Since I wrote about Naomi Schaefer Riley being fired by the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday, the story has moved along somewhat.
For starters, Naomi published a short essay about the affair in the Wall Street Journal. It’s worth reading in full, but to give you a flavor:
The reaction to my blog post ranged from puerile to vitriolic. The graduate students I mentioned and the senior faculty who advise them at Northwestern University accused me (in guest blogs posted by the Chronicle editors) of bigotry and cowardice. The former wrote that "in a bid to not be 'out-niggered' [their word] by her right-wing cohort, Riley found some black women graduate students to beat up on." (I confess I don't actually know what that means.) One fellow blogger (and hundreds of commenters) called my post "racist."
Gina Barreca, a teacher of English and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut, composed a poem mocking me. (It begins "A certain white chick—Schaefer Riley/ decided to do something wily.") MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry spewed a four-minute rant about my post, invoking the memory of Trayvon Martin and accusing me of "small-mindedness." . . .
In a note that reads like a confession at a re-education camp, the Chronicle's editor, Liz McMillen announced her decision on Monday to fire me: "We've heard you," she tells my critics. "And we have taken to heart what you said. We now agree that Ms. Riley's blog posting did not meet The Chronicle's basic editorial standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles."
When I asked Ms. McMillen whether the poem by fellow blogger Ms. Barreca, for instance, lived up to such standards, she said they were "reviewing" the other content on the site. So far, however, that blogger has not been fired.
But of course not. James Taranto, also at the Journal, has piled on as well. (I mean that in a good way. Who doesn’t love watching Taranto come flying off the top turnbuckle?)
And blogger Jeryl Bier has an interesting post about the Chronicle. One of the Chronicle’s other bloggers is Middlebury professor Laurie Essig. Here’s Bier examining one of Essig’s recent posts:
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.
But it’s not just that. Essig then writes the following:
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.
That’s an extraordinary quote. But Professor Essig, who seems to have relied only on a single source for this quote, missed the fact that the Huffington Post quickly walked it back. Here’s the update the Huffington Post published:
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.
Oh. As Bier wryly notes,
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.)
Evidently, the “standards for reporting and fairness in opinion articles” at the Chronicle of Higher Education aren’t exactly uniform. But then, we already knew that.