One of the more vocal among them is blogger and UW Law School professor Ann Althouse, who has gone to great and terrible lengths to excuse the alleged behavior, attack the credibility of only the anonymous sources with whom she disagrees, suggest that no arrests (yet) mean no wrongdoing, impugn the honor of Justice Bradley, and cast doubt on the very justice system of this state.What? Emily makes no effort to back up that characterization of me. My posts about the Wisconsin Supreme Court are all collected here. Any fair reader can see that I'm endeavoring to understand the stories that have appeared in the press, critiquing the press, and asking a lot of sensible questions. It's not even fair to call me a "Prosser supporter," let alone assert that I've "gone to great and terrible lengths" to "excuse... attack... [and] impugn" anybody.
Emily Mills' dishonest assertions about me seem to reflect her desperation, her need to believe what she wants to believe, her reflex to plug her ears and go la la la la la. I mean, look at what I actually said.
When Bill Lueders first dropped the allegation that Prosser choked Bradley, I merely noted it and said "Hmmm." My second post linked to the presentation of the story on the lefty blog Think Progress, which was about the ways to oust Prosser from the court. I corrected the blogger (Ian Millhiser) for calling Prosser an "accused criminal" instead of a "person accused of a crime" — which is a point anyone who cares about the rights of the accused ought to find important — and I observed that we lacked the full context. I speculated about who Lueders's sources were and who would have the motivation to go to the press. And, most devastating to Mills's embarrassing statement about me, I said:
But sure. If Justice Prosser committed a criminal attack on another Justice, he shouldn't be on the court, even if he only lashed out after weeks or years of merciless bullying.In fact, if you search through my posts, you'll see that I've consistently said Prosser should resign if he choked Justice Bradley. I said:
I agree with Millhiser that if it's true Prosser reached a breaking point and started strangling Bradley, he should go. I doubt that's true, however, because there was no arrest. That's why we're getting the story in this unsourced, piecemeal form.I'm struggling to figure out what went on. Yes, I do use the evidence of no arrest to suggest that Prosser didn't suddenly snap and launch into a strangling, but that doesn't mean I'm saying "no arrests (yet) mean no wrongdoing." It means — as anyone who reads that post with a calm, clear mind can see — that I'm guessing the situation was complex — and later reports confirm my guess.
That post is updated with a reference to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report citing allegations that Bradley initiated the physical aggression — charging at Prosser with fists raised. Emily Mills deserves to have her own language turned back on her: She has gone to great and terrible lengths to excuse Bradley's alleged behavior and to impugn the honor of Justice Prosser and blah blah blah. It's so easy to be a hot-headed partisan. And so risky! Because you make it so easy for someone to show what you are.
My next post on the subject goes into more detail examining the new material in the Journal Sentinel article. That post, before updates, concludes:
I want to know not only what really happened at the time of the physical contact (if any) between the 2 justices, but also who gave the original story to the press. If Prosser really tried to choke a nonviolent Bradley, he should resign. But if the original account is a trumped-up charge intended to destroy Prosser and obstruct the democratic processes of government in Wisconsin, then whoever sent the report out in that form should be held responsible for what should be recognized as a truly evil attack.I boldfaced another sentence for you, Emily. My first update includes the material that, I think, has touched off panic in the local ideologues:
Everyone who thinks Prosser must to resign if he attacked Bradley ought to say that if Bradley attacked Prosser, she should resign.I was calling for even-handedness and consistency. And that, I think, was what was truly "terrible" to people like Emily Mills. After the burst of enthusiasm that came with Bill Lueders's hit piece on Prosser, there came the horrible realization that the dreaded conservative governor Scott Walker might end up with the power to name a replacement for one of the liberal justices. I pointed that out — in the context of critiquing the decision to give Lueders the ability to break the story the way he did. I was trying to analyze the reasoning and motivation of the Lueders's unnamed sources.
This led to my next piece, analyzing the political reasoning behind Lueders's attack. There, I noted how the Lueders piece inspired lefty bloggers to go all out attacking Prosser in ways that will now — after the Journal Sentinel piece — be used to leverage arguments against Bradley. I repeated my statement "if it's true Prosser reached a breaking point and started strangling Bradley, he should go." And I called for principled consistency (addressing the Think Progress blogger Millhiser):
All right, Mr. Millhiser, I appeal to you. Let's be unanimous about this and show that our political system has not broken down. I agreed with you that if Prosser did what Lueders's story made it seem that he did, Prosser should resign. By your own standard, will you say that if Bradley initiated the physical aggression, running at Prosser with raised fists, that the integrity of our political system demands that there be unanimous calls for Bradley to be removed?This is what's so scary and what — I think — is making these partisan local columnists tear into me. I'm not a pro-Prosser blogger. I'm a law professor blogger, probing with questions about neutral principles, the actual facts, and political interests. Lueders lured lefties into making statements that are now quite inconvenient, and they don't know how to get out of the corner they've written themselves into. Don't lash out at me. That's childish.
I'm asking hard questions that demand thoughtful, careful answers. It's been my job for a quarter of a century as a law professor to frame questions like that. And I'm an expert at seeing when people don't want to answer the questions. Answer the questions, I plead with my students before they take my exams. You can only get credit for answering the questions.
In my next post, I deal with a comment that Lueders left on that previous post, trying to defend himself. I continue to critique him and demand precision about the various assertions and what constitutes spin. The post after that has a similar theme, trying to figure out who Lueders's sources were. Here's another short post, wondering about who had the motivation to go to Lueders.
And that's just about all Emily Mills could have read before lashing out at me. Now, it's possible that she didn't read anything I wrote, because after the paragraph of hers I quoted above, she says:
I won't go into why Althouse's arguments are wrong -- someone has already done a far, far better job of it than I ever could -- but her writings on the matter provide a fairly good overview of what so many Prosser supporters are now arguing.She links to some blogger's long screed about me. Emily, that's quite a confession! That's a far, far better job than you could ever do? How dare you write about me the way you did without going through my writings yourself? Did you check that blogger's work? Are you adopting the poor reading and reasoning as your own? You call me on fairness and you write about me the way you did? Aren't you even afraid for yourself, that you will look like a stupid hack? Aren't you even afraid for your liberal cause, that you have lost the very credibility you will need to defend Justice Bradley (and the Chief Justice) as the facts unfold? You need to show that you are interested in the truth, in principle, and that you will deal with the evidence and the serious questions. Why would you be so careless? It smells like desperation and panic.
I have waited nearly a day to respond to Emily Mills's embarrassing attack on me. Yesterday, Meade went over there to participate in the comments. He wrote:
Shame on you, Emily. You assert and smear without so much as linking to her posts. You fail to cite the passages in which you claim she goes to "great and terrible lengths," "excuses," "attacks" credibility of sources (you happen to want to believe), "suggests," and "impugn[s]." You do this without linking or citing the specific words and sentences you want your readers to believe are objectionable. All because, what, because you say so?Although Mills responded within 2 hours to the previous commenter, she has not responded to Meade, and more than 13 hours have passed. I was hoping Meade's relatively gentle push-back would have been sufficient. I don't really like slamming a young writer who could do much better. Even when I have been attacked, I don't like it. Because I feel like a teacher. I'm not a political ideologue. I don't even care that much about politics. I care about truth and the ability of human beings to reason and to interact with each other.
And then you dish off the dirty work of trying to substantiate your charges to a verbose blogger whose only argument in smearing Ann Althouse relies on the notion that Justice Bradley was in fact choked - a fact that is still in dispute.
I've seen you do better, Emily.
And I generally choose not to draw attention to attacks on me. But the statement that Emily Mills made about me simply cannot be allowed to sit there festering on the website of a newspaper — Isthmus — that is widely read in my town.
It's too much like the attack from Bill Wineke that I felt I had to respond to yesterday. Both writers are attacking me as a law professor at the University of Wisconsin. I think they would like to destroy my reputation in this town, where they so casually assume the benefits of inclusion in what is a political majority here. I think they carelessly and lazily believe that local readers will eat up the sloppy attacks they're serving, because local readers agree with their political ends.
As they rush at me from across town shaking their balled-up fists in my face, I feel I must extend my fingers in self-defense, and type out an exposé of their shoddy work for a larger audience.
CORRECTION: The writer of the column "Emily's Post" isn't "Emily Post." It's Emily Mills. I've corrected all the mistaken references to "Emily Post."