Oh my god. Brian Leiter has gone completely insane, like his idol Friedrich Nietzsche. (Does he idolize Nietzsche because he identifies with him?) Read this. Leiter has written thousands of words about me in his taxpayer-supported blog during the past several years, including as late as 10 months ago. (Can you say "obsession"?) Most of what he has written is false; all of it is intended to harm me. He "quotes" people without attribution or identification, which is convenient for him, since it prevents me from filling in the rest of the story. (Remember: There are always two sides to every story. Leiter gives you the most distorted version of one side.) Something is terribly wrong with him. Why does he even waste his valuable time on a nothing like me? He's a Big Important Man (at least in his own mind), with things to do, places to go, and people to see. Why do I bother him so much? Is it because I have the temerity to stand up to him? Is it because I inform others of his thuggish and shameful behavior? (My blog—Brian Leiter, Academic Thug—comes up on the first page of a Google search of Leiter's name, which obviously drives him wild, since he can't control it the way he controls, e.g., his Wikipedia page.) Is it because I have figured out his game, which is to aggrandize himself at the expense of others? Many people have observed how fragile Leiter's ego is. (I believe he suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder.) He simply cannot take criticism. He flies into a vindictive rage at the mere thought that someone out there (especially in academia) doesn't idolize him. Instead of responding to the criticism, he attacks the critic personally, with the objective of destroying his or her reputation. (This is called "delegitimization"; it is Leiter's modus operandi.) I feel sorry for Leiter, as well as for anyone who must associate with him. What a sad, twisted, paranoid little man he is. I hope he gets professional help for his mental illness. If his colleagues care about him, they will insist on it. If he refuses to get help, someone (his dean? his wife? his parents or siblings?) should start institutionalization proceedings.
Addendum: Yale University law professor Jules Coleman, who was my teacher, and who knows Leiter well, got it right when he described Leiter as "complicated." Indeed. University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse is more blunt; she calls Leiter a "jackass."
Addendum 2: Lest you think that I am the only philosopher Leiter has abused, read this. Notice the techniques Leiter uses to evade responsibility for his actions, such as blaming his environment. (How convenient!) Notice the sheer viciousness of his treatment of a prominent philosopher, whose only "crime" was to criticize Leiter's rankings of graduate programs. Notice the self-delusion, the portrayal of himself as a victim (that one takes the cake), and the projection. I expect another round of attacks on me when Leiter reads this post. I also expect hate mail from his legion of sycophants. The hate mail will be anonymous, of course. Idolizing Leiter and being a coward go hand in hand.
Addendum 3: Here is a National Review article about Leiter's thuggishness. You will not be surprised to learn that, as soon as he saw it, Leiter personally attacked the author. It's what he does; it's what he knows; it's how he works. Here is Leiter's attack on philosopher Francis Beckwith, who is as decent a human being as you will meet. Beckwith's "crime" is disagreeing with Leiter about the propriety of criticizing Darwinism in public high schools. (I think Beckwith's real crime is believing in God. Leiter hates theists, and Christians in particular. He has a special antipathy for philosophers who are theists.)
Addendum 4: Ultimately, the best way to deal with Leiter is to make fun of him. He is a buffoon. I call him the Clown Prince of the Academy. Few dare to laugh at him openly, for fear of retaliation (a fear that, as you can see from his many defamatory attacks, is well grounded), but many, I know for a fact, laugh at him. Here is "The Original Leiter Reports." Can't you just see fat little Brian, desperate for attention, ranking his classmates as a way of getting back at them for ignoring or making fun of him?
Addendum 5: Here is a letter I received from a professor of philosophy:
Dear Prof. Burgess-Jackson,
As the victim of (alas, alas) clear calumny at the hands of Brian Leiter, I write to note that I would be happy to add my name as among those he has attacked. . . .
I have heard many, many people say this about Leiter (hence it is odd that he seems to have the support he does at the institutional level that he enjoys, including several academic presses.)
I have received many letters like this over the years. Are you starting to get the picture? What we have, in Leiter, is a vile and disturbed (dare I say dangerous?) human being. That someone of his debauched character can not only survive in academia, but thrive in it, shows how decadent and corrupt academia has become.
Addendum 6: One of the funny things about Leiter is that he repeats what I say, sometimes using the very words I use. When I say, for example, that he tries to destroy people's careers, he replies that I do the same thing. This is a flagrant tu quoque ("you too") fallacy. Even if it were true that I do what he does, it doesn't follow that what he does is acceptable; what follows is that both of us do the same unacceptable thing. So when Leiter commits this fallacy, he is, besides demonstrating his inability to reason correctly, inculpating himself! In fact, I haven't tried to destroy anyone's career. That is merely Leiter's self-interested distortion of what occurred. What I did, in 1994, is inform authorities that someone I knew was violating two criminal laws. This is my duty as a citizen. Would Leiter have kept it secret? When Leiter tries to destroy people's careers, it is done out of malice, so there is no moral comparison between what I did on that one occasion and what he does routinely. By the way, the person who informed Leiter of this incident must still hate me, after more than a dozen years. I would have hoped that she had gotten over me by now.
Addendum 7: Leiter says so many scurrilous and absurd things about me (he is clearly flailing) that I can't resist replying to them seriatim. I must resist the temptation to do so, however, since it would take all day. Let me give just one example of how he distorts things and, in the process, facilitates cowardice (by not naming the person in question). Leiter writes:
As a former friend of Burgess-Jackson's who is now a professional philosopher wrote to me after learning about his hate blog [Note from KBJ: What does that make Leiter's blog?]: "Keith has imaginary grudges against many many people, myself included," adding that Burgess-Jackson "scoured the web in search of information he thought he could use to embarrass me, threatened to blacken my name forever, wrote at least one horrible letter to another philosopher denouncing me as a bad and stupid person and even said horribly unkind things about my children, whom he has never met and about whom he knows nothing. Does it sound familiar?" Alas, it does. "I really am convinced that he is mentally ill," this philosopher concluded, "but I don't see anything to be done about it."
The philosopher in question is Clark Wolf, who teaches at Iowa State University. Clark was a fellow graduate student of mine at the University of Arizona. We were friends for many years, in spite of his incipient totalitarianism (he told me once that he wanted to send "jack-booted thugs" to rich people's houses to take their money). Clark was one of my e-mail correspondents at a time when I appended quotations to my e-mail messages. (This was before blogs.) One day, I quoted Simon Blackburn on some topic I have forgotten. A few days later, Clark sent me a letter that he received from Blackburn. Apparently, Clark wrote to Blackburn after he saw my e-mail quotation to ask whether I was quoting him out of context. Blackburn said (as I recall) that it was arguable that I had, but that he didn't mind. (I have the correspondence, which I will publish on this blog if Clark denies what I am saying.) It was clear to me that Clark was trying to ingratiate himself with Blackburn, at my expense. In modern parlance, he was tossing me under the bus. What Clark didn't realize is that I knew Blackburn. Not well, but we had corresponded. I had written two favorable reviews of Blackburn's books and had helped him with his philosophical dictionary, for which he was grateful. I wrote to Blackburn to complain about Clark's perfidy. Blackburn wrote back to me to say that no harm had been done and that he didn't want to take sides between us. Clark was infuriated by my thwarting of his plans. He knew that I had caught him out and he knew that Blackburn was on to his ingratiating game. He interpreted this as an attempt, by me, to harm his career, when in fact it was nothing more than an attempt to keep my own career from being harmed by someone I thought was my friend. Clark wrote to me to say that I was evil (or words to that effect). I wrote back to say that he should apologize to me for what he did. We have not corresponded since. Evidently, Clark is still bitter after all these years (about 10), perhaps because his career has gone nowhere. (I am his scapegoat. The poor man has delusions of persecution.) He saw that Leiter was abusing me on his blog and decided to pile on. It tells you everything you need to know about Clark Wolf. By the way, I have never said anything publicly about Clark's children. What I did, back when we were friends, is ask him why he was feeding them meat when, in his opinion, it is wrong to eat meat. It was a serious question, one that I myself had grappled with, since I feed my dogs meat. He said that his wife insisted on it. I have the correspondence, Clark, so don't deny it.
Incidentally, I now know who sent the anonymous e-mail to me a couple of weeks ago: the one with the fictitious address firstname.lastname@example.org. It was Leiter. I won't go into details, but the only person who knows the things said in the message is Leiter. Think about it. Leiter, who claims to have a "real life" and a "real job," and who says that he doesn't have time to spend all day blogging (but who maintains several blogs), has time to send anonymous e-mail messages to people he hates, to post trackbacks on blogs where he is criticized, to instigate attacks by his sycophants, and, worst of all, to do things like this. Can you say "creepy"?
A final comment about Clark Wolf. He says in his letter to Leiter that I have "imaginary grudges against many many people." First of all, how would he know such a thing? He doesn't. He's making it up. Second, who holds a grudge? I haven't so much as thought about Clark Wolf for 10 years, whereas he came out of the woodwork to abuse me—anonymously!—a decade after the incident he described. Think about it. Clark Wolf has been nursing a grudge against me for 10 years! One day, he discovers that Brian Leiter hates me and is more than happy to allow people to say terrible things about me on his blog. Finally! Finally Clark Wolf has a chance to get his revenge! But he's not brave enough to do so openly. He's not adult enough to take responsibility for his actions. Either he didn't provide Leiter with his name or (more likely) he asked Leiter not to use his name. What a perfect solution! Clark Wolf gets to release some pent-up bile, thereby making himself feel good, but without anyone knowing that he did so. Please keep this in mind if and when you interact with Clark Wolf. He is a grudge-carrying, friend-betraying, dishonest coward who projects his own moral failings onto others. If you cross him, in any way, at any time, for any reason, he will get back at you. It may take a decade, but he will get back at you.
Addendum 8: While out running a few minutes ago, I had the following thought: What do people who read both Leiter's posts about me and mine about him think? (Leiter has written more words about me than I have about him. Keep that in mind if you're trying to determine which of us is obsessed with the other.) Leiter would have you believe that he is a normal, decent human being, whereas I am a crazy man with a vendetta. I, by contrast, would have you believe that Leiter is a megalomaniacal thug, whereas I am a normal, decent human being (albeit one who has pissed off his share of people). There are three classes: (1) Those who are disposed to like Leiter (or to dislike me). These people are going to believe Leiter, even if there is no evidence to justify such a belief. (2) Those who are disposed to like me (or to dislike Leiter). These people are going to believe me, even if there is no evidence to justify such a belief. But what about the third class of people, namely, (3) those who are not disposed either way (perhaps because they have never heard of either of us)? What will they believe, and on what basis? What should they believe? May I make a suggestion? You (if you're one of these people) have seen the long list of people Leiter has abused; you have seen what he said about them and did to them (if you haven't, take the time to do so before forming an opinion); you have seen what others, including Leiter's professional colleagues, say about him. I didn't make this stuff up. It's out there, on the Internet, accessible to everyone. Most of what Leiter has said about me, by contrast, has come to him privately and is posted by him anonymously. (The people who hide behind a cloak of anonymity are cowards, plain and simple; but academia is filled with cowards. Indeed, it attracts cowards.)
Ask yourself the following question. "What is more likely, given the data: that Leiter is a normal, decent human being, whereas I am a crazy man with a vendetta, or that Leiter is a megalomaniacal thug, whereas I am a normal, decent human being?" This is called inference to the best explanation, or abduction. Leiter wouldn't know what that word means, since he is a philosophical ignoramus. (Leiter says somewhere that he was trained in "ferocious argumentation" at the University of Michigan. Ha! I would replace "ferocious" with "atrocious.") Read everything Leiter has said about me (disregarding or discounting the anonymous "testimony," which, for all we know, was written by Leiter) and everything I and others have said about Leiter. Make up your own mind.
Addendum 9: Let's see how fair-minded Leiter is. As you can see, I linked (in the fourth sentence of this post) to his longest post about me. That's where he hits me with his best shot. I hereby challenge Leiter to link to this post on his blog. Why wouldn't he? Is he afraid that something I say here will adversely affect someone's opinion of him? But why would it, if I'm a crazy man with a vendetta, as he's been saying and implying? Won't my "craziness" be transparent to his readers, especially to those who are disposed to like him or to dislike me? You would think that Leiter would want to link to this post, as a way of saying to his readers, "See what I mean about this guy? He's crazy!" I'm certain that Leiter will not link to this post. Why? Because he knows that a fair-minded reader of his blog (if there are any) will see how he distorts things to make himself look good and his critics bad. They will see what Leiter's professional colleagues say about him and learn the things he has done to others, including vulnerable students and untenured professors. In short, he knows that I'm right about his being a thug. He wants to keep his abusiveness hidden from his readers. That's not just a lack of fair-mindedness; it's a case of intellectual dishonesty. But when have you seen any intellectual honesty emanating from the man?
Addendum 10: There should be an even number of addenda to a post, so let me close with an interesting fact. In his two long posts about me, Leiter has written 6,865 words. The maximum length of a scholarly article in American Philosophical Quarterly is 7,000 words. Keep that in mind the next time you hear him or one of his sycophants say that I'm obsessed with him. I think they have their pronouns switched.