William Cronon’s Partisan Bloviation

Mar 28, 2011 |  Mitchell Langbert

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William Cronon’s Partisan Bloviation

Mar 28, 2011 | 

Mitchell Langbert

The University of Wisconsin's Professor William Cronon has involved himself in a partisan Wisconsin battle concerning public employees' bargaining. In his blog he bloviates against the Republican Party's open records law request for e-mails he may have sent from his university e-mail account relating to partisan advocacy. I argue that a distinction needs to be made between the GOP's political response to Cronon's political advocacy and academic freedom:

Cronon has chosen to involve himself in the political process . He states that he has been careful to separate his personal e-mails from his university computer, and makes the spurious argument that communications with students constitute records under the Buckley Law....as a public official with a partisan affiliation Cronon has entered the political fray. He ought to expect that he be treated as a political player subject to the same tactics to which Cronon and his allies would subject GOP-affiliated officials. Even in his self-serving bloviation about the GOP's request Cronon cannot refrain from partisan rhetoric.


| March 28, 2011 - 4:31 PM

So if a faculty member expresses something publicly about contemporary affairs, the affronted party can go on a fishing expedition through his email.  Warrantless wiretaps would be better!  This is simply political gangsterism.  The National Association of Scholars should hang its head in shame!  The organization is making itself worse than useless.


| March 28, 2011 - 5:18 PM

A splendid piece on Cronon by Paul Krugman in the New York Times today.  “But there’s a clear chilling effect when scholars know that they may face witch hunts whenever they say things the G.O.P. doesn’t like.”  Exactly!  The NAS is now supporting witch hunts against scholars.


| March 28, 2011 - 5:22 PM

I take, Jonathan, that you and Paul Krugman are in favor of an open records law that applies to Republicans but not to Democrats. Democrats ought to be exempt because openness is chilling to their speech, but, of course, not to the Republicans who have been systematically excluded from unversity jobs.  A one party open records law is, I take it, is the flower of the value free social science that scholars practice in American universities. What a laugh.

Peter Wood

| March 29, 2011 - 1:38 PM

Dear Jonathan, In response to Mitchell Langbert’s blog post you write that “The National Association of Scholars should hang its head in shame.”  Please note that the NAS has as yet made no comment on the FOIA request for Professor Cronon’s emails.  Individuals who post on the NAS blog offer their individual opinions.


| March 29, 2011 - 9:28 PM

What a pathetic attempt to put words in my mouth!


| March 29, 2011 - 9:29 PM

Fair enough, but we do tend to be known by the company we keep.

Ashley Thorne

| March 30, 2011 - 1:10 PM

Peter has now commented on this in the Chronicle: http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/cronons-whirlwind/29016


| March 30, 2011 - 9:43 PM

A sad state the NAS has descended to—defending, however obliquely, an attempt to harass, intimidate—who knows, perhaps to destroy?—a distinguished academician. And of course, others who are less established and weaker.  It may be petty—so far—but it’s thuggish, verging on legalized gangsterism—it doesn’t matter whether it’s the Republicans or the fascists in Italy or the communists in the old Soviet Union.  (I know some refugees of the latter—some ex-Republicans among them!—who tell me that’s not an entirely far-fetched comparison, especially regarding the latter years of the, er, Soviet republic). 

For shame!

Mitchell Langbert

| March 30, 2011 - 9:57 PM

Oh my. Are you about to write a letter to my employer accusing me of violence against women? You wouldn’t be the first. After all, you believe in academic freedom will slander and try to get anyone fired who disagrees with you.  PS—maybe you didn’t notice Peter Wood’s post above that I don’t write for NAS. My opinions are my own.  Peter posted NAS’s position on the Chronicle website at http://chronicle.com/blogs/innovations/cronons-whirlwind/29016.

Luther Blissett

| March 30, 2011 - 10:59 PM

Jonathan, your outlandish accusations are as authoritarian as any national socialist. Sieg Heil, Jonathan.


| April 01, 2011 - 2:25 PM

Ah, the accusation ad Hitler, at last.  And I’d even foreborne to bring up the Gulag in my allusion.  Yes, the Republicans are going to be dragged off to the death camps by the academic left—in revenge for the witch hunts.  How perceptive to see it this early!  I hope you didn’t leak this on the campus network, you’re probably being monitored.  And the Republicans think email is the way to spy!


| April 01, 2011 - 2:29 PM

In regard to Peter Wood:  maybe you didn’t notice that I replied to his comment above?

Luther Blissett

| April 01, 2011 - 4:05 PM

Jonathan, you’re contradicting yourself. You wrote:

“thuggish, verging on legalized gangsterism — it doesn’t matter whether it’s the Republicans or the fascists in Italy or the communists in the old Soviet Union.”

Yes, the Republicans are coming to take you away. Ha ha. You remind me of Napoleon XIV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnzHtm1jhL4


| April 01, 2011 - 4:18 PM

Read my qualification about “the latter years” of the Soviet Union.  Then, the risk was not that you’d be taken out and shot or sent to the Gulag, but that you’d be destroyed by petty harassment, that your career would be destroyed, was it not?  Do I see parallels with what the Republicans are doing?  You bet!  And I really do know emigres from the late Soviet Union—professors—who see it too.  And I think some of them would be offended by your ‘Sieg Heil’ for more reasons than I care to go into.