September 29, 2006

An Impression UNC Law Could Do Without

I've never had much respect for UNC Law professor Eric L. Muller and now that he has attempted what I assert is visual libel--falsely attributing a photo of one person as being someone else--I have even less.

Muller has a long-standing and quite unhealthy fascination with conservative blogger and columnist Michelle Malkin, and this morning, Muller leveled a charge of hypocrisy against her in this post:

In today's column, Michelle Malkin asks, "Where Have All the Good Girls Gone?"

It's a verbal assault on some twenty-year-old TV personality in Great Britain who "once possessed an uncommon sense of modesty and decorum in the skin-baring age of Britney Spears," and liked to spend her time singing "Blessed Jesus" and clutching "a rosary blessed by the pope," but has now become "the new face of skankdom," a "half-naked" "pop tart" who sums up all that is evil in our new world of "sexpot dolls/characters" and "Bratz babies in thongs." A woman who has gone from "pure-hearted to pure crap," and who, among other horrible things, "drinks" and "parties."

With no further ado, I give you: Michelle Malkin, Spring Break, March 27, 1992. Could that be an all-you-can-drink wristband?

Here, incidentally, is the flickr page where the photo appears. Somebody forwarded it to me a couple of months ago. I chortled. Then I forgot about it -- until today, that is, when her vicious hatchet job on a "half-naked" twenty-year-old "skank" brought it to mind.

Mind you: there's nothing wrong with trips to the beach during college, or all-you-can-drink wristbands, or bikinis.

Just with hypocrisy.

The column stands or falls on its own merits, but Muller's accusation--a link to a trashy, "Girls Gone Wild" themed picture--is serious stuff. Muller says the photo is Malkin.

It isn't.

It is a horribly done Photoshop edit, featuring a shrunken headshot of Malkin poorly imposed in the wrong scale over someone else's body. It is such an obvious fakery one has to assume Muller knew it was faked, but pressed on with what in my mind constitutes something akin to visual libel, presenting a obvious forgery as legitimate.

Gawker Media, which owns Wonkette, is familiar with blogs and so much know just how easy it is to badly fake a Photoshop, and so it was a surprise when, they, too joined Muller in presenting the fake photo as fact.

Malkin is rightfully outraged at the attack, and she should be.

Eric Muller's unhinged obsession has gone far over the line, and I hope that he is called to account for his actions. Malkin does not deserve this, nor does North Carolina's flagship university.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at September 29, 2006 11:08 AM | TrackBack

The funny thing is, even if it were a genuine photo, it's no big deal. It's just a young woman in a bikini - nothing more, nothing less. There's really nothing immoral or racy about it.

Unless you have a thing for burkas.

Posted by: MikeM at September 29, 2006 11:14 AM

I sent an email to the dean of UNC warning him that excessive obsesseion often (almost always) leads to crime and Muller is over the line with Michele.
Everyone should warn UNC of the danger they face themselves by continued support of this guy.

Posted by: Scrapiron at September 29, 2006 11:46 AM

He needs to be fired and living under a bridge in a cardboard box.

Posted by: Purple Avenger at September 29, 2006 05:59 PM

I'm sure the "dean of UNC" appreciates your input. On what specific grounds, though, would you recommend the "dean of UNC" dismiss Muller? I'd be fascinated to know.

Posted by: d at September 29, 2006 06:39 PM

Dereliction of duty? According to this UNC-Chapel Hill web site, their definition of Academic Freedom (the first entry in the Table of Contents, so it must be important, right?) is:

Academic freedom is the right of a faculty member to be responsibly engaged in efforts to discover, speak and teach the truth.

It seems to me that Eric Muller was neither 'responsibly engaged' nor 'speaking the truth'.

Perhaps Libel would be the better reason for dismissal.

Prophet Joe


Posted by: Prophet Joe at October 2, 2006 09:38 AM

Since Malkin is in every sense a public figure, a libel case would be a nonstarter. In any event, the fact that Muller was (quite evidently) wrong about this photo hardly rises to the level of "dereliction of duty," unless you assume that academics hold each other to standards of papal infallibility and never make honest (or even stupid, partisan) mistakes.

Without changing the subject too much, I'm going to take a wild guess and assume that while you're willing to see UNC roast Eric Muller over open coals, you're completely comfortable with the fact that your president and vice-president (and their innumerable hirelings) have spent the past five years speaking volumes of untruth, deliberate or otherwise. What should be done with them and their "derelictions?"

Posted by: d at October 2, 2006 05:40 PM

Ah, d, thanks for making it easy then. Because I agreed with your point that dismissal must flow from specific, provable charges, I thought I was going to be entering a challenging and interesting conversation about what responsibilities academics have versus what has become normative. But you couldn't keep the stupid "Bush lied" trope from leaking out and it's clear you're not able to have such discussions.

There are many accusations of lying, but nailing them down has been rather elusive for the Bush opponents. I find that the accusations often boil down to "He says things (the GWOT, the economy, the environment) are going well but smart people know they're not so he's lying."

Try again on another thread, and remember you are among people who will ask you to make a specific and coherent case - just as you did in asking about the dismissal.

Posted by: Assistant Village Idiot at October 4, 2006 07:28 PM