Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to Troll USNA

Well, you have to give Professor Bruce Fleming credit, he knows what he's doing.

First, a poem.
Kong Looks Back on His Tryout with the Bears
William Trowbridge

If it had worked out, I’d be on a train to Green Bay,
not crawling up this building with the Air Corps
on my ass. And if it weren’t for love, I’d drop
this shrieking little bimbo sixty stories
and let them teach me to mambo and do imitations.
They tried me on the offensive line, told me
to take out the right cornerback for Nagurski.
Eager to please, I wadded up the whole secondary,
then stomped the line, then the bench and locker room,
then the east end of town, to the river.
But they were not pleased: they said I had to
learn my position, become a team player.
The great father Bear himself said that,
so I tried hard to know the right numbers
and how the arrows slanted toward the little o’s.
But the o’s and the wet grass and grunts
drowned out the count, and the tight little cheers
drew my arrow straight into the stands,
and the wives tasted like flowers and raw fish.
So I was put on waivers right after camp
and here I am, panty-sniffer, about to die a clown,
who once opened a hole you could drive Nebraska through.
This is perfect. The job of the liberal arts is to make you think. The job of the English Professor is to show you the power of the written word.

Bruce Fleming, an English professor at the United States Naval Academy, is returning to teaching following a two-day period out of the classroom while officials conducted an investigation into the charges several midshipmen brought against him.

"The investigation concluded and determined that Professor Fleming should return to his normal teaching duties," Naval Academy spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield said, while declining to discuss the details of the charges, claiming it would be inappropriate to do so.

Fleming, however, was very willing to discuss the details of the allegations and the investigation. In an email to, Fleming wrote that several weeks ago two female midshipmen -- a junior and a senior -- took exception to some criticisms he made of the academy's sexual assault prevention program, in particular relative to the recent sex scandal involving members of the Navy football team who were accused of raping a female midshipman at an off-campus party.

The two female midshipmen in Fleming's class took their complaint to the Academy's Sexual Assault and Response (SAPR) office, saying that they had been offended by a poem Fleming had chosen to teach as a metaphor for elements of the sex scandal. On his Facebook page, Fleming identified the "offending poem" as "Kong Looks Back on His Tryout with the Bears" by William Trowbridge.
This isn't just a troll, this tells a much larger truth, which is exactly the point the good Professor was trying to make. He just had no idea his students would take it to a whole other level.

Well played. Well played.

UPDATE: In the spirit of Professor Fleming's troll ... I have to apologize to the front porch ... I did a little trolling too.

A double apology to my STEM friends - though some known engineer types did quite well - it isn't fair to throw poetry and a thousand years of English literary tradition your way - but it needed to be done.

MS, however, fell right in to my troll. Sorry Shipmate, but you made my and Professor Flemings point, in a fashion. Let me help out a bit by having the author speak;
I wrote my first Kong poem, “Kong Looks Back on His Tryout with the Bears,” with no intention of writing any more. But that poem gave me an idea for another and the next yet another. Motivated partly by my attraction to the old 1933 version of the film and partly by a sense that Kong embodies something very human, I wound up with 25 or 30 pages of Kong poems. X.J. Kennedy, in an essay called “Who Killed King Kong,” persuasively argues that Kong is an example of the pitiable monster archetype, a figure who’s good or at least well meaning inside but is trapped in a monstrous body, which hides that goodness from the world. I found in Kong yet another figure in which to combine seriousness with comedy. Like Quasimodo, the Frankenstein monster, the beast in Beauty and the Beast, that monster must suffer and eventually die alienated from fellow creatures. Once again, this figure becomes an archetype because he reflects something in us, who sometimes feel the world doesn’t see the beautiful person deep inside our unbeautiful exterior. Kong may be a monster, but he is as vulnerable and lonely as any of his human counterparts. I didn’t make the Kong poems into a book till about 15 years after I’d written the original poems. It somehow took that long to make me realize that, if I wrote 15 or 20 more, I’d have a book.
Yes, there is a book.

And the author? Big race baiter, eh?
The current Poet Laureate of Missouri, William Trowbridge holds a B.A. in Philosophy and an M. A. in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia and a Ph.D. in English from Vanderbilt University. His poetry publications include five full collections: Ship of Fool (Red Hen Press, forthcoming), The Complete Book of Kong (Southeast Missouri State University Press, 2003), Flickers, O Paradise, and Enter Dark Stranger (University of Arkansas Press, 2000, 1995, 1989), and three chapbooks, The Packing House Cantata (Camber Press, 2006), The Four Seasons (Red Dragonfly Press, 2001) and The Book of Kong (Iowa State University Press, l986). His poems have appeared in more than 30 anthologies and textbooks, as well as in such periodicals as Poetry, The Gettysburg Review, Crazyhorse, The Georgia Review, Boulevard, The Southern Review, Columbia, Colorado Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Epoch, and New Letters. He has given readings and workshops at schools, colleges, bookstores, and literary conferences throughout the United States. His awards include an Academy of American Poets Prize, a Pushcart Prize, a Bread Loaf Writers' Conference scholarship, a Camber Press Poetry Chapbook Award, and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Ragdale, Yaddo, and The Anderson Center. He is Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at Northwest Missouri State University, where he was an editor of The Laurel Review/GreenTower Press from 1986 to 2004. Now living in Lee's Summit, MO, he teaches in the University of Nebraska low-residency MFA in writing program. His web site is
You can even listen to him if you wish.

From those two MIDN to MS in comments and to everyone else who is reaching for the smelling salts, you need to step back a bit and think why you have a knee jerk reaction to something without doing the intellectually honest thing - and something your education should lead you to - and take a moment to research a bit. Look deeper, read deeper, think deeper. Know that - something great literature and poetry does - your initial response is often wrong. What seems up front is actually not there; what is important is often only found upon reflection and re-reading.

This whole exercise is a superb example of how we let people acting like their own version of Red Guards stomp around the intellectual landscape smashing with their ignorance anything that does not match their blinkered view, or that may be construed to conflict with their fragile worldview.

Cultural Marxism - yea, it's a thing ... and there it is red in tooth and claw.

You don't have to agree with Professor Fleming on everything - I don't - you don't even have to like him - I do - (I like a lot of people from one end to the other, especially the interesting ones as life is short and not meant to keep you comfortable, that is why I like MS as well) --- but you have to respect what he has done here.

What a great educational opportunity for the MIDN. Not only does it demonstrate the power of good poetry, but perfectly demonstrates the use of the archetype (something the eldest Wee Salamander in her 2nd year of AP English knowitallness will prattle on about over dinner) - but it also demonstrates how the non-political can be made political simply by desire.

One downside note - and something Professor Fleming has demonstrated here - these little Red Guards are not harmless. By causing a Professor to be suspended for a few days over a complaint that anyone with even a basic review of the poem in question would know is a bogus claim founded on ignorance - they have created a chill in the air. The weaker mortals will not challenge. Will second guess every word, every 4th level possible interpretation of a work.

Those familiar with Critical Theory will quickly see the problem. Almost any work can be torn apart as racist, sexist, or homophobic. People cut their PhD's creating such alternative universes. If you fear that someone could make such a claim simply because they want to - and that could lead to a suspension - then they will rapidly narrow the authors they will use. They will pull back from any challenging boundaries. People become less educated, less curious, more close minded. Is that what we want? Hang one; terrorize a thousand dontchaknow.

For now though, I will continue to laugh as the cat continues to paw-about with the mice.

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