The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

He’s a Lumberjack, and He’s OK: The Wobbly Scholarship of Erik Loomis, Ph.D.

Posted on | December 18, 2012 | 47 Comments

(Note: University of Rhode Island Assistant Professor of History Erik Loomis has recently established himself as a famous laughingstock of online political argument, using the excuse “metaphor” to claim that it’s OK to say that the National Rifle Association is a “terrorist organization” and that he wants NRA chief Wayne LaPierre’s “head on a stick,” prior to deleting his Twitter account. This inspired curiosity as to Professor Loomis’s academic qualifications. — RSM)

By “Badger Pundit
Having recently delved a bit into Erik Loomis’s apparent craving for attention.  I thought I’d delve a bit into his scholarship in response to R.S. McCain’s tweet wondering what Loomis wrote about for his history Ph.D dissertation. McCain suggested the dissertation might be on “Historical Uses of Violent Obscene Language in Political Discourse.” I suppose he meant that in jest, but what I found was actually weirder. Loomis earned his Ph.D (with distinction!; C.V. here) writing about (in part) homosexual lumberjacks and castrated Marxists in the early 1900s (well, okay, only one castrated Marxist).

An abstract of Loomis’s 2008 dissertation, “The Battle for the Body:  Work and Environment in the Pacific Northwest Lumber Industry, 1800-1940,” is available here.

I downloaded the full dissertation and skimmed through it. I don’t recommend that you follow suit, unless — perhaps — you’re intrigued by homosexual lumberjacks, the lynching and castration of Marxists, and/or Marxist labor organizing generally.  And even then, it’s a dull, plodding read. (By contrast, I have to give Loomis credit for cranking out interesting tweets; too bad he recently deleted his Twitter account, so that all we can look forward to is the chance to peruse the archive of his past tweets, still available on Topsy.com.)

The dissertation’s basic story is pretty much what you’d expect of your typical leftist historian at an American university.  During the first century or so of trees being felled in the Northwest after the white man first arrived in force, the greedy capitalists raped the land and killed the gentle forest creatures, despite the best efforts of the ordinary, salt-of-the-earth lumberjacks who wanted to preserve the environment and save the animals. Plus, they wanted better pay and working conditions, of course.

Marxist unionists (with the Industrial Workers of the World, “I.W.W.”) seized on the situation early in the 1910s and sought to unionize the lumberjacks.  Their efforts were bearing fruit, but then World War I intervened. The government had an urgent need for spruce wood for its airplanes, so in an E – V – I – L conspiracy, it:  (1) forced the timber companies to give the lumberjacks basically everything they wanted, in terms of pay and working conditions; (2) forced the lumberjacks to join a government-established union; and (3) forced the lumberjacks to reject the Marxist unionists, and their I.W.W. But, the government did nothing to help save the earth or help the animals — all it cared about was winning the war by preventing disruption of spruce wood production!

The Marxist unionists weren’t happy with this, so as soon as the war was over, in the small town of Centralia, Washington, the Marxists staged an ambush of American Legion members who opposed them, using two snipers hidden in the hills — killing four of the Legionnaires (including two war heroes).  The town folk weren’t happy with this, so they lynched one of the Marxists and prosecuted the rest, getting them sentenced to long prison terms.  Thus died the chance for the Marxists to unionize the lumberjacks and thereby improve their pay and working conditions and save the environment and animals.  Eventually, in the mid-1930s, the AFL-CIO unionized the lumberjacks, but by that point environmental conditions in the forests weren’t a pressing issue; all the AFL-CIO focused on was pay and working conditions.  The bottom line is that despite the lumberjacks’ long-held wish to help save the earth and the peaceful forest creatures, they never got the union backing they needed to effectively advance this agenda against the greedy capitalists (and the E – V – I – L government forces).

In general, pretty much a waste of paper and computer storage space, though probably not the worst liberal claptrap ever produced by an American history Ph.D candidate.  However, three parts of Loomis’s dissertation caught my attention, because they suggest that weird, sometimes violence-supportive, ideas are hardly new to Loomis (in other words, it seems he exhibited a weird streak in his writing even before Twitter; Twitter just gave him a more visible outlet).

1. For some reason, Loomis can’t resist talking about early 20th century homosexual lumberjacks, and the anal sex they preferred (over oral sex).  I mean, after reading pages 155-56 I immediately thought of the Monty Python “Lumberjack Song” (video here; lyrics here).  And I felt I needed a shower, too. Here’s the key excerpt (bottom of p. 155 and top of p. 156) (citations omitted):

“The Wobblies [Marxist unionists] claimed that workers spread these diseases [syphilis and other STDs] to one another through men using contaminated blankets, but homosexuality in the camps seems a more likely explanation, though neither union or lumber industry publications ever discussed this.
Historian Peter Boag discusses in great detail the history of homosexual men in the Pacific Northwest of the early twentieth century.  Boag shows us that working-class men, including loggers, looked to find a partner that could cut through their loneliness and misery, share sex, and provide companionship as they moved around the West.  Usually these relationships consisted of an older man and a younger man where the older man generally dominated and took care of the younger.  Boag asserts that these men generally preferred anal sex, as opposed to the oral sex often practiced by the middle-class gay subculture thriving in the Northwest’s cities.  Given that males dominated the population of the Northwest throughout its industrial expansion after 1890 it is not surprising that so many loggers made partners of other men.

2. For some reason Loomis can’t resist spending three pages (pp. 191-93) discussing whether or not the town folk of Centralia castrated the Marxist who was involved in the ambush before they lynched him.  I guess this is one of Loomis’s few opportunities to talk about “genderized” discourse. Here are the key excerpts from that discussion:

“[N]o one could match Wesley Everest’s manhood. The Wobblies defended Everest’s manhood with intense vigor because they wanted to make him a martyr but also because they believed the mob had castrated him before killing him thus stripping him of the ultimate symbol of his manhood.”
* * *
“Wesley Everest’s alleged castration raises ideas about gendered bodies.  Whether Everest’s murderers actually castrated him is in doubt.  But soon the legend sprung up that the mob had castrated Everest, a notion promulgated by John Dos Passos in his novel, 1919.   . . .  [T]he Wobblies used the idea of castration, the ultimate demanning of the body, to further their agenda about manhood, the body, and the environment. For the I.W.W., Everest’s testicles held the core of working-class manhood.

3. In his discussion of the Marxists’ deadly ambush of the American Legion members in Centralia (pp. 195-200), one gets the strong sense that Loomis is rooting for the Marxist assassins (perhaps no surprise, given recent developments).  I didn’t notice any criticism of the Marxists for staging the ambush, but I did notice Loomis going into some detail about why the Marxists felt their ambush justified. Further, Loomis portrays the overwhelming contemporary newspaper opinion against the Marxists as perhaps indicative of xenophobia, and as reflecting the public’s view that Marxist unionists weren’t patriotic (because, Loomis to his credit notes, of the minor detail that they had been against the U.S. winning the war).   Loomis implies that the effort of the Legionnaires “to get their side of the story out” (p. 198) was some sort of propaganda effort even though it mostly involved pointing out that the two Marxists who hid in the hills as snipers, so they could kill the four Legionnaires, didn’t face the Legionnaires “straight on.” (P. 199).

I can’t say I enjoyed reading Loomis’s dissertation, which struck me as basically aimless and uninteresting, and contributing little if anything to the study of U.S. history. ( I fear for our current generation of students if Loomis is typical of modern professors.).  But I did think it worthwhile to take a look at the dissertation, and write this up, for the perspective it may supply in evaluating Loomis’s recent activities.  Thanks to R.S. McCain for suggesting an inquiry into Loomis’s dissertation.

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Comments

  • Badger Pundit

    Mr. McCain — looks like you posted an old version of the material I initially sent you, not the final version I sent you about 15 minutes ago. Perfectly understandable that a mixup could occur, but please DELETE this post immediately and check your e-mail regarding the final version I’ve authorized you to post (if necessary edited for length).

  • http://e0d.tumblr.com/ EOD

    Gay Marxism? Godless, Anti-American Homosexual Communists?… Eco-Friendly to boot?

    It is a wonder that Rhode Island University did not make Erik Looney Loomis Deen of the Department

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Didn’t the American Legion ended up hanging Wobblies off a bridge in Centralia?

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady
  • robertstacymccain

    OK, fixed it now. Hope it’s to your satisfication.

  • M. Thompson

    I don’t blame the Legion or the Mounties.

  • Pingback: Herbert Marcuse, Wile E. Coyote and the Auto-Beclownment of Erik Loomis, Ph.D. : The Other McCain

  • M. Thompson

    Well, we’ll need to find a good redheaded leader.

    King Arthur, Elizabeth I, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, U. S. Grant, and Winston Churchill, all redheads, and leaders.

  • http://twitter.com/jrsalzman J.R. Salzman

    As an actual lumberjack, I suddenly find myself disliking this tool even more.

  • Esme Littlenut

    I’m new here, but I just wanted to say, wow. Great work. Really delved into the mind of a liberal, and now you can really shut him up! Forever! I haven’t read all of it, it’s really long, but I’m going to later. Promise! ;)

  • Esme Littlenut

    I’m new here, but I just wanted to say, wow. Great job! Way to shut up that liberal! Forever! You go, “Badger Pundit”! I haven’t read it all yet, it’s really long, but I will later! :)

  • JeffS

    ????

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    I am not critical. It is both a blessing and a curse.

  • Wombat_socho

    I dunno either.

  • http://saberpoint.blogspot.com Stogie Chomper

    Corn-holing Commies? Leftwing Lumberjacks? Murdering Marxists? I think we have the essence of a new sitcom plot.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady
  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    gingers.

  • Danby

    Cool! Local history! I live about 12 mile from where the Legionnaires were killed in Centralia.

    First of all, it’s loggers, not lumberjacks. Always. Lumberjacks are fruity New Englanders.

    Second, loggers of that era lived in camps out in the woods. they MIGHT have a bunkhouse to sleep in, or more likely a large communal tent. “Homosexuals”, or as they are termed locally, “lumberjacks”, would soon be found out and beaten with axe handles within an inch of their worthless lives.

    Third, Marxism never had a chance with NW loggers. They were making good money and they knew it. Yes, working conditions were, and are, awful, but so were most jobs, especially one that requires being outdoors in the NW mountains through the fall and winter. Loggers came in two classes. Single men who were building up a stake to buy a farm or small business, and married family men, most of whom had farms or small businesses, and were aggressive capitalists. Band together to screw another $.25/hour out of the mill owners? Sure! Band together to break the chains of private property? Screw you pal!

    The small town I live in was essentially an open-air cathouse prior to 19. On Friday afternoon, dozens of pretty young things would come down from the University of Washington and entertain the loggers come down from the hills. Saturday afternoon the town Marshall would write all of them tickets. Sunday morning (late) they would appear in court, give a fictitious name, plead guilty to loitering, or some such, pay their $5 fine and catch the afternoon train back to Seattle. The town literally levied no taxes, Roads, town hall, fire dept, the marshal and the court being paid for entirely out of fines. That’s how a town with about 200 in population could support 8 bars and 4 hotels.

  • Danby

    prior to 1940

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Good post!

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Reminds me of the old joke about the professor explaining the grade on a student’s term paper:

    They say that given an infinite number of monkeys over a long enough timespan, they could eventually type out the complete works of Shakespeare. Your paper? Six
    monkeys, two weeks

    (This is an old joke, but for some reason the original post on vituperation that went around newsgroups is unavailable via Google, so I can’t find the cite. A bunch of internet ignoramuses attribute it to Colbert. It’s older than Colbert.)

  • Badger Pundit

    Fascinating! Quick reactions:

    1. Yes, usually I’d call them “loggers,” and so does Loomis in his dissertation. “Lumberjacks” is used in the post because the passages on homosexuals reminded me (and McCain, independently) of the Monty Python skit.

    2. The word “homosexual” is used because that’s the word used by Loomis. Personally I like the ring of “gay lumberjack” (though apparently that’s redundant, from your account). Perhaps Loomis used “homosexual” to match the term in use at the time he’s writing about.

    3. To his credit, Loomis’s sex talk isn’t limited to homosexuals — he actually covers the use of (female) prostitutes, referenced by you, in more detail. But all of this sex talk is basically gratuitous; Loomis has huge difficulty in connecting any of it to his topic of labor organizing among the loggers (his main effort — silly as it sounds — is that the Marxists didn’t think the loggers should be having any sex, with anyone, but should instead have been focusing their energies on class struggle).

    Only one followup question: On Wednesday, did the lumberjacks go shopping, and have buttered scones for tea? See tweet of WJJ Hoge here: https://twitter.com/rsmccain/status/281161432844861440

    Your short account of the life of loggers in olden days makes for a great read, and is a real contribution to the understanding of U.S. history, which is more than I can say about Erk Loomis’s 288-page Ph.D dissertation!

  • Badger Pundit

    Yeah, that’s the problem: I lack McCain’s concise writing style, honed through years of journalism — not to mention his instinct for the jugular!

  • Badger Pundit

    Apparently I was on to something in suggesting Loomis likes delving into sex as part of his academic work, whenever he gets a chance.

    Michelle Malkin’s Twitchy.com has a screencap of this Erik Loomis tweet from 11/19/2012: “I love teaching books on the history of sexuality. I talked about dildos in a completely appropriate way in class today.”

    Screencap here: http://twitchy.com/2012/12/18/unverified-claim-erik-loomis-removed-professor-from-his-twitter-bio/capture.

    Archived on Topsy.com here:
    http://topsy.com/twitter/erikloomis?nohidden=1&offset=10&om=a&page=15.

  • JeffS

    I blame Smitty.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    I think your struck the right tone and showed yourself to be an actual Reporter. Stacy, rightly, touts the ‘Just the facts, m’am’ style.

    Bravo…and thank you.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    Perfect title for it: Red Wood

  • http://profiles.google.com/rob5136 Rob Crawford

    I wonder how many nights Loomis spent “taking the matter into his own hand” over the question of castration. IYKWIMAITYD.

  • Garym

    The perfect title on so many levels. Good job Bob!

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

    I for one have serious complaints about the castration of IWW members.

    We’ve never done enough of it.

  • M. Thompson

    Why do I have a feeling that academics of this era will be disdained in the future for being obsessed with sex and race?

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  • Libertarian Advocate

    I enjoyed it.

    Slightly O/T: Gotta wonder if any of the Profs on university hiring committees even bother to read the doctoral dissertations of their applicants these days.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    I just saw a picture of Erik (the red) Loomis on Twitchy. You guessed it.

  • j.ottopohl

    I am not a leftist and I did my PhD in the UK and now work in Africa. But, even so I was wondering if this blog could read and review my dissertation. The title is Shallow Roots: The Exile Experiences of Russian-Germans, Crimean Tatars, and Meskhetian Turks in Comparative Perspective and I completed it at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 2004. You can find an abstract to the dissertation at the url below.

    http://www.iccrimea.org/scholarly/pohl-abstract.html

  • ThomasD

    Loomis’ narrative is one pie eating incident away from being a South Park episode.

  • http://twitter.com/richard_mcenroe richard mcenroe

    Hey, don’t ask, don’t fell….

  • j.ottopohl

    From my limited experience the answer is no. They prefer to read more recent and shorter pieces, although sometimes they will read parts of the PhD dissertation if there is nothing else available.

  • http://evilbloggerlady.blogspot.com/ Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Well done!

  • Pingback: #Metaphor: Academics Sign Their Own Death Warrants by Defending Loomis : The Other McCain

  • another historian

    This blog post is a disgrace. Enjoy reveling in your childish ignorance.

  • CyberRabid

    “3 in 10 white children are born out of wedlock,as are 53% of hispanic babies and 73% of black babies”-Patrick Buchanan

    The ultimate symbol of manhood is family.

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  • Pingback: Erik Loomis’s Critics Like Violent Rhetoric Just Fine — As Long as the Targets Are Gay. « Student Activism

  • http://www.twitter.com/thebadger14 Badger Pundit

    From the abstract, it looks like there are probably some Marxists in there. Any lumberjacks?

  • Pingback: The Vocabulary of Professor Erik Loomis: ‘Motherf–ing F–kheads F–king F–k’ : The Other McCain

  • j.ottopohl

    It does have some material on ethnic Germans and Crimean Tatars sent to fell trees in the Urals.