Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Chronicles of The Chronicle

    I've been following the saga of the Chronicle of High Education versus Naomi Schaefer Riley, a (former) blogger on Brainstorm, the group blog of The Chronicle, most recently in James Taranto's column today.  Riley recently wrote a scathing indictment of graduate level "black studies" programs entitled "The Most Persuasive Case for Eliminating Black Studies? Just Read the Dissertations."  After a few days of controversy, Riley was fired from the blog when Brainstorm editor Liz McMillen had an epiphany that Riley's piece didn't "conform to the journalistic standards and civil tone" the readers of Brainstorm expected.
    So it is with bated breath that I now await the announcement that the next ex-Brainstorm blogger will be Laurie Essig, who teaches at Middlebury College.  Ms. Essig wrote a blog post on May 7th entitled "Amendment 1, Protecting the ‘Caucasian Race’ and a Whole Lot of Stupid," a critique of the anti-gay marriage amendment up for a vote today, May 8th, in North Carolina.  Based on a single source, a Huffington Post article ("scholarship"), Ms. Essig assails the citizens of North Carolina with rather colorful charges of not only racism, but even throws eugenics into the mix:
Of course, the amendment is not just stupid, but also completely logical, at least within the logics of racial and sexual hygiene that haunts contemporary marriage debates. According to a report in the Huffington Post, the wife of the state senator who wrote the bill, Jodie Brunstetter, said:
 The reason my husband wrote Amendment 1 was because the Caucasian race is diminishing and we need to uh, reproduce.
But eugenics and a highly racialized and classed order have always been the reason that marriage was protected and unmarried people were not considered full citizens in this country. 
Ms. Essig manages to smear not only Jodie Brunstetter and traditional marriage itself, but those who seek to defend marriage (which at this point seems to include about 60% of the voters in North Carolina.)
    Already it seems Ms. Essig lacks the civility and scholarship the Chronicle values so highly, but her journalistic standards may be somewhat lacking as well.  The Huffington Post article to which Ms. Essig refers contains the following update:
Jodie Brunstetter didn't explicitly link North Carolina's marriage amendment with protecting the declining Caucasian race, a woman with knowledge of the conversation now concedes. Freelance writer Kate Maloy told the Winston-Salem Journal that Brunstetter had commented that America was founded by whites, that "the Caucasian race is diminishing," and said that it was important to preserve America as established by its founders. But Brunstetter did not state explicitly that that was why the amendment had been proposed, Maloy said.
The degrees of separation on the original "quote" from the state senator's wife are stunning: Mrs. Brunstetter -> unknown conversant -> "woman with knowledge" of conversation -> freelance writer Kate Maloy -> Winston-Salem Journal -> Huffington Post -> Ms. Essig.  (The law of averages almost requires that Kevin Bacon must be involved somehow.)  But even more remarkable is that the update on the HuffPo story is date/time stamped at 12:05 PM on 5/7/12.  Ms. Essig's post on Brainstorm is 4:16 PM on 5/7/12, more than four hours later that same afternoon.  And yet there's no mention of that  caveat in her posting.
    The ball is in your court, Liz McMillen.  Upon Naomi Riley's firing, you wrote:
One theme many of you have sounded is that you felt betrayed by what we published; that you welcome healthy informed debate, but that in this case, we did not live up to the expectations of the community of readers we serve.
You told us we can do better, and we agree.
So, is the vote in North Carolina about, in the words of Ms. Essig, "moral crusaders [who want] to protect the 'Caucasian' race from the pollution of sex outside of marriage." Is this "better"?

No comments:

Post a Comment