U.S. Intellectual History Blog

URI Issues a New Statement on Loomis

This is just a quick follow-up to my post on Erik Loomis from last week. The President of URI issued another statement today, responding in part to criticisms of his earlier statement:

Over the past several days we have heard from many individuals concerning statements made or repeated by Professor Erik Loomis. Many writers forcefully expressed serious concern about his statements and many others expressed very strong support for Professor Loomis, especially in regard to his First Amendment right to share his personal opinions. In the statements at issue, Professor Loomis did not make it clear that he was speaking solely as an individual, and that the views he expressed were his alone and did not reflect the views of the University of Rhode Island. This was the rationale for our original statement.
The University of Rhode Island strongly believes that Constitutionally protected rights to free expression are the foundation of American democracy, and central to our mission of imparting knowledge and promoting the exchange of ideas. It is our conviction that Professor Loomis’s personal remarks, however intemperate and inflammatory they may be, are protected by the First Amendment, as are the views of those who have contacted us in recent days.
David M. Dooley, Ph.D.
University of Rhode Island

You can head over to Crooked Timber for a thorough discussion of whether or not this constitutes a victory for those of us who were concerned about the tone and content of President Dooley’s first statement on this matter (I’m inclined to see this glass as half-full rather than half-empty, for whatever it’s worth).

4 Thoughts on this Post

  1. FTR, Loomis’ “conservative critics” are more laughing at the hypocrisy of him and his defenders. Let Coulter or Limbaugh cross the line of civility and the mob wants their scalps. Let Loomis do it and he gets 1000 of the same people signing a letter of support.

    Glenn Reynolds’ tweak on “eliminationist rhetoric” is likely directed at this mook, who achieved some level of notoriety making mountains of right-wing molehills.

    Prof. Loomis crudely personalizing the Newtown tragedy @ Wayne LaPierre and the NRA is, in many eyes, hardly an impressive public intellectualism, and so the reaction here is more a rolling of the eyes than any genuine outrage. On the Lefty Twitmeter, it’s about a 2.

  2. I’m afraid, Tom, the record shows much beyond an elaborate conservative attempt to scream “tu quoque.” Loomis received death threats, a visit from the Rhode Island State Police, questions about his scholarship, calls for his firing, and a statement from his institution’s president absurdly echoing all these things. The letters of support for Loomis concerned these potential threats to his employment, not your imagined meta debate over civility.

    As for that “tu quoque”: Reynolds has been obsessed with Dave Neiwart’s concerns about “eliminationist rhetoric” for years. Two things to note about this: Neiwart doesn’t speak for all liberals, let alone Erik Loomis in particular. And the kind of talk that Neiwart is concerned about doesn’t involve heads on sticks or other obviously metaphorical acts of violence. For whatever it’s worth, here‘s an example of Neiwart’s stuff on “eliminationist rhetoric.” Again, I link not to endorse it at all, but merely to point out that the stuff he’s talking about is rather different from Loomis’s statements (and is also not quite the same as calls for “civility,” though that’s truly another question).

    Needless to say, all of this has nothing whatsoever to do with the responsibility that the NRA or Wayne LaPierre might hold for the current state of our gun laws and, by extension, the Newtown massacre. One can hold LaPierre partly accountable for the shooting without any violent rhetoric whatsoever. As Loomis later noted, his failure to do this created a distraction to what should have been a reasoned discussion about LaPierre’s and his organization’s culpability. About the need for such a conversation–and the distraction–I completely agree with Loomis. It seems, however, that by opening his mouth last Friday, LaPierre has himself restarted this conversation.

  3. Two things to note about this: Neiwart doesn’t speak for all liberals, let alone Erik Loomis in particular.

    Neither do the death threats, etc. [who doesn’t get “death threats” these days?] speak for all conservatives. Again, the criticism is fishing the bottom of the other side while avoiding one’s own.

    One can hold LaPierre partly accountable for the shooting without any violent rhetoric whatsoever.

    With his head on the stick? I too find Loomis as “public intellectual” here more comparable to the pie throwers who make it impossible for Ann Coulter to visit a college campus without bodyguards.

    As for Mr. Neiwart, “eliminationist rhetoric” is the sort of fatuous nonsense that I doubt is taken seriously inside his ideological bubble, let alone in the real world.

  4. 1. Nobody on the planet took Eric Loomis’ remark as a call to literally put Wayne Lapierre’s head on a stick.

    2. No single group of professional people is quite as cowardly as college administrators. Male prostitutes have considerably more self respect than the average dean. Not that that’s news.

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