Apology Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

No doubt you’re getting as tired as I am of reading about Mary Anne Franks. Unfortunately, she’s turning into the gift that keeps on giving, and sometimes in ways one would never imagine.  This isn’t another post about her reinterpretation of the First Amendment that would permit her to criminalize speech that makes her feel bad, so don’t get all huffy on me.

Both Mark Bennett and Ken White put on their coolest lawprof hats and tried their best to behave in a respectful fashion to address the failings in Franks’ model law and her facile spin on that part of the Constitution that stood in the way of her slaying dragons.  And while their efforts at lawprof-speak failed to compare with the real McCoy, they did a fine job of maintaining a respectful tone, much to my amusement.

For their efforts, they got smacked.  After Bennett tried again to get Franks to stop deflecting and avoiding his argument, Franks responded:

But the repeated lie that I have not addressed counterarguments is tedious. What you mean to say is that you feel I’m not giving your objections enough attention. I hate to disappoint you, but this will continue to be the case unless you make better arguments.

Lie? A curious choice of words. Apparently, Franks thinks well of her argument. Those who do not are liars.  Having already gone a few rounds, Bennett threw in the towel.

I recognize that you think those of us who will actually be responsible for litigating these issues are only barely worthy of a response. I’ll bother you no more here with tedious practical matters, but I look forward to seeing you and Prof. Citron write something scholarly—rather than politicized—on the subject.

Best, MB

And the thoughtful Mary Anne, reading that Bennett will “bother” her no more, replies:

Sadly, Mr. Bennett, I do not have endless amounts of time to read everything that people write about me or my ideas. I also do not have time to review basic principles of reading comprehension or logic with every commenter with an axe to grind.

See how fabulous it is to be Mary Anne Franks, requiring “endless amounts of time” to read all about her?  So special. So important. Not at all a nasty little twinkie.  Bennett is compelled to note the obvious:

A very ungracious reply given that I already said I was done here.

This calls for an apology, right? But of course, except not exactly the apology one might expect.  In her final comment (number 37, since Co-Op lacks links to its comment), Franks responds:

Mr. Bennett, if you are in fact apologizing for your past rudeness, I accept your apology. I’m sorry if you find my responses to you rude – such delicacy of feeling on your part is surprising given the tone of your comments here – but perhaps you are simply unaccustomed to calm, sustained disagreement.

You can’t make this stuff up.  All said, the practitioners have been remarkably kind to Mary Anne and her lapdog, while she’s been far too offensive for a young academic of little consequence who is not well-received within the Academy for the poverty of her intellect and has a nasty disposition (yes, while lawprofs may not be inclined to speak out publicly against one another, they do offer their views privately). 

But she’s now gone into a flight of fantasy and landed in some alternative universe. I’ve strained to find something, anything, to explain her seeing an apology (forget reason to apologize) from Bennett. What kinda drugs is she taking?

Mary Anne wants to bullet-proof herself, allowing her to call her detractors “misogynists” and whatever other name comes to mind, while whining like the baby-lawprof she is about how people are being mean to her.  We’ve played this game long enough, trying to walk delicately around her sensitivities so as not to diminish her as a special little snowflake. 

If she wants to call names, she gets called names in return. There are a few  things this mess has conclusively shown: Mary Anne Franks lacks the intellectual prowess to withstand scrutiny. Mary Anne Franks is infantile, nasty and entitled.  And if the rest of the Academy doesn’t show some guts and call out such intellectual dishonesty and mean-spirited attacks, you have forfeited whatever claim you might otherwise have to the respect of practitioners.

I hope this makes you cringe. It should.

Interesting Aside:  At Concurring Opinions, Gerard Magliocca announces a new experiment where comments will no longer be allowed at Co-Op, and instead people can email the author of a post and the author can pick those emails he/she deems worthy and respond to them in a separate post. 

This certainly sounds like a handy way to deal with uncomfortable comments.  No clue whether anything relating to Mary Anne Franks contributed to this experiment.

19 thoughts on “Apology Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does

            1. SHG Post author

              You’re being generous. I’m still trying to figure out what planet the apology comment is on. Inquiring minds, and all.

  1. John Burgess

    Do you honestly expect an academic to confess error willingly? To do would utterly compromise his/her ability to gain funding, achieve academic fame (and income), and might result in their being barred from the cool faculty parties. Traitors to the cause of infallibility are not beloved.

    Instead, academics pout, stamp their feet, and literally or figuratively stick out their tongues. Or, if the critique really hits them in the pocketbook, they come up with all sorts of creative lawfare.

    It’d be amusing, except for the fact that students are expected to respect their statements, no matter how fact-challenged they may be.

    1. SHG Post author

      But it creates a huge problem for the Academy at large. The others either can’t, because of their internal rules of propriety, or won’t, because they know they’ll be labeled misogynists, challenge such intellectual dishonesty and nasty responses, but it brings the Academy into disrepute as they realize that practitioners are now laughing at them for allowing this insanity to go on unchallenged.

      As for non-lawyers and law students, they buy into anything a lawprof says because of their attributed credibility, making everyone stupider. When one lawprof goes off the reservation like this, it’s a serious problem for all.

      1. Jack

        Now you’ve gone and offended my sensibilities going and telling me that because I buy into whatever lawprofs say, I am stupider! Don’t you realize that as a man I am fragile and because of your insult I feel vulnerable. Instead of crying about it, I’m going to go kill, rape, and discriminate. Well… at least that’s what I do do now since buying into everything that Mary Anne Franks said in “The Dangerous Fragility of Men” – and shes a lawprof, ya’know. To stop me from killing, raping, and discriminating with the enthusiastic support of male society (brosiety, if you will), you are going to need to be locked up for hurting my fee-fees. There needs to be a new law for that because your First Amendment Rights end where my butthurt begins.

  2. Marilou Auer

    Refresh my memory, please. Is this the “lady” who demands respect but who told you that “you’re just not that important”? And when she is addressed in a respectful manner, she twists the words into disrespect or misogyny, or an unintended apology.

    Ma’am, there’s a fair amount of misogyny out in the real world, but you won’t find it here or in Mr. Bennett’s writings. Act respectably, listen to your elders, and consider that they just might, somehow, have a message, the importance of which will become obvious in your lifetime. That is, if you manage to turn your youthful idealism and feminist militant misperceptions into a law, despite the best efforts of the real practitioners out here, those who will ultimately clean up the mess you are trying so hard to make.

    I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I have to say that lately I have seen a number of chirpy, entitled young women who have, sadly, rejected the efforts of some very wise gentlemen to provide some balance and some information against which these women’s efforts can be evaluated. If I were a young lawyer, I couldn’t BUY the kind of education you’re being offered, free of charge, by these gentlemen who have nothing to gain but the knowledge that they are trying to prevent a mess down the road. I urge you, as I have urged others, to step away from the keyboard long enough to evaluate what’s been said to you and reconsider your reaction to the prophylactic efforts these gentlemen have made to deter a bad law and salvage your reputation where it really matters, before it’s too late.

  3. Anon Prawf

    Notably, not a single scholar of any repute has chimed in on behalf of Ms. Franks. She’s raised Eugene Volokh as her supporter regularly, yet he hasn’t uttered a peep. Even the primary bloggers at Concurring Opinions, Dan Solove and Dave Hoffman, have been silent. The silence has been deafening.

    It’s unclear whether this has to do with the merit of her cause or her tone, free use of ad homimens and rather unpersuasive arguments. I would think the latter is more likely. Even those who share her concerns are disinclined to associate themselves with her under the circumstances.

    As I suspect she anticipated riding this wave to tenure, her handling of this matter may not fare well for her. Regardless of the merit of her position, she has not done herself any favors by the way she has addressed these challenges.

    1. SHG Post author

      I have noticed the deafening silence. Others, particularly lawyers who don’t pay much attention to the professoriate, probably won’t, but I agree that it speaks volumes.

    2. Marilou Auer

      Prawf, your last sentence says what I used up several paragraphs trying to say. Thank you.

      I’ve been waiting to see one of the camels poke his nose under the tent (from the inside, that is).

      But please don’t let the volume and shrill of her proclamations drown out the reality that what she’s trying to do is ill-advised and doomed, and, sadly, sets her entire crusade back decades, if not generations.

    3. Mark Bennett

      Those who share her concerns but are disinclined to associate themselves with her because of her failure (even given a sabbatical to work on the project) to come up with a persuasive argument ought to participate, either coming up with the persuasive argument that she is incapable of finding, drafting a statute that is likely to pass muster, or explaining why neither is possible.

      Is Franks such a nonentity in the Academy that nobody bothers to either support or refute her?

      1. SHG Post author

        Refuting her takes a level of interest and guts that doesn’t seem to happen often with the profs, especially when they can expect to be tarred as misogynists for doing so. But the lack of support is another matter. Support is easy and the only risk it bears is siding with an unsupportable position and being deemed intellectually inadequate.

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  5. Rick Horowtiz

    Law schools really need to stop hiring instructors who are so “young” as lawyers, and have no experience at the practice of law. I know law school doesn’t teach one how to be a lawyer. But it’s just crazy that the people teaching it are so immature — not just as lawyers, but as people — and this is who is hired to teach them how not to be lawyers.

    There was a lot of talk from a few people in my first year out of law school of having me teach writing and legal research at the law school I had attended. I told everyone who even mentioned it around me that that idea was insane. I still think it’s insane, and if I read the stories right, I’ve been actually practicing law for a little longer than Ms. Franks has held her J.D. without practicing.

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