Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Brian Leiter

The Brian Leiter weirdness is dying down, but I might as well put a link up to the Paul Campos summary.

Why I was interested is summed up here:
[...] Anonymity is, and always is, a social norm. There is no plausible context in which anonymity exists without social norms that support the respect of it. There is nothing unique or unusual about internet anonymity in this regard. The expression here suggests that any attempt to promote or maintain a norm of respecting anonymity on the internet is pointless, because it’s not capable of being technologically guaranteed. But again: the lesson here wouldn’t be to give up on anonymity on the internet, but to give up on anonymity in any social context in which its valued, for any reason, because of the possibility of breach.

In the real world of the internet, of course, anonymity is alive and well. Millions of people participate in it as a social practice, and a vanishingly small number of them have their anonymity breached. The norm is reasonably well supported most of the time. Norms retain value when they’re generally honored; no norm is universally respected in all cases but that doesn’t vitiate their value. That’s why Leiter’s behavior should be interpreted as a threat to anyone who values this norm, and why it’s important to push back against this kind of behavior. Norms retain their value and power when there are costs for violating them; costs Leiter has so far successfully avoided.
Brian Leiter wrote a letter to a guy's bosses - including all his contact information in a blog post - for "insolence". Can you beat that?

6 comments:

OBS said...

That was a great series of posts to read, even though I had no idea who any of the players are and have nothing to do with the legal world. The drama, the intrigue, the backstabbing, the whining! It was total melodrama. Delightful.

Substance McGravitas said...

I'd seen Brian Leiter being an asshole before this, but that's fine, it was just asshole behaviour and I can relate. The outing, though, was the kind of ridiculous power-play that should really be discouraged. And then it turned out that Brian Leiter was an astonishing hypocrite and possible crazyman. And now you question anything to do with him.

Smut Clyde said...

I knew nothing of Leitner or the internal politics of university law-philosophy-theory academia until Campos blogged about it a few days ago. Then I made some guesses about the person Leitner seemed to be, ran a few random goofle searches, and uncovered another of his sockpuppets, the 'pushkin' one. People should not be so predictable.

He seems to favour really transparent nyms for sockpuppetry, to keep everyone aware that he is out there in the Interlattice monitoring their behaviour -- even if that conflicts with the sockpuppets' claims that "Professor Leitner is far too bust to read your 'blogs'."

M. Bouffant said...

Yeah, I'm too damn bust to read anything either.

Except that the B.L. link in the last paragraph is no good.

Substance McGravitas said...

Thank you! A missing http sends things back here, which is odd behaviour.

M. Bouffant said...

Odd, mebbe, but standard Blogger operating procedure; it's happened to me.