January 22, 2006


Sham neo-Nazi finds himself between a Reich and a hard place (Paul Mulshine, January 19, 2006, Newark Star-Ledger)

Jacques Pluss has accomplished the impossible. He has managed to get himself hated by everyone. [...]

Pluss did this with an unprecedented -- some would say nutty -- piece of guerrilla theater that just came to light the other day. At this time last year, Pluss was a quiet and otherwise unremarkable part- time history teacher at the Fairleigh Dickinson University campus in Teaneck. Then in March, the student newspaper received a mysterious letter postmarked from a small village in Ireland. The letter alleged that Pluss was a member of a neo-Nazi group in America and was also, among other things, an Irish Republican Army member who was being investigated concerning a recent drive-by killing in Belfast.

The neo-Nazis and the IRA generally don't move in the same circles, so that should have tipped off the college kids that something about the letter was a bit fishy. But then a bit of investigation turned up the curious fact that Pluss had been holding forth on an Internet radio station hosted by the National Socialist Movement.

Before long, Pluss was summarily booted from his teaching post and told not to show up on campus again. Fairleigh Dickinson officials said the firing had nothing to do with his politics. The dismissal was, they said, the result of some absences that had, coincidentally enough, come to their attention at the same time they learned of his tendency to march around in a brown shirt wearing black boots.

Having gotten that bit of legalese out of the way, they then went on to denounce Pluss for his political views. "It's not politics; it's hate mongering," a dean by the name of John Snyder told the Bergen Record. "It's just hatred directed at the very students he taught."

When I phoned Pluss at the time, he protested the hypocrisy of the FDU faculty. Murderous leftist movements of all types are welcome on campuses all over America, he told me, but their right-wing equivalents are repressed.

That a bunch of other professors should be purged as well isn't an argument that you shouldn't be.

Now It Can Be Told: Why I Pretended to Be a Neo-Nazi (Jacques Pluss, History News Network)

Throughout the course of my academic career, I came to hold in deep respect the scholarship of the French Deconstructionists, particularly Jacques Derrida and Michele Foucault (especially Foucault’s Archeology of Knowledge and his History of Madness). At the same time, my work – in teaching and in academic writing – has been heavily influenced by the notion of Geistesgeschichte, as articulated by one of the premier medievalists, Ernst Kantorowicz. All of those scholars stress, each in their own way, the need for the historian to “become” her or his subject in order to develop a relationship with it.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 22, 2006 9:48 AM

This story rings very odd.

First, why wouldn't IRA and neo-Nazis run in the same circles? Were the modern day IRA's predecessors pro-Nazi?

Second, how any one can do a show on "National Socialist Movement" radio and call it "right-wing"? That's a major mistake for a putative historian.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at January 22, 2006 10:21 AM

"I came to hold in deep respect the scholarship of the French Deconstructionists, particularly Jacques Derrida and Michele Foucault"

Every academic who owns one of thscreeds of those wretched froggies, should be fired eo instanter.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 22, 2006 11:07 AM

"All of those scholars stress, each in their own way, the need for the historian to become her or his subject in order to develop a relationship with it."

His degree is in medieval history. Why didn't he just join the Society for Creative Anachronism?

Posted by: H.D. Miller at January 22, 2006 11:11 AM

"All of those scholars stress, each in their own way, the need for the historian to become her or his subject in order to develop a relationship with it."

Good thing he wasn't studying Pol Pot. There might be nothing left of Fairleigh Dickinson.

Posted by: pj at January 22, 2006 11:13 AM

This guy seems slightly wacky and at least imprudent. The Mulshine article used the phrase, "A few Stukas short of a squadron," which seems rather apt.

The professor's defense that his immersion in his historical studies has colored his thought and his expression of it is not without validity. However, it appears that he has gone far beyond describing modern phenomena in Third Reich language, crossing over into endorsing un-American values. His excuse that he was "doing research" or just trying to fit in with his subjects doen't ring true.

His claim of selective enforcement should be considered more closely. Neutral selective enforcement should not be a defense. For example, going 75 in the 55 zone should not be excused on the grounds that others are doing the same. Too bad--you're the one that got caught.

But what if the selective enforcement is based on impermissible classification. Say that almost everyone on the Turnpike is going 20 miles per hour over the posted limit, but the police are only pulling over persons of African or mixed African descent. Or try this one--the police are chilling free speech by concentrating speed enforcement on people with the wrong bumper stickers.

Standards of academic freedom are being selecitively applied here. It is not that the Nazi should be kept on, but that the Communists should be likewise given the boot.

Repl. Obj.: We should not be distracted by state action arguements. This comment goes to academic freedom, not federal civil rights.

Posted by: Lou Gots at January 22, 2006 12:00 PM

So much for diversity in our universities.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at January 22, 2006 12:15 PM

Why would anyone want to educate their citizenry to be diverse in its views? Our system requires conformity and achieves it to an unprecedented degree.

Posted by: oj at January 22, 2006 12:40 PM

... neo-Nazis and the IRA generally don't move in the same circles ...

Don't they? Nazis + Arabs + IRA = allies in WWII. Why wouldn't neo-Nazis follow in the same time honored tradition?

Posted by: erp at January 22, 2006 1:17 PM

I'm not sure why we're obliged to believe him now that he was lying then.

Posted by: David Cohen at January 22, 2006 1:18 PM

Foucault, the gift that keeps on giving.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at January 22, 2006 4:04 PM

Derrida and Foucault were commies and Derrida was, at least, a Nazi appologist. Foucault was an enthusiastic supporter of Ayatollah Kohmeni.

Kantorowicz was an interesting character
. He was born a Jew, and after WWI, he was anti-weimar and a german nationalist. That was when he did his major writting. He published one of his books in the '30s with a swastika on the cover. However, the Nazis fired him because of his ancestry and went to Berkley in '38. After the war Berkely fired him for spearheading opposition to the compulsory loyalty oath.

Some people think he moved from right to left, I think he just switched loyalties between German and Russian tyrants.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at January 23, 2006 2:50 AM

Some diversity is necessary for a healthy society in the same way that biodiversity is necesary for a healthy ecosystem and investment diversity is ecessary for a healthy portfolio.

Troublemakers and nonconformists are society's yeast, that start the churning process of intellectual and cultural fermentation. Eliminate nonconformists and you society goes flat and stale.

As a defender and proponent of both the Inquisition and the witch burnings of our dark past, OJ would do well to heed the words of historian Will Durant (from "The Reformation"):

Both the Inquisition and the witch-burning were expression of an age poisoned with homicidal certainty in theology, as the patriotic massacresof our era may be due in part to homicidal certainty in ethnic or political theory. We must try tounderstand such movements in terms of their times, they seem to us now the most unforgivable of historic crimes. A supreme and uncallengeable fath is a deadly enemy to the human mind.

The Inquisition snuffed out the glorious age of Spanish culture from Columbus to de Varga. The expulsion of the Jews and the Moors crippled Spanish finance, trade and industry. New World gold and silver kept the system running, but it failed miserably in later competition with English and Dutch entrepreneurship, science and invention. Whether its the English and Dutch vs. the Spanish, or America vs. the USSR; tolerant societies always defeat witch burning societies.

Posted by: bplus at January 23, 2006 7:19 AM

To the contrary, the Inquisition was a function of politics, not religion and it made the Spanish a great nation, though it made the mistake of targetting genuine Christians.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2006 8:38 AM

So by the same standards the KGB made the USSR a great nation?

Name one intolerant, witch burning society that triumphed over an open, tolerant society.

Posted by: bplus at January 23, 2006 9:17 AM

Rome, Spain, Britain, the United States... No country can become great absent a unifying worldview.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2006 9:21 AM

Really? Which open and tolerant societies were defeated by Rome, Spain, Britain and the United States? You don't know the difference between unifying world view and oppressive orthodoxy? How can you have a free society without nonconformists?

Posted by: bplus at January 23, 2006 9:57 AM

They/we have defeated every society they/we ever came up against, but you're right that none of them wre open and tolerant--there are no open and tolerant societies. We happen to have been more successful because our conformity is to the good.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2006 10:15 AM

So America is an intolerant, closed society? How so? That must come as surprise to all those people you want to see dead. If we are an intolerant society why are these people running around loose?

Perhaps our success is do to being tolerant of a certain degree of difference?

Posted by: bplus at January 23, 2006 10:36 AM

Yes, visitors are always struck by our extreme conformity. It's one of the secret strengths of democracy, though conservative commentators imagine it a weakness. Of course, we do have two million non-conformists in prison.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2006 1:09 PM

Which visitors and what exactly did they say. Provide quotes please.

And while criminals are by definition non conformists, non-comformists are not not a priori criminals. If that were the case OJ, you should be jailed for advocating the killing of people that don't conform since such a view is not in conformance with American societal norms.

So why are you still alive?

Posted by: bplus at January 23, 2006 5:34 PM

Because it isn't non-conformist--it's what most people believe.

You mean you've never even read de Tocqueville?

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2006 5:46 PM

If it's what most people believe kindly show me the poll numbers in favor of killing gays and burning witches.

de Tocqueville is so 19th century. Try Bernard-Henri Lvy at:


Posted by: blus at January 23, 2006 8:33 PM

People lie to pollsters because the truth is politically incorrect, then they turn out and vote against black candidates, immigrants, gays, etc. Polls always make people appear tolerant.

Yes, the French Ameriphiles are stumped by how so diverse a nation can be so ideologically conformist, somethng that escapes france.

Posted by: oj at January 23, 2006 8:57 PM