I Read the Infamous Goldstein Post Last Night

by Little Miss Attila on April 2, 2010

—the one that discusses how his former creative writing instructor requested to have his own name removed from Jeff’s biographical page.

I’d read Dr. Helen Smith’s summary, but it was more wrenching to read about the whole incident from Jeff’s point of view. And, no: the request was not made as “hey, would you do me a personal favor, since I have a book coming out right now and I’m concerned about Google searches at the moment.” It was phrased more along the lines of “the material you are publishing is bad, and I’m entitled to sever anything that even looks like a tie between us.”

The big discussion in the comments section has to do with whether the professor, Brian Kiteley, was acting “on his own,” or whether he was getting flack from others in his academic and creative circles. And, of course, whether this indicates a likelihood that Kiteley won’t be admitting people into the writing program at DU who appear to harbor positive feelings about free markets. Or whether perhaps he’s been excluding such outcasts for years.

One would think that fiction-writing is an arena wherein we need as many points of view as possible. Sort of: we need, apparently, as many as possible of “the right ones.”

No wonder most of the folks I know who engage in creative writing and have wisps of “conservative” thinking in their intellectual makeup keep those tendancies well hidden from view. With one exception. Two, maybe.

So I suppose we now need parallel creative writing programs in addition to the parallel film industry we’re constructing. And parallel institutions of higher learning, perhaps. None of which would be necessary if the other side weren’t so freakin’ childish.

All of which makes me angry, and it’s a good anger. It might even pry some of my stories out of this hard drive and get them sent out to the people who need to see them.

Stay tuned.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

richard mcenroe April 2, 2010 at 6:42 am

“The big discussion in the comments section has to do with whether the professor, Brian Kiteley, was acting “on his own,” or whether he was getting flack from others in his academic and creative circles”

Doesn’t matter. A S***heel is a S***heel.

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Vlad April 2, 2010 at 11:55 am

He’s just emulating the Master…….if Obama can throw Ayers, Wright, his grandmother and others under the bus then why shouldn’t this fellow do the same with Goldstein?

As for myself, I’d appreciate it if you’d just pretend I don’t comment here, OK?

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Farmer Joe April 2, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I’m not 100% sure what to think about this. On the one hand, the professor is being a whiney little bitch and just generally not handling the situation well. On the other hand, Jeff can be kind of… well… obstinately abrasive, seemingly just for the sheer hell of it.

I mean, I think Jeff is in the right here, but I could also see reading a couple of his more infamous posts and thinking, “Jesus, I don’t want to have anything to do with this guy.”

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Cassandra April 2, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Sorry Joy, but I can’t agree with you on this. Why would any reasonable person say no to such a request, regardless of what they think of it? None of us has the right to the approval of others.

I can certainly understand being hurt by the request. What I can’t understand is why anyone would want the name of a person who was obviously distressed by material that appeared on the site, to have his name appear on the site?

Over the years people have asked me why I don’t use my real name on my site. The reason I don’t is that I don’t want my husband to have to answer for anything I might have to say. If I take a controversial stand, I don’t think he ought to have to answer for me. And if I get into a pissing contest with another blogger, I don’t want him to face any of the fallout. Jeff of all people should understand that after his run-in with Deb Frisch.

People – on the left and the right – absolutely do judge us by our associations. One can argue whether it was “right” for that Jeff’s old prof to feel the way he does but feelings are rarely logical. What possible purpose – other than to cause distress – was served by refusing a reasonable request?

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Little Miss Attila April 2, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Cassandra, I will specify that Jeff can be sensitive. And I will specify that an overreaction from Jeff is not unheard-of.

However, I have also seen Jeff withstand some badass verbal assaults here in the comment section of my very own blog without stooping to the level of those who were attacking him.

Please keep in mind that I know about the internet–you’ll recall that He Who Must Not Be Named used Facebook to steal a photo of me, name my husband, blog about what he does for a living–basically, the stuff that has you continuing to blog anonymously. I’ve also had my Other Internet Stalker use FaceBook to burn a source I used in a story. Naturally, I never put either one of my siblings on my FaceBook account, and I’ve removed my spouse. I’ve also adjusted my privacy settings so that no once can discern my contacts.

But Interpersonal Diplomacy 101 suggests that if one is going to ask a favor of someone else, one ought to be very nice in doing so. The good professor’s approach reminds me of the woman who rear-ended my car, decided that the reason she had done so was that my brake lights weren’t working (they were–I had a friend help me check them later on that same night), and called me at work to tell me that her insurance company wanted me to sign a statement to the effect that I wouldn’t be suing her over the incident.

“You should do it,” she told me, “especially since you’ve lied about this from the very beginning.”

“No, I haven’t,” I responded. “But I won’t be signing that piece of paper, now that you’ve insulted me.”

The professor’s note was worded nicely enough, but he was rude to Jeff on the phone, and he was the guy who was asking for a favor in the first place. Instead of going on the attack, and dragging Darleen’s cartoon into the discussion, he should have simply told Jeff that he admired his work, but was in an awkward situation WRT people seeing his name on PW.

The teacher passed the email phase, but failed the “sweet-talking-over-the-phone” phase. He wanted a favor from a brilliant, sensitive man. He didn’t get it.

Would I have said “yes” to a similar request? I think I would have. But Jeff was under no obligation, and given that the request might be perceived to be similar to a company I’d worked for asking to be taken off my resume . . . well, that’s a delicate thing to ask. Diplomacy fail.

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Cassandra April 3, 2010 at 6:49 am

Would I have said “yes” to a similar request? I think I would have. But Jeff was under no obligation, and given that the request might be perceived to be similar to a company I’d worked for asking to be taken off my resume . . . well, that’s a delicate thing to ask. Diplomacy fail.

I think there’s a big difference between listing someone on a site where political opinions (often extremely contentious ones, expressed in a way that deliberately gores the other side’s sacred oxen) are expressed.

What is the purpose of listing someone on your site? As a reference? Well, that could quite reasonably be seen as an endorsement (something that is traditionally asked for, not taken for granted). As an association? Do we really have the right to force others to associate themselves with our opinions?

What’s the reason for listing an employer on your resume? Well, the implication is that they shaped your experience in some way – that your work and their training are part of what you offer. An unimpressive or unsavory employer will make a negative impression on an interviewer. A reputable employer makes a positive impression. Either way, there is an association there between your work and your having worked for/with them and moreover it’s on I don’t think is needed for a political blog unless the intent is to say, “You should trust me b/c I worked with this person” (and that’s an implication someone who violently disagrees with you might well not care for).

I’m sorry. I see absolutely no reasonable reason not to comply with such a request.

That isn’t tantamount to saying the prof was nice, diplomatic, or went about it in the right way. I think what I’m saying is that he shouldn’t have to have been. If the request was reasonable, subjectively feeling hurt doesn’t seem like a reason not to grant it.

I have decided that I do not hate you for disagreeing with me :) I don’t hate JeffG for disagreeing with me either. I just disagree.

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Jeff G April 3, 2010 at 7:37 am

What possible purpose – other than to cause distress – was served by refusing a reasonable request?

Maybe because Jeff didn’t want to alter his own autobiography to appease the sensibilities of someone who is only incidental to it. And who was presented in just such a way. Kiteley’s name was third on the list of 4 fiction writers I took classes from. He’s not presented as a mentor. His only prior “association” to me was my mention that I studied under him.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: keep ceding ground like this, and sooner or later you’ll having nothing left to stand on. That certain “conservatives” are willing to make concession after concession — and sniff sanctimoniously at those who don’t find such requests as airbrushing OUR PERSONAL HISTORIES at all “reasonable” — is the reason why we end up running people like McCain, and have a “good man” like Obama in office.

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Jeff G April 3, 2010 at 7:49 am

Again. Here’s where Kiteley’s name appeared. Keep in mind that this is on my “about” page, not on the site proper: “Some of the writers Jeff studied under are Rikki Ducornet, Beth Nugent, Brian Kiteley, and Brian Evenson.”

That’s it. That’s the extent of his “association” with me as referenced on my site (except when I was pushing one of his novels to my readers a few years back; at that time, he evidently found the association less problematic).

It just so happens that Kiteley did write me a letter of reference. But that’s not mentioned. And yes, I find it quite unreasonable that he’d ask me to airbrush what was, in effect, a minor footnote in my personal history.

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Darleen Click April 3, 2010 at 8:03 am

If the request was reasonable

It wasn’t.

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Cassandra April 3, 2010 at 8:13 am

If it’s such a minor and incidental reference, why take such umbrage at the request to remove it?

Most people don’t put everything they’ve ever done or every person they worked with/studied under on their About me page. If the listing of his name is truly not important to you, there seems little harm in removing it.

We are never going to agree on this, I think. It’s hardly dishonest (let alone “airbrushing”) to honor a request about an association you yourself maintain is trivial. Except that for some reason, leaving it up there is very important to you.

If there is no connection between whatever upset him on your site and his name being listed, what point do you prove by leaving it there against his will? Except that you can?

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sdferr April 3, 2010 at 8:23 am

“None of us has the right to the approval of others.”

And how does the bald historical fact that Goldstein studied under the fellow indicate approval? Do any of us have a “right” to bald historical facts? And if not, who has the say in the matter?

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Jeff G April 3, 2010 at 8:32 am

If there is no connection between whatever upset him on your site and his name being listed, what point do you prove by leaving it there against his will? Except that you can?

How about that my personal history belongs to me?

The “point that I prove” is that I don’t need to have a point at all — that I am not answerable to others’ ideas about what purging are or are not “reasonable.”

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Cassandra April 3, 2010 at 8:39 am

Did the professor demand that Jeff lie about this (insignificant) bald historical fact? Was Jeff asked to issue a false statement saying he never studied under this bozo?

For that matter, is every prof Jeff ever studied under listed? Do all the profs he studied under have a “right” to be listed? If Jeff fails to list every single teacher he studied under, is he dishonestly “airbrushing” his record? Of course not. He made a judgment call based on some criterion of perceived value added.

Insignificant and utterly unconnected to his writings as it may be :p

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Jeff G April 3, 2010 at 8:45 am

Did the professor demand that Jeff lie about this (insignificant) bald historical fact? Was Jeff asked to issue a false statement saying he never studied under this bozo?

In effect, yes.

For that matter, is every prof Jeff ever studied under listed?

Every fiction writing professor in the program was listed, yes. Just as those I studied under at Cornell are all listed.

If Jeff fails to list every single teacher he studied under, is he dishonestly “airbrushing” his record? Of course not. He made a judgment call based on some criterion of perceived value added.

Yes, HE did. HE decided what to put in HIS autobiographical material.

Which is his. It having happened to him. Asking him to remove what belongs to HIM based on how it makes YOU feel is certainly allowable. But that doesn’t make it right — and Kiteley’s reasons for doing so I found particularly offensive.

But hey, if it ever happens to you, go ahead and be courteous and do as you’re asked. No harm, no foul.

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Cassandra April 3, 2010 at 8:49 am

Sorry – hadn’t seen your comment when I posted this, Jeff, or I wouldn’t have asked those questions. My comment was in response to the one prior to yours.

The “point that I prove” is that I don’t need to have a point at all — that I am not answerable to others’ ideas about what purging are or are not “reasonable.”

You are not answerable in the sense that you certainly cannot be compelled to do what you so clearly don’t wish to do. And you don’t need to have a reason.

I do have to question the utility of saying “You can’t make me”? Of course he can’t. He asked. And you refused. To show that he can’t make you.

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Little Miss Attila April 3, 2010 at 8:53 am

Cassandra, do you think perhaps you’re making this personal in a way that it doesn’t have to be?

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Jeff G April 3, 2010 at 8:56 am

I do have to question the utility of saying “You can’t make me”?

I have no doubt you do. Pity, that.

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Jeff G April 3, 2010 at 8:58 am

To show that he can’t make you.

Oh, is that why? Not for the other reasons I wrote about?

Wish you’d have told me before I wrote that post. Could have saved me a lot of time had I know I was just in it for the thrill.

Principles? Hah. As if I have any.

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bh April 3, 2010 at 9:00 am

Jeff, did they allow you to attend this college for free? Probably not.

Obviously one of the benefits of higher education is being able to list those one has studied under. This simple fact makes any such request inherently unreasonable. It’s akin to not releasing transcripts.

Studying under two professors in particular was integral to my obtaining specific employment in my field when I was younger. Having them ask me to disavow the simple fact that they had instructed me based on political differences? The very idea is horrifying.

This can not be allowed to become a trend.

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Pablo April 3, 2010 at 9:07 am

I’m making Bloody Mary’s this afternoon, just to show I can.

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bh April 3, 2010 at 9:08 am

Perhaps Cassandra might consider changing the name of her blog from Villainous Company to simply Company.

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Cassandra April 3, 2010 at 9:25 am

Cassandra, do you think perhaps you’re making this personal in a way that it doesn’t have to be?

No Joy, I didn’t think I was doing that. But if it seems to you that I have, obviously I failed to communicate what I was thinking. That’s the problem with communication – other people so often substitute what they think for what you meant :p

There’s a joke in there somewhere, given our past discussions on the speaker determining the intent.

My intent was not to start a pissing contest, or to get personal. But given some of the comments, it certainly does seem to be getting very personal and it does seem that I have caused offense.

For that, I am very sorry.

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Darleen Click April 3, 2010 at 9:29 am

Cassie

I know we are going to agree to disagree on this one (clarity before agreement) but what may seem to you as a “little thing” is just another brick in the wall of allowing others to control what belongs to you. In this case, your own personal history.

If Kiteley wants to Bowdlerize Jeff from his site, so be it. He can “disassociate” as much as he likes. The prof can refrain from volunteering to the fact he knows Jeff, but to deny one of his students was Jeff is a falsification of known events. And he wanted Jeff to “play along” with such mendacity because he disagrees with Jeff’s political views.

Do you think if Sarah Palin had a list of her favorite professors she had studied under listed on her bio anyone of them should be granted the “favor” of her removing their name from the list?

Additionally, it appears someone (3 guesses, the first 2 don’t count) alerted Kiteley to my “racist/sexist/playing on rape culture tropes” cartoon and the prof/novelist wanted his name Bowdlerized since the ‘toon wasn’t removed by Jeff.

This is the kind of backroom Leftist tactics used to intimidate non-leftists we see all the time.

We have to say “nope, not playing YOUR game anymore.”

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ThomasD April 3, 2010 at 9:47 am

“Hell, I Was There” by Elmer Keith.

Best. Autobiography. Title. Ever.

“I’d Love to Tell You About My Life, But Had to Leave Out Many Who Requested That My History Be Treated Like the Property of Others”

Not so good.

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Little Miss Attila April 3, 2010 at 10:00 am

I just hope we aren’t all getting calcified in our stances, here. I don’t like that. I can see both points of view, and they are both legitimate.

For me, it’s not so much a question of whether this guy’s request was “reasonable” or not. He was asking a favor. A big, big-ass favor. Jeff was under no obligation to grant that favor.

Furthermore Jeff blogs as a writer, out in the daylight. He is utterly exposed. He should get some benefits from that, for he most assuredly has to cope with the drawbacks. Which is not a criticism of the choice you make to blog anonymously–but only to remind you that once you are trying to make your living as a blogger and it’s no longer a hobby, it casts these matters in a very different light.

Writing is Jeff’s bread and butter. The specifics of this one situation can be argued back and forth, but as a writer an an erstwhile academic Jeff’s background at DU is a component in his professional credentials, and this is, therefore, a pretty serious matter.

The professor’s request was not a small one.

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Cassandra April 3, 2010 at 10:03 am

Darleen:

I appreciate your courtesy and I take your point. I truly did understand that. I was working towards the point that, just as I don’t understand why a (to me) seemingly trivial matter has such importance to Jeff (and I don’t have to understand), I’m not sure he understands that discounting his old prof’s distress doesn’t make that distress any less real. It’s always easy to dismiss what we don’t agree with or understand.

That said, it seems as though every time I disagree with something over at PW, the discussion gets personal. I realize that this doesn’t bother a great many folks, but it violates what I try (at least) to achieve when I’m discussing a topic and it really does upset me.

A lot.

As I stipulated earlier, there was no obligation for Jeff to do comply with the request. He possessed all the power in this situation since it is unquestionably his site. But when a blogger puts a dispute out for discussion and another blogger comments upon it. people will discuss it and they won’t always agree.

I have not and do not question his right to do as he pleases. I think maybe the solution here is for me to refrain from commenting, since I’m the one who doesn’t like it when things get person. I’m sorry if I offended anyone. Jeff, I’m sorry if I offended you.

I genuinely did not intend to, and if I said something that seemed personal or snide, please forgive me. Typing into a little box is sometimes not the best mode of communication.

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Cassandra April 3, 2010 at 10:06 am

And please excuse the typos. I have my old reading glasses on and they aren’t the greatest.

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sdferr April 3, 2010 at 10:36 am

“It’s always easy to dismiss what we don’t agree with or understand.”

Here, the problem seems to be that rather than dismissing Kiteley’s request and having done with it, Jeff has taken to thinking about it, taking a paint stripper to it and peeling off the apparent “triviality” of the thing, revealed it as a naked assault against the very “values” of free speech that Kiteley professes to teach (still, we presume) even as Kiteley laughs at Jeff’s naivete for taking them seriously. But it’s Jeff that is unreasonable here. For thinking. meh

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happyfeet April 3, 2010 at 10:59 am

Cassandra person Mr. Jeff is not beyond the pale, no? No. Mr. Jeff doesn’t need to say to Mr. Kitely person oh hey but I can understand how you might think I’m beyond the pale.

That would be something people do when they don’t have integrity.

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happyfeet April 3, 2010 at 11:01 am

but also it’s a crazy beautiful day

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