A few years ago, I had a chat with the dean of my alma mater, New York Law School, after it announced it was hooking up with a slimy internet outlet selling minicourses in unethical legal marketing by defrocked lawyers. Then Dean Richard Mataser admitted to me that he actually had no clue whom his school had gotten in bed with.
The problem, he explained, is that NYLS isn’t Harvard Law School, and never would be. That was not exactly an epiphany. So, he went on, it needed some hook to make itself relevant, and it was hanging its future on being the school that embraced the internet. Did I get it?
Sure, I told the dean, but if that was where it wanted to focus, it had to, you know, have a clue about the internet. He didn’t. It didn’t. He was going to look into it. And then he retired.
As an alumnus, they send me emails
from time to time hourly extolling their scholarly efforts, and incoming was one of their major efforts, a make-a-name-for-yourself symposium:
The First Annual Tyler Clementi Internet Safety Conference
Remember Tyler Clementi, a Rutgers student whose roommate put a webcam in his dorm room that revealed his kissing another guy, and who later committed suicide? He became the poster boy for cyberbullying.
The purpose of the conference is set forth pretty clearly:
The Internet Safety Conference, to be held at New York Law School on October 3-4, 2015, is an unprecedented gathering of policy makers, political and business leaders, attorneys, social scientists, academics, teachers, students, and nonprofit advocates, all focused on the conference’s theme:combatting cyberharassment in all its forms. At this conference, New York Law School will launch a first-of-its-kind direct outreach pro bono initiative that will help victims of online harassment obtain justice.
The speakers at the conference are best described as falling into three categories:
Pandering politicians, such as former Nassau Count District Attorney, now congresswoman, Kathleen Rice, best known for her Flush the Johns initiative.
Victims and their families, like Holly Jacobs, a revenge porn “survivor” who founded the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative.
Academics whose careers are hitched to the creation of crimes to prohibit hurt feelings on the internet.
And there is a somewhat amorphous fourth group, advocates with neither the knowledge or intellect to bring anything that should ever be heard in a law school, but who can be counted upon to applaud loudly and nod their head in agreement.
Who will not be there? Anyone who might ruin their moment of sad and tragic stories, sobbing, tears and hand-wringing, disrupting their emotional catharsis and suggesting that the entirety of their platform of criminalizing all behaviors that hurt people’s feelings on the internet is flagrantly unconstitutional.
What business does a law school have in trying to become ground zero for unconstitutional crimes? Well, NYLS ain’t Harvard, you know, and it’s no doubt hoping that it’s good business. The kind that will bring passionate students to its school, to fill its seats at full tuition, because they want to rid the internet of hurt feelings.
There will be no “discouraging words” spoken at this conference. There will, on the other hand, be as many people as they can jam on a dais, without regard to intellectual credentials, who will tell each other lies about the law and have their lies validated by others who want their lies not to be false.
There will be lawprofs whose claims have been so thoroughly debunked, even by those who agree with them, whose greatest skill is shrieking louder than anyone else in the Academy, and who have no qualms about using their faux-scholarishness to lend an air of credibility to the ignorant but passionate worker bees who run around the internet, fill the benches in legislative hallways, persuading legislators like Jared Polis that there must be punishment if people’s feelings are hurt.
Speech issues? Who gives a damn about free speech when there are feelings being hurt on the internet. Vague laws that criminalize behaviors based on “victims'” feelings rather than any cognizable description of behavior? Notice is for losers. Overbroad laws that sweep in the innocent along with the guilty? You gotta break a few eggs if you want to make an omelet.
And not a soul in sight to point out the wrongfulness, the insanity, the unconstitutionality, of their rank appeals to emotion.
Is this what law schools should be doing? Should law schools become driving forces in advocating for unconstitutional criminal laws? Should law schools give a soapbox to zealots who want nothing to do with law, and everything to do with punishing the people who hurt their feelz?
Yes, according to NYLS, provided it has the potential to put tuition-paying asses in their empty seats by recreating themselves as the Law School for the Sad and Butthurt. Remember, NYLS ain’t Harvard. And it’s not as if anyone who might spoil their group whine would want to be in the conference room anyway.