This article originally appeared at FrontPage Magazine, on March 21, 2006.
Michael Vocino is a full professor of media and film studies and of political science at the University of Rhode Island. Vocino is profiled in my book, The Professors and is in an apparent lather over what I have written about him. Two weeks before The Professors’ official publication date, Vocino was in a more playful mood, posting a mash note entitled, “Horowitz and Me: Thank You, David!” The note explained: “People have been calling me for two days, congratulating me….And for someone like me, to be included among the great names on the Left…it’s like winning the Nobel. My department chair was among those offering congratulations and another of the many e-mails I’ve received from colleagues suggests that I include the book mention by Horowitz under ‘Awards and Honors’ on the University’s dossier forms.”
That was Vocino then. This is Vocino now: “What Horowitz has said about me that is correct is that I am an out and proud queer who wants to see the U.S. economy based on Marxist principles and an end to that shameless imperialist war in Iraq. Everything else David Horowitz has said about me is a not so creative mix of fiction, lies, and distortions. He is a man without ethics, morality, and is the Master of the Big Lie.” In short, Horowitz is Hitler. (I’ll bet he says the same about President Bush.)
Vocino sent this post to Illinois Academe, the newsletter of the Illinois chapter of the American Association of University Professors, in response to a query asking him for his reply to The Professors. Vocino’s response is to be part of a series of such responses solicited by Academe editor by John K. Wilson, who is himself the author of a book called The Myth of Political Correctness: The Conservative Attack on Higher Education.
Even in his earlier February 1 post, despite the saucy tone, Vocino described the profile I had written as a case of having “one’s academic record distorted and lied about by the omissions of truth.” (Note that construction: the lies consist of omitting “truths” that Vocino prefers to mine.) In several additional outbursts since then, Vocino has continued his venting, posting them on his artfully URL-ed blog – Vocino69.blogspot.com.
The attack Vocino sent to Academe claims that the author of The Professors “lied, misrepresented, and distorted my classroom activities, my academic record, and my professional standing at the University of Rhode Island.”
One of the classroom activities I am alleged to have “distorted” is Vocino’s sexual harassment of his male students: “David Horowitz’s first charges against me were that I am a homosexual who pushes for gay rights, sexually harasses students for doing so, and that I treat Christian students unfairly,” tactics of “a man without morality [or] ethics.”
I didn’t accuse Vocino of being a homosexual. How can you accuse someone of something that he trumpets (loudly)? “My name is Michael Vocino and I like dick!” is his first day of class greeting to new students – a fact, reported by his students, which Vocino has never once denied.
Considering the slanders I am said to have published about him – which are now nearly eight months old, readers may wonder why Vocino has not threatened a libel suit or demanded a formal retraction. After all, to lie about a man’s professional credentials in a way that discredits him, and to accuse him falsely of sexual harassment, not to mention religious bigotry, would easily justify recourse to legal measures. Moreover, Vocino was not a public figure when all this began, and consequently the threshold for a libel suit is significantly lower for him than for those who are public figures, like me. He does not have to suffer the slanders of thousands of character assassins as I do, without access to legal remedies. Yet there has been no such remedy sought by Vocino; no attorney’s letter; not the hint of a protest to my magazine or my book publisher demanding a retraction.
And why is that? That is because such options are available to Vocino only in the event that my statements about him are false. In fact, they are true. This is also why in the half a dozen attacks on me that he has posted on Vocino69, he has failed to specify one actual sentence or phrase from my profile which is untrue.
According to Vocino, I falsely maintain that he “treat[s] Christian students unfairly.” But I don’t actually make this claim in my text – there are no words of mine to that effect. What there is in my text is a classroom remark that Vocino made to one of his students and that I simply quoted: “Nathaniel, Why do Christians hate fags?” Vocino has never denied making this statement, nor does he do so in his current attack on me. Nor could he, since the statement was made and was witnessed by his entire class. I leave the reader to judge whether this is unfair treatment by Vocino of one of his Christian students or whether he is the one who has a problem with the truth.
Near the outset of his attack, Vocino warns readers: “Remember we are talking about a man who made up a department at Wellesley College and then attacked it because it was ‘too liberal,’ at the beginning of his career as a rightwing [sic.] operative.” In other words, I am alleged to be a person so lacking in respect for the truth that in the absence of a real target I would invent an entire academic department out of whole cloth just for the purpose of attacking it. Vocino’s source for this claim is another professor profiled in my book, Michael Berube.