For the Record…

Update: We’ve been informed that our critics have abandoned the campaign to write an open letter. As such, we’ve removed the original text of the letter as a gesture of goodwill.


You know, we’re trying to get back into the habit of making substantive posts, but our critics can’t stop trying to smear us. Jon Cogburn tried to do so by asserting, without even a hint of argument, that our publishing screenshots of Facebook comments of nasty and hateful comments from leftists was a violation of “privacy” and morally wrong. When we explained why we disagreed, instead of addressing our substantive points, he tried to get dozens of people to pressure our host to take us down because what we did was legally suspect. That didn’t work either.  Our host has confirmed that there was no TOS violation. So now he and others are trying to get a bunch of Christian philosophers to sign a letter condemning us and supporting those who publicly attacked Richard Swinburne and other traditionalist Christians. Clayton Littlejohn, for example, called Swinburne a ‘dick’ and Jason Stanley wrote that “’Fuck those assholes’ wildly understates my actual sentiments towards proponents of homophobic and therefore evil views such as Richard Swinburne’s” (Stanley has now offered an apology of sorts for his actions, which probably wouldn’t have happened in the absence of our intervention). And apparently some Christians are supporting the bully campaign against us:

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Unfortunately, they posted the letter in haste and realised that it wasn’t something even its own author could endorse:

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And yes, all of this was posted publicly before the author decided to take the letter down, as the above screenshot demonstrates (despite what the author of the letter says in his above comment, which is further evidence that some of our critics don’t understand what is ‘public’ and ‘private’ on Facebook). Bless their hearts! So we’re posting the original, objectionable letter here for your delectation. Enjoy!

Edit: We removed the text of the original letter upon learning that our critics abandoned the project, but our response may still be viewed by clicking the spoiler. It won’t make much sense without viewing the original letter, but we leave it here for the record.

Our response to the now-removed letter

Federal Philosopher

Federal Philosopher is a philosophy graduate student in New Jersey. She was awakened from her political slumbers after reading biographies of Margaret Thatcher—one of her heroes. She loves philosophy, but thinks the profession has been hijacked by a bunch of leftist bullies who are little more than partisan journalists that happen to know philosophical jargon. She carries a recurve bow and quiver full of arrows at all times, so as not to trigger leftists by saying she packs a .380 in her purse.

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32 Comments

  1. “Clayton Littlejohn, for example, called Swinburne a ‘dick’”

    Actually, I called him ‘Dick’, but never called him ‘a dick’. I thought it was mildly amusing at the time. In part, I thought it was amusing because you can call someone ‘Dick’ without calling them ‘a dick’ and I was hoping that someone would accuse me of doing the latter. In part, I thought it was amusing because I hoped that it would set off people who had delicate sensibilities. (Thanks! I can’t believe how well that worked.) I did decide to take the post down because I thought that it might be the kind of thing that could upset him and distracted from the issues that mattered more (e.g., the quality of his arguments, the challenge we face when faced with attempts to rationally defend views that many of us take to be bigoted, etc.).

    This is another post focusing on the wrong stuff. At some point you should take the high road and just ignore the demands for apologies, ignore the childish blog posts and use of profanity, and realise that if you want to further your cause you shouldn’t sink to the lower level. (And you certainly shouldn’t continue to act like a bunch of wannabe James O’Keefes. You do realise he’s a weasel, right?). Do some real philosophy for a change. Recognise that you’re all starting to turn into easily outraged scolds. If we’re going to talk about Swinburne, we should discuss Swinburne’s crude dismissal of natural law arguments and his repeated use of seriously dubious empirical work. If you had standards and weren’t just mindlessly cheering for your side, you would have discussed some of this by now, discussed whether his arguments stand up to scrutiny, and seen if you could do better. (I’ve seen suggestions at some point that someone here might actually try to do some philosophy and discuss these issues. Look, you’ve pulled your childish stunts to gain attention, why don’t you try to impress your audience with a bit of philosophy for a change. Put it out there. We don’t know who you are, so why are you afraid to put the arguments on the damn table and show us that you’re right about something?)

    I probably owe an apology to Swinburne for my mildly amusing but childish blog post. (Of course, he should apologise to lots of people for lining up again on the wrong side of history. (I haven’t defended that, but that’s how it is.) You all should apologise for continuing to be a bunch of creeps combing through Facebook posts written by people you don’t like looking for things to be outraged by.)

    Anyway, here goes. For the record, Richard, I’m sorry that I called you ‘Dick’. I’m also sorry that I helped contribute in some way to the recent discussion. It’s a shame that you have attracted this little group of miscreants to act as your loudest defenders. We’d all be better off if we spent more time listening to the adults in the profession who engage more sympathetically with your work.

    • “We’d all be better off if we spent more time listening to the adults in the profession who engage more sympathetically with your work.”

      Hey, at least we agree on something.

  2. It’s right and good of you to apologize. As such any retributive jokes towards you seem to me now to be unjustified. (Though, you have to admit, the RC joke was funnier).

    “You all should apologise for continuing to be a bunch of creeps combing through Facebook posts written by people you don’t like looking for things to be outraged by.”

    I know of nothing that I need to apologize for. And as far as the authors of the screenshot post go, no one has yet to produce anything close to a cogent argument that what anyone did was wrong. There is just a huge (intentional) distraction from focusing on the main issue which is the hateful and bigoted comments issued publically which were simply reported here, the authors of such comments now portrayed as the real victims (of course). And the latest screenshot appears to be public. So wherein is the creepiness? No one is in anyone’s bedroom. No phone taps. People are saying all this on FACEBOOK! You’re just repeating back the “creepiness” meme in your echo chamber (see also “wrong side of history”). Live a little. Think outside the establishment.

    There’s no invasion of privacy. Period. Again, easy solution: Stop the hate and bigotry in public (and hopefully in private as well).

    I wish you the best, and I respect owning up with the apology (if indeed it was sincere and you think you did wrong to Dr. Swinburne–and I suppose I should take you at your word).

  3. Also “For the Record”, I hope that this blog does NOT only do philosophy, especially if we mean by that what passes as “professional philosophy” today. I hope it reaches a more general audience than so-called “professional philosophers”, many of whom seem to me to know a great deal about a little but not much about a lot (although they certainly think they do). As evidence I give you all the so-called philosophers condemning RC with arguments that wouldn’t receive a B in an Introduction to Philosophy course. Step outside the narrow bounds of comfort within the echo chamber and it’s a disaster.

  4. “Three of the authors make it clear that they have guns and are willing to use them”. LOL!

    And, Clayton, the last sentence of your last paragraph applies greatly to those on your side– the side that has no issue with telling persons to suck queer genitals.

    “We believe that Christians are called to boldly proclaim their beliefs and own their words, even if doing so puts one’s career at risk”.

    These scoundrels would love nothing more than that.

  5. Everyone’s doing philosophy, but not everyone’s doing it well.

    Hence I’m finding this blog to be *very* helpful as an “iron sharpening iron” tool, and I’m quite frankly astonished (though admittedly delighted) to see how mush-brained the cream of the crop, leading left liberal philosophers really are when the chips are down.

    It’s encouraging to see like-minded (to a large degree anyway) conservative thinkers coming together in this way, and it’s equally encouraging (and satisfying) to see the intellectual opposition scurrying and fulminating and fumbling like teenagers who suddenly had the lights turned on without warning.

    “Like, OMG! I thought, like, your mom and dad were gone for the weekend!!”

  6. Clayton,

    I’m confused by your comment. You have stated in other comments that you don’t think well of our blog. You’ve made it very clear that you want our causes to lose. You’ve said that we and others are engaging in schoolyard antics, and should start doing philosophy.

    Yet, every time this blog does a post like this one, you are always one of the first and most spirited commenters. Why do you criticize blogs for these kinds of posts, yet always end up getting down “into the fray” and commenting on these very posts?

    Also, given your opposition to us and our causes, why do you (so kindly?) offer so many suggestions to help us? That makes no sense to me.

  7. “Let’s begin with the most outrageous point the author makes: that the Rightly Considered contributors expected and hoped that our original exposé would lead to “hate speech and death threats” against the those whose nasty comments we exposed. This violates every plausible norm of belief on the market. We completely condemn hate speech and violent or threatening behavior and **had no idea whatever that our little story would make it into the national media.**”

    Dreher writes on October 6: “The truth is, I first encountered Jason Stanley’s name when a reader sent me a link to this piece on the philosophy blog Rightly Considered.” (“this piece…” links to RC’s Sept 26 story, “Did Swinburne get swindled?”)

    Early in the comment thread on that Sept 26 RC story, AR-15 writes: “The blog noted by Rod Dreher” with a link to Dreher’s story of earlier that day, updated to link to RC. RC then updates its Sept 26 story at the top to note the pickup by Dreher.

    It seems implausible that AR-15 is not the “reader” who wrote to Dreher on Sept 26. AR-15 is one of the original contributors to RC.

    So it then also seems implausible that you “had no idea whatever that our little story would make it into the national media” when the easiest explanation for how it did so is that one of your contributors feed the story to Dreher.

    How the story was then picked up on by the Washington Times in its Sept 29 post is anyone’s guess.

    • Hahahahahahaha! That’s your evidence? A timestamp which reveals the blog knew about the link early on? Seriously? Are you off your meds again? There’s other options, you know, like how about the fact that the blog is notified whenever someone links to it.

      • Dreher claims “a reader” sent him a link to the RC story. It is possible RC and AmCon have readers in common. It is also possible, and IMO more plausible, that an author at a young, weak-traffic blog, alerted a higher-traffic blog about a story and got the link he desired.

      • Dreher’s post was written two days after the RC post, and the RC post already had many thousands of views by then. Given that conservative blogs are few and far between, it is very plausible we have readers in common, and that one of them sent Dreher the link, especially given the denial by AR-15. Your theory needs to invoke that AR-15 is *lying* to you. How silly.

    • First, as a contributor, I am not aware of any other contributor who sent it to Dreher (none told me that they did so, as far as I can recall). I suspect that this is true of most of our contributors, including our editor, who wrote those words. Second, even if one of our contributors did send it to Dreher (which I don’t know), it’s still false that he or she had a ‘reasonable expectation’ that it would get picked up. At best, he or she was *hoping* that it would get picked up by Dreher. Third, even if he or she did know that it would get picked up by Dreher, it’s false that he or she knew that it would get as much attention elsewhere as the original story got or the extent to which Dreher would be interested in the story. Finally, even if he or she did know that this would become a national story, it doesn’t follow, and isn’t true (if I know the contributors as well as I hope), that he or she was *hoping* for threatening and harassing behavior to follow. Speaking for myself, I definitely don’t condone that behavior and believe that it’s seriously immoral.

      • yes, all that denial of expectations and hopes is all well and good, but it raises questions whether you’re not being negligent in your understanding of the virality of stories and the sort of online harassment likely to occur when the hatosphere gets involved. signal-boosting FB convos via screenshots is red meat to the haters out there and resulted in stanley being beseiged at home with threats. now that you know how it works, i hope you will exercise more caution going forward.

        Finally, one of the drawbacks of pseudonymity, of which I’m sure you’re aware, is that it deprives you of the ability to draw upon an IRL reputation for probity, honesty, and so forth as backups for testimony like you offer above. When it’s in your interest to deny what is otherwise plausible, then the “MRD applies” line gains even more strength.

      • Since you think AR-15 is lying, then how ’bout this: Stanley is lying about the threats. Just another hate crime false flag, a popular tactic by SJWs to drum up criticisms, actually. See how easy it is to argue for conspiracy theories when we get to accuse others of lying?

      • The fact that people like Protevi and Stanley consider _other_ people “haters” or call _other_ online stuff “the hatosphere” is fascinating. Telling colleagues to fuck off, calling them assholes, telling them to suck your big queer dick because they believe in traditional sexual morality is not an expression of hate. It would be one thing if they said those other people were haters and that they too are haters, that they differ from those other people only in the objects of their hate. But they don’t say that! They really do seem to have no idea that they themselves are going around radiating hatred 24-7. They think they’re nice!

        Imagine the mental world you’d have to inhabit in order for this to make sense. You’d have to think that traditionalist opinions were not just dubious or unreasonable or even provably false; you’d have to think they were so obviously or self-evidently false–and not just false, I guess but harmful–that anyone trying to argue for these opinions must be a very bad person who _knows_ that what they’re saying is terrible, but insists on arguing for these self-evidently false, wrong, harmful opinions nonetheless. Only then, perhaps, would it seem that venting your righteous rage and disgust with a bunch of schoolyard insults doesn’t make you a hater. You’re just a decent person responding in a natural way to the most obscene and immoral and dishonest provocation. At least I have to imagine that’s how these guys think. Because I don’t even have that response to people advocating for NAMBLA or Al Qaeda or the KKK: I allow that some of them might really believe what they’re saying, might be somewhat well-intentioned but ignorant or troubled or whatnot. I allow that some might really not be motivated by hate.

        Apparently one old-timey justification for jihad–I mean the not-nice kind, not the kind where you’re just working hard on your self-esteem–was the theological assumption that unbelievers must immediately _know_ the truth of Koranic revelation once it’s been presented to them. Therefore, anyone who still refuses to convert and submit on hearing the Islamic truth must be in the grip of demonic evil: they know it’s true, they know what’s right, but of sheer inexplicable moral perversity they keep on doing their evil works. The new left isn’t exactly like this, of course. For one thing the moral knowledge they seem to attribute to their enemies is much more bizarre than anything the medieval Islamic warriors had in mind. It’s weird also to imagine how they must think of their own mental development. Lots are middle-aged. When they were younger they themselves probably had lots of beliefs of the same kind that they now apparently take to be impossible–because virtually no one back then thought men could marry each other, or that men can become women just by thinking that they are, etc. Do they forget that they themselves once believed these things? Weird stuff.

  8. I’ve known a few of the bloggers here (though I understood at least one left because he didn’t like the direction this place took!), know that some can actually engage in interfering discussion of interesting ideas, and think that the philosophical community would be better served if they started focusing on arguments. I think they’re wrong about just about everything but see potential value in honest if sometimes heated exchange. Actual discussion of diverse views can be a good thing. (Right Reason started off well enoug, don’t it?) So, maybe there’s potential here. Instead of seeing people try to rationally justify and explain important conservative views, it all seems to be dominated by James O’Keefe-esque stunts, playground taunting, and the occasional bullying of people you lot don’t like. (That cheap shot on Helen comes to mind. If someone here doesn’t like her contributions to Prosblogion, maybe he could get to work and write something you guys think is worth discussing and put it out there. It’s a bit cowardly to talk trash like that behind a veil of anonymity and poisonous to the larger philosophical community.) This makes your side look bad and creates distrust between philosophers who should engage with each other more. (Aren’t you happy that some people who wouldn’t have read Swinburne’s talk have now done so? Aren’t you glad that some people have started to compare his arguments to more traditional natural law arguments?)

    You lot like to condemn in strong language things you don’t like. So do I. You don’t like echo chambers. Neither do I. Shouldn’t you hope you get an audience of people to look at your arguments and tell you if they disagree with them.

    I find your comment odd because I thought you’d see that, like you, I condemn what I don’t like and think is wrong and, possibly like you, think that discussion of diverse ideas can be a good thing. (If you think your critics shouldn’t call you out and offer reasons, this is just becomes another echo chamber. If you want a little safe space for a pity party, just say it.)

  9. Wow, that’s some really flimsy evidence, and you are incorrect. I never sent anything. I don’t even follow Dreher or The American Conservative (though I’d heard of both before this). I commented after someone sent me a note who DOES follow Dreher saying that Dreher was commenting on the story.

    But I wouldn’t have had any scruples against doing so myself. Stanley is a public figure who occasionally writes for the NY Times. He’s a big boy. And he doubled down IN PUBLIC with his hateful and bigoted remarks. And you’re STILL making him out to be the VICTIM instead of sincerely apologizing, owning the remarks, and promising to get therapy or setting out on a spiritual path of self-improvement, etc.???

    Here’s a hypothesis. The victim card is being played because you and others DO NOT really think the remarks were bigoted and you HATE people like me. What Stanley said was unfortunate and regrettable, but nothing that really needs to be apologized for sincerely.

  10. AR–It’s more than a hypothesis. Most of these people quite openly say that they hate us, despise us, or whatever. Clayton says in one of these threads, just in passing, that he has nothing but contempt for the lot of us. And yet he keeps coming here and writing little essays. (Which seems kind of contemptible.) Maybe it’s time to stop replying to him. It’s not good for your soul to hang out with people who tell you straight up that they have nothing but contempt for you. (It’s probably not good for Clayton either, though he may not realize that.) And it’s obviously not going to lead to any kind of reasonable discussion or resolution or whatever. When you have nothing but contempt for someone you aren’t going to be able to give their arguments a fair hearing. (No, philosophers aren’t any different from other people in this respect, though some of them seem to be a lot less self-aware.) But yes, the reason they need Stanley to be a noble victim, rather than a bigshot speaking Power to Truth, is that they are bigots and they hate people like us.

    • Contempt for the lot of you because of the nastiness, bullying, screen grabbing, not because of conservative views, Jacques. Of course, were someone to turn this boat around, some of us might see the recent posts as an overreaction to offence caused and a sign that there’s something here that’s redeemable.

      • “Contempt for the lot of you because of the nastiness, bullying, screen grabbing, not because of conservative views, Jacques”.

        This is laughably bad. None of the philosophers here have expressed wishes for someone’s death; none of them here have told others to fellate them. As previously mentioned by others, there’s a deliberate disregard for the trash hurled by your side, and a focus on secondary issues.

        “Of course, were someone to turn this boat around, some of us might see the recent posts as an overreaction to offence caused and a sign that there’s something here that’s redeemable.”

        Overreaction to what, exactly? The awful language spewed at Swinburne by Leftists? All of which, by the way, have magically turned into “jokes”.

      • “None of the philosophers here have expressed wishes for someone’s death; none of them here have told others to fellate them. As previously mentioned by others, there’s a deliberate disregard for the trash hurled by your side, and a focus on secondary issues.”

        My side? What a weird game to play. I’ve never met the people who said these things and I can’t for the life of me see how you can squeeze a permission for bullying and nastiness from this when it’s directed towards people who didn’t say such things.

    • Jacques, that sounds right. It would probably be good for Clayton if he were simply blocked from commenting here. It would be good for his soul. To be honest, the man sounds obsessed. I have heard that he is behind a massive “defriending” campaign on Facebook. Messaging people and telling them he will defriend them if they don’t defriend so-and-so, who is friends with whosie bopsy, who is friends with certain nameless luminary X. I can picture him up at 2:30 a.m., drunk, in his underoos, furiously surfing the web in order to try to find out the identity of the bloggers here. I imagine him sending emails to department after department, asking them to tell him the names of suspected conservatives. He probably has a large wall in his flat devoted to this. There’s pictures of every sustected academic conservative, yarn leading from this suspect to that suspect, some names crossed out, profiles with a red question mark over them, Post-It notes all over the place, and well-worn Chewbacca footie pajamas (because they help him think better). Then comes the morning. He drags himself to class. But his students are not getting the best Clayton they can get because he’s not only tired from last night’s witch hunt, but he can’t think about the lecture due to the fact that he’s zealously counting down the hours until he can leave, get drunk, and resume his McCarthyist quest for academic dissenters. This is extremely odd behavior, and we should all be very thankful he doesn’t own a gun. P S Y C H O

  11. C–You really don’t notice that there are some “sides” here, and that you’re taking sides? Please.

    I am most certainly being called despicable, deplorable and vile simply for my “views”, though maybe not by you. We both know that. Come on. And naturally none of these name callers and haters are making any attempt to rationally address my arguments. They just clutch their pearls, stick a label on me–“anti-semite” or whatever–and think it’s all settled. Just point-and-sputter stuff really. Maybe you should take your advice about doing real philosophy to some of those people?

    And your contempt for “the lot of you” is directed at many people who have had nothing to do with the original screenshots thing. I had nothing to do with that and I haven’t even offered an opinion on it. You know that too. So if your contempt for me and others in the “lot of you” couldn’t be based on my “bullying” of others. I haven’t bullied anyone or even defended those you accuse (rather implausibly) of doing so. Not unless merely stating certain facts and arguments is bullying–a common but false view on your side.

    Your contempt for me, then, can only be based on the views I’ve expressed here. Or some kind of stupid guilt by association thing. Either way it’s evident you are full of irrational negativity toward conservatives. That’s typical and I don’t much care. But knock it off with the pose of dispassionate commentary. In fact just knock it off with the commentary please. You’re really not adding anything. OK I’m done. Have the last word if you want.

  12. That letter is for Christian philosophers to denounce this blog? I really don’t understand how they can have a letter attacking you for legitimately exposing these leftist academics spewing vile about Christians and their views. I would have thought the letter would be for Christians calling for these leftist philosophers to be disciplined, not a letter condemning the conservative philosophers at this blog calling them out. Utterly bizarre. Every argument offered on this blog to support its use of Facebook screenshots is burgler-proof and all the attempts made to far to challenge it have been laughable–even more so considering some of these people are employed as professional philosophers. Strange world academics inhabit!

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