Michael Simkovic’s Grand Delusion

Michael Simkovic is a law professor at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. You’ve likely never heard of him. He’s not an important prawf. He graduated Harvard Law School in 2007 and has since done little to draw attention to his work outside the legal academy. That doesn’t make him a bad guy, but inconsequential. It’s the bane of academics, trying so hard to matter when the stakes are so small.

But now he’s drawn attention. Not for a deep thought. Not for a theory of law that enlightens anyone. But for being, as David Bernstein too charitably puts it, “remarkable.” And while David may feel constrained by the moderated characterizations of the academy, I’m not, and so I’ll remark. Simkovic flamed out in a public psychotic breakdown.

I’M EMBARRASSED FOR THE AUTHOR: USC lawprof Michael Simkovic: A well-organized campaign to bait, discredit, and take over universities is exploiting students and manipulating the public.

I’m not embarrassed for Simkovic. This is America and he’s entitled to be as big an asshole as he wants to be. And he wants to be huge.

Recently, the Federalist Society invited South Texas College of Law Houston’s Josh Blackman to lecture at CUNY law school.  Professor Blackman’s sparsely attended lecture drew protestors because of Blackman’s previous criticism of an amnesty program for undocumented immigrants and his use of language the protestors interpreted as racial dog whistling.

A university official asked the students to be respectful, defended Blackman’s right to speak, and admonished the students “please don’t take the bait.”  One student noticed Blackman recording himself and asked Blackman, “You chose CUNY didn’t you? Because you knew what would happen if you came here.”  (CUNY, like Vassar, has a reputation for left-wing student activism).  Blackman deflected the question.  One protestor used an expletive, which Blackman repeated.

According to both Blackman and CUNY, the protestors were non-violent.  Security was present to maintain order.  Blackman—tall and muscular—towered over the students and appeared calm throughout the exchange.

This was the “fuck the law” protest, the one that the CUNY law National Lawyers Guild explained meant “fuck the law.” The voices in Simkovic’s head, the ones that only he hears when he’s alone at night in the darkness, told him this was a calculated conspiracy by the dark lords Koch to bring down the Force of social justice.

Right-wing journalists hyped up the incident, labelling the largely minority protestors a “mob” and “hoodlums.”  A law professor writing for the Volokh Conspiracy blog at Reason Magazine argued that the CUNY Dean should be fired.  White Nationalist websites such as BreitbartNew American (the John Birch Society), and VDare lionized Blackman as a hero.  Blackman seized the opportunities that resulted, scoring an Op Ed in the New York Daily News.

Professor Blackman’s claim that student protestors at CUNY denied him a platform is ironic.  It is precisely because of Blackman’s right-wing connections and the brief protests they engendered that Blackman was given a platform at the National Review, Fox News, the New York Post, the New York Daily News, ReasonInside Higher EdFIRECampus ReformCato.org, Commentary, First Amendment Watch, The College Fix, and The Global Dispatch, SeeThruEdu (The Texas Public Policy Foundation) among others.  Many of these organizations are part of the Koch Brothers’ backed State Policy Network.

And why, according to the voices in Simkovic’s head, are these evil manipulators doing this to the good and righteous forces for justice?

The purpose of media exaggeration of incidents at universities appears to be to discredit universities in the eyes of conservatives, libertarians, and moderates.

There’s a grand conspiracy afoot, or more precisely in the nasty inner reaches of Simkovic’s bizarre delusions, which is working, undermining vulnerable and marginalized progressives on campus by this vast right-wing conspiracy. Heck, even Overlawyered’s Walter Olson is in on it.

This messaging strategy dovetails nicely with anti-university propaganda.  That same year, Walter Olson of the Koch-sponsored Manhattan Institute and Cato Institute published Schools for Misrule, which portrayed law schools as hostile toward conservative students.  Olson has little relevant experience with law school, either as a student or as a professor.  His account does not reflect the experiences of many of those who do.*

That nobody stopped Simkovic from having this psychotic episode in public is unfortunate, suggesting that not even Brian Leiter, whose blog hosted this screed, cared enough to spare Simkovic the humiliation. There is no shortage of legal academics happy to whore themselves in the cause of social justice, and to bring down Darth Cheeto. But they tend to be a cowardly, weasely group, so those prawfs will shake their head in private, condemn these public displays of nuttery only amongst themselves, or at worst pretend to be above the fray, sniffling that it’s “curious.”

I, however, have no such compulsion to rise above this insane delusion, this attack on Josh Blackman (and William Jacobson). Simkovic broke the rules, openly attacking other academics, and for that he gets no moderated response. He’s a fucking nutjob. He was a nobody before this, and now he’s just a psychotic piece of shit for spewing his delusion that there’s a conspiracy by the evil Koch Brothers to vilify and destroy the sweet darlings of social justice in law school.

No one “baited” the easily manipulated children into disgracing themselves, their school. And no one forced Simkovic to lose his shit in public and attack Josh Blackman as a tool of the evil empire. Simkovic tries to wrap himself up in the cloak of goodness, as the insanely self-righteous are wont to do:

I have had the privilege of teaching, learning from, working with and befriending decent people of all political persuasions over the years.  It disappoints me to see some of them allow themselves to be used as cannon fodder in a misguided war against education.

But his crazy polemic is complete bullshit. David Bernstein takes it apart.

The whole piece is like this, full of illogic and innuendo, suggesting that the fault with the threats to free speech on campus lies with those who engage in and defend free speech, rather than those bent on suppressing it.

This is a call to arms in the legal academy. I doubt that most of them will have the balls to call Simkovic the lying sack of shit he is. And so, as happens with unfortunate frequency, a vulgarian will do the job they lack the courage to do and clean up their mess. Josh Blackman deserves as much. As for Michael Simkovic, you’re a disgrace.

*If you click on the link in support of “many of those who do,” you arrive at an Amazon review of Walter’s book written by, ta da, Simkovic.


23 thoughts on “Michael Simkovic’s Grand Delusion

  1. wilbur

    ” Blackman—tall and muscular—towered over the students and appeared calm throughout the exchange.”

    Mmmm, OK. The bizarre, irrelevant nature of this description does make me wonder just how tightly wrapped he is.

      1. Nick Lidakis

        Imagine how much he’ll be able to bench press when he grows facial hair. Ooof.

    1. West

      “And then the tall and muscular Blackman ripped off my bodice….”

      Seemed to be more the, em, thrust here.

  2. PseudonymousKid

    Dear Papa,

    Satire isn’t enough to cope with this one. It’s a dumpster fire. Better to just watch it burn. A nobody is jealous of the attention given positive and negative of a fellow academic he despises. Let’s see how he likes it in return.

    It’s characterization of your new favorite, Blackman, as an evil and corrupt conservative who schemed to garner favor with the right wing causes he champions, that prohibits satire. I wanted to say that. But this molehill is already a mountain enough.


    1. SHG Post author

      Sit down, PK. This is important. Josh and I disagree about a great many things, but he’s always proven himself to be smart and a person of integrity. One of his foremost qualities is that he doesn’t shy away from his positions because they are unpopular in the academy. He’s tough. I respect that enormously.

      Simkovic’s attack wasn’t on his ideas, but his integrity. He suffers the delusion that anyone who isn’t on his team must be inherently evil, stupid or bought, because otherwise no one could possibly see things any other way. While few prawfs will “stoop” to Simkovic’s level, I will. Not because Josh is my new favorite, though I like him very much, but because he deserves to have someone call this asswipe out on his own terms. Who better than a vulgarian like me? They can call me all the names they want. Whatever it is, I’ve been called worse. My shoulders are broad and there isn’t a person in the academy whose approval I seek or need. As my 93-year-old father says, “fuck ’em all.”

      1. PseudonymousKid

        Leave me my hyperbole. It’s all I have. I just wanted to continue jokingly painting Blackman as a cartoon villian bent on world destruction with a death ray, but I can’t even do that because nobody just said it with a straight face. Blackman was gonna play my heel, but now I have to find someone else even more benign. Great-Grandpappy is right. Fuck ’em all.

  3. Pingback: USC law professor Michael Simkovic's absurd attack on me for defending campus free speech

  4. Richard Kopf


    As you know, I have a particularly penetrating skill. I see connections that folks with closer ties to reality overlook.

    Comparing the photographs of Professor Blackman with photographs of Professor Michael Simkovic I found, indeed, that Blackmun is tall and muscular and that Simkovic is not. That, in turn, reminded me of the penetrating and groundbreaking, although somewhat dated, legal scholarship entitled “Short People” by Randy Newman.

    With this information, I have begun law review article that is empirically based. Its working title is “An Objective Methodology for Finding and Outing Right-Wing Legal Academics Who Are Koch Whores.” Essentially, the article proves (using multivariate regressions) that you are not a “Right-Wing Legal Academic Who is a Koch Whore” if, but only if, you got little hands and little eyes, and you walk around tellin’ great big lies.

    I am shopping this piece at the law review published by the Southern California Gould School of Law. Since I am not particularly tall, nor muscular, and I would not tower over Professor Simkovic, or his students, I am hoping for a warm reception. Wish me luck!

    All the best.


    1. SHG Post author

      I don’t know about you, Judge, but I get shivers whenever someone mentions multivariate regressions.

  5. B. McLeod

    “Right-wing journalists”? I’ll bet they don’t get invited to the union meetings.

  6. Ray Lee

    You can make fun of him all you want but the Good White Knight Simkovic is the real victim here. It was not enough that the vast right wing conspiracy was able to bait and exploit these poor students, discrediting them in the process, making them explain what they meant by “fuck the law.” The white nationalist media cabal (we all know that “‘Free speech is . . . a right wing code for white nationalism” – https://twitter.com/ScottGreenfield/status/981276510731587585) has compounded their evil work by baiting the good Professor into reacting badly and is now trying to discredit him. The only saving grace is that they are all victims now. Which makes me wonder whether this post violates the latest version of the Model Rules or if further amendments may be necessary.

    1. SHG Post author

      I would suspect this post is a flagrant violation of Model Rule 8.4(g). At least I hope so.

  7. Richard Kopf


    Below is some regression porn using the R statistical computing environment that I employed for my proposed law review article. Enjoy, but only in the privacy of your basement.

    mlm1 |t|)
    (Intercept) -2.879e+03 8.933e+02 -3.224 0.008108 **
    GEN 6.757e+02 1.621e+02 4.169 0.001565 **
    AMT 2.848e-01 6.091e-02 4.677 0.000675 ***
    PR 1.027e+01 4.255e+00 2.414 0.034358 *
    DIAP 7.251e+00 3.225e+00 2.248 0.046026 *
    QRS 7.598e+00 3.849e+00 1.974 0.074006 .

    Signif. codes: 0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1
    Residual standard error: 281.2 on 11 degrees of freedom
    Multiple R-squared: 0.8871, Adjusted R-squared: 0.8358
    F-statistic: 17.29 on 5 and 11 DF, p-value: 6.983e-05
    Response AMI :
    lm(formula = AMI ~ GEN + AMT + PR + DIAP + QRS, data = ami_data)
    Min 1Q Median 3Q Max
    -373.85 -247.29 -83.74 217.13 462.72
    Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)
    (Intercept) -2.729e+03 9.288e+02 -2.938 0.013502 *
    GEN 7.630e+02 1.685e+02 4.528 0.000861 ***
    AMT 3.064e-01 6.334e-02 4.837 0.000521 ***
    PR 8.896e+00 4.424e+00 2.011 0.069515 .
    DIAP 7.206e+00 3.354e+00 2.149 0.054782 .
    QRS 4.987e+00 4.002e+00 1.246 0.238622

    Signif. codes: 0 ‘***’ 0.001 ‘**’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1
    Residual standard error: 292.4 on 11 degrees of freedom
    Multiple R-squared: 0.8764, Adjusted R-squared: 0.8202
    F-statistic: 15.6 on 5 and 11 DF, p-value: 0.0001132

    All the best.


    PS Notice the R-squared falls below 0.95. But, hey, it is pretty damn titillating anyway and it’s certainly good enough for the legal academy.

  8. Black Bellamy

    I’m a muscular six two and I also appear calm. No wonder people fear me. From now on I will assuage their fears by acting like a malfunctioning pressure cooker. Hat tip Simkovic for the life pro tip.

  9. Forbes

    IANAL, but I read Simkovic’s piece the other day–or I should say, I tried reading it, and couldn’t make it all the way through…

    What is it with the prog-left, much less prog-left lawyers, who haven’t a clue how to proffer an argument? All Simkovic puts forward is ad hominem, name-calling, and guilt by association–Koch-this and Koch-that. It makes for some pitiful and dreary reading.

    With a standout like Simkovic, the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy need not lift a finger to destroy the university, the prog-left has that fully on-track.

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