16.374 supping with a long spoon? and "He who eats with the devil must use a long spoon"

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty@kcl.ac.uk)
Date: Mon Dec 09 2002 - 03:00:45 EST

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 16, No. 374.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                         Submit to: humanist@princeton.edu

             Date: Mon, 09 Dec 2002 07:51:38 +0000
             From: Roy Flannagan <roy@gwm.sc.edu>
             Subject: Re: 16.363 supping with a long spoon? and "He who eats
    with the devil must use a long spoon"

    The idea of buying ethics is an amusing one, from a distance, though all of
    us are wary about being bought or sold. It is tempting to buy off the
    academies, the untouchable scholars, the impeccable reputations of a
    Harvard Kissinger or a Brandeis Reich. I asked students in a Renaissance
    Literature class this semester, apropos Dr. Faustus, what they thought
    their souls might be worth, and one of them found a soul going for sale on
    eBay (it was only bid up to something like $2.47).

    It is sad when a chemist testifies on behalf of a tobacco company that
    there is no established truth to the rumor that smoking causes cancer, and
    it is sad when the lobbyists of pharmaceutical companies convince senators
    to vote against the release of the generic versions of drugs the companies
    have a patent on.

    I have seen academics who refuse to be bought out and other academics whose
    institutions begged, borrowed, or stole their profitable intellectual
    property. As an editor of a scholarly journal, I need to be wary whenever
    I am taken out to dinner by a publisher or even by a scholar on the make,
    someone who needs to be published. Even the lowly academic needs to ask,
    constantly, Is he or she trying to buy me out? or Am I for sale? We may
    get asked out for lunch before a departmental election, by a candidate or a
    candidate's shill.

    We who are protected by the academy and by tenure think that our opinions
    are arrived at objectively, yet we are blind followers of fashion, and
    petty-minded grubbers for the 2% raise pool. When the head monkey in
    Paris, as Thoreau put it, gets a new hat, the news travels fast and all the
    academic monkeys in the U.S. or U.K. have to buy that hat. When the Apple
    corporation donates a new Mac lab to the English Department, giving all the
    old Mac to faculty members, we may be hooked into that technology for
    life. When IBM or Microsoft donates to our electronic text project, it
    buys little pieces of our hearts and minds. We begin putting capital
    letters in the middle of words, as in WordPerfect or Quark XPress, to
    follow fashion and to go where the money is.

    We are all whores, at least potentially, though some of us may elect to be
    pimps, and the annual Pimp and Ho ball in Los Angeles attracts many
    professionals who are no longer on the street. At least we see
    professional athletes get their bones broken to justify their large
    salaries, but corrupt CEOs, or deans, may get off with a large pension at
    the end of a nefarious career. And at the high school, Pepsi donates to the
    impoverished schools, to get rid of the Coke machines in the cafeteria. My
    point is that, no matter where you work, your soul may be for sale, and in
    order to maintain any sense of integrity or individuality, you need to be
    on guard constantly about selling out.

    Roy Flannagan

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