Blogs > Cliopatria > Discover The Network ...

Feb 17, 2005 6:31 pm

Discover The Network ...

A year ago, Invisible Adjunct, Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber, and I had some fun with David Horowitz's Follow the Network. It was supposed to be a"Guide to the Left," but it included such anomalies as Paul Berman and Garry Wills, the Harvard Alumni Association and the Wall Street Journal. Embarrassed by the bloopers, Horowitz quickly blamed the fact that he hadn't had a chance to review the work of his unpaid staff and took the site down. I just learned somewhere that David pays himself $179,000 a year. You'd have thought he could have spared a dime to pay for some help.

Well, it's a year later and Ted Barlow at Crooked Timber tells us that David's back! Via Discover The, we can trace the links among Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Barack Obama. Not only that, but we can link them to such threats to American liberty as Jane Addams and Alfred I. DuPont. That David Horowitz. He's such a stitch!

While I'm Discovering Networks, I'm registering my grievance here with Richard Jensen's Conservativenet, where I was censored yesterday. Jensen gratuitously sent out an announcement that something called the"Educational Approval Board" of the state of Wisconsin has accredited something called"Robert Welch University" as an on-line, degree-granting institution. Yes, it's named for the founder of the John Birch Society. Yes, RWU is headquartered in Appleton, Wisconsin, the home of Joseph McCarthy; but, yes, its services will be available to your sons and daughters around the world at a cost much less than your regular colleges and universities. It has been endorsed by such distinguished American educators as Thomas E. Woods, author of the best-selling The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. Don't take my word for it. Go over to Eric Muller's Is That Legal? for a glimpse at just how poisonous this stuff is. Or, try Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit, Eugene Volokh at The Volokh Conspiracy, or Max Boot at the Weekly Standard. Or, are those authorities too unreliably radical for you? Now, however, Wisconsin allows your sons and daughters to get a certified degree in it and the Republic will be safe from all harm. Why don't I feel re-assured?

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Maarja Krusten - 2/20/2005

In looking back at HNN's inactive blogs, I've discovered that the original name for Dr. Luker's blog was "Welcome to My World." I think that if it had kept that title, rather than becoming Cliopatria, I would not have tried to intrude on it so often.

Blogs really do seem to be about offering a window into the blogger's world. Because I was unfamiliar with them before I started reading HNN carefully last summer, I mistook them for open forums or message boards. But they're not forums. They belong to the blogger and s/he has every right to address his or her interests, ignore comments, and swat down those who intrude.

Had I understood that, I would not have offered many comments here. After all, my perspective as a government historian and a former archivist is very different from that of educators. I even use a vastly different toolkit in order to survive in my world. Cliopatria is about the educators' world, not mine. I understand that - you guys need the type of solidarity and support this blog provides. In thinking it over, I honestly don't begrudge you that.

Why did I intrude? Because it took me a while to realize that the people writing were all educators rather than potential researchers in government documents. And because I was unfamiliar with the concept of trolls. I only subscribe to one mailing list, the Archives & Archivists Listserv. Anyone can post there. Some postings trigger a flurry of responses. Others are met with silence. But no one is called a troll. I thought a blog worked the same way, the mistake was mine, not Cliopatria's.

Am I angry? Of course not. Does it hurt. Well, yeah, of course it does. I feel as passionately about my issues as does K. C. Johnson, or Jonathan Dresner, or Ralph Luker, or Oscar Chamberlain about the academic and campus issues they care about. Just take a look at my [warning--near dissertation length] comments today at the newly posted article on Presidential tapes at the main page at to get a glimpse at why. I went through harrowing experiences when I testified in 1992, somewhat as a whistleblower, during the elder Bush's administration. Thirteen years later, the shock stays with me. I want desperately to spare any future archivists that type of experience.

An archival studies professor wrote me last year that "I honestly believe that one of the major issues archivists and records managers will face in the years ahead is the personal matter of knowing when to become a whistle blower – when they see that records reveal illegal and unethical activity or when they see efforts to destroy or hide records that may reveal information about problem activity.

Saying this, I realize that the archives profession is not prepared to deal with this. SAA has, for example, backed off of one of the strongest ethics statements out there because of a fear of litigation. And there have been cases where archivists have lost their jobs become they have spoken up.

Still, with ever growing government and organizational secrecy, we need people to speak up about records abuses. I tell my students about this matter, and suggest that each one of them will face one or more career-threatening decisions in their employment. It is not a pretty picture, but if we believe that records exist for purposes such as evidence and accountability, we need more courageous stands."

I've told that professor about my largely failed outreach on HNN, at least on the blogs. Dr. Dresner's closed group idea would help me find solidarity but would limit my ability to educate other historians. (Archivists and government employees already know a lot about what I discuss.)

I honestly don't know how archivists are going to react in the face of ethical issues in the current climate. But I know I've fought hard to protect them and the profession. And I'll continue to fight. It's only because I didn't understand Cliopatria's world, that I intruded here rather than staying on the main page. It took me an awfully long time to figure it out -- had the blog's title been different, I wouldn't have been such a slow learner! At any rate, my apologies to you all.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/18/2005

The life of the mind never ceases at Cliopatria.

Jason Nelson - 2/18/2005

Once again, your misinterpreting. Your constant need to have the last word is like a "desert strom". There is no where to hide, any hour of the day, Mr. Luker is there.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/18/2005

You consider yourself like unto "a desert storm"? There are much higher callings in life.

Jason Nelson - 2/18/2005

"Ever feel like a hitchhiker on a Texas highway during a desert storm? You can't run, you can't hide, and you can't make it stop." ~ Lyndon Johnson

Ralph E. Luker - 2/18/2005

I am glad this makes you think. See: Emerson.

Jason Nelson - 2/18/2005

There has been a controversy over the fact that Mr. Reeves does not respond on his blog. This has make me think. What is the difference between that and someone who will only answer the simple, direct, questions that he wants to, "cherry picking", as it were?
Im not a big fan of either approach, however it must be noted that at least Mr. Reeves is consistent.

Maarja Krusten - 2/18/2005

Glad to hear you find my posts interesting, Mr. Nelson, thanks for the vote of support! Personally, I don't find this to be an issue of bullying but I have to say, HNN's are the only blogs I read so I am not the best person to speak on bloggers' protocols and conventions.

Here's how I see it. As one of the bloggers pointed out recently, the advantage of having a blog is that the writer controls what s/he writes about in the posted mini-essays. And that includes reacting or not reacting to posts that react to the mini-essays. Basically, the blogs give us a window into the issues that engage the various bloggers.

Historians are not monolithic as a group, as you and everyone reading HNN knows already! There are educators, research historians who rarely if ever set foot in a classroom, academic historians, and public historians. I've been mulling over the fact that while Dr. Dresner suggests I find a closed group to discuss public policy and archival access issues, the net effect of which would be to remove HNNers from exposure to the issues I've been immersed in during my career, Gary Ostrower notes that "Krusten has been the most articulate voice in this country demanding genuine preservation of--and access to--the archival documents that undergird what we historians do."

What two of Cliopatria's bloggers seem to find off-topic, iif I've interpreted their messages to me correctly (and aapologies if I have not), Dr. Ostrower regards as _undergirding_ what historians do. To me, all this just reflects the varying interests and differing interpretations one finds in any community. I'm still mulling all this over as I have to admit, the whole concept of trolls is foreign to me, aside from the notion that some people act provocatively on purpose, something people see occasionally in everyday life as well, be it personal and professional.

Many of my posts are very long because I have a feelihng readers lack prior knowledge of the issues. I admit to excessive "verbiage" at times. I define archival concepts and legal requirements, discuss what auditors refer to as "contextual sophistication," etc., to lay out the background I feel is necessary for measured consideration of the issues, and so forth. It all does add to the word counts, LOL.

I'm admittedly handicapped by the fact that, as a Federal government employee, I feel constrained also in having to be circumspect and, thus, circuitous, so I make some of my points indirectly. That style of discourse naturally adds to the verbiage some readers may find annoying. I understand that andshould not assume that people intuitively understand what I am doing and why.

Perhaps my comments on archival issues and primary source materials belong more on the HNN main page than here. As I've noted, most of the people blogging here are educators. It's not that I believe that educators are not educable or that instructors are so accustomed to instructing those with lesser knowledge that they forget how to hone their listening skills. Rather, my posts are more likely to be of interest to research historians, specifically the people who are working with or are likely to work in the future with government records controlled by the U.S. National Archives.

There was no way for me to tell when I started reading HNN's blogs who fell into that category. So, I never foresaw the trap I was falling into with postings that might seem "off topic." It certainly is not the fault of Cliopatria's bloggers that they reflect the teaching side of being historians, it just fell out that way in this particular group of bloggers.

Although I am not angry, words of encouragement, such as yours, Mr. Nelson, always are welcome and I thank you!

Ralph E. Luker - 2/18/2005

Not at all, especially when you go from blog to blog with attacks and specifically demand answers to certain questions that are bound to lead to flame wars. When you put me on your payroll, I might be bound to answer questions from you.

Jason Nelson - 2/18/2005

Mr. Luker,
Perhaps you are seeing what you want to see in my comments. I never mentioned your name in the post. Are you projecting a little bit, Mr. Luker?

Ralph E. Luker - 2/18/2005

Jason, For what its worth, I don't know of _anyone_ who has "bullied" Maarja; and I'd have to say that you've done your fair share of trying to bait me into flame wars -- at Cliopatria and elsewhere. No one has tried to intimidate you. I am fully aware that you don't agree with me. Why not just let it go? There are lots of other good things to talk about without the constant attack.

Jason Nelson - 2/18/2005

For what its worth, I have enjoyed reading your posts and I will keep an eye out for you, although I doubt I can be of much help. I hope you keep expressing yourself. I will not be silenced by bullying tactics, I hope you will not either.

Maarja Krusten - 2/17/2005

Excellent suggestion, Dr. Dresner. I regret that historians on the History News Network are not more interested in the issues, but actually received some encouraging feedback just this morning. Check out Gary Ostrower's post to me at on Joan Hoff's article. As a self described Republican, he even refers to a plea I made for bipartisan support for the National Archives months ago on HNN. So there are lurkers who ARE reading my stuff, LOL. Check it out as well as my response. And thanks for the good suggestion and the courtesy of your reply. Reading between the lines, I think you correctly picked up on the "professional and intellectual loneliness" of being a member of a one-person history office. Obviously, that is why my postings are so long, I am very thirsty. :-) (Hope smileys are permitted here, who knows, but ya know what, if I'm smiling, I'll let you know, LOL.)

Jonathan Dresner - 2/17/2005

Thanks for the link: that's actually kind of a fun document, with almost a century of perspective.....

Sometimes I wish I did US history.... such great material to work with, and all in English.

Jonathan Dresner - 2/17/2005

Ms. Krusten,

It sounds to me like what the Federal historians need is not a blog, but a closed-membership listserv, with a high standard of confidentiality. They do exist, they can be set up cheaply or for free by almost total amateurs, and they can be fantastic venues for relieving precisely the sort of professional tension which you describe.

One of my very few regrets about completing the Ph.D. was that I had to get off of the H-Grad list, which was a source of great support, inspiration and information. H-Grad does not permit undergrads or Ph.D.s to subscribe, and anyone who subscribes has to commit to maintaining the confidentiality of the discussions and discussants. It words really well, or at least it did in my experience.

In fact, you might consider approaching the H-Net board with the possibility of an archival issues list: perhaps an open one for all archivists and interested parties and a closed one for Federals.

Maarja Krusten - 2/17/2005

Again, apologies for misunderstanding, but I just do not read many blogs, don't have sufficient antecedents for flame wars and trolls, haven't been subjected to trolling or flame wars myself, and basically am ignorant of a lot of what goes on with bloggers publicly or privately. Got too much on my plate in other areas to get much involved, I'm afraid. And I accept your rebuke that you cannot create the blog I seek. Just asking, really meekly now, ok, that you keep your eyes open for one should you see it. 'z all.

Ralph E. Luker - 2/17/2005

1) I can't magically create the ideal blog or website for you if it doesn't exist.

Maarja Krusten - 2/17/2005

You mention that "you might consider establishing a blog which addresses the issues that concern you." That is not an option for me for reasons that probably are clear to most readers.

I apologize if my earlier posting was not clear. I am not asking why HNN bloggers do not address the type of public policy issues I write about. Mark Safranski made that clear to me when he confessed that he was not up to speed on archival and records access issues and would have to do considerable study before he could engage in meaningful conversation on them. He is not alone in that. I can illustrate my point by asking HNN readers, how much of what I have written about already was known to you? Please post specific citations to previously published works (web or traditional hard copy.)

Your own blog postings, although extensive, naturally center on the world you know best and rarely mention issues such as the recent removal from a university collection of selected items from Sen. Henry M. Jackson's papers. .

Again, I think you misunderstood what I was asking. I asked for information on other blogs, not just from you, but from other HNN posters and bloggers.

As to trolls, I was not involved in the debate over them that you and Dr. Howard and others had with Steve Tootle, Derek Catsam, and Mr. Nelson, except at the end when I pleaded for less yelling and more listening. Nor did I engage in the Reeves debate. But I read all the blogs every day. I have to tell you, the predominant vibe I pick up on HNN some days is -- fear. It is an odd vibe for a history news network.

Still keeping my ears and eyes open for anything I can hear about other blogs!

Ralph E. Luker - 2/17/2005

1) My flame included the nouns, Adolph Hitler and Ku Klux Klan. Richard tells me that he rarely allows Adolph Hitler and Ku Klux Klan to be mentioned on Conservativenet. One wonders why.
2) You are wrong about the definition of "troll". It is one who is deliberately inflammatory, one who baits ordinary mortals into endless, meaningless verbiage. You might consider establishing a blog which addresses the issues that concern you.

Christy Jo Snider - 2/17/2005

This reminds me of the spider-web chart put out by the U.S. military in the 1920s. It linked such radical socialist-pacifists like Lola Maverick Lloyd, Florence Kelly, and Mrs. Bob LaFollette to the un-American organizations like the National Federation of Business and Professional Women, the American Association of University Women, the General Federation of Women's Clubs, and the Women's Christian Temperance Union.


Maarja Krusten - 2/17/2005

Two questions for Dr. Luker, one on censorship and one on sources of engagement:

1. You mention being censored on Conservativenet. I subscribe to Conservativement but have only submitted a couple of postings to it, both on Allen Weinstein's nomination as U.S. Archivist. One was posted by Dr. Jensen, the other was not. When I sent him an inquiry about the latter, he responded something along the lines of one of my posting's on the issue already having been posted. Nevertheless, I got no sense that the people subscribing to his List showed any in-depth knowledge of the issues surrounding the National Archives. Their postings centered instead on Dr. Weinstein's scholarship. I did not pursue the outreach effort after that.

My question to you is, what luck have you had in getting your postings to Conservativenet distributed by Dr. Jensen? As moderator, does he often reject your postings? Have you picked up a pattern of any kind in what he rejects?

2. You obviously monitor many blogs. I continue to look for ones that center on historical research, including public policy issues relating to access to records, as well as issues of interest to educators. If you find any, please do post links or otherwise let me know. (The question is directed not just at Dr. Luker but at the HNN community as a whole). Here's why I'm on the lookout.

As the lone Historian at my agency, I need to be on the lookout for information I can use as questions come up at work. On the job, I don't have the sense of community that I did when I previously worked at the National Archives, where almost everyone has at least a Master's degree in History. I haven't found HNN very useful to me as the posters tend to be too political and the bloggers too academic in their interests. Mostly, I feel I'm on my own. Perhaps that is not unusual for a government historian.

Roger Trask, former dean of a history department and a retired Federal historian, has noted perceptively, "one of the problems peculiar to one-person [history] offices is professional and intellectual loneliness. There is no one readily available internally to discuss program directions and initiatives, research problems and analytical questions." Having worked in three federal agencies, Trask believes the federal historian often faces problems because he "is a unique and little-understood personality in an agency engrossed in current affairs." (Roger R. Trask, "Small Federal History Offices in the Nation's Capital," The Public Historian (Winter 1991)).

As does Dr. Trask, Richard Hewlett (often referred to as "the dean of Federal historians") believes the historian has a unique role within his agency: "The government historian leads an exciting if precarious existence. He must maintain his independence and fight his own battles. He must be discreet in choosing topics for research, and he must evaluate the practicalities of publishing the results of his work. If he is reckless, he will probably not survive as a government historian; if he is too cautious he will fail to achieve his purpose." (Richard G. Hewlett, "Government History: Writing from the Inside," in Frank C. Evans and Harold T. Pinkett, eds., Research in the Administration of Public Policy (Washington: Howard University Press, 1975)

HNN has been of almost no help to me so I continue to look for other sources. I'm reluctant to engage in the blogs because I've come to believe that the definition of trolls has extended beyond people who are deliberately provocative to cover anyone who strays the least bit into off-topic postings. Since normal human conversation does not stay strictly within set boundaries, I find various segues and even the occasional complete veering off of the path to be normal but I gather bloggers have different standards. People certainly seem to get their knuckles rapped, directly or indirectly, with increasing fequency.

Since I'm a federal historian, my background naturally is different from that of the bloggers, most of whom are educators. But when I try to introduce them to my world as a Federal employee, as they do me to theirs with their bloggings, I'm met with silence (and no, I'm not talking about Reeves), perhaps because they view the postings as off-topic. (But how then can people learn? Oh well.) If you look at the blogs, often it is the bloggers posting on each others blogs. . . . for whatever reason. At any rate, HNN has its limitations, for reasons I've been unable to put my finger on but accept without completely understanding.

Sherman Jay Dorn - 2/17/2005

Ah, yes, the famous fact-checking of the great independent scholar Mr. Horowitz, where we discovered (in the PDF excerpt of "Campus Support for Terrorism") that the AAUP condemned my institution in the year 20026 (see p. 8, on sheet 6 of the PDF). Or should that be will condemn in another 18,021 years? Such prescience, to know that the AAUP will still be around and causing headaches for administrators!

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