Tuesday, October 02, 2012

two comments: Piers Morgan & Jesse Ventura; Ray Carney & Mark Rappaport


In a recent CNN interview with Piers Morgan, Jesse Ventura responded to a question in a manner that's unfortunately all too rare, and Morgan did not approve:

MORGAN: Should [Iran] be allowed to have [nuclear weapons]?

VENTURA: Should they be allowed to? I don't know.

MORGAN: Yes or no? You're a man of opinions. You might be running for office. We're entitled to know what you think.

VENTURA: Not right now you [aren't]. I need to study it more, I need to...

MORGAN: How convenient.

VENTURA: Yes, it is very convenient.

MORGAN: So you know about everything that happened before 9/11, but right now when you have Iran potentially nuking itself up, you don't have an opinion? 

VENTURA: Well, let's leave that up to the nuclear inspectors who go in there. They will tell us whether they are nuking it up...

It's refreshing that Ventura was not afraid or reluctant to admit he didn't know enough about something to give his opinion on it, and it's interesting that such a thing was seen by Morgan as being disingenuous. It reminded me of a section in Steve Powers and Neil Postman's book, How to Watch Television News. Along with several other tips, they give the following recommendation near the end:

Reduce by one third the number of opinions you feel obligated to have.1

They continue:

"One of the reasons many people are addicted to watching TV news is that they feel under-pressure to have an opinion about almost everything. Middle-class people, at least those who are college educated, seem especially burdened by an unrealistic and slightly ridiculous obligation to have a ready made opinion on any matter. For example, suppose you are attending a dinner party and someone asks you if you think the earth is undergoing permanent warming as a result of the increase in carbon dioxide emissions. You are expected to say something like, "Absolutely. In fact, I heard a discussion of this on CNN (or MSNBC or Fox News or even Entertainment Tonight) last Thursday, and it looks as if we're in for devastating climatic changes. I heard Al Gore got an Oscar for his movie about it." The fact is that you really don't know much about this matter, and TV coverage only provides the most rudimentary and fragmented information about anything. Wouldn't it be liberating to be able to say, when asked such a question, "I have no opinion on this since I know practically nothing about it"? Of course, we realize that if you gave such an answer five or six times during the course of a dinner party, you would probably not be asked back. But that would be a small price to pay for relieving yourself of the strain of storing thirty-two half-baked opinions to be retrieved at a moment's notice."

This couldn't make any more sense, yet a CNN talk show host scoffed at Ventura for doing just that! Morgan probably didn't approve, at least in part, because he has a "fragmented and rudimentary" opinion of nearly everything himself, which makes him feel informed. And because of the ubiquity of television news and information, he likely thinks that opinions don't take much effort to form, so people who don't have an opinion on a subject that's recently "been in the news" are either strategically lying about itwhich he insinuates with his remark "how convenient"or just plain lazy. (That an opinion wouldn't want to be shared because the person holding it knew it was half-baked and uninformed is irrelevant since that's what television is filled withwithout it, Morgan wouldn't have a show.)

At the (no doubt subconscious) root of Morgan's annoyance might very well be what Ventura's response implies, which is 1.) that CNN and similar networks aren't doing their job, and 2.) that Morgan's own opinion is likely uninformed. If Ventura needs to investigate the subject on his own before he can feel confident, that means the average viewer—and this probably includes Morganshouldn't feel confident either. The questions that might logically follow"why doesn't he (Ventura) feel confident?" and "why does he (the average viewer/Morgan) feel confident?"would bring up too many uncomfortable complications. Fortunately for Morgan, "Why?" is almost never considered in the world of television news. (The terrorists hate our freedom, remember?)

Earlier in Postman and Powers' book, the authors note how news has largely lost its meaning and relevance since so much information is available. "Americans are no longer clear about what news is worth remembering or how any of it is connected to anything else. As a consequence, Americans have rapidly become the least knowledgeable people in the industrialized world. We know of many things (everything is revealed) but about very little (nothing is known)." Ventura recognized this but Morgan was loathe to do so, because doing so would require considering the possibility that, beneath all of his self-seriousness, he's merely another King of Distraction.

Though I'm no fan of Ventura, he's certainly on the right track in some areas, and I like that he's willing to question everything. My problem with him, however, is that he manages to turn his "question everything" attribute into a vice by using it as a way to dismiss everything that doesn't conform to his worldview, which makes him as inclined as even the average non-thinker to filter and dismiss facts and information according to their convenience.

As for the Powers / Postman book, I don't recommend it, at least not to anyone who is likely reading this. It's better for people who are quite young (early teens) or for people who haven't given much thought to how the media functions. But I do like their first lesson for watching television news, covered in the book's preface:

"Before saying anything else on the matter, we need to remark that anyone who is not an avid reader of newspapers, magazines, and books is by definition unprepared to watch television news, and always will be."

1Great advice. But I wonder what made them decide on one third. Why not one fourth? Why not one half?


As some of you know, Ray Carney has been involved in a dispute with filmmaker Mark Rappaport that recently became public. After unsuccessfully taking legal action (back-story HERE), Rappaport wrote an open letter to the film community that has since been published (or linked to) in various corners of the Internet, including places where the majority of those reading it were likely unaware of the existence of either of the two men just a few weeks prior. Such is the nature of scandal, bad behavior, hypocrisy, gossip, casting stones, etc. Others, like Jon Jost, are bringing attention to the incident with the intent of using any outrage it might foster as leverage to (possibly, hopefully) "force" Carney to return Rappaport's belongings.

Clearly Carney has brought vast damage to his reputation. Whatever small space his supporters were constantly trying to claw out for him is now lost, and probably for good. While it's true that most of the film community has long been dismissive or indifferent to Carney, whatever indifference there was has surely given way to hostility and scorn. And perhaps most damaging of all, the chance that someone heretofore unfamiliar with his work will now read itlet alone give it thoughtful considerationhas dropped close to zero. The bell has sounded, and Carney is not to be trusted.

It's for these reasons that I spent some time the week before last compiling notes for what was to be a defense of Carney's writing (to those for whom this is akin to condoning his actions, I have nothing to say). I wanted to make a case for his work, defend it against its many detractors (which is something I've wanted to do for a long time anyway), as well as possibly introduce a few people to it who were unfamiliar (or who only knew Carney by name). But after reading part 2 of the unfolding debacle (as recounted by Jost here), as well as comments in various forums, I quickly lost all interest and inspiration. I might still attempt to do this at some point in the future, but not now. Right now it feels too much like attaching the name "Ray Carney" to a group of sentences (I had planned on quoting him extensively) would instantly rob them of any value they might have. Words lose their potency and fire when they turn out to be easily discarded ideals rather than firm truths to stand behind.

For some, Carney is an original and insightful critic whose writing means a great deal (obviously I'd include myself here). He is (was?) the rare film writer capable of inspiring filmmakers and artists rather than other critics, and at his best he championed films and filmmakers with an enthusiasm that was contagious. (Ironicallyand I'm certainly not alone in thisRappaport was one of the filmmakers whose work I sought out because of Carney.)

My copy of Cassavetes on Cassavetes

Yet here is this very same Carneya man who has spent much of his time promoting many of America's greatest and most underappreciated filmmakersstanding in the way of Mark Rappaport's film's being more widely seen! On top of that, he's always talked disparagingly about how America doesn't respect or support its artists, how truth is for sale to the highest bidder, etc—and now he's playing his part in that very same charade! The hypocrisy is confounding.

Some people have said we should wait to hear Carney's side before drawing any conclusions. But how long should we wait? As Jost points out, he's had ample time and opportunity to respond. Regardless of whatever reasoning he might have (or give) for keeping Rappaport's belongings, we already know he hasn't done the decent thing. Even if Rappaport outright gave Carney his films (as Carney claims), the right thing to do (legality doesn't interest me) would be to give them back when asked, especially if it's because Rappaport found an opportunity to make some money off of them. (On top of that, one would think Carney would be very excited by the prospect of people having easy access to good versions of Rappaport's films.) Even if Carney was in the middle of writing a book on Rappaport and needed the materials to finish, the right course of action would have been to explain the situation to Rappaport and see what could have been worked out. And even if the films had been unintentionally damaged or ruined and Carney was ashamed, the right thing to do would be to face up to it and apologize. But none of this happened. Instead Carney opted to behave in a manner that was nasty, selfish, rude, hypocritical, wrongheaded and dishonest, not to mention extremely disappointing to anyone who has ever defended him against those whose hatred of bow-ties seems to trump any love they might have for thoughtful debate.

Obviously, like everyone, Ray Carney has a side to him (I hate the duality metaphorpeople don't have sidesbut it's an easy shortcut here) that this ordeal is not just overshadowing but, at least in terms of the public imagination, outright extinguishing. It's the side that can be seen running throughout his mailbagselfless, inspiring, encouraging, loving. It's the side that has inspired filmmakers as diverse as Andrew Bujalski, Matthew Porterfield, Aaron Katz, Ronald Bronstein, Donal Foreman, Harmony Korine, and Josh and Ben Safdie (who were also his students), to name just a few. But where is this side now? Hopefully we'll see it emerge at some point and Rappaport will be given his films back, though I wouldn't count on it. Carney probably thinks he's the victim here. (That's one of the dangers of bringing a campaign against him; it might help him reenforce this warped POV, causing him to dig his feet in ever more.)

Personally, I'm more inclined to think Carney's ego is so large that he sincerely thinks he's helping Rappaport in some backwards way than I am to think he's spent his entire life writing things he doesn't truly believe and feel. But even if that's the case, the fact that he doesn't realize he's dropping the lifeboat on the head of the person he's trying to help (to borrow a phrase from his book on Mike Leigh) is beyond bewildering. Or maybe he recognizes the reality of the situation and is so utterly self-obsessed that he simply doesn't care. Whichever the case, it speaks to something deeply troubling about his mind.


Paul Couture said...

There are parallels between your comments on Piers Morgan and Jesse Ventura & Ray Carney and Mark Rappaport but somehow you have arrived at opposite conclusions. Wouldn't it also be refreshing if you were not afraid or reluctant to admit that you didn't know enough about this subject to have an opinion of it? Aren't we, because of Jon Jost's diatribe or Mark Rappaport's open letter, feeling forced to have an opinion about something that we only have fragmentary knowledge of? I just don't see how we (those who are not directly involved in the transgression) have any firm perspective concerning this issue. Ray Carney has not been available for comment. This isn't how justice is done especially when a man's reputation and livelihood are at stake.

When has Ray not shown integrity? You say yourself that his hypocrisy is confounding. From what I read from Jost and Rappaport, I wonder as you do, but know well that it is only one "side" of the debate (debates usually have more than just sides, too). You may say that I am someone who falls under your "we should wait to hear Carney's side" category, and that would be true. How long should we wait? I don't know. Surely, Piers Morgan could have asked the same of Jesse Ventura since the western media, scholars, and political systems have been discussing this topic for years now. In fact, I would say that we know much more about it than we do of the Rappaport tapes.

I don't know about Carney's innocence or guilt. It seems to me that his decades of good work in writing AND in the classroom merit that this guy gets the benefit of the doubt, at least until we have more than just Rappaport's testimony.

Finally, as a post script: I'd like to mention that a few years ago I was preparing to teach a course and wanted to use several of Ray Carney's compilations of essays for sale on his website. I wrote to Mr. Carney in late Spring to see about placing a large order. I did not receive a response from him until about a month into the fall term, well beyond the point where I could have used them. This was after repeated follow-up emails, and this was just an innocuous request that would have earned him about a hundred dollars and given him the opportunity to disseminate his work. What did he say when he did return my notes? That he was profusely sorry and that he was out of the country and didn't keep up access to his email. Fair enough. No hard feelings. Not that I am saying he is innocent in this affair specifically, only that I do have experience with Mr. Carney apparently going "off the grid," as he allegedly says he has.

Tyler said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

Yes, the two posts are linked in various ways -- good observation. I had anticipated the possibility of someone saying this as it's something I discussed with one of my friends. With all of this in mind, I was trying to be somewhat more objective in my post than others have been, which is why I included the final two paragraphs, as well as the fourth. The last thing I want is for Carney's writing to be ignored or forgotten, though perhaps I have been too hasty in calling him out.

It's tricky to respond because everything you said is technically correct, but I'll give it a shot.

Both of us agree that there are situations when one should abstain from holding an opinion due to lack of information. What we disagree on is the criterion needed in order to arrive at a given conclusion.

I put forth my reasons for forming an opinion in my "we know he has not done the decent thing" paragraph, and you did not agree with my reasoning. I certainly understand where you're coming from, but unless Rappaport is outright making things up -- which I can conceive of no possible motive for -- then we know Carney is at least being dishonest. Dishonest in the way he pretended not to be home when he was being served, if nothing else. In Jost's CHAINED RELATIONS (2) post, there is information suggesting that Carney is not "off the grid." (Of course, the email(s) from a former student could actually be from a random person conspiring to condemn him, though that's less believable.) And we know that Carney is aware of this entire ordeal because he's been to court concerning it. As I said, even if Carney has a written agreement to Mark's films (obviously he doesn't or he would've presented it in court), I condemn his actions because they were not decent, they contradict things he's previously written, and because I believe that artists should have access to -- and control of -- their own work.

Yes, everything depends on the veracity of Mark's statements, but at some point we have to decide who to believe, which is something we'll still have to do if and when we hear Carney's side. If we don't have any admission of wrongdoing (on either side) then all we'll have is two men pointing a finger at one another. If that means that no one outside of this transgression can or should ever have an opinion on it, well, I certainly can't argue with that. And maybe that's even a reasonable position to take. But that's not exactly what you're arguing, either. You're suggesting that Carney's public response is the missing key that will give us what we need to confidently weigh in, and I don't agree.

Tyler said...

"Ray Carney has not been available for comment. This isn't how justice is done especially when a man's reputation and livelihood are at stake."

That is only how justice is done in the court of public opinion. Carney was available to comment in court. That he would even go to court at all regarding this matter is disappointing. Furthermore, you don't know that Carney hasn't been available. Perhaps he's deliberately choosing not to comment.

"How long should we wait? I don't know. Surely, Piers Morgan could have asked the same of Jesse Ventura since the western media, scholars, and political systems have been discussing this topic for years now."

This analogy only works if we're to assume that Ventura has read a lot of what scholars and others have said, but he admits that he hasn't. He explicitly says he needs to "study it more." And he's never going to have read everything. At some point he's going to have to do what everyone does, which is decide for himself when he feels like he has enough information to form an opinion. You feel that you need to hear what Carney says and won't form an opinion as long as he hasn't responded. I can't argue with that. But that means Carney's best bet is to remain silent. And it also means that nearly all of our opinions we've formed about things we haven't been directly involved in should be thrown out, which I'm not convinced would be a good thing.

As far as his "side" is concerned, what story could Carney tell that would change everything? It seems to me that anything he says in his own defense will likely only provide those who wish to restore him to the position he once held in their minds the justification for doing so. And since I consider myself to be in this group -- that is, someone who hopes Carney's reputation can be restored and his integrity remain intact -- perhaps I have been overzealous in trying to combat what I feel might be my own bias and inclination to play a future game of self-deception on myself. What story, though, makes it so that Carney hasn't acted wrongfully against Mark? (If he says Mark is lying then we still can't form an opinion because it'd only be his word against Mark's, as I said.) And if it's true that Carney has not responded because he's gone off the grid, great. But that doesn't excuse his actions towards Mark; it only excuses his actions towards everyone he has ignored since then. What can Carney say that will justify keeping the films of someone who wants them back?

Paul Couture said...

Hi, Tyler,

I don't disagree with your arguments. They are stronger than mine and I should have been more careful with articulation. To be honest, I read the Jon Jost e-blast last night just before bed and the whole of it stunned me. I woke up earlier than usual and wrote to you what I did as a warm up for a more thoughtful and extended response to Jon Jost, and I think that might have had something to do with my lack of rigor, and I am sorry for that.

I'd like to talk more about this with you and will respond to your comments as you wrote them.

1. Ray Carney was probably home when being served. We don't know this but it seems likely. But whether he was home or not doesn't affect perspective of the Rappaport problem, does it? His wife throwing back the document. What does this say about their attitude? Nothing conciliatory, I can agree with that. Is this proof of Carney being dishonest? To some degree, I guess, but it's not categorically persuasive.

2. Being off the grid doesn't necessarily equate to an all or nothing. It can mean that he selectively reads, writes and respond to calls in his own fashion. It could be that he was only in contact with limited individuals. This is conjecture, I know, but I don't know that because a student was in touch with him that that invalidates the claim that he was off the grid, either.

3. Did Ray Carney ever physically go to trial? I read through the Jost posts twice and seem to remember that RC only had written statements read by his lawyer but maybe I misremember. I'm not sure it matters, though.

4. You condemn his actions because they were not honest and fly in the face of values that he has previously espoused. That's how it seems to me too, but I don't know. His court-given testimony is contradictory. His asking for the figure he did does seem excessive, if accurate, and like a jerk-thing to do. I agree completely. But we haven't heard anything from Ray Carney directly. It's all hearsay. Ray Carney has been a substantial source of learning for me over the last decade, maybe, and I am not about to condemn him based on the limited accounts stated thus far. I don't know what he could say to redeem his behavior. I don't. But I am not saying that there isn't anything that he could say, either. Like Jon Jost says, Ray Carney seems extraordinarily stressed. His life at BU seems to be black like a Kafka. We know he still teaches and his mode is very hands on and creative and effortful. He had a print date at the University of California Press for a new Cassavetes book that lapsed, and now the U of C has no plans to publish it (I wrote to inquire), and who knows what else is happening with Ray Carney. He is probably overworked and stressed like we have never been. If he is not giving his attention to the Rappaport problem then I can be open to reasons why. Might he be hoarding the work for selfish reasons? Of course. But I don't know. He did, after all, give Mark back some films in 2010 without any issue whatsoever, which is in the character that we like to see him and wasn't so long ago. The bottom line is that I don't know, and I don't think anyone should be prosecuting him who is not intimately involved in the affair.

5. Mark Rappaport is a person I know little about. I've never read anything by him nor have I seen him talk. Because of RC, I have watched some of his films but that is it. Like yourself, I assume that he is being honest but then I can't be certain either.

Paul Couture said...

6. 'Carney may be deliberately choosing not to comment' -- see 9 below.

7. You are correct that Ventura is never going to read everything but he probably would try to read as much authoritative work as he can on the subject and wait for the literature to be balanced and in a mature stage of development. With this problem of the Rappaport Archives that isn't possible and it may never be.

8. As with the issue above, we don't have to be directly involved to form an opinion. Opinions can/should go through stages. You begin at an exploratory stage like I did last night with this archives subject. This is when you take the fragmented information and turn them over and apply critical thinking to organize and assess. But what is necessary that one remains open so you can continue to study the problem methodically over time and graduate into more informed and fully developed opinions. We can do this through any of our senses, including reading about a thing, as long as we have the best sources available. The exploratory, initial-type of opinions are best kept in the sphere of confidants. Overall, though, I think that a good deal of our opinions are probably incorrect or else embarrassingly limited. We don't need to be directly involved to form an opinion.

9. 'Carney's best bet is to remain silent.' Tactically that was probably so. But this perspective is to assume the worst about him, and I don't.

10. I don't know what Carney can say that would change anything. He's always been standup in the past and I am more eager now than ever before to get his testimony. But I concur, it is indeed difficult to think of what it is that he could say that we absolve him from the public and institutional scrutiny he is now afflicted with. Is Ray Carney probably at least somewhat guilty? Yes, at least somewhat. But I wont allow myself that opinion, not yet anyway, because I believe in giving people who have earned it, like Ray, the benefit of the doubt. He may very well have good reasons. And if he doesn't? Does he deserve the mob-like public indictment? I don't think so. I believe that the punishment far outweighs the crime, especially with Jost contacting BU administration with his incriminations. How can his reputation be restored after this? He was already a public enemy. We know how these things work. If he's not expelled he is at least ruined because of the prejudiced, reactionary comments disseminated about him, now by his friends. Again, I don't know what Ray can say, Tyler, but like you I am eager to find out. Until then, I am skeptical and one of the last proponent's of Professor Carney's.

Thank you for the thoughtful response. It was good to speak with someone about this issue. You might want to see my comments on the Jon Jost site for my of my perspective of his arguments, if you haven't already. Let's hope that matters work out well for both Mr. Rappaport and Professor Carney, and that some justice comes of this. If you would like to continue our discussion then I am pleased to do so. -Paul Couture

Tyler said...


Thanks for taking the time to respond in such detail. I do plan to comment again, though I'm not exactly sure when. Please remember to check back later in the week.

Jon Jost said...

I tried posting something like this on Paul's site, and after 3 attempts to pass the not a robot test and evidently unable to decipher either twisted letters or fuzzy #'s I gave up.
I have experience at the "say nothing" tactic, and saw the same, excuse me, lame crap as a response. My daughter Clara was kidnapped by her mother, Portuguese film director Teresa Villaverde, in 2001, from our home in Rome to Lisbon, Villaverde's home town and country. I spoke clearly about what happened and she has never uttered a word. That was 12 years ago. I am unable to see my daughter and she is unable to see me (though there are signs if she had a choice, she would see me). And what I heard in the film community was a long sequence of "we can't say until the other side... blah blah."
It is moral cowardice that animates such thinking, weasling for an excuse to do nothing. And, as Carney is demonstrating, when you are dead wrong, in this kind of case, the best tactic is stay in hiding. They you will get people doing as you are doing - making intellectual hair-splitting to avoid moral issues.

I am going to copy this because the not-robot second thing is a totally unreadable out of focus something. Hopefully the next one up will be vaguely readable.

Jon Jost said...

Quite laughable: the second thing was totally unreadable and I put WTF and it passed !!

Paul Couture said...

Mr. Jost:

You should know that I do not have a website. Whatever site you were trying to access isn't attached to me. Nor am I on Facebook.

I cannot understand how my discussion of the prematurity of Tyler's conclusions is more befitting of your time than responding the still outstanding questions I have left for you on your site. But...

Tyler has made rhetorical flights that I thought were exaggerated given the information that you've published and I wanted to discuss that with him.


"Carney is not to be trusted." "I'm inclined to think Carney's ego is so large he sincerely thinks..." and "or maybe he...is so utterly self-obsessed..."

But my issues with his posting are not significant.

As for you:

I am not trying to avoid moral issues. Why don't you take another look at my problems with your arguments on your Chained Relations site. My questions to you are little but moral. Moral problems that you have chosen to avoid. I can see that you do have experience with the "say nothing" tactic.

Instead it you seems that you selectively respond to what you find weakest of my assertions (scarecrowing my arguments) to rationalize your own behavior. Behavior that I have found to be completely overblown and immoral given the circumstances, even if Professor Carney has transgressed exactly as you assert and predict. What is more is that your feedback has not been pertinent (i.e. your success in the 70s, the money Carney has earned you, and your daughter's kidnapping situation as analogy). Neither are many of your arguments against Professor Carney in general (e.g. his claims to best movies; which he doesn't do, by the way).

As a principle, waiting to hear from all parties involved before making a judgment is not moral cowardice. Did you think about this assertion before stating thus? If so, think about it more. If you arrive at the conclusion then there is no point in discussion anything with you.

As for Mark Rappaport, if I were him I would not wait any longer. He has waited long enough. If I were him I would be extremely upset and I would do something about it. Would I go public with the problem and have a third party communicate with students and administrators? No I would not. That is well over the line of impropriety given the circumstances. Might I do something like that IF MY CHILD WAS KIDNAPPED? I don't even need to answer.

But if I were Tyler or myself, people who do not know the actors involved, nor personally invested in the outcome, then there is no reason whatsoever to make premature conclusions. Most of your petition signers are likely in this group.

Paul Couture said...

If Professor Carney has wronged then he has wronged. Do I think he has? Sure, yes, he probably has. Should efforts be made to get back the tapes? Of course. Does it affect my overall impression of Ray Carney? Yes it does. But not wholly the way that Tyler has predicted it will for others: "whatever indifference there was has surely given way to hostility and scorn."

Here's another Ray Carney quote from Tyler's site:

"But you have to open your mind about art and artists. They are not all gentle, sweet souls. They are not necessarily kind, generous friends. They can be sons of bitches. They can be monomaniacal. They can be egotistical. They can be demon-driven."

Like yourself, Mr. Jost, I think that Ray Carney may have some of this in him, himself. Though not an artist he is a serious talent.

But I don't need an excellent film critic to be a "fuzzy-wuzzy, Teddy-Bear-snuggy personality", either.

Maybe Professor Carney is and has continued to be wrong. If he is then that wrong should be righted commensurate with the transgression. Should we all turn our backs on him? I think that I have aptly made an argument that none of us should. Not me, not Tyler, not you, not even Mark Rappaport. We all make big mistakes. Forgiveness is perhaps the most necessary of virtues.

If you feel like scarecrowing this argument and attacking it weakly, like you have, then this will be the last you hear from me.

As I said before, I regret what you have done. You have gone over the line. It doesn't matter how wrong Professor Carney is, what you have done is worse. Please take your foot off his neck. You've made your point (with him).

-Paul Couture

ps: I sincerely hope you are reunited with your daughter.

Jon Jost said...

I took objection to your opening line: two wrongs don't... which presumes something I don't agree with at all. Rappaport is minus $20,000 in legal costs, presently minus his property, and minus a rather long time of quietude. It is Ray Carney who has caused that, and whatever befalls Mr Carney for this now being widely known, is directly caused by himself. I have no idea what kind of scholar he is or isn't since I don't read that kind of stuff. But I'll quote from one of those who responded:

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.”

― Karl A. Menninger

Mr Carney has shown himself (and from testimony elsewhere) to be a person of dubious qualities, and whatever he teaches, for better or worse, is colored by his in-life behavior.

If his career is destroyed, he's done it for himself.

Paul Couture said...

1. You took objection to the opening line about two wrongs. Fine. What do you disagree about it? Also, I wrote far more than just that.

2. Rappaport, you say, is minus $20k in legal costs. If that's true I think it's terrible and a real shame. But I wonder how much will Professor Carney will lose if you capitalize on your threat to corroborate in the termination of his tenure? About twenty thousand? How much quietude will he lose? About the same degree that Rappaport has? The penalty is not commensurate with the alleged crime.

3. Ray Carney didn't cause this response from you. Cause is not the word. You caused the response. He was an impetus but how you dealt with the problem could have gone in any number of directions. You 'chose' the direction that you did. Don't kid yourself.

4. "What a teacher is, is more important than what he teaches." Say more. I am interested. From what I have read, Professor Carney has been highly effective in his classroom, not only because of what he teaches but because of how he teaches. He is not for everyone but who is? But, alas, I don't see how the Rappaport issue has a thing to do with his teaching. Am I wrong? I could be, but I don't see how. Please illuminate. I am receptive to learn about this connection. Otherwise I don't see how you or he should involve yourself in this area of his life. In fact, in that sector, he has only ever done good by the both of you.

You keep telling yourself that if his career is destroyed that he's done it to himself. That's patently untrue. You've taken it upon yourself to be a vigilante and see that justice is done your own way. Along the way you have shown yourself to be grossly unqualified if the purpose was to bring about equitable justice.

Tyler said...


I still have a quibble with some of the things you said, but it doesn't matter anymore.


After much thought, I've changed my tune a little.

RE: (from your blog) "If Mr Carney does not promptly act in a positive manner I will commence...etc."

An undeniable flaw in the reasoning used by those of us condemning Carney is our taking the supported but unverified assumption that he's not off the grid as fact. I agree that it's rather likely he knows about all of this and has had the opportunity to respond, but that's not something any of us -- except for maybe those claiming to have been in contact with him (who choose to remain nameless) -- can know for sure. Paul's story about how long it took to hear back from Carney after trying to order some of his books should give us all pause. But even if we take our certainty up to 99%, isn't it logical and moral to think that this still isn't enough certainty to destroy a person's life and career over? Why the big rush? There will be plenty of time to (attempt to) get Carney fired later. Besides, even if one doesn't buy this argument -- though I find it strange that anyone wouldn't since it's merely the same standard any of us would like applied on our behalf should we ever be in a similar situation -- it's still better to slow down the public prosecution a bit. The sooner Carney is fired, if indeed that is the result, the less time there will be for Mark to (possibly) get his films back. And the last bit of leverage will be lost.

In one of my comments above, I wrote the following: "It seems to me that anything [Carney] says in his own defense will likely only provide those who wish to restore him to the position he once held in their minds the justification for doing so. [...] Perhaps I have been overzealous in trying to combat what I feel might be my own bias and inclination to play a future game of self-deception on myself." A few hours after writing that I realized something, though I already knew it all along. Having defended Carney in the past against people who were always quick to imply that anyone in support of him or his ideas was part of some kind of cult (or similar nonsense), a small part of me, as silly as it might sound, felt betrayed on some level by his recent actions. And I sense some of that in your reaction, too. Is is not true that some small part of you decided that Carney must go up on the cross so that you could absolve yourself of your sins? Your perceived sins being staining your blog -- and therefore your name -- via Carney's association, more specifically your complicity in publishing the BU letter under false pretenses? In a sense, a feeling of betrayal and regret (among other emotions).

Tyler said...

It seems clear that giving Carney some more time is the right thing to do, yet how much time, should we not hear from him, is what makes all of this a murky matter. Waiting until we know for sure that he's back at BU teaching (a few more months, at most) before deciding to pat ourselves on the back for destroying someone's life in the name of what is moral, is hardly "weaseling for an excuse to do nothing." All mob forming and torch lighting can commence then. (If it doesn't then this is all just bandwagon activism anyway.)

And whether or not Carney, through action or inaction, words or confirmed silence, turns out to be as malicious and duplicitous in this matter as the worst people have assumed has no bearing on whether or not slowing things down a bit is the right course of action to take. And suggesting such a thing doesn't make one biased or cowardly. It makes one impartial. Which is what those of us who have felt burned by Carney, and those who have always disliked him, have never been.

I know you might say that a flaw in my argument is that this ordeal has already gone on for a long time, that Mark has already waited and given Carney ample opportunity to do the right thing, etc. But if you think that then what were all of your emails and public warnings to Carney for in the first place? Weren't you waiting to hear from him? Weren't you giving him a chance? This public campaign is something altogether separate, yet you're still not 100% certain that Carney is even aware of it (or the extent of it).

Tyler said...

PS: I meant to say that what I realized was not that I felt betrayed, which I already knew (though "betrayed" is too strong a word), but that this feeling must've been part of what compelled me to weigh in on the Carney/Rappaport matter in the first place.

Paul Couture said...

When I wrote to Ray about those books in Spring, I thought I was, in a way, doing him a favor. Most teachers go and get the corporate texts but I thought it'd be good for the students if they were reading some of what I found so inspiring with RC's writing, so I emailed him to see if he could contact the bookstore of my college to send them about twenty or so of a few of his ring-bound collections and then also his Cassavetes on Cassavetes. It'd be a nice profit for him, I thought, and a way for me to pay him back, in a way, for providing such strong content on his website. But over the course of the weeks and then months, I waited for responses and became highly annoyed. Planning a new class is difficult enough but most of the curriculum was already planned to be centered on his work. If he didn't respond I'd have to rebuild the class. I probably wrote him this. Yet still I did not hear from him until well into the semester. Again, he profusely apologized, stating he was in Europe and did not have access to the Internet, which I took to mean that he chose not to access the Internet, but it didn't matter. Ultimately, I ordered the Cassavetes bok from Faber and Faber and went with other literature and films for the rest.

But this wasn't the first time he was so aggravatingly unavailable. In fact, I ordered several texts from him for myself on another occasion and pre-payed using Paypal. Months went by, Tyler, months. I got pretty nasty with my messages because I didn't think he was going to send the books. I remember saying something like, "you can take my money but you wont send my books or respond to my emails," something immature like that. Because I was so perturbed it brought me down, intellectually, like this Rappaport affair is with so many others, it seems. Finally Ray got back to me. He apologized 1000 times. Sent the books expedited, signed them, wrote inscriptions, threw in a freebie.

The other bit that I noticed is how he started his latest BU letter to Jon Jost. He said,

"Hope you are thriving. Sorry to take so long to respond to your questions about the BU situation and whether it has changed in the past few years. I’m racing a deadline on a French project, but have a little time tonight to give you a summary account."

The Sorry to take so long to respond to your questions part prompted me to think that maybe RC is just terrible with extra-curricular communication. Maybe he's just so busy or maybe something else.

I can't pretend to have the answers the way that other people seem to. But the two episodes that I provide above are authentic, along with my distressing and embarrassingly immature responses to those matters. It may also interest you and other readers to know that these were my only attempts ever to be in touch with Ray Carney, though they never affected my judgment of him or his works. If he is the type of person who doesn't look at communication at all or only from certain people that's his business. Of course I am not saying he has been recently entirely off the grid, only that there's precedent and that that seems to be his style.

Paul Couture said...

Tyler, with you argument and logic seem interest you and to be a strongpoints.

I am still waiting to hear from Jon Jost on this subject but perhaps it would befit your sensibilities to take a look at this, the most recent sequence enumerated from the filmmaker:

“What the teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.” ― Karl A. Menninger

Mr Carney has shown himself (and from testimony elsewhere) to be a person of dubious qualities, and whatever he teaches, for better or worse, is colored by his in-life behavior.

If his career is destroyed, he's done it for himself.

Following this string, does he seem to be asserting that since Ray Carney has committed this (alleged) transgression with the Mark Rappaport tapes that he is also necessarily bad for the classroom? Does he also then take the additional leap to suggest that since these premises are true that his career deserves to be destroyed? If this is or is not the case according to your estimation, what do these conclusions mean for Jon Jost's way of reasoning?

Why do you think Jost decided to bring up RC's teaching just after bringing up his scholarship? Or that RC's supposed good scholarship is flippantly thrown aside proceeding the claim that Carney is the author of his fate? Or that of any other sequence in his missives? What do you make of his arguments generally, with special attention given to when the subject is not what Mark Rappaport has attested directly?

It seems to me that Jon Jost is grasping for straws to rationalize his misguided behavior.

I'd like to hear from you about this. I found your last submission to be the most sensible I have read thus far on the subjects concerned.

Paul Couture said...

ps. I apologize again for not editing myself better. I don't want to spend so much time with this concern, and as a result dash responses to consolidate my time. I don't want you to think that my errors are a sign of disrespect. Although there may be errors, my messages are still what I would like for them to be, though. Thank you, also, for taking the Rappaport and Carney affair as seriously as you are. I think that the prospective consequences warrant the care and attention you are observing.

Tyler said...

I've been reluctant to respond so as to not encourage this conversation to spin out into various unrelated threads, though it appears to have dwindled down, so...

My view is very simple.

If person A starts a campaign to pressure person B into doing something, and person A lets person B know that the campaign will cease if and when this something is done, then person A shouldn't move forward with an attempt to punish person B for their failure to comply unless it's known with certainty that person B is aware of the campaign.

In this instance we don't yet have this certainty, just beliefs and assumptions. It'd be a different scenario if we didn't have a clear date when we knew we could verify Carney's knowledge of the campaign, but we do -- spring semester, 2013. And that's assuming we don't hear from Carney before then. In other words, it could be sooner, but it won't be later.

Had Jost wanted to punish Carney for acting wrongly or indecently, that would have been something altogether different. But this campaign is being waged under the pretext of getting Mark's belongings back.

Now, once it can be determined that Carney is aware of the campaign, I agree with Jost when he says it will be Carney's fault if he ends up getting fired.

Concerning the Menninger quote, it sounds nice and I understand what he's trying to say, but I can think of only two instances when it's pretty much always true: when one is teaching children, and when one is teaching ethics. In all other areas I can think of many exceptions.

Tyler said...

Carney responds