Saturday, July 30, 2005
by Leiter Reader
Harry Niska Unmasked!!! EXCLUSIVE EXPOSE
has courageously called out several of the "bottom-feeders of the blogosphere," individuals who "post their smears under their own names, though, in another sense, even with their names attached, they remain anonymous." (Dr. Leiter did not explain what in what "sense" these non-anonymous people "remain anonymous," but we believe that he means that these people are nobodies -- although not quite nobodies, since Dr. Leiter has decided they are worth their own blog post). Dr. Leiter has identified four individuals as special threats, and now, not unlike Juan Cole
, has issued a request for "any insight readers have into these peculiar people who you would think, as lawyers, would have better things to do with their time."
One of the four individuals Brian Leiter has identified is a "Harry Niska", a name which we at first believed to be a pseudonym, as we have it on good authority that Mr. "Niska" was born in the early 1980s, a point in time by which the name Harry had fallen into such disrepute
that only perhaps a Finnish immigrant would consider naming her children something like that. (Our sources reveal that the name "Harri" is quite a common Finnish name. Our sources also, however, indicate that Mr. Niska's mother grew up in Finland, so perhaps this actually is his name).
Dr. Leiter has clearly done his homework, and he shares these valuable insights into the psyche of this Niska fellow:
Harry Niska is a University of Minnesota Federalist Society member. He is memorable mainly because he may have made the single most bizarre comment in response to my critique of Lawrence VanDyke's confusions last year: he pointed out that Mr. VanDyke "is, incidentally, quite a strapping lad, a fact that might inspire more respect from Professor Leiter if he had ever seen Lawrence." Even Mr. VanDyke never implied or suggested, in response to my critique, that he was going to beat me up!
As "The Pragmatist
" (an anonymous Leiter fan! - perhaps Dr. Leiter will attempt to out him as well) put it, this criticism of Mr. Niska is indeed both "sharp and apt"
As it turns out, we have been following Mr. Niska for quite some time. We do indeed believe him to be quite a threat. We have not yet determined what exactly he is a threat to, but when we figure that out, we will certainly expose that as well.
For the time being, here is a glimpse at our double-secret dossier on "Harry Niska."
Name(s): Harry Niska, Harry N. Niska, Harry Nathanael Niska, Harri Niska, "Right-Wing Lawyer"
DOB: 10/14/1980 (He is a Libra. Our sources tell us this makes him an individual we should especially keep a close eye on.)
Known Right-Wing Associations: Former President of the University of Minnesota Federalist Society and Christian Legal Society chapters, acquaintance of "scholarly fraud" Lawrence VanDyke.
Bar Membership: Despite being described by Dr. Leiter as a "lawyer" and a "fine member of the bar," Mr. Niska is in fact, not an attorney nor a member of any bar. He is also no longer "a University of Minnesota Federalist Society member," despite Dr. Leiter's claims to the contrary. If Dr. Leiter had dug further, as our sources have, into Mr. Niska's record, he would have discovered that Mr. Niska has recently graduated from law school, and is shortly beginning a federal appellate clerkship. He has not yet decided where he will work after that clerkship, and in fact, is not even sure which state (or district) he will be practicing in. As a result, Mr. Niska elected not to take the bar exam yet. Our sources have overheard him telling others that he might take the bar in February 2006, at which point, if he passes the exam (and the bar examiners of some state completely drop the ball on examining his character and fitness), this bottom feeder might then be able to properly call himself a "lawyer" and "fine member of the bar."
Connection to Eugene Volokh: Our sources also validate Dr. Leiter's suspicion that Eugene Volokh has kept company with Mr. Niska. In fact, Mr. Niska once sent Prof. Volokh an email, and recieved a reply. Oddly enough, by this standard, Dr. Leiter is also among the company that Eugene Volokh keeps. We look forward to the installments of the Leiter Reports he will now surely devote to outing himself.
Height: 5 feet 7 inches
Weight: 140 pounds
Propensity towards physical violence: Mr. Niska is of slight build and stature and has no training in physical violence to speak of (aside from a short stint in karate classes as a 9th grader, when he achieved a green belt). As a result, he is not believed to pose much of a physical threat. Our sources indicate that it is the fact that he is so much smaller than Mr. VanDyke, combined with his knowledge that Mr. VanDyke is quite a nice individual who probably would never beat up even someone who was as rude to him as Dr. Leiter, that made Mr. Niska think it would be funny to say that Mr. VanDyke was a "strapping lad" and that Dr. Leiter should show him more respect.
History of smearing upstanding philosophy/law professors: Our sources have spent days scouring the internet to assemble a comprehensive list of smears Mr. Niska has leveled against the honorable and upstanding Dr. Leiter. Shockingly, in the 15 months from August 2004 to June 2005, we were able to find seven separate instances where Mr. Niska has criticized Dr. Leiter. This rapid pace (averaging a smear almost every two months) surely can only be the result of some strange obsession, perhaps even rivalling Dr. Leiter's fixation on ruining the career of Lawrence VanDyke. Today, our sources caught Mr. Niska striking again in the comment section of a blog known as Southern Appeal. This brings the total number of smears to EIGHT!!! Clearly, Mr. Niska is a threat that must be dealt with.
This threat can only be understood by analyzing each of Mr. Niska's smears (all launched while Mr. Niska was sneakily using his real name, while still remaining anonymous, in the sense that he is a nobody).
April 6, 2004: The Opening Salvo
In a post entitled "Does disagreeing with Brian Leiter doom your academic career?", Mr. Niska first began waging his own "academic slash and burn campaign" against Dr. Leiter, while pretending to stand up for his friend Lawrence VanDyke, who had been called a scholarly fraud by Dr. Leiter.
In this post, Mr. Niska launched many heinous hate-filled smears, including:
1) Pointing out that Lawrence VanDyke " is, incidentally, quite a strapping lad, a fact that might inspire more respect from Professor Leiter if he had ever seen Lawrence." While Mr. Niska might want to pretend this was simply a joke, clearly this was a thinly veiled threat against Dr. Leiter's person. The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, to which Mr. Niska has been repeatedly connected (see the comprehensive list of connections above), is constantly attempting to silence dissent by those, such as Dr. Leiter, who are so effectively and cleverly unmasking the lies of the fascist right-wing establishment. It is a testament to the ingenuity of Dr. Leiter that neither Mr. Niska, nor the other tentacles of the VRWC, have yet been able to truly silence him.
2) Making fun of Dr. Leiter for name-dropping and name-calling in lieu of actual argument. Our sources tells us that Mr. Niska was a debater in high school and college, and he has been known to ask people to actually explain their arguments before, instead of simply listing the last names of great philosophical minds who have, at some point in their vast life's work, offered thoughts on a particular point in question. This insolence by Mr. Niska is absolutely unacceptable given the fact that he is clearly an inferior intellect to Dr. Leiter, and thus it is his stupidity that is the problem, not any deficiency in Dr. Leiter's argument. Thus, his suggestion that Dr. Leiter's arguments were somehow weak is an unacceptable smear.
3) Suggesting that "maybe science is, at its root, essentially unscientific." This is not only insulting to Dr. Leiter and others of his faith. It is sacrilege. Dr. Leiter believes fervently that all unscientific faiths are Taliban-like, and so naturally he would find Mr. Niska's veiled suggestion that he is a member of the "Texas Taliban" to be highly offensive. A smear of the worst kind.
4) Calling Dr. Leiter "presumptuous" and suggesting that "he needs to look in the mirror when he wants to find 'parochial prejudices,' 'intellectual dishonesty,' and 'ignorance.'" As he would say, the presumptuousness of Mr. Niska's comments here speak for themselves.
April 10, 2004: Reader Mail
Shockingly, not only did other individuals read Mr. Niska's smears, but one reader even sent Mr. Niska a lengthy email, which Mr. Niska published in full. While some were shocked that Fritz Feds had any readers at all, others were even more aghast that Mr. Niska would go about publishing such shocking hate-filled screeds directed at such a mild-mannered and upstanding legal and philosophical academic figure.
For example, Mr. Niska passed along this shocking accusation from his anonymous(!) reader:
Has Professor Leiter treated VanDyke and the Harvard Law Review fairly? I think not.Our sources tell us that Mr. Niska has, in the wake of Dr. Leiter's other recent outing threat, promised to go to jail rather than reveal the identity of his anonymous correspondent, even if Patrick Fitzgerald launches a long-overdue investigation into the bottom feeding smears perpetuated by Mr. Niska and his cohorts.
April 16, 2004: Christian-bashing-bashing
In the midst of a post in which Mr. Niska ostensibly was criticizing the erosion of political and religious freedoms in Canada, he had the temerity to take issue with an argument Dr. Leiter made regarding the topic. In this post, Mr. Niska went so far as to accuse Dr. Leiter of "either fundamentally misunderstand[ing] most religious opposition to homosexual behavior or ... being deliberately dishonest". In addition, Mr. Niska launched a vicious personal attack against Dr. Leiter in the guise of pointing out that Dr. Leiter's position on free speech amounted to freedom for me but not for thee. And throughout, Mr. Niska mockingly referred to those positions that Dr. Leiter holds near and dear to his heart as the "Leiter Truth," as if denying the eternal correctness of those views. Perhaps Mr. Niska was even intending to suggest that Leiter's belief in these positions was so strong as to become unscientific. Once again, this backhanded equation of Dr. Leiter to the Taliban can only be described as a smear.
April 26, 2004: But the New York Times IS a Right-Wing Rag
Mr. Niska, who our sources reveal was a regular Leiter Reports reader at one time, took umbrage with Dr. Leiter's exposure of the conservative bias of the New York Times in a post mockingly titled "BREAKING NEWS!!! The New York Times is a right-wing rag!!!"
In this post, Mr. Niska reveals that he is indeed to the right of Noam Chomsky, as he attempts to deny the indisputable truth that the New York Times is an organ of the Federalist Society, the Republican Party, the Trilateral Commission, Richard Mellon Scaife, the so-secret-it-has-no-name-neo-conservative-cabal, and Halliburton. In fact, Mr. Niska's confusion about this point can only be explained by a theory our sources had long suspected but had, until this post, been unable to verify: Mr. Niska is, in fact, controlled by a chip in his brain implanted, Manchurian Candidate-style, by Karl Rove.
The truly outrageous nature of Mr. Niska's argument can only be grasped by actually reading his obfuscations of the conservative bias at Times. But his accusation of "intellectual dishonesty" on the part of Dr. Leiter is truly indefensible, and Dr. Leiter is thus right to criticize him for it.
Dr. Leiter has never, to our knowledge, responded to any of the substantive criticisms leveled at his writing by Mr. Niska, but his arguments, wrongly assailed by Mr. Niska, are so clearly correct that we have come to a consensus that no response is even warranted.
June 27, 2004: Niska Denies Leiter Obsession
Mr. Niska appears to have taken a brief hiatus from smearing Dr. Leiter to take the final exams at the end of his second year of law school. However, he had not changed his bottom-feeding ways. Two months after his first flurry of smears ended, Mr. Niska again reared his Leiter-hating head, linking to several criticisms of Leiter by a "non-philosopher blogger" named Stuart Buck in a post not-so-creatively titled "The Buck Stops Leiter".
In this post, Mr. Niska accused Dr. Leiter of having a "penchant for crazy rhetoric as a substitute for reasoned discussion," a claim so clearly false that any reader of Dr. Leiter could immediately identify Mr. Niska as a right-wing hack.
Mr. Niska concluded with this claim that he had changed his bottom-feeding ways:
I used to read Leiter regularly for the same reason people slow down and gawk at a car wreck. I thought it was interesting to see how someone with such obvious intelligence could sink to such levels of dishonesty and rhetorical craziness to further their ideological preferences. But Leiter never surprises, and rarely really entertains, and mostly he just makes an ass of himself while pretending that he is making an ass of those who disagree with him.
Our sources believe the blatantly false smears in this post are so clear to the naked eye that no further explanation is warranted.
Mr. Niska also commented on Mr. Buck's web-site to make a similar point about Mr. Leiter not being worth his time.
Despite Dr. Leiter's claim that Mr. Niska "turn[s] up again and again whenever there is a chance to bash" him, we have been unable to find any further instances where Mr. Niska said anything about Dr. Leiter until June 22, 2005. Our analysts are divided in their theories about how to explain the 360 days that elapsed between smears. Some point out that perhaps there simply were no chances during that period of time to bash Dr. Leiter. These analysts point to the incontrovertible truth of every word written by Dr. Leiter during that time period, and conclude that even a bottom-feeder like Mr. Niska was able to comprehend that there was nothing to criticize. Another school of thought among our analysts suggest that Mr. Rove directed Mr. Niska to focus on other issues for a while, such as the stealing the election.
However, this hiatus came to an end, and Mr. Niska returned to his smears of the mild-mannered Professor Leiter.
June 22, 2005: As if there was any remaining doubt that Harry Niska is a jerk
When Eugene Volokh asked readers what they thought about Brian Leiter's threat to out Juan Non-Volokh, Mr. Niska called him "a jerk" and "thin-skinned". He also mocked Dr. Leiter's characterization of anyone to the right of Cass Sunstein (including Prof. Sunstein) as a fascist. This, of course, reveals not only Mr. Niska's lack of tact, but his ignorance of political philosophy as well, considering the fact that the United States has clearly become a fascist state. In fact, our political freedoms in this country are so limited that Dr. Leiter has been denied the ability to flee to a more free society despite repeated attempts.
Our sources have revealed that, despite the fact that Mr. Niska was once called "[l]ikeable and genuine" and about whom it was observed that "normally, no one is capable of being this nice without making you actively pray that they will soon be hit by a blimp," he is actually quite a mean person. Until Dr. Leiter exposed him, however, there had never been a record of this meanness on the internet, save for the above-cited smears by Mr. Niska.
This ends the unclassified portion of our dossier. We would also note that our recent observations of Mr. Niska suggest he is rather amused by the publicity Dr. Leiter has heaped upon him. In fact, his first reaction when a friend sent him an email about Dr. Leiter's post was "He knows who I am!!!," not unlike an insecure high-school sophomore girl who is graced with a smile from the varsity quarterback. And Mr. Niska was fully cooperative when we called him in for questioning regarding his Leiter obsession.
Hope this helps.
UPDATE: Fixed a mistaken assumption about "The Pragmatist's" gender.