Which, in fact, sounds kind of attractive. But that’s not the real point of this essay. What the ISA is doing is stupid, and ISA is not supposed to be stupid.
Stupid is the APSA, charging extortionate dues in order to headquarter itself in some of the most expensive real estate on the planet  and then when the U.S. Congress temporarily defunds the NSF political science program saying “Hey, not our problem!” Stupid is the MPSA, heavily fining people who refuse to stay in their fleabag conference hotel in the middle of an urban redevelopment area.
But ISA isn’t supposed to be stupid, and all of a sudden it is. Just how stupid?…
First, let’s look at how this is being interpreted.
Guys down at the gym tell me these blog things are totally out of control. Can’t figure it out myself—I mean, how much can you say in just 120 characters?—but you know kids these days: no attention span, spent their whole lives multitasking and playing video games. This Facebook thing seems weird too—that’s the program that allows you to make video phone calls, right?
Not saying that is what you are saying, just that’s what people think you are saying.
Second, this is a slippery slope. Let’s take a look at some of other regulations that are in the works after this one passes:
- Editors of ISA-sponsored journals shall publish nothing questioning the wisdom of John Mearsheimer.
- Editors of ISA-sponsored journals shall publish no op-eds or letters-to-the-editor in any venue dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Not pro/anti-Israeli, not pro/anti-Palestinian, no lists of historically implausible Christian/Jewish/Moslem/ pagan holy sites, not even restaurant reviews: anything you say about any of this will intensely offend someone somewhere. Really.
- Editors of ISA-sponsored journals shall not use smart phones to text snarky comments during six hour ISA Governing Council meetings.
- Editors of ISA-sponsored journals shall not post to Facebook nor “tweet” the fact that they are knocking back shots of Jägermeister following six hour ISA Governing Council meetings.
- Editors of ISA-sponsored journals shall not post to Instagram, Shutterfly or Pinterest pictures of their editorial board members following a period of knocking back shots of Jägermeister following six hour ISA Governing Council meetings.
- Editors of ISA-sponsored journals shall not associate six hour ISA Governing Council meetings with YouTube clips of council meetings in Star Wars, The Hunger Games or any past or future movies involving either Thomas Cromwell or Lucius Malfoy.
- Editors of ISA-sponsored journals shall not post to Political Science Job Rumors, particularly in such manner that allows them to be readily identified .
Finally, this is yet another case of Boomer over-reach that is attempting to install a highly centralized corporate command-and-control model on what historically has been the decentralized and individualistic university model. Universities developed as loosely structured, self-regulated associations of scholars, not bloated administrative behemoths of archdeans, deans, associate deans, assistant deans, deanlets and deanlings—and/or rent-seeking bureaucracies—with the agility of a tortoise trying to cross an eight-lane highway. And this at the time the innovative sectors of the economy are flattening their structures! So what have we got left?: fabulously expensive vo-tech certification with no demonstrable value added; six-year bacchanalia with attendant suicides, alcohol poisoning, fatal falls from high structures, and sexual assault; and venues for professional sports franchises exploiting an expendable class of gladiator-slaves . Universities developed an efficient 21st century structure in the 12th century, and now they are blowing it. Bummer.
Look, folks, I’m a little sensitive on this issue of gag orders at the moment having experienced major collateral damage over a series of gag orders over which I have no control—along with one serious lapse of judgment on my part —and I’m really anxious that this not become a trend. I’d like to think that this will be quickly resolved in the next week with a joint declaration by the editors of every ISA-sponsored journal that if this passes, they will collectively resign and turn over management of their journals to some open-access scammer in Mumbai.
A guy can dream, right?
Addendum 16 Feb 2014
So now we’ve got the attention of no less than a Sunday New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof. Next thing Kristof is going to be touring some internet-connected camp for Syrian refugees and note that while the people are living under plastic tarps on 1700 calories per day, at least they have the freedom to blog, which cannot be said for the editors of ISA-sponsored journals.
Yes, this was a really stupid idea. And one more reason it is stupid: the standard right-wing characterization of academia is that it is a big brain-washing conspiracy to suppress the truth. Yes, we know, this is crazy: most academics can’t even agree on the qualifying exam reading lists, much less coordinate a globe-spanning conspiracy to suppress the truth about climate change, evolution, gravity, and the like, but that is what a lot of people believe. And something like this just feeds right into those theories. Thanks!
I mean, what is ISA trying to do, advance the political career of Senator Jeff Flake, the designated point-of-the-spear on political science defunding now that Tom Coburn is retiring? Let’s see, Flake is from Arizona and ISA is headquartered in…hmmm…Arizona. Coincidence?!?…I think not! The Knights Templar are also involved in this somewhere, I’m sure.]
1. Outside of Oslo.
3. But to the football team at my former employer Northwestern University: you go guys! But have you thought about maybe the Teamsters?—they can be famously persuasive, and many people relish the thought of non-lethal encounters between NCAA officials and Port-a-Potties.
4. See the addendum here for pretty much all I can say at the moment.