Not Thought Police after all

Prof. Susan Kuo of the University of South Carolina School of Law was in touch today to say that her talk of Thought Police the other day was intended in a spirit of light raillery, not as anything insulting or dismissive of my earlier criticism. Had that been apparent to me, I probably would not have given her post the kind of full-length and unsmiling dissection I did. As I say in a P.S. that I’ve appended to the earlier post, I’m glad to take Prof. Kuo at her word when she says she meant no offense, and I hope commenters will do the same.


  • Just because one is a professoir of law and expected to be able to parse students’ English without let or hindrance, and to instruct them accurately and succinctly in the subtleties of the law….. that’s no reason to expect them to be able to tell a joke without marking it clearly as such after the fact. Unless you’re a student of theirs, in which case you need to at least smile appreciatively.

    As you might conclude from that paragraph, I am not convinced.

  • Such risks are inherent in the written word (as opposed to spoken). Given that our language is so driven by non-verbal vs. verbal, it’s no wonder that someone could draw a conclusion such as Walt’s. Email, for example, is the ultimate medium of misinterpretation.

  • I would suggest in the future that if Professor Kuo intends to engage in “light-hearted banter”, she should learn to use the smiley face icon. Then she won’t have to worry about anyone mistaking her humor for serious comment.

  • […] Important P.S.: I heard from Prof. Kuo herself this afternoon and we had a talk that was pleasant and in no way confrontational. She said her second post, to which this one responds, was dashed off in a spirit of light-hearted banter and that the last thing she meant was to call names or give insult. Obviously, it came across differently to me, and I reacted as one might to a seriously meant attack. As I noted, almost everyone who blogs has had the experience of writing something intended as funny that fails to register that way with part or all of the audience. And it’s probably also true that, as someone tender of my libertarian credentials, I’m especially apt to have my buttons pushed by any suggestion of being cast as Thought Police. Anyway, I’m glad to take Prof. Kuo at her word when she says she meant no offense, and I hope commenters at this site as well as Concurring Opinions will do the same (see also update post). […]

  • Like Bob, I’m not buying this recantation.

    I just went back and reread her original post, and I stand by the criticisms in my comment there. Her leftwing take on this was so obvious, evidenced by a lengthy diatribe against Palin/McCain ONLY, and filled with unsupported assertions culled from slanted reporting by the mainstream media. It would happily be accepted as a post on Kos or HuffPo.

    If there was supposed to be some kind of light-hearted intent, I couldn’t find it even when looking for it.

  • Yes, Tod, it is quite easy for one to misinterpret online writing that is intended as humorous. But rereading the post by Professor Kuo as Geokstr did, I can find nothing that can be interpreted as intended as humorous. Or does Professor Kuo think that George Orwell was being light-hearted in 1984?

    I haven’t checked in depth, but while Professor Kuo may have apologized to Walter in correspondence, has she put up a statement someplace around the original post in which she said she had intended those comments as humorous and apologized for any misunderstanding? Usually that’s the first thing I offer to do when one of my jokes is misaimed? If not, I think we are entitled to consider reasons for her not so doing. And none of them would support a claim that her remarks were intended as “banter”.