July 8, 2006

"I predict that the controlled demolition of our corrupt two-party system by the 9/11 truth movement may begin here in Wisconsin this fall..."

9/11 denialist Kevin Barrett writes a letter to Governor Doyle after Doyle, who's running for reelection, yields to what Barrett calls "political pressure from your right flank."

This is a little political drama being played out in my state, but I note a more general problem mainstream Democrats face setting themselves apart from lunatics these days. The Republicans have some similar problems, chiefly keeping religious fundamentalists from weighing them down. Doyle is doing exactly what serious candidates need to do to appeal to ordinary voters.


Dave said...

Denialist? Or revisionist?

Is he denying that the towers were ever destroyed, or is he claiming that they were destroyed by a secret government plot?

There's a difference between Holocaust deniers and Holocaust revisionists.

TWM said...

What is the difference? I mean, how would a Holocaust revisionist revise it and not be to some degree a denier? Or is this getting us off topic?

Beth said...

Is Barrett a Democrat? He sounds like he's outside of the two-party system. I see no reason for Democrats to have to purge him, as he's not likely one of their own.

This topic reminded me of a similar dustup at my university. We have a tenured economics professor who is involved in a movement of people, some of them academics, who argue that intelligence is race-based. Their rhetoric is right out of turn of the century (19th to 20th) eugenics movements, right down to measuring skulls and facial features. He's tenured, so he's not going anywhere. I'd hoped our post-Katrina cuts might do away with him, but I haven't seen his name on the list of departing faculty.

bearbee said...

Is he denying that the towers were ever destroyed, or is he claiming that they were destroyed by a secret government plot?

You can listen to the 4 part podcasts . See right hand side. In Part 1 he says 11 of 19 of those said to have flown the planes are still alive.

He mentions a Project for a New American Century memo Rebuilding American Defenses and says it "calls for a new Pearl Harbor" and for wars in the Middle East. I confess to not having read the 90 pages but did read the "Pearl Harbor" paragraphs - on pages 63 and 79. Nothing approached "calls for a new Pearl Harbor". I should read the whole of it to get the full context.......

The Drill SGT said...


Wacko's cover the full political spectrum. However, I will postulate that the majority "9/11 was a terrorist plot by Bush/Rove/CIA" types self identify on the left flank of the democratic party. Yes, you'll be able to find a couple of Aryan survivalists in Montana or Idaho that identify as radial libertarians and who think the CIA did it (cuz the rag heads aren't smart enough) but the bulk of the 9/11 wackos started as Dems.

Pick another conspiracy and the center of it might be off on the right of the GOP (e.g. "Clinton took bribes from Marc Rich in return for a pardon")

There is a continuum of People trailing off to the left, including Murtha, Sheehan, etc that ultimately, gets too far wacko to be considered sane, much less Democrat.

But the Democrats have this problem. They need to draw some distinction between the "hate America crowd" and the "we think America is on the wrong track" meme.

They haven't had the balls to do it thus far. And you can only claim the big tent theory so long, especially if you are willing to purge on the right of the party (e.g. Lieberman). People begin to ask about the other side as well.

Simon said...

The story says:
"In the letter to Doyle, Barrett acknowledged the governor's previous criticism: 'You apparently believe that I am incapable of performing well as an instructor of Islam 370 because I am convinced that the 9/11 Commission Report is a farcical coverup and that overwhelming evidence suggests top U.S. officials were complicit in the attacks of September 11th, 2001.'"

See, there's the persecution complex. Nobody is saying that he is incapable because he belives this whacked out nonsense; they are saying he is incapable because he proposes not only to teach it in a class, but to teach it in a class where it is utterly non-germane to the subject matter of the class.

Imagine if your lawyer was insisting he would close his argument in a major copyright infringement trial by talking about the Wookie Chewbacca, something totally irrelevant to the case. If you fired him for his insistence on mounting an inappropriate defense, how much credibility would he have if he dashed off an angry letter to the local worthless rag saying that "my former client fired me because he apparently believes that I am incapable of performing well as a defense attorney because I am convinced that Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made, and a jury will agree with me"?

BTW, look at the picture of him. Could you ask for a face more representative of the conservative stereotype of beirded lefty weirdos? Has anyone seriously considered the possibility that this could actually be a parody, an attempt to discredit liberals and U-Wisc by reductio ad absurdum?

Faeless said...

Is it really true that believing that there was some sort of quid pro quid between the Clintons and the Richs for his pardon is equivilant to claiming the government blew up the WTC?

I wouldn't think so.

There are other more contextually appropiate conspiracy theories of the Clinton admin, like the Mena drug running.

Maybe "Marc Rich bribes Clinton for pardon" is to the Republicans as "Cheney leaked Plame's cia status" is to the Democrats would be more appropiate.

We must have some sort of weighing system for analysing various conspiracy theories ;)

Anonymous said...

Drill SGT, Isn't it a fact that Denise Rich made large contributions to the Clinton Library?

Faeless said...

Talking about 9/11 in Islamic Studies class isn't utter non-germane I think.

From the outside looking in, most of these various "studies" programs appear to be merely recitations of greivances, i.e African studies is primarily about slavery and colonization, Asian Studies about the Opium trade and colonization. Hispanic studies, about interference in Latin America by the US and US corporations. Native American studies about the "genocide" of the native americans. Women's Studies about oppression of the patriarchy.

We should properly call them Grievance Studies to understand what they are.

ben wallace said...

I suspect the real Kevin Barrett was killed by the CIA or foreign terrorist groups in 2004 or 2005, shortly after defending his dissertation. The original Barrett mentioned the possibility of a conspiracy at a bar a couple of times in early 2002; such ramblings are how the CIA targets people for "replacement." What they do is find a left-leaning critic of the government and replace them with a plant who can uleash political controvery at will. There are actually undercover agents in all 50 states who can be activated at any time. In this case, the operative ("Kevin Barrett") was activated to help the Republicans continue to control the WI state legislature. control of the state legislatures is obviously necessary to ensure the Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage is successful. The next step of the plan is to activate the conspiracy theorists in Oregon. This will inevitably lead to the universities supporting the conspiracy theorists, thus providing a platform for Republicans to galvanize control of the Oregon state legislature.

And the reason why terrorists are working with the CIA on this is because a Republican-dominated US will continue the "war on terror," thereby giving them a focal point for recruiting new members.

Randy said...

Careful, Ben, someone might believe you and you'll end up leading an organization of 1,000's, groupies and non-stop media attention. ;-)

I don't see what else Doyle could do or say after receiving that letter. If he ignored it, someone would eventually find out about it, and it just wouldn't do for it to be exposed a couple of days before the election.

For UW, this is fast becoming a lose/lose situation (if it already wasn't) no matter what they do. For Kevin Barrett, it is win/win - lots of attention and free publicity beyond his wildest dreams, and money coming into his non-profit, too.

For the students? Remember them? They already lost. If Barrett stays, the class will be a circus. If he doesn't, there's no class. It is too bad whoever did the hiring didn't do their homework.

stoqboy said...

It doesn't have to be lose/lose. UW can allow him to teach a class, but call it something like Critical Study of WTC Collapse. Get somebody else to teach Intro to Islam - win for the students, win for Barret, less embarassment for UW.

ben wallace said...

But Ronin, the controversy would be so funny! Imagine the great debate. Kevin Barrett explains the conspiracy logic and we respond by explaining why this guy is not even the real Kevin Barrett. I agree though that the students are the ones who will be hurt by this because this controversy will probably alter how Barrett teaches the course both because he will become more entrenched in his position and because students coming into the course will probably include some students who want to fight with him and others who are sympathizers, so the whole thing will become a mess.

The Drill SGT said...

Faeless and Brylin,

relax. I might even be a card carrying member of the Rich/Clinton conspiracy theory believers

I didn't say it was of equivalent wackiness to Bush/rove/CIA 9/11. I just said that most of Rich/Clinton believers were on the right side of the spectrum.

I couldn't come up with a far right current theory. after all fluoridation went out with the Birch society and DR Strangelove.


The class isn't precisely Islamic studies. Here is the course description. I don't see any hook for contemporary Islamic geo-political theories in it. Particularly if the theory is that Muslims didn't do 9/11.

370 Islam: Religion and Culture. (Crosslisted with African, Relig St) I; 4 cr (H-I). The emergence and development of Islam; schism; theology; asceticism; speculative and popular mysticism; literatures in diverse Islamic languages. P: Open to Fr.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth said..."Is Barrett a Democrat?"

No, but he's pressuring Doyle, who is a Democrat, and Doyle needs to figure out how to not get tarred by him, because Doyle's opponent, Green, a Republican, has taken a strong stand here. Clearly, Barrett is a man of the left. Whether lefties act as if they are part of the Democratic party or not, they pose a problem for Democrats, and it is a very real problem these days. Republicans try to associate Democrats with such people. I'm not doing that. I'm being supportive of Doyle as he tries to prevent them from creating this merger in the public mind.

Randy said...

Ben, I think you are on to something here. We could tag-team him, and then go on a highly paid lecture tour of college campuses to spread the truth about nefarious plans of the CIA & GOP. We'd could toss in a few links to the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) for additional conspiracy prestige points. I draw the line, however, on alleging that he is really an alien recruited from Roswell, unless there are really big bucks in it for our non-profit [wink][wink] foundation.

ben wallace said...

Barrett has some funny responses:


ben wallace said...

Ronin, the alien theory can be a backup plan we could use when the mass public gets bored with the other stuff! The government would keep the shapeshifters they found for just this type of situation...

Danny said...

9/11 and the period that followed should most definitely be covered in the class, which is why Barrett would be such a terrible instructor. The letter to Governor Doyle makes it clear that his passion for teaching is completely overshadowed by his need to indoctrinate tuition-paying students into supporting his "controlled destruction" or whatever. If Barrett is capable of teaching a course on Islam, perhaps Scanner Dan should make a good Women's Studies 101 professor and Tunnel Bob could lead a course in Civil Engineering. The Snake Guy could teach Wildlife Management and Pat McCurdy can teach Music. I'm glad Doyle/Lawton are actively questioning his credentials (without the witch-hunt tone Barret is begging for); this issue should be Wisconsin vs. Barret not Republican vs. Democrat.

Randy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Randy said...

Good point, Ben! We'll need legal counsel, of course. Lots of it, undoubtedly. Are you a lawyer yourself, by any chance? Or do you think we could entice the good professor to join our conspir.. {ahem} organization?

Seriously, while those two letters you posted links to are funny, I think they also cook his goose. His contract with the university probably has a clause stating that he agrees to do nothing to cause harm to the unviersity or its reputation (or something along those lines). As a lowly volunteer for the University of California, I had to sign a voluminous agreement with paragraph after paragraph of prohibited behaviors and escape clauses beneficial to the university. The strangest one was that I, as a volunteer, had to agree to actively engage in affirmative action while answering people's questions about their dying lawns, wilting plants, and bug-ridden trees.

NDC said...


Have you seen the Southpark in which Johnny Cochran uses the Chewbacca defense for Chef?

In general, it seems to me that if public universities are interested in continued public tax support, then colleges need to do a better job of keeping extremists of all stripes out of the public eye.

The worst case scenerio reaction, in my opinion, is not that the politicians will demand particular people be fired or prevented from teaching certain courses; it's that they will severely cut university funding as "punishment."

Ann Althouse said...

Danny: LOL. How I pity the nonMadisonians who don't get the references. People, we here in Madison know every single person he's referencing.

ben wallace said...

Hey ronin, I'm on the phd side of things but I know some people who would give us the necessary legal cover! There does seem to be ample reason that the LCA department has to void any contract signed with Barrett. I don't think lecturers have any protection under the faculty or TAA collective bargaining agreements. LCA has all the authority they would need to void the contract; Farrell and the adminstration will bounce it back to the department. Who knows what they will do, but if they do keep him, then LCA should be the target of criticsm.

The Drill SGT said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Randy said...

Ben, a couple of things that people have mentioned that I am not quite clear on (because I'm lazy) that you might know the answer to:

1) IIRC, Barrett is only a temporary hire anyway because someone went on sabbatical. Is that your understanding?

2) You or someone else said "LCA is in receivership." What does that mean?

3) IIRC, from my experiences at the UC, departments do the regular hiring and the admin. is pretty much a rubber stamp, like the Queen in England. It would have to be an obviously disastrous choice for the admin. to veto a selection. (I'm not talking about this specific case here, just in general.) I'm curious how the UW hiring process usually works.

The Drill SGT said...

Ben and Ann,

is part of the apparent departmental incompetence that we perceive in the Barrett hire due to the fact that this class and perhaps hire is interdepartmental across:

African Languages and Literature
Religious Studies
Languages and Cultures of Asia

My understanding is that these joint appointments don't get the clear buy in that internal hires do?

ben wallace said...

Ronin, you have it pretty much right here as well. Drill Sgt also recognizes that the problem is in part due to the fact there is no real discinplinary department doing the hiring.

Here is what I have heard. Barrett is a replacement for Muhammed Memon, who has a sabbatical to finish a book (which will be published on the press he runs); Memon would normally teach the course. Barrett is on a lecturership position, which only requires that the position is published in the UW jobs listing. These positions can be filled by the chair or associate chair of the department subject to the approval of South Hall (which is usually ensured unless the person has not lectured for too many semesters in a row). If someone is hired as a lecturer for a number of semesters, then there are some rules similar to tenure that begin to apply, but it remains easy for a department to not renew the instructor even if they have been hired for several semesters. Receivership means that the department faculty essentially lose the authority to decide new tenure track hires for the department (Barrett is not tenure track, so there is no strong constraint on hiring him). This is often a good thing. For example, the NYU department of political science went under receivership several years ago, and the department ranking jumped from about 50th to about 10th. The differnce with NYU was that they had huge money, while LCA will continue to have limited funding. That is one reason why they rely so much on lecturers.

When it comes down to it, if you want to lecture for a course here at UW, you send in your CV to the department for the advertised position. The chair of a department will consider current graduate students first. If there are no current graduate students, then the hire usually goes to someone who has a PHD in hand over people who have not yet completed the dissertation. Once the department chair decides on the hire, there is no real resistance from the administration (South Hall). Pay of course is low, so there are often few candidates who are really good (but most are competent).

Palladian said...

Ann, thanks to the power of the web, we can all become instant Madisonians: Scanner Dan, Tunnel Bob, Snake Guy (courtesy your son, who holds the top rank on Google for "snake guy Madison" searches), Pat McCurdy.

It's weird, almost every college town has these same characters. I'm trying to think of the New Haven equivalents from my days there... Well, New Haven is a less colorful place than most college towns.

Anonymous said...

Scanner Dan

Tunnel Bob

Snake Guy

Pat McCurdy

Anonymous said...

Palladian, Great minds think alike - and we both have way too much time tonight!

Beth said...

Ann, thanks; I hadn't known Doyle's affiliation.

I suspect Barrett wouldn't be such a problem in my state, which is why I asked. The Democrats here are much more toward the center/right than I would guess they are in Wisconsin. Our governor would have already scored some political points off this guy by now, and no one in the GOP would have much luck trying to stick her with his rhetoric.

I can't think of a public university in this state that would have approved his syllabus, and with him being an adjunct, I doubt there'd be much debate about canning him, or insisting he stick to a departmental syllabus.

magemom said...

Frankly, I wonder about UW's ability to recruit someone qualified to teach the class. About 4 years ago, I took Memon's class as an undergrad, w/ Barrett as TA. It was far and away the worst class I ever had at UW. Not just b/c Memon/Barrett inserted their personal opinions into the class, or b/c there were people in the class who were already determined to hate the class no matter what was said, or that every lecture turned into an argument b/c Memon/Barrett and said students. No, the class was just awful b/c it was poorly taught. The lectures were rambling and disorganized, there was zero time management, and the tests bore no resemblence whatsoever to either the written material or the lectures.

Honestly, I am blown away to learn that both Memon and Barrett are still at UW. I will be interested to learn what the UW decides after reviewing Barrett's past evaluations.

This course is hugely relevant and addresses some very sensitive material. Why is it being left to people like this?

Jennifer said...

Palladian - Yes, all college towns have these characters. Well, probably all towns do. Maybe its only in college towns that they achieve some celebrity.

At the University of Oregon, we had Frog and his handwritten joke books for sale. The silver man, living statue. And, bless him, but I can't find him, the-guy-that-rollerbladed-around-shrouded-in-a-giant-hot-pink-spandex-condom.

Anonymous said...

I don't remember the names of the crazy characters of my college town, but I remember there was this one guy, just a drunk bum really, but the mythology was that he wrote the song Hang On Sloopy. I believe this was true because he himself never said it. But then again, he never really said anything. He was almost incapable of speech. But he was always there, outside of bars and clubs, drunk. He was a disgusting character but peaceful and people were always respectful toward him because he was the guy who wrote Hang On Sloopy.

Paco Wové said...


"Receivership means that the department faculty essentially lose the authority to decide new tenure track hires for the department..."

So, 'receivership' sounds like a punitive action, or a least a severely remedial one. What does this say about the department in general? (And what does 'LCA' stand for?)

bearbee said...

Provost’s statement regarding lecturer Kevin Barrett
June 29, 2006
University of Wisconsin-Madison Provost Patrick Farrell issued the following statement in regard to radio talk show statements made Wednesday, June 28, by Kevin Barrett, who is scheduled to teach a class this fall in the department of languages and cultures of Asia:

"Mr. Barrett's statements regarding the events of Sept. 11 have raised some legitimate concerns about the content and quality of instruction in his planned fall course, 'Islam: Religion and Culture.'

"My office, along with officials in the College of Letters and Science and his department, will immediately undertake a review of his plans for teaching this course and his past teaching performance. We plan to meet with Mr. Barrett to discuss those plans, review his syllabus, his reading list and examine past supervisor and student evaluations. We expect to complete this process within 10 working days.

"Mr. Barrett is entitled to his own personal political views. But we also have an obligation to ensure that his course content is academically appropriate, of high quality, and that his personal views are not imposed on his students."

Barrett has accepted a one-semester appointment as an associate lecturer beginning on Aug. 28. This is a 50 percent appointment that has a salary of $8,247. Barrett received his Ph.D. from UW-Madison in 2004 in African languages and literature and folklore, and has taught only one other course since that time at UW-Madison. This fall would be the first time Mr. Barrett taught a course on Islam at UW-Madison.

Is the salary a reflection of his competence?

LCA = Languages and Cultures of Asia (I had to look it up)

bearbee said...

UW instructor controversial
A University of Wisconsin instructor under fire for his view that the U.S. government orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks said Thursday he was confident he would keep his job.

Kevin Barrett also said he was elated the controversy has given his cause long-sought publicity.

"If these idiots had just kept their mouths shut, nobody would have ever heard of me," Barrett said of his critics. "I've been trying to get publicity for years."

Barrett, active in a group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth, is among a small group that believes the attacks were carried out by U.S. government officials, not al-Qaida terrorists. He came under fire after he spoke on a Wisconsin talk show and acknowledged he presented the theory to his students in the past.

After the appearance, UW-Madison Provost Patrick Farrell launched a review into Barrett's past performance and whether the content of the course on Islam he is scheduled to teach this fall is appropriate.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green demanded on Thursday that Barrett be fired for his views before he speaks today at a forum on social justice at UW-Milwaukee.

Well he made the Chicago Tribune

Ann Althouse said...

Bearbee: That's typical of the way adjunct professors are paid. Presumably, it is worth it for one's reputation to work at a university at such low pay. For example, in the law school, practicing lawyers might teach a course. Clearly, they are not doing it for the money.

Qisht said...

Receivership means the same thing in academia that it means in the financial world. When a firm goes bankrupt - usually the bank takes over operation of the firm as the firm's owners have displayed extraordinary mismanagement.
In academia receivership is the ultimate sign of a bad department. Departments can't really go bankrupt - so receivership is the university equivalent. Essentially it means that the department has displayed such poor performance over an extended period of time that outsiders have to come in and take it over.
I think that LCA has been in receivership for a year illustrates how bad the department is and goes a long way in explaining the hiring of Barrett.
While disagreeing completely with Barrett, I still support his freedom to teach the course as he wants to. It is the department's decision to decide whether he is fulfilling his obligations. I think its a travesty of the rule of law for the state legislature to try to pass a resolution pointing out any one individual. That's called a tyranny and we should be ashamed of that.
The relevant point is that Barrett doesn't seem very competent in general. His department should be examining his work - but because the department is under receivership they obviously aren't a good place to turn for guidance.
The departments status I think goes a long way to understanding the Barrett situation. LCA has been rendered incompetent by the university long before this Barrett sitaution came into play - and i'm sure they are taking that into account. What I am unsure of is whether the decision to hire Barrett came before or after the department fell into this status.

John in Nashville said...

"The Republicans have some . . . problems, chiefly keeping religious fundamentalists from weighing them down."

Which Republicans even attempt to do that? The Cheerleader-in-chief? Karl Rove? Bill Frist? [p]Rick Santorum?

Beth said...

Presumably, it is worth it for one's reputation to work at a university at such low pay.

Wow. For those of us who labor in the many undistinguished state institutions, the figure quoted for Barrett is not low pay. Presumably, if $8247 is a 50% appointment, an adjunct teaching two courses would make nearly $16497 a semester. Our adjuncts make less than half that, and in fact, our full-time, non-tenured faculty make quite a bit less, as well.

Beth said...

Make that $16594, please. I'm proficient in math, but I type poorly.

ben wallace said...

The Provost cleared Barrett to teach:


Randy said...

Ben: Thanks for posting that. For the sake of the students, and the reputation of the university, I hope they are correct about what will happen in that class. While I remain skeptical, as they have investigated the issue and bear ultimate responsiblity for the result, I must respect that decision and await that result. Under the circumstances, their courage is admirable.