March 10, 2007

Smurf Activity Watch: Malchow Reports that Dartmouth Administration Is Secretly in Control of the World's Press

According to newly inducted Smurf Phrygian Joe Malchow, writing in a frenzy of paranoid ecstasy (and a whole bloated paragraph of self-congratulation), a story about the possibility of President Wright's retiring was changed over the course of March 8th. [Cue menacing music]

The first wire, Joe says, focused on Wright's statement that he wouldn't be retiring any time too soon by putting it in the context of the last three trustee elections and the current one, in which another insurgent is running. The second wire contextualizes Wright's denial of imminent retirement in light of a comment by one of the other trustee candidates to the effect that the winner of this election will be around for the selection of the next president.

That is all true, but Joe leaves the impression that the second wire leaves out any talk of the trustee elections ("gone is the language contextualizing President Wright’s e-mail message with three Trustee elections lost to independent, petition-nominated alumni candidates"), which is completely untrue. In fact, it is a bold-faced lie. The second wire, according to Malchow's own copy, states,
The article and e-mail come amid efforts by anti-Wright
alumni to put representatives on the college's Board of
Trustees, which may select the next president of the Hanover,
New Hampshire, school, the smallest of the eight Ivy League
colleges. Elections to replace one trustee begin April 1.
Malchow also claims (unless his bad writing is getting in the way) that the story was cut down in the update ("a tight, contextualized news story was halved in the space of just a few hours"). It most certainly was not. The updated version is 591 words long, the first version, 522.

Malchow's assumption is that Dartmouth PR people got to Bloomberg News and made them change their tune to protect Wright from looking like he was scared of dissident alums ("Did Dartmouth’s public relations people complain? If they did, how did their thinking go? In the first version, it was the loss of three public Board votes—four including the constitution—that prompted Mr. Wright’s abjuration of all “reports” of retirement. In the second, it was an explicit statement about Wright’s “imminent resignation” by one of the officially nominated candidates for trustee that prompted Wright’s denial. Which looks better?"). I find that paranoid and incomprehensible. How can Dartmouth have that kind of power?

Not only that, but Malchow himself cooks the books considerably—he ignores most of the wire which deals with alumni dissent, particularly in reference to Joe Asch's (not very recent) letter calling for Wright's resignation, which is discussed in both versions. Malchow clearly wants people to believe that Dartmouth is suppressing word of alumni dissent from getting out to the public, which is absurd when most of both versions deal explicitly with that very topic. Malchow is not just wrong here, he's actively lying and misleading.

Finally, I can't help but quote Joe's first paragraph. I don't know how people take him seriously. I really don't:
The Dartmouth government student’s cup spilleth o’er not with wine but with news about the world. Between AP, Reuters, Xinhua, Bloomberg, Kyodo, Dow, and, oui, sometimes the Agence France-Presse, I must glance at more than one thousand news items a day, poring over a hundred or so to analyze for bloggability. To make the job easier—and so I never am reduced to actually staring at the raw wire—a series of filters and news alerts ding me when an item likely to be of interest moves—that’s the word the news folks use, moves—across the wire.
Jesus Christ, how do you stand this kid, Phrygians?


  1. Anonymous1:30 PM

    "Jesus Christ, how do you stand this kid, Phrygians?"

    I could ask the Free Press the same thing about you.

  2. Anonymous2:13 PM

    You could, but it would be a different sort of question. Malchow's writing is awful. Seal's isn't. Maybe there's something else you find annoying about Seal, but it's not clear from the comment.

    I wonder if they make Phrygian caps out of tinfoil.

    This week we have conservative conspiracy theorists and cries of judicial activism (accusing the courts of recognizing rights they shouldn't have) from the liberals.

    Good times.

  3. Anonymous2:16 PM

    I agree with you seldom on topics such as these but I must second your last point. Malchow is an obvious inductee being that he runs a well read blog and a few key alumni connections. It's a bit obvious Malchow is their press outlet.

  4. 1:30--To answer your question, we at the DFP stand Seal just fine. And when he takes on someone, whether on LGB or in the DFP, he has the huevos to sign his name to his opinions. He doesn't snipe anonymously from the bushes.

  5. Anonymous2:50 PM

    It's true, Malchow's writing is pretty bad. He tries too hard to come off as a true conservative pundit, without realizing that right wing pundits are some of the stupidest people in the world. Take it from me - I'm a conservative myself. That being said, even in comparison to Malchow's pathetic writing, there's no way you can pass off Seal's writing as anything short of terrible. It's really just a question of degree. Malchow sucks really, really hard. Seal just sucks hard. At the end of the day, we should ignore both of these douchebags and realize that the vast majority of the campus is closer to the center and, for the most part, doesn't give a shit what either one of these morons has to say.

  6. Anonymous3:03 PM

    2:50 - maybe one of the reasons he does that is because he, unlike most of the people who post on this blog, has an opportunity to air his opinions unlike just about anyone else. The fact that he's both a writer for the DFP and one of only two main posters here means that he has the ability to steer the discussion and voice his opinion in a way that most people can. Those of us who are too busy living real lives to bitch and moan about every little "political" event would prefer not to to leave our names so Seal can use the myriad of media outlets at his disposal to trash us. And besides, you seem to have answered Seal's question and mine at the same time. Seal was wondering how the Phrygians stand Malchow the same way someone else was wondering how the DFP stands Seal. If there's an organization out there that can stand a self-righteous stupid tool like Seal, is it that difficult to imagine another group that can stand an arrogant idiot like Malchow?

  7. Seal is snarky, not a douchebag. There's a huge difference. Namely, that its possible to read Seal's writing, agree with him, and still like him afterwards.
    Besides, when Joe "Pompous Smurf" Malchow spouts off his dumb shit in that mastrubatory, self-admiring prose, how is one supposed to react? How the fuck do you let that kid in a club? He's the kind of person you create clubs to keep out.

  8. Anonymous3:17 PM


    Believe it or not, Mr. Shah, it's also possible to agree with Malchow and like him afterwards. The fact that you personally don't doesn't mean that others can't. Is it really that hard to believe that there might be people out there who fundamentally disagree with you on some major issue who are not racists, homophobes, fascists, or sexists? Perhaps you were to try to realize that all arguments, no matter how sound, are still fallible, you might not be so convinced that everyone who disagrees with you is either wrong or stupid. It's called intellectual modesty - and while Malchow certainly doesn't have it, you're being downright dishonest if you can't admit that Seal doesn't either.

    Here's the argument - from your point of view, Seal's snarky and Malchow's a douche. It's just as legitimate to flip those labels around.

  9. 3:03: Yes, I can control the entire world of discourse at Dartmouth College with my empire of LGB and DFP. I'm so glad you pointed that out and that my massive media hegemon is so frightening as to leave you cowering in anonymity.

    But I'd like to know in what this "real life" you speak of consists? Basement-dwelling? Doming? Hangover-recovery? Covertly watching Gray's Anatomy? Please, tell me what I'm missing out on. I'm dying to turn my life into yours.

  10. Anonymous4:05 PM

    Very well, Mr. Seal, if the argument is that there isn't any plausible connection between being publicly named on a press outlet and opening yourself up to scrutiny and criticism as a result, then I assume you equally condemn the stupidity and shortsightedness of Carlos Mejia? Or is it your position that you'll do anything to criticize those who disagree with you, without an regard for making consistent arguments?

    I'm not trying to be snarky here, I'm just giving you a choice. You could argue (in my mind, correctly) that it is cowardly for people to criticize you anonymously on this blog, and that it Carlos was a moron when he argued that The D should not have revealed the list of names for the new dean. Or, you could argue that Carlos was right - but then you'd have to concede that it's legitimate for people to take pot shots at you from the darkness. Either way, understand that you can't legitimately make an argument and then excuse yourself from its consequences.

  11. Anonymous4:28 PM

    3:30 -

    No, try studying, enjoying the outdoors, spending time with friends, going to shows at The Hop, attending discussion groups and lectures by some of the amazing speakers Dartmouth draws, and generally realizing that your years are Dartmouth are better spent learning, and not attempting to teach others.

  12. Look, if I really felt that strongly about anonymous comments, I'd turn them off. I don't really care; I just think that you're overstating my power on campus. I really can't believe someone like Eastman actually suffers from me pointing out what a joke his last op-ed was. But if you feel like your opinions are stupid enough or your analysis bad enough that you don't want me skewering them online or in print, well, I just can't help you.

    But seriously, are you really that scared of "opening yourself up to scrutiny and criticism as a result"? I'd love to have you on my corporate team. I'm sure your eagerness to avoid taking responsibility for your thoughts will serve you well there.

    But as for your attempt at a trap—you're not even comparing like to like here. If what I said was true about the nature of confidentiality for administrative search processes, then The D's actions could seriously affect the quality of our top administrators for years to come. Outing S*peen's coup and the reasons for it is the only thing I've done on this blog which I consider to have ever had any potentially serious consequences, and if you want to fault me for that, go ahead. I think I was justified in that case, but I can see why some people feel I went over the line.

    However, talking about a personal disciplinary record (which his law schools or first employers would likely get anyway if they ask for a copy of his transcript) is not anything like pointing out someone like Eastman has no idea what censorship is. For one thing, if my commentary on someone's op-ed pops up on a Google search, so will the op-ed and if my criticisms are solid, any employer or grad school will come to similar conclusions.

    Bottom line, though, is that if I criticize someone, it's usually because of something they've written and usually something that they have published, whether in the Review or The D or Dartblog or a comment. I criticize voluntary actions which people undertake with the knowledge that their name and their association to that action will be made public. The dean candidates did not know that their names would be made public—in fact, they were under the express and explicit understanding that they would not be. These are two entirely different things. Your trap sucks. Go read a book on something that will make you smarter.

  13. 4:28 I'm so glad you're teaching me not to teach others. Thanks for the lesson.

    Unfortunately, if I explained why I already do enough of most of your suggestions, people will call me conceited, so I'll just say that you don't know me very well if you think I'm not doing enough studying.

  14. Anonymous5:33 PM

    Actually, the argument makes a lot more sense than you give it credit for. The argument for self-censorship of the list of dean candidates boils down to this: if people thought that they might be publicly scrutinized and have their lives dissected, they might not apply for the job of dean. This, in turn, might reduce the quality of applicants, resulting in our choosing a dean who may have been inferior to one who could have chosen if we had the larger applicant pool as a result of confidentiality.

    Here's the argument for anonymity on this blog: if people on this blog believed that they would be opening themselves up to personal scrutiny if they posted here, they might not do so at all. This, in turn, would result in the the silencing of voices that could be not only insightful, but very productive to a constructive intellectual discourse. That's not to suggest that everyone would stop posting; in fact, I'm sure that there would still be people who continued to post. The problem is that the overall quality of the discussion would suffer, since the expanded pool of posters is, in my mind, an inherently good thing. Even if you could prove that every single anonymous poster who would no longer post if anonymity was no longer an option was stupid, bigoted, and unreasonable, I'd still argue that hearing their (bad) arguments is inherently a good thing. The very fact that certain people hold views that are repulsive is key to the long-term success of any society. It allows the rest of us to hear those views, reject them, and thus reaffirm our own views.

    I understand that there's a differerence in terms of consequences. On on hand, we're talking about potentially losing an excellent dean candidate, whereas on the other we're talking about have a lower quality discussion. Despite this, I still think that there are strong parallels between the two. The foundation of the argument, after all, is about intimidation and the effects it has on participation in the public sphere. If you can argue that the primary motivation for people to want to remain anonymous on your blog is their arguments and points of view are stupid and indefensible to the point of deserving ridicule, then can't we make a very similar argument about the dean candidates? What were they trying to hide that they needed the privacy, anyway?

    In fact, I'll extend the argument. Privacy is key on a blog like this because all points of view are valuable - even counter-productive, stupid ones. In searching for a dean, however, this isn't necessarily true. I think public scrutiny is actually a great litmus test for dean candidates. If these individuals have any skeletons in their closet, they should be drawn out. If they hold points of view or have beliefs that are stupid and worthy or ridicule, then they should either be willing to endure that ridicule, change their points of view, or not apply to be dean of one of the best institutions of higher learning in the world.

    You could, of course, argue that while the criticism of you on this blog is (for the most part) not overtly partisan, the criticism of dean candidates is bound to be. People criticize you on this blog for the ideas you advocate; the dean candidacy could easily become a politicized affair in which interest groups who have a stake in one candidate smear another simply for the sake of smearing them, thus causing them undue suffering without actually doing anything to further the process of finding the best qualified individual to be the next dean. However, even in light of this criticism, I still think that publicizing the list of candidates was justified. The argument essentially boils down to this: "We shouldn't have publicized the names because interest groups will smear the candidates simply to advance their own agendas".

    This is absolutely ridiculous. Do these people even know what kind of job they're applying for? The dean of Dartmouth College is one of the most important and visible positions in American academia; if they're unable to withstand political motivated criticisms and attacks when they're just applying for the job, what do you think is going to happen for them when they actually become dean? Being able to endure fierce criticism is pretty much a requirement for any high-profile job at Dartmouth; the sooner people applying for the position of dean realize this, the better prepared they'll be for the job.

    The final argument I can forsee is that individuals may be less likely to apply for a position at Dartmouth for fear of damaging their prospects in their careers at their home institutions. This cuts both ways. Have you ever considered why a certain institution may dislike the fact that one of their faculty is applying for a job elsewhere? That institution has invested resources into this faculty member, who now wants to quit. If the institution realizes that there's a chance this faculty member may quit, it might be less likely to allocate grants and other resources to the candidate. I don't see a problem with this. It's perfectly reasonable for another college to make decisions in their own best interest - at the end of the day, the people applying for the job of dean are acting in their own best interest at the (potential) detriment of their home institutions. Imagine if Professor Balkom, who was just awarded $400k to do research in artificial intelligence, decided to attempt to leave Dartmouth tomorrow. Should the administration continue to show him preferential treatment (which he has certainly earned and deserves), at the cost of denying this treatment to other comp sci professors who are going to be around longer, and thus, better serve the Dartmouth student body? You can't possibly argue that it's fair for us to protect the individuals who would apply for the position of dean here at the expense of the entire student body of another institution. And besides, think of it this way: if it is true that publicizing the names means that people are reluctant to apply, the only applicants we'll get will be very wel-qualified individuals who are very confident that they have a good shot at getting the job. This means that not only do we get a field of excellent candidates, but we also don't have to spend the time and money weeding through the chaff.

    Point being: there is actually a very clear parallel between the rationale for anonymous posts on your blog and the candidates for the new dean. If there isn't, it's only because there's actually a legitimate reason to deny the dean candidates their privacy for the sake of the college as a whole, whereas individual posters have a greater need to be protected because their contributions only affect the course of a short-lived discussion, whereas the dean could be around for much longer.

  15. I'll deal with the rest of your comment later (I need to get back to a paper), but I don't want to let this stand:
    The very fact that certain people hold views that are repulsive is key to the long-term success of any society. It allows the rest of us to hear those views, reject them, and thus reaffirm our own views.

    I hate this argument—it's pluralism ad absurdum. It replaces the liberal idea of the open-minded individual with the libertarian idea of an open-minded society and is therefore wide open to the same kind of criticism conservatives make about the "value" of complete open-mindedness—at some point having an open mind becomes the same thing as having no mind of one's own.

    Let's take your argument to its ultimate conclusion. If, as you say, a society benefits from the presence of repulsive opinions, shouldn't Dartmouth, for instance, actually recruit racists, sexists, and homophobes? In fact, why doesn't it prioritize applicants who express a corrosive prejudice? Why doesn't the government hand out subsidies? Why don't we seek them out as friends so that we have that one token racist always around to keep our opinions fresh and vital?

    Seriously, is history not good enough for you? Do you have to talk to a racist and hear him spew venomous bullshit to know that racism is wrong? Can't you just figure that out from reading a history of slavery or apartheid or even just talking to a black person? Can't you learn more about why racism is bad by talking to one of the victims than by manneredly chatting with one of its practitioners?

    I find your view repulsive, and i really didn't need it spelled out to come to that conclusion.

  16. There's no way to directly prevent people from saying what they want to say; nor should anybody want to.

    Andrew, I think that an even better way of putting it is to note that all points of view are not, in fact, valuable. To confer value is to make a judgment, and many people judge, with good reason, that certain viewpoints are not valuable. Are circular arguments valuable? Arguments with false premises? Arguments with logical fallacies are still arguments, but they are hardly valuable.

    Which society is better: one in which a repulsive view is never expressed, or one in which repulsive views are expressed all the time? The former is tautologically better. Of course, no such society is likely. Can we really say, however, that repulsive views make society better? There is value to be had in learning from error; but, as you point out, this is one of the benefits of recorded history. The repulsive views are there and innumerable: authoritarianism, slavery, racism, and more. As they are reborn in their various formations, they should be readdressed. Discussion, in this sense, is essential to a free society.

    It is a difficult process, and absolute responses do not help the problem. People who express repulsive views do not have uniform motivation. Some are simply in error and are happy to learn as much. Others are more fanatical, motivated by pure belief. The key is to distinguish between different motivations, and to deal with it on a case-by-case basis. Mistakes will be made, but that's to be expected. In some cases, it's perfectly justifiable to say, “You're an idiot, and I'd neither talk to you nor hear you speak.” In other cases, it would be more beneficial to take the time to listen and respond.

    Regardless, the decision is an individual one to make. If you're bored of educating people who are obviously in error, there's nothing wrong with refusing to respond to them. There will probably always be others who would be more than happy to do so.

    The point is that blanket rules do not address the problem. They reduce it, and thus misunderstand it. In misunderstanding it, they fail to address it, or, worse yet, exacerbate it. Andrew is correct, in the end, to note that this is an individual problem. It might be more exact, however, to say that it is neither true that all views are valuable for society nor true that all invaluable views should be excised from society. Anybody who espouses one of these arguments either hasn't thought them through clearly, or is simply hiding behind empty slogans in order to avoid real discussion.

  17. Have you called the Bloomberg reporter to see if Dartmouth intervened to change the story? A little research is always a good thing before you mouth off about how the world works.

  18. Have you, Joseph? It's alright for you to express skepticism without further argument, but my laboriously text-based argument which expresses skepticism isn't?

    I think this game is rigged, Joseph. Don't be puerile.

  19. Anonymous4:51 PM

    What's weird is that it didn't occur to Joe that the article was rewritten because it was INACCURATE.

    I feel sorry for him straining his poor eyes with all those feeds...