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RAY CARNEY HAS RECEIVED HUNDREDS OF RESPONSES -- FROM ARTISTS, FACULTY, STUDENTS, AND FORMER STUDENTS -- TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT INSIDE THE BOX ON THE BOTTOM OF THE PREVIOUS MAILBAG PAGE (PAGE 101-- ACCESSIBLE VIA THE MENUS AT THE TOP AND BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE) AND THE THREATS TO CENSOR OR TAKE DOWN THIS WEB SITE. SOME OF THEM WILL BE POSTED IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS. IN THE MEANTIME, THE MAILBAG POSTINGS RESUME ON THE NEXT PAGE (MAILBAG PAGE 103). THEY TOO WILL BE GRADUALLY ADDED TO OVER THE COURSE OF THE NEXT FEW WEEKS.
A note from Ray Carney: Jon Jost, for those who have been dead to the art of film for the past forty years, is one of America's greatest and most influential artists. He and his work are a national treasure. He wrote the following letter to the the university when he heard about the issues in my department that are described in part on the preceding Mailbag page. As he notes, he taught a course at Boston University two years ago, and his letter is thus based on first-hand experience with the way film is taught at Boston University. He also alludes to a letter-writing campaign against me and my work which, I gather, some of his former BU students told him about. I had no knowledge of it at the point his letter was written in March 2008, but have since been told about it by several students and have my own mention of it at the bottom of the boxed material on Mailbag page 101. See item 3 in the "Summer 2008 Update." -- R.C.
President Robert Brown
Office of the President -- 8th Floor
One Silber Way
Boston, MA 02215
Dear President Brown:
Two years ago I did a 10 day workshop at the invitation of one of the faculty, Robert Arnold, at the Communications Department of your University. This was a very successful workshop, regarding which I will include comments of the students - comments required by the faculty who had invited me. I am recently informed of a major fracas in this department involving Professor Ray Carney. I've been informed of some rather dubious and ugly things about this.
During my stay I was a bit dismayed, if not genuinely surprised, to find that aside from the person who invited me none of the other faculty, aside from Carney, showed the slightest interest in meeting me, seeing the resultant films of the participants in the workshop, or having any other interaction with a visiting guest. Rather there was a fraudulently cordial frostiness, which might be translated as something along the line of "we wish the hell you were not here."
I have done many workshops over the decades, quite a few set in academic surroundings. Sadly what occurred at Boston University was not so different than I have experienced elsewhere, and I presume for the same reasons. I am a very experienced, rather well known, film and video-maker whose works show regularly in major film festivals, and have been subject of retrospectives at MoMA, and other such settings, such as the Harvard Archive, around the globe. [If you wish Google my name or check www.jon-jost.com.] I've made over 30 feature films, more shorts than I can remember and video installations. I've had Guggenheim and DAAD and many other grants, awards, etc. People have written silly things such as that they perceive me as one of the most important filmmakers in America, or in the world. (I don't believe such things.) However, my experience is that most academic media departments are full of persons who fit the cliché about the creative arts worlds : "those who can, do; those who can't, teach." And in general they are scared to death of a real filmmaker or artist who will inadvertently show that the academic emperors are naked. So they stay away when such a danger enters their midst.
While at BU I noted the industry-commercial oriented slant of its program, that it still teaches "film" - to say celluloid - production (which in my view is more or less immoral at this stage as film will soon be totally obsolete and impossible to work with), and other things indicative of what the students I had wrote and told me when I was there - that the teaching procedures and processes are stupid and dysfunctional, that what is taught is dull and fails to inspire, and so on and on. I don't doubt it is so. Just as I don't doubt that the incoming students are sold a bill of goods that their time at BU will for sure result in getting a job when if 10% ever find work in the media industry they'll be very lucky.
Ray Carney runs a website - a very effective and popular one that draws thousands of visitors from around the world, and provides a rich stimulus for students and filmmakers, encouraging young aspiring film and video makers to be creative, to work if necessary with almost nothing, and to take the rules and conventions of the industry with a grain of salt. I have met many young filmmakers who have been inspired and learned an enormous amount through Ray's site and through him. I can't, honestly, say I met others who did likewise with any of the other faculty at the BU Communications Department.
On his site, and in his courses, and in his writing far afield from BU, Ray writes honestly about the rigors of filmmaking as a creative endeavor, and as well of the fraudulent glamour and hype that seems endemic to the media world. And he writes honestly about whether going to film schools, as most of them are organized in America (and I can testify, elsewhere), is worth it - and he concludes that for many students it may not be. In my view he is more than correct: most film schools are a waste of time and money for the students. But they are a handy gravy trough for "those who can't". While making this accurate critique Professor Carney also offers a vision of how to improve film teaching and film study in our universities, how to make film school less like a "trade school" and more like the rest of what properly should be happening in a university. He wants to make the study of film more intellectual and philosophical. He wants it to deal with important ethical and social issues. He wants to restore intellectual content to it. This does not exclude teaching the practice of filmmaking, but gives it a social and moral foundation to stand on. That members of his department regard his vision, as articulated on his web site, as anathema, and want to remove the entire web site from the university server, says much more about them than it does about him. It tells me how mired they are in a non-intellectual approach to the art, an approach which more properly belongs in a trade school or business school than a university.
I understand - through students there - that faculty at the Film and Television Dept. have asked students there to write "complaints" to the Department Dean, or perhaps even to you, about Ray Carney's website. And I am told from him that of late his life has been made a kind of hell thanks to the faculty and Dean of the Department, which rather than sitting down and thinking seriously about what they are doing, why, and how - and what it does or does not really do for the students - have instead reacted defensively and are hounding Professor Carney for daring to think differently than they do, and for daring to tell some, from their viewpoint, unpleasant truths. From my observation when there, and the comments of the students I had (who were quite familiar with the school), Ray Carney is dead on in his criticisms. Rather than attack him for his views, the faculty should sit down and have a long, deep discussion with themselves about what is wrong with what they are doing. And if they are incapable of doing this, then you, as President of Boston University, should tell them to do so, and have some outside party monitor the process since they evidently lack the self-honesty to carry out such a auto-examination themselves.
It would serve the students, who after all are the reason for the department, far better to have such an analysis made - perhaps by outside parties experienced in both the filmmaking world, commercial and artistic, as well as in the teaching world, and to revamp the methods, intentions and processes of the curricula so that Professor Carney's critique was not so transparently correct. If it were not so accurate, the utterly virulent behavior of the faculty would hardly be warranted. I suspect behind it all is a mixture of petty jealousy (do any of them have websites getting hundreds of hits per day, animated by comments and correspondence from around the world?) and fear for their jobs. The latter, from what I observed, might be warranted: in the manner in which they carefully avoided contact with me when I was there, it was clear they had no interest in anything that might disrupt their cloistered world, especially if it represented a kind of danger - someone who actually makes films and can quickly show students how to tap into their talents and do so themselves.
At the conclusion of the workshop which I did, starting with a rather mixed group of participants that ranged from total novices who'd never used a camera, to graduate and undergraduate students of the Dept of Communications from BU who'd studied for 2 or more years, we screened about 90 minutes of filmmaking they had done under my guidance in those 10 days. Mr. Arnold told me that he hadn't expected that anything would actually be made in the workshop, and he was surprised at both the quality and quantity of what was done. So were the students, but they were pleasantly and joyously surprised at what they could do if some actually expected it of them, and helped to guide them to it. And they made clear, those who were studying at BU, that the University hadn't done so in the time they'd been there.
The purpose of a University is to provide an education, to open young people to the broad horizons of the world and of their own potential. It is not to con them into spending money to learn technical things appropriate to a trade school and tell them they will get a job in the film business when the statistics in this regard are grim. It is clear that in the Department of Film and Television at BU the former does not occur and the latter does. The ugliness which has confronted Professor Carney makes clear that the department is in effect morally corrupt and has only the self perpetuation of the faculties jobs at interest, and not the best interests of the students.
I sincerely suggest, in the interests of bettering Boston University, that you make a formal inquiry into the harassment which Professor Carney has been subjected to, and that you have a full investigation and study into just how the Department of Film and Television is organized and whether the curricula it provides actually fulfills the best interests of the student's education.
Professor, Graduate School of Communication and Arts
Jost's letter is useful because it understands that the only important issue that this squabble is about is how to improve film teaching and study in our universities. This is what most of the site is about, and those sections of the site were the ones that were objected to by my colleagues -- vehemently objected to, with shouts and accusations and personal attacks and ridicule directed at me personally at department meetings for having dared to post these ideas. For those who are not familiar with the site, I would emphasize that when this program of attacking and defaming me began in the fall of 2007, there was not a single personal criticism of my colleagues, by name or any other form of identification, posted by me on the entire site -- not in the much-objected to "Auto Mechanics" piece, nor in the Mailbag pages, nor on any of the other site pages. What my colleagues objected to, abused me personally for posting, and demanded that the site be taken down for saying, were statements of ideas on how to improve film study, suggestions that film production courses should be structured to be less like learning a trade or a craft and more like learning an art. I dared to suggest that there should be less focus on technical issues and more study of the history of the art form, more thought given to the philosophy and aesthetics and purposes of the art -- more "liberal education" in the classic sense of the term. That was what they objected to on the site.
Jost correctly notes that their refusal to enter into any form of dialogue about these ideas, their immediate, passionate, knee-jerk demand that the entire site be censored and suppressed, taken down as a result of the presence of these ideas says a lot about what is going on in their courses and their minds. Their response paradoxically confirms, in the worst way, the very things I was suggesting about the limitations of a merely technical approach to film study.
The following open letter to the film department faculty was written to Chairman Charles Merzbacher by a former graduate student in the Department of Film and Television who is now a teacher and scholar in the profession. He corroborates what I said above in the note following Jon Jost's letter, namely that the site does not criticize, defame, or slander any faculty member, and that the actions taken by the department faculty can only be construed as an attempt to suppress and censor ideas which they either don't understand or with which they disagree. So much for academic freedom of thought and expression. -- R.C.
To the full-time faculty of the Department of Film and Television:
I am writing to express my concern about the action you are taking against Ray Carney and his website. Frankly I am at a loss. To those of you that I know personally, I cannot imagine why you would be a party to this motion either as a penman or a signatory. I wonder how you fail to see that by passing such a motion you are strengthening a great many of Dr. Carney's criticisms. I would add that, as a graduate of the Graduate Film Studies program, I cannot say that Dr. Carney casts in a "false light," as your statement has it, his colleagues, the department or the student body. Moreover, I am uncertain about what sorts of legal objection you would have even if he did. Is it illegal to have unpopular ideas? But you can follow that train of thought on Dr. Carney's website.
For my part I believe it is sufficient to say that I find your charges again Carney to be trumped up at best. I plugged into the search engine on the website every signatory's name. I found one reference to Charles Merzbacher made by a student in the letters section. I find a couple references to Dr. Grundmann made by students in the letters section as well, one of which is followed by a response from Dr. Carney which, though certainly not a glowing review (and it is indeed much harder on Warhol than on Grundmann), essentially plugs his book about Blowjob. That's it: three references to the faculty who signed the motion. I see no libel there.
Which means that your argument is essentially this: if Dr. Carney will not say nice things about the department of Film and TV at BU, we demand that he not be allowed to say anything at all. As a graduate of Boston University, a scholar and a citizen of a free nation, I find this quite troubling. I urge you to reconsider your plan to pursue this action against Dr. Carney's website and his basic right to free speech.
Dr. Daniel Jones
The two preceding letters were unsolicited. I had many opportunities to solicit student letters of support -- all of which I rejected. In the course of the spring term, more than 100 students or former students approached me asking if they could write letters or circulate petitions on my behalf (I shall post a few of the inquiries and proposals below when I have an opportunity), but I turned all of them down, telling each and every one of them absolutely NOT to write, call, email or ask for a meeting with anyone at Boston University. My thinking, which I explained to most of those who inquired, went as follows:
In the first place, academic freedom is not something that can or should be decided by a vote. If every man, woman, and child in America was opposed to my speaking my mind about ways to improve teaching and learning in our universities, it would not, and should not, affect a thing I do or say. Some principles are too fundamental and too important to be decided by majority vote. My job, my professional mission and obligation, is to to speak the truth as I see it in the intellectual areas to which I have devoted my life, without fear or favor. It's not about being popular. I'm not running for office (thank God).
Secondly, when students came to me and told me how other professors in my department were cynically manipulating student opinion and unethically pitting students against each other by orchestrating a letter-writing campaign against me, demagogically inciting irrational sentiment against me to promote their own personal interests over a period of several years, I told students who asked if I wanted them to write letters on my behalf that I refused to lead a counter-campaign. (See item 3 in the "Summer 2008 Update" at the bottom of the boxed material on the preceding Mailbag page 101 for more information about the tactics employed by my colleagues.)
I regard it as highly unethical and unprofessional for faculty members or administrators to be coaching or advising current or recent students on making statements about other faculty members, where the faculty member or administrator suggests what kind of statement should be made or expresses his or her opinion about an issue to the student in advance (or where the student knows without being told, which was clearly the case in this instance, since several faculty members had already made many critical statements to their students about my work, my ideas, my approach to film, or my web site over a long period of time). Such "manufactured" student opinion represents a serious abuse of faculty and administrative power. Students are in a necessarily dependent relation to faculty -- who grade them, write letters of recommendation for them for grad. school and jobs, and have a wide range of power over them both before and after their graduation -- and it is impossible for students in this situation to be neutral or objective when a teacher or administrator who has taken a position on one side of an issue asks for their input. I refuse to manipulate students, to pit them against each other, and against faculty members in this way. It is an abuse of power and an abuse of the faculty-student relationship.
As with any situation of this sort, there is a history that can throw light on how it came about. Between the summer of 2003 and 2005, a number of administrative changes and reappointments were made within the College. A few not entirely honorable individuals with not entirely honorable motives secured positions of power and authority and initiated the process of manufacturing and manipulating student opinion to threaten or sanction faculty members who did not fall into line with curricular and policy changes they wanted to put into place. These administrators and faculty members began a series of unethical practices. They spread gossip and rumors about other faculty members to marginalize and undermine them institutionally. They met with students privately in their offices and coached and encouraged them to file complaints about particular faculty members. They publicly criticized the work or ideas of specific faculty members in classroom situations. And, to the extent they were able, they penalized these same faculty members financially and in other ways. I am glad to say that in recent years and months, some members of the College administration have been replaced, but other individuals still remain and past practices unfortunately linger on and continue to inform the current situation.
* * *
I received many statements from people around the U.S. and the world about how important the site was. A sample (currently incomplete) of those comments follows. The letters meant a lot to me. During this difficult period of time it was especially nice to be reminded how much the site mattered to so many young (and old) artists, students, and former students. The following email came from a former student who is now a teacher and studying for his Ph.D. I've withheld his name to respect his privacy. -- R.C.
I thought I should write to you because I have spent so much time on your Web site and with your books over the last several months. I have been through every page of your "mailbag" and your colleagues are right, it is dangerous, but unlike your unfortunate colleagues, I find it invigoratingly dangerous for all the right reasons. Frankly, I delved into it on a lark, but once I started reading a few of the letters and especially your responses, I was hooked. I was up until 5AM one morning because I couldn't stop reading and thinking and reading and writing and taking notes. Some of the things I read filled me with so many interesting questions or if not fully fleshed out questions, then leads or feelings or glimmerings, or flashes of insight, impulses or whatever, that I felt that my brain was literally vibrating.
From there I returned to books, moved onto Dreyer, have started your book on Leigh, and read (three times now) your astoundingly enlightening "Notes Toward a Pragmatic Aesthetic". That essay is a classic, I think. And then to discover the new films, new to me, that is, the marvelous works of Bresson, Tarkovsky, Noonan (The Wife is AMAZING), Bujalski, Nilsson, Friedrich, and others as well. (I even read the Steve Martin autobiography -- back when he was still touring, he came to XXX and I went to see him the two or three nights night in a row, I was so obsessed with his brand of humor -- and it was so insightful, full of surprises.) And I can't wait to read Phonenix I and II ... and you returned to some of my old personal favorites, Joyce Carol Oates and John Cheever, although now I'm re-reading them in a different light (and that Alice Munro, whom I'd never read -- truly eye opening work!). And then I returned to Beck's books on Zen that have sat on my shelves unread for several years ... it's as if all kinds of things I had never related to one another have over the the last several months been connected in marvelous and interesting ways and it's all thanks to you. It was almost -- but not quite -- as good as being in class with you again. One of the most mind-blowing episodes of my life took place when you led us through Robert Frost one afternoon in class ... and then there was your lecture on Moby Dick ... and Eakins and Sargent ... I guess I could say you were the "Woodstock" of my academic career. And the flashbacks are fantastic!
Anyway, I just wanted to attest to the value of the site that your colleagues find so offensive. I am working on my PhD at (XXX University) and I am thinking of exploring or tracing sources and artistic consequences of the affirmative skepticism of Emersonian Pragmatism. (The skeptical angle has always interested me, but it's the way Emerson and James and the art that follows them deploy skepticism to affirm life's creative potentialities, not its Derridean dead ends. I'm actually taking a course on the history of Skepticism taught by XXXX, who was a student of Richard Popkin. We started with Sextus Empiricus's Outlines of Pyrrhonism and I can't help but see some affinities with Emerson, James, and the Pragmatic aesthetic you've been writing about.) Obviously I'm indebted to the trail you've blazed, but I hope to extend it because the work you've done and continue to do is so very important. And no, I'm not getting to a favor to ask, this is just a friendly note to a man who has had such a remarkable effect on my thinking, or better, my living as thinking or thinking as living or whatever it is, there doesn't seem to be a verb for it.
For the last five years that I've been teaching, it's been your example that has served me as a model and not without its attendant frustrations. It's astounding, really, how even young people can be so dogmatic, so unwilling to engage their own prejudices, their own "mind forg'd manacles", how they can be so surprisingly resistant to the challenges of art, to different ways of thinking, how they take it so personally when I dismiss some beloved piece of "Oscar winning" Hollywood fluff as mindless tripe -- it's as if I'm saying they are mindless as well when I all I want to do show them that there is so much more. Where is that supple young mind of lore? (And I can't and don't completely blame them -- as Emerson wrote, society is a conspiracy against our manhood, especially when it's driven by a deadening public school curriculum.)
And for my troubles, my urge to improve the lives of those I teach, well, I'm just being "elitist" and "snobbish", according to my colleagues. And it can be so frustrating and so disappointing because life is rich and full of possibilities and yet some just won't let go their egos, even for a moment, just to dip a toe in the water, take the risk, abandon the fear, and at least give joy a chance. Among my students, there are always at least one or maybe two that "get it", so to speak, but most pass on the opportunities offered for reasons I'll never fathom. But that frustration is something that I have to learn to release, although it's been a struggle to do so at times and I can't say I haven't felt like just quitting and going back into the world of business on more than one occasion.
But for each year that I teach I learn somewhat more and am able to abandon yet another little piece of myself to Bach, Beethoven, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Emerson, and the other geniuses that renew and enrich my life each time I take them up to teach them again. The students get one chance; I have to remember that as a teacher, I am fortunate enough to revisit genius again and again and learn anew. "But that's not the way you taught it last year," -- no, it isn't, but this year I see something new to reach for, like that shimmering, glimmering something that Frost wrote about in a poem about a well, I think it was ...
Anyway, my condolences to you with your travails but I am sadder still for your colleagues, who out of fear and the basest of human frailties know not what they do (or do they?). If you must take down the site, please archive the mailbag. It's too valuable to become part of the digital ether. With a gratitude beyond words,
Wow. Thank you! I deeply appreciate your kind words. And need them!
You're right about the young potentially being part of the problem too, though it's not really their fault of course. One of the tactics my colleagues have adopted to use against me with administrators higher up is to encourage students in my program to write letters protesting what is on the site. It's of a piece with everything else they have shown themselves capable of stooping to. It's wrong on so many levels: It's not only profoundly unprofessional and unethical to involve students in the process at all, and a grave abuse of their power over them (it's a rare student who will dare to tell a faculty member he or she has in a course that he or she will NOT write such a letter at the faculty member's request); but as your note suggests, most students just don't have enough background or training to understand either the intellectual or the academic freedom issues or make an informed judgment about them. But these faculty members know no shame, and I have to say, on the basis of the last four or five months of experience that my opinion of these colleagues is even lower than it was before this. They have, in effect, proved everything I only suspected or feared. You should be a fly on the ceiling at a meeting where they sit there and call me names. The things they say embarrass me. For them. I mean.
But don't let any of that trouble or concern you. I'm Emerson's football. The more kicks the better. I get my kicks from the world's kicks, and the more of them I get, the more proof that the world needs a few different ideas and ways of proceeding. Ouch and gasho!
I'm so glad to hear about your own deep commitment to teaching and studying. It's so easy to become cynical, to cut your expectations down in the face of resistance or puzzlement. (One of my colleagues told me -- he had no idea how shocking his statement was to me -- that his goal was to get his courses to a place where they "ran themselves" and "took no real new work each year." That's what I call cynicism.) Keep learning. Keep changing your mind. Keep exploring. Keep diving deeper and deeper. I'm reading a lot of Henry James this semester and learning as much new as I did the first time I ever read him. There's no end to it. Mountains beyond mountains, oceans within oceans, discoveries beyond discoveries.
Must get back to work (and paper grading), but just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your thoughtfulness.
I have removed all personal identification from the following letter to protect the writer from retribution. It is from a graduate of the film program. John Gianvito, whom the writer mentions, is a brilliant independent filmmaker who briefly taught a course in the department as an adjunct faculty member. He is no longer associated with BU. -- R.C.
Subject: Bulls on Parade
It's a sad shame about the website. I nearly wrote the university - because I'm an alumni, which is important, right? - though eventually, I decided altogether against writing. I didn't want to get mixed up in the academic muddle, and more specifically, I didn't want to employ the politically correct language I'd need to use in order for a letter to be read by those bureaucrat baloneys in the first place. I didn't want to relegate myself into some presumptuous charade where, by feigning respect for the faculty and administrators, I'd be able to convince them that they acted unjustly. If it's of any consequence to you (though I'm not sure how it could be) this whole debacle has caused me to lose most of my respect for the department. WellŠwhatever respect was left after spending three years swimming through the ranks with those shallow production classes and studies. Perhaps, in the midst of these insults, it would be an opportune time to declare that your International Masterworks class, along with John Gianvito's Understanding Film class, sufficed as the entirety of my filmic education at BU.
Here are some more thoughts about the parade: I give them (the administrators and faculty) no credit for upholding any institutional standard or for protecting the university image, because what they've done is the opposite - they've bankrupted the department. Now the monkeys are in charge, and they're the ones making irascible decisions against intellectualism and philosophy. It's as simple as that. Your website provided a wealth of philosophy, of education, and of experience inside a single text. It was open, progressive, and deeply humane. What's deeply troubling is that I've struggled to find something to replace what the website gave to me. Now, by poring through the ranks of your recommended books and music and films I'll try to find something of a substitute
If it isn't already obvious, your website was a connective portal, a place that brought together seers, philosophers, and artists alike. The website encouraged an interactive community for outsiders, for those alienated from a superficial culture, and proposed essential resistance to a sickened culture. In the past months, I've spent some time corresponding with a complete stranger about your work and the films you've recommended. Never before have I carried on correspondence with people I've never met, yet in doing so, I felt an incredible sense of connection. And as our society moves further towards a spiritually hermetic lifestyle - self-serving electronics, at home entertainment, email and instant messenger, to name a few - I wonder if we'll find a way to redeem that sense of connection that's been lost.
It seems now to me that your website's ideas acted in opposition to commonplace thinking, and that opposition created illegitimate fears which ruined it. What's it that Derrick Jensen says about hegemony and the powerful maintaining control? What are they afraid of? Is it simply the erasure of that opposition? Is it a terrible fear of societal change? Or is it because of a certain provincial forces that encourage people to hold on to what is familiar?
I think about the concept of universality in art, or writing, and determine that it is an unattainable aspiration. Because if we look today at humanity and recognize all the defects of communication, and all the ways in which people fail in their attempts to understand each other (or never even try), then it would be obvious how many world's apart we can all be. Still, try we must to connect and understand each other.
Very truly yours....
The following email was accompanied by two links to material that the writer thought was relevant. (Many other site readers sent in the same links. Thanks to all.) -- R.C.
I've been thinking about your situation at BU. the most horrifying thing to me (in addition to what they are doing to you personally of course in pay and emotions) is the essential killing of knowledge from now until eternity.. THAT IS HUGE in the current state of the world.. WHAT WORSE THING IS KILLING KNOWLEDGE????..and it shows what a threat important and crucial ideas are to stop the threat of global "corporatocracy" as a friend of mine put it me on the phone this evening..she thinks we will lose our sovereignty and people are too dumb, naive or afraid to stand up and revolt..site readers need to understand what's at stake in the big picture..am I being too large to frame it this way?..i think our civilization is standing on the brink..censorhip is always tempting when there are changes or difficult decisions to make..it's always easier to silence people with new or different ideas, or punish them as you have been so that they will silence themselves, so that the system doesn't have to deal with them or improve itself.
As mailbag page 101 shows, they have asserted their willingness to monitor what is on your site, to control what you post, and censor it, and to take it down if they can't control it. The very idea of this going on in a research university is unthinkable. It's the opposite of what a university is supposed to be about. Knowledge is power, I believe that..if the knowledge and free dissemination of it is killed, no matter in what area, we are robbed of our power and left helpless..there is no progress and no life..we are just going through the motions..how dare they????..I eat and breathe knowledge....I spend money on books before food..what good is it to be armed if we don't know what to fight for or what is attacking us?.. if we are kept ignorant, we have no chance and are in mental slavery.
I was thinking about the outrage about the "transfer of wealth" going on in our country to the top 1% over the past eight years now that the whole blasted thing is collapsing for those of us in the other 99%, but where is the outrage about the prevention of the transfer of knowledge??? Money comes and goes but it's only knowledge that helps us to remember and understand the past and hopefully learn from our mistakes and make progress in the future. It seems to me that the most important thing we can do is transfer our knowledge to those who succeed us. That is our true legacy. BU is preventing the transfer of knowledge (yours).. or even when they can't stop it, chilling and discouraging the promulgation of it..by passing motions against it being published..and punishing and threatening and censuring you for expressing it, which is the gravest error a university can make. Criminal, in my opinion! How dare they prevent communication and discourse among those of us who want to learn and make this world a better and more peaceful place?
Can you say something about this on the site...I think your readers need to know what is at stake....I'm also wishing you included something about BU being a "research" university and the horrors of preventing the forward progress of knowledge due to petty politics, personal rivalries (a lot of it just plain envy at your success and importance and the importance of the site with its tens of thousands of readers I am sure)...who are these people to decide what you can or cannot say? where do they think they get this right to control what people think?
Did you see this article by Stanley Fish, about what's going on in the academic world and its takeover by greedy corporations? He is reviewing this book...and read the comments on the New York Times pages from other professors who have experienced the same thing....the Bible is right when it says that the love of money is the root of all evil. I think the only hope we have is a new world order without a monetary system. Maybe going back to bartering is the answer? Professor Fish is not someone outside the university. He is an insider who is speaking from experience....and his piece shows that so much of value is being thrown away by universities in pursuit of easy profit. I recall painfully a lesson I learned when working for corporate. The best way to increase profit is reduce expense, and expense = workers who really do the work (the teaching and thinking and publishing you do in your situation). The administrators, the bosses, the CEOs are never touched, their salaries and lavish expenses are put into a different accounting "bucket." You talk about a culture of celebrity, I think that aristocracy by birth (the titled nobility, the "ruling class") has become the aristocracy of athletes, entertainers and CEOs. And I still get back on my soapbox against advertising. Advertising drives the whole ridiculous scheme by manipulating the images. You say this on the site...maybe that is part of why they are out to shut it down or stop your research and scholarship and publishing. Nowhere else in the world do athletes, entertainers and CEOS get paid these ridiculous amounts. I saw a program recently where a guy was interviewed about politics in another country, and he said political advertising was outlawed in his country so they didn't have the same problem we have with elections here.
But at least Stanley Fish can voice his opinions...unlike you! Duke University doesn't cut out his research funding and publishing support or retaliate financially when he says something they disagree with. I think of the fact that if you had said what he does in his article (and elsewhere, like in the quotes you include by him on the site about multiculturalism) if he was a Boston University professor, BU would want to take his words off their server, take down his web site, censor his comments and prevent anyone from hearing his ideas. Or get back at him some other way....at least HIS university believes in academic freedom of expression....they don't try to keep him from saying what he thinks. That is more than BU does....more than the people in your department and college do with their motions of censure and their demands that you take down your site...they cannot tolerate free ideas and free expression....they want to stop it and shut you up...I wonder where else this goes on at BU...can anyone trust that anything the university says has not already been censored by someone or censored by the professor himself to avoid getting into trouble with the administration or punished by them the way you have been...their actions against you make me not believe anything else they say is the truth...it probably all is censored like they are trying to censor you.
Forgive me, I know I'm "preaching to the choir," I know you know this.. but I'm really upset about this..and am tempted to fire off a letter about it unless you tell me not to, I wouldn't do that without your permission..i also know this is a symptom of our sick society but somewhere the line needs to be drawn and we all must take a stand..silence is complicity...I may be fearful externally, but I also do email activism every day on multitudes of fronts, signing hundreds of petitions on causes I believe in to save humanity, animals, plants, our environment and our planet..I believe it's absolutely vital and important to make our voices heard in whatever way we feel we can..there's so much at stake..and we can't put all the responsibility on Obama to get us out of this hole we're in..it is up to us to make our voices heard.
RC replies: Thanks for the spirited response and the links. I agree with everything you say. The expressive freedom of each of us is threatened when the expressive freedom of any one of us is threatened. The actions of the Boston University and College of Communication administration (and the vote of the Department of Film and Television to censor and suppress my site) cannot help but have a chilling effect on academic freedom of expression at Boston University. Every faculty member at BU has to be concerned that he or she may, at some future point, experience the same kind of retaliation and punishment I have experienced for expressing an independent viewpoint. And, beyond that, I agree that the modern "corporate" model for academic expression that Stanley Fish and you describe threatens the dissemination of knowledge and represents an irreparable and irrecoverable loss.
To demonstrate that the situation described is not unique, here is an interview with David Graeber, a former Yale University professor, about threats to free academic expression he has personally witnessed and experienced.
The next two postings are in reaction to the "lynch mob" treatment I have received for several years -- the name-calling, the screaming, the taunting and baiting, the abuse, the attempts to censor and censure -- by a former Dean, both in his office and in public, in front of students, and at department meetings organized by my Chairman and attended by the Film faculty. -- R.C.
It pains me to read what you went through, I had a similar experience in high school of public vicious group attack on me under the guidance of an administrator although not to this degree. I blacked out visually but could still hear the venomous voices coming at me in the dark. Felt like being stabbed repeatedly with a sharp knife with no means of escape or way to defend myself. I'm reminded of what an Iranian friend told me several years ago - this sort of behavior against dissenters was exactly what happened when the ayatollahs (religious zealots) took over before he fled Iran. It's beyond belief that people can (and do) behave this horrible, abusive way in a group mob attack. The intense hatred that ignites that seeks to kill. And it's beyond belief that it could happen in a major university approving of it and supporting it. So sorry you had to experience it.
Although the preceding response refers to material on the bottom of the preceding Mailbag page (page 101), other site pages have additional related material. E.g. read the next to last blue paragraph on the bottom of Mailbag page 115 for an account of another event that took place in a Film and Television Department meeting, involving many members of the faculty yelling at me and calling me names, while my Chairman sat there watching and listening to it all take place, doing and saying nothing to moderate or control the viciousness of the personal attacks, not to mention stop them from taking place. -- R.C.
A letter from a graduate of the Boston University film production program. As with all similar offers (see the blue note about this issue higher up on the page), I told her that I did not want to involve students in a petitioning or letter-writing campaign. I explained that I held myself above employing that tactic, and had no desire to pit students against each other in a war of words and opinions, even if other faculty members were doing it. It is unprofessional and unethical. -- R.C.
I can't believe how they are treating you. Criticizing your web site and trying to make you take it down. Criticizing you. Rounding up students to testify against you. Telling them to write in things about you. I always thought COM was like high school and now I know it. You know why they are doing it? Because you were the one independent voice there. You were my entire education at COM. Your classes were the light at the end of the tunnel. After the vocational training and stupid quizzes in (name of faculty member's) and the silly anecdotes in (name of another faculty member's) and the gobbledygook terminology in (name of another faculty member's) classes, we went into your class and felt like we finally had minds. It was so exciting to be there listening to you. When you talked about the meaning of art and life, we felt like we finally were out of high school and in college at last. And you showed so many great films we had never heard of. Even when we didn't understand them, we knew something important was happening. You got us to think about things. You didn't dumb things down. You didn't accept cliche answers. You respected our intellects.
I want to help you. I know at least a hundred grads from the last few years, can I circulate a petition? What should I put on it to help you the most? Can I ask grads not to give money to BU in protest? What do you recommend?
A note to readers: For more information about the treatment of Prof. Carney, click on the Most Popular Topics ticket icon in the left margin of this page, and scroll down on the page you are taken to until you reach the section titled "Group Thinking as the Source of Fascism in an American University." The five or six Mailbag page links at that point have additional background information. Or click here to go there now.
This is only the "To Print" page. To go to the regular page of Ray Carney's www.Cassavetes.com on which this text appears, click here, or close this window if you accessed the "To Print" page from the regular page. Once you have brought up the regular page, you may use the menus to reach all of the other pages on the site.