"When I'm done with her she’ll have a full understanding of the abhorrent behavior of queers, lesbos, and transgender freaks.”
Henry Kissinger once said: "University politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small." But as our friend Jim DiEugenio points out, the stakes are really much larger than they may appear.
Until recently, academia has been one of the few areas of our culture in which one can safely question neoconservative and neoliberal presumptions. Many conservatives hope to change that.
Consider, for example, the strange case of John McAdams, an ambitious conservative intellectual who became a professor at Marquette University. I've been meaning to write about him for months now, but have always put off the task, since the story is pretty huge.
Where to start, where to start...?
From the Heart. Perhaps we should begin with the Heartland Institute, in which McAdams plays an important role. Some of you may have seen my video exposing this organization -- a video which I will embed (for the umpteenth time) at the bottom of this post. If you watch a lot of Fox News, you've encountered representatives from this arch-libertarian propaganda outfit, which masquerades as a science-oriented think tank. Their website prominently features images of Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. They don't really do any lab research; their "science director" is a convicted felon who probably couldn't get a well-paying job elsewhere.
Heartland is best-known for their work for the cigarette industry. It was a sweet deal: Big Tobacco would hand Heartland some money along with a document filled with "research." Heartland would obligingly present this "research" as their own.
You can't blame 'em for taking the loot. Didn't Ayn Rand teach us that each individual must act in his own rational self-interest?
One lone nut. I was quite surprised to learn that one of the head honchos of Heartland is none other than John McAdams. I had encountered him previously: He is the king of the Lone Nutters. He has mounted a tireless campaign to rebut every single claim of conspiracy that anyone has ever made in connection with the JFK assassination.
Wikipedia, which dissuades contributors from citing actual assassination experts (such as John Newman or DiEugenio), treats McAdams' writings as Holy Scripture. There is high irony at work here, because the Heartland Institute promotes some of the stupidest conspiracy theories ever concocted.
Don't believe me? Just look at my video: Inarguable proof shows up around the seven minute mark. (I'm proud of that part, so please watch that bit even if you skip the rest.)
If McAdams really is a Heartlander, he must be a big Ayn Rand fan. If that's the case, then what (I wonder) prompted him to act so tirelessly in his promotion of the Lone Nut version of the JFK assassination? No doubt he would take offense at the suggestion that he has written what he has written because he was paid money to write it. And yet the fact remains: All good Randroids believe that altruism is a sin and that money is the best reason to do anything.
Back in the days when usenet was the main vehicle for internet debates, I was fascinated by the McAdams phenomenon. The man was a 24/7 writing machine. Working day and night, he did not allow a single pro-conspiracy assertion to go unchallenged. How, I wondered, could any human being possess that kind of energy?
Although I did not usually participate in those forums, I decided to put him to the test. Under another name, I posted several not-terribly-interesting comments about the assassination. Trivial stuff. The critical factor was the time stamp: I deliberately posted during the wee small hours of the morning. Every single time, McAdams (or someone writing under his name) would answer within minutes. He seemed desperate to make sure that usenet would not long be sullied by even the slightest whisper of a challenge to the CIA-approved version of the assassination.
Impressive. I thought: This guy must be the hardest-working man on the internet.
Remember: McAdams is a big part of the Heartland Institute, which is pro-Ayn Rand. Shorter Ayn: Altruism = bad. Money = good.
Remember too, that the Heartland Institute was caught repackaging Big Tobacco's "research," as if the text had been written by Heartland itself.
In later escapades, Professor McAdams got into some trouble when he infiltrated a JFK assassination conference under another individual's name. That is: he used the name of an actual, living person, who was not amused. For some reason, whenever McAdams shows up at one of these conferences, someone from the mainstream media will appear and interview him. No-one else. Just him. Odd how that happens.
McAdams falsely intimated that Dr. Gary Aguilar (who specializes in the JFK medical evidence) is a drug addict. Having spoken to Aguilar many moons ago, I find this accusation to be about as credible as the Heartland Institute's suggestion that all scientists are conspiring to "socialize the world."
There is much else to say about McAdams and the battles he has waged. If you want all of the lurid details, go here. I promise that you'll be entertained, even if you have no interest in the JFK case. (Also go here. Then here and here. The fun never stops!)
Madam, I'm McAdams. In recent times, the Professor's tale has taken a few bizarre twists. I can only presume that the man has something of a problem with any woman not named Ayn. How else can we explain the inchoate fury he displayed when a performance of The Vagina Monologues took place on the Marquette campus?
One particular graduate student/teacher, a young woman named Cheryl Abbate, seems to have aroused his greatest ire. She became the target of a sting operation of the sort that we've all learned to associate with the notorious James O'Keefe. I'm not saying that O'Keefe had any link to this episode. Still, many of the classic O'Keefian tricks were there, including the hidden recording device.
The story involves an unnamed student who was failing Abbate's philosophy class. (The fact that he was failing will prove important.) Since this student refuses to divulge his actual name -- and since John McAdams was the student's faculty adviser -- I shall refer to this fellow as Littlejohn.
Abbate was talking about the philosopher John Rawls. She said, in essence, that the right of gays to marry would probably be in accordance with Rawl's theory of justice.
(Conservatives argue otherwise; see here. Of course, conservatives make all sorts of arguments that most of my readers would consider injurious to common sense. Hell, there are even conservatives who will tell you that all of the world's scientists are engaged in a conspiracy to "socialize the world.")
After class, with his trusty hidden audio device in "record" mode, Littlejohn made his play.
He spoke to Abbate privately and announced his own distaste for gay marriage. The fact that he brought a hidden recorder tells us that this confrontation was a well-planned operation, not an impromptu dialogue.
At this point, Abbate made a mistake -- the mistake of the young. (She may be highly educated, but there are certain traps that most people don't learn to avoid until they pass the age of forty.) What she should have said was something along these lines: "Hey, I'm not here to teach a class about gay marriage. I was simply trying to characterize the philosophy of John Rawls. There are other philosophers, you know. If you don't dig Rawls, keep shopping."
Alas, Abbate took the bait.
She said that anti-gay slurs would not be tolerated in her class, a statement which was really no more than a simple reiteration of the written policy of Marquette University. She went on to note that Littlejohn was perfectly free to drop the class.
That last remark set off a firestorm throughout the right side of the internet.
McAdams gave a highly biased and incorrect account of the situation in his blog -- an account which neglected to mention that Littlejohn was already failing the class (through his own fault, as he later admitted). Obviously, Littlejohn had a clear motive to seek a strategy for getting out of the class without having an F on his record.
In his blog posts, McAdams gave the false impression that a conservative student was being tossed out of a course just because he happened to oppose gay marriage. McAdams offered this characterization of the way liberals act and think: "Opinions with which they disagree are not merely wrong … but are deemed ‘offensive’ and need to be shut up.”
All of Rightwingerdom suddenly spoke up with one voice, as righties are wont to do.
(Side note: Isn't it odd how conservatives -- who claim to hate the very idea of "collectivism" -- tend to act collectively? I can honestly say that I have never heard a liberal utter the axiom "There is no I in team." Only a conservative would take pride in being known as a team player who knows when to get with the program. When Patton first screened in 1971, all of the conservatives in the audience must have splooged in their seats when, in that famous opening speech, the General snarled at the very concept of individuality.)
Attack! We all know what the conservative buzzsaw is like. Abbate found herself strapped to a log and sent down the conveyor belt toward the spinning blade. Here's the kind of hate mail she received:
“This ignorant liberal bitch needs me in her class for an hour. When I ‘m done with her she’ll have a full understanding of the abhorrent behavior of queers, lesbos, and transgender freaks.”
“Fuck you Cheryl. I have a Master’s degree and I am a veteran of the military and I did not give you freedom to spew your hatred for straight folks. I do not like fags and lesbos so again Fuck You. We will not be silenced anymore, by any one including your dumbass. Go to Hell! Don’t you just love Freedom of Speech Bitch.”
“You are on the wrong side of ethics, history and life. Your life is hurtful to other cultures and all genders. You must cease hurting others. You must undo the terrible wrong committed when you were born. Your mother failed to make the right choice. You must abort yourself for the glory of inclusiveness and tolerance.”
Abbate got scores of these types of emails. As word spread to the far-reaches of the right-wing blogosphere, she began to be attacked in neo-Nazi forums and other extremist sites. Some encouraged violence against her, including rape and murder. From a chain thread on a right-wing web site:
“I hope the ideologically unhinged harpy cheryl abbate gets raped and murdered.”
Similar sentiments were expressed all over Blogosphere Right.
Abbate ended up leaving Marquette. (She is now in Colorado.) Fortunately, her defenders had the ability to express themselves with the kind of language likely to impress the academic mind. (Example. Also see here.) These defenses turned things around. True, she did not keep her position -- but on the intellectual front, the debate was settled in her favor.
Marquette made it quite clear that they had had quite enough of Professor McAdams and his antics -- for he had pulled similar stunts before, though not on so grand a scale.
After Abbate left in mid-December, McAdams was suspended from Marquette with pay. An investigation ensued. On Dec. 17, a story appeared on his suspension in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. McAdams complained that he was “being treated like a potential terrorist.” When the inquiry lasted into January, McAdams’s spring classes were canceled. When Dean Holz alerted him to the review being made of his career, he spent him a copy of Marquette’s harassment policy, the one that Weinberg had already mentioned.
Further, as Dean Holz made clear in his letter, his review and his decision to revoke tenure was not simply the result of the Abbate affair. In the letter, Holz noted that, “Based upon your years of internet postings, you knew or should have known that your story would result in vulgar, vile and threatening communications to Ms. Abbate. Instead of recognizing Ms. Abbate as a person to be treated respectfully and with dignity, you used her as a tool to further your agenda. ”
Holz continued in this vein by writing “You have been asked, advised, and warned on multiple prior occasions not to publicize student’s names in connection with your blog posts.” Holz then went back to 2008 to name two instances where McAdams had deliberately named two females because he opposed policies and presentations they had made. Holz said McAdams admitted back then that this was a matter of concern. But, with graduate student Abbate, he continued to name names in public — seven years later.
McAdams is now trying to pull "a martyrella routine" (as one of my exes would have phrased it). It won't wash. Anyone with any sense should be able to see right through this guy. So why can't Wikipedia? Why does the great online encyclopedia continue to cite his deceptive work while suppressing the voices of academics and professionals who have devoted many years to studying the JFK case?
And why do mainstream news purveyors like CNN still occasionally treat the Heartland Institute as though it were something more than than what it patently is?
Ultimately, the Abbate story ties into a larger narrative.
Right-wing manipulators will continue to use O'Keefian tactics. They will continue to play their insipid (yet effective) games of "gotcha." Their online forces will continue act collectively, like a football team or a military unit. They will always attack attack attack, even as they shamelessly adopt the "false underdog" pose.
They want to make academics fear to question conservative beliefs. Just ask Professor Norman Finkelstein about a guy named Dershowitz.
"Basically, Big Tobacco would hand Heartland some money along with a document filled with "research." Heartland would obligingly present this "research" as their own." Same modus operandi as in medical 'research', then!
posted by b : 7:40 AM
Jimmy Wales, who started Wikipedia, is a Randroid.
His former girlfriend has revealed how he used to batter her eardrums for long periods with bullshit about altruism being evil.
Just a thought, but I wonder whether the US spooks were involved in helping Wikipedia on its way, the same as they were with Google and Facebook?
Nothing that sticks it to The Man is going to come out of Wikipedia, any more than it will come out of Facebook, Google, smartphones, Twitter, Whatsapp, Youtube, etc.
Sadly it's very hard for those who believe otherwise to pull their heads out of their arses.
Do you know which well-known writer has the clearest take on this? Richard Stallman!
posted by b : 9:47 PM
Joseph, I've been dealing with that jackass as long as you have. I too was a habitue of the usenet JFK forums, and I remember the uproar when he tried to create a “moderated” splinter group. Of course, the moderation was supposed to favor the Lone Nut perspective. Now he has extended his influence to Wikipedia.
It's sad that most people treat Wikipedia as a neutral resource, when in fact the individual editors can be seduced by a particularly vehement viewpoint. Jim DiEugenio has done some good work on Prof. M's behind-the-scene shenanigans on the JFK-related pages; and the skullduggery isn't just confined to the main topics. Look at the page for Oliver Stone's “JFK” movie. Although the film was a hit, scored an 84% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, was nominated for 8 Oscars (winning two) and was named by Roger Ebert as one of the best films of the '90s, the Wikipedia page for it skews almost exclusively negative. It even lets Vincent Bugliosi have his say. When I tried to add some balance to the page by quoting from the many positive reviews, an pseudonymous Wikipedia editor immediately deleted what I wrote and sent me a warning email.
Likewise, people who do web searches tend to click on the first return in Google. And what is the first return on the JFK assassination? Prof. M's site—not because Google deems it the most authoritative (although it's conceivable that high placement can be “bought”), but because the site has the most internal links to other sites, thus pleasing Google's spidery algorithm.
And did you see Time magazine's full-age profile of Prof. M, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the assassination? Of course, the magazine would never mention how Time-Life has been manufacturing consensus about JFK from the get-go.
These things are worthy of a documentary expose, and My Famous Director Friend has talked to me about doing it.
On another note, did you know that Prof. M has an Internet radio show devoted to his ostensible avocation—Christian a cappella music? I read, perhaps on DiEugenio's site, that the website for the radio show featured a recruitment ad for a Certain Intelligence Agency. After the professor's link to Spookville was exposed to the general public, the ad disappeared.