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Monday, January 28, 2019


There seems to be no point in saying something on a blog.  No one pays any attention to it.  I wasn't endorsing Harris.  I was saying something about her announcement speech.  She does not, on the evidence of the articles cited, have a progressive record as DA and Attorney General of CA.  OK.  I did not say she did.  Doesn't anyone read anymore?

By the way, I am sick of anonymous comments.  If you are moved to plunge into the public debate and offer strong opinions [or snide remarks], then have the decency to put your name to them.  If you are in a parlous situation and dare not identify yourself, then send me a private email and explain why.  I am tired of self-righteous pontificating from people who hide behind pseudonyms and "anonymous" bylines.  I have been making public statements about matters of public policy for 68 years, as an undergraduate, as a graduate student, as a buck private in the Army, as an untenured Instructor, as an untenured Assistant Professor, as a tenured Associate Professor and Professor, and as a retired professor, and not once in all that time have I failed to identify myself.  Three times, I have been denied jobs I wanted because of my political opinions.  It never crossed my mind to express them anonymously, or to refrain from expressing them at all.

Maybe I just find it hard to take when my back hurts, but cut it out.


s. wallerstein said...

I use my first initial and my last name. A little bit of work in Google (try Latin American Spanish as well as English) and you can learn more than you want to know about me.

I don't want to detract from the courageous stands that you've taken on political issues during your lifetime, Professor Wolff, but you did that in the age before Google. I realize that you continue taking stands, but you're no longer in the job market nor am I, by the way.

Anyway, pre-Google you could take a public stand at, say, Columbia University and no one except readers of the Columbia Spectator (the college newspaper) would learn about it. Sure, a determined researcher or the FBI could go through all the back issues of the Columbia Spectator and find out what you said, but few go to all that trouble, even employers. Today with a couple of minutes in Google I can find out what student leaders and their faculty supporters say because student newspapers and almost everything else are online. That changes the game.

Écrasez L'infâme said...

I agree with S. Wallerstein. It should be enough to use a consistent (on this blog) pseudonym, never on our honour to use anyone else’s, and avoid “anonymous” itself. No one here actually cares about my real name, and nor would it mean anything to them. However, it might possibly mean something to employers in the modern job market I live in. Of course it shouldn’t, but we are in the world we are in, not the one we should be in.

To insist I use my real name feels to me like saying I mustn’t comment, not because of what I write or what I believe, but because of who I am.


Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

I have no problem with using my name in this forum or any other. I have no problem with defending my views. There seems to be an odd inconsistency to be anonymous on social media. No one has ever lived in the world "...we should be in.." and I suspect we'll get no closer to that goal by hiding opinions due to fear of consequences. How one acts in the world should be related to how one thinks about that world.

David Palmeter said...

I'm puzzled as to what people fear about attaching their names to supposedly rational, civil comments.

Anonymous said...

As a 1970 American exile from the Vietnam era who got access to his FBI file via FOI (Freedom of Information), I can attest that even prior to the "social media era", much of what you did and said was documented by the FBI. Despite no real criminal activity, my file was roughly 400 pages long. I could "freely" view it, but since roughly 80% was blackened out, the only thing I could really confirm was how much my family and friends were harassed by the FBI. As for the "consequences" of your actions, I can assure you getting a job when you take an unpopular stance is extremely hard. It took me nearly 10 years to get into the real job market.

Oh, and I should mention that when I set up an anarchist discussion group at a university in the early 1970s I had a number of very odd "students" show up to attend. I didn't mind because I wasn't fomenting revolution. It was strictly social/political/historical ideas being discussed. But it was clear the the RCMP/CSIS agents were attending from time to time to keep tabs.

As Wallerstein points out, in the "social media" era, it is far, far easier for people beyond government agents to "keep track" of you. Even if you are doing supposedly "constitutionally protected" acts such as discussion, there are large consequences in your "real life" (i.e. jobs, social relations). So anonymity is important. Sadly there is nothing strong enough to keep technically talented and especially government "security" agents from breaking the anonymity. But there are social reasons (getting a job, having friends that don't share your political perspective) for not making it utterly obvious what you believe about everything.

On the blog I used to have I used the blogger technique that let me review all comments before I would allow them to be posted. That helped me keep the crazy right from overwhelming my blog with trolls and disputatious cretins.

Howie said...

Many of the pamphleteers of revolutionary America such as Junius and Brutus were pseudonymous- there is a noble tradition for this

DDA said...

Corey Robin had some interesting takes on Harris, one of which I'm pasting here: from Corey Robin "So this other video from Harris (I think from 2013) is also getting a lot of play. It's really worth listening to it and watching it. Less because of the substance than the style. I mean style in the sense that Hofstadter spoke of a paranoid style in American politics: a whole way of thinking, approaching, talking, doing politics. For the liberal of Harris's generation, that style has been to do politics, even liberal politics, by mocking the left. In this case, she's mocking the left that says build schools, not prisons. (Jesse Jackson once said at a union rally, "Send them to Yale, not jail." I guess that's what she has in mind.) The point of the mockery is not to be mean; it's to establish legitimacy, credibility. It's to say: I'm not like them. I'm not a hippie, pie-in-the-sky dreamer; I'm a progressive who knows how to get things done.

So what's wrong with that, you might ask? What's the big deal?

Here's what's wrong: It shows that you're stuck in a politics, a political style, that may or may not have once worked, but that has nothing to do with where we are in 2019. I know that for liberal politicos and observers of Harris's generation—and above—the memory of George McGovern hangs heavy. (And here's how you know it's about memory: Harris says in the video that "all of us have those placards in our closet." Or something like that. The point is, we have these ghosts, these skeletons in our closet, from our hippie radical pasts.) So they'll hear this, and think: this is the music of our movement, this is how you get things done.

But for anyone who's not of that generation, this just sounds like Perry Como. Seriously: George McGovern ran and lost in 1972. We're coming up on the 50th anniversary of that campaign. Maybe it's time to move on?

It's ironic that for all the talk of Harris and Beto and company being a new generation—and Bernie being an old white guy—it's Harris and Beto who are truly stuck in the politics of the past. I mean, that's exactly the campaign that Bill Clinton ran in 1992: I'm not the anti-Vietnam, dope-smoking, draft dodger I once was. I'm a serious guy, and you know that by what I did to Ricky Ray Rector and Sister Souljah.

The Seventies and the Eighties and the Nineties are over. It's time to move into the twenty-first century." and also:
from Corey Robin "This is from a speech Kamala Harris gave at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco in 2010. That's where FDR gave his famous address setting out his vision of the New Deal, about the end of the era of rugged individualism and the need for a new culture in which we'd collectively manage our social problems. Harris uses the venue to talk about her decision to prosecute the parents of children who miss school. You have to watch it, particularly at :15, to see how she builds up to it explaining her decision, how pleased she is. She saw this as an act of bravery: here she was taking on liberal San Francisco (this is how she frames it). And then she says, "This is a serious issue, and I've got a little political capital, and I'm going to spend some of it." Those of you who are old enough will remember where that phrase comes from: it was George W. Bush, after the 2004 election, explaining why he was going to push for privatizing Social Security. It's almost too perfect a tableau: a Democrat, speaking at a place that was canonized by FDR, recalling with delight the time she decided to take on liberalism, the time she decided to prosecute the parents of poor kids who aren't in school, using the phrasing of George W. Bush."

Unknown said...

Keep it up! Not everyone has the same capacity to see past their own biases and actually listen, really listen to what another person is saying. Just hope that if they hang around and spend long enough here, some of your own incisive logic will rub off on them!

Another positive you can think is: Any comment raises your ranking on Google search (a comment shows high viewer engagement, viewer engagement = a 'good website') So through anonymous trolling you become more well-known and there's more opportunity for fresh minds to be introduced to your musings.