Professor Douglas Massey
shares his recollections of how Dr. Gil-White was treated at the Asch
BRIEF NOTE from Francisco
Massey is the former chairman of the Sociology Department at the
University of Pennsylvania. He is now Professor of Sociology and Public
Affairs at Princeton University. He is a member of the National Academy
of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and
Past-President of the American Sociological Association and the
Population Association of America.
While still at
Penn, Pr. Massey sometimes came to the Tuesday lecture series at the
Solomon Asch Center, and he was present when I gave my talk, in February
2002, on what really happened in Kosovo.
I have asked Pr. Massey to put in writing what he witnessed that day, so
that interested readers may see whether I have exaggerated or not when
describing the reception I got at the Asch Center for documenting facts
that contradict the official positions of the US government.
The text below is
from an email that Pr. Massey sent me containing his recollections of
that day, and intended for publication. The only correction I would make
to Pr. Massey's testimony is that, as per my own recollection, it is too
favorable to me. I remember that in reaction to the insults which Pr.
Massey records below, I did not remain impassive, and ended up raising
my voice as well. There is only a brief allusion to the resulting
shouting match in Pr. Massey's email below, and none of the
responsibility is laid on me. I think this is a consequence of Pr.
Massey having sympathized with a fellow social scientist whose
documentation of facts had been deemed offensive merely for having
contradicted official US government claims; his sympathy for me may have
tilted Pr Massey's recollection somewhat in my favor.
From: "Douglas S
To: "'Francisco Gil-White'" <fjgil@PSYCH.UPENN.EDU>
Subject: RE: my job
I do remember the talk you gave at the Asch Center on the situation in
Kosovo. You argued that in the period before and immediately after the
break-up of Yuguslavia the Albanians were not really an oppressed
minority, but had been in fact subsidized and granted considerable
political leeway by successive regimes in Belgrade, in order to keep the
union together. The initial impetus toward divisive ethnic politics, you
argued, came from the Albanians who launched a secessionist movement
long before the disintegration of the Yugoslav state. You also pointed
out that the famous "provocative" speech given by Milosovic in Kosovo,
which was widely reported in the west to be full of anti-Albanian and
pro-Serb ethnic appeals, was actually quite conciliatory in its content.
You provided quotes from several independent translations to back up
your assertions and demonstrated the usage of incorrect translations and
misleading extractions in western outlets.
These assertions were, of course, counter to the story line generally
accepted by elite and public opinion in the United States, so I was not
surprised that members of the audience expressed skepticism and asked
questions. But I was truly shocked at how the hostility toward you
escalated as you were able to rebut counter-assertions and document your
statements with concrete references to what seemed to me like credible
sources. During the last portion of the lecture period, people were
shouting at you and questioning both your veracity and integrity as a
scholar without presenting any evidence for their accusations. The
audience wouldn't let you finish your presentation and lay out your
argument, and in the end because of the audience's behavior the talk
disintegrated into something of a shouting match.
I personally was appalled at the way you were treated and recall that I
attempted to intervene to bring some order and let you finish, but to
little effect. I was especially put off by the reception you were
accorded because you had obviously done considerable work on the topic,
had a clear if provocative argument, and knew your sources well. In
terms of its clarity, preparation, logic, and documentation, your
presentation was among the best I had seen in a series that all too
frequently offered truly dismal presentations unsullied by novel ideas,
information, or analysis. I
remember thinking that the comportment of the attendees was wildly at
variance with the usual norms of scholarly courtesy and exchange. I
don't know if your troubles started from this day, but I was certainly
witness to behavior that made me doubt the value of my continued
participation and I began to scale back my attendance at the Asch
Seminar accordingly. To this day, the events of that day leave a bad
taste in my mouth.
Douglas S. Massey
Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs
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