Bret Stephens and Climate Change

The former Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens has a column today to kick off his new digs at the New York Times that meanders into climate change territory and has raised some hackles. In the piece, he talks about how public opinion on climate change is soft, which some folks have complained doesn’t capture public opinion accurately. Both are true in my view and miss the point. As the Storify thread of tweets below talks about, Republican elites and the fossil fuel industry have poisoned the well so that many Republicans think climate change is a hoax. So, public opinion is soft. Stephens goes on to write about scientific uncertainty, but that’s really irrelevant to the issue at hand, which is the extreme politicization of this issue in a decade which has made bipartisan action on this topic unlikely for the foreseeable future. That leads me to conclude something intemperate in tweet 22!

It’s Not Easy Being Green

A dilute alcoholic solution of Brilliant Green (Viridis nitentis spirituosa) is a topical antiseptic, effective against gram-positive bacteria, also known under a Russian colloquial name zelyonka. If you grew up in the Soviet Union and ever had chicken pox, zelyonka turned you into a green-spotted leopard for at least a week: it’s hard to get it out of your skin. Brilliant green has, however, some serious safety issues: when ingested it can induce vomiting and contact with eyes can lead  to grave injuries, even blindness. This is what a prominent Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny learned the hard way this week: after unknown men splashed zelyonka into his face he had to be hospitalized.

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Academia, Mental Health, and the Cult of Productivity

E’Lisa Campbell (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This is a guest post by Amelia Hoover Green, Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Politics at Drexel University

Will Moore’s death was a tragedy. To state the hopefully obvious: Will’s ferocious productivity makes his death no more or less tragic. Public tributes to Will focus, rightly, on his forthrightness, his heart for justice, his mentorship, his kindness. But productivity—as a value, as a compulsion, or both—shows up too.

In his final post, Will wrote that he enjoyed his avocations, but “[t]o feel good about myself—to be able to look myself in the mirror—I needed to produce.”

Joseph Young’s tribute to his mentor recognized that Will “had a chip on his shoulder” but “remained ridiculously productive throughout his career. He passed on this chip to his students, who are in turn productive across the board.”

Erica Chenoweth, Barbara Walter, and Young list Will’s many contributions to Political Violence at a Glance, noting that Will “did it because he loved the study of political violence, he loved to educate, he loved to produce, and because he was an unbelievably generous soul.” (Emphasis mine.)

Another of the political scientists touched by Will’s life, Emily Ritter, calls for academic environments to be more receptive to those with mental illness, writing: “I… tend to be a ‘high-functioning depressive’, in that I can still be productive, meet deadlines, give lectures, and be outgoing in social environments while being depressed, confused, lonely, and panicky internally. …There’s no gap in my CV. No one would have ever been the wiser about my dark clouds–except that I told them.” (Thank you for telling us!)

Stories about mental illness in the academy often come from people who recover, produce, and/or prevail. In an important 2014 piece on depression in the academy, Amanda Murdie wrote: “A healthy you means that you will produce more…Taking time out to care for yourself will make your work better.” Murdie is a prodigious producer of research whose post began with some context: an invited talk at her graduate school department, a secure job.

Outside political science, my Drexel colleague Lisa Tucker wrote a searing and beautiful essay about her experiences with anxiety in academia — an essay which opened (had to open, I might argue) with the news that she had received tenure. Another law professor, Elyn Saks, has written movingly about working in academia while experiencing psychosis. The blurbs, of course, lead with her work: “Elyn Saks is a success by any measure: she’s an endowed professor at the prestigious University of Southern California Gould School of Law…”

It stands to reason that personal reflections on mental illness and the academy should focus on the positive and productive, and/or should come from those who have an impregnable fortress of a CV to speak from. As Saks has written, “I did not make my illness public until relatively late in my life. And that’s because the stigma against mental illness is so powerful that I didn’t feel safe with people knowing.” Saks is now, finally, safe to discuss her schizophrenia publicly — because it’s clear that schizophrenia hasn’t affected the all-important productivity. Continue reading

The Real Problem with Diversity in Political Science

This is a guest post by Lee Ann Fujii, Associate Professor at the University of Toronto, and currently a Member Scholar of the Institute for Advanced Study. This post is based on the keynote address she gave at ISA-NE in November 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.

These days most political science department are discussing the need for greater diversity in their ranks. These conversations tend to follow a well-worn path. They never start at Step 1—as in “what do I need to learn to understand this problem?”—but with Step Minus 5, that is, the rash of myths that people assert as fact or common sense. This is whitesplaining academic-style.

A typical move, for example, is to claim that we should be careful not to sacrifice quality for diversity. Another is to invoke a single bad experience as “evidence” that pursuing diversity does not necessarily lead to good outcomes. Never is there any acknowledgement of the myriad ways that race already imbues and shapes hiring and promotion practices from start to finish. Rarely is there mention of the power of white privilege to obstruct meaningful conversation and action. Rarer still is there any effort to understand why this topic is deeply personal to many of us, precisely because it is borne out of a lifetime of being raced (and gendered).

These interactions never feel like “micro-aggressions;” they feel like highly entrenched macro-aggressions. The concrete pillars of white privilege loom large. Many colleagues would deny that such privilege exists or that they benefit from it. Instead, they couch their reservations about meaningful action in tropes of “merit” and “experience.” Our discipline is not unique in its hostility to the radical notion that nearly all-white faculties are, by definition, expressions of white supremacy. We are the norm.

Until last fall, I never talked publicly about this issue. When I received an invitation to give the luncheon keynote address at ISA-NE, I said yes, thinking it would be a good opportunity to give air time to an issue that affects all of us. In the edited version below, I argue that the abhorrent lack of diversity in our discipline keeps us collectively deaf, dumb, and blind to the larger world around us, the very world we purport to analyze and explain.

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A Friendly Amendment to a Useful Conversation: Lets Make the World a Better Place

Will Moore

This is a guest post by Christian Davenport, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Will Moore was a close friend of, and  collaborator with, Professor Davenport.

There have several themes emerging out of the loss of our dear colleague that have emerged: how wonderful Will H. Moore (hereafter Will) was as a colleague, teacher and friend as well as a detailed and long-overdue discussion about mental health/care in the profession as well as individual cases. I do not want to detract from that conversation but I do wish to suggest two things.

First, just because we might—and should—provide some venue/place/service for people to share and be heard regarding what is going on in their lives does not mean that all of those in need will avail themselves of such a service. As an African American (after generations of experiments, neglect and poor treatment), I am hesitant to go to anyone’s office; many friends, relatives, and black folk I don’t know share this opinion according to existing research. There are other reasons for not going —pride, fear, a perception of inefficacy, shyness, poverty, etc.

I’m not against the community of scholars identifying and providing such a service. I’m just identifying that there are some limitations that need to be considered. If things were available does not mean that our dear friend would still be here.  It’s a little more complex than that and I wish to probe this a little.

With regards to my work on Rwandan political violence, I was essentially traumatized by my trips. I saw mass graves with bodies still in them, conversed with murderers, interviewed survivors, and surveyed both—as well as bystanders.  There was no one to speak to except the small group of other scholars who were interested/open (like Will) and practitioners who shared the experience (like the late Alison Des Forges), most of whom were dealing with their own stuff. When I later got in trouble for highlighting diverse forms of violence and got labeled a genocide denier/trivializer by the Rwandan government (incorrectly I might add), I was further isolated, unsure whom to talk to, and felt compelled to withdraw. Indeed, during this period I did not really speak to anyone about the experience. This persisted for several years, until I started writing about it—initially in story/blog form.  After I did this, I began to feel more comfortable about continuing my work there.  Upon seeing the scholarship that emerged (after I was criticized and banned), I became enraged—further propelling me into the research about Rwanda, which I am now completing.

Trips to India to study the horror that is untouchability (PDF), and to the Dominican Republic to study the slavery-like condition of Dominican-Haitians in Bateyes, further fueled my negative thoughts/feelings about the human condition. Much less sensationalistic, this says nothing about my constant attention to the plight of African Americans regarding the myriad of ways that they are killed and treated in a discriminatory fashion—the number of ways which only multiplies as I look further (higher rates of diagnosed schizophrenia being the last). I tend not to discuss this last one with any of colleagues and numerous friends because most “don’t want to go there”—including, to be honest, myself. Will would go there. He was always ready to let me vent and I would let him do the same when he so desired. Part of the reason that most would not, however, is that there is no simple resolution to the problem. This leads me to the second point.

Second, I wish to suggest that we not only focus on the scholars who are addressing difficult topics and the support systems around them, but also the system that produced the privilege that so elevated and disturbed our dear friend Will.  I wish to suggest that we focus on the system that produced the misogyny that upset our friend and compelled him to take action—repeatedly. I wish to focus on the racism that compelled him to take action and the repression that provoked him to work so hard. I want to focus on the discipline, departments and society that thrives on ignoring peoples work and creating cultures where folks are intolerant of people who are different, awkward, or even odd.  I do not want to suggest that we turn away from such topics because they are difficult, but rather that we all turn to such topics in order to alleviate the overall cost spent by any single person who studies them.

I say all this because I think that some of our conversation following Will’s departing has been hijacked by a belief that if we just had the right apparatus in place, then we would not currently be where we are. I think that many people are in pain because of the world being the way that it is. We are only going to improve this situation by improving the world around us. We don’t just need a venue for communicating our pain and resolving some massive internal issues that these involve. We need to also address the sources for some of the things that prompt anxiety and depression, as well as that shape the openness of individuals to discuss uncomfortable topics. For example, many do not even acknowledge the high rates of suicide within the African American male population (PDF). To deal with this problem effectively however we not only need to provide venues and strategies for helping this population deal with their mental health, but we also need to stop sticking guns in their faces, patting them down, under-employing them, underestimating them, and subjecting them to microaggressive behavior. These two efforts need to work hand in hand in order to produce a change.

Building a Wall Against Populism’s Spread in Europe

With populism on the march across the West in the past 18 months, conventional wisdom suggests this lurch toward nativism will continue. With the Dutch Trump increasing his seats in parliament, Turkey’s President stuffing the ballot box to win a referendum taking him closer to full on authoritarianism, the National Front’s candidate looking set to get into the second round of Sunday’s French election by exploiting a terrorist attack, and Germany’s long-time leader seeming tired and mounting a lackluster campaign, by most accounts the liberal international order is in for some additional sharp thrusts to the midriff. And what is bad in western Europe, according to a vast army of pundits is appearing even more fragile and vulnerable in east central Europe.

But au contraire, while the LIEO is not exactly alive and well, it remains in place and its upholders stand more than a fighting chance to preserve it in the face of Trump, Brexit, and Russia’s taking the U.S. down a peg. Indeed, not only is western Europe holding the line, but east central Europe is lending a hand in erecting a wall against populism’s surge. Were we to have the opportunity to choose any three countries in the world to hold elections in the midst of all this seeming upheaval we would select the Netherlands, France, and Germany. In essence, we are damn lucky it is this threesome instead of Italy, Slovakia, and Hungary or really just about any other country spanning the globe.

Against all predictions, the Dutch put the first pieces of this wall in sturdy place. Geert Wilders was stymied big time. We knew in advance that the Dutch political system of multi parties and rampant coalition governance would keep him from becoming Prime Minister, but he was widely predicted to get the most votes and augment his party’s representation in parliament considerably. Wrong. The Dutch – like their French and German counterparts – are among the most informed, literate, and savvy in the world. They have watched the supposedly nonbinding Brexit referendum vote and Trump’s rise in horror, and we should actually have expected them to do precisely what they did.

The French are on the cusp of doing the same, again smack in the face of widespread conventional wisdom. Observers seem to forget that the French have a notorious tendency to flirt with “extremists” in the first round of their presidential elections, only to clamor to the center and vote in moderates in the second. Now granted, we are not living in normal times. But the French are not about to traipse down the merry road of nativism; no indeed, they will be the last to allow any Trump effect to take hold in their motherland. In fact, it will be interesting to see how many talking heads begin to grasp that a vibrant “reverse Trump effect” has already taken hold in the West. More than merely doing the right thing, the wondrous French will revel in effectively giving Trump and the little Englanders the finger. Continue reading

A Perspective on Engaging Scholars with Autism

The following is a guest post by Rachel Harmon, a PhD student in Political Science at Emory University.

Recent events have prompted necessary discussions about mental health in academia, but a topic that remains underdiscussed are the challenges faced by individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). As an adult diagnosed with ASD and current PhD student, I have personally experienced how ASD can be a strength or a struggle, conditional on the surrounding environment. ASD is a spectrum and effects each person differently, but for me, being autistic shapes every moment of every day of my life. I’m thankful that ASD has given me the ability to intensely focus on my research interests, making me a dedicated and creative researcher. At the same time, I have struggled to learn and communicate in the same ways that neurotypical students do. It takes enormous energy and mental space to navigate a world designed for the neurotypical, and most faculty are simply not trained on how to respond to or recognize the difficulties.

I have had significant ASD-related challenges in graduate school, but several people and resources have been crucial to my overall success. First, a TA during my first-year methods training took it upon herself to give me hours of additional assistance beyond what was required by her job when she saw how I struggled in the classroom setting. Second, I have developed two close friendships with people in my cohort; they have helped me navigate and interpret social interactions, monitor tone, and have stepped up for me when sensory processing is difficult. Finally, I have access to regular treatment through the Emory Autism Center and worked with a private tutor my first year. These resources are expensive and not covered by insurance. I hope that institutions find ways in the future to offer these types of assistance to all students with special needs.
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Building Safe Space for Depression in Academia

The following is a guest post by Emily Hencken Ritter, Assistant Professor at the University of California, Merced.

Vincent Willem van Gogh 002.jpg

Like so many, my heart and mind aches for the loss Will Moore’s death represents to humanity. He was as much a mentor to me in grad school and my career as if he had been on my dissertation committee. He supported me, critiqued my work, told me to be bold, and showed me I could be myself. Perhaps the most special thing he gave me was an example for generating bigger conversations. I attended conference after conference that he hosted not to present papers in panels but to get people to think outside of boxes and talk to one another. Will taught me about the community of science. His absence is so much greater than my loss.

One way that Will continues to help all the people he touched is by stimulating conversations about mental illness. I want to assist in this effort and be honest, as Will was, so that his scientific community can innovate in mental health as much as peace research.

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For Will: Some Reflections on Sorrow

The following is a guest post by Jana von Stein, Senior Lecturer of Political Science and International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington.  

Will Moore’s suicide carries with it a special sorrow that I can’t yet even wrap my head (or heart) around. I met Will when I was on the job market in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2008 that we became close. My comradery with him did not revolve chiefly around academics, although he was a tremendous mentor to me. Instead, it revolved around tragedy.

“Somewhere, my son’s brain is in a jar in a medical researcher’s office,” Will bellowed to a group of us at the 2008 Peace Science conference.

What a strange thing to announce in public, I thought. I needed to know more. I shared with him that I was 5 months pregnant, and that the baby had been diagnosed with very complex heart defects. The neonatologists were optimistic, and I wanted to believe them, but I knew it was possible that my firstborn, like his, would die far too young.

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Wait, what? Or, Trump through the looking glass

The Trump Administration’s foreign policy, if we can call it a policy, has certainly injected a degree of excitement into the foreign policy commentariat and IR classrooms around the world. Reading all the output is a full time job. But it is fair to say that most of the coverage has been, shall we say, less than favorable. Recently, Dani Nedal and Dan Nexon tackled the problems with Trump’s foreign policy unpredictability. Stephen Walt argued that Trump does not really care whether his foreign policy is successful. And the list goes on.

 

Which is why Matthew Kroenig’s recent piece in Foreign Affairs caught me by surprise. Continue reading

Researcher Trauma and Our Discipline

The following is a guest post by Cyanne Loyle, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Indiana University. 

With the devastating passing of Will Moore, many of us in Conflict Studies have begun to discuss the impact of our work on our mental health. Talking is important. So is seeking help when needed. But there is more that we can be and should be doing.

In January, I wrote a piece on research-related trauma and conflict studies.  Will helped with this article.  He thought it was high time that the field and the discipline had a serious discussion of mental illness. In this article, Alicia Simoni and I talk about the risks of research, how to identity trauma in our friends and ourselves, and best practices for our field.

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Will Moore: A Student’s Perspective

This is a guest post by Joseph K. Young, Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs and School of International Service, American University.

The one piece of advice that my dad, an academic, gave me when I was applying to PhD programs was simple: choose based on who you will work with. With this in mind, I screened potential advisors like I was a TSA agent. I interviewed them. I asked them about their future plans, how old their kids were (thinking anyone with teenagers wouldn’t move while I was still working on my PhD), how they trained their students, and most importantly where their students got jobs. I read an article of Will’s when I was an undergrad, Repression and Dissent: Substitution, Context and Timing. This was the kind of work I wanted to do. These were the questions I wanted to ask: Why does repression work in some cases but not others? Why does repression sometimes lead to dissent and sometimes quiescence. And these were the tools I wanted to employ: rigorous empirical strategies using fine-grained data. I emailed to set up a time to meet with him. He replied within a few minutes. We then had several phone conversations, followed by a trip to Tallahassee to meet in person. Will passed all of my screening. Continue reading

Will Moore: A Fierce Friend

Will Moore decided to punch out, as he put it.  He left behind devastated friends, co-authors and students as well as family. I have been trying to put into words how I feel today.

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Let’s talk about mental health

There have been some high profile deaths in the profession among younger scholars, not just in IR but also comparative/American politics. Two notable examples of late include Will Moore and Mark Sawyer. I did not know either of them personally but through friends and social media, I was aware of them in life and death.

Moore’s death struck many in the IR community especially hard, as he was known to be a dedicated mentor to others, particularly junior scholars, in ways that go above and beyond just befriending and reading someone’s work. His loss has shaken many of them profoundly, and I think many of us on social media feel the loss in ways that are deeper than we care to realize. Continue reading

Morality matters: What the United debacle, the Pepsi ad, and Bill O’Reilly have in common

Social media was abuzz last week with three big missteps by major corporations. Pepsi unveiled a failed television advertisement intended to render homage to the social protest movement in the U.S. but that instead trivialized the protests and appropriated their imagery for financial gain; the New York Times revealed allegations of sexual harassment against Fox host Bill O’Reilly and that the host and Fox paid out nearly $13 million to five women in exchange for their silence; and United airlines dragged a boarded passenger, David Dao, off a plane in order to allow its staff to catch a flight to Louisville. It is tempting to think that the moral outrage expressed on social media was a fleeting fit of slacktivism with little purpose. But, it is more than that. Continue reading

An Academic Woman’s Rant of the Week: Service Discrepancies

There’s a new article today on Inside Higher Ed that talks about recent research in the journal Research in Higher Education on discrepancies in faculty service loads.  Not surprisingly, the article finds that “women faculty perform significantly more service than men.” I think this is known; it’s why a lot of women are counseled to just say “no” whenever possible.  As the article states, women are just more likely to “take care of the academic family.”  Groan.

What is, perhaps, somewhat surprising are the differences in the types of service that women and men perform.  Women are more likely to perform internal service (“participation on campus-wide committees, faculty councils, task forces, projects, etc.”) than men but there is not a similar gendered discrepancy when it comes to service work that relates to professional organizations (ie service on journal boards, program chairs, committees related to professional associations like APSA or ISA, etc) or service at the international level.

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What the EPA budget cuts mean for North American environmental politics

The negative impact of President Trump’s recent actions to de-fund many Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) programs goes beyond withdrawing support from climate adaptation and mitigation initiatives, and rollbacks on environmental regulations. These budget cuts will potentially hinder the cumulative (and positive) work that the Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America (CEC) has already done for the past 23 years to improve the North American environment.

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Why IR needs the environment and the environment needs IR

This is a guest post from Jessica F. Green and Thomas N. Hale. Green is Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies at New York University. She can be reached at Jessica.green@nyu.eduHale is Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University. He can be reached at thomas.hale@bsg.ox.ac.uk.

The state of the global environment is terrible—and deteriorating. The globalization of industrial production and the consumptive habits of 7 billion people have created the Anthropocene—a geologic age in which the actions of humans are the primary determinant of the Earth’s natural systems. This shift creates a profound new form of environmental interdependence, of which climate change is only the most salient example. Other “planetary boundaries” include biodiversity; the nitrogen cycle on which plant life and agriculture depend, fresh water; and the world’s oceans and forests. Human activity is putting all of these systems into a state of crisis. Each of them is essential for economic production and human welfare. One does not have to be a political scientist to infer that the implications for politics are profound, even catastrophic.

What do international relations scholars have to say about these looming political and economic crises? Not much.

In a new study (ungated access) published in PS: Political Science & Politics, we use the Teaching and Research in International Policy (TRIP) data to identify and understand what we describe as the “marginalization” of environmental politics in international relations. The results shocked us.

Though IR scholars in the United States see climate change, along with conflict in the Middle East, to be the greatest global threat in the years to come, just 7% of them describe their primary or even secondary research field as environmental politics. More damning, fewer than 2% of the articles published in the top disciplinary journals (defined by impact factor) are on environmental subjects. Continue reading

Why Trump Won’t Write the Next American National Security Narrative — But Why You Should Still Be Very Worried


This is a guest post from Ronald R. Krebs, who is the Beverly and Richard Fink Professor in the Liberal Arts and Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. His most recent book is Narrative and the Making of US National Security.

At times, in recent years, it has seemed that Republicans and Democrats occupied different narrative universes with respect to national security. Republicans generally continued to live in the world of the War on Terror. Democrats gave voice to a more balanced understanding of the threats and opportunities facing the United States. Even when concrete policy differences were muted, the narrative gaps seemed large and enduring.

Then, along came Donald Trump—imagining ISIS to be 500 feet tall, cozying up to Russia, casting doubt on America’s alliances, suggesting that nuclear proliferation might be a good thing, attacking free trade, and more generally undermining the postwar liberal order. Trump seemed determined to lay waste to the establishment. His efforts have so far borne little fruit. But they have done something valuable. They have reminded us how much Republican and Democratic foreign policy elites shared and still share. They have reminded us that—despite the constant battles and the Beltway blame game—there is still a bipartisan establishment whose vociferous and sometimes vituperative debates take place on a deeper, common narrative terrain. Continue reading

Making the Real: The Interplay of Reasons, Rhetoric, Evidence, and Action

This guest post is by Joseph O’Mahoney, currently a Stanton Fellow at MIT and an Assistant Professor in Seton Hall’s School of Diplomacy and International Relations.

In the US, support for President Donald Trump’s executive order, which restricts travel to the US by citizens of seven Muslim majority countries, has been mixed. Perhaps surprisingly, the Islamic State or ISIS is wildly in favor of the so-called “Muslim ban.”. Postings to pro-ISIS social media accounts called the proposed order a “blessed ban” and hailed Trump as “the best caller to Islam”. Why? Because it “clearly revealed the truth and harsh reality behind the American government’s hatred toward Muslims”. General Michael Hayden, former Director of the NSA and CIA, is worried that the ban makes the claim that “there is undying enmity between Islam and the West” more believable to “Muslims out there who are not part of the jihadist movement”. By contrast, a visibly compassionate and welcoming response to Syrian refugees by Western countries “has been incredibly damaging to this jihadist narrative”. Continue reading

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