UPDATED BELOW, with more links to bloggy commentary.
UPDATED SUNDAY MORNING: a comment by a Wisconsin proffie got stuck in moderation–take a gander at it here. Those of you who might be hiring faculty next year–alert your deans. You might be able to recruit some top-notch former Badgers!
Yesterday, my university and blog-related e-mail accounts filled up with links describing the political $hitstorm that resulted from University of Wisconsin historian William Cronon’s op-ed in the New York Times on Monday about recent events in Wisconsin’s political history and his new blog, Scholar as Citizen. (Enemies of liberty everywhere watch out, he’s got a blog, and he ain’t afraid to use it!) The two-cent summary is that the Republican party of Wisconsin has issued a Freedom of Information Request for his e-mail account for every piece of correspondence since January 1, 2011. Cronon describes each step down the path to Crazzyville on his blog, but don’t miss Tenured Radical’s rundown and commentary, too.
This morning he reports that the New York Times has written an editorial excoriating the Wisconsin Republican Party’s use of the Freedom of Information Act to attempt to intimidate or silence critics. It’s available online here, and will run in Monday’s print edition.
I commented over on his blog yesterday on the Republican Party’s response to Cronon’s complaint about their FOIA request in which they accused Cronon (while misspelling his name: classy) of “intimidation” in complaining about their intrusive and abusive attempts to intimidate him. I said that if they want e-mails from public university faculty, let’s give ’em some e-mail. Let’s cc Scott Walker and Republican Party head Mark Jefferson on every frigging e-mail we write every day, and be sure to forward them every e-mail we receive, including the stuff that goes straight into the spam bucket. (Tenured Radical has their e-mail addresses, if you’re interested.)
Why not go all Merry Prankster on ’em? Clearly, Wisconsin is run these days by a bunch of clowns whose brains aren’t getting enough oxygen in that little Volkswagon they’re crammed into. Think about it: if you ran a wannabe-Machiavellian authoritarian junta attempting to take over a U.S. state, what would be a reasonable response to a history professor who has the stature to get an op-ed piece published in the New York Times? Your options, since you clearly have no frigging clue who Bill Cronon is or even how to spell his name and you probably don’t care to spend .06 seconds on a Google search, are to 1) ignore it, 2) issue a press release rebutting his opinions, 3) get all FOIA on his a$$ and guarantee that his original editorial, his blog, and all of his opinions get wider circulation and get the attention of people who disapprove of FOIA requests for university e-mail accounts? (Or maybe you Googled “William Cronin” and nothing came up, so you thought you’d effectively shut him up and no one would be the wiser? Crack oppo research team you got there, friends!)
I think “Comrade PhysioProffe” said it very well at the Pseudonym Exchange last month. To paraphrase, he suggested that it was a really, really dumb idea to pick fights with people who have connections at the New York Times. And a guy who has just published an op-ed piece on the most valuable piece of opinion real estate in the United States and who’s targeted as a result of said op-ed–well, as the kids used to say, you do the math, geniuses.
UPDATE, later this morning: Bardiac, who I believe has insider knowledge of higher education in Wisconsin, also has some comments on the l’affaire Cronon today. Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar chimed in this afternoon, too.