There was a small contretemps at Santa Barbara Community College a while ago. Michael Shermer was invited to speak, and a few people objected publicly. They pointed out his unsavory history! They dared to use their free speech to express a strong dislike for Michael Shermer! As an ardent advocate of liberty and freedom, Shermer could do but one thing: he blustered and threatened to sue the campus newspaper and various individuals unless they shut up. Fortunately, he chickened out when his lawyer informed him how much it was going to cost — or perhaps when it sunk in how much dirty laundry a lawsuit was going to uncover.
Now for the twist. Shermer’s most vociferous defender on campus was a philosophy instructor named Mark McIntire.
McIntire’s contract was not renewed this year — he’s out of a job.
So he’s set up a GoFundMe site to “defray his legal expenses incurred defending Dr. Michael Shermer”, which is a rather curious statement. What legal expenses? He doesn’t say. He was a guy firing off angry letters to the editor of the campus newspaper. I don’t think that costs money. Also, I think Shermer is well-off enough that he doesn’t need randos incurring undefined legal expenses defending him so they can ask for donations. I suspect this is dishonest: he also recently announced that he’s signed up with FIRE’s litigation project. He’s not raising money to defend himself, but rather, to go on the offensive and sue SBCC.
Also curious is that he lists a bunch of reasons why he was fired: he was accused of using “politically charged” topics in his classes, the chairman doesn’t like his facebook postings, and that he was accused of not understanding basic philosophical concepts. What he does not do is include the contents of his actual termination letter, which I can guarantee you doesn’t say any of those things. College administrators usually know how to cover their asses better than that. He goes further and claims that:
I will argue, in any future venue, that my removal is because I publicly oppose the ‘Social Justice Warriors’ who have seized control of Santa Barbara City College of late.
The real reason I will never be rehired is that I was the sole faculty voice expressing the cause of marginalized religious, conservatives, libertarians, homeschoolers, and/or Trump voters on staff, faculty, and student population. That is unacceptable on the SBCC campus today. Therefore, these are violations of my First and Fourteenth Amendments protections, attempting to silence and remove me from the SBCC campus forever.
You know, I really don’t believe that there is one word in the official correspondence from campus administrators that said any of that, which means his hypothetical lawsuit is going to have a tough time making a case. Also, I’m sorry to say, he was temporary, adjunct faculty, and those positions have limited support and are prone to termination on a whim. Without supporting McIntire personally — I think he’s a bit of a jerk — I do think the adjunctification of academia is disastrous, inhumane, and a disgrace to the system, and that every worker deserves better protections against frivolous dismissal.
I am also amused, though, that the body of Shermer defenders aligns so well with Trump supporters. If he was the “sole faculty voice” supporting assholes like himself (which I don’t believe for a minute — there are multiple regressive voices everywhere), then SBCC has just become a much more pleasant, rational, and collegial place.
If you want further entertainment, read the update, a letter of support from Michael Shermer. Once again, his defense against accusations is that he was never investigated by the police — exactly. He was never questioned by the police because conference organizers closed ranks and never forwarded any complaints to legal authorities. He was astoundingly privileged and sheltered when preying on women, and now he thinks that means he never did anything wrong.
Likewise, no one has ever been lawfully convicted of libel or defamation or coercion vs Shermer or McIntire, therefore they are complaining about nothing. Q.E.D.
Matt G says
That poor brave defender of the voices of assholes, assholes, assholes and/or assholes. He is a philosophy professor and he writes that poorly? Embarrassing.
Kip T.W. says
(his eyes seek Heaven as inspiring music builds under)
“Give me your mean, your selfish, your home taught asses
Yearning to punch down;
Your incels at home, your gunheads that roam,
Send every right-wing clown.
I lift my tiki torch in the Golden State.”
(music drowns out voice as his mouth keeps moving, heedless)
McIntire’s fundraiser kinda says what the legal expenses are for. He says:
Dr. Napoleon being the professor that Shermer threatened to sue. Although McIntire’s statement appears to be a distortion of fact, it seems possible that Dr. Napoleon did threaten him with a lawsuit. In the first Pharyngula post, Dr. Napoleon said that Shermer’s statements about her were defamatory according to her lawyer. And according to The Channels, McIntire was responsible for circulating at least some of Shermer’s statements.
If Dr. Napoleon in fact threatened McIntire with a lawsuit, he probably had to pay to at least consult a lawyer. Of course, it’s implied that his legal fund will also help him sue SBCC.
You miss the point. He isn’t looking to successfully sue anyone, he is setting himself up as a martyr of the right. Soon instead of getting $4000 dollars to teach a semester long course, he’ll be touring the country getting $4000 and expenses for a half hour lecture telling religious conservatives, libertarians and GOPers how he was silenced by the Stalinists of academia. Soon to be on a campus near you… He’s on the gravy train now. Another follower of the David Horowitz playbook.
Yeah… that sounds about right. I’m just trying to work out the details from the bits and pieces we’re getting. If McIntire were guilty of defaming Dr. Napoleon, that would also provide an obvious justification for his being fired.
I tune out as soon as someone complains about “social justice warriors”. If you express open contempt towards the very idea of working for just “distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society” then I have no time for your nonsense.
Out of all the ‘hills to die on’, why choose a Shermer?
Hmm.. was he tenured?
Somehow, I’m betting not…
johnson catman says
From PZ’s post:
He didn’t did’t really fall on his sword for Shermer, it was more a case of lying down on a plastic spork.
Leaving out the fact that he isn’t actually admitting to the reasons given in his termination letter, “not understanding basic philosophical concepts” seems like a pretty valid reason to shit can a philosophy professor.