McAdams’s defense: I’m a blogger and I gots rights

John McAdams

Professor John McAdams, the self-styled Marquette Warrior, has issued his defense.

In a new blog post, the embattled former political science professor is defending the blog post that prompted Marquette University to fire him, ban him from campus, and seek to revoke his tenure. In the original post, McAdams used an anonymous source to attack a graduate teaching assistant for allegedly suppressing an undergraduate’s views on gay marriage.

The vigilant custodians of American liberties on the political right, while untroubled by the unpleasantries of Guantanamo, are thinking hard about McAdams’s rights.

The graduate student, besieged by right-wing internet trolls, has issued her dignified defense and transferred to another school where she can teach ethics in peace.

McAdams’s letter is revealing. Those who know McAdams’s rhetorical style from the online flame wars over the assassination of President John F. Kennedy will recognize his intellectual elan. McAdams brings to any discussion a mass of undeniable facts mixed up with a lot blarney and bullying and ultimately bad faith. He argues climate change is a hoax and the Warren Commission is right with equal fervor and (in my opinion) a similar plausibility. He is smart in a malign way. Convinced that he is being persecuted by the hellish forces of American liberalism, he seeks situations that illuminate his martyrdom.

One issue is whether Marquette is within its rights to revoke his tenure. Conor Friedersdorf of the Atlantic portrays McAdams as the largely innocent victim of an “attack on academic freedom,” a proposition that has prompted both philosophical musing and righteous indignation. Megan McArdle of Bloomberg says Marquette has “wildly overreacted” to McAdams’s unseemly serial blog attacks on students whose politics offend him.

The Daily Nous, a blog for philosophy professors, defends Abbate in a calm but annoyed tone. Professor Peter Kirstein says “Beware of the Pedagogy Police” of the political right. Ira Allen, defends McAdams’s right to voice his right-wing extramural opinions, but says Marquette is correct to fire him for “dereliction of duty.”

One central issue, at least in McAdams’s mind, is whether he qualifies as a blogger. This is the essence of McAdams’s odd defense of his action. He argues, that, as a blogger, he has the right to publish a blog post based on an anonymous source accusing a colleague of unprofessional behavior without presenting her side of the story.

“That’s Journalism 101,” he proclaims.

Cheryl Abbate

Cheryl Abbate

Um, no, not really, John. In fact, the basic tenets of journalism, known by every undergraduate in the field, specifically prohibit such reportorial misconduct.

McAdams justifies his failure to report the views of the accused graduate student, Cheryl Abbate, and the actions taken by the Marquette administration, by saying they didn’t respond to his phone calls. McAdams all but admits that he never pursued a discussion of the pedagogical problem: a principled reactionary undergraduate feeling oppressed by a principled feminist graduate assistant teaching a high-level philosophy class.

In this teachable moment, McAdams sought conflict, not resolution. He didn’t even seek a successful academic outcome for the student he was defending (who was flunking Abbate’s course, and not because of his opinions, but because he didn’t do the work).

McAdams, a man with a Ph.d in political science, is demanding respect, not as a scholar, but as a blogger, as a polemicist with rights, as a freedom fighter, as a courageous victim of liberal tyranny, and so on.

McAdams’s missive may have the unintended effect of buttressing the Marquette administration’s case that the man is out of touch with reality and the minimal standards of decency governing a learning community and deserves to be fired.

McAdams insists he is merely defending the ideal university.

“In real universities,” he writes, “administrators understand (or more likely grudgingly accept) that faculty will say controversial things, will criticize them and each other, and that people will complain about it. They understand that putting up with the complaints is part of the job, and assuaging those who complain the loudest is not the best policy. ”

Never mind that John McAdams is almost always the one who is complaining the loudest. He claims the right to be deliberately offensive in defiance of Journalism 101 and other professional norms. He boasts of “excellent legal counsel” and promises “not to go quietly.”

via Marquette Warrior: Marquette to Warrior Blogger: We’re Going to Fire You.

22 comments

  1. An Everest of a mole hill … a tempest in a thimble.
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    • This whole thing has been blown up to absurd proportions, to the point where several separate threads about Professor McAdams are somehow deemed worthy here at this “JFK Facts” website. Totally ridiculous. Not to mention completely irrelevant on a “JFK” site. Let alone having MANY such threads here. It must be a really slow February for Jeff Morley down at Conspiracy Central.

      • Pat Speer says:

        I’m calling hogwash on this one, David. McAdams has a lot of friends in the media, far more than any conspiracy theorist. He has been held up as a scholar and someone the public can trust. And yet here he gets fired for using the internet to spread lies about a student. That’s news…

        IF a similar scandal erupted around Cyril Wecht, Josiah Thompson, or even Oliver Stone, McAdams would not only report it on aaj, he’d write an article on it, and link it to his webpage. It goes to credibility…

        • Pat,

          And you really think McAdams really was “spread[ing] lies” about a student?

          It’s interesting to note how eager some of the CTers are to smear an LNer. Now Pat Speer is calling John McAdams an outright liar. Not very professional on your part, Pat. And very likely not very fair either.

          But, unlike people like James DiEugenio, I’ll admit I’m not following this McAdams saga every day and I’m not reading every blog post about it. I really don’t care very much about it all. But calling Mr. McAdams an outright liar, as Pat Speer just did, seems to be going a bit far, IMO.

          • leslie sharp says:

            David vonPein,
            For your edification, here is a link to the letter from the Dean of Marquette to Professor McAdams detailing the reasons for his pending dismissal.

            https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4jS38HQ3f8dSDhNX1FQRnlpcTQ/edit?pli=1

            highlights include:

            “critical information was stated falsely and/or omitted . .”
            “Similarly, by leaving out any reference . . ”
            “you created a false impression . . “
            “Or you elected not to include these facts . . ”
            “or again you elected not to include . . ”
            “or you ignored, the fact . . ”

            Not only is Pat Speer justified in his assessment, I would take it one step further. This incident has exposed a pattern of flawed journalism/research exercised by Professor McAdams; therefore it is reasonable to be concerned that a similar pattern might exist in the professors’ presentation and debate of facts relating to the Kennedy assassination.

          • Pat Speer says:

            I didn’t call him a liar, David. Read the dean’s letter. McAdams was fired for not only naming a student in a blog post, but for misrepresenting her actions, when he most certainly should have known better. He used him misrepresentation of her actions, moreover, to score brownie points with the far right. In effect, he lied about her for personal gain.

            Now, am I gonna swear he had a full understanding of what he was doing, and KNEW he was lying when he made an inaccurate post that linked to a young woman’s website so his readers could bombard her with insulting and threatening emails? No. It’s possible he was unable to see the situation with the appropriate clarity, and actually believed the nonsense he spewed.

            In any event, you can bet that he’d grant no such leeway to Mark Lane, or Jim Garrison, or Oliver Stone. McAdams once told me that it’s unfair to call someone a liar, and you should assume they made a mistake…IF they didn’t NEED to lie. Without McAdams’inaccurate claims, his blog post would have been thoroughly insignificant, and essentially meaningless. One can only assume, then, that McAdams himself, by his own definition, should call himself a liar.

      • The problem, David, is that John is a constant commenter on here. Nothing wrong with that alone,of course, but when you add his actions at Marquette, it makes one wonder about things he says here.

  2. Jeremy Faust says:

    Sniff. Sniff. I smell a lawsuit, Jeff. A big, serious one.

    For a lot of us, it’s a simple matter of paying the piper for breaking the rules; reality that most employees abide by. Except McAdams.

  3. A concerned citizen says:

    It may be of interest to readers (and the author of this article) that it has been reported that John McAdams was actually the complaining student’s academic advisor (see this post: http://dailynous.com/2015/02/11/update-from-abbate-on-mcadams/).

    Thank you to the author of this post for providing a thorough account of what happened and for providing numerous informative links to both sides of the discussion. That’s good journalism 🙂

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Sounds like McAdams should have advised the student to do his homework.

    • Pat Speer says:

      Not only was McAdams the student’s academic adviser, he found out about the incident with Abbate from the student during a meeting in which he was functioning as the student’s adviser. The student denied recording Abbate when asked if he had done so by Abbate’s superiors. He admitted recording Abbate when talking to McAdams, however. So what did McAdams do? Did he convince the student to give a copy of the recording to Abbate’s superiors? Heck, no. Abbate’s superiors included an outspoken feminist who McAdams had previously attacked in his blog. So what did he do? Did he ask for a copy so he could give it to the dean? No, again. No, he asked the student to give HIM a copy of the recording so he could use it in his private blog.

      And he wonders why he got fired? Really?

      I mean, come on. Imagine (this shouldn’t be too hard) that McAdams worked in the human resources department of an oil company. Imagine that he became aware of a spill from a worker on a pipeline who’d come in to quit the company. Imagine that this worker told McAdams he had reported the spill to his superiors but had failed to tell them he had video footage of the spill which shows who was to blame. Imagine that McAdams then asked the worker for the video, not so he could share it with his employer, but so he could post it on his own private blog, and embarrass his employer. Imagine that the worker said yes, and that McAdams turned around and embarrassed his employer in an article that misrepresented the events surrounding the spill.

      Now imagine that McAdams claimed he couldn’t be fired over this because he was only exercising free speech. That’s hilarious, right? Never in a billion years would a corporation put up with such subterfuge.

      It seems possible, then, that McAdams deliberately provoked this incident so he could position himself as a conservative martyr, yadda yadda yadda.

  4. Frank says:

    I was searching for a use of the word “malign” that was similar to yours above and found an appropriate description of McAdams in a quote by Disraeli:

    “A sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity, and gifted with an egotistical imagination that can at all times command an interminable and inconsistent series of arguments to malign an opponent and to glorify himself.”

  5. Vanessa says:

    Sounds like the Prof’s lawyer has said ‘based on this letter from MU you are cactus – your only way out is to pretend you are a blogger and not an academic employed by MU.”

    He’s toast.

  6. John says:

    I truly wish no ill will on anyone. I understand, and commend Mr. Morley and others for trying to take the high road when it comes to Mr. McAdams. But I agree with Ms. Pease. And Franks Disraeli quote above in particular are more reflective of my opinion of McAdams. IMO McAdams should be fired immediately. I am pleased that Marquette is taking their time and doing it right. I want them to dot every “i” and cross every “t.” This is not a freedom of speech issue, IMO McAdams was using the same deception by omission & bullying tactics that he using on this and other forums. McAdams, and those of his ilk, his syncophants, have convicted Lee Harvey Oswald without a trial or one shred of hard evidence that he even shot at JFK. Yet McAdams expects to get a pass and have people overlook his own words and actions against this graduate student? It’s funny how McAdams’ minions have stumbled upon the presumption of innocence once their hero has been foisted on his own petard? I am not without mercy so I will offer McAdams some free advice, learn to say “do you want fries with that?”

  7. It is most interesting that this “Blogger” McAdams, is so curiously non-attentive to this blog, which is after all about the “blogger” himself’, who was seemingly addicted to posting here before this scandal arose.
    \\][//

  8. I’m sure John won’t “go quietly”(his stated promise), if that’s the final verdict in his case.

  9. Vic Sage says:

    McAdams has been getting away with his tactics for years now,I’m not shocked that he never thought the university would ever do anything to him.Trying to portray himself as just a blogger is pathetic.

  10. leslie sharp says:

    How did the reportage on this site relating to the events leading to Prof. McAdams’ dismissal by Marquette shift from the vocal defense of his First Amendment rights by Talbot, Mellen, and Scott (with Jeff Morley endorsing their position) to the current back peddling that suggests McAdams may not have had a leg to stand on? FACTS clearly indicate and have from the outset for anyone studying them that Prof. McAdams’ First Amendment rights were never threatened but that McAdams was being brought to bear by his employers (setting his history of flagrant bullying) for propagating falsehoods, failing to include pertinent facts and distorting the record of events.

    This pattern is relevant to John McAdams’ influence over the Kennedy assassination investigation including his welcome participation on jfkfacts. A reticence to call a spade a spade out of respect for our host – one who is well able to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune – serves no one. I suspect Jeff Morley would be the first to acknowledge that.

    Why aren’t we addressing the decades long impact on the investigation by a known prevaricator? Jean Davison to her credit is one of the few that has acknowledged the significance of the implications by insisting someone define one single falsehood the professor advanced “on this site.” One has to admire loyalty however displaced.

  11. Pat Speer says:

    McAdams has taken to defending himself, here:

    https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.assassination.jfk/mv9wQeauV2s

    For those without the energy to read through this mess, McAdams claims the dean’s letter outlining why he is being fired is a “deranged rant.” He further states he has “no remorse at all” over his blog post’s leading to a student teacher receiving numerous death threats. He also described the student who kicked the hornet’s nest as a “victim” of the student teacher, who he described as a “bully” for, gulp, daring to suggest that people arguing same sex couples should not be allowed to raise children are homophobic. He even tried to equate being called “homophobic” (someone who has an unnecessary fear) with being called the N word, or something equally hateful.

    He then topped himself by refusing to post my most recent response to his silliness. That’s right, John McAdams, who is trying to sell himself as a martyr over free speech because he stood up for a young man who wanted to argue against gay marriage in a class session devoted to John Rawl’s theory of justice, is deliberately censoring posts on the aaj newsgroup (which is still funded by the University he is suing, by the way) simply because they make him look bad. (Unlike some of John’s recent posts, I didn’t use a dirty word or anything.)

    In case anyone’s still interested…

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