University of Rhode Island labor historian Erik Loomis has garnered a lot of conservative attention in the last few days.
After the Newtown shootings, Loomis tweeted that he wanted “Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick.” (LaPierre is the head of the NRA.) Though this statement was obviously metaphorical, some high-profile conservatives pounced on it, and gave it a lot of attention. Loomis has since been visited by the police and called in for a meeting with his dean. You can find the whole story — along with an ever-growing list of Loomis’s academic supporters — here.
The whole thing would be silly if it weren’t potentially so damaging to Loomis’s career.
How silly? Well, there’s this, for starters. Robert Stacy McCain has been one of the more vocal conservative bloggers on the Loomis beat. As part of his campaign, he invited someone named “Badger Pundit” to guest post about Loomis’s dissertation — a history of union organizing among loggers in the Pacific Northwest.
That post wound up giving prominent play to a few paragraphs in which Loomis discussed homosexuality among early 20th century loggers. Unsure what to make of the discussion, but eager to pass it along, Badger Pundit quoted liberally from the brief passage, linked to the Monty Python “Lumberjack Song,” then tossed in an aside about how reading the material left him feeling like “I needed a shower.”
But not as classy as commenter Danby, who opined that given the sleeping arrangements in logging camps of the era, any “homosexuals” among the loggers “would soon be found out and beaten with axe handles within an inch of their worthless lives.”
That comment has at the time of this writing received nine upvotes and just one lonely downvote. It’s also attracted a reply from Badger Pundit himself, who called it “fascinating,” “a great read,” and “a real contribution to the understanding of U.S. history.”
To recap: Calling for a political enemy’s “head on a stick” is a firing offense. Imagining gays “beaten with axe handles within an inch of their worthless lives” is just good writing.