One of the several (non-Christian) philosophers recently posting vile insult towards moral traditionalists on social media in the wake of the flap about Prof. Swinburne's paper was one Rebecca Kukla, a philosopher at a university "in the Jesuit tradition"--namely, Georgetown. She's a specialist in ethics.
Because I try to keep my posts as family-friendly as possible, I won't repeat her words, but you can find them in Ed Feser's post on this subject (gotta love his picture of the bust of Socrates with its caption).
In response to Kukla's highly unprofessional behavior on social media, a conservative blog site loosely affiliated with Georgetown put up this post (language warning--this post keeps repeating Kukla's language). It includes speculations about how Georgetown would respond if Kukla's political inclinations were the opposite of what they are and if she were directing her despicable ire toward a different group with which the administration sympathizes.
These seem plausible. For example:
Now, if the shoe were on the other foot and it was a Christian straight male employee telling, say, a queer anti-Catholic female to go ahead and [edited], well, we have no doubt President Jack DeGioia would immediately make a formal statement condemning the man; the head of Campus Ministry would send everyone a letter firmly stating “THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE!”; CSE and CAPS would mobilize and offer “support” to any students traumatized by the whole incident; the Philosophy department and Kennedy Institute of Ethics would open a joint investigation looking into the matter; GU Pride members would rally in Red Square and accuse publications like TGA of creating a hateful climate in which hate crimes occur even when they don't; GUSA would pass a condemnatory resolution and hold a moment of silence; both The Hoya and The Voice would write editorials calling for the professor to be suspended if not removed from campus; and ultimately, after a few University-sponsored symposiums and teach-ins and a lot of public hand-wringing, there would be a reallocation of funds, perhaps in the form of new identity group mafia programs or yet another administrator, because tuition isn’t high enough already.
Oh yeah, and the administration would fire the employee.
But since the shoe is not on the other foot, and Rebecca Kukla happens to be female, apparently identifies as queer, and is a proud and vocal radical leftist, she will be protected and probably get a pay raise and teaching award. Any tenured faculty member or old, enervated Jesuit in Wolfington Hall who speaks out against her will be quickly swatted down or taken aside and told to keep quiet. Those closeted conservatives on the faculty already know to keep their mouths shut until they get tenure lest they be outed as non-liberal and discriminated against.
Now, I'm sorry to have to say it, but with the possible exception of the prediction that the employee would be fired (assuming that Kukla and hence her hypothetical doppelganger in the thought experiment have tenure), this all seems pretty accurate, given Kukla's virulent expression of personal animus against those who disagree with her. Scarcely even (if at all) rising to the level of satire.
The blogger or bloggers who wrote this post give links to the e-mails for Kukla, the President, the Philosophy Department chairman, the head of Kukla's ethics institute, etc., and they give a list of questions that might be asked, such as,
What steps, if any, will Georgetown take to address this matter to ensure a safe, non-threatening environment for students and faculty, one which doesn't allow for University employees to use sexually derogatory language towards others just because someone follows the teachings of the Catholic Church, of which Georgetown is a member?
So what do I think? Here are a few things that I think:
Do I think that Kukla should have her tenure revoked (assuming she has tenure) even for such an egregious piece of unprofessional conduct on social media? No, probably not for that alone, since it didn't occur directly in the context of her duties for the university.
Do I think that this should affect Kukla's career in any way whatsoever, such as involving a note put in her file that might influence, e.g., promotion if she has not yet been promoted as far as she possibly can? Yes, that would probably be appropriate, especially if it were just one factor.
Do I think that it would be legitimate to warn Kukla that there are concerns about her ability to be fair towards those at the university over whom she has authority who disagree with her? Absolutely, yes. And no (for all you liberals who read this) the same is not true automatically of a so-called "homophobe," i.e., a person who holds traditional moral views concerning homosexuality. It's quite possible to think that someone is committing and promoting even grave sin, unnatural sin, while still being fair to him in professional and academic settings. It's a lot harder if you are proud of expressing the sort of hatred (there really is no other word for it) towards an entire group of people that characterizes Kukla's comment.
Do I think that, if Kukla does try to bully those over whom she has authority who are conservative, she should lose her tenure? If it can be demonstrated by clear evidence to happen, absolutely. I assume in fact that Georgetown has such procedures available and would not for a moment hesitate to apply them in a different moral/political direction.
Do I think that it was a good idea for the conservative Georgetown blogger to suggest e-mailing all those people? Nah, probably not. At least I would have suggested that they leave out Kukla herself. Let's face it, that's just going to encourage nutcases and alt-rightists (but I repeat myself) to e-mail her abuse, which will not only be wrong but will just continue to direct attention away from the central issues.
Let me say right here, for the record (in case there was any doubt), that if anyone does send Kukla profane, abusive e-mails as a result of this flap, I unequivocally condemn that. "She started it" is for babies, fools, and cowards.
And having total strangers e-mail her even in civil words really serves no functional purpose except to harass. E-mailing some at least of the other people is a functional attempt to get Georgetown to take notice of her conduct in some way, shape, or form.
With all those responses out of the way, here's the ironic (though unsurprising) followup. Kukla posted to her public Facebook page this piece of self-pity, which I won't quote in full. In response she got all sorts of sympathy and support, including one person who calls her (cough cough) a "class act" and many others who say smarmy things about how she doesn't have to be strong all the time, how sorry they are for her, how sad that this is "happening to her," and so on and so forth. You can imagine the kind of echo-chamber thing.
What I want to highlight is her "explanation" of her own behavior:
Other philosophers (not me) then said some profanity-laced things on Facebook about the original talk and the attacks on those who had expressed regret. Some people got very worked up about the use of profanity and complained vocally. I and others found it profoundly ironic and awful that according to the complainers, telling people that their whole identity was pathological counted as civil discourse, whereas a few swear words in return did not. So on Jason’s thread I then responded with profanity, very much on purpose, to stand up for profanity being way less of a problem than deep, harmful intolerance. I went out of my way to pick a profane image that was 'unnatural,' since the concept of naturalness was at issue in the original debate. My comment along with several others was screenshot and posted on right wing blogs, which then led to the Georgetown Academy attack.
It is exceptionally important to me that my Catholics colleagues understand that the claim that I directed profanity at them as a group is entirely, completely false. My profanity was very specifically directed at those claiming that profanity was more of a threat to civil discourse than homophobia.
Got that? So Jason Stanley and others made profanity-laced comments of the "!@#$% all those who don't approve of homosexuality" variety. Kukla calls this "a few swear words." You know, like saying "damn" when you stub your toe or something, I guess. Kukla, by her own proud admission, deliberately joined in on this little hate-fest with her own profanity-laced, deeply hostile comment. Her purpose was to make the point that profanity (which in this context refers to hostile, sexually vile profanity directed at those who disagree with you) is less of a "threat to civil discourse" than traditional moral views about the wrongness of homosexual acts!
Because the Georgetown conservative blogger talks about "Catholics" as an object of Kukla's ire in the comment, she takes this as an opportunity to get very much on her high horse and assure us that her comment was not directed at Catholics, oh, no! In particular, it wasn't directed at all those "wonderful" Catholics who dissent from Catholic teaching and affirm homosexuality. Instead, it was only directed (get this) at those, including Catholics, who affirm the wrongness of homosexual acts and even further, at all of those who believe the metalevel proposition that Jason Stanley & co.'s nastiness is more of a threat to civil discourse than the expression of morally traditional views on homosexuality!
Well, that's comforting. I imagine that there are only about several million people on the face of planet Earth (whether Catholic or not, but surely including lots of Catholics and plenty of students at Georgetown) who, having the situation explained to them, would affirm that eminently reasonable metalevel proposition about threats to civil discourse.
It's only all of those people at whom Kukla directed her despicable comment. I'm sure that should make everybody feel a lot better, affirm that Kukla is a "class act," and feel very sorry for her that anyone chose to call her out on her unhinged behavior. (I just saw Rod Dreher's story about this. I swear, I wrote this entire column up to this point before reading it. He and I seem to be independently saying many of the same things.)
I hate to say it as the wife of a philosopher, but when this kind of bully is what our philosophy departments are harboring, it's hard to be too sorry when at least some departments and think tanks come crashing down in the educational economic bubble-pop. How bad would it be if the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown couldn't stay afloat financially? Not that that is likely to happen. And there might be good people harmed in the course thereof--highly unfortunate collateral damage. I don't know how many philosophy departments that contain the like of Jason Stanley and Rebecca Kukla should be spared by God (or the economic gods) for the sake of a few righteous men. But, as Dreher says,
When grown men and women, holders of PhDs and prestigious professorships in philosophy, respond to ideas they don’t like by saying things like [edited] and get away with it, something has gone very bad in the academy.
At the barest minimum, now that we have all this deep supposed concern going around our colleges about "safety" and "bullying" and professorial abuse of power against students, and mechanisms in place that are supposed to address it, let's for goodness' sake start using it to protect the undergraduate students, graduate students, and vulnerable faculty colleagues who really need protection. And I got news for ya': That ain't the queer ones. It's the ones who dare to criticize the queer ones.