A Forum for Vigorous Debate, Cornerstone of Democracy

[For the journal (guidelines, focus, etc.), go to www.theamericandissident.org ]. If you have questions, please contact me at todslone@hotmail.com.
Encouraged censorship and self-censorship seem to have become popular in America today. Those who censor others, not just self, tend to favor the term "moderate," as opposed to "censor" and "moderation" to "censorship." But that doesn't change what they do. They still act as Little Caesars or Big Brother protectors of the thin-skinned. Democracy, however, demands a tough populace, not so easily offended. On this blog, and to buck the trend of censorship, banning, and ostracizing, comments are NEVER "moderated." Rarely (almost NEVER) do the targets of these blog entries respond in an effort to defend themselves with cogent counter-argumentation. This blog is testimony to how little academics, poets, critics, newspaper editors, cartoonists, political hacks, cultural council apparatchiks, librarians et al appreciate VIGOROUS DEBATE, cornerstone of democracy. Clearly, far too many of them could likely prosper just fine in places like communist China and Cuba or Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Russia, not to mention Sweden, England, and Austria.

More P. Maudit cartoons (and essays) at Global Free Press: http://www.globalfreepress.org

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Dissident Poet—The Angry Librarian and the No-Trespass Order

[For other cartoons and documents, see below]

Citizens in a free society must have courage—the courage to hear not only unwelcome political speech but novel and shocking ideas in science and the arts. In his opinion in the Whitney case, Brandeis sounded the theme of civic courage: Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, [...] no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion.
—Anthony Lewis, Freedom for the Thought That We Hate

Thursday. It was cold, bleak, dark and gloomy, and arctic-like. That was New England in the winter. I took off at about nine, stopping in West Concord to fill the left front tire of my 91 CRX jalopy, then got on Route 2, where a big box suddenly detached from the truck in front of me and crashed into my windshield like a sledgehammer. I wrote down the plate number, then stopped to check it out. No damage. Lucky me.

My first stop for hawking The American Dissident was Brandeis University in Waltham. I'd had limited luck knocking on doors, but even less sending out letters. I liked Chief Justice Louis Brandeis alot and quoted him now and then. What better place then for The American Dissident, if not Brandeis University! The circ woman in the library was actually nice and helpful. But the acquisitions librarian wasn’t available. So I left a voice mail and would email a follow-up when I got back home. My next stop was Waltham Public Library. There the acq-woman was young... and snooty. I showed her a copy of The American Dissident.

“It has to be done through Ebsco!” she said. “We do everything through Ebsco!” “Well, Ebsco does do it,” I responded. “I gotcha there!” She frowned. “Just joking,” I said… to no avail. I ended up leaving a copy with her, circled my name and address on a flyer, and gave that to her also. “We don’t need that!” she snapped. “We do everything through Ebsco!” Christ, did they do their thinking through Ebsco too? What I should have done, as I contemplated in the car heading down route 20, was tell her off and not waste a copy on her. No way was the harpy gonna subscribe!

Watertown Free Public Library looked more encouraging—a bit bigger and more modern. But the library lot was shamefully metered. “Do they come around and ticket?” I asked a young blond putting money in her meter. “I don’t know, but I prefer playing it safe,” she responded. “Well, you’re smart and I’m not,” I said. She seemed to like that and smiled. Just the same, I put a quarter in the meter. Inside, the circ woman informed me the ref-desk was upstairs. So up I climbed. There, seated behind the counter, a woman in her 60s was jabbering on the phone. On and on, she jabbered. “I’ll be right with you,” she finally said to me. But she continued jabbering, so I walked over to the DVDs. Soon, she was off the phone. I walked back. Then she was back on the phone. So back to the DVDs I went. Back and forth for about a half hour I scurried until finally, she was free.

“Who do I need to talk with regarding subscriptions?” I asked holding up a copy of The American Dissident. “Do you order them?” “Well, no,” replied the woman, somewhat snooty-voiced. “Well, that doesn’t sound encouraging,” I said. “Can you tell me who I need to talk with?” “Well, I’ll take the information,” she said reluctantly. “That never leads to anything,” I replied. “I’d prefer talking with the person who actually does it. Can’t I see the person in charge?” “Well, yes, but I have to take the information,” she answered. “But this is a public library,” I insisted. “I should have the right to speak with the person in charge.” “Well, just give me the information,” she said again. By that time, a younger woman in her 40s or so appeared next to the older woman behind the counter in front of which I was standing.

“Is it available through Cox?” asked the 40-year old. “Who are you?” I asked. “I’m the head of reference,” she snapped. “No, but it’s available through Ebsco,” I said. “Okay, we don’t use Ebsco,” she said. “We use Cox.” “Do you have any information on Cox, so I can make an inquiry?” I asked. “No, you can find it on the Internet!” she said. “But I’m sure I’d find thousands of things under Cox,” I noted. “Is it Cox Magazine?” “Well, you know what, let me tell you right now,” she said testily. “Yeah?” I said. “I’m not going to order that magazine of yours!” she snapped. “I don’t think our patrons are that interested!” “But you didn’t even look at it,” I said. “You can leave!” she commanded. “Are you kicking me out of the library?” I asked. “I’m asking you to leave now, sir!” she insisted. “I want you to get the police to do that,” I said. “I’ve done nothing wrong!” “I’m asking you to leave!” she repeated angrily. “You’ve upset Ellie and now you’ve upset me!” “Well, I think the two of you have thoroughly upset me regarding your indifference to democracy,” I said. “What is your name?” “I’m not going to tell you!” she said. “We are upset now, so you can just leave!” she again ordered. “Just so you know, you now form part of the article I’m writing on libraries,” I said. “There’s only a certain amount of abuse we can take!” she replied. “What abuse?” I asked. “I’m not hollering, I’m not swearing, I’m not threatening! I was just trying to see if you’d subscribe to a locally-published magazine devoted to democracy.”

Had the "danger flowing from [my] speech" been "deemed clear and present," because "the incidence of the evil apprehended" was "so imminent that it” could “befall before there is opportunity for full discussion” (see quote)?

The head of reference walked around the counter, then downstairs to get the cops, I suspected. I walked back to the DVDs. Then, she was back behind the counter again. “So, where are the cops?” I asked. “They already left,” she said. “Well, what you need to do is build a thicker skin and stop moaning about verbal abuse any time you don’t like what a man has to say!” I tell her. She picked up the phone again. “Here, why don’t you read this and educate yourself regarding democracy and free speech,” I said, putting one of my flyers on the counter in front of her. “I suppose you’re a proponent of banned books week?” She immediately grabbed the flyer and tossed it into the garbage bucket, reminding me of the librarian at Nashua Public Library, who’d crumpled the flyer up and ran out furiously to hand the ball to me.

Finished, I began walking down the stairs. Ellie suddenly appeared, mumbled something. “You disgust me!” I said in a low voice, looking into her weak eyes, then continued down the stairs. At the circ desk, I checked out two DVDs. “I just had a battle with the head of reference,” I said to one of the women and asked for the chief’s name. “Ardis,” she said. I wrote it down. Another woman with thick Slavic accent behind the circ desk expressed visual interest in the flyer I’d put down on the counter. “Take it and put it in your pocket for later,” I told her. She did… and there was hope.

Outside, two squad cars arrived. I probably could have easily just walked to my car and left. But I was curious, so approached them. Two cops stepped out. “Are you here for the librarian?” I asked. “Yes,” one of them replied. “Well, I’m the guy she called you for,” I said. “I didn’t use any four-letter words, didn’t holler, and didn’t threaten anyone.” “Do you have an ID?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “It’s here.” I slowly pointed to the pocket (I didn’t want to get shot!), then took out my wallet and driver’s license. “Should I call it in?” said the other one. “No,” said the first one. “So, what’s going to happen?” I asked. “Well, I don’t know what your history is with them,” said the first one. “Well, I don’t have a history,” I said. “It’s the first and last time I’ll ever be walking into that building. I’m not from around here.” The first one was now talking on the phone with the librarian in question, I suspected. “They’re going to trespass you from the library,” he eventually informed. “You’ll get a letter by certified mail explaining it. Then if you violate that, it’s an arrestable offense. She said every time you come here you get worse and worse.” “Well, as I said, I’ve never been here before.” “That’s not what she said,” replied the cop.

Oddly, or perhaps not, the cop station was right next to the public library. They could have walked over. Later at home, I’d peruse the library’s website to locate a few email addresses and found the following:

The Library Board of Trustees has adopted the following code of conduct in an effort to provide a safe, comfortable, and enjoyable library facility.
Any conduct that disrupts the delivery of library services or hinders others from using library materials is prohibited.
Any conduct that is potentially harmful to library materials or facilities is prohibited.
Library staff are authorized to enforce this code, and to call for police assistance or contact a parent or guardian when necessary. The Library reserves the right to revoke or restrict Library privileges in cases of violation of the code of conduct. The Library also reserves the right to inspect personal belongings when the library security system alarm is activated.

Had I violated that “Code of Conduct”? Not at all! I thought about what could happen and did happen to people in this country who didn’t break the law. Authorities didn’t even need a valid, legal reason to expulse someone like me from a public building. Nevertheless, the incident actually left me feeling more elated than depressed. Was it dissidence they hated so much? My long white hair? The lack of deference in my verb and tonality? Was I doomed? Of course, I was. How could a thinking citizen not be doomed in a society like ours? When back home, I’d email Library Director Leone E. Cole, Assistant Director Beverly Shank, and Head of Reference Ardis Francoeur, the woman who sought to have me arrested. I really wanted that no-trespass order as a tangible document.

Doubtfully, you’d be interested in the other side of the incident that occurred at your library Thursday, but one never knows, miracles do happen… or so they say. Thus, I include my account below in detail, transcribed from my recorder and memory. It now forms part of the larger essay I’ve written on my uphill battle trying to get local libraries to subscribe to the periodical I founded and edit. Doubtfully, you’ll take the time to read it, but one never knows, miracles do happen. It is, after all, much easier for you to simply accuse, find guilty without trial, and issue a no-trespass order as punishment. How odd, at least to me, that such things can and do actually occur regarding public spaces in America. BTW, I’ve perused your “Code of Conduct” and note I did not transgress it. Feel free to request a copy of the entire essay. I’d be delighted to share it with you via email. Finally, if in fact, I do not receive your no-trespass order, I will make it a point to come to your library again and talk to Ms. Francoeur.

Not one of them would respond to the email. Not one of them wished to discuss the matter. My Internet search also resulted in Francoeur’s photo (for a future cartoon) and website hosted by “Global Librarians Organizing. Bringing together those creating, organizing, & distributing knowledge worldwide.” Moreover, Francoeur kept a rather puerile blog:

"I mentioned earlier that both kitties took to the litter box right away, with no problems. Well, scratch that (ha! see what I did there?) there have been a few problems, all with Georgia. She doesn't cover her droppings. This isn't a huge issue, but it is a smelly one. She likes to pee right near the edge of the box, and she tracks stuff around: litter, poop."

So many citizens abhorred exchange of different ideas and vigorous debate. Instead, they wanted and needed to inhabit safe havens, where accountability and criticism were all but absent. So many of them were caught in a child’s mentality! After the Watertown experience, I continued on my way to Boston, wondering how many people were sitting in jail cells for doing nothing wrong with the exception of having questioned and challenged the etiquette of the day.

“Can I get you to subscribe to this?” I asked the obese woman at the circ desk at Brighton Public Library. “No!” she said robotically. “Can I get you to purchase this book?” I asked. “No!” she snapped. Not wanting to risk yet another encounter with law enforcement, at least not for the day, I left it at that and didn’t even respond. It formed a good conclusion to the day’s biblio-quest. I grabbed four DVDs but couldn’t find my wallet at the circ desk, so left the DVDs in front of the robotic desk grump. “Do you want me to save them for you?” she asked. “No thanks, I don’t think I’ll be back here again,” I said. In front of the library I’d chatted with a young fellow who said he was an insurance salesman. He was good at chatting, personable. “Do you know Afflac?” he asked. “How could I not?” I said. He was an odd character with a degree in biotechnology and a former vacuum cleaner salesman. He told me he voted for Nader and liked activism, handed me a pirated DVD: America Destroyed by Design. I thanked him and handed him a flyer.

Back at the car, I couldn’t find my wallet. I hunted and hunted, entering into severe panic mode. Shit, had I left it at Watertown? That was the last time I recall having it, pulling it out for the cops. I shut the door, walked back to the library, but then decided to do a final thorough hunt in the car. I opened the other door this time and lo and behold. What a fuckin relief! I would have had to cancel Tufts. Now, time was getting short. I sped off, got a tad lost in the suburbanitic jungle of roads and traffic, then hopped on to the Pike and roared 75 mph into Boston, hopped off at Storrow Drive, then to the parking lot, up eight flights to the goddamn roof until finally a free spot. And there upon the curb before me was an unopened bottle of foreign beer like a miracle! I grabbed it and put it in the car, then headed to the dental clinic, 10 minutes early. Amen.

Inside the jam packed elevator to the fourth floor, I said aloud out of the blue: “Question number one: Does democracy permit verbal abuse?” Nobody, of course, responded. In Massachusetts, if one spoke to strangers one might be a nutcase. Well, I supposed I was in a sense. Heather greeted me, then had me sit on the dental gurney waiting for 30 minutes, twiddling my thumbs, while she engaged in her one pm group huddle, as announced on the intercom. When she finally got back, she proceeded to shoot my left side up with Novocain, which was once cocaine, as she explained. She was a friendly student dentist. I liked her. We chatted a tad waiting for the drug to kick in. She asked if I like music. I mentioned Van M., and she seemed to love the guy.

Heather ended up doing a nice job scraping away the deep pocket calculus and plaque and had even attempted to explain via drawing what the hell she was doing. I didn’t quite get it all, but some of it I did. Then she had me sit for 30 minutes again, twiddling my thumbs, this time in the hope she could do the other side of my mouth, since there was ample time left. Finally, her dental prof arrived and explained a tad testily because he’d noticed I was getting a tad testy waiting and waiting that I should wait a month for the other side because he hadn’t noticed any calculus. Fine with me. Heather handed me another tooth kit and off I went back to the parking garage, then on to the mobbed roads and highway. I headed straight back to Concord—a tad less than an hour it took. Gloomy day indeed.

Back home, after detailing the day for J, I made flax noodles and ate four soy dogs for dinner. A little later, I began drinking red and watched Juno, a delightful (oh, I hate that word) film.

Days later I did in fact receive the order of no-trespass. I'd been accused, adjudged guilty, tried, and punished all by the same librarian! The order was replete with lies, including "disrupting patrons' use of library with inappropriate remarks and behavior." Patrons seemed not at all purturbed, let alone even aware, of the event. "Threatening remarks to staff" were never ever made. What precise inappropriate remarks and behavior and what threats are of course not mentioned. As mentioned above, one must wonder just how many citizens might be spending a day in jail for such hollow and unproven accusations. As for the "general disturbance" accusation, few patrons were even in the area. What constitutes a "general disturbance"? The term is so general that it could be applied to anyone at the whim of anybody.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Manifesto of a Tenured Goon in Academic Regalia

Interestingly, Paula Krebs, editor of Academe (Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors), responded to this essay, arguing it was too long to publish in Academe. Thus, I suggested it be published as a refreshingly honest guest editorial, instead of a truncated letter to the editor. She did not respond to that. Also interestingly, Cary Nelson (see below), current president of the AAUP, put the satirical cartoon I’d sketched on him (see below) up on his website (www.cary-nelson.org/nelson/cartoon.html). Did he understand it? Or had he climbed to high on the academic ladder to fathom its implication that he had perhaps indeed become yet another 60s sellout.

Academe is not necessarily a positive term nowadays, as it enters its final phase of corporate co-optation. It has not become a bastion of vigorous debate, cornerstone of democracy, but rather one of speech codes, political rectitude, pomp and circumstance, and image distortion, not to mention rampant professorial self-censorship and spinelessness. That is the academic culture, as addressed in one of my previous blogs.

In any case, the issue of Academe I consulted was upon the give-away counter at campus mail. So, I picked it up. It was my last day at the university and possibly, if not likely, my last day as an employed professor… and not out of choice. My intention was not to review it, just to leaf through it. But the idea took hold. Academe—not the magazine—tends to be pretty safe from hardcore criticism. For example, it had been next to impossible for me to get tough critique published in The Chronicle of Higher Education and impossible to interest Thought & Action, not to mention Inside Higher Ed, a Chronicle spin-off. The former tended to prefer mild, cutesy how-my-husband-and-I-both-got-tenure-at-the-same-university articles authored by anonymous pen-name professors like Thomas Benton. To get one column in response to the 52-guest columns authored by one professor praising the University of Louisiana at Monroe in the local newspaper, I had to fight tooth and nail with the editor of The News Star for several months. Take a look at that column. Then you’ll know why I had to fight: www.theamericandissident.org/Op-Ed-NewsStar.htm.

In any case and to my amazement, on the very top of Academe’s masthead, listed as AAUP president, was none other than Mr. Tenured Radical himself, Cary Nelson. Was I dreaming? Would Professor Nelson soon be writing another book, Manifesto of a Tenured Goon in Academic Robe? Let’s hope so.

One feature story in Academe caught my attention, in particular, because it summed up what academe had become. No, the story was not “Why Most Tenured Professors Don’t Need Academic Freedom” or “How Collegiality Has Replaced Truth in Higher Education,” but rather “Who Retires When and How?” Exuberantly, the editor states: “Examine your own college’s policies in light of the report; use it to help in your own activism on campus around issues of retirement benefits.” Ah, so they called that activism today!

Pages 4-5 constituted an advertisement-article for the AAUP’s efforts to raise $10 million for an endowment fund. Money, indeed, was what higher education had become all about today. What would the AAUP do with more money, if not assure the academic status quo of self-censorship, backslapping, self-congratulating, and image hyperinflation? “Academic Freedom for a Free Society” was its motto. But the reality was rather Academic Enslavement for a Corporate Society. The AAUP boasted that it “defends the academic freedom of the professoriate,” but to do what, if not to do business as usual and otherwise fully cooperate in the corporate co-optation of the university by always exchanging silence for monetary remuneration? Academe was festering with tenured-professor functionaries and bureaucrats, those “goons in academic robes,” in the words of Cary Nelson, and seemed to be quite content manufacturing more of the same. It’s the system, dummy! The AAUP ought to have been fighting, not for more money, but, for example, to put an end to the three letters of recommendation requisite in the hiring process because those letters assured a candidate likely not to exercise his or her First Amendment rights. Instead, they certified the candidate unlikely to engage in vigorous debate concerning issues at his or her particular institution. At this very moment, I found myself in a self-censorship dilemma because the dean had promised to write a letter of recommendation. Why didn’t anybody speak out about that dubious institution? A simple statement by an employer of an employee’s attendance and assiduity should replace those letters.

Mayra Besosa’s article, “Golden State Solidarity,” was somewhat interesting especially the discussion on the attempt to apply “private-sector management models to the public sector” in higher education, otherwise known as New Public Management. In her concluding statement, Besosa noted: “as tenure-track faculty members become a smaller percentage of the professoriate, contingent [adjunct] faculty will increasingly have to carry the torch in the struggle to save higher education.” That sounded nice, but why had higher education gone down the tubes when tenure-track faculty had existed in larger numbers, if not because most tenured faculty were simply uninterested in truth and democracy at their particular institutions? Their interest tended to be more monetary and job-security than anything else. “Together, we (adjunct and tenure-track faculty) can challenge the notion that anyone should have to sacrifice human dignity and respect to the needs of cost-efficiency.” Again, that sounded fine and dandy, but what about those tenured faculty—the large majority—who didn’t seem to give a damn about dignity? What was most needed in higher education were faculty who would “go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways” (Emerson) and who would let their lives “be a counterfriction to stop the machine” (Thoreau). So rare were such faculty in higher education today that one had to conclude tenure or the absence thereof had simply become irrelevant. Instead, faculty members overly concerned with offending or being offended had proliferated.

Of little if any interest was the superficial “filler” article authored by William C. Handorf, “Football or Physics?” It dealt with higher education… as featured on commemorative postal stamps over the years and how to make suggestions for future stamps. That article would have made a great feature story in The Chronicle of Higher Education! Well, I’d like to make a suggestion or two: a professor in black gown and multicolored court-jester hat or a professor holding a sword thrust into the heart of democracy. Hmm.

The report on institutions censured by the AAUP was of interest, listing 43 such institutions and developments regarding each one. But 43 seemed relatively small. I would have expected 99% of all institutions of higher education to be deserving of censure for intolerance of free speech and expression. It’s the system, dummy! The AAUP stipulated that its “censure is visited specifically upon” an institution’s “administration,” not faculty. Perhaps it was time it contemplated censuring the latter too. The institutions where I’ve taught all ought to have been censured for corrupt administrations and cowardly faculty bodies, yet not one of them appeared on the list, not Elmira College, Fitchburg State College, Bennett College, Grambling State College, nor Davenport University. Interestingly, some of the censured institutions had been on the AAUP list since the sixties and seventies and some clearly didn’t give a damn about their status.

More than half of this issue of Academe was devoted to a rather tedious business-like special report on Katrina and the diverse Louisiana universities affected by her. I did not read the report, only the very beginning.

Finally, Cary Nelson’s last-page editorial, “No Campus Is an Island,” dealt with tenure and the purported great fear of professors of the possibility of losing it! Well, that alone ought to have helped keep their muzzles firmly in place. But why would professors who rarely if ever dared openly criticize their particular institutions be so concerned with losing their jobs? That was a question Nelson did not address. Clearly, free speech was not the concern at all and perhaps ought not to be confused with academic freedom, which more likely dealt with the freedom not to publish, not to refresh ones courses with new materials, not to engage students sufficiently, and especially not to be an ardent supporter of the First Amendment. Nelson seemed to focus on—what else is new?—money, arguing that tenured faculty needed to “hold common cause” (i.e., holding on to tenure), but “How much solidarity should an assistant professor of art feel with an assistant professor of business earning more than twice as much?” Tenure ought to be eliminated. The majority of professors, who had it, clearly didn’t deserve it because they failed miserably to meet their moral obligation to encourage free speech and expression and vigorous debate on their particular campuses. With that regard, I tested the waters at each and every institution where I taught. Most professors (99%) were simply uninterested. That was the nature of the beast.

By the way, in the mid-90s, in vain, I tried to obtain help from the AAUP regarding the corruption I experienced first hand on the tenure track at a public college. AAUP members at that college (Fitchburg State, MA) proved entirely indifferent and unsupportive. Some even proved hostile. That college ended up paying me a secret monetary settlement because the corruption my case underscored was egregious. Yet those AAUP members chose to either ignore or belittle it. Most of them are still festering at that institution, ever grubbing for mo’ money…

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Jack Conway

The Unspoken Mantra of U Mass English Professors: Just Say NO to Criticism!
When one reviews the corruption pervading the American academic intellectual world in the 1990s with regards teaching and research, the political corruption, the personal corruption, the institutional financial corruption—it is difficult not to believe in a destructive force at work, a fatal hubris. The one thread that seems to link all these corruptions is the intellectual arrogance of the players, their sense of being superior, their tendency to view others with disdain. That thread is a shameless breaking of the ordinary rules of society, as if, somehow, the breakers of the rules were earthly gods, incapable of being called to account...
—Martin Anderson, Imposters In The Temple

Unsurprisingly, the critical blog I’d recently addressed to University of Massachusetts English professors was essentially ignored by them (see October 16th). Ad hominem was the knee-jerk response of Professors Nelles and Skerrett. If you don’t know what ad hominem means, definitions and examples from, amongst others, U Mass English professors, are online at www.theamericandissident.org/AdHominem.htm.

In any case, several months ago (September 9th), I received an email from Jack Conway, a Bristol Community College and University of Massachussetts (Dartmouth) English professor. Conway was apparently angered, to say the least, that I’d actually dared criticize a rather lame statement he’d made on poetry (see below). Apparently, things like that just aren’t done at U Mass, where the proper thing to do is self-congratulate, backslap and praise ones colleagues and superiors.

Evidently, something is wrong at UMass, where professors are likely evaluated not in terms of truth telling and integrity, but rather sycophancy, collegiality, connections, and other lubrication of the machinery. The waves such professors will likely make, if any at all, will certainly not be made against the inherently corrupt university, but rather in line with “Waves of Scandal Rattle Beacon Hill” (article appearing in the Sunday Globe). Indeed, Conway ran for selectman this year!

The following is Professor Jack Conway’s email and my response to it, which Conway never answered.

Dear Mr. Bone [sic]: I am always inyterested [sic] when one of my many students bring to my attention any remarks regarding all my many publications. The follwoing [sic] was recently brought to my attention: “Jack Conway writes: ‘I teach my students at both Bristol Community College and the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth that the genre of poetry is a ‘big tent’ with room beneath it for many different forms and styles. I also teach them that there are many people with measuring tapes out there in the world of poetry today trying to measure American Poetry for a coffin and to beware of them.’ Perhaps Conway also needs to inform his students that poetry is, or at least should be, much more than “form and style.” It is, or at least should be, also substance. He needs to inform them which “substances” constitute taboos; for example, criticism of the University of Massachusetts and its creative writing professors. Conway needs to challenge his students to break those taboos. Moreover, he might inform them that that coffin is being measured perhaps because of the nation’s poetry professors, including Conway himself.” I presume it apperad [sic] in your blog or something. I am not sure. I find it hard to believe that you migth [sic] write something like this with so little information, including what I teach. Well, the Internet has been good for one thing: It has allowed people like yourself who woud [sic] not be published otherwise to try and feel some limited success. Good for you. As for me, I guess I'll get back to real publishing. Thanks for the comments. I's [sic] too bad you have it all wrong but I'm pretty sure your readers expect that. I kknow [sic] the student who brought this to my attention did. They said, "Look at this trite shit.." I had to laugh. When I sked [sic] who wrote it she said, "Some undereducated pig." Yikes. So there ya go. I guess the good news is that those of us who teach in colleges and universities reach far more people than stuff like this. In fact, I recently read a wonderful statement saying that blogs and self-publishing sites like I presume yours is, are now looked upon by t he current generation as vanity presses without the paper. Well, goodluck [sic] in whatever it is you do and I am sincerely glad that even without much of an education you can feel some limited success publ;ishing [sic] even if it is seen as pedestrian.


To Professor Jack Conway: Come on, surely you can do better than making fun of my last name! And you really ought not to be encouraging students to engage in similar, childish ad hominem rhetoric (e.g., "Some undereducated pig."). With that regard, examine theamericandissident.org/AdHominem.htm. In fact, why not direct your students to that web page? It might actually incite them to think! All I did concerning you was simply examine with a sharp critical eye a rather vacuous statement you made regarding poetry (for the full context, consult theamericandissident.org/BookReviews-Rattle.htm). BTW, I do not blog, though admit I might like to try it in the near future. Vis-√†-vis publishing, why denigrate self-publishing, given the rather bourgeois nature of the publishing machine? Besides, since when did quantity (“all my publications”) indicate quality? Do you actually know any poets who haven’t published right and left and everywhere else? Indeed, being well-published today and vaunting that fact, as you do, is as banal as it gets. Since you’ve demeaned my record in that area without having any idea of it, I attach a partial list to this email. You note: “I am sincerely glad that even without much of an education you can feel some limited success…” But can you actually make such a broad determination regarding my “education” from five sentences? Or do you simply choose to perceive anyone apt to criticize you as automatically uneducated? If so, apparently you’re not the only one in higher education to do that. Indeed, it is as if an intellectual cancer has been spreading in the ranks of the professorate, rendering real critical thinking to the realm of improper manners, while lowering “education” to that of collegiality and general multicultural groupthink. For the record, I do possess a doctorate from the Universit√© de Nantes (France)… not that that makes me particularly “educated,” though through ivory-tower eyes it likely would. On another note, the plethora of spelling and grammar errors in your email ought to dumbfound, though given the state of networked-cronyism in Massachusetts, perhaps not. Indeed, reading your email reminded me of reading the worst of student papers. I suggest you consult my writing-well lecture (theamericandissident.org/DUWritingWell.htm), especially point #9 with regards proofreading and spell checking.

You note, regarding my five-sentence critique: “I guess the good news is that those of us who teach in colleges and universities reach far more people than stuff like this.” Good news? It would make me cry if not such old news. Those of you—not all, but perhaps as many as 99% of you—“who teach” have been disgracefully failing the citizenry relative to the importance of democracy. Far too many of you have proven to be frightfully terrible role models in your conformity (i.e., herd-like behavior), careerism, and spinelessness. You fail to teach the importance of questioning and challenging, not to mention vigorous debate, preferring instead to inculcate blind obedience to the canon and worship of its icons Pinsky, Collins, Dove, Angelou, Snyder et al. Finally, what you failed to do is examine my argument that for poetry to be meaningful, it should be more than simple forme, metaphor, and playful wit. In other words, it NEEDS to contain substance. These things said, why not consider subscribing to The American Dissident? Your students (well, perhaps not that female) would surely appreciate its refreshingly critical stance.

[No response]