I have spent a lot of time in academia. Now that I think about it, I have spent the majority of my adult life there, mostly as a bored liberal artist. It is important to understand the world of academia (and how a young professor may choose to gun for tenure) if one wants to understand Leong’s targeting of dybbuk, which seems to be an unending mission for her. Recently, she teamed up with Brian Leiter, and yesterday the duo got the ABA Journal to write an article that regurgitated Leong’s accusations without any verification.
In the world of legal academia, Nancy Leong’s race and gender provide positive attributes that help to separate her from the horde of straight white male professors with elite backgrounds teaching Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Contracts, etc. I do not fault her for focusing some of her scholarship on issues relating to her identity or experiences. I have used this strategy myself on a few occasions. For example, when applying for certain types of positions or assignment panels, I focus on my work with gay organizations, where I have defended gay men targeted by unfair police tactics. These experiences distinguish me from the majority of the other candidates, and it makes me seem more “diverse” in certain contexts where that is a plus factor. Yes, there are plenty of times when I keep my sexuality a secret until I feel out a person or an organization. But I admit that in certain circumstances, I can use my sexuality to make myself a more memorable candidate rather than if I were perceived as just another white dude.
To ignore the advantages that Ms. Leong’s sex (and race?) may bestow upon her in the world of academia — which is obsessed with keeping up the appearance of diversity, even if many good-old-boys clubs still run things at the top — is to ignore reality. I know that my thoughts will piss off a few of the classic boomer liberals who still feel enormous white guilt, which prevents them from fully engaging in these discussions, but this is my opinion based on almost a decade in academia, including two years of teaching English/Creative writing at a “Top 15” university. I taught in an undergraduate liberal arts program where the department chairs made no secret of looking for a “black woman” (!) to “round out” the tenured faculty in their department (I was shocked at the brazenness of this diversity-hunting, but I also admired that they just came out and said it).
Let us be clear about the sequence of events with Nancy Leong and dybbuk. Dybbuk wrote a post about her over a year ago and made a few other references to her in comments. He revived his criticisms a year later, which included some parodies (which Leong/Leiter have characterized as epic plays). In the meantime, dybbuk lambasted plenty of other law professors, mostly white men. During the relevant 14-month period, dybbuk left a few comments on message boards where he made jokes about Leong, mostly commenting on her attractiveness. He never contacted Leong directly, and he probably never thought that she would read most of what he wrote.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion about whether a man is ever allowed to make a joke about a woman’s appearance and/or whether such a comment is now banned speech. And people (like me) are entitled to their opinion that the academic elites need to grow some skin, even when jokes/comments target non-white women, evil gays, or anyone else. (Those same elites often feel more than comfortable with a double standard where they can casually call straight white guys racists).
At the same time, I believe that people have the right to stand up for themselves and to draw attention to off-color humor. That said, I am a staunch believer that whenever a minority group polices political correctness, they wear out the public and turn themselves into a joke. For example, I am particularly weary about gay groups that want to ride the current political/judicial victories in order to start assuming the role in public discourse of a gay Sharpton/Jackson. These tactics minimize the real harms of discrimination by turning everything into a game of You Can’t Say That on Television.
As a member of a minority group who faces a lot more hatred than a female law professor in the top 1%, I have doubts about whether Leong actually was offended by anything dybbuk said. Also, I believe that Leong fibbed when she pretended to fear for her safety, something she reported to the IL bar and the ABA Journal, because dybbuk never called, texted, or emailed her, and they have never met. According to MapQuest, dybbuk resides over 1000 miles away from Leong's Colorado base. Interestingly, despite her "fears" about safety, Leong tried to call dybbuk at work and emailed him a terse ultimatum saying that he must contact her by a particular deadline or face retribution.
Within all of this distracting puffery, Leong mostly repeated three “sexist” comments by dybbuk that focused on her physical attractiveness (the word “comely” came up the most). She discussed these comments in the bar complaint and on some of her five extremely long blog posts — which are perfect examples of a professor saying in 15,000 words what a normal person could say in 500. Naturally, she also cherry-picked comments by anonymous trolls, many of them now deleted, and implicitly connected them to dybbuk, I guess under the theory of guilt by association. Recently, she suggested that dybbuk is responsible for comments on this blog and that his failure to delete a troll’s comment might be harassment!
Frankly, I think that she incorporated comments by anonymous trolls because dybbuk’s actual comments did not have enough objectionable material.
All of this nonsense distracts from the biting criticism of Leong's CV and law review article. In a truly ironic twist, this well-paid female law professor has tried to use identity politics, i.e. pretending to be the victim of the big bad white guy picking on the self-identified non-white female, to intimidate her critic and to distract from his legitimate criticism of her law review article. Also, her actions serve as a warning shot toward anyone else who may dare to cross her.
See the reversal? She is a representative of the powers that be (a one-percenter law school professor) using every available tactic at her disposal to distract from two facts: 1) law schools scam students and 2) she wrote a terrible law review article. When a random blogger criticized her writing, she spent an inordinate amount of time trolling the internet for any reason to try to threaten this person into complying with her demands. When she could not engage the debate about her work on the merits of her own writing — admittedly, a losing battle — she attacked him based on random comments that he could not have reasonably anticipated that she would read. She used her privilege to attack him: her privilege of class/status/position (in an attempt to intimidate), her privilege of sex and apparently race (to threaten him with accusations of sexism and a failed accusation of racism), and her privilege of academia (to try to portray her obsession as part of some sort of honorable battle for political correctness).
The bottom line of all of this is simple: Leong thought that she had a good shot of embarrassing dybbuk and getting him fired by filing a bar complaint that constructively “outed” him to the bar and possibly to his employer. In many ways, the battle lines that she has drawn highlight one of the central dichotomies underlying the law school scam: the wealthy vs. the work-a-day-schlubs, the underemployed, and the unemployed. A one-percenter wants to get a public defender fired because he criticized her law review article and hurt her feelings.
I believe that Leong started this whole battle because she thought that she could get some unflattering material about her removed from the internet. Instead, she now has provoked a huge amount of negative material about herself and her writing. And she has escalated the stakes in the battle between law schools and scambloggers by aiming at the career and livelihood of a vocal critic.
I am not an advocate for returning Leong’s attacks on her level of needless escalation. Our blog serves the public by unmasking the utter bullshit spewed by the law school industrial complex, and we should continue to fight with facts. Leong has chosen to escalate this battle…and escalation she may eventually get. Bar complaints run both ways, and at least one dean has already been disbarred for his deceptiveness. Misrepresentations in bar complaints can lead to lawsuits for defamation of character and abuse of process (I have seen cases where a cop has sued successfully a person who filed a formal complaint based on false facts). And I am sure that eventually someone will contact her employers about her misrepresentations and her weird obsessive behavior (phone calls, emails with deadlines, bar complaints, five or six blog posts, and a lot of comments on message boards). She has opened this door, and I predict that other people now will walk through it and meet her on the other side.
The Leong Situation should demonstrate to all of us the power that our highly trafficked blog now has. Some lawprofs now fear that their name will appear on the top pages of Google because of a highly trafficked blog article. We should assume that anything that we say, even in a casual comment, will be read by the subject of the post or comment. And we should take the high road by continuing to report accurate facts and expressing worthwhile opinions about the state of the law school industry and the law profession today.