An Open letter to 'A.M. Gittlitz' | 8 March 2017 | A response to the slanderous and sloppy piece of so-called "journalism" about me, my case against PC authoritarianism/social justice activism, and my situation at NYU. By Michael Rectenwald
So-called A.M. Gittlitz,
There are so many errors and untruths in your article, it's a wonder you would call yourself a journalist.
First of all, this:
"'I'm a real full-time NYU prof," he tweeted on September 15th, "who has inside stories that will blow yr mind. When I reach 500 followers the floodgates open"...(although the "gates" never unlocked)...'
If you had done any research on this question, you would know that I am holding "these cards" to my chest in case I need them, not because they do not exist. They haven't been unlocked because I need to keep this information for future use in case NYU tries to silence me again.
Speaking of which, I find it stunning that you levied so much criticism at me, but left this nonsense from the committee that condemned me utterly untouched and in fact supported it in your piece, to wit:
'Soon after the WSN piece [my original interview in the NYU student newspaper], 12 colleagues wrote an open letter criticizing Rectenwald’s statements. They recognized his right to say what he liked, but urged him to express his criticisms in a more civil, or at least rational, way, citing his stigmatization of mental illness, as well as a tweet about students jumping from windows in the event of a Trump victory. They also critiqued his "ad hominem" and "straw-man" fallacies, pointing out that, for instance, NYU’s Liberal Studies program had no policy mandating trigger warnings, nor was one proposed.'
First of all, the letter from that committee never said a word about my "stigmatization of mental illness." I dare you to find that in their letter. Instead, they claimed that I was "calling [them] insane." Again, I never once mentioned them, and thus, could not have called them anything. They were then furthest thing from my mind; I had forgotten the committee even existed. Find one place in my interview or tweets where I name anyone, or call these people in particular insane. You can't because it does not exist.
Second, there is no ad hominem in my interview; if you had read it, you would not find a single instance of ad hominem, because it doesn't mention a single person -- not one individual, period.
Third, you missed the entire problem with their missive in the first place: it was written by an official committee condemning the views of an individual for "the structure of his thought."
What structures thought, if not ideology itself? That is, they criticized my ideological predispositions, not my arguments -- which, by the way, were not "illogical," because I never once made any sort of syllogistic statements. Listen, I taught college logic at age nineteen. I know what the logical fallacies are and I never made one.
Fourth, "12 colleagues" did not write the letter to me. The committee did consist of twelve persons, but two of the signatories were deans, and two were students. That leaves eight so-called "colleagues."
Finally, the tweet about the SJWs leaping from buildings was an obvious joke and directed at no one. And, that tweet was not in response to Trump's election. In fact, it was tweeted long before then, during the final debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
'...he was asked by his dean to take a paid leave.'
You try to discredit me over this, and, ironically, typical tribalist that you are, side with the university over me and my version of the events. How ironic. This is the same corrupt institution that provided loans for vacation homes for top administrators and some chosen few faculty members and then forgave the loans. Need I remind you of the scandals that have plagued this university? Read what by now is quite old news. My god.
Only the most willful misreading of events would not note the strange and curious coincidence of the committee's open letter and my meeting with the dean and HR person, at the behest of the dean, and not me. The meeting and the open letter happened on the very same day. I did not call the meeting or have the slightest idea about asking for a leave of absence--that is, not before the meeting, during which I was strongly encouraged to take a leave of absence.
I was asked to go on leave and when I accepted it, I had technically "asked for" the leave. Yes, technically, a leave such as this must of necessity be voluntary. But surely you would grasp -- wonderful leftist that you are -- how such matters work for those in situations where the power differential is so great. When encouraged strongly to take a paid leave of absence by one's dean (boss) and an HR person of some apparent authority, it seemed advisable to accept the offer. Can you imagine? Strange how a leftist would side with the powerful institution over the individual.
'...and declined, conspicuously, to talk about his leave from NYU. "I have to be very careful. According to NYU there is absolutely no connection between my leave of absence and my stated opinions." NYU confirmed as much: Despite the suspicion of ideological persecution, Rectenwald’s leave of absence had been requested, for alleged mental health reasons; in fact, he had been rehired for the next semester and given a raise.'
Can someone please get the story right, for once? The fact is that I did have to be careful talking about the conditions of my leave as NYU was threatening me with emails about my media appearances, and in fact, I received an email from my dean just after appearing on Varney & Company. Meanwhile, you try to make it out to be some sort of thought crime for me to appear on Fox Business News. Why not appear, when leftists like you were bashing me endlessly?
'As Rectenwald found a more receptive audience among conservatives than he had among the left — gaining attention from media ranging from Fox News and the NY Post to the neo-Nazi blog Daily Stormer...'
You write as if I am somehow culpable for what outlets carried and covered the story about me. Did you happen to read the comments at the bottom of the Daily Stormer article where an (erstwhile) friend advised the readers that I was a left communist? I was made aware of this comment and I surely did not object. As for the Kevin Barrett radio show, I admit my mistake, but I had no idea that he was a Holocaust denier when I accepted the interview, and only found out later. I was aware of his 9/11 theories, and I avoided the topic entirely.
'Much of the evidence Rectenwald tweets of oppressive PC hysteria is sourced from Campus Reform, a right-wing site that decries all forms of liberal or left campus activism, and works with Turning Point USA to create a "Professor Watchlist" of academics who promote a "radical agenda." Ironically, in late December, Rectenwald called for the resignation of one of the professors on the watch list for a tweet satirically adopting alt-right terminology.'
Given the riots in Berkeley, the violence at Middlebury after the abortive speaking attempt by Charles Murray, and the violence at the Gavin McInnes event at NYU, you may want to update or at least append a note to your story to acknowledge that what I referred to has actually grown much worse and that the illiberal left is utterly off the rails on campuses today. As for Campus Reform, you should note I mentioned them in my reply (which you fail to mention) to the Liberal Studies "Diversity, Equity and Inclusion" working group, and acknowledged that these sources are right-leaning, but that I had checked all of the stories I posted from them before posting, and found them to be accurate. Unlike you, apparently, I check the primary sources.
'Despite the suspicion of ideological persecution, Rectenwald’s leave of absence had been requested, for alleged mental health reasons; in fact, he had been rehired for the next semester and given a raise.'
If you had done any research, you would realize that the raise and the promotion to full professor were in the works six months prior to the kerfuffle over PC campus culture. You would also know that I have said this on many occasions in numerous interviews. Further, you would know that I said that the promotion and raise were unrelated to the controversy, but had I been denied these well-earned rewards, I would have had a clear-cut discrimination case, because my publication record was unequalled among the applicants, having published three books in the previous year alone.
Your yellow journalism really rears its head with this passage:
"Those constraints include not just academic and journalistic ethics, but basic solidarity in the effort to build a unified social force to overthrow dominance based on race, gender, and class."
If you had actually listened to any of my interviews, read anything I have written, or paid one bit of attention to my statements on Twitter, you'd see that I adamantly argue that the left's means for achieving this is actually producing its opposite, as the election of Trump itself makes eminently clear to all but the most ideologically blinkered.
Finally, your statement that I requested a leave of absence for mental health reasons is an absolute falsity and slander. I suggest you emend the story. It's an absolute lie. You're merely an axeman for the left, which is now nothing but a mob of lunatics without thoughts, without ideas and with nothing but robotic chants and pointless violence. Congratulations for using my situation as a means of pledging your fealty to this pathetic culture and politics. You deserve each other. But I suggest you emend or remove your article lest you be sued for slander. I have the means. I have an army of pro bono attorneys behind me. I strongly advise you to get that slander removed from the article and wherever else you've posted it.
Michael Rectenwald, Ph.D., Clinical Professor, NYU