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    Really Good Advice, Heeded?

    Really Good Advice, Heeded?

    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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    A corollary to the advice you've already received: Never argue with idiots; they'll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.

    From your post:

    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.

    Oooooh, that had to leave a mark!

    Methinks I heard the sound of a gauntlet whistling swiftly through the winter Ithaca wind, and striking hard some crunchy iced o'er designated "staffing" space in the gender and diversity studies parking lot!

    Conditioned as the sound advice to you was . . . on eschewing the temptation to respond "especially [to] idiots" . . . it seems obvious that Beth Livingston now has no choice but to find some way to respond in kind to you, and likely in some unkind fashion!

    Here's a thought. Why not graciously extend her an opportunity to post her rationale here — on Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion?

    Give her the opportunity to explain in detail exactly why she is ashamed "On behalf of Cornell professors throughout Ithaca . . ." and, also as you noted, what entitles her to speak on behalf of the entire Cornell University faculty? Did she poll them ahead of time, perhaps?

    If she declines . . . whether graciously or otherwise . . . she'll have that mark to bear.

    And that way, you can follow through on your inclination, as you have said, to "just to ignore it."

    But, if she takes up the challenge, many of us will no doubt be pleased as New Year's punch to participate in responding to her . . . ever so kindly, of course!

    Judging from the sheer number of comments in this thread alone, imagine the traffic such a follow-up post might draw?

    Just a thought . . .

    I full heartedly agree with poster 'Jer' and by all means make the takedown as intellectually uncomfortable as humanly possible.

    Exercise your literary blogging genius when the moment pronounces itself, wait.

    In competitive sports, a foul isn't always called on the instigator of a confrontation. It can be called on the player who retaliates.

    I don't presume to offer advice, but
    I suspect she may try the gender card with the university if you respond "inappropriately", you patriarchal oppressor you. (Two can play the grievance game, but you're not on a level playing field. And is the game worth the candle?)
    Anyway, thanks for your blogging. Happy New Year.

    I would report the slanderous ad hominem to the faculty senate. You MIGHT get a reprimand from the body. Even if you don't, the process of her having to defend her remarks would be worth it.

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