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David Duke, "Academic":

Earlier this week, Reuters reported on David Duke's participation in the Holocaust revisionism conference in Tehran. Particularly curious about Reuter's report was it's description of Duke as: "U.S. academic David Duke, a former Louisiana Republican Representative." Yet, as Jonah Goldberg observed, "it's not like he was in the U.S. Congress and it ain't like he has tenure somewhere." So what gives?

I perused Duke's website (not something I recommend) and found no mention of any "academic" pursuits, let alone employment in an academic field, other than a vague claim that he "teaches in Eastern Europe." (Teaches what? Holocaust revisionism?) Duke does have a Ph.D in History from the Ukrainian Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (MAUP), but I thought it took more than an advanced degree to make one an "academic."

liberty (mail) (www):
I thought it took less than an advanced degree to make one an academic.
12.14.2006 2:40pm
WHOI Jacket:
I thought "Academic" was a self-confered title.
12.14.2006 2:46pm
BGates (mail) (www):
I don't know how Reuters could have made that mistake. Duke is a man who claims that the state of Israel and Jews in general have unwarranted control over US foreign policy that is damaging to the country. Academics are people like Walt and Mearsheimer and Juan Cole.
12.14.2006 3:04pm
alwsdad (mail):
These people are saying the Holocaust never happened. I don't think lying on their resumes should be a big surprise.
12.14.2006 3:04pm
Vovan:
Heh, Duke "taught" a couple of lectures in MAUP - the biggest private Ukrainian University, as recently as October 2006. In its Ukrainian-Arab division, Duke "presented" his lecture on:

1. "Inernational politics of the United States in the modern world"

2. "Jewish Question through the eyes of the American, my exploration of Zionism"

Source
12.14.2006 3:04pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Of course, Reuters seems to have a more general problem regarding calling things by their names.
12.14.2006 3:13pm
Steve:
I realize it's embarassing for Republicans to have David Duke flinging their party name around, but I don't understand Jonah's point in saying that he wasn't in the U.S. Congress. A state representative is no less a representative.
12.14.2006 3:15pm
WHOI Jacket:
Understand, this is Lousiana where talking about here.


1991 this produced a horrific outcome: a runoff for governor pitting Democrat Edwin Edwards, a notoriously corrupt former governor, against nominal Republican David Duke, a neo-Nazi whose main political experience was in the Ku Klux Klan.

This match-up gave rise to the legendary political slogan "Vote for the crook, it's important." In retrospect, this might have been confusing, since Duke also turned out to be a crook; as New Orleans magazine noted in May, both men are now in prison. But Louisianans chose Edwards, the far lesser of two evils; Duke lost by a landslide.

Via OpinionJournal.
12.14.2006 3:21pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
I think Jonah's point--not sure--is that, normally, journalists go to some lengths to distinguish between the two, usually by way of using inelegant phrases such as "former state representative in the Lousiana legislature," or some such wording. The quotation above might unnecessarily lead to confusion. I tend to agree with you, though, elected is elected, regardless of the office. He probably should have stuck to the main point at hand, which is the use of 'academic.'
12.14.2006 3:24pm
MnZ (mail):
I realize it's embarassing for Republicans to have David Duke flinging their party name around, but I don't understand Jonah's point in saying that he wasn't in the U.S. Congress. A state representative is no less a representative.


A state representative would probably be more accurately called a Republican Louisiana Representative. Even more precisely, he should be called a Republican Louisiana State Representative.

Anyway, it looks like Reuters was going for a twofer. First, Reuters was trying to satisfy antisemites by overstating Duke's academic and political qualifications. Second, Reuters was trying get people who are not antisemites to think "Oh...just another powerful, bigoted southern Republican."
12.14.2006 3:27pm
Steve:
Oh right, from the fact that they called him a "Louisiana Republican Representative" rather than a "Republican Louisiana Represenative," I'd definitely conclude there's a liberal media agenda at work.
12.14.2006 3:42pm
Abdul (mail):
This historical revisionism is getting out of hand. I can understand denying the Holocaust, but denying David Duke's academic credentials? Or the rigorous scholastic regime of the Ukrainian Interregional Academy of Personnel Management, home of the Fightin' Chickens Kiev? That's going too far.
12.14.2006 3:55pm
DougJ:
Certainly, there are many academics just as out there as David Duke. So this seems a small mistake. Take George Galloway or Al Franken for example. One could even argue that each is more extreme than Duke (who after all is extreme mostly on one issues) and certainly far more shrill.
12.14.2006 4:14pm
David Matthews (mail):
Or perhaps, given that he no longer holds any office, or has much power or influence, his opinions are "academic."
12.14.2006 4:32pm
Hoosier:
Abdul--Which BCS bowl are the Chickens in this year? Are they playing Rutgers?

I am an "academic" with a PhD in history. And I admit that the lines can be fuzzy, especially with adjunct and "guest" professors, who are sometimes politicians-out-of-office. As is on of our political science "faculty" this year.

But some meaningful, long-standing connection with a university--and probably some record of peer-reviewed publication--seems to me to make one an "academic." So it's hard to see how Duke could possibly qualify.
12.14.2006 4:41pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):
I think an important thing is being missed here, so a little test:

1. When referring to Johnny Cash casually in a news-related piece, he should have the following appended to his name:
(a) American popular musician
(b) former automobile-industry worker
(c) amphetamine addict

2. When referring to casually to John F. Kennedy in a news-related piece, he should have the following appended to his name:
(a) former President of the United States
(b) US Navy veteran
(c) inveterate philanderer

Obviously, all three options in each instance is 'correct', but factual correctness is not really the point of the exercise. Even if you can finagle a justification for 'academic,' there is a context one has to be mindful of. Reuters' purported zeal for being non-judgmental is laudable in some instances, but in many others, it's simply shoddy reporting. If you were born yesterday and didn't know Duke, might you have an interest in knowing his past? Might Reuters be duty-bound to supply the proper context?
12.14.2006 5:12pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Perhaps this simply shows that "an academic" is now a meaningless phrase?
12.14.2006 5:29pm
Dick King:
This reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw once: "Vote for Cthulhu -- don't settle for the lesser of two evils".

-dk
12.14.2006 5:50pm
Colin (mail):
In a runoff with David Duke, is Cthulhu really the lesser evil?
12.14.2006 5:54pm
Colin (mail):
Dammit. I meant to say, "isn't Cthulu the lesser evil?" Please pretend that my comment is still moderately clever.
12.14.2006 5:54pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):

Perhaps this simply shows that "an academic" is now a meaningless phrase?

Like intellectual? :)

Seriously, I think academic is more or less what Hoosier said, at least, as a set of mininum requirements. This whole thing...kind of like writing a news story on violence in sports and sourcing Tonya Harding as 'an American female boxer.'
12.14.2006 5:57pm
Kent G. Budge (mail):
I think political cartoonist Trever of the Albuquerque Journal nailed the Iranian attitude towards Holocaust denial a long time ago:

Holocaust cartoon

Trever's work really should be better known than it is.
12.14.2006 6:10pm
jelewis (mail):
MAUP is known as a hotbed of anti-Semitism in the Ukraine and has a large number of Arab students. It is a pathetic holdout from the anti-Semitic Stalinist years and is an embarassment to many Ukrainians and Ukrainian-Americans.
12.14.2006 7:32pm
MnZ (mail):
Oh right, from the fact that they called him a "Louisiana Republican Representative" rather than a "Republican Louisiana Represenative," I'd definitely conclude there's a liberal media agenda at work.


I won't "definitely" conclude that. However, it would appeal to people on the Left who wish to pretend that all anti-Semitism eminates from the Right.
12.14.2006 10:20pm
Gojuplyr (mail):
Also not referenced in any related news items is that Duke was repudiated by the Republican Party even to the point of the Party suing in an attempt to stop Duke from calling himself a Republican. A judge ruled Duke was entitled to call himself whatever he wished to.

Considering the opinions and actions of what is generally considered "legitimate" acedemicia - Duke could be entirely justified in claiming the honorific.
12.14.2006 10:39pm
DougJ:

Considering the opinions and actions of what is generally considered "legitimate" acedemicia - Duke could be entirely justified in claiming the honorific.



See what I mean about this place? You've got to stop these kinds of comments, people.
12.14.2006 10:48pm
neurodoc:
DougJ, can't we have some respect for those we disagree with politically? David Duke and George Galloway are loathsome scum, differing mostly in polarity, but you would lump Al Franken in there? My political views are very much closer to the center of the political spectrum than Franken's, but I regard him as no less respectable than say an O'Reilly or a Limbaugh, who while over on the right are readily distinguishable from Duke.

Political discourse is not well served by groupings like yours of Galloway and Franken, effectively equating them. Now, if you wanted to group Galloway and Michael Moore together as loathsome Leftists, I would agree wholeheartedly.

Divigator, do you think that to put him in some context, Reuters should have noted that David Duke is a "convicted felon"? How about "leader in the notoriously racist Klu Klux Klan"? What needs to be said at a minimum to inform the unwary of who David Duke is?
12.14.2006 10:53pm
The Divagator (mail) (www):

Divigator, do you think that to put him in some context, Reuters should have noted that David Duke is a "convicted felon"?

No, unless there is a causal connection between his felony and his participation in the conference :)


How about "leader in the notoriously racist Klu Klux Klan"? What needs to be said at a minimum to inform the unwary of who David Duke is?

Yes, that would seem to be warranted by the context of the story.

I don't think it's too much to ask--nor does it compromise the notion of fairness--for a reporter to examine the context of the story and to choose labels/bio details that fit the context.

And frankly, Duke is such a negligible person in the grand scheme of things, I can't imagine that he would ever be referenced in a news article except by virtue of his poliitcal views. It's the only thing notable about the guy.

Now if he went out and won the Boston Marathon and you were writing a news brief on it, maybe you could get away with omitting his Klan affiliation :)

By in any event, 'academic' is misplaced. Reuters seems to believe that people deserve the right to label themselves. I would disagree. I don't see it as objectivity; I see it as a cop-out.
12.15.2006 2:31am
The Divagator (mail) (www):
Since the thread seems to be petering out, I hope Jonathan doesn't mind a spot of shameless self-promotion. I posted earlier this week a short essay on objectivity in the media, occasioned by Dow Jones' chairman Peter Kann's op-ed last weekend in the WSJ...and don't worry, I wasn't looking to grind a political axe with it...just an honest exploration of why I think the concept of press objectivity is flawed. This example from Reuters is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.
12.15.2006 2:43am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):


Considering the opinions and actions of what is generally considered "legitimate" acedemicia - Duke could be entirely justified in claiming the honorific.


See what I mean about this place? You've got to stop these kinds of comments, people.
Wouldn't it be more effective to ask academia to disassociate themselves with the likes of Ward Churchill and Michael Bellesiles?
12.15.2006 12:05pm
DougJ:
Isn't it time that this blog disassociated itself from Clayton Cramer? Sorry for the ad hominem, but how can you people listen to this garbage? Is it distinguishable from my parody? Clearly, the answer is "no" or it would not have taken Andersen to tell you all that I'm a satirist.
12.15.2006 2:47pm