Pathetic Attempt at Something Conservative at UNC Law

Given the dominance of conservative groups at schools, I was somewhat worried about a group that claimed to be starting a Conservative Law Journal at UNC Law School. Boy was I worried over nothing!

First some background. UNC Law, much like other Law Schools, has a number of accredited academic journals. These journals publish a combination of professional and student pieces on discrete points of law. The journals range in breadth of the subjects they cover from the Law Review, which covers any issue, to issue specific journals such as the First Amendment Law Review. Substantively these articles are very intense studies on discreet, timely legal issues. The pieces are heavily edited, heavily footnoted, and well respected. In fact, these journals serve as the main method of communication between law professors, are well circulated, and do a great deal to advance the law in many areas.

Being a member of a journal is a prestigious position at any law school. (Law Review is the top prize, but any journal experience is respected by employers and colleagues). To be selected to be on a journal at Carolina, students have to participate in a joint journal competition. The competition requires students to write an article on a selected subject. Then the students are assigned to the various journals based on their writing ability, grades, and interests (with Law Review being the most prestigious, almost everyone that qualifies for that will accept). With five journals at UNC Law each taking between twenty and forty staff members, there are more than 120 positions for a class of around 240. Not even taking into account the fact that not everyone applies, the top half of the class is going to be given a spot on a reputable journal. Apparently, Joshua James Otto was not able to find one of these spots.

Apparently outraged at the liberal bias against him (there is no possibility of liberal bias in selection since placement is based on a combination of grades and points given to student's submissions in the competition, which are blindly graded), Joshua started his own "journal", the Right Flank. Given that most of these wingers at the law school are members of the well funded Federalist Society, I thought that they actually might be putting something serious out. Turns out I was way wrong. The "journal" managed to get six members together to put out their first issue including one staff member of the Law Review, Ben Pickett, and two staff members of other real journals.

Their first issue was released this week (in web form only here) but contained nothing like a law journal article or anything like coherent thought or research. The article by the only Law Review member is the best example, but the other four by other members are even more ridiculous.

Ben Pickett's seven paragraph rant contains no footnotes (or even the links used in blogs) and no facts at all. He starts out:

So what’s all the liberal fuss about President Bush giving the National Security Agency specific authority to “listen in” on suspected terrorist calls coming in from outside of the United States?

What gives? The whole article turns into how liberals hate America for not allowing the eavesdropping and just want to make Bush look bad, but the article does not even discuss FISA once. The clear point that you missed, Ben, is that Bush is violating federal law and the constitution. Maybe if you had an answer to either of those questions, your "article" would be worthwhile. But with only baseless accusations, such as:

What I think the left needs to get through their heads is that this power that was given to the NSA by President Bush is the same power that a liberal President will be able to use when he or she is elected in the future.

I think what Ben needs to get through his head is that the Constitution and federal law applies to presidents of all parties. See Watergate.

Also, Ben contradicts himself:

It is unreasonable to allow wiretapping on American citizens by the NSA, at least without a search warrant. But it’s not “unreasonable” to listen in when a person calls a suspected terrorist line abroad.

I think that the problem is that the administration is listening to citizens of the United States, so you admit that that should be barred; we agree. And to close:

Have you forgotten that we are at War with EVIL? I haven’t, and neither should you.

I started writing this to say what a piss poor job these people are doing and how they are hurting the UNC brand, but now I am just sad. Sad that these are UNC Law students, sad that Ben gets to put Law Review on his resume (since he obviously did not learn the research skills that it intends to use), and sad for Ben that this is the drivel that future employers would find attached to his name. And also sad that these individuals will probably have plush jobs at the Pope Center long after Law Firms realize they have no clue what the law is.


Another link

I meant to place this in the text, but there is a first year law student countering all of the points in the Right Flank here

Wonderful diary.

And a sad commentary about the state of affairs in the Law School. But you're right, the Pope Puppets will bless this piece of crap as a fair and balanced affirmation of their ideological agenda.

Please please please get this post into the hands of the education writers at the N&O and the Durham Herald. Send a link to WUNC-FM. And for sure get it over to the Daily Tarheel. You might even consider rewriting it as an Op-Ed piece.


Scholarship at its finest. TarGator, you're really exposing your liberal bias when you expect that law review articles have to feature logic or "sources."

Seriously, "flank" refers to a body part a little too high up for what these folks are putting out.

I'm sure it's bad form

to reply to your own comment, but here I go anyway.

Here's what I've noticed about the Federalist Society crowd at UNC Law: they draw most of their passion from their sense of persecution, a sense that they themselves feed and cultivate. There are probably more liberals than conservatives at UNC Law, but: (a) it's a law school; and (b) it's a public school with a strong focus on public interest work. Feelings of being persecuted should be based on something more than being outnumbered. UNC Chapel Hill has more women enrolled than men; how foolish would a group of guys look if they organized around "freeing UNC men from the bonds of gynopression"?

In the past, the Federalist Society has done more than any other faction to seperate the extreme right from the rest of the student body and paint themselves as the kind of nuts they believe the rest of us think them to be. Sure, they've brought Dinesh D'Souza to campus, but in my time at UNC they've also brought Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh's little brother (Rush was busy?). Leading legal minds? No, demagogues. These aren't the people you bring if you're looking to foster an earnest debate about law, politics, or just about anything else. These are people you bring to piss other people off. The FedSoc has done as much (or more) at UNC Law to drag down the quality of debate as to bring it up. It's a shame.

How Unprofessional

If I am correctly interpreting who TarGator is I would like to say one thing: I am ashamed to call you a law review colleague. (if you are not on law review I apologize for assuming you are).

It is one thing to critique Ben's piece on the wire-tap issue -- I personally think he is DEAD WRONG about it and I agree with your POLITICAL assessment of the issue. However, I think it is completely out of line for you to asser that you are "sad" (re. embarassed?) that Ben gets to put Law Review on his resume.... Ben is a hardworking member of the Law Review who has more than earned the right to put it on his resume. I am proud to call Ben a colleague, and despite your claims he is about as far from being a neo-con "demagogue" as you could get. I am sad that instead of having a reasoned discussion with a COLLEAGUE of yours that you would resort to personal attacks on an essentially nameless and faceless forum such as this. Perhaps you should be applauding Ben for his willingness to "come out of the shadows" and voicing his "contrary to popular belief" views. I personally have enjoyed many the rowdy political discussion with Ben, and while we do not agree often he at least has the courtesy to listen to other viewpoints without resorting to personal attacks. I personally would not have left politics (my prior career) if there were more folks like Ben out there.

The Right Flank is not, at least in its initial form, advertised to be nor intended to be the equivalent of the Law Review or the First Amendment Law Journal or any other "traditional journal" out there. The Conservatives are simply starting something of their own to fill a perceived while I would agree that their assessment of a liberal bias is dead wrong -- or at least partly wrong as in my opinion these folks should be willing to step up in class and voice their opinions instead of cowering behind the "liberal bias label." While I will disagree with most of what the Right Flank is likely to print in the coming weeks, months, or even years should it last that long, I'm glad the conservatives are trying to start a dialogue -- as far as I can tell they've been largely successful. But lets try to keep it a dialogue about issues and not about people.....

Independent, you conclude:

Independent, you conclude: "lets try to keep it a dialogue about issues and not about people." My impression is that that is where we are.

The section of TarGator's post directed at Ben deals primarily with the form and substance of his article. TG thinks the article is weak, and he explains why. If he finds it weak enough to make him sad, let him say it. If TG is correct about how weak the article is, then the sadness he describes in his final paragraph is probably justified.

As for whether the Right Flank is advertised as the equivalent of other UNC Journals, I'd direct you to the main page's subhead: "UNC Law's Conservative Journal on Law and Politics." Not only is the word "Journal" in there, but it's described as "UNC Law's Journal." I'll buy that that isn't a claim of equivalence with the Law Review, but the phrase draws its meaning from the idea of the official journal as a law school institution.

I don't know Ben, though I'm sure I've seen him around the school. Law Review is hard work, and the fact that Ben's going to be on board next year speaks to his hard work on the journal this year. (My understanding is that there were more than enough applicants for the approx. 20 board positions, meaning that the current board was free to be somewhat selective.) But TarGator's point—that the Right Flank piece offers no evidence of application of the skills that will hopefully make Ben a good board member—is hard to argue with.

I know this doesn't address everything you wrote, and I hope this conversation can continue without disintegrating into rancor and bile. I just want to point out one more thing. You wrote: "despite your claims he is about as far from being a neo-con 'demagogue' as you could get." The only other place I found the word "demagogue" on the page was in my previous comment. To be clear, the word there applies to Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh's brother (was it David?). I was definitely (and, I think, clearly) not calling Ben a demagogue.

Valid point about the

Valid point about the "demagogue" reference -- I could not, however, call to mind a more "appropriate" term for the way the Right Flank people seem to be characterized by some of us who disagree with them.

I'm willing to be any amount of money that the right flank will go by the way-side and folks won't have to worry about it tarnishing the "good name" of all the other journals at the such I'm not all that worried about their use of the world "journal" -- afterall the "National Journal" uses the name and I find many of their articles less than compelling....

And yes, it was David Limbaugh that came to campus -- and, totally unrelated to this post -- I was almost pleasantly surprised by him. While what he said was plain silly in my opinion, he did not "scoff" at those folks who clearly disagreed with him...I was impressed that unlike his brother he didn't interrupt and dismiss those who disagree with him out of hand.... Of course the guy who introduced him was about the biggest embarassment of a speaker that this school has ever seen, including Anne Coulter (in case you weren't there he made anti-Semitic comments)

And the UNC Seal and UNC Website

The "journal" uses the UNC seal and posts on the UNC website. Both of which tarnish the brand of UNC.

And the flyers around campus

Contain the following text under the header: "Volume I, Issue I." The claim that Right Flank isn't meant to be take for a journal is just wrong.

I'm not a lawyer

and I don't play one anywhere. But I am a writer and I'm always interested in how people react to words.

Main Entry: 1dem·a·gogue
Variant(s): or dem·a·gog /'de-m&-"gäg/
Function: noun
Etymology: Greek dEmagOgos, from dEmos people (perhaps akin to Greek daiesthai to divide) + agOgos leading, from agein to lead -- more at TIDE, AGENT
1 : a leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power

All I know about this is what I've read here. And the only reason the word demogogue might not apply to the writers of Right Flank from what I can see is the inclusion of the noun "leader."