Monday, March 18, 2013

L'Affaire Rappaport: A case study in faculty treatment at Boston University

My recent experience with Mark Rappaport can summarize the treatment of faculty members in the College of Communication at Boston University. Rappaport reneged on a gift he had given me almost eight years earlier, and then billed me close to ten thousand dollars for his unexpected and unannounced change of mind--deliberately and knowingly lying about what had happened--not to count the tens of thousands of additional dollars I stood to lose by having preserved the gift and not thrown it out (or sold it) years earlier. When I pointed out to him the unfairness of what he was doing to me, he lied about what had taken place and launched an internet campaign to slander and defame me, and then used telephone and email threats, extortion, and blackmail to attempt to force me to give in to his unethical and unlawful demands. 

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

Resisting Blackmail and Cyberbullying, and
Standing up for Principles at Boston University

Ray Carney
Boston University

I am a film professor. Eight years ago, an obscure independent filmmaker named Mark Rappaport contacted me and offered me a pile of miscellaneous films and other stuff that he said he intended to throw away. He had sold his New York apartment, was moving to Paris, and had decided that it was economically and logistically out of the question to take the raw materials of his filmmaking career (dozens of 8mm and 16mm film reels, magnetic tapes, and box after box of scripts and other printed materials) with him abroad. He said he had donated the “first copies” (the best copies) of his work to the Museum of Modern Art and to a few other places, and didn’t know what to do with the boxes of extra material that were left over. Since he knew I had a scholarly interest in his work (I am arguably the world’s expert on his films), had written a lot about it (I was, at that point, writing a book about his work), and, in fact, already had a substantial collection of material by and about him (films, tapes, and documents) that I had collected at my own expense over a period of years, he asked if I would be interested in having whatever was left over after his museum donations were complete. I was actually reluctant to take some of the material he was offering me at first, since films (remember almost all of this material was not DVDs or videotapes, but actual reels of film and magnetic tape stored in big, heavy containers) are not only bulky, but fragile, and need to be stored carefully at a proper temperature and humidity. He persuaded me by telling me that it was me “or the trash man,” and reassured me that I had absolutely no obligations to him after he sent the stuff to me. It was a no-strings-attached, unconditional gift, and I could do anything I wanted with what he was sending. If I wanted to give it away, to sell or rent it to other people to be screened, or even to wear it out by using it, it was fine with him, since anything I did with it would be better than him simply throwing it in the dumpster. That was, as I say, 8 years ago, in early 2005.

When the material arrived, it was dirty, disorganized, and beat-up, just the way you’d expect material destined for the trash to be; unlabeled, unsorted tapes, disks, and films had been thrown hither and yon with crumpled newspaper sheets as the only packing material, and sent to me (with me paying the shipping costs) in flimsy cardboard boxes. Since the commercial value was more or less zero, none of the shipments was insured, and the boxes generally arrived at my end half- (or more than half-) crushed. It was a complete mess, and I could have tossed it all out then and there; but I just couldn’t bear to throw it away.

I made a fateful decision. I decided to do something that probably only a film professor would be idealistic—or dumb!—enough to do. Over the next few years, I spent tens of thousands of dollars of my own money cleaning and repairing the beat-up old films and constructing a proper space to store them in. In 2007 I posted a statement on my Boston University web site stating what I had done (and was continuing to do). I talked about how I had created my own personal film archive out of Rappaport’s cast-offs. Rappaport himself was fully aware of the web site posting, which was based on email exchanges with him, and he quoted from it on many different occasions. He made jokes about my archive looking like the one in Citizen Kane (which he and I knew of course it didn’t) and compared me to the gargoyle spinster who presided over Kane’s trash heap. At several other points, we had email exchanges where he repeated in writing what he had told me in our initial conversations: that I was free to do anything I chose with the material I had: to rent it out to others; to use it in my classes; to screen it any place I wanted to; etc.. That’s why the web site posting could say the things it did, and why he never once objected to it. [See Appendix A at the end of this page.]

Five more years go by. It’s now the summer of 2012. I’m out of state at a place I go every summer to write. I’m working on a big book and have deliberately cut myself off from the outside world: no internet connection, no email, no portable devices, no cell phone, no nothing. In early July I get a packet forwarded to me from a lawyer who says he represents Rappaport, saying there is a legal action against me for having stolen his work (it's called a "replevin" claim, if it matters), demanding the immediate return of everything he gave me, arguing that I had only been temporarily storing it for him for an unspecified period of time (eight years?!) and had agreed to return it to him when he asked for it. Of course, no documentation of these alleged “agreements” is provided (or will ever be provided), since none exists. The letter not only demands that everything I have be sent back immediately, but—to add injury to insult—bills me something like nine or ten thousand dollars in fees to pay the lawyer for filing the legal papers against me and for writing the letter I am reading! (With an ingenuity that boggles my mind, Rappaport’s lawyer has structured the claim against me so that I will be the one to pay all of his own legal costs. I will be the one paying for him to prosecute me.) I go to the library in a neighboring town to access my unchecked email account and come across a series of emails from Rappaport from six weeks or so before where he tells a completely different story than the lawyer’s letter did. He says he met someone else he’d rather give the discarded material to. He says he has changed his mind about his gift and asks if he can have it back from me. (Not hard to understand since I’ve now sorted and cleaned and restored his material at my own expense.)

Let me summarize: There was no question that I owned the material free and clear. There was no question that it had been a gift almost eight years before. There was no question that I had put tens of thousands of dollars of my own money into maintaining and preserving it. There was no question that Rappaport knew all of this. It was in the emails we exchanged. It was in the notes he included in the boxes he sent. It was posted on my web site. There had been no misunderstanding. There was no change in the basic understanding. All that had changed was that he had had “giver’s regret” seven and a half years after he had given me the gift and I had put all the money into it. He had decided he wanted to do something else with the material and was willing to go to any lengths to force me (unlawfully, unethically) to return it to him—to lie, to hire a lawyer to threaten me, to do all of the other things he subsequently did.

Here’s a useful comparison: Imagine that someone you distantly knew told you he was moving to Europe and asked if you wanted an old, beat-up car he had that he obviously couldn’t take with him. He told you he had given his fancy, new cars to auto museums, but no one wanted the junker. Did you want it? It was a beat-up mess and you were reluctant to take it, but once you got it, rather than having it towed to the junkyard, you were inspired to restore it. So you built a garage to store it in and work on it, and spent tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of your time cleaning it up, fixing it up, and restoring it. Almost eight years go by and you keep working on it. It’s not a jalopy anymore. It’s cleaned up. It’s shined up. It now purrs like a kitten. Thanks strictly to you, since it wouldn’t have been around at that point if you hadn’t taken it. You tell the person who gave it to you about your work, how you’ve put all this time and money into his present. He decides he regrets giving it to you. It’s years and years later but he decides he wants it back, even though he doesn’t own it anymore. So he goes to a lawyer and claims you stole it from him, files court papers to scare and intimidate you, and (on top of everything else) sends you a bill demanding you pay his lawyer’s costs to get the car back from you. Well, that’s a fair illustration of what happened in this situation. 
Or change the comparison. I am a writer. I publish books, essays, and articles. I have four or five file cabinets full of rough drafts and manuscripts from my publishing projects. Lot’s of amazing stuff—including five or six unpublished books, and dozens of unpublished essays. Tens of thousands of pages. Let’s pretend I am not Mark Rappaport the filmmaker, but Ray Rappaport the writer, and I am moving to France, and call you up and ask if you want a collection of my personal papers. I tell you I have given as much of the material as they will accept to a university manuscript collection, but I still have file cabinets full--thousands of pages of other manuscripts and drafts and papers--left over; far too many to take to France; too bulky; too heavy; just too much. So do you want them? They might be of interest to you, or to your students, or to professors you know who are interested in my work, since they're the only copies of lots of great stuff. You express reservations. I tell you that if you don't take them, they are just going into the garbage when I move. I assure you that you can do anything you want with the papers after you get them—give them to other people, use them in your classes, shred or throw them out if they take up too much space. I tell you that since I am giving this stuff to you, and it may be of some use or value to you in the future, I of course should not have to pay for it to be shipped to you, so I need you to pay the shipping expenses to yourself. You agree, if reluctantly, since you don’t have any place to store this stuff, but you think accepting it is better than me just throwing it in the trash. All of this is documented abundantly. In detail. In writing. So I send you my rough drafts, my unpublished book manuscripts, my old letters and papers. As agreed, the stuff is yours to do whatever you want with it. I move to France. Presumed end of story as far as Ray Rappaport the writer’s involvement with the discarded papers and manuscripts goes. A year or two goes by. Instead of throwing the stuff I have given you in the trash, you spend a lot of time and money and trouble sorting and filing and preserving it. You let me know what you have done. You publish the fact that you have put all this time and trouble into sorting out my gift to you on your web site. Five or six more years goes by. It’s now close to eight years since I gave the piles of manuscripts to you. Suddenly, out of the blue, with no warning, you get a letter from my lawyer saying: first, that the material I gave to you was not given to you but stolen from me; second, that you owe me ten thousand dollars for having delayed my use of it in some imaginary future project (and of course to pay the lawyer for writing the letter and filing the legal papers claiming you have stolen the material from me); and third (to add to the pressure that you jump though my hoops immediately) that I have filed papers to have you arrested by the sheriff if you don’t immediately pay the ten thousand dollars, and also immediately pack and ship everything back to me at your own expense. Note--not that you owe me ten thousand dollars if you don’t return the material, but that you owe me ten thousand dollars on top of and in addition to paying to pack and return everything. And I'll do my best to put you in jail if you don't do everything I demand by a certain date.

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 feelcorrectly in this casethat 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?

Based on Rappaport's self-serving vision of his right to retract a gift at any later point that he changes his mind, the film archives of the world could be emptied out tomorrow by filmmakers (or their widows or estates) suddenly and unexpectedly demanding their gifts back because they "changed their mind." If the demands took the specific form that Rappaport's non-negotiable, unilateral demands of me took, MoMA, the Pacific Film Archive, the Eastman House, the Cinémathèque Français, and every other institution holding a filmmaker's work would have to pay the filmmaker nine or ten thousand dollars in legal fees to secure a lawyer to write them a letter demanding the gifts back, and then have to pay the packing and shipping fees to return all of the films by the filmmaker that had been donated to them (and, of course, with no compensation for the five, ten, or more years and tens of thousands of dollars that they had spent storing, preserving, and restoring the filmmaker's work, under the true, correct, and undisputed belief that it had been sent to them as a present and gift years before). And if they did not jump through the filmmaker's hoops rapidly enough, or agree to pay all this money to the filmmaker and his lawyer, the filmmaker would--in this view of the unbounded right of filmmakers to do anything they want to anyone they chose to torment--be entitled to file court papers (as Rappaport actually did in my case) to have the curator arrested and thrown in jail and the material seized and shipped back to him at the curator's expense. 

Note that this is not a “he said/she said” situation. It is not about a misunderstanding. The explicitly gifted nature of the material is documented clearly and definitely, in black and white, in writing, on sheet after sheet of paper. I have dozens of pages of emails documenting every step of the shipment process, in which Rappaport makes jokes about his present and how I’ve saved it from the garbage. I have personal notes Rappaport threw into the boxes recommending which works my students might want to look at, and describing obscure early works I might want to look at. I have a public web site posting describing my ownership of the material, my creation of the storage space for it, and my decision to preserve and maintain the work “at any cost.” Rappaport knew about the web site posting back then and knows about it now. Every shred of paper confirms that the material was a free and clear, outright and final, no-strings-attached, personal gift to me, to use, to screen, to rent for screening by others, as I saw fit—in my classroom, in a public or private screening event—or even to destroy if it comes to that. There is no evidence on the other side. There is no other side of the story. But, seven and a half years after he has given the material to me to use or dispose of as I choose, Rappaport changes his mind. And once he does that, since he knows he cannot succeed if he tells the truth, if he admits that he has simply changed his mind, he lies and misrepresents what took place. (And, as I will note below, keeps inventing new lies and misrepresentations changing the story.) He makes up a story. And there is nothing, not one sentence or shred of documentation, to support the story (or any of the later stories).

The story he tells does not even pass the common sense test. Why in the world would I be storing and preserving films for him for return to him? Why me? I’m not a film archivist or preservationist—or at least I wasn’t at the point he contacted me! Why would I agree to such an expensive and time-consuming project? Where was I supposed to be storing the films, since I didn’t have a space and eventually had to build it? Where is any payment or compensation for doing this? Where is the reimbursement for my expenses and time and trouble I would obviously be putting into the project? What are the terms of our agreement that I would do this for him, and where is there any stipulation of the required preservation conditions? Was I, a non-preservationist, just being “trusted” to know how to take care of the stuff in the right way? How could Rappaport possibly send me films he expected back at a future date without keeping an inventory of what he had sent? The list of material he supplied to his lawyer was clearly written years later, based on his distant memory of what he had sent so many years before, and is full of errors. Why in the world would I agree to spend thousands of dollars of my own money to preserve and restore these films? What was in it for me? Why would none of this be mentioned in an email or letter from him to me, or from me to him up to the point he suddenly decided (and explicitly tells me in a series of emails) that he has changed his mind—after I have been taking care of the stuff and spending money on it for seven and a half years? Seven and a half years! And of course, why would there be all the statements to the exact contrary in the emails and notes in the boxes about what I should show to my students in class, what I should show myself, and how I was free to rent or otherwise dispose of the work?

It’s not my idea of the most fun way to spend my summer, but now I of course had to get my own lawyer. That meant, even just to get things going, it would cost me a minimum of ten thousand dollars (and, eventually much more than that) to defend myself against the claim for the ten thousand Rappaport demanded I pay him for having stolen the material. There's no such thing as a free ride in the American legal system in a case like this. There is no such thing as defending yourself. You have to get a lawyer. And any lawyer you get wants a large payment in advance—what is called a retainer. So I had no choice but to secure a lawyer and send him his retainer. (For the record, I have at this point spent considerably more than twenty thousand dollars to defend myself--to defend myself against a completely and patently fraudulent claim. That's the way the American legal system works. Even if someone makes up a pack of lies about you, you have to pay through the nose to reply to them. Your need a lawyer and lawyers don't come cheap. That's the way the system works. No matter how ridiculous the claim; no matter how patently false the lies.) 

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.
So I told my lawyer the facts: First, that the material had been a present of stuff destined for the trash; second, that Rappaport had told me I was free to do anything I wanted with it, even destroy it if I chose; and finally, that I had spent a heck of a lot of money, time, and effort restoring and storing it in the interim. He relayed the information to Rappaport’s lawyer. The only reply was, in effect, that Rappaport would see me in court—and had filed papers to have me arrested by the sheriff and put in jail if I didn’t immediately turn everything over to him and pay his lawyer’s bill to boot! After I showed my lawyer the documentation of the gift (dozens of emails to me along with handwritten notes from Rappaport that he included in the boxes he sent), he told me that Rappaport didn’t have a leg to stand on legally, since as he put it: “changing your mind is not valid grounds for seizing a gift.” In other words, it would be an easy case to win, no sweat. It will be a left-handed slam dunk. But even at that point, and against the explicit wishes of my lawyer, I wanted to try to be accommodating; I wanted to do a good deed, even if it wasn’t necessary; so I wrote Rappaport and told him that if he would simply pay part of what I had spent restoring and storing the material for the past seven and a half years, I’d send everything back to him at my own expense with no hard feelings. I was willing to lose something like twenty thousand dollars (or more) in the exchange; but I’m not a rich man and I have to admit that I just couldn’t afford to do it for nothing. I needed to recoup part of my costs—especially now, given the cost of the legal bills I was incurring. If I can say it of myself, I thought I was being extremely generous. I was willing to take a financial bath to be a good guy and help Rappaport out. He rejected the offer, and (though I have to admit that the logic eludes me) added my email offering to send him the stuff back to the court documents as (apparently) adding proof that I was guilty of stealing his films. [See Appendix B at the end of this page.]

As things developed, a few weeks later he suddenly dropped the suit, since he (or his lawyer) undoubtedly realized that he didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. The material was clearly my property. It had been given it to me; I had extensive written confirmation of the gifted nature of the material; and I had provably cared for it for almost eight years and put a lot of money into preserving and restoring it. I had tons of paperwork to prove my ownership and the gift of it to me, while Rappaport had absolutely nothing to support his bizarre claim that I had, in effect, stolen his films from him. (For what it’s worth, Rappaport later posted on the internet that he dropped his suit only because he couldn’t afford to continue it; but that’s patently false since, as I have noted, up to that point, I was the one expected to pay his costs if he won. In other words, it would have cost him nothing to continue if he really thought he was in the right and could win. The real reason he dropped the suit was that he knew that his claim was false—and legally indefensible.)

* * *

At the time I thought that was that—that it was all over at that point. But it’s actually the date when the real horrors began. I used to think of cyber-bullying as something that takes place between middle-school fifteen-year-olds. Now I know we’re all vulnerable. Welcome to the internet, the place where anybody can say anything about anybody else, with no proof, no documentation, no evidence. Rappaport enlisted a filmmaker friend of his named Jon Jost to post pages of lies and misrepresentations about what had taken place between Rappaport and me, and he simultaneously wrote me a series of emails telling me that he was going to do everything in his power to embarrass and humiliate me for not having jumped through his hoops.

If you ask who would make a web site available for such purposes, and would actually post such a pack of lies without checking the facts, the answer is that Jost has done this sort of thing many other times, in a whole series of other situations. He’s used the internet to endorse dozens of nutty conspiracy theories—ranging from “There were no terrorists; the George Bush White House rigged explosives and blew up the World Trade Center themselves” theory of what took place on 9/11, to paranoid fantasies about how the U.S. government is abducting its own citizens who speak out against it and throwing them in foreign jails. And I am far from being the first victim of his cyber-attacks. There are many others before me. A few years ago, in fact, Jost even conducted a massive internet smear campaign against his former wife when their divorce or custody settlement apparently didn’t turn out the way he wanted it to. So posting Rappaport’s science-fiction was nothing out of the ordinary for him.

To tell the truth, I didn’t attach any importance to the postings when they first went up. I assumed that their absurdity would be obvious. I assumed that people would see that where there were pages of accusations and not a single sentence of real evidence, everyone would realize that the accusations were made-up. Then Jost circulated an internet petition against me. Again, I thought who would take something like that seriously? By definition, no one who signed the petition had any first-hand knowledge of what had really happened. I thought that any intelligent person understood the utter worthlessness of internet petitions, and the complete meaninglessness of the numbers of signatures on them, since there were no controls on how many times any one individual could “sign” and comment under a different alias. On any given day, there are ten thousand similar nutty petitions being circulated on the internet and getting not thousands, but tens and hundreds of thousands of signatures about everything from the Kennedy assassination, to Elvis sightings, to aliens in Area 51. Since I assumed anyone with a brain was familiar with Jost’s previous crank postings, and his admitted bias in this situation, about which he didn’t even make a show of being neutral or objective, I didn’t really take any of it seriously, didn’t think very much about it, and didn’t reply. I have much better things to do with my time than swat flies. Let them swarm, let them buzz, let anyone sign Jost’s petition and write something stupid about me as many times as they want. I really don’t care.

But I should add for the record that it would have been impossible for me to reply, even if I had wanted to. I used to have an official faculty web site on the Boston University server—all BU faculty members are given space to create one—but university administrators shut it down four or five years ago when they disagreed with something I wrote about education. (BU administrators are not known for their toleration of independent thinking on the faculty; the Silber days are still very much alive, and I’m pretty close to being the current incarnation of Howard Zinn in that comparison.) So that meant that I couldn’t use my faculty site to post a reply. And I couldn’t use Jost’s site either, since when he launched his cyber-bullying campaign, he wrote me a series of emails telling me that the only allowable response he would accept from me and agree to post on his site would be: A) for me to apologize for my misconduct; and B) for me to announce that I was immediately turning over all of the material I owned to Rappaport. That of course meant that I was not allowed to reply on his site. Jost didn’t reveal that to his site readers, of course. That way he could then announce, as he subsequently did, that my non-response “proved” I was guilty. Pretty clever, I have to admit. He runs the site and controls everything that is posted on it, so he can impose conditions on what I have to say and do to be allowed on it, and when I don’t accede to the conditions, he can say that it shows I am afraid to respond.

I wish that was the end of the story, but sometime in September, probably because Jost and Rappaport were not getting much of a result with the embarrassment tactic, they added a twist to the cyber-bullying that middle school punks aren’t usually able to employ: Blackmail. Extortion. I got a series of phone calls and emails from Rappaport and Jost making threats that they would get me fired from my job, have my tenure revoked, go to my Dean and Chairman and tell a pack of lies about me to get me in trouble at Boston University, blanket the internet with anti-Carney statements, and do other things to destroy my job and career, if I didn’t immediately turn over the films I owned to Rappaport’s lawyer. The threats were very explicit and they did not mince words in making them. They were crystal clear: Turn the stuff over, or we’ll destroy you. It was your basic blackmail plot, pure and simple. (Since Rappaport explicitly cites his lawyer as the designated recipient of the material, it would be natural to assume that he was part of the blackmail plot; but I prefer to believe that he was an innocent victim, just as I was, and that Rappaport included him as a participant and named his office as the place where I was to leave the material, without his knowledge or permission. For the lawyer’s sake, if he wants to continue practicing law, I sure hope that was the case.)

And, sure enough, when I didn’t respond to that, they did exactly what they had threatened to do. Jost and Rappaport emailed, phoned, and even sent someone to visit my Dean and Chairman in person—I’m told they wanted to have a meeting with the university President and Provost also but were unsuccessful—to try to get me fired, get my tenure revoked, or have me administratively and financially punished in other ways, if I didn’t immediately take the material to the lawyer’s office. Of course at that point, Rappaport's story had to change--for the fourth or fifth time. He couldn't get Boston University involved with firing me, unless Boston University was somehow involved in the ownership of the films, so he changed his story and told my Chairman and Dean that back in 2005 he hadn't given his work to me, to Ray Carney, to take care of; but had only sent it to me as an employee of Boston University to give to Boston University--and that I had absconded with an institutional donation for my own personal profit and benefit. He told BU that I had taken film shipments intended for the university film collection, but failed to turn them over to the university. It was a completely new and different story from the one he had told in his emails to me about changing his mind when he met someone else he wanted to give the movies to (story #1); and completely different from the one he had told in his court filings about only having temporarily loaned his films to me and my having failed to return the loan and stolen the material from him (story #2). Story #3, the new story (though, to be accurate, there were actually more than three stories in all if you count all the variations--but I have to limit my account to the three major ones to save space), was about my taking university property and failing to turn it over to the university. Get it? Carney stole university property and misrepresented the reason of Rappaport's film shipment to him. The stuff was only sent to him as an employee of BU; not for his personal use. The possession of the films was related to Carney's academic performance of his duties. That should get Carney fired--and if he didn't want to be fired, if the blackmail scheme ("....we'll get you dismissed if you don't turn the stuff over...") worked, that should convince Carney to drop the films off at Rappaport's lawyer's office.

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.]

* * *

But, as the infomercials say, wait there’s more. When none of those tactics succeeded, Rappaport decided he would take things to a new level by contacting the press, saying bad things about me to journalists, and referring them to the internet postings. The extortion notes he wrote me morphed to include statements that he and Jost would enlist journalists in the smear campaign against me unless I immediately turned the material I owned over to his lawyer. He would use journalists and, based on the results, the journalists were glad to be used. Sometime around October or November, I began receiving emails from online and hard copy journalists informing me that Rappaport had written them and that they would be publishing articles about what I “had done.” Apparently all it takes to get an adverse story about someone into a newspaper, magazine, or online media outlet is for someone to make a series of groundless, unfounded, undocumented (and, let’s not forget, false) charges against the person. I would have thought that a journalist’s first response to anyone who wrote or called him and started saying terrible things about someone else, asking that the journalist do a story about the other person, would, first, be deep skepticism about the source’s motives (which are clearly not noble) and, second, a request for evidence that the charges had a clear factual basis: in this instance, that there was written documentation of the storage-return agreement. But I must be old-fashioned. That is clearly the old journalism. Things have changed. Standards have loosened. Where everyone is chasing readers in our era of declining media readership, skepticism has been replaced by delight at the chance to skewer someone, and documentation is no longer necessary. A story is a story, and driving eyes to the reporter’s by-line is the goal of the game.

Journalistically, I found myself in a “guilty until proven innocent” world, where I was effectively being asked, over and over again by different people, to prove “when I had stopped beating my wife.” The journalists who contacted me, to a person, began by accepting Rappaport’s accusations at face value, and told me they were going to print his charges—unless I successfully rebutted them. Of course I am talking only about the journalists who contacted me. Some never asked for my input, or went with a story before I had a chance to reply. Rappaport’s word was good enough for them to go forward.

The reason I can know with absolute certainty that none of the journalists, whether they contacted me or not, obtained probative documentation before deciding to write their stories is, of course, the fact that no such documentation exists. If they had begun, before deciding to write their stories, and before writing me, by asking Rappaport for substantive proof of his charges against me, the story would have died right there, since as I have noted, there is not a single sentence that he can produce that indicates that there was any agreement or understanding that the films were given to me for temporary storage, that I was supposed to return them to him at a future date, or that I had stolen them from him—and there is, of course, abundant documentation that establishes the exact opposite.

The burden of proof, according to traditional journalistic standards and practices, should clearly have been on the person making the charges, which meant that there should have been no story until there was strong and compelling evidence to support the charges. The only story that had that would have been one about cyber-bullying, extortion, and using the media to conduct a smear campaign—but the journalists weren’t interested in writing that story. The problem was that the journalists who contacted me clearly did not hold themselves accountable to traditional journalistic standards and practices. When I told several of them that I was too busy to be responding in detail to a series of ever-changing, ever-shifting undocumented, unfounded accusations—responding over and over again on separate occasions to a dozen or more separate journalistic inquiries, month after month—they replied that I had better reply—“or else” they would simply go with Rappaport’s side of the story. In other words, I would be presented in print as being guilty, unless I successfully demonstrated my innocence—to each and every one of them individually, one after the other. The situation was mine to lose, but only to lose. If I simply remained silent; if I reminded them that if Rappaport really had a valid grievance he could easily win in court and get a massive financial settlement against me (at no cost to himself, as I have noted); if I told them that I was too busy to respond to an unending stream of inquiries from different reporters; in short, if I didn’t successfully rebut every crazy, unsubstantiated charge Rappaport had made, from accusations of perjury to prevarication to theft, to the satisfaction of writers who clearly already had a bias since they were ready to print his version of the story in the first place—I would be tried, and fried, in the press, even if the charges were fictional, and no evidence that they were true had been provided by my accuser. Welcome to the new journalism. Welcome to the wacky world of La-Z-Boy “investigative” journalism, where the reporter is spared the arduousness of conducting a real investigation of the facts, and the burden of proof is on the victim of character assassination to defend himself. The person being accused is forced to do the research for the reporter, to provide documentation to prove his innocence. If the victim of the smear campaign does not successfully refute or, in my case, does not have the time to respond, point by point, to each of the scurrilous and false accusations, the journalist feels free to print the lies. Move over Woodward and Bernstein. [See Appendix D, a late addition, at the very bottom of this page, for a March 27, 2013 update to Rappaport’s ongoing efforts to enlist journalists as participants in his smear and slander campaign to blackmail me into turning over the material I rightfully and legally own.]

* * *

That leads to the fourth strand of the story, which is, if possible, even more depressing than the preceding ones. I can understand a lone individual telling a pack of lies to try to scare or browbeat me into giving in to his whims. I can understand a nutcase turning over his web site to post the lies and create an internet petition. I can understand a few hundred people writing a series of nasty comments under a series of aliases about something they have absolutely no first-hand knowledge of. I can understand someone who can’t succeed through established legal means, and obviously knows it, having recourse in desperation to threats and blackmail to try to get his way. It’s a bit harder to swallow, but I can understand young, inexperienced, or circulation-motivated journalists with no conception of journalistic standards and ethics printing the falsehoods or putting the evidentiary burden on the person being slandered to rebut the lies. But the thing I still can’t get my head around is a university that countenances and acquiesces in such tactics. I’m talking about my university, Boston University, of course. [See Appendix C at the end of this page for my initial response to BU, which my Chairman and Dean refused to accept as an adequate response.]

At a meeting with the Dean (Tom Fiedler), the Associate Dean (James Shanahan), my Chairman (Paul Schneider), and a Boston University lawyer (Erika Geetter), where I was asked to respond to Jost’s internet postings, I explained everything I’ve summarized above—Rappaport’s lies, Jost’s flexible sense of the truth, Jost and Rappaport’s cyber-bullying campaign against me, and Rappaport’s threats and extortion demands. I presented scores of pages of documentation of every detail. Page after page of emails documenting the explicitly gifted nature of the original material and the fact that it had been originally destined for the dumpster; page after page reprinting and explaining the lengthy posting on my web site where I explicitly described the material as a gift, and talked about my decision to preserve it rather than throw it away; page after page documenting the cyber-bullying campaign and the threats in the ransom notes about what would happen if I didn’t turn the material over to Rappaport’s lawyer; page after page documenting Jost’s refusal to allow me to post a reply on his web site; page after page documenting the threats and extortion notes—the “turn the material over or else we’ll destroy your reputation on the internet, in your university, and in the media” side of the situation.

I presented all of this material and sat there and allowed myself to be cross-examined about it for three-hours. I answered every question I was asked. I pleaded that the university not allow itself to be used as part of a bullying or extortion scheme. I said that a university should not give in to this sort of pressure. I reminded Dean Fiedler, Associate Dean Shanahan, Chairman Schneider, and Ms. Geetter that a university exists precisely not to cave in to unsubstantiated accusations, not to allow slanders, falsehoods, threats, and acts of extortion to succeed. I told the people sitting across the table from me that a university should stand above the hysteria of a lynch-mob petition posted on the internet by people who knew none of the facts, that a university should not knuckle under to a campaign in the media just because journalists did not adhere to professional standards of reporting. I told them that that’s what made a university different from a for-profit corporation—that a university defended principles and values and truth-telling, and did not cave in to pressure-tactics, to thuggery, to lunatic internet petitions. I told them that Boston University should not (and should not ask its faculty members to) “make pacts with the devil”—that it should not negotiate with blackmailers and extortionists (or pressure faculty to negotiate with them).

But, as I knew going into the meeting, I was talking about another university, one that had different values than the one I was part of, one that treated faculty members with respect and dignity and professionalism. I was talking about a university that defended intellectual values and truth. Boston University hasn’t done that for forty years, since before John Silber became President. The individuals sitting across the table from me were not interested in taking a stand against extortion threats or defending faculty rights. Heck, it was clear that they were hardly interested in listening to what I was telling them. I would describe our meeting as one of the most disrespectful meetings I have ever attended at BU, except for the fact that I have attended too many others that have been even more disrespectful. [See "Censorship, Punishment, Abuse, Threats--Being Banned in Boston," available in the side menu.] The Dean’s inquiry was conducted as a Star Chamber proceeding. The BU administrators had clearly come into the room with their minds already made up—unbelievably enough, on the basis of what they had read on the internet!—and loaded for bear. I was the bear.

The university’s response to the internet postings was not very different from the reaction of the journalists. I was presumed guilty until I could prove myself innocent. At the meeting I attended, I was hardly able to get out two successive sentences without being interrupted and argued with, because what I said was different from what they had read on the internet, or what Rappaport had (deceptively) told them in a series of emails or telephone conversations. They weren’t really interested in hearing the truth, or listening to me. The insinuations came fast and furious. I was a thief; I had represented myself as accepting Rappaport’s material as a deposit with Boston University but absconded with it for my own personal benefit; I had lied to Rappaport about (or deliberately concealed from him) where his work was stored; I was guilty of perjury in official court documents (an extraordinarily serious crime); I had misused the mail system for thievery; etc., etc.. I was called names. My character was attacked. I was ridiculed. I was even accused of being mentally ill. At one point, my Chairman (Paul Schneider) launched into a deliberately insulting litany of accusations impugning my personal integrity, ranging from: “Why do you work here? Why do you stay? Why don’t you quit?”—to asking me whether I worked at BU “only for the money.” (He forgot to mention that if that was the reason I had made a serious miscalculation, since I had taken so many hits to my pay in the past eight or nine years, many of them personally recommended by him and my Dean.) At another point, Chairman Schneider read an extended excerpt from my (long banned and censored) BU faculty web site and criticized me for having posted it, eight or nine years earlier, since it described serious reservations I had about the education of film students in American universities. In other words, the meeting ceased to be about the issue I had thought we had gathered to discuss, and turned into a real "throw in the kitchen sink" attack on me, my ideas, and my publications. My Chairman's rants and rages, the quote from the web site that he threw in my face, the insulting series of questions asking me why I worked at BU and if I was working there "only for the money," had absolutely nothing to do with Rappaport or Jost, or Rappaport's films, or the lies he had told, or the blackmail campaign he had waged against me. They were attacks on me and my ideas--and the very fact that I worked at BU--pure and simple. I sat there stunned, speechless, and astonished--but as should be clear from other pages on this blog, not really surprised; this was the way most of the past meetings I had had with my Chairman and Dean had gone. They had, like this meeting, at one point or another, devolved, on the Chairman's or Dean's part, into shouting sessions to berate and criticize my morals, personality, and ideas. The only difference in this case was that this set of personal attacks was taking place in front of a university lawyer (the aforementioned Erika Geetter), my Dean, my Chairman, and the Associate Dean, all together, all at once. I was amazed that no one in the room other than myself could see how unprofessional, how wrong what they were doing was--how inappropriately ad hominem, personal, and insulting it was to name-call, berate, and insult a senior faculty member in this way. Dean Fiedler, who chaired the meeting, sat there smiling throughout the worst of the accusations, name-calling, and mockery, never once intervening to moderate, reign it in, or apologize for it. The reason was obvious. He didn’t stop it because he had scripted it (delegating the worst of it to be conducted by his subordinates the Associate Dean and my Chairman), as was clearly visible from the common outline they all had on the table in front of them. The table was narrow and I could read it sitting across from them. They had planned it all out. That’s the kind of meeting my Dean organizes and chairs. That’s the way senior faculty are treated in my College.

Threats were made about altering my teaching schedule or outright cancelling my courses (“… if we allow you to teach…”), and changing my administrative duties (“because of the problems you have caused”)—and of course, a few days later, I received memos where the threats were followed through on. The documentation I presented provided iron-clad proof of the account I gave at the start of this piece—that the material was an explicit gift, that I owned it without any doubt or dispute, and that what had been posted on the internet was a pack of lies. I presented written evidence of the extortion attempt to force me unlawfully to turn the material over to Rappaport’s lawyer. But none of that mattered.

The problem was that none of the people on the other side of the table—the Dean, the Associate Dean, my Chairman, and the university lawyer—cared about truth and fairness. None of them cared who actually owned the material. None of them cared where the truth lay. None of them cared about right or wrong. And none of them cared in the least about defending intellectual values or the rights of a faculty member to resist a cyber-bullying and blackmail scheme. The validity of my position, the ethical nature of my conduct from start to finish, was beyond dispute, but it didn’t matter. That was obvious from their response to what I said. Every time I raised these sorts of issues, they changed the subject. There was no discussion of how to take a principled stand, how to defend the integrity of a faculty member, how to avoid caving in to pressure and mob hysteria. Not a word, beyond my own.

What mattered, the BU administrators were not at all shy about telling me, were the PR implications for BU. How would what Rappaport and Jost had posted on the internet affect Boston University’s reputation, its recruiting, its enrollments? They didn’t care in the least about protecting a faculty member from slander and falsehood; but cared, intensely, how the Boston Globe would report the story, and what other media outlets would say. They told me that if I defended my ownership of the material, it could make the university look bad. They told me that they wanted me to find a way to let Rappaport have the material. (There was no mention of reimbursing me for all the money I had spent preserving it, of course, no mention of releasing a statement condemning bullying and blackmail, no mention of having the university PR department defend the reputation of a senior faculty member.) Right up to the present there has been no press release from the university defending my integrity, and no statement from my Dean, my Chairman, or another administrator condemning blackmail and cyber-bullying. 

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.

Other faculty in my College have been treated similarly, and many have left or been forced out in the past as a result. In the view of my Dean faculty members are, and should be treated as, corporate employees. He has no appreciation that academics are professionals, and that their words, actions, and expressions of ideas and opinions should be protected—or respected. The Dean has told the faculty that he feels free to read the emails they write. (I myself have been called on the carpet for emails I have sent to my students.) The Dean shocked the faculty two years ago by revealing that he had been covertly monitoring what faculty printed on their office computers. (The spy campaign surfaced when he reprimanded particular faculty members for printing things he disagreed with.) It accidentally came out later on that he has also instructed staff members secretly to call telephone numbers faculty have dialed on their office phones to find out who they have been talking to and verify that the calls are, to use the term of art he prefers, “appropriate.” [See The Monitoring and Control of Faculty Emails, Phone Calls, and Personal Expression in the Boston University College of Communication," available in the side menu.] He has criticized specific faculty members if, during the review process, they haven’t endorsed faculty promotions he is in favor of—to the point that I myself have stopped participating in faculty reviews since, if I dare to express reservations about a candidate the Dean prefers, it only gets my evaluations lowered—for being “uncollegial.” So much for treating faculty members with the respect due to professionals. So much for protecting the integrity of the faculty review process. Faculty are, in the Dean’s mind, corporate employees and should be treated like corporate employees. A faculty member is supposed to toe the line and do what he is told, not think or speak for himself.

A new faculty member soon learns the lesson: Your goal is to go along and get along, to generate positive PR (as distinguished from doing important intellectual work—the PR universe is certainly not identical to the universe of serious scholarship, something someone lacking an academic background, someone like my Dean, may have a hard time understanding), to support the candidates the Dean is in favor of promoting, and to watch what you write in your emails, who you call on your office phone, what you Xerox on the College copy machine, and what you teach in class. Or, at least, to keep your mouth shut and not to object to these—and a zillion other—controls on faculty thought and speech and distortions of intellectual values. [See "The Two Cultures—The Conflict Between Business Values and the Life of the Mind," available in the side menu.]

I should add that the Dean’s attitude to l'affaire Rappaport was affected in my case by another factor. Over the past ten years I’ve functioned as an internal whistleblower, filing a significant number of reports about professional misconduct and violations of academic freedom with administrators (including protesting the Dean’s surveillance and control of faculty printing and phone conversations). I have defended student rights, attempted to improve their pedagogical experiences, and deplored the fact that film students were, in effect, being cheated by being denied a top-tier educational experience, even as they were paying a top-tier tuition and incurring debts that it would take half their lives to repay.

But speaking out, in this way about these and other matters, is itself grounds for a faculty member to be punished at BU. My Dean (Tom Fiedler), my program Director (Roy Grundmann), my Chairman (Paul Schneider), and most of the faculty in my department are extremely intolerant of views they disagree with—and resort to any tactic available for retaliating against a faculty member who thinks (and speaks) differently. I’ve already mentioned how my faculty web site was censored and taken away from me by my Dean and Chairman. My program Director and a number of faculty members in my department told students to boycott my classes because of things I had published. [See "Part 1: Ten Years of Administrative Retaliation...," and the "Letter to the Provost....," available in the side menu.] As I noted, my Dean scorched me in a memo because he disagreed with some ideas in several emails I sent to my students. [See "How Marketing and Branding Considerations Limit What Teachers Can Tell Their Students—or Suggest That They Read," available in the side menu.] And a blog entry I wrote in Spring 2012 talking about some of the problems in my College, as well my reports to the university Ombuds about ethical violations in my College have also become grounds for my Dean and Chairman to punish me. (What kind of topsy-turvy world is it where the request that an Ombudsman look into a situation becomes grounds for punishing the person who made the request?) So much for academic freedom of expression at BU.

But punishing me, financially and bureaucratically, is not good enough for the Dean, my Chairman, or my program Director. Their obvious goal is to get rid of me. But the problem is that I am tenured. When they learned about the Rappaport internet postings, they were beside themselves with joy. It was a dream come true—a too-good-to-resist pretext to get back at me for all of the reports about pedagogical and professional problems I’ve turned in over the years. The meeting about the Rappaport matter that I was grilled at was, as far as they were concerned, their long-delayed opportunity to come up with an excuse to override my tenure and dismiss me—their opportunity to play “gotcha.” That’s another side of Boston University. For decades, the administration, from the President on down, has specialized in finding ways to get around faculty tenure—ways to get rid of individuals the administration defines as faculty “troublemakers” (as I mentioned, that is the term both my current Dean and the Dean who preceded him have used to refer to me for filing reports of ethical misconduct at BU). Rappaport’s postings were going to be the way. Since the end of that story has not yet been written, I’ll leave it there.

But I don’t want to appear to limit my observations to my College or my Dean—or to the Rappaport affair. Taking principled stands, treating faculty members with respect, defending faculty rights, and defending the importance of the tenure system have never been strong suits at Boston University. (Google the words “Howard Zinn,” a former faculty member, and “John Silber,” the University President who preceded the current one, for an insight into how general and long-standing the lack of respect for faculty rights has been at BU.) As I already mentioned, a few years ago my faculty web site was censored and censured by BU administrators, and I was told to remove it from the university server, because it included views of education that the administration did not agree with. [For more about that event, see "Censorship, Punishment, Abuse, Threats--Being Banned in Boston," available in the side menu.] I have been told how I am supposed to teach my courses, how to evaluate and grade them (i.e., to employ evaluation methods that I profoundly disagreed with and objected to), what I am and am not allowed to say in my classroom and intellectual topics I was to avoid holding discussions of (an outrageous violation of academic freedom, but the person who told it to me was the same university lawyer who was present at the Rappaport meeting), and what I can and cannot say when I give interviews with journalists (under the chilling logic--as articulated by Chairman Schneider-- that if Boston University pays my salary and expenses, it has the right to dictate what I am allowed to say--my Dean and Chairman, of course, in line with their visions of faculty members as "corporate employees," view this policy of controlling faculty expression as routine and normal). So much for academic freedom of expression; so much for allowing faculty members to think with their own brains at BU. What a university. (Where are the reporters from The Chronicle of Higher Education or The Boston Globe when they are really needed, when there is a real story to report, not some piece of trash sensationalism? Where is the BU Faculty Council? Too many decades of being cowed, threatened, reviled, or ignored is the answer to that last question, I can only conclude.)

These actions (and others I don't have space to list) have been done with the full knowledge and support of the university Provost and President. [See three other site pages for specific information about the knowledge and involvement of the highest levels of the Boston University administration in these policies of censorship and control: “A Letter to the Boston University Provost—Years of Willful Blindness at the Highest Administrative Levels,” “An Exchange with the President of Boston University—Learning from the Past Or Repeating It,” and the conclusion to “Part 2: Ten Years of Administrative Retaliation for Speaking Up to Defend the Freedom of Academic Expression Inside and Outside the Classroom.”] As page after page of this site documents, Boston University has a long and inglorious history of intolerance of faculty members who have even the smallest inclination to think with their own brains or to act (or speak up) according to their own ethical principles--and a history of punishing them financially and bureaucratically if they dare to question the controls placed on them. More than forty years. And, as my personal experience abundantly testifies, past policies unfortunately continue right up into the present.

In my personal case, when I’ve expressed reservations about recent administrative intolerance as having a disastrously chilling effect on academic free expression, and spoken out about the de facto administrative negation of the protections of the tenure system, I’ve had my classes moved to impossible days, times, and rooms, my evaluations drastically lowered, my pay docked, my research and travel funding (and of course my research assistants) taken away, and--most egregiously of all to my mind--students have been told not to take classes with me by a Dean, a Chairman, and a program Director. [There’s too much to say about each of these punitive actions, and they have taken too many different forms, and extended over too many years, to describe them all in detail here and now, but I document the retaliatory actions taken against me by my program Director, Chairman, and Dean in many other sections of this site. For a general discussion, see "Parts 1 and 2" of the section titled "Ten Years of Administrative Retaliation...." and the "Letter to the Boston University Provost....," which are available via the side menu. For more specifics about how university administrators cynically used students as pawns in their attempts to undermine and discredit me, see: "Lynch Mobs--Secret and Surreptitious Meetings to Foment Students Against a Teacher," "Playing with Souls/Death Threats--Cynical Administrative Power-games," and the "Letter to the University Ombuds--Events That Almost Defy Belief...." Those last three sections of the site describe, with more specificity and detail, how the College of Communication Dean, the Chairman of the Film and Television Department, the Film Studies Program Director, and a few other BU administrators and faculty members, over a period of years, held a series of secret and surreptitious meetings with students, as part of an orchestrated campaign of character-assassination, to attack my teaching, ideas, and publications, and make the performance of my teaching and mentoring duties impossible. There were more than 30 years of similar (and well-documented) retaliatory actions against independent-minded faculty during the John Silber era, and the old guard, of whom there are still many in positions of administrative power in the university, blithely continues his policies in the administration that follows his, the current administration. Silber corrupted the entire university culture with his appointments and policies, and as any MBA student learns in his first semester of study, the culture of a bureaucracy, once established, is extremely resistant to change. Old ways of thinking and doing things die hard. Old administrators take a long time to retire.]

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.

For doing those things, starting seven or eight years ago, I became, in my Dean’s, my Chairman’s, and my program Director’s minds, persona non grata. Since I was tenured, they couldn’t fire me outright, but the BU motto is where there is a will there is a way. If they couldn’t fire me, they could make the conditions of my job so untenable that I would quit. And, as I noted above, if I won’t resign voluntarily, plan B was to use the Rappaport matter as a pretext to take away my tenure and force me out. (That was the meaning of my Chairman’s attempt, for the tenth or twentieth time in the past few years, to persuade me to quit at the big Rappaport meeting, and the reason for his frustration that I wouldn’t listen to reason and continued to work at BU no matter how he punished me.)

It’s a BU administrative policy that a faculty member who doesn’t toe the line can be forced out, one way or another, whether he his tenured or not. If tenure is in play, the conditions of his or her job can be made so miserable (pedagogically, bureaucratically, and financially) that the faculty member will quit even with tenure. Tell students not to take his classes; cut his pay; marginalize his research; yell at him in meetings; and he will resign. If the abuse and punishment stick doesn’t turn the trick, the carrot of an early retirement package can be offered to get him to agree to quit. My Dean has tried both tactics with me—notwithstanding the fact that I am demonstrably one of the most highly published and world-famous scholars in the entire university and, at least according to my student evaluations, one of the best teachers my students have ever had. I simply refuse to give these administrators the satisfaction of having succeeded in pushing me out in such an underhanded way.

I honestly believe I am fighting the good fight—a deeply moral and ethical struggle for the future of Boston University as an institution and for the good of future faculty members who deserve to be able to speak their minds without fear or retaliation, and to be treated respectfully as professionals. I have given the best (or should I say the worst?) part of my career to serving Boston University and trying to raise its academic, intellectual, and ethical standards. The students and faculty deserve better than the current administration.

We know what much of corporate America is like; we know about the corruption of the political system; but it is a sad situation when one can’t look to a university for more principled responses—or for more respect for its faculty. When I think of the way I’ve been treated over the Rappaport matter, I wonder how Boston University would respond to real pressure—the kind of pressure that Joseph McCarthy applied to American universities in the early 1950s. Based on my experience, BU administrators would have told a faculty member to think of the PR implications for the university if he or she didn’t cooperate and go-along with McCarthy’s reign of terror. I am not equating my situation with the McCarthy years, but it has to give one pause to realize that Boston University is so intimidated by two con-men and a bunch of twenty-year olds who glom onto an internet petition about something they have no first-hand knowledge about.


Let me end with a semi-comical postscript: I don’t remember the date, but a decade or more ago, Boston University was put in a similar situation to the one I was put in with Rappaport. The university had been given a group of Martin Luther King documents back in the 1960s, I think it was, and years later Coretta Scott King wanted to rescind the gift to be able to deposit the papers elsewhere. BU fought her tooth and nail to defend its ownership, and eventually beat her in court. Funny that the university never worried about the PR implications when it was defending its own interests—only when a faculty member attempts to defend his. Good old BU.

Ray Carney is Professor of Film at Boston University. He is the author of ten books, translated into seven languages, and more than one hundred essays. 

* * *
Appendix A

The complete text of my 2007 web site posting (which is still visible in its complete and unchanged form on my suppressed and frozen BU faculty web site), a posting that Rappaport admits to being familiar with and, in fact, has quoted from on numerous occasions. It directly contradicts his account of what happened. I describe the conditions of its posting in the following paragraphs, and quote it in its entirety below.--R.C.

Beyond the telephone conversations, the meeting in New York City, the email threads, and the notes included in the shipment itself, there is one more confirmation of the free-for-me-to-own-and-use, “gifted” nature of the material Mark Rappaport sent. It is in a posting on my official BU faculty web site, back in 2007, long before there was any reason for me to shade my account of this material in any way, since there had been no dispute about the fact that I owned it. (And would continue to be no dispute about my ownership and control of the material until April 2012, seven and a half years after its transfer in early 2005.)

The background to the posting is as follows. First point: Approximately a year after the receipt of the material, I made arrangements to build and outfit a special space to hold the material in better conditions than I was previously able to provide. I spent a significant amount of time, effort, and money on the project. I also spent a significant amount of time, effort, and money cleaning and, where necessary, repairing the films. My total expenditures, extending over many years, on what I half-jokingly often referred by saying "I am the Mark Rappaport archive,” were in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Second point: in 2005, 2006, and 2007, I had mentioned Rappaport’s gift of his films and other materials to me to a large number of friends, acquaintances, and email correspondents. That meant that by early 2007 I had received several inquires about whether I might make the films available for theatrical or classroom screenings, or might screen the material myself at some point (in public or in my classroom). I either did not reply (or replied negatively) to these inquiries, first, since I judged them to be not important, and second (as noted in the preceding paragraph) since I was too busy attending to the care and restoration of the works to worry about the next step. However some time in 2007, I received what I regarded as a high-level serious rental inquiry and decided that I needed to formulate a general response to save me the time of responding to each request individually. I informed Rappaport of the most recent request in detail (quoting it in its entirety to him), and reminding him, strictly as a formality since there was no dispute about it and we were in complete agreement, about our understanding that I had his permission to do whatever I wanted with the material. After consultation with him, and with his full knowledge and awareness, I then made the following web posting to announce my decision not to rent the material out for individual screenings, but only for more important institutional retrospectives.

The important point in all this is that Rappaport had (and to this day, continues to have) full knowledge of the posting on my web site (and in fact was consulted about it). As evidence of his knowledge, he referred to the posting in several subsequent conversations with me, and actually quoted excerpts from it several of his summer 2012 court filings and his fall 2012 internet postings. However, to my astonishment and dismay—both in his court filings and his internet postings—he completely reverses the meaning of the posting on my web site by means of highly selective quotation—where the most important parts of the text are omitted, and the meaning of other parts are grossly distorted by being cited only in isolated phrases and excerpts.

I give the complete, unaltered, unedited text of the 2007 posting (which never was changed or removed from my faculty web site). The only change I have made, to simplify reading it in the current situation (and to indicate how the text clearly supports my position about the “gifted” nature of the material, and completely refutes Rappaport’s “temporary storage and return” 2012 change in his account of the gift he had made me), is that I have bolded a number of the relevant phrases.

As I say above, the posting was written in response to a question I received from a man asking if I could tell him how to rent Rappaport’s films for screening. I reply by telling him that the films are not available for rental and go on to describe Rappaport’s gift of the material to me and my creation of a space to house it. 


Mark Rappaport doesn't distribute his work any more. He left the country about two years ago and had stopped renting prints even before that. It was a losing proposition, like so many indie situations. And now that he's left the country, there is not even the chance for a special exception. No more rentals, alas. I'm not sure you know: At this point, he lives in Paris. As you undoubtedly realize, shipping prints in and out of the US from France would be virtually impossible, given all the customs and shipping paperwork involved. But that isn't even a possibility since he doesn't now have any prints in his possession. He gave them to me. I have them. He just couldn't take all that stuff to Paris with him. It would have been too much to ship and store there.

Let me explain what happened. Did you know the following? Mark is a great friend and gave me almost everything he owned when he left New York for France? Thousands of pages and box after box of material. So I am now the "Mark Rappaport Archive." I have the largest collection of material by him in the world: file cabinets and storage bins full of amazing things: production notebooks, film prints, rough drafts, revisions, scripts, film stock, DVDs, tapes, notes, jottings, journals, etc. etc. etc. It's a dream come true for me and one of the major film collections by one of the world's greatest artists. All being preserved for posterity at any cost. (Just like my rare Cassavetes material--both unknown film material and scripts and notebooks.) But, alas, I am not a rental operation, and can't possibly deal with sending things out and tending to the paperwork and cleaning prints and repairing splices, etc. (Let alone the risk of losing the only print of something, the only copy I have.) So my massive collection is of no use at all for your purposes. Mark is one of cinema's greatest living artists and I would love to make all of this material available to a museum or film archive for a massive retrospective "show" of Mark's work, notebooks, scripts, etc., but I just can't send individual films out to movie theaters for one-time bookings.


 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….” 

The first two are statements that the material was a gift, and the second two are clear assertions that I now own and control the use of the physical objects: In addition, near the end of the second paragraph, there is a fifth statement that reinforces my claim of ownership. I refer to the films and other material as “my massive collection…..” —not his collection, and not anyone else’s (like BU’s).

My statement that the Rappaport material is “just like my rare Cassavetes material” is one more confirmation of my statement that the Rappaport material was gifted, once the facts are known about the reference. (Both Rappaport himself and most of the visitors to my site reading this posting would know the facts of the very famous Cassavetes material.) Here are the facts: The filmmaker John Cassavetes gave me film material shortly before his death. It was given to me, free and clear, with no strings attached, and with no qualifications in the gift, to use as I saw fit. It was not loaned to me or sent with the expectation of ever being returned to him or his estate. In our early conversations, Rappaport knew about the Cassavetes gift (as did thousands of other people), and, in fact, back in 2005, told me that one of the reasons he thought of me to receive his gift of film material—the reason he thought I would agree to accept it as a gift—was because he knew I had already accepted a similar body of material as a gift from the other filmmaker.

Note that, at the end of the web site posting I make yet a sixth assertion of my personal ownership of, and my right to show, the Rappaport material as follows: “I would love to make all of this material available to a museum or film archive for a massive retrospective ‘show’ of Mark's work, notebooks, scripts, etc.” I could not say this if the material and permission to screen it had not been given to me free and clear. I would have had to talk about not me, but about Mark Rappaport “making the material available.” I would have had to refer any screening offers to him, not solicited them myself, as I am clearly doing here. But I didn’t need to do that, since the 2005 thread of emails includes several where Rappaport explicitly conveys the rights not only to physically own, but to show and screen or otherwise use, the material to me—an assurance I asked for from him to be able to do what I state my intention to do at the end of this posting.

In summary, the entire statement exactly as I quote it above (but without the bolding) was posted six years ago (in 2007) and was called to Rappaport’s attention shortly after it was posted—and Rappaport never once objected in any way to the phrasing or assertions in the posting. He never asked me to take it down from the web site, or change it in any way. He never told me I was misrepresenting the nature of the “gift” from him to me. He never told me that I was mistaken in referring to the material as being “mine.” He never objected to my comparison of the status of his film gift with the earlier film gift from Cassavetes. He never disputed my right to make arrangements to screen the films in a festival—nor objected to anything else in the posting.

Rappaport’s use of extended excerpts from this posting in both his 2012 court filings and his more recent internet postings on the Jost web site shows that he, in fact, continues to be familiar with this posting—which he has, even up to now, never taken issue with. He is apparently convinced that no one who reads the distorted (and highly selective) quotations he borrows from it will take the time to actually consult the full text to see that, in fact, in its complete form, it does not confirm but invalidates his claim to own this material, and to have had an agreement with me for its return. The web site text shows that is the opposite of the truth, and that that he knew it all along.

* * *
Appendix B

The complete text of an email I wrote to Mark Rappaport in the summer of 2012, attempting to work out an arrangement to return all of the material to him, if he will simply agree to pay a small part of the costs I had incurred to store and preserve it—costs that would have been less than the legal costs he incurred to bully and threaten me. Note that I was willing to lose a significant amount of money in the exchange (thousands of dollars), was willing to take a financial bath, simply as an act of friendship and kindness. I was being extremely generous in an attempt to be kind to him. He rejected my offer. —R.C.

Monday August 20, 2012
Subject: extending my hand, if I may

I haven’t told my lawyer that I am writing this (I'm not sure if he would want me to), but wanted to make a personal offer, man-to-man, to you. I wanted to tell you I’d be glad to return everything for less than I would assume you are, or will be, spending on lawyer’s fees to attempt to get it. (And not to raise a sore point, or launch a debate over the facts, which I am willing to let speak for themselves, but I’m not at all convinced that the legal path will lead to success in any case. I have ample documentation of the “gifted/discarded” nature of the material I paid to Fedex to myself back in 2005.) But I’m not writing to debate that point. I simply wanted to say that, as an act of genuine friendship and honest support for you and your work (yes, I still think it is important work!), I am willing to tear up those documents, transfer ownership back to you, and ship everything back for a modest consideration, simply to cover my costs and the time and trouble of having stored the material for the past seven-and-a-half years. That way you’d have everything in your hands in one simple step, in the very near future. I’m sure I’m not the first person to conclude that this court method is not the best—or fastest and most efficient!—way of doing things. (And it sure isn’t the most fun way I can imagine spending my summer!) Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that. You can reach me at this email account (I almost never check any of the other old ones), or you can call me at xxx-xxx-xxxx. I sincerely wish you well and am genuinely sorry that this issue has come between us.


Ray Carney
Prof. of Film and American Studies
Boston University
* * *
Appendix C

My reply to my Dept. of Film and Television Chairman Paul Schneider’s accusations, summarizing the Rappaport situation as it stood in September 2012, and reiterating for the record: 1) my highly ethical and principled conduct in every respect; and 2) my commitment to “take the high road” in the face of Rappaport and Jost’s numerous false accusations against me—my decision not to call them names back, not to post incendiary counter-accusations on the internet, not to sling mud, and not to make nasty and slanderous personal statements about them in public. In a word, not to do any of the things they were doing to me. No matter how badly they behaved, I wanted to be better than that--and not to stoop to their level of maliciousness and nastiness, to the sorts of accusations and slanderous statements they had indulged in. As evidence of that, note that I asked that even this email describing their conduct as “knowingly false and willfully malicious” be kept private and confidential and not be used against them, publicly released, or posted on the internet. I wanted to behave better than they were behaving. I maintained my silence for more than six months. —R.C.

From: Ray Carney
Date: September 21, 2012 2:27:10 PM EDT
To: Chairman Paul Schneider, Dean Thomas Fiedler, Provost Jean Morrison
Subject: Rappaport


I have been traveling and without access to an internet connection—as you may know, I own no portable devices, not even a cell phone—so I was unaware of your emails (and for some reason never received the phone messages you left). I am genuinely sorry you have had to devote any time to the silly, stupid, and completely groundless Rappaport accusations. To answer the questions implied in your note to me:

1. With respect to statements to the effect that I have not returned personal property owned by Mr. Rappaport: I hold none of Mr. Rappaport’s property. Insofar as he has represented otherwise, his statements are knowingly false (and willfully malicious).

2. With respect to the implication that I might be guilty of a violation of University ethical policies or principles: None of Mr. Rappaport’s (false and malicious) claims have any connection with my academic position or the performance of my duties at Boston University. If he has represented otherwise, those statements too are knowingly false (and willfully malicious).

3. I certify more generally, for the record, that I have behaved in all of my dealings with Mr. Rappaport, in every respect and over the course of many years, with the highest degree of integrity, honesty, truthfulness, fairness, kindness, and generosity. I have adhered to (and continue to adhere to) the highest possible ethical standards in my dealings with him in every respect (including, I might add, not descending to his level, down into the mud to call him names, slander him, or make counter-accusations against him, publicly or privately, in response to his relentlessly and knowingly false, malicious, and slanderous statements against me).

4. I might add, parenthetically, as a bit of a reality-check: If I were, in fact, guilty of the kind of flagrant misappropriation of property that Mr. Rappaport claims I am guilty of, the legal system is abundantly available to him to prosecute his claims, and would grant him more than ample redress if his complaints had any validity. The fact that there is no present or pending legal claim against me for the return of property should indicate the unsubstantiated nature of Mr. Rappaport’s representations (and the reason he has chosen to resort instead to name-calling, slander, and misrepresentation to achieve what he cannot achieve through the production of evidence and taking of testimony).

Since legal action against Mr. Rappaport for his statements about me is contemplated, it is not appropriate for me to make further or more detailed statements about this issue. But I repeat, emphatically, that I have adhered to (and continue to adhere to) the highest possible ethical principles both in the performance of my duties at Boston University and in my personal dealings with Mr. Rappaport (and everyone else).

To save you trouble, I am carboning Provost Morrison and Dean Fiedler with this response. In line with my continuing ethical commitment to “take the high road,” and not conduct a war of counter-accusations against Mr. Rappaport in public or private—and additionally not to open myself to the kind of selective misquotation and wholesale misrepresentation that Mr. Rappaport has previously employed against me to falsify the meaning of past communications with him or others—I would ask that you not otherwise circulate or publish this email, which is intended to be read only by the recipients and other, directly involved, senior Boston University officials.

Best wishes,
Ray Carney
Prof. of Film and American Studies
Boston University

Author or editor of: Henry Adams, Mount Saint Michel and Chartres (Viking Penguin), Henry James, What Maisie Knew and The Spoils of Poynton (New American Library/Signet), Rudyard Kipling, Kim (New American Library), The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism and the Movies (Cambridge University Press); The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World (Cambridge University Press); Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer (Cambridge University Press); American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra (Cambridge University Press); American Dreaming (University of California Press at Berkeley); Shadows (British Film Institute/Macmillan); Cassavetes on Cassavetes (Faber and Faber/Farrar, Straus); The Adventure of Insecurity; Necessary Experiences; Why Art Matters; and other books, essays, and editions, translated into many languages.

Official university web site: (the content censored, and the site officially closed to future posting by Boston University in 2008)

* * *
Appendix D

Late Breaking news…. Hot off the press…. A late addition to the posting on this page: I was recently interviewed by a journalist who writes for, Eric Kohn. On the evening of March 27, 2013, he relayed a new blackmail threat from Mark Rappaport. Under the guise of making me the proverbial offer I couldn’t refuse (the offer being to stop telling lies about me in postings on the internet and statements to journalists), Rappaport told me that if I did not notify his lawyer that I would be turning over all of the material I owned to the lawyer, the “dogs of war”—Rappaport’s personal description of the internet postings and statements he has made to the press—would continue to be unleashed against me, in his ongoing campaign to destroy my reputation, my career, and my life. The offer I couldn’t refuse was that the only way to stop “the dogs of war” from continuing to be sicced on me was for me to “immediately” tell his lawyer that I was turning all of the work in my possession over to him. (As I suggest in the lengthy posting at the top of this page, the involvement of the lawyer in these threatened acts of slander—if the lawyer was indeed involved—is potentially grounds for disbarment. For the lawyer’s sake, since he was included both in last night's message and in the previous even more explicitly threatening extortion notes, I hope Rappaport was tendering the threats and involving him without his knowledge or permission.)

My reply to Mr. Kohn follows. I share it with my readers for any value it may have in explaining my personal feelings about Rappaport’s thuggery. I say I feel sorry for Mark, and I truly do. He's painted himself into such a corner with all the different stories he's told about who he sent the material to and what he wanted done with it. Was it sent to BU? To me? For long-term storage? For short-term storage? As a temporary loan? As a deposit in the Boston University film collection? To be shown in my classes? Not to be shown in my classes? To be taken care of by me? Not to be taken care of by me? What? What? What? The different stories go on and on and on. There are just too many to keep them straight, or to defend each of them. Not to mention that they contradict each other. I feel sorry for his story-telling predicament at this point. What's the Shakespeare quote? I think it goes something like "What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive....." 

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.

From: Ray Carney
Date: March 27, 2013
To: Eric Kohn
Subject: RE: Ray Carney interview for Indiewire

Good to talk to you too, Eric.

Mark has to deal with his own conscience. The "L'Affaire Rappaport" page on my "Inside Boston University" blog outlines the numerous misrepresentations (every one of them knowingly false and willfully malicious—Mark knows that he is not telling the truth) that he has had recourse to, and how many times his story and threats have changed from month to month—since telling the simple truth won't suffice. I see from the last two paragraphs of the so-called "offer" he has relayed to you that it is really just another veiled (or not-so-veiled) set of threats, the tenth or twentieth or hundredth in a series of threats. That's all he has available to him. Threats. Nothing surprising about that of course. There are no documents, no email exchanges, no evidence to support his silly stories—stories that don't even pass the "common sense test" (as I call it in the blog posting). Threats, slander, cyber-bullying, petitions, and extortion are the weapons of someone who doesn't have the truth, the facts on his side. But he's tangled himself up in so many lies (and so many different, changing stories) that continuing them is apparently the only path available to him, and more threats are the only way he seems to be able to interact with me, even now. It's really too bad. I will never give in to threats or blackmail. I'm not that kind of person (and Mark should have realized that months ago). He himself must, by now, feel a bit sheepish at all the lies he has had to tell—and about all the mud-slinging and name-calling and bully-boy behavior he has indulged in. Surely he thinks better of himself than his behavior has indicated. But, of course, I wish Mark well personally. I just feel a little sorry for the hole he's dug for himself at this point.

As I told you, the "burden of proof" for a name-caller, threatener, cyber-bully is on the name-caller, threatener, cyber-bully. Where are the "loan and return" agreements and emails? Where are the "storage and preservation" documents? Where are the "this material is being deposited in the Boston University film collection" statements or agreements? Where is the repudiation of what I posted on my web site? Where are the proofs of my perjury, deceit, lying? The answer is not far to seek: There are no documents, emails, proofs for Rappaport to cite, since there are none. He has made it all up. Just like he has made up more or less everything else in his postings. Not a provable fact in any of them. It's all one big fairy tale, and (most disgracefully of course) evidence of his personal willingness to name-call, mud-sling, threaten, and do every other immoral and unethical thing he can imagine to try to get his way, with no regard for the consequences. That's why I say I feel sorry for him. I know he's a better person than his words and actions of the past year demonstrate.

Best wishes again to you.

Ray Carney
Prof. of Film and American Studies
Boston University

"Inside Boston University—A Faculty Member's Efforts to Defend Academic Freedom of Expression" —

Ray Carney's observations about academic freedom of expression, the censorship of faculty publications, and bureaucratic retaliation against independent-minded faculty members at Boston University. Prof. Carney reflects on the deleterious effect of corporate modes of organization, business measures of value, and market pressures on the life of the mind, academic research, and course offerings—and on the distortions corporate values introduce into the faculty promotion, pay, and support system.

Ray Carney is the author or editor of: Henry Adams, Mount Saint Michel and Chartres (Viking Penguin), Henry James, What Maisie Knew and The Spoils of Poynton (New American Library/Signet), Rudyard Kipling, Kim (New American Library); The Films of John Cassavetes: Pragmatism, Modernism and the Movies (Cambridge University Press); The Films of Mike Leigh: Embracing the World (Cambridge University Press); Speaking the Language of Desire: The Films of Carl Dreyer (Cambridge University Press); American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra (Cambridge University Press); American Dreaming (University of California Press at Berkeley); Shadows (British Film Institute/Macmillan); Cassavetes on Cassavetes (Faber and Faber/Farrar, Straus); Autoportraits (Cahiers du cinema), The Adventure of Insecurity; Necessary Experiences; Why Art Matters; and other books, essays, and editions, published in more than ten languages.

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Appendix E

I wanted to share with my readers excerpts from an email I recently wrote Mr. Geoff Edgers, a reporter from the Boston Globe, who interviewed me for an article he was writing about Rappaport’s accusations against me. Mr. Edgers came to my office and spent two hours talking with me. In the course of our interview, I showed him—and gave him time to read—the complete and unedited texts of more than twenty pages of emails Rappaport and I exchanged in early 2005, as well as the texts of several other documents, all of which clearly and unequivocally establish that the material was given to me as a free-and-clear, no-strings-attached gift, with no return stipulated or implied. Two sections of my April 3, 2013, post-interview follow-up email to Mr. Edgers are worth reprinting.

In one section of my email to him, I note that any discussion of the cost of the work I did preserving and storing the material is a red-herring, completely irrelevant to the fundamental issue of the case, which is whether the material was given to me to dispose of as I saw fit or not. The emails and other materials Mr. Edgers saw and read clearly establish that this was in fact the case. How much I spent has absolutely no bearing on the question of ownership. The only reason I myself mention the costs I incurred for storage and preservation of the material in my own account of the events is that those costs are germane to any calculation of the amount I would deserve to be reimbursed if I ever transferred the title and ownership of the material back to Rappaport. (Note that in the following quotation from my email to Mr. Edgers I have removed a direct quotation from one of the emails that I showed Mr. Edgers, which I quoted in my email to him. I have replaced it with a brief summary statement in brackets.)

“… Also, I might add that even though I did put tens of thousands of dollars into storage, preservation, repair, and maintenance of the films and other materials, that nothing depends on that fact. If the material was a gift (as the emails clearly show it was, and you have seen the proof of it in the emails I showed you), even if I had not put a penny into preservation and storage, it would not matter, and not be grounds for return. I was free, completely and totally, free to throw the material out, to sell it, [or to destroy the material] (as one of the emails tells me I am free to do….), if I wanted to. Any preservation of the material I did was totally on my own gesture, and has nothing to do with my right to own and continue to own the material given/presented to me free and clear…. As the emails clearly document in black and white, this material was a free and clear gift I was expressly told I had permission even to destroy. That is in the emails you read. That is why my preservation expenditures have nothing to do with the issue....”

In another part of the email I wrote to Mr. Edgers, I talk about the backward logic of my being asked by journalists to disprove Rappaport’s lies about how I obtained the material. The burden of proof is on him to provide documentation to support any of the numerous, and I might note, conflicting and contradictory, stories he has told about how the material came into my possession—in one version of his story, asserting that I stole the material from him; in another version of the story, asserting that it was sent to me to preserve, protect, and return whenever he stipulated; in another version of his story, asserting that the material was sent not to me, but to Boston University, and that I stole the material not from him but from the university; in one version of the story, asserting that I was allowed to show the material in my classes (as would have necessarily been the case if the films had been deposited in the university film collection, as he told my Chairman); in still another version of the story (the one he told my Dean and other administrators), that I was not allowed to show any of the material in my classes and had violated his rights by screening his work. The different (and conflicting) stories go on beyond those; but I’ll stop there. There are far too many versions of the story for me to keep up with them or list them—let alone to be able to “disprove” each one of them; the burden of proof is on Rappaport to establish the truth of even one of them—something he has never done (and of course can’t do since none of the stories he has told are actually true). Here is the relevant section of the email to Mr. Edgers, where I again allude to the fact that Mr. Edgers has seen documentary evidence that all of Rappaport’s stories are lies.

".... The burden of proof is, in any case, on the accuser. On Rappaport. To prove that this was not a free, clear, outright, and final gift. See the posting I made at the bottom of the blog page, where I say this in longer form. And see the middle of the page entry where I talk about this in terms of the irresponsibility of journalists who incorrectly place "the burden of disproof" on me. The burden is totally and completely on Rappaport to establish that there was some sort of "loan and return," "preserve and restore," "temporary storage," or other arrangement (which now that you have seen the email texts I showed you, you know is a complete falsehood and misrepresentation of the agreement he and I had)."