Online Harassment and Silencing

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Over a period of weeks, law professor Nancy Leong posted several short, informal essays about cyber harassment and discrimination. The first post, entitled “Identity and Ideas,” is available here. The second post, “Anonymity and Abuse,” is available here, with a short addendum here. The third post, “Privilege and Passivity,” is available here. The fourth post, “Consequences and Conclusions,” is available here.

The posts are provocative, and it was not unexpected that some readers might disagree with her. What was unpleasantly surprising was the vitriol in this post, entitled “Law professor tries to leverage phony claims of racial victimization into better job.”

In the post author Paul Campos refers to “Leong’s almost completely imaginary “victimization”” and her “wholly false accusation of racism,” and further accuses her of being the true wrongdoer, writing: “Indeed, in what appears to be a classic case of projection, the only actual harasser in this context appears to be Leong herself, who, after tracking down her critic’s identity, both emailed him and called him at his place of employment, demanding that he have a telephone conversation with her, and threatening to “out” him if he refused. When he declined her offer, she decided to file the bar complaint.” He also writes: “Leong is giving off every sign of trying to get out of Denver faster than the protagonist of a Bob Seger song, so I tend to interpret her decision to try to make a huge deal out of Dybbuk’s comments as a tactical career move (Oppressed Woman of Color Fights the Power — “the power” here being a couple of scamblogs of all things).” As it was likely intended to do, this post is drawing a large number of comments that echo the scathing discourse tone set by Campos.

I don’t know where Paul Campos draws the line between phony and legitimate claims of racial victimization, but one thing that seems clear from his post is that he does not have all of the information in front of him about this issue. He admits this himself in the post, noting: “Per JDU posters some offensive comments were scrubbed by the administrator from at least one of the JDU threads. So the links probably don’t give a complete picture of the extent to which Leong was the target of sexist or racist comments.”

My understanding is that Nancy Leong believes her bar complaint was justified. There are neutral parties who will sort out the facts, and decide where justice lies. After they weigh in, it might or might not be appropriate to accuse people of lying or leveraging. It certainly isn’t when you do not have all the information about a dispute. I do not know what it was that motivated Paul Campos to write that ugly post, but a search for truth seems unlikely.

Update NB: I must also add that the post refers to another law professor, Brian Leiter, as a “cyber-stalker extraordinaire.” Basically Campos is accusing Leiter of engaging in gross criminal behavior, without any evidence, just because he can. This is not very professional, to put it lightly. It’s sad and it is wrong.

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