Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dr. Seuss, the Layer Cake, and Brian Leiter

I’m going to go against my own conclusion for a moment, as I think at least one more thing needs to be said about the on-going self-immolation of Brian Leiter before moving on.

When contemplating the antics of Brian Leiter and others of his ilk, I’m reminded of the pre-Bond Daniel Craig, British-gangster movie, Layer Cake.  The central theme of the movie?  Small-time gangsters are under the mid-level gangsters.  The mid-levels are under the big-time gangsters.  Just when you think you have risen to the “top”…surprise…it’s all just another level of control.  Daniel Craig’s “Mr. X,” thinking he is hot stuff, gets humbled by Michael Gambon’s international crime boss character.  And so on.

The “Leiters” of the world think they have risen high in the layer cake by being better than everyone else.  They don’t come from silver-spooned families, no sir.  They are all self-made strivers.  They “worked hard.”  Were “the best.”  Rose to “the top.”  Are “experts.”  And you should bow and scrape and listen.

But the truth of the matter?  At the end of the day, there is always someone above them, and it irritates like the proverbial pea in the mattress.  Someone with a better background.  Someone with better credentials.  Someone who has more-impressive accolades but who had an “easier time” and “better connections.”

You see, you think you’ve risen high - but you actually haven’t risen much at all in the grand scheme.  Your paymasters are still far above you.  The major players are further above you yet.  You think you are playing the game as an equal, but they just laugh at you from higher on the stack.  Yet, there are those, even higher, laughing at them.

How to respond to this implicit unfairness?  Defend your turf.  Look down on others.  Try to destroy the careers of the “insolent”.  Write more know-it-all papers.  Do more seminars.  Obtain more credentials.  Engage in name-calling.  More puffery!  More cowbell!  In short, more of the very same hamster-wheel behavior you’ve been engaging in your whole life.

The Leiters are the “Yertle the Turtles” of the legal academic world.  Rather than recognizing that “we’re all in this together”, or having compassion and sympathy for those less fortunate (say, struggling lawyers/law grads), the response is “Hah!  This makes me higher on the stack!”  Rather than engaging in productive discourse with those whom one disagrees, it is cheap shots, laughing dismissals and attempts to out the other party while hiding behind tenure (“Hah!  I’m the King, and you’re just a turtle named Mack!”).  When critics such as Professor Campos decide to move on to other endeavors, there is attempted dancing on graves.  (“Look how far I can see!  No one is higher than me!”)

The fact of the matter is that when you base everything on Posnerian measurements of value, 19th century philosophy, and good old-fashioned middle-class striving, everything becomes a competition.  A battle.  A zero-sum game.  And those higher in the layer cake laugh at you for playing into their hands.

Instead of recognizing this core truth, you become someone who takes offense at perceived slights and satisfaction in the misery of others lower down the stack.  A veritable Ebenezer Scrooge of legal academia.  A class-conscious defender of the status quo, which (you think) enriches you while starving many, many others.  It is no wonder that the Leiters seize upon the “defeat” of Campos, who had the temerity to criticize the system.  Campos’ “95 Theses” were not (could not be) well-received by Leiter’s “Leo X”.  It’s what happens when you challenge a worldview.

The only response to Leiter is to take his actions and comments in the spirit in which they are given - which is to say, dismissed as the petty ravings of a “career-striver”.  In Leiter’s World, the pain of the layer cake flows downhill in gleeful abandon, and the solution is to make sure that others get mired in as much Oobleck as possible – that way, at least you are less-mired than all of “them”.  A world where you are a self-righteous, reputation-smearing participant in the problem, not the solution.

Best to give Leiter a wide berth and not engage him, as he bases his worth on controversy and status and “argument”.  We have to expect these responses from the anti-scam establishment, as the very nature of the scam movement hits too close to home.  Nothing productive comes from engaging the Leiters, as they have already overplayed their hand.  The best way to respond is to give no forum.  To ignore.  When you’ve based everything in your career on “listen to me, look at me, I’m the expert, I’m the best,” being slowly relegated to the dust bin is death by a thousand cuts.  If anything productive is to ultimately happen, it will be through engagement of the likes of Campos, as it is only those who are even open to constructive criticism in the first place.  People who, I believe, recognize how the layer cake works and their position within it.

In closing, one expects a certain amount of poor social behavior from five-year-olds.  Not so much from a grown man, who presumably has had ample opportunity to mature.    The fact that academia gives the Leiters of the world individual purchase and free-reign is yet another indictment against the law school scam and its so-called “value”.

20 comments:

  1. First!!!

    On top of the world, Ma!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good analysis. People like him really aren't interested in this idea that we're all in it together. He's interested in striving his way to the top of the pile, where he hopes that we will all worship his intellectual greatness. Instead, how about he reaches down from up high and tries to give us a helping hand? Surely he knows how bad things are?

    That said, given the animosity between the two sides - profs and students - something that mirrors the growing distrust and lack of compromise between the left and the right in politics, I don't see it turning into anything other than a battle where for us to win, they have to lose.

    It doesn't have to be that way. Fair compromise on their part (salaries, tuition levels, teaching loads, class sizes etc.) would be met with our renewed enthusiasm for the legal education system, one in which there was shared opportunity for all, professors and students alike.

    But I think that the current system is stuffed to the gills with greedy boomers who are "getting theirs". So we're screwed. Time to load up the catapults and prepare to bring down some of those schools.

    ReplyDelete
  3. For a good laugh, check out (5) in the update to this post:

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/03/whats-going-on-in-the-faculty-lounge

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope that this is the beginning of the end for that yellow-fanged dope. His name is getting all over the internet with his childish antics. With luck, this will be the turning point in his odd little career. With all internet battles, people always seem to make little missteps. Wait until he makes his, and his puppets and fake users and creepy campaigns are all linked together, like some late-in-the-series episode of a crime drama when something links the photos on the police pinboard together and the hugeness of the criminal conduct is revealed.

      AND BUY A TOOTHBRUSH, LEITER!

      Delete
    2. Give me your identity papers, mister!!! I'll TELL on you!

      Delete
  4. Lyin' Brian likes eating layer cakes, judging from the plumpness of his face and the rottingness of his teeth.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Can we move on from Leiter?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're missing the key point, which is that this is hilarious.

      Along with all the cyberstalking, the fact that he is sockpuppeting to try to get students to enroll in his program is truly LOLworthy.

      Delete
    2. Can someone at that site confirm this through IPs? After all Brian "Likes Whores" clearly has no issues with tracking people in that manner, and would not be bothered one little bit if someone gave out his IP info in the same way that they did over at the Faculty Lounge.

      Delete
  6. He is probably sitting in his office scheming on how to get revenge.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Can I interject a different topic for a moment?

    We know all the other blogs on the top RHS of this page except one. "Law School Scam!"

    And I want to say that you should go there and read. It's extremely entertaining and not cut from the same cloth as the other scamblogs.

    Now back to your regular scheduled programming...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the worst blog I've ever seen. No wonder no one has commented on any of the posts.

      Delete
    2. You get it's not serious, right?

      Delete
    3. "It's the worst blog I've ever seen."

      You only think that 'cuz you're WRONG! And because you've probably seen like 3 blogs before. But mostly cuz you're WRONG!

      Delete
    4. It's a fake site from a scamblogger pretending to be sympathetic to professors. I give that shit two thumbs up.

      Delete
  8. I've posted plenty of critical comments about Brian Leiter, but now I wonder if that was the right thing to do: given his behavior over the last few days, it is clear that the guy is mentally ill.

    I agree that the indictment for this sorry episode, which unfortunately is still ongoing, goes well beyond Leiter, and extends to the administrators at the University of Chicago and to the many law professors who read and post at the Faculty Lounge and Prawfsblawg.

    Why haven't they quietly counseled Brian Leiter to cease his bizarre outing and public humiliation campaign against obscure critics? Why are the admins. at Faculty Lounge (or maybe Prawfsblawg) actively facilitating his behavior by leaking anonymous critics' email addresses and IP addresses? Why haven't Leiter's law professor colleagues, except the great renegade Paul Campos and David Bernstein at Mason, publicly denounced Leiter's bizarre antics? I wonder: Do most law professors quietly approve of Leiter-- thinking, as FDR once said about a Latin American dictator: "He may be an SOB, but he is our SOB."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ^^ This ^^

      It's very odd how law profs will stick together, even when one of them is clearly acting like a jackass. But I guess they would rather keep silent and pretend that nothing is wrong rather than admitting faults and correcting them.

      Kudos to LawProf for continuing to take this psychopath on. People have suffered enough of his bulshit and lies.

      Delete
    2. I think that part of it is that academia is far more tolerant of gross eccentricity and oddball behavior than is the real world. Tenured professors can be, by normal standards, batshit crazy, but so long as they churn out enough adequate "scholarship" and give lectures they stay employed.

      Antisocial behavior and faux pas that would get partners fired from their law firms (such as the Heller/Pillsbury contretemps -- http://law.justia.com/cases/california/caapp4th/50/1367.html) don't seem to raise an eyebrow in academia. The prevailing attitude to bizarre behavior seems to be "Oh yes, that's just Professor X at it again. But he does know a lot about Wittgenstein (or particle physics or whatever.)" Universities don't have to worry much about alienating clients.

      Delete
    3. "It's very odd how law profs will stick together, even when one of them is clearly acting like a jackass."

      He's viscously attacking the people who say law school is a scam. He's attacking the people who are threatening the comfortable livelihoods of law professors.

      Of course they support him.

      Delete
  9. good writing
    --mata

    ReplyDelete