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Just How Warped Is Legal Academia?

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I ask this question because, at random, I looked at the two most recent entries on Sentencing Law and Policy.  Here they are:


Here's a quotation from the first:

Ever since Europeans first settled the continent over four hundred years ago, racial injustice has existed in North America. Human bondage was formally recognized in the United States for nearly a century following the Nation's birth in 1776.  While the Thirteenth Amendment officially abolished slavery in 1865 and the Fourteenth Amendment mandated equal protection in 1868, nearly another century passed before "separate but equal" was repudiated and some progress was made.  Today we still see persistent racial inequities throughout American society.   The criminal justice/prison complex disproportionately targets, captures and incarcerates persons of color; and police shootings of unarmed black victims -- such as of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in Aug. 2014 -- are grimly commonplace. It is difficult to deny, in light of this history, that America has a major problem of race.

What can be done?  Truth and Reconciliation is a process that has been used effectively in other nations and cultures (e.g., South Africa; native nations) following times of deep racial discord/violence.  The idea is that true healing can begin only when past atrocities and injustices are first acknowledged and addressed.

This Amerika Stinks Festival is being held at a taxpayer-funded and (otherwise) respectable university, Michigan State.

Here's a quotation from the second outfit, sponsored by the country's Number Three law school, Harvard:

[I]n most communities, the prosecutor is an unknown figure.  Until recently most prosecutors enjoyed something close to a lifetime appointment. Rarely getting much attention or scrutiny....

Our goal is simple, we want to hold actors in the criminal justice system accountable for their actions.  Whether it's a prosecutor putting a rape victim in jail when she doesn't want to testify, a judge sentencing a young kid to 63 years in jail for driving with a suspended license, a DA charging a 12-year-old with a crime and putting them in the adult prison system, or continuing the prop up a death penalty system that becomes more ridiculous and cruel every day this blog will be looking for injustice and pointing the finger at the person who is most responsible.

The proposition that, "until recently most prosecutors enjoyed something close to a lifetime appointment," is a point-blank lie, as its authors can't help knowing; not for nothing are no figures given.  But the real poison is in the next paragraph, which is so intentionally and maliciously slanted as to give mere lying a bad name.

The author of Sentencing Law and Policy is our friend Doug Berman.  In no way do I think he's responsible for this hateful nonsense.  To the contrary, I'm grateful he publishes it, so that normal people can see for themselves just how deep into anti-Americanism legal academia has sunk.

5 Comments

I agree that Doug is not responsible for this leftist propaganda but an argument could be made that it is irresponsible to perpetuate this slanted, inaccurate, and hate -filled nonsense in today's volatile environment.

most, do you really think it irresponsible for a legal academic on a blog to report on what legal academics are doing? Criticize the message, but not the messenger, I say. And are you criticizing NBC and Megan Kelly for perpetuating the view of someone who claims Sandy Hook was a government hoax?

To report what folks at reputable institutions does not strike me as disreputable. But the partisan divides run so deep now, I am not surprised when partisans believe everyone has to take a side. In the words of our national leader: sad!

First: The level of academic research, like much of what is emanating from universities these days, has sunk to levels not previously seen. There is no search for the truth, otherwise the fable that Michael Brown was an innocent young man and that the risk of death to black men was somehow greater by cops than their neighbor would not continue to be propagated.

Secondly, I think a reputable messenger does not adopt a hands off approach when the message he is conveying is slanted, partisan, and factually in error.

Thirdly, Megan Kelly is receiving copious criticism for her inane choices so why are you above the fray?

Finally, this academic research hit me particularly hard on the heels of the shoot-up of the Republican members of Congress by a man who had clearly been influenced by the perpetuation of false narratives.


All fair points, mjs, and in my partial defense, I will note that a fellow academic directly asked me to post the Ferguson call for papers and I did so without editorializing as a professional courtesy. In addition, I would hope the organizers of the MSU event would consider involving voices that will highlight that many more persons of color are victims of criminal behavior than police behavior.

More to a bigger (legal realist) point: I think it harmful to assert or even suggest that some messages are free of slant/partisanship while others aren't. I see slant and partisanship in just about every message, especially if/when you focus on context not provided. (Bill's interesting post on "The Problem with International Comparison of Murder Rates" serves as a great reminder of this reality.) I agree that all ought to work hard to avoid repeating that which is obviously factually wrong, but what appears quoted above is factually defensible even though the packaging and spin is obviously so off-putting to those with a different view of the work of the police and prosecutors.

You are right that Megan Kelly is getting grief for interviewing Alex Jones, and I genuinely think that is largely misguided. Views disliked and disagreeable do not go away if ignored, and I think it quite important to bring these views out for inspection and criticism. I still believe sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I very much see my blog as trying to shine.

That all said, I get the basis for the extra sensitivity in the wake of the latest horrible shooting AND I share a concern that we of late have reached an extra level of vitriol in public and private discourse. Thus I am especially moved by the concern that I am contributing to a problem rather than helping to solve it. And just hearing that concern voiced helps me appreciate more fully the challenges we all face in getting public and private discourse to a better place for our collective benefit.

Thanks!

I have always believed that one can engage in productive discourse with a reasonable person on the other side. Unfortunately, academics like Doug are a vanishing breed.

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