Archive for Stanley Fish

A Note on a Pompous Misuse of Shakespeare

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 15, 2011 by spinoza1111

…in response to Stanley Fish’s latest blog entry…

One more thing at this time, Stan. I find the habit of rather mindlessly using Shakespeare as a posh putdown very, very annoying, as in the case of the lazy and aliterate high school English teacher who refers to a gifted student’s work as “a tale told by an idiot”…because he doesn’t understand it and would rather watch ESPN than grade papers.

“Much Ado About Nothing” as the name of a play was a sly reference to Elizabethan argot, which referred to women’s sexuality as “nothing”. But in the play, something happens. A young girl’s reputation is destroyed, made “nothing”, by the motiveless malignancy of Don Juan, who in his oh so very hip nihilism bears more than a passing resemblance to members of Internet mobs, who follow the lead of people like David Horowitz and take delight in outing and then trashing academics for their statements on Israel.

That emptiness is restored by the Something, the good-natured rage of Beatrice and Benedict.

To be notified of a recognition and then have it pulled away is, except perhaps for the most hardened and brutal/brutalized, a wound. Now, you seem to have counseled no end of Sensitive Souls to Suck It Up without yourself having to Suck It Up as far as I know, for for you, the Concept is more important than people.

But I’d hazard that if a university countenances brutality, whether that of Israel’s disproportionate and cowardly “wars”, or that done unto Kushner, it might as well rack it the fuck up and relabel itself a trade school or Boot Camp, mere prologemena to that vaunted real world of Hard Knocks and that long climb to the top of the dunghill.

Oh, is Kushner laughing all the way to the bank? I don’t really know whether gate receipts and royalties make a man rich in all cases (my own book royalties don’t). I do know that he has feelings, and to be told you’re not getting the award because one trustee hates your guts is wounding. The decision as you say is being revisited and reviewed. But you have more compassion for the Holy Institution if you can write that this is primarily a waste of precious time rather than more stress for Kushner.

Basically, to call attention to mere human suffering in excess of and in violation of the proper channels of political correctness, as Kushner has done, is to be in a society of vicious and brutalized people, a marked man. Shame on you for lending your voice to the bullies, here, and elsewhere. And “shame, shame, nothing but shame” (Henry V) for misusing the deeply compassionate Shakespeare in such an unthinking way.


Reply to Stanley Fish on “Crucifixes and Diversity: The Odd Couple”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 30, 2011 by spinoza1111

Stanley Fish doesn’t understand how the European Court of Human Rights can approve of the practise of the Italian government, in which crucifixes have long appeared in public schools.

Here is my reply, under moderation at this time.

I’m afraid that “the laugh test” is jejune. Grow up.

Italy’s Constitution does guarantee freedom of religion but in a very different way from the US Constitution.

Italy’s clause: All have the right to profess freely their own religious faith in whatever form, individual or associate, to propagate it and to exercise it in private or public cult, provided that the rites are not contrary to morality.

The better known US clause: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.

Here is the EU’s charter of human rights which controls as long as Italy is an EU member: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right includes freedom to change religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or in private, to manifest religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

Finally, here is the UN’s declaration of human rights: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

What’s interesting is that except for the US Constitution, no other of the above limits the freedom of a government to recognize a religion that in Italy’s case is part of culture, in a way that does not limit the freedom of the *individual* to practice her religion. It may not, under the Italian, EU, and UN laws and declarations, do so, so strongly as to limit individual freedom, but up to that point the government of Italy may do things forbidden in the USA.

Cheap journalists and unprincipled academics continually try to use religion in the way of the 14 year old who sets fire to the mosque. You just don’t seem to see that Christians may behold a Muslim with tolerance and love, or that a Muslim might not see the crucifix in the same way. With your contempt for the ordinary person, you want to divide us.

The US amendment together with its interpretation over time has always been taken to limit the freedom of Federal, state and municipal governments to put up crosses or Christmas displays. This was also the case with predecessor colonial legislation such as found in Baltimore. not only does the US citizen have the freedom to practice religion AS A CONSEQUENCE of “Congress shall make no law”, but also, the US government, together with states and municipalities may not “respect” an “establishment of religion”.

Neither the UN declaration, nor the EU law, nor the Italian constitution (or any other European constitution, to my knowledge), follows the US wording. This allows Britain, Sweden and a few other countries to have monarchies linked to religious ceremonials and it allows German taxpayers to support the church of their choice.

Cuius regio ejus religio (look it up, Stan) is still a living part of European law owing to the fact that, whether you like it or not, the Peace of Westphalia 1649 still controls the domestic law of European nations.

Yet this does not seem to damage freedom of religion in Europe. Freedom of Catholic worship in the United States is in fact under threat in rural Protestant communities and owing to the kulturkampf waged on Catholic property by lawyers who have used the behavior of a small minority of priests to dispossess the Church and damage its ministry. Freedom of Muslim worship is more under threat in the USA.

Jews, like you, should know that there is a continuity between religion and culture. The crucifix is not only a religious but also an artistic symbol in Italy.

For practicing Catholics, it may represent “salvation through Christ”, although for practicing and orthodox Catholics, it doesn’t represent a guarantee, for good works are also required. For ex-Catholics who feel culturally Catholic, it is a reminder that their faith was founded by a condemned man, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” and this is indeed the source of a post-Christian compassion and tolerance which issues in the form of human rights.

You have said before as an axiom that decency and tolerance have to be based on religious belief, and this is utter nonsense. The history of Europe itself, including the Thirty Years’ War, show that religious belief is logically independent of personal decency, and the legions of men and women who, over time, have acted decently independent of their religious faith, or in opposition to it (such as William of Nassau, the founder of the Netherlands, who was assassinated because of his commitment to tolerance) show this.

“Post-Christian” doesn’t mean “anything goes”. It means that if God is dead, we’re even more responsible for ourselves and each other. Why? Because some things do have to be axiomatic in the sense of there being a starting place. I like my axiom better than yours.

Beneath contempt

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on March 12, 2010 by spinoza1111

Stanley Fish’s latest nonsense is beneath contempt, since this “English prof” doesn’t know how to use the second person case in the article’s title, “Do You Miss Him Yet” (do I who does whoever who the hell misses…George Bush).

The “you” is a statistical amalgam of the worst and most ignorant people whose real miseries have been statistically and cynically aggregated in Know Nothing slogans, and progressive people who are fed up with Obama’s incompetence and who would vote if they could for a candidate to Obama’s left.

It is neither singular nor plural. It is a referent to the victim(s) of people like Fish who cynically use people like Bush to get what they want. It is at one and the same time an averaging of Know Nothing apples and adjunct oranges who are both taking the brunt of an offensive on the real working class in the face, and a caricature seen by Stanley: the self-hating Jew or loser liberal that is the Adornian “secret contour” of his contemptible weakness: the contemptible weakness that caused him to build a career on stealing CS Lewis’ work on Milton, and stepping on better people.

Stanley Fish is mocking and abusing his readers with stunning contempt. But his logic and language is breaking down. To quote Lewis (who at the end of his life was a life loving liberal who married a former Communist), he shall bring deep Heaven down on his head, and the curse of Babel is already on his language.

On publication

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on March 9, 2010 by spinoza1111

Many people are frustrated by their lack of access to publication even today, when they can set up a blog. Access is given to all, and because attention is scarce, all the new freedom dialectically becomes a scramble for attention, characterized by denunciation of competing atoms and what Jaron Lanier calls “digital Maoism”: a Cultural Revolution in which the “weakest” and most principled are trampled by the mob.

This is because social capital and attention remains scarce. David Mamet can submit psychotic doodles to The Huffington Post and everyone goes aaaaahhh (as if they’d received, like Madeline, “toys and candy from Papa”) but some unknown has the traditional frustration.

One of his frustrations is that moderators at prestige blogs won’t copy edit his work. Check out comment #6 at Stanley Fish’s blog

The commenter claims to be, and indeed probably is, passionate in the old-fashion curmudgeon register about language whilst having his thunder stolen, in his view, by teachers of “critical thought” and other notions which he probably considers louche. Indeed, Marx failed to foresee that the first reaction, on being proletarianized, is not identification with one’s fellow victims in the form of “consciousness”. It’s what guys in American prisons say: I wuz set up, I ain’t like dese udder guys, I wuz meant to be culled out, it’s a racket, and a Communist conspiracy.

But sadly, the commenter makes two self-defeating errors in English, neither of which the moderators at the Fish blog, alert for threats to the Great Man and “offensive” speech, caught, or felt moved to fix.

He caught his second error “I might ad”, which is especially embarrassing for him since it is an attempt to sound academic as in using a grace note to express that condign courtesy whose dignity invites a similar response in Habermasian civil discourse. He posted a correction.

But above he wrote “we need to trained”: the to be required in passive voice was alas not to be.

Stanley Fish’s posts are copy edited, but the moderators won’t copy-edit simple mistakes in responses, exposing decent people to shame. This is a disservice meant to preserve Fish’s social capital.

I was first published in 1976, in a computer journal (Computerworld). In addition to celebration, my former wife expressed envy. The next week, the letters column contained some dismissive remarks which disturbed her. One aspect of publication, even then, that private persons do not like is the exposure, not to Blanche Dubois’ “kindness of strangers” (real but rare) but to their hatred.

Based on an essay that had been presumably reviewed and online published several years ago, I received the other day an invitation to publish a book.

VDM Verlag prints graduate dissertations. The author is responsible for most of the editing and even the cover design, which she does online. The books are marketed through Amazon at high prices and the author receives royalties in the unlikely event that someone is nerdy enough to be curious about Lossless Quantum Data Compression undt Secure Direct Communication, and, has money.

It’s all on the level and some of us, unlike David Mamet, think German names sound scholarly, and cool. “Verlag” sounds like Springer-Verlag, the parent of the publisher of my real book but it just means “publisher”.

It’s ethical in the financial sense, and, in terms of academic morality, the dissertations look interesting if you like me are a nerd. It seems all very … German, everything perfectly laid on, like the Schlieffen Plan.

But it’s a disservice to and exploitation of Asian, African and minority people, and German students too, who struggle through harsh and old-fashioned universities (where, in India, students are sometimes treated like children by professors). This is because VDM won’t edit the books. The result? One book had “Eeconomics” on the title page, and this wasn’t about EU Economics…it wasn’t a clever neologism.

In the Hong Kong Public Library (where selection by a library gives a book a small amount of social capital: my book is in several libraries) I found a scholarly book with a typo in a chapter heading, but the VDM edition has it on the title page? WTF, as my kids might say, I am not sure.

The book appears to be about fishermen and their struggles to earn a living by a Vietnamese. I imagine he might have a father who is a fisherman and he may have presented the dissertation, proudly, to his father.

In “The Chinese Laundryman“, by Paul Siu, a dissertation selected on the level for publication by a university press, the author based his field research on his own father’s lonely experience as a Chinese immigrant, forbidden by racist US immigration laws from bringing his wife over.

I can see how VDM Verlag provides a service, but it also exploits a natural desire for social capital.

In 2005, I was rushing about Hong Kong, locating rotting buildings and arriving to teach English. I was struck not only by the contrast between this and the campus of Princeton but how, in fact, the same Concept covered both.

Cynical irony would have me use different names; Paul Fussell doesn’t feel that my alma mater, Roosevelt University, should be called a “university” like Princeton because it is in some part an exploitation of a desire of minorities and the working class for opportunity.

But: a Concept, and Idea has broader range than we might imagine.

The Idea of the University, and of the disinterested search for truth, exists even in its simulation when a graduate student at Roosevelt or Northeastern gets genuinely passionate about her thesis in spite of all the fashionable cynicism of her friends in Logan Square, or an Asian mom working behind a shop counter at Sogo decides to study English.

Likewise, its evil sister, the Idea of using Distinction for personal advantage, and to lie, cheat and steal for Distinction, exists at Princeton in its sordid struggles for tenure and advancement as of old. In Stanley Fish, who won’t read a poem unless you pay him, it has become an official ideology justified by a misreading of Continental philosophy…but Mom! Those French guys think there’s no justification!

Someone learning English in Mong Kok has to be passionate and disinterested in the result to make the effort. Indeed, students from “inferior” universities and Asian males with perfect SATs and low social skills are marked by this passion and disinterest in material results, simply because such passion and disinterest is mental Red Bull. To pass a course in “compilers” at Princeton or Stanford, you have to get interested in “compilers” in excess of a minimum.

You have to dweeb out.

Making money is one thing, and members of my family have always made money the old fashioned Cleveland Plain Dealer way, by showing up on time in some office or factory and doing what the boss says, or by starting a business building homes that people could afford. We might occasionally publish, in some Practical How To Do It Journal, but it will not pay the rent.

If we get into print in other than police reports, civil judgements, the getting married pages or the obits, it’s going to be in Letters to the Editor or a trade journal or a blog…like my Dad grumpily writing about cacophonous modern music to the New York Times in 1949, my Grandfather holding forth on pure (reine: zuivere) home building (beelding) like the thick headed “Dutchman” he was, or I, writing here, or for the Awesome .Net Journal of Awesome .Net Tools.

Anything more is gravy. PJ O’Rourke, the occasionally funny American political humorist, came from a poor family and for years wrote about cars for an Awesome Car Journal. William Langiewiesch honed his craft, I believe, on writing simply for oxygen deprived aviators as in “I fly plains er playns er airkraft”.

The real satisfaction is in reaching across time and space to make a single contact with a Reader.

You want to be a Star? Nothing wrong with that. If Kojeve’s reading of Hegel is correct then deeper than economic motivation is the Fight to the Death for Pure Recognition, starring, in America, Pumpernickel, Kid Irish or The Brown Bomber versus Princeton and Harvard as of old. It’s a Set-up? Get used to it, because it’s the only game in town.

And when you make contact with the single reader (like me and my Dad made contact in the preceding post) that’s all you need, just like the Boxer need only make contact with one sucker punch.

And when your star throws down its spear of light you can water heaven with one tear: you may smile your work to see.

He who made the Lamb, made thee. Go get ’em, Tyger.

Stanley Fish’s insecurities (zzz)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 4, 2010 by spinoza1111

In Stanley Fish’s column this week, we learn a little more than we would like to know about his insecurities, but it goes with the territory: there’s probably more in my blog about me than is necessary.

Rahm Emanuel is a tummler if there ever was one, now, talk about wrapped around the axle: “I’ll be a tough guy so the Gentiles won’t pick on me, and laugh at liberals and kids with Downs’, but I’ll also take ballet classes just to show I ain’t scared, and I don’t really care about my masculinity; Mailer thought he was tough, but, tough guys do dance. So there. Take that. Pow.”

What these fireplugs don’t realize is that we don’t care about their little psychodramas, and we’re real tired of how they have to win every argument they’re in, at the cost in Stanzilla’s case of a split the difference nihilism straight out of Damon Runyon: youse can have yer liberal tolerance if ya want, except youse got to admit that it is an ungrounded lifestyle choice, whereas dem conservatives are real mensch what with their religious grounding in shul, and stuff like dat.

Rahm Emanuel’s little psychodrama has ruined Obama’s presidency. For the last time, Stanzilla: we don’t care if you’re Jewish or short. We care about the truth, and we who struggle every day of our lives to square circles of adjunct employment, no health insurance, aging parents and many more problems of which you have heard rumors know that there is truth and it ain’t up for neither tenure nor grabs.

For every Jew denied tenure because of his race there are today probably more Moslems, people of color, and Gentiles who have the bad taste to be attractive females or manly chaps in the way of Gentiles, and who in academia are told “yo Barbie, wassup Ken, you’re too conventionally beautiful/handsome to be a PhD”. And in this day and age, in my experience, height on a guy doesn’t help on the job, because if you lose your temper you’re labeled confrontational and ’tis said you, like Bottom and the mechanicals in the old play, “fright the ladies”.

But at the end of the day, Stanzilla, we measure you by your contribution to scholarship, and find a void.

So another column filled with air
About things of which we do not care
Stanzilla lays the country waste
Writing to a deadline and in haste.

Sic Semper Stanzilla: Reply to Stanley Fish in re “Citizens United”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on February 2, 2010 by spinoza1111

Stanley Fish again exhibits complete intellectual dishonesty in this blog post on the recent Supreme Court decision invalidating laws against corporations spending money on electioneering. Here is my comment, awaiting moderation.

Stanzilla, are you out of your mind? Corporations are “legal persons” only in the commercial sense. They are not citizens!

Furthermore, the conservative branch of the Supreme Court is NOT principled. They are deontologically ill-intentioned when it comes to penniless Death Row defendants. Their intention here was to ensure that corporations could continue to spread falsehoods and engineer negative campaigns, a phenomenon that makes us sick to death. And don’t talk nonsense about unions: unions are pilot fish to sharks: only 7.5% of Americans belonging to unions.

The citizen as the political actor conceived of in the Constitution acts at best in purity of heart in the deontological sense, dispassionately weighing the issues and acting in the best interests of his country, of which he is a patriot. And when he acts from narrower and meaner motives, checks and balances ensure that he’s counterweighed by other interests. The “Cinncinatian” ideal would be the former situation, with each citizen so propertied (and thus free of short-term self interest) and so principled as to act from virtue. Note that socialism and a socialist safety net could return us to the “Cinncinatian” situation in the modern world, but of course, that would discommode the wealthy and is a non-starter.

If on the other hand the citizen, in the vision and plan of the Founding Fathers, has narrower interests, he can form political parties which must compete with other parties. Either from realism or surviving principle these parties will be able to compromise, as they were before the 1980s in USA politics, before the rise of politics as money, and insane negative winner take all.

Stanzilla, the corporation has by law a fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder return. If it is engaged by a party, it not only will stop at nothing, and stoop to everything, it must do so. It will in fact be an incarnate daemon from the old play, or your favorite poem:

Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
With head uplift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian or Earth-born, that warred on Jove,
Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th’ ocean-stream.

You know, Stanzilla, some of us are watching Soderbergh’s Che and that other movie, the Baader-Meinhof Complex, with new eyes. Perhaps the German students were right to destroy Axel Springer’s newspaper trucks full of the “free speech” of the wealthy, and only the wealthy. And in a world where you want even university professors to zip up, don’t you dare, don’t you DARE, talk to us of “principle”. It’s all about money, pal.

“We are overcome by anguish at this illogical moment of humanity.” – Ernesto Che Guevera

Stop at nothing,
Smirk at hope,
Stoop to everthing,
Stan’s the Pope
Of the church of irony
And of the academy of simony.
The corporation must have rights, he declares with purity
That is the meaning of the law
The nation must worship any abomination
Found by the clerisy in the text of the saw.
Men used to hearken to this general type of crap
In order to get to eternal bliss
Now we must agree to malarkey and pap
Merely to remain adjunct to this.
Wake up and smell the coffee, ding dong goes the bell
Capitalism has made this happy earth, a hell:
Corporations are real and you are not
Starbuck’s gwine to Heaven whilst you remain below, a sot.

The Shameless Stanley Fish

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 15, 2009 by spinoza1111

Posted here.

Well, as Joseph Welch asked Senator McCarthy, have you no shame. There is a nexus, a channel, an isthmus between art and ethics whether you like it or not, and you rely on this in your Milton studies, because you find it incomprehensible that Milton should admire so destructive a character as Satan. You took this view from CS Lewis without proper attribution, but it is one you hold.

Sarah Palin is in fact corrupt and amoral and as a public intellectual, you, sir, have the responsibility to point this out. Her corruption and immorality infects everything she says and you, sir, have the responsibility for pointing this out. You are only too ready to point out the long-gone follies and wickedness of the Rebel Angels of the 1960s, and to fight yesterday’s battles with little more than your rather cheesy economic success as an argument, while for countless others, America, including the university, is taking on itself the lineaments of Hell.

Sarah Palin is precisely the sort of monster that countless hard-working and intelligent librarians and adjunct faculty have to put up when her sort of monster is appointed to further downsize anything created in the public interest, for which you have nothing but contempt since you’ve made your pile.

Have you no shame, sir? At long last, have you no shame?