Blogs > Cliopatria > On The Other Hand, Clayton ...

Sep 2, 2004 3:18 am

On The Other Hand, Clayton ...

The Historians Committee for Fairness is rightly critical of Michelle Malkin's book, In Defense of Internment. Eric Muller, a professor of law at the University of North Carolina, and Greg Robinson, a historian at the University of Quebec, in particular, have been effective critics of Malkin's argument. On the other hand, Eugene Volokh and my colleague, Tim Burke, argue quite persuasively that the Historians Committee frames the issues in their letter quite badly. Instead of focusing on errors in Malkin's book and referring to documentation of those errors elsewhere, the historians make a whole series of claims about turf and who is prepared to discuss historical issues intelligently.

A consequence of framing the critique of Malkin's book wrongly is that it renews bitter memories, not of Japanese internees, but of more recent vintage. Volokh refers his readers to Clayton Cramer's commentary on the Malkin debate. Cramer's bitter memories of the Bellesiles controversy keep him from appreciating the ironies in his attack on the historians' letter. He accuses them of being a"truth squad ... intent on suppressing discussion" of Malkin's book and her appearance on talk shows, as if he hadn't been a"truth squad ... intent on suppressing discussion" of Bellesiles's book.

But let Clayton speak for himself:"The letter complains about 'a blatant violation of professional standards of objectivity and fairness.'"

Okay, fair enough. A professional historian has obligations in these areas. But the next sentence reminds us,"Malkin is not a historian, and she states that she relied almost exclusively on research conducted or collected by others." So why do the professional standards of the historian apply to Malkin, who is, by their own admission, not a professional historian?
I suppose that I could take the"professional standards" argument a bit more seriously if we didn't have the recent memory of the Bellesiles scandal, where many professional historians did their best to prevent any serious examination of massive and obvious fraud from working its way into popular newspapers and court decisions.
That's a serious charge, Clayton, against a lot of historians and I don't think your link is a sufficient evidence. But, go on ...
We also have the claims of professional historians about the origins of homosexuality laws that appeared in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) claims that are clearly incorrect, at least to the extent that they make sweeping claims that I was able to quickly demonstrate are false.
I've repeatedly invited you to write an article in which you document these claims in a constructive way and present it for publication at HNN. Why won't you do so?
There are professional historians who take what they do seriously, regardless of the political consequences of what they find. But I no longer have any illusion that these"professional standards" are adhered to by the vast majority of history professors teaching in the U.S.
Do you mean to charge"the vast majority of history professors teaching in the U. S. with not adhering to ‘professional standards'"? That is a gross and irresponsible accusation, a crude smear of the profession which you couldn't begin to document. When do you become accountable to"professional standards" of evidence you were so intent on holding Bellesiles to and which the historians' now argue Malkin should be accountable to?

Update: Posting under the rhuberic,"You Can't Make This Stuff Up," Danny Loss beat me to the punch on this one by over an hour. It's the second time in 24 hours I've been nosed out by one of those aggressive Swarthmore historians.

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Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Ms. Kemp, you said several posts again, in the same august tone, that you had had the last word and you were through.

I think that you are a troll.

And, the testy feelings and threats of action are about as good a proof of being an academic feminist as you could hope to find.

If I'm just an incoherent troll, why do you have to have the last word?

I also have a desk full of very favorable student reviews.

Now, why don't you stop with the dismissive crap and act like an adult? I'm not a member of one of your classes. Try the intimidation tactics on somebody else.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Mr. Luker, it is Ms. Kemp who has been insulting and demeaning throughout this conversation. If you'll review her words, you'll find that she's repeatedly said that I'm too ignorant to merit a response, and then she's responded at length. If I'm that ignorant, and my responses are so transparently worthless, as she's said, then why the continued response?

And, you'll notice, she just admitted to being the academic feminist she denied being.

So, I didn't call her any names. I merely described her for what she is.

You are letting the axe you have to grind with me get in the way here.

And, Mr. Luker, I'm not intimidated by you either. Sometimes you are a very worthy opponent. Sometimes, as now, you are angered by the strength of my words. Do what you like.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

And, Mr. Luker has had the gall to lecture me about civility. Mr. Luker's and Ms. Kemp's comments are contemptible.

I read Mr. Cramer's blog with some regularity. It is sane, which is more than can be said for the childish crap that is routine on this site. Most of what is written here is group think that resembles little else than a high school clique.

Mr. Cramer is a better historian than just about any of the hacks I've read on this site. Mr. Luker and Ms. Kemp, I suggest that you read Mr. Cramer with some regularity. You might learn something. You won't learn much reading the ravings of spoiled children that dominate this site.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Mr. St. Onge is entirely correct.

You can read the ravings of a dozen brain dead Marxists on this site, who insist that they are somehow objective historians.

This site continues to present a Marxist, anti-capitalist agenda week after week, more than a decade after it became obvious that Marxism is Nazism redux.

More often than not, this predisposition makes this site appear laughable. It makes one wonder what sort of insane selection process promotes these dinosaurs to positions of any authority. And, it makes one wonder whether our college history departments serve any purpose other than as a halfway house for the demented.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Mr. Dresner has dramatically, and probably deliberately, misstated Mr. Cramer's remarks. I actually read them. Mr. Cramer has not defended Ms. Malkin's thesis. In fact, he has partially rejected it. He has defended her right to raise this issue, and suggest there might be some merit in doing so.

The catty remarks about adjuncts deserve a reply. Mr. Dresner, you received a faculty position because you toe the line of the PC clique in your profession. Many of those who are adjuncts suffer professionally and financially precisely because they are independent thinkers.

I read your hack writing. You don't deserve a job. The only reason you have one is that your are a toady for the high school clique of brain dead Marxist who promote one another in history departments. You have a job as a result of political corruption.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Mr. Luker, I was not speaking of you.

Now, I understand why you get so angry when you think others have made foolish, intemperate remarks. You have a terrible propensity to make them yourself.

It's time for you, Ralph Luker, to learn to take your own advice. My introduction to this site was your despicably intemperate, foolish remarks in response to David Horowitz.

When do you plan to take your own advice and speak with some caution and maturity?

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

And to make my remarks even more clear, Mr. Luker. We tend to despire most those characteristics in other that we dislike in ourselves.

Your temper is your undoing.

I continue to understand your hatred and anger toward me. I cut you pretty deep when I accused you of playing "the weasel" for feminists. "The weasel" role, for those of you who do not understand it goes like this. The best way to deflect the hatred and anger of feminist academics is to attempt to picture oneself as the "good" type of man who has the best interest of women at heart, as opposed to the "bad" type of man who, of course, is possessed by the desire to demean and destroy women.

Mr. Luker's work is, in general, very good. It is, however, very seriously flawed by this attempt to indict other men as racist, sexist, etc. as a way of deflecting those allegations from himself. As I've often told Mr. Luker, I understand the reasons for doing this. In a field dominated by lunkheads who want to picture southern white men as barbaric slave master, this is probably the only means of survival. Hell, I left an English department because I didn't want to do it any more.

I plead guilty to not giving enough of a damn about what was going on in my English department to try to do something about it. They didn't pay enough. I congratulate Mr. Luker for hanging around. Over the course of time, he will, I am confident, find a way to produce gradual change.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Profession Luker,

My reply was in no way meant to be condescending.

I understand very clearly the obligation of those who criticize political corruption to do something other than simply vent.

The current state of the humanities leaves very few choices for a redneck southern or midwestern white man. I'm a little bit of both. I not only had no stomach for the daily insults, I got offered more money (much more) to do something else, and I took it gratefully. My current job protects me from these insults and gives me legal recourse from discrimination. My co-workers can no longer insult me on a daily basis without paying a price.

I am offering you a very realistic complement, while I'm trying at the same time to describe the dilemma any redneck southern white man faces.

I'm not exactly proud of having fled this battle. I fight it now only from the remove of safety and security. You're still there. There's a lot to be said for that.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

"The constant use of "I, you" language, creating an authoritarian separation of almighty instructor from groveling and sadly uninformed student. This is especially striking in a 300-level course."

This is the language, of course, of the academic feminist.

Nothing is quite as preposterous as criticizing a teacher's method from the remove of never having sat in his class. Ms. Kemp's statements are, thus, little more than a statement of her obvious ideology. One of the more persistent ruses of the academic feminist is this attempt at personal assassination disguised as teary concern for the student.

Nothing is quite as funny as those who attempt to reject the reality of "hierarchy." Every attempt to reject hierarchy only creates a new one. In every case that I've seen, those attempts to conceal or reject hierarchy only result in a more iron-fisted hierarchy that no one is allowed to bespeak.

If this woman is a teacher, I'd steer clear of her classes. I've read quite a few pieces, from a wide variety of political points of view, that praised Zell's speech. The tone of Ms. Kemp's writing is such that I'd take a long walk to avoid speaking with her. Arrogance is almost too kind of a word to describe it.

Ms. Kemp has an obvious political axe to grind. She doesn't think that people who disagree with her point of view have the right to teach. She's also a bit of a religious maniac herself, of the sort that has begun to dominate the left. She's discovered a new religion: anti-hierarchy, and is as proud as an religious zealot of her spiritual illumination. Fact is, Ms. Kemp, the 20th century is strewn with millions of corpses murdered by zealots who thought they knew how to end "hierarchy." Did you miss that century?

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

I was re-directed to this site by a link in Mr. Cramer's site. I was unaware that I was re-directed to a separate blog entity within HNN.

My remarks, which you responded to so bitterly, were in fact directed at the front page editorial direction of HNN and not this site.

Believe it or not, I visit this site so seldom that I was unaware that I had been re-directed to a separate entity within HNN.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

I've been a teacher and a course designer for 35 years. There are as many good methods for teaching a class as there are teaching personalities.

Your criticism of Mr. Cramer is pretty transparent. You don't like his assertion of masculinity. It's pretty strong. You might be surprised to learn that many people like such a strong assertion of masculinity. And learn well in response to it.

I've taken great classes from men who were sternly authoritarian and would not even tolerate a peep from their students. And I've taken great classes from airhead New Agers who prefer to call their classes "workshops."

The worst classes I've taken were given by those who attempted to pretend that they did not enjoy a position of authority over their students. An honest admission of the reality of any social situation is always appreciated.

Mr. Cramer is a very masculine, authoritative guy. Very good things often come out of such guys. Very good things often come out of flaming drag queens. Read Charles Ludlum's work. Maybe you ought to broaden your horizons.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

Your assertions about Mr. Cramer's methods are absurd. I suggest that you actually read his writing.

He does not simply "get them to remember some historical facts." He does an excellent job of interpretation and explanation.

I get the very strong feeling that you are speaking about this man without ever having actually given his writing and thinking a fair hearing. In fact, I've got a very strong feeling that you are reacting in a knee-jerk fashion to his adamant support of 2nd Amendment rights.

I'd suggest getting off your high horse and actually listening to what this man has to say.

And I am not only "actually a course designer," I am for all practical purposes the inventor of the structure of the online course. I am the one of the first. I began putting courses online in 1996, when nobody else even envisioned such a thing happening.

The arrogance of your statements really gets my goat. I think that Mr. Cramer is equally concerned with training "people to think like historians." He just has a different outlook than you do. Apparently, you believe that training "people to think like historians" means training them to come to the same conclusion as you. Maybe you ought to lighten up on the self congratulation.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

The arrogance of your writing style is mind boggling. I have not applied a single label to you.

Let me paraphrase your response: "I think every right thinking person agrees with me."

Your comments about Mr. Cramer's "authoritarian" style are, in fact, comments about you.

I think that you are guilty of precisely that for which you attempt to indict Mr. Cramer. If you really believe that readers can make up their own minds, why do you persist in telling them that they must think like you?

You are a very arbitary, authoritarian type, Ms. Kemp. I shudder to think what disagreement in your class would bring in terms of retaliation.

Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

It is not labelling to note the obvious.

Ms. Kemp's language is the standard pap of the academic feminist.

And, yet more arrogance from the apparently divinely inspired Ms. Kemp.

Students, stay out of this woman's class. She's a tyrant.

Danny Loss - 9/10/2004

I know, I know, it's time to stop. But it's too hard when there's still a nugget of relevance here, so I'm going to latch on.

7) It isn't that most historians do not adhere to "professional standards" (a red herring claim that I never made)[...]

Well, if this isn't the issue, why the hell did Clayton Cramer bring it up? This issue, as a matter of fact, was the impetus for Ralph's initial post that spawned this entire thread. This issue is one that Cramer still has not responded to. This issue is very far from being a red herring; it's the whole point of the post.

So, for one more time, just to hear the echo, I'll ask:

Does Clayton Cramer stand behind his claim that "the vast majority of history professors teaching in the U.S." fail to adhere to "professional standards"? If so, I'd like to see some evidence, otherwise Cramer is guilty of the same academic crimes that he slanders historians with. If not, Cramer should retract his statement.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/10/2004

Mr. Lee, We're obviously talking past each other, rather than with each other. It seems to be impossible for us to do the latter, so I suggest that the conversation is over.

Phil Lee - 9/10/2004

Dr. Luker,

You made a number of "red-herring" responses to my limited message admonishing you over your language ("thug") and your treatment of Cramer in one of your messages.

1) I have made no statement about what you specifically did. Cramer's statements were not endorsed by me on this matter. Whether I see the difference is irrelevant, not pathetic. I suggest you need to stand under a cold shower and cool down.
2) Whatever Cramer's did on Bellesiles -- clumsy and unsophisticated are "taste" descriptors which address issues of less importance than the value of the effort Cramer brought to discover truth. I'll take Cramer's truth over sophisticated and adroit historian's dissembling any day. Cramer's ego is irrelevant to my prior message.
3) Your use of "thug" appears to be crude name-calling (and a generalization). What is pathetic is your lack of sensitivity to your own bad practice.
4) "Merely wrong" is what I might be if I said you had a wart on your nose -- I would be something different if I had your picture in front of me showing your nose to be wart-free but continued to say it had a wart. Bellesiles was not merely wrong, nor were historians who defend him against observations by Cramer and others merely wrong. Either they knew better (were liars) or they were ignorant (pretended to knowledge they didn't have). Either way, they didn't meet minimum standards of scholarship. One academic historian excused himself to me by saying he depended on Bellesiles' honesty when reviewing his book and claimed that as standard practice among historians. His fawning review stands as a monument to bad practice common among academic historians -- at least he claimed it was common.
5) I'll take my understanding of Cramer's early critiques (I have read much of it and I even contributed to his work in one small way and that contribution is acknowledged in the front matter of one of his reports).
6) You may claim the slows was because of due process from Bellesiles' employer Emory, but many of the rest of us would point to Bellesiles' Newberry Library fellowship received despite evidence of his frauds from Cramer, Malcolm, and Lindgren. Where was the outrage from the professionals at that time? Where was your outrage?
7) It isn't that most historians do not adhere to "professional standards" (a red herring claim that I never made), it is the inadaquacy of these standards (and their ideological nature) that worries many of us. Your twisting of what I've said certainly speaks to your standards.
8) Don't be sad for me -- I hang with a more intellectually honest group than do you.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/9/2004

Mr. Lee:
1) Cramer accused me of "defending Bellesiles." I defended Bellesiles's due process rights. If you and he don't see the difference, that's pathetic.
2) If my calling Cramer's unsophisticated and clumsy efforts "heroic" is not sufficient for Cramer's ego, that's pathetic.
3) When people directed here from Cramer's site behave like thugs, that's pathetic.
4) How is "wrong" merely? Your failure to understand that it was historians who made the crucial recommendations in Bellesiles's case is, well, pathetic.
5) Your failure to understand the inadequacy of Cramer's early critique of Bellesiles's work is pathetic. You might bother yourself to read it.
6) Fortunately, due process has the "slows." Failure to understand that is pathetic.
7) "You people" is not libelous. Claims that most historians do not adhere to "professional standards" is libelous. Pathetic.
8) I am not hurt. I am sad that you continue to hang out with lynch mobs. Pathetic.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/9/2004

It's not that, Mr. Thomas. It's that I come from a family where having the last word is so ingrained, we feel we have to respond -- especially when we're procrastinating from doing other things.

BTW, I didn't actually "admit" to anything. I'm sorry you couldn't see my comment for the sarcasm that was meant. I may be an academic and a feminist, but I am not, as you call me, an academic feminist. There's a big difference.

Phil Lee - 9/9/2004

No, Cramer has not managed to persuade me 'that someone over here is "defending Bellesiles"'. (I observed many defenses first hand myself, but that is not at all the issue).

I thought you didn't credit Cramer (and other non-historians) properly with documenting Bellesiles' misstatements.

I thought your message was churlish in using the phrase "a link from Cramer's site directs the thugs" in your response.

And, so long as you view Bellesiles as merely being wrong and that "Historians settled that issue ..." you are on a different planet from many of us.

From my modest circumstance, it certainly appears that "Historians settled" in the way that the South settled the War between the States -- only after overwhelming force was brought to bear from outside.

Perhaps I'm mistaken and you can supply references to professional historical publications wherein historians decried Bellesiles claims even before Cramer did (or even references where historians confirmed Cramer's claims shortly after they were made).

Perhaps I'm mistaken, but it certainly looks like the historians brigade was late to the action (they had the "slows") and now that the battle is over, people are laughing at their posturing on the battlefield.

As to my use of "you people", it is appropriate and not at all libelous. It is true that generalizations are unfair to some (what generalization isn't?) I'm sure that there are good historians. But it is a measure of my point that you don't appreciate how relevant the comment is.

Now, you are hurt that people are speaking of your profession harshly. Good! Perhaps, all the harsh things people say will cause the good historians to reject the bad practices of the recent past.

One can hope.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/9/2004

Let it go. You've insulted enough people on this thread.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/9/2004

Let this one go, Mr. Thomas. You've said enough insulting things for now. Just stop. If you don't stop, I will ask that you be banned.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/9/2004

{asks forgiveness in advance for feeding the troll}

Mr. Thomas -- You clearly have not read much of what I said in any detail, perhaps because you have taken such offense at my tone and the fact that I dared to criticize Mr. Cramer.

Surely you must know that academic feminists, by virtue of their inherent wrong-thinking, cannot be divinely inspired? God doesn't like feminists or people who criticize the strong and masculine, after all. In fact, God doesn't really want me to teach, because I might encourage thinking rather than memorization, and because I might pollute those young minds with nasty things like social history, the idea of class, etc.

Right. Thank you, Mr Thomas, for showing us all exactly what kind of troll you are. With friends like you, Mr. Cramer doesn't really need any detractors, does he?

Oh, and that last sentence? I believe that's actionable. It's a good thing that I have hundreds of student evaluations (from people who have actually taken my classes) to disprove you, or I might be worried.

Alessandra Barros - 9/8/2004

Ms. Hoffman Kemp commented: 1) Last time I heard, we were supposed to maintain a standard of reasonable historic objectivity. 2) It's also clear that his course will be less about teaching his students to think critically as historians, or even learning a bit of historiography, than about "What Clayton Cramer believes about Constitutional History."

Mr. St. Onge said: 3)If political motivation automatically means lack of scholarly competency, then you should start out by refusing to take seriously any work whatever by Marxists, just as one example. [...]

4) If you intend to refuse to take people seriously without bothering to examine their evidence or think about their arguments, just say so openly. You'll get at least some respect that way.

Greetings - My main point was regarding #1, specifically "historical objectivity." Whether Cramer´s teaching of constitutional history (#2) has problems or not, I only copied this text excerpt because of the way it was phrased "Cramer´s Own Beliefs about whatever." The notion of historical or political objectivity for any teacher is mostly an oxymoron. I do think there are some things in life/history/politics which are True, and the rest is simply subjective,that is, they are in line with an individual´s own self-interest.

Most professors who are honest (#4) will visibly state their political/ideological position, which is what they believe is correct. This does not mean they cannot teach other views/perspectives, but they usually do so in a way that discredits opposing views, using several unethical rhetorical means employed in Arming America. The worst is they do this at the same time that they label themselves as "objective," i.e., "objective" is what I believe is right; "subjective" or "politically motivated", therefore untrue, is what other people think. I would say most professors fall into one of these two groups, either outright honest or closeted dishonest.

Lastly, there is a minority of profs which are the "I´m going to play it coy and just lay low" types, the professors who teach a variety of ideological positions and never state any one of them is correct. They basically tell the students, "figure it out for yourselves, I´m not getting in the fray."

Although professors who aren´t honest about their rhetorical and political objectives are an obvious target for criticism, professors usually shape their teaching based on their views and values, so it is incongruent to expect that they would teach as correct something they don´t see as correct. Which is why departments that have too much of a group think dynamics become small minded and limited.

From Ms. Hoffman Kemp´s post on primary sources:
-Consider the source

-Does the author have a particular ax to grind?

-Who is the author and what is his place in society?

-What is the author's purpose?

This shouldn´t be applied to "primary sources" only. Students should be taught to always apply this questioning to professors.

Aside from looking for an "ax to grind" for motivations for supporting particular viewpoints, I think, more often, we need to look at self-interest and how this shapes political and ideological viewpoints, and consequently directs or obstructs teaching.

Alastair Mackay - 9/6/2004

Prof. Luker, thanks for responding. Without touching on the substance of this post--and I do have a layman's strong and arguably well-reasoned opinion, one that is shared by neither you or Mr. Cramer--let me offer some thoughts on your three points.

1. Existence vs. non-existence of comments: Quite so, and sufficiently obvious that I didn't think to make that point. However, I would ask that you re-read this comments thread, focusing on the disagreeable tone of your adversaries (easily done), your supporters (harder) and yourself (hardest). The condecension, spite, and ill-will is dominant throughout. While other blogs certainly do worse (Atrios, LGF), others with lively comments do much better. See, as one of many examples, Beldar's Blog. And he doesn't even (yet) register comments, which makes enforcement of standards of civility an order of magnitude easier.

2. One-time only appearances: This blog's problem in this regard is neither better nor worse than any other's. And the power of this explanation is diminished by the general tone that many commenters bring to the party.

3. Forewarning others might better take the form of a bemusedly humorous post. The term as used here is a euphemism for in-kind ad hominem. "You're banned," with or without "and the offensive posts are deleted" is curiously absent. This forbearance doesn't promotefreedom of (worthwhile) speech here, if that's its intention.

Of course, it's all a matter of taste. I have nothing against biker bars playing Van Halen at 90 dB. But I go there for the entertainment value of the inevitable fights, not to discuss the relative merits of peer review and fact checking.

As a minor mea culpa, sorry for placing these two comments incorrectly. I haven't quite got the hang of nested threads (obviously).

Ralph E. Luker - 9/6/2004

Mr. Mackay, Thanks for your observations. Do take note of a couple of things: 1) the high-minded tone you refer to on The Volokh Conspiracy is maintained by the _absence_ of any comment threads. Much as I respect the Volokhs, they simply don't bother with comments. 2) Several of the commenters on this post made a one-time only appearance to attack anyone critical of Cramer. Among them is a person who is notorious for demeaning every net conversation he touches and who has been excluded from commenting at other blogs. 3) Only because of past experience with that person did I feel it necessary to outline his character for him and forewarn others of what conversation with him would inevitably mean. Please do come back and visit.

Alastair Mackay - 9/6/2004

Prof. Luker and Various Commenters,

I am a first-time visitor to this site. It seemed reasonable to anticipate that the posts at a HNN blog would be reasoned and intelligent, and that the comments would bring disagreements on the subject matter into focus in a (mostly) civil and thoughtful way.

Well, the posts are indeed mostly reasonable, even if politically monotonic, and even if overspiced with hostile asides.

It's the comments threads that stand out, at least for what I've read among high-minded blogs--the sort whose writers and readers would know, say, The Volokh Conspiracy. The spite, contempt, and one-upmanship that are on display here are distressing to read. While Prof. Luker, sadly, sets the tone, there are clearly as many devotees among his enemies as among his allies.

Perhaps you would all benefit from taking some deep breaths, and consider how this blog makes you appear to outsiders. Would you--professionals all--use these words or these tones when speaking to your real-life colleagues? Your secretaries?

As far as your ideas go: I hope you also reflect on whether this appalling lack of civility adds to the persuasiveness of your respective arguments.

Best of luck to you, whatever you collectively decide to do.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/4/2004

Cheers, Danny, but this is just trollery at its finest. Either Mr. Thomas wilfully chooses to misinterpret what I've said, or he just doesn't understand it. Either way, he's a troll who doesn't need feeding.

Danny Loss - 9/4/2004

I don't know why I even bother here. But, hey, this whole thread originated with a discussion of calling out false statements, right?

Stephen, you just claimed that "you have not applied a single label to" Julie. Yet just yesterday you had this to say in response to Julie's critique of Clayton Cramer's syllabus:

This is the language, of course, of the academic feminist.

Anything else?

Julie A Hofmann - 9/4/2004

Steve -- I just erased a longer entry because, frankly, you don't deserve it. Read my initial statements: I said I was basing my judgement on the one syllabus available to me and what I know about teaching history. I also mentioned elsewhere the basic questions I think history students need to be encouraged to think about when reading primary (or secondary) sources -- if any of the other historians out there have a problem with that, I really would like to hear about it. Finally, I pointed out that the teaching style indicated by Mr. Cramer's syllabus indicated an outmoded approach that is purely top-down and does not encourage students to take more than a responsive part in their own learning experience.

Instead of responding constructively, you have simply reacted by being insulting and by trying to reduce the substance of my arguments to simplistic labels. I expect that most of the readers here can see that.
They can also see the disingenuousness (or maybe hypocrisy) of continuing to teach History part-time, while at the same time continually castigating those of us who devote our professional lives to it as, "you Historians" and "your profession." 'Nuff said, I think.

Jonathan Dresner - 9/3/2004

Mr. Thomas,

Unless you have read my scholarly writing, you do not in fact have any basis for judging my scholarship. I didn't get hired for my on-line presence, or renewed, nor will it be a significant issue when tenure is decided.

Cramer treads the same line that Malkin does, if a bit more subtly: yes, it was a craven, unworthy act, but it was because we were craven, unworthy people in a difficult time and we thought it would be a good idea. Malkin's raving and backtracking on MAGIC intercepts does not represent an historical argument worthy of significant media attention, except as a sign of the depths to which contemporary politics can produce distorted revisions of the past. Neither of them addresses a glaring flaw in their argument of necessity (which someone mentioned above, I believe, and I've mentioned elsewhere) which is the fact that Hawai'i (which should have been even more riddled with spies and turncoats than the West Coast) was perfectly secure after Pearl Harbor with an arrest/internment rate of under 2% (of which I've never seen any suggestion that those arrests were terribly well justified, either, but at least they were somewhat selective and represent a different ethical and historical issue).

And with that, the discussion should be mostly over. Malkin's handling of sources stinks, her social history is terrible, her understanding of counter-espionage doesn't even rise to the level of The Seige or Rainbow Six, and the "issues" she raises are barely suitable for HS ethics classes, much less serious adult discussion.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/3/2004

Sorry, ST -- not buying it at all. Cramer's syllabus is 'masculine'? As opposed to what? What would you call a feminine syllabus? I'm both authoritarian ( in the sense that I don't put up with students wasting my time or each other's) in class and authoritative (in the sense that, if a student is dead wrong, I'll say so, but nicely, and then bring the class to the correct fact or to the generally accepted theories). The students know that I'm ultimately in charge of their grades, but I don't find my masculinity (if that's what it is) challenged by allowing them to speak as equals as people.

If you are indeed an experienced course designer, you'll be famililar with the fact that there are many different ways of assessing overall educational outcomes. You'll also be aware that, in terms of transmitting not only knowledge but its continued use and transferral to other courses, the lecture model is often regarded one of the less effective ones available.

I hate this, because I sound like some ed. school parrot or budding administrator, when instead, I really align myself much more with Mr. Dresner's "we have to do it from within, before they force us to do it badly" model. That said, I cannot but surmise that, on the basis of his syllabus, Mr. Cramer's teaching methods are pretty damned outdated, as is his attitude towards his students as shown in that syllabus.

As I've mentioned, few people who know me would accuse me of being the touchy-feely type of faculty member. I am more often on the "old-fashioned rigor" side of the fence. However, I consider keeping up in my field not only to be keeping up with historical scholarship, but also with doing everything I can to be a better teacher -- a teacher whose students learn as much about historical analysis and method as they do about a particular period. Maybe that's the difference -- I'm trying to train people to think like historians, not just to get them to remember some historical facts.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/3/2004

[guffawing loudly]
FYI, y'all, I'm an institutional/political/social historian (the Carolingians and their administration is really pretty much all three). Not particularly feminist. HIGHLY amused. Anyone who knows me, knows I love hierarchy. I just think that good teachers recognize the inherent power that lies in their position, and so does not feel the need to browbeat the student with it. Oddly enough, I just happen to think that students should be participants in their own education, because it helps them to take more responsibility for it. Go figure. [still chuckling]

Julie A Hofmann - 9/3/2004

Argh. Please forgive the absence of a closing tag after "multiple choice" and the ensuing italicization of the rest.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/3/2004

I'm sorry Ms. Barros sees my comments as some kind of attack. I do admit that Hyperbole made her way into my comments about Mr. Cramer being the only person liking Zell Miller's speech. It was clear that lots of the delegates and ultra-right-wing hypocrites like Rush Limbaugh liked it, too -- although some of the saner voices of the GOP, like John McCain, have certainly distanced themselves from Miller and his type of rhetoric.

That said, I challenge anyone to read Mr. Cramer's syllabus and not infer what I did. The very tone and language of the syllabus, not to mention its structure and the points associated with each assignment, indicate a class where an outmoded professorial hierarchy reigns supreme. As examples, I offer the following:

  • The constant use of "I, you" language, creating an authoritarian separation of almighty instructor from groveling and sadly uninformed student. This is especially striking in a 300-level course.
  • The frequent use of value- and opinion-loaded statements which make clear that the students are going to be learning Clayton Cramer's view -- not necessarily an objective one, e.g., "You will learn about the often misunderstood role of the courts (sometimes misunderstood by judges themselves) in interpreting our Constitution." or, "Unfortunately, some of the well-known and important cases are also very long, and written in the sort of legal jargon that you might expect from the Supreme Court." While the second statement, especially, might seem to Mr. Cramer (or others) to be reasonably harmless, Mr. Cramer is speaking as the person with power and authority. Students clearly have less power in the faculty-student relationship; coupled with the fact that only the very best students have moved past the stage where "figuring out what the teacher wants" is the primary drive for learning, Mr Cramer (perhaps unwittingly) has set the stage for a class that will be less than comfortable disagreeing with what they perceive to be his opinions, i.e., that Supreme Court Justices often don't know what their jobs are, and that key legal decisins can be dismissed because they are written in jargon.
  • Throughout, Mr. Cramer's language is belittling to the student
  • The point values assigned to a badly described research paper and multiple-choice tests given to make sure that, "basic facts of U.S. Constitutional History have soaked into your brains long enough to stick." as compared to a meager 50 points (10%) to class discussion again indicates that participatory, active learning is not a part of Mr. Cramer's approach, again arguably a sign of lack of respect for the students or at least unawareness of current pedagogical methods.

I trust that I have made my argument a bit clearer for those people who seem to think my claims were in any way unjust. I have only recently begun to comment here at Cliopatra, and don't do it that much. However, I have been reading Cliopatra since its inception when a good friend and colleague whose political views are generally quite contrary to my own (so much so that we tend to cancel out each other's votes) began writing for the site. To the best of my knowledge, there are at least three main contributors who are avowedly Republican or Libertarian. I've always found the discussions here to be sane and pleasant, with the exception of when Mr. Cramer is involved in person or by proxy. I join Mr. Loss in encouraging Ralph to keep the worm can closed.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/3/2004

Thanks for the patronizing, Professor Thomas. Like you, I've been called a racist, sexist, classist, elitist, heterosexist and all the rest. It's only fitting that you, of all people, should complete the circle by calling my colleagues "lunkheads" and me a "weasel" for those who label other people.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/3/2004

Professor Thomas, If you were not speaking of me, then you were speaking of my colleagues at Cliopatria and my point remains.

Danny Loss - 9/3/2004

Malkin certainly has a right to make her case, unless someone repealed the First Amendment when I wasn't looking. Let those who disagree with her read her book, and answer her arguments, squarely, in detail, and in public.

No one, as far as I can tell, has argued that Malkin doesn't have the right to write the book she did. Her critics have pointed to her poor scholarship and suggested that she should be held responsible for that scholarship.

Incidentally, those who disagree with Malkin have "answer[ed] her arguments, squarely, in detail, in in public." Check out the series of posts by Eric Muller, first at the Volokh Conspiracy, then at his blog, Is That Legal?

Ralph E. Luker - 9/3/2004

Mr. Lee, Cramer has managed to persuade you that someone over here is "defending Bellesiles" and you foolishly repeat that stupid lie. Now, would you like to read what I said in the post in the first place? If so, we can then have an intelligent conversation about matters at hand. We don't need to talk about settled issues, like whether Bellesiles was wrong. Historians settled that issue a couple of years ago. Would you like to talk about matters at hand? And, how about not using terms like "you people"? They invite stupid generalized accusations like Cramer's. Ultimately, they are libelous.

Phil Lee - 9/3/2004

Well I'd say you've managed to lose your common sense and dignity with calling people "thugs".

Cramer did history a service with his efforts at documenting Bellesiles frauds. You've lost that argument and will continue to lose with everyone not having a stake in your academic profession until you reform yourself.

I believe there are good historians just like I believe there are good liberals. But, I've noticed a tendency to lie by both groups and both groups tend not to expose the liars in their midst. What is it with you people? Are you oblivious to how you appear to the rest of us?

Ralph E. Luker - 9/3/2004

The fact is, Mr. St. Onge, that the historians who signed the letter are, for the most part, specialists is the area of American history Malkin writes about. Your accusation that they haven't looked at the evidence is made in ignorance, I'm afraid.

Stephen Michael St. Onge - 9/3/2004

Mr. Dresner describes Cramer as "defending" Malkin. Here's some of what Cramer says about her, copied off his web site:

"Now, I don't argue that EO 9066 was right. It locked up a heck of a lot of people who had done nothing wrong at all. I do argue that the claim that was only driven by racism is typical leftist hysteria. It might be that it was primarily driven by racism, but military concerns were not completely nonsense. I don't think most people today have any concept of the level of fear that gripped the United States at the time."

"I've been following the discussion enough to know that I would not want to defend Malkin's point too strongly. I also believe, from a variety of materials that I have read over the years, that the conventional wisdom about why the Japanese-American internment took place is oversimplified.

"Yes, there was widespread racial hatred of the Japanese on the West Coast, going back decades. Yes, it is hard in retrospect to justify the undiscriminating way that all residents of Japanese ancestry were relocated. But the manner in which Malkin's critics have dismissed the very real concerns about Japanese spies scattered among both Japanese permanent residents and American-born Japanese (who were thus American citizens) is disingenuous. Our government, at least at the very top, knew that there were such spies present. They had no way to identify them, and the fear of imminent invasion when many of these decisions were being discussed was very real.

"Was the internment an overreaction? Sure. Was it motivated by racist assumptions about non-whites not being able to "assimilate" into American society? Doubtless. Did political concerns play a part in this decision? I would be surprised if they didn't. But pretending, as some of Malkin's critics do, that there was no national security motivations behind this is nonsense.

"Aside from the question of whether Malkin's book is partly right (my view) or completely wrong (apparently the view of the historians trying to suppress her appearance on talk shows)"

"I don't really buy Malkin's argument completely, and I don't agree that the circumstances justified this mass arrest. I do think it is important to recognize the fear that Americans were operating under at the time. The fifth column actions of Japanese residents in China were probably known to the American government. It is possible that these similar actions by Japanese residents in the Philipines at the start of the war were known to our government as well.

"Perhaps a bit more willingness to acknowledge these issues--instead of portraying the internment in simplistic, moralistic terms, as many people have done over the years, myself included--might have prevented Malkin's book."

Personally, I tend to side with Malkin's critics. The FBI had lists of suspicious German-, Italian-, and Japanese-Americans, and they locked them up as soon as the war started. There was never any suggestion I've seen that all German-Americans on the East Coast be locked up, even when German submarines were sinking ships regularly within sight of the coast. If there was concern, for example, about Japanese-American spies in defense plants, they could have just been fired.
And we all know that Japanese weren't interned in Hawaii.

So all this says to me that racism was the primary motivation of the internment, and that it was clearly unjustified.

But perhaps I'm wrong. I haven't examined Malkin's evidence, and probably won't (due to lack of interest). Malkin certainly has a right to make her case, unless someone repealed the First Amendment when I wasn't looking. Let those who disagree with her read her book, and answer her arguments, squarely, in detail, and in public.

Instead, we get letters saying "We therefore respectfully demand that you formally apologize to the Japanese Americans who have been slandered by Ms. Malkin's reckless presentation and invite a reputable historian to present a more even-handed view of the evidence." In short, 'decide Malkin is wrong because we say she is, and before examining any evidence.'

Feh! Things like this only make it more likely Malkin's views will be taken seriously, whether they deserve to be or not. And they will quite certainly bring the history profession into increasing public disrepute. Deservedly so.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/3/2004

This is what happens when a link from Cramer's site directs the thugs to Cliopatria. Rational discussion is impossible. They rail about many things other than what was being discussed here. They call people names. They act like fascists on mescaline.

Danny Loss - 9/3/2004

Mr. Cramer has not defended Ms.Malkin's thesis. In fact, he has partially rejected it.

Well, that's one way of putting it. Another way is how Cramer himself put it:

"Aside from the question of whether Malkin's book is partly right (my view)..."

Certainly seems to me like a defense of Malkin's thesis.

Cramer's thought experiment dealt with a book that challenged the received historiographical wisdom but did so on dubious evidentiary grounds. Dresner pointed to a real book, Malkin's, that did the same thing, and pointed out that Cramer defended it.

Where's the dramatic misstatement of Cramer's remarks? Am I missing something here?

Ralph E. Luker - 9/3/2004

Stephen Thomas, You are a liar and a fool. I'm a Republican. There aren't many Republican Marxists that I'm aware of.

Danny Loss - 9/3/2004

Damn it, people! The Belleiles thing has been discussed to death. Is anyone here arguing against the idea that the historical profession screwed up with respect to Arming America? Is anyone arguing against the idea that historians need to be more responsible?

The point of Ralph's original post is that Clayton Cramer smeared "the vast majority of history professors teaching in the U.S." with insufficient evidence to back up that claim. If you have something to say about that, say it. If not, well, then write about Belleiles somewhere else.

Stephen Michael St. Onge - 9/3/2004

Let me clarify something.

I don't say that all Marxists are incompetent as historians. Some strike me as honest and capable, and I've learned from reading their work.

But if political motivation makes historical research automatically incompetent in the eyes of the profession, I'd like someone to explain why so many Marxists are taken seriously.

If, on the other hand, only some political viewpoints make a work automatically incompetent, then explain which ones irrevocably taint a work, and make your argument as to why they taint it. That might actually be interesting.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/3/2004

Ms. Barros, Try reading what is posted over here _before_ you ditto Clayton Cramer.
Mr. Bowen, Welcome to Cliopatria. You might learn something here if you read it _before_ pronouncing judgment.
Professor Thomas: You keep promising to leave, but never before registering your low i.q. with us.
Mr. St. Onge, Alas, you haven't bothered to read what you've dismissed _before_ you dismissed it. You fail History 101.

Stephen Michael St. Onge - 9/3/2004

Another bizarre claim was that AXES WERE AS GOOD ON THE BATTLEFIELD AS GUNS.

If anyone spent ten seconds thinking about this, they'd immediately realize they had never seen any pictures of European armies of the time armed with axes. They'd then have wondered why an expensive musket was preferred to a cheap axe by every single European army of the time. Or why peasants armed with axes didn't succeed when fighting infantry armed with muskets.

If I wrote a history of medicine in the early twentieth century that said "In 1933, homeopathic medicine was generally regarded by most medical professionals as being as effective as sulfa drugs to treat infection," you'd instantly suspect I was making things up, or at least utterly wrong. That's how bad Bellesiles's book was. The history profession should have been checking into its claims long before Cramer and Lindgren wrote anything about it.

Stephen Michael St. Onge - 9/3/2004

"The Chronicle, furthermore, insists that Bellesiles´ critics were all politically motivated, therefore they have no academic or scholarly competency."

This is the kind of attitude that makes non-professionals laugh hysterically. When the laughter stops, the non-professional then decides the professional is not even minimally honest.

If political motivation automatically means lack of scholarly competency, then you should start out by refusing to take seriously any work whatever by Marxists, just as one example. And since we all know that the history profession would never even consider such a move, the non-professional thinks that this standard of 'politically motivated = no academic or scholarly competency' as blatant hypocrisy, selectively employed to dismiss those whose political viewpoint is unpopular.

And the non-professional is correct.

If you intend to refuse to take people seriously without bothering to examine their evidence or think about their arguments, just say so openly. You'll get at least some respect that way.

Glenn Wright Bowen - 9/3/2004

As as far as the Bellesiles case is concerned, Cramer is correct: as a group they were caught with their agenda-loaded pants around their ankles. Who am I? -a bluecollar worker who knows stink when I smell it.

Now go back to telling each other what you want to hear.

Alessandra Barros - 9/3/2004

Julie commented: Last time I heard, we were supposed to maintain a standard of reasonable historic objectivity. It's also clear that his course will be less about teaching his students to think critically as historians, or even learning a bit of historiography, than about "What Clayton Cramer believes about Constitutional History."
I don´t have a stake on all of this as the rest of you, but it´s glaring how bitter and arrogant the camp attacking Cramer is. I blogged on my first impressions on this Bellesiles scandal (, excerpt below:

The Chronicle, furthermore, insists that Bellesiles´ critics were all politically motivated, therefore they have no academic or scholarly competency. Since when is the latter a consequence of being politically motivated? Furthermore, it becomes clear that most of the people who reviewed and created a swoonfest for the book, were largely ideologically/academically motivated to blindly swallow many of the claims/sources in the book, and not really research their veracity.

"In the National Review, Melissa Seckora has speculated that many reviewers "uncritically embraced" Arming America "because it appeared to confirm what they have long wanted to believe" about the politics of guns in America. "One could only imagine the outcry," she wrote, "if a conservative scholar, fabricating evidence to prove a pet conservative point, had been found to be careless (to say the least)."

While some historians who praised Arming America say now that they didn't have time to check the footnotes, scholars have found time in the past -- when a controversial scholarly work challenged widely held views in academe. When The Bell Curve analyzed the academic performance of black students in a way that offended many professors, there was no shortage of scholars with the time to pick over its every detail. "

My view is that if historians employed just 10% of the energy they use attacking people like Cramer to improve their professional standards, as exemplified above, we would have a better historiography result overall. If all you do from reading Cramer is spit out venomn, you have shown yourselves to be failing in improving the quality of your profession, which like all professions, has a ton of issues regarding professional standards and practices.

Jonathan Dresner - 9/3/2004

Actually, there have been economists who have indeed argued that slavery was a net benefit, and they've won awards. If you're troubled by that, talk to economists.

And Malkin's book is not too far off from your descriptions of both Arming America and Happy Slaves, and yet you've defended her. If Malkin had read the literature on internment and WWII in the Pacific seriously, she wouldn't have felt the need to write the book either, unless..... she was really making an argument about contemporary issues, rather than historical ones.

Danny Loss - 9/3/2004

Okay, I went and read the letter John Larson wrote you. What exactly is snotty about it? As far as I can tell, Larson passed on the journal's policy to you and suggested other courses of action for you to take.

Perhaps you don't understand the role of journal editors. It's not their job to check the veracity of every footnote, as you seem to have expected Larson to do.

Again, I don't have the background knowledge to comment specifically on the Belleiles case; I'm just giving my impression of the letter you provided a link to.

Danny Loss - 9/2/2004

Clayton, this is not the place for rehashing the Belleilses controversy. Frankly, I don't know the details of it, so I'm not in any position to discuss it anyway.

Ralph's post (and mine, for that matter) took you to task for generalizing about "the vast majority of history professors in the U.S." from two incidents. Would you care to respond to this?

Andrew Ackerman - 9/2/2004

Are you historians going to respond to Cramer's indictment of your profession or just pretend to ignore him?

Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/2/2004

"I can only say I'm truly happy that Mr Cramer seems to have found employment as a software engineer."

I've done software engineering for a living since I was 18. There's a reason that I don't teach full-time--I would make about what I now pay in taxes.

There are times that I get very upset at how poorly academics are paid--about what secretaries get paid in most companies for which I have worked--but when I look at comments like yours, I realize that perhaps academic salaries aren't a market failure at all.

"Add to that the fact that he is the only person, on any side of the political spectrum, who seems to have actually liked Zell Miller's speech..." Sorry, but there were actually quite a few people who liked it. For example,

"NEW YORK — Mississippi Republicans were still buzzing about the powerful speech that Georgia Sen. Zell Miller, a Democrat for Bush, at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night.

"Many say Miller's attack on fellow Democratic Sen. John Kerry overshadowed Vice President Dick Cheney.", of course, Rush Limbaugh liked it.


"Now I am keeping my promise to not watch the convention. So I didn't get to see Zell Miller's speech, although from what I have read he hit a home run."

Sure, conservatives, but if you are going to make statements like "he is the only person, on any side of the political spectrum, who seems to have actually liked Zell Miller's speech..." perhaps you should consider the possibility that you are trapped in a political bubble.

Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/2/2004

Let's turn the tables, shall we? Imagine if a historian published a book--Happy Slaves--that claimed that slaves were generally quite happy with their station in antebellum America. To advance this claim, he would point to the fact that there were only a few significant slave rebellions or conspiracies in the 60 years before the Civil War. He would point out that most slaves, even those in border states, did not run away. Indeed, only a small fraction, especially in the Deep South, ran away. He would point to accounts of slaves crying at the funerals of their masters, and he would quote from the WPA Slave Narratives. He would point out that there are only a few contemporaneous written accounts by slaves calling slavery a bad thing--dozens at most, out of millions of slaves. Most slaves never wrote anything negative about their masters, or the institution.

Now imagine that this bizarre and misleading claim made it into several peer-reviewed history journals, and then into a book that was widely reviewed in popular magazines and newspapers. Pat Buchanan type populists start to talk about how Happy Slaves has completely rewritten our understanding of the past, and that the evils of slavery have been greatly exaggerated. Judges start to write decisions in which they cite these claims from Happy Slaves to justify striking down affirmative action. Now, imagine that some troublemaker, not part of the history profession, started to point out both the logical flaws in the argument (most slaves wrote nothing at all, and the WPA narratives have some serious selection bias problems), and found serious falsifications of quotations, documents cited that were clearly not read, and this appears so widely that it isn't just a few mistakes.

Now imagine that historians either dismiss the criticisms as "outside our community" or attempted to ignore it, or when it becomes a popular issue, they start to talk about the importance of "due process," while others emphasize that the troublemakers raising these questions are political activists, "who certainly have an agenda." Now imagine, once the controversy is underway--at least in the popular press--Columbia goes ahead and awards the Bancroft Prize to Happy Slaves, in spite of being warned that the book was fraudulent.

That, in short, is what the Bellesiles scandal was all about. Of course, this couldn't happen--with respect to slavery. Go ahead, play with the scenario a bit. Try a number of bizarre variants: for example, a guy writes a book demonstrating that there were very few printing presses in early America, that there were laws against printing obscene materials, and used this as an argument for why the First Amendment's freedom of the press provision was stillborn. (That, by the way, is what Bellesiles's book was essentially trying to argue, with respect to the Second Amendment.)

Looking in from the outside, are there any of you that would look at how the author of Happy Slaves got away with, while American historians defended him, instead of questioning him, and say that historians have high professional standards?

Those who think that I should just be ignored should think about this. Your profession has a big nasty stain on it from Bellesiles. It wasn't historians that alerted your profession to the fact that he was a fraud. It was me, and it was James Lindgren (a law professor), who first sounded the alarm loud enough for this matter to be taken seriously. Your profession blew it.

Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/2/2004

All I wanted was for historians to actually go check the bizarre claims that Bellesiles had made--and the responses were "due process" and let Emory's processes run their course. If you are punishing someone, "due process" makes perfect sense. But all I wanted was for historians to examine the evidence, instead of making excuses, or pretending that this was just a matter of interpretation.

I have since responded, pointing out that Bellesiles's claims were so bizarre that any historian of the colonial or early Republic period who spent any appreciable time reading through primary sources would have recognized how implausible his claims were. That doesn't make him wrong, but when an historian makes a bold, dramatic claim--one that runs contrary to common sense and long-held beliefs--and then someone else says, "Hey, a lot of these quotes in his book are wrong--and consistently in the wrong direction," professional standards would cause you to take at least an hour or two see if there's anything to these claims.

American historians utterly fell down on the job on this one. It wasn't just his book. Even the magical "peer-reviewed" papers that Law & History Review and Journal of American History published have these sort of falsifications in them--and your beloved profession missed him. Some of the claims were so bizarre that even a little common sense would cause you say, "What? Colonial laws required all guns to be kept locked up in government armories, and private citizens weren't allowed to have guns in their homes?" Not a single reviewer of those papers caught this.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/2/2004

Clayton Cramer is as careful here as he was in his original charge about the "professional standards" of most American historians. Look at the record, Clayton. I defended Michael Bellesiles's due process rights. You just haven't thought this through very carefully. Had Emory University _not_ pursued the deliberative process in the case of Michael Bellesiles, it would have set a precident for kangaroo court proceedings whenever any faculty member faced any serious allegations. I, on the other hand, would defend the due process rights of the devil himself. And, for the trouble, I have the honor of being accused of being a defender of Michael Bellesiles. If you would be more careful about the way you frame accusations, you might be taken more seriously.
I note that you have avoided responding to any of the matters I posed to you in this post.

Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/2/2004

I was able to find something above 50 reviews of Bellesiles's book in the first few months after it came out. I found just ONE by a history professor (John Chambers II) who suggested that it might be overstated in its claims--and that was as far as he was prepared to go.

Yet the book was obviously a fraud. ANYONE who has spent much time reading through the documents of the colonial period, or the early Republic, knows--or should know--that Bellesiles's claims were utterly bizarre. They were so utterly bizarre that professional historians, had they not been blinded by the political intent of the book, would have started to check some of his claims before getting all gushy about Arming America. If Bellesiles had written a book claiming that there were almost no cattle in America until the Civil War, how many historians would have taken this at face value?

I am in a pretty foul temper about this claim of "professional standards" because to put it bluntly, the Bellesiles affair demonstrated that even when I was showing academics photocopies of the documents that Bellesiles REPEATEDLY had falsified to make his claims, most were still making excuses.

The claim of the historians that are at the core of the Lawrence decision--that laws banning homosexual sodomy (as distinguished from general laws aganst non-procreative sex) are recent in origin--is wrong. There are a number of colonies that had laws specifically banning homosexual sodomy, and these aren't subtle or difficult to find. But because the academic community wants laws against homosexuality struck down, what's a little carelessness (I'm being generous here) in a good cause?

The "profession" is fast becoming political agitation with a fig leaf. Every time I try to talk myself into going back and getting a PhD, I think of the incredibly low "professional standards" that American historians demonstrated by letting Bellesiles get away with this fraud and all I can think is, "Why?"

This wasn't just the profession responding slowly. This was the profession actively suppressing any serious discussion of the fraud until it became so public that they couldn't ignore it anymore. Go to, and see the snotty letter from the editor of the Journal of the Early Republic. If professional standards really meant anything, the appropriate response would have been, "This is a serious charge you are making. Can we see copies of the documents in question?"

Professional standards? Hah. The professional standards of propagandists.

Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/2/2004

Professor Luker has forgotten (perhaps because he was one of Bellesiles's defenders) that the professional historians largely closed ranks to defend Bellesiles's dishonesty in 2000 and 2001. If Professor Lindgren (who teaches law, not history) hadn't started to make a stink, he would still be teaching at Emory University. On some of the professional historian lists, Bellesiles's defenders were trying to blame President Reagan for the problems with Arming America. I am not making this up! It was bizarre.

Clayton Earl Cramer - 9/2/2004

"Cramer's syllabus makes it clear that views opposing his own will get short shrift (if any at all)."

Huh? Care to point to some specific examples?

Julie A Hofmann - 9/2/2004

Yeah, I'm surprised at that. But then, it just goes to show that the range of people who work as adjuncts is incredibly wide. It's one of the reasons I try to get peer reviews wherever I teach ... I keep hoping it will mhelp on the market.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/2/2004

You're right, Danny, about Volokh's needing some education about this. It's one of those rare Volokh blind spots that I've discussed with him, but haven't convinced him about.
On the other hand, much as we know that Clayton's blog ought to be ignored, it has huge traffic, at least by comparison with either of ours. And that traffic doesn't simply rely on the occasional link from Volokh. Should we ignore Rush Limbaugh? Well, yes, but we do so at our own peril.

Danny Loss - 9/2/2004

Can we just all agree to stop reading Cramer? I think we'd end up just a bit saner at the end of each day.

The problem, I suppose, is convincing Eugene Volokh to go along with our decision. As far as I can tell, Volokh is the only reason anyone ever clicks over to Cramer's blog.

Jonathan Dresner - 9/2/2004

Another reason to be concerned about the increased use of adjuncts.....

Ralph E. Luker - 9/2/2004

Yes, but he is adjuncting, at least.

Julie A Hofmann - 9/2/2004

Ralph, all you have to do is look at the single syllabus Cramer has posted on his website. Last time I heard, we were supposed to maintain a standard of reasonable historic objectivity. Cramer's syllabus makes it clear that views opposing his own will get short shrift (if any at all). It's also clear that his course will be less about teaching his students to think critically as historians, or even learning a bit of historiography, than about "What Clayton Cramer believes about Constitutional History." FInally, his tone throughout suggests that he has little respect for his students, and perhaps a bit too much for himself.

Add to that the fact that he is the only person, on any side of the political spectrum, who seems to have actually liked Zell Miller's speech, and I can only repeat what we are all supposed to consider cardinal rules for reading primary sources:

  • Consider the source
  • Does the author have a particular ax to grind?
  • Who is the author and what is his place in society?
  • What is the author's purpose?

Ralph, did you expect anything better?
I can only say I'm truly happy that Mr Cramer seems to have found employment as a software engineer.