Monday, February 19, 2007

Piot hurt himself

CORRECTION: I say in the post that Professor Piot is a signatory to the Group of 88's statement. He is not.

I apologize for my error.


On November 18, 1973, as the Watergate cover-up was unraveling, The Washington Post reported President Nixon had said:

"People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook."
On Feb. 12, 2007, in what was advertised on the Internet as a panel presentation on Duke’s West Campus to which the public was invited , African and African American and Cultural Anthropology professor Charlie Piot, a signatory of the now discredited Duke faculty Group of 88’s “listening statement,” attacked historian, Brooklyn College professor and blogger Robert KC Johnson, one the statement’s leading critics.

Piot ended his attack with: “KC – Shut up and go back to teaching!”

Nixon’s “I’m not a crook” claim didn’t do him any good. If fact, it hurt him. It got a lot of people saying to themselves: “Now that I think about it, maybe he is a crook.”

What about Piot’s “KC – Shut up and go back to teaching?” Did it do Piot any good? What are people at Duke, especially Piot’s faculty colleagues, likely to think of it ?

Piot clearly meant his “Shut up” line to be one of the most important in his lecture. It was his crescendo and climax, delivered with deliberate emphasis. It drew long and sustained applause from his audience which included many of his fellow Group of 88 signatories and their students.

As regards all of that, Piot’s “Shut up” closer was well-chosen and successful. It expressed in a few words exactly what Piot, the majority of the “88,” many of their students and some others at Duke would like Johnson to do.

But did Piot’s “Shut up” do him much good beyond “the world of ‘88’ and its satellites?”

I doubt it. In fact, I think Piot’s “Shut up” has already hurt him and will hurt him even more as people at Duke learn what he said. While the panel event has received scant media attention, word of Piot’s “lecture” is spreading on campus with his “Shut up” line getting the most attention.

Did Piot want people to view his lecture as a scholarly disputation?

If he did, ending with “KC – Shut up and go back to teaching” was a mistake.

Telling another academic to “Shut up and go back to teaching” is the way you end an ad hominem, which is just what Piot’s “lecture” was. (Taping of Piot’s remarks was not permitted except for an “official” taping by panel sponsors who haven’t released it. Piot told me in an email he couldn’t release text copies of his remarks because he’s promised them to a journal editor who’s agreed to publish them, a proviso of which is that Poit’s remarks not be released pending journal publication.)

I’ve often heard “Shut up and go back to teaching” or something very like it said at Duke. “I wish that professor would just shut up about politics and teach” and “If we don’t safeguard our rights, the trustees will think they can tell us, ‘Shut up and go back to teaching.’”

Duke faculty have a very strong negative reaction to the “Shut up” line, especially when the target is a fellow academic, even one with whom they disagree.

Faculty who value open debate and free expression, and that’s most Duke faculty, scorn those demanding an academic “Shut up and go back to teaching.”

In fact, thinking back over a more than 30 year association with Duke, I can’t recall a single professor who, speaking at a public panel forum, said of another professor: “Shut up and go back to teaching.”

I’m not saying it hasn’t happened, and I’m not saying that most of Piot’s “88” colleagues and some others on the faculty wouldn’t say the same thing to Johnson in the same kind of setting. We’ll have to wait and see.

But I am saying Piot’s statement, coming from a Duke faculty member, is unusual, abhorrent and will be rejected by the overwhelming majority of Piot’s faculty colleagues.

They’ll instead identify with what Economics Professor Roy Weintraub, a faculty member for thirty-seven years and twice chair of the academic council said in a Feb. 14 letter to The Chronicle ( “Disagreement is not McCarthyism” )
”I don't ask the panelists to shut up and teach. I ask them instead to understand that for various Duke faculty, staff, administrators, students, parents and alumni to disagree with them in public or in private is neither McCarthyism nor an academic travesty and betrayal of the values of our institution, but is rather an expression of their believing otherwise.”


Anonymous said...

It is telling that Piot's comment received loud applause from the Group of 88 and their supporters.

They would be the first to condemn a challenge of "shut up and teach" if directed at one of their members.

But they have no problem with seeking to shout-down the free expression of a critic.

Most people with a dictitorial mindset have no problem condemning others... but will not tolerate condemnation themselves.

I pity Duke students for having to put up with such fools.

bill anderson said...

It is interesting that Piot tries to tell us simultaneously that

1. K.C.'s blog is inconsequential and K.C. is too obscure a scholar to have any real effect on anything;
2. K.C. really is bugging Piot and Piot wishes he would go away.

Of course, if (1) is true, then (2) should not be the case, and Piot would not have to worry about anything. In other words, Piot brought up two mutually-exclusive propositions.

This tells me that the guy is a fraud, pure and simple. Real scholars never would put out such nonsense. That he received applause from the other faux scholars at Duke tells me that there are a large number of frauds on the Duke faculty.

There also are real scholars at Duke, but all too often the frauds drown out everyone else. To put it anothger way, the adults cannot be heard over the screaming of the children.

RC said...

I think that the shut up and teach comment and the loud applause it received unfortunately seem to be typical of this group. If you want to be public intellectuals, as this group claims, then you have to be ready to answer those with differing opinions. The only reason anyone would say shut up and teach is if he really didn't have a response for someone else's viewpoint. KC's worst offense is that he has exposed not only the flaws in this group's reasoning, but also their weak academic performance. Let's face facts: Piot and Lubiano received their Ph.D.'s 20 years ago and they are still associate professors, which shows that Duke does not have a very high opinion of their work.

Locomotive Breath said...

I find it ironic that a group that claims to be being silenced by McCarthyism refuses to release its remarks and is therefore silencing itself.

AMac said...

To applause, Prof Piot tells Prof Johnson, “KC – Shut up and go back to teaching!”

Piot feels that way because he thinks Johnson has written posts that are riddled with factual errors. He thinks Johnson has misrepresented the positions taken by members of Duke's Hard Left faculty.

But yelling, "shut up, liar!" isn't an intellectual's argument. Piot has now taken on the task of laying out his claim as to what those errors and misrepresentations are.

If Piot does that, we can judge his charges on their merits, since all of Johnson's writings are accessible, searchable, and linkable at his web-log.

If Piot fails to provide particulars, he is practicing McCarthyism--making damaging and sensational charges in such a way that the intended victim cannot respond and cannot clear his name.

Prof Piot, you called the tune.

Please sing out.

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that Piot hasn't realized that he's brought a knife to a gunfight.

Let's see, on one side we have JinC, KC, and Betsy - all publicly posting their articles, links, and making corrections based on feedback.

Piot goes into an academic echo chamber, spouts off, and then hides the transcript. (Did he not hear about Eason in Davos or wherever?)

The outcome is somewhat pre-ordained as leaks come out.

Luckily he'll be able to fall back on his tenure and hide in the ivy.


Joey T said...

I barely finished high school, and even I can see how Piot contradicts himself with calling KC irrelevant, yet calling for him to shut up, etc. Piot is a professor?!

HumboldtBlue said...

"I pity Duke students for having to put up with such fools."

It's not just Duke, every campus has its Star Chambers, every campus has its thought police and speech police. Every campus is infected with the cognitive dissonance of "speech codes" which are aimed at limiting some forms of speech in the "free marketplace of ideas."

Every campus has its wanna-be activists disrupting a lecture or a presentation that the loony left wing abhors, because "it's our right to free speech."

Every campus has its hardcore cadre of those who would silence any idea or course of intellectual study or club that in any way does not subscribe to the party line.

Just look at the struggles Christian-based groups have getting official recognition from campus admins.

The examples are legion, and I've been following with sometimes morbid interest, the rise of such incidences since 1997 when I returned to school as a much "older" student.

The first controversy we ran into at the paper was the now-infamous Horowitz ad which argued vociferously against any sort of reparations for the descendants of slaves.

He sent the ad out to every campus newspaper listed to prove a point -- that modern campuses only allow speech they deem as appropriate -- and from there, the fur flew.

We have witnessed what happened to the Minutemen who were scheduled to speak at Columbia, we have witnessed what two young women on the GA Tech campus have endured (up to and including death and mutilation threats made against them as late as last week on Valentine's Day.)

The problem lies in segregation ... the segregation of ideas and the segregation of courses of study.

Any rational being recognizes the importance of studying history, what has become the norm however, is the effort to separate race, class and gender studies from the "study of dead white men."

Therefore, you now have African American studies, women's studies, LGBT studies, all clamoring for their own departments, their recognition as serious academic pursuits.

And yet, this nation's history can not be parsed. The history of our nation IS the history of slavery and the history of women, as well as the history of science, and economics, and literature.

These race, gender and class courses and departments aren't about teaching, they're about indoctrination.

Here, at Humboldt State, they hold a "Dialogue on race" symposium every year, and guess what, the conclusions reached at the end of each symposium are the same every year.

If you're white (as muddled a classification as black, or any other), you need to be taught how you are a racist, because, well, you're white.

This sort of "dialogue" ignores the individual experiences of students, regardless of how, where, and who they were raised by, and immediately segregates them into easily-identifiable groups.

Consequently, once identified, those who, because of their skin tone, are deemed to be ignorant of what the effects of racism entail, are told they have to re-evaluate their inherent biases and bigotry.

And how do those poor white kids do that?

By taking a course in ... go ahead and fill in the blank.

It's not just Duke, or any other campus, it's every campus.

Anonymous said...

"Luckily he'll be able to fall back on his tenure and hide in the ivy."

Behavior like Professor Piot's remarks, and the 'private' (more like secretive) circumstances that protect him from honest criticism, are very strong arguments against the institution of tenure.

Originally devised to allow independent opinions some space, tenure now shields Piot in his private hothouse of ideas, wherein no competition or lines of argument independent of his are to be welcomed.

And his shielding of the tapes of the proceedings via tenuous connections with copyright laws is a travesty too. The forum was more or less public - I believe it claimed some sort of 'educational' purposes - and for him to grab the detailed records and disappear into a hole where he can fold, bend, spindle and mutilate it to support whatever conclusions he aims for, is a suggestion that he has something to hide. Hide from the general public, that is - the angry studies acolytes who furnished the applause are probably trustworthy to maintain the party line.

Some educational institution.

Insufficiently Sensitive

Anonymous said...

Not one article, or even abstract, posted for public review. Where is the truth in advertising. Also, where would one find how many people subscribe to these journals?

The lack of transparency, leadership, and governance is appalling.

C.D. Piot. "Asylum and Culture: Comments on Khanna and Noll." Texas International Law Journal vol. 41 no. 3 ( 2006.): 503-06.

C. Piot. "An African Postcolony in the Age of Empire." Antropologi [Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society] vol. 29 no. 1 ( 2004.): 20-27.

C. Piot. "Heat on the Street: Video Violence in American Teen Culture." Journal of Postcolonial Studies vol. 6 no. 3 ( 2003.): 351-365.

C. Piot. "Des cosmopolites dans la brousse." Les Temps Modernes vol. 57 no. 620-21 ( 2002.): 240-260.

C. Piot. ""RĂ©ponse Aux Critiques"." Politique Africaine vol. 82 ( 2001.): 206-210.

(Response to 3 reviews of Remotely Global)
C. Piot. "Editorial: "Of Revelation and Revolution"." Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies vol. 3 no. 1 ( 2001.): 1-4.

C. Piot. "Of Hybridity, Modernity and their Malcontents: Reflections on John and Jean Comaroff's "Of Revelation and Revolution"." Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Vol. 2 vol. 3 no. 1 ( 2001.): 112-118.

C. Piot. "Atlantic Aporias: Africa and Gilroy's Black Atlantic." South Atlantic Quarterly vol. 100 no. 1 ( 2001.): 155-170.