Rather than condemning and opposing Rappaport's use of blackmail, threats, and extortion to achieve unlawful and unethical ends, Boston University administrators, including the Dean of the College of Communication (Tom Fiedler), the Associate Dean of the College of Communication (James Shanahan), the Chairman of the Department of Film and Television (Paul Schneider), and a representative from the University Office of Legal Counsel (Erika Geetter), unbelievably enough, pressured me to give in to his threats. The account that follows is a sad commentary on the ethical blindness of the current Boston University administration, and on its failure to support the principled moral stands of its faculty members--even this many years after one would have thought that the lessons of the McCarthy era had been learned. Those lessons have clearly not been learned, or even understood, at Boston University. A warning to present and future faculty members who believe in the importance of moral values. You will not only not be supported by the administration of President Robert Brown and Provost Jean Morrison, but will be attacked for daring to think morally. You will be told that your defense of principles and values creates bad press for the university. And bad publicity negatively affects enrollments and tuition income. For committing those unforgivable mortal sins, you will be abused, reviled, and punished--personally, bureaucratically, and financially. Learn the lesson well. Running a university is not about opposing blackmail, defending morality, or supporting faculty members who take principled stands, but about cultivating positive PR--and keeping those tuition dollars flowing in.
There are several observations here that may be of interest to anyone who falls victim to legal threats (however groundless), or to cyber-bullying, slander, or blackmail--or to the hysteria of an internet petition signed by people who have been lied to and know none of the actual, true facts of a situation. I wrote the following essay for my 2013 annual report submitted to the university, but share it with my readers because there are several important lessons here--about fear, cowardice, hatred, and the search for an enemy. People need villains. In the 21st century, we pride ourselves on being so smart and so superior to earlier generations, but the lynch mob is still with us; the group-thinking of the Brownshirts, the mob psychology of all of the other irrational and hate-filled mass-movements of the last century is not as far away as we imagine. Clement Greenberg's "herd of independent minds" is always waiting to stampede and trample anyone who isn't a herd animal, anyone who thinks with his or her own brain. The mass hysteria of Darfur and Rwanda is not about someone else, somewhere else, on the other side of the world; it is us here and now; it is in our own backyards. Innocent, trusting people are all too easily manipulated with lies and deceit. And once people are fooled this way (as hundreds of internet surfers have been by the lies Rappaport has told about what happened), it seems almost impossible for them to face the fact that they have been tricked, or to admit that they have been wrong. People are very loath to change their minds, once they have come to a conclusion, however misinformed, however mistaken. That is another lesson of these events. People cling to their simplistic understandings, their incorrect theories; they fight to defend their mistakes; they refuse to see the truth when it is pointed out to them. There is food for thought in these events, particularly to a student of history. --Ray Carney
Stop now. Think about it. How would you feel if I treated you this way--the way Mark Rappaport has treated me? You thought you were doing me a favor. You went to a lot of trouble and expense to help me out. You thought you were being a great guy in holding onto, and sorting out, and filing away all this material, rather than throwing it out. Now, if I do to you what Mark Rappaport did to me, you're suddenly faced with court proceedings and criminal charges and a big fat bill, all instigated by a series of legal moves I have taken against you. Are you ready to admit that you have stolen the material? Do you have ten thousand dollars in your checking account? Are you ready to write me that check? Are you ready to pack and ship the material back to me—at your own expense of course? And quickly. Or else I'll try to get you arrested and jailed! When you contact me to try to work out a deal, I refuse to come to an out-of-court agreement with you. That's what Rappaport did to me. In fact, if I behave toward you the way he behaved toward me, I escalate the situation by making a series of explicit blackmail threats about what will happen if you don’t immediately do what I am demanding. I leave phone messages and write emails to you (many of Rappaport's threats are actually in writing!) that unless you immediately do what I demand, I will destroy your reputation by writing to film professionals all over the world and telling them that you have stolen my manuscripts from me. I will make postings on the internet to slander and defame you as a thief. I will start a petition to turn your students and others who know you against you as having destroyed my future book publishing projects. I will go to the newspapers and tell reporters you are a thief. I will write to your boss and other Boston University administrators (who are dumb, or malicious, enough to accept the lies, in the complete absence of any evidence or proof to support them--for more on that subject, see the second half of this essay!) and ask them to start proceedings to get you fired from your job as having misappropriated personal property. I'd emphasize that none of those things are hypotheticals. None of them are fictional possibilities or suppositions. Mark Rappaport actually did every one of them to me. They happened. Even the proceedings to decide if I would be fired (yes, Boston University administrators are that dumb and that malicious!) actually took place. Rappaport told me I had better jump through his hoops, pay the money he was demanding, admit to being a thief, and send back the stuff he had given me--or else he'd ruin my reputation and get me fired from my job to boot. That's what really happened.
Now tell me: Would you feel that you had been treated fairly? Or would you feel—correctly in this case—that this was some sort of underhanded and unethical shakedown—an act of thuggery and blackmail, an extortion plot to scare you (not only in terms of destroying your reputation and getting you fired—but don’t forget that having to fight even a frivolous, capricious, completely worthless case in court will cost you tens of thousands of dollars, which is a powerful way of scaring you) into caving into my demands, however unreasonable, however deceitful and unjustified, however much based on a pack of lies, into intimidating you into writing me the ten thousand dollar check and returning the stuff I gave you, free and clear, so many years before?
In short, Rappaport’s lies were going to cost me a heck of a lot of money. It's a fact that he’s much wealthier than I am (think about it—it’s why he could retire and move to Paris eight years ago), and he knows he is (that was undoubtedly part of his strategy--the assumption was that I wouldn't be able to afford to defend myself against his lies, and would just be intimidated and give up and give in to his legal threats), so he has deeper pockets to tie me up legally if he wants to; but what he hadn't realized was that I was willing to spend any amount necessary to defend myself against his charges that I was a thief, against the claim that I had stolen the material from him, since I was defending a principle. I was defending my reputation. I was defending the truth. I absolutely and positively knew I was in the right and that he was not only wrong, but that he was knowingly and deliberately lying and misrepresenting what had transpired. I knew (and could prove) the conditions of the gift, and that it had been a bona fide gift from him to me. And he knew it too. I knew that I was not a thief. And I knew that this was not a misunderstanding of some sort but a shakedown on his part. He thought if he got an expensive lawyer to sue me and send me a big bill, and if he himself made all those personal threats against me to destroy my reputation and take away my job and run to the newspapers if I didn't give in to him, I'd cave in. It would be too expensive, and dangerous, for me to defend my honor, to defend the truth. He thought his blackmail would succeed. But I refused, I absolutely refused, to give in to an act of extortion. I refused to allow his threats to succeed—including the implied threat to bankrupt me with legal maneuvers founded on deliberate, conscious lies and misrepresentations of what he and I both knew had actually been agreed to and taken place between us.
I have to say that Story #3 was even harder to believe than (and just as undocumented as) Stories #1 and #2, but when you start telling lies, there is no limit to how many variations you can work on them, to how many different stories you can tell. That's what is so convenient about being a liar, and what makes it so difficult for someone to refute the lies when they are dealing with a liar. When the liar is caught in a contradiction, or when one of his lies is refuted, he simply changes the story (from #1 to #2 to #3 in this case). And when the latest lie is refuted, the liar changes the story one more time. I fully expect Rappaport to change his story again after he reads this account exposing stories #1, #2, and #3. Brace yourself for Stories #4 and #5. Rappaport will accuse me of some other transgression, some other violation of trust, some other illegality or immorality. The one thing he won't do is tell the truth and say what actually happened. The truth-teller has to stick to the facts, to what really happened; but when you're lying, you can change the accusations, the charges, the violations you accuse someone of as many times as you want.
And, of course, a liar can also make a series of internet postings that either omit or lie about most of the actual events that took place—the ten thousand dollar bill that was sent to me; the fact that I was supposed to pay Rappaport's lawyer’s fee; the real reason he dropped the law suit; the emailed and telephoned blackmail threats; the changes in the stories he has told about why he sent the films to me; the deliberate actions to prevent me from being able to submit a statement to post on Jost's web site; and every other lie, distortion, half-truth, and misrepresentation Rappaport has posted or told to a reporter. Come to think of it, guess that's why he is a fiction filmmaker. He sure wouldn't cut it as a maker of documentaries! [See Appendix E, a late addition to this posting, at the very bottom of this page, for an April 3, 2013 update that discusses the issues connected with the costs of my preservation efforts and the numerous changing and contradictory stories Rappaport has told about how I obtained the material I own.]
In fact, the BU administration adopted the diametrically opposite response. Rather than speaking out against blackmail, bullying, and threats, rather than supporting the moral stand one of its employees was taking, once it became clear that I was going to continue to be a "troublemaker"--the complimentary term my Dean personally applied to me to my face--by not abrogating my moral values and not going along with the university's vision of this entire event as a PR issue, the university decided to savage me in the press. That would be a way of punishing me for not playing along with their morally bankrupt vision of the whole event, and of attempting to discredit my moral stand. Faculty members in my department were encouraged to go to the press and attack me. Three Film and Television Department professors (who had been involved in some of the ethical violations I have reported and, needless to say, were delighted to have a chance to strike back) went to The Boston Globe and said bad things about me. Meanwhile, a fourth faculty member in my department actively worked with Jost to solicit additional signatures for the anti-Carney petition from my students, former students, and others. How's that for collegiality? (Though, in the upside-down, Alice in Wonderland world of BU, I am the one always being criticized--and having my pay docked--for my "uncollegiality" and for not being a "team player," I've sure never done anything like that to any of them....! Though as far as the not-being-a-team-player criticism goes, I have to admit in all honesty that I have no desire ever to be a member of that kind of underhanded, sneaky, mean-spirited "team.") How's that for backing a faculty member's stand against blackmail and cyber-bullying? How's that for administrative ingenuity? I have to give my Dean and Chairman credit. The plan was really quite clever--and diabolical. My Dean and Chairman were able to act like they were neutral, above the fray, keeping their hands clean, even as individuals underneath them were encouraged to attack me in print, to discredit my position. It's the BU way. That's the kind of university I work for.
But back to that three-hour meeting. I reiterate for the record: Defending a faculty member’s rights, resisting an orchestrated campaign of falsehood, slander, insinuation, and innuendo, taking a principled stand against cyber-bullying and acts of extortion—things I all but begged them to do—were never mentioned by anyone other than me. Every administrator or officer at that meeting greeted my request that he, she, or the university take a principled stand with silence. I can’t say I was surprised. The chairman of the meeting, Dean Fiedler, like many other Boston University administrators, does not have an academic background. He spent his entire previous career working his way up the corporate ladder, and to make things worse, he himself used to be one of those tabloid-style investigative journalists. One of his biggest, and to this day one of his proudest journalistic accomplishments involved staking-out and spying-on a big-name politician and stalking and tracking his girlfriend to a private residence over a weekend and forcing the politician to drop out of a presidential race by running a front-page story about the love nest in the paper the next morning. As far as I can tell, my Dean knows nothing (and cares less) about academic values and principles. He runs the College as if it were a corporation, and in terms of the Rappaport matter treated me no differently from the way the President of Coca Cola would treat an employee who generated “bad press.” In his mind, I am the problem. My actions resulted in negative publicity. What else is there to care about? What part of bad PR don’t you understand? He has no idea that protecting freedom of faculty expression and defending the importance of truth and honesty are ends in themselves, or that a university has any higher function than courting favorable media coverage. Academic life is about fund-raising, and my (or the university’s) taking a principled stand might jeopardize that.
Remember that my only sin all along has been that I politely spoke up and objected to some of the program Director’s, Dean’s, and Chairman’s policies, and reported a range of unethical and unprofessional behavior—in meeting after meeting, memo after memo, and, of course, in the blog posting (which I sent the text of to my Dean in April 2012, and which then became grounds for more punishment and a further hit on my pay--so much for freedom of academic expression at Boston University), and in other things I wrote prior to it (which had been grounds for previous punishments). If the past is prologue, you can be sure that this current posting, here and now, will be grounds for additional punishments against me. That's the BU way.
Note that the text makes no reference whatsoever to the material being only loaned or sent to me for temporary storage and return. It explicitly states that it was given to me. I state this twice. In the first paragraph: “he doesn't now have any prints in his possession. He gave them to me.” And in the second paragraph: “Mark … gave me almost everything he owned when he left New York for France.” I also state the same concept a third and fourth time, in different terms in the second paragraph: “I am the ‘Mark Rappaport Archive…,’ and “I have the largest collection of material by him….”
Prof. of Film and American Studies
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The second point I make in my email to Mr. Kohn is that I do not negotiate—or make deals—with blackmailers and never will. I will not capitulate to threats. Both morality and civilized conduct depend on our not abandoning our basic moral values—or recanting the truth—under pressure, even when "the dogs of war" are unleashed on you. I regard myself as an expert on this subject because of the treatment I have received for many years from Boston University administrators (for examples of which, see the other sections of this blog, listed in the menu on the right margin at the top of the page). I have never given in to threats and pressure tactics—whether the threats have come from Boston University administrators cutting my pay to try to get me to stop reporting ethical misconduct I have observed, from Mark Rappaport telling lies about my conduct to reporters or in postings on the internet, or from anyone else pursuing any other unethical course of action--and I never shall. —R.C.
Subject: RE: Ray Carney interview for Indiewire