Saturday, July 16, 2005

Tribble Trouble

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Just got back from a short vacation to find the news awash in information hysteria. A journalist goes to prison for a story she never wrote, police swoop down on unwary consumers whose crime is that they purchased the new Harry Potter before its official release, and a supercilious midwestern academic writes a maddening column (even by Chronicle of Higher Ed standards) smugly defending his department's right to eliminate bloggers as job search candidates, based on the things they say in their entries. And we like to point the finger at China for controlling information? "Ivan Tribble"'s Chronicle column is getting a lot of attention in the academic blogs right now, but I wonder if his column might not serve as a lovely object lesson about the naivete with which even academic readers approach the blogosphere. "Tribble"'s argument is that blogs too often reveal objectionable opinions, enthusiasms and personality quirks best left to private obscurity in the job candidates who write them. Once you see the "real" personality of a blogger, his argument goes, you might strike them from your short list of tenure-track candidates. "Tribble" doesn't give his real name, which further ratifies his sneaky ethos.

I like "Tribble"'s column. I like it a lot. It is either the stupidest thing I have ever seen the exceedingly-stupid Chronicle print, or it is one of the subtlest satires exposing the totalitarianism of tenure-track academe to come along in a while. Let us suspend the idea of authorial intention for a moment, and give this piece of writing it's performative due. The fact that "Tribble" has written under a persona radically deconstructs the argument he seems to be making about the "realness" of blogger personality. Is he too real to sign his real name, or does his "Tribble" persona point to the necessary impersonality of all good writing? How can this foregrounding of authorial masking not call attention to the strategic positioning of any authorial address? By posing as the cowardly man behind the curtain operating the sadistic and intimidating Wizard-machine, doesn't he expose the cowardly hypocrisy of an academia that on the one hand defends tenure as that last bastion of free speech, while on the other uses the gruelling job market, periodic review, and tenure processes to regularly screen, study, and eliminate nonconformists and freethinkers from its ranks?

Then there's the lovely choice of his name. Tribbles, as any Star Trek fan knows, are the most innocuous of creatures--that is, until they multiply like rabbits and clog up your ship's ventilation shafts. Ivan Tribble may be the small-time gate-keeping, standards-bearing dweeb you hope never to have to work with, but "Ivan Tribble" is an academic everyman, one who serves as an eloquent warning to all of us of the darker side of tweedy, self-replicating mild-mannered professors.

3 comments:

dr. m(mmm) aka The Notorious P.H.D. said...

I was also on vacation for a week and missed most of this stuff. I picked up my Chronicle from my department mailbox yesterday and was flummoxed by the Tribble article. The bloggers who did not submit their blogs to the search committee probably have an actionable case for discrimination. And how stupid is it to criticize blogs for not having a blind review process of vetting? The point of blogging (as a medium) is that it is precisely more ephemeral. Infrequent bloggers' entries have a practical shelf life of only a week or so. Prolific bloggers' entries have a shelf life of maybe a day.

Similarly stupid is the thought that a blogger might air departmental dirty laundry any more than someone else (who will do it in their classrooms, at conferences, over email, to their friends, etc). What a dumb ass.

Sfrajett said...

Hey Dr. M you make a great point about how many ways there are to bitch about your job. Why penalize just one? I think the thing that made me saddest was that Tribble actually eliminated the enthusiastic computer geek from his applicant pool because he was too enthusiastic. Imagine the poor students who have to put up with the sanded-down, tedious and emasculated candidates this department vets out. yikes.

Kartoshka said...

HOw about this for a story:
A 11 year old girl gets arrested. 3 cars and a helecopter come to pick her up. In florida as far as i can remember. Apparently she frew a rock at some teens who were spraying her with water, And the rock got its target. The girl is foreign, i smell some prejudism and discrimination from her neighbors. They going to press charges against here. WHO THE HELL PRESS charges against an 11 old >-<. Lets move to Canada :)
I got this news from russian news website, and i dont think they lying so.... No offence but some americans are crazy.