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Jason Stanley Epilogue

Just had to share this with you. After accusing another philosopher of child murder for criticizing a paper of his, the Jacob Urowsky Professor of Philosophy at Yale University [1]took down his Facebook page, it appears. You may be thinking, “That’s crazy! No Yale philosophy professor could possibly behave that way in public.” Well, yes, he did. Clearly, Yale has a problem child on its hands:

stanley-1

UPDATE: Jason Stanley responds in the comments section:

Very briefly about this particular situation: I am the father of two small children, and my partner is a high-risk physician with a very long work schedule. Our youngest child is less than two years old. On this day, my partner had gone to work early in the morning, and I was with both kids since they woke up. Buckner started posting comment after comment about one specific issue that is a political and economic hot potato, namely the true size of city pension obligations. My paper is about Flint and not Detroit, but I have a paragraph or maybe two about the issue of whether Detroit’s Emergency Manager exaggerated Detroit’s pension obligations. The most comprehensive report on the Detroit bankruptcy, from Demos, as well as previous calculations, suggested Orr did engage in massive exaggeration. Buckner helpfully pointed out that there are economists who believe that these accounts are because pension obligations have been miscalculated and really are much larger. I was reporting what other people said and basic facts (like the official figures before Orr’s EM administration). I ended up agreeing with Buckner that I should change the wording to make it clear that there are definitely those who think Orr is right (but I think Buckner agrees with me that the majority of people involved, including economists, go by other pension calculations than the ones Orr was using). But Buckner kept on going with invective. I pleaded with him several times, saying “I am with my children I can’t engage right now”, but his comments became increasingly hostile. This was weird since I don’t really disagree with him, and I didn’t have time to have a lengthy argument about different ways of calculating pension obligations (and it’s not central for my paper, which is on Flint, not Detroit). But the angry comments kept flowing in. At one point, our smallest child did something very dangerous that I almost missed, and after rescuing him from his predicament had a surge of fear that I almost overlooked that. I snapped at the moment and then typed that comment in. I deleted it almost immediately and unfriended Buckner, and then sent him an apology explaining the situation (it’s very strange to me that he was able to get a screenshot in what must have been less than 2 seconds). I am not really sure what the parameters of “unhinged” are. I love my children. They are my life. It was a frightening moment for me, and my hands were trembling. Maybe other parents are very calm in the moments immediately after such an incident. I am not. I did at that moment snap and blame it on Buckner’s series of ever escalating comments, which I had by that time repeatedly told him to stop because of my fear of just such an incident. I have not here argued that I am not unhinged. I’m just saying that this isn’t evidence of it.

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28 Comments To "Jason Stanley Epilogue"

#1 Comment By James Bradshaw On October 4, 2016 @ 11:43 am

I wonder how Mr Stanley feels about his fellow “philosopher” and bioethicist Peter Singer who actually has advocated post-birth abortions of infants who lack sufficient self-awareness to be deemed fully human.

#2 Comment By B.E. Ward On October 4, 2016 @ 11:48 am

Sounds like Stanley is in desperate need of prayer.. and maybe fasting on his behalf……..

#3 Comment By Gromaticus On October 4, 2016 @ 11:52 am

Facebook – Allowing grown men to act like adolescent girls since 2004. (With all due apologies to adolescent girls.)

#4 Comment By Ben H On October 4, 2016 @ 12:01 pm

He’s right: any criticism of Stanley which might lead to the latter losing his academic philosophy job is a direct risk to human life. Lets be honest without academic philosophy to employ him, Stanley would starve as would any dependents of his.

Watching Stanley and company literally starve to death in the street would be very interesting philosophically. You could have a conference on that. Probably more than one. Also would free up a position. What would Fucco or whatever think?

#5 Comment By Ben H On October 4, 2016 @ 12:02 pm

“only an a$$hole tries to kill children…”

To put it mildly. I’d go so far as to characterize such people as both turds and potty-heads.

#6 Comment By Sam M On October 4, 2016 @ 12:15 pm

Anyone else try to find the text of the actual article in question?

[2]

The link there appears to be broken.

I didn’t know philosophers knew a lot about municipal water management. Maybe that was in the chapter of the Republic that I skipped?

I am sure there are some interesting points to make about philosophical questions related to Flint. I was even open to seeing how that was framed out. Anyone manage to find it?

#7 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On October 4, 2016 @ 12:25 pm

You may be thinking, “That’s crazy! No Yale philosophy professor could possibly behave that way in public.”

These are philosophers you’re talking about, so no I didn’t think that.

Q: What did the philosopher ask the mathematician?

A: Why do you guys need trash cans?

#8 Comment By Anne On October 4, 2016 @ 12:36 pm

Stanley is clearly overwrought after his recent meltdown. Calling people names isn’t the way to move an argument, but I’ve seen true believers of all kinds spiral into this sort of thing when they allow themselves to focus on the harm the other side may be causing. In this case, it’s imagining little kids getting poisoned. For pro-life proponents, it’s imagining the broken corpses of thousands of unborn babies piling up. Start that and you’re done for as far as reasoned discourse is concerned. Turn in your philosopher’s badge and decide how far you want to take your zealotry for the cause.

#9 Comment By g On October 4, 2016 @ 12:50 pm

“Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all other philosophers are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.” — H.L. Mencken

#10 Comment By KD On October 4, 2016 @ 12:52 pm

I want to snicker, but one has to wonder if Dr. Stanley is–as they say-all right?

Could it be a psychotic break?

#11 Comment By Thomas Kaempfen On October 4, 2016 @ 1:00 pm

Two points:

1. What a lunatic! This puts his earlier histrionics in a whole new light. A clinical light.

2. Given point 1, it says something pretty bad about academia that a raving lunatic masquerading as a philosophy professor can loudly express his lunacy without any official consequence only because he’s on the correct political team.

The lunatics are literally running the asylum.

#12 Comment By JonF On October 4, 2016 @ 1:04 pm

How old is this guy? Is it possible premature dementia is setting in? One of the symptoms is sudden anger fits out of proportion to what’s actually happening.

#13 Comment By Adam On October 4, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

It’s worth noting that Buckner appears to be over-reading Stanley’s remark about killing children when Buckner says “his children.” I assume Stanley was referring to “children in Flint.”

That said, I think Stanley’s behavior was inappropriate.

#14 Comment By Michael in Oceania On October 4, 2016 @ 1:38 pm

This reminds me of something my brother (who has a son and a daughter, both grown now), said to me back in the late 1980;s. He was working in the D.C. area, and he and his wife got so disgusted with the cutthroat, Gordon Gecko atmosphere (cf. Oliver Stone’s “Wall $treet”) in the D.C. Metro area, that they decided to move out. They decided that Power Town was no place to raise their children.

Furthermore, he said to me at the time, that although he was saving for this children’s college education, he would NOT pay to have his children go to any Ivy League school. As he put it, “I want to like my children when they grow up!”

As it is, my nephew went to the Eastman Rochester School of Music, and my niece is studying medicine at Northwestern University, all on Daddy’s dime (no student debt!).

I think my brother had the right idea about Ivy League back then, and it is even more true today.

#15 Comment By Jonah R. On October 4, 2016 @ 1:43 pm

Just as a matter of accuracy: Stanley didn’t “take down” his Facebook page. It looks like he just drastically ramped up the privacy settings so it can only be seen if you’re logged into Facebook, and if you’re not his Facebook “friend” you won’t see anything since 2014.

That said, Stanley is unhinged. Notice how the rhetoric has changed. He’s not just saying that the other guy wants children to die. He’s saying that by arguing with him, by disagreeing with some words with other words, he’s actually trying to kill children.

Rod, does Dante have a circle in Hell that involves people who get so deep into words and rhetoric that they mistake them for actual actions and deeds? If not, I’d make that tendency a hallmark of our modern, social-media Inferno.

#16 Comment By suburbanp On October 4, 2016 @ 2:00 pm

Here is the cached version of Stanley’s paper:
[3]

I think this entire episode is an excellent example of why social media makes for poor public discourse. It’s so easy to misread and misspeak. Example from the above post:

Edward Buckner’s criticism of Stanley’s paper is met with Stanley’s response:
“only an asshole tries to kill children which is what you are trying to do.”

Buckner later responds that Stanley “accused me of trying to kill his children.”

From the snippets we have above, it looks like Buckner took Stanley’s comment to mean Stanley’s children.

But if you look at the context of the argument which is about the Flint paper, it’s also possible that Stanley was trying to allege that by criticizing the Flint paper, Buckner was engaging in the same sort of actions that led to the poisoning of the Flint water supply.

Both of them are (intentionally?) misunderstand and misrepresenting each other. There are no winners on Facebook.

#17 Comment By Rick67 On October 4, 2016 @ 3:40 pm

For some reason it bothers me that Stanley is almost certainly my age. That we attended university and graduate school about the same time. I do not wonder that he has had a strong academic career (I have friends and classmates who have) but how he developed such a hostile demeanor.

#18 Comment By Annek On October 4, 2016 @ 5:50 pm

Michael in Oceania:

“Furthermore, he said to me at the time, that although he was saving for this children’s college education, he would NOT pay to have his children go to any Ivy League school. As he put it, “I want to like my children when they grow up!””

This.

#19 Comment By Sam M On October 4, 2016 @ 5:55 pm

Suburbanp:

Thanks for that link.

What a terrible article. I mean, maybe it’s right or wrong. But who is it for? And why would a philosophy professor write it? It’s not technically astute enough to be in a water or even policy journal. It’s not philosophically sophisticated enough to count as philosophy. And it’s not good enough to appear in the even the worst long-form nonfiction/journalism outlets.

Why does it exist? To make philosophy professors do some virtue signaling, I suppose?

It’d be much better if Hunter S. Thompson wrote it. Or Socrates wrote it. Or some dude names Al from the waterworks wrote it.

#20 Comment By anonymous On October 4, 2016 @ 6:14 pm

I am (was) Facebook friends with Stanley and this incident is being misrepresented. The entire discussion had gotten extremely heated including borderline inappropriate comments on the part of Buckner also. Stanley deleted his comment and also recently deleted his entire Facebook page/presence, both of which Buckner I think knows very well as they share mutual friends. So apparently the entire reason for Buckner making his follow-up post is to go after Stanley personally after baiting him and getting him to lose control deep in a conversation thread. Rod, I think you should have higher ambitions for your blog than to use it to broadcast out-of-context replies from private Facebook threads. If you want to engage with Stanley, Kukla, or other far-left academics then why don’t you read their actual published work, of which there is plenty, and comment on that instead of trying to play gotcha games like this?

#21 Comment By M_Young On October 4, 2016 @ 8:29 pm

“It’s worth noting that Buckner appears to be over-reading Stanley’s remark about killing children when Buckner says “his children.” I assume Stanley was referring to “children in Flint.””

No kidding. Back in my day, reading comprehension was on the SAT, and these folks would be filtered out.

[NFR: I thought Stanley was talking about children in Flint too, but it’s still a crackpot remark. — RD]

#22 Comment By candles On October 5, 2016 @ 8:47 am

My facebook feed is full of friends of mine who are professors (my wife is a professor, I work as staff in the academy, etc etc)

The rise of social media has been utter poison for how these people talk. Like, they’re all third-rate Jon Stewarts and Gawkers now.

I think there has been a collapse of understanding on their part that how professors hold themselves publicly is actually a significant part of where they derive their legitimacy. Instead, they’re behaving like the doctor in Idiocracy.

The entire idea of “respectability politics” is making a bunch of people radically undermine themselves by their hyperbolic, uninformed rants and rhetoric. It is nuts.

#23 Comment By DRK On October 5, 2016 @ 9:03 am

This story is incomplete, as we have no way of knowing what Buckner said to Stanley — I can’t find his remarks on Stanley’s piece posted anywhere (I am not on Facebook, tbh). I have to conclude that this was a private spat between two academics, and that we are getting only one side of this story. Given that Buckner describes himself on his public Facebook page as a troll, he might have said something pretty nasty. That’s what trolls do, after all.

[NFR: Look, the point is that Stanley described someone who criticized his paper as a “child killer”. The guy is unhinged. — RD]

#24 Comment By Jason Stanley On October 5, 2016 @ 1:24 pm

Very briefly about this particular situation: I am the father of two small children, and my partner is a high-risk physician with a very long work schedule. Our youngest child is less than two years old. On this day, my partner had gone to work early in the morning, and I was with both kids since they woke up. Buckner started posting comment after comment about one specific issue that is a political and economic hot potato, namely the true size of city pension obligations. My paper is about Flint and not Detroit, but I have a paragraph or maybe two about the issue of whether Detroit’s Emergency Manager exaggerated Detroit’s pension obligations. The most comprehensive report on the Detroit bankruptcy, from Demos, as well as previous calculations, suggested Orr did engage in massive exaggeration. Buckner helpfully pointed out that there are economists who believe that these accounts are because pension obligations have been miscalculated and really are much larger. I was reporting what other people said and basic facts (like the official figures before Orr’s EM administration). I ended up agreeing with Buckner that I should change the wording to make it clear that there are definitely those who think Orr is right (but I think Buckner agrees with me that the majority of people involved, including economists, go by other pension calculations than the ones Orr was using). But Buckner kept on going with invective. I pleaded with him several times, saying “I am with my children I can’t engage right now”, but his comments became increasingly hostile. This was weird since I don’t really disagree with him, and I didn’t have time to have a lengthy argument about different ways of calculating pension obligations (and it’s not central for my paper, which is on Flint, not Detroit). But the angry comments kept flowing in. At one point, our smallest child did something very dangerous that I almost missed, and after rescuing him from his predicament had a surge of fear that I almost overlooked that. I snapped at the moment and then typed that comment in. I deleted it almost immediately and unfriended Buckner, and then sent him an apology explaining the situation (it’s very strange to me that he was able to get a screenshot in what must have been less than 2 seconds). I am not really sure what the parameters of “unhinged” are. I love my children. They are my life. It was a frightening moment for me, and my hands were trembling. Maybe other parents are very calm in the moments immediately after such an incident. I am not. I did at that moment snap and blame it on Buckner’s series of ever escalating comments, which I had by that time repeatedly told him to stop because of my fear of just such an incident. I have not here argued that I am not unhinged. I’m just saying that this isn’t evidence of it.

#25 Comment By Jay Johns On October 5, 2016 @ 4:43 pm

Good gracious, this Stanley fellow is awfully stupid for a big shot philosopher. He actually tries to explain his behavior–in mitigation!–by saying that Buckner, by remotely making Facebook comments he found upsetting, is somehow causally responsible for his own irresponsibility in watching his child. And he went even further than that by ascribing actual intention on Buckner’s part! “I know, I’ll make insulting comments to Stanley, whom I know is engaged in child care, and whose children I know are now likely poised to do themselves harm, in the hope that those kids will die! That’s the ticket!”

That’s wacko bird stuff. And this guy is teaching the most elite students in America, our future.

#26 Comment By Jason Stanley On October 5, 2016 @ 9:38 pm

Jay Johns,

Thank you for your comment! Wow, yes, fully agreed that what you describe would be not only stupid, it would be, as you say, “wacko bird stuff”. There is no disagreement between us on these facts. There is only disagreement on interpretation. So I am very grateful for the opportunity to clarify. I was providing a *merely causal* explanation for why I posted such a stupid comment. *Of course* I blame myself for taking my eyes off my child. That was many days ago and I am still furious at myself. At the time, I was trying to prevent insulting comments piling up on my FB page, and in the moment, forgetting about priorities. And since I have some vague sense of Buckner from FB, I can *guarantee* that he in no way intended to hurt someone; he is just intellectually passionate and found a place in which I engaged something he cares about. He was on an emotive roll on a Facebook thread, something I am familiar with of course, and couldn’t have understood the situation of his interlocutor. My own comment was not meant literally – and in context it was clear that it was not meant literally, because it was preceded by a ton of wildly emotional comments from both of us (including many ‘stop now I have to go and watch my kids’.from me). And I immediately deleted it. I was angry at myself and I aimed that anger outward for a moment. That is *of course* not an excuse for taking my eyes of the kids. As for the comment I made and deleted; I agree out of context it sounds crazy. In context, it occurred deep in a thread of two people becoming personally offensive and emotional. On a thread with a ton of overly emotional invective about pension obligations (I mean, that’s why I so enjoy Facebook, and will miss it), it was clear hyperbole that no one would have interpreted literally. So I don’t think it was such a terrible thing *in context*, but out of context, well, its meaning is crazy. I have been on FB for many years and haven’t thought of my private comments as like my published work. I write things on FB all the time that are ill-considered, and then I delete them. I almost always write in a jokey or ironic tone, or wildly exaggerate, so taking my *Facebook* comments out of context is particularly bad for me. I stopped blogging as soon as FB came out, precisely because its privacy seemed more like casual bantering, where one has the freedom to say stupid things, use curse words, make hyperbolic claims, or claims that one recognizes in a few seconds do not express one’s beliefs, go on emotive rants about pension obligations, and then apologize for them and delete or change this upon recognizing this. We have, rather suddenly, moved to a different conception of Facebook. I have deleted my Facebook account, because I just have no interest in having a blog. I am from now on sticking to published writing and casual conversation. And maybe now I can have some actual real pictures of my kids, ones that I can put in an album.

#27 Comment By Thomas Kaempfen On October 5, 2016 @ 10:52 pm

Professor Stanley,

You have my sympathy. It sounds like you’ve been through a lot.

But let me suggest that you’ve given as good as you’ve gotten. You’ve been grossly ungenerous and intolerant toward those whose only sins are to honestly disagree with you and criticize causes you support. You haven’t expressed your disagreement with the fairness, reason and care that your chosen profession demands, nor even at the level demanded by simple responsibility and decency. And you’ve undermined the very basis of philosophical inquiry: open and honest discourse. You need to reassess yourself as an academic, and as a responsible adult.

You’re obviously an intelligent man, but it seems quite apparent that you’ve stretched yourself to the breaking point, both intellectually and emotionally, and you need to do what’s necessary to bring yourself back from the brink.

I wish you well.

#28 Comment By Ed Buckner On July 14, 2017 @ 3:37 am

I only just spotted this. As the FB post was ‘friends only’, this must have been leaked to Dreher. I don’t mind that it was made public, but would have preferred to have been notified at the time.

Some brief comments.

(1) On Stanley’s accusations of attempted child murder I did not know until the end that he was placing his children in physical danger by continuing the discussion on Facebook.

(2) On the supposed invective and ‘insulting comments piling up on my FB page’ this confuses criticism (some of it admittedly harsh) with personal attack. Stanley for the most part had committed the classic mistake of assuming that excellence in one discipline (semantics of reference) transfers to another discipline (valuation of long term financial liabilities). Helped by Google, he got the idea that the valuation dispute was between experts. ‘I think Buckner agrees with me that the majority of people involved, including economists, go by other pension calculations than the ones Orr was using’. This is like searching ‘age of earth’, and finding there is a disagreement between young earth creationists who date the creation of the world using Genesis and genealogical tables, and scientists who use radiometric dating. Which is simply not a ‘dispute between experts’. We have known how to value liabilities since the pioneering work of Modigliani and Miller, who won the 1985 Nobel prize for it.