January 11, 2014
On being female (and feminist) in cyberspace
(Thanks again to Jason Walta for the pointer.)
January 08, 2014
"Why women aren't welcome on the Internet"
This is timely, given the topic du jour in the legal blogosphere concerning the harassment of Prof. Leong. The article mentions important work on these issues by Danielle Citron (Maryland) and Mary Anne Franks (Miami). It also reveals that, once again, the Elecronic Frontier Foundation is on the morally depraved side of the issue. (At what point will so-called progressive law professors become ashamed to ally themselves with the juvenile libertarians of EFF, the leading supporters of keeping cyberspace the cesspool it is?)
(Thanks to Jason Walta for the pointer.)
ABA Journal on Professor Leong's complaint
Here; an excerpt:
James Grogan, chief counsel for the Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission, told the ABA Journal that state supreme court rules bar him from confirming or denying that a probe request was filed. Speaking generally, he said Illinois and a few other jurisdictions have initiated cyberstalking investigations of lawyers in the past.
It's been curious to see dybbuk's various defenders (including some posting at the ABA site) claim that Professor Leong's allegations aren't accurate, yet they are all documented with screen shots of the postings in the complaint. And it appears to be true, and easily verifiable with search engines, that dybbuk's most extended ridicule and abuse of tenure-track law faculty, in particular of their scholarship, has been directed at seven individuals, two minority men, and five women, three of them also minorities (this includes Prof. Leong). Dybbuk has, to be sure, occasionally delivered passing insults aimed at white men (even me, but no surprise there!), but none of them that I have seen (and I have seen a lot) have been subjected to the extended cyber-harassment dybbuk visited on these others, all of whom are women and/or minorities, as Professor Leong claimed. Why the scholarship of female and minority law faculty warrants special abuse by this dybbuk character is a question that perhaps the Bar investigation, if there is one, will illuminate. It could simply be coincidental, and not a matter of gendered or racial animus. Or perhaps it will turn out that he is more of an equal opportunity harasser of law professors than the evidence so far suggests?
In any case, it's good to know that the Illinois Bar does sometimes investigate these kinds of cases.
January 06, 2014
Paul Campos now resorting to "blackmail"!
Alas, my hopes for a Campos-free 2014 have been dashed. After the poll went up last week about whether to identify "dybbuk," the sexist cyber-harasser, I received the following e-mail from Campos:
From: Paul F Campos [mailto:paul.campos@Colorado.EDU]
Sent: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 11:03 AM
To: Leiter, Brian
I have been asked by somebody who has passed on (unsolicited) some potentially very embarrassing personal information about you to me, regarding your activities in cyberspace and some related goings-on in the real world, to make this information public, should you choose to “out” Dybbuk.
I am told by a colleague who teaches criminal law that this threat is blackmail (criminal "intimidation" as we call it in Illinois, or "extortion" or "criminal coercion" as it is in many other jurisdictions). I have no idea what fabrications Campos would produce this time, but there is nothing truthful he could post, and he knows it. (Remarkably, this is also not the first time Campos has tried to coerce another law professor with threats.)
Several law professors and lawyers I consulted thought that I should now absolutely name "dybbuk," since it would be wrong to give in to scurrilous threats like this. On the other hand, I noted last week some of my misgivings about identifying “dybbuk” (in the final update), and those misgivings remain; and while it is true that Campos and dybbuk are "cyber-buddies," as it were, I have no evidence that "dybbuk" put him up to this malevolent stunt ("dybbuk" is an actual lawyer, who probably knows blackmail when he sees it).
I'd be especially glad to hear from some of those originally skeptical about naming "dybbuk" how Campos's latest malfeasance should factor into a decision; others with thoughts on this matter are also welcome to post their thoughts: full name and valid e-mail address required. If you'd rather not comment in public, I understand--getting on the radar screen, even virtually, of these vile people can be unnerving. Anyway, if you prefer, feel free to e-mail me instead.
Thanks. (This is the first week of class, so please be patient if I do not respond in a timely way or if your comments do not appear right away.)
ADDENDUM: A couple of readers point out the link is to multiple statutes (including the "intimidation" statute); here's the relevant bit of the statute: "A person commits intimidation when, with intent to cause another to perform or to omit the performance of any act, he or she communicates to another, directly or indirectly by any means, a threat to perform without lawful authority any of the following acts...(3) Expose any person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule...." Meanwhile, the tweet by law professor Kevin Heller (Melbourne & London) pretty much sums up the reader reaction so far.
ONE MORE: An alert reader calls to my attention that "dybbuk" surfaced on one of the websites where he usually spends his time insulting and ridiculing law professors to make a "statement": "I had no prior knowledge of Paul Campos’s alleged [sic] email to Brian Leiter, and do not approve of it." I am inclined to believe him, partly for the reasons noted earlier. Meanwhile, thanks to other readers for their e-mails. The funniest response comes from a colleague at Penn whose subject-line read "Campos" and whose e-mail consisted of three words: "Oh my God." I do think some readers are having trouble believing he would do something this stupid--even "dybbuk" apparently can't quite believe it! Alas, it is true.
ANOTHER: A commenter below writes:
I thought you'd be interested to know that Mr. Campos has posted on JDU [a chat room] the following explanation for his e-mail: "I contacted Leiter because I assumed he would want to know that someone is trying to get me (and perhaps other people with media platforms) to participate in this person's scheme to embarrass him. And of course this person might act on his or her own." That's a ridiculous defense given the message he sent and given his clear hatred of you. Someone in the same chat observed, “In what world does Paul Campos give a shit about fucking Brian Leiter's reputation enough to inform him of a threat to release embarrassing information?”
This "explanation" is remarkably absurd: if Campos had wanted to warn me of danger, he would have assured me he would never publish such trash, would have warned me about the content, and alerted me to the person making the threat. I guess he now realizes the mess he is in--"blackmailing" another law professor from his university e-mail account--so he is floating this silly story as a trial balloon to see if anyone is stupid enough to believe it! Amazing.
January 05, 2014
The Winter Quarter starts here at Chicago this week...
...and no doubt others are returning from their winter breaks and/or AALS (barring winter weather fiascos!). Here then a few blog items from the winter break you might have missed:
January 01, 2014
Two short Huffington Post pieces...
...that appeared over the last few days:
I'm sure they'll make for good discussion at the bar at the upcoming AALS meeting.
I'll be blogging somewhat more regularly this year at Huffington Post, though not primarily about legal education.
December 31, 2013
Should a noxious cyber-harasser be identified by name?
In yesterday's post about the jackass harassing Prof. Leong on-line, I referred to him only as "M," since Prof. Leong had not named him on her blog. His identity is not in doubt: he is named in her ethics complaint to the bar, and he even admitted on his "scam" blog that Prof. Leong had contacted him. My own view is that Levmore and Schopenhauer have it right, and that people like this should ordinarily be exposed, and that if they were exposed more often, cyberspace would be less of a cesspool than it currently is.
But what do readers think? Should M be named in public, and bear the reputational costs of his noxious sexism and on-line harassment? Here's a poll for readers:
UPDATE: It appears "friends of M" may now be voting, but even so the vote is lopsided in favoring of naming M (77 in favor, 22 against, 7 undecided). Interesting.
ANOTHER: The vote is pretty lopsided in favor of naming the miscreant (109 in favor, 30 against, 9 undecided), but I'd be curious to hear from those who voted 'no' what their reasoning is. Please e-mail me.
AND ONE MORE: So with more than 200 votes cast, the distribution of opinion is pretty clear: about 75% think “M” should be named, about 20% think he should not be named, and 5% are undecided. [Final tally: 180 for, 51 against, 11 undecided.] Ibsen warned us the “majority is always wrong,” which is why I solicited input from those skeptical of naming him. The best reason I’ve heard for not naming “M” is that even if he is a sexist jackass and cyber-harasser, he doesn’t deserve to lose his job over that. I certainly agree that “punishment” would be disproportionate to his wrongdoing, but I also think it an unlikely outcome. Still, it is a weighty consideration. A colleague elsewhere made a different point: “I voted no on naming M, on pragmatic grounds. My impression is that most cyber trolls, like most imbeciles generally, crave attention more than anything else. Publicly naming them could inadvertently give them exactly the attention they want--and hence throw them right into the briar patch.” And another said: “He will just choose a new handle and continue with his mischief. Let the Bar deal with this, and ignore him.” I’d still be glad to hear from others who voted ‘no’ about their reasons, before deciding how to proceed. (Classes here start Monday, so I’m a bit swamped right now.)
December 30, 2013
Paul Campos is back for the holidays, defending cyber-harassment and sexist abuse!
I've been enjoying a holiday from the sordid nonsense in the law-related blogosphere, but multiple readers have e-mailed me over the last few days to point out that Crazy Campos ("CC") spent his Xmas week attacking an untenured law professor for having the audacity to object to sexist cyber-harassment. (Some have blogged about it already.) This latest malevolent stunt by CC goes well beyond his delusional cyber-rampage against me earlier this year, though like that last one, it appears to have been brought on by the fact that CC felt he was defending some of his loyal cyber-followers.
Some background: CC continues to blog at a site called Lawyers, Guns & Money, which Glenn Greenwald memorably described as "a cesspool of unprincipled partisan hackdom" and "a filthy cesspool." CC's primary contributions to this "filthy cesspool" consist in continued smears of law schools and law professors.
As we noted a couple of weeks ago, Denver's Nancy Leong filed an ethics complaint (which I have now seen) against "M," a criminal defense lawyer in his mid-40s here in Chicago, who has spent hundreds (!) of hours over the last year or so harassing, ridiculing and defaming Professor Leong and lots of other law professors using the pseudonym "dybbuk" (and variations); among other things, he has written multiple blog posts and thousands of words devoted to ridiculing articles overwhelmingly by female and minority faculty. Here are some examples of his sexist harassment of Prof. Leong (all taken from the complaint and verified by screen shots of the postings):
On August 12, 2012, M described Prof. Leong as a “law professor hottie at Sturm School of Law” in a comment disparaging her scholarship and professional qualifications.
On August 12, 2012, M said of Prof. Leong's attendance at a professional conference: “All [the law professors] have to do is attend some ‘annual meeting’ of some ‘society’ where they pretend to listen to Leong yap about ‘pragmatic approaches of reactive commodification,’ while undressing her with their eyes.”
On September 11, 2012, M described Prof. Leong as a “comely young narcissist” in a comment disparaging her scholarship and professional qualifications.
On September 22, 2012, M described Prof. Leong as a “comely young scam defender” and emphasized that a link contained “Leong’s CV, photo included!” in a comment extensively disparaging her scholarship and professional qualifications.
On October 18, 2013, M defended his various “wisecracks and other offensive comments about [Leong's] pulchritude” by explaining that “[I]t is an unsayable truth that attractive persons, of both genders, are sometimes rewarded in ways they do not necessarily deserve. I believe social scientists call this ‘sexual capital.’”
M wrote two lengthy plays that depicted Prof. Leong using illegal drugs and connected those plays to her scholarship and professional life.
M is one of the regular bloggers [at a scam blog]. Comments on the blog are moderated before appearing and can be removed. Entire posts are sometimes removed...M’s posts about Prof. Leong on that blog generated a large number of comments that were sexist, racist, harassing, false, or defamatory. Despite being the author of the posts, he did nothing to discourage or remove the comments.
It's actually worse than that: M clearly encouraged the harassment, and posted appreciative comments to fan the flames. (Prof. Leong documents this in the complaint.)
As Professor Leong noted in one of her prior posts about cyber-harassment, M's sense of "humor" is of a piece with his puerile sexism, as in this charming item about an unemployed female law graduate:
M is a creepy and pathetic individual, but as Prof. Leong noted, he also made the mistake of having "posted specific information about his alma mater, the city where he lived, his job, various professional organizations to which he belonged, and other miscellaneous information. It took fifteen minutes to find out who he was using google and other publicly available databases. The result was troubling in itself: he was a public defender in his late forties who apparently has nothing better to do than harass an untenured professor." (Amusingly, M's response to all this was to claim Prof. Leong was "harassing" him! You really can't make this stuff up.)
Astonishingly, CC has now come to M's defense, taking it upon himself to ridicule Professor Leong for daring to object to sexist and racist abuse in cyberspace! Interestingly, even the commenters at Campos's "filthy cesspool" of a blog were appalled by these posts, which they describe better than I can:
#1: It is shameful that, after all the sexist and other harassment that dybbuk and his ilk have heaped on this untenured professor (and encouraged from others) over the course of more than a year, that Campos has piled on with his second derogatory post about her in two days. It is shameful that he and others are parsing her wedding announcement, citing his “sources” at UCLA where she is apparently looking for a job as if he has some inside info about her. I hope she sues this tenured professor for defamation. His headline in yesterday’s post certainly sounds defamatory to me and wholly invented out of thin air.
#2: It’s thoroughly messed up that Campos has chosen to attack Leong by questioning her racial identity (biracial people can indeed be subject to racism) and deriding her scholarship as an exercise in pure narcissism. This is sexist, racist garbage and [this blog] should be ashamed for publishing it.
#3: I’ve been enjoying reading this blog in the last few weeks, and finding an interesting mix of labor issues, feminism, and anti-racism. These two posts about Leong, however, are utterly shocking and disappointing. It’s perfectly possible to criticize problems in legal academia without minimizing racist and sexist behavior, or engaging in it – perfectly possible but not, it seems, in this case. Other people have asked Campos to stop posting on this issue. I would like to see an apology for what he’s already said before I decide whether to continue reading his posts, or indeed this blog.
#4: This post, and Paul’s one from the other day, are the most disturbing, mean-spirited, ill-conceived, and baseless I’ve read on this blog. It makes me question whether I want to be part of this community at all. The so called “criticism” of Professor Leong, such as it is, amounts mostly to name calling, coupled with personal attacks. So far, Paul has called our attention to (1) a blog post and (2) a short article written by this professor. Her cv reveals that the article in question was one of four she wrote during that YEAR. Let’s compare Paul’s cv. He has written three articles since 2006. Personally, I thought the Open Road piece (or at least the introduction, which is all I read) was mildly interesting. But WHO CARES! I suspect Professor Leong wrote it as an interesting, light-hearted way of talking about an issue — racial profiling — that people have talked about a lot. It’s not like this was the ONLY article she wrote. But something about her race, gender, appearance, youth or whatever has captured the mind of Paul Campos and his cronies and so they’ve engaged in a prolonged character-assassination campaign.
#5: Paul Campos latched on to Nancy Leong’s statement on her personal blog that she used a racially ambiguous photo of herself in profiles on a variety of dating web-sites as justification to discuss her race (“tenuously racialized”), whether she could “’pass’ as ‘white’”, and whether she is trying to “leverage her putatively marginalized racial/ethnic status for professional purposes.” This is racist (and stupid). I’m white as wonder bread and I could take a racially ambiguous picture of myself with the right lighting and a few minutes on Photoshop. He further suggests that her race is now a matter for public debate because “she chose to make her ethnic identity a central feature of the complaint she says she filed with the bar against Dybbuk.” As far as I can tell, we don’t know whether a complaint was filed and even if one was we don’t know what its gravamen is. What we know is that Leong found one comment of Dybbuk’s to be racist and a bunch of other people disagree. Leong’s identification of this as racist may open the door to a discussion of the remark, but it does not (in my mind) open the door to discussion of her race. This too is racist and retaliatory. As for sexism, Campos’s minimization of the obvious sexism in several of Dybukk’s remarks yesterday is itself sexism. That one’s pretty easy – it’s sexist to say that it’s no big deal when other people write sexist stuff. Finally, it is retaliatory to write two attack pieces about someone because you’re angry that she called one of your friends out for (perceived) racism and sexism and (purportedly) filed a bar complaint, and because it’s seeking to punish someone for complaining about sexism and racism, it too is racist and sexist (and would, for example, violate Title VII if done in the workplace).
The following is probably a good "rule of thumb": if those who comment at your "filthy cesspool" of a blog think you've violated some norms of decency, you probably have.
Strikingly, Campos actually admits at the end of his hit piece that he himself does not know how to “carry out serious academic work or train people to practice law." (Yes, he admits it!) It appears to be the only true statement he's managed to make of late.
I'll conclude with a hopeful thought from one of CC's colleagues at Colorado (where he is not, as one might imagine, a "beloved colleague"): "I think and/or hope that while Campos still is mentally ill and quite degenerate, he’s burned through the 15 minutes of fame that let him have more of an audience than the standard faculty crank." Barring some further extreme nuttiness from CC, we are looking forward to a CC-free 2014.
December 20, 2013
Is the "National Enquirer" blog for law about to fold?
I've heard this rumor a couple of times in recent months, and it's not inconsistent with my own impressions of the notorious gossip cyber-rag "Above the Law": links from there send far less traffic than they did a few years ago (I'd say half the amount, probably less), and most posts there seem to generate very few "comments" these days (we should be grateful for small blessings). The "quality" of reporting and analysis is as bad as ever, to be sure, but it looks like the audience is tiring of the show. I don't imagine anyone in the legal profession or legal academia would be sorry if the blog folded, though I, for one, would miss their Supreme Court clerkship updates! We will see what the new year brings...
UPDATE: The Blog Emperior does pay based on traffic. "LOL" as the bottom-feeders in cyberspace say! Happy New Year to all readers, the blog will probably be relatively quiet until the New Year (thanks Mr. Patrice, for filling my quota), unless something exciting happens (like ATL releases the comparative data [to contradict the evidence noted] for public inspection). My philosophy blog alone runs roughly 400,000 "unique visits" per month (and I don't make my living off of it!), so if ATL's "best" months are only a million visits, they are in worse trouble than I realized!
December 17, 2013
Dealing with cyber-harassment
Professor Leong offers a lot of very helpful advice, applicable even to cases of cyber-harassment that don't involve racism and misogyny. Her own story involving one of the more notorious "scamablog" trolls, "dybbuk," is instructive (this pathetic individual--an adult man in his 40s [!]--has been harassing, defaming, and insulting law professors [overwhelmingly women and minorities] on-line for a couple of years now):
Over the course of about fifteen months, this particular harasser commented about me approximately 70 times on at least five different websites, frequently remarking on my physical appearance. He started several derogatory threads devoted exclusively to me, in which other commenters also targeted me with racist and sexist harassment. He wrote two lengthy plays about me. The threads he started often attracted dozens or even hundreds of comments. His sustained attention to me also incited other pseudonymous members of a blog where he often posts to author lengthy racist and sexist posts about me, which, again, often attracted large numbers of comments about me, including comments from him. Moreover, he wrote offensive profiles of a dozen other law professors who were–so far as I could tell, with one exception–all women or people of color or both. And, of course, these were just the comments under his pseudonym. It would not surprise me to learn that some of the many anonymous comments about me were also by him, although I haven’t taken the time to investigate this. This sustained attention and the ideas it contained became increasingly disturbing to me, and eventually I decided to figure out who he was....
The pseudonymous individual I mentioned above had posted specific information about his alma mater, the city where he lived, his job, various professional organizations to which he belonged, and other miscellaneous information. It took fifteen minutes to find out who he was using google and other publicly available databases. The result was troubling in itself: he was a public defender in his late forties who apparently has nothing better to do than harass an untenured professor....
There are a few lessons here. One is that even in the online world harassers often feel compelled to develop continuous and stable personalities, perhaps as a way of compensating for the social deficiencies in their actual lives. Another is that a lot of harassers are repeat offenders–that is, if someone is harassing you, odds are that you aren’t the first....
After I discovered the identity of my most persistent harasser, I decided to give him a call, which is something that adults do when they have a disagreement to discuss. I did this for several reasons. One was that I wanted to talk to him so that I could try to understand why an untenured professor he had never met could become the subject of a year-plus obsession. Another reason was pure curiosity. I have always been interested in what causes people to hate one another–or, at the very least, to write hateful things about other people, especially those they have never met. But the main reason was simply that I truly wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. People’s lives are complicated by mental illness, loneliness, personal hardship, and grief. Although I have tried without success to find a definitive source for the saying “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” the words resonate with me and I try to live them. My hope was that the person who had written so many hateful things about me was a good person who–prompted by difficult personal circumstances–had made a mistake.
To my regret, my harasser refused to speak to me....
Sometimes harassers are subject to various sources of discipline besides the law itself. A number of professions, ranging from doctors to mental health providers to lawyers, are bound by profession-specific rules of conduct. A few of my harassers turned out to be attorneys. An examination of the rules of professional conduct in the states where one of them is licensed–followed by consultation with a couple of legal ethicists and an attorney staffing the ethics hotline–suggested that this attorney was in violation of multiple ethics provisions. And so I decided to file a formal complaint with the bars in the states where he is licensed.
I don’t know what will happen as a result of my complaint. Many state bars hesitate to stir up controversy, and attorney discipline is relatively rare. But I do feel that it is important for others closer to his situation to have knowledge of his online behavior so that they can make an informed decision about what to do.