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Schuman writes: "The mission of the watch list, according to its website, is to 'expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.'"

The watch list puts targets on the backs of liberal professors. (photo: IPGGutenbergUKLtd/Thinkstock)
The watch list puts targets on the backs of liberal professors. (photo: IPGGutenbergUKLtd/Thinkstock)

The Liberal Professor Watch-List Is Abjectly Terrifying

By Rebecca Schuman, Slate

28 November 16


The timing of a new website meant to identify liberal academics is grotesque.

his past Saturday, 200 white nationalists gathered two blocks away from President-elect Donald Trump’s future home, exulting in a victory that has catapulted them out of the shadows. This Monday, an organization called Turning Point USA launched a website called the Professor Watchlist, which provides the full names, locations, offenses—and sometimes photographs—of liberal academics it has singled out for ignominy. In any other year in recent memory on this continent, these would be two unrelated events. But in the United States in late 2016, as the president-elect’s surrogates cite Japanese internment as a “precedent” for what may come, any “watch list” of any sort is worrying. One that targets outspoken intellectuals with views that oppose a mercurial future president who spent the weekend tweeting petulantly at the cast of a Broadway play? Abjectly terrifying.

The mission of the watch list, according to its website, is to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The site invites users to nominate candidates, asking that they “submit a tip” about the nefarious pinkos who teach them (that’s S-C-H-U-M-A-N with one n, by the way). Some of the professors on the list have responded thoughtfully to their inclusion; others on social media have trolled the list with complaints about Indiana Jones and Jesus. Like any soulless golem, I love a good Jesus joke, but today even I can’t muster up the laughter.

Just four years ago, in 2012—the year Charlie Kirk, then a Chicago-based 18-year-old who skipped college altogether, co-founded Turning Point USA—the watch list would have been great fodder for yuks, on par with David Horowitz’s obnoxious 2006 book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, inclusion in which was often a point of pride. Today, though, the Professor Watchlist causes me to fear for the safety of the people on it.

I contacted Kirk, asking him whether the timing was intentional, and whether the watch list was intended to intimidate, harass, or otherwise harm the people on it. He dismissed my suggestions as “preposterous,” and we had a brief, civil chat on the phone. His organization, he was quick to emphasize, is a mainstream conservative student outreach group, devoted to the usual jazz about free markets and bootstraps and other sundry Rush lyrics. That is: While its website looks like a stock agency for photos of self-satisfied young white people, Kirk stresses that Turning Point USA is in no way affiliated with alt-right or similar hate groups, and is instead a mild-mannered fiscal-conservative outreach group that “believes that every young person can be enlightened to true free market values.”

He told me in no uncertain terms that he “denounce[s] completely” last weekend’s nauseating neo-Nazi Woodstock, and that the watch list’s launch had been planned for “months.” Its dovetailing with the white nationalists’ coming-out party—and the corresponding rash of grim, incredulous press coverage—was an unfortunate coincidence, and one that caused an unanticipated surge of traffic thanks to heightened media attention in the wake of the launch’s inauspicious timing. The intention, he said, is not to threaten or harm the professors—his commitment to free speech means he’ll “fight to the death” for their right to disagree with him—but to raise “awareness” for students and the parents who often pay their tuition.

But the photos? I asked. Did Kirk at least understand my unease about the photos? They’re “just stock images,” he said, publicly available, like all of the other information the site has aggregated—aggregated, he emphasized, not created. Plus, “Nowhere do we say they shouldn’t have the right” to express their views; the site has “no calls to action,” whether that be firing or worse.

I’ve no reason to doubt Kirk’s sincerity, but at this point, I also have to wonder whether the intentions of his watch list make a difference—and whether this is a bell that can be unrung. It doesn’t matter if the site wasn’t meant as a No-Goodnik Intellectual Kill List one day after Richard Spencer and his Jungen screeched Heil Trump. Intentionally or not, the Professor Watchlist, simply by being a self-styled watch list, has aligned itself with the ugly, frightening new political status quo.

This is, indeed, a turning point in our country, a time of fear unprecedented on this continent since the Second World War. Fear of being placed on a list, targeted as undesirable, and subjected to whatever happens next. It’s a time to fight the impulse to create a watch list, no matter how mad you are that some angry feminist professor gave you a B-plus. If you’re a reasonable conservative living in this country two weeks after the election of Donald Trump and you really want to reach out to impressionable young people who loved The Fountainhead, there are plenty of ways to do this that do not involve placing targets on backs.

Yes, it’s true that Turning Point USA didn’t create any original material on its compendium, and its claims of professorial malfeasance—from using swear words to attesting that racism is a thing—are reputably sourced. It’s also true that beleaguered conservative intellectuals have as much of a right to grumble as liberal professors have to grandstand. And I will take Kirk’s word that he didn’t create the site with the intent to intimidate, threaten, or bring harm to any of the human beings on it.

But what the site did do—what it continues to do—is compile a one-stop shop of easy marks and their precise locations, complete with descriptions of offenses against America, God, and the “children of the sun.” Whether it intends to or not, this list watches over us at our country’s darkest turning point, poised to inflame the tinder-dry, gasoline-soaked pitchforks of a mob that has just stepped boldly into the light.

Don’t misunderstand me. The answer is not to take the site down altogether, for that would be censorship, and censorship is not the solution, just like it isn’t the solution when the 45th president of the United States gets his fee-fees hurt. But in this time of national reckoning, responsible conservatives need to pay attention to context. Why not, for example, a site that indexes classroom bias by incident and date, instead of by the professor’s name? All the self-satisfaction with none of the implicit death threats. I like to assume the best about people, and as such, I do not believe the terrifying effect of the Professor Watchlist is the “awareness” Kirk intended to raise about ideological diversity at American universities. As such, I hope his organization will stop stoking the worst impulses of authoritarian populism—before American conservatism reaches a point from which there is no turning back. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+43 # kyzipster 2016-11-28 09:49
Until we challenge the Conservative's Culture War in some significant way, this country is over.

Conservatism has destroyed the media, the Democratic Party, the very thinking of millions of voters.

We've surrendured so fully that we don't even want to talk about it, perhaps we don't even see it anymore. Blaming this election on 'trigger warnings' and debates around 'white privilege' when it's conservative identity politics that gave us Trump. No, not all racist perhaps but nearly all of them are intensely tribal with no ability to think outside of their box, informed almost completely by decades of propaganda. Every election plays out this way, Sanders might have impassioned liberals but he would not have won this base over.

Now universities are under attack, conservatives will more than likely succeed eventually, they always do, they never give up. We object loudly with solid argument but it does no good, they keep pushing until people get so tired of hearing it that the criticism disappears in the background.

Facts be damned, professors will someday be forced to present a 'balanced' perspective so as not to offend members of the conservative cult.

This is playing out after the election. Liberals blathering non-stop, trying to figure out what we can do to not offend butt hurt, white conservative America. There's nothing we can do when the very existence of 'libtards' offends them. They have defined 'liberal elitist' as anyone interested in fact checking.
+2 # norman markowitz 2016-12-01 11:54
As someone who is on the list I take it as a compliment and many have written me thanking me, former students, teachers, others including many who wish they were on the list. i have had many conservative students who found my courses exciting and interesting and I have never discriminated against them.
I don't have to defend myself from Kirk but he should be willing to defend himself and his list. Does Kirk as a conservative want colleges to function as non Union factories where teachers are afraid to teach and students are afraid to think . Kirk in reality has no respect for serious conservative students if he thinks that they cant deal,seriously with views different than their own or that "radical"' professor will treat them like Wal-Mart supervisors if they get out of line. he is serious,as against a front for the Big Money far right.,The good news is that people who are reading about this are checking out many of the professors and learning positive things both from their work and about them. Right now, from the emails I have received, the watch list for s boomeranging. If anything, Kirk and his friends may end up on a "vigilance list" in defense of intellectual and academic freedom and the Bill of Rights
+46 # sashapyle 2016-11-28 10:15
Nazism begins with murderous ideas, proceeds to murderous speech, and ends with mass murders. If we're a society that escalates the thought and speech, we'll end with the deed. This is a no-brainer.
-6 # mashiguo 2016-11-28 15:06
Quoting sashapyle:
Nazism begins with murderous ideas, proceeds to murderous speech, and ends with mass murders. If we're a society that escalates the thought and speech, we'll end with the deed. This is a no-brainer.

Nazism does indeed end with mass murders: mass murders of the Nazis. At least that is what history tells us.

Does anyone think they are going to be able to contain this blight otherwise?
+34 # DongiC 2016-11-28 10:57
The Nazi types are coming. One can hear the sounds of their boots. Their fuhrer, busy with so many things, from making money to staffing a government, is reluctant to criticize them.

God help America.
+25 # kyzipster 2016-11-28 11:03
Trump bringing Bannon into the White House as a strategist is not only reluctance to criticize but a total embrace. They helped him win the White House. Why wouldn't he sail into a second term using the same tactics? Unless his base of voters object, he will continue to court this vote.

We dare not call them 'deplorable'!
+3 # lfeuille 2016-11-28 19:27
Because the people who gave him his electoral college victory what to see concrete improvements in their economic situation vis a vis the 1% or they won't give him another one. He doesn't know how to deliver even if he wanted to.
+5 # kyzipster 2016-11-28 23:01
I'm afraid it may be like the Bush years, they won't see the mistake they made until well into the second term. Meanwhile, they'll be loving his sneer and outrageous Tweets.

I hope you're right though.
+6 # JJS 2016-11-29 18:32
Instead of a "basket" full we have a "cabinet" full.
+20 # Anonymot 2016-11-28 11:15
It's simply more of the march from conservatism to conservative extremism to fascism. It's been going on quite comfortably for decades. The liberals became neoliberals, so occupied with their PC policies, their playing "victim", the me! me! that they didn't even see it coming.

I concede that I'm tired of saying "watch out!" and being told bluntly and sometimes nastily by proponents of the worst example yet, Ms Clinton, of America's march from 1932 to 1936. So they gave it to Trump by being arrogant beyond her finest dreams. Well, it's probably no longer fixable and all of the whining and screaming from the splinters of minorities are drowned out by the cloud of dark politics that envelope us all, screamers and voiceless alike..

A few of us listen, comment, trade ideas. But most of the commentors here and in the NYT, WAPO, Daily Kos, etc., etc. yell mindless slogans just like those mindless unconvincing ones from Fox, The Hill, and the Washington Times. Perhaps when the pain becomes acute there's nothing left to do but scream even if it accomplishes nothing.

But, if no one powerful starts a serious, broad-fronted 3rd Party, get used to lists and threats and disappearances. After all, we, the United States of America, have had no trouble installing regimes like that in many countries far from our shores, from Chile to Honduras to Libya, Iran, the Ukraine, and on and on and on...
+18 # kyzipster 2016-11-28 11:53
I agree with your take on things. I am bothered that I've seen little discussion on cause and effect. I see the end result of the Conservative's Culture War. Even the pre-occupation of liberal minded people with political correctness that you mention can be traced back to the GOP's Culture War which is basically a broader version of their Southern Strategy. They are able to place any controversial identity on to their opposition that they choose.

I guess I'm bothered that there's some need to see both sides as equally to blame. I don't know if I'm right but I don't see it quite that way.

Debates around 'white privilege' and the rest have nothing to do with the issues that should be front and center in an election. It didn't come out of the Democratic Party, it came from voters who mostly identify as non-conservativ e.

I don't know if a 3rd Party is a solution, I'd certainly embrace it. I see Sanders as a good model for the future. Challenging the Democratic establishment. He was able to focus on the issues and voters responded.

Democrats use identity politics as a distraction but I don't believe it's exactly like the Republican's Southern Strategy, a long-term plan of divisiveness. It's because they have no solutions to the static state they're in. This isn't an effort to deflect from their faults, it's acknowledgment of the power that long-term conservative strategy has had over the whole system. Something that needs to be seen if we hope to move beyond it.
+14 # Kootenay Coyote 2016-11-28 16:56
'It's simply more of the march from conservatism to conservative extremism to fascism.'

& that's not a long march, either.
+15 # Salburger 2016-11-28 12:42
Let's all just sign up for the list. When it gets too long it will become useless. I'll be happy to go 1st.
+8 # boomerjim 2016-11-28 12:50
I wanted to sign up as a "liberal professor," but unfortunately I didn't seem to qualify because I don't act in a biased manner against conservative students. ;-)

So, I guess I'll just go on mentoring my conservative, Trump-supportin g doctoral students as he finishes his dissertation.
+4 # kyzipster 2016-11-28 13:42
I hope that most professors have your attitude but I'm afraid that some conservatives see bias when the tyrannical side of Lincoln is not given equal attention, the oppressor of the South. Not only was slavery not one of the main reasons for the Civil War, it had nothing to do with it. I do not exaggerate, I had this conversation recently with a conservative. He was armed with some impressive talking points to counter my liberal bias that came out of the public school system. He actually said that.

Ayn Rand mocked as a delusional hack, at least they hear it as mocking. Perhaps any depiction of Reagan other than perfect and saintly could mark a professor for the concentration camp in a decade or two.

They've developed their own history, 'science', religion, etc. Now universities are seen as liberally biased against their worldview, indoctrinating the masses. Much of their worldview has become radically opposed to reality. The last bastion of reason and we may lose it just as we lost the media and the Democratic Party.
+4 # PCPrincess 2016-11-28 16:28
If, I'm correct, you jokingly added 'he' because, you only have but ONE Trump supporting doctoral student. If that is true, then I am indeed chuckling. Good one.
+7 # Kootenay Coyote 2016-11-28 16:55
‘…before American conservatism reaches a point from which there is no turning back.’
Supposing it isn’t at that point already….
+6 # elkingo 2016-11-28 17:08
"Enlightened to free-market values" shows how molten hot fascism may pour into the tiniest cranny in the middle of a phrase. Why? Because what it says is: TO BE ENLIGHTENED IS TO PROPOUND (OR COME TO PROPOUND) FREE MARKET VALUES. This coy sophistry is a level of "newspeak" even Orwell never thought of. And the website project reflects "thought police" "Big Brother" total surveillance and "newspeak" in its "justification".

But author Schuman: "Why not, for example, a site that indexes classroom bias by incident and date, instead of by the professor’s name?" Bad. I also endorse free speech, but don't give these asshole even that much of a break. This is not inconceivably the lip curl of a great wave of recidivist fascism breaking in this country and the world.

Any such supervision is a "hit list".

Then again, The southern Poverty Law Center tracks hate groups, so why not us? And little Captain Kirk's website is an invasion of privaCY, suggesting libel and slander.

Keep up the good work. And (re)read Orwell and Marcuse.
+2 # lfeuille 2016-11-28 19:30
The "liberal professors" should respond in kind with a list of fascist leaning academics. I'm sure they know who they are.
+9 # elizabethblock 2016-11-28 20:32
The Zionists have been doing this for years, with CampusWatch, where they target professors who are insufficiently supportive of Israel.

Some time ago I was in email contact with one of them (Steven Rosen??? can't remember) who told me that there are lots of professors who have suffered in their academic careers because they are PRO-Israel. I asked him to name a few. He said he couldn't think of any off the top of his head, but I should check out CampusWatch.
I did. I also asked some people like Norman Finkelstein, who are in a position to know, if any professors have lost their jobs for being pro-Israel. Nope. Lots have, including Finkelstein himself, for criticizing Israel.

Why are we surprised that this phenomenon has spread to other fields of study?
+4 # Femihumanist 2016-11-28 21:37
I once found myself on a SHIT List (Self-Hating Israel Threatening Jews) on the web with 7500 other people. Until the site was shut down, it was a badge of honor.

My husband thought it would make a great party invitation list. A friend thought it wasn't "fair" that I was on it and she wasn't. She asked how to get on. I had no idea. Another friend was on there, along with about 100 others, whose photos and full biographies were listed. (All they had for me was my name.) I believe she was on the "HIT" part of the list.

Anyway, there was no reason to "fight back", argue or start a list of the "others." The honor was all ours.
+1 # Majikman 2016-11-28 22:51
LOVE IT!!! Turning what they think is a slur and a threat into a badge of honor is precisely the way to defeat them. They can't survive being laughed at and being shown for the fools that they are. Watch how orange cone head comes unglued when he's laughed at.
+1 # mashiguo 2016-11-29 07:53
It may work for you, but it won't work for them.
Humor is a function of the intellect, and they are a notoriously anti-intellectu al bunch. Disrespect of any kind only inflames them.
To paraphrase, don't go to a gunfight with shallow mocking.
+4 # mashiguo 2016-11-29 07:56
"The intention, he said, is not to threaten or harm the professors..."

No worries, there's always a Dylan Roof wannabe waiting in the wings.
It'll get done.
+1 # CTPatriot 2016-11-30 04:09
Looks to me like a prime example of stochastic terrorism. Right wing authoritarians are so very good at that.

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