assist double-dealing administrators.
          
            
As you read those old posts, please note that a former Chair of the Faculty Senate called the Professional Standards Committee "the Star Chamber" long before I did. I added the extra "r" to mockingly recall Judge Kenneth Starr, who exhibited similar fairness, objectivity, and sense in Javerting President Clinton.
                      
And to the five, if any of them read my blog: I have not forgotten who you were or what you did. I also have not forgotten that I volunteered to one of you more than nine years ago to argue the nonfeasance and malfeasance of the PSC before the self-same PSC. Yes, the prisoners in the dock and the jury in the box would have been you same eight boobspersons. So confident was I that the errors committed by the PSC violated either The Faculty Code or commonsense fairness or both that I was willing to let you "Professional" "Standards" Clods adjudicate. My sucker bet generous challenge was not accepted. Would that I could believe that you declined to hear me because you realized too late that you had succumbed to the Great Deceiver poor counsel and suborned due process for your own convenience or your circle of friends!  Then you might hope for redemption.  That, however, is not what I believe. I believe that you thought the Starr Chamber too lofty to trifle with me or with the victims you screwed strewed.
              
As I noted some time ago, I hope the members of recent Academic Standards Committees do not despair. [See "Rump Parliament" 7 December 2010 for a summary.] Those committees were every bit as wanton as the Starr Chamber, but there was far less at stake.  Keep at it, however.  You may yet in the name of rigor harm students as much as the "Professional" "Standards" Clowns harmed faculty.
       
If anyone would like to learn more about how low colleagues can go, please stand me to martinis at Primo Grill.
             


"I'd Like a President Who Pretends to Value My Bullshit, Please"

  
When faculty and staff assembled to state their preferences regarding the new president, multiple faculty showed why faculty should be allowed far less access to selecting the new president than staff should be permitted.
                 
For the third time in my stay at the University of Puget Clowns [© Susan Resneck Pierce 1996], the faculty assembled to state their priorities in a search for a new president.  Staff and perhaps even some trustees, administrators, and students sat among the faculty.  The faculty embarrassed themselves relatively and absolutely—as I should have expected.  Students and staff tend to be punished for self-regarding behavior, so we get less preening and whining from staff and students than from faculty, who appear to revel in their brittle, feeble, self-pitying solipsism. 
      
As in previous presidential searches, faculty snouts instantly and insistently dived toward the trough:  How might the new president represent or otherwise benefit me or mine?
           

Unabashedly self-interested, self-seeking, and self-serving, faculty debased themselves and abased their departments or schools via special bleating pleading.  Sad but not surprising, this misconduct amounted to an argument that faculty should play a minimal role in selecting the president.  Too many faculty are incapable of considering interests other than their own.
        
[I am informed that a less public if not private meeting of "campus leaders" with those in charge of the search featured no or almost no individual aggrandizement and teemed with thinking institutionally.  Maybe some faculty should be admitted to search processes.]
       
When faculty stated their priorities for the search of a president, those with low self-esteem begged for a president who would profess to esteem their pitiful selves.  Although some faculty managed to speak to institutional interests and to values shared by students, staff, and faculty, too many faculty could not get beyond their immediate, individual wants.  How interesting that staff who spoke focused on institutional interests and shared concerns.  How telling that multiple early volunteers among the faculty could find neither institutional interests nor common concerns to camouflage their egoism.
       
Some faculty did get to a point beyond their own anxieties about their status and stores.  Was it an irony that two philosophers concerned themselves with realism rather than symbolism?  The two philosophers went concrete.  They noted that raising money, managing expenses, and otherwise preserving the solvency of the university constituted a priority.  A member of the professional schools opined that a president with an affinity for evidence and a willingness to adapt to realities no matter how unwelcome would be positive.  That is, these three faculty spoke to needs.  They suggested that keeping the doors of Puget Sound open and paying faculty and staff might be necessary outcomes for which or by which to search.  By contrast, the faculty who wanted their status reaffirmed and their low self-esteem remedied served up word salads regarding less important matters, such as how the new president might stanch hemorrhaging departments.  ["If fans don't come out to the ball park, you can't stop them."  Yogi Berra]
                            
The philosophers did not channel the words of bygone nabobs:  “The new president should be an intellectual leader.  That is my highest priority!”  Perhaps the philosophers had enough confidence in their intellects/intellectualism that they did not feel they must preen.  Maybe, as philosophers, they realized that pretenses to intellectualism do not fool incoming undergraduate, although of course Puget Sound faculty might believe such traveshamockeries. 
       
 Is there a way to get the philosophers and not the philosophasters into the search?  I fear not.
          
Let's play safe.  Keep the faculty in the dark.  Faculty, like mushrooms, do best in the dark.
            
              

Monday, December 22, 2014

Let's Fathom Pseudocracy

       
They are warming up the old horrors; and all that they say is echoes of echoes.
Beware of taking sides; only watch.
These are not criminals, nor hucksters and little journalists, but the governments
Of the great nations; men favorably

Representative of massed humanity. Observe them. Wrath and laughter
Are quite irrelevant. Clearly it is time
To become disillusioned, each person to enter his own soul's desert
And look for God--having seen man.


Robinson Jeffers 1939

             

In a recent post at "The Dish" Dr. Andrew Sullivan took apart the response of former Vice President Richard B. Cheney to the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on torture.  Please do not be put off by its title.  "The Depravity of Dick Cheney" portends about as much new information as "The Insanity of Charles Manson" or "The Fecklessness of Barack Obama" would.  I argue below that Dr. Sullivan's post interests me most by what Dr. Sullivan misunderstands or at least misstates.
               
Consider how Dr. Sullivan begins:

Perhaps the only saving grace of this sociopath formerly in high office is that he understands that his legacy could well be as a war criminal unlike any in American history before him. That’s my only explanation for why he has to be out there day after day, year after year, attacking his successor, lambasting America’s return to civilization, and insisting that hanging people from shackles, freezing them to near-death, near-drowning them so that their abdomens are distended with water, anally raping them, breaking their limbs, and keeping them awake so long they hallucinated … is not somehow torture. Ask yourself: have you ever met someone who believes that? Outside the professional criminal classes, that is.
             
Any reasonable or disinterested observer must assess Mr. Cheney as a crackpot, so Dr. Sullivan's first paragraph may seem unexceptionable.  For exactly that reason I take exception to Dr. Sullivan's opening.  Mr. Cheney need not be worrying about his legacy or how history will remember him.
  • First, the obliviousness of Americans to history is the legacy of our mass mediated polity. Most Americans will not pick Cheney's name out of the possibilities on "Jeopardy" five years after Mr. Cheney dies.  That, of course, would not matter to Mr. Cheney, who is indifferent to what most Americans think [and do not know].  The lake in "Deliverance" does not cover [up] as well as our mass media cover [up].  Vice President Cheney knows that.  It follows that he is not worried.
  •  Second, educated, mindful minorities of Americans consist of many partisans and ideologues who will believe what their dogmas and past actions demand.  What supporters of Mr. Cheney or former President Bush [43] must believe or what they long to believe to rationalize their support of indefensible decisions, they will believe.  They, too, will cover [up] for Mr. Cheney's crimes or sins; some even will praise criminal, sinful, and psychopathic/sociopathic acts and statements as patriotism, these days among the first refuges of scoundrels.  Vice President Cheney knows that.  It follows that he is not worried but confident.
  • Third, Mr. Cheney operates like most modern U. S. politicians -- by means of short cons. Why would a savvy operator deploy some long con when he knows my first and second points above?  Denial almost always suffices until obliviousness [point one supra] and hive-mind [point two supra] kick in. Mr. Cheney, it seems obvious to me, is temporizing until political amnesia and political loyalties conduct him to the Grim Reaper.  While Mr. Cheney had better discount the theological beliefs many of his evangelical supporters lest Mr. Cheney's "longer run" include a hotfoot, Vice President Cheney is not worried here and now.
  • Fourth, Mr. Cheney knows that other reports and issues will supplant the torture report soon enough. Even if forgetting what you prefer to forget [point one], denying what you prefer to ignore [point two], and stonewalling a short con [point three] did not work as well as they will, MSNBC and Fox News will give the torture report up once the Main Stream Media start blathering on other topics.
                             
I do not quite endorse Dr. Sullivan's claim that the following was most revealing or most telling of Mr. Cheney, but I agree that the quotations below are stunning:
             
I’ll tell you what my definition of torture is: what nineteen guys armed with airline tickets and boxcutters did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11.
Torture is what the al Qaeda terrorists did to 3,000 Americans on 9/11.
     
Vice President Cheney knows that he is misusing "torture" and knows he will get away with it.  Even the dull normal American smells this red herring.
             
I agree with Sullivan's assessments in the following passage:
What I take from these statements is that the torture program was, for Cheney, partly an amateur thug’s idea of how you get intelligence, but partly also simply a means of revenge. Yes: revenge. This was a torture program set up in order to vent rage and inflict revenge. It was torture designed to be as brutal to terror suspects as 19 men on 9/11 were to Americans. Tit-for-tat. Our torture in return for their torture; their innocent victims in return for ours. It was a program that has no place in a civilized society.
         
And I agree with Dr. Sullivan's quotation of yet another irrational howler from the former Vice President:
The problem I have is with all the folks we did release who ended up on the battlefield … I have no problem [with torturing innocent people] as long as we achieved our objective.
These two sentences mislead the unwary who believe that many released prisoners returned to the battlefield, but they permit Vice President Cheney to live down to his crackpot identity.
    
I disagree when Dr. Sullivan then intones, "It doesn’t get any clearer than that. The man is a sociopath. He is a disgrace to his country. And he needs to be brought to justice."  If Mr. Cheney sincerely believed any of the quoted language, he might thereby mark himself a sociopath or a disgrace.  But I invoke anew a premise I introduced above.  Vice President Cheney is a political operator whose experience spans at least four decades!  Why would two fellows with advanced degrees in political science [Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Haltom] take the former vice president to mean anything he says?
                   

I prefer to explain politicos by what news media and discourse will permit them to get away with. Moral cretins created a poster of a man falling from one of the towers on 9/11:
         


If I must detail the willed stupidity, obtuseness, and vacuousness of this caption, please read someone else's blog.  I do not concern myself about those incapable of learning or thinking.
   
Still, if Mr. Cheney is sociopathic, so are our media and our citizenry, many of whom would find the irrationality of the poster above no disgrace.  Some of our colleagues might find the poster "affective learning," if they could overcome their tendency to locate depravity solely in opponents or enemies.

The foregoing strongly suggests but does not prove that Richard Bruce Cheney, instead of going to graduate school in political science, ought to have pursued aan advanced degree in ethics.  [See the immediately previous posting -- 13 December 2014.]

The foregoing does require us to edit "The Soul's Desert" by Robinson Jeffers.



      
They are warming up the old horrors; and all that they say is echoes of echoes.
Beware of taking sides; only watch.
These are criminals, hucksters, and little journalists, governors
Of nations great in might but weak in right; men
Representative of mass murderers. Observe them. Wrath and laughter
Are quite irrelevant. Clearly it is time
To become disillusioned, each person to enter his own soul's desert
And look for God--having seen man.


           
                    

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Recalling Haltom's Third Law: No One Who Professes Ethics Has Any

"No One Who Professes Ethics Has Any" = Those who speak loudly about ethics soon fail of ethical scruples.

Longstanding reader(s) will vaguely recall Haltom's Laws. Some reader might even recall Haltom's Third Law :  "No One Who Professes Ethics Has Any."  I seize my keyboard today to rehearse what I mean to claim with my hopelessly overstated "law."
 
I phrased Haltom's Third Law in graduate school when I discovered how many proponents of moral or ethical theorizing failed miserably of what ordinary people deemed decency.  I did not yet suspect that I was at once over-generalizing and under-generalizing.  I was over-generalizing because I soon ran into moralists and ethicists who earnestly behaved as scrupulously as they could as often as they could even when it cost them dearly.  I was under-generalizing because academics as a class are disposed to pose as people of probity and honor while engaging "backstage" in perfidies and perversities.

I should rephrase my third law as a tendency or as a probabilistic statement, but then my law would lose impact.  In keeping with our regnant pseudocracy, then, I leave my third law misphrased.

I recently experienced anew the shock that led to my third law.  A sententious, moralizing, pedantic, empty-headed ideologue, given to stylish causes and silly pronouncements delivered with practiced sincerity and projected seriousness, disgraced herself in front of colleagues.  Her fall from grace would disgust if undertaken from cynicism.  However, she has neither the wit nor the intellect to be a cynic. She strikes me rather as a failed Machiavellian.  She is perfectly willing to repeat any blather that aligns her with fashionably left [sic] positions.  [This is the University of Puget Clowns -- thanks, President PieRce -- so the fashions are decades out of date.]  She wants to pursue her political ends but lacks the cunning to pull it off.  So, like a demented Prince[ss] taking advice from an erstwhile bureaucrat, she inflicts pain without achieving any victory.  She dishonors herself and others without achievement or advance.

This professed moralist and would-be Machiavellian attempted a McCarthy-like attack on a blameless person who was not present or even aware of her defamation.  At that moment I knew she was a living embodiment of my stereotype of the academic ethicist:  someone who preaches what she or he cannot practice when her or his interests intrude.

Note that this does not make the professional scold a hypocrite.  When we speak strictly and adhere to denotations once expected of users of English, the moralizer and would-be Machiavellian may believe in the scruples and strictures she invokes.  The hypocrite conjures principles in which he or she does not believe.  Since each of us routinely fails of standards we endorse, we are all hypocrites if we surrender to the modern abuse of "hypocrisy."  The moralizing Princess Machiavelli believes in the principles she blares;  she is no hypocrite.  Indeed, she believes so deeply in some of her ethical precepts that she is willing to lose possession of herself in pursuit of those precepts.

From all of the above, I reiterate that those who speak loudly and often about ethics will soon and solidly betray those ethics in pursuit of whatever ethics they feel most imperiled.  Almost anyone who professes "ethics" will over-pursue some ethical end and thereby violate other ethical ends resoundingly.  I do not know if this law is as true of those trained in ethics within Philosophy as it is of those who claim to have been schooled in another discipline.  One of the earliest malefactors from whom I generalized my third law was trained in Philosophy, so Philosophy itself is no prophylactic. However, many disciplines acquire normatively inclined practitioners who profess to be ethicists but are instead polemicists using ethics as a mask.

Still, to keep matters simple, presume that "No One Who Professes Ethics Has Any."