That’s Their Story and They’re Sticking To It

Since the Amy Bishop shooting, I’ve had several trolls come in the comments and ask me why I have not discussed “the socialist professor who shot people.” Here is a typical example:

Hey, DougJ is really into ascribing political leaning as motive for going postal. Remember Pittsburgh? Tim was on that one like white on rice, too. Remember upstate New York? Oops, had to pull that one back; dude was an immigrant that didn’t speak English – def not a Conservative. Uh, look down just a few postings from here – OMG a crazy Tea Partier married to a Cambridge psychiatrist and involved in a domestic dispute must be getting ready to take out a bunch of Libs But of course he’s crazy (and a hated Conservative) – after all, TPM says he’s a Tea Partier, so it must be true.

Dr. Amy Bishop, Alabama sharpshooter, is a Harvard educated liberal (although one of her students was a little harsh on and called her a dreaded “Soc##list”) that got pissed off in a departmental meeting when she found out she wasn’t getting tenure, pulled a gun out of her purse, and opened fire.

Let the excuses begin. I’m sure there’s some way this this is Sarah Palin’s fault. Also. Too.

Others have chided me because I have “no comment.” Well, I have no comment because I’m not a socialist, I’m not a neuroscientist, and I’m not an advocate of shooting people (even tenure committees!). But I do see a movement across the right-wing blogosphere to somehow make themselves the victim once again. It goes a little something like this:

The evil Lieberal MSM is not paying attention to Bishop’s politics like they did with the Pittsburgh shooter and Scott Roeder! BIAS!

Here is the deal, folks:

1.) One student in Alabama calling Bishop a socialist on does not actually make someone a socialist. After all, if we have learned anything in the last year, anyone to the left of Rush Limbaugh is now a socialist.

2.) Even if she was a socialist, who cares? As far as we know, her politics didn’t matter one single bit. It didn’t motivate the shootings whatsoever. Contrast that to the Pittsburgh shooter, whose SOLE reason for gunning down a bunch of cops in a paranoid fervor was his politics. Compare that to the scumbag who murdered Dr. Tiller- politics was the motivation. Dr. Bishop’s politics are completely and totally irrelevant.

3.) In the cases of right-wing violence, there has been a two year onslaught of end of the world/revolutionary/secessionist/any means necessary rhetoric from right wing leadership, whether it be Congressmen, talk radio hosts, teabag leaders, or glibertarian shitheads at wingnut welfare publications. They’ve been warning about government takeovers and government gun grabs amd death panels and fema camps and all sorts of bullshit, whipping people into a hysteria. so when someone acts on it, it is notable.

Find me ONE SINGLE PERSON who has advocated for socialists to shoot their tenure committees. When you can, get back to me. And James, you should know by now those folks are going to be full of it.

62 replies
  1. 1
    cleek says:

    that email’s insane. the author can’t seem to figure out if it’s good or bad to tie politics to murder, and then he/she tries to do it, but finds no reason to do it.

    seems like the whole point was to be able to write “a Harvard educated liberal” while sneering.

    sounds like a great worldview. sign me up.

  2. 2
    Dulcie says:

    @cleek: That wasn’t an e-mail. That was an actual post by our very own concern troll, Church Lady.

  3. 3
    John Cole says:

    @cleek: That was not an email- that was the deep thoughts of commenter Church Lady.

  4. 4
    DougJ says:

    @John Cole:

    I think Church Lady just writes things like that to piss us off.

  5. 5
    SP says:

    Far be it from me to defend Harvard, but there really isn’t such a thing as a “liberal” hard science department at Harvard, unless you count taking the basis of modern biology (ie evolution) as a settled matter. Certainly some of the humanities departments have political slants, and economics tends conservative, and certain individuals may be personally conservative or liberal. But the idea that because she got a PhD in neuroscience at Harvard she was somehow indoctrinated as a coastal liberal is pretty dumb and shows that the person making the statement has no knowledge of science in general or research universities in particular.

  6. 6
    Bill Rutherford, Princeton Admissions says:

    I think Church Lady molests collies – prove me wrog.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    General Winfield Stuck says:

    Painting weine pacifist libtards as gun toting mass murderers after building the meme of weine pacifist libtards is going to put a monkey wrench in the Wingnut Wurlitzer. But I am sure they will find a work around on that issue given some time and Frank Luntz’s basement Gnomes hard at work.

  9. 9
    The Dangerman says:

    I suspect it’s the entire concept of tenure that pisses these assholes off (see Churchill, Ward). From their “viewpoint”, Colleges, filled with tenured professors, are poisoning society with their Socialist views (apparently, especially at Harvard).

  10. 10
    scav says:

    @General Winfield Stuck: holding contradictory information in their brains hasn’t slowed them down yet. they can change position mid-sentence: our Commie-Fascist-Socialist-Muslim-Wall Street Protecting Leader should be evidence of that. their very neurons are evidence of how multi-dimensional the world apparently is.

  11. 11
    skippy says:

    more to the point, there’s no evidence that the professor’s politics (whatever they may be) had anything to do with her terrible, tragic leap over the bend of sanity.

    as opposed to that guy in tennessee who shot up the liberal church.

  12. 12
    Funkhauser says:

    Argh! Fix your title grammar, Cole! Argh!

  13. 13
    RSA says:

    @The Dangerman:

    I suspect it’s the entire concept of tenure that pisses these assholes off (see Churchill, Ward).

    Wingnuts like the idea of being able to get people fired for holding unpopular opinions. And none of them seem to realize that tenured professors can actually be fired if they’re not meeting the requirements of their jobs.

  14. 14
    Citizen_X says:

    @General Winfield Stuck:

    Painting weine pacifist libtards as gun toting mass murderers after building the meme of weine pacifist libtards is going to put a monkey wrench in the Wingnut Wurlitzer.

    Like scav pointed out, wingnut ideology is a towering monument of cognitive dissonance. There can be no dispositive data or or contradictory ideas; such things are simply unpossible.

  15. 15
    Bill Rutherford, Princeton Admissions says:

    “Wingnuts like the idea of being able to get people fired for holding unpopular opinions.”

    Fine with me – just don’t bitch when Drunkhouse and Instarube are shown the door.

  16. 16
    Jean says:

    Most scientists or mathematicians who don’t get tenure and who have good research credentials (grants, results) find positions at non-teaching research institutes or the public sector. They don’t shoot their committees. This woman was clearly unstable, and her history includes accidentally shooting her brother to death in the late 80’s.

    I’m surprised she made it to her tenure-decision year without incident. Seems there were some signs, judging from the NYT story.

  17. 17
    DougJ says:


    Not really true of mathematicians but definitely true of lab scientists, especially in the life sciences.

  18. 18
    John Quixote says:

    Welcome to the Age of False Equivalence.
    Where everybody is just like Hitler.

    It is also the Age of the Permanently Aggrieved.
    Where everybody is a victim.

  19. 19
    Montysano says:

    As a resident of Huntsville, where the shooting occurred, I have it anecdotally from a friend who recently took one of her classes that she was mentally unstable to an obvious and distressing degree. After all, it’s come out this weekend that she shot and killed her brother during an argument back in 1986, and appears to have avoided arrest through family influence. So John is correct: politics appear to have played no part in this.

    Of course, this has brought the “if everyone carried guns, there wouldn’t be no killin’ ” advocates out of the woodwork.

    This was the second school shooting in a week, the previous being the gang-related death of a 15 year old at a middle school in a wealthy suburb.

  20. 20
    Jean says:

    @DougJ: I’ve known several mathematicians in the past few years who have chosen to leave their academic departments for companies who want their skills. There may be fewer of those kind than bio/chem/physics scientists, but they aren’t rare.

  21. 21
    Bill Rutherford, Princeton Admissions says:

    Well, sure, the private sector is always going to pay much better.

    But then you give up the most important fringe benefit: banging nubile coeds two at a time.

  22. 22
    El Cid says:

    FWIW, the professor in question was a capitalist, more specifically, an entrepreneur seeking to develop technologies to patent /trademark and sell on the FREEMARKET.

    My laboratory’s goal will be to continue in our effort to develop a neural computer, the Neuristor™, using living neurons. This computer will exploit all of the advantages of neurons. Specifically, neurons rich with the nitric oxide (NO) dependent learning receptor, N Methyl D Aspartate receptor (NMDAR), will be utilized. These have previously been studied in the context of induced adaptive resistance to NO (IAR). For the Neuristor™ we will take advantage of the IAR phenomena since it has been demonstrated that IAR neurons express more learning and memory receptors (NMDAR) as well as increased neurite outgrowth. The neurons that we are currently using are mammalian motor neurons. We are exploring the possibility of using neurons derived from adult stem cells, and from bony fishes provided by Bruce Stallsmith Ph.D. This laboratory has created a portable cell culture incubator, the Cell Drive™ that is an ideal support structure for the Neuristor™.

    But then, she went to Harvard, and going to Harvard makes you a soshulist automatically, just like former Preznit George W. Bush.

  23. 23
    Jean says:

    @Montysano: Yep, teaching seems to have been barely satisfactory at best, and may have not only led to the negative decision but also suggested serious social problems. As I said earlier, I’m rather surprised she made it through the probationary period. Could be that there wasn’t enough serious evidence not to renew.

  24. 24
    Kryptik says:

    This is the first I’ve heard of anyone trying to bring up her politics. I suppose there are few depths people are willing to sink in order to keep up that good fight against the damn red commies.

  25. 25
    Will says:

    OT, but I remember John writing something about this phenom awhile back. Kristof just got to it:

    They start by exploring data showing a remarkably strong correlation between state attitudes toward spanking children and voting patterns. Essentially, spanking states go Republican, while those with more timeouts go Democratic.

  26. 26
  27. 27
    Martin says:

    BTW, Limbaugh is also a socialist now that he’s gotten hospital care in Hawaii.

  28. 28
    Chad N Freude says:

    @El Cid: Don’t lose sight of the fact that Libsosealists can also be capitalists, e.g., George Soros.

  29. 29
    Bill Rutherford, Princeton Admissions says:

    @Jean – only if you get caught. Only if you get caught.

  30. 30
    Bruce (formerly Steve S.) says:

    Understanding motive is important to the reality-based. To the right it seems to be a sign of moral turpitude. Note how in mainstream discourse you’re not allowed to contemplate the motive of any terror attack, the perpetrators are simply “evil”. So the reply to the trolls, written at a level they are capable of understanding, is that Amy Bishop is evil and hates freedom. This should release some endorphins and calm them down for a bit.

  31. 31
    cleek says:


    all better.

  32. 32
    Genine says:

    seems like the whole point was to be able to write “a Harvard educated liberal” while sneering.

    That’s basically it. Most of my conservative friends will engage in this on some level and it doesn’t make any sense. One guy brought up the fact that the gay couple he knows doesn’t practice monogamy, so gays don’t deserve access to the right of marriage. Another friend always brings up Clinton’s blow job in comparison to what Bush and Co. did with Iraq, torture and black sites, etc. And these people I know definitely sneer when mentioning certain groups of people.

    Any “liberal” doing anything anywhere is an excuse not to have to consider the other point of view. And these people will use anything to dismiss something that doesn’t fit into their box.

    I suspect that if some of my conservative friends saw a person they knew was a liberal jaywalking, they’d say “See? liberals jay walk! How can we listen to what they have to say about healthcare!”


  33. 33
    Montysano says:

    @Jean: Although it’s only rumor at this point, the conflict may have had its roots in a dispute over intellectual property rights for an invention of hers, which was a new method of growing cells without a Petri dish (described by some as a “cellular computer”). I read an article about it and understood hardly a word of it.

    Her tenure had been denied some time ago, and her appeal was denied last April.

  34. 34
    kay says:


    Researchers have found, for example, that some humans are particularly alert to threats, particularly primed to feel vulnerable and perceive danger. Those people are more likely to be conservatives.

    Which is a nice way of saying “scared spitless a lot of the time”

  35. 35
    Pennypacker says:

    @ Citizen_X

    Like scav pointed out, wingnut ideology is a towering monument of cognitive dissonance. There can be no dispositive data or or contradictory ideas; such things are simply unpossible.

    Neatly sums it up.

    And this story is just irresistible to the wingnut fringe: it has academics on a tenure committee, a Harvard degree, a single student who ascribes left-wing politics to the perpetrator, and a shining example of the fact that all of those professors should’ve been carrying handguns in order to prevent this tragedy.

  36. 36
    Jean says:

    @Montysano: Interesting about the intellectual property rights rumor. NYT said she arrived in 2003. Would have made 09-10 her decision year, but maybe she was granted some time at hire.

    Academic stories can be confusing. Remember when there was all that fuss about Obama not really being a “professor” because he was a part-time lecturer? It’s an honorific for faculty whether they’re part- or full-time.

  37. 37
    Llelldorin says:


    Google and the NSA each hire astonishing numbers of mathematics Ph.Ds.

  38. 38
    Warren Terra says:

    I looked her up on MEDLINE; Bishop has only two research papers from UAH, in a minor journal, neither as senior author. I don’t know that school’s standards, but it’s hardly a record to ensure tenure.

  39. 39
    Llelldorin says:

    @Warren Terra:

    Yep. If conservatives are going to pull out their favorite hobbyhorses here, then so am I: a lot of people from top-ranked schools like Harvard don’t take the tenure process seriously at regional universities, because they assume that they’re slumming it by even deigning to work for a school like UAH.

  40. 40
    Tom Levenson says:

    @Bill Rutherford, Princeton Admissions: Heh.

    One of the faster tickets I know from tenure to the street.

    Ahhh…I see that I was anticipated on this.

    Ah well — to Bill’s second foray: not many people I know are dumb enough to had their future over to a 20 something who succumbs to the attraction of power. Isn’t that right, Mr. Clinton?

    And just to anticipate the response — no Bill Clinton was not a bad president, far from it, and his foolishness in this regard is not equivalent to the malice and fail of his successor. But boy, was he dumb here.

  41. 41
    Sir Nose'D says:


    the professor in question was a capitalist, more specifically, an entrepreneur

    Ahh, yes. A capitalist, you say. Did it ever occur to you that the socialists are such a menace because they are pretending to be capitalists (with their startups, 401ks, and whatnot)? By misaligning their ideology with their economic behavior, it becomes impossible to tell just how deep the socialist conspiracy really goes. Also.

  42. 42
    OC says:

    @DougJ: Like a two-year old screaming for attention.

  43. 43
    gwangung says:

    @DougJ: I’ve known several mathematicians in the past few years who have chosen to leave their academic departments for companies who want their skills. There may be fewer of those kind than bio/chem/physics scientists, but they aren’t rare.

    Actually, it’s fairly well known among fundraisers that math and applied math grads got hired by Goldman Sachs and hedge fund companies to develop math to game the system. If you’re wealthy and a math grad, you worked for a financial company.

  44. 44
    Lurker says:

    @cleek: I just want to repeat: your pie filter is awesome. Thank you again for writing it. :-)

  45. 45
    rikyrah says:

    over at Jack & Jill Politics, our angle on this is everyone she killed WASN’T WHITE.

    of course, once we found out that she ‘ accidentally’ killed her own accomplished brother, and never saw the inside of a jail, I know I couldn’t help but flip the script, and I couldn’t see a way how I, or anyone that looks like me could ‘ accidentally’ kill their sibling and not spend SOME TIME IN JAIL, let alone be allowed to just go on with life getting a PhD. just isn’t conceivable.

  46. 46
    Warren Terra says:

    Rikyrah, I admire Jack & Jill, so I’m sure you have a point in your first statement, possibly satirical, but I’m not sure what it is, and I didn’t see a post at the J&J blog.

  47. 47
    The Other Steve says:

    It’s pretty clear she isn’t a liberal.

    No liberal owns a gun.

    Case closed

  48. 48
    MattF says:

    I’m sure that, right now, there are teams of wingers combing through Bishop’s papers looking for a connection to Bill Ayres. Because that would mean Obama’s involved. Obviously.

  49. 49
    TruthOfAngels says:

    @Bill Rutherford, Princeton Admissions:

    Wait a second, are you the guy out of Risky Business with the ‘tache?

    Because if so, then bravo, sir, bravo.

  50. 50
    Bender says:

    And this psycho shot her brother (accidentally, three times, and got nabbed while trying to carjack her way out, but accidentally. )

    Congressman Delahunt (D-MA) was the DA who swept it under the rug.

    So, there’s another GOP seat.

  51. 51
    TruthOfAngels says:


    Heh. Yes, I’m sure MA-10 will rise as one and shout ‘Oi! Delahunt! Take your dirty liberal Alabama values somewhere else, and fetch me a cup of tea while you’re at it! WOLVERINES!’

  52. 52
    Downpuppy says:

    This woman shot her brother in 1986, and her mother got it ruled accidental.

    In 1993 she may have tried to blow up a professor.

    And this nutbag being a nutbag is being called political?

  53. 53
    Delia says:

    She was working on her biotech company with her husband, so it’s possible that he was the major mover in the enterprise. I’ve seen some cases of Ivy League PhD’s in the humanities or social sciences who end up taking jobs at regional universities simply because the job market is abysmal these days and they have no other options. Often it’s a very poor fit. They hate the students and the area and are hated in return. Of course this woman was round the bend in any case.

  54. 54
    Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    Does James at OTB intend to address the fact JC bitched-slapped him twice in the span of a week?

  55. 55
    Warren Terra says:

    I first read about her shooting her brother on Friday (or maybe early on Saturday), and only heard that she’d shot him accidentally while trying to clean the gun, all witnessed by their mother. Sounded improbable, but not impossible, and it sounded like a tragedy not necessarily connected to the atrocity she perpetrated – if anything, it sounded like an event that might have unhinged her rather than an earlier symptom of mental imbalance.

    So I was upset to read all these comments apparently exploiting the tale – until I read the updated story, in which it’s alleged that there was an argument, there were multiple shots fired (which in particular doesn’t seem consistent with the cleaning-the-gun theory, not that I’m an expert), and she tried to carjack someone. Told that way, it sounds like she’s at least occasionally a disastrously violent person. And – without crediting Bender’s particular agenda – the official inaction that followed might well deserve some attention. I don’t think see how it could have been a widespread and delibrate conspiracy – how do a significant number of law-enforcement officials agree to overlook a murder? But it sounds at least like a serious mistake was made.

  56. 56
    rikyrah says:

    Warren Terra,

    we’ve been discussing it in the Open Threads.

    and there’s nothing satirical about discussing that everyone she killed WAS NOT WHITE.

    Considering the number of Blacks that actually go into the sciences, finding not one, but two Black folk to kill in a science dept., you gotta work at it.

  57. 57
    Warren Terra says:

    Thank you for your response, and for explaining the comment.

    You’re certainly right that disadvantaged minorities, and especially African-Americans, are profoundly underrepresented in the sciences. I know this from my experience in Biology and from seeing some of the numbers. I don’t think anyone knows how to address this issue – from what I’ve seen, I don’t think it’s a problem of discrimination or mistreatment at the graduate school level or above; if anything, people are eager to give every possible opportunity to individuals who might by their existence and their example help to address this problem. Nonetheless, the number of applicants to first-tier graduate programs from disadvantaged minorities is vanishingly small, despite strenuous efforts at outreach (in part inspired by the risk of institutions losing their training grants because these groups are so poorly represented); the number of qualified applicants is even lower (possibly, because of the aforementioned strenuous efforts at outreach has yielded some applicants who would not otherwise have applied, disproportionately lower).

    Because of all this, I’m inclined to think that the problem needs to be addressed at the undergraduate level, or before, or outside of schooling, so people from disadvantaged backgrounds know there’s a good and rewarding life to be had doing scientific research. But I’m not from such a minority background, and I am from an academic background, so I may just lack perspective.

    The rarity of Black research professors makes this event a particular tragedy. I don’t think that there’s any reason to think Bishop was motivated by racial animus in her shootings , as she seems to have shot everyone in sight, but – while it’s entirely appropriate to highlight the particular tragedy of this event from a racial perspective – I read your first comment as unnecessarily imputing a racial motive.

  58. 58
    Paul L. says:

    Find me ONE SINGLE PERSON who has advocated for socialists to shoot their tenure committees.

    Reminds of the excuse atheists use to explain away 2 of history’s greatest mass murderers Stalin and Mao were atheists.
    It is wrong to point out they were atheists because Stalin and Mao did not kill people in the name of atheism.

  59. 59
    Nancy Irving says:

    I wonder how the student rater found out that BIshop was (supposedly) a socialist. I mean, she was a biology professor, not a sociologist, political scientist, historian etc. It’s hard to imagine politics coming up during a biology class.

    Possibly the prof mentioned evolution, and the student was offended by that, and inferred that Bishop was a “socialist” from that?

  60. 60
  61. 61
    Bill Rutherford, Princeton Admissions says:

    @Tom Levenson – yes, yes, Clinton’s biggest weakness was his inability to keep it in his pants. Fans and foes alike will admit to that. But the right was so hell-bent on re-fighting the culture wars of the 60s that they would’ve gotten him on something else, if he’d never lied about getting a BJ.


    @TruthofAngels – yes. Congrats, you’re the first poster on the Internet to get the reference. Hats off to you.

  62. 62
    Bill Rutherford, Princeton Admissions says:

    My comment disappeared, how weird. TruthOfAngles wins the prize of being the first Internet commenter to guess the origin of my screen name. Well done, TOA.

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