About ten people have so far accepted the invitation to the "Gooney Left" open house. I'll repeat the invitation in a few days, shorn of the "Gooney Left" label, so that people can come who may not necessarily want to make an implicit political statement.
Ninety percent of the people who read my email in response to Prof. Watts approved of it. Three or four individuals thought it was foolish or futile to engage with him. In at least one instance I had the impression that the individual considered my reply the moral equivalent of Prof. Watts's original post.
I suspect this last appraisal was the tip of an iceberg. There is, within academe, a significant current of opinion that values decorum over free exchange. I do not say that adherents to this view deny the value of free exchange; I merely say that they think there is an appropriate time and place for it. Usually it is some other time, some other place.
For a time the faculty and grad student list servs were swamped with exchanges concerning the Day of Remembrance/Malkin book affair. A handful of people accounted for all of them. Eventually the department chair quite sensibly directed that the exchange be moved elsewhere, and offered to create a separate list serv for the purpose.
His email crossed with mine, in which I stated that I had already created such a list serv:
I placed Prof. Watts's email address on it and my own. I invited others to "opt in" on the exchange and within a few minutes had five takers. At 3:05 p.m. I sent the following email to the six other members on the list:
It seems to me that one of the issues raised in today's exchange is the function of what might be termed academic gate-keeping. For example, academic culture emphasizes publication in university presses and refereed journals so faithfully that I have seen very good books treated as being almost invisible because the author published them with a commercial press. Certain commercial presses are viewed as acceptable; e.g., Norton, Basic Books, Knopf, etc. But others are problematic, while Regnery, the press which published the Malkin book, bills itself as "the nation's preeminent conservative publisher" and I think would therefore be considered highly problematic. See Regnery's website, http://www.regnery.com/index.html, esp. http://www.regnery.com/regnery/regnery.html
The avowed reason to regard Regnery as highly problematic would be twofold: first, the absence of a referee procees; and second, the assumption that an ideologically-driven perspective would fall outside our professional norms.
But one could argue that many works published in university presses are also ideologically driven, merely in ways congenial to those in the academy. Certainly the perception outside our profession is that academe is inhabited mainly by those whose politics are left-leaning.
It certainly seems to me that people are entitled to their own political views, and if liberals self-select into academe in disproportionate numbers, no one has room to cry foul. If, on the other hand, liberals overtly or covertly make graduate admissions and hiring decisions on the basis of candidates' political views, that does seem open to serious query.
I have so far heard nothing from Prof. Watts, and gotten only a single response from anyone else. This came from a graduate student:
I was more than a little disappointed that one current faculty member today resorted to an ad hominem attack on the senator, rather than address his comments or his use of "gooney left." This reflects poorly on the current faculty member's professionalism, civility and willingness to refute with reason and evidence what he obviously thinks is a mistaken position. I suspect instead that the outburst was in response to the Senator's of the "gooney left" phrase; nevertheless it was completely uncalled for.The grad student was correct. One faculty member did indeed make at least one and arguably several ad hominem attacks on Prof./Senator Watts, depending on how you count it/them. Worse, it was not even a clever ad hominem attack.