Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School regularly attacks other law professor bloggers in particularly nasty terms. I didn’t even know who Leiter was when an academic warned me that one day Leiter would target me, and that prediction came true.
Leiter has an obsession with “crazed right-wing blogs,” which Leiter says includes yours truly. Leiter has a particular fetish for Prof. Glenn Reynolds, who Leiter blames for all the
ills of society right wing blogs who have more traffic than Leiter does:
Key to the success of all these blogs is “Instapundit,” the blog by the reprehensible University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, whose sui generis combination of ignorance and moral depravity has made him the mainstay of the far right blogosphere (well outside academia), and who links vigorously to any academic he can find who is benighted as he is.
Leiter also hates the folks at Volokh Conspiracy who, in Leiter’s estimation, are “morally deranged.”
So when I saw this post by David Bernstein at Volokh today about Leiter in meltdown over a fairly mild critical email he received, it was like, Hah! A New Civility Standard:
Prof. Brian Leiter is apparently grossly offended that an attorney sent him an email stating “You’re a ‘Law and ______’ Professor, not a lawyer. How would you know how to ‘think like a lawyer’?” Leiter not only sent his correspondent a pointed lengthy response criticizing his “impertinent,” “juvenile,” and “insolent” email, but added at the end that “I will be sure to send a copy of this entire correspondence to the name partners of your firm,” suggesting that the attorney should be punished, or at least formally reprimanded.
Of course, being a philosopher who values reason and consistency, I’m sure Prof. Leiter would seek to have the same standard of civility applied to everyone, including himself. And writing “how would you know how to ‘think like a lawyer?’” in private correspondence, by a rather anonymous chap no less, seems relatively tame compared to some of what gets stated publicly in the blogosphere by prominent individuals, such as calling one’s professional colleagues “morally deranged,” ”crazies“, “instaignorance”, and so forth and so on–the kind of statements Leiter, certainly henceforth, would never, ever make. But if he does, you know whom [embedded link removed] to contact [embedded link removed] to complain about “impertinent,” “insolent,” and “juvenile” postings.
Of course, unlike young attorneys, tenured law professors are largely immune from sanctions when engaging in speech related to public issues. But that, of course, wouldn’t stop any upstanding professor from voluntarily waiving such protections and allowing himself to be penalized for the same kind of conduct he would want others punished for, now would it? Thanks to Brian’s standard-setting, we can now look forward to a much more civil blogosphere.
Law professor Paul Campos at Lawyers Guns & Money blog (not my favorite blog for reasons having nothing to do with Campos), refers to the whole thing as Brian Leiter’s slow-motion car crash:
The truly grotesque level of pomposity displayed in Leiter’s frankly unhinged response to what, after all, seems like a perfectly reasonable question, is difficult to describe. I’m aware from other correspondence that Leiter is indeed frantically striving to identify some of his anonymous critics, so he can expose them to the unspeakable consequences that must surely befall people for having the “insolence” and “impertinence” to criticize Brian Leiter on the internet.
So why do I have mixed feelings?
I have received a lot of nasty emails over the years and worse, so I know the feeling. And I certainly would be within my rights to publish those emails, names, email addresses and all I know about the senders as Leiter has done (and one day I may do that).
I don’t know all of what Leiter has been through, but I’m pretty confident I can one up him. So I understand the frustration.
But the email which set him off seems really, really, really mild.
All the guy did was question Leiter’s “ability to think like a lawyer.” Leiter has proven him right.
Update — Welcome Instapundit readers. Thanks Prof. Reynolds for the link. Heh.
Update 3-6-2013 — Just stumbled upon this interesting post from 2009, Brian Leiter, Academic Thug. Apparently Leiter has been fighting with people since the beginning of time.DONATE
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