Monday, January 16, 2006

Dismissed Neo-Nazi Professor Claims Just Doing Research

Update: Just got an email from the author of the Chronicle piece, John Gravois, who has graciously agreed to provide a subscription-free link to the article here.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required) today an academic firing story with all the intrigue of one of those really bad made-for-TV movies:

Last March, Jacques Pluss was fired from his job as an adjunct professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University soon after it came to light that he was a prominent member of the National Socialist Movement of the United States. This weekend, in an online essay titled "Now It Can Be Told: Why I Pretended to Be a Neo-Nazi," Mr. Pluss purports to reveal his true intentions in joining the white supremacist group: He did it all for scholarship.

Citing Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, the medievalist Ernst Kantorowicz, and the English Romantic poets, Mr. Pluss says he developed a highly participatory theory of historical investigation. "It slowly yet surely dawned on me," he writes, "that any attempt to understand a group, a movement, or an individual psyche, would have to include becoming, as much as an individual can, the subject under study."

To that end, Mr. Pluss joined the National Socialist Movement in February 2005 and soon began serving as host for a weekly Internet radio show called White Viewpoint, on which he railed against the "browning of America" and described Fairleigh Dickinson's treatment of him as "Hebrew" and "lawyerly." Within a few weeks of joining, he became a national officer of the group. He continued as a member until October.

Perhaps the strangest part of Mr. Pluss's account is his claim that he engineered his own dismissal from Fairleigh Dickinson in order to suffer the kind of public marginalization often experienced by neo-Nazis. "I realized that if I were going to experience the white power movement in America I was going to have to have something happen to me on a professional level," he said in the interview. "It was not going to be enough just to hang back and make the radio show and exchange emails with people."

To achieve this, Mr. Pluss says that while he was on vacation in Ireland, he wrote a pseudonymous letter to the editor of the Fairleigh Dickinson student newspaper, outing himself as a neo-Nazi. Soon after returning from Ireland, he says, he was notified of his dismissal.

For  those with a subscription to the Chronicle, the rest of this "life is stranger than fiction" story can be read here.

As another blogger recently remarked, I lack the necessary wit to come up with the trenchant quips crying out to be made for this entry. Suggestions in this regard are most welcome.


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» "I Was A Nazi For Fairleigh Dickinson University" from Ed
Last April (not on the 1st, thankfully), while Ward Churchill was first bursting onto the public scene, we linked to a Soxblog piece on what we described as "the strange case of Jacques Pluss, a former adjunct professor at Farleigh... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 17, 2006 1:05:32 PM

» A Little Too Post-Modern? from The Volokh Conspiracy
The Workplace Prof Blog quotes a Chronicle of Higher Education story[Read More]

Tracked on Jan 17, 2006 1:38:17 PM

» Forrest Gump, Call Home from Who Can Really Say?
The Workplace Prof Blog is looking for trenchant quips. How about "Stupid is as stupid does"? Via Instapundit.... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 17, 2006 2:10:48 PM

» Workplace Prof Blog: Dismissed Neo-Nazi Professor from - The fastest way to get around the In
Strange case of a professor going under cover as a neo-nazi for research. The sad fact is that people cared so little or professors are investigated so little that he had to "out" himself. [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 18, 2006 10:52:31 AM


"Pluss then accused himself of sabotaging himself, noted that he had planned to weather these groundless and unfounded accusations, threatened to kill himself, announced the signing of a record advance for his new book 'I shot myself in the foot - and lived to tell the tale' as well as his totally unexpected decision to spend all the money on fast drugs, slow women, and vintage Italian automobiles, followed by his announcement of his follow-up book, 'I shot myself in the foot II: and didn't show a profit.'"

The man certainly does have it all together. That's my theory, and I'm sticking to it.

Posted by: Eh Nonymous | Jan 16, 2006 8:30:22 PM

This has got to be the weirdest story of academe I've read in ages! Your excerpt from the Chronicle doesn't mention it, but the article in Inside Higher Ed says that Professor Pluss's mother is Jewish, and that he told her what he was up to so she wouldn't be upset.

Posted by: The Continental Op | Jan 16, 2006 9:46:53 PM

Was he tenured?

Posted by: Ursus | Jan 17, 2006 12:46:22 PM

It's been a complaint of mine for quite a while that while 'academic diversity' sounds well enough, somehow the Nazi/Klan side of things never seems to get represented.

So now the truth about faculty diversity comes out: not only was the sole Nazi academic in America a fake Nazi, he got fired! Who's next, the Republican?

Posted by: PersonFromPorlock | Jan 17, 2006 12:58:23 PM

Maybe he's really an undercover Nazi doing research on postmodernists.

Posted by: Ernst Blofeld | Jan 17, 2006 1:01:06 PM

So, since I guess it seems like he's trying to say he doesn't really believe all the stuff he was spouting, just doing it for research, you understand, can his efforts be labled "fake but accurate"?

Posted by: Mr. Bingley | Jan 17, 2006 1:19:45 PM

Sounds like he took Dan Rather's advice to heart:

"If it turns I'm a Neo-Nazi, I'd like to be the one to break that story."

Posted by: TallDave | Jan 17, 2006 1:43:45 PM

This sort of explanation hasn't worked for me since I was about six years old, and tried to weasel out of punishment for injuring my brother with a stick to his head while 'pretending' to fight.

To sum up: He didn't mean all that, he was just pretending. Unless he can show contemporaneous documentation, demonstrating a link between his actions and his scholarly recording and reviewing of them, supported by others 'in on the game' or at least a dataset or record based upon his time spent 'pretending,' I'm not convinced this isn't an ex post facto justification of unjustifiable behavior.

Posted by: Mike | Jan 17, 2006 1:45:09 PM

Seems to me that if he really anted to resarch this he should have told his colleagues first. At the minimum, his department head.

Posted by: Peter | Jan 17, 2006 1:53:12 PM

Something like this might help explain the whole Ward Churchill phenomenon.

Posted by: Nobody | Jan 17, 2006 1:56:03 PM

I think he should consider having himself committed to a mental institution, so he can better understand that.

Posted by: Adam | Jan 17, 2006 2:07:37 PM

Fairly riDiculous

Posted by: ss | Jan 17, 2006 2:26:09 PM

So, is he now focusing his sharply honed scholastic skills on the marginalization of the unemployed?

Posted by: Clioman | Jan 17, 2006 2:32:00 PM

There are academics in my city whose political activities are no less visible and no less bizarre, fringe, etc. -- whatever you want to call them. I've heard speeches at rallies and watched a professor or two at protest marches.

But no one has suggested that they be dismissed, because they are fringe-radical leftists instead of neo-Nazis. But what, really, is the difference, apart from academia being dominated by Baby Boomer leftists?

Hitler's Germany has become synonymous with mass murder and an oppressive government. To most people, the USSR and other examples of real-world application of radical leftism fall in the same category. But not to academics, apparently.

Posted by: Barry | Jan 17, 2006 2:57:27 PM

He should have added at the end of every comment on his radio show, "and by the way, Death to Israel and America." He'd have gotten tenure immediately.

Posted by: Brian | Jan 17, 2006 3:07:26 PM

Interesting rationale. By this guy's reasoning, in order to study structures, a professor of engineering would have to spend some time as a bridge. Drug researchers would have to infect themselves with fatal diseases. And only astronauts could be astronomers. What a goofball.

Posted by: tom swift | Jan 17, 2006 3:15:13 PM

This reminds me of the scene in "Blazing Saddles" where Cleavon Little as the new sherrif holds himself hostage.

Posted by: BeckyJ | Jan 17, 2006 3:36:55 PM

Maybe all the academics joining Cindy Sheehan's call for the end of "occupation" in Iraq, "palestine" etc. are also under deep cover.

Maybe all of academe is just a bad John Le Carre novel.

TallDave: you rock.

Posted by: Ben Liu | Jan 17, 2006 4:07:47 PM

You know, if Galileo had researched gravity like this, he would have thrown himself off the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Posted by: Tatterdemalian | Jan 17, 2006 4:08:51 PM

"I meant to do that." — P.W. Herman

Posted by: richard mcenroe | Jan 17, 2006 4:38:18 PM

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