A Little Too Post-Modern?

The Workplace Prof Blog quotes a Chronicle of Higher Education story:

Last March, Jacques Pluss was fired from his job as an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University soon after it came to light that he was a prominent member of the National Socialist Movement of the United States. This weekend, in an online essay titled "Now It Can Be Told: Why I Pretended to Be a Neo-Nazi," Mr. Pluss purports to reveal his true intentions in joining the white supremacist group: He did it all for scholarship. . . .

Citing Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, the medievalist Ernst Kantorowicz, and the English Romantic poets, Mr. Pluss says he developed a highly participatory theory of historical investigation. "It slowly yet surely dawned on me," he writes, "that any attempt to understand a group, a movement, or an individual psyche, would have to include becoming, as much as an individual can, the subject under study."

To that end, Mr. Pluss joined the National Socialist Movement in February 2005 and soon began serving as host for a weekly Internet radio show called White Viewpoint, on which he railed against the "browning of America" and described Fairleigh Dickinson's treatment of him as "Hebrew" and "lawyerly." Within a few weeks of joining, he became a national officer of the group. He continued as a member until October. . . .

Perhaps the strangest part of Mr. Pluss's account is his claim that he engineered his own dismissal from Fairleigh Dickinson in order to suffer the kind of public marginalization often experienced by neo-Nazis. . . .


Richard Bellamy (mail):
Once again, life imitating The Onion.

"Klan Rally 70 Percent Undercover Reporters"
1.17.2006 4:54pm
Surely we all know professors (at least Lit types) who would be just the sort to pull this kind of stunt.
1.17.2006 4:55pm
Guest1123 (mail):
Why is this hard to believe?
1.17.2006 5:03pm
John R. Mayne (mail):
I generally dislike speculation as to people's motives, but I think Pluss asks for it.

It looks like he's got a desire for some action; he was frustrated with his work and he thought he wasn't going to get renewed. And life was boring. So, he joined some Nazis and had some fun on the radio.

He's a bit like the Internet trolls who post things just to get reactions. I think he's deluded himself into the whole "I did it for history and poetry and academic interest," but I think he did it for the action.

I'm disinclined to believe he's a real Nazi sympathizer. If he were, it sounds like he could get all the love he wanted from the slack-jawed loons who loved his radio show. I believe him when he says he wanted to write a book, and it sounds like he hopes to make some money off it. Heck, it might work.

It's still scummy to incite the neo-Nazi loons, though. I'm not buying the book.

1.17.2006 5:05pm
M (mail):
I suspect it says something, though, about the intellectual quality of these groups that an adjunct English professor at a , say, less than top school can rise to a leadership position in within a few weeks.
1.17.2006 5:19pm
Hunter McDaniel (mail):
John, I would state that virtually all neo-Nazis are poseurs. They have no real knowledge of Nazism except its shock value and the fact that Nazis did something nasty to the Jews. I'd bet fewer than one in a hundred as read Mein Kampf.
1.17.2006 5:23pm
I recently read James Hynes's odd-but-engrossing academic parody novel "The Lecturer's Tale." This guy reminds me very much of one of the PoMo English professors at "Midwest University." If I say any more about the neo-nazi/fascist character, it will spoil it for potential readers.

But this raises my constant question: Why write academic parody? It's all real. You can't make up anything goofier than I deal with every semester.
1.17.2006 5:24pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
So, the guy denies he's a freak in the way we thought? Instead, he's a freak in a totally different way.

1.17.2006 5:27pm
JGR (mail):
This reminds me (at least a little) of Kurt Vonnegut's book Mother Night. The protagonist is a Nazi radio programmer who is also an undercover American agent. The problem is that he is so effective in his work that it raises the question of which side he was helping more. For the record, I am aware that the analogy is far from exact - The protagonist in the novel does help the American cause a good deal; and I agree with John Mayne above that (unlike in the novel) there was no good reason to help the Nazis in this case. What made Mother Night an important work is that it was a vehicle for Vonnegut to make his real point: We need to be careful about what we pretend to be, because we tend to become what we pretend to be. Certainly, there are times when walking a slippery slope is justified - undercover agents, foreign spys, every other episode of the television show Angel. But, of course, this isn't one of those instances.
1.17.2006 5:41pm
Serious Q: why is this not a violation of his academic freedom?
1.17.2006 6:06pm
NickM (mail) (www):
A.S. - academic freedom is not a legal guarantee applied against private universities.

1.17.2006 6:10pm
BobVDV (mail):
Nor do most adjuncts have anything like academic freedom.
1.17.2006 6:13pm
Anonymo the Anonymous:
Two responses to A.S.'s question: true, but beside the point of the interesting question about academic freedom as a principle, rather than a legal guarantee.
My answer: For the professor in question to have a claim to academic freedom in this case, I would think he should have informed his colleagues in advance of his pseudoNazi activities and allowed a sort of peer review of the worthiness of his endeavor. I don't think that would have compromised his cover among the Nazis, though I doubt it would have been approved by the faculty, since I don't see much potential for original, valuable scholarship here. I'm sure others, probably in the media, have attempted this sort of thing before. Stetson Kennedy comes to mind, but that was more of an infiltrate-to-destroy mission than merely observation.
1.17.2006 6:38pm
I suspect this would also run afoul of most institutional review boards that keep an eye on research involving human subjects. (Even though I think such reviews, designed primarily to govern medical research but often applied unthinkingly to oral history, are way off the mark. Nonetheless, at my own university, I would get in big trouble for doing something like this without first submitting it for review.)
1.17.2006 7:08pm
I didn't mean the question to be whether the school has the legal right to Pluss. My question is whether it is a violation of the principle of academic freedom to have fired him.

Eugene has written often about the principle of academic freedom, most recently, I think, about U of Colorado's attempt to fire Ward Churchill. (See, e.g., the posts linked at the bottom here.)

For those that argued that it was a violation of Ward Churchill's academic freedom to fire hime as a result of his "little Eichmanns" and similar comments, how is this case different?

Again, not a question of whether the school had the legal right to - but whether is was correct to fire him.
1.17.2006 8:03pm
Tic Tac Addict (mail) (www):
In response to M's comment about the intellectual quality of groups like the NSM, I concur. I am enrolled in an AP government class as part of which I was assigned to research minority political parties. I chose the NSM and interview party "chairman" Cliff Herrington.

The following is the unedited e-mail interview.


I am a student in an Advanced Placement government class assigned to research third parties for an assignment due in late December. I was wondering if a representative from the National Socialist Movement would care to answer a few questions related to my project and provide any other information deemed relevant.

1.) Why did the National Socialist Movement split from the American Nazi Party?
ANSWER: The National Socialist Movement did not split from the American Nazi Party, in particular the one that is now currently running under that ASSUMED TITLE! The NSM was founded in 1974 bylong time members of the original AMERICAN NAZI PARTY of George Lincoln Rockwell, to wit: Robert F. Brannen Founder, long time activist and American World War II (Western Civil War II ) veteran, Steven P. Love, NSWPP acitivist, Clarence E. Brandenburg, OHIO NATIONAL Knights, James Mason, NSWPP acitivist and now currrent writer; Clifford D. Herrington, Vietnam Veteran and member of the NSWPP (aka ANP) in addition many others who were activists in other groups and or NSWPP which was the follow up to the ANP after GL Rockwell was assasinated. It was founded on the premises of ADolf Hitler and GL Rockwell due to issues that were bubbling up in the NSWPP, &the internal trauma that was caused by certain events and ill chosen leadership issues that had a detrimental effect on the National Membership.

2.) What, if any, association does the National Socialist Movement have with the American Nazi Party?
ANSWER: The National Socialist Movement is the AMERICAN NAZI PARTY! The current charade played out by the online only so called ANP has no relationship, calling or claim on that title or any other, and certainly doesn't qualify as a political organization of any type. WE ARE THE INHERITORS OF THE MANTLE OF ADOLF HITLER, G L ROCKWELL and Fritz Kuhn (German American Bund circa 1936) and William Jennings Bryan
3.) Is there any other historical information on the National Socialist Movement I should be aware of?
ANSWER: As far as establishment two party diktat CENSORSHIP GOES, you should be able to find as much information as possible from numerous sources, however, I would be very leery of any info from so called enligthenment sources such as the ADL, SPLC, and others who claim to be fighting "hate" etc. as they are the most inglorious purveyors of false and malicious false news and yellow journalism there is. For example the recent Toledo riots, which the mainstream press admist was INSTIGATED BY JEWISH COMMUNISTS using black gangs, ARE BEING BLAMED ON THE NSM as the instigators, HOWEVER, QUITE THE OPPPOSITE IS TRUE, unless of course, demanding your rights as outlined in the Constitution constitutes PROVOCATION!

4. ) What is the approximate membership of the National Socialist Movement?
ANSWER; We do not divulge that information to anyone, let the jews work for their shekels.
And it certainly isn't because we are afraid of being perceived as small, far from it.
5.)Is there a branch of the movement in each state? Is there a listing of states with local movement chapters?
ANSWER: There are active units listed on the main web page and inactive units as well as reserve units which are not listed. AND WE ARE GROWING BY LEAPS AND BOUNDS!
6.) On your webpage, it is noted that the movement will be running candidates for the 2008 election. How are candidates selected in the National Socialist Movement?
ANSWER; We are a populaist Movement emanating from the people and our communities, if an individual wishes to run and passes the preliminaries and has the heart and soul for a tortuous trial and tribulation, they are free to do so, as long as they meet the standards that the National Organization demands.
Thank you for your time, I am sincerely
CD Herrington
Chairman NSM
US Army 1966-76
Viet Nam 68-69
Soldier the Year 1971,1973,1974
Police Officer
Deputy Chairman NSM 1978-83
Chairman NSM since 1984
Editor Publications NSM

- An interested student
1.17.2006 8:56pm
Ubertrout (mail) (www):
Amusingly enough, FDU has one of its two campuses bordering the (Modern) Orthodox Jewish enclave of Teaneck, NJ, and almost sold that campus to Yeshiva University 25 years ago. Just a coincidence.
1.18.2006 12:25am