Friday, November 11, 2005

"Here Lies the Career of Paul Deignan"

He picked out the plot, he dug the hole, and now he's shoveling the dirt on top of himself.
A frequent visitor to the Bitch Ph.D. site, the University of Northern Iowa history professor Wallace Hettle, felt obliged to defend Bitch Ph.D.’s liberal end of the blogosphere. Hettle found Deignan’s curriculum vita at Info Theory, which lists his academic advisers, the Purdue mechanical engineers Galen King and Peter Meckl, who will play a big part in deciding if he will ultimately receive a Ph.D. Hettle e-mailed them, indicating that Deignan’s comments were “unprofessional” and “contrary to the spirit of free enquiry.” Hettle announced his actions within the comment section of Bitch Ph.D.

“Yes, we received an e-mail,” King confirmed on Wednesday. “It said that Paul was exceeding his bounds, if you will, on what is essentially a private site. He’s been asked to refrain, at least until he’s [graduated from Purdue].”

But escalation, not restraint, has marked the ensuing days, in which Deignan, Hettle and Bitch Ph.D. have hurled accusations of various kinds at each other. Both Deignan and Bitch Ph.D. have hired lawyers. Hettle wouldn’t comment on whether he has done the same. [emphasis added]

His advisers advise him to exercise restraint, that's it. They didn't drop him from the program, or whatever deleterious thing might happen to Ph.D. candidates. So he continues to obsess.
Can this kind of dispute be settled in a lawsuit? Lauren Gelman, a lawyer and assistant director of the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, labeled the situation “complicated” and said that Deignan will have to show how he was harmed and why. “He’s not going to be able to use the legal system to solve the fact that his feelings may have gotten hurt,” she said. But as the Internet continues to evolve, she predicted, “disputes like this are definitely going to become more frequent.”

King, one of Deignan’s advisers, had perhaps the most unique take on the situation in today’s Web-based society: “I don’t understand what blogs are,” he said. “Apparently, though, they can get you in trouble.”

His adviser doesn't know blogs, and wouldn't have applied any special significance to comments about or by Deignan. He advised restraint. Instead he got a shitstorm of negative publicity for Purdue's Engineering department because Deignan ignored an advisor's advice.

And Deignan doesn't seem to understand that he is the one responsible for amplifying this situation to a point where it may cause him harm. Neither Hettle nor Bitch Ph.D. can be held responsible for that. I really don't see how he would be able to prove that the damage to his career came from a couple of comments among lots of comments rather than from the mega publicity he's gotten because he decided to throw a hissy fit.

BTW, who knew what IP spoofing was before this happened? How much damage can an off-handed comment about spoofing IPs do when most people have no idea what that means? Imagine all the lawsuits if people started challenging the accusation of "murderer" when applied to an abortion provider. Everyone knows the implication of "murder," even though they may not fully appreciate the legal definition, and the implication that an abortion provider is a murderer is much more serious than spoofing. IP spoofing has a definite legal definition, as well, but who knows either the legal or the colloquial use?

I wonder, however, if perhaps Deignan realized he was never going to make it to Ph.D., and this whole act is serving as a job application and example of the effectiveness of his information theory to conservative think tanks. Not to mention the sweet Blogad income he'll get from driving up the hits to his site (he delusionally sees himself getting the sweet money Instapundit gets). He certainly sees it as an opportunity for self-promotion.

From Unfogged
Paul has some follow-up on his blog, ending with this rather poignant note:
BTW, Drs. Meckl and King have been good advisors. Let's put that in the record also. Also, if you are in this field of system identification, information theory, datamining, system theory, controls, etc., may I call your attention to my actual reseach? Information-theoretic system identification has proven to have great potential in application across many fields and the results have been very good. Papers are available by links via my profile.

The prominent theme in the commentary section is that the blog is or will be billed as an experiment in traffic enhancement, or opinion manipulation, or whatever.

If potential employers don't mind working with a crazy megalomaniac with a persecution complex who loves even negative publicity and has no sense of proportion, I guess this is a plan so cunning.

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