July 12, 2006

Holy Cow.

I think I need to put down the keyboard and back slowly away from the internet, because the crazy? It seems to be catching.

I've followed the Goldstein/Frisch thing with my mouth hanging open in dumbfounded astonishment. Although I have to admit that I've learned a few things, like if I decide to go over to Daily Kos and start flinging random threats and nonsensical insults around that have nothing to do with the topic at hand I wouldn't be "trolling," I would merely be "engaging in provocative debate," or "sharing my fantabulously fabulous super-brained academic knowledge with the great unwashed--damn them all to hell." So that's good to know, I guess.

And I see that U-W Madison will allow the teaching of "911 is a conspiracy" in the classroom in the name of academic freedom. Which, okay, except have they thought this through? Because courses like "Intelligent Design 101," "We never went to the moon," and "The Holocaust--Just a big fat lie!" cannot therefore be far behind. You know, the idea that the truth is subjective? It's fun when you're discussing Joyce or Faulkner, but it doesn't really apply to stuff like GRAVITY. Just sayin'.

By the way, I really enjoy the fact that any time someone mentions Barrett in an article, the comments immediately get spammed by "OMG YOU IGNORANT SHEEPLE GEORGE BUSH TOTALLY DETONATED THE WTC AND IF YOU DON'T THINK SO YOU'RE JUST A BIG DUMMY!" types. It's fun!

For a slightly more cerebral take on what exactly it means when administrators adopt an "anything goes" attitude under the guise of "academic freedom," check out Erin O'Connor's blog.

I don't think that the freedom folks were describing when they defined academic freedom was "freedom from logic, sense or quality," but there I go again, making a definitive judgement about what words MEAN. Damn. Grad school must not have been as effective as I thought in teaching me how to think.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at July 12, 2006 03:00 PM | TrackBack

Sadly, this didn't quite have the fun and zing of the old blog fights. It was too creepy. I miss the honest hilarity of the Moxie Wars.

Posted by: marc at July 12, 2006 05:12 PM

Ad Hominem doesn't serve to solidify your arguments. If Barrett's ideas are absurd it should be easy to demonstrate how. And if it's obvious that the issue of free speech and academic freedom don't apply it would also be simple to argue why these principles are irrelevant.

Posted by: douglain at July 12, 2006 08:03 PM

Douglain -

I believe there's a 600-odd page report debunking Barretts ideas, so the work's been done for me.

Head on over to www.nist.gov/public_affairs/releases/ and have a ball.

Or you could just re-read the 911 Commission report.

Unless of course all the scientists and agencies who did the research were "in on the conspiracy," which is conveniently impossible to prove, because if they are, they won't admit it.

The issue is about science, not academic freedom. If this guy wants to wander around in his free time spouting his theories to any and everyone, I say go for it. Teaching faulty science as fact in a university setting, however, doesn't strike me as an issue of academic freedom so much as an issue of quality control.

And the post didn't make an ad hominem against Barrett--unless you think that calling someone out on faulty science is an ad hominem?

Posted by: BAW at July 12, 2006 09:06 PM

Conspiracy theories are the positive side of hyperbolic doubt (``How do you know it's a ball of wax? You don't see all of it. You at most see the front surface...'')

The usual Phil 101 development stops short of the Devil/sense-deception conspiracy and just concludes that you can never really know anything, at least the way men need to know things.

Conspiracy theories are hyperbolic doubt II.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at July 12, 2006 09:20 PM

Dear BAW,

We seem to be getting the same trolls. Interesting. They even use some of the same languague incorrectly. Note to commenter: it's only an ad hominem if someone says something "to the man" not to the manifest error of his "theory" or his qualifications to teach engineering failure analysis with a degree in Islamic Studies.

Mike Drout

Posted by: Mike Drout at July 12, 2006 10:14 PM

By the way, I really enjoy the fact that any time someone mentions Barrett in an article, the comments immediately get spammed by "OMG YOU IGNORANT SHEEPLE GEORGE BUSH TOTALLY DETONATED THE WTC AND IF YOU DON'T THINK SO YOU'RE JUST A BIG DUMMY!" types. It's fun!

Um, where? I didn't see any such comments in the article you linked to.

Posted by: Michael at July 12, 2006 11:45 PM

...doesn't really apply to stuff like GRAVITY.

Hush, now. I'm sending in an application to Wisconsin to apply to teach astrology, caloric theory, and my own "little pink unicorn" theory of gravitation. I figure I'm a shoo-in, since they've decided to go completely mental.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at July 13, 2006 12:03 AM

Michael -

A bit of my usual hyperbole in terms of this article, but I've noticed on some of the other forums a tendency for (possibly the same person under diff. names) posts like the following to occur.

The comment I have in mind in terms of this article is from an "R.K.", posted at 11:20 yesterday a.m. and I will quote in full (sorry!) because the last time I referred to an unhinged commenter the comment vanished, and I am beginning to fear that Inside Higher Ed is gaslighting me. Here goes:

As a concerned, tax paying citizen with a deep respect for higher ed, my greatest hope is that more academics like Dr. Barrett will get on board and help to expose the massive extent to which all of us are being lied to about 9/11 and, by extension, everything else by this bunch of self-serving hypocrites who have the gall to call themselves our “elected officials.”

Except for those of you who- A) have been too distracted to pay attention, B) wish to remain comfortably disconnected from reality, or C) by virtue of your scurrilous attacks on Dr. Barrett betray your primary objective to conceal the truth and cover up for the perpeTRAITORS— it is now clear as that very day that 9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB.

For the hopefully many of your who are objectively minded enough to go beyond the official myth of 9/11, I recommend taking the mysterious case of WTC 7 as a starting point, http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/wtc7.html Unlike the demolition of WTC 1 and 2, the demolition of WTC 7 was never repeatedly broadcast for the public to see, nor was the building even mentioned in the official lie known as the 911 Commission Report.

WTC 7 is a pandora’s box issue which makes it clear that 9/11 was, in the words of esteemed professor emeritus at Texas A&M; University, Dr. Morgan Reynolds, “a colossal hoax, an egregious example of false-flag terrorism.” http://nomoregames.net/index.php?page=911&subpage1;=we_have_holes


Thus, if PART of the official version is so obviously a lie ("fires” caused WTC 1, 2 and 7 to collapse), then it MUST be assumed that the ENTIRE version is obviously a lie. To the great extent that excellent research has already been done, even more remains. I applaud Dr. Barrett for his efforts in support of this essential research.

The mass murders responsible for 9/11 must be brought to justice, and today’s students have an essential role to play in this process. Congratulations to U of W Madison!!!

Posted by: BAW at July 13, 2006 11:16 AM

Well, nuts. Screwed up the italics. The whole thing should be italicized, not just that first paragraph.

Posted by: BAW at July 13, 2006 11:17 AM

The thing that makes me crazy about the Barrett affair is - this guy is a scientist! (supposedly). There's a little thing out there called Ockham's Razor, that's like, pretty fundamental in science (or at least as how I was taught). You don't make an explanation for something that is more elaborate than what is necessary to fit the facts! Augh! And I'm totally with you on the "this opens the door for Intelligent Design 101 and other such classes" attitude. Pink unicorn theory of gravity, indeed.

Posted by: ricki at July 13, 2006 12:54 PM

Interesting, BAW (and I assumed the non-italicized part should have been in italics; you don't sound like that).

Posted by: Michael at July 13, 2006 03:00 PM

Somebody back in the Nineteenth Century said something like: "I cannot tell you exactly what this thing called 'liberal education' consists of, but after four years of it you will be able to tell when a man is talking rubbish."

Not exactly the current definition, is it? I wish I could give a cite for the quote but I know exactly where I read it, thirty years ago, and... it isn't there.

Posted by: PersonFromPorlock at July 13, 2006 05:56 PM

It's still my definition, PFP, and it's what I try to teach. Of course, I still wear a three-piece suit complete with watch chain, so I'm a bit of a curmdgeon.

Posted by: Michael at July 14, 2006 12:09 AM

Do you even read the things you link, or just grab your talking points from fox news? The university is having a professor teach who believes the official version of 9/11 might not be the correct one. Not teaching a 9/11 conspiracy class.

I personally think we'll need at least 70 years or so to learn the truth. This is very much similar to the spanish american war, and the sinking of the maine. It's pre-emptive to begin searching for 'truth' now.

Look, I enjoy seeing the absurdities and intellectually criminal policies of academia exposed, but don't parrot far-right distortions and lies.

Posted by: Tristan Tzara at July 16, 2006 05:53 PM

Tristan -

Wow, thanks for the condescending advice.

Have you read the blog before? I've been following the Barrett story, I know what his positions are re: the "evidence that 911 was an inside job" and I'm aware of what course he'll be teaching.

It's bunk. The science is bogus, and will continue to be bogus in 70 years. If you don't want to believe the government report, Popular Mechanics did a fine job of explaining the science behind how the towers fell a few years back.

The point here, and I'll say it again, is that if you let crap science be taught as merely an "opposing viewpoint," no matter the course title--and at bottom, that's exactly what's happening here--then you're going to end up with stuff like intelligent design as a fucking major course of study. And given your obvious disdain for all things right wing, I would think you'd be against that. They're called standards, and I would hope that the academy would be for upholding some, although recent evidence points in the opposite direction.

So I'm not sure what your point was in commenting, Tristan, beyond jerking your knees around in response to something you saw as a "FOX news talking point."

Oh, and thanks for telling me how to run my blog. I'll be sure to take your sage advice into account, oh, never.

Posted by: BAW at July 16, 2006 08:48 PM

Actually, I kinda like Intelligent Design, if only to pimp the lumpen intelligensia with.

Posted by: PersonFromPorlock at July 17, 2006 06:24 PM