So the right-wing blog The Daily Caller has published a list of America’s worst professors (here is a donotlink cached version). I’m naturally friends with many of the folks it singles out, but I’m not going to engage with that right now.
What’s fascinating about the list is that it’s generated by, basically, twitter and email bloopers or gaffes, rather than actual content.
The right-wing, in an organized way, has been policing left-wing professors for a long time, but I think something has shifted. In the 90s and early last decade, the worry was that a right-wing student would report on your class content to David Horowitz or some other right-wing outfit. Alternatively, the right-wing media might read your published scholarship (or perhaps popular writing), find lefty ideas, and highlight them to the conservative hordes.
Now, though, like so many journalists, they troll viral twitter, looking for noise they can amplify. A Hitler comparison. A mistaken identification of an international magazine. The implication that white people might be problematic. Sending an email with pornography to your students. It’s just clickbait, and while it’s clickbait that can cause enormous problems for the target of the right-wing noise machine, it’s still different than being challenged for one’s core ideas, rather than for a quick tweet. And even when it is related to scholarship, it’s the twitter-version of the scholarship that they highlight, rather than the actual content.
I’m not sure what this means, other than the fact that the DC is as interested in clickbait and noise as any other internet publication, and again I’m not minimizing the consequences for the individuals so targeted, which can be brutal.
And I’m sure someday my turn will come.