More similarities between the scambloggers and the far right?

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While browsing at the local library yesterday, I came across a book in the “new releases” section: “Blowing Smoke” by Michael Wolraich.  Its subtitle explains it all: “Why the right keeps serving up whack-job fantasies about the plot to euthanize grandma, outlaw Christmas, and turn junior into a raging homosexual.”

Chapter one starts with the following quote from H. L. Mencken: “The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts.”

How apt, I thought.  That’s scamblogging in a nutshell.  The mysterious conspiracy by law schools to take huge amounts of scambloggers’ money and to stop them getting jobs.  And as I continued to read (I’m nowhere near finished), almost every tactic of the far right (Beck, Limbaugh, Robertson and countless friends) parallels the scamblogging movement.  Literally everything.

Most interesting was the section on the “frustration-aggression” theory, which explains the link between paranoia (scamblogging) and economic conditions:

According to the theory, when people are blocked from achieving a desired goal (frustration), they become angry (aggression). But instead of directing their anger toward the source of the frustration, they displace it onto vulnerable targets . . .”

Interesting. The economy is the source of many a law grad’s employment woes (along with the fact that no law school guarantees employment, and everyone who was smart enough to get into law school since the dawn of the Internet knows damn well that regardless of what law school statistics claim, there is no guaranteed job or specific salary waiting at the end of it all.) Yet the frustration of unemployed law grads is diverted to the law schools, with claims that the few cases of slightly-misleading stats (“Look! This school claims 85% employment, but in reality it was 79% employment! I was scammed!) I guess this is logical, since it’s easier to blame failure (or, more accurately, bad luck) on a tangible enemy rather than something as vague as the “economy.”

The true scambloggers – those who fail to see any redeeming qualities in a legal education, or who firmly believe that law schools are part of a huge plot to defraud students and tie them to a life of servitude to huge loans – are waaaay out there with their beliefs. There is very little to support their claims, and you’ll notice that when one minor story is printed in a student newspaper, they all grab onto it and screech “proof! proof!” Mainstream media has avoided this story (for the large part), primarily because it’s a non-story. The scambloggers are pointing at the Emperor and screaming “look! He’s got no clothes on!”, when in reality, he’s missing a button from one of the sleeves of his jacket.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

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17 Responses to More similarities between the scambloggers and the far right?

  1. 3L says:

    Solid post. I’m tired of people trying their hardest to devalue my legal education.

  2. dutchtowner says:

    Nice comparison of scambloggers to the extremists you mention. I had the pleasure of reading Stephen L. Carter’s book ‘Integrity’ a couple years ago and he aptly describes the type things you cite as ‘emotional pornography.’
    “In the desire to shock, they (media) deliberately create provocotive situations, knowing – indeed, I suspect, hoping – that some guests or viewers will fly into the paroxyms of anger, sorrow, pain, guilt, joy, whatever, that make such fabulous television (media).
    Carter goes on to say that while the First Amendment protects it, it is indeed emotional pornography because the media industry understands perfectly well that that is where the money is.”

  3. anon says:


    Great book! And applicable to the extreme of just about everything in the media. I have seen the Third Tier Reality blog and thought the exact same thing. There we have a man who is creating a provocative situation out of nothing in the hope of being the highest rated blog on the subject.

    The problem with taking an extreme position like he has is that it’s hard to back off to a rational and sensible position afterwards. Now he can’t ever approach the subject from the standpoint of ‘yes the system is broken but we can work together to fix the problems’. To do so would immediately discredit the extreme position he has taken. Which is why political candidates like Palin will forever take an extreme unrealistic position towards issues because their base expects it and believes it and the leader cannot take a step back into reality even if they want to.

  4. dutchtowner says:

    Hi anon!

    No doubt ‘Integrity’ is a great read. I do agree also with most of what you said but would note a difference in a political candidate running for office and an elected official who is serving. Case in point would be the campaign promises Obama made vs. the current reality we see. The president is a little more open to negotiation on some issues, and has to be in order to get anything done. I’m quite sure Palin – if ever elected – would float in the same boat.
    But you are on the money with the extreme, shock value junk that the modern, mostly electronic media serves on us daily.

  5. Nando says:

    Hello, Charles Cooper. If you knew anything about the scambloggers, you would realize that most of us are neither tea party hacks, nor fans of talk radio. (Is this the current talking point, by the industry – or is this your own particular lie, Charles?) By the way, it appears that YOU have a direct stake in continuing the broken law school model. The scambloggers, on the other hand, do not have anything riding on this. If more lemmings want to take out $120K for a TTTT law degree, it does not add one cent to my student loans. Did you miss this, in your “analysis”?

    Law school teaches little of value. For instance, does the Socratic Method really benefit students? We are still operating under this mode, in place since Christopher Columbus Langdell, because it is cost-effective for the law schools. Pack in 70 students to a first-year class with one “professor.” No need for huge expenses. Anybody who has been to law school knows that these units are cash cows.

    By the way, Charles, quite a few “law professors” openly support of the basic premises of these blogs – even if some have not actually endorsed these sites. Brian Tamanaha (Washington U. of St. Louis), Lucille Jewel (The John Marshall Law School), J. Gordon Hylton (Marquette), Richard Sander (UCLA), William Henderson (Indiana-Bloomington), Herwig Schlunk (Vanderbilt) and Erik Gerding (U. of New Mexico) come to mind. In respective order:

    On July 30, 2010 9:24 pm, Gordon Hylton wrote:

    “For a thought-provoking (and sobering) blog devoted to the realities of legal education in the 21st century, one should check out Third Tier Reality

    To commenter “3L”:

    The ones devaluing your degree are the law schools who keep churning out too many graduates for the available number of attorney positions. Get mad at the schools for charging $30K+ per year in tuition, for a substandard product.

    The law school Class of 2009 had 44,000 graduates. And ONLY 28,901 jobs required bar passage. Do you understand over-production, and the effects thereof?! Since you seem to agree with Charles Cooper, presumably you do not comprehend this basic concept.

  6. Nando says:

    “Mainstream media has avoided this story (for the large part), primarily because it’s a non-story.”

    Did you ever stop to consider that for-profit schools, colleges and universities provide a lot of ad revenue for dying newspapers and magazines?! It doesn’t make too much sense (pun intended) for one to alienate a steady source of ad space, does it, Charles? I suppose you simply assumed that the mainstream media will cover anything that is news. By the way, mainstream media – and talk radio – publish reams of rubbish. Unless, YOU feel that unending coverage of the upcoming royal wedding is truly remarkable, that is.

    From September 24, 2007, the conservative Wall Street Journal published a piece entitled “Hard Case: Job Market Wanes for U.S. Lawyers.”

    From September 2, 2009:
    “Dan Slater, a former litigator, argues that there are too many places at too many law schools, especially with the current hiring slump at law firms.”
    From November 13, 2009, the WSJ published an article highlighting Vanderbilt Law professor Herwig Schlunk’s economic paper, which concludes that law school is not a good investment for most students.
    Look at this critical – and accurate – op-ed piece in the LA Times, from January 8, 2010. In the end, look at the sources I cited – and compare them to your idiotic assumptions, assertions, and suppositions.
    Check out this piece, from NYT reporter David Segal. It is from January 8, 2011 and is entitled, “Is Law School a Losing Game?” If you even bother to read the article, you will see some choice quotes from law professor William Henderson at Indiana University. He has noted the bi-modal distribution of recent JDs. Unlike you, he has a backbone.
    When you are done publishing nonsense, and talking out of your rectum, you should check these pieces out. You may not like my tone – and maybe it offends your sensibilities. However, student debt and shrinking job prospects are serious issue. This is not an academic debate on the topic of Roman military history.

    Develop some integrity and a stronger stomach, Charles.

  7. NTLAdmin says:

    No, it’s a non-story.

    But even were I to admit that there’s a story here, the mainstream media has ignored it because to cover it would be to publish a story in which a source is your blog with its pics of shit and its insults. Indeed, that’s why you’re never mentioned in these articles (which I have read, and have been reading for years, probably long before you even graduated from law school – or undergrad, perhaps?) There is no way on earth any editor at the NYT, WSJ, LAT or other reputable publication would risk its reputation by using you as a source. You may have the most valuable information in the world, but you’re too “out there” for the mainstream to touch.

    You’ve found five articles, all of which I have read. A whole five articles. Spanning basically five years. An average of one article per year. And even in those articles, the subject isn’t that law school is a waste of time; it’s that law school isn’t a golden ticket to a stable, lucrative career. But we knew this all along – even since the 1990s, when I was getting involved in law school, I knew that there was a significant risk.

    The problem is that this isn’t news. There have always been unemployed law grads. Yes, there’s even been downturns since I’ve been involved in this game. Granted, not as bad as right now, but the arguments aren’t new. The economy is the main cause of the current lack of jobs, regardless of who you ask. Should every college – not just law schools – reduce its intake of students by 50% simply so that every grad can have a better shot at a job? (You may say “yes!”, but we’re trying to keep this discussion grounded in reality and I won’t even address why that would be a ridiculous suggestion. Perhaps we should kick poor performers in high school out at age 16 too?)

    I know full well that rising student debt is a problem, but it’s not shrinking job prospects – it’s an economic downturn – that’s the cause of low employment numbers in law grads. You might want to start focusing less on yourself and more on the wider issues; law school isn’t the be-all and end-all of debt/unemployment problems in the US.

    By the way, my integrity is fine. My stomach, I’ll admit, could use some strengthening in order to digest some of the visual, verbal and intellectual crap you’re mistaking for a blog over at Third Tier Reality.

  8. NTLAdmin says:

    “By the way, Charles, quite a few “law professors” openly support of the basic premises of these blogs – even if some have not actually endorsed these sites.”

    And there’s one key point – “even if some have not actually endorced these sites.” Even I support the basic premises of some scamblogs – that there is a huge debt problem (not just in law students, but in college students as a whole), and that there is an oversupply of law grads. But you’d know that if you had read my writing without prejudice, right? (I also endorse some of the law blogs that have mistakenly categorized themselves as “scamblogs”, when they are, in reality, “cautionary blogs” – the fine blog “Shilling Me Softly” is one such site, and is far too good to be associating with the low end of the scamblog market).

    “The law school Class of 2009 had 44,000 graduates. And ONLY 28,901 jobs required bar passage. Do you understand over-production, and the effects thereof?!”

    Great analysis. So there’s only jobs for 65% of law school grads. Compared to college grads as a whole, law grads are getting off rather easy! Again, one of the flaws of your financial analysis of law school is that you assume that every single law student wants to practice law. Remember that this is “nontradlaw”, where there’s plenty of successful, mature individuals who have decided that a legal education is something they want to do for their own benefit and enjoyment, or because they can use it in their current careers, or for many other reasons other than taking a brand new job created for a brand new law grad.

    Read my post on the movie “Conviction” – it might explain a lot.

  9. Nando says:

    Charles Cooper wrote:

    “There is no way on earth any editor at the NYT, WSJ, LAT or other reputable publication would risk its reputation by using you as a source. ”

    “Avoid this overpriced sewer pit as if your life depended on it,” writes the anonymous author of the blog Third Tier Reality — a reference to the second-to-bottom tier of the U.S. News rankings — in a typically scatological review. “Unless, of course, you think that you will be better off with $110k-$190k in NON-DISCHARGEABLE debt for a degree that qualifies you to wait tables at the Battery Park Bar and Lounge.”

    That’s a choice quote, in the New York Times, isn’t it?

    I’m sorry you had your ass handed to you on your own blog, but it brought it upon yourself. Do you ever get tired of just relying on your opinion, to make a point?!

  10. Nando says:

    “Great analysis. So there’s only jobs for 65% of law school grads. Compared to college grads as a whole, law grads are getting off rather easy!”

    Yeah, taking out an additional $131,800, $104,787 or even $76,155 in NON-DISCHARGEABLE debt for a law degree – with no intention of practicing law – is financially wise, right?! Law students are also effectively taking themselves out of the job market for an additional 2.5-3 years. Look up “opportunity costs,” you financial illiterate. A college grad with $23K in student loans making $35K is better off than a JD who makes $42K, with $110K in student debt. At least, with regards to being in a position to reasonably pay back his student loans.

    Check out former Biglaw associate and current psychotherapist Will Meyerhofer’s take on how non-law employers view job applicants who hold JDs:

    “But there’s a bigger, broader problem with switching careers when you have the letters JD after your name: people hate lawyers.

    Why do they hate lawyers? A bunch of reasons.

    If you are a real person in the outside world, the word “lawyer” means obstruction. The phrase “run it past Legal” means you might as well give up, ’cause it’s never gonna happen. Exciting business ventures ooze to a standstill like a sabre-toothed tiger in the La Brea Tar Pits. Some risk-adverse dweeb in a suit will spout dire warnings to you about unlikely contingencies until nothing seems like it’s any fun anymore.

    Lawyer means pretentious – socially awkward losers with fancy degrees telling you what to do when they’ve never run a business in their lives.

    Lawyer means threats. “You’ll hear from my lawyer” is the worst thing you can say to another person. And lawyers love to write threatening letters – it’s what they do best. That’s why lawyer is synonymous with wasted time and wasted money.

    Lawyer means annoyance. Lawyer means hassles. Lawyer means a total void of common sense. Lawyer means expensive, with little to show for it.”

  11. Nando says:

    “Law school tuition has tripled in just 15 years. Annual tuition at Yale, Columbia, and Berkeley will likely top $50,000 by next year. Add $20,000 per year in living expenses, and the total cost of becoming a lawyer at these institutions will be $210,000. (That’s not counting the cost of an undergraduate degree.) Other law schools are not far behind (New York Law School projects an annual cost of $67,615).

    The negative consequences for individuals and for society of the extraordinary price of entry to the legal profession will become more apparent over time. And it all happened under our watch.”

    Professor Tamanaha was inspired to write this Balkan piece, shortly after visiting TTR and other scamblogs. I suppose it pains you to see how popular these sites have become. Oh well. That happens when you publish the facts.

  12. NTLAdmin says:

    Yes, you handed my ass to me by showing that your blog was referred to in the introduction to an article, rather than as one of the main sources relied upon. You must be so proud that your contribution to the article was something about a “sewer pit”.

    The point still stands – you were being used as an example, not a source. I doubt the author of that article contacted you for your opinion.

  13. NTLAdmin says:

    You miss the point – a legal education (and any education, for that matter) is far more than a means to a higher salary. And for many nontrads and traditional students, the money isn’t what drives them to law school.

  14. NTLAdmin says:

    Yup. You’re absolutely right once again.

    Nando? Are you and Charlie Sheen the same person? After all, you’re both delusionally convinced that everyone else is absolutely wrong!

  15. NTLAdmin says:

    (Note my three responses above are to Nando’s three comments respectively).

    Can you address the issue of the importance of the economic downturn to the legal hiring market, Nando, instead of repetively blaming law schools for this mess? Does it really come second to your belief that law schools are scamming everyone?

    I mean really?

  16. Nando says:

    Anyone with an IQ above room temperature realizes that your three (now four) comments were in response to my remarks. Thanks for the clarification, Charles.

    From Professor Tamanaha’s Balkin piece:

    “This dismal situation was not created by the current recession—which merely spread the pain up the chain into the lower reaches of elite schools. This has been going on for years.”

    This has been my point, since the inception of my blog. No, the law schools did not create the overall recession/new economy. However, they are AWARE of the situation and yet continue to enroll ever-larger class sizes. How is that responsible? (Wait. You will retort, “They don’t have an obligation to report accurate data. The burden falls on the student to do his research.”) In anticipation of that reply, I will note that the burden already falls completely on the one least able to bear it, i.e. the student.

    For some reason, the authors of this Cornell Journal of Law & Public Policy article cited to TTR, in note 260. Somehow, Cornell saw fit to print it. The main point of the piece is that the burden should be borne by those who profit the most from the system, i.e. the banks and law schools.

  17. anon says:

    you continually suggest that the student is blameless. the information is out there for any students who care to find it and it is not hard to find.

    what is your suggestion? close all the lower ranked law schools? who are you to decide whether people go to law school or not?

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