But whose the real fox?
September 8, 2003 10:47 AM   Subscribe

Why Hindu's make better teachers than gays. Eric Rasmusen, professor of Economics and Public Policy at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, has been allowed by the University to continue to update his occasionally homophobic weblog in the interests of free speech. Should this be allowed? Allowing due consideration for free speech, how does this type of speech disrupt open participation in an academic setting?
posted by cohappy (114 comments total)

 
Errr, why the comparison?

Next up from Rasmusem is a discussion on why Americans feel that chicken nuggets make a better noon-time snack than homosexuals.
posted by xmutex at 11:02 AM on September 8, 2003


Just to make my position clear, I feel that while he has a legal right to promote these views, I don't feel that add value of any kind to an academic setting. At the very least, he could attempt to more valid data to back up his claims, but sadly much of his homophobic comments are coming off as just that.
posted by cohappy at 11:03 AM on September 8, 2003


Sorry, Rasmusen was responding to this article.
posted by cohappy at 11:03 AM on September 8, 2003


Wow. That weblog is really... just... wow. So all gays are potential child rapists? Potential disease carrying child rapists? Okay, putting aside my differences of opinion, should this guy be allowed to stay on as a teacher? That's a tough call, personally. I mean, personally I'd want the Dean to say "your extracurricular work is interfering with your ability to teach here, in as much as a percentage of your student base fears/hates you", but what if it isn't? This guy's clearly an asshole, but his being an asshole may have no bearing on his ability to teach economics & public policy in Indiana, as opposed to, say more gay friendly areas such as NYC or SF.
posted by jonson at 11:04 AM on September 8, 2003


That's what free speech MEANS -- being allowed to express your opinions. It doesn't mean being allowed to express "correct" or "enlightened" opinions.

To me, it seems like an academic environment is the PERFECT venue for free speech. If readers disagree with the professor's opinions, they can bring up their critiques in class. Or they can start their own web logs and post their opposing opinions.

I would only oppose the prof's right to post if he denounces specific students for their sexual orientation. That would be out-of-line. But even in that case, I wouldn't argue with his right to post his opinions -- just his right to hold a job at the university.
posted by grumblebee at 11:04 AM on September 8, 2003


Let me add that, sure, gay students might be intimidated -- and this might lead them to opt out of taking his classes, or to be afraid to visit him during office hours.

As a culture, we go way overboard trying to protect people from "negative" opinions. But college would be the perfect time to train people to deal with the fact that not-everyone-is-going-to-like-you. Sometimes we need to work with people who don't like us. We need to develop a backbone and learn not to fall apart if someone says something mean. Then we can spend out time fighting for more important issues, like equal pay.

My boss is allowed to hate women. He's not allowed to pay them less than men. Nor is he allowed to rape them.
posted by grumblebee at 11:09 AM on September 8, 2003


Your boss isn't allowed to rape women? So all those middle management perks I hear about are simply untrue?
posted by xmutex at 11:11 AM on September 8, 2003


I liked this:
A second reason not to hire homosexuals as teachers is that it puts the fox into the chickencoop. Male homosexuals, at least, like boys and are generally promiscuous. They should not be given the opportunity to satisfy their desires.

As opposed to male heterosexuals, who would never, ever think of taking advantage of some adoring Lolita. The obvious answer is to ban all males from teaching.

Free speech, yes. I think this fellow should be allowed to fly his idiot flag high and proud.
posted by Ty Webb at 11:12 AM on September 8, 2003


Seems to me that IU should either ban weblogs from IU machines, or let people write what they want in their weblogs on IU machines.

Regulating the content of weblogs seems dumb from a civil-libertarian perspective, and also from a legal one -- if IU edits weblogs to remove things it disapproves of, than a weblog entry of OSU SUCKS!!! then sort-of becomes approved by the IU administration. Better to be a content-neutral conduit.

The guy's tenured, and good at what he does (Games and Information is a good book, if not absolutely canonical), so he's not likely to be fired (or even fireable) for it. But if he were a bright-eyed bushy-tailed assistant prof, I'd want the decision to fire him based not on the content of his expression but on the negative effects of it. That is, not fire someone for writing a homophobic weblog, but because substantial numbers of students refuse to take his class, or note that they feel uncomfortable expressing their own opinions for fear of their grades, or whatever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:12 AM on September 8, 2003


As a culture, we go way overboard trying to protect people from "negative" opinions.

There's a different between "negative" and dead fucking inaccurate.
posted by eyeballkid at 11:14 AM on September 8, 2003


At first glance, I want to say that Free Speech ought always to win out. But then, imagine this: "Male homosexuals negroes, at least, like boys white women and are generally promiscuous. They should not be given the opportunity to satisfy their desires." Would any university in this country retain a professor who made such a comment on his weblog?

On preview, I like ROU_Xenophobe's approach.
posted by vraxoin at 11:15 AM on September 8, 2003


I'm not sure....it seems that he shouldn't be able to post those views on university webspace in the capacity as an employee and professor.

If he said these views in class (not in a mock-serious tone, but if he really meant this stuff), students would have every right to run down to the president's office and tell him that a professor at this public university is saying that homosexuals shouldn't be teachers because they're (more) apt to molest little boys.

I'm all about free speech -- but as an employee of a state institution, it seems that the professor should be limited to expressing those views privately, or on his personal (non .edu) website. I'm opposed not because of the so-called "distruption of open participation," but rather because it seems so blatantly discriminatory -- and isn't the gov't generally barred from such discriminatory remarks about gays?
posted by jennak at 11:17 AM on September 8, 2003


he's entitled to his opinions (provably unfounded using publicly available statistics btw), but i certainly hope his students at whatever public policy classes he teaches call him on it, and that his curriculum is more objective than his personal beliefs.
posted by amberglow at 11:18 AM on September 8, 2003


They should not be given the opportunity to satisfy their desires.

But ... but ... how then will all those horny 18-22 year old males satisfy their desires on a campus full of women who are trying to take back the night?
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:19 AM on September 8, 2003


1) i like free speech. at least you know what this guy thinks and where he stands and can assess him based on that.
2) people are entitled to their opinions. i don't agree w/his opinions but if he teaches class and doesn't introduce this into his class then i don't see a problem. however, if he is biased against someone who is in his class and is gay then that's a major issue.
posted by suprfli at 11:26 AM on September 8, 2003


For clarification purposes, do Prof. Rasmussen's opinions make him an asshat or a fuckwit?

Either way, he has a right to express them in the U.S.A. just like I have the right to state my opinion that all Hindu smell like rotten eel.
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:26 AM on September 8, 2003


...it seems that he shouldn't be able to post those views on university webspace in the capacity as an employee and professor.

Which is what a normal employer would do, but part of the purpose of a university is to serve as a forum for intellectual discourse and exploration, not act as a normal employer.

The university does not have a message/brand, per se, in the way that a private company does. Rather, the message/mission of a university is to provide an open forum in which to promote the messages/missions of the university community members. The admissions process and tenure process is the place at which the unacceptable or intellectually unfit candidates are supposed to be weeded out. Once they're in, the rules about promoting their own opinions are wide open.

This guy seems to have tenure. I wonder if the department knew what they were getting into.
posted by deanc at 11:33 AM on September 8, 2003


I think it was the right thing to let him keep his job.

This has to do with 'academic freedom'. Professors should feel free to have controversial opinions. There are rules of conduct and school policies and such at universities, but if he keeps his opinions outside of the classroom then no problem.
posted by bobo123 at 11:40 AM on September 8, 2003


The man is a kook in respect to many legal issues--read further down the blog. Remember, kids: just because you're an expert in one field doesn't mean you're not a total nutball in areas outside your expertise.
posted by gimonca at 11:40 AM on September 8, 2003


Race, religion, Gender and Orientation are all great issues for reducing the coherence of the conversation.

Is there any negative claim about Race, Religion, Gender or Orientation that we would accept on the grounds of "reasonableness" without resorting to claims of "phobia" or "'isim"? (Classic attacks ad hominem)

Here is a great opportunity for an example. Gay men seem to be getting HIV more often lately. Gay Culture (not Lesbian Culture necessarily) does seem to, ah, enjoy casual sex more than other cultures. Is there a link between these facts? Is it possible that Gay Culture, in this society, is destructive and irresponsible? Not homosexual people, mind you, but Gay Culture.

I would argue that homosexuality is just a personal preference, not a distinction rising even to the level of choice. Yet in this country, so much is made of Gayness and Gay Culture is such a political force that the conversation has been distorted significantly.

So, can Gay Culture be held accountable for the spread of HIV in homosexuals? Can Gay Culture be criticized in a legitimate way? What about the so called "African American" Culture? What about the disintegration of Modern Feminism? Does it matter that the White Patriarchy Culture is constantly evaluated and criticized?

Are the claims of Homophobia claims against homosexual activity, or against Gay Culture?
posted by ewkpates at 11:42 AM on September 8, 2003


Remember, kids: just because you're an expert in one field doesn't mean you're not a total nutball in areas outside your expertise.

No kidding. James Watson's...interesting views on women haven't hurt his academic career, nor should they.

So if people avoid going to Rasmussen's lectures now, has he been "Dixie Chicked"?
posted by transona5 at 11:45 AM on September 8, 2003


I enjoyed this remark in the fourth item linked: Just because I don't have it at hand doesn't mean the evidence isn't there. Sir, we have a call for you from a "Loch Ness Monster"...
posted by gimonca at 11:46 AM on September 8, 2003


the question is not if he ought to be allowed to post such trash but rather what kind of school gives a moron like that tenure.
posted by Postroad at 11:54 AM on September 8, 2003


I like my bigots to wear it proudly on their sleeves, that way I know exactly who they are.

the message/mission of a university is to provide an open forum in which to promote the messages/missions of the university community members.

Any university I have attended or taught at has had regulations against hate speech, not open policies protecting any kind of speech. Professor needs to be very careful.

More than his hate, I'm struck by how un-academic his approach is to the subject. "Yeah, I know it's true, but I don't have proof and don't feel like looking for it. When it happens across my desk, I'll let y'all know." I hope he isn't applying this same system of research to support the assertions in his books.

ewkpates, wtf? I have no idea what you are trying to communicate, but if you are not gay and have not spent some time immersed in "Gay Culture," then you really shouldn't be arguing for or against it. "Gay Culture" can absolutely be criticized in a legitimate way -- with proof, not speculation and assumption and sentences that include "seem to be."
posted by archimago at 11:56 AM on September 8, 2003


But is he allowed to talk incessantly to the women in the office about how much he hates women? This isn't about the man's right to speak his mind. It's about creating a hostile environment in the classroom.

He is free to express himself, the university is free to keep him on if they choose, and students are equally free (I imagine) to opt out of his class. If they're not, they're free to sue.
posted by jpoulos at 11:58 AM on September 8, 2003


Oops, that was in response to: My boss is allowed to hate women. He's not allowed to pay them less than men. Nor is he allowed to rape them.
posted by jpoulos at 11:58 AM on September 8, 2003


even with the most blatantly offensive situation (as vraxoin mentions above), it still falls within my notions of protected free speech.

i don't think the university would treat the two cases the same way, however, which is unfortunate. sexual orientation and race are just two different sides of the same multisided die.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:02 PM on September 8, 2003


ewkpates, I would contend that what you define as "gay culture" is just that percentage of homosexuals that choose to indulge in unsafe and promiscuous sex, if not just that percentage of homosexuals you are choosing to perceive. Walk into a gay bar and sure, you're gonna see a lot of people trying to get laid, but you'll see that if you walk into a straight bar, too.

I contend that there is no gay culture in that this particular grouping of people has no standard and accepted way to communicate the tastes, mores, wisdom and experiences gleaned from its elder members to its younger ones. Intergenerational homosexual communication, which is usually applauded as a means of propagating one's own culture, is stigmatized by heterosexuals and homosexuals alike to the point where many homosexuals distrust and fear one another simply due to an age difference. This makes gay 'culture' so malleable as to be non-existent.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:02 PM on September 8, 2003


"Gay Culture" is just as non-monolithic as "Straight Culture", and the same things can be said about straight people as you've just said about gays.

Here is a great opportunity for an example. Straight men seem to be getting herpes and other stds more often lately. Straight Male Culture (not Straight Female Culture necessarily) does seem to, ah, enjoy casual sex more than other cultures. Is there a link between these facts? Is it possible that Straight Culture, in this society, is destructive and irresponsible? Not heterosexual people, mind you, but Straight Culture. ; >

and on preview, what wolf said.
posted by amberglow at 12:04 PM on September 8, 2003


So is a gay Hindu teacher acceptible?
posted by riffola at 12:19 PM on September 8, 2003


"Oh, I'd have to say asshat, Joey."

...with apologies to the Wolf.
posted by grabbingsand at 12:22 PM on September 8, 2003


It is relatively harmless hate speech. I think it is more productive to exercise one's own right to speak out about these ignorant opinions.

Allowing due consideration for free speech, how does this type of speech disrupt open participation in an academic setting?

Because it's open, unabashed harrassment of students he teaches. It is his right to express these views, but if his Web site discourages students from taking economics courses because they might be exposed to his invective, he should take it down.

I notice that his personal web directory is also where he keeps his class notes. Is it unlikely that he encourages students to visit his site in class? I just can't help but think what it would be like to be a gay economics student at IU. How could you feel like this professor is only expressing an opinion in general?
posted by rschram at 12:28 PM on September 8, 2003


Joey, why do you think all Hindus smell like rotten eels?
posted by riffola at 12:35 PM on September 8, 2003


"freedom of speech" simply gives you the right to say what you want. It doesn't guarantee you the soap box to shout from. I think that his weblog (which also houses class notes) is the wrong place to bash gays. boot the fucker.

If he wants to host his hate on another server away from his work, I got not problem with that.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 12:40 PM on September 8, 2003


riffola, it's true, but I don't have proof and don't feel like looking for it.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:41 PM on September 8, 2003


if he is biased against someone who is in his class and is gay then that's a major issue.

If? IF??
posted by dash_slot- at 12:46 PM on September 8, 2003


CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll. July 25-27, 2003. N=1,006 adults nationwide.
MoE ± 3.

"Do you think homosexual relations between consenting adults should or
should not be legal?"

Poll date Should Should Not No Opinion
% % %

7/25-27/03 48 46 6
7/18-20/03 50 44 6
5/5-7/03 60 35 5


So the most recent poll shows a majority of Americans think homosexuality should be illegal. Presumably they also think schoolteachers should not engage in sodomy. This is of course not to say that the American public is correct (and the polls differ so much over so short a space of time that I wonder if they are reliable), but they are evidence that my position is the mainstream one, not the "ultraconservative" position some people have called it. It is ultraconservative only if the starting point is an ultraliberal group such as a university.


He can't even read the data he cites. This (very short) trend shows that while the gap is slowing, there are more Americans that think homosexual sex should be legal than there are who think it should be illegal. exactly the opposite of what he said.

Not to mention a drastic swing over a short period of time probably doesn't indicate a long term swing, but rather some short term blip or a statistical anomaly.
posted by Bonzai at 12:46 PM on September 8, 2003


But do teachers make better Hindus or gays? That is what I want to know.
posted by xmutex at 12:47 PM on September 8, 2003


Ok Joey, thanks.
posted by riffola at 12:47 PM on September 8, 2003


Truth be told, riffola, it's because every Hindu I've ever met smelled like rotten eel.

His name was Lou - a fisherman and a hell of a nice guy. Man, did he need a bath after work though.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:51 PM on September 8, 2003


But do teachers make better Hindus or gays? That is what I want to know.

Not to mention, how good are gays at running Kwik-E-Marts? :)
posted by jonmc at 12:51 PM on September 8, 2003


This guy is a dumbass, and if it wasn't for his weblog, I might not have known it. To me, this is why he should be allowed to post such opinions: so that people can look at his illogical, idiotic ravings and realize what fool he is.

That's the beauty of free speech.
posted by moonbiter at 12:56 PM on September 8, 2003


He is free to express himself, the university is free to keep him on if they choose

This implies that the university should be free to fire them if that don't approve of his views. Scary!

I'm NOT going to express my views if they're going to lead to me being fired. I need to eat.
posted by grumblebee at 12:56 PM on September 8, 2003


if you are not gay and have not spent some time immersed in "Gay Culture," then you really shouldn't be arguing for or against it.

Wow. You're not allowed to criticize a culture that you're not a part of? Does that include the neo-nazi and the KKK?
posted by grumblebee at 12:58 PM on September 8, 2003


I'm NOT going to express my views if they're going to lead to me being fired.

My view is that my boss is an asshole. Can't I be fired for expressing that?

My view is that some of my students are perverted scum. Can't I be fired for expressing that?
posted by jpoulos at 1:04 PM on September 8, 2003


What ty webb said and I'll add teachers like that shouldn't be allowed near young males and females, their teachings are fundamentally flawed.
posted by elpapacito at 1:05 PM on September 8, 2003


I'm not sure....it seems that he shouldn't be able to post those views on university webspace in the capacity as an employee and professor.

The university might reasonably restrict content on its machines to purely professional webpages, with no personal content of any nature allowed. But if they're allowing Alice to put up extraneous, non-professional pages of her choosing, they should also allow Bob to do the same in a content-neutral, passive conduit way.

what kind of school gives a moron like that tenure

Presumably, one that cares more about the quality of its professors' work than it does about the content of their opinions.

Any university I have attended or taught at has had regulations against hate speech, not open policies protecting any kind of speech.

That they have speech codes is clear. It's not clear to me, though, whether they should have speech codes (especially at public universities), or whether their speech codes would stand up in court as grounds for firing or revoking tenure, etc.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:06 PM on September 8, 2003


On the molestation topic, I'd send him this link, but he would probably dismiss it as liberal propaganda.
posted by punishinglemur at 1:11 PM on September 8, 2003


This (very short) trend shows that while the gap is slowing, there are more Americans that think homosexual sex should be legal than there are who think it should be illegal

Nevertheless, the numbers (*all* of those numbers) are pretty troubling for a country that values individual freedom so highly. Why are many more Americans still so bigoted about the subject compared to people in other western democracies?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 1:14 PM on September 8, 2003


All of my silly comments aside, if Prof. Rasmussen is an excellent teacher of Economics and Public Policy, then I believe he should be teaching Economics and Public Policy. Indeed, despite my sexual preference, I would take his course were that an area I wished to study. I would probably benefit from his class. So long as he didn't let his hatred of my lifestyle effect his ability to be professional, I don't see the problem. I certainly wouldn't let my hatred for his viewpoint prevent me from behaving professionally around him. Perhaps his exposure to me would even alter his views a little in the long term.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:18 PM on September 8, 2003


Ewkpates does seem to, ah, enjoy casual sex more than other Mefi-ites.
posted by Outlawyr at 1:23 PM on September 8, 2003


My view is that my boss is an asshole. Can't I be fired for expressing that?

My view is that some of my students are perverted scum. Can't I be fired for expressing that?


No, you shouldn't be fired. You should only be fired if (a) you fail to carry out the work you're contracted to do, or (b) if it's EXTREMELY CLEAR that there's a DIRECT CAUSE-AND-EFFECT relationship between your actions and other employees being unable to do their jobs.

So, if I follow my boss around the office calling him a jerk, I should probably be fired (I'm making it hard for him to do his job). If, in a weblog that my boss can choose not to read, I write about how I hate my boss, then I should not be fired. Instead of firing me, my boss should learn to work well with people who don't like him. Not everyone can like everyone. We can still work together.
posted by grumblebee at 1:32 PM on September 8, 2003


grumblebee, if you are not part of a culture/subculture, have not lived in it and experienced it, socialized within that subculture, then yeah, you can't intelligently comment on how the people of that culture interact, nor why they act in certain ways. This is why anthropologists study their subjects by living among them -- because sitting above them in a tree and observing only gives you a one-sided perspective based on how you are interpreting what you sense as an outsider.

If you have not lived among and as a neo-nazi, then anything you say about them is speculation. That doesn't mean you won't occasionally be correct in your speculation, but it is still only assumptions.
posted by archimago at 1:33 PM on September 8, 2003


I almost most of what you say, archimago, but not everything. Let's say I start from a moral conviction that all murder is wrong.

Then I learn that the X culture likes to murder people with green eyes. That's ALL I need to know -- and I can learn that without submersing myself in the culture -- in order to make some CORRECT assumptions about that culture.

Specifically, I can assume X is evil (by my moral system).

If I care to understay WHY X members are evil, then -- you're right -- I need to learn more.
posted by grumblebee at 1:40 PM on September 8, 2003


That should have read, "I agree with most of what you say..."
posted by grumblebee at 1:41 PM on September 8, 2003


aaaaahh HAH! We have Godwin! Pack up your carefully hidden biases and keep your comments to yourselves, folks, this thread is all wrapped up.
posted by zekinskia at 1:52 PM on September 8, 2003


But do teachers make better Hindus or gays? That is what I want to know.

My favorite high school teacher was a gay Hindu. Best lay I ever had.
posted by Ty Webb at 2:03 PM on September 8, 2003


grumblebee, in your example, doesn't this depend on whether X members actually do murder people with green eyes? The fictional you has heard from one source that they do, but shouldn't you learn more in order to confirm whether this is true or not? Perhaps your source has made an assumption based on an encounter with a statistically irrelevant sub-section of group X, much like my silly example of the Hindu fisherman = all Hindu smell like eel.

Concluding that an entire group of people is evil is a major decision. In my opinion, it warrants further research to confirm that conclusion.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:05 PM on September 8, 2003


Godwin only applies to traditional nazis, not the neo- variety.
posted by jpoulos at 2:07 PM on September 8, 2003


(That being said, if your moral code does dictate that people who kill are evil, and you confirm that Group X does condone killing people through solid evidence, I support your conclusion that Group X is evil)
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:08 PM on September 8, 2003


He raises thorny but valid points in the sense that parents should be very cautious about choosing their kids' teachers. He's also entitled to use the space available in the same way other teachers do no more no less, and he's certainly entitled to speak his mind re homosexuals. There is a dangerous, pernicious lobby in certain schools to make homosexuality seem like a normal thing, and this must be countered with no hesitation whatsoever.

As far as college teaching goes, please keep in mind that while some gay teachers are moronic Michel Foucaults, others are brilliant Allan Blooms, so let's not condemn anyone beforehand either-- as fellow citizens, people should be judged for their actions and merits, not their sexual preferences. So it's not right teaching kids that obscene "ok to be gay/daddy's roommate" drivel and it's not right to proscribe someone in advance because s/he's not heterosexual.
posted by 111 at 2:20 PM on September 8, 2003


grumblebee, the university doesn't have the right to fire him for not agreeing with his views, nor for having those views. If his views get in the way of his job however they do have a right to fire him. A professors job includes education and research. If students avoid him because of his views, or he has ostracized students over their sexuality then he has failed one of his duties. I don't know whether this has happened or not, the story was very scant on any other details.

Freedom of speech doesn't mean that there won't be repercussions for exercising it. Suppose that my personal belief was that overweight people were inferior. Their appearance was caused by a weakness of moral character and that the same weakness that made them grab that twinkie when they knew they shouldn't would also make the susceptible to other acts, such as embezzlement. That would be me exercising free speech. This would also result in a few things if I did it on the companies dime. Human Resources would intervene. They'd attempt to modify my behaviour. If it wasn't modified (note, they're not trying to change my views in general) then I have no doubt that it would eventually result in my termination.
posted by substrate at 2:23 PM on September 8, 2003


That's my point, Joey. It's reasoable to assume culture X is evil without knowing a whole lot about them. It's enough to -- as you say -- confirm that they condone killing people.

Here's a more mundane example, taken from real life. According to (admittedly) my rules of polite conduct, it is rude to talk during movies (being show at a public movie theatre). It's rude because the talking spoils the enjoyment of some (many?) of the people in the theatre.

But according to the rules of black culture (or at lease one major brand of black culture), it is the norm to talk during movies.

So I brand that culture rude. I don't need to know why they talk during movies. I don't care why they talk doing movies. But I know that they DO talk during movies, because I've seen and heard it happen dozens of times.

I also know that my desire to sit in silence during movies is not some odd, eccentric desire that only applies to me (though I may be more extreme about it than the norm).

So black culture is rude.

I would argue that my view does NOT make me racist. I'm racist if I say (or think) that black PEOPLE are rude -- which I would NEVER say (or think). That would mean that I'm pre-judging people based on the color of their skin. That's racist. If I see a black person on the street and assume he would talk during a movie, I'm making a (false) assumtion that all black people are part of that specific black culture that talks during movies. But why should that be?

We need to learn to make a distinction between cultural criticism and racial (or gender-based or sexual-orinetation-based criticism.

It's evil (if you think prejudice is evil) to say German's are bad. It's not evil to say nazis are bad.

Having made that distinction, I'll admit that since we live in a multicultural environment, it's best to look for ways to live with each other. And it often helps to learn about other cultures. We tend to sympathize more with people (and cultures) that we understand. But that doesn't make all cultures okay or above criticism.
posted by grumblebee at 2:27 PM on September 8, 2003


If students avoid him because of his views, or he has ostracized students over their sexuality then he has failed one of his duties.

This view also scares me.

What if a female teacher is hired to teach in an all boys school, and the boys are scared of her because they're uncomfortable around women (you have to imagine an elementary school -- by the time we get to older boys, we'd be seeing an opposite reaction.) Should the school fire her because students avoid her.

What about a really ugly or deformed teacher? What about an atheist teacher (of French or Chemestry) in a religeous community?

I agree with you that such a teacher SHOULD be fired if "he has ostracized students," but you imply that a university should fire someone simply because students avoid him! Perhaps a better route would be for the university to try to educate the students about differences.
posted by grumblebee at 2:33 PM on September 8, 2003


Legality (First Amendment rights) clearly falls on the professor's side, so long as he does not incite acts of hatred against gays, Anti-Hoosiers and those who disparage the VeggieTales.

Ethics, especially academic ethics, are clearly being breached; at minimum, his weblog shouldn't be on a University server. At most, he should lose his tenure for publically demonstrating bias toward a minority. That should be the crux of the debate.

The man could use a lap dance...
posted by moonbird at 2:35 PM on September 8, 2003


grumblebee, ah, all right, we agree on that point.

I still would quibble that there is not a single thing as "black culture" or "gay culture" anymore than there is such a thing as "Democratic culture" or "Republican culture." There are just too many groups within groups, and (as I believe you pointed out) individuals within groups, to use those terms.

Much of this entire discussion (and not just our exchange) boils down to the old "when you assume you make an ass out of u and me" thing. As an educator, Prof. Rasmussen might do better not to make public assumptions.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:47 PM on September 8, 2003


Well, it is pretty much an open secret that tenure only means that a school can't fire you outright. I knew a woman at IU who switched her of research from the nice sexy field of Botany to Environmental Bioethics. At a department with plenty of competition for research dollars, this was a bit of a thorn in the side of certain key members. Because she had tenure they couldn't silence her or fire her, but they did move her to the Professor Emeritus section in a different building, increased her undergraduate teaching load and reduced her graduate teaching load. Tenure does not mean that a department can't make an extremely hostile working environment.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:48 PM on September 8, 2003


I still would quibble that there is not a single thing as "black culture" or "gay culture"

I agree that there is no SINGLE gay or black culture. On the other hand, one would have to be blind and deaf not to notice that large goups of gay and black people choose to follow certain rituals. Which is what we call culture, and it is something one can point to, comment on, etc. One just has to be careful not to make TOO many assumptions about ALL gay people or ALL black people. And, of course, people can follow some cultural rituals without following all of them.
posted by grumblebee at 2:57 PM on September 8, 2003


It would seem that IU is a safe harbor for crackpots.
Exhibit B. (though this page is remarkably free of invective)
Exhibit C

Not everyone at IU SOL expresses these opinions. Most of the people here are quite reasonable.

Yes, I realize that is a value judgement of sorts
posted by Fezboy! at 3:10 PM on September 8, 2003


grumblebee, understood. Apparently, I should be careful not to make assumptions, too.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:10 PM on September 8, 2003


Well, I used to go it IU, and I grew up in Bloomington (my dad and mom were both IU profs). There always were many crackpots there. But isn't that true of any college town -- or of ANY town, come to think of it.

Speaking of IU, if you want to read about an IU prof (who I know quite well) who had a REALLY hard time, click here.
posted by grumblebee at 3:17 PM on September 8, 2003


From the weblog:

Rather than emailing me with counterarguments to my position, various people seem to have tried to get IU to shut me down. The result? My web-log still exists and has over ten times the number of readers it used to have. The lesson: intimidation can backfire.

I'm not sure whether the lesson here is "Expose the evil" or "Don't feed the troll." But I know I don't like that hyphen in "web-log."

moonbird: he should lose his tenure for publically demonstrating bias toward a minority
You don't take tenure very seriously, eh?

In general, I'm pleased to see the strong free-speech attitudes shown here, even when the object of discussion is so clearly an asshat.
posted by languagehat at 3:38 PM on September 8, 2003


even when the object of discussion is so clearly an asshat

a fuckwitted asshat, if you're interested in being precise.
posted by t r a c y at 4:01 PM on September 8, 2003


grumblebee:

I really like/respect that individual. I dealt with him a bit in his role with the COAS TLC* in the Fall of 2000. Really nice guy. And spot on in his analysis too.

*I think TLC is now ISS. Things were a-changin' when I left
posted by Fezboy! at 4:05 PM on September 8, 2003


What if a female teacher is hired to teach in an all boys school, and the boys are scared of her because they're uncomfortable around women (you have to imagine an elementary school -- by the time we get to older boys, we'd be seeing an opposite reaction.) Should the school fire her because students avoid her.

There is a difference, in situation 1 we have the primary person alienating a group of people based on their actions, which they can control. The teacher actively states that he thinks homosexuality is wrong or bad. A homosexual can choose to ignore this, but even ignoring it they cannot be sure that no anti-homosexual bias will be inflicted on them. In situation 2 a group alienates the primary person, or due to some characteristic feels uncomfortable around the primary person. This is not due to any chosen action by the primary person. If any single member in the group chose to ignore their discomfort they have no reason to believe that they would be the target of any bias, since the primary person has no described bias.

I don't believe that this difference eludes you, and I think you only bring it up to further the "debate".

On the other topic, yes, cultures can be described, and those descriptions can be negative, but for what good do you point out the negatives? When you say gay people are promiscuous, and black people talk in theaters, what is the point? Don't you think gay people are more aware of the superficiality of some gay culture in a way more intimate than you will ever know? Does telling them about it help in any way? Do you think the people that talk in movies who are black wish they didn't? Wouldn't you think they would stop if they did?

It's not that outsiders can never talk badly about other cultures, it's just that there is usually no point, other than bigotry and cruelness.
posted by rhyax at 5:02 PM on September 8, 2003


We all ignored the troll!

What's your poison - it's my round...
posted by dash_slot- at 5:03 PM on September 8, 2003


Preach on, Brother Rasmussen. More and more light, on your stupidity and others', is just what we need.

But according to the rules of black culture (or at lease one major brand of black culture), it is the norm to talk during movies. So I brand that culture rude. I don't need to know why they talk during movies. I don't care why they talk doing movies. But I know that they DO talk during movies, because I've seen and heard it happen dozens of times. I also know that my desire to sit in silence during movies is not some odd, eccentric desire that only applies to me (though I may be more extreme about it than the norm). So black culture is rude.

Well, don't that beat all. "They talk..." "They DO talk..." "Black culture." And you actually got a big enough N (I assume your comment about only experiencing it an insignificant "dozens of times" just must be a misprint) in your study of black people nationwide (if not worldwide) in darkened theaters, and your own careful research into the well-known, published "rules of black culture", to publicly post for us here on MetaFilter your remarkable, unbiased, blanket conclusion that "black culture is rude."

And your vast experiences and research were so very complete and conclusive that you didn't have to say "some of the people I think may have been darker skinned people of a certain age group in my own personal, limited (dozens) experiences in a few geographical area during a particular time were loud in theaters". No. Not "some black people and some white people make noise in theaters, others do not." Not "some people may be rude in one single specific social situation...the movies....but that doesn't really say anything about how polite their 'culture' is as a whole." Not even "wow, the black people I know personally can sure be noisy at theaters, but who knows about 'blacks' generally?"

No. What you miraculously concluded via an unspecified leap of illogic was "BLACK CULTURE is rude." That's quite a blanket.

I'm sure you didn't necessarily mean to be, but that's really, really offensive. Dumb, stereotyping overgeneralizations like this (just like "a second reason not to hire homosexuals as teachers is that it puts the fox into the chickencoop") are a huge component in discrimination and racism, no matter the protestations they are couched within.

(So I just bumped into two poor homeless persons on the way in. These guys didn't smell too good, and they might have been white. Did you know that "white culture" stinks? A lot of white people I know right now are out of jobs. Did you know that "white culture" is lazy? A lot of heterosexuals I know have venereal disease. Did you know that "heterosexual culture" is "skanky?")
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 5:15 PM on September 8, 2003


What's your poison - it's my round...

oh, you know. some gay drink.
posted by rhyax at 5:20 PM on September 8, 2003


Right on, fold_and_mutilate.
posted by jpoulos at 5:32 PM on September 8, 2003


It's worth remembering that critiques emanating from within the group normally have a very different motivation than those emanating from without. When Dan Savage criticizes the reckless behavior of a group of gay men, he does so to preserve the group as a whole. But aren't most attacks on gay promiscuity from the "outside" intended to undermine the status of all gays?

As for Prof. R.: this sounds a little too close to Victorian and early-twentieth century attacks on Catholics as teachers, governesses, and nursemaids for my taste. The more stereotypes change...
posted by thomas j wise at 5:42 PM on September 8, 2003


Did you know that "heterosexual culture" is "skanky?"

Of, course. That's why I love it so.
posted by jonmc at 5:50 PM on September 8, 2003


"...I know I don't like that hyphen in 'web-log.'"

Clearly, Rasmussen is actually news-paper-man T. Herman Zweibel.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:11 PM on September 8, 2003


or perhaps he's The Duke.

Stop, with that webloggin', pilgrim, I ain't gonna hit ya...
posted by jonmc at 6:21 PM on September 8, 2003


for the humor-impaired, that was a joke. I ordinarily wouldn't bother, but it's been that kind of a week around here.
posted by jonmc at 6:27 PM on September 8, 2003


We all ignored the troll!

What's your poison - it's my round...


why, a gin and tonic of course. thanks much.
posted by t r a c y at 7:15 PM on September 8, 2003


Here is a great opportunity for an example.

I think that's the funniest thing I've read in a week.
posted by troybob at 7:44 PM on September 8, 2003


I don't think it's appropriate for teachers to post personal ramblings (whether or not I agree with said personal ramblings) on the same site where class notes and other information are posted.

And I mean personal ramblings of any kind--I wouldn't want to know about my professors' summer vacations, let alone see naked photos of their spouses.

Having said that, I don't think that anyone should be fired for having ridiculous opinions.

However, Professor Rasmusen seems to have poor reading comprehension skills, a lamentable grasp of English syntax, and a remarkable level of innumeracy (the interpretation of those poll results, as cited above, were quite something!)

It makes one wonder how well he is, in fact, able to perform his work.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:09 PM on September 8, 2003


cumulonimbus clouds make better ironing boards than spatulas.
posted by quonsar at 8:10 PM on September 8, 2003


fold and mutilate, it's late and I'm tired, and I had trouble understanding your post, but I get that I offended you. I'm sorry. My point was more to be honest about my feelings than to offend.

I agree that my writing would have been less offensive if I'd used more qualifiers (SOME black people that I have met in the few places I have visited, etc.), but I HATE that kind of writing, so I guess I'm willing to risk being offensive.

I admitted -- in my post -- that I was judging other people by MY standards of politeness. But what other standard makes sense from my point of view? My experience in the theatre is ruined, and no amount of getting inside black culture is going to stop the fact that I missed half the dialogue.

I STILL say there's a HUGE difference between saying black people are rude and black culture is rude. The first statement is racist, because it's a judgement based on, well, race.

But culture is a human creation, and is thus fair game for critique. You may say that one's culture is a deep part of one's being, and it's hurtful to have it criticised. I understand the feeling. I direct plays. I spend years working on them, and they are deeply deeply important to me. But it's totally okay for you to think -- and say -- that they suck, if that's how you feel. It's NOT okay for you to say that I suck. I can't help being the way I am, but I CHOSE to make a play.

And I don't think I'm that biased when I say, "part of black culture involves talking during movies." Of COURSE I'm not talking about ALL wings of black culture. But MANY wings do -- perhaps the majority. That's something I've experienced. I've talked to many other people who have experienced it. I've talked to black people who are quite open about it (and even own it as part of their culture). I've read articles about it." So at what point is it okay to say such-and-such-culture likes to do X? Can you never make ANY statement about the rules of a culture? If not, how is the word culture even useful?

I'm part of New York culture. People like me walk fast. Do ALL New Yorkers talk fast? Is there only ONE New York culture? Of course not. But I'm sure you knew what I meant. There is a PREDOMINANT new york culture in which the members walk very quickly. And may Jews (I'm also Jewish) believe in education (I haven't met ALL Jews) and many Italians believe is family. Does anyone really doubt this?
posted by grumblebee at 8:43 PM on September 8, 2003


grumble, it's reducing whole masses of people to one stereotype...that's why it's offensive

I'm not just a fast walking and talking ny jew who believes in education and no one deserves to be reduced to that kind of stereotype. Is that how you want to be seen? Forget about the directing plays part, and anything else that's important to you as an individual. (that's what you do when you make those blanket statements about black culture)
posted by amberglow at 9:07 PM on September 8, 2003


Isn't that the whole meaning of the word "culture"? That a group of people exist who have the same mannerisms or rituals or whatever? To say that a culture of any kind exists makes a de facto blanket statement.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:11 PM on September 8, 2003


making blanket statements about behavior isn't talking about culture because there are always individuals who won't exhibit that behavior, and there will also be individuals who are not members of the culture who will exhibit that behavior. Talking in movie theaters is a nationwide behavior practiced by people of all races. You can ascribe that to generations of people who think that a movie theater is just like their livingroom, or to a lack of civility, or whatever, but you can't just ascribe that to one race if that behavior is exhibited across racial boundaries.
posted by amberglow at 9:18 PM on September 8, 2003


I wouldn't know, I don't go to movies.

I really was just curious about how you can describe a culture without making blanket statements.

Also, I would note that not too long ago on Comedy Central I saw a black comedian making a joke about black people always yelling at the movie screen, and it was met with widespread laughter by his mostly-black audience.

Anecdotal? Sure. But that's the best I can do since I never leave the house.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:24 PM on September 8, 2003


i think cultural traits are very different from specific behaviors...some sociology person will chime in with a better explanation maybe. : >
posted by amberglow at 9:27 PM on September 8, 2003


or maybe there are specific behavioral patterns that would fall under culture? I think they would be broader than talking in theaters tho.
posted by amberglow at 9:40 PM on September 8, 2003


I saw an episode of the television series "Scrubs" where the characters were discussing black people yelling at movie screens as well.

So between crash and me that's two sources. I guess it's true then. Hopefully, at the next big meeting, Black Culture can address and rectify this situation.
posted by ODiV at 9:43 PM on September 8, 2003


Let me know if they do, ODiV. I'll be sure to stop by the black section of Utah (it's actually just one guy, but we're hoping for more) and let him know.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:51 PM on September 8, 2003


I don't think it's appropriate for teachers to post personal ramblings (whether or not I agree with said personal ramblings) on the same site where class notes and other information are posted.

Unfortunately, separating "personal ramblings" from the content of a professor's thought can be a tricky thing...(speaking as a former dedicated in-class rambler).

I guess if my professor was a fuck-hatted asswit, I would prefer not to have to read his frothings when I went to see what chapter of the econ textbook to read for tomorrow. But that doesn't seem to be the case with Rasmusen, anyway, since I don't see course materials on this weblog.

Anyway, I'd hate to bar many interesting professors from providing WHATEVER resources they might choose to provide online, in their faculty webspace, including the products of their casual thinking, just because a few nutjobs are going to go on about sodomy laws as litmus tests for political philosophy.
posted by BT at 9:52 PM on September 8, 2003


I have certainly heard African American (or black American) comedians making jokes about how African American/black American moviegoers enjoy talking back to the screen. I, too, have gone to movie houses in predominantly black neighborhoods in the US and experienced people talking back to the screen (though, for that matter, I've experienced the same thing in Salt Lake City).

However, "black" doesn't equal "American." I've been to the movies in Barbados and Grenada, and the etiquette is quite different than it is in, say, South Philadelphia.

Just, you know, FYI, Grumblebee.

And, BT--you are right. I had thought that the weblog was on his official department page, but that was my mistake. Seeing as it's his personal page, my objection is moot.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:56 PM on September 8, 2003


I admitted -- in my post -- that I was judging other people by MY standards of politeness. But what other standard makes sense from my point of view? My experience in the theatre is ruined, and no amount of getting inside black culture is going to stop the fact that I missed half the dialogue.

grumblebee: Perhaps that's the point-- people can differ with regard to what they consider "rude", what they hope to get out of the experience of going to the movies, etc.

Perhaps there's some group of people in the world who can't believe that anyone would jump up and start cheering and shouting at a baseball game or a Superbowl party ("I couldn't hear a word the announcer said! Someone just jumped up and blocked my view!"). For most sports fans here, getting into it with your friends part of the fun. To some visitors from a far away place this might seem "rude".

I've seen movies at theaters with mostly-black audiences, and I agree it's not "racist" to observe that the crowds are louder on average. When they are, it's just a different kind of experience, definitely more social and participatory, with people having fun and getting worked up and sometimes shouting clever and hilarious shit at the screen. If you'd rather sit in a quiet theater and hear every word, I think that's cool, and if you want to go somewhere and whoop it up I think that's cool, too. Better than accusing one another of being alternately "rude" or "uptight" as groups.

I feel like we should all sing Kum-Ba-Yah now.

I just want to add that I went to grad school at I.U. and I share a last name with the professor mentioned here, and scrolling through this thread has been freaking my shit out because with every post my brain is telling me that someone has just called me an asshat.
posted by boredomjockey at 10:59 PM on September 8, 2003


I went to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 in Hawaii and EVERYONE there yelled encouragements, sang along (to the Ninja Rap), cheered, etc. It was one of the strangest movie watching experiences I've ever had.
posted by ODiV at 4:29 AM on September 9, 2003


Stereotype and Culture are words used to describe the collective values, preferences, etc. of a group of people. Norm is another example. Are groups completely homogenous? No. Are stereotypes and cultural characteristics nonetheless descriptive? Yes, yes they are.

Fold and Mutilate is deeply offended. Well, tough. Next time Foldy, understand that descriptions of stereotypes or cultures are not inherently pejorative, and are an incredibly useful tool for understanding human behavior.

Black people wear big pants. Is this true? Sure it is. ALL black people? Of course not. White people from low population areas are dumb hicks (sorry, have below norm education and below norm critical thinking skills). Is this true? Of course it is. Big Pants and Hicks DESCRIBE realities. Why should this upset anyone? Is it bad to wear big pants or be a hick? Nope. Is it good to identify these things? Sure. Especially if you sell big pants or want to identify educational needs across subcultures.

If we want to go really crazy here, we can start holding the people in the groups accountable for their stereotypes. We can hold rich white guys accountable for using the laws they pass to immorally/unethically advantage themselves economically. We can hold hicks responsible for not having more books in their homes and not valuing their children's education. We can hold black people responsible for inner city violence. Or can we?
posted by ewkpates at 4:30 AM on September 9, 2003


You're 100% right, Sidhedevil: I should have specified black AMERICAN culture. I sometimes forget that the web is international.

I agree with all the posters who point out that culture is a meaningless concept unless it describes shared rituals.

To those who keep pointing out that there are plenty of blacks who don't talk during movies (and plenty of NYer who don't walk fast or whatever), I also agree. Those people are not members of the black culture (or NY culture) I'm talking about. You can be black without being part of a particular black culture. That's the entire distinction I've been trying to make.

Someone pointed out that people who talk during movies are simply enjoying a social experience, like people at a Superbowl party. I agree. I still say it's rude when there are other people there who aren't into that experience. Just as I think my next door neighbors are rude because they keep me awake with their constant partying. It's normal for them to party, because they are college students, and partying is part of college culture (though not ALL students party). But it's still rude.

Rude means lack-of-concern about the comfort of other people. They make me uncomfortable. So they are rude. I'm sure if you get inside the head of everyone who is rude, they have a reason for being that way that generally doesn't stem from a desire to offend. But that doesn't stop their behavior from being rude.

By the way, I would consider it rude if I went to a movie theatre in an all black neighborhood and demanded that everyone shut up. I would consider it rude if I lived in a student neighborhood and called the police every time there was a loud party. It makes sense to respect the predominant culture in your surroundings (as long as it's not grossly immoral). But when we live in a cultural mix, it makes sense for all of us to temper our cultural urges when they cause other people pain.
posted by grumblebee at 5:25 AM on September 9, 2003


But is the defining trait (talking in cinemas) of this thing called black culture is that they're black. I'd say not, I would ascribe it to the working class.
I would say that what we look for when we want to group individuals with a stamp is what we percieve as differences to us.
If I am white then I would group black people - If I am gay I group straight people - complete fiction based upon not being informed enough to spot the huge sub catergories and subtleties.
This is just lazy shorthand to avoid dealing with inidividuals and not necessarily bad - you could ascribe good qualities to these groupings.

As a gay hindu I say 'Eels think that humans stink'
posted by dprs75 at 5:58 AM on September 9, 2003


Why are we even talking about 'gay culture' in this context? You don't bring your private social habits to the workplace. A lot of 'straight culture', particularly where I live, involves getting wasted on drink or drugs at the weekend and engaging in a lot of casual sex. Strangely enough, these people don't bring these habits to the workplace (unless they're journalists). Some of them are even teachers.
posted by Summer at 6:25 AM on September 9, 2003


Yes, dprs, it's part of working class culture too. But black culture has a long history of interactivity during performance events. I probably stems from church. I find this attractive most of the time -- just not in the theatre.
posted by grumblebee at 6:48 AM on September 9, 2003


I sometimes forget that the web is international.

So is blackness.

When I was in high school, we used to get stoned and go to Friday the 13th movies and yell at Jason. Also, I am white.
posted by jpoulos at 6:55 AM on September 9, 2003


Yup, and many people outside of New York walk fast too -- that doesn't stop fast walking being part of New York culture.
posted by grumblebee at 7:19 AM on September 9, 2003


When I was in high school, we used to get stoned and go to Friday the 13th movies and yell at Jason.

Wow, we used to get stoned and then Jason would yell at us.

That was some good weed.
posted by jonmc at 7:28 AM on September 9, 2003


No sticks no seeds that you don't need,
Acapulco gold, is baadaass weed!
posted by asok at 7:51 AM on September 9, 2003


I live in NYC (and am "white," odd though that word is when applied to actual skin) and I deeply miss the old Times Square movie theaters where I would go to watch horror movies and science fiction flicks and other B-movie junk that the Thalia would never dream of showing. A large part of the fun was the interactivity; for me, it really added to the experience when a large portion of the audience was hollering "Don't go down in that basement, fool!" at the screen. The audience was heavily black and Latino; I could not actually see who was doing the yelling (it was dark in there) but I had my suspicions. As I say, it didn't bother me in the least. It would bother me at, say, a Bergman film. Oddly, I have never been in a theater where the audience hollered during a Bergman film. ("Fool, that woman is just another aspect of your personality!") So, for me, it's all worked out. Except that the Times Square theaters are all showing Disney films now.
posted by languagehat at 8:04 AM on September 9, 2003


dprs75: As a gay hindu I say 'Eels think that humans stink'

...

Are you single?
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:08 AM on September 9, 2003


Black people wear big pants. Is this true? Sure it is.

Actually, even suburban white kids don't wear big pants anymore. Uh, just for the record.
posted by Tlogmer at 11:40 AM on September 9, 2003


joey: taken I'm afraid
posted by dprs75 at 3:24 AM on September 10, 2003


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