Monday Smackdown: The New York Times Owes Every Subscriber $100 in Compensation for Its Stanley Fishwrap

Yes, I am trying to hold myself to one Monday smackdown a week. But:

Must-Read: Dan Drezner: A very fishy anti-anti-Trump argument: "Beginning with Ken Burns’s Stanford commencement address last month...

...a group calling itself Historians Against Trump has mounted a petition and a Facebook page replete with videos arguing that Trump is uniquely unqualified to be the president.... This movement has prompted professor Stanley Fish to opine in the New York Times with an essay titled, ‘Professors, Stop Opining About Trump.’ You can guess the theme:

By dressing up their obviously partisan views as ‘the lessons of history,’ the signatories to the letter present themselves as the impersonal transmitters of a truth that just happens to flow through them. In fact they are merely people with history degrees, which means that they have read certain books, taken and taught certain courses and written scholarly essays, often on topics of interest only to other practitioners in the field. While this disciplinary experience qualifies them to ask and answer discipline-specific questions, it does not qualify them to be our leaders and guides as we prepare to exercise our franchise in a general election. Academic expertise is not a qualification for delivering political wisdom.

Now it’s worth pausing for a moment here to bask in the rich ironies of Fish calling out other academics for Opining Outside Their Lane. It’s rich because Fish has written opinion pieces for the New York Times and many other outlets about... well, pretty much anything that enters his brain.... from the sins of publishing the Muhammad cartoons to fretting about how coffee joints ain’t what they used to be. It’s even richer because Fish’s tagline mentions that he’s ‘a visiting professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’--which elides the fact that he doesn’t have a law degree. Say what you will about the historians who signed the petition, I don’t think any of them are trying to teach history without the necessary degrees.... Fish’s... objection is... [to] a collective of academics weighing in as disciplinary experts.... There is a distinction between acting as an expert and acting as a citizen.... [But] that does not mean, however, that such a move is impossible.... Social scientists have the freedom--perhaps even the obligation--to engage in systematic value clarification, pointing out the likely consequences of adopting a particular set of goals and a particular set of means to achieve those goals. Such value-clarification is likely to disappoint ideologues on all sides... but it might contribute to the formulation of more nuanced and realistic policies....

I suspect that what truly rankles Fish about this effort isn’t the possibility of such transgressions but rather the possibility of citizens treating historians as actual experts with a settled consensus on certain historical facts. The very idea of such norms of empirical validity are an affront to Fish’s postmodernism. Which means that he is the worst possible judge of what other academic disciplines do in response to the vast oceans of ignorance occupied by one Donald J. Trump.... Academics wading into the 2016 general election should pay close heed to Weber. They can safely ignore Fish.

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