Several days ago, the most aggressive apologist for the Group of 88, Duke Music professor Robert Zimmerman, published a post leveling against me a serious allegation: that I had exercised a “moderator’s veto” against him, refusing to clear a comment he had offered at DIW, which he interpreted as a disinclination to debate him. (Prof. Zimmerman admitted that I had cleared at least six comments he made at DIW—not exactly the behavior of someone out to silence his views.)
I responded in his comment thread, stating that I had never exercised a “moderator’s veto” against his comments. Indeed, I have noted on several occasions that Prof. Zimmerman plays an important role in communicating the basic mindset of Group members, since Group members themselves have largely refused to defend their actions. (At this stage, I can understand their disinclination to do so, since Duke has made clear it will no longer protect any slanderous statements they make from civil litigation.)
Prof. Zimmerman responded to those comments by eliminating his allegation against me from his post, without indicating that he has altered his post—an . . . unusual . . . approach to blogging.* In place of the insinuation against my ethics, he has inserted: “Q: Did Johnson end our exchange of comments on DIW with a moderator’s veto? A: He doesn’t know, but the Group of 88 hasn’t defended anything they did, and Zimmerman is a public apologist for them.”
There are five explanations for the scenario that Prof. Zimmerman described in his now-deleted section of the post: (1) I exercised a “moderator’s veto” against his comment, presumably because I did not want to any longer debate him; (2) I accidentally rejected his comment; (3) His comment was accepted, but a glitch in blogger prevented it from appearing; (4) He accidentally made an error in submitting the comment; or (5) He never wrote the comment, and is now presenting himself as the victim.
In the comment thread at Prof. Zimmerman’s blog, I never said that I didn’t “know” whether I had exercised a “moderator’s veto”—I repeatedly stated that I did not do so. It is not clear how Prof. Zimmerman translated a denial into a statement that I didn’t “know” whether I had exercised a moderator’s veto.
It is also unclear to me why Prof. Zimmerman altered his original post—removing his allegation against me—without indicating anywhere in the post that he had done so.
Prof. Zimmerman also suggests that I unfairly expected Prof. Coleman “to translate the criticism into chapter and verse in DIW or UPI.” Again, I never said such a thing in the comment thread—just one specific criticism would have sufficed. Prof. Coleman didn’t supply it in any of the 21 conversations or e-mail exchanges I had with him before Sept. 2007, and he didn’t supply it in the e-mail exchange with him at the time.
As I noted in my comment, I did respond to the Coleman attack—by urging a Coleman Committee-like inquiry into the response to the case of the Duke faculty. Prof. Coleman elected not to endorse my suggestion. (To my knowledge, Prof. Zimmerman hasn’t done so, either.) Such an inquiry, of course, could have proven that I was totally wrong in my portrayal of the Duke faculty’s response to the case. The urging of an impartial investigation—an approach used, for instance, after serious allegations of classroom misconduct emerged at Columbia—doesn’t strike me as the response of someone unwilling to engage in “critical self-reflection.”
(Prof. Zimmerman’s charge came in response to my having pointed out that no public evidence exists that even one member of the Group of 88 has engaged in critical self-reflection regarding their behavior in the case. Prof. Zimmerman didn’t deny the point.)
Finally, Prof. Zimmerman’s new material in the post faults me for engaging in ad hominem attacks against him and the Group of 88, by writing that the DA was trying to “railroad three innocent students at Prof. Zimmerman’s own institution. During the time those students were in harm’s way, Prof. Zimmerman… was silent about their fate, while 88 of his colleagues signed a public statement which… thanked protesters who had presumed the students’ guilt.”
I note that Prof. Zimmerman—while labeling my statement “lazy and cowardly,” an approach that “is especially effective with the thoughtless and bigoted,” part of a seeming tendency to write “bullshit” (some people might consider that an ad hominem attack!)—doesn’t in any way challenge the factual accuracy of what I said: that while a rogue DA railroaded three innocent students at Prof. Zimmerman’s own institution, Prof. Zimmerman was silent about their fate, while 88 of his colleagues signed a public statement which thanked protesters who had presumed the students’ guilt.
Somehow, Prof. Zimmerman’s disinclination to challenge that assertion doesn’t surprise me.
*--In the comment thread below, Prof. Zimmerman states that he did not change the post, but rather, "The update that you believe I replaced it with was added on April 23, in response to your first comment. The post hasn't changed since then. I probably should have put a note at the top indicating that I'd added a second update." I'm sure that Prof. Zimmerman will now update his "update" so that it no longer incorrectly characterizes my response to his allegation of a "moderator's veto."
His comment (which, I should note, was cleared by me--as has been, to my knowledge, every comment Prof. Zimmerman has made at DIW) does not respond to any other item in the post.