Earlier today on this blog, Arianne Shahvisi has offered a very cogent analysis of why the criticism of Saida Grundy has served a very entrenched political and cultural perspective and why the administrative response to it represents an egregious exercise in silencing what is legitimate criticism of that perspective and, worse, even an implicit endorsement of what Grundy has been attempting to criticize.
I have previously done several posts on the ironies in the “outraged” response to the Grundy’s tweets—first, the irony that the president of Boston University seems essentially to have stigmatized her personally as a racist simply for making very provocative, but broader comments about racism and, second, the irony that her most vehement critics on the Far Right have unwittingly exposed their own deep cultural biases—their own very selective sense of what might be considered tasteless or offensive—in attempting to call her to task for the tweets.
I have subsequently been struck by a further irony.
Grundy’s most salient individual critic has been Nick Pappas, who has created and coordinates the website SoCawlege. It was Pappas who collected Grundy’s tweets, offered an initial critique of them, and thereby drew attention to them. It suddenly occurred to me that Pappas, identified as a student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has created at least as much digital “baggage” for himself as Grundy’s tweets have become for her.
For the rest of his life, whenever a potential employer does a search of Nick Pappas’ name, So Cawlege is going to be one of the more prominent results both because of the size of the site and because of the traffic it has generated. He is going to have to “own” not only everything that is on the site itself, but every comment on and link to the site.
Whenever Pappas says something that a co-worker or a client finds insensitive, if not offensive, there is going to be a substantial digital record that allows that co-worker or client (or his or her attorney) to make a case against Pappas. For most potential employers, the issue will not be one of fairness but, instead, one of potential distraction and liability. Even if Pappas is fortunate enough to operate his own business, this digital “baggage” will almost inevitably cost him some customers.
Indeed, even if Pappas were to remove the site tomorrow, that digital record will be archived for the foreseeable future.
So, unless Pappas manages to carve out a career for himself as a political commentator, it is very difficult to see how SoCawlege, with its very pointed ideological slant, is going to be anything but a professional disadvantage to him.
In effect, Pappas is very likely to discover exactly what Saida Grundy has been experiencing over the last month or so: that the “digital record” means that someone bent on undermining your professional reputation does not need to have the skills of an experienced investigative reporter in order to do so.
I can honestly say that I would not wish that sort of experience on anyone.
Unfortunately for Pappas, even if he eventually comes to share that perception, his “moment of recognition” is unlikely to provoke much additional sympathy for him.