This was posted in the comments below, but since it is about the blog more generally, I am promoting it to a post so that other readers will be more likely to see it and join in or respond. Let me just also say that the whole point of comment threads on blogs, or one of them, is the opportunity to immediately rebut something you disagree with in the same place it was published. So, if like this reader, you are displeased with what you read here on PO2, why wait for a formal letter to the editor? Let me have it right away.
Recently, upon receiving a regular e-mail regarding the publication of Common Place I clicked over to the website and perused a number of the offerings. For the first time, I noticed “Lampi’s Election Notes” and “Publick Occurrences.” Being a moderate fan of all kinds of blogs, I skimmed both of these offerings (incidentally, there appears to be a linking problem: clicking on the larger, “script” link to “Lampi’s Election Notes,” leads one to Pasley’s blog).
I was intrigued to see Pasley’s blog described as one of “historical punditry.” Naturally, if one clicks through a few links, we encounter the standard legal boilerplate disclaimer on “not reflecting opinions” etc. etc. What I find most curious about this is that the blog is essentially presented as one historian’s interpretation of current events through the eyes of the academic. This, of course, is inaccurate. Dr. Pasley’s blog is politically-driven opinion. For example we are told that Cheney is the most evil v-p ever, a statement that cannot, virtually by definition, be anything other than emotional opinion. We are also treated to the story of a German citizen oppressed in prisons (it is not clear to me from Pasley’s entry if the prisons were only in Pakistan or elsewhere as well); a story it seems which is based entirely on the account of the gentleman in question and presented on an American network which does not have, shall we say, an exemplary record in providing genuine, documentary proof to its allegations against the current administration.
My concern here is that Dr. Pasley, and by default Common-Place seems to be following in an unfortunate academic trend. That is, to present political opinion, from an academic perspective thus labelling it as somehow more academic than opinion offered by non-academics. Furthermore, by offering it on a website which is devoted, for the most part, to more traditional academic subjects, the blog tends to enhance the perspective of some in our society that all academics think the same (left-wing) way and that academe is just a cover for political activism.
I am not here suggesting ending the blog (any kind of censorship tends to sicken me) nor even offer an alternative (”fair and balanced” is a measure for weighing produce not presenting opinion). But, given Common-Place’s commendable decision to run such blogs, I would suggest it would be appropriate to run a disclaimer at the top of the blog page (i.e. where it would be seen on the first click) noting that the blog is partisan political opinion by an academic thus removing the implicit non-statement being currently made that it is more objective and academic in nature.
cc: posted to Pasley blog
John A. Grigg
Assistant Professor of History
University of Nebraska – Omaha
“Many people fail at adulthood and constantly reach backwards for the freedom and passion of adolescence. But those who achieve adulthood are the ones who create civilization,” Orson Scott Card