Three Philosophers Received Feces in the Mail (Update: Four Philosophers)


Sally Haslanger (MIT), Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins (UBC), and David Velleman (NYU) each received envelopes in the mail this past summer containing feces, according to an article at Buzzfeed by Katie J.M. Baker. As the article notes, “All three philosophy professors were embroiled in a 2014 academic brawl over what they perceived as an abuse of power within their field,” and which culminated in philosopher, legal scholar, and blogger Brian Leiter (Chicago) agreeing to step down from his role as editor-in-chief of a controversial ranking of graduate programs in philosophy.

Was Leiter the culprit? I doubt it and he denies it “emphatically” in the article. However, the actual sender attempted to suggest as much: “The return address is one digit off from Leiter’s office at the University of Chicago, and the sender is listed as ‘Peter Aduren,’ a pseudonym that some believe is used by Leiter.”

At his blog, Leiter himself hypothesizes that it is some member of a group of people with whom he has disagreed over whether “law school is a scam.”

Feces does not contain DNA, so that route to determining whose feces it is (and, presumably, who sent it) will not work. Perhaps there is another way to figure out which asshole is responsible for this.

UPDATE: Carolyn Dicey Jennings (UC Merced) reports that she, too, was a recipient of the same kind of package this summer.

UPDATE 2: The New York Times reports on the story here.

poop-emoji-frown

 

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Paul
Paul
5 years ago

One can delete this post. And if necessary, please do. But Brian Leiter is directly or indirectly responsible for this state of affairs. If he didn’t send the packages himself (which I doubt, but with little confidence), he has long enabled and facilitated the conditions which lead to the packages being sent.

Please correct me if this understanding of these events is in any way uncharitable or unfair.Report

Epikoureios
Epikoureios
Reply to  Paul
5 years ago

I expect to be crucified for poking this hornet’s nest even more with such a loosely relevant point, but gauche or not, the analogy to Donald Trump (and not just for scatological reasons) is simply too powerful for me not to mention here. Amidst the months of fulmination about whether or not Trump is truly a racist, my most basic thought has remained completely unchanged: yes, it really does matter, but no more than the fact that either way, he is a self-aware *beneficiary* and *enabler* of racism, something that I think only his most rankly partisan supporters would deny. In short, Paul, I agree with your ballsy assessment to at least a non-trivial degree.

That is all. Please return to your regularly scheduled discussion.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Paul
5 years ago

It’s a little hard to correct you as you don’t offer any argument – but quite apart from the disturbing ethical presuppositions of your comment (which would seem to implicate, mutatis mutandis, Black Lives Matter protesters and pro-Palestinian acitivists for terrorist violence) this would be an incredibly dangerous and stupid thing for Brian Leiter to do, and he’s not stupid.

TL;DR: yes, your understanding is uncharitable and unfair.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

Actually, just as an addendum: are people seriously supposing either that

a) Leiter himself is sending offensive and illegal packages to his adversaries and including his own return address; or that

b) overly radical allies of Leiter, inspired by and in agreement with his views but thinking that he’s being too moderate in his actions, decide to act on his behalf *and to frame him for the action*?

I don’t really see any plausible way of interpreting this as anything other than third-party malice – though, as should go without saying, it’s horrifying that Carolyn and others are being used this way, and the unpleasantness of being blamed for sending excrement by post is probably much lower than the unpleasantness of actually receiving it.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

a) yes and no–there is no return address or postmark on my package. As I understand it, only Carrie’s has this, and it does not include Brian Leiter’s name or address. It does include a near address and a name I guess he is said to have used on blogs, but does not admit to using (as far as I am aware).

b) yes and no–not as a frame, for the reasons given above.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

Why is b) implausible? If there are people unusual and unpleasant enough to do this to spite Leiter, it’s possible there are people weird and unpleasant enough to do it to spite his “enemies”. I mean, I doubt anyone cares about defending Leiter’s honour too much, but they might just have a general thing against ‘feminism in the profession’ and regard this particular set of Leiter-critics attack on Leiter as being an example of that.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

*c) yes, I would venture to guess that “the unpleasantness of being blamed for sending excrement by post is probably much lower than the unpleasantness of actually receiving it,” but I would probably put it differently–the unpleasantness of others thinking you are capable of sending (physical) *, given your history of sending (virtual) *, is probably much, much, much lower than the unpleasantness of actually receiving both the physical and virtual *. And if it isn’t lower, I guess I don’t really care–I don’t see reason yet to remove his name from the list of possible perpetrators, given his history with me. I might care more if Brian seemed at all apologetic about the * he has subjected me to over the last few years. But he doesn’t.Report

Alex
Alex
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

I’m with David, whose sobriety of thought I appreciate. Although I’m skeptical that “the unpleasantness of being blamed [and Paul’s much-liked post, along with a few of those below, are difficult to read as anything else] for sending excrement by post is probably much lower than the unpleasantness of actually receiving it”. Needless to say (hopefully), receiving excrement does sound unpleasant.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

I guess if it wasn’t Brian Leiter, and was Paul Campos or another enemy of Brian’s, as Brian seems to want us to believe, then it is pretty surprising that that person only put any information at all linked to Brian Leiter on Carrie’s package. That is quite a bit of work to go through (!) to then have the connection to Brian be potentially lost. I mean, it was sent in July and I only know now about the link to Brian Leiter. I reported it to the campus police who were investigating it, but we did not make this inference. Why not put the pseudonym or other identifying information on all the packages? If anything, the person who sent me the package was very careful to remove identifying information, including postmark. (How does one even do that?!) But, of course, if you want to send a package overseas you have to include an address. I wouldn’t be surprised if the sender, whoever it may be, was surprised to discover this while at the post office, and had to come up with something quickly.Report

Epikoureios
Epikoureios
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

David, your comparison is flawed. For it to be apt, you would have to use an example in which the original action (BLM protests or pro-Palestine activism, in your examples) was excessive from the start. Let me try to explain what I mean and demonstrate the relevant difference.

Suppose that a major protest organizer (call him P) for Black Lives Matter made a series of public speeches in which he denounced a local mayor as a lying, covert racist who once killed a black woman and is now in cahoots with the police to preserve the status quo. Let’s furthermore suppose that this extremely harsh statement goes far beyond what any evidence shows about this mayor, who (for the sake of example) has been working actively to curb racism and police brutality. Whatever room there might *actually* be for debate about the mayor’s decisions or approach, the sheer intensity of the BLM organizer’s words is clearly uncalled for. Having heard those words, a BLM supporter (call him S) in the city decides to express his hatred by mailing feces to the mayor.

*Now* the comparison is, I think, clearer. There is no question that the actual culprit in mailing the feces is responsible for his actions, and it would be absurd to place the blame entirely on P. At the same time, one would also be hard-pressed to argue that P, by exceeding contextually reasonable bounds of criticism in the first place, played no meaningful role in encouraging S’s act of retaliation.

The central question here, then, is that of motivation. Has the culprit acted to embarrass Leiter, support him, or merely express hostility (among other less likely motives)? If the first, it would probably be going too far to shoulder Leiter with playing as much of a role in encouraging the behavior. If the second or third, it seems impossible to say that the culprit, though responsible, hasn’t acted on the springboard of excessive vitriol spewed by Leiter in his original remarks. Now, one might argue that our lack of knowledge about the culprit’s motivation forces us to withhold, and to some extent this is true. But in courtesy to Paul (the OP), he seemed to be saying that Leiter has some culpability *if* the second (and possibly third) motivations are granted. (Paul, please correct me if I’m wrong about that.)Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Epikoureios
5 years ago

Epikoureios, thank you for your constructive unpacking of my remark, which I take to be largely correct. I suggest that even in the first possibility you posit (i.e., that of P being under attack by S, intent upon publicly embarrassing P), P bears some responsibility for the state of affairs to which he is now subjected, insofar as (and only insofar as) P has been instrumental in contributing to a general climate in which people (including S) are willing to publicly shame, denigrate, or embarrass others in the profession (including P).

That said, I consider the first possibility by far the least likely. As you have suggested, I favor the second and third.Report

Epikoureios
Epikoureios
Reply to  Paul
5 years ago

Many thanks for clarifying. Even on the first possibility, you and I basically concur. I take David’s point and agree with him that we would need to be extremely careful in marking the limits of responsibility in that case–as he rightly says, failure to do so invites companions in the guilt–but having now done that, I think you’ve made a sufficiently strong and specified case.Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

David – here are some things I merely remark upon, rather than recognize a need to argue for (at least, in ordinary contexts):

1) The sky publicly presents as blue.
2) 1 + 1 = 2
3) Brian Leiter publicly presents in ways that are destructive of others and inappropriate for anyone over the age of 12. (Once again, this is an observation, not vitriol.)

We appear to disagree on point (3). Epikoureios has made a suitably detailed argument in favor of (3) on my behalf below. I refer you to it.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Paul
5 years ago

And, to be honest, I think a fair description of much of Brian Leiter’s commentary about me was summed up by that package (i.e., it’s *), whether or not he was responsible for that particular projectile. He has never deleted his comments on my intelligence, judgment, maturity, professionalism, or veracity, all inspired by my research on the APDA project and related blog posts. One of the top results for a Google search for my name? “How ‘professional’ is Carolyn Dicey Jennings’s data analysis?” courtesy of Brian Leiter, who clearly does not understand the discussion he quotes between David Wallace and myself. Another is this gem: “Really not sure why Carolyn Dicey Jennings keeps lying about whether we’ve corresponded in the past. Very odd.” I think I was doing a great job keeping my * together when I was only being sent cyber *, but it is a lot harder when I am being sent physical *. So, yeah, maybe it is uncharitable, maybe it isn’t, but I am pretty tired of this *, whether it actually belongs to Brian Leiter or was only inspired by him.Report

Tom
Tom
5 years ago

If funding is required for the handwriting analysis, I’ll gladly chip in. Someone has to have samples we can use as a baseline. Kickstarter?Report

maxhgns
maxhgns
Reply to  Tom
5 years ago

Isn’t handwriting analysis pseudoscientific bunk? Even if it isn’t, it wouldn’t do much good without samples from suspects (much like DNA or fingerprint evidence).

Anyway… wtf?Report

Ghost
Ghost
Reply to  maxhgns
5 years ago

Handwriting analysis used as evidence for assessing character is flawed, pseudoscientific bunk. But it can be used to link several hand-written documents to the same writer.Report

Bewildered
Bewildered
5 years ago

I…what?? Are we in the first grade? And I thought 2016 couldn’t get more absurd.Report

Epikoureios
Epikoureios
Reply to  Bewildered
5 years ago

Sending turds through the post requires at least fifth-grade skill and teenage malice. Point taken on maturity level, though.Report

Rob Loftis
5 years ago

A friend sent this link, with the assurances that when they say isolate the “host DNA” they meant the DNA of the person who did the pooping.

http://www.bioline.com/us/isolate-fecal-dna-kit.htmlReport

Ryuichi
Ryuichi
5 years ago

They’ve probably seen worse when grading exams.Report

noumenon
noumenon
5 years ago

Prof. Hawking wasn’t so wrong after all.Report

JT
JT
5 years ago

Ah, in true Leiter form, to his mind, that three other philosophers literally are getting shit for standing up to him is really just another attempt at defaming him. Good grief.Report

Mostly a lurker
Mostly a lurker
Reply to  JT
5 years ago

To be fair, it was David Velleman who said (quoted at Leiter’s blog) that “someone is trying to embarrass you. I don’t know if there’s anything you can do about it, but I thought you would want to know.”Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  JT
5 years ago

Leiter engages in pretty nasty bullying of people through his blog, but it seems only fair to say that IF Velleman is right that this was done to embarrass him, that in this particular case he’s been subjected to something pretty nasty and traumatizing as well. (Seriously imagine having some unknown person who hates you make a semi-convincing attempt at faking that you’d sent shit in the mail to a bunch of people you don’t like. Someone doesn’t have to be the perfect victim to have been victimized, though obviously Leiter is not the *only* victim here, even if Velleman is right. )Report

recent grad
recent grad
5 years ago

Did it mention that it was human feces?Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
5 years ago

Okay: if – to my astonishment – this really is becoming a serious discussion about whether Brian Leiter is risking his career and his freedom in this way, I will step out of the conversation. A blog is really, really not the place to throw around accusations of criminal conduct.

My sympathy again to the victims of this horrible incident,Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

I think we all know that even if we were able to prove Brian did this it wouldn’t impact his career. And I think we also all know that the police aren’t going to investigate this at any length and that even if they did they wouldn’t be able to prove anything. This sucks, but it mostly sucks for us, despite what Brian would have you believe.Report

Eynonnymousse
Eynonnymousse
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

BL works for a law school, has many friends who are lawyers, and is married to a lawyer. The legal profession takes vile and deranged conduct far more seriously than academia. The victims of this awful prank cannot be expected to sympathize with BL given their past treatment at his hands, but I hope other readers understand how serious the social and professional consequences would be for him and why it is therefore absurd even to speculate that he was involved.

tl;dr – Grant for the sake of argument that BL is a monstrous bully. Still he’s not this creative or foolhardy.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Eynonnymousse
5 years ago

I am not convinced of the ramifications. Brian Leiter is not a member of the ABA. Who would punish him? Note: a great many universities are accused of failing to punish tenured faculty for sexual harassment and sexual assault of their own students. This may constitute an illegal form of harassment, but it would be difficult to prove the act and even more difficult to prove intention (http://blogs.findlaw.com/legally_weird/2015/01/is-it-illegal-to-mail-poop.html). But even if that hurdle were met, a university would have to think that this is a fireable offense for it to impact the perpetrator. I think someone knowledgeable of the law would be very aware of its limits in a case like this.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

tl;dr I agree that this act, and the idea that Brian Leiter could be behind it, is absurd. But I think the other alternatives are even more absurd. I await a better explanation.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  David Wallace
5 years ago

Oh and let’s not forget to share our sympathies for Paul Campos, about whom accusations of criminal misconduct regarding this matter have also been thrown around on a blog, with even less evidence and reason provided. It is good to be egalitarian with our sympathies.Report

Sally Haslanger
Sally Haslanger
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

I believe the main guy who is being blamed by BL is Fernando Rodriguez, not Paul Campos, who does actually have a fascination with poop: http://thirdtierreality.blogspot.com/2014/09/first-tier-corn-filled-excrement.html Rodriguez goes by the name “Nando” on his blog “Third Tier Reality.”Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Sally Haslanger
5 years ago

Thanks for this. The link to the supposed culprit in Chicago went to an article about Paul Campos. I see now that buried in that article is a reference to an anonymous someone else in Chicago, supposedly an associate of Paul’s. I still think Paul’s name is excessively thrown around, but I welcome the clarification.Report

Sally Haslanger
Sally Haslanger
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

Fernando Rodriguez lives in Salt Lake City, I believe. It would be interesting to know what he thinks of all this!Report

Dailycomments
Dailycomments
5 years ago

I’m sorry, but why do those that are defending Brian in this thread not care about his continued victim blaming/shaming on this issue? We are to act charitably to Brian when he uses this incident to continue threatening Carrie and Sally with baseless lawsuits, “…may (mistakenly) believe that the statute of limitations on a lawsuit regarding all the tortious wrongdoing ran out at the end of last month, which would explain why they waited until now to spring this latest smear job. That may turn out to be a foolhardy miscalculation on their part”? That’s just one example of the victim blaming/shaming being perpetuated by Brian in his comments on this topic. I really don’t understand those that continue to support him.Report

David Mathers
David Mathers
Reply to  Dailycomments
5 years ago

Saying that someone may have been badly wrong isn’t the same thing as saying they’re behaving well, which is presumably what you shouldn’t say, given his bad behaviour. I mean, do you genuinely think that any time someone says that a bad person has been victimized (or *might* have been victimized, as in this case), they’re there by condoning that persons bad behaviour? That seems like quite a disturbing attitude.Report

SCM
SCM
5 years ago

Strikes me this is the work of a metabro with more than the usual number of issues.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  SCM
5 years ago

Except, among other things, metabros don’t normally connect me to the September Statement. I am not mentioned on it: https://sites.google.com/site/septemberstatement/ . In fact, most people don’t connect me to Brian stepping down from the PGR (I am only one of the many names listed here, for example: http://www.readmorewritemorethinkmorebemore.com/2014/09/archive-of-meltdown.html). It may be easy to see how all of our names are connected once you hear them together, but if you were to put together some names to target, my guess is that a more natural pairing would be David Velleman, Sally Haslanger, Carrie Jenkins, and Noelle McAfee, all of whom are listed on the Statement of Concern: https://web.archive.org/web/20141007035342/https://files.nyu.edu/dv26/public/Statement_of_Concern.html . For a metabro to include me would likely mean seeing me as a causal factor in the September Statement, which requires a fairly subtle interpretation of the trajectory of those events. And, again, they just don’t seem to do it. In fact, Glaucon wrote two poems in the summer of 2014 that cast me in a fairly positive light (https://web.archive.org/web/20140823055620/http://philosophymetablog.blogspot.com/2014_07_01_archive.html). I even think including Justin Weinberg (sorry, Justin!) would have made more sense than me if it were a metabro, given how much they seem to despise him and this blog. To most people, I suspect I am relatively innocuous.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

I’m not sure. It need not be exclusively September Statement related. Possibly just someone who reads Leiter and has issues w women in Philosophy who raise issues (and those like Velleman who connects w Sally w regard to the Statement) and who have been on the receiving end of BL’s contumely. I’m not sure what can be made of JW not having received anything since it’s likely that the person responsible is not exactly a coherent, rational agent.

I’m curious whether this may also be a federal offence. If it’s an offence, it must be federal, and it would not surprise me if there’s a provision somewhere prohibiting this kind of use of the USPS.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  SCM
5 years ago

To make this even stranger, I believe that there was no postmark on the three packages delivered in the United States. I also believe this makes it more likely that they were hand delivered. I am not sure what to make of that. I am just adding it to the tally of strangeness.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

That is super weird and super creepy (assuming it’s possible for this to get creepier). Very sorry you have had to experience this.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

I’m just trying to wrap my head around this. Hand-delivering a package in Boston or New York is one thing. But if it was hand-delivered to you, that means someone went to Merced specifically for this purpose. That’s pretty fucking psycho, quite apart from the underlying act itself.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  SCM
5 years ago

I take back the hand delivery comment. That was based on a phone call I made to USPS about the absence of postmarks–that person said the phenomenon was rare and for it to happen to three packages means they were very likely hand delivered. My sister, who works at USPS, says that packages under a certain weight are not actually checked for postmarks, making it fairly common for lighter packages, especially if they are sent through a drop box.Report

more tracking?
more tracking?
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

In reply to CDJ about phone calls to USPS & postmarks, general functioning of the postal service, etc.

In my experience, you can go into a post office and ask to have printed off the complete tracking history of an item (in this case the one that went to CIJ). It sometimes contains more info than simply the info provided tracking online. Specifically, in this instance, the tracking on that package seems to have originated at 60666, O’Hare. I’m curious if an in-post-office printed off tracking history might provide any more info about whether it had a life pre-60666.Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Reply to  SCM
5 years ago

It is definitely a federal offence to submit false customs documents, as was done in the case of Jenkins. The sender name listed is not anyone’s real name, the address listed is not a real place, and the contents listed were an outright lie.

I would guess that it is also a federal offence to put shit in the mail, but I haven’t bothered to look that up.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
5 years ago

Good call re: the customs declaration.

Apparently, it is not legal to send feces through USPS, at least without a biohazard notice (and possible not even then — I haven’t googled enough). Canada may also take a dim view here, I would imagine.Report

Untenured Brit
Untenured Brit
5 years ago

i have to say that I’m a bit disappointed that a) Leiter has decided to make this story all about him and that b) the commentariat here has decided they are going to collude with that. So first off, my sympathies to anyone getting to shit by mail. It’s pretty awful to have that as part of your professional life, and – I imagine – having someone else say ‘well really, this is all about me’ must add insult to injury.

That said, If I wanted to make sure that the world thought that I was not the sort of person that would mail shit to professional colleagues, that’s not necessarily the approach I’d take. I think I’d say something like ‘although I’ve had my differences with x, y, and z, some of which I’ve aired recently, it’s absolutely appalling that they’ve been treated in this way. I want to make it clear that I think this is appalling, and I want to have nothing to do with it, or with anyone who would act like that.’ And I’d certainly do that if I felt as though I wanted to do what I could to diminish the injury these colleagues had suffered, even (especially) if they hadn’t done so at my hands.

(I know, I know. Someone’s going to call this ‘virtue signalling’. And all I can say is, you know, sometimes signalling your virtue is all you can do.)

Now I might be a bit of an insensitive reader, and not making much allowance for how shaken up someone might be by being investigated by the police. But that certainly doesn’t seem to be the approach Leiter’s taken here. And I have to say, the first paragraph of his update looks to me very much like a threat to take legal action against those who have received the shit through the post. Which is about as catastrophic thing to do as I can imagine.

(Parenthetically: if I was making a threat of taking legal action, I’d avoid following it up with remarks like ‘you know, people who get on the wrong side of me tend to find mysterious envelopes full of shit in their mailboxes.’ (I paraphrase) That’s the sort of remark that can easily be misinterpreted, in all kinds of ways. Who knows what kind of speech act you might be engaged in there? )

Now maybe Leiter will make things better by posting a lengthy update explaining why these things that look a bit like threats aren’t really threats at all. But I’m not holding my breath; and right now he’s not earning a lot of sympathy.

(FN: since the internet sometimes obliterates the context needed for detecting sarcasm, I should probably say that ‘lengthy explanations of why these weren’t threats’ wouldn’t make things better. Taking them down and apologising for them might.)Report

S L B
S L B
5 years ago

David Wallace always gives BL far more credit than he deserves.

Paul Campos briefly documents this incident here, and seems to have his own suspicions: http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2016/10/a-painful-case-2

I feel that BL’s ‘theory of the case’ is far too convoluted (and know never to believe anything BL says anyway). I’m inclined to agree with CDJ. And I also believe that BL is easily juvenile enough to engage in something like this.Report

Lurker
Lurker
Reply to  S L B
5 years ago

I think this Campos person has to be read in light of this link (also supplied on Leiter’s blog): https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/the-rational-high-ground/#comment-129094Report

S L B
S L B
Reply to  Lurker
5 years ago

Not sure this reply (originally 2) went through the first time. (Moderator, please leave off the first two comments in place of this if you’re moderating).

‘Lurker’ – I’m approximately 99.8% sure the comment you link to was written by BL himself. And the fact that you located that comment so quickly, in such a similar manner to the way Campos notes how “someone” suggested to a reporter that Campos could be a link to the Markel killing, based on an esoteric blog comment, I think gives support to my first sentence.

Also, BL claims that “More interesting is that the photo (produced by Buzzfeed) of the alleged malicious envelope does include a “tracking number” which reveals that the package to Jenkins passed through Chicago on the morning of June 24 of this year (when I was, ironically, in Germany–though this may help narrow the suspects down to two, assuming a USPS tracking number is reliable).” This is incorrect. The tracking indicates that the package left the US at 07:56 am on 24 June, which means it was deposited into the postal system prior to June 24. What were the dates of BL’s Germany trip, precisely? The German event BL attended was ‘The inaugural workshop of the International Society for Nietzsche Studies … held at the International Centre for Philosophy NRW at the University of Bonn on June 24-25, 2016.’ So the fact that BL’s workshop didn’t begin until June 24, and the fecal package ‘left the country of origin’ at 07:56 hrs on 2016/06/24 (but must have obviously entered the postal system in the US at an earlier date) does NOT seem to preclude BL from being the sender.

Also, contrary to BL’s statement, the tracking info does not indicate that the package routed through Chicago.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  S L B
5 years ago

The tracking info at USPS says: “June 23, 2016 , 1:17 pm
Arrived at USPS Facility
CHICAGO, IL 60666 “Report

S L B
S L B
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

Google 60666. As best I can tell, 60666 is the zip code for O’Hare International Airport. I think this may be building a case that BL is, in fact, the sender.
1. We know BL was in Bonn for a workshop June 24.
2. We can presume he flew from O’Hare to Cologne-Bonn airport, although we don’t know his precise travel dates.
3. The feces was mailed from a zip code the seems to be uniquely associated with O’Hare Int’l Airport on the day BL would have had to depart to arrive at the conference on time
4. There are direct flights on Air Berlin that leave O’Hare at 3.25pm Thursdays and arrive the next morning in Cologne-Bonn, in time to go to the workshop. A 3.25pm departure seems to be consistent with BL popping by a post office in the airport at 1.17 pm.
5. Peter Aduren is a pseudonym BL has been known to use.

I think he did it, to all four of you.Report

S L B
S L B
Reply to  S L B
5 years ago

It also seems EXCEEDINGLY unlikely to me that some ‘law school scam’ Leiter-foe, in an attempt to frame him, coincidentally mailed feces to four esoteric (to law school people) philosophers from an O’Hare Int’l Airport post office of all places at the precise time when it seems likely that BL himself was passing through the very same airport en route to Germany.Report

Scaran
Scaran
Reply to  S L B
5 years ago

Honestly I assumed it was someone trying to frame him — he was outed under his Peter Aduren pseudonym years ago and I doubt he would use it still — but your airport connection has me wondering, though I still lean slightly against it being him. It just seems completely deranged.

If it WAS mailed from O’Hare, and the postal inspectors get involved, it seems pretty easy to just review the surveillance tapes for the period in which it was mailed (starting with the pickup from that mailbox and working backwards) and see who actually mailed the envelope. There might be no more surveilled location than an American airport these days, and I would presume video records go back for a while.Report

arowana
arowana
Reply to  S L B
5 years ago

Just FYI, multiple websites that I found by googling say that the summer school in Bonn started on June 27th, not the 24th. (Example: https://www.philosophy-summerschool.uni-bonn.de/) Of course, that’s still consistent with your theory…Report

S L B
S L B
Reply to  S L B
5 years ago
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  S L B
5 years ago

Worth considering: I believe he actually left O’Hare on the 22nd and arrived in Germany on the 23rd (he updated his blog post and I checked this with someone else, too).Report

S L B
S L B
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

Thanks for correcting me, CDJ. I was only able to see the Canada Post tracking number from CIJ’s Buzzfeed photo, and that’s the tracking info I was referencing. I don’t think the general public has access to the USPS info, or at least I haven’t seen it.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  S L B
5 years ago
Matt
Reply to  S L B
5 years ago

‘Lurker’ – I’m approximately 99.8% sure the comment you link to was written by BL himself.

Oh God almighty. _I_ wrote the linked comment. I did it because people on that blog were taking Paul Campos seriously as a source of honest information, when he quite clearly is not. (Anyone who has watched Campos’s “career” knows this. He’s a pretty vile figure.) I think (unsurprisingly) that David Wallace is by far the most reasonable and adult person on this thread. Others would, as usual, do well to follow his lead. Wild conspiracy theory stuff does no one any good.Report

Scaran
Scaran
Reply to  Matt
5 years ago

“Vile”? Come on, Matt, that just makes you look absurd. I disagree with some things Campos has said/done, but the idea that his criticisms of the law reaches the level of “vile” is ridiculous. What, pray tell, “vile” acts has he done? And why do you in the linked comment try so carefully to paint Leiter’s online vendettas as some sort of noble attempt to assist professors under assault?Report

Matt
Reply to  Scaran
5 years ago

“Vile”? Come on,

If you read the stuff that Campos both did and encouraged w/ regard to both the junior law professor at issue (and before, when he was going on Bill O’Reily’s show to try to get Ward Churchill fired for his political speech) it seems perfectly reasonable to call it “vile” to me. You’re free to disagree, of course. I know the person who Campos was attacking, and though we are not properly speaking friends (I knew her professionally), it was clear that Leiter was helping her out. Was it “noble”? Who cares – not me, for sure. All I cared about was that people were taking a clearly bad source – Paul Campos – to be reliable, when he clearly wasn’t. He shouldn’t be considered reliable in relation to this, either.

(This is unrelated to his criticisms of law schools more generally. On that, I think he’s mostly just foolish and wrong. The good points he might have are better made by more reasonable critics, and he mixes in a lot of seriously wrong and misguided stuff, but I’m not here talking about his “criticisms of the law”.)

If you follow the blog that Campos writes at (I don’t actually recommend it) you’ll see that even his co-bloggers are often baffled at the strange to awful stuff he comes up with. You might consider his posts in relation to student protests at the University of Missouri, for example. Again, whether they are “vile” is a matter of judgment, but many of them seem like clear cases to me.Report

scaran
scaran
Reply to  Scaran
5 years ago

“If you read the stuff that Campos both did and encouraged w/ regard to both the junior law professor at issue”
I did read it, and you mischaracterize it. Campos took issue with that professors’ attempt to silence a critic through a bar complaint, at the same time referring to sexist attacks on that professor as “deplorable.” If you have any link to was Campos “did and encouraged” please provide them.

“before, when he was going on Bill O’Reily’s show to try to get Ward Churchill fired for his political speech”
Again, mischaracterization: Campos was trying to get Ward Churchill fired for publishing and teaching substantively wrong things. Making up events that didn’t happen is not constitutionally protected speech. You can read the transcript here:http://www.foxnews.com/story/2005/02/10/ward-churchill-cult-personality.html . Was the committee that investigated the competence allegations — and held, like Campos, that Churchill engaged in fundamentally bad scholarship also “vile”?

“All I cared about was that people were taking a clearly bad source – Paul Campos – to be reliable, when he clearly wasn’t. He shouldn’t be considered reliable in relation to this, either. ”
But you think Leiter or you should be taken as one?Report

Matt
Reply to  Scaran
5 years ago

(I’m not sure if this will end up in the right spot, but it’s meant as a reply to “scaran”‘s last post. We are perhaps too embedded for a reply now.)

I think that people can read the Campos stuff and make their own conclusions. The idea that he was discouraging the sexist attacks on the professor in question (he’d engaged in them himself) seems pretty clearly wrong to me. As to Churchill, this is the track Campos has tried a few times. He went on the O’Reily show (why would anyone do that anyway?) a few times, arguing that Churchill should be fired. The linked one is a later one. The early ones were before any misconduct by Churchill came out, yet, at that time, Campos argued clearly that Churchill’s article about the September 11th attacks was grounds for firing him. That article may be bad, but it wasn’t a case academic misconduct. For obvious reasons, Campos has engaged in a lot of misdirection on this over the years, but it’s still the case.

I really don’t care if people take Leiter to be a credible source. That’s up to them. As for me, they can make their own choices – it’s no skin off my nose either way – but people should not think that Paul Campos is a honest dealer here. He’s obviously not.
Otherwise, again, I agree with David Wallace completely here. This is the last I’ll add to this sorry story.Report

S L B
S L B
Reply to  Scaran
5 years ago

This is a reply to Matt’s comment, “I know the person who Campos was attacking, and though we are not properly speaking friends (I knew her professionally), it was clear that Leiter was helping her out. Was it “noble”? Who cares – not me, for sure.”

I disagree that BL was helping her out. I would characterize what BL was doing as ‘using’ her to attacking his enemies. This is someone BL had previously called out and speculated, for very good reason, about having severe mental health issues: http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2010/09/the-most-appalling-professional-misconduct-by-an-academic-job-seeker-ever.html.Report

WTF!?
WTF!?
5 years ago

Dear Sally, Carrie, David, and Carolyn,

My brain broke when I read this. It’s incomprehensible. I am so sorry this happened to all of you. I’d check to see whether this is a federal offence and also to see whether it’s possible to get hold of the surveillance from O’Hare airport (where some say one of the packages came from). Well done to all of you for going public. Brian Leiter: yes, I imagine you’re embarrassed. But this is not all about you. I truly hope that you were not the person who did this (I’m inclined to think not). You have a lot of power in our profession and while you have helped many people (including me) to make wise decisions about grad. school, you do sometimes say things that are pointlessly harsh. With great power comes great responsibility. You know that!Report

Orwell
Orwell
5 years ago

This entire comment section is cancer and makes me want to quite philosophy and live in the woods somewhere with the bears, who are manifestly more civilized than these paranoid fascist “philosophers” acting like little kids. Nothing constructive is going to come out of any of this. The only thing anyone can hope for is a pyrrhic victory.Report

Paul
Paul
Reply to  Orwell
5 years ago

I respectfully disagree, Orwell. I don’t believe everyone (or even many) on this thread are “acting like little kids.” Nor do I agree that nothing constructive can (potentially) come out of speaking about these issues in the profession.

But I do agree that the present state of affairs is disheartening.Report

Epikoureios
Epikoureios
Reply to  Paul
5 years ago

I would add to Paul’s disagreement (which I share) that you might fare better by offering some clear examples and explanations of your point. From what I myself have read, the original actions that *prompted* the original post and its comments are vastly more childish than anything said here. (That doesn’t on its own mean that nothing said here so far has been childish, but it does mean that if you’re more bothered by the comments than the actions under discussion, you may want to re-prioritize.)Report

DNA
DNA
5 years ago

Faeces sometimes contain blood, and blood contains DNA, so anyone receiving such a package should retain the package, alert the police and ask for it to be tested.Report

npostdoc
npostdoc
Reply to  DNA
5 years ago

yes, *please* contact the police. If nothing else, this might be the work of a dangerous and deranged person. Get a paper trail going at the very least.

Just when I thought I couldn’t be more ashamed for my discipline (I’m assuming it was a philosopher who did this..)Report

Stephen Gianelli
Stephen Gianelli
5 years ago

I am familiar with Brian Leiter having followed the PGR controversy and corresponded with him. Professor Leitner has far too elevated a self image to ever stoop to handling – let alone mailing – scatological material. No way was it Leiter and it is unfair to suggest that he is directly or indirectly responsible for this bizarre stunt. The use of a pseudonym that his more conspiracy minded detractors have prominently attributed to Leiter on one of the mailing labels points to a third party , since I can think of no scenario wherein Leiter would benefit by having anyone believe that he was responsible for these mailings.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Stephen Gianelli
5 years ago

Since you can think of no such scenario, here is one: someone wants to send “scatalogical” material to some perceived enemies but one of them is international, and international packages require information that points back to one’s town of residence (i.e. tracking info). Luckily, one can kill two birds with one stone by making it look like another perceived enemy is responsible, holding that in one’s pocket in case the “scatalogical” material ever comes to light.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

And just to review the other alternatives (since someone had to send the packages!): 1) enemy thinks that it makes more sense to send 4 packages, only one of which has information pointing to BL, rather than 4 packages with information pointing to BL because… hopefully those 4 people talk to each other all the time and it takes so long to write out that return address? 2) friend or fan of BL thinks it makes sense to send 4 packages with one of them pointing to BL because…they are a fan but not that big of a fan of BL? Or maybe, Stephen, you had a different sense of the alternative explanations here. I am all ears.Report

scaran
scaran
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

It seems the most logical approach, and if someone knows the victims maybe they can let them know, is to contact the FBI office in Chicago, explain that a threatening package was mailed from the airport, that it was even reported in the New York Times and they don’t understand why nobody is doing anything. The FBI can contact O’Hare police, get the video for the day in question, review it, and identify a suspect, perhaps showing a picture to the victims and seeing if they recognize them.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  scaran
5 years ago

The police are definitely investigating this. I doubt this person used a USPS counter, in part because the customs form still includes the top sheet of carbon that should have gone to USPS (see photo in Buzzfeed article). If video or other evidence surfaces, I will do what I reasonably can to help bring this person to justice.Report

Matt
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

Carolyn said: “The police are definitely investigating this.”

It may be worth noting that the reason that the police are investigating is that Leiter himself has asked the University of Chicago Police (who, like many university police departments, have full police power) to do so. See his update noted blow:
*********************

OCTOBER 7 5 PM CST: I’m pleased to report that the University of Chicago Police (who have the full investigatory powers of Illinois police) have agreed to investigate these events (it is a shame other police did not). I will have more to say when the investigation is complete.

*************************

If you know of other police departments who are actively investigating, Carolyn, it would be good to note that. Otherwise, it would probably have been good to note that it seems to have been Leiter himself who asked the U. Chicago police to investigate. Otherwise, it seems to me, a misleading impression might be given.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

Matt–The Merced police have been investigating it since the summer, re-opening the case last Thursday, and the Canadian Mounties have also been investigating since the summer. I don’t know anything about the U Chicago police and whether they are involved, besides the word of someone I have found to be extremely unreliable.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
5 years ago

Matt and others, see this article from the Chicago Maroon: “The University of Chicago Police (who have the full investigatory powers of Illinois police) have agreed to investigate these events,” Leiter reported on his blog. Seven days following Leiter’s post, the University of Chicago Police Department said that “this incident is currently not under investigation.” (https://www.chicagomaroon.com/article/2016/10/18/law-professor-rejects-accusation-mailed-feces-acad/)Report