The other day, in fact very soon after I sent my reply to the original effort to banish the celebration of sausages from SBL, I received the following email message. It comes from the relatively new executive director of SBL, John Kutsko, who owns up to asking Charlie Haws to see if he could get rid of that dammed sausage-fest. You’ll notice the effort to keep all this on the quiet, as a supposedly ‘private’ matter, especially between men. But I can’t help wondering: fuck man, what’s wrong with sausages, especially at the Society of Biblical Literature? Castration anxiety?
Dear Prof. Boer,
The staff at SBL is committed to mutual respect and civility, to discussion not argumentation, to membership service not control. I wasn’t dismayed in the least by your response to Charles Haws. It was a fair response. I was dismayed that you posted a private email and you caricatured it.
First, I asked Charlie to write you and he did so with respect and affability. Second, neither he nor I was censuring you. You’ll note his “would you consider revising…” Third, and this to me is the troubling thing, you posted his private correspondence to you, and other bloggers followed suit. He didn’t Facebook his request, but sent you a respectful and cordial email, private in all respects. Nor did he even get the chance to engage you in a conversation. You simultaneously and rather mockingly posted his email then sent him an email after the fact. I don’t imagine this is true, but it appears you wanted to exaggerate and embarrass, and you picked on someone who serves the Society with great personal conscientiousness and professional respect. He made simple request, not one fraught with Orwellian censure or bureaucratic diffidence. He deserved a professional conversation.
John F. Kutsko
Society of Biblical Literature
825 Houston Mill Road Suite 350
Atlanta, GA 30329
And here is my reply:
I simply repeat an observation I made in my letter to Charlie: it was one of the most extraordinary letters I have received for a very long time. Why extraordinary? First, it made the strange point that ‘sausage’ is less preferable than ‘dick’, indeed that ‘sausage’ had never been used before at SBL. Second, it suggested that by removing ‘sausage’ I would in some way foster collegial good will. Third, the most insidious form of censorship is made not by an iron fist but through gentle persuasion, quietly and apparently in private.
Given the convoluted and nonsensical arguments, as well as hints of what was not said, I could only conclude that Charlie was the bearer of messages from others (which you have now confirmed). He did so cordially, I agree. Your claim that he did so privately is a claim made after the fact and not sustained by the original letter, since he sent it in his capacity, not as one private individual to another, but as a representative of SBL, a public organisation, to a member of that organisation. And I strongly and strenuously disagree that my response, via blogging, was meant to caricature, exaggerate or embarrass. The initial message was itself extremely problematic, as the many responses and comments to it made perfectly clear.