Six Statements Cary Nelson Thinks Should Get You Unhired at the University of Illinois

6 Aug

In my last post, I discussed the case of Steven Salaita, who had a job offer from the University of Illinois that was then revoked because his tweets on Israel were deemed to be uncivil and extreme. Cary Nelson defended the University of Illinois decision thus:

When Salaita tweets “If you’re defending Israel right now you’re an awful human being” he issues a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Israeli views in class. When he gives us this definition–“Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948″ he crosses a line into hate speech. When he retweets a suggestion that a well-known American reporter should be met with “the point of a shiv” he crosses a line into inciting violence.

In accordance with Nelson’s dicta, I presume the following individuals would be not hireable at the University of Illinois.

1. Denis Diderot: “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” (Professor Diderot has crossed a line into inciting violence.)

2. Friedrich von Schlegel:  “Religion and morals are symmetrically opposed, just like poetry and philosophy.” (Professor Schlegel has issued a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-religion views in class.)

3. George Orwell:  “As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.” (Professor Orwell has issued a judgment about his future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-socialist or pro-Christian views in class.)

4. Mary McCarthy: “The average Catholic perceives no connection between religion and morality, unless it is a question of someone else’s morality.” (Professor McCarthy has issued a judgment about her future students that would justify them believing they would be academically at risk in expressing pro-Catholic views in class.)

5. Samuel Butler:  “The seven deadly sins: Want of money, bad health, bad temper, chastity, family ties, knowing that you know things, and believing in the Christian religion.” (See #3)

6. The Prophet Micah:

Hear this, you leaders of Jacob,
you rulers of Israel,
who despise justice
and distort all that is right;
who build Zion with bloodshed,
and Jerusalem with wickedness….
Because of you,
Zion will be plowed like a field,
Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble,
the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.

(See #1. Also, maybe, hate speech.)

15 Responses to “Six Statements Cary Nelson Thinks Should Get You Unhired at the University of Illinois”

  1. realthog August 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    Very funny — and very much to the point. Nelson’s behavior, as outlined in your earlier post, does seem shameful.

  2. hophmi August 6, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

    Oh come on. These are not remotely the same, and you know it. For starters, if you were a university chancellor, and you were hiring for a class on Christianity in the religion department, would you hire someone who is an anti-Christian polemicist to teach the class? Salaita isn’t being hired to teach mechanical engineering. He’s a candidate because of his work on American Indians and Palestinian Arabs. Denis Diderot was a philosopher and an art critic. Von Schlegel was a poet. Orwell was a novelist and philosopher. McCarthy was a novelist. Butler was a polemicist. None of these people were applying for jobs as professors of religion to teach classes on Christianity.

    But it gives a window into how you think. You apparently think it’s ok to hand a class on Israel and Palestine to a person who defines those who support Israel as awful human beings. And that’s a problem. Because it suggests that scholarship takes a back seat to politics for you.

    I think you’re being completely disingenuous here. I think you know very well that Salaita’s politics have little to do with why he was not ultimately hired, and I’d posit that if you were hiring for the Brooklyn College Political Science Department, you’d fast reject a candidate with a demonstrated public history of nastiness toward people with contrary opinions inside and outside of the academy (if you were not rejecting him for holding pro-Israel views were he applying for a job teaching a class on Palestine and Israel). Your field is far too competitive for you to put up with the headache of hiring such people.

    • jacklewis2012 August 6, 2014 at 11:08 pm #

      “I’d posit that if you were hiring for the Brooklyn College Political Science Department, you’d fast reject a candidate with a demonstrated public history of nastiness toward people with contrary opinions inside and outside of the academy ”
      And in this completely irrelevant fictional account… are these people with contrary opinions supporting child killings? I guess that minor point is entirely irrelevant.
      You would probably as well avoid giving a class on domestic violence to a biased teacher that would have some bias that it might be a bad thing…

  3. Brett August 6, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    As I said at Crooked Timber, I’m highly skeptical that you’d find stuff like this:

    When he gives us this definition–“Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948″ he crosses a line into hate speech.

    acceptable if it wasn’t on Israel-Palestine or coming from a friend. If a white professor was blocked from a position teaching a class on race relations because he’d openly defending the lynching of black people, I doubt you’d be lining up to defend him on censorship grounds.

  4. escott August 6, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    Cary Nelson’s quote entices reflection;

    “..he gives us this definition–“Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948″ he crosses a line into hate speech”

    This doesn’t make sense. It’s not a definition of Zionists. Cary Nelson must have meant that Zionists have become wicket since 1948, therefore worthy of moral censure now. It’s like saying Capitalism is a license to steal or Obamacare is a conspiracy to overthrow Liberty. That kind of speech is well tolerated without much censure in today’s world.

    I see Mr Nelson’s quote as an alert, that dormant anti-Semitism is reemerging as “something honorable” because of Israel’s knee-jerk policies. I think anti-Semitism is brewing under cover of righteousness and will gain strength if criticism is censored, hiding it’s venom in the stew.

    • escott August 6, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

      Correction, sorry
      Salita made the quote and all mention of Cary Nelson change to Salita please
      yes, Im an idiot

      • escott August 7, 2014 at 9:08 am #

        Heres corrected comment for record

        Cary Nelson’s quote of Steven Salatia entices reflection;

        “..he (Salstia) gives us this definition–“Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable since 1948″ he crosses a line into hate speech”

        This doesn’t make sense. It’s not a definition of Zionists. Salatia must have meant that Zionists have become wicket since 1948, therefore worthy of moral censure now. It’s like saying Capitalism is a license to steal or Obamacare is a conspiracy to overthrow Liberty. That kind of speech is well tolerated without much censure in today’s world.

        I see Mr Salatia’s quote as an alert, that dormant anti-Semitism is reemerging as “something honorable” because of Israel’s knee-jerk policies. Anti-Semitism is brewing under cover of righteousness and will gain strength if criticism is censored, hiding it’s venom in the stew.

  5. freespeechlover August 7, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    I think Cary Nelson forgot that sometimes hyperbole is used to make a point. One way to read Nelson’s criticisms is to say that say that he wants to ban hyperbole when it’s used in criticism of Israel. And I don’t use the word “ban” lightly. Nelson is trying to position himself as Chief Gatekeeper of discourse on Israel in the US academy. He was working with someone else whose name escapes me to come up with rules for discourse about Israel and the Palestinians, so that universities would know where to draw the line as to when such discourse was anti-Semitic. Hyperbole seems to be key to where he draws the line without him ever acknowledging that as such, but hyperbole by definition is overstatement. Despite that Nelson is an English professor, it seems to me we’re back to trying to ban the rhetorical nature of language from communication. He should know that this is unworkable.

  6. kgb August 7, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    Cary Nelson is hardly a neutral observer in all of this. He has gone on record as a strong critic of the BDS movement. It is little wonder that he supports sidelining a political opponent. It seems Nelson is more effective advancing his own politics when he makes sure there’s nobody arguing counterpoint.

    http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2013/12/asa-boycott-israelhighereducation.html

    • hophmi August 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

      Neither is Corey. He’s a BDS supporter.

      • Harold August 8, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

        I’m a fairly neutral observer – I have no stake in the Jewish state, or in the state of being Jewish. So I don’t know much behind the motivations of the Palestinians in Hamas, or of the Israelis, behind their respective actions.

        But being an outside observer who has compassion for other people and a desire to see people in general treated humanely: What I see from the outside, is that the leaders and people of Israel who support this overreaction to what Hamas is doing are being reprehensible in their actions. Yes, there are rockets being fired from Gaza – but those rockets are not doing nearly the kind of damage that the IDF has done to Gaza City.

        Plus, in trying to synthesize all the input I’m receiving about this situation, I’m not seeing much discussion in the news I see, hear and read about the reasons behind Hamas doing what it is doing – only discussion about what Israel is doing. Add this to things I see and hear, about anyone who tries to ask reasonable questions about the ethical nature of what Israel is doing being labeled “anti-semite”; seeing pictures of Israelis sitting on couches cheering the bombing; seeing journalists pulled from the area for reporting directly on the results of the bombings on Palestinian civilians…and it seems a reasonable assumption that Israel is overreacting and in the wrong.

        If, in all reasonable and objective measures of reading this situation, I am mistaken – please feel free to rebut.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Breaking News: BDS Intellectual is #HireFired for Social Media Crimes - Tenured Radical - The Chronicle of Higher Education - August 6, 2014

    […] Corey Robin has written about the Salaita case here and here. […]

  2. Shit and Curses, and Other Updates on the Steven Salaita Affair | Corey Robin - August 7, 2014

    […] by the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Third, the national AAUP has distanced itself from Cary Nelson, saying he “does not speak for the association.” (In this statement, the AAUP distances […]

  3. What Exactly Did Steven Salaita Mean By That Tweet? | Corey Robin - August 8, 2014

    […] this changes whether or not Steven Salaita should have been dehired, here is my interpretation of that tweet of his that has people, understandably, most upset: “Zionists: transforming ‘anti-Semitism’ from something horrible into something honorable […]

  4. “Literally” Two-Thousand Fourteen Links | The Hyperarchival Parallax - August 8, 2014

    […] Salaita for comments he made on Twitter about Israel. And it is blowing up the academic internet. Corey Robins on Cary Nelson. The Illinois AAUP Committee on Salaita. David Palumbo-Liu, “Return of the Blacklist? […]

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